New Orleans is teeming with talented musicians, especially on Royal Street and around Jackson Square. Here are a few of my favorites.
Alberto's Wine and Cheese Bistro, Central Grocery, District Donuts & Sliders, Eat Restaurant, Erin Rose Bar, food, Galatoire's, Killer Po' Boys, Kingfish, Mr. B's Bistro, Muriel's, Napoleon House, New Orleans, Petite Amelie, Red Gravy, The Grill, travel, Verti Marte
Any trip to New Orleans includes some fantabulous meals. I tend to go to the same places much of the time, but try to include a new place or two on every trip.
My first meal in New Orleans this time was at Eat Restaurant, half a block from where my French Quarter studio was located. I’d eaten at Eat back in 2009. My dinner had been fried green tomatoes and spaghetti back then. My recollection was that the food was fine, but nothing too memorable. This time I stopped in and ordered the spicy deviled eggs with bacon. There were 5 deviled eggs, which were good, but not particularly spicy. You can also order them with salmon instead of bacon, but y’all know how I feel about salmon! I then ordered a side order of butter beans with shrimp. OMG, Becky! It was smokey, rich and had some nice zing to it. I wasn’t expecting to like it quite that much. I intended to go back a day or two later to get the entrée size, but they were closed 2 (or 3) days, so I didn’t get any more of those incredible butter beans with shrimp. Boo hoo!
One evening I stopped in at Muriel’s for an appetizer of gulf shrimp risotto and a fleur-de-lis, some raspberry cocktail concoction. They were both so tasty!
On Tripadvisor everyone kept going on and on about the muffaletta at Albert’s Cheese and Wine Bistro in the French Market. I went there late morning to get one, but their reputation preceded them. There was already a line and the guy informed me that it would take about 15-20 minutes to get my order. I waited and my order was ready in the allotted amount of time. Unfortunately, I was due for lunch at Mr. B’s Bistro within 20 minutes, so took my muffaletta to go. It ended up in my refrigerator, so it wasn’t fresh when I finally got to chow down. After all the hype, I thought it was average. The one at Napoleon House is better, but my favorite remains the one at Central Grocery. I did, as usual, grab one from Central Grocery for my flight back to San Francisco. Whenever I open that on the flight, you can see the jealousy in everyone’s eyes!!!
Speaking of Mr. B’s Bistro, I finally got their famed BBQ Shrimp. I have a bit of an aversion to ripping heads and legs off of shrimp. I kindly asked the waiter if he could please ask the chef to remove the heads, in which case I’d go ahead and deal with the legs. Request granted! I began my lunch with their classic Gumbo YaYa and a $5.00 Champagne Royale, proceeded with the BBQ Shrimp and a $1.50 Bloody Mary, then ended with the Lemon Icebox Pie with Raspberry Sauce. Everything was divine! The sauce for the BBQ Shrimp was super buttery goodness and the Lemon Icebox Pie was decadent in a way that I never thought pie could be! They put a bib on me for the shrimp, brought a bowl for the shells and legs, and brought a couple of lemon slices and a damp napkin to cleanse my hands/fingers with. Even so, I made a straight-up mess with their white linen napkin! Once again, I have to mention that the service is first-rate. Plus, you’ve gotta’ love those cocktail specials during lunch Monday through Friday.
I also had lunch at Galatoire’s again. They had a 3-course prix fixe for a very reasonable $18, but… I also was craving their Shrimp Remoulade. So I ordered both the prix fixe AND the Shrimp Remoulade. A few bites into the Shrimp Remoulade reminded me why I particularly love theirs – it has a healthy dose of horseradish! For the prix fixe, the first course was duck and Andouille gumbo. It was rich, smokey and slightly gamey. The main course was a Creole shrimp omelette; good. I could only make it halfway through the omelette, though, before giving up. Yet, somehow, when the mocha panna cotta with whipped cream arrived at my table, I managed to finish the entire thing! Luscious! That was my final day in New Orleans, so I didn’t bother having any alcohol for lunch because, after 4 days in New Orleans, who really needs more alcohol?! As with Mr. B’s, the service at Galatoire’s is first-rate; very old school and professional.
One morning I had breakfast at Red Gravy, which is across Canal Street in the CBD. Red Gravy refers to marinara sauce. This restaurant is owned by an East Coast Italian. There have been many complaints about the service, but I decided to try it, anyway. First off, the restaurant is really cute, homey and rather intimate inside. I had no problems with the service because I chose to sit at the bar, where the bartender was quite attentive. I ordered the polpetta omelette, an omelette filled with Italian meatballs and covered with parmesan and marinara, which also came with potatoes and toast. I would say that it was better than average; most certainly, filling. I wouldn’t complain if I had to eat it again.
What else did I eat? Well… another meatloaf po’ boy from Killer Po’ Boys in the back of the Erin Rose Bar, a chicken salad sandwich from The Grill, a grilled shrimp po’ boy from Verti Marte, a (mediocre) portabella sandwich from Petite Amelie, a Vietnamese iced coffee donut from District Donuts & Sliders, some tasteless chicken from Kingfish and a blackberry snowball with some crazy good jamabalaya being sold on the street where the Mardi Gras Indians parade took place. That about covers the culinary part of it. I was eating “light” on this trip, so only gained 5 lbs. this time around. Besides, you must realize that my now oversized okole is currently doing extensive sit-ups and other exercises at home. Once my bedraggled knee heals a bit more, I’m taking my fat self back to the gym!
My main reason for traveling to New Orleans on this trip was to attempt to get some photos of the Mardi Gras Indians. The Mardi Gras Indians are “tribes” of African-Americans who “mask Indian” to pay homage to Native Americans who took them in and/or hid them during the time of slavery. There may be 40 or 50 tribes in New Orleans. The main times that they come out are on Mardi Gras, Super Sunday and St. Joseph’s Day. I don’t see myself dealing with the madness of Mardi Gras any time soon, so opted to book a ticket encompassing Super Sunday.
I arrived on March 13th to some rain, so was waiting for Super Sunday with trepidation. If it happened to rain on Sunday, the Mardi Gras Indians wouldn’t come out, as the rain would ruin their costumes which are composed of beaucoup ostrich feathers in brilliant colors. Luckily, it did NOT rain on Super Sunday, so I got my photos. It was difficult to get photos with hundreds of people around, spy boys and wild men shooing everyone out of the way, and the Mardi Gras Indians themselves turning this way and that. Many of them stopped specifically to pose, but just when one thought they had a clear shot, someone would stick their cell phone right in front of you! Even so, Super Sunday, in my opinion, is a glorious tradition that I’m happy to have finally seen. Who knows? I may attempt to return next year and include St. Joseph’s Day, too!
You haven’t heard from me in a minute ’cause I took my happy butt to New Orleans for a long weekend over St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Out of my 15 (?) or so trips there, this was my best by far. I saw FOUR parades, saw someone from there who I’d met pre-Katrina AND had drinks with a friend from L.A. who was in NoLa that Saturday night.
in reality, I rarely spend much time on Bourbon Street these days. That’s what you do the first 2 or 3 times you go there. After that, you venture to other streets and areas to party. I admit to stopping in at Krazy Korner on every trip hoping to catch some live zydeco or R&B band. This time, however, my Air BnB studio was a street above Bourbon and down near the quieter end. Thus, I was crossing Bourbon Street constantly day and night. The St. Joseph’s parade was in the French Quarter that Saturday night. Once it was over, later in the evening, I was dashing across Bourbon and took quite a fall. I’m sure a thud was involved. I could have slipped on paper, plastic, beads, alcohol, whatever… Two Southern gentlemen immediately helped me up. I’d fallen forward in my jeans and slippers causing grievous injury to my right knee. One of the Southern gentlemen proclaimed “There’s so much shi* on this street. I hope you’re ok.” Even though I seriously felt like crying, I assured him that I would be fine and soldiered on. It was probably an hour later, as I was sitting in a bar waiting for someone, that I glanced at my knee to discover that a fair amount of blood had seeped through! That prompted me to rush back to the studio and check on it. My Bourbon Street battle wound was decidedly not pretty! Still, I waited till the next day to pick up some Neosporin and apply it liberally several times daily. I’m still applying that, along with coconut oil. Hope it doesn’t scar!
We had a Company event in Monterey, California on Thursday and Friday. Four of us drove down together on Thursday morning – a few hour’s drive. The 3 others in the car had never been to Monterey before. I, myself, haven’t been in more than 20 years. The Company had us lodged at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. The hotel and rooms were very nice and the staff was great. After presentations on Thursday, we had tickets to check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. our group was given a private, after hours tour of the Aquarium for an hour. That was great for me, as I’d never seen the Aquarium before; the line was always too long to get in. The ticket is expensive at $37.95, so we were happy that our Company was covering our admission! My favorite part of the Aquarium was the jellyfish exhibit, which yielded some amazing photos. The private tour was quite interesting, too; they have several volunteer divers working after hours cleaning out the tanks, getting “eggs” and feeding the fish.
Here’s what I saw:
Back in 2012 I’d come upon a video on YouTube of a guy named Kaipo Kapua singing a song called “Before You Know It.” I was crazy for that song and played it constantly. He’s got a smooth voice and sings mainly R&B, hip hop and reggae type music. Kaipo is based in Honolulu, so my chances of seeing him perform were slim to none. Even on myriad trips to the Islands, he was always performing either right before I arrived, right after I left or on another island while I was there! Imagine my excitement to see his Instagram account announce that he would be in San Francisco for TWO consecutive nights performing at my preferred venue, Pa’ina Lounge. (On a side note, I’m so over being trampled and elbowed by rude people at Mezzanine. Big Body Cisco annoys the crap out of me, too, with his same shtick for every single concert – “Where my Samoan people at?” “Where my Giants fans at?” Plus, he plays the same music to try to hype the crowd up. But that’s none of my business. :) ) Getting back to Kaipo at Pa’ina… I marked my calendar tout suite! On Wednesday I showed up at 5:35 p.m. or thereabouts. Although they open at 3:00 p.m., I was the only customer at that time; everyone else inside was staff. I plopped down at the bar and ordered some Kahlua pig cheese fries and a Sapporo. I also inquired as to whether they had butterscotch schnapps; wanted the same butterscotch and Bailey’s shot from Vegas! They didn’t have butterscotch schnapps, but thought the Bailey’s might be tasty with some Frangelico. Not bad, but I still prefer the butterscotch. Kaipo went onstage around 7:15 p.m. Surprisingly, not many people were there. I sat in the front row all by my lonesome, there was a table with 4 people a little further back and that was it. All of the other customers continued to sit in the upstairs area. They were definitely listening to his music, but were rooted to their original seats! I won’t complain, though, because I had an unobstructed view (for once) and thoroughly enjoyed his set. Not only that, but I chatted with Romeo Valentine and him afterwards, as well as taking a few photos with him. I told them that I might be back the next night, although I was supposed to have drinks with a friend. As it turns out, my friend had to cancel on Thursday because she ended up having a job interview later in the day. In addition, I’d come to the realization that I’d left my credit card at Pa’ina Lounge! Thus, it must have been fate. I walked in on Thursday closer to 6:00 p.m. and explained that I’d left my credit card there the previous night. My card had been safely put away and was given back to me immediately, which enabled me to charge more drinks on it! When Kaipo and Romeo walked in, Romeo said “Tina’s back” (or something to that effect) and we said our “hellos.” This time when he got on stage, there were definitely more people, but I still got a front row seat! That’s a big plus when you’re vertically challenged! When his sets were over, Kaipo hugged me goodbye and I told them I’d see them in a month. He’ll be back at Pa’ina Lounge on March 11th, along with the Jimmy Weeks Project. I’m not personally a huge fan of the Jimmy Weeks Project, but I’ll show up to support Kaipo (and probably leave after his set!). So I’ve taken this musical moment to give him a little promotion. Check him out!
You know how one of my New Year’s resolutions was to reconnect with people from my past? My track record since right before New Year’s Eve is fairly good, all things considered.
Tonight’s reconnection was with S., a guy I’d gone to college with for a year at California State University, Chico. We haven’t seen each other since 1980!!! I found him on LinkedIn about a year and a half ago. We’d planned to do lunch shortly thereafter, which never materialized. I made a bit more of an effort this time and, after one failed attempt, we managed to meet for drinks this evening.
How does 35 years go by so quickly? It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting in the lobby of Whitney Hall watching “General Hospital” between classes, eating burgers at Madison Bear Garden and drinking adult beverages out of brown paper bags after hours at the dorm. S. and I didn’t necessarily hang out together all that much, but he was kind of like a brother to me. I reminded him that I, he and several others had gone to a party off-campus once. We’d all been rip roaring drunk and most of us ended up staying over at this apartment. Someone had put cushions out for me to sleep on, which had been comfortable enough. However, when I got up to go use the facilities, S. had snaked my spot! When I came back and asked him to move, he was drunk and refused! Luckily, someone else took me “under their wing,” so to speak, and deposited me in their bedroom on a comfy bed. S. said that he “vaguely” remembered that party and refusing to move when I wanted to lay down again! What he didn’t remember was the time we got drunk and made out! It was all him, though, I swear! I was just going with the flow! Back in the day, that kind of thing could happen without any fallout the following morning (i.e. no strange behavior; all back to normal).
We both had questions as to which classmates we’d been in touch with. Unfortunately, I found out that someone I’ve been searching for had died of AIDS several years ago. (I miss you, G. I particularly remember you picking me up one night out in front of the dorm and twirling me around for no particular reason; we were just happy.)
When they say that hindsight is 20/20, they aren’t kidding. If I could have those days/time back, I wouldn’t change MUCH, just a little. I definitely would have lived in the moment more and appreciated it more, though. So, although reconnecting is a good thing, it also brings back those bittersweet memories.
On a happier note, we’re talking about the Playboy Jazz Festival in L.A. in June; he said he hasn’t been in years. I’m thinking we should try a little reunion of sorts of people that went to Chico and particularly those that are living in L.A. right now. Will let you know how it goes.
I came upon another great idea on-line, somewhat akin to the Memory Jar. You and your significant other should make a “Date Night” jar. Take some popsicle sticks, write date night suggestions on them and put them in a Mason jar. You could even color code them to indicate a price range (i.e. red for expensive, green for medium and blue for inexpensive, or whatever). If you decide to have a Date Night once a week or every other week, you take turns choosing a “stick,” depending on what budget you can afford for the day/evening. Some of my Date Night/Day suggestions would be to watch a chick flick, volunteer somewhere together, read romance novels aloud to each other, make lunch/dinner for the other based on a theme (Italian night, opera night, etc.), spend the day at the zoo, picnic in the park, & so on & so forth. I could even make an “Activity” jar for myself, which wouldn’t even require anyone else to participate with me. I could, for instance, go to a matinee, go to a museum, write a letter to someone, stroll through an unfamiliar neighborhood, attempt to sketch for an hour, etc. – things that don’t even necessarily cost money. Get to it, people!
Ayuthaya, Bali, Balinese dance, Bangkok, Bophut Beach, Chiang Mai, Chinatown, Grand Palace, Koh Samui, La Plancha, Lily Spa, massage, Melting Wok Warung, Merah Putih, photos, pictures, Reclining Buddha, Sarong Restaurant, Seminyak, temples, textiles, Thailand, The Crystal Palace, Ubud, Wat Pho
Uh, yeah, well, I’ve obviously been remiss in filling you in on all of the details. Then again, you had a little insight into Bophut Beach in Koh Samui, Thailand. Let me give you a quick run-through of the rest.
Bangkok – the original City of Sin. I didn’t see any of that side of Bangkok. I met up with a guy that used to temp in my office here in San Francisco a couple of times for dinner. For the rest of my time there, my ex took me around. He took me to the Grand Palace, which was magnificent. I’m all about that bling and there’s plenty of it at the Grand Palace. He bought a flower and incense for each of us, then instructed me in the proper way to make an offering there. We also sat beneath the Emerald Buddha; no pictures of it were allowed inside – only through the window from the outside. The famous Reclining Buddha is at Wat Pho, which is also famous for having a massage school on the premises. I was in awe of the Reclining Buddha and could barely tear myself away because gazing on his face seriously took me to the most peaceful place in my psyche. I wanted to sit next to him for hours. The ex and I had dual foot massages at the massage school, though; he’d asked if I wanted full body massages, but I wasn’t down for any Thai massage torture at a temple! During the rest of my time in Bangkok, he took me to a flower market and bought some beautiful orchids for me, which I placed all around my apartment. We did some shopping in both Chatuchak Market (a.k.a. JJ Market) and Chinatown. I would easily get lost in Chatachuk, but there were some fantastic ethnic clothing/jewelry places there. On the next trip, I’ll be concentrating on those. The little warren of alleys in Chinatown were too claustrophobic for me to browse for long. We had something specific in mind – baggy silk sleeping pants, which one ties in a huge knot in the front to hold them up. We found them and each of us bought two pairs! Outside of Bangkok, he took me to some strange “Chinese temple,” featuring a huge dragon. Unfortunately, the dragon reminded me more of a Disneyland dragon or Puff the Magic Dragon rather than a serious one. I won’t complain, though; we spent some quality time together driving there, looking around and driving back. We also drove to Ayuthaya, where we rode an elephant and saw a few of the temple grounds. I was really taken with those temples and hope to see more of the other grounds on a future trip.
One afternoon I flew to Chiang Mai to see an Italian friend, E. He used to work at a restaurant in San Francisco that I frequented, but now owns his own restaurant in Chiang Mai. He’d urged me to come up for a visit, so I did a quick one-day trip, which amounted to about an hour’s flight each way. E. picked me up at the airport via motorbike and we rode up the mountain to see a little waterfall and the temple known as Doi Suthep, then had lunch and tooled around the Old Quarter of town. We ended by drinking a bottle of wine at his restaurant.
My trip to Bali in the midst of Thailand was wonderful, of course. I’d missed Bali so much and was surprised at the fancy new airport and highway construction. My birthday was celebrated with a fabulous dinner at Sarong, my favorite restaurant. A couple of Italian acquaintances had arrived in Seminyak the day before I left for Ubud, so we met up for drinks after my dinner at Merah Putih. For those of you who haven’t been to Merah Putih, go! The restaurant is stunning with, in my opinion, incredible service. The food was very good, but I probably still prefer Sarong. My time in Ubud was about massages at Lily Spa, sunbathing by the pool, taking pictures, seeing a dance performance and wandering through the market. I had another lovely lunch at Melting Wok Warung, a small place owned by a French woman who’s married to a Laotian man. The food is good and inexpensive, service is nice and friendly, and the owners frequently interact with their customers. Order the crème caramel with cinnamon and coconut milk; you can’t go wrong there! I almost had a romantic encounter with a guy that I met at CP Lounge. Almost, in the sense that I turned him down, though he was attractive. A one-night stand wasn’t on my agenda this time around!
With that being said, enjoy the photos!