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Photo by Timothy Hursley
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Photo courtesy Susan Winiecki
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Photo courtesy Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
What I love is a plane ride that's over before the flight attendants can even roll their cart the full length of the cabin, and a nonstop flight to Atlanta is just that, clocking in at under an hour and a half. Say hello to inventive neighborhood restaurants, artist-run shops and inspiring museums during a long weekend that won't leave you drained when you come back to work on Monday.
Because I had a day of business downtown at the AmericasMartAtlanta , site of a home-furnishings show, I opted for the Melia Hotel Atlanta (404-877-9000 or melia.com ) in Midtown with a shuttle to the mart and a rate of $155 per night. Friendly staff, a welcoming lobby with a morning coffee shop, and a firm bed made for a restful overnight.
After Sunday brunch, I hit Peachtree Street, walking from Empire State South, which is across the street from the Margaret Mitchell House ( margaretmitchellhouse.com ), to the Museum of Design Atlanta ( museumofdesign.org ) for its exhibition, "The South's Next Wave Design Challenge." Furniture designers teamed up with interior designers to complete 16 vignettes that rivaled the most evocative window displays ever found at Barney's in New York City. Museum visitors were asked to vote on their favorites. Nearby was the High Museum of Art ( highmuseum.org ), which has "Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting" through May 12.
Though I was inside the AmericasMartAtlanta all day on Saturday, I could only look since I'm not buying for a shop. However, I was able to get in a little shopping on Friday and Sunday. Don't miss the Beehive (404-581-9261 or beehiveatl.com ), a designer collective in The Edgewood neighborhood. The nearest MARTA stop to Beehive is Inman Park. From local food products to locally designed clothing, the variety and quality of merchandise was outstanding. I left with three infinity scarves, preserves, letterpress cards and a vow to return. Two outside-the-perimeter stops included Ballard's Backroom (770-594-1671) in Roswell and Boca Bargoons (770-475-1219 or bocabargoons.com ) discount fabric store in Alpharetta. Ballard's Backroom is an outlet full of reduced merchandise from the Ballard Design catalog. Scheduled to open in May is a new retail store for the Roswell-based Sugarboo Designs ( sugar booandco.com ), with work from local artist Rebecca Puig in Town Brookhaven, two miles north of Buckhead.
An early morning at the mart called for breakfast at downtown's The Corner Bakery (404-215-9000 or cornerbakerycafe.com ). The honey-banana oatmeal topped with granola and toasted almonds, plus a raisin-pecan crisp on the side, lasted me through a very late lunch.
A late-night Saturday dinner was on tap in Inman Park, which required a short cab ride. One Eared Stag (404-525-4479 or oneearedstag.com ) was one of Eater's Essential Atlanta Restaurants, and it delivered. Raisin chutney was the unexpected addition to my cauliflower soup with fenugreek. Richmond butchers beware: There soon will be a run on beef spinalis (aka the cap steak). My roasted version with green-chile salsa, black garlic and cippolini onions was a perfect foil for the chilly evening. An individual brown-butter sponge cake slathered in buttercream and a meringue on top, for $9, was the best money I had spent all weekend, until the next morning.
Sunday brunch begins at 10:30 at Empire State South (404-541-1105 or empirestatesouth.com ), chef/owner Hugh Acheson's 2-year-old Atlanta restaurant. I arrived on the dot and ordered pimento cheese with bacon marmalade and toasts that I'm still dreaming about, for $6. I added a bowl of house-made granola with fresh yogurt and blood oranges and a biscuit served with pepper jelly. From the clever serving pieces to the way the check was presented on a little clipboard, the meal made this come-here-to-Richmond ready to swoon. The restaurant also has a bocce court outside and a cash-and-carry section with delectable sweets. I went away happy with the raspberry caramels.
The third annual Atlanta Food and Wine Festival ( atlfoodandwinefestival.com ) in Midtown runs May 30 through June 2. Chef Jason Alley from Comfort and Pasture participated in 2011 and 2012. On June 23, "Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis" arrives at the High Museum, marking the first time Vermeer's 1665 painting Girl With a Pearl Earring will be seen in the Southeast. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and the March on Washington, so it's fitting to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site ( nps.gov/malu/index.htm ). Aug. 28 marks a worldwide celebration of both events.