Thursday, November 27, 2008
My mom had moved to Mumbai in her early 20s to attend nursing school. My dad also moved to the big city in his 20s. Eventually they met, fell in love and got married. They were mavericks; back in those days a "love marriage" wasn't too common. Soon after my older brother was born. I didn't come along until much later, ten years to be exact and after they immigrated to the U.S. Growing up however, I was often regaled with tales of their life in Mumbai: the walks along the waterfront near the Gateway of India, the various cafes with the best Chinese, Farsi and Indian foods, the Cadbury chocolate factory that my brother walked past every day on the way to school, the hustle and bustle of the city and the general peacefulness of the neighborhood. To see that peacefulness shattered in such a terrible way yesterday affected all four of us. It broke my heart to see the city in chaos, to see such iconic buildings destroyed, to hear about all the local residents injured and killed as they went about their daily activities and to hear that American & British tourists were particularly targeted.
The sad events halfway across the world have made me even more thankful for all the goodness in my life on this Thanksgiving.
I am thankful that my mom made the bold decision to leave her village on her own for school in Mumbai. Without her training as a nurse, they would not have been able to move to the U.S.
I am thankful that my parents always pushed me to pursue higher education. Thanks to their efforts and encouragement I have a very stable job in uncertain economic times.
I am thankful for my family & friends and their health and safety. I may not get to see everyone as often as I would like to, but when I do it's as if we've never spent time apart.
I am thankful for my husband, who makes me laugh every single day no matter how rotten of a mood I might be in.
I am thankful to receive the type of unconditional love and amusement only a pet can offer.
I am thankful to have good neighbors.
I am thankful for my Nesties; I wish I would have delurked sooner because you are all fantastic.
Finally, I am thankful that the turkey turned out moist and that all the side dishes turned out fine. It took six hours start to finish, but I successfully cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner entirely on my own. :-)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I woke up early on Sunday to attend 9am mass with my parents at the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. The outside of the cathedral is much more impressive than the inside, which tried too hard to replicate the magnificence of European cathedrals.
After the service ended I dropped my parents off at the hotel and took a solo stroll around the neighborhood. One of the buildings I wanted to take a closer look at was the Pontalba building, a row of townhouses built by Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba. Wanting to keep her fortune in the family, her father-in-law had tried to kill her for attempting to divorce his son. She survived multiple gunshots, divorced her husband and recovered her property through a court order. That sounds pretty kick-ass for a woman in the 1800s.
So why did I want to take a closer at the Pontalba buildings? Because the Baroness had the letters 'A' and 'P' subtly intertwined into the wrought iron work above each doorway and on each balcony. The narcissist in me had to check it out.
During my walk I also came across a couple of the trolley cars created as part of "A Streetcar Named Inspire" project. We spotted several of these at a distance throughout the town; it was cool to see them up close. Streetcar Art has many more photos of the streetcars and an artist list.
Cafe du Monde was crowded beyond belief! The line snaked through the dining area and out onto the street for at least a block and a half. I'm so glad we had gone earlier in the week.
On my way back to the hotel I popped into a few local boutiques and Laura's Candies. I spent more time out on my walk than I should have. I have never packed so fast in my life. We still had a few hours before we needed to check in for our flights, so we headed to Remoulade for a leisurely lunch. It was a good thing we had time to kill; service was pretty slow.
This spooky goblin hovered over my shoulder. Maybe he (she?) put a curse on our meal.
The shrimp bisque was good . . . . . when it finally came out.
My muffaletta pizza was just okay. Considering how much time had elapsed between courses, the crust should not have been underdone. And the toppings should not have been all clumped in the middle. It wasn't a horrible meal, but in light of how great all our other meals were this was a disappointment.
My battery died right after this shot, but I'm so glad I was able to get this one in. I don't think any of us ever expected to see my parents hanging out on Bourbon St.
I must admit, I had some reservations about this trip before I left. I wasn't sure how balancing time between my parents, our friends and ourselves would work out. I was worried about my parents' abilities to keep up physically. I thought that visiting a city in the U.S. would pale in comparison to our last couple of trips overseas. I was happily wrong on all counts. I loved our time in New Orleans and would go back anytime (except hurricane season!). There are still many restaurants I would love to eat at. There are also many stores I would like to shop at. Now that we have tackled the Quarter, I would love to spend some more time in the Garden District or spend a night at a B&B on a plantation.
Emcee and Fraggle are already planning for a girls' only trip for their fiftieth birthdays in 2018. ;-)
Sunday, November 16, 2008
We opted for sleep in lieu of breakfast this morning. We had to be at the New Orleans School of Cooking by 9:45am, which is a little too early to be functioning for a weekend.
We had signed up for a two-hour cooking demo, during which we would watch our lunch being made. Our instructor, Miss Pat, reminded us a bit of Paula Deen. She had several of the dishes partially prepped before class started and had a nifty mirror so we could see every step. While she cooked she gave us an overview of the culinary history of New Orleans. We started with a chicken and andouille gumbo. I told Eddie to pay close attention, since he had been having a cup of it at every meal. If there is anything he should learn to cook, this should be it. I was pleasantly suprised to learn that it is not as complicated as I thought it would be to make. Apart from all the onion and bell pepper chopping, the trickiest part seems to be making the roux. I've made a roux for mac n'cheese before, so I think I could handle this.
We shared the Barbeque Shrimp with Petite Rosemary Biscuit and Fresh Chives as an appetizer. We scarfed all of them down before I could take a picture. :-) Instead of the standard loaf of french bread that we encountered at most restaurants, the waiters at Emeril's brought around miniature sized brioche buns, french bread loaves & corn muffins. I ordered the special salad of the evening: Warm Duck Confit with mixed greens, pecans, blue cheese and satsuma vinaigrette. I'm usually not a fan of mixing sweet with savory, but this was wonderful.
For my entree I departed from my usual choice of seafood and instead had the Pan Seared Filet of Beef with Creamy Mascarpone Polenta, Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Wilted Swiss Chard, Tomato Confit and Goat Cheese. This.was.SO.good. I was the last one to finish dinner because everyone else claimed they were too full to finish their entrees. Wimps. I ate every single perfect bite of this deliciousness.
The perfect ending was a light tasting Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée with Seasonal Fruit and Shortbread. The only issue with this was that the seasonal fruit consisted of a strawberry, blackberry and raspberry, all of which are not in season. They were tasty though, not bland and watery like most out of season fruit, so I'm left wondering where Emeril's secret berry hook-up is.
After dropping my parents off at the hotel, Eddie and I took a leisurely stroll down Royal St., pausing to admire the window displays at all the art galleries. I even found a jewelry store still open and walked away with another souvenir. We headed up to Bourbon St., to see all the craziness one last time. Suprisingly, it seemed rather quiet in comparison to the previous night even though it was still bustling with pre-Halloween revelers. It was just fine with me.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So on October 24th we slept in after our night of carousing and had a late breakfast at Cafe Beignet. It seems to be a local chain; I came across at least two others while we were walking around. This one was just down the street from our hotel, with a very charming interior and courtyard. I ordered Cajun hashed potatoes, served with french style scrambled eggs and a baguette portion. Eddie had a french omelette with mushrooms and cheese. Both of us had cafe au laits.
After breakfast we met up with my parents for another tour. This time we headed out to see the Oak Alley Plantation.
There was also a blacksmith shop that we could visit. They also sold mint juleps on site. Mint juleps are a great sipping drink for a warm afternoon. :-)
The plantation was approximately an hour away from the French Quarter. Since the tour ran through lunch, we decided to have an early dinner. We ended up at Mr. B's Bistro, primarily because it was just across the street from our hotel. Plus it's dinner hours had just started, so we didn't have any wait despite it being a Friday night. From the outside it looked like a small, casual neighborhood joint. The interior revealed something a little more upscale. I started with a vidalia onion and goat cheese tart. No photo, because I'm reluctant to use flash in restaurants and the photo came out so.very.dark. But I broke my rule to take a photo of my entree, trout amandine. For dessert I ordered a traditional bread pudding. It lost points with me because it had raisins. Blech. Eddie's dessert in the background, a warm white chocolate brownie, was phenomenal. A more accurate description would be a chocolate chip blondie, but the darn thing really tasted like a dense, chewy chocolate chip cookie. And y'all know I'm a cookie monster.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Our bodies needed some replenishment after the Katrina tour. Literally. We decided on a quick lunch at the oldest family-owned po'boy sandwich shop in NOLA:
Johnny's is a tiny, quick and casual place. I had the oyster po'boy. As hungry as I was I still could only eat half of my sandwich.
Yes, I had more hurricanes. Note Eddie's "asian glow" after just 1-1/2 drinks.
After a few drinks and some of the most hilarious conversations I had in a while, we headed back down Bourbon St. in search of a good band. We ended up at the Bourbon Street Blues Co., dancing along as an '80s cover band played. Ignore Mr. Emcee's and Mr. Fraggle's serious faces; we all had a fun time.
The Southerner might have been having even a bit more fun than us old boring married folks.
We definitely did start feeling like old folks the closer it got to 2am. There were plenty of places where the parties were still going strong, but we were beat. It was time to stroll back to the hotel.