Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Food Vacation, Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of my food vacation, back in New Orleans! So far, we flew to New Orleans from St Thomas and spent 4 days there. We then got on a cruise ship and went to stops in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, and I've been relating all the fun food and drink we had along the way! After 7 days on the cruise we are back in New Orleans for 3 more days before heading home. Can we squeeze everything else we want to eat into 3 days? We sure tried!

Part One in New Orleans we stayed in a high rise hotel on one corner of the French Quarter, and now we are staying at the opposite corner in a bed and breakfast, The Banana Court. It was built in the 1870's and happens to be a haunted former brothel. Our particular room was one half on the sitting room where the ladies would wait for their customers. We didn't see any ghosts, but we both saw some strange shadows moving where there shouldn't have been shadows.
We ate lots of fun food on part one, such as oysters, muffalettas, gumbo, and jambalaya, but we couldn't leave without trying a few more things:

T really wanted to try crawfish (I think they taste like dirty lobsters...yuck), so we went to the Crazy Lobster at the riverfront. He got a HUGE boiled seafood bucket...crawfish, shrimp, mussels, lobsters, clams, corn, potatoes. I think it took him an hour to eat it.

I had a fried oyster Po Boy which was DEEElicious!

Throughout oour stay we enjoyed lots of Abita beer, which is locally made. Purple Haze is a raspberry wheat beer.

We had hurricanes on a balcony
More Bloody Mary's a Pat O'Brien's
Absinthe at Good Friend's bar (no, we didn't see the green fairy!)
Lots of drinks at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, which is supposed to be one of the oldest continuous running bars in the states and a former hangout of pirate Jean Lafitte. Their only lighting is candlelight...this photo s during the day but we also went at night.
Some very excellent late night burgers at Buffa's
Some excellent late night pizza at...oops forgot!
Big fat oysters at Desire
And don't forget the beignets at Cafe du Monde!Whew!! The last thing on the list was roast beef po boys...T ran 10 blocks the morning before the flight to pick some up from Johnny's Po Boys and we took them to eat at the airport.
Overall, it was an excellent food vacation!!
I don't know where we are going next, but you can be sure there will be lots of good food involved (and maybe a cooking class or two!)
Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Food Vacation, Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my food vacation, on board the cruise ship and ports of call! We left New Orleans in the evening, and had a full day at sea before landing in Costa Maya. Husband and I both had spa treatments during the day at sea (sea weed wrap for me!), and explored the ship. We had 12 different dining options and 8 bars. Of the 12 dining options, half were included in the cost of the cruise, and the other half were "specialty" and had a cover charge, from $10-25 per person. The dining options that were included were varied, from buffets to formal sit-downs with menus, and we tried them all, but the food was not as good as on some other cruise lines we've been on. We tried 2 specialty restaurants, an italian trattoria and a steakhouse. They were both worth the extra charge!

Costa Maya, Mexico, was beautiful! We didn't sign up for a shore excursion, instead we rented bikes on our own and rode a couple miles to a beach and got a nice shot of the ship!
On the way back we saw a little place advertising $1 beers, so of course we had to stop! We were pretty much the only customers, so we talked a while with the owner and his family, had lots of beers and fresh fish tacos, and met their pet- a Mexican parrot that snacks on tortillas rather than crackers!
Here we are having margaritas once back on the ship. The strange thing about this photo is there is no one else in it! We didn't realize it would be spring break...there were 500 spring breakers on the ship, all from Vanderbilt University! They definitely changed the vibe of the week.
Next stop was Guatemala...we did a Nature and Culture tour. We drove about a half hour to a textile museum that had a huge garden with all kinds of native plants. I don't think T was too excited about this tour, but it was my birthday so I got to pick! We also had lunch here, I had fresh tortillas with guacamole, and T had chicken with rice and fried plantains. Everything was delicious and we met some really nice people here.

The next day was Belize City, Belize. T did a zip line/cave tubing excursion, but that's not really my thing. I thought I would just walk around town and explore on my own. At this port, it is so shallow that the cruise ship has to anchor very far away and we took a little tender boat to shore, about a half hour ride. There was a little shopping area which was very crowded, as there were 5 ships in that day. Felt just like home! Outside of the shopping area, the locals were VERY aggressive trying to sell you tours and taxi rides and just about anything else. I explored about a block and headed back to the ship, which was blessedly empty, and spent the day by the pool.

