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Transcending time

Atlanta author Colleen Oakley wins hearts with first novel ‘Before I Go’

This article was originally published in the Jan./Feb. print issue of The Atlantan. Written by Kirsten Ott.

before-i-go-book-cover-colleen-oakleyThe looming threat of mortality is inescapable in our lives, but most of us can shrug off thoughts about it. But for Daisy, a witty Athens, Ga., graduate student who is lucky enough to have found lasting, meaningful love early in life is also painfully unlucky enough to have twice developed cancer before she turns 30. The protagonist for debut author Atlanta author Colleen Oakley’s novel Before I Go (Jan. 6, 2015, Simon & Schuster) is faced with a heartbreaking challenge when she learns that her breast cancer has returned, it’s in stage four, and she will not survive the year. Daisy’s husband, Jack, is a devoted guy with terrible life skills when it comes to pulling together the four basic food groups into an assemblage of a healthy meal, and unsurprisingly, Daisy’s more concerned about Jack’s future than she is her own. Putting his needs before her own health, Daisy starts looking for a replacement wife for him before she makes Jack a widow, employing her best friend Kayleigh to scout out potential suitors for her husband on dating sites and in coffee shops. Naturally, hilarity and hijinks ensue.

 

 

Colleen Oakley

Author Colleen Oakley Photo: C. Noel

Oakley expertly woos readers into Daisy and Jack’s love story with well-woven story arcs and characters you can root for. Her career as a former magazine editor and current freelance magazine journalist make Oakley a natural narrator, and it was one particular subject who sparked the creative juices for this book. “The inspiration for Before I Go hit when I got an assignment from an editor to interview a woman who was dying of metastasized breast cancer. It was a powerful interview for many reasons, but what struck me the hardest was the fact that she was around my age — late 20s at the time — so I couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes. I was a newlywed, and it surprised me that my first thought wasn’t ‘what would I do if I was dying?’ but ‘what would my husband do?’”

 

INKWELL

KO: What have you learned from this experience of writing (and publishing) your first book?

CO: “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I can actually do it. Writing a book is one of those things that I always vaguely said I’d do — like becoming fluent in Italian and moving to Capri — but I’m not sure I ever really believed I could. You type that first sentence, or first page, and realize you still have 300+ pages to go. It seems impossible. But then there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you write those two little words: “The end.” I imagine it’s a lot like running one of those ultra 100-mile marathons, but with less sweat and blisters. (Probably the same amount of cursing though.)”

BEFORE I GO LAUNCH PARTY

Benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure

WHEN: Jan. 6, 2015, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Room & Board, 1170 Howell Mill Road NW

COST: Free; raffle tickets and book available for purchase at event

RSVP: colleenoakley.com

Equally Wed, Portfolio, writing

Real Wedding: Brooke and Joana

Love-filled seaside nuptials punctuate an aquatic-colored DIY wedding

brooke-joana-real-lesbian-beach-wedding-florida-recessional

Joana Rodriguez was waiting for the perfect opportunity to propose to her girlfriend Brooke Rollins. She already had the engagement ring, which featured a square peridot gemstone to match Brooke’s sparkling eyes, and, conveniently, her birthstone.

“It was a Sunday morning and we were in the middle of mountains of homework as always,” recalls Joana, “and the movie ‘Up’ by Pixar was playing in the background. The movie is about a man who loses his soul mate after years and years of marriage, but lives out her dream of adventures. They meet as children and are together for a very long time. The husband is a quiet kinda person, as I am, and the wife is talkative and full of life, as is Brooke. At one point in the movie when they are still children Lilly, the wife, looks at the husband and says that she wants to spend forever with him having adventures, it was then that I pulled out the ring from my pajama pocket and asked Brooke if she would spend forever having adventures with me. As I expected, she was overjoyed and full of excitement and began to cry, so I giggled and asked, ‘So I guess this means yes?’ She then answered with a ‘yes.’”

When planning their beach wedding, Decatur, Ga., residents Brooke Rollins and Joana Rodriguez searched everywhere for an LGBT-friendly venue. The lesbians found it at the Atlanta Pride Festival: The Embassy Suites in Miramar Beach, Fla.

“I am not going lie,” says Joana, whose confident presence was what attracted Brooke to her. “I was afraid that it was going to be difficult to find a place that we could be ourselves and celebrate and relax all at the same time. It was at Pride that we found the Embassy Suits; it was there that I realized that discrimination can be set aside and your love can be celebrated. Go where you are welcome, and you will have the time of your life.”

To honor their commitment, Brooke, who legally took Joana’s last name after the nuptials, devoted a considerable amount of effort to bringing to life their theme of an eclectic mix of modern vintage with personal touches added to reflect their individual personalities, such as Brooke’s handcrafted vintage brooch bouquet and a superhero-themed cake for Joana.

The bride and broom (a term for masculine brides coined by Equally Wed Magazine Publisher and Cofounder Maria Palladino and used by readers, including Joana) wed on May 5, 2012, at a sunset beach ceremony which included gathering words, guest declaration of support and the exchanging of vows and rings. “The focus of our ceremony was the tying of the lover’s knot, which symbolized the intertwining our lives and our families,” says Brooke. “With one strand of natural fiber manila line—a nod to Joana’s service in the Coast Guard—each of us did our part to create the fisherman’s knot, also known as the lover’s knot.”

The bride wore a sweetheart gown with a beaded bodice and layered organza skirt, which was given a funky update with a turquoise crinoline skirt made by Ann Swank at Swank Underpinnings. The look was complete with her turquoise-and-green ballet flats. Brooke carried a bouquet of her own making: She wired 30 vibrantly colored antique and new brooches and assembled them together to make “a small, but surprisingly hefty nosegay,” she says. “The brooches were given to me by my mother, my wife-to-be and my friends, and each brooch held personal meaning. My bouquet took seven months of assembly, four packages of floral wire and two rolls of tape, a box of band-aids and one scare—or maybe two. It was worth every ounce of effort and all of the love that went into it.”

A jovial reception accentuated by turquoise and green included a photo booth complete with props for wacky photos, tables outfitted with handmade centerpieces comprised of silver charges, turquoise French flower pots filled with dried hydrangea and greenery accented by one antique tea cup and saucer from Brooke’s grandmothers collection and three LED pillar candles; the dinner buffet which featured Joana’s mothers Mexican feast for a Cinco de Mayo-themed celebration and a homage to Joana’s heritage; a bar, a candy and cupcake buffet, a cake table and a reception table. Brooke surprised Joana, a devout superhero fan, with a four-layer cake featuring Captain America, Superman, Spiderman and Batman, accompanied with a handmade background of a cityscape equipped with city lights.

Brooke and Joana danced together for the first time as wife and wife to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” sung live by Jamie Heart and accompanied by acoustic guitarist Kato Estill. Heart and Estill, both friends of the couple, sang songs of their own and covers at various points in the evening.

After the wedding reception, the Rodriguezes and their 38 guests oohed and aahed over a display of fireworks on the beach and then let the ocean air carry away biodegradable paper lanterns into the sky, which Brooke says symbolized “our wishes for our healthy, happy future.”

The Rodriguezes, who honeymooned in Sandestin, Fla., welcomed a healthy baby girl on May 14, 2013.

A version of this article was published in Atlanta Gay Weddings, 2012/13.

VENDORS
Photographers: Alisha Sams of Imaginarium Studios, Kory Garner of Faux Toe Images
Venue and Caterer: The Embassy Suites, Miramar Beach, FL
Cake: Melissa Donovan
Cupcakes: Over the Top Cupcakes, Stuart, FL
Vocalists, guitarist: Jamie Heart, Kato Estill
Attire: David’s Bridal (Brooke), Macy’s (Joana)
Hair: Barbie at Avant Garde Salon, Destin (Brooke)
Officiant: Ray Ward
Jewelers: Hon Ngai Jewelry, Etsy.com (Brooke’s engagement ring), Worthmore Jewelers (Joana’s band), The Mobley Company, Villa Rica, GA (Brooke’s band)
Flowers: A Perfect Day, Destin, FL

Bios, Portfolio

Chef Chrysta Poulos, King + Duke

chrysta-poulos

CHRYSTA POULOS: PASTRY CHEF – KING + DUKE

HIGHLIGHTS:
The energetic and friendly Chrysta Poulos has been honing her pastry skills for 10 years in Atlanta. A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program, she has worked in some of the city’s top pastry kitchens. Before joining the team of the newly minted King + Duke, Poulos earned her pedigreed chops at luminary restaurants including Woodfire Grill, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and Holeman & Finch Bread Company. Along the way, she’s amassed accolades and awards, including being named a Rising Stars Pastry Chef, and her signature sticky toffee pudding as the “People’s Choice.”

FULL BIO:
The energetic and friendly Chrysta Poulos has been honing her pastry skills for 10 years in Atlanta. A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program, she has worked in some of the city’s top pastry kitchens. Before joining the team of the newly minted King + Duke, she earned her pedigreed chops at luminary restaurants including Woodfire Grill, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and Holeman & Finch Bread Company.

Poulos, who rocks a vibrant mane of shocking pink, is lauded for striking the delicate balance of taste, textures and temperatures to create an impressionable dessert experience. “Dessert is the last impression a restaurant can make on a diner,” she says. “I want to provide a great memory for people—and I want them to come back for more.” Farm fresh fruits and produce provide constant inspiration for her seasonal menus.

Poulos has an enthusiastic but controlled approach to pastries. Now that she’s at the helm of King + Duke’s pastry kitchen, which employs a Colonial American approach to cooking—all on an open fire—she’s seamlessly translating this style to her desserts. “I use the hearth and the smoker with my desserts,” she says. “For example, I smoke the cherries that top our Black Forest chocolate cake,” which is paired with house-made black pepper ice cream. She utilizes Americana traditions in most of her dishes, including roasting the strawberries, which crown the vanilla cheesecake.

Poulos’ career is a varied one. Before her 10-year reign in Atlanta as one of the top pastry chefs, the Atlanta native served in the U.S. Air Force, working on B1B bombers. After retiring from the military, Poulos started picking up shifts as a server and felt drawn to the kitchen. Poulos found she enjoyed the lifestyle, and enrolled at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Poulos was named Atlanta Rising Star Pastry Chef in 2012 during her tenure at Woodfire Grill, but perhaps what she’s best known for is her signature sticky toffee pudding, which won Adoption Discovery’s “People’s Choice” Award in 2011. She has carried that beloved recipe from 4th & Swift to Woodfire and now is introducing it to King + Duke’s guests as Dates + Ale. But here she takes a twist, cultivating something new: The crème anglaise is crafted from Sweetwater Lowrider IPA. “I wanted to give a nod to our local brewery, and it really cuts the sweetness with a warm finish.”

A sugar aficionado, Poulos is perhaps most passionate about cacao. “I love working with chocolate,” she raves. “It has so many flavor profiles with wine.” She says she plans to work with King + Duke’s bartender to create a series of canapés to be offered with dessert wines, again looking to the sweet, happy ending for her diners.

When she’s not preparing seasonal product-driven delicacies, the pink-haired Poulos spends time traveling and taking abstract photographs of her discoveries along the way. She buzzes with fun energy and creative spark in all that she invests her time.

 

 

Atlanta, Bios, Portfolio

Chef Andrew Isabella, No. 246

No. 246

No. 246 Photo by Access Atlanta

 

CHEF DE CUISINE ANDREW ISABELLA  NO. 246

Andrew IsabellaQUICK HIGHLIGHTS:

Italian tradition courses through No. 246’s Chef de Cuisine Andrew Isabella’s veins. Growing up in an Italian family who emphasized helping people, he knew at an early age that he was destined to serve others through community outreach and drawing upon his culinary talents. In November 2012, the Floridian native arrived at Atlanta’s luminary restaurateurs and chefs Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s Italian-inspired No. 246 restaurant, which is deservedly praised for its affection for farm-fresh ingredients. Isabella’s career includes the role of sous chef at Luma on Park, in Winter Park, Fla., from 2010 to 2012, as well as the lead line cook and sous chef under Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Tracey Bloom at Table 1280 on the High Museum of Art’s campus from 2009 to 2010. Isabella, who has been wowing dining guests and employers alike with his flair for creative dishes, earned his associate of science in culinary arts from Keiser University in Tallahassee, Fla.

He now is settled happily in the heart of Buckhead with his wife Kaylen. Together, the sweethearts enjoy antiquing and traveling, though she might be in fierce competition for time with Chef Belline, who’s just introduced Chef Isabella to the exciting world of foraging. The Belline/Isabella duo makes for an impressive combo of leadership and style at No. 246, which places importance on the seasonality of locally sourced ingredients to build fresh, everyday dishes utilizing Italian cooking techniques in the heart of Decatur. “I like working with seasonal and locally inspired ingredients,” says Isabella. “I believe good food brings people together, so my passion for food also corresponds with my calling to serve others.”

FULL BIOGRAPHY:

Italian tradition courses through No. 246’s Chef de Cuisine Andrew Isabella’s veins. Growing up in an Italian family who emphasized helping people, he knew at an early age that he was destined to serve others through community outreach and drawing upon his culinary talents. “During my senior year, there was a family who had a tragedy,” recalls Isabella. “Instead of bringing them food, I asked my mom if I could go over there and cook. The feedback I got and the happiness I brought, and just being there with them during a difficult time helped me to know this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Since his teen years, this Marianna, Florida, native has dedicated himself to the culinary craft—from paying his dues at a small family restaurant in his hometown to gaining familiarity with kitchen practices and managing a staff at a country club. The lure of kitchen life drew Isabella to enroll at Keiser University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he graduated with an associate’s degree in culinary arts.

During his education, Isabella interned at Wolfgang Puck’s Catering at the Georgia Aquarium, where he assisted in cooking for parties from 10 to 10,000. After culinary school, Isabella’s career path led him to Table 1280 on the High Museum of Art’s campus from 2009 to 2010. Under Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Tracey Bloom’s tutelage, Isabella gained a greater understanding for refined American cuisine. When she went on hiatus to film Top Chef, he was tapped for the position of sous chef, and wowed his employers and guests with his creativity and food knowledge.

Isabella returned to his home state in 2010, accepting the position of sous chef at Luma on Park, a Concentrics concept owned by NASCAR CEO and Chairman of the Board Brian France, and remained until the fall of 2012. “We worked with a lot of local farms, changing our menu every day,” says Isabella. “I learned a lot about fish butchering during my time there.” Luma’s modern American style served Isabella well, enabling him to master sous vide like nobody’s business. After his promotion from sous chef to management, Isabella began to yearn for Atlanta. Luckily, Luma’s executive chef Brandon McGlamery is close friends with Drew Belline, co-owner of No. 246, and he happily connected the two. “I fell in love with No. 246,” says Isabella, “and Drew took me right in.”

In November 2012, the Florida native became the chef de cuisine at Atlanta’s luminary restaurateurs and chefs Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s Italian-inspired No. 246 restaurant, which is deservedly praised for its affection for farm-fresh ingredients. Isabella is now is settled happily in the heart of Buckhead with his new wife Kaylen (the newlyweds tied the knot in November 2011). Together, the sweethearts enjoy antiquing and traveling, though she might be in fierce competition for time with Chef Belline, who’s just introduced Chef Isabella to the exciting world of foraging.

The Belline/Isabella duo makes for an impressive combo of leadership and style at No. 246, which places importance on the seasonality of locally sourced ingredients to build fresh, everyday dishes utilizing Italian cooking techniques in the heart of Decatur. “I like working with seasonal and locally inspired ingredients,” says Isabella. “I believe good food brings people together, so my passion for food also corresponds with my calling to serve others.”

During his time at No. 246, Isabella’s feeling most appreciative of the simplicity in approach. “It’s great letting the ingredients speak for themselves,” he says. “Coming from Luma, where there was so much put into every dish, it was very complex. At No. 246, we let the produce talk.”

No. 246 is hailed for its veneration for local produce and meaningful relationships developed with local farmers. “It’s amazing,” says Isabella of the fresh produce. “The farmers cut it and bring it in dripping wet, still covered in dirt. It means a lot. It’s a good way to see it.”

An integral figure in the design and development of the oft-changed menu, Isabella’s philosophy is represented in every dish. It’s refined farm-to-table food rooted in Italian techniques—served at lunchtime and evening to ravenous Decaturites and Atlantans alike.

 

 

Atlanta, Bios, Portfolio, writing

Chef E.J. Hodgkinson, JCT. Kitchen and Bar

Chef-EJ-Hodgkinson-Atlanta-food

E.J. HODGKINSON: EXECUTIVE CHEF – JCT. KITCHEN AND BAR

QUICK HIGHLIGHTS:

Before becoming the Executive Chef at JCT. Kitchen and Bar in January 2013, E.J. Hodgkinson crisscrossed the country, polishing his culinary chops at luxury resorts, cafés and the Texas Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu. Hodgkinson’s comfort in the kitchen came easy, as he watched his grandmother tend to her garden, turning fresh, local ingredients into fulfilling and nourishing meals at the family dinner table. The 29-year-old California native is in an unabashed love affair with the South now, and aims to rocket JCT. Kitchen to the national acclaim it deserves.

FULL BIOGRAPHY:

Executive Chef E.J. Hodgkinson has been immersed in a vibrant culinary culture for half of his life. The Placerville, California, native began cooking professionally at the ripe age of 14 in a neighborhood coffee shop. It was during this chef-driven childhood that Hodgkinson developed his insatiable appreciation for locally sourced ingredients, observing his grandmother canning the tomatoes grown in her lush California garden. “My grandmother taught me the art of preservation and the concept of farm-to-table long before it was cool or a cliché,” says the family-oriented chef who could cook an egg at the tender age of 6. “I fell into cooking comfortably.”

Once he finished high school, the adventurous spirit headed to Idaho, polishing his gourmet chef skills at the posh Sun Valley Resort, a luxury travel destination teeming with celebrities seeking refuge and anonymity. Chef Hodgkinson continued with his training in Ashland, Oregon, where he kept beat to a high-paced rhythm at a cozy restaurant which caters to the Shakespeare festival that attracts 1.8 million people annually.

At only 21-years-old, Hodgkinson was named executive chef at Tomei’s, a hip restaurant in his historic hometown, which is famous from the Gold Rush days. He says that “to take the next step I had to take a step back.” So he enrolled in Texas Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas. Graduation landed him the sous chef position at for 34th St. Café, where fresh, locally sourced food was the focus.

Chef Hodgkinson’s love affair with the South blossomed when he moved to Atlanta with his girlfriend, who wanted to be closer to her family. He sought out chef positions with premium restaurants, and caught the attention of Bravo’s Top Chef luminary Kevin Gillespie, who was at the helm of Woodfire Grill’s kitchen at the time.

Hodgkinson earned multiple promotions from line cook to sous chef to chef de cuisine in his 4-and-a-half years at Woodfire Grill. “Kevin played an integral role in my falling in love with Southern cuisine,” says Hodgkinson, who confesses he used to think grits played second fiddle to polenta. “I quickly learned it was the other way around,” he says, adding that “Southern cuisine is the richest and most fulfilling in America because of the history and heritage behind it.” Perhaps what has made the deepest imprint on the chef’s heart is how the Southern family values its meals around the table, which reminds him of his own family back in California. “Sitting down with your family every night and eating dinner together is how I grew up, but it’s not the norm in California. It seems to be the norm in the South, and it’s why I fell in love with it.”

The chef’s expansive knowledge of sourcing the freshest ingredients and layering their flavors into perfection led to a call from Chef Ford Fry in the fall of 2012, inviting him to become part of the JCT. Kitchen family. As executive chef of the lauded dining destination known for its down-home gourmet style, Hodgkinson revels in employing the proper, fundamental techniques to bring out the best of each ingredient and letting each component speak for itself. “Something gets lost in translation when you do too much to it,” he says.

Chef Hodgkinson easily became a proud ambassador for Chef Fry’s West Midtown restaurant. “What I love about JCT is the friendly, comfortable experience offered from start to finish. I like people to feel like they’ve come into my home and had an amazing meal, accompanied by great, not-too-intrusive service and incredible drinks.”

The ambitious chef has set his sights on countrywide acclaim for JCT. Kitchen. His goal is elevating the level of cuisine without becoming pretentious, continuing to make it a fun place at which to dine and experience food. “My aim is to execute a very high level of food in a format which people can enjoy and still keep it approachable,” he says, noting that the Southern focus situated in comfortable yet refined environs is what’s kept it such high regard with Atlanta’s foodie community. “There’s a reason it’s been here for seven years. I aim to just make it make it better. I would like to take JCT to the national realm of recognition. Ford knows I’ve always had my foot on the gas.”

 

Want a professional biography like this one? Contact Kirsten Ott at ko@kirstenott.co. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles, Portfolio

Why my wife and I had to create a gay wedding magazine


By Kirsten Ott  for The Huffington Post

I’ve never been ashamed of being a lesbian, no matter what society has attempted to make me feel with its laws set up for my relationships to fail. I was born to love the girl next door, who preferably would have bigger muscles than me, exude a quiet confidence, make me fall to the floor laughing and love traveling, creating, exploring new cultures and gastronomy as much as I do.

Though I’ve certainly not been immune to discrimination for being a lesbian, I was naïve in my understanding of what modern-day society felt about my “kind.” Sure I’m aware (and angry) that we don’t have the 1,138 Federal rights that are naturally afforded to my straight co-citizens, but I didn’t realize just how unequal some of the basic components of life — like having a wedding — are for the LGBT community.

I dreamt of having a romantic lush wedding since I was a little girl. Yep, I’m one of those. And when I realized that it was a woman I wanted standing at the altar waiting for me, I never thought it wasn’t possible. Not once. You see, to me, a wedding is a wedding, whether a government legally recognizes it or not.

I finally met the woman of my dreams in 2003: She easily ticked off all the items on my checklist and then some. Maria and I began dating in 2004, and she proposed one frosty winter day in 2008. I was over the moon with elation, and quickly started the perhaps-tad-excessive planning process.

I settled in with my strong cup of joe and my self-made mountain of wedding-planning insanity in our living room, and I began flipping through the magazines, the glossy pages of beautiful brides and their handsome grooms. I didn’t mind seeing straight couples, of course, but page after page I didn’t recognize myself in these magazines. Where was I? And more importantly, where was my soon-to-be-wife, with her short hair, her masculine figure, her men’s clothing, most notably the wedding suit she’d soon purchase. The lack of information for gays and lesbians bothered me, but I also felt that not being included translated to rejection and what I could only imagine to be homophobia in the wedding industry at large.

It was at that moment that I knew what I was being called on to do. Don’t for a second think I have any delusions of grandeur or celestial inspiration. But I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for helping the underdog, even when that dog is me. So I did what any writer/editor who was about to marry a talented graphic designer would do. We decided to launch our own online magazine for engaged LGBT couples.

I still didn’t even know how much our kind of magazine was needed. When Maria and I started calling vendors to interview for our own wedding in the city that The Advocate named the No. 1 gayest city in America in 2010, I was shocked to have multiple phone calls and emails unreturned when I made clear in my initial message that it was two women getting married. When I spoke to some vendors, I felt rejected and unwanted. At one bridal salon, a saleswoman disappeared on me after I told her my fiancée was a woman.

As a credentialed magazine writer, I even pitched the honeymoon department of a popular bridal magazine known for its more modern presentations of weddings. The now-defunct magazine’s travel editor told me politely that they weren’t ready to run a lesbian’s honeymoon story in their magazine.

Every homophobic wedding vendor or wedding-industry professional Maria and I dealt with when planning our wedding rained on our gay parade. It was a light drizzle compared to the horrific stories I’ve heard from some gays and lesbians. But I was more determined than ever to try to help the members of my family, the LGBT community, be able to plan their weddings — enormously important days when we officially begin our lives as two, not one, with the person we love — without this hate and judgment.

After an intense nine months of research, writing, designing, coding and developing, we launchedEqually Wed, the nation’s premier online same-sex wedding magazine, in March 2010.

At EquallyWed.com, we showcase a myriad of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender weddings to serve as inspiration to those planning their own nuptials. In addition, we also offer Local Resources, a marketplace of gay-friendly wedding vendors across the United States, Mexico, Canada and parts of the Caribbean. We now have a team of editors and writers working at EquallyWed.com, bringing same-sex couples the latest in fashion, beauty and grooming for every wonderful sector of our diverse community of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and genderqueer, from the butchest of butch to the most feminine; honeymoon articles written by gay travel journalists who visit destinations to aptly review them for being gay friendly (who wants to worry about getting arrested or beaten on their honeymoon?); a plethora of wedding-planning inspirations for ideas and trends for each special moment on the Big Day and everything surrounding it. Because politics and marriage do mix when you’re gay, we cover the latest news in marriage equality, as well. We produce new posts daily, and later this month, we’re taking our quarterly magazine to monthly issues. Also later this month, we’ll debut our own wedding tools to further help our readers enjoy planning their weddings in an accepting and inspiring environment.

As we continue to grow our company and attract investors, we’ll be able to do more, but I’ve gotta say, I feel pretty good already. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a note of thanks in my email inbox from someone planning their own wedding, a relative of theirs (usually a parent) or a wedding vendor who just wants to say what we’re doing has helped them in some way.

Follow Equally Wed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/equallywed

Published in The Huffington Post: Jan. 25, 2012

Photos: Our Labor of Love

Portfolio

The Morning After: Atlanta

cilantro corn pancakes at Highland Bakery

Cilantro corn pancakes at Highland Bakery

Weekend brunch in Atlanta is almost as close to religion as college football, probably because it encourages continued drinking from the night before—or provides a cure from a hard-won hangover. It’s an obsession for many, and here are the spots we’re most addicted to.

By Kirsten Ott Palladino

HIGHLAND BAKERY

655 Highland Ave., #10

highlandbakery.com

This combination kitschy bakery and café is beloved by its Fourth Ward residents and beyond. Breakfast specialties such as heavenly sweet potato pancakes with brown sugar syrup and hearty cilantro corn pancakes are easy to throw back in a sparse, industrial setting highlighted by big windows and big art. Save room for the dreamy cupcakes—the pastry team has won several challenges on the Food Network.

 

PARISH

240 N. Highland Ave. NE

parishatl.com

When Parish opened in Inman Park, locals quickly embraced its funky vibe and New Orleans roots. Weekend brunch is relaxed with superior service and terrific Southern comfort food from the chef-driven kitchen. Highlights include the fried green tomato Benedict, which starts with a from-scratch buttermilk biscuit crowned with poached eggs, smoked ham, fried green tomato and béarnaise. Pair it with one of the many strong classic cocktails, like the housemade Bloody Mary.

 

ROSEBUD

1397 N. Highland Ave.

rosebudatlanta.com

Over in Morningside, chef/owner Ron Eyester’s Rosebud thrives on creative cooking and speaking out for local growers and products. The seasonally driven menu delights at any meal, but for breakfast, the Big Nasty (a heart-stopping chicken biscuit), the turkey and pesto scramble, and the crab cake Benedict are standouts, as are the housemade libations, which will cure even the gloomiest of bedheads. •

LATE-NIGHT NOSH (…and by late night, we mean early morning.)

The folks at TOP FLR (674 Myrtle St. NE, topflr.com) have honed a surefire formula: quirky, modern American food plus an unquestionably hip Midtown setting that’s open late (for Atlanta, that’s 1 or 2 a.m., depending on the night). Young hipsters and their older, wiser counterparts return night after night for savory dishes such as crispy duck breast with fennel salt and lavender jus, thin-crust pizza and ooey-gooey mac ’n’ cheese.

 

Published in the print issue of Draft Magazine May/June 2011