Friday, January 27, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, Cafe du Monde.

The one place everyone tells you to go when you visit New Orleans is Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. It is the original coffee house of the French Market and is right across from Jackson Square. We knew we wanted to go but also knew that the lines could be ridiculous so we played it by ear, thinking we'd walk by it at some point and the line would be manageable. Well, that didn't happen on Saturday at all. In fact, the line was longer than I've ever seen it. So we decided to try our luck on the way out of town on Monday.

Lucky for us, that was a great time to go - we didn't even stand in line. When you go to Cafe du Monde, you have to get the beignets. Otherwise, you're missing the whole point of this place. One order is three small beignets (which are essentially doughnuts, but so much better). We split this. Jake got coffee and I got hot chocolate (sugar to go with your order of sugar?):

The place is very efficient. Tables are crammed in, the menu is on the napkin dispenser, and it is cash only, paid when your food arrives. 

 After filling up on sugar, we left happy and fulfilled. It was a sign that it was ok to head back home to the Land of the Blues.

On the way back to the car, we did make one stop - to get a Christmas ornament for our trip. We have a little tradition of getting an ornament for meaningful things. Jake proposed using a Christmas ornament and we got one on our beach honeymoon (it is a sand dollar painted with a Santa). So these two will add to the collection:

After that, it was all interstate and a bit of Words with Friends action on my part. And of course, we couldn't leave New Orleans without getting some of our favorite chips for the road:
And that's all, folks! Until next time...

In all things Cajun,

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, the Napolean House and Pierre Maspero's.

After a gluttonous afternoon at the Camellia Grill, we trekked back over to the French Quarter to eat more food. After all, we were on vacation. We researched authentic New Orleans cuisine restaurants and were very frustrated by the price tags involved on the top results. As much as I was happy to celebrate three years of marriage with Jake, there was no way I was paying upwards of $100 for a meal celebrating that occasion with him. And that is where Urban Spoon came in with the win yet again. We found a restaurant called Pierre Maspero's that was recommended for their cajun food and the entrees were in the $13-25 range, much better than the $25-50 range we'd been seeing.

So after a nap and a little tv to digest lunch, we walked down to the French Quarter. We stopped on the way to the restaurant at a favorite spot, the Napoleon House. We went there with Jake's parents when we were in town last time and I loved its charm and history. Plus, their signature drink, the Pimms Cup, is delicious.

After a grown-up time spent at the bar of the Napoleon House, we headed across the street to Pierre Maspero's. By this time it was dark and the place had ambience (read: low lighting) and so my pictures are awful but this place was a gem so I wanted to share. 
 I think a lot of locals turn their nose at this place for being geared at tourists, but for us it was exactly what we wanted - affordable, nice, and good food. I got the night's special, crab cakes over a spinach, artichoke, and potato mixture. Jake got a sampler of three cups, one each of jambalaya, red beans and rice, and gumbo. I tried each and think that I could go back and just order the red beans and rice. It was the best I've ever had.
 With the night winding down, we headed home, reflecting on our full weekend of anniversary fun. The next morning, we'd hit up a N'awlins establishment and staple of all tourists before hitting the road for Memphis.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, the Audubon Zoo and Camellia Grill.

 Sunday morning, we woke up and drove down St. Charles to the Audubon Zoo. We are so lucky to have a wonderful zoo in Memphis and so I love visiting zoos in other cities because I have so much fun.

The New Orleans zoo impressed me with its beauty. More of the palm trees found all over the city, very spread out, lots of green spaces, and very clean. This is the main avenue when you walk in:
 I always love the flamingos (whose beak is upside down in order to sift food out of silt - learned that in trivia, shout out to Ellen, Chandler, Hayley, Lizzy, and Matthew). Also I read on this zoo trip that flamingos get their coloring from the food that they eat.

We caught a few minutes of a Keeper Chat where one of the zoo workers showed us a tarantula and a snake. Afterwards, we caught the best elephant show ever. The zoo's two Asian elephants did all sorts of tricks and the handlers taught us a lot. I didn't realize that both female and male elephants have tusks. Also an Asian elephant's tusks will only be about 6-8 inches, versus almost 2 feet for African elephants. Who knew?
We walked around to a lot of exhibits - here is a komodo dragon in the process of hatching:
 Of course, we saw the giraffes. One of my favorites. These giraffes were very friendly, and this one seemed to pose for our cameras. Here's his Blue Steel:
 Love the beaks on these toucans:
 After walking around and visiting with the animals, we realized we'd worked up an appetite. We headed down to Camellia Grill, which is a hot spot for the college kids in the neighborhood (Tulane and Loyola are down the street), as well as the locals. We ordered based off of recommendations on Urban Spoon.

When you walk up, there will most times be a line out the front door. Don't be turned off by this - they move very efficiently and quickly. There is no "list," just the line. You wait your turn and when you get to the door, a guy asks how many you have and ushers you to one of the waiting booths along the wall. Once a spot opens for you (the only seating is at the bar, and the dining area is small), he shows you to your stool.
 One thing Camellia Grill is known for is their waiters. They are funny, friendly, and fast.
 Urban Spoon told us that the Cherry-Chocolate Slush was a must, so we started with one of those. It was essentially a milk shake. There were small chunks of cherry in the shake. I would rank it one of the best milk shakes I've ever had.
 I got a bacon cheeseburger and Jake got the Doc Brinker's special (a burger on rye with chili and slaw) and we shared onion rings. All came recommended by Urban Spoon and all were very well received.
 One thing I particularly liked were the onion rings. The batter was perfect - not too thick, great taste. The rings almost melted in your mouth.

And with that, I consumed more calories in one sitting than I should have for the weekend. But it was worth it. Next, we spent some time driving around the neighborhood off St. Charles, gawking at beautiful houses and imagining a life where we could buy one of the million dollar plus mansions. We drove past where the Manning brothers went to high school and pretty much just fulfilled the requirement of tourists - driving slow, staring out the window, and being goofy.

Up next, we'd get our genuine New Orleans dinner after much-needed nap at the hotel.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, the Aquarium and Imax.

Jake and I love animals. Zoos, aquariums, we love them. I visited the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas in 6th grade on a school field trip and had fond memories of the trip. I knew as soon as we decided to go to New Orleans on our anniversary trip that we'd have to go to the aquarium. It turned out that the best deal for the zoo and aquarium was to buy a pass that included the Imax (and Insectisarium but we did not partake in that one. I don't love insects). So on Saturday afternoon, we took in the aquarium and then headed to the Imax to see Happy Feet 2!

 When you go in the aquarium, the first exhibit is the great "underwater" tunnel. There were sting rays, sharks, fish, and more. There was a worker in a scuba outfit feeding the sting-rays, which was cool.
 After the tunnel, there were lots of tanks of fish. I spotted Dory and Nemo hanging out together. Glad they are still friends...

 I particularly liked the penguins, the sea horses, and the otters. The otters were my favorite actually. Overall, the aquarium was a great stop. The exhibits were nice and I'm sure in the summer when humidity is out of control, it is a great cool stop as well. The only things I didn't like about the aquarium were that the sea otters' tank was so dirty that you couldn't really see into the glass very well (big bummer) and the obnoxious children running around out of control. Now, the aquarium can't control bad parents but they can control their otters' tank.

Even with that in mind, I still loved the aquarium.
 Afterwards, we headed over to the Imax. The showing of Happy Feet 2 was in 3-d. Though we really didn't have a choice of what to see (they only show one movie at a time and this was the time that worked for us), I really liked Happy Feet 2. The geography teacher in me nerded out about the whole tie in with environmental issues and melting ice caps. I loved the singing and thought it was just super cute.

By the time we got out of the Imax, it was dark. We walked back to our hotel to catch the end of the Saints game. What an experience watching that in a bar in New Orleans! The bar across the street had it projected onto a wall outside and you knew what was going on as you walked down the street because everywhere people were watching the game so when you heard cheers, you knew it was a good thing. I loved how everyone seemed to have so much pride in their team. We settled in at the hotel bar to watch a crazy end to the game - three touchdowns in three minutes. It didn't end well for the Saints but it sure was fun to watch. 

Next, on Sunday we headed out to the Zoo and I fell in love with million dollar houses...

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Monday, January 23, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, Lunch at Drago's.

After walking around all morning (oh how I wish I had turned on my Map My Run app!), we had worked up quite the appetite. While I do not like seafood, I knew that Jake would want to eat as much seafood and New Orleans/Cajun cuisine as possible. We decided to head down the river walk to Drago's to get his oyster fix.
 Drago's is in the bottom of the Hilton Hotel. It is a huge restaurant so even though there were lots of people there, we got a table almost immediately. They are known for their oysters, so Jake got an order of them. Being the non-seafood person, I opted for the lunch portion size of the veal with pasta and a caesar salad.
 I loved my meal and it was more than enough food. Since we were trying to do this trip without breaking the bank, we decided that lunch would be better for this restaurant, as their entrees have lunch versions that are smaller (and cheaper). If you're doing oysters, this doesn't really matter, but if you're planning a trip to New Orleans and want to go to Drago's, you might look at the menu and see if this would be a good choice for lunch.

Jake's oysters were a hit - and I enjoyed them as well since I took some of his bread and sopped up the butter garlic sauce (..yum).

Other than a less than attentive waiter (I think he was overworked with a party of 12 women in Saint's gear next to us), the restaurant was a great choice. If you're planning on visiting New Orleans, this is worth putting on your list.

After eating lunch, we walked down the river walk to our next stop - the Aquarium.
 I even got Jake to agree to a self-portrait picture...
Next, the Aquarium.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, the French Quarter.

Saturday morning, we woke up and hit the street headed towards the action - the French Quarter. We couldn't have asked for better weather. It was beautiful, clear skies, 65 degrees. Perfect. We took our time, taking in the sights and spending time with each other.

On our way from the hotel, we spotted this cute little farmer's market in the middle of the city. It was set up in a parking lot and we just had to check it out. A little piece of me fell in love with New Orleans in that moment:
 After checking out the farmer's market, we kept walking towards the French Quarter. I love how in New Orleans, palm trees are the norm. It just feels so coastal and yet the city is so urban. Love.

We strolled around, looking in windows of shops, talking, and scoping out the area. We walked through the French Market:
... and stopped to get pralines. I love them as a New Orleans treat (too sugary for real life) and Jake had never had one! There were praline shops everywhere. This one was in the French Market. We got two originals, which are the light brown/beige ones at the top of the case.
 Then we walked around Jackson Square.

I fell in love with this artist, Laura Franch, who drew these cute little characters. Super silly but so sweet. We ended up getting the one on the bottom right, a crawfish. I'd love to get more of these! If you like them, her email is

 After Jackson Square, we hit Decatur and a more "commercial" area. There was this fabulous mall that had an Anthropologie. Since I'm not one to drive to Germantown much, I never get to gawk there. This, in itself, was a great part of the trip, just dreaming about the goodies.

In Anthro I fell in love with these ceramic berry boxes. I'd love the turquoise and red ones to use as serving pieces in my kitchen or even to put things in on my dressing table like hair bands.
 I love rick rack and several of their tea towels had a rick rack trim. I particularly liked the one with the cutlery. That would be an exclusively decoration-purposed tea towel!
 I also LOVED these ceramic egg crates. They are supposed to be for your eggs in your fridge (I suppose after you get them from your free range backyard urban chickens that are so hip right now?) but I'd use them for necklaces, rings, and such.
 After leaving Anthro, we walked towards our next adventure - lunch!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

{Anniversary Trip} New Orleans, the journey to.

 Well, it has been 10 years since Jake and I first started dating and 3 years since we walked down that aisle:

(all photos by Southern Design Studio/Sara Beth Raab)

Married life is fabulous and to celebrate, we took a trip to the Big Easy (thanks goes out to Jake's parentals, who booked a hotel room for our Christmas present and my parentals who forked over the cash for gas). We strategically got married on MLK Jr. weekend, knowing having a long weekend would be nice for anniversaries. So we had three days to spend in New Orleans.

We drove down after work on Friday. Some of our good friends, Hez and Ed, are from Jackson, MS and recommended we eat at this Greek restaurant called Keifer's. So glad we stopped - I fell in love with their feta dressing.

 Hez recommended we start with the Pita Mozz, which was pita bread with mozzarella on top, with a side of their feta dressing. We also wanted to try the hummus, so we got some of that as well.
 For dinner, we ordered gyros. I've actually never eaten a gyro. These were delicious. I forgot to take a picture so this is mid eating (gross) but I had to share how good they were. I ordered grilled feta on mine (notice a theme?).
 Then we hit the road to continue on to New Orleans..
We arrived in New Orleans about 9pm, checked into the hotel (Renaissance Arts Hotel by Marriott) and watched some TV. We made sure to rest up for the big weekend ahead!

As for the hotel, I would absolutely recommend it if you're visiting New Orleans. It was located right across Canal Street from the French Quarter - close enough to walk but far enough away to be able to escape the insanity. The hotel was very nice and we really liked it.

Up ahead... our Saturday full of fun and adventure!

In spending time with my sweetie,
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