Category Archives: USA

Muffalettas and Sazeracs-A Look Back at Bringing in 2010

@BethLovesTravel
facebook.com/beth.friedman1

For the holidays last year, my boyfriend Joe and I went to New Orleans to eat, drink and be merry! I had been to The Big Easy several times before for work, and was so happy to finally have the freedom to enjoy the city on my own terms and to be there during the most festive time of year (well, besides Mardi Gras)!

For the hotel, we decided on the Monteleone, which spoke to our mood at the time we booked it. We wanted something old with a little bit of infamy in the French Quarter. This family run hotel has been in business since 1886, is haunted (though we never saw a ghost), has a famous lounge called the Carousel Bar and was perfectly located for us. It is kind of kitchy, the rooms were cozy and it oozed New Orleans in it’s atmosphere.

Joe and I are all about oysters, so when we arrived, the first thing we wanted to do was find some! Fortunately for us, Acme Oyster House was right around the corner! This place is famous for its huge gulf oysters (grilled and raw), po’ boys, crawfish, and an enormous selection of regional seafood. The fact that both locals and tourists both line up outside to eat here is a testament to its great food. We ordered the grilled oysters first and loved them so much that we had to have a second plate. I took a photo to capture the moment but unfortunately it doesn’t do them justice. I hope you’ll trust that these little beauties that were bubbling with butter and romano cheese were absolutely sumptuous.

After the second helping, we had a dozen raw and then decided that it was time to move on to check out some music. We walked over to Bourbon Street and had a blast wandering in and out of club after club, listening to everything from Jazz, to Blues to Rock n Roll. This went on for 5 fabulous days and extended out into the other districts of the city where there are countless places to find live music.

New Orleans was of course still in recovery mode from Katrina and as you probably know, the French Quarter survived much better than much of the city. But tourism had not yet fully bounced back. It was incredibly clear to us how much our presence, along with the influx of visitors for the Sugar Bowl and the holidays was most appreciated. Everyone from the street performers, to the shop owners, pub owners and restaurant owners were quick to ask us to tell our friends that New Orleans is OPEN FOR BUSINESS! I’ve been doing that ever since.

For hotels, New Orleans caters to all tastes. Some of the best include the venerable Windsor Court, The Ritz Carlton and the W French Quarter. There are a ton of bed and breakfasts, Inns and smaller properties scattered throughout each distinct district including the Garden District/Uptown, Magazine and of course, the French Quarter. When you decide to plan your trip, let me know and we’ll find the perfect place for you!

My favorite meals on this trip ran the gamut. At Irene’s in the French quarter, the ambiance is warm, romantic, eclectic and crowded. Definitely make a reservation, but if you end up waiting, they’ll serve you wine and entertain you with a fun in-house pianist. The food is Cajun/Italian and we had a lasagna that was killer and their famous rosemary chicken, which I’ve desperately tried to recreate at home, but can’t.

The muffalettas and sazaracs at Napoleon House were DE-licous and personified New Orleans. Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens are a tradition in New Orleans too, but I prefer the Sazerac or a Pimms Cup!

The BBQ shrimp po’boys at Luizza’s by the racetrack were crazy (if you’ve ever gone to Jazz Fest, then you may have been there!) and the Frogs Legs at K-Pauls were yummy! I can’t forget to mention another oyster extravaganza at Casamentos, which has been around since 1919. This is not to be missed, and frankly not someplace overcrowded with tourists. It’s located on Magazine Street, which has too many great shops, bars, art galleries and restaurants to count. For fantastic down home, real deal cajun cuisine and soul food, Dooky Chase is the way to go! It’s in an iffy part of the city, but don’t let that stop you!

We were in a pretty touristy mood, so decided to take a horse (actually a donkey) and buggy ride around the French Quarter and this turned out to be such a blast! Our tour guide, Susan, was hilarious and seemed to know everything about the city. It was fun and informative, and best of all, we made a new friend. During the ride, we approached the famous Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, and Susan asked if we wanted to stop for a drink. Heaven forbid we pass up the opportunity for a cocktail, so we said sure! Susan stopped the buggy and we gathered our stuff to get out, but instead, at the top of her lungs, Susan yelled “TAKE OUT”!!!!! into the bar. Seconds later, the bartender came out and took our order. It was such a laugh and having a beer to enjoy for the rest of our tour made it that much more fun.

As we get ready to bring in 2011, I couldn’t help but reminisce about welcoming 2010, and writing this blog has brought back some great memories! I love New Orleans and can’t wait to go back because 5 days barely scratched the surface of what there is to do, see and of course eat!

I wish everybody out there a HEALTHY, happy and prosperous 2011! May it be filled with many great adventures!

For more information about the hotels and restaurants I’ve included here (and some that I didn’t squeeze into these 971 words), you can find me at:

journeybybeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
310-804-6767

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Filed under food, Holiday, travel, USA

Beth goes Small Town: A City Girl’s adventure in Boerne, Texas

Thanksgiving 2010 was spent visiting around Texas, and this posting is a love letter to my time there and the people I had the pleasure of spending the holiday with.

The Alamo and Riverwalk are the top tourism attractions in San Antonio, but for those of you (like me) who are more interested in being travelers vs. tourists, venturing outside the larger cities of the great state of Texas offers some really interesting and fun ways to experience the definite and unique culture here. The people, the food, the pride, the SIZE of everything screams Texas and in Boerne (sounds like “Bernie”), where my boyfriend’s father lives in an incredible compound that he built called the Long Horn Ranch, complete with two steer named Bo & Sid (see above photo…they’re so cute!), we spent a few days exploring this friendly, two stoplight (okay, maybe three or four) town. Here, you can find everything from fantastic antiquing and shopping to wine tasting! Mixed into that, close by is decadent Tex-Mex food as well as fine dining, art galleries, a cave without a name (really!) and even an historic outdoor dance hall and music venue the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else!

Every first Friday night after Thanksgiving in Boerne, Main Street is closed off to traffic and becomes 100% pedestrian for their annual “Dicken’s on Main” celebration. They’ve got snow machines built into their streetlights, beer gardens, horse drawn carriage rides, food vendors, and a really fun celebratory vibe that permeates the entire town. The food vendors were cooking smoked corn on the cob, turkey legs, hot and spicy Gumbos, Mexican tortas and a ton of other yummy things that were foodie-worthy and easy on the wallet. We

wandered in and out of small, privately owned shops that carried everything from artisan pickles to home-made baked goods, clothes, antiques and leather goods. We eventually stumbled across a fantastic wine bar called the Boerne Wine Company, and were surprised to see this sophisticated establishment that had an incredible variety of wines to taste (and buy) in a gorgeous and cozy setting. The stone walls and natural materials, outdoor patio with a wood burning fireplace, walk-in humidor with vast selection for cigar afficianodos and of course, warm Texas hospitality had us wanting to spend much more time there!

Speaking of wine, the next day, another surprise was the award winning Sister Creek Vineyards, which is just a quick 15 minute drive along Sisterdale Road outside of the Main Street area, where we tasted several solid wines. My favorite was a Reserve Red Bordeaux Meritage, aged 18 months in oak barrels, blended and lightly filtered. There were rich blackberry, black cherry, currant, and vanilla flavors that I really enjoyed. At about $30 a bottle, it’s not inexpensive, but it sure made a nice souvenir (worth having to check my luggage)!

A bit further down Sisterdale Road is Luckenbach, which was made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylen Jenning’s song of the same title. Both country music icons used to play here on a small wood stage (that’s us on the stage pictured below) surrounded by picnic tables set under the trees. This is truly the most rustic music venue I’ve ever seen. Luckenbach is a tiny town. Actually, it’s not a town at all. It’s a left turn off a country road in the middle of nowhere, where you’ll find a dive bar, dance hall and of course, the stage. You park on a dirt patch, grab a beer to drink inside or out and enjoy the musicians who will no doubt be strumming guitars nearby. We had a great time just listening to music, watching the roosters roam around freely, trying on cowboy hats and just enjoying each other’s company. I also successfully brushed off my co-horts attempts at getting me to climb up onto a huge steer that was tied to a post wearing a saddle. It would have been humiliating for the cow (not to mention me)!

You can’t visit Texas without diving into some great Tex-Mex and one of my favorite ways to indulge in it is over breakfast. There is nothing like a breakfast Texas Taco, and at a cute little spot called Magues (sounds like Maggie’s), they do it right with home made flour tortillas filled with anything you like such as eggs, potatoes, chorizo, bacon and of course cheese! It sounds simple, but it is one of those things that I don’t find at home and is quintessentially Tex-Mex. For dinner, closer to San Antonio, there’s a restaurant called Pappasito’s and while this is a chain (don’t judge!!!), they’ve got something on the menu that I can’t stop thinking about: jalapeno stuffed, bacon wrapped, grilled shrimp!! I wish I had a photo of this for you because these shrimp were downright gorgeous and so crispy, spicy, smokey, salty and tasty that I can’t wait to try to recreate them at home! For fine dining, there’s the Cypress Grill where Joe (the aforementioned boyfriend and handsome guy pictured with me in Luckenbach) had the best pork chop he ever had in his life and where they serve everything from Buffalo Carpaccio, Four Hour Rotisserie Chicken and Pan Fried Venison Schnitzel, which speaks to this town’s very German heritage.

Extending your time in this part of Texas could also include visiting another great little town called Fredericksburg, and you’re best bet for accommodations on this adventure would be a B&B. While 5 diamond deluxe isn’t prevalent here, you’ll find wonderful and cozy places to stay. If you’re interested in visiting the Texas Hill Country, let me know. I have a few ‘ins’ there. We’ll find the perfect spot for you.

This city girl now has a true appreciation for small town Texas and is inspired to continue traveling off the beaten path. I hope that you are too, and that you can find time to carve out and explore the road less traveled – no matter where you are! In the recent past I’ve written a lot about my time in Italy (with more to come) but it stands to reason that no matter where you are, especially if you’re away from home, there’s something worth taking the time to see and people worth taking the time to know.

Wishing you and your family and wonderful holiday season!

Beth
Beth@elitetravelinternational.com
Journeybybeth@yahoo.com
310-804-6767

http://www.twitter.com/BethLovesTravel
http://www.facebook.com/beth.friedman1
http://www.yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com

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Filed under food, Small Town, travel, USA