Friday, April 30, 2010

Kentucky Derby Hats I Love

I love hats!  I really really do.  I know some people would never wear one, but I were one every chance I get.  I may look silly sometimes, but I just don't care.  I think they are such a fun addition to a cute outfit.

Black page boy cap in NYC.

Also in NYC, my favorite black fedora

Straw fedora at pre-Jazzfest brunch at Commanders

Now you'd think with my combined love for sports, seersucker, day drinking, and hats I'd have made it to a Kentucky Derby by now.  Instead, I watch from home pondering what my hat will look like when I eventually get my chance to go.  Here's a few that I think I might use as inspiration...

My favorite celebrity look at the Derby - Jessica Simpson

Favorite fictional look at a horse race - Eliza Doolittle - hands down!

My favorite artistic approach to hat photography

Which is your favorite???

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trendy Wednesday - Sweet Summer Tanks

Good morning, bloggers! I walked outside this morning to go to the gym, and it was positively chilly! When that breath of cool air hit my face I started to wish for Fall, and it reminded me of this post from last year. I’m really trying hard not to wish my summer away, but there’s so much to like about fall. One of my favorite things about has always been pulling out my favorite pair of jeans – you know, the ones that are soft from so much wear. For a long time, it seemed that denim was a summertime no-no as they were replaced by shorts and white crop pants, but in recent years, denim has become a staple in my May-August wardrobe. There is nothing like a good pair of jeans to show off a cute embellished tank. A good simple pair is the perfect backdrop for a girly bow, some frilly ruffles, floral appliqués, a bold strip, and even a dose of color. I prefer tanks that draw attention away from the waist and are a little billowy at the bottom, because despite these morning trips to the gym, my jeans still provide me with the loveliest of muffin tops. These tanks here all fit the bill, and for fall – which can take it’s time getting here - they’d look cute with a little cardigan.
I love the subtle stipe detail on this airy tank, and anything is better with a bow!

I have had my eye on this tank, that also comes in black, for a while now. 

That bubble hem is the perfect muffin top concealer, and the flowers at the neckline are precious!

I love a good, bold black and white stripe.

I love this color! And the tee looks perfectly soft and tissuey.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays: Croque Monsieur Mac and Cheese

     Tonight, Mark and I will be attending our favorite Beaufort event - the Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic. This is the third year Beaufort has hosted the 0.6 mile race where Olympian cyclists race at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. It is such a fun night!

     I don't know about you, but when I think of cycling, I think of the Tour de France. And when I think of the Tour de France, I think of our trip to Paris which is less than one month away!  As you know from this post and this post, our Wednesday and Thurdsay in Paris are set, but the other days have remained wide open.  Until now - with more time on my hands post-tax season, we've started filling in the planning gaps.

Île de la Cité

    On Monday, I think we may walk from the hotel to the Île de la Cité and take a look around the Notre
Dame.  Lisa mentioned a great place near there for ice cream, so perhaps we'll have to check that out too!  From there, we'll hop on the open bus tour and get a comprehensive look around.  That evening, we are going to get desserts from Patissierie Carette and watch the Eiffel Tower light up in the night sky. 

Musee Rodin

         We are leaving Tuesday morning open so that we can visit things we enjoyed on our bus tour from the day before.  That afternoon, we have planned a trip to the Musee Rodin and a stroll through the beautiful sculpture gardens.  I read an article recently that talked about alternatives to dining in museum restaurants that can sometimes be crowded and overpriced.  The author suggested that you pair a tour of the 250 plus sculptures with a stop at Cafe Verenne for steak frites and creme brulee.  Sounds perfect!!
          While there's still some planning left to do, I feel like we are finally getting there.  Lately, I've been trying to focus on finding "the best of" when it come to dining in Paris.  There's so many categories to choose from - the best hot chocolate, the best steak frites, the best macarons, the best French onion soup.  My favorite category of all is "The Best Croque Monsieur."  I adore that sandwich!!!  The blend of salty ham with ooey gooey cheese on perfectly crisp bread covered in a rich creamy bechamel sauce - heaven!  I have not tried to master this dish - mostly because if I do, we won't eat anything else, and I'll gain 100 pounds - but I order it every time I see it on a menu. 
         Last night, inspired by all of this talk about Croque Monsieurs, I started looking around for recipes.  And while I didn't see any that jumped out at me, I did find this recipe for Croque Monsieur Mac and Cheese which sounds like a fun interpretation of this classic sandwich.  I have a feeling this dish would be a huge hit at your next pot luck supper!

