Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween envy: Double feature picture show...

Happy Halloween everyone! Looking over the past week's posts, I am noticing a trend in my taste in houses...not that you couldn't throw a rock and hit a gorgeous structure almost anywhere in this town. But still, even John started to tease about my "so-called" elitist view.

Ultimately, the question I care? Nope!

Here's not one, but two stunning examples we found on Prytania Street to double your viewing pleasure:

The light was fading fast the day I shot this Garden District mistress and the images turned out pretty awful until John came along with his graphic magic and upped the "spookiness" factor by ten. Pretty good, huh?

Then, while avoiding some pretty sticky traffic on St. Charles yesterday, John hopped onto Prytania Street and we discovered another shining lady dressed for the season:

Finally, for a little lagniappe, did you have that one house in your neighborhood your parents told you NOT to visit? The one being housed by a crotchety, elderly woman or man who hated all the kids on the block and wanted nothing less than to be left to their Price is Right in peace? I did.

During my search I found this next house shown below. The yard is overgrown and there's a creepy, neglected look about the place which is probably mostly emanating from the crafty "woodland" arch perched over the entry gate.

Did you notice the plastic-wrapped sheet of paper attached to the front gate? It reads "No Candy."  No treat huh? I believe this house might experience a few tricks instead.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween envy: The sequel, Part II

Cruising down St. Charles today, I noticed that the skeleton house from the sequel had increased their cast of undead characters and like any good horror franchise, sought to capitalize off of a good formula. So, without further ado...

Make-up really doesn't make me look younger...

This next one is a convincing argument against monogamy...

"I want to be with you forever and ever and ever and ever..."

And last, but certainly not least, the end...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween envy: Reborn

Driving home from dropping John off in the Quarter the other night, I decided to take a different way home to see if I could scout out anymore excellent Halloween decorations. As I emerged from under the Interstate overpass on Annunciation Street, I discovered this beauty.

The plaque out front read 'Fleur De Lis' Mansion Founded 1824 Historic Landmark. The property is obviously a handsomely restored Double Gallery, one I recall being in need not so very long ago.

Happy that a classic beauty had been revitalized and showing Halloween spirit in this industrial neighborhood, I stopped to take pictures. With mammoth bats swinging from the gallery and a recently vacated, red satin coffin on the porch, it's apparent these folks went "all out" for All Hallows Eve.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween envy: The Revenge

Sometimes you come across a house that doesn't have a horrifying, overall appeal, but there will be one particular piece that stands out. For example, the rest of the decorations on this home were simply not that spectacular. There was, however, this one "pièce de résistance" dangling oh so creepily from a huge, hoary oak tree out front.

“For my part, I have ever believed, and do now know, that there are witches.”
-Thomas Browne Sr.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween envy: Part 33 3/8

The other day I was cruising Uptown on Magazine Street when spotted this house less than a block away from Washington Avenue.

I made the block, parked and walked over to take a closer look. As I stood there snapping shots, the owner came outside to walk his dog and I told him how much I admired his decorations. He responded "Well, the school bus passes here every day and the kids were getting antsy. I didn't think I would have the porch finished in time, but I just made it and got these up today."

Apparently, this gruesomely spectacular display is an anxiously anticipated annual event. I complimented his taste in the macabre and he smiled and said "Just wait till Christmas."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween envy: The sequel

Spooky Halloween decorations are always a big plus, I mean, the whole purpose is to scare you stupid right? There are those rare occasions, though,  when people get downright creative and dare I say

This gorgeous home on St. Charles Avenue posed skeletons all over their front yard and I have to admit, it's downright adorable! Meet Pop-Eye...

...witness the Kiss of Death...or at least the aftermath...

...kick it with Lazy Bones...

...and no New Orleans skeleton scene would be complete without a Die Hard Saints' Fan!

Admittedly, I was pretty impressed when I saw the skeleton scene by the light of day (so were a lot of other folks taking pictures on their cell phones), but it was nothing compared to what it looked like later that night...

Wow! Maybe I'm not too old to Trick-or-Treat...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween envy...

It wasn't the allure of a pillowcase full of candy or a licence to attack my fellow ghouls with eggs and shaving cream. No, the reason I love All Hallows Eve is the costuming. How cool is it that you can choose to be anyone else...but yourself...for a whole night?

As a matter of fact, I love Halloween so much that when I finally reach my goal weight (many, many pounds from now), my prize is going to be an elaborate costume. Some elegant dress that might have been in fashion during 18th century in France perhaps, complete with high, white wig and fluttery parasol? Something like this...

Until that fateful day, I revel in the made up world that emerges every year as October 31st creeps inexorably closer. In the past seven years, I have noticed that most New Orleanians take this holiday very seriously, especially when it comes to decorating their homes.

In honor of this wonderfully macabre occasion, all week long I'll be featuring ghastly, gruesome and garish houses that are all decked out to terrify.

This first image is of the "Wedding Cake House" on St. Charles Avenue. A couple of nights ago, they were having a huge party. I managed to snap a few shots later in the evening right before they turned off the lights.

[Cue spooky music]

Friday, October 22, 2010

The best? Theo's Neighborhood Pizza...

As you might already know, there are a couple of pizza-slingers gracing my "preferred" list like Slice and Cafe Nino, but I always am on the lookout for a contender. Ever since the road construction began on Earhart, I've been using Canal more frequently and I always pass by Theo's Neighborhood Pizza.

Completely unaware of it's first operation on Magazine, John and I visited the Mid City branch last night for my 57th cheat. I am down 74 pounds.

To be perfectly honest, our aim last night was to enjoy a po-boy at Mandina's. We drove to the restaurant and were headed inside the great, pink building when we saw other couples walking in also, dressed "to the nines." I looked down at my jeans and feeling overly self-conscious, couldn't work up the nerve to walk inside.

Theo's was already on my list of "must-try" restaurants and since it was only two blocks away and possessed a very relaxed dress code, it seemed the perfect solution for our hunger and my anxiety. I remembered too, that Gambit recently rated Theo's as 2010's Best Pizza Place in New Orleans...increasing my hopes for a pie well-done.

We walked into the neo abandoned warehouse-like pizzeria and headed for the counter in the back to place our order, starting with Theo's self-named Stuffed Bread Sticks and for our pie, we chose a large "Jammer's 'O' riginal." Taking our drinks and our table marker, an image of Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski on a stick, we headed for a spot in the corner with a window facing Canal Street.

It wasn't long for the bread sticks to arrive, four thick pieces sliced down the middle and filled with pepper jack cheese and topped with thin slices of pickled jalapeno. It was a simple appetizer, one you could easily make at home, but nonetheless tasty and made with fresh-tasting dough. I even tried a bit of the marinara dipping sauce and was pleased to find it was neither too sweet nor too acidic.

Then came the pie...

It was my understanding that Theo's pizzas are intended to be crunchy, cracker-crusted wonders -- something John was particularly excited about due to his love of thin-crust pizza. Plus we both thought the toppings (Canadian bacon, mushrooms, banana peppers and goat cheese) sounded pretty good.  They do, don't they?

When John attempted to offer me the first slice, the toppings slid into a big, gooey pile in the center. Not easily daunted, he tried again and with some careful maneuvering and illegal finger usage, he managed transfer a complete piece to my plate. Initially I thought it was our fault because as everyone knows, a really hot pie needs to cool a bit before serving, but this was not the case. The cooled crust was pretty soggy and only the edge had any crunch.

Starving, poor and not in the mood to make a fuss, we ate the pie...forking the cheesy-coated toppings from the center of the pan. For me, pizza is like that saying about sex where "even bad [pizza] is still pretty good." I mean, who hasn't popped the occasional Totino's or dared the newest DiGiorno?

I'll have to give them a few more chances before I decide they're in the running...who knows, maybe "The Expert" will blow me away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Watching grass die

My neighborhood has been inundated by construction in the past several years. First it was storm repair, next Oak Street was lovingly remodeled, then Carrollton and St. Charles Avenues were repaved and sidewalk corners were too...remarked in all their glowing-orange glory.

The most recent renovation involving gas lines required men and machines digging very deep holes through dirt, pavement and front lawns. These holes were left open (taped off for safety) during the repairs, but they have begun refilling them, including the ones dug on my street.

Though it's true I have been annoyed by the noise, blocked streets, parking inconveniences and early morning catcalls emanating from groups of horny, bored men dressed in safety orange...for some reason, there is only one thing that really chaps my hide.

Who's bright idea was it to put fresh sod on top of sand?

Now, in place of the usual greenery typical of any subtropic environment, we have dead patches of grass.

Since I live in an apartment, we really don't have a lawn, but what about these folks who spend money to have their gardeners upkeep their lawn?

At least the cement sidewalks were replaced.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lovin' La Petite Grocery

Housed in what used to be a specialty grocery store on the corner of General Pershing and Magazine Streets, La Petite Grocery has been one of those restaurants that I've heard people exclaim about for several years, but never got around to trying. Well, it finally happened. This past Friday, John and I visited the 6-year-old, already classic, yet still "nouveau" restaurant for my 56th cheat. I am down 73 pounds.

After stepping through the heavy, green doors my jaw dropped at the gorgeous architectural highlights in the "barroom" like detailed wall paneling that pulled my eyes towards an elegant ceiling of painted tin. These are features I never tire of, though they are common in quite a few New Orleans buildings. Despite the fact we were there for a casual lunch, I suddenly felt romantic and pictured the two of us dining here on an anniversary or Valentine's Day. John rolled his eyes and smiled at me when I grasped his hand atop the white linen covered table.

We opted for an additional appetizer in place of cocktails, oh the sacrifices we must make on a budget, and settled for a couple of Cokes and ice water. Almost immediately, our server brought a couple of beautiful, fresh rolls that were still hot from the oven and a triangular slab of hand-packed butter (fresh butter being a feature of the former specialty grocery store). The aromatic rolls were crusty and utterly fabulous smeared with a large pat of the dense, sweet cream butter.

As we licked the crumbs from our fingers, our appetizers arrived. The Steak Tartare had a bright, tangy flavor from citrus, red wine and mustard and coupled wonderfully with the creamy quail yolk nestled in the center. We quickly scooped up bite after delicious bite with the house made potato chips served alongside.

I also could not resist the Lobster Beignets served atop a French remoulade sauce. The flavor of my beloved shellfish (I'm a huge fan of lobster) stood bravely, and most unusually, on it's own. Sweet, thick claw pieces rested inside the delicately fried beignet with no heavy seasoning to mar its delicate essence. I would return to snack on those alone.

Delighted by our first course, I became anxious for our entrees. John selected the "LPG" cheeseburger draped with a gooey slice of gruyere, onion marmalade, home made sweet pickles and a huge pile of arugula. Though the greens seemed a bit excessive, I loved the sweet, eggy brioche bun against the savory beef. The accompanying French fries had a nice garlic/parmesan flavor, but were awfully soggy and oily. It seems they were dropped too early and the potatoes just soaked up the grease.

My dish of Shrimp & Grits featured perfectly cooked, large Gulf shrimp flavored with thick pieces of smoked bacon, shiitake mushrooms and thinly sliced garlic resting on a bed of creamy, stone ground grits and surrounded by a rich, lemony butter sauce. It was absolutely dreamy...

As usual, I desired to top off our fabulous lunch with an equally fabulous dessert and I was not disappointed. With glowing reviews from our server, I chose an old favorite, a S'More Tart. The shortbread shell was filled with gooey chunks of dark chocolate and topped with house made marshmallow, flamed with that familiar campfire char. The sinful tart was served with a small dollop of smooth, vanilla ice cream. Like greedy children, John and I fought over the last spoonful. Ahhh romance...

John would be wise to remember my heart-felt reaction to La Petite Grocery when planning a cozy dinner for two this Valentine's Day...I certainly won't hesitate to remind him!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

...when you're walking down the street

My adorably precious shih-tzu Pippin loves his evening walks.  Integral to his nightly ritual, we simply must stop and say hello to everyone on Oak Street, and since he's spoiled rotten, I incorporate the busy street into my routes. That being said, it is an inevitability that we pass this particular vehicle on the way home, always parked on the same block. It is also equally predictable that Bob McGrath's voice will start singing in my ear.

