Alabama Adventure - Part 1

Our Alabama Adventure (and the second part of our vacation) started off with very uneventful food, not bad, just uneventful.


The really COOL thing that happened that first night, if you haven’t already heard, was that I got carded!  Now don’t be illusioned (or think that I am) that I look under 21 – I don’t.  But while at Wal-Mart in Scottsboro, AL the cashier asked me for my ID to purchase the six pack of Mike’s Hard Berry (this lasted a week and took three of us to polish them off).  Anyway, she asked for my ID, I commented that I remembered that cashiers had to do that for everyone in Alabama, she said,”No, just if someone looks under 40.”  Under 40!?  I look under 40?!  WOW!!  I was so excited, told her I wanted to give her a big hug; she looked a little sheepish about that one.  Then she said, after noticing that my driver’s license was from California said it must be all the organic food we eat “out there.”  Actually, I think it’s the Hot Dog on a Stick with a side of cheese stick and cherry lemonade during Fairtime that does the trick.


On to food…


Our first night at our cabin in the Deep South (as SS reminded me), HH catch three crappie that he cleaned for dinner to have a few nights later, and we settled in and just relaxed at the lake.

HH fishin', not a crappie but one of his other catch

In our first few day, as we drove around Scottsboro getting acquainted with the town and getting our bearings, we ran across Payne’s which is a cute old tyme previous drug store and still lunchette with an authentic soda counter!  So cool!  We agreed we would have to visit on another day for lunch and a malt.


After a day of adventure to Cathedral Caverns with Gizmo as our tour guide, we ended up at The Docks one evening which was at the Goosepond complex, where cabins are available for rent and folks can dock their boats.  We arrived a little before they opened (we hadn’t had lunch, so an early dinner was in order), perused the menu and decided to stay for the all you can eat catfish fry.  As we sat down to order, we told the hostess we were from San Diego (how could anyone not know that with HH and his signature Hawaiian shirt?)  She was not impressed, nor was she interested.  We settled on the all you can eat catfish and HH ordered an artichoke dip appetizer.


We sat overlooking the lake on a beautiful October evening – inside, by the way, to avoid the bugs that were starting to gather outside under the lights.  The sunset was beautiful, the artichoke dip was awesome and our server said it was all made from scratch – big chunks of artichokes in a buttery, cheesy sauce.  So good.   The catfish and fries were perfect, a great find in Alabama.


The next night after more adventuring around Scottsboro, we decided on the homemade crappie fish tacos back at the cabin.  They were not your traditional fish tacos (no cole slaw-type topping), just regular tacos with the works.  The challenge was finding the right type of taco shells in the “Latin” section of the market and finding some sauce to pour on them.  We ended up with small taco shells and a Taco Bell sauce (it was the best we could do at the market), but these ingredients did not deter us – the tacos were fabulous!  Especially since HH had catch the fish.


NOLA Adventure - Day 4

Day 4 of our NOLA Adventure – the morning of the Big Game (and the excuse to visit NOLA.)


HH started the morning doing some research, so when it was time to venture out to the French Quarter for some breakfast he said we were walking about ten blocks and to have faith.  I was so curious and excitedly impatient, but he would not share as he wanted our breakfast spot to be a surprise.


We walked along and left what seemed to be the “tourist zone” and entered the “locals’ zone.”   We arrived at Café Envie, a cute corner coffee house with lattes and espresso and pastries and more.  I was so excited, but all I could see at first was the pasty counter and I knew that would not fly for breakfast for HH so I thanked him but said we needed to find another place so he could have bacon and eggs or something.  He said he had done his homework and this places served breakfast, sure enough, the chalkboard menu confirmed it.


We ordered, I got a delicious large latte, we found a table and enjoyed the atmosphere of this cybercafé with an historic feel.


Breakfast was served, with grits again for me and a breakfast sandwich, and what was billed at biscuits and gravy for HH.  But you can see that it was definitely a manly version of biscuits and gravy, more like a delicious serving of clogged arteries on a plate.


After breakfast we explored a few other places, visited Bourbon Street before noon (definitely better viewed after dark), took a few more photos and headed back to our well placed condo for a little rest before the Big Game – Chargers vs. Saints!!


For dinner we decided we wanted some of those awesome Acme chargrilled oysters again, although the best red beans and rice stop was right across the street at Felix’s.  Acme won out, we could get red beans and rice there too.  Off we went with our mouths watering in anticipation, and what luck!  It was a little before 5 PM and no line at Acme Oyster House!  We happily walked up to what should have been the front of the line to the hostess standing outside, ready to give her the old “party of two,” when our plans were foiled – private party, restaurant closed.  Well no wonder there was no line at 5 PM on a Sunday!  Silly us!


Across the street we went to Felix’s for some of their oysters and that famous red beans and rice.  As we walked in, in our full Charger regalia (in this Saints town!), the vibe changed; the smell of the chargrilled oysters wasn’t the same and we were directed to a table to the other side of the “U” shaped restaurant past a BIG table of Saints fans.


We ordered oysters, red beans and rice, and crawfish cakes.  Orders got mixed up, and although the waitress was pleasant and apologetic about it (couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact we were non-Saints fans, although we wanted to tell them we still like and support Brees and Sproles) dinner finally arrived.  The red beans and rice with sausage was good, the oysters were nothing like their cousins across the street, and the crawfish cake was fine.  We finished up and made our trek to the Superdome with all of the other powder blue that was in town and ready for a victory.


During the game we sent some photos to friends about half way through the third quarter, with our happy, smiling faces.  Good thing we sent the photo then, things went downhill.  Although we didn’t like the outcome of the game, we shook it off since we were starting Part Two of our adventure the next morning – Alabama, here we come!


NOLA Adventure - Day 3

The third day of our NOLA Adventure started off with breakfast at the corner, Mena’s.  This place was full the previous morning and looked like locals and tourists alike hung out, plus it was very convenient so we tried it.  Turns out, it was nothing to write home about, but I did get a healthy serving of grits with my eggs.  Oh, and HH had biscuits with gravy, not to mention the topping.


HH & I then made our way to Canal Street to find the St. Charles Streetcar.  After some help from a few locals, figuring out that the tracks were being worked on and we needed to take the bus for part of the route, we made it to the streetcar for a tour through the Garden District.  We went all the way to the end of the line, transferred streetcars and headed back to the end of the tracks.  We decided to walk around and visit a few places on our list before taking the bus back to the French Quarter.


First stop, a really nice store called Fresh Market, kind of Whole Foods-esque but what looked like a one-off gourmet store – definitely where I would shop if I lived in the area.  After touring the second floor, which was all the alcohol and making a pit stop, we got a bottle of water and went on our way.


Thank goodness for HH and his internal compass, he kept us going in the right direction and we ended up at a neighborhood cemetery just 30 minutes before it closed for the day (only open ‘til noon on Saturdays and closed Sundays.)  All the graves were above ground due to the water level in the area.  A few of the graves and head stones were being lovingly refurbished and refreshed.


Next we headed out to the cemetery the Commander’s Palace right across the street.  What perfect timing, perhaps we could pop in on a Saturday for lunch!

In so many of the guide books, Commander’s Palace is a must-stop.  A friend of my suggested going at lunch since it was the same food but better prices.  So we walked up the ramp, right after two couples in slacks, ties and dresses, and walked in to get a table.  HH said he knew right away we would not be staying, so he found a tour map of the area with historical points of interest.  I, however, naively proceeded up to the maitre d’ and said we were there for lunch.  He asked if we had a reservation (no) and apologized politely and (seemingly) sincerely, saying that their reservation book was full for the lunch seating.  Then he leaned forward and half whispered, “Besides, we don’t allow short pants.”  As he look in HH’s direction and I looked down at my Capri’s.  He kindly recommended Magazine Street which was just a few blocks away for lots of local fare.


So off we went totally unfazed, and found another point of interest on our list – a Diners Drive-Ins and Dives listing - Parasols!!  This was much more our style.  We ended up eating inside and shared a blackened catfish po’ boy and sweet potato fries, and I washed it all down with sweet tea.  It was delicious and just what we wanted.


HH then led the tour of homes in the Garden District, with background on points of interest – Mick Jagger’s house, Anne Rice’s house, the first house, etc.  We ran into some folks who pointed out Archie Manning’s house and said that was where the decision for Eli NOT to become a Charger took place, sending Phillip Rivers from Decatur, Alabama our way.


After walking all over the Garden District, we made our way back to our condo for a few minutes to rest before the BIG get together that night.  “All” the Charger fans were gathering at the Hard Rock Café for a pre-game day pep rally of sorts.  We got to see a wedding parade from the second floor of the Hard Rock, and visit with other Charger fans as we looked forward to the day.


NOLA Adventure - Day 2

We began Day 2 with a laundry list (or should I say “grocery list”) of things to see and places to eat. 


HH & I started off at Café du Monde, because you “have too!”  The line did not deter us as we were serenaded by a jazz duo, we were eventually seated in the covered outdoor patio for our beignets with more powered sugar than should be allowed and chicory coffee (milk for HH).  It was a definitely-going-to-be-warm day with the sun shining, the tourists out and about, and the city coming alive in the morning.


Next we found Faulkner’s House book store, Keil’s Antiques, Preservation Hall and walked Royal Street, and the best of all…Kitchen Witch cookbook store.  The Kitchen Witch cookbook store was a fun, no frills, eclectic mostly used book store with…an entire row of Mastering the Art of French Cooking!  So cool!


 And look at all these fun signs HH found on the back of door, how needs “Back in 5 minutes!”


Our next stop was the Riverwalk, which just turned out to be a glorified mall along the Mississippi River, but at the far end was something else we (I) were looking for – The Southern Food and Beverage Museum.  It was pretty cool with lots of interesting things to look at, including the origins of southern food and southern brands.  HH found a DVD on Katrina and the aftermath and found a home there, while I wandered and read and enjoyed.


It was mid-afternoon and our tummies were starting to rumble.  We happened upon a shorter line than last night at the Acme Oyster House.  This was not something on our list but it was certainly popular and HH wanted to try the oysters.  We got a seat at the bar, next to another Charger fan for the weekend’s game, and ended up ordering a dozen chargrilled oysters (HH’s selection) and a soft-shell crab cake with a side of cole slaw and hush puppies (sans the honey – doesn’t everyone have honey for hush puppies?!  Apparently not.)  When our order arrived, HH quickly and eagerly downed a few oysters he said I had to try one.  Well, I was already finished with half my crab cake and saying the same thing.  We shared, and with the taste of one little chargrilled, butter and garlic soaked, parmesan cheese topped oyster, I was suddenly an oyster lover!  Oh my gosh, these were so good and nothing like those that I don’t care for in So Cal.  These were big, gnarly shells that were thick, thick, thick.


We needed a to walk off some of those NOLA delights and started a little geocaching (those adventures are a whole other blog just waiting to happen!)  With stops at K-Paul’s, Pirates Alley, Preservation Hall and more.


That evening, we went back to Bourbon Street and stopped for some a fried shrimp and fries basket with a mojito (and beer for HH), oh and some jazz on the side.  This was the Café Beignet patio and was wonderful. 

Then we continued down Bourbon Street past some familiar and new characters, more people (it was a Friday night) and stopped again at Maison Bourbon.


Maison Bourbon.


Maison Bourbon.  It’s hard to explain what this place meant to me, what it felt like, what was found, but I’ll try.  I have wanted to go to NOLA for at least 15 if not 20 years and have never made it, for whatever reason.  That’s why when I saw the Chargers were playing the Saints in New Orleans I thought this might be my chance.  I love jazz music.  I love the history of jazz and the roots of jazz and the home of jazz as an American art form.  I wanted to see, hear, feel what I thought all of this meant…to me.  Then we found Maison Bourbon, which it turns out was just about a half block away from Preservation Hall - what is believed to be the actual spot that jazz started.


HH &I stepped into Maison Bourbon early enough to hear the first band, and have a pretty good choice of seats.  The stage was small, the bar was dimly lite, the tables were crowded, the doors and window were open to the street and the music was flowing.  I had a mojito, and I want to say, this was The Best Mojito Ever!  The fluted glass, all the crushed mint leaves, the atmosphere and music all made it the best ever.  As we enjoyed our evening, the couple at a few tables over was smoking with the smoke lingering in the dimly lite bar through the stage lighting.  Normally I would not be very happy about a smoker in close proximity, but this night it just seemed to add to the atmosphere I have always envisioned.  Then the second band came on, the same one as the previous night and the vibe got even better.


After a couple hours, I told HH I was ready to go.  I could have stayed all night, but I just wanted to preserve all that was so good, so much of what I had imaged for so long.  I just didn’t want the lateness of the evening to bring anything or anyone who would spoil this perfect picture of the birth of jazz and the best mojito I had ever had.


I got the bands CD just to help preserve the “moment,” now every time I listen to it I will be transported to Maison Bourbon and our visit to NOLA.



NOLA Adventure - Day 1

HH & I recently went on a food vacation.  Okay, it was really a vacation wrapped around the Chargers playing the Saints in New Orleans, but there was enough food involved on this trip that it might as well have been a food vacation.


Day 1 was mostly about travel and no-so-delicious airport food.  We were on Southwest so there was no airplane food to speak of.  When we arrived in NOLA, got to our French Quarter condo and finally got settled food was a number one priority.  That meant expedience in finding a place was more important than the must-taste food reviews.  HH found Huck Finn’s just a few blocks away.


Huck Finn’s was a sports bar, good for a Thursday night with Thursday night football to soak up.  The very friendly waiter recommended Boudin Balls over hush puppies, which was a good choice.  They were fried and flavorful with a dippin’ sauce that was delightful.


Next came a shrimp po’ boy for me and a alligator sausage po’ boy for HH.  Both were yummy, filling, and we were back on track.
Boudin Balls

Shrimp Po'Boy

Alligator Sausage Po' Boy


We decided to walk Bourbon Street this evening and discovered characters, music, travel cups for all sorts of beverages, Charger beads and more.  Then we stumbled upon Maison Bourbon.  This historic jazz bar was mesmerizing – but more on that later.


Day 1 – delicious, exciting and ready for more adventures on Day 2.


Enchiladas Verde

For some reason recently, the red enchilada sauce popular at the Diner seems to have gotten spicier, even the mild version.  So a change was needed in order to continuing to feature chicken enchiladas.  Green sauce seemed to be the answer.


So with recipe in hand, and a Verde version developed, the Diner has a new favorite enchilada – Enchiladas Verde.  By the way, you can find the recipe on the Menu under “Hen House.”




Dirty Drops

Okay, here’s the new favorite cookie at the Diner.  You are not going to believe what is in them that makes them so good!  The basic dough is a lot like HH’s favorite chocolate chip cookie dough.  Then chocolate chips and pecans are added – nothing too out of the ordinary so far – then add chopped almond Rocha chunks and crushed kettle chips (the really good thick kind.) 


These cookies are delicious, totally decadent, uncsciously wonderful – all of which combine to make them dirty!


I made these along with Daddy’s cookies, remember?  They are the ones with oatmeal and coconut, also delicious and scrumptious.  You can find both recipes on the Holly’s Diner menu under “Just Dessert” and “Guest Chefs Just Dessert.”