Jamaica 2010

January 10, 2011

For Thanksgiving this year, we went to Jamaica and these are the pictures from our trip :)

Chicago 2010 – Happy 3rd Anniversary (Day 3)

July 23, 2010

After Jason and I found out that we were having a little mini-us, we decided that we would take a trip somewhere for a few days without her for our anniversary each year. If you have been a reader of ours for at least a year, you will recall that last year we went to New Orleans and it was a big eat-fest. Our trip to Chicago this year was quite similar to that. Follow me as I take you through our vacation :)

North Avenue Beach

Day 3 – Friday

We had a full day of food-related activities outside of downtown Chicago planned so we rented a car from Budget for the day. Prior to the pickup at the hotel, we walked to Xoco and picked up breakfast. All I can say is, if Xoco opened by my apartment or by my office, I’d be getting breakfast there. Every. Day. I told Jason that the next time we visit Chicago, my only requisite would be that we have to stay at a hotel closer to here.

I got the breakfast special which includes one of their hot chocolates, an empanada, and a churro. I forget how much it cost though but it was definitely worth it.

Xoco

One of the best hot chocolates ever. I opted for the classic which is a chocolate shot with 2% milk. The chocolate flavor was deep, almost raisin-like, but not bitter at all.

Xoco

Ham, egg, and cheese empanada with a freshly fried churro. The churros alone make the cost of the meal worth it. The best I’ve ever had.

Xoco

Jason got a made to order breakfast torta. This was a little bit pricey at $7.50 but large so more than enough to share along with a churro or two. Never skip the churro.

Xoco

I saw this sign and was extremely tempted to the soft serve with the maple-pecan-bacon-streusel and salted caramel sauce. I was trying to justify it as breakfast food because of the maple and bacon but Jason talked me out of it. I only relented because I thought we’d be going back but unfortunately, didn’t end up doing so. Moral: never put off bacon.

After picking up the car, we picked up our friend C, who came into Chicago the day before for work and was spending the rest of the weekend with us, along with our friend J, whose flight was arriving in a couple of hours. Make sense?

We made our way outside of the city to Hagen’s Fish Market.

Hagen's Fish Market

This was just a pit stop on the way to our real lunch so I ordered sparingly just to try their popular and fresh, fried seafood. The people behind the counter were super friendly and even offered to fry me up a piece of something for free if all I wanted to do was try. I felt bad doing that so I got a few pieces of shrimp and a few scallops for us to share. J was on his way from the airport to meet us at Hagen’s so I knew I’d have an eating companion even though Jason and C said they were not hungry.

Hagen's Fish Market

Smoked salmon candy. I got some of this and it was super delicious but unfortunately, we were out and about the rest of the day when it was about 100 degrees out so I had to throw most of it out.

Hagen's Fish Market Hagen's Fish Market

Fried shrimp and fried scallop. These were not greasy or heavy at all because they were fried perfectly.

After J arrived in a cab from the airport, the four of us headed over to our real lunch destination, Smoque BBQ.

Smoque

Part of the menu board. I loved that they offer half sandwiches here, especially since I had already eaten so much earlier in the day.

Smoque

My half brisket sandwich. I love brisket more than any other BBQ meat and this didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had but it was still delicious. I liked that it wasn’t fatty but managed to avoid the biggest offense of any brisket, dryness.

Smoque

Jason’s half pulled pork. As much as I love brisket, Jason loves pulled pork. He really enjoyed this as well but I think he said it could have used a bit more pepper.

Smoque

Our sides of french fries, cole slaw, and mac and cheese. The fries were good but nothing special. I liked the mayo-less cole slaw since it provided an acidic counterpart to the sweet and smoky meats. My favorite was the mac and cheese though; as evidenced by the fact that Jason only got one bite before I housed it.

Smoque

A side of cornbread which was also delicious. I’m a big fan of cornbread but for some reason, many places don’t do it right. By right, I mean the way I like it of course. Smoque’s cornbread had the perfect texture and sweetness.

After lunch, we headed to a Cubs game at the iconic Wrigley Field. Jason got us great seats that were in a covered section so even though it was sweltering, we were at least shielded from the blazing sun.

Wrigley Field


* Lest you think I’m completely out of control, those ridiculously large order of nachos in a Cubs helmet were NOT ours. They were property of the two friendly guys who were sitting next to us. I just had to take a picture and they happily obliged.

After the game, we headed over to Pequod’s to try their deep-dish pizza.

Pequod's Pequod's

Whole pizza and my slice

I had deep-dish pizza a couple of years ago in Chicago and even after giving it another chance at a local place as opposed to a chain, I still can’t get behind it. On paper, deep-dish pizza sounds delicious. It’s got bread, tomato sauce, cheese, sausage, and pepperoni. But in practice, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t think Pequod’s is bad by any stretch of the imagination. The pizza was perfectly fine and I ate my piece happily. Deep-dish pizza is just not for everybody. It’s certainly not for me.

As an aside, whoever opened this place is some kind of perv. My case in point:

Pequod's Pequod's Pequod's

The name of their company, the header on their sandwiches, and their logo which is a shark with a thong over it’s head.

After our early dinner and on our drive back to our hotel, we stopped by Tom and Wendee’s for Italian ices. I read that they have some of the best in the city so I was excited to try it out.

Tom & Wendee's

Chocolate ice which was super creamy and refreshing. I thought this was good but wouldn’t travel out of my way for it.

After this full day of eating/grazing, we went back to the hotel and relaxed for a couple of hours before heading out to Nacional 27 for a few drinks. I didn’t bring my camera but there wasn’t much to shoot anyway. The drinks were okay but not worth a repeat trip.

The next post will be shorter and less picture heavy. Therefore I’m going to combine the last day and a half of our time in Chicago into one :) See you then!

Chicago 2010 – Happy 3rd Anniversary (Day 2)

July 13, 2010

After Jason and I found out that we were having a little mini-us, we decided that we would take a trip somewhere for a few days without her for our anniversary each year. If you have been a reader of ours for at least a year, you will recall that last year we went to New Orleans and it was a big eat-fest. Our trip to Chicago this year was quite similar to that. Follow me as I take you through our vacation :)

Waiting for the bus

Day 2 – Thursday

Jason and I started the day bright and early by picking up breakfast at Pierrot Gourmet before hopping on a bus to Lincoln Park Zoo. We happily ate on the bus on the bus and I took a few shots before we wolfed it all down.

Pierrot Gourmet

Canele, which we’d both never had before but loved. It was like a chewy/crispy bread pudding.

Pierrot Gourmet

If there’s an almond croissant to be ordered, you can be sure I will be ordering it.

We got to the zoo and were pleasantly surprised when we found out there was no admission fee! We did feel a bit odd though being one of the only few people there without children. I think I made up for it with my excitement and enthusiasm though. I haven’t been to a zoo in a really long time so it was pretty surreal to see giraffes and zebras. I couldn’t help running from exhibit to exhibit!

Lincoln Park Zoo

After the zoo, we headed to a newly opened lunch spot that Jason had chosen, The Purple Pig.

The Purple Pig The Purple Pig

It was pretty busy when we got there around 12:30 so we grabbed two seats at the bar to avoid the wait time.

The Purple Pig

The lightest, fluffiest focaccia I’ve ever had

The Purple Pig

Ayinger beer on tap

The Purple Pig

Mortadella spread with aged balsamic and crushed pistachios

The Purple Pig

Jamon iberico

The Purple Pig

Camembert

The Purple Pig

Spring peas, farro, feta, mint, and lemon salad. I need to replicate this at home or an impromptu trip back to Chicago may be in order.

The Purple Pig

Pig’s ear with crispy kale, marinated cherry peppers, and fried egg. The richness of the egg yolk cut by the tartness of the pepper along with the crispiness of the ear and kale made this dish irresistible. I loved it with my beer.

The Purple Pig

Porchetta panini with a salsa verde spread. The pork was great and the salsa verde made an untraditional but delicious condiment. We were so full at this point that we were only able to eat half of it though.

I highly highly recommend this restaurant if you’re in the Chicago area. Every single dish that we had was a hit and the beer on tap is great too. They also have an extensive wine list, which we didn’t take advantage of at this meal, but we came back two days later and did then. Yes, that’s how good it was. We were on a 5 day trip and we “used up” two meals here.

After our rather gluttonous meal, we cabbed it over to Shedd Aquarium (it would’ve been a long walk!). I love going to aquariums so was really excited about going here. Unfortunately, other than the aquatic show, it was kind of a disappointment. It just didn’t compare to aquariums I’ve been to in the past, especially the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It was run down and dark without much to see. It cost us $30 a person to boot! Compared to the zoo that’s free, this didn’t hold a candle.

Here are the pics I took during the aquatic show.

We took the bus back up Michigan Ave to the Hancock Observatory after that. The price of admission is a little bit high for what it is (riding up an elevator and walking around the top floor of a building) but they include a free self-guided audio and visual tour narrated by Chicago native and actor, David Schwimmer. It sounds a bit cheesy but the information included in the tour about Chicago is actually quite interesting.

After the observatory, we headed around the block to the Four Seasons Lounge for dinner. Our friends S and C, who went to Chicago last year, highly recommended the sliders there and Jason is not one to pass up a recommendation for a good burger. The lounge literally looks like a lounge with sofas and coffee tables. This made it a little awkward to eat but the casual atmosphere, coupled with the fact that there was practically nobody there, made it perfect for sitting back and relaxing.

Four Seasons Bar

Complementary trail mix and Asian snack mix. We devoured the snack mix and left the trail mix for the birds :)

Four Seasons Bar

Aforementioned sliders which were in fact, one of the softest burgers I’ve ever eaten.

Four Seasons Bar Four Seasons Bar

Homemade Chicago style hot dog. Everything on the plate but the bun is made in house.

So ended our second day in Chicago :) Stay tuned to the next posts where our friends J and C join us on our trip!

Chicago 2010 – Happy 3rd Anniversary (Day 1)

June 30, 2010

After Jason and I found out that we were having a little mini-us, we decided that we would take a trip somewhere for a few days without her for our anniversary each year. If you have been a reader of ours for at least a year, you will recall that last year we went to New Orleans and it was a big eat-fest. Our trip to Chicago this year was quite similar to that. Follow me as I take you through our vacation :)

Chicago Theater

Day 1 – Wednesday – Our actual anniversary day!

Our flight landed in Chicago around 11 and we decided to be frugal and took the El to our hotel. It’s a pretty straight forward means of transportation but there the closest stop to our hotel required that we transfer trains. That meant going up and down a lot of stairs carrying our heavy luggage. Not a wonderfully relaxing way to start off our vacation but after almost missing our flight and leaving my cell phone at home, it was a walk in the park. We got to our hotel around noon but our room wasn’t ready yet so we ventured over to the Trader Joe’s, which was conveniently located across the street, to grab some bottles of water.

When we got back our room still wasn’t ready yet so we hung around in the lobby and Jason checked work emails while I snapped some pictures. We didn’t really mind waiting because we were early and the staff there was just so nice that it was hard to be annoyed. In general, I can’t say enough good things about the service and facilities at The James.

The hotel is a bit far from the El but it’s very centrally located to all the things we wanted to do, only 1 block from Michigan Avenue, and in the middle of tons of restaurants, as well as across from the aforementioned Trader Joe’s. We ended up either taking a bus, catching a cab, or walking everywhere we went anyway so the distance from the El wasn’t really a problem.

James Hotel



After getting settled, we ventured out to our scheduled lunch at Blackbird. We caught a cab there since we knew we’d be walking around the rest of the day and were in a rush to get to lunch before they closed. It worked out well because we happened to drive along the river while a drawbridge was going up!

Drawbridge
Drawbridge

The architecture in Chicago is amazing. Look at this building~ The bottom floors are open garage spaces and the top floors are the residences. Jason said it wouldn’t be fun to get your car out of their in the winter; I can see that.

Apartment building

Here are some pictures from our meal at Blackbird.

Blackbird

We opted to share a salad to start which was quite honestly, one of the best I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take a picture because the host who served it to us broke it up and served it to us quickly. I’ll direct you to this picture I found on Flickr since I don’t want to post it here and look like I’m taking credit for it. The salad is arranged inside of a fried spun potato cup that acted as the “croutons” to the dish. Best. Croutons. Ever.

Blackbird

Lamb burger with taleggio cheese and black onion

Blackbird

Pork belly with cole slaw

We both agreed that the lamb burger was unremarkable, the pork belly sandwich was well balanced, and the fries were incredible. If I learned anything about Chicagoans in my trip, it’s that they know how to do fries right.

After lunch, we walked to Millennium Park, which is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s so well-organized and groomed. The appreciation of art and architecture by the city is obvious with the huge pieces like the Silver Bean and the BP Bridge by Frank Gehry.

Millennium Park

Silver bean reflecting a gorgeous day in Chicago

Jason said that the Buckingham Fountain was closeby so we wandered around looking for it. After about half an hour of wandering around in the sweltering heat, we finally spotted it like an oasis in the dessert. We walked across Grant Park and took tons of pictures of the fountain made famous (at least to us) by Married With Children.

Buckingham Fountain

Self portraits are hard with SLRs with zoom lenses :)

We walked back to the hotel around 4 (I think we walked a total of 4 miles that afternoon) and decided to take a quick nap before dinner. The next thing I know, Jason is tapping me on the shoulder and telling me it’s 7:45! I think I could’ve went back to sleep and slept through the rest of the night but since it was our anniversary night, I thought it’d be best if we went out :)

We had Rick Bayless’s 12

Labor Day 2009

October 16, 2009

Here are the pictures I took from the cruise we went on this past Labor Day on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. We left out of the Navy Yard in Brooklyn and went up to New Brunswick, Canada.

