MUSINGLY By Karen D'Or

Writing Portfolio, Travel Stories & Other Diversions

Tag: food

Christmas Cookie Martini

Consumed by Carrie: New Orleans’ Holiday Traditions

 

Roosevelt Hotel Holiday Lights

Roosevelt Hotel Holiday Lights

As you might expect, Christmas is New Orleans has special traditions; it’s not so different from other parts of the country — but it definitely has a unique flavor! There are pralines and pecans pouring out of every corner, beautiful light displays in City Park, complete with a Cajun Santa Claus with alligators pulling his sleigh. There are Christmas Eve bonfires that reach high into the sky, lighting up the banks of the Mississippi and caroling on the streetcars and into Jackson Square. 

My favorite thing to do is to go see the beautiful decorations at the elegant Roosevelt Hotel. While at the Roosevelt, I stop by the famous Sazerac Bar for a festive holiday cocktail – one of my past highlights is the festive Christmas Cookie Martini. 

Christmas Cookie Martini

But lets get to one of the best parts of Christmas in New Orleans, the FOOD!

One of the earliest signs (and oldest traditions) that the holiday season is right around the corner is the Reveillon Menu. Reveillon is French and means awakening. This title was given to the meal that was typically served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. It was meant to give nourishment and energy for the next mass early on Christmas morning.  You will see Reveillon menus at a lot of the best restaurants in town; Restaurant August, Bayona, Commander’s Palace, Domenica, and dozens more.

The menus are usually made up of three courses and are served throughout November and December. First courses usually include something with oysters, turtle soup or gumbo.  Commander’s palace is featuring a chargrilled oyster stew, and Antoine’s menu has Alligator Bisque. I noticed that a popular choice for the second course is dishes using small birds such as quail or squab. There is of course always a fish option, and also pork or veal. Braised meats are prevalent, pork shanks at Domenica, short ribs at Café Adelaide, and veal osso bucco at Brennan’s. Some restaurants go the celebratory route, pulling out all of the stops with caviar, foie gras, lamb, and special cocktails. I have to say that I’m partial to the time-honored traditional menus that stay true to New Orleans cuisine.

Read More

french-quarter-557461_1280

My Top Seven Writing Distractions

french-quarter-557461_1280

I’ve neglected my musingly writing for months, and the reasons at first seem infuriatingly bland — the mechanics of my suburban life. So, this fall, I am making a public commitment to write more regularly — beginning with this cafeteria-style confessional of my top seven writing distractions*:

1) Thinking about food. I spend a lot of time ruminating about food (and drink). ­I particularly get focused on these two favorite hobbies just as I am about embark for — or am returning from —­­ New Orleans. Whole red fish drizzled in fresh herbs from Peche, fried oysters at Clancy’s, fresh oysters at Casamento’s, pretty much anything at Restaurant August. I continue to obsess about the New Orleans’ dining scene, and plan my restaurant runs months in advance. Closer to home, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting Bay Area dining spots. Suggestions, anyone?

 2) Online shopping. Admit it: the ubiquitous Amazon ‘prime’ shopping is a great distraction for folks who work from home on a computer and like to pretend they are getting a good deal. I can find nearly instant gratification on prime, congratulate myself for saving money, and avoid traffic and fuel costs, all with just a few button clicks. Did I really need double-sided indoor carpet tape delivered in two days?

3) Family. Acute family problems derailed my writing earlier this year (see the Pins and Needles post) but I have only myself to blame. I continue to overthink family issues, get too emotionally involved, and become diverted away from more important matters such as my own creativity. I have an odd itch for an unattainable “normalcy” —and my family will never be normal. Thankfully, my family is an eccentric troupe that could inspire my writing, including: sassy urban teachers, aspiring artists, musicians, someone who has been mistaken for Martha Stewart, a couple of famous British authors, and a former Reagan appointee. My people are characters.

4) Pilates. I recently re-discovered my love for this rather rigorous form of body toning; Pilates is a particularly rewarding exercise for those of us who spend many hours hunched in front of a computer keyboard. This healthy distraction helped to inspire my summer blog post: Five Reasons Why I Love Being Curvy. 

