Month: March 2017

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience

Until I read a post on My Style Vita about it, I had actually never heard of Candlefish, but I had been looking for a place to take a candle-making lesson. For a while I’ve entertained the thought of making my own candles and even trying to sell them, though right now I don’t feel like I have the room to store all the various equipment needed for this venture. Anyway, the My Style Vita post offered a 15% off coupon that applied to the cost of the class, so I told my friend Melissa the code too and we booked a class. Thanks for that code, Jessica!

Candlefish is located within Ponce City Market, a place that–in my view, anyway–has some cool aspects (it’s nice that they reused a historical building instead of tearing it down) and some less-than-cool ones (the crowds and the backwards parking system…just use Atlantic Station’s pay-on-exit system!). But I put that aside because, hey, candles. We actually had trouble finding Candlefish at first! It wasn’t our first PCM rodeo, either. We soon deduced that the shop is not near the food hall, unsuccessfully tried to find a mall-style directory map in 3 different places (for the record: there’s one by West Elm), went outside to the courtyard and found it next to Alex and Ani. By the way, the store is so new that it wouldn’t have been on the directory anyway.

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience - Pucks and Macarons

When you walk into the small (yet not cramped) store, one of the first things you see is this fantastically old-fashioned looking display. This is the library, featuring 100 scents identified only by a number. You can find out what notes are in each one, mainly by asking one of the friendly people working there, though. Their website also offers up explanations of the notes in each scent sorted by theme.

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience - Pucks and Macarons

Here is one of the shop’s areas, featuring displays of different candles and accessories. One table offered candles that purported to have scents inspired by cities.

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience - Pucks and Macarons

This is the workshop area where classes are held. I think the table seats 10 while also offering the instructor ample space to explain and demonstrate each step in the process.

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience - Pucks and Macarons

ARE Y’ALL READY FOR SOME SCIENCE? These are all the tools provided for you to craft two 9 ounce candles of the same scent: candles, wicks, labels, beaker for scent oil, handled container for wax, whisk, popsicle sticks, ruler, eyewear and cards that identify your creation and allow you to discover which scents you like.

First, you pick a scent. There were 20 scents spread out around the workshop area with cards bearing their notes, though the cards were facing away to preserve an air of mystery. These were 20 of the most popular. You take the numbered card and go around sniffing candles with each scent, circling or crossing out ones that you like or dislike. This is the one part I would maybe change–I’d bring out candles from all 100 scents so everyone could try every scent. Melissa and I tried all 20 put out for us and then we wandered over to the library to try out lots of the other ones, but so did other students of the class, and it created a bit of a logjam that kept us from reaching candles of some numbers, mainly the higher ones.

After much deliberation, I picked scent 88, which is lemon, tulip and musk. Melissa picked scent 69, which is maple, brown sugar and bourbon. My scent is in the Green & Natural collection and hers is in the Epicurean collection. 88 is my birth year, so I liked that number too.

Then it was time for science. Bottles of the fragrance oil for each chosen number were brought out and we were directed to pour 1.6 ounces of oil into our beakers. Because the beaker measured in milliliters, we used little food-size scales to weigh out the oil. It was about 500 milliliters of oil, at least for me. Instead of having to melt soy wax flakes, a mysterious giant metal box with a spigot dispenses hot wax, which we poured from large steel containers into our smaller ones. We needed about 16.2 ounces and again used the scale for that. Thus, it’s about a 1:16 ratio of oil to wax for a 9 ounce candle. I think.

The oil was poured into the wax, stirred thoroughly with the whisk and then we allowed time for the wax to cool to 110 degrees. At this time, you are encouraged to shop and take advantage of a 15% off everything discount given to students on their class day. During this break, I bought this Magick candle by Lindbergh Candle Company. Its juicy fruity scent is really quite magical!

Once the wax was down to 110 degrees, we glued the wicks to the bottom of our votive glasses using hot glue guns. I feel like I didn’t do super well at this part, maybe due to a little hesitation around using hot glue guns for the first time in years, but I did see if the glue at least held by trying to tug the wicks up, which didn’t make the wick move. I also figured the wax would help keep the wick down if it tried any funny business.

Wicks in place, we also filled out and affixed the labels, along with circular warning labels. Then, it was pouring time! The bits of rulers have a thick mark on them near the 3 inch mark. That’s the fill line. Place the ruler upright behind the votive and then pour wax until you reach that fill line. Repeat on your second candle. Use the popsicle sticks to keep the wicks upright–or, in my case, use popsicle sticks, your ruler and Melissa’s ruler because my wicks were drooping even after using a popsicle stick.

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience - Pucks and Macarons

Nailed it…maybe? You don’t know right away. Once you pour the wax, you’re done–the candles set overnight and then you can come pick them up the next day. That’s kind of too bad, really, because you just want to take them home and enjoy them right away, but alas. The store will look after your candle for the week following your class, just in case you can’t get there the next day.

Our class was on a Saturday, so I was able to get down there the next day for pickup. No matter when you made the candles the day before, they’re ready for you as soon as the store opens.

Candlefish Atlanta Class Experience - Pucks and Macarons

Ta-da! They look great and smell terrific, both when lit and unlit.

Overall, I had a great time at the class! I only have the one gripe about making all the scents readily available to students so they can make the most informed decision, but maybe if your class has smaller attendance or you’re just good at asserting your physical presence, you can get to sniff all of them at the library. Candlefish also allows you to bring in your own beverages, adult or otherwise, and has drink glasses along with cafe-style water bottles in cool marble buckets.

The normal cost for a class is $55, but when you think about how you’re making two sizable candles with soy wax and you compare the class’ cost to the price of similarly-crafted candles, it’s a good deal. Classes are offered on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Weekdays tend to have just one class at 7 pm while weekends have two, one at an earlier afternoon time and one at a later time.

Candlefish also offers classes on creating two different unique scents and making candles with them, which cost $65. These classes are new, so they are offered less often right now. They are also launching a class that allows students to paint glass vessels with unique patterns and then fill those vessels with candles. That class is $65 as well.

Candlefish’s site has an expanded selection of items, including jewelry, soap, glassware, stationery, key tags, art and candle subscription boxes.

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews

I feel like bubble tea and snack places are popping up all over Atlanta lately. It’s good to see–I really love Sweet Hut and I’m excited to hear they’re expanding to add a Lenox Square location, but it’s also fun to go somewhere else every once in a while and experience something different.

That was definitely the case when I went to ViVi Bubble Tea (5306 Buford Highway) with my friend Amanda, who had seen a picture of an incredible drink creation from ViVi on Instagram and wanted to investigate further. So did I!

ViVi is located not far from the I-285 exit for Buford Highway and, interestingly, also not far from Sweet Hut. It’s in kind of a weird location, a building apparently shaped like a triangle. It has about 5 parking spaces, but it is surrounded by strip malls that have abundant parking in case those spaces are full.

ViVi is a Taiwanese chain that started in New York City, where they have more than 20 locations, and expanded forth into other cities like Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Their website explains that they started in 2007 and they use ingredients brought in straight from Taiwan. They also have a cute and intriguing look that features the use of hot pink and little cartoon skulls with cute faces.

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

Here’s a look inside ViVi–you can see the cutesy skulls, plus some of the seating areas. I just noticed the wraparound booth in the corner is meant to look like a chocolate bar.

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

The space is mainly white with pops of color, so on a sunny day, it feels very bright.

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

This is the ordering area and the bar where all the magic happens. One machine that amused us endlessly was a sort of mechanical shaker. Insert two sealed drinks and the machine shakes them vigorously for a little bit, much faster than a human could do it. You might also notice the domed thing on the right. We’ll get to that again later.

My favorite drink from any bubble tea joint is, well, bubble tea. Specifically, black milk bubble tea. ViVi has this on the menu, along with lots of other drinks I’ll need to come back and try, like fruit teas, other milk teas, matcha, milk drinks that apparently do not have tea in them, slushies and drinks containing Yakult. Along with drinks, there are some snacks like popcorn chicken, but neither of us were hungry, so we didn’t get anything to eat. Again, that’s something to do on a return visit!

I decided to get my favorite black milk bubble tea, but in a different form. Limited to just 50 a day, ViVi will make you a black milk bubble tea or a peach bubble tea inside, well, an oversized lightbulb.

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

Illuminating. It was a bit pricier than it would be if served in the normal plastic cup, but come on, how often have you had any drink out of an oversized lightbulb? Exactly. What I really liked about this tea was the bubbles. They were smaller than normal, so you don’t have to worry about those last few bubbles getting stuck in the straw when the tea to bubble ratio is not balanced. They also had a vaguely floral taste to them, maybe jasmine or something? It’s definitely different from typical bubbles, but good different.

Amanda wanted something even wilder than my lightbulb, though. That domed thing from the photo earlier? That’s a cotton candy machine. What does a bubble tea place need with a cotton candy machine?

