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Your Personal Sommelier

When I met Michael Bowden, I blurted out the same words to him that I often hear when people learn I’m a food critic: “Man, I want your job!” Bowden identifies himself as a “personal sommelier.” He manages the cellars of two wealthy oenophiles (who wish to remain anonymous), keeping track of 130,000 bottles of wine between them.

Join a Brew Crew

The booming U.S. craft beer industry (up 15 percent in sales in 2011 and 12 percent in 2010) can trace its spate of stardom to enterprising do-it-yourselfers. The American Homebrewers Association estimates that at least 90 percent of the country’s professional beer makers began by mastering their skills in their houses.

Wild Man

Nick Purdy does not dabble. Ten years ago he cofounded Paste magazine to spotlight the kind of music he loved. Never mind that he couldn’t play a note. Two years ago he cofounded Wild Heaven Craft Beers.

Cocktail Improv

The new breed of cocktail list, with its eccentrically named spirits and esoteric brands, sometimes needs as much interpretation as an overwhelming wine menu. More than ever, serious bartenders have to foster an articulate exchange with customers.

Bygone Bars

The Piedmont Hotel Bar: Shortly after the hotel’s 1903 opening, it was decried as a “cesspool of sin,” a reputation earned in part due to an opulent bar featuring a fountain with a Venus statue clad in a grape wreath and little else.

The Retro Fun of Westminster Inc. Toys

Today’s third graders may turn up their noses at any toy that doesn’t contain a microchip, but fortunately for Atlanta-based Westminster Inc., their parents have no such scruples. Apparently whoopee cushions and potato guns are timeless.

Braves GM Frank Wren Speaks Plainly

Frank Wren; courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

Get away to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We came for the bourbon. Like a growing number of tourists—more than 2 million in the last five years—our crew went where true bourbon was born, by the clear limestone waters of Kentucky.

Barbie Redo

For more than half a century, the name "Barbie" has conjured indelible images into the psyches of children and adults alike: carefree, shapely, blond, and white. Now Mattel has enhanced the image of its fifty-something doll with the addition of So in Style Locks of Looks Barbie, a version inspired by Atlanta’s own hair-product juggernaut, Bronner Bros. The toy giant approached the sixty-five-year-old African American–owned company about making a special doll to coincide with Bronner's spectacularly successful, twice-a-year hair-care trade show—next one is February 18 to 21. (The show attracts about 60,000 attendees and was featured in Chris Rock's 2009 film "Good Hair.") Mattel enlisted designer Stacey McBride-Irby—the originator of the company’s first black doll line—to create the dolls, which come in three different models and are available at Walmart, Kmart, and other select retailers for about $20 each. All three models come with four hair extensions and a younger sister. "I want African American girls to know that dolls can represent their career aspirations, hobbies, and ethnic backgrounds," says McBride-Irby.

Badge Girls

My apologies to our dining critic, Bill Addison, whose office is next to mine, but my longtime family recipe for chicken ratatouille involves opening lots of cans. That is, it did until recently, when I “earned” my Locavore Girl Scout badge. I couldn’t resist testing the new badges when I heard that the Girl Scouts had overhauled their entire program for the first time since 1987. Gone are awards like Food, Fibers & Farming, and Looking Your Best, which included hosting a color party to determine your most flattering palette. New are activities like Cross-Training, Screenwriter, and Geocacher. Thanks to the Locavore requirement that I cook a favorite dish with locally grown foods, I’m now addicted to the Marietta Square Farmers Market. Who knew parsley had flavor? If I were still in middle school, I’d take a stab at the Science of Happiness.

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