Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ Category

Well Hello N’Awlins

January 8, 2012

If you’ve never been to New Orleans, you probably have a vision in your mind of live, boisterous jazz; females with semi-loose morals begging for colorful beaded necklaces; gawking men hanging from balconies in the French Quarter with said necklaces; and – essentially – debauchery galore.

You’d be right.

But you may not know about some of its other charms:  incredible mansions, horse-drawn carriages, old-time trolleys, multi-level wrought-iron balconies overflowing with lush plant life, rich history and even a cemetery that looks romantic in the rain.   New Orleans can offer a completely different experience if you’re aged 22, 42 or 102 – and there is certainly something for everyone.  On a long weekend trip to this famed locale – my first ever – I was determined to experience it like I was ageless.  That meant a fair share of jazz clubs, fried seafood, museums, mansions, shopping, iconic New Orleans concoctions (both liquid and solid), some…let’s say “bead-related activities,” and all around general soaking in of the culture.

The French Quarter is defined by hundreds of balconies that are truly charming and truly New Orleans

In doing research for this trip, TripAdvisor was again a go-to resource for finding moderately priced and conveniently located lodgings.  James and I (and our traveling companions Mike and Laura) settled on the one-of-a-kind Le Pavillon Hotel just a few blocks outside the French Quarter.  This iconic hotel – listed on the National Register of Historic Places – is over the top with massive crystal chandeliers, a rooftop cabana oasis, highly attentive service, and is certainly worth a try if you want that old-time Louisiana feel.  And who wouldn’t want to be treated at 10pm every night with a complimentary peanut butter and jelly bar, ice cold milk and hot chocolate?  Click here for the back story on that one!

Le Pavillon Hotel Lobby

I’m also lucky to know a few people who are originally from Louisiana, and were more than happy to offer up suggestions of “must do’s” in New Orleans.  The lists were actually a mile long – and those were just the highlights of the city!  You can’t really go wrong whether you focus on eating, drinking, sightseeing – or all three.  A couple of my don’t miss suggestions:

Cafe au lait and fresh beignets (glorified donuts) at Cafe Du Monde.  Here’s a tip – bypass the long line (can you say tourist trap?) – which is actually for take-out – and make your way into the cafe, where you can grab your own table and order from the overly simplified menu.

Beignets and Cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde

 

Order a Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House.  First, a little history about Napoleon House – this is a New Orleans landmark made famous when its first occupant, Nicholas Girod (mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815) offered his residence to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile.  Famously, Napoleon never showed, but the name stuck.  Honestly, it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but as soon as you step in – if you happen to go when it’s open – you can tell there’s something special about the place.

Napoleon House (credit - NOLA.com)

A Pimm’s Cup is a gin-based mixed beverage with 7-Up and a slice of cucumber – perfectly refreshing on a hot day in New Orleans.  Explore the bar and make sure you try to get a table in the courtyard out back.  And if you really want a treat – order a muffuletta sandwich, which is a New Orleans specialty made on Sicilian bread with a marinated olive spread.

I realize the tips above are both food-related, but I’m probably underplaying the role that food played on this trip.  I’ll share some more highlights from New Orleans soon!

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Hip Hip Kihei!

May 10, 2010

Maui draws a diverse group of tourists – newlyweds, families with small children, and lots of old folks on tour buses.  This is no surprise though, since the destination has something for everyone (tons of water activities, beautiful scenery, endless beaches, amazing resorts, whales).  Maui is the 2nd largest Hawaiian island at 727sq miles, but most people don’t realize just how expansive it really is – there are essentially no roads cutting through the 2 mountains on each end, so you’ll need to circumnavigate Mt. Haleakala if you’re exploring the entire northeast, and the West Maui mountains in you’re up near Ka’anapali on the west side.

That is why choosing your home base is so important!

When you start researching Maui you’ll notice that there are many wonderful places in which to plant your suitcase.  Wailea is a landscaped paradise for honeymooners, and Lahaina has the family amenities like safe turtle beaches and luau’s.  It’s likely you’ll want to do at least one boat activity, which will leave from Maalaea Harbor in the south, and you’ll want to drive the Road to Hana in the northeast.  Being that we knew we’d be all over the island exploring all of these areas, we chose a central location for our base – Kihei.

Choose your home base wisely, or you'll have a very long ride home from Hana...or Ka'anapali.

Kihei isn’t the sexiest of Maui towns – it has a lot of strip malls and traffic. But, it also has some of the best restaurants on the entire island (in fairness, so does Lahaina, but that town is on the west coast, a major haul from the Road to Hana).  Wailea is…well, just pretty and landscaped. It’s mainly comprised of resorts and golf courses, but you’ll know when you cross over from Kihei into Wailea (see: landscaping).  We researched hotels on TripAdvisor.com and private condos on VRBO.com (there are tons of timeshares in Kihei), and found a very reasonable one-bedroom in a low-rise complex with a pool (oh, and a lanai – a standard feature in Hawaii) right across from a beach.  It was also within walking distance to a dozen eateries, a few bars, convenience & grocery stores and a delectable ice cream parlor.   It was perfect for us when we didn’t want to drive to dinner (see: Fred’s Mexican next door to our condo) or just got sick of being in our rental car all day (see: Road to Hana).

If you’re spending more than just a few days on Maui – and you should – you might want to consider a central location like Kihei.

Some restaurant suggestions (even if you don’t stay in Kihei, you should go for a meal or two):

Kihei Cafe for breakfast – come early and come hungry.  Maui is an early-to-rise kind of place, FYI.

Pita Paradise for fresh fish and mediterranean dishes. Get the skewers with the fresh catch of the day.

Cafe O’Lei for the mahi mahi with papaya and mango salsa.

Cafe O'Lei serves up some "delishes fishes dishes"

Oh…and ABC Stores to stock up on chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and pineapple wine (actually, skip the pineapple wine – it’s gross).

Maui's finest Pineapple wine. I was suckered into this one. Sorry Maui...you gotta try harder. Grapes work well in wine. Try that.

Lamby Goodness

November 29, 2009

Food is one of my favorite aspects of traveling to different regions, and since New Zealand is known for its lamb chops, I was excited to try some local specialties on my latest trip! For the educational portion of this blog post, you might not know that lamb chops are from sheep that are under 1 year old. Mutton chops are older sheep – not these.

But then we drove around the countryside and I kept seeing sheep everywhere…little lambs following their mothers and “baa-ing”….

I was having a few morality / food conscience issues after all that lamb-ey cuteness, so I let James be the one to actually order the lamb chops:

I did have a bite, and they were amazing…These lamb chops were from Ambrosia in Rotorua, a chic new eatery / bar on the main strip in town. Highly recommended!

Cool Spot Alert

November 20, 2009

If you ever find yourself (for some odd reason) driving from Auckland, New Zealand to Rotorua (and why wouldn’t you??) I have a recommended spot to stop for a bite and/or a beer. The little town of Hamilton is a great pit stop and is teeming with diverse / ethnic restaurants and pubs. It’s a super cute town that actually had way more options than we could handle at the time (being quite jet lagged from our 3-day journey to NZ).

We ended up strolling into C.B.D., a cute little pub that had a lively workday lunch crowd, for some grub and caffeine before continuing our journey to Rotorua. I was overwhelmed by the choices for our first official meal in New Zealand, and to be honest, quite surprised by the gourmet-sounding options at this apparent bar / casual hang-out. After making a pact that we would, in fact, drink the local water despite what happened to us in South America, we hydrated and caffeinated hard core, and ordered some delicious breads with dips (which became my go-to appetizer at every NZ restaurant we went to):

Fueling up on Diet Coke, cappucino, and yummy, crusty bread with artesan dips.

The waitstaff was super attentive and appropriately hipster (token piercings, tattoos, etc) and as soon as I tasted the roasted garlic and coriander hummus and red pepper pesto, I was in luuuurve with New Zealand! This only began our amazing culinary journey which was quite unexpected, and also responsible for me gaining at least 5lbs on this trip! Food was really the last thing we thought about when planning this trip, but it soon became one of our favorite parts of New Zealand. Well done, C.B.D.!

Breakfast for Dinner? or Vice Versa?

November 17, 2009

Bacon and egg pizza, anyone?  You can find this delicacy (?) at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. I guess it’s not as weird as it first sounds, but I did a double-take when I saw it!

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I'm confused...which meal should I be hungry for here??