We love Sunday mornings. Especially when in a new city like New Orleans, you can really get a sense of the soul of the city in the quiet of a Sunday morning where tourists are leaving and the locals are easily going about their day. The energy is authentic in such a moment, not manufactured by tourism or commerce. We had glimpsed so much of the heart and soul of this Crescent City all weekend. The music of the street performers drifting through the streets and back alleys, the love you felt in every bite of local food and the friendliness of people who love this town.
The first night we were in town, we had drifted through the Quarter, taking in the spectacle of Bourbon Street when we came across a duo of two street performers. These two ladies were engrossed in playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on violin and steel bodied guitar. It was a moment that while it was a performance, it was more a glimpse into the spiritual soul of a city. New Orleans has been through a lot, but its people showed us that they hold on and they make it and then make art out of the struggle.
We further felt out the city’s rhythm as we walked through the neighborhood with Emory, gave into the greatness yet again of Artz Bagelz (our favorite) and Community smoothies. We took in the majestic oak trees of Audubon Park and then made our way back the French Quarter for time with family and to soak in all we could of a place that is now special to us. And what better way to spend a Sunday than with people we love, exploring shops and then finding brunch in a courtyard cafe with just a enough shade from the Summer sun. I don’t think we could stop smiling and yet wishing time would stop, because we really found something here in New Orleans. You can’t manufacture soul, and we really learned that:
Waking up in a new city, the best thing you can hope for is to stay in or near a walkable neighborhood. This is especially a great thing when the city is historic and full of architecture and the character than only come with time. New Orleans is one of those wonderful places where every house and building is amazingly beautiful and interesting. Day two brought morning sunshine and a walk through our surrounding neighborhood to a great bagel shop just off Magazine Street called Artz Bagelz. There is something magical about artisan bagels and homemade smears (the lox cream cheese has real smoked salmon! the strawberry spread has real berries!) and the magic of Louisiana’s staple of Community Coffee and a smoothie from Community’s own coffeehouse down the street. Note Bo’s insane smarmy/dork face as he bites into this amazing bagel combo. Being able to walk, not drive, from shop to shop is simply the only way to feel a neighborly sense of community that makes one consider a city great.
The Irish Channel neighborhood follows along Magazine Street into the historic Garden District neighborhood. It is an amazing place, with the most beautiful historic homes. We were on a mission to find one home in particular: the home used in a favorite film for us, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Near the famed historic Commander’s Palace restaurant, this stately home was interesting in both the size of it (it is large but seems even larger in the film) and the fact that this neighborhood is a feast for the eyes. From the infamous Lafayette #1 cemetery to the homes owned by New Orleans celebrity, there was no more relaxing morning than taking in the details and intricacies of every single home.
Heading east, we discovered that the best way to experience the French Quarter is during the day. While the night brings out the wild side of visitors to NOLA and an energy all its own, daytime in the Quarter is all about the locals. We saw street performers and arguments between hustlers, we met shop owners with advice and we discovered art on nearly every corner. And art in all its forms is everywhere in the Quarter. We took in the cathedral at Jackson Square and the artists selling painting, drawings and photographs. We tucked down side streets into cool little shops (that were incredibly dog friendly, but more on that later) and ended up at a diner Heather found called Stanley.
If music is the heart of New Orleans, then food is the city’s soul. Stanley is a great example of a NOLA restaurant hitting on all cylinders. Everything is fresh, the menu is one page front and back, and everything is available all day – from breakfast/brunch to diner blue plate staples. We had incredible po’boys from a roast beef on seeded roll to a huge oyster po’boy that was amazing. Great drinks and good food is one of the New Orleans things that once you experience it, you get it. And if Stanley wasn’t enough, a nearby walk along the canal by Woldenberg Park as the evening arrives brings you to the famous Cafe Du Monde for a pile of heavenly beignets and coffee and hot chocolate. There was a moment as the sounds and the lights and the food aromas combined in a perfect moment and we both knew: we’d arrived in the Big Easy.
There is nothing like discovering a new city, with a unique rhythm and history all its own. So, when planning for Bo’s birthday we decided to fulfill one of our entries on a list of places we’d like to experience: New Orleans. Needless to say, the Crescent City did not disappoint. With Heather’s mom and dad along side us, our caravan of cars carrying 4 people and a certain puppy headed east to the Big Easy. Prior to leaving, we were able to find lodging through the website AirBnB, which pairs travelers to privately owned accommodations. The shotgun cottage we were able to book was very cute online (and highly, highly recommend this house!), but SO much more adorable and decorated in person. Our host Lillian was really nice and met our every need. And while it was a mere 600 sq ft, it never felt like it with high ceilings, great art on the walls and was perfectly located adjacent to Magazine Street. The city really took our breath away, with its charm and ever flowing energy. That is something that you can only get from a city that was formed in 1718. And away we went.
We got Emory settled in the wonderful Camp Bow Bow day camp (more on this later) and off we went to meet up with with the parents to eat at the wonderful Salú, off of Magazine Street near our accommodations. The true key to discovering a city is to go where the locals go. Magazine Street is just that kind of area in the city. It’s filled with shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops; all of these things are walkable and easily accessible by bicycle or public transport. Salu’ was amazing small plates and tapas, and we explored the neighborhood and its character. The highlight might have been the wonderful sweet shop Sucré with the absolute best french macaroons you will ever see or eat. A must stop for anyone who likes sweet treats.
Soon enough it as time for Emory to join us and we headed off to the French Quarter, fighting traffic and making it to the famed district as the sun was fading and the night air was humid and warm with music. The Quarter is a phenomenon, a throwback to another time, which either of us would say is perfectly alright with us. We walked the narrow brick streets, found and admired art and music. We soaked in the energy and avoided the barkers and the riff raff to explore and soak in the old New Orleans. It was simply great. Nothing like the energy in a big old city, and New Orleans stole a big piece of our heart in these moments.
And when you’ve walked a lot and drunk men have tried to sit on you and you are hungry in the Quarter? Grab a hamburger, grilled cheese or BLT at The Camellia Grill (open since 1946. There we sat and ate and reflected on the perfect first day of one of the best times we have ever had on an adventure in any city. It was the perfect welcome to the city originally known to the French as Nouvelle-Orléans.
Birthdays are a tricky thing as an adult. One likes the feeling of people’s recognition and love, but one doesn’t want to come off like a spoiled six year old when it comes to birthday plans. Turning 33 is an odd thing, and I honestly didn’t know what to think about it. What I do know is that my wife is excellent at making people feel special on days like these. So, 33 began with midnight cupcakes, sweet and kind words and drifted into a wonderful parade of phone calls throughout the day. It culminated in the arrangement of a dinner with family at what is now my favorite new restaurant in DFW: The Milk & Honey Co. in Keller TX. It was nice to see everyone of course, but to be honest I was JAZZED about the food. And it was amazing (full review soon). Flat breads with tomato butter, fried chicken and mac-n-cheese with chili oil, steak with truffle butter and crispy potato salad with garlic aioli. And the sweetness of homemade gifts and family generosity was quite nice.
And that’s what 33 means for me. It’s about spreading the lesson of this last year to others: family is important…no, it is THE important thing, because life is what we make it and it’s not worth making without loving people. It’s about personal memories captured and preserved, and treating each other with real love and compassion. And tonight, my wife’s efforts brought it all home for me: 33 is going to be good, we just have to let it be.
Thanks to everyone near & far – of course in the words of Alice of a certain wonderland: “and a very merry unbirthday to YOU!”