Jasmine wasn’t ready to fully appreciate the virtues of vacation yet but I’m sure she loved all of the non-stop attention she got from family and friends.

NOLA 2009 – Happy 2 Year Anniversary

July 2, 2009

As anyone who reads this blog knows, we were blessed with Jasmine in Januaury. For the last five -almost six! – months she has blessed us with her beautiful smile and generally inquisitive nature. On the flip side she has also blessed us with lots of sleepless nights, hours spent trying to decipher baby babble, and roughly 150 poopy diapers.

Due to the latter more than the former, we decided that for our two year wedding anniversary in June we’d take a domestic vacation to relax (and perhaps get to sleep in past 6:30am). We did some research for a place that balanced our love for food with a few slow paced things to do. In fact, here’s our basic vacation formula: vacation = lotsa eating + _____ things to do. The only variable is the adjective there (many, exciting, relaxing, intense, unusual…so on).

We chose New Orleans since neither of us had ever been and we had heard – and eventually confirmed – good things. After doing lots of restaurant/bar research (seriously, lots meaning many hours), we came up with a jam packed list of eateries and events for a mere 3 days. I’m proud to say that even without a car we succeeded in doing most everything on our list.

In between all of the eating, which was the real purpose of this trip, we did do some non-food related things. We visited Oak Alley Plantation, a beautiful estate outside of New Orleans. We also took a bus tour of the city, which allowed us to see both the historical beauty of the city and the tragic effects of Katrina. Without trying to sound like a salesman, New Orleans is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen so if you are looking for a weekend trip and love food, I can’t think of a place that would be more appreciative of your tourism.

So without further ado, our trip! :)

Friday

Our JetBlue flight was at 7am so when got to the airport around 6am, I went off to get us some DD coffee and explore the new terminal while Jason did some work.
Jason checking work emails
I discovered the obvious: the new terminal is very cool! There are numerous food options, comfy sitting areas, and telecommunication stations.


We arrived at around 9:30 am local time and while waiting for a cab, we began to melt. It really seemed like the temperature range was between 95 and 100 degrees morning, noon, and night the entire time we were in Louisiana. When the cab finally arrived we asked our cabbie to take us to New Orleans. The highlight of the half hour ride into the city wasn’t the marshes or swamps, it was seeing where the Bucs will (attempt to) triumph this season:
Superdome

We checked into our hotel in the French Quarter around 11 am and quickly headed over to our first scheduled food stop, coincidentally but conveniently located across the street.

I read about the Friday lunch experience at Galatoire’s on Chowhound and told Jason about it. Originally, I wasn’t sold on going since the traditional French style of food isn’t really my favorite, but Jason insisted. When visiting other places he truly lives by the “when in Rome” theory so when in New Orleans, one must do the Friday Lunch. It was a unique experience and the food was wonderful (can you say butter?) so it made for a perfect first meal in New Orleans.
dsc_0022.jpg
Galatiore’s does not take reservations – no matter who you are – so we had to wait in line, in the smoldering heat, for about 15 minutes before they let us in. Once they opened, the maitre d’ began writing down the guest names and their personal waiter. When he asked us if we had a regular waiter, we knew we weren’t in New York anymore :)

After giving our name and party size (2 of course!) we were directed to go to the bar upstairs then head back downstairs at 11:30 to be seated. We got up there and felt like we were at a 19th century cocktail party and Jason forgot his seersucker.
dsc_0033.jpg
We were fairly dressed up for lunch but still felt out of place amongst the suits and dresses (the women could have gone straight from lunch to the Derby and as for the men, well, I had never seen so many khakis matched with navy blue blazers). To be honest, I felt like we were going to be banished if we ordered the wrong drink or didn’t follow proper etiquette :) We managed and hubby ordered a sazerac while I got a French 75.
dsc_0028.jpg
Once we were seated downstairs we ordered the fried eggplant and souffled potatoes appetizer to start, which came with powdered sugar and béarnaise sauce. I was wary of putting powdered sugar on fried eggplant but it was SO good. And I don’t think fried potatoes could ever be bad :)
dsc_0054.jpg
For mains, I requested the oysters Rockefeller with the traditional pureed spinach topping. It was delicious and super filling. Jason settled on the shrimp dish because he’s unfortunately allergic to all other shellfish. While it was good, it was not particularly memorable. I’d 100% recommend this place for a traditional Friday Lunch but I’d stick to their specialties. The service was splendid, the food was above average, and the crowd was fun. This was also our first encounter with the excellent New Orleans bread…

After Galatoire’s we strolled down to the Mississippi River to catch the bus for our city tour. We were originally going to do a bike tour around the city but after realizing how hot it was and how full we were, we decided against it :) I think the biking would have been fun but for a quick weekend trip, this turned out to be a good way to acquaint ourselves with the entire city.