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

That’s what the cotton candy machine is there for. This is a tiramisu milk bubble tea that is served in a sort of glass stein with a handle and crowned with a majestic mane of cotton candy. (There’s a bit of tea left over that doesn’t fit in the stein, so a tiny stein is provided for the overflow. They top that off with whipped cream.) The whole thing is placed on a wood cutting board for easy carrying. The doily is just a nice touch. Oh, and then they unwrap one of the pink straws and somehow manage to place it inside the cotton candy mane so you can drink the tea!

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

Here is Amanda being extremely amused by this tea. It really is pretty funny, though. You don’t see that every day!

We had a great time at ViVi and I’ll definitely be back–maybe even to try something other than black milk bubble tea. Who knows?

ViVi Bubble Tea: Atlanta Food and Drink Reviews - Pucks and Macarons

 

Girl Scout Cookies Power Rankings

Throughout my childhood, from kindergarten until I was in about 9th grade, I was a Girl Scout and my favorite part of being one was definitely the cookie sales. The enterprise has definitely changed since my time (girls can sell cookies online now?!), but you can still be assured of finding a booth sale outside the local Kroger on any given weekend in March. By comparison, my troop tended to park in front of the local Blockbuster and target folks who were looking for some movie night munchies. It was a shrewd strategy, but totally Not a Thing anymore. Thanks, Netflix.

Anyway!

As a former Girl Scout and a connoisseur of cookies generally, along with being a sports fan, I decided to combine aspects of the two. Without further ado, I now present to you the Girl Scout cookies power ranking.

Please note that I live in an area served by Little Brownie Bakers and always have. I have no idea what the cookies from ABC Bakers taste like, but they all seem to have hilariously generic names. (If you’re not sure which bakery serves your area and you don’t have a box handy to check, take a look at this informative map from the LA Times.)

Photos via Girl Scouts.

1. Thin Mints

The undisputed champion. Truly the Wayne Gretzky of cookies. Measurably better tasting if you freeze them before eating.

2. Tagalongs

A nice smooth taste that answers the question of what would happen if you added a cookie base to a Reese’s cup. They are susceptible to melting in your hands, though.

3. S’mores

These are terrific! There seems to be an ideal mix of the three elements that compose a good s’more, unlike in certain interpretations of the treat where one thing takes too much of the spotlight. S’mores are only in third place because they have a premium price of $6 a box for some reason and that’s kinda pricey, even for Girl Scout cookies that all have a relatively premium price.

4. Do-Si-Dos

I already love both sandwich cookies and peanut butter–this cookie is just good thing on good thing!

5. Trefoils

Shortbread is delicious, that’s why. Plus, these are less popular, so they’re likely to be available at booth sales after they’ve run out of Thin Mints, Tagalongs and Samoas. (I’ve even found Trefoils available at Intown Ace Hardware during the cookie offseason.) Speaking of…

6. Samoas

I don’t like coconut! I try to kind of overlook that when it comes to Samoas because all the other parts of the cookie are entirely my thing, but the coconut’s presence just can’t help but spoil things for me.

Not Ranked

The following cookies are not ranked because, well, I’ve never tried them, so it’d be unfair to rank them alongside cookies I have tried. I’ll try to rank them in order of how tasty they sound to me based on their description, though.


NR. Thanks-A-Lot

I already said I like shortbread, and it’s clear I like chocolate, so the combination of the two surely has to be a winner! (I know, don’t call me Shirley.) Plus I think it’s cool that the cookies have the word for thanks in English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Swahili.


NR. Savannah Smiles

I like lemony wedding cookies like this one, though points are deducted for the untidiness that comes with the powdered sugar exterior.


NR. Trios

I like chocolate chips, peanut butter and oatmeal, therefore the combination of the 3 must be good, right? I am worried that it looks like it might be crumbly. Maybe not as crumbly as Nature’s Valley granola bars–but honestly, what is as crumbly as those?


NR. Toffee-Tastic

I want to like toffee, I really do. It’s basically just caramel, after all, and I like caramel. But the fact that toffee is often hard as a rock always puts me off. I already feel vaguely like I’m going to wreck my dental work by eating caramels and toffee just seems to heighten that fear for me.

Hungry yet? If you are and you don’t know where to go for your Girl Scout cookie fix, check out this cookie finder–definitely another thing that wasn’t around back in my day! Looks like I might need to pony up some cash and try the varieties I couldn’t rank, too.

Also hi, I guess I’m trying to revive this moribund blog?