I still want to do everything. Though I have Emerson and I'm not yet willing to spend a single night away from her, I still want to do all of the things. That I want to do. Within reason. My late nights partying in heels and stand and model clothes are gone. And I am happy – relieved – about that. Most evenings my preference is to eat in, watch my stories on TV and go to bed early. But the wanderlust, the hunger to travel, explore, adventure, that's still there. As long as Emerson can go with me.
So when my friend, Jess, recently asked me to zip off to Atlanta for a couple of days, primarily to check out a tomato festival there – and Emerson was totally welcome – the answer was a pauseless yes. It sounded perfectly reasonable. A few days out of town, a little road trippin' with a friend and my baby girl, a tomato festival – all on my old turf.
But that easy breezy eight-hour drive I remember, inexplicably turned into an eleven-hour drive (there was some major rain). And that sweet early dinner reservation I made for us at an old friend's restaurant – perfectly timed for Emerson's dinner – was one million percent out of the realm of possibility. After we checked into the hotel, which fortunately was located in my old neighborhood and in a great part of town for walking, we set out on foot for dinner. Though the sun had set, it was miserably hot and humid – and now way past Emerson's dinner time and really, bed time. She was a trooper, though.
Dinner was lovely. An old spot where both Paz and my ex-boyfriend, Mark, worked many moons ago. Good wines, great salads and excellent wood-fired pizza. Then the walk back to the hotel, to the task of getting an over-stimulated, off-schedule one year-old to sleep in a strange room. Then, some wine from the gas station across the street and Saturday Night Live and Jess and I went to bed, which we were sharing – where I'm pretty sure at some point in the night I mistakenly touched her bottom. Still cringing about that.
When we all got up bright and early the next morning (always bright and early with a baby!) it suddenly occurred to me that this was the one and only day we'd actually be in Atlanta. In twenty-four hours we'd be back in the car. Why on Earth did that not actually register with me before that moment? Good question.
After hitting my old favorite coffee spot and a fun multiple hour-long period of getting Emerson to take her nap, we were all off to the reason for the trip: the tomato festival. And I gotta say, it was impressive: very well-organized, extremely well-populated and hotter than Georgia asphalt (had to do it!). I can't even believe how hot it was. I can't even believe I lived in Atlanta for so many years and don't remember that heat. THE HEAT, I TELL YOU! Though we only stayed a little over an hour, we felt we got a good grasp of the event, consumed a lot of remarkably creative tomato food and drink applications. Then, since I couldn't get Emerson to take her afternoon nap, we all got back in the car for Elliott's Driving Tour of the Atlanta of Her Past. This consisted mostly of all the places where I, or people I knew, lived, worked and played in the late nineties. Doesn't that sound like so much fun? We did do a quick drive by of Ebenezer Baptist Church for some history stuff.
Around late afternoon-ish, I knew we needed to A) get Emerson dinner to try to re-establish some sort of normalcy and routine in her day, and B) we grow ups needed food. And wine. Thanks to The Interwebs, I found a place that was walking distance and sounded really nice. A tapas spot. It ended up being pretty perfect; good vibes, kinda cool, not too cool, smart menu, great patio. Despite any heat issues I may have mentioned thus far, we sat outside. My thoughts on this were: that outside is better with a baby in a high chair who is presently into tossing fifty percent of her food on the ground, we could have a little more fun people watching, ATL-style outside, and the cold bottle of Albariño could aid in keeping the heat at bay. These thoughts were good ones. Here, we were all happy. We ordered a handful of small plates, all of which were bright, fresh, well-seasoned and just delicious. But one dish in particular really knocked me back. On the menu it read simply: roasted carrots with lavender yogurt. Well, I'll be damned if that dish didn't absolutely blow me away. Served slightly warm, the carrots were roasted only just so their color and constitution remained. A little salsa verde-esque oily herbaceous-ness was drizzled over them, and over that was a generous dollop of thick yogurt delicately seasoned with lavender and sumac. Maybe a dash of salt. All three of us enjoyed the whole meal, but I have not stopped thinking about that carrot dish.
That night Emerson was a real bear to get to sleep. There were hours and hours of reading books, singing songs and strolling her up and down the hallways of the hotel, and even around the block. At one point Jess was reading her tomato seed and variety book to Emerson, pointing to each tomato variety and saying, goodnight tomato, goodnight tomato, goodnight tomato, over and over again. Around eleven, at my wit's end (and probably Emerson's too (Jess seemed pretty chill)), we loaded up in the car to see if a drive might work. We got about a half a block away, looked back and found Emerson was out cold.
Back in the room, with Emerson in her little bed, Jess and I plopped down on the couch in the other room and turned on the TV to some mid to late nineties Samuel L Jackson movie that was strangely all shot in very orange sunset light. Jess had run across the street to the gas station to pick up some late night provisions for us, most notably, Doritos (how could she have known about my own personal Kryptonite?!).
Proudly, I did not finish the bag.
And, after an early morning old school diner breakfast, the three of us hit the road. Fortunately one place Emerson is pretty much always an angel is in the car. With no rain, some really good podcasts, a well-researched, well-planned lunch spot in a Carolina (where we had Emerson comedy in a janky, but awesome Philly cheesesteak spot and a little picnic by the lake in a park), the drive was nice and smooth. We made about an hour or so stop in Raleigh for Jess to meet the tomato farmer (the same one who authored what I now refer to as, Goodnight Tomato), during which time Emerson and I found a surprisingly fun and shockingly delicious sushi spot in a strip mall (all the good ones are). From there, we took smaller, more bucolic roads home and witnessed a magnificent sunset. Emerson was sound asleep in the backseat and Jess, who is probably the best shotgun anyone could ever ask for, told me tales of the beginnings of old Virginia cities, scandal and furniture empires.
When Emerson and I got home, she went straight into her crib with her sleepy bunny and fell right back to sleep. And just as I noticed that the house was clean and smelled delicious, Fred handed me a hot plate of dinner and a big glass of wine. As I collapsed into my chair, I reflected on yet another whirlwind, kamikaze adventure with a baby. It wasn't easy. It wasn't even remotely the kind of trip it would have been sans baby. But for some reason, I'm so glad we did it. And I'm pretty sure I'd do the same damn thing again.
Because you know, It's always fun to get away from camp. Even for an hour.
Roasted Carrots with Salsa Verde and Lavender-Sumac Yogurt
1 pound whole heirloom carrots
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon lavender buds, ground in a mortar & pestal, plus a couple of buds for garnish
1 teaspoon sumac, plus a pinch for garnish
For salsa verde
Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
Trim the carrots' leafy tops down to about 2″. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the carrots and toss to coat evenly, then season with kosher salt .
Roast in preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until al dente. You want that crunch there.
Meanwhile mix together yogurt, lavender and sumac. Garnish with a couple of lavender buds, a pinch of sumac and a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
For salsa verde, place parsley, olive oil, anchovies, vinegar and garlic in food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until parsley is well chopped, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Place carrots on plate with salsa verde either under or over them. Top everything with a nice dollop of yogurt mixture. Or you can use the yogurt as a dip. It's a very versatile dish!
One year ago: Pickled Burgundy Okra
Three years ago: Anuradha Rice
Four years ago: Yerp: Part 7 - The End.
Five years ago: Great Balls on Tires
Six years ago: For the love of TOMATOES!