It is no surprise how much I enjoy How Sweet It Is, I’ve posted Jessica’s recipes and photos many, many times before. Her passion and joy for food, wit and lovely photos keep me coming back for more. I found this particular recipe on Pinterest!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss strawberries with oil and salt, then spread on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
Heat a large skillet or grilled over medium-low heat. Butter the sides of two slices of bread, place them on the skillet buttered-side down, then layer on a few slices of cheese, chocolate and strawberries. Top with a few more slices of cheese, then butter one side of the other bread slices, and place on top of the cheese. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has started to melt, then gently flip the sandwich and cook until golden. Serve immediately!
Sometimes, summer gives you a stretch of days that are memorable in the smallest yet most grand of ways. This weekend has been such a weekend. When we found out our family were coming in town this weekend, not even the weekdays’ thunderstorms could dampen our mood. So, in spite of missing the Beach Boys shows that they attended in Houston, we were excited about the possibilities of a summer weekend with family. Emory made a new friend in a Kermit plush doll and has really been into vintage petticoats(?), and Heather experimented with Nail Effects as we tried to not consider not getting to see Brian Wilson & Co.
In the end, what took our minds elsewhere? MOONRISE KINGDOM, the new film by Wes Anderson. We have always been obsessed with the mid-1960′s, so being transported there in the style of our favorite French films and the music of Francoise Hardy (Heathers favorite album) and experiencing Anderson’s tale of first love was just the answer and the best way possible to begin the weekend! I finally entered the current century with an iPhone. Hellooo, a whole new world. The weekend also brought time with family at the Omni Hotel – Fort Worth and its wonderful salt water pool and a bucket full of sunshine. It makes the sun feel better, the skies a little more blue and the hope for summer and all its adventures – like our trip to New Orleans for Bo’s 33rd birthday(!) As Heather has been (watching and re-watching The Princess and the Frog) singing around the house “Dreams do come true in New Orleans!”
Make the brine: Place all brine ingredients in a large saucepan and add 16 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil until salt is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Cover and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, up to 3 days.
Make the chicken: Place chicken pieces in chilled brine. Cover and transfer to refrigerator for 12 hours.
Remove chicken from brine and rinse under cold running water; remove any herbs or spices sticking to skin. Pat dry with paper towels and let stand at room temperature until chicken comes to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.
Fill a large, deep pot 2 inches high with oil. Place over medium-high heat; heat until oil reaches 320 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet; line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Divide evenly between two large bowls. Add buttermilk to a third large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Coat chicken pieces first in flour mixture, then in buttermilk, and finally in second bowl of flour mixture; transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
Carefully add legs and thighs to hot oil; cook, turning and monitoring oil temperature, until deep golden brown, 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to prepared rack skin-side up; season with sea salt. Increase oil temperature to 340 degrees. Add wings and breast pieces to hot oil; cook, turning and monitoring oil temperature, until deep golden brown, 6 minutes for the wings, 7 minutes for the breast pieces. Transfer to prepared rack and sprinkle with sea salt.
Remove oil from heat and immediately add rosemary and thyme sprigs; cook until crisp, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve chicken with Cheesy Polenta Waffles and maple syrup. Garnish with fried herbs.
The sure sign summer is on the verge of arriving fully is the opening of the quite wonderful Granbury City Beach. We have posted about this great spot before, and June 2012 has brought us back to the sand and the water on the shore of Lake Granbury. We try to go to City Beach on Sundays, where it slightly less crowded, and this trip was no exception. And what can you expect from City Beach? Families, some crowding near the water (we stay towards the back near the greenery), varying qualities of white sand, but hey, it is a beach 40 minutes from west Fort Worth! It might not be an ocean but it is a beach and a boardwalk where you can relax, swim and of course, build sandcastles!
And being adults, we stood alone among the 5 0r so children building our castle, which we were very proud of (our moat needs a little more work). Then we smashed it to pieces. Granbury Beach is worth it. Bring an umbrella, a lot of water, towels and imagination. So, here is to our real embrace of summer. 1 out of 5 swimsuits has been worn, so here is to the adventures that await the others. The beach!