Last day in New Orleans, and it is what most of the town considers a recovery day after Mardi Gras.
We were up bright and early however, for a Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. After a big meal of pecan pie, grits and grillades, turtle soup, shrimp creole, bananas foster on pancakes, jambalaya and cajun corn salad, we spent the rest of the day wandering the French Quarter, checking out the French Market and picking up some food for the dinner I am cooking for Lee and Anthony tonight, as a thank you for letting us stay.
THE BIG DAY HAS ARRIVED!!
One of my top bucket list items, it’s time for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We woke up super early to have breakfast with Anthony’s housemate Lee and his friends – sausage and eggs to fuel us for a long day of drinking, dancing, and jumping for beads.
The house is right on the parade route on St Charles, so we sat inside in the warm until the parade tracker told us it was time to head out. As the parade drew closer, more and more of Lee’s friends turned up until we had about 12 people waiting. Finally, we heard the bands marching down the street so there was a mad scramble to head outside to catch the beginning of the first (and best) parade of the day, Zulu.
It was my favourite parade of the week – awesome things were being tossed out of the floats, footballs, parasols, coconuts – there was such an excited vibe in the crowd. They had the best marching bands too – you couldn’t help but just all dance in the street.
Late start today on Lundi Gras, as we had a big day ahead of us and a big Mardi Gras tomorrow. We had tried to go to Juan’s Flying Burrito last night but had just missed it – so the first thing we did today was head back to the creole taqueria for some crazy fusion mexican food. Last night I had thought it would be a hilarious joke to call my friend Juan (in Australia) and yell at him for his flying burrito shop being closed. He was at work at the time, and found my ridiculous tirade hysterical – so I may have had to buy him a Juan’s Flying Burrito shirt as a souvenir (yes, Juan, it is coming your way!).
I ordered the El Pastor Burrito, with slow cooked shredded pork, pineapple, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, pinto beans and yellow rice. They also have quesadillas with blue cheese and bacon, or goat cheese and adobo chicken.
A full day of exploring and Mardi Gras weekend parades here in New Orleans.
Edward, Anthony and I head out to explore the French Quarter in the morning. We made our way down the closed off St Charles towards Canal st, wandering down the middle of the road amongst people on bikes, with drinks, food vendors, kids kicking footballs and people dancing.
Today we spent travelling from Chicago. We woke up and packed our bags, and head out into the snow. There had been snowfall overnight, and the sidewalks were white with powder.
We jumped on the plane, and after a transfer in Atlanta, Georgia, we landed in sticky, humid New Orleans. As the packed plane touched down, people cheered and yelled; ‘See you in the French Quarter’ ‘First drink is on me!’ ‘Let’s get drunk!’
We picked up our luggage, jumped in a cab, and head towards downtown. We are couchsurfing with a cool guy called Anthony on St Charles, but due to the parades a lot of roads were closed off. We head towards the Superdome, and dropped our stuff at one of Anthony’s friends apartments and went straight down to the street.
It was a party, everywhere. We ran down to the floats, and yelled for beads and light-up things. Anthony got hit in the stomach with a bag of beads, I got hit in the face with a bunch of Who Dat! whistle necklaces (which left a huge lump on my forehead). I earned those!
We took the bus down from Madison, Wisconsin this morning to spend the day wandering around Chicago.
We stopped at Union Station, dropped off our luggage in storage and then wandered the Magnificent Mile, the city, and across a few bridges. I love that the skyscrapers are scattered amongst the tall carved, older buildings, right up close to the sidewalks and the rivers.
We dropped into Lou Malnatis for my first deep dish pizza – I waited until Chicago to try it for the first time. Cheese underneath, sausage on top – a different way to try pizza, so filling, but delicious.
We checked out the Chicago ‘Bean’, which is actually called the Cloud Gate statue, but is known lovingly as the bean by all.
We wandered over to Navy Pier, wandering around all evening until it got dark. We looked over the city and the sharp shards of ice across the lake.
Last day in Madison today – so I head over to Williamson st, or ‘Willy’ st as the locals call it, to check out some of the food businesses that supply all the top restaurants. I had tried a number of Underground Meats at Merchant last night, and a number of restaurants use Madison Sourdough as their house bread.
But first up was a stop into Fromagination on Capitol Square, a one-stop cheeseshop that stocks local cheeses, meats and food products, runs cheese classes and events, and stocks local beers, wines and spirits.
Packed up and checked out of my hotel today, as I was moving to the Hampton Inn by Hilton downtown. Once I’d moved out, I wandered the main street to all the little boutiques.
Today was a full work day, and by a full work day I mean that the lovely folk at Visit Madison had organised a full day of meeting chefs, owners and eating at a number of Madison’s top dining locations.
I rugged up against the cold and started the walk downtown to Marigold Kitchen, where I met Kristy Schwinn and Dan Mack, respectively the chef de cuisine and director of operations. We discussed their passion for local produce, how lucky they are here in Madison to have such access to organic, local farms, and their seasonal menu.
I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin last night from New York at close to midnight. I had been travelling all day and made it in to my fancy hotel thanks to Visit Madison, and made my way up to my gorgeous big suite. It was lovely to sink into my big bed after a day of travelling.
Last day in NYC today – I’ve had a killer (but fattening) time.
Brooklyn is a lot bigger than I realