Friday, May 20, 2011

New Orleans Part II {Crawfest, Stein's Deli & Shopping on Magazine Street}

Crawfish at the Festival.  Suck da head!
There are a lot of festivals in New Orleans that involve music and food - Jazz Fest comes to mind - but this one was even better in a way. The Crawfest at Tulane might not have involved headliners like Sting and Bon Jovi (?) but it was easy to get in and out of, the music was good and the crawfish even better. To get some, you have to get a wrist band, which entitles you to two (or maybe three) trips to the crawfish trough.
Behind the scenes of the crawfish operation...
They were boiling up the buggers in the back and dumping them into what looked like a boat on the table, along with corn and potatoes. We brought our own beer (one of the advantages of New Orleans, you can pretty much take it anywhere) and had a lovely picnic on the grass listening to the Baby Boyz Brass Band - featuring high school students (hence the name.) Very good stuff.
The crowd was pretty sparse when we got there around 11. It's a good idea to go early. They run out of crawfish by 1 or so.
Crawfest on the Tulane Campus
These kids had the right idea. Crawfish and a gallon of daiquiris.
These kids had the right idea - crawfish and daiquiris.
In the afternoon, the girls split from the boys, and while they went to the WWII museum, we headed to Magazine Street for some browsing. Mid-afternoon, we we were walking down the street when I spotted some folks eating a fine looking sandwich at a table outside this deli, called Stein's.
Stein's Deli on Magazine.
We walked inside and I was smitten - with the rough floor, the chalkboard menu, the refrigerators full of delicious ice cold beverages, the works.
Stein's Deli
Of course we had to order something. This was the "Sam" - hot pastrami with cole slaw, swiss cheese and Russian dressing, on toasted rye. It was every bit as good as it looks. Maybe even better.
Yes!  THAT is what a sandwich should look like!
I didn't buy anything on Magazine Street - I was sort of tapped out from the Rose Bowl Flea Market (which I still haven't told you about) but we saw some pretty cool stuff. This shop called Neophobia had a nice selection of mid-century modern items at good prices.
Neophobia on Magazine St.
Margie and I also fell in love with this art deco solid brass chandelier. I would have seriously considered it if: a) I had any place at all to put it, or b) it wasn't $995.00.
Margie and I both fell hard for this brass art deco chandelier.  $925.
We also saw a lot of rustic garden wares. This one shop had about a thousand of these rusty red chairs sitting around - perfect for your overgrown "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" courtyard.
Just the thing for a rustic garden...
This is the kind of stuff you expect to find in New Orleans antiques shop - gold, white, French, looking like something out of Interview With The Vampire.
More Antiques on Magazine
Magazine Street is full of great little boutiques, cafes, bars and gelato shops, so be sure to give it a stroll if you are in the area. You can get there fairly easily from the French Quarter on the St. Charles streetcar - just walk south through the Garden District - which is worth a walk around in itself just to peek through the gates of the mansions!

Coming up next - Cochon and Cochon butcher shop - our main dining out adventure in NOLA!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Springtime in New Orleans

Third Street
I think it's pretty difficult to go to New Orleans and not have a blast. I've certainly never managed it at least. My first trip several years ago was for "business" - I put that in quotes because I spent all of about an hour in a conference room during the three days I was there. The second time was for Jazz Fest - the late-April music festival that brings huge crowds, probably second only to Mardi Gras, to the city. This time, we went to visit friends who recently moved to NOLA from San Diego after purchasing the classic Double Gallery Greek Revival house you see above. They're fixing it up themselves, and they still have a little work to do (ok, maybe a lot) but the fourteen foot ceilings, original windows and incredible amount of space (4000 square feet and a studio apartment with separate entrance on the back!) had us checking real estate listings within hours - just for fun of course. :)
Charbroiled oysters with parmesan, butter and bread crumbs.  Amazing.
Our first stop after arriving was Drago's in Metairie, on the way into town. They're famous for their charbroiled oysters, but I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. I love good oysters, but generally don't think they need to be cooked - or that their natural flavor needs much enhancement. I was stunned by how good these were. I ate so many my stomach hurt for hours, and I didn't even care. The oysters are shucked in the open kitchen and placed on the grill topped with garlic, butter, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. They arrive bubbling hot - you scoop them out of the shell with a squirt of lemon - swiping up the juices with the bread. Add a cold beer, and heaven has arrived. We also had some kind of crazy fried shrimp appetizer - tossed in a spicy sauce with peanuts. It was pretty good too, but the oysters just slayed me. There were other worthy meals too, but they deserve their own posts. Coming soon, I promise!
Cafe du Monde
On Saturday morning, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Cafe du Monde - queen of all doughnut shops - for beignets and cafe au lait. Whenever I come here I can't help but marvel at how much it looks like Disneyland - but of course it came first, and Disneyland was modeled after it. I think Walt Disney was a little obsessed with New Orleans, truth be told, and I can understand why.
A double order of Cafe du Monde beignets.
The beignets are as irresistible as ever, I am happy to report. That's a double order, pictured above. The mounds of powdered sugar are truly excessive. It winds up all over everything no matter how careful you are. (In the photo above, you can see it all over the floor on the lower right.) Be sure to ask for your Cafe au lait in a ceramic cup rather than styrofoam - it's just so much nicer. Unless, of course, you want to take it on a stroll around the French Quarter...
it really is just lovely... sigh!
which, come to think of it, isn't such a bad idea. It really is just beautiful. There's just no place else like New Orleans, it's one of the few cities we have left in the US that has it's own distinct identity.
they were shooting Nicolas Cages' new vampire movie in the French Quarter
While on our stroll, we happened on this movie set in the French Quarter. Turned out Nicolas Cage was on set, filming a movie. (Incidentally, this was the same day he was arrested.) I would have been a little more excited about Brad Pitt - who was also in town filming recently - but I guess beggars can't be choosers. New Orleans is actually such a popular film and tv venue that our friends have picked up a little supplemental income acting as extras.
there he is!  (apparently he was arrested that night.)
I really fell in love with the New Orleans architecture this time around. These French Creole Cottages, built in the 1800s, sport fun, bright color schemes. These can be found all over town, but are especially prevalent in the French Quarter, Marigny, Irish Channel and Baywater neighborhoods.
Creole Cottage ICreole Cottage II - love the color combinations on these places...Creole Cottages in the Quarter.
Then there are the mansions of the Garden District - like the Benjamin Button house... The Benjamin Button House in the Garden District
and Sandra Bullock's house, right across the street. Brad and Angelina also have a townhouse in the French Quarter.
Sandra Bullock's House - just across the street
I know I've made you wait too long already, so I'll be back shortly with the rest of the NOLA posts (probably two) asap. Then we can talk about a couple of places in San Diego and a few other things I've been wanting to get to! xoxo!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Spring Break Part II - LA {Pizzeria Mozza, AOC & 3rd St.}

Clare Vivier at Lucky Shops LA
Hello! Yes, I am alive! So much to say, so let's get to it. The second part of the spring break adventure was a short trip to Los Angeles with my friend Susan. We do this every so often - a little girls getaway. I'm not sure when I stopped hating LA and started loving it, but we have so much fun when we go up there. The impetus for this particular weekend was an event called Lucky Shops - put on by Lucky magazine. They set up a big warehouse (or in this case, a studio) full of small boutiques with discounted fashion items. We were both on a bit of a budget so we didn't buy much, but I was thrilled to find these Clare Vivier clutches at about 20% off, and I found these shoes. (I'm really inspired lately by Joslyn's credo - don't buy anything you can't see yourself keeping for at least five years - when it doubt that really helps with the decision making.)
New Shoes at Lucky Shops - Instagram
After the Lucky Shops, we headed over to Pizzeria Mozza for an early dinner - and had the best pizza of our lives. The crust was paper thin in the center and puffy and crackly on the edges - and the toppings were shredded scallions, bacon and goat cheese. We also had the meatballs and an order of their squash blossoms - then we moved on to dessert.
Goat Cheese, Bacon & Scallion Pizza @ Pizzeria Mozza
Everyone raves about the butterscotch budino, but I for one am crazy about their gelato desserts. This was the banana ice cream pie with hot fudge and candied nuts.
Banana ice cream pie @ Pizzeria Mozza
And this is the caramel copetta, with marshmallow cream, salted peanuts and salted caramel sauce. I can never get enough of this. Sorry for the crummy iPhone photos, but I was too shy to pull out the real camera after they scolded me on the last visit. Though I have to say, I don't think anyone was really watching this time. It was definitely a lot less crowded than it's been on previous visits too - the hysteria may have finally died down just a bit.
Caramel Copetta @ Pizzeria Mozza
After dinner we checked into our hotel - the Standard on Sunset. It's affordable but stylish - and we had a killer view.
View from our hotel - Standard on Sunset
The next morning, we headed down the hill to Third Street to do some window shopping and have brunch at AOC. I couldn't resist the smoked salmon platter with goat cream cheese, tomato, onion and cucumbers...
Brunch at AOC
and Susan had the croque madame, a thick slice of brioche toast topped with bechamel and gruyere, layered with lightly dressed curly endive and a perfect fried egg. It was delightful. I hadn't been to AOC before, and was surprised by how "fine dining" it was. It was the kind of place where they re-fold your napkin when you get up to go to the bathroom. You don't necessarily expect that at brunch. It could be a little more relaxed, but it was certainly very nice. Not terribly expensive either, and they take reservations - no waiting outside for hours (like some of the other places in the neighborhood.)
Brunch at AOC
As we were sitting at our table, I spotted Suzanne Goin at the bar, talking with the servers. Starstruck, I gasped (I thought quietly, but apparently not!) "There's Suzanne!" She looked up and said "I heard my name" then came over to say hello. She kindly accommodated my friend Susan's request for a picture - then Susan took one of me with her. It's the kind of thing I'd be too shy to ask for, but I'm glad we did it. She was sharp, funny and gracious - exactly as you would expect.
We met Suzanne Goin at AOC
After brunch we strolled down Third Street and back, popping in and out of the boutiques, and stopping for a "cloud cupcake" - at Joan's on Third.  It was worth every calorie - moist chocolate cake topped with light marshmallow fluff dipped in chocolate.
Cloud Cupcake @ Joan's on Third
We also walked into the new Magnolia Bakery almost right across the street, but we didn't have it in us to try another one.
Magnolia Bakery on Third Street
One of my favorite shops on Third was OK. It's full of cool and unusual books, objets d'art, jewelry and useful household items. I bought some Japanese fabric shears for myself and an Opinel picnic knife to take home to James. (This collection of bottle openers is pretty awesome too.)
Ok on Third St.
From Third Street we headed over to the other side of the Grove and CBS Studios to the Heath store on Beverly. We parked on a side street, and as we walked back toward the main drag, we checked out some of the very cool, classic Hollywood apartment buildings in the neighborhood. This place had a huge beautiful orange tree and a koi pond in the courtyard, along with beautiful classic light fixtures (the mailman clued us in to have a look inside as we were walking by!)
Orange Tree
The Heath store is a must if you're a fan of the ceramics line. (I wrote about my visit to their Sausalito factory and store here.) This is their new Spring color scheme, lemongrass and creamy white linen. Heath Store - new Spring line
Just next door to the Heath store, we stumbled on a lovely nursery and garden store, Rolling Greens. They had some beautiful gifts, garden furniture and plants as well as full nursery services.
Rolling Greens Nursery
The next day we did the Rose Bowl Flea Market, but that really deserves a post of its own. Maybe I'll mix that in with a little New Orleans, since I really need to get going on that! xox

Here's where we went:

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
(323) 297-0101

The Standard Hotel
8300 Sunset Blvd
(323) 650-9090

8022 West Third Street
(323) 653-6359

Joan's on Third
8350 W 3rd St
(323) 655-2285

8303 West 3rd St
(323) 653-3501

Heath Ceramics
7525 Beverly Boulevard
(323) 965-0800

Rolling Greens Nursery
7505 Beverly Boulevard
(323) 934-4500