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New Orleans: A 4-Day Weekend

12 Aug

We took a 4-day tour around the Crescent City with the family. Although we had been there many times before, there were still things we haven’t seen … so many great places we haven’t dined.

DAY ONE:

Our first stop was Magazine Street, a shopping district to the south of the French Quarter from Canal Street to the Zoo/Audubon Park. It’s accessible by street car with a short stroll from most any stop. The local transit bus runs along Magazine Street for easier access. We chose to drive and park since some of the street car line was under repair and the weather was threatening.  Parking was not a problem.

One of the many art pieces along the Magazine St Shopping District

One of the many art pieces along the Magazine St Shopping District

Roughly 6 miles long, this shopping experience includes thrift shops, furniture, jewelry, art galleries and shops of all kinds, restaurants/bars and clothing stores.  The variety of items available is a bit overwhelming, but there’s plenty fun to view or pick through. It takes a whole day to explore from end to end, but we broke it up and spent a little time there one day, and finished up the next.

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Inside Jim Russell’s record shop. What an amazing collection!

Because we are big music fans, one important stop was the Jim Russell’s Record Store located at 1837 Magazine Street.  The selection of LPs was impressive. They had just suffered damage from a roof collapsing from a rain storm earlier in the month, so many of these would eventually be replaced by what they kept in storage.  Clean up is underway but it was a blast to sift through what they had on hand. We even found some rare New Orleans 45s from artists like Johnny Adams and Robert Parker.  Jim’s daughter-in-law, Denise, was working the day we visited and we had a lot of fun talking with her. She told us some family stories and gave us a tour of the shop. We found out that she is an avid video game player.  As of our visit in June 2014, Denise ranks #15 in the world in the game Gears of War.  Her daughter ranks even higher.  Our time here was pretty enjoyable and we recommend music buffs stop here on your next NOLA visit.

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Induction certificate to the Louisiana Hall of Fame

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Travis and Gary with Jim Russell’s daughter-in-law, Denise aka “Neecy”

Keeping the music theme for our trip, we later shopped the Louisiana Music Factory and visited the former location of the  J&M Recording studios.  Artists like Little Richard, Fats Domino and Lloyd Price made this place famous. It’s now a laundry facility but the historical marker along with the memories is there.

Lunch was served at Joey K’s further down Magazine Street.  We dined on PoBoys and Gumbo.  It is recommended.

After our shopping spree, we stopped at District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew at 2209 Magazine Street.  Their famous sliders looked great but we stuck to the delicious donuts, sharing a couple of flavors for a light afternoon snack (pictured is their Pineapple Upside Down Cake donut).  We’ll have to return for a full lunch.008

Before dinner, we went to a music event at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, right around the corner from our hotel, The Modern. Part of the “Ogden After Hours” program,  Alvin Youngblood Hart was the entertainment and food & drink were available. We viewed the art exhibits and listened to a entertaining blues concert.  My favorite art exhibit was on the main floor and consisted of mini puzzle pieces by artist Juan Logan.  We enjoyed a lot of art this weekend and the Ogden was a great place to start this adventure.

 

The Modern is a nice boutique hotel, clean, classy and affordable.  It is within walking distance of both the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, The WWII Museum, Louisiana’s Civil War Museum and many fine restaurants, including Cochon and Cochon Butcher, which we did visit on this trip and a previous one. Located on Lee Circle in the Central Business District near the Wearhouse District of New Orleans, The Modern is also convenient to the streetcar line.  Since the streetcar line was being repaired in sections around town, we ended up driving to most of what we wanted to do, but the direct line to the French Quarter was all clear.

For dinner, we enjoyed some old school Italian fare at Vincent’s Italian at 7839 St Charles Street.  We ordered the Lasagna and the Italian Sausage with Angel hair pasta.  The boys each dined on Calamari and loved it. The whole meal was delicious. Vincent’s has been voted Best Italian in many local polls and reviews including New Orleans Magazine and Zagat Survey. We think it’s pretty sweet too.

DAY TWO:

Our second day in the Big Easy started at The Old Coffee Pot Restaurant, located at 714 St Peter Street in the French Quarter. We had some chicory laced coffee, the Soulfood Omlet, Eggs and Grits, and traditional calas. A cala is basically a rice beignet; kind of like a fried rice fritter.  There is a long history in New Orleans of the cala.  It was almost extinct because of food rationing during WWII but is finding a resurgence in the city. Click here for more information; here for a recipe.

Following breakfast, we took off for Mardi Gras World located at 1380 Port of New Orleans Place.  Tickets are reasonably priced at $19.95 per person. We got the student rate for our boys, just $15.95.  The tour starts out with a viewing of several costumes worn in previous parades, followed by a brief movie, and a guided tour of the workshop area.  A huge warehouse facility includes artist space for designing, sculpting, and painting the massive float artwork. There is also a large area of previously used art sculptures and, in the back of the warehouse, there are actual floats from this past season being dismantled or reworked. After the guided tour, we were left to look around and could stay until closing if we wanted to.  Artists were available for questions.  On the way out, we passed through the gift shop filled with clothes, cups & mugs, posters, and other knick-knacks.  One thing I found lacking was a selection of floaty pens.  We have a collection and thought, of all places, we could find some here. Maybe next time.

 

After Mardi Gras World, we stayed in the neighborhood and had lunch at Domilese’s. More PoBoy’s for our diet this weekend.  The oysters were fresh & awesome (best we’ve had in New Orleans to date). Located nearby,  Hansen’s Sno Bliz on Tchoupitoulas Street was our dessert stop. There’s always a line; the Sno Balls are always refreshing. We’ve been here before and looked forward to another visit.  Never disappointed, we always recommend Hansen’s.

Our next adventure took us to Mid-City Lanes/Rock n Bowl.  Bowling is one of our favorite family activities so we weren’t going to miss this place.  The bowling alley houses a bar, restaurant, and concert stage.  Music in New Orleans is played everywhere so it makes sense to have live music entertain bowlers every night.  This tradition started with Zydeco night and morphed into a regular event. It was too early for dinner and a concert so we hung out and bowled a couple games.

 

 

The lanes are modern, but there was, on display, an old-school bowling ball return hood and rack. Bubble gum-pink with chrome, it brought back memories of the lanes I used to bowl as a kid. The boys enjoyed it.  Rock n Bowl has quite an interesting history both pre- and post-Katrina.  It’s worth reading about and there is a “History” tab on their website. Enjoy reading, then make plans to visit.  We have heard the Po Boys are wonderful.

Dinner was served at Pascal’s Manale, who is famous for their “Original” Barbecue Shrimp. We couldn’t wait to try it.  The waitress came to us with bibs before serving us dinner.  Hmmm. How messy could barbecue shrimp be?  Well, they were not only messy but incredibly delectable, swimming in a buttery, peppery sauce. The dish came with plenty of Leidenheimer bread to soak up that wonderful sauce; it shouldn’t be wasted. The two of us split a plate which was a great decision since there was so much to eat.  The boys ate a plate each of Calamari and proclaimed that it tasted fantastic. Pascal’s Manale is located 1838 Napoleon Ave.  The street car line is under reconstruction in this neighborhood at the time of this writing (Summer 2014), so plan to drive.  We had no trouble finding parking.  Reservations are suggested.

DAY THREE:

Day Three started at an old favorite — the Camellia Grill on St Charles Street.  Coffee, OJ, waffles, hashbrowns, bacon, and eggs. The workers are a show in themselves — friendly and funny.

We often spend our Saturday mornings at the local farm market, so we found the Crescent City Farmer’s Market Saturday Market in the Warehouse District.  It was worth a stop. Located at Magazine and Girod Streets this market runs year-round from 8am to noon. The place was stocked with local, farm fresh foods, canned items made from some of the same farmer’s produce, and Gulf seafood.  And where there is a gathering of people in New Orleans, there is always music.  Having lived on the Gulf Coast in  previous years, we are really missing our local seafood and, had we had a way to keep some of this fresh until we got home the next day, we would have bought some.  The prices, closer to the coast, are a lot lower than even just a few hours north.  Passing on the seafood, we did purchase some peppers, homemade Blackberry Sage Syrup, and some Back Yard Creole Tomato Pepper Jelly.  It’s easier to travel with canned items than with fresh.  We recommend adding this Farmer’s Market to your next NOLA to-do list.

Lunchtime found us back on Magazine Street for a meal at Dat Dog.  A fun little place for a variety of sausage sandwiches, it offers large patio dining area and an indoor section for dining and drinking.  We caught the FIFA World Cup Soccer game on one of their many televisions while we waited for our order.  The menu is awesome: a selection of traditional German sausages, Vegan selections, a fish dog, Crawfish, Italian and Duck, to name a few.  Sticking with a Louisiana theme, we dined on the Hot Sausage and Gator Dog. Dat Dog has three locations: we chose 3336 Magazine Street but you can also find them at 5030 Rue Freret Street and 601 Frenchmen Street.

There are many walking tours available in New Orleans and there are plenty of brochures with maps in them, so you can take a self-guided walking tour.  We returned to the French Quarter, gathered up these maps and looked around.  Our stops included Jackson Square, the Voodoo Museum, a few shops and art galleries.  We enjoyed The Art of Dr. Seuss, the outdoor sculpture art of famous New Orleans Jazz musicians across from Cafe Beignet, a street corner band concert in front of Rouses Market (Royal and St Peter Streets), and other street performers (the metallic painted people who stand still as statues).

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the guy in full stride walking a stuffed animal.  He stood still as people walked up to him and posed for photos.  Other galleries we visited included Rodrigue Studio and Caliche & Pao.

The Pepper Palace on Decatur Street is a good tourist spot.  We are always up for trying new canned delecacies from BBQ to pepper sauces, jellies and jams. We have a lot of opportunity to try new sauces and welcome companies to send us a sampling in the mail.  We have many reviews of sauces on our blog and website.  There were some good ones in the Pepper Palace and some that were definite novelties.  One that struck our interest was the crawfish jelly. It was chunky and sweet.

We had been planning on an early dinner then standing in line for the early show at the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s theatre.  Instead, it rained and we decided standing in line was not a good option.  So we headed over to one of our Dixiedining all-time favorites: Cochon Butcher. Since our visit the previous year, the restaurant has expanded its indoor dining space and added a full service bar.  We ordered some of our favorites and tried some new menu items too. These included some muffalettas, the bbq sandwich, mac n cheese and gumbo.

DAY FOUR:

Our last day started in the French Quarter at Cafe Beignet on Royal Street.  We split a plate of the wonderful fried New Orleans delicacy, accompanied by some strong coffee.  A street performer entertained all of the outside diners, including us, with some Spirituals sung acapella. We walked around afterward … taking in some more morning sites in the French Quarter including the Monteleone Hotel in hopes of seeing the inside of the Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge. It was closed but we could still see the famous bar through the door.  A beautiful place, we’ll have to put this on our list of “later-in-the-day-things-to-do”.   We heard that Louis Prima’s daughter sings there in the evenings.  It’s also said that the hotel is haunted and a paranormal investigation confirmed this. We didn’t find anything unusual but we were only there for 10 minutes.

Before heading back to the hotel by streetcar, we spotted the “Birthplace of Dixie.”  Currently the location of a national drug store chain.CAM01414

New Orleans is filled with cemeteries that give tours.  The uniqueness of New Orleans is that since it is a city below sea level, it is impossible to bury the dead underground.  So, above ground memorials are everywhere.  Lafayette Cemetery is the one we chose to visit.  A tour was in progress but we decided to just look around.  We do want to caution not to venture into many of the cemeteries alone, meaning “without a crowd present”.  The mosoleums tend to make a great place for people to hide, sadly making cemeteries a high crime area.

Our last dining spot was Elizabeth’s for Sunday brunch. There was a short wait which gave us a chance to go upstairs and look around.  We ended up, eating downstairs. You could tell it was a neighborhood place where people know each other.  The service was quick and pleasant. We missed the praline bacon, but did try the Sweet Potato and Duck Hash with Red Pepper Jelly.  It was served over a savory cornmeal waffle. Elizabeth’s is located at 601 Gallier Street in the Bywater Neighborhood.

You can do a lot on a 4-day weekend in New Orleans and still leave plenty to do on your return trip.

Things To Do:

  • Magazine Street
  • Jim Russell’s Record Store
  • Louisiana Music Factory
  • J&M Records Historical Building
  • Ogden Museum of Southern Art
  • Streetcar
  • Mardi Gras World
  • Mid-City Lanes/Rock-n-Bowl
  • Crescent City Farm Market
  • French Quarter
  • Monteleon Hotel
  • Lafayette Cemetery

Places To Eat:

  • Joey K’s
  • District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew
  • Vincent’s Italian
  • Old Coffee Pot Restaurant
  • Domilese’s
  • Hansen’s Sno Bliz
  • Pascal’s Manale
  • Camellia Grill
  • Cochon Butcher
  • Cafe Beignet
  • Elizabeth’s

Already we are planning our next trip back to the Big Easy, but there is so much to eat and so much to do around our current home state, Mississippi, that we’ll be focusing our next stories there.

Real Deal Mexican Tacos at Foley (AL) Indoor Flea Market

7 Apr

Real deal Mexican food is often hard to find in Alabama. And you certainly don’t expect to find it at a flea market. But that is exactly what happened during a recent visit to the Foley Indoor Flea Market in Foley, Alabama. Foley is a familiar stopping point for travelers en route to Gulf Coast tourist towns like Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. It is also home to the Tanger Outlet Mall. Some folks get really excited about shopping. I get fired up about food. And I was especially pumped when I saw the skewer (pictured above) jam packed with pork, fresh pineapple and sliced onion.

The condiments at our table were another sign we were in for a treat. The lime, cilantro and onion were garden fresh. The salsas homemade and delicious. The tablecloth and the general surroundings of the place gave it a nice, homey feel. For a moment, I felt transported to some border town in Texas. The help speaks very little English and there was a Mexican soccer match playing out on TV.

Pork Tacos – Carnitas @ top & Pineapple & Onion version at bottom

Mandarin Orange Jarritos soda with chipotle salsa & pico de gallo.

This fiery salsa rojo made for a nice addition to the pork tacos.

The homemade pico de gallo was riddled with chopped jalapeno.

The sheep stew seen above was a special treat. It was not on the menu and we did not order it. The restaurant’s owner offered it up free of charge as an added bonus to our lunch. It was good — and hot — both in a temperature and spice way. The gent smiled broadly as he presented the stew in 2 large styrofoam cups. He at first seemed hesitant to reveal what kind of meat was used … and appeared relieved when we let him know that we liked it. Another couple of gringos converted. Mission accomplished.

The dark & dangerous roasted chipotle salsa was mui authentico.

The pork under the heat lamp (above) was chopped fresh to order. Both pork tacos I devoured were bueno. I especially loved the one sliced fresh off the metal skewer. It was lean and sweet — you could really taste the pineapple.

These colorful Mexican style pastries were fresh out of the oven.

These babies (above) were not nearly as colorful, but equally tasty I’m sure. We were just tickled pink that we had found this place. The owners were very nice, the joint was clean, and the food & atmosphere was authentic. We will return soon and trust you will give them a try sometime this summer. It’s worth the trip.  And who knows — maybe you’ll find a bargain at the flea market. I usually do — and it’s normally of the vinyl variety. Yes, that gets me fired up too!

Taqueria Las Camelinas – 14809 Highway 59, Foley, AL

251 970-1234 or 251 943-6068

Touring the Tabasco Hot Sauce Factory and Scenic Avery Island, Louisiana

15 Nov

Entry to the world famous Tabasco Plant on sleepy Avery Island, Louisiana.

Some of the stunning scenery we enjoyed on our recent visit to Avery Island.

The brick facade of the Tabasco plant — looks a bit like a military stockade.

We toured on a Saturday afternoon, so the bottling plant was not in operation.

Eileen and the boys enjoying the tour & learning more about Scoville Units.

The company store truly does offer all things Tabasco — bring lots of $$$!

These former oak bourbon barrels are used to age the spicy red pepper mash.

Interesting choice of bait, huh?

You can even try Tabasco ice cream — sweet & smooth with a fiery finish!

Avery Island is home to a massive salt dome — first discovered back in 1862.

www.tabasco.com

Another interesting tour nearby is the Konriko Rice Mill …

The Koriko (Conrad Rice Company) mill is technically in New Iberia, LA.

Konriko’s rice (stored in the above silo) has a fresh, nutty taste.

These rustic sacks of Konriko pecan rice make for great take-home gifts.

www.konriko.com

Southern Soul BBQ Sauce is 1st Rate

15 Dec

Buttery, brown sugar sweet, tangy tomato base with a hint of mustard and a black pepper kick. A competition-quality grilling sauce and condiment, made from a family recipe with all natural ingredients and containing zero high fructose corn syrup or msg. They are the perfect enhancement to any grilled or smoked meats and seafood.

I recently became acquainted with Griffin Bufkin on Facebook. Griffin is the force behind Southern Soul BBQ in St. Simons Island, GA. I’ve been hearing good things about the joint — and good things about the BBQ sauce they are cranking out.

Bufkin was kind enough to offer us a sample bottle for our review. Their Sweet Georgia Brown sauce is simply delicious. We made a killer BBQ chicken and enjoyed the heck out of it. The sauce is slightly reminiscent of the mustard-enhanced sauce made at the legendary Johnny Harris BBQ in Savannah. However, Sweet Georgia Brown offers a smooth buttery finish that is difficult to find with most mass produced sauces. Small batches often = high quality and that is certainly the case here.

We look forward to visiting this cool looking dive (seen above) on our next trek along the Georgia coast. Get your own bottle of this dandy BBQ sauce at www.southernsoulbbq.com if you can’t wait for your next drive by!

Thanks, Griffin … keep up the fine work!

Mississippi’s Legendary Hoover Sauce

22 Aug

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I have long heard of this magical elixir, but I’ve never tasted it.

Maybe that day is coming soon — I hope!

By CHRIS TALBOTT
ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 19, 2007 

LOUISE, Miss. — Hoover Lee’s small batch honey-brown Mississippi Delta marinade imparts a flavor that reflects its maker — a dash of the Deep South with nuanced notes of Asia.

“My main thing was trying to get a sauce that tasted like roasted Cantonese duck — that type of taste,” the 73-year-old native of China says in a booming baritone with a distinctively Southern cadence.

And that blending of cultures has proved hugely popular, despite Lee’s unwillingness to market by more than word of mouth.

It’s also putting this fading farm town of about 300 people on the culinary map. Recipes and stories featuring the sauce have appeared in regional newspapers and magazines, and Southern Living magazine recently named it an editors’ pick.

“It’s surprising to me that it’s beginning to move fast,” says Lee, who has been concocting the sauce from a secret recipe and selling it out of his Lee Hong Co. general store since the early 1980s. “In the past I’ve just been dealing with local people.”

Now he even gets recognized on the street 1 1/2 hours away in Jackson.

“‘That’s Mr. Hoover, the Hoover Sauce man,'” Lee says he often overhears people say. “It was just a hobby that turned into a working hobby now. I’ve just been blessed.”

Salty and sweet

Hoover Sauce blends the saltiness of soy sauce with the sweetness of, well … Lee won’t say. Whatever it is, it works magic with chicken and baby back ribs, and he says people drive for miles to get it.