           Oh who are the people in your neighborhood?
           In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood?


Sing with me...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More great moments from Bud Faust

As if the first collection of hilarious historic New Orleans events was not enough, local playwright Bud Faust has done it again with Great Moments in New Orleans History, Volume II. If you've ever read The New Orleans Levee, you'll be familiar with Faust's unusually hilarious glimpses into local history each month, if not...well, you need to go pick one up.

Like last time, I chuckled, snickered and even guffawed my way through the book, much to my boyfriend's annoyance (I often read in bed while he's sleeping). It was hard not to laugh out loud while reading "On the Waterfront" where 1970's Mayor Morial tries desperately to sell Oglethorpe on riverfront development or "The End of an Error" chronicling the close of the failed 1984 Louisiana World's Fair, an article that was "stolen from the archives of the New Orleans States-Item, which are located in the second-floor men's room of The Times Picayune."

I especially enjoyed the letter from Irvin Pluck written to the secretary at the Vatican in preparation for Pope John Paul II's visit to New Orleans in September of 1987. In his outline, Pluck asks if "His Holiness [would] be willing to throw 'communion wafers' doubloons during his parade through the French Quarter", if he knows how to Second Line or if he would be amendable to distributing shrimp po-boys during communion..."Pre-blessed, of course."

You can get your copy of Great Moments in New Orleans History, Volume II at local bookshops all over town, but if you want to see the man himself, you can catch him this Saturday! From 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library, Bud Faust will be signing copies of his book for all those lucky enough to attend!

Monday, October 11, 2010

We'll have no gelato today...

While taking some food photos at home the other day, I realized two things; the light in my apartment sucks and my funky, blue dinnerwear does not flatter my food. Period.

So John and I decided to go for a little stroll to the Super10 around the corner to see if we couldn't find some plain, white plates, as even paper would be better at this point. Strolling around the long way, I discovered, to my utmost dismay, that Gelato Pazzo was closed.

The tables and chairs had disappeared from the sidewalk and when we peered into the dusty window, most of the furniture inside was gone as well. I kept thinking to myself, "When did this happen?" I could have sworn there were folks sitting outside, enjoying their wonderful gelato and munching on delicious panini just the other day...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Part of the family at Hobnobber Cafe

There are a lot of wonderful colloquialisms I've learned living in New Orleans. Everyone knows about "Who Dat!" and "Where y'at?" but there are so many others that tickle me inside. For example, in any given environment, you are bound to be affectionately called "Boo" or "Baby " by practically anyone, regardless of sex or age and I'll never forget the first time I heard my co-workers Shirley and Jeffrey discussing the price of "erl" (oil). After listening to their conversation for a few minutes, I finally interrupted them and said "Who the heck is Earl?" much to their endless amusement (I was teased about that one for months, let me tell you). Another great example of New Orleans terminology is revealed when you are having a conversation or making a statement that someone else agrees with and they respond "Yeah, you right!"

All of these expressions are so darling and unique, but my absolute favorite is how folks down here will mix the familiar and formal forms when calling you by name.  Instead of calling me Kim or Miss Ranjbar, I will be referred to as "Miss Kim"...especially by children...and I simply love it! It is so sweet and so polite, yet friendly and warming. It makes me feel like everyone is family and the whole city is filled with my brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.

This familial aura is exactly what I sense when dining at Hobnobber Cafe. This is my 55th cheat and I am down 72 pounds.

Since 1978, the Timphony family has managed and owned Hobnobber, although in different locations and incarnations than it's current spot on West Metairie Avenue. For years they've been serving home-cooked, New Orleans Italian-style food and their Southern hospitality shines through as soon as you walk through the door.

John and I were greeted warmly by one of the owners, "Miss Cindy", as we headed for the counter to place our order. Afterwards, we poured our own drinks from the soda fountain and selected a high table near the window. While we waited, other customers came and went, most of which were regulars to the Hobnobber. I know this because Cindy called them all by name and took time out of her busy day to say hello and visit with them for a spell.

It was not long before our food arrived and we couldn't wait to dig in. We shared both plates, but couldn't help starting with an 11 inch, fried catfish po-boy dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise. John also slathered on some house-made tartar sauce before taking a huge bite. The catfish was moist and sweet with a perfect crunch from the spicy cornmeal batter. Hobnobber's fried seafood  po-boys are always excellent and priced to match ringing in at only $8.00!

We also shared one of the daily specials, crab cakes with a creamy crawfish sauce served on a bed of spaghetti noodles with a large hunk of French bread and a house salad. There is a small salad bar where you can make your own creations from fresh dressings (I chose a dreamy bleu cheese) and crispy croutons. The sauce was so buttery and scrumptious, I couldn't help swabbing up every last drop with my bread.

Near the counter is a large dessert case that displayed all their homemade desserts available like cheese cake, custard and mammoth brownies, but when Cindy veered my attention to the triple chocolate cake that was resting under glass on the counter, I had made my decision.  The cake that reminded me of home was moist and dense, rich and chocolaty and a perfect end to our meal.

So listen up Boo, if you're missing your momma'n'dem and you crave a place that feels like home, pass by the Hobnobber Cafe in Metry, aight?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The crawfish boil chronicles: Heather Goodwin

Photo by Andreas Koch
Due to my own relative physical "inactivity", it never fails to amaze me when someone I know displays an overwhelming passion for a particular sport. I'm speaking here of individuals who are so enamored, that they take it upon themselves and their busy schedules to incorporate participating in what is essentially...just a game.

A few weeks ago, I met with a friend of mine who has done just that. Heather Goodwin, a.k.a. Vieux Careen of the Big Easy Roller Girls invited me into her Algiers home just across the Mississippi River in an effort to continue my research of the ubiquitous crawfish boil.

Born in Columbia, Maryland; Heather is still local to me considering she moved to Baton Rouge at six months old and then into New Orleans when she was eight-years-old. Heather's parents divorced when she was only five and she left with her mother, Dolores, and her brother Charles to live in a one bedroom apartment off of Severn Avenue in Metairie.

When Heather speaks of her mom, a light glints in her eyes and she sits up straighter, obviously proud of her mother's accomplishments. Apparently, right after the divorce, Dolores went back to school at Louisiana State University (her ex-husband agreed to pay for college) to major in Physical Therapy. Heather describes the short time in the Metairie apartment as "a summer that felt like an eternity," but Heather's mom went on to became one of the premier physical therapists in the state of Louisiana. "My mom is an amazing, strong and independent woman." Heather says with pride.

Dolores remarried about a year after her divorce to a man named Ike Hardee and moved, with her two children, into a three bedroom trailer in Westwego. "It was so crazy," Heather explains, "I was living with my mom, stepfather, brother Charles, stepsister Sherri and stepbrother Joe."

In the 5th grade, Heather's new family moved into Algiers, the city she has never left. She attended Rosenwald Middle School in the "cutoff in the hood" where she learned how to "curse, smoke cigarettes and skip school." Obviously, school was not one of her passions. In fact, her hatred of school was a strong factor in keeping her virginity intact until she graduated. "My mother who is very religious, told me that girls who got pregnant didn't graduate from high school. I wasn't going to let anything stop me from getting out of there!" she exclaimed.

Likely due to her parents' strictness, Heather rebelled and moved out of the house only three months before she graduated when she was 17-years-old. For only a year, she lived in the Parc Fontaine apartment complex with her roommate, a "crazy" guy named Jason Huffman. "He thought he was either my father or my husband...neither of which were true. I was young and stupid and naive, and as I look back on it now, I think he was madly in love with me." A feeling which was obviously not mutual. It only lasted about a year before she moved out. 

Photo by Andreas Koch
Throughout her life, Heather has been employed in the service industry as a waitress, bartender and hostess..working at restaurants like Steak & Ale (ain't dere no more) and the Dry Dock Cafe. But, it seems she enjoyed bartending the most, especially at The Old Point Bar where she stayed for six years.  

At 22, Heather gave birth to her son Kyle and decided that bartending and its risks (she was held up twice at gunpoint) wasn't conducive to raising a son. She decided to go back to school to get a degree in Graphic Design from the Southeast College of Technology. 

In 2004, she started what could have been a successful graphic design company with her friend Rachel. Unfortunately, they were working out of a house in Lakeview and lost everything (almost $50,000 in computer equipment and software) under 15 feet of water when Katrina hit and the levees failed in 2005.

Heather's latest obsession began only a year ago when she decided to try out for the Big Easy Roller Girls. After months of practicing and trying out...Heather made it onto the team and is now part of Crescent Wenches playing as Vieux Careen and attending practice 2-3 times a week to retain "active" status. 

"I am trying to find a happy medium between derby and life, because derby takes over very easily." she explains. Heather makes an effort to talk about other things besides derby, but it has become such a big part of what she had become, that is is a difficult endeavor. "When I start not liking it, we'll have a bout and it puts everything back into perspective. I love it!"

When I asked her what derby veterans on the team she would like to emulate, Heather replied "All of them?" and laughed. "I would like to have Lacy's mobility and then Peaches is tough and small and firecracky and Slaughter is just perfect! When she falls, it's graceful." In essence, Heather just tries to do the best that she can and puts out 100% of herself...and she has a fabulous time doing it.

Because she's lived in New Orleans most of her life, remembering her first crawfish boil was difficult, if not impossible. As far back as she can remember, her stepfather Ike would have boils (pronounced "bowls") every spring and summer.   

When her boyfriend Pat comes home from work each spring, the first thing he buys is a big sack of crawfish for a boil. Although Pat won't reveal his "secret" seasonings, Heather did say he liked to add oranges, mushrooms, celery, garlic, onions and Zatarain's Crab Boil.

Yes, Heather most definitely sucks the heads too. "I even eat the orange stuff inside...don't know what it is, but I love it." 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One in the dirt equals two in the nest...

So I've been hearing quite a bit of hullabaloo about the "yard egg." It seems that anything from pizza to pasta or even burgers can be improved with the delicious addition of an egg.  And not just any egg...a "yard" egg.  At first I thought it meant that the egg had to be prepared in such a way that enables the yolk to ooze all over the desired  entree...partly true, but not quite.

Then I did a search for "yard egg" on Google, and the first entry that popped up was this:

We call eggs we find out in the farmyard "yard eggs" These eggs have been "dropped" by a hen unable to get to a nesting box and sometimes overlooked when gathering eggs. They can still be good but must be float tested to ensure they have not been in the yard for a number of days.

Uhm ew? First off, how can you tell you are purchasing an egg meeting that description? Do you ask the vendor at the farmer's market? "Excuse me sir, but I was wondering if this particular egg fell out of your chicken's butt found it in the dirt right?"

And if they miraculously said yes, do you trust that they performed the "float test" or do you bring a bowl of water along with you when you purchase eggs?

I assume a "yard egg" is fresh, not refrigerated or processed in any way. Additionally, I would hope it came from a "free-range" chicken raised on organic or natural feed. But is there really that much difference in the flavor? This is something that will keep me up nights until I find out for myself.

Believe me, I will let you know.

Stepping out: Le Petit Theatre's production of "Hairspray"

After indulging in delicious food and decadent cocktails at Muriel's Jackson Square, we (Casey, Stephanie and I) strolled over to Le Petit Theatre, excited to finally see the local production of Hairspray. We arrived in just enough time to purchase a few more drinks and find our seats in the balcony before the music began.

Though I have never seen the Broadway musical performed live, I'll never forget John Waters' 1988 film version of Hairspray featuring Riki Lake in the starring role of Tracy Turnblad. The story is an underdog's dream come true! How could I not fall in love with a hilarious musical that not only promotes racial unity and dancing to your own dreams, but where the fat girl actually gets the guy?

Directed by Ricky Graham, Le Petit's local production of Hairspray was as grand as any other big city theater performance I've seen, yet managed beautifully on the small, historic French Quarter stage. It's been ages since my last theatrical experience and I found myself running the emotional gamut throughout the performance. Through tears and laughter, I praised the powers that be for the company of women, as both Casey and Stephanie shared the teary eyes and bursts of unabated laughter with me...without humiliation.

The entire cast was amazing, performing with strong voices and practically flawless transitions from one scene to the next. Dianna Duffy was wonderful in the lead role of Tracy Turnblad, radiating so much energy and enthusiasm that it seemed to infect every other performer on stage...not to mention the audience.

So many of the musical numbers rocked the house, but my favorites were "Welcome to the 60's" with Dianna Duffy (Tracy) and Sean Patterson (Edna) and "I Know Where I've Been" exquisitely sung by Kesha McKey (Motormouth Maybelle). Plus, everyone in the audience (including me) went crazy for Sean Patterson (Edna) and Roland "Butch" Caire, Jr.'s (Wilbur Turnblad) sweetly romantic and gut-wrenchingly funny performance of "You're Timeless to Me."

After the show was over, we hung out in the (newly renovated) lobby and talked about our favorite scenes. The courtyard seemed all-a-buzz about the wonderfully energetic performance and it seemed obvious that no one was ready to go home...including the three of us. We sauntered over to the Pirate's Alley Cafe and rounded off a perfect night with a few drinks and a lot of laughs, rehashing the evening's highlights. I had almost forgotten how fun hanging out with the girls can be.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stepping out: Muriel's Jackson Square

When Casey invited me to a show at Le Petit Theatre a few nights ago, I instantly thought, "Where should we go for dinner?" An evening on the town isn't complete without a meal after all and I'd recently discovered a fabulous package deal specifically designed for theater-goers, a three course menu for $25, plus (and here's the real kicker) five hours of free parking in the French Quarter from Muriel's Jackson Square Restaurant.

This is my 54th cheat and I lost one of the pounds I gained last week, so I am down 71 pounds.

We were joyfully joined by another close friend of Casey's, so Stephanie made three on our epic girl's night out in the "Quarters." We arrived on time for our six o'clock reservations, the car snuggled away in the Place D'Armes Hotel parking lot and dressed "to the nines" for a night without the boys. Well, they were dressed up. My supply of evening wear disappeared when my dress size rose above 22. Still, I knew that Muriel's attracted a lot of casually dressed diners, so I wasn't too worried about it. Besides, I'm certain at least a few of the catcalls echoing across the Square were meant for me as well.

We were seated at a nice table and offered menus, though from what we read online, we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, but we also selected some drinks. Stephanie likes her vodka straight up, but Casey and I decided to share a couple of Muriel's special cocktail concoctions, a "Streetcar" featuring New Orleans Spiced Cajun Rum (gotta love Old New Orleans Rum) and a "Neutral Ground" with Hendricks Gin, Campari and absinthe. Giggling at the giddy wave of freedom flowing over us, we (carefully) clinked our glasses together and toasted to the beginning of a wonderful evening.

While we were sipping, the first course arrived. Casey and I both chose the Turtle Soup with Sherry while Stephanie had the Seafood Gumbo. Since Stephanie let me taste a spoon, I can say that they were equally creamy and rich, and both were based from a dark, nutty roux.

Last Thanksgiving when John and I visited Muriel's, I ordered a double-thick pork chop and I simply couldn't resist ordering the same thing, even though I did everything in my power to select something new. I get so few opportunities to re-try dishes I've tasted before, I just couldn't help myself. Served with smoky collard greens and pecan glazed sweet potatoes, the juicy chop was almost as good as I remembered.

Casey's order was the Seafood au Gratin, this bubbling, creamy goodness arrived in a hot cast iron pan featuring a large potato croquette on top. Stephanie got the Pecan Crusted Puppy Drum (it's not a puppy, right?) served atop a pile of crab meat relish and surrounded by lemon butter sauce. I found both of their dishes tasty, though the Puppy Drum had a nice crust and was cooked perfectly, without the sauce (which she wanted to lick from the plate), it was sadly bland. Neither dish made me regret ordering my beloved chop.

We were all pretty full, but we manage to polish off our delicious dinner with some decadent desserts. I had to get the Creme Brulee, but both Casey and Stephanie opted for the Bread Pudding with rum sauce. Keeping our schedules in mind, we inhaled most of the desserts while the wait staff provided our check, returned with the change and still left us with plenty of time to scurry across the Square to order yet another drink and find our seats at the theater. The show must go on...