Category Archives: Destinations

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Magnificent oak trees. Melancholic cypresses dressed in Spanish moss. Alligators peeking out from swampy waters. Magnificent, decaying plantations. Quaint accents. Humidity. Iced tea.

Those are just some of the images that dotted my brain about the South, a region of America I only know from books and movies – and culinary adventures. I’d never specially wanted to go to the South, with the exception of New Orleans and Savannah, which were inscribed on my imaginary bucket list decades ago, and left to grow cobwebs there.

Now, when I think about our so-very-brief trip to Louisiana, I actually thirst for more. Sights. Experiences. I want to drink a sweet lemonade (I don’t like iced tea) while sitting on a rocking chair, on the front porch of some achingly quaint Southern home, in a close-to-scorching summer. I want to succumb to the romance of all those books and movies brought together. I just want to go back to those swamps.

This trip to Louisiana came out of nowhere. Well, it came out of the Eclipse and our friends Eddie and Arthur, who suddenly reached out to Mike a few weeks before the sun was scheduled to be covered by the moon for all of four minutes and asked us to join them in watching the spectacle. Mike wanted to go. He had wanted to go for years. I had looked at the hotel prices a year before and written it off. Witnessing a total eclipse is a one-in-a-lifetime experience – we’d had ours a few years before in Oregon (sitting on the rocks in a quiet stream, commuting with nature, perfection). I didn’t need another one. But Mike insisted. We could stay with Eddie and Arthur in Dallas. He’d go by himself if I refused.

Air tickets to Dallas – and any surrounding airports – were ridiculously expensive. Surge pricing. What you’d expect. I’m cheap. Thrifty. I’d seen an eclipse. He insisted. So I looked further in the map, looking for airports where we could drive for a reasonable amount. New Orleans popped out. An eight hour drive from Dallas, but New Orleans was in my bucket list. From that perspective, it’d be shooting two birds with one stone. And Mike was insisting.

So we went. We spent two glorious days in New Orleans, another driving to Texas, a day and a play in Dallas, another seeing the eclipse, and then got a glimpse of a portion of Southern Louisiana. It felt like enough, even if now I want more.

The trip, of course, was a culinary experience. I already wrote about our culinary adventures in New Orleans. There isn’t much to tell about the Texas part of our trip – I wrote about a chicken restaurant, Eddie and Arthur took us to, but I was too busy enjoying seeing our old friends to take enough mental notes of our other meals there. What’s left is the rest of the food we enjoyed (or not) in Louisiana. Here it is:

New Orleans Food Tour

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Eating our way through the French Quarter in two days

A month before our brief sojourn in New Orleans, we spent a glorious week in New York City. I’d planned it as a foodie trip, and had had a wonderful time exploring many of New York City’s culinary classics. I wanted to do the same for our spell in New Orleans, albeit we only had two and a quarter days in the Big Easy. No matter. Determination and planning can conquer time, and in those two days we still managed to have twelve gastronomic experiences, albeit a couple involved just cocktails. This is the story of our brief trip, in food. Bolded links lead to my reviews of each place.

First night

Our plane was late, not getting into town until nearly 8 PM. I had made reservations at Mamou, a French restaurant in the French Quarter, which has gotten a lot of attention for its innovative food. While it’s a new addition to New Orleans, the pictures made it look as an organic evolution of French Quarter venues – and it looks beautiful. Alas, due to our late arrival, and the restaurant’s relatively early closing time at 9 PM on a Wednesday, we couldn’t make our reservations. I’m still sad about it.

Instead we headed to Napoleon House, one of New Orleans’ historical restaurants famed for its muffulettas – where we had one of such muffulettas. The walk through the French Quarter and the lovely, ancient surroundings was a wonderful way to introduce ourselves to the city.

Day One

On Thursday, we dedicated ourselves to explore the French Quarter. This is the sort of place you walk your way through. Mike, indeed, took an early walk by himself and witnessed the impressive cleaning of Bourbon street every morning. Those extra sale taxes you pay in the French Quarter are definitely put to good use.

We started our day together by going to Café Beignet on Decatur Street for breakfast. They have several branches, but this one was the most convenient to Jackson Square. Here we tried authentic New Orleans beignets for the first time and concluded we liked regular doughnuts much better.

After some more exploring and taking a relaxing tour of the French Quarter in a mule-driven carriage (shoutout to Marie, the mule, for her patience), we headed to Johnny’s Po-Boys to try one of New Orleans’ famed po’ boy sandwiches. It turns out they’re just subs, but Mike loved his shrimp po’ boy.

After lunch, we crossed the street to the New Orleans School of Cooking to pick up some pralines. They weren’t our thing.

After some more exploring of the French Quarter – I’m sad to say the Pharmacy Museum was closed -, we ended up at Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard Restaurant, the creators of New Orleans’ signature drink, the Hurricane. Here I had my first jambalaya and bread pudding in New Orleans – the latter was delicious.

We had two more drink stops that afternoon, as we continued to explore the French Quarter. While Mike was buying souvenirs, I briefly stopped at the Vampire Cafe for a virgin blood bag – namely pomegranate lemonade served in a plastic bag similar to those used when you donate blood. The lemonade was sickly sweet and not worth its $9 price, even despite the blood bag gimmick. Later, we stopped at one of the four Tropical Isle bars on Bourbon Street to try their frozen hand grenade.

For dinner, I’d made reservations at Brigtsen’s, one of New Orleans most acclaimed Creole restaurants. It’s in the Riverbend neighborhood, so quite far away from the French Quarter, but conveniently located near a stop in the Saint Charles streetcar line. We had a lovely but long ride in the wooden streetcar and got to see a glimpse of the French Quarter – which proved providential as my plans were to tour it before we headed to the airport for our flight back home, but we ended up short in time.

Day two

Our second day was much more subdued. Mike did some more exploring of the French Quarter before I woke up and then he nicely went to Café du Monde to get some beignets for the two of us. We confirmed that they’re just not for us.

After hanging out in the patio of our hotel – and playing with the cats – we headed off to a leisurely lunch at Broussard’s, another of the French Quarter’s historical restaurants. It was wonderful.

Mike had a nice nap after lunch – what is better than napping on vacation? – while I hang out in our balcony, before our airboat tour of the swamp. It was a lot of fun, we saw a lot of alligators – and, for better or worse, fed them marshmallows -, though we preferred the flat-bottomed boat ride we took in Lafayette some days later.

Once back, we got dressed and headed to Arnaud’s for a drink at their bar. Their larger bar was full, but we had a French 75 at the Richelieu Bar. Neither of us liked the drink, but we dug the bar.

Finally, it was time for dinner at GW Fins, across the street. We had a wonderful post-anniversary dinner at one of the premier seafood restaurants in the city. And that was that for our second day.

Day three – morning

Our last morning in New Orleans we headed to Brennan’s, yet another of the French Quarter’s historical restaurants, for breakfast. The breakfast here had been much lauded, but we were disappointed. But I guess you cannot win them all.

In all, we had an absolutely wonderful time in New Orleans. We loved the French Quarter in all its aspects – the quietness early in the morning, the craziness at night and the touristy buzz during the day. I think I liked our morning mule carriage ride best of all, which gave us the opportunity to look at the buildings in a leisurely way and a learn a bit about the city, and I’d say that the brunch in the Broussard courtyard was probably my favorite gastronomic experience here.

Two days may not be much, but I felt I got a good taste of the French Quarter.

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

New York is an amazing food city. We were lucky to get a taste of it.

I will be brutally honest, I had never had much interest in going back to New York City. I’d been there twice, both times piggybacking on events in nearby Pennsylvania (a wedding, the 2016 Democratic Convention), and I had already seen all the big *must do* tourist spots. None of them, not even the Met, was calling me to return. So when Mike got tickets to see a live taping of the Stephen Colbert show at the Ed Sullivan theater in New York City and asked me to plan the trip for him to go see it, I didn’t immediately imagine me going with him. However, as I started to look into flights and hotels – and discovered the New York City is remarkably affordable in February – the idea of joining him grew on me. Mike and I had been thinking of taking a romantic trip alone for a while – after twenty one years of raising kids, we’re finally empty nesters of sorts – and while I had been fantasizing more along the lines of the Croatian coast, New York City could do in a pinch. Particularly, given that the trip would during St. Valentine’s Day week and would allow us to celebrate our anniversary early.

In previous trips, I had seen everything I wanted to see in New York City – but I had not had the opportunity to eat everything the City is known for – so slowly, the idea of turning this trip into a Foodie adventure crystallized. I haven’t used that word to refer to myself for ages and this blog has mostly been dormant, but I haven’t really discovered any new interests, so why not revisit my old ones? Plus, if there is one thing that Mike and I enjoy doing together is trying new restaurants and new foods.

My goal for this trip was to try New York City classic dishes, as well to explore the current culinary scene. We were only going to be there for six days, so obviously I wasn’t able to fully accomplish this. For example, I really wanted to try a traditional “red sauce restaurant” – I heard that Italian-American food in New York City just tastes different than elsewhere -, but I was unable to manage it. I also never made it to a speakeasy or got a black & white cookie. Still, I accomplished most of my goals – and blogged about it:

We had:

We got to dine at

  • Katz’s Deli, the most famous Jewish deli in NYC
  • Russian Samovar, a super romantic restaurant once co-owned by Mikhail Baryshnikov
  • Daniel, the superb 2-Michelin star flagship restaurant by famed chef Daniel Boloud.
  • Kochi, a Michelin starred Korean restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.
  • Tavern on the Green, the only restaurant in Central Park started as a sheep fold and has been featured in countless movies.

And we also:

In all, this was all we could expect from New York City – and more!