ooooooo! My first App review for iGameMom! Fun. This is a great App for little ones. We visit it often (I sometimes visit it without G…so embarrassing)!
In other exciting news, I’ve been offered the opportunity to become a contributing blogger on a few new(ish) websites. So while I don’t have oodles of time on my hands I just cannot resist the opportunity to sharpen my writing teeth on topics I’m really passionate about.
The first is iGameMom.com, a site run by an amazing Mom. She tests and reviews all the educational Apps out there.
I love this site. I’ve followed it from its inception when there were really only a few educational kid’s Apps out there to choose from. In just a year’s worth of time there are now about 80 bajillion. iGameMom does a terrific job of sorting through them all, plus she keeps you in the know when certain Apps become free for a limited time.
I am really excited to review Apps for this Mom brewed site and will re-blog them here whenever I do.
More to come…
But several things just happened that make me feel compelled to revisit this topic.
1. What would have been my Grandmother’s 91st birthday passed a few weeks ago and as she was the Resident Childhood Librarian in our family, I want her to feel I am passing the torch she passed to my mother and my mother so generously passed me.
2. G’s birthday just passed over the weekend, his 3rd birthday. Not sure how that happened, but it happened nonetheless. It made me realize, among other things, I have not posted about any glorious books we’ve read for an entire year.
3. Lastly, I have a little bit of a girl crush on Pamela Druckerman. If you have not read her book, Bringing Up Bebe and her follow up title, Bebe Day by Day, you should. It doesn’t matter if you have children or not. I think her books are more important than just parental how-tos, they are social commentary on the potential pitfalls current parenting techniques may have on the next generation of Americans. Anyhooo…when I tweeted her about how excited I was about her new book, she not only came to visit my blog (eeeeeeee!!), she tweeted links to her followers about my Fab Kid Lit pages (EEEEEEEEEEEeeeeee!). So naturally I feel I have to post more and not slack off anymore…
There were so many books this year, I had to divide this post into 3 separate posts. and after I publish them all I’ll chuck them up into the Fab Kid Lit Pages you see up above. We still read all the books from those lists as well…and will until he can read them to me himself.
Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever! has a very special place in my heart. While I really try to go for books that have a real story to them, a message about life, Richard Scarry‘s books are more about learning by memorization. The illustrations are just so adorable they essentially taught G the words for different foods from A to Z. He would bring the book to me every night and recite the words that matched the illustrations. When he’d forget one, he’d look up at me with his great big eyes and wait for the answer…ack…delish.
The Carrot Seed by Crockett Johnson was a gift from our nephew. He says the book taught him about self confidence. I could see how it would since it’s a story about how everyone doubted the growth of his carrot, but he stuck with it and persevered.
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown just has great illustrations of farm animals. G was a late talker so to have these adorable pictures to look at over and over helped him to cement the words into his brain. Plus, it is a lot of fun for him to find the butterfly on each page.
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell (the author of Wag) is essentially a Christmas book, but imparts a lovely message any time of the year. When the little kitty in the story has a hard time finding a gift for his best friend he hunts down the gift of nothing…which turns out to be everything.
Mr Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss is the best. It just really doesn’t get any better, but you have to be game. If you really let yourself get into this book you might find yourself exhausted and your little one really revved up. It’s never a great idea for us to read it just before bed. In fact, I really hope no one else has ever heard us reading it out loud…we get a little weird.
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper is a classic for a reason. A train and its passengers in need come across some snooty trains who won’t help them (aw), but they hang in there until a very affable and good mannered train uses all her strength to help out. She thinks she can and then she does, like the Carrot Seed, it’s a nice introduction to what can be accomplished if you believe in yourself.
We love Harold & the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson because it takes so much imagination. Everything is so easy for kids these days, so many electronic options with all the bells and whistles. It’s lovely to watch your little one’s mind light up at the idea of a purple crayon that can make so much happen.
