a taste of new orleans

As Part II of our honeymoon (Part I was a few nights in the gorgeous city of Charleston), Will & I road tripped from South Carolina to Texas, stopping to spend one lovely day in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been there, and I had been sufficiently enchanted by the likes of the Princess & the Frog to be very much excited about our little adventure. We were ready to learn what all the talk surrounding the city was about. And, of course, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to cross another item off my bucket list24) Go on a food tour in a major city.

New Orleans is well-known for both its incredible cuisine and unique culture… and we were lucky enough to find a tour that blended elements from both. We settled on a walking tour (Tastebud Tours) lead by a former middle school principal, and followed him as he meandered around the city, painting a fascinating picture of the historical, architectural, and cultural landscape of New Orleans. All in all, we stopped at six local food spots. And let me tell you… we had an incredible experience at every single one.

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We began at the local deli Mike Serio’s, where Will & I both had our first muffulettas. Think bread + salami + mortadella + ham + mozzarella + provolone + olive salad= the biggest (and possibly the tastiest) sandwich you have ever seen in your life. The pictures below show quarter portions. This sandwich originated in New Orleans and is one of the city’s signature items… our tour guide reported that it was created in 1906, in response to the needs of the city’s Sicilian farmers who were attempting to get a lunch that would last all day in the hot sun. Obviously, it stuck around.

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Our next stop was Cafe Beignet, an adorable little hidden garden with live jazz and greenery all around. We were served the hottest, softest, most delicious beignets ever, and covered ourselves in powdered sugar as we tried to eat them gracefully. It beat our Cafe du Monde experience by far. And, of course, what would beignets be without cafe ole? (p.s. since we had been at Cafe du Monde earlier in the day, I didn’t take any photos at this stop. The ones below are from that morning instead.)

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After the cafe, we popped into a little spice shop: The Spice & Tea Exchange. This place was packed with every type of dried herb, spice, tea, and sugar and salt and pepper blend. Our time there was full of peeking into jars and inhaling deeply and saying, “One day, we’ll buy stuff like this”.

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We then strolled on over The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, which was established in 1894, and were greeted by the chef himself… a rotund, jolly man who wore the white hat and had an Yat accent fit for the movies. We listened to him passionately outline the difference between Cajun and Creole histories/ cuisines and quietly sampled both gumbo and jumbalaya. Cajuns, apparently, came from Acadia (Nova Scotia), displaced by the British to eventually settle in Louisiana. Creoles, on the other hand, are descendants of the French and Spanish immigrants who settled in Louisiana while those countries enjoyed control over the area (along with a sizable population of Africans and African Americans). Cajun cooking, therefore, is more “country,” as the Acadians learned to live off the land, while Creole cooking was more “urban” and was generally done by chefs hired by the wealthy, who blended their European cooking styles with local ingredients. As for us, we thought both dishes were incredible.

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We next went to Johnny’s Po Boys, for a famous roast beef po boy. These were served wrapped in paper in the back room of the shop, and we watched as people walked in and out of the kitchen. Po boys are famous for a reason, and Johnny’s is (disputably) the best in the city.

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And the final piece: Laura’s Candies, the oldest candy store in New Orleans. Here, our tour guide gave us a warm goodbye and left us to peruse the shop, where we were privy to free samples of everything from mississippi mud to peanut butter meltaways. And then, of course, we were sent home with a bag of famous NOLA pralines in hand. The perfect end, in my opinion, to a perfect tour.

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And what do you do when you finish an extravagantly delicious food tour? Go and eat more, obviously. Our one day in New Orleans was finished at The Three Muses, a little bar that served exotic foods tapas-style… our meal included (but was not limited to) Tempura Shrimp, Goat-Cheese Stuffed (and Bacon-Wrapped) Dates, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, & Smoked Duck Breast Enchilada Pizza, topped with a Sunny Side Up Duck Egg. We finished with a Banana Empanada and homemade Nutella Ice Cream, listening to the live musicians as they sang about the wonders of New Orleans.

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The wonders of New Orleans, indeed.

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my new favorite crustacean

Ever since I heard of these guys, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of trying an authentic lobster roll… there’s something about the toasted kaiser roll, crunchy and warm, paired with sweet and cool lobster, that just sounds right to me. It’s beautiful, gourmet, and exotic enough that I instantly added it to my bucket list. And now that I’ve relocated to Texas, I finally got a chance to pick one up! Apparently, people ship fresh lobster out here on a regular basis. Lucky me.

Our first week here, Will & I found a food truck that served these little lovelies and jumped at the chance to try them. They were delicious. Actually, we loved them enough that we tried them twice (just being honest).

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Texas adventure # 1: complete. Bucket list item #49: done.

I love checking things off my lists.

p.s. a fun guide on what makes the best lobster roll.

sweet friendship

Halfway through our wedding week, I asked all the women involved in the wedding to join me for a “thank you” dessert. The nine of us piled into our cars, drove down to the Inlet, and gathered around a long table in a tiny cafe, where the sun was shining through the windows and the walls were painted leaf green. We ordered wine and every dessert on the menu, marveling over the sweet dishes that appeared in front of us. At the end, I passed around gifts wrapped with baker’s twine and handed out notes, and we all teared up as they opened them. I wanted them to know, to really know, how much I loved them.

You see, these women flew across the country, putting a pause on their own lives, in order to stand beside me in South Carolina. As they have time and time before, each one chose to love me, to support me, to laugh with me, to encourage and calm and bear witness to life unfolding. Throughout the years, they have been there through fires and sickness and arguments, across the miles and despite living together, choosing encouragement and honesty and goodness every day. They have stayed up all night with me, dancing and baking and telling truths. They have welcomed me into their families with open arms. They have challenged me and taught me and sharpened me.

Between them, there are dreamers and mathematicians, theologians and healers, musicians and missionaries, all women of strength and character and unfailing loyalty. Each one is beautiful, strong, funny, & kind. In short, they are bright, and I am honored to be part of their lives. As one elderly woman said, approaching me towards the end of our meal, “Ma’am, you have the most beautiful group of friends I have ever seen.”

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Sitting there in that little cafe, everything felt fresh and bright and colorful. We were delighted with the food, with the company, with the quaintness of everything around us. It was a time of sweetness and of laughter, a time of honoring these gorgeous women. A chance to have fun and to love and to enjoy the moment.

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Plus, there were lots of sweet treats. Our lovely desserts included brownie à la mode, key lime pie, pistachio ice cream, pear cobbler, strawberry ice cream,  & crème brûlée. All were homemade and utterly delicious and we smiled as we passed them around the table. I have long wanted to order every dessert on a menu, and I can’t think of a better occasion than this one.  As Linda Grayson said, “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”

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I love you, my sweet and wild and precious friends.

Thank you for being here. I miss you already.

wanting

Remember how I talked about one day buying something extravagant, just because?

Well, if I could spend lots of money on something totally indulgent right this second, I know what it would be… mail-order Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. It’s expensive and impractical and apparently wonderfully yummy. And so, of course, I spent way too much time today perusing their flavors. Here are a few of my favorites:

{Wildberry Lavender}, {Olive Oil, Saffron, Orange, + Caramel}, {Salty Caramel}

{Cherry Lambic Sorbet}, {Dark Chocolate}, & {Juniper + Lemon Curd}

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oliveoil_saffron_orange_caramel_Spoon_WEB__95783.1364587092.460.504
saltycaramelspoon__92276.1305469458.460.504
cherryfullspoontest__17216.1305427783.460.504
darkchocfullspoon__64274.1305434146.460.504
JuniperLemon_Spoon__08376.1335990118.460.504

 

And the list goes on (and on). Too bad the closest “scoop shop” is 589 miles away.

Road trip, anyone?

goodbye, salt

To those of you who know me well, this may come as a bit of a shock…I went a week without putting salt on my food. That’s right. Should I say it again? Seven full days. No salt.

I don’t know when it was that I became the girl who put salt on everything. Sometime in middle school, I think? I have distinct memories my seventh-grade self sitting in the food court at the mall sucking on a pack of soy sauce. Ew. It was not my proudest moment.

But regardless, it happened. And the fifty-six thousand times that I put salt on my breakfast, lunch, and dinner since then also happened. And we’re not talking about just french fries here: we’re talking everything from salad to pizza to brownies (which is kinda becoming cool now, go figure). Even if the food was perfectly seasoned when it was placed in front of me, I grabbed a salt shaker before even trying it. I’ve even been know to pour it into the palm of my hand and eat it straight up. But that’s enough oversharing. You get the point. And now you understand why it is that I’m excited that I went a whole week without doing it. It was time to combat the habit.

And here’s my conclusion: if you make food well in the first place, there is no need to add anything. So, there: another bucket list item completed. Let’s hope this one sticks.

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p.s. That’s a pizza Will and I made this week. Yummy.

p.s.s. Many thanks to Genie from Bunny. Eats. Design. for inviting me to participate in March’s “Our Growing Edge” event. Check out her site and the site of this month’s host, Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys, for some great reading about people who are crossing off their own food-related Bucket Lists. Thanks, Genie!

 

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how do you measure a year?

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In Instagrams, apparently. Beginning February 13th, 2012, every day (for the last 365 days), I have taken an Instagram photo. I began the project because I wanted to live intentionally. I wanted to be grateful for what each day held, whether it was a rainy-and-sick-eat-nothing-but-green-popsicles sort of day or it was a bright-and-happy-the-flowers-are-blooming sort of day. I chose to believe that there was something in every day that was worth taking a photo of.

So, I did it.

And here are a few of my favorites:

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Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this completes my bucket list item: “21) Take a photo a day, every day, for a year”. Yay!

the bucket list

There are so many beautiful, magical, great experiences to be had in this world. I want to live my everyday intentionally, squeezing the goodness out of every moment, in the big picture and the small. I don’t want to turn around 10 years from now and realize that my life is a blur of waking up and going to sleep, trudging to and from work. Instead, I want to look back and see color and adventure, as I chase after those things that are, well, simply delightful. Here are those things:

1)      SCUBA dive at the Great Barrier Reef

Flynn Reef

2)      Learn how to sign fluently

3)      Ride in a hot air balloon (photo here)

Hot Air Balloons

4)      Live debt-free!

5)      Take a photography class

6)      Get married  –> June 01st, 2013

7)      Help build a Habitat for Humanity home (photo here)

Habitat for Humanity

8)      Donate blood –> October 10th, 2012

9)      Work at a bakery, cupcakery, or restaurant (photo here)

cupcakery

10)    Visit the Amazonian Rainforest (photo here)

Yasuni Park

11)    Ride a camel (photo here)

Camel Caravan

12)    Host a pop-up dinner party, progressive dinner party, backyard movie night, a “Test your Tastebuds” dinner party, & a “Dinner in the Dark” party

Popup Dinner Party

13)    See the Aurora Borealis

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14)    Commit to “Random Acts of Kindness” on my birthday at least once

15)    Buy a stranger a meal at a restaurant

16)    Read and annotate the entire Bible

17)    Harvest honey from a beehive (photo here)

beehive harvest

18)    Travel to the Grecian islands (photo here)

Santorini

19)    Allow myself to go grey naturally

20)    Go tide pooling (photo here)

Tide Pooling

21)    Take a photo a day, every day, for a year –> February 13th, 2012- February 12th, 2013

22)    Cage dive with sharks or crocodiles/ alligators (photo here)

Cage Diving

23)    Attend a Cirque du Soleil show

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24)     Go on a food tour in a major city  –->June 12th, 2013

25)    Visit Italy (photo here)

Venice Alley

26)     Anonymously grant a wish on someone’s online wishlist –> October 26th, 2013

27)    Donate $1,000, $5,000, & $10,000 to a charity

28)    Become a parent (photo here)

The Daybook

29)    Touch an iceberg (photo here)

Iceberg

30)    Buy something extravagant, simply because I want it

31)    Go complaint-free for 30 days

32)    See “The Lion King” on Broadway

The Lion King

33)    Stay one night in an overwater bungalow (photo here)

Overwater Bungalow

34)    Fund a small business using microloans

35)     Go out to eat and order every dessert on the menu –-> May 30th, 2013

36)    Tour Pixar studios (photo here)

Pixar Logo

37)    Attend a lecture or reading by J.K. Rowling (photo here)

J.K. Rowling

38)    Go salt-free for a week–> February 24th, 2013- March 3rd, 2013

39)    Take part in a sky lantern festival (photo here)

sky lantern festival

40)    Take a one-on-one vacation with each of my children at least once

41)    Have an aquarium

42)    Live on an island for at least one month

43)    See Jimmy Buffett in concert

Jimmy Buffett

44)    Be a stay-at-home Mom

45)    Visit New York in December and eat roasted chestnuts

Chestnuts

46)    Give a handwritten thank-you note to someone who gave me exceptional customer service

47)    Go on a walk through a lavender field

Lavender Field

48)    Try needle acupuncture (photo here)

Needle Acupuncture

49)    Eat a fresh Maine lobster roll –> June 22nd, 2013

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50)    Attend a(n indie) film festival

51)    Dine at a Three Star Michelin restaurant (photo here)

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