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

5) Baseball. Although we are heading into December, it seems only yesterday that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Since it is the third time in six years, it should be par for the course around here; nevertheless, during Orange October, I was constantly interrupting my writing flow by jumping up to turn on the TV, or tuning into the pre-game warm-up show on the radio, or ordering the essential World Series pizza. Those magical men from the City by the Bay did it again this year, and I have no regrets for their joyous (and sometimes hunky) distractions.

Read More

bicycle-788733_1280

Five Reasons Why I Love Being Curvy


bicycle-788733_1280
1. I now realize that my body’s curves express a balanced life.  It is not only about appreciating certain anatomical curves —the standard ones the outside world tells me are acceptable— it is about embracing each and every curve and how they co-exist, come and go. The ebb and flow of my curves helps me power through a 35-miles bike ride or stick with poses during a tough Pilates class.  Nice to realize this at nearly 58 years old.

2. My curves help me to not buy into weird food games. I love food as both nourishment and recreation. By embracing my curves I gravitate toward real food, not junk. Nor do I under eat or deprive myself to try to squeeze into a shape that is not mine. Cooking real food is a joy in my life, as is eating, drinking and appreciating culinary delights from creative chefs. To reap the most profit, the big food companies own the major diet “programs” and products. I’ve been there but I won’t go back – the Big Food diet companies won’t get one more dime from me.

3. My curves show that I am proud of the fullness of a healthy body and I don’t buy into rampant body dissatisfaction. A friend just asked me: “What would it be like if we all loved our bodies completely?” She celebrates her “curvalicious” body and is setting a remarkable example for her two teen sons as she proudly rocks comfy clothing while dancing joyfully in her backyard.

Alternatively, I have another friend who suffers from eating and body issues. She spends her valuable summer time consulting with five plastic surgeons, and is about to undergo major procedures. I am convinced she has body dysmorphia, a mental illness symptomized by perpetual negative thoughts about appearance, and obsessions with minor or imagined flaws. She is a beautiful woman; I fear that plastic surgery will likely never make her truly happy about herself.

4. My man loves my curves and has never criticized my shape. Unlike past men in my life, he only uses the word “thick” or “doughy” if he is talking about pizza. Yum.

5. My curves harken back to my hearty heredity. I am proud of my Eastern European ancestry. My grandmother cooked a fantastic peasant dish: rolled cabbage stuffed with pork, and tomatoes and rice. As a little girl, Grandma Sylvia’s curves comforted and  welcomed me while I smelled the spicy aromas that she magically created from the most simple of staples.

So, do as my curvy daughter is doing right now: stop purchasing women’s magazines with their silly diet tips and makeovers. Show some skin on the beach this summer and wear your bikini proudly.

Curves rule!

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

Five Ways to Cope with (Baseball) Loss

 

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

The World Champion San Francisco Giants are resoundingly un-championlike this year, so the foray from Sonoma County to the stunning ATT Ball Park, in San Francisco’s China Basin, can feel onerous. Call me unsportsmanlike, but it is true: the trek from the North Bay (either via auto or the ballpark Ferry) seems a breeze when our guys of summer are on a winning streak, but can drag on like a six extra unproductive innings when they are losing!

So here are my hints on how to get through these tough times:

1.    Stay overnight in a luxury hotel, particularly for night games. Nothing takes the sting out of a stunning defeat than an easy walk from ATT Park to a 4-star hotel. If you are feeling particularly frugal, pick up a nice screw-top red wine from one of those ubiquitous liquor store’s with flickering fluorescent lights — and partake in hotel glasses alongside munchies Milano cookies and sweet potato chips. If you are feeling more generous, belly up to the bar at a high-end watering hole, order a fancy cocktail (or hot brandy if it is one of those SF summer evenings!) and note the number of people around you in SF Giants gear or hipster costumes.

2.    Skip the ballpark fare and treat yourself to a nice dinner before, or after, the game.  My two new favorites dining spots near the park are Marlowe right across from the Cal-Train station on Townsend near 4th street and Zaré at the Fly Trap on Folsom near Second Street. If you need a beverage, and you don’t want to fight the brew pub crowds close to the park, head up to First Street (between Market & Mission) and belly up to 83 Proof’s fine bar.

83 Proof's Fine Bar

83 Proof’s Fine Bar

3.   Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Losing at home is even harder when an arrogant Pittsburg Pirate fan (who claims to be a Giants fan) sits behind you and yells well, like an umpire, for each and every “Buccies” run. I’ve sat next to nicer LA Dodgers fans, frankly, but you cannot let opposing fans get you down, even when they tell you to change seats after a couple of scowls. Really?