Walking back to our hotel from the river, we stopped by Napoleon House to try their muffuletta. From our research it seemed that there were polarized opinions on whether Napoleon House or Central Grocery (more on their’s later) is the best in New Orleans.
Napoleon House
We opted to sit in their refreshingly fanned courtyard despite the sweltering heat and ordered two Pimm’s cups as suggested by W, half a muffuletta, and a cup of jambalaya.
Napoleon House Muffuletta
Their muffuletta is served warm as opposed to Central Grocery’s room temp version. Personally, I liked the muffuletta at Napoleon House better. The olive salad had other veggies in it, like celery, and the flavors of those vegetables came through so it wasn’t all olive flavor.


After Napoleon House, we headed back to the hotel and took a nap. Yes, a nap. All parents of new babies will understand when I say that it was luxurious. A couple of hours later, we caught a cab and headed out to Franky and Johnny’s located about a 10 minute drive outside of the French Quarter.
dsc_0107.jpg
It’s an uber-casual (think local bar in a small town where everyone knows each other’s name) restaurant that’s very popular with the locals and Tulane crowd. It was almost the end of crawfish season but they had some that day, thankfully. Though usually indecisive, I ordered 99 lbs as soon as we sat down out of fear that I’d be told somebody else just got the last order. Okay not really 99 lbs, but our waitress delivered a huge tray of spicy whole crawfish. FYI that tray was no match for me — I proceeded to eat in its entirety (plastic tray excluded).
dsc_0113.jpg
It was the first time I’d ever eaten fresh crawfish and it was AWESOME. I can’t wait until crawfish season next year. I already found an annual crawfish boil in NYC that I will be attending with 100% certainty. We ordered the fried pepper rings and boudin balls to share and Jason chose what turned out to be the best fried shrimp we’ve ever had. Everything exceeded our expectations.
After dinner we headed back to the French Quarter and went to Arnaud’s French 75 which is a classic cigar bar attached to the famous Arnaud’s restaurant. We were served by Chris Hannah, who is a great bartender and did a great job taking care of us. Jason enjoyed a drink that Chris named the The Moviegoer after the novel and I ordered the bar’s namesake, a French 75.
dsc_0129.jpg
On our walk home, we were surrounded by throngs of people stumbling down the closed-to-cars Bourbon Street. Keep in mind this was a random Friday night, and not Mardis Gras.

So ends our first day in New Orleans.

Saturday

The next morning, we woke up early and headed over to Cafe du Monde on Decatur to try their famous beignets. We were greeted by a ridiculously long line, immediately switched gears and headed to Cafe Beignet across the street, which was originally scheduled for the following morning.
dsc_0014.jpg
There are multiple Cafe Beignets in the French Quarter so I can’t speak as to the atmosphere of the others but the one on Decatur is very low key. They offer all kinds of sandwiches and traditional New Orleans fare but we stuck to the simple stuff and ordered one small cafe au lait and an order of beignets to share. The cafe au lait was prepared right away but was disappointing because it was way too milky. The beignets were just the opposite: they took time and were delcious upon arrival. After patiently waiting for 10 minutes we became a little antsy and thought maybe they had forgotten about us. Once panic subsided and rationale returned, we realized that each order was made fresh in the order they were placed. When the lady in the back came out with our little tray of beignets though, our patience was duly rewarded.
dsc_0011.jpg
Oh my were they delicious. Piping hot; super crispy on the outside; airy/fluffy on the inside. I thought it would be just like a donut but it was something else altogether. Jason said it tasted like a gourmet elephant ear (funnel cake) at the carnival but I’ve never had one of those so I can’t say. The dough itself isn’t sweet so the powdered sugar becomes it’s best friend. They are extremely messy though, which is why we don’t have many action shots of us eating them. Why can’t there be a place like this in the city?? If there was a best food of the weekend contest, these would be serious contender.

