I would really like to blog more often, but time is at a premium. However, there is always incredible material from other bloggers that can and should be shared. Here’s today’s contribution, a lovely photo and quiet couple of stories that have been woven together in one of my favorite blogs.
“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go and you can’t hold on You can’t go back and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get…
This post is in response to a request from a high school friend of my son’s. They’ve kept in touch since starting college in the fall of 2016. She said:
Hi! It’s been a while since we’ve talked – I hope you’re doing well. I’m planning a trip for 2 to New Orleans on December 18-21st and I was wondering if, by chance, you might know of any good things to do in NOLA around that time of year.
Thanks in advance!
And I said: “Oh yeah! I will be happy to send you tips. Thanks for asking; I am so flattered! You are an excellent photographer and beautiful model, so I hope you will consider letting me post some of your experiences in my blog.” (She agreed.)
New Orleans Tips for Mallory
And so, my dear, here is my New Orleans travel advice for you and your companion. It’s probably a bit more than you expected, but I’ve been carrying around this list in my head for a long, long time; I was only 18 when I first visited the Crescent City. And by the way, don’t worry that you’re missing out by being under 21 – NOLA is one of the great all-age cities of the world. You will have a wonderful time.
Packing and Pre-Trip Mindset
Be ready for weather that could be anywhere from 30° – 70° (or even higher), but will definitely be damp; take clothing that can be layered on and off, like scarves, vests and light jackets.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must! And be sure to pack band-aids in case of walking-induced blisters (I speak from experience).
In fact, unless you’re planning to go somewhere that requires fancy clothes, don’t bother with them – New Orleans is about the food, the music and the people-watching, and you won’t see many fashion mavens.
An umbrella or raincoat with a hood is your friend. That’s me below at Jazz Fest in the spring of 2010, but believe me, the rains can strike at a moment’s notice in the Big Easy in any season.
Bring an extra memory card and battery for your camera or be sure to carry your phone charger with you, because you will take way more pictures than you than you imagine and will need the extra memory and power.
Get lots of sleep the night before you go, because NOLA is a 24/7 wonder and you won’t want to sleep much while you’re there (the best time to go to Cafe du Monde is in the middle of the night).
Get in a New Orleans frame of mind early by boning up on its history. If you have time (although I know you have finals just before this trip), go to the library or download a book about New Orleans. It is so fun to walk around in a city when you know a bit about its past and the physical structures that you’re seeing. NOLA has a fascinating and diverse heritage, probably the most varied of all American cities, which adds to the enjoyment of your visit. (I’m reading a book right now called The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, which is far too long to absorb before your trip, but if you’re interested, you can borrow it next summer when you have time.)
Or jump-start that New Orleans feeling by reading a quick novel or watching a movie set in the Crescent City. I have always liked Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, which isn’t about New Orleans, but the city is definitely a character (in my humble opinion) and a sense of place is a recurring theme. Amazon will let you download The Moviegoer for free right nowwith a 30-day trial of Audible. I think you will find this book interesting and thought-provoking, even beyond its connection to New Orleans and travels.
Take a look through The Storyteller blog to see the real New Orleans through the lens and mind of a photographer. I think you will be inspired, given your interest in photography.
If you’re driving to NOLA, park your car when you get there and leave it. It’s a pain to park and much more fun to use other forms of transportation. Parking is also very expensive, because it is at a premium.
Walk as much as you can; much of the magic of New Orleans lies in its dynamic street life.
When you’re not walking, ride the streetcar as much as you can.
Uber is quick and easy, but the cab drivers have the best stories.
Stuff to Do
Amble through Jackson Square and strike up conversations with the artists. There is usually music to enjoy, too.
Go to the French Market and shop, shop, shop. It is seedy, tacky, touristy and full of imports like $7 sunglasses, while also offering cool local art, jewelry and other handmade items at reasonable prices. There are local foodstuffs, and some funky junk. I usually pick up a stocking stuffer or two while I’m at the market. Sometimes there’s live music, and on Wednesdays, there’s a farmer’s market. Green space, trees and tiny parks can be found in the 6 blocks of shopping, too.
Or plan a whole day in the Arts District and take in a museum or three after the galleries. The National World War II Museum is over there (an immersion experience; you’ll have to pick just part of it if you want to fit it into an afternoon), and so are the Contemporary Arts Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. All are worth the trip!
There are many other museums scattered across NOLA that you should consider, like the Jazz Museum in the Old Mint, which frequently has performances, and, lucky you, is staging one during your trip (there will be clarinets!). There’s a sculpture garden over by City Park, and, while not a museum, I’ve always wanted to stroll through the cemetery there, too.
If you want the holiday festival experience with rides and an amazing array of holiday lights, take the streetcar out to City Park and go to Celebration in the Oaks(even this kind of big-production, glitzy festival is different and special in NOLA, because of its unique ‘carnival’ food, jazzy music and enchanting, ancient oak trees).
Explore the River Walk and riverfront, checking out the public art, Crescent Park and the fascinating hustle and bustle of NOLA’s river commerce.
If you’re curious about Bourbon Street, take a walk from where it intersects Canal Street all the way to Frenchmen Street, in the late afternoon before it gets too rambunctious. It is very entertaining during the day, and not scary. (You can probably tell that I don’t care for Bourbon Street at night.)
Take the ferry over to Algiers and check out the shops in Algiers Point or walk along the riverfront, or just do a round trip. The views from the ferry alone are worth the $2 trip. Be sure to check the schedule for the last ferry so you don’t get stuck there, because they don’t run at night.
Get on out to the Garden District to see a different side of the city, first printing out this itinerary and map for the self-guided walking tour. This is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and to work off the beignets, muffulettas and poorboys you’re going to be eating!
Get off the beaten path and be open to unique adventures…talk to locals some more and find out what they’re excited about doing in the Crescent City in December.
One more thing on the Stuff to Do List: don’t be in a hurry. Take your time; be deliberate. Look, listen, smell, taste and touch. New Orleans has a myriad of unexpected sights, sounds and people that can only be discovered – or appreciated – if you are truly in the moment. In my humble opinion, that’s the best thing about it.
Food and Drink
Go to Café du Monde if you must (it’s an icon, has great beignets, and you can visit on the day you go to the French Market because it is close by), but also try tiny little coffee houses you stumble across and take time to chat with the proprietors and other customers. They’ll give you the best tips about where to go and what to do.
Be a foodie-on-a-budget by going to a great restaurant at lunch; my favorite is Bayona (click here for my gushing testimonial).
Wine glasses are crystal, as it should be
Flan – yum!
Another foodie-on-a-budget trick is to eat at the bar at popular restaurants, ordering a stellar appetizer to share and then moving on to another stop; you don’t have to have reservations and can still experience stellar cuisine.
Have a po-boy sandwich somewhere – you’ll never have a better one than in New Orleans. Go for an oyster po-boy, or mix of fried oysters and shrimp (you’ll be having a meat-stuffed muffuletta later, so stick with the seafood on the po-boy). With creamy remoulade or tartar sauce spread liberally on freshly baked french bread, a pile of cold, shredded iceberg lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes and hot, crunchy seafood stuffed so full it falls out, the po-boy in New Orleans will rock your world. Trust me on this. I haven’t been there, but the Storyteller blogger in New Orleans highly recommends Cafe Reconcile in Central City in this post. It’s a non-profit that helps at-risk youth turn their lives around, and I will definitely be going there on my next trip.
In addition to the po-boy, you must have a muffuletta. They’re large, so you can split one with your travel companion. I daren’t court controversy by naming a place with the “best” muffuletta because there are huge disagreements over the amount of meat / hot versus cold / size of the bread and how / whether it is toasted, etc. You’ll have to check with the locals and report back on your findings for the benefit of Glover Gardens readers. Here’s a muffuletta picture and recipe from Emerils.com to whet your appetite.
Another food must: have a cup of gumbo somewhere. I don’t always do this any more because I make a pretty mean gumbo myself, quite often (have you had it?), but you shouldn’t miss the chance to have gumbo in NOLA if you haven’t had that pleasure. You could order it at the bar of one of the foodie places you visit, and can be sure that they’ll bring you some crusty french bread for sopping.
And, since you asked, most people wouldn’t call this a must-eat in the Big Easy, but the Grill-Meister and I had a wonderful and memorable lunch at the New Orleans Pizza Kitchen when we ordered their extremely tasty and memorable Jambalaya Pizza.
My usual go-to for jazz is any place on Frenchmen Street, but since you’re under 21, most of the clubs there are off-limits, including my favorite, The Spotted Cat. However, here’s a link to some great recommendations where you can get in. I’ve been to almost all of the places listed, and you really can’t go wrong. Let me know where you go and what you think.
Preservation Hall is an experience unto itself and worth standing in line.
You’ll encounter small bands of musicians or solo artists camped on street corner after street corner – who are just as likely to be self-taught geniuses as they are to have had formal instruction. The music can be folksy or sophisticated, but either way, it is captivating, and you’ll want to be sure to have some dollars ready for tipping. If you feel called to dance, do it!
Be ready to seize the moment and literally “follow the music” at any time, because you might get lucky and see a second line parade. If you do, be sure to join in and become part of the party.
The Grill-Meister and I were awestruck a couple of years ago when we happened on a 2nd line parade that was a wedding party and all of the guests following a brass band in their traditional white uniforms and dancing Mardi Gras “Indians” in elaborate costumes as they made their way from the church to the reception at a hotel a few blocks away. The street was blocked off and there were several tables covered with champagne in plastic glasses (I had one; I’m not sorry). The whole experience was a microcosm of how “living out loud” seems to be commonplace in NOLA. It was magic – the mood, the people, the music. Wow.
Well Mallory, That’s About All…’Til Next Time, or ‘Til We Hear Your Tips
Most of these tips apply at any time of the year, and NOLA is the kind of place that is funat any time of the year. I’m looking forward to hearing about your discoveries during your December journey and posting them here.
Anyone Have Anything to Add?
And finally, here’s a request for all of you out there who love or live in NOLA: what are your suggestions for having a great time there in December, or any time? We’d love to know.
If you follow this blog, you’ve seen the first part of this post, when it was shared on May 14. The second part is now revealed, a few weeks later than promised. (It’s been a busy spring here at Glover Gardens.)
I saw this picture a few nights ago on a friend’s Instagram account, and then dreamed about it. In my dream, I wrote various very simple haiku to accompany the photo. It is so lovely, and almost begs its viewer to create a story around the female figure walking away from the camera.
What do you think when you look at the photo?
Perhaps she is simply on a stroll, daydreaming.
she strolls peacefully
framed by the oak canopy
dreaming her future
Or is she walking away from something?
she slowly left her old life
never looking back
Maybe she is walking toward something, or someone.
joyful beats her heart
this journey just beginning
there will be no end
What do you think? I will reveal the real story and the location in a day or two. (Update: of course, now we know that my “day or two” was actually three weeks…did I say it has been a little busy around here?)
I think she’s had it! She is walking away to live the life and be the person she once was, before she got sucked into her horrible present life of hell.
(I’m pretty sure the second one was irony.)
The real story is … none of the above. The photo was snapped during a mother-daughter outing as part of our recent visit to New Orleans (the figure in the photo is the mom). A group of us from Southeast Texas met in the Crescent City last month to soak up the culture and music of Jazz Fest, and two of our crowd peeled off to visit Oak Alley Plantation one day. My friend and her grownup daughter had a lovely time touring the property, and this photo captured under the 300-year old alley of oaks was simply serendipity. When I asked for permission to use the picture along with the haiku musings it inspired, I also wanted to know how it came about; the daughter (a lovely woman in her early 20s who is also my friend) said:
I made her walk in front of me so I could snap a pic… perhaps it’s half posed / half natural. I think the dress she was wearing happened to catch the breeze just right, making it perfectly airy!
So here’s one more haiku, to close out this train of thought.
The eighth post in a series about the New Orleans Jazz Festival covering food (restaurants and recipes), fun, music and travel tips.
In the run-up to our Jazz Fest trip in early May, we are building anticipation by looking back at past good times in New Orleans and sharing our travel tips. And also cooking some of our favorite Louisiana recipes at home to get in the right mood – yum! Last night, it was Paul Prudhomme’s blackened fish. Actually, his recipe was for blackened redfish, but we use tilapia instead.