Cozumel was the next day. We had signed up for a cooking class, so we headed to a resort with about 10 other people. The class was a lot of fun...more hands on than the one in New Orleans...and the chef was great! We made an appetizer, entree, and dessert, and drinks all day were also included. The appetizer was a grilled tortilla with chorizo and onions and peppers. It had a name but I can't remember...there were a lot of margaritas consumed that day!Our entree was a grilled chicken or fish wrapped in a banana leaf then topped with peppers, tomatoes, olives, and wine and then finished in the oven. (We also learned how to decorate or plates: a flour and food coloring mix for the entree, and a cream and strawberry mix for the dessert).For desset we made rice pudding and thin cookies. The pudding was layered between the cookies into sort of a tower...very good and very easy!

We had another day at sea, then arrived back in New Orleans. But I can't leave my cruise story without a cheesy sunset over the water photo, so here it is! Stay tuned for Part Three, back in New Orleans!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Food Vacation, Part One

When you live on a Caribbean island like we do, the first question we invariably get when meeting people on vacation is "Why would you need a vacation from there?" Well, as great as it is here, everyone gets a little Island Fever! And of course, we love to try the food in other places. Yes, I'll admit it, our vacations mostly revolve around food!

We just returned from a week in New Orleans and a week on a cruise to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. New Orleans was split into two parts, four days before the cruise and 3 days after. Our flight arrived after midnight, but it's no problem finding food and drink 24 hours a day. Our hotel on this leg was on the corner of Canal and Bourbon, so we wandered the French Quarter for a few hours checking out some of my favorite bars (I lived here about 10 years ago but haven't been back since. Husband had never been.) Our very late dinner was lots of Krystal burgers (kind of like White Castle) then back to the hotel about 3 am. This is riduculously late for us, but we were up and ready to go again in the morning!

First stop, Pat O'Brien's! I had a Bloody Mary that was the best I've ever had (with pickled green beans!) and breakfast in itself. T's breakfast was three Hurricanes and he was feeling fine!

We both love oysters, and there are some restaurants on the island that serve them, but since they are shipped in, they are NOT GOOD. I don't think you can go wrong finding good oysters in New Orleans. I have heard that there is really only one company that sells to all the restaurants, so it's not worth wasting hours in line at Acme Oyster House with all the other tourists. We decided on Crescent City Brewhouse, where they brew their own beer (and claim you'll never get a hangover from it since there are no preservatives), and sat at the oyster bar. The shucker asked if we would like small, medium, or large (we chose medium) then proceeded to open and choose the best oysters for us.

I like mine on a saltine cracker with cocktail sauce, and I like to chew them. T likes his with hot sauce and gulps them. Either way, they were fantastic!!

On to Muffulattas! The spelling can vary (muffaletta, muffelatta, etc etc), but this is a huge sandwich on a round italian bread with meats and cheeses, and topped with a marinated olive salad. Lots of places sell them and we got ours from Central Grocery, which claims to have invented them. We took it to go and ate in the park. For $13 we shared one sandwich and even had some left over!

We really loved our cooking class when we were in Paris and wanted to find one in New Orleans, but didn't want to take up the whole day, so we decided on a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking. It was about 3 hours long and cost only $25 per person, and included free beer and lunch! Our chef was great- he talked a lot about the history of cooking and food in New Orleans as he walked us through making gumbo, jambalaya, and bread pudding. Unfortunately, I am allergic to green peppers, so I couldn't eat either the gumbo or the jambalya, but they smelled fantastic and T had 2 helping of each! I did have the bread pudding and it was delicious.After lunch, we left the French Quarter, and I showed T around my old neighborhood in the Lower Garden District. We ended up at my favorite neighborhood bar, the Half Moon. The bartender turned out to be a guy I worked with at a different place 10 years ago, and we shared memories over many, many shots of Southern Comfort. This was at one in the afternoon and I will spare you the details of the rest of our day!

Stay tuned for Part Two, on the ship and ports of call!