4.   Take plenty of photos. Win or lose, we all know it is one of the most beautiful ballparks in the world. Always good to catch loved ones wearing more than one hat!

Loved one in two hats

Loved one in two hats

5.  Sing. As you head home after a losing game, try NOT to listen to the post-game wrap-up show on the radio. It is always tempting to over-analyze weaknesses, and commiserate with others, but better for the soul to pop in some tunes and sing your way home— there will always be another game, and another season!

 

Inside Redd, Yountville California

Redd Meet

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series North Bay Everyday

“Oh they won’t mind, they’re pretty laid back,” said the half-naked lady about Redd, one of the throng of Yountville restaurants that have turned northern Napa valley into a food mecca.

During our annual day-spa trip, Bobbi (my best friend from college) and I tend to include post-treatment eating, drinking and shopping — often reversing spa-induced relaxation. We are both high energy; thirty years ago a man called us an “assault to the senses.” Each year we meet in Napa, get pampered, share travel stories, and express gratitude that we made it through the 80s intact.

Bobbi’s calling Redd to let them know we may arrive late, so the nice half-naked spa lady — a local — is sharing her impression. We are concerned Redd might be one of those stuffy gourmet places; it has a Michelin star and 28 Zagat points. Spa lady is right and the hostess seems surprised we would even call.

Inside Redd, Yountville California

Inside Redd, Yountville California

Luckily, our experience at Redd (named after chef Richard Reddington) is unhurried in spite of our late-lunch tardiness and concerns about a soon-to-close kitchen. We miss the last outdoor table since Redd is pleasantly crowded for a Saturday afternoon, but the interior is open, light, gleaming with shiny wood floors and pewter accents, and smiles light up our exfoliated faces as mellow hostess leads us to a corner booth.

We meet our server, Ryan, who offers top-notch hospitality, knowledge, and not-too-intrusive congeniality. I share with Ryan (and Bobbi) my annoying new habit of ignoring the food menu until after I’ve ordered a cocktail. Because this habit emanates from my favorite new destination, New Orleans, I’ve adopted it wholeheartedly. Ryan promptly brings my Prohibition Tea cocktail and Bobbi’s glass of Baker Lane Vineyards rosé. We begin to relax, finally. I’ve convinced Bobbi to go to New Orleans with me someday.

2011217_Redd_0124Ryan tells us the only addition to the menu is an appetizer of squash blossom tempura. We ask for his menu recommendations. He confidently shares that his favorites are divers scallops and steamed pork belly buns. We start with the tempura, and a refreshing greens, citrus, goat cheese, mint, and walnut salad in citrus vinaigrette. Plenty of flavors creating a balanced blend of tart, crunch and creamy. The squash blossoms are battered and fried perfectly, but with very little flavor or spice, they are our least favorite dish.

Maurepas Lunch

New Orleans Food and Drink Marathon

SoBou Delights

SoBou Delights

I posted this trip report on Chowhound after my most recent visit to New Orleans, and a local chowhounder commented that I was a great ambassador for his City. Here is the full report; I take my eating and drinking seriously!

     It was her first night in New Orleans. We arrived late but not too late to mosey over to Irv Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse in the elegant Royal Sonesta hotel. I had a delightful house version of the Dark n Stormy, Dear Friend had a bright pink Passionfruit cocktail. We were too tired to venture much farther so opted for Desire Bistro and Oyster Bar, next door, for salads and sweet potato fries — which arrived as cold as the salads. A glorified coffee shop. My earlier Dark N Stormy was prophetic as it started sprinkling, followed later that night by a scary April T-storm.

French Quarter Fest 2013

French Quarter Fest 2013

     The sun came out for Sunday morning, the last day of French Quarter Fest (FQF) 2013. We started at Cafe Beignet for hot beignets, cafe au lait, and the Royal Street location did not disappoint. Met Dear Daughter and her friends for FQF music and a leisurely food graze which included: crab sliders from Something Else cafe (hit the spot!), Abita Amber, Tropical Daiquiris from Organic Banana and a highly-anticipated early dinner at Killer Po Boys. We each chose a different Po Boy filling: pork, shrimp, veggie and beef. Not the raves I expected from companions, however I liked my veggie/coulis version and felt Killer’s lived up to the hype.

     DF and I went to the famed Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone to find that  lightning from the prior night’s t-storm halted electricity so: a) the carousel was motionless, b) glasses were not cold, and c) no air conditioning. They closed the bar at 8 pm. DF took a sip of my sazerac; sadly it was warm. However, Monday was fantastic! Took the Confederacy of Cruisers “History of Drinking” tour with Lara the bartendress from R Bar. She led us all around the quarter on cruiser bikes with clipped-on moveable drink holders on drizzly Monday morning. First, she prepares island style (unblended) daiquiris before launching a multi-stop 3-hour French Quarter bike tour with stops for full size: 1) Finnegan’s Easy for local beer, 2) Napolean’s House for classic Pimm’s cups, stop 3) Roosevelt Hotel for Sazerac or Ramos Gin Fizz and 4) Erin Rose for frozen (or hot) Irish Coffees. At several other stops she tells the history of New Orleans relationship with alcohol. Rain was coming down as we cycled down Bourbon back to the Marigny, drinks in tow.
     A great morning followed by lunch at Maurepas Foods. After the tour we couldn’t conceive of a Maurepas cocktails, however hitting the spot were their Strawberry Salad, Arugula salad, Braised Broccoli — along with cheesy bread and their top-notch grits. Service was fantastic and everyone loved their dishes which warmed us up after the soggy bike ride.
Maurepas Lunch

     That night DF & I tried to get into Mr. B’s Bar: mobbed. Carousel was still out of power. Thank goodness we found French 75 which we loved. Why had I not been there before? Lovely bar and great drinks. DF enjoyed The Baroness cocktail x 2, and I had the very creative Caibiscus — a blend of a caipirinha with hibiscus tea. Chris Hannah is a legend and lives up to his reputation as a superb bartender.

Olivet Road Vineyard

The Olivet Wine Road

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series North Bay Everyday

Olivet Road VineyardI drive past Santa Rosa’s Olivet Road too fast, too often. The road is easy to miss bookmarked between two high-speed Sonoma County routes. Now this rural connector street has become my chance to slow down and enjoy a destination neighborhood: not long ago local vintners formed The Olivet Wine Road; hotshot Sonoma County cyclists use the street as a picturesque route to exit town, and nearby is one of Santa Rosa’s juiciest restaurants, Zazu Restaurant and Farm, is on the corner.

It’s Sunday and I am hungry, of course. Thankfully, Zazu Restaurant and Farm, just west of Olivet Road, opens at 9 am. Although Zazu’s fried donuts or Dutch baby pancakes are great excuses for carbo-loading, at this “playful Americana and rustic Northern Italian inspired” converted railroad car, and nationally famous sustainable farm, local meat is revered. In fact, Zazu’s owners (Duskie Estes and John Stewart) were crowned king and queen of pork at the 2011 Aspen Food Festival. I add a side order of black pig bacon to experience Sonoma County homegrown pork.

Unlike other more upscale wine districts, no long ornate driveways, wine-country spas, or billboard-size signs point out the Olivet wineries; the wineries and tasting rooms are interspersed with weathered ranch-style homes – keeping Olivet a hidden niche of the Russian River appellation. Olivet’s curb appeal has not changed much in 25 years: a mixed-used zone close to greater Santa Rosa where apparently the wine growers and their neighbors have figured out how to balance commercial and residential needs.  Turning onto Olivet off Guerneville Road, the first stop is De Loach Vineyards, now owned by the Boisset family of France, who purchased De Loach in November 2003. Next up is Inman Family Wines, organically farmed and a pioneer sustainable practices, Inman is famous for small-lot Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and upscale rose. Hook and Ladder is across the way, staffed by three generations of the De Loach family, which has been making wines in the region for over four decades. As a last stop, try Harvest Moon, renowned for sweet wines: late Harvest Gewürztraminer and ice wines are a lovely dessert to end the Olivet adventure.

Olivet Road is best considered a detour, not a bypass. Located just west of bustling Santa Rosa it is easy to miss on the way to the bigger name wine destinations, or quaint towns. Here the crunch of gravel beneath the tires makes me slow down, the pungent old-grapey smell makes me inhale longer, and the sight of small working ranches reminds me of traditional Sonoma County country life. Long-time landowners and new entrepreneurs are joining to re-energize this often-ignored side road into a fine detour for dawdlers.


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén