Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting to Know College Park

City Pushes to Shine Spotlight on its History, Charm

By Shandra Hill Smith
Photos by Doug Smith Photography

An evening of painting your own masterpiece — all while sipping on a cocktail surrounded by old and new friends. That’s what you’ll find this particular Saturday night at the Atlanta Airport Marriott in the College Park area.For two hours, participants taking part in Paint Nite unleash their inner Picassos using supplied acrylic paint and brushes to create a 16 X 20 masterpiece on canvas. It’s one of a lineup of events — to include live music and other entertainment — offered by the hotel to the general public. It also has the potential of bringing more awareness to this historic city that is minutes from the world’s busiest airport and minutes from the city of Atlanta.
The Atlanta Airport Marriott hosted Paint Nite, where
you may paint on canvas while sipping on cocktails.

Home to Georgia’s second-largest convention center — the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC) — College Park combines the conveniences of a big city with the charm of a small Southern town. “We’re doing whatever we can to raise awareness about our beautiful facility,” Cookie Smoak, president of Meet College Park, says of GICC, “our wonderful name-brand hotels that offer a great economic package for those groups that want to be in a big city but don’t want the hassle of having to go downtown. They can hop on a sky train or free transportation and be at any of our hotels, have their convention out here and yet hop on Marta for $2.50 and see all the attractions of the city. It’s a great option for those planners who want to do a convention or meeting and save money while they’re doing it.” Meet College Park, adds Smoak, is the convention and visitors bureau for the airport area, and became fully staffed at eight members in February 2015.

In addition to convention offerings, the city has more than 5,000 hotel rooms and a variety of restaurants. Some of those restaurants were part of the city’s second-annual College Park Restaurant Week — a week that included $9, $19 and $29 prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner. At the Atlanta Airport Marriott on Best Road, Voya Bistro offered a $19 lunch menu and $29 dinner menu, the latter of which included three courses: side salad, soup, spiced pecans or homemade potato chips with water trout, veal meatloaf, a burger or flat iron steak with chocolate brownie bites, crème brulee, cupcake or bread pudding.

Coca-Cola advertising painted on a wall of exposed
brick brings a whimsical touch to The Pecan restaurant.

Grilled lobster tail, The Pecan

The filling and tasty Georgia Fresh Water Trout included sautéed crab, shrimp, spinach fennel and lemon brown butter. Also worth mentioning: House Favorite — Buttermilk Fried Chicken with red skin mashed potatoes, Augusta style green beans, as well as sous chef Edgar Maldonado’s pre-meal amuse offering of arepa reina. The arepa reina, Maldonado explains, stems from his Venezuelan background, and is flatbread in corn flour that includes chicken avocado salad and a slice of cherry tomato. It’s a small bite that brings big, could-I-please-have-more flavor! This spring and summer, visitors also will have a chance to try a new offering, according to Executive Chef Eldon Pico. The wild salmon dish will include roasted tomato, gazpacho, wild rocket arugula and fennel salad.
Salmon with wild rocket arugula, Voya Bistro

On Main Street in College Park, both The Pecan and Tony Morrow’s Real Pit BBQ — two establishments by Chef Tony Morrow — signed on for College Park Restaurant Week. The $19 lunch menu at The Pecan included grilled chicken breast on field of greens with pan-seared chicken, blackened tilapia or terres major steak with Southern pecan pie. As with Voya Bistro, guests also could order from the regular menu.Both Blackened Shrimp with Cajun Crème Sauce over Pepper Jack Grits and Oven Roasted Buttermilk Pecan Chicken — a boneless marinated chicken breast with pesto sauce — proved pleasing picks.
Yusef Sharif of Yusef & The Jazz Disciples
performs at The Pecan restaurant.
On this day, the steady rain — with an overcast view visible through large-scale windows — made for a nice touch punctuated by a live performance by vocalist/musician “Uncle Yusef,” who says he performs at the restaurant each Sunday.The right tune for this memorable dining experience? I’m sure “Uncle Yusef” (of Yusef and The Jazz Disciples) could find something fitting in his musical repertoire. Or, even more, a song for the city — perhaps with lyrics that urge you to “have a good bite out of
the city.” From the Chick-fil-A Home Office Backstage Tour to a visit to the Delta Flight Museum, the team at Meet College Park has a few ideas to get you going.

More info: