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Health & Fitness: Food for body and soul

Spice Market's vegetarian bento box

If you made a resolution to eat healthier food and have a positive outlook on life, then World Peace Café is the perfect place to start your year. Luckily we made it there before the snow-pocalypse. It’s a vegan/vegetarian café built on donations and run by volunteers. The café is owned and operated by Kadampa Buddhist Center, so the restaurant will reward you with peaceful karma and healthy cuisine.

The café has a modern Buddhist temple feel with high ceilings and hanging Asian lanterns. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Thursday from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I’ve only tried lunch and dinner but their breakfast menu looks unique with “Corned Peace Hash and Eggs” and Vegan Cranberry-Orange Pancakes. For lunch I had a hot and spicy vegan burger made with roasted veggies, topped with a zippy buffalo sauce and melted bleu cheese. The flavor of this healthy burger was explosive.

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Varasano’s earns reputation among America’s best pizzerias

Vanasano's Pizza offers great pies

My partner and I recently went to the Atlanta Executive Network meeting at Varasano’s on Peachtree Street. AEN is the oldest local LGBT business networking group.

Varasano’s is consistently rated as one of Atlanta’s top pizza places. In fact Rachael Ray named Varasano’s one of the elite eight pizzerias in America.

The buzz was huge before owner Jeff Varasano’s restaurant even opened. I sat and talked with him for a while. He started as a software engineer with an obsession for superlative pizza. He wrote blogs and had weekly pizza parties that gained a cult following. Finally he took the plunge and opened Varasano’s.

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Take a break from leftovers with hearty steaks, warm soups

Parker's on Ponce offers tasty steaks and more...

We were in Decatur, already tired of thinking about turkey, and wanted a nice hearty steak with a spicy glass of pinot noir, but we didn’t feel like paying high Buckhead prices. Plus we wanted something “neighborhoody.” Parker’s on Ponce was the perfect choice.

Open since 2008, Parker’s offers style and class without being pretentious. It’s the perfect setting for good friends or a holiday gathering. The romantic interior is warm with dark woods and soothing ambient stone fireplaces, causing Parker’s to immediately release your stress. When we were there the scene was a Decatur mélange of gay, lesbian and straight. Service was convivial and inviting. They are open for brunch and there’s a big bar. The large scenic patio will be nice in the spring.

The cuisine is decadent without being too over the top.  Sometimes it’s nice to revisit classic steakhouse fare like fried calamari, and Parker’s take was fresh and crispy with a drizzle of garlic and onion aioli. We decided to continue the splurge and split the lamb lollipops, little savory chops with mint balsamic reduction. Our friend got the Irish beer cheese soup with a white cheddar crouton.   It was a butch French Onion.

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Dining: Fabulous fall brunch spots

West Egg Cafe

This is a great time to be in Atlanta. The autumn days tend to be crisp and bright making weekends perfect to hit a patio and have brunch.

You must try West Egg Café located in a refurbished warehouse in the gentrified West Midtown district. The scene is mixed in the industrial open loft space with towering windows, plus there is a scenic patio. West Egg has numerous accolades from the AJC, Atlanta Magazine and Creative Loafing for best breakfast and brunch due to efficient service and superlative cuisine by Chef Patric Bell.

West Egg has a can’t-go-wrong menu of breakfast and brunch “new-Southern” comfort foods. Where else can you get a huge pimento cheese and bacon omelet with scratch-made roasted garlic grits and a fluffy Southern biscuit? The consummate Southern author Fannie Flag would gush over the West Egg’s fried green tomatoes that are golden and tangy with dollops of pimento cheese and a horseradish dill sauce.

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Gay favorite Radial Café enters new era

Philip Palmer is moving to London at the end of the year and recently sold his restaurant, Radial Café, to Frank Bragg

Eleven years ago, Philip Palmer opened up Radial Café as a small restaurant that has thrived with its delicious menu and strong support of the LGBT community as well as other local groups.

But at the end of December, Palmer begins a new chapter in his life when he moves to London to be with his partner, Allen Roberson, who recently found a job there after earning an MBA from Emory.

“He’s been here his entire life, I’ve been here 15 years, so we knew it was definitely time for something different,” Palmer says while seated on the patio of Radial Café on DeKalb Avenue.

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Don’t be afraid to venture beyond I-285 for great dining

Crepe Revolution

In the ‘70s and ’80s, all the gays and lesbians in the city lived inside the Perimeter. As an Atlanta native I’ve seen everything change. Now we are everywhere, and I’m so tired of this “I don’t do OTP” because there are plenty of delicious OTP chef-driven restaurants.

Here are some noteworthy places worth venturing close to or even beyond the circle of Interstate 285. The scene is mainly straight but most Atlanta restaurants couldn’t care less about your sexual orientation so long as you are polite and tip well. Plus everyone knows if you attract the gays the place must be good.

There are so many fabulous restaurants in Vinings, but did you know there was a revolution? Try something different and head to Crepe Revolution in the charming West Village development. The restaurant serves fabulous sweet and savory crepes. We had a blast with our gay waiter on the beautiful patio with its scenic view, which is not on a busy street like many ITP places. The interior is modern chic.

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Highland Bakery makes award-winning cakes — and satisfying food

Stacey Eames has owned the popular Highland Bakery in the Old Fourth Ward for seven years now and this summer opened a satellite store in Midtown at 14th Street and Crescent Avenue in the 1180 Peachtree building. Another satellite store is set to open soon at the Atlanta Financial Center, also on Peachtree, where the old Starbucks was located.

Managing the store’s growth is key in these tough economic times, but it’s no wonder people keep clamoring for more of Highland Bakery’s pastries, bread as well as full menu of sandwiches and breakfast.

“We’ve been adding so many elements — this is a customer-driven business,” says Eames, a lesbian. “I love our customers, trying to fill a niche for what they are asking for — authentic, down-to-earth good food.”

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Pride: Plenty of options for dining near Piedmont Park

Festival food

Showing Pride can make you hungry. If you’re from out of town, you’ll see there are hundreds of places to eat in the Atlanta metro area. As a native Atlantan, here are some good choices around the periphery of Piedmont Park. Food snobs may not agree, but if you’re hungry at Pride, listen to me.

Some festival food carts at Pride are really delicious but not the healthiest and prices can be high. My weakness is corn dogs dipped in jalapeño cornmeal batter and fried in front of you. Yum. There are also those fried mushrooms and onion blossoms.

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Home & Real Estate: Easy entertaining at home

Entertaining at home can be easy

Inviting friends or a date over for a meal can be daunting, but don’t worry. Here are some tips to have a successful party that will have them swooning.

The easiest dining party is brunch. All you have to do is make a frittata, buy some bakery goods from your favorite place and make some mimosas or bloody marys. Use Martinelli’s sparkling apple juice in a champagne flute for non-drinkers.

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Restaurants where gay PDA is A-OK

Atlantans joined in the celebrations earlier this month when a federal judge ruled that Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, was unconstitutional. Sure, the case is being appealed, but we can still rejoice in the strongly worded ruling that affirmed our rights as lesbian and gay Americans.

All of the Prop 8 revelry made me think about places where I could truly be myself and grab my partner’s hand on the table and say, “I love you.” I’m not a big PDA person, but I don’t see anything wrong with a quick kiss or hand-holding as long as it doesn’t turn into an adult movie.

Here are some gay places in Atlanta where you can give your same-sex partner affection without feeling awkward. You may even want to propose and plan your California wedding.

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Business Spotlight: N’awlins

N'awlins serves brunch at My Sister's Room

As they say in New Orleans, or N’awlins, as the locals like to call it, “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez” — Let the Good Times Roll.

This weekend, N’awlins, owned and operated by chef and trans man Franky Capobianco, plans to do just that by beginning to serve brunch in My Sister’s Room in East Atlanta.

The restaurant was once located on Irwin Street but decided to relocate to My Sister’s Room for the weekends after air conditioning problems plagued its former home.