Croque Monsieur Mac and Cheese
1/2 pound ziti
2 cups milk
2 cups coarsely grated gruyere cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 large eggs
3 slices white sandwich bread , roughly diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt
8 ounces thinly sliced deli-boiled ham


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; toss with 1/4 cup milk.

Meanwhile, combine both cheeses in a bowl. Beat 1/4 cup milk and the eggs in another bowl; fold in the bread and add half of the cheese.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until just brown, 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, cayenne, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt; cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Slowly add 3/4 cup water and the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk; bring to a boil, stirring until thickened. Remove from the heat and whisk to cool slightly. Whisk in the remaining cheese, then add the pasta and toss.

Butter a shallow casserole dish. Add half of the pasta, top with some of the ham and cover with the remaining pasta. Top with the remaining ham, then cover with the bread mixture. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Bon Appétit!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

You're a Winner...

I have been looking forward to choosing giveaway winners all weekend!!  I used a random number generator to select the winners for each giveaway, and here they are:

Blog Birthday Giveaway Day 1: Gumbo Tales - Lindsey from La Dolce Vita
Blog Birthday Giveaway Day 2: Nola Tots Name Tee - Melanie from LSU Melanie
Blog Birthday Giveaway Day 3: Bittersweet Confections Truffles -  Kaloula from Siestas and Cupcakes
Blog Birthday Giveaway Day 4: Papertrail Notepad - Heidi from Cherry Blossoms

Congrats yall!  I'll email you to get your information so you can claim your prize!!!

Thanks so much to the great women who shared their time and talents with us!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blog Birthday Giveaway Day Four - Customized Papertrail Notepad

Do yall love the Shopaholic books as much as I do?  I will never forget the chapter in the first book where Becky Bloomwood had to go to the store to buy her boss, Luke, luggage.  She bemoaned what she thought was a chore until she realized she had discovered a whole new side of the shopping world she had not previously known about.  

That is how I felt when I discovered the world of stationery.  All of a sudden the door to a whole new world of consumer products opened and I walked ran right through. Notecards, invites, polka dots, stripes, ribbons, glitter - had this realm of cuteness really been there all along?   

If you are like me and love stationery, this giveaway is for you!  My dear friend started a home based stationery business called Papertrail three years ago, and her line is just adorable!  Her look is sleek and modern and her color combinations are fresh and fun.  Today, you have a chance to win a great personalized notepad in an acrylic case.  I chose the pink and green interlocking circles pattern because it is just so darn cheerful!  Imagine how cute your to do lists would be!

Jaime spent some time chatting with me about her business.  I think you'll enjoy getting a peek into the inspiration for Papertrail.

What inspired you to create your own line of stationery?  I have always had a mind full of ideas and am detail-oriented. When it came to planning bridal showers for friends I found that I loved creating their invitations on my own rather than purchasing them. Over the years it turned into baby showers and then after I had my daughter it was a whole world of new things….announcements, note cards, invitations, gift tags, etc. I quickly learned that my creativity was better captured via my computer so I started researching programs and software to use. One day I received a gift in the mail from my a very creative friend and it was note cards that she had printed for fun. I fell in love. I started making them myself and giving them as gifts and soon people were asking me where I got them and how they could order more………and voila……..that is how Papertrail was born.

Coordinating pink and green interlocking circles notecards

I love the black, white, and pink color combo in this notecard design.

If you had to describe the style of your line, how would you describe it?  Hmmm…this is a tough question. I would say my designs are classic with a modern flair. I love neat lines, unique color patterns and whimsical images.

Whimsical is just how I would describe the precious design for this gift enclosure.

You have an adorable seven year old girl and a five year old boy.  Do they help contribute to your ideas for new patterns?  They absolutely contribute to my ideas! It is wonderful to create new things for a boy and a girl. I can get my fill of pinks and greens but then switch gears to fun puppies, monkeys or most importantly, all things sports.  

Pink and green floral thank you notes.

What piece of advice would you give other budding entrepreneurs about starting a home based business?  Pick something that you absolutely love to do because it takes a lot of discipline and time management to make a home-based business work, especially if you are a stay at home mom while you are doing it!

Papertrail invitations to a baby shower & a summer cocktail party - I'd like to be attending both of these!

If I am a NOLA girl, you are definitely a St. Louis girl.  What is it about St. Louis that makes it such a special place for you?  There are many things about St. Louis that make it a special place for me. I have always loved driving back to St. Louis as a little girl after a trip and spotting the Arch in the distance. It was always a contest to see who could spot it first knowing that shortly after the Arch sits Busch Stadium in the skyline. I have always been a sports fan and a HUGE Cardinals fan. I grew up adorning myself with Cardinals gear and angling for ways to get into as many games as possible. I still have my replica of the 1982 World Series ring in my jewelry box and get just as excited to go to games now as I did as a kid. The best part about living here again is seeing how my kids have taken to this brainwashing and are following in my footsteps as a big Redbird fan. :) I love all four seasons and if you are lucky you get to experience every season while your favorite team is playing. (I can elaborate here if you think people won't understand what that means. :) ) There are so many things that "brand" St. Louis and when you travel around the country you see little things that remind you of home……the Clydesdales, anything Anheuser-Busch, soft pretzels, toasted ravioli, the fleur-de-lis. Each time you see one of these things you feel that connection that warms your heart.

What is your current best seller?
I would have to say a tie between the holiday cards and the note pads. The note pads make wonderful gifts because they are completely custom and affordable. The holiday cards are my favorite thing to design because I love customizing a card to the beautiful pictures I receive from my customers.

I love the  brown & blue color scheme in this Christmas card (those was our winter wedding colors)

Finally, while you haven’t been there yet, when you visit NOLA this fall how do you picture your perfect New Orleans day?  Oh man…only one day? How much time is in this day?! :) The best part about visiting New Orleans this fall is knowing that I will be in the best hands with the best tour guide in the world! I always love to plan my trips around food so I would love to start the day with brunch at Commander's Palace. Following brunch we would take a walk through the Quarter before heading to a Super Bowl Champion Saints game at the Dome. Finally, after freshening up we would head to The Swizzle Stick Bar for drinks and dinner at Cochon. We would end the day by listening to some live jazz and a nightcap along with some dessert from Chef Steph at Dickie Brennan's.

To enter to win this Papertrail personalized notepad, you can:

  1. Become a follower (let me know if you already are!!)
  2. Become a fan of Papertrail on facebook by clicking here
  3. Leave a little comment telling me what design you like best
  4. Leave a comment letting me know you've blogged about the giveaway!
**I will be drawing for all of the prizes on Sunday, so you have until then to enter all of the drawings!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blog Birthday Giveaway Day Three: Bittersweet Confections Truffles

One of my favorite ways to pass time on a car trip is to talk about food.  Surprising, right!  We'll go from what is your favorite breakfast food (sweet or savory) to name the perfect New Orleans burger.  My favorite topic has always been, list your favorite dessert.  I can never choose just one, so my list typically goes something like this: Lemon Pie, a good rich creme brulee, my sister's Banana's Foster banana bread pudding, a butterscotch pupping with salted caramel sauce, and lastly a chocolate molten cake.   That's a pretty solid list, if I you ask me!
You can imagine my excitement when one morning at the Julia Street farmers market, we stumbled upon a vendor selling chocolate truffles in some of these very flavors.  If heaven is where all of your favorite sweet things are wrapped delicately in delicious chocolate, than I had arrived at the pearly gates.  It turns out I wasn't the only patron who felt they had discovered something special at the market that day.  Cheryl's truffle business, that had started as a side project, quickly evolved into one of the cutest and busiest chocolate shops in New Orleans.  Bittersweet Confections is the name of this family run business that resides on Canal Blvd. in Lakeview (the neighborhood where I grew up).  If you're not in the neighborhood, you can visit Bittersweet Confections here.

Today I am so excited to be giving away a set of four truffles (pictured above) packaged as the Canal Street Collection.   The flavors included are: Bananas Foster, Pecan, Creme Brulee, and Meyer Lemon.  (Can I enter my own giveaway???)

Like the other two giveaways, I asked Cheryl a few question about her business, and she was so gracious to reply.  I think you'll really enjoy getting to know more about the woman behind these sweet treats:

What inspired you to create your own brand? I created my own brand because of my passion for chocolate. I wanted to create a truffle that was handmade with no waxy hard shell, I wanted a creamy, soft piece of chocolate with a subtle hints of various flavors. For example, my dark chocolate bananas foster truffle. That particular chocolate is made with a brown butter reduction and a banana puree. The hints of both flavors are present but the real taste is the dark chocolate.        

Truffles can be ordered and packaged indivually. Adorable as party favors!!

What piece of advice would you give other budding entrepreneurs about starting their own business? My advice to other entrepreneurs is pick something you are truly passionate about (that way it doesn't seem like work). Networking with other professionals and become the expert in your field. Don't expect success to come to you, go out and create your own successes. Set goals each week and stick to them. Lastly, surround yourself with other successful people, it's contagious.

What is your current best seller? My best selling items are my truffles.

If you had to choose one of your chocolate creations to eat for every meal, which one would you choose? After each meal (sometimes it is my meal), I eat my 74% darkest chocolate truffle rolled in cocoa powder.

Do you find yourself using New Orleans as an inspiration in creating your chocolates and pastries? Absolutely, New Orleans has been instrumental in the creation of my "Second Line" collection. Bananas Foster, Creme' Brulee, Meyer Lemon, Pecan, Darkest Chocolate, Earl Grey, Indian Chai and Ginger. The flavors I created come from the heart.

Finally, describe your perfect New Orleans day. My perfect day in NOLA would be to spend the day with friends and family in my home (we are two weeks away from moving back into our Lakeview home). Preparing dinner, drinking wine, listening to music watching our children play and of course finishing our meal with my petite chocolate cakes (two layers of moist chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate mousse and covered with dark chocolate ganache.

That sounds like the perfect day to me too!  Here's a few ways you can enter to win the Canal Street Collection:
  1. Follow this blog (leave a little note that you do)
  2. Leave a comment telling me what flavor you would choose if you were making your own truffle from scratch (Mine would be dark chocolate covered salted caramel mousse with smoked salt on top)
  3.  Head on over to Bittersweet Confections website and tell me which flavor (from the flavor chart on the bottom left hand side of the page) sounds best to you
  4. Let me know that you've blogged about the blog birthday giveaway week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blog Birthday Giveaway Day Two - Nola Tots Tee

I have been so looking forward to sharing with yall a feature about the amazingly adorable and creative children's line Nola Tots.  The line was started this year by a friend and fellow Delta Gamma.  When her posts began appearing on facebook with the photos of her too cute designs, I could not believe my eyes.  First, have you ever seen appliques cuter than these?  And second, Nola Tots' prices are simply too good to pass up.  While I'm not yet a mom, I buy my fair share of clothes for the special little ones in my life, and wow!! it costs an arm and a leg to have a well-dressed child.  Nola Tots offers unique pieces that are as affordable as they are adorable.  My favorite detail is the clip on bows at the shoulders of the a-line dresses!  What little girl doesn't love bows!  

For Day 2 of the Blog Birthday giveaway, you have a chance to win this fabulous name tee.  It will be specially customized just for your little one!  I love the color combination of the initial fabric, and you all know about my feelings for polka dots!  Swoon!

To enter to win this Nola Tots best seller, you can:
  1. Become a follower (let me know if you already are!!)
  2. Become a fan of Nola Tots on facebook by clicking here
  3. Leave a little comment telling me what design you like best
  4. Leave a comment letting me know you've blogged about the giveaway!
Cherie was so sweet to share more about Nola Tots and a few other things that us girls from LA like to call lagniappe!

What inspired you to create your own line of children’s clothing?  My three kids (ages, 5, 3 & 1) were the inspiration for the clothing line. I love the Southern style of children's clothing & I love monogrammed items so it was a perfect fit!

How does your line differentiate itself from others? Well, for a few reasons. My line is different because my appliques are simple, yet so sweet. I also specialize in creating many unique brother-sister matching outfits. I had a lot of practice on my kids! My weekly giveaway on my facebook site is a customer favorite too. Lastly, my prices are very reasonable & moms seem to appreciate it!

Your line’s name is Nola Tots. Do you find yourself using New Orleans images as an inspiration?
I LOVE New Orleans and was born & raised here, so yes, I do have inspiration from both New Orleans and the the South in general. Seersucker items are so popular down here and they are obviously a favorite in my designs as well. I also have unique designs such as the "Saints cheerleader dress" and fleur de lis items & "crawfish boil dress". Little NOLA girls love to go to crawfish boils! Fleur de lis are often requested on baby items too.

What is your current best seller?  All birthday items are best-sellers as well as the tee in this give-away. Besides all of the seersucker items, the crawfish boil dress & monkey tee are very popular too. My fleur de lis baby items are also a big hit with my customers.

These cupcake and crawfish boils outfits are so cute, I could eat them up!!

What piece of advice would you give other budding entrepreneurs about starting a home based business?   It is very hard to make time for yourself when you are running a home based business since you are always in your office. Sometimes, it makes it hard to relax, unwind & leave work!Schedule some down-time or you will quickly tire out.

How has social media played a role in starting your business?  Facebook has been wonderful. I have not had time to complete my website since facebook has taken off so well. I hope to finish the website this summer, once things slow down a bit.

I think this be a hoot as a first day of school dress.

Finally, describe your perfect New Orleans day.  Ahh, my favorite question! First, I would get a babysitter. Then, my husband and I would head down to the French Quarter and have breakfast & mimosas at Stanley's. Afterwards, we would wander through the unique shops on Royal St. Then after taligating on Bourbon Street (Pat O's, Old Absinthe House, especially), we would head down to the Superdome to watch the Saints win the superbowl - of course, the one played in New Orleans in 2013. If I could somehow squeeze in dinner at Bayona, it would really be a perfect day!

My Friend, Jen

Hello, Nola Girl Readers!

As you know, Jen is celebrating her first birthday on this blog, and she asked me to write a little post to help with the celebration.

Um, okay, no pressure...

What can I say about Jen?

Well, for those of you who read this blog often, you know that Jen is a very passionate person.  She is passionate about New Orleans.  She is passionate about the Saints.  She is passionate about her family, about fashion, about food.

If I were planning a trip, there is no one I would rather have helping me with the plans. Jen planned my 30th birthday trip to New York City last year; it was my first real trip to the city, and Jen had everything planned out perfectly.  She did all of the research, she mapped out everywhere we had to go, she planned where we would eat each day and what she would wear (and the rest of us followed suit!).  She has done the same thing for people visiting New Orleans, and I know she would be great doing the same for any city -- even one she had not yet visited.

If I were looking for something at the height of fashion, there is no one else I would turn to.  Jen has fabulous taste in all things fashion -- clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry -- and I have gotten her help more than once when looking to make a fashion purchase.

If I were looking for a perfect recipe, I would also turn to Jen.  Whether it is a meal for a friend who just had a baby, a contribution to book club dinner, or a Fourth of July parade, Jen always puts her heart and soul into what she makes.  And, let me tell you, none of us in her supper club like to host the month after she does -- it is hard to top the party she throws or the dinner she fixes.

Jen is just as passionate as a wife, daughter, and sister.  She is so supportive of Mark, her wonderful husband.  She is so proud of her sister and all that she does.  She loves her parents fiercely.  Though I only really know Mark, I feel like I know all of Jen's family; she talks about them all the time, and I know they are good people -- they would have to be to have molded Jen into the person she is!

New Orleans is lucky to have Jen as one of its biggest fans and supporters.  She loves her city -- and her team.  She makes you want to hop right on a plane to New Orleans so that you, too, can experience everything Jen loves so much.  I am sure that being away from New Orleans these past four years has only made that love stronger.

The most important thing to me, though, is Jen's friendship.  She is one of those true friends that you only run into a few times in your life.  She is caring and genuine.  She is thoughtful.  She is kind.  She is just as passionate about her friends as she is about all of the other things I listed.  She is the kind of friend that I would hope to be.

I really can't say enough nice things about Jen -- or Mark.  The two of them will really be missed when they head back to New Orleans in the fall, and although I will be sad to see them leave, I will be happy that they will be back where they truly belong.

That, and I will be glad to have a place to stay and a free tour guide when I go visit New Orleans! ;-)

Happy Blog Birthday to you, Jen!  Although it would be easy in this crazy blog world for someone to pass herself off as someone she isn't, your true self shines on this blog, and that is why NOLA Girl is so great!  I love you!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Blog Birthday Giveaway Day 1: Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen

About two years ago when we were halfway through our four year tour with the Navy, and returning home to New Orleans seemed like something completely out of reach, I found myself constantly longing for a connection to New Orleans. One day a package arrived (don't you love an unexpected box waiting at your doorstep), and inside I found a book called Gumbo Tales... Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen. My dad sent it because he knew I would love its main characters - food, New Orleans, and the people who define both.

In each chapter, whose titles bear the names of some of New Orleans most famous culinary signatures, Sara beautifully describes the relationship between the people of New Orleans and the food that makes it famous. Food that storied cannot be born of anything but love, and she perfectly captures the passion that New Orleanians have for their home, their cooking, and the good folks they share these things with.

Each night I would fall asleep to the description of a food group so appetizing that I would dream about it's ingredients - mirliton stuffing: shrimp, ham, onions, breadcrumbs. I could almost here them sizzling away in the cast iron skillet in my sleep. And each night, I would fall asleep a bit hungry, but peaceful and at home. In a review about the book one writer said that "those familiar with the city will smile and nod along; readers who've never had the pleasure may find themselves making travel arrangements long before the last page."

To enter to win a copy of Gumbo Tales and some delicious New Orleans culinary treasures (King Cake mix, Italian cookies, etc):
  1. Follow my blog (leave a comment letting me know you are)
  2. Comment on this post telling me the one thing you think every home cook should keep in their kitchen
  3. Leave a comment letting me know you're posting about my Blog Birthday Giveaway week

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Sara a few questions. I hope you enjoy:
1. As a new mom, I imagine you have less time to cook than you used to. What are some of your go to meals when you're low on time? I always seem to be low on time these days, but I do prioritize cooking over other household tasks (which is why, after three months fully back in the house we own, we still aren’t unpacked). My son, Tibo, is eight months old now, so he’s self-sufficient enough to play in his exersaucer in the kitchen just long enough for me to get a pot of beans on—the other day I lectured him about the Louisiana holy trinity (onion, celery, green bell pepper) and its slightly-less-holy trinity (garlic, parsley, green onions) while I chopped my seasonings for a pot of red beans. Also, he’s in bed at 7 pm, which gives me some time to unwind at the stove and even, once in awhile, entertain a bit. I’ve settled on a New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp recipe/technique that takes only about 30 minutes for last-minute preparation—perfect for serving guests.

2. What is the one ingredient that every good home cook should have in their refrigerator, in their freezer, and in their pantry? Really, that answer depends on the cook, but for me it’s Parmesan cheese in the fridge, walnuts in the freezer*, and an onion in the pantry. These are the three things that always make it on the list when I do a big grocery shopping trip. A caramelized—or even just browned—onion can turn rice or pasta or toast or broth or a fried egg into a multi-dimensional meal. When we’re homesteading (trying to make much from virtually nothing), a caramelized onion plus loads of toasted walnuts turns pasta or a rice bowl into a weighty meal. And Parmesan is the perfect sharp, salty accent for any thrown-together pasta. Thrown-together pastas are dinner for us at least once a week, and sometimes they consist merely of onion, toasted walnuts, Parmesan, lemon zest, and olive oil. If I may add two more staples that always make it on the list, they are a lemon and fancy olive oil. * We keep out nuts in the freezer because they go rancid quickly in the heat down here.

3. Since this is for my blog, I thought I'd bring up the person who made the term blogging a common verb, Julie Powell. If you had been in Julie's shoes writing her blog, who would have been your Julia? Ten years ago it would have been Rick Bayless. Before moving to New Orleans I lived in New Mexico, California, and Wyoming—all places with large Mexican populations. I find much joy in cooking and eating Mexican food, especially the moles and chile sauces. Rick Bayless’ cookbooks are endlessly exciting to me. After a couple of years living here, however, I drifted away from Mexican cooking, primarily because the quality of the chiles available here is pretty poor. There are exceptions, and I have mail-ordered chiles on occasion, but it just makes more sense to cook with raw materials that are more readily available. So now I would say that my Julia is probably Paul Prudhomme. He’s not even necessarily a traditional Louisiana cook, but his early cookbooks always seem to contain the recipes I’m looking for. I don’t always follow them exactly, but I always take into account his ingredients methodology. He has taught me more about this state’s cooking practices than anyone else. And I’ve never even met the guy.

4. In your book, you accurately describe how New Orleanians separate their lives into two halves: pre-Katrina and post-Katrina. What is the biggest positive change you have seen in the food landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans? Two things have happened; they seem to be in opposition to one another, and they are both positive. For one, there are more good restaurants serving high-quality non-Louisiana dishes—we could call them ethnic, or international, restaurants. Two well-known New Orleans natives, John Besh and Adolfo Garcia, have opened Italian restaurants, for example. There’s a Spanish restaurant, Rambla, in the International House Hotel. Pupuseria La Macarena moved from Kenner/Metairie into the city. These are just a few high-profile examples, but there are many others, including an abundance of taquerias. I think that the influx of new blood (contractors, Teach For America types, volunteers who stayed) created a solid clientele base for such places, and the natives are following along. Secondly, I’ve sensed a stronger—or perhaps it’s just a more deliberate—embrace of more localized cooking traditions, especially among the younger generation of chefs. One of Adolfo Garcia’s sous-chefs from RioMar opened what to my palate is the best po-boy shop currently operating in Uptown (Mahony’s). The roast beef po-boy there is no-frills and completely delicious. Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski are making traditional Louisiana hogshead cheese and Cajun boudin and jambalaya-stuffed chickens and smoked venison sausage at Cochon Butcher. For example.

5. As a Sicilian girl from Lakeview, I was so appreciative of your chapter "Red Gravy." In it, you told the story of what seems like a dying art - the creation of St. Joseph's altars. What do you think lovers of New Orleans and its many unique food traditions can do to preserve them? They should support what altars go up on St. Joseph’s Day by visiting them, and/or they could build their own. This woman will teach you how:

6. I get this question all the time, so I thought I'd defer to the master. If you were in town for one day and were planning your trip around breakfast, lunch, and dinner, where would you go and what would you order? I were alone and basing my menu simply upon cravings, and assuming it was a day when all restaurants were open, I would start with beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde (crossing my fingers that I would choose a day when the beignets were hot and the coffee strong—I think it’s gotten weaker lately). For lunch I would have a fried shrimp po-boy, dressed with extra pickles, either at Mahony’s or Guy’s or Parkway. And for dinner I would hunt down gumbo and fried catfish. I might have to visit more than one restaurant for this. Like Brigtsen’s for rabbit-andouille gumbo and then Middendorf’s for catfish. These are all the things I missed most when I lived in Philadelphia post-Katrina.

7. Lastly, how would you describe your perfect New Orleans day? Every day that I’m lucky enough to still be living here.
Cheers to that!  Thanks so much to Sara for answering my questions.  I have not been as excited as I was when she said she'd particiate since the Saints won the Superbowl!  And you know how excited I was for that!

Blog Birthday Giveaway Introduction

One year ago tomorrow, I sent my very first blog post out into the great wide blogoshpere.  I had no idea where it was headed or what path it would take, all I knew was that it had been three months since our last visit home to New Orleans and three weeks until the next, and I was the kind of homesick that makes you understand why it my be catagorized an illness.  And with every thought leaning towards how much I missed this magical place, I started writing.  From there came posts about all of my favorite things - family, friends, food, travel, fashion, the Saints.  I had no expectations that this blog would be anything other than an outlet of creativity for me, but it has given me the opportunity to connect with such amazing people.  I love reading your blogs and being inspired by your words/designs/photos, and I hope that you have enjoyed this last year as much as I have. 

To celebrate - The next six days will be filled with giveaways and a guest post by one of my very special real life blog friends!  I hope you come back each day and leave a little note and sign up for your chance to win some great treasures.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Well Hello World

I woke up this morning to the realization that we have closed the books on tax season 2010.  And in that moment, I felt like I rejoined the world.

The sky seemed bluer...

The sun shined brighter...

The birdies sang their prettiest song...

I mentioned here that we would be headed to Summerville, SC to relax in the sweet Carolina sunshine.  So far, our getaway has been everything we thought it would be.  We had lunch at this great little place called The Mustard Seed, and then walked around downtown.  I found this adorable little shop called Teal and got myself the cutest black and white fedora!  After a frozen drink and some time by the pool, we're hanging out for a bit before going to dinner.  Mmmm...  this meal promises to be something very special.

Tomorrow we will be going further upstate to Newberry, SC to meet some of our Beaufort friends and to see the hometown of our dear friends Meg and Burke.  Meg believes, and I agree, that you really don't know someone until you see where they're from.  I cannot wait to get there!  The girls are planning on checking out a vineyard tour while the guys spend some afternoon time at the local beer parlor.  We're going to meet up at Newberry's BBQ festival called Pork in the Park (how cute!).  It should make for a great weekend of old stories and new memories.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Friday!!!


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