After dusting the powdered sugar from our beignets off of our clothes, we headed towards the country’s oldest city market, the French Market for a stroll. We were a bit disappointed since the food sales was a clear after thought to the chintzy flea market stuff sold there.
dsc_0018-2.jpg
The best part of our trip to the market was a huge decorated hearse that has all sorts of pop culture paraphernalia glued to it. Jason wasn’t as fascinated as was I but either way, it did fit into the whole voodoo vibe of the French Quarter.
dsc_0027.jpg


On the way to our bus tour of Oak Alley Plantation, we stopped by La Divina Gelateria for what was the most disappointing experience of the whole weekend. I got a cup of half earl grey with biscuit and half mint julep gelatos. Both had very little flavor and an odd consistency, almost like that of creamed ice. It was melting because it was hot outside and wasn’t delicious enough for me to eat quickly; hence, it got thrown away.
dsc_0033-2.jpg
As mentioned in the Friday section, we stopped by Central Grocery to pick up half a muffuletta for our hour and a half bus ride to Oak Alley.
dsc_0032.jpg
The store is nothing more than an Italian deli with tables in the back. The muffuletta we ordered was a slight turnoff because it was pre-packaged but considering their high turnover, we had faith in it’s freshness. As opposed to Jason, I typically prefer cold sandwiches over hot ones so I surprised myself by liking Napoleon House’s muffelata better. The olive salad at Central Grocery was very strongly flavored and basically over-powered all of the meat and cheese. In fact, I could barely taste the meat and cheese over the flavor of salty olives.
dsc_0037.jpg
Don’t get me wrong: I love olives and Central Grocery’s muffuletta was an excellent sandwich but the next time I want my muffuletta fix in New Orleans, I’m heading to Napoleon House for sure.

**Comment from Jason: Okay, I get what Jacquie’s saying but I disagree completely. You see, what I love most is finding myself enjoying something I didn’t think I would. The warm muffelata was akin to a pressed sandwich and I enjoyed it throughly, as expected. As for the CG muffelata, I am not a huge fan of olives and it was doused with them, but I LOVED that sandwich. I didn’t think it was too olive-y and I did taste the meat and cheese. Heck, I even thought the cold bread was impressive (who actually likes cold bread more than warm bread?) So in the end they were both good but I tip my hat to CG because it did more than surpassed expecations — it made me like a cold version of sandwich better than a warm one. To be fair, NH did have the Pimm’s Cup though and better atmosphere.**

After listening to our bus driver (who we respectfully agreed sounded like Champ Kind) for 90 minutes on the way to Oak Valley, we pulled up in front of one of the most magnificent estates I’ve ever seen. Here are some pictures of our time at the beautifully serene and historical Oak Alley Plantation.
dsc_0087.jpg

After we got back to the French Quarter, we stopped by the Gumbo Shop on the advice of our friends L and C who are quite familiar with New Orleans. There was an outside courtyard like Napoleon House and though it seemed touristy, the food was delicious nonetheless. We both started with fiery Cajun Bloody Marys — much more fiery than at others places we’ve had Bloody Marys. For that reason, and because they came with pickled string beans versus the standard celery stalk, it was one of the best we’ve had.
dsc_0104.jpg
Also upon the advice of L and C, we ordered the creamy boudin accompanied by their spicy Creole mustard.
dsc_0108.jpg
Of course we sampled their namesake and while the gumbo was tasty, I’d suggest that they rename themselves the Boudin Shop :)
dsc_0109-2.jpg

We walked around the French Quarter some more and picked up some pralines for my coworkers at Leah’s Praline’s and we stopped by Pat O’Brien’s to get a hurricane from the bar that invented it. Jason was appalled by what we found there and he even has a secret (guilty) love for all things touristy (Bubba Gumps, Hard Rock Cafe, Margaritaville, etc). He likened the Hurricane to a glass of thick Red Kool-Aid with a splash of alcohol. We had them pour it into a plastic to-go cup so we could secretly throw it out when we left. It seems that public drinking is allowed and even encouraged as witnessed by signs like these hanging from many bar signs and windows.
dsc_0004-2.jpg

For dinner, we caught a cab to the Warehouse District for our nice meal out at Cochon.
dsc_0111.jpg
James Beard Award winner Chef Donald Link does a great job of showcasing the “snout to tail” philosophy of the creature that southerner’s love so much – the pig. In the words of the Barefoot Contessa, “How bad could that be?”

We loved everything about our meal from the friendly service to the couple next to us who we chatted with for almost half of our meal. The sad feelings that surface when I think about our meal there are only because I know it will be a while before we’ll get to go back.
dsc_0121-2.jpg
A beet salad that came with bite size pieces of paneed pork cheeks. I have never eaten pork this soft before.
dsc_0128.jpg
An heirloom cherry tomato salad that was over a fresh corn fritter.
dsc_0127-2.jpg
Their signature cochon dish served atop braised cabbage and turnip with cracklins on top. When all the parts of this dish were eaten in a single mouthful, I realized that there was nothing that could’ve improved this dish.
dsc_0132.jpg
Roasted local redfish was cooked nicely though it was fishy when eaten with the skin. When eaten without the skin and with the pickled vegetable served with it, it was wonderful.
dsc_0133.jpg
We also got a side of their braised greens on the advice of the couple next to us and we’re glad we did. While we expected the greens to be bitter, they surprised us by having a naturally sweet flavor.
dsc_0135.jpg

After dinner we headed over to the Snug Harbor Jazz Club for our first time at a jazz club. The “Piano Prince of New Orleans”, Davell Crawford was playing there for one night only and I’m so glad that Jason suggested we go. Davell and the band that played with him were absolutely amazing. He lives in New York now (you can read more about his story of displacement from Katrina here) and I can’t wait until he plays at a location closer to us than New Orleans. The pictures are very blurry because it was dark and flash wouldn’t have been appropriate but you get the idea.

The show ended around midnight and went to Cafe du Monde since we figured it wouldn’t be as busy at that hour. We were right about it being quieter but that also may be the reason why our beignets were not that good.
dsc_0165.jpg
We sat down, ordered, and had our beignets and cafe au lait in front of us in about two minutes flat. I’m sure that in the morning and afternoon, the beignets that are made are sold at about the same pace as they come out. Not so at midnight and I’m fairly certain our beignets had been sitting in the back for a while. They were not crispy at all and were dense and chewy.
dsc_0163.jpg
Cafe Beignet wins in the beignet contest hands down though I will give the cafe au lait to Cafe du Monde. Next time I’ll try Cafe du Monde at a reasonable hour to give it a fair shot.

So ends our second day in New Orleans.

Sunday

Our flight on Monday morning was very early so I knew Sunday would be the last day we would be able to eat anything in New Orleans other than airport food. We got up bright and early – much to Jason’s chagrin since we had many cocktails on Saturday night – and headed to brunch at EAT.
dsc_0191.jpg
I read about EAT through the New Orleans Chowhound board and it seemed to be very popular with locals and visitors alike. Jason and I shared the fried green tomatoes appetizer which was excellent and served with a remoulade sauce. I could’ve had two more orders for my breakfast alone.
dsc_0179.jpg
I ordered the shrimp and grits upon the recommendation of tons of posters and though the sauce and the grits together were REALLY good, what little shrimp that the dish had (maybe 3?) were clearly frozen and had an odd texture. I was surprised and disappointed by that but like I said, the dish was still good since it was mostly sauce/grits anyway.
dsc_0183.jpg
Jason got the grillades and poached egg over biscuits for the novelty of it and was disappointed that it was basically a salty beef stew. He liked it but in his hungover state, would’ve preferred more standard breakfast fare like an omelet and bacon. I actually loved his dish and abandoned my own for his after hearing he didn’t like it. I wish I had gotten the grillades over grits!
dsc_0181.jpg

After EAT, we went back to the hotel to set a game plan for the rest of the day. I really wanted to go to Parkway Bakery and Tavern because I heard the po boys there were the best but after beating my desire for Parkway into Jason’s skull for a week, I finally realized that it was out of the way from the other areas we wanted to hit up. It would’ve taken us a good hour or two to get there and back by streetcar so perhaps for our next trip, and oh, there will be a next trip. :)

We chose instead to ride the historic St. Charles Streetcar and then walk around Magazine Street. On the way to Canal Street where we’d catch the first stop on the streetcar, we popped into Felix’s so I could try their freshly shucked oysters. Since it was only me eating, I asked if I could get one oyster to try instead of a half dozen order. The shucker was very nice and obliged free of charge, but of course I tipped him for his kind service.
dsc_0195.jpg
I thought the oyster there was just okay. Very plump but taste wise, it was a little fishy and left a not-so-pleasant aftertaste in my mouth. It’s not fair to judge though since I only had one and it could’ve been a fluke.

After Felix’s, we went across the street so I could compare the oyster I just had to the ones at it’s rival, Acme.
dsc_0197.jpg
The atmosphere wasn’t as conducive to ordering just one oyster so I sat down at the bar and ordered half a dozen. The oysters weren’t as plump as the one I had at Felix but they had a better flavor here, which I partly attribute to the spicy cocktail sauce!
dsc_0204.jpg

After I had my 7 oysters, we caught the streetcar and rode it until we got to 8th Street, rang the bell, hopped off, and walked due south towards Magazine Street. It wasn’t a far walk but it was hot out and right smack in the middle of the day with the sun beating down on us. Once on Magazine we made a beeline to Sucre for rest and sugar.
dsc_0224.jpg
We ordered two pieces of chocolate, iced coffee, and some pistachio gelato to help us cool off.
dsc_0220.jpg
All were super delicious and I picked up a box of chocolates for my sister. It was hard to decide which ones to get!
dsc_0213.jpg
The space was very open/fresh/modern and a bit out of place relative to its antique-selling neighbors.

Before catching the Magazine Street bus back to Canal, we walked a 1/2 mile to Parasol’s for a roast beef po boy and a fried oyster po boy to take back to the hotel with us. We weren’t hungry thanks to the abundance of dessert in our bellies so even though we knew they would be better fresh, eating them later was a sacrifice that had to be made. Parasol’s was on the corner of two residential blocks and was, from what I can remember, the only dining establishment in the vicinity. How often is a a restaurant/bar situated in a neighborhood and not off a main road? I find it difficult to believe that anybody going there are stumbling upon it by accident.
dsc_0229.jpg
After getting back to our hotel about an hour later, we took our sandwiches out expecting them to be soggy and cold but they were still warm and nearly in their original shape.

This is my fried oyster po boy, which was alright, but suffered from too much breading on the oysters.
dsc_0240.jpg
This is Jason’s roast beef po boy, which was better than mine but didn’t have enough roast beef on it in my opinion.
dsc_0237.jpg
They were both improved upon with a few shakes of hot sauce though neither blew my mind. I really wish I had gotten to try Parkway (or even a fresh one) but at least I have it to look forward to for next time :)

For dinner that night, we went to Emeril’s NOLA in the French Quarter. We had a fantastic experience at the Emeril’s in Orlando so we thought we’d give him another chance to impress on his hometurf. He did.
dsc_0008-2.jpg
The ambiance is great and I loved the decor with the brick walls.
dsc_0009.jpg
Our waiter, John, was extremely knowledgeable and friendly. We started with the stuffed chicken wings, which judging by the tables around us is something most people start with. They tasted like an authentic Vietnamese spring roll with a wrapper of chicken wing instead of spring roll skin. For entrees, I got the smoked duck and Jason the rib eye. The portions were LARGE, which had we known beforehand, we would’ve just selected two appetizers and one entrée. We couldn’t finish our meal but also couldn’t get it to go since we were leaving the next morning. It was such a shame. We ended with their popular banana cake dessert, which was refreshing and light but nothing too special. I didn’t get any pictures here because while NOLA isn’t super fancy, it just didn’t seem appropriate.

After dinner, Jason said he had a place in mind for drinks and took me to the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.
dsc_0019-3.jpg
The bar is decorated like a carousel and it actually spins. I told you he likes touristy stuff. Unfortunately, there were no available seats at the bar so we just sat at a side table that didn’t spin. It’s a nice space but very “old school.”
dsc_0016-2.jpg
Not really our style but we could appreciate the appeal/charm.

We tried for one more round of beignets the morning we left at the Cafe Beignet across the street from our hotel but they opened too late and we had to go. I could talk about our breakfast at the airport but I’d rather leave this entry on a positive note :) Thus that concludes our eating and drinking adventures in the Big Easy.

In the end, we left with a newfound love for the city, the people, and most importantly to us, the food. Their food is unabashedly spicy unlike the food up here that would rather be bland than en fuego. No matter what the place we ate at, they served breads and rolls that were delicious and so much more than afterthoughts. I would compare the bread to a place like Italy or Tahiti — no matter where you go it’s like they specialize in crusty, fluffy, bread awesomeness.

Here are some random pictures we took throughout our trip. This is by far my favorite one — we walked into a random bodega type store and Jason spotted this on a rack. I 100% swear up and down that we didn’t move them around in any way. We just found them this way:
dsc_0010-2.jpg
Is that a sign that if we have a boy one day we should name him Jacob??

Memorial Day Hamptons 2009

May 28, 2009

We took our first trip with Jasmine this past weekend! Granted it was only a 2 hour drive away to the Hamptons but it was the first time she was somewhere other than our apartment overnight. She did really well though so our worries were for naught.

As per our usual vacations, it was a big eat fest. We explored some food places in town but mostly shopped for groceries and made a lot of our own meals at the house. We utilized the grill a LOT, which got us very excited for my parents to move into their new house where we’ll be able to use one.

I took a lot of pictures and thought it would be more efficient to put captions to the pictures in a gallery, rather than to try to write one long blog post. Click through the pictures in order for captions to make the most sense. :) Enjoy!

Hong Kong Wedding Reception

November 11, 2008

Macau 2007

November 11, 2008

Next Page »