Though he has yet to sell Hoover Sauce online, Lee increasingly finds himself packing up jugs of it to ship to customers around the country and beyond. He’s sent it as far west as Hawaii and as far east as France.

“You know, the guy could make a damn fortune if he’d market it,” says Billy Ray Adams, a Hoover Sauce customer who uses it on steak, ribs, hamburgers, wings, pork, venison sausage and nearly anything else.

Lee seems about as versatile as his sauce. In a region not known for prosperity or for a tolerance for minorities in the past, he not only has run a successful business in a town where few remain, he also served as the community’s mayor and an alderman for many years.

Lee was born in 1933 in the Canton region of China, but less than a year later he and his family moved to Mississippi, where his father had run a store since 1917. Tensions between China and Japan prompted the return to the U.S.

Running the store

After a stint in the Army and graduation with a business degree from Mississippi State University, Lee returned to Louise at his father’s request to take over the family store. He decided to honor his parents after his brothers declined to return to Louise.

“I said, ‘I tell you what, I’ll come back here for five years. I’ll run it for five years,'” Lee says. “And I’ve been here ever since.”

Today, the store is one of the few remaining businesses in Louise. Several Chinese families carved out lives in the area as storeowners, but most have since moved on. The Lees stayed, saying they found a greater acceptance than others in the Delta.

Lee gave the store to his sons in 1997, but the Hoover Sauce hasn’t let him slow down. Not only won’t he say what’s in it, he makes it himself and hesitates to even show outsiders the room where he mixes it.

“Visualize,” he says. “I have a line of mixers, which I use to blend basically soy sauce plus a sweetener and other spices.”

Even his wife must mostly visualize. She’s not allowed to help make it.

“No, I just have to clean the pots and the pans,” the 70-year-old said. “He loves it. He does it all himself. I can’t even fuss about the area. He keeps it a mess, but I clean up behind him.”

Lee became interested in cooking watching his mother and sisters, and the men who cooked stir-fry at parties held by the area’s Chinese families. He began his search for the right sauce after sampling several uneven attempts at Cantonese duck.

“Some would hit the mark and some wouldn’t,” Lee said.

He refined his sauce during the 1970s, when he first got into local politics and often found himself cooking for volunteer firefighters and church gatherings. Only later, after many requests from fans, did he consider selling it.

Today, he sells it in quart-size glass canning jars and large plastic jugs for $6.95 a quart or $21.50 a gallon. He sells enough to keep him busy, but doesn’t track exactly how much he moves in a year.

The sauce draws folks such as Alan Holditch, of Jackson. Holditch mixes the marinade with honey, then spreads it on steaks while grilling. He stocks up every few months, when his job takes him to Louise.

“I’ll stop and get a gallon,” Holditch says. “We’ve got so many friends that use it, it doesn’t take me long to get rid of a gallon. Once every three or four months I’ll have to get another gallon.”

If you can’t get down to Louise, Miss., to get a jar of Hoover Lee’s sweet and salty Hoover Sauce, he suggests making a similar marinade out of bottled hoisin sauce (check the grocer’s Asian section), onion powder, minced fresh garlic and chopped fresh cilantro.

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Hoover’s Chicken Drummettes

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

3 pounds chicken wings

2 cups Hoover Sauce (or similar sweet-and-salty marinade)

2 cups cold water

1 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon yellow mustard powder (more or less to taste)

Vegetable oil

Place the chicken wings in a large stockpot. Add the Hoover Sauce or other marinade and cold water. If the liquid doesn’t completely cover the chicken, add more water. Bring the chicken to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 12 minutes. Remove the chicken, drain well and discard the liquid.

While the chicken simmers, make the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup and mustard powder. Set aside.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil over medium heat until it reaches about 350 degrees. Carefully add the chicken in a single layer (you may need to cook in batches) and fry until just starting to brown, turning for even cooking, about 4 minutes.

Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce.

— Recipe from Hoover Lee, maker of Hoover Sauce in Louise, Miss.

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