I have to confess Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman always scared me. It STILL scares me, but I guess life can be scary sometimes, so why not get used to it at an early age? I always enjoyed the book when the little bird asked the cow or cat or dog if he was his mama. But then he got to the scary rusted out car and noisy construction equipment and the whole thing got so dystopian. But in the end G thinks it’s hilarious that a bird would think an airplane was his Mama, so there you go.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter has finally happened in G’s mind. This is one of my all time favorite books on the planet. It’s also a little scary, what with Mr. MacGregor making Peter’s father into a pie, but I guess that’s the lesson. G understands and gets a little kick out of Peter when he’s naughty, but it is not lost on him that Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail get the berries and cream for supper becuase they were good little bunnies.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is a classic introduction to the idea that it’s ok to be different. Maybe you’re a bull, maybe you’re supposed to want to fight and be tough and strong, but what if you don’t? What if you want to quietly eat grass and read your book? Ferdinand will help your little one begin to understand that it’s ok…we can all play to our own strengths.
G’s Godmother passed down this Olivia book to us by Ian Falconer. I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. She’s a little girl pig after all, but just like Madeleine, Olivia has some very important, universal attributes. She’s a kid, sometimes stubborn, sometimes dramatic, but always an individual. To me there is nothing more important than to teach your child how to be an individual. Plus it cracks me up that she tried to make a Jackson Pollock painting in her bedroom, so she had to have a time out.
More to come…
Husk – Famous chef (Sean Brock) who is using nothing but local ingredients, right down to the chocolate and flour… He had a huge profile piece in the New Yorker. It’s the place to go in Charleston. Go there for lunch, brunch or dinner. It’s in an old Victorian home in the historic district and is utterly charming. And the food is delicious.
Of course I took for granted that it is the best place in town and was never able to get a table. Meow.
Cypress – Where Husk is old school, this place is modern. Very cool restaurant conveniently located in town. I recommend getting the patty melt. It’s a burger sandwich type thing that’s totally addictive. Oh my goodness so good. Rich and filling. Best to share. Of course there are a hundred other things on the menu that are winners too.
WildFlour Pastry for sticky buns on Sundays! They are out of control. Go early, people literally line up for them. The woman who runs this place, Lauren Mitterer, is awesome and usually covered in flour and butter. It’s tiny and they have yummy pastries and pot de crèmes, key lime pies, but the sticky buns – on Sundays only — are to die for.
You could actually die from them if you had one every Sunday. But boy oh boy are they good.
Sugar Bakeshop– charming, wonderful wonderful bakery for cookies, cupcakes, etc. Even little mini bite-size tarts that are fantastic. Everything inside this tiny space feels like you’ve stepped back in time. From the glass cookie jars to the old apothecary cases filled with treats. In a residential neighborhood, run by two fun guys (an architect from NY and his partner who is originally from Charleston).
Hominy Grill – fantastic place (near Sugar Bakeshop) for all that southern food – shrimp, grits, amazing biscuits, etc. It’s a lovely fun place to go for breakfast or lunch. Yum!
Are you kidding? Tomato pudding. That’s all I need to say, plus they are really kid friendly.
Peninsula Grill for a slice of Coconut Cake. They are famous famous famous for their utterly decadent Coconut Cake. And if you are downtown, it’s walking distance from everywhere.
If you are looking for old school cocktails (read: they take 5-10 minutes to concoct your cocktail, right down to the perfect ice cube) try the Gin Joint. On the same street as Cypress.
If you have time and a car, try heading out to Bowens Island (they open at 5pm) for the ultimate seafood shack experience. Super fun!
NOOOO!!! They are closed on Sundays so we missed this spot too. It’s well worth planning ahead when you dine out in this town, it’s small so places fill up fast.
But not to be defeated we found a new spot called The Ordinary where we indulged in all kinds of expertly prepared seafood and fresh oysters. The space opened in 2012 and is in my favorite phase of a restaurant—the extra hospitable phase.
The beautiful, open space was full so we sat at the oyster bar where you can see inside the kitchen to watch the chef and staff at work, a very methodic ballet.
Chef Mike Lata spotted G at the bar and asked us if he’d like a little something special which his young son enjoys. He brought out amazing, smokey baked beans and mashed potatoes you could frost a cake with. It was a terrific experience.
Man were we lazy in Philadelphia. I almost skipped writing about it all together, because we didn’t even make it to the Liberty Bell, let alone Independence Hall. We didn’t even make it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to get a shot of G running up those famous steps like Rocky.
We just ate donuts.
I’m so embarrassed.
But I do feel it’s my patriotic duty to confess our shortcomings and move on, since our foodie friend Emily went out of her way to send us quite a comprehensive list of some of the best spots to eat in this charming town. If you find yourself here anytime soon, please utilize Emily’s fabulous list, she knows of what she speaks.