I usually tinker with recipes to make them my own, which you will know if you’ve ever taken a gander at my About page. But some recipes cannot be perfected, because they are already there. Chef Paul’s blackened fish is one of those. His blackened redfish was so popular in the 80’s that some called it the dish of the decade. In a retrospective about Chef Paul, the New Orleans Times-Picayune says it almost wiped out Gulf Coast redfish population.
I can understand why! We’ve created magic with the Chef Paul blackened fish recipe twice now, and it is downright spectacular. Moist on the inside, crusty and just-right spicy on the inside…heavenly.
The recipe in the cookbook has a marvelous spice mix that is juuuust right. Beware: there’s a recipe online on the official Paul Prudhomme web site, but it is different than the cookbook version and uses a pre-made commercial spice mix from the Chef Paul brand. Don’t use that one – use the one from the cookbook. I wouldn’t normally publish the recipe from the cookbook because it is copyright protected, but the New Orleans Times-Picayune published it in their online article in NOLA.com, so I’ve included it below. My advice: do not stray from these instructions. The result is a perfectly cooked blackened fish that is fine enough to serve to Sunday company.
From The Times-Picayune, April 5, 1984
“Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen” includes this note: Redfish and pompano are ideal for this method of cooking. If tilefish is used, you may have to split the fillets in half horizontally to have the proper thickness. If you can’t get any of these fish, salmon steaks or red snapper fillets can be substituted. In any case, the fillets or steaks must not be more than 3/4 inch thick.
Makes 6 servings
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted in a skillet
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
6 (8- to 10-ounce) fish fillets, preferably redfish, pompano or tilefish, cut about 1/2 inch thick (note: at Glover Gardens, we use tilapia)
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over very high heat until it is beyond the smoking stage and you see white ash in the skillet bottom (the skillet cannot be too hot for this dish), at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour 2 tablespoons melted butter in each of 6 small ramekins; set aside and keep warm. Reserve* the remaining butter in its skillet. Heat the serving plates in a 250-degree oven.
Thoroughly combine seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowL Dip each fillet in the reserved melted butter so that both sides are well coated; then sprinkle seasoning mix generously and evenly on both sides of the fillets, patting it in by hand. Place fish in the hot skillet and pour 1 teaspoon melted butter on top of each fillet (be careful, as the butter may flame up).
Cook, uncovered, over the same high heat until the underside looks charred, about 2 minutes (the time will vary according to the fillet’s thickness and the heat of the skillet). Turn the fish over and again pour 1 teaspoon butter on top. Cook until fish is done, about 2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining fillets. Serve each fillet while piping hot.
To serve, place one fillet and a ramekin of butter on each heated serving plate.
I don’t know if we’ll have time to get to K-Paul’s while we’re in New Orleans for the Jazz Fest (in less than 2 weeks!!!!), but with this recipe, we can have a little bit of Chef Paul’s kitchen magic right here at home.
One last tip: if you have any blackened fish left, it is marvelous the next day in a fish taco. Just add a bit of pico de gallo or slaw and serve it up on a corn or flour tortilla.
The seventh post in a series about the New Orleans Jazz Festival covering food (restaurants and recipes), fun, music and travel tips.
In the run-up to our Jazz Fest trip in early May, we are building anticipation by looking back at past good times in New Orleans and sharing our travel tips.
Today, we discuss a rather serious situation: The Foodie’s Dilemma.
How to Enjoy Festival Food and Yet Save Room to Experience NOLA’s Restaurants?
The issue at hand is: the festival food is so wonderful, so food-truck-trashy-tasty good, so “mama’s been making it for years just like this” authentic, that any self-respecting foodie simply has to eat it. And yet, as a proud foodie, you want to save room for the dinners at the myriad of super-fine restaurants New Orleans has to offer, like Bayona, which was profiled in an earlier post. It’s a difficult thing. I’ve been to Jazz Fest five times and still don’t have the formula right for solving the Foodies’ Dilemma. The best advice I have is to do a lot of walking and make room for more! Since there are nine different food locations all around the festival offering over 250 menu items, you can do a lot of your walking just trying to make up your mind! The other strategy we deploy is to skip breakfast, make a reservation for an early lunch at a foodie’s choice restaurant, then head out to the festival and start the serious snacking in mid-afternoon.
How to Choose from All the Mouthwatering Goodness?
And that’s the second part of the Foodie’s Dilemma: once you’ve realized you’re just going to be stuffed the whole time, and not really as ashamed about the gluttony as your Mama taught you to be – how do you pick between all of mouth-watering goodness provided by the 70+ vendors? With the memory-laden lure of your old favorites, how can even a foodie branch out and try something new? I’ve never had the Crab & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms that Prejean’s restaurant brings to Jazz Fest, but how could I pass up the Crawfish Monica or Crawfish Strudel that I always have? In the crawfish department alone, there were 18 different selections featuring this delicious little crustacean in 2016. So many options, so little time! The Foodie’s Dilemma is actually a Foodie’s Delight.
Festival Food Photos
So today, for your culinary daydreaming pleasure, here’s a look at some of the delectable festival food, just random pics I’ve snapped during a few of our Jazz Fest journeys. Some of the food was mine; some was in the hands of strangers. People are always really nice about letting me photograph their food.
People are always nice at Jazz Fest, period. It’s like a great big family reunion, but, instead of genes and upbringing, the thing you have in common is a love of music and food.
Catfish Almandine, Potato Salad and Creole Stuffed Crab
Fried Crawfish and Greek Salad with Gyro Sandwich
Have these photos piqued your interest? The resources below include a link to the food section on the Jazz Fest web site. There’s a lot more there to see and salivate over.
Crawfish Monica Recipe from Emeril’s Test Kitchen
Did you know that the amount of rotini pasta used to make the Crawfish Monica sold at the festival in a single year is 6 tons??? That stuff is hurt-yourself good. So here’s a Crawfish Monica recipe via GoNOLA, with a video from chef Chris Wilson, the director of culinary operations at Emeril Lagasse’s test kitchen.
Food list on the official New Orleans Jazz Fest site
The sixth post in a series about the New Orleans Jazz Festival covering food (restaurants and recipes), fun, music and travel tips.
In the run-up to our Jazz Fest trip in early May, we are building anticipation by looking back at past good times in New Orleans and sharing our travel tips.
Today I will wax poetic about the frozen Bourbon Milk Punch from Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. Because I must.
It Started with a Travel Tip
The Grill-Meister has a friend who travels extensively for work and also for pleasure, and he has a talent for sniffing out excellence in every locale. When he gives you a travel tip, you pay attention. That’s how we first learned of the frozen Bourbon Milk Punch: “If you’re going to New Orleans, you have to try the Bourbon Milk Punch – it’s an adult milkshake.” He was right. If you’re of age and inclined to imbibe, this creamy, dreamy, thick elixir should be on your bucket list.
A Break from the Hullaballoo
Bourbon House is situated on the bottom floor of the Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans Hotel, and the Bourbon Milk Punch is served in the hotel lobby as well as the restaurant. The restaurant has terrific seafood and is always crowded, so if you’re just in the mood for a naughty little frozen drink, just pop into the lobby bar. It’s quiet and offers a nice little break from the hullaballoo.
The Grill-Meister sent a photo back to our travel guru friend
These boozy, grown-up milkshakes can accompany an afternoon snack
The “Secret” is the Gelato
If you get chatty with the bartender and ask for the recipe, you’ll get a coy, “well, it’s a secret, but I’ll tell you if you promise not to share it; it’s the house-made vanilla gelato that makes it so creamy”. Imagine my surprise when I found that information online, right there on the Bourbon House web site – see below.
The Replay List
I’ve just realized that if you’ve already done something – like going to the New Orleans Jazz Fest and experiencing the rest of the unique and wonderful city – then you’ve crossed it off the bucket list of things you must do in life. So there needs to be another list for those things you simply must do again; I’m going to call it the replay list. The Jazz Fest is on our replay list and will probably get replayed again and again, like that favorite song back in sixth grade. The frozen Bourbon Milk Punch is on there, too, but one per trip is enough.