Her words below (with a few of my comments in italics):
All the way back to November 2012…eeeeeek. Ages ago.
“I do dis,” he said.
“No sweetie, when you’re older,” I replied.
“I do dis.”
“Sweetie, let’s wait for Papa before we go ice skating ok?”
“No, I do dis.”
“Love, I don’t think you really understand how slippery it is and how thin the blades are on the shoes you have to wear.”
“I do dis. I go. I go. I do dis.”
“Yes. I go.”
He was so determined, I had to peek into the skate rental stand just to see if they even had skates his size.
So…we did dis.
Then we went to Kansas City and fell in love with a few things below:
The hotel we stayed in was built in the 1930s, so it was grand and plush with that old world feel Michael and I go crazy for.
The guys had a blast. They had rides and a room full of nothing but those Duplo blocks that are sturdier for littler kids. They were gone all day.
A Brasserie!!! And not just a Brasserie, but a Brasserie that rivals some in Paris. While the guys headed to Lego Land, I headed to Aixois and my waitress told me one of their secrets…they have some of the best beef on the planet. SOOOO…lunch was maybe the best steak sandwich I’ve ever had, roasted tomato soup and a glass of Cotes du Rhone.
Perfect for some much needed ‘me’ time.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: Before I had G and became a full time Mom, I used to silently judge Mothers who didn’t work and constantly spoke to me dreamily about ME time. ’ME time? BAH!’ I would chortle to myself, ‘I don’t have any ME time!’ Oh, yes I did. I did. I had so much, so much me time and I didn’t even know it. Please feel free to silently tell me, ‘I told you so.’)
Monet—van Gogh—etc. etc. What’s not to like?
Next stop was DC.
Boy, do I get mixed reactions when people find out what a fan I am of Goop.
So, I have decided once and for all to explain, with my husband’s photos, how much the fancy lifestyle blog has impacted my life.
If you don’t know, and you may very well not, Goop is Gwyneth Paltrow‘s lifestyle blog and while it gets over one million views a week, it is often met with giddy ridicule from the internet’s snarkier set.
I understand…to a degree. Ms. Paltrow is fancy, sometimes too fancy, which leaves her open to some very, ‘she’s so out of touch’ snark. When too fancy and too snarky meet, much havoc can be wreaked. And while I, myself, can sometimes enjoy a good snarky laugh, I feel I lost the ability to do so with any enjoyment when I left my twenties, or rather when my twenties so cruelly left me. In fact, my twenties are now so far behind me, I feel I can’t afford to roll my eyes at anyone’s efforts, especially Ms. Paltrow’s, instead I feel the need to hang onto her every word just out of sheer reverence.
Yes, I said reverence. I know. That is quite a word to use for someone who pops out some recipes and some $800 gold hoop earring collaborations (which, by the way, along with all of her other fashion collaborations, are far from my financial grasp). I am aware that Ms. Paltrow is not in Libya brokering world peace, but as Lord Grantham says, ‘Everyone has their part to play.’ I like to leave the world peace brokering to the deeply revered Hillary, and while she is out there embroiled in serious change making on a macro level, I believe Gwyneth makes changes to people’s lives on a micro level.
Well, first of all, she gets stuff done. This alone is something I find tremendously inspiring, even though I know she has lots of help. I know, I know, I know. Trainers, chefs, nannies, blog staff, I know! I know it’s easier for her to get stuff done than maybe it is for you or me to get stuff done. But there are just as many fancy, fancy ladies out there who have just as much privilege as Gwyneth, if not more, and they do not use their extra time to share all of their clever ideas and privileged information with anyone. I think proof of this can be found in the Real Housewives franchise.
FOOD. Gwyneth Paltrow has it seriously going on with food. This is where things start to get real. Her blog and then her cookbook, single handedly changed my entire perspective on food. Food revelations come to different people from different places at different times, but let me explain to you, why after 4 years, I still prepare every recipe that comes out of her fully staffed kitchen.
The recipes are simple-I am not a cook. While my Italian step mother got the ball rolling for me, I am continually mocked by all my friends who watch me still measure out every ingredient. Most of Goop’s recipes have no more than 5 easily measurable ingredients.
The recipes are elegant-Simplicity doesn’t mean boring. There is nothing better than a dish prepared to showcase its natural flavors. We often make a Goop Whole Roasted Fish stuffed with lemon and herbs and served with an anchovy based salsa verde. It is so good we can hardly stand it. Michael and I salivate over it every single time.
‘Why is it so good?’ he asks me, ‘It’s just anchovy, olive oil and herbs right? And what else? Magic?’
The recipes are made with ingredients that will make you healthy-Parsnips and carrots? Ack. No thanks. Roast them for 20 minutes with dijon mustard, olive oil and agave? Yes please. Delicious. If you give her a chance she will introduce (or re-introduce) you to real food, she will teach you how to prepare it in simple ways, she will get you away from preservatives, and sugar and your late night bowls of Joe’s O’s. She will stock pile your life with simple recipes you can concoct out of everyday ingredients, anytime, without breaking the bank. She will also help you make some simple upgrades where it counts the most…inside your tummy.
For this reason, my crush on Goop lives on, for what are we if not what we eat?
And LASTLY. Proof.
What? There’s more? I know, I can’t even believe you’re still reading this. Snoooooozevillle! But stay with me.
We had all sorts of Christmas plans change this year, friends and family stranded last minute, an impending move, yadda, yadda, yadda. The next thing we knew, we found ourselves with one week to plan a Christmas dinner for 12 people in our apartment. A recent issue of Goop entitled—FEAST—came to my mind. If everyone was responsible for one element we could prepare it together.
And we did. It took planning and effort of course, but each person had their part to play to produce a 5 course meal with affordable wine pairings out of one tiny kitchen in a New York apartment. It was a perfect, festive, Christmas night. The food was simple and delicious, the company was cozy and warm and the laughter was loud. We were one little group whose lives were made brighter for Goop’s efforts.
*all photos above, except where noted, were taken by Michael
**we did not listen to Coldplay while we cooked
Where to eat in Chicago?
I’m sorry to say, you have to live there to hit every great spot that was recommended to us. However, I feel it is my moral, culinary duty to share this list of restaurants with you—just in case you plan to hit the Windy City any time soon. Even though we only made it to a fraction of this list ourselves, it should not go to waste as it is compiled from 3 people who are highly trained, professional eaters (and drinkers) and 1 local Chicagoan.
Let’s start with Emily. Emily lives in New York City. She is a television producer and has, at many points in her life, produced television shows about food. So naturally, you want to take her advice.
Her list, her words:
Oysters and fantastic draft beer (and more) at The Publican. She’s right. I made it here. I ate pork rinds, oysters, sardines on toast, cauliflower topped with prosciutto crumbs, homemade beer and milk panna cotta. COME ON!!
Classic, superbly made Macaroons and fresh baked croissants at Vanille Patisserie.
Cookies of ALL concoctions (like brownie chunks and potato chips in a cookie) in a fun retro setting with 70′s music at The Cookie Bar. Tried to go..NOTE-Closed on Sunday and Monday. Looks really fun inside.
If you can handle gelato in the cold, go to Black Dog Gelato for some really divine flavors.
The Purple Pig-It’s on Magnificent Mile and is great — small plates, huge wine list, always hopping. Tried to go early on a Sunday…packed! Menu looked great.
Urban Belly-Asian noodles and dumplings. Wonderful stuff, yummy ramen, very casual (shared long tables) super cool.
Xoco-Authentic Mexican cafe (Rick Bayless, famous chef)
with great sandwiches made to order and yummy hot chocolates with sweet churros that are made all day long and the most delicious ever. Open early and late. Went for breakfast. We had breakfast empanadas, huevos rancheros, spicy hot chocolate (no coffee) and churros. Fantastic! Just because I don’t usually eat doughnuts doesn’t mean I won’t.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate-The name is a bit misleading because it’s really all about the rest of the food. Nice family place. The chef is a former pastry chef turned restauranteur and she gets nominated for awards every year.
Avec-This is the same owner as Publican but more upscale. Lovely, spare space. Really good dining.
The Girl and the Goat-I actually haven’t been but it is supposed to be really good and always gets written up, and I love the name. The former pastry chef opened Black Dog Gelato.
Crisp-Korean fried chicken. Foodies love this cheap eats place, say it’s the best fried chicken.
If you are downtown, and looking for a really old world experience, kind of fun— the famous Berghoff. We went to the cafe for lunch. Old world is the best way to describe it. We had Berghoff root beer and eggplant parm in the most cozy, Christmasy, German dining room around.
Do you like hot dogs? Go to Hot Doug’s.
Next we have Sara. Sara also lives in New York and works at a farm in the Hudson Valley. She pioneers programs for sustainable farming and cider production. She also eats in delicious restaurants all over the country in the name of the food industry. Naturally I listen to her advice as well.
She says: ‘They are all a bit fancy, but I did eat at Publican and it was really fun.’
Publican (see above)
Hot Doug’s (also see above)
Perennial Virant (by Lincoln Park. ALMOST made it for brunch—it looked so cozy inside.)
Frontera Grill (a classic)-(This spot is also run and owned by chef Rick Bayless who runs Xoco—see above)
Then there is my Father. While Dad is not a food professional, he has sort of an honorary degree from the University of Eating and Enjoying Food & Wine. His advice on food is analogous to Inès de La Fressange‘s advice on fashion: Classic.
Shaw’s Crab House-We made it here on our last night in Chicago and it’s safe to say it is my favorite spot in town. Dark wood, crimson leather, black leather tufted booths—classic Chicago. We made it for oyster happy hour, salads and one glass each of Caymus Conundrum.
Rosebud-Italian food. Of course.
Billy Goat Tavern-While Dad didn’t tell me to go here, he said I could if I wanted to. How could I not want to? The famous SNL sketch of Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Coke? And the place still exists? While perhaps maybe it shouldn’t—this photo was entirely worth the visit.
Lastly we have Kit, a reader who I do not know, so I’m not going to make any assumptions about her eating and drinking life—BUT she is a Chicago local, sent me a comprehensive restaurant list and keeps a blog about food. So—draw your own conclusions. To learn more about Kit, you can visit her at thekittchen.com.
Her list, her words :
For the best brunch ever go to Southport Grocery. It is just north of the Southport Brown Line stop. The neighborhood is really great and filled with fun boutiques to shop around.
If you like Mexican food check out Rick Bayless’s Xoco (see above). Or Big Star in Wicker Park. Big Star was just named one of the best taco joints in the US and it is cheap.
And then—to wrap it all up—we actually stumbled on a few places all by our little old, barely trained, unprofessional selves—
Bin 36-cheese, small plates, wine by glass, bottle or flight. It was hard to eat there and not miss Divine Bar in New York.
The Drake Hotel at the Palm Court-La di da. One of the fabulous women in Les Mis had her last show in Chicago. So another fabulous woman arranged a surprise ladies tea at the Palm Court. What an old school treat. The Drake is an older, posh hotel at the top of the Magnificent Mile and it was made all the better for being decked out for Christmas.
The Aviary—They make cocktails here that are essentially science experiments. Plan ahead. It’s by reservation only.
When this post publishes, we’ll be in Washington DC. Any favorite spots there you think we should hit?
It is nice to know that after all these years, Ferris Bueller‘s Chicago still delights. We’ve had run-ins with just about everything Ferris did, with the exception of Wrigley Field and Charlie Sheen, but who knows? We still have 2 weeks to go. With wind burned cheeks and lips that peel off when we speak, we are tearing through this gusty blast of a town. We just love it. It is the true capital of the mid-west. Sophisticated, but not elitist. Forward thinking, but not crunchy granola. Confident, but not narcissistic. And of course…it has a fantastic sense of humor.
Wait! Did I just describe myself? BAH Ha Ha!
The start of our trip was actually not terrific. We had a one bedroom apt on Michigan Ave, sight unseen. We’ve had great luck in this department so far, but yikes…our luck ran out at this place. It wasn’t clean, so that was that. BUT it was also lit with all florescent light, and I don’t mean eco-low watt bulbs. I mean, full on, high school lunch room florescent light. If I learned anything from Deborah, it is that under no circumstances should one allow themselves to be poorly lit. In fact, she basically lived in a dark cave after she turned 50.
Luckily, Michael found the last place available in all of Chicago (at our price point) on North Columbus and we were thrilled to walk into not just a clean and lovely apartment, but floor to ceiling windows that provided us views of (other hotel rooms and) bits of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan itself.
This brings us to to our first Ferris activity…a parade. We weren’t in it, but we did go watch it. The Magnificent Mile is a stretch of Michigan Avenue that starts just across the river. It boasts lovely shopping and at Christmas time they light it. But they don’t just light it, they have a big parade book ended by Mickey Mouse and Santa, then fireworks, then they light it. A lady at the grocery store told me all about it. The best place to stand, she said, was along the river in front of the Hyatt. Really? I thought. That’s one of the hotels we can see into from our apartment. How perfect is that?
So I took G at 5 that day and stood in the cold with some lovely people who gave him chips and juice and then Michael joined us at 6 when the parade started. We saw Mickey and Minnie and then we left at 630. If you didn’t know, Michael doesn’t enjoy crowds or parades really, and besides, my feet had turned into ice chunks. No matter! We could watch the rest of the parade from the safety and comfort of our apartment…at least the bits we could see in the corners. This was a good move considering the fireworks were loud and according to one little man…scary.
Our next Ferris inspired adventure was a climb up to the top of the of the John Hancock building, made very accessible by the world’s fastest elevator (I think that’s what they said). The miniature views of the city below are of course, spectacular. But the view of that great Lake Michigan is just beyond. It goes on and on and I have always felt so comforted to know that there is not ONE shark in it.
Lastly we hit the fantastic Art Institute of Chicago. I could really do a whole separate post on it, I enjoyed it so much, but I don’t have time! Ack. We of course went to see it’s big prize, the impressionist pointillism by
Georges Seurat, Sunday on La Grande Jatte. It did not disappoint. Unlike the Mona Lisa that is so teeny tiny, this painting is something you can, in fact, get lost in. It’s no surprise, I spent most of my time in the Parisian impressionist section, but I also have to say G and I really enjoyed the Thorne Miniature Rooms. These rooms are honestly miniature, I mean the few rooms you see below are completely miniature reproductions, 1 inch to 1 foot in scale. Mrs. Thorne was married to a wealthy Chicago so and so (James Ward of the whole Montgomery Ward situation), and decided to create rooms with her overwhelming abundance of doll house miniatures. Eventually she began to commission pieces by artisans to her exacting standards in order to complete her rooms with absolute historical accuracy, quite a hobby.
A few other delightful attractions that I don’t recall Ferris getting to on his day off, include the Millennium Park, which is right up there with all the great urban oases of this country. To ramp it up a notch it features some pretty futuristic and ‘new millennium’ inspired art, which brings us to ‘Cloud Gate,’ or what locals refer to as the Bean. On the outside it reflects the city of Chicago…
and underneath it reflects all the tourists as they take photos of it…
Michael also got this great shot of G apparently floating into the sky—YES!
Also we have the Shedd Aquarium which is part of Chicago’s gigantic museum campus. This is not just any old aquarium, it is the world’s largest marine mammal habitat. That just means it houses and takes tremendous care of beautiful sea mammals. The dolphin show alone was worth the visit. It takes place inside a giant infinity pool that looks out into the vast Lake Michigan. We also saw a Dora the Explorer 4-D movie, the baby Beluga whale that was just born in August, sharks, sting rays, and penguins. AND it is so very toddler friendly. We did the CityPass, by the way. It was well, well worth it.
Michael and the little man also hit The Field Museum, which is housed on the museum campus as well. He said it was a GIANT museum of natural history that a Wes Anderson movie should be filmed in immediately. When asked what his favorite part of the Field Museum was, G will tell you—Monkey Skeletons…Monkey Skeletons—Monkey Skeletons. They left quite an impression.
Well, after all of this, by the time this post publishes, we will STILL have another week left in Chicago.
Any tips? Favorite spots? Places you’d like us to go and snap photos of? Please leave your recommendations/requests in the comment section below. Have a great week.
In about a week’s worth of time we hit much of what spicy, saucy, New Orleans has to offer. As much as I wanted to dig into the town and do a sort of rock n roll/haunted Halloween insider’s guide, my stomach started to hurt after about day 2…and I have a toddler. The two main things to do in New Orleans are eat, and listen to jazz all night. The former two prohibited the latter two, so instead, I bring you the same New Orleans guide brought to you by most. What sets it apart from the others can only be Michael’s fabulous photography and of course…the Little Man.
This crazy place was the first neighborhood built in New Orleans in 1718, which we can most likely agree, was a LONG time ago. Since the whole neighborhood is a protected, historic landmark, it is really enjoyable just to wander around and ogle the (mostly colonial Spanish) architecture. Any place with a tucked away garden courtyard, will transport you.
Our favorite spot in the Quarter is the Napoleon House. They built this house for the man himself in hopes of sheltering him while he was in exile. Alas, that never happened, but I think he’d be pleased to know the restaurant–now in his house–pays homage to him by using his image as the only form of decoration. We love this place, not just because it has great rice and beans, and is steeped in history, but also because it has the only vegetable in New Orleans–the cucumber in my Pimm’s cup. The Pimm’s cup is their specialty cocktail, by the way. What would Napoleon think about that? I wondered. But then I realized they say Pimm’s is their speciality to throw you off the scent of their real, and most likely Napoleon approved, specialty—The Sazerac.
The other French Quarter classic is Cafe du Monde. Beignets doused in powdered sugar. Chicory flavored coffee. It’s always packed. Why wouldn’t it be?
The Steamboat Natchez takes you for a ride on the Mississippi and is about as touristy as you can get, and also about as fun. G explored all three levels of the ship, but was mainly mesmerized by the giant paddle wheel. He was then the only dancer on the dance floor when The Dukes of DixieLand played live jazz in the ship’s dining room. He was having so much fun they dedicated a song to him…The Muskrat Ramble.
THE GARDEN DISTRICT
What a treat to visit New Orleans’ poshest neighborhood on the day of Halloween. This part of the town was built when people wanted to get away from the French Quarter and have a little (a lot) more room to breathe. The area is famous for its huge Victorian mansions (some haunted), which were mostly decked out for potential trick-or-treaters.
Below are just a tiny handful of examples of the grandeur of the period.
The Commander’s Palace is the restaurant to go to in the Garden District. We did not plan to dine here that day, as you need reservations, no T-Shirts, no shorts and close toed shoes. But we decided to throw caution to the wind and try our luck. Not only did we get a table in the garden, a mint julip and the Commander’s Luncheon, we also got to watch ladies who lunch have their annual Halloween luncheon in the glass enclosed patio. They wore embellished witch hats and grew more and more exuberant as their 25 cent martinis (limit 3) took effect. Fantastic entertainment. My luncheon was delicious, expertly prepared and probably contained more cholesterol than I’ve ingested in the last 3 years.
Directly across the street from the restaurant is the Lafayette Cemetery, which is a big draw (partially because they filmed scenes here for Anne Rice’s very popular Interview With a Vampire). Cemeteries are not entirely my thing, even the glamorous, old Père Lachaise in Paris wore me out after a bit, BUT…it was Halloween, so when in Rome. As we walked in I heard a woman say under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear, “That’s strange to bring a little boy into a cemetery.”
This surprisingly elicited a giggle from me.
Is it?, I wondered? I hadn’t really thought about it. I actually thought guided tours of cemeteries (like the one this woman was a part of) as an adult, when you didn’t personally know anyone buried there, were strange. But, maybe it was a little strange to take him to a cemetery, and perhaps the skeleton shirt he was wearing didn’t help our case.
THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT
While this area is primarily filled with businesses, it is also lined with beautiful art galleries and houses the best restaurant you could ask for in New Orleans, Cochon. It’s worth going for the atmosphere alone. It has sort of a steamy, swampy, Streetcar Named Desire feel to it…yellow light…shadows of slow moving ceiling fans. The food is delicious, cajun, southern cooking. Pork, dumplings, rabbit. Turnips, alligator, mac and cheese. It’s not so good because they do anything outrageous to it, it’s so good because it tastes like it’s not just made with expertise, but with love. I mean it. It tastes like whoever made your dish made it for you because they absolutely love you. Has anyone ever made you homemade chicken noodle soup just because they love you? Cochon tastes like that.
And of course, right on our street, like a gift from up above was the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Yet another incredible playground for the little guy. When and if we ever settle down somewhere again, I will have to build a house inside a Children’s Museum. Louisiana has a great one, I’ll tell you that. It was so big and so much fun we had to go twice. We had to. Someone made us.
As I write this post I’m nestled in bed in Houston, Texas with horrible indigestion. When this post publishes, we’ll be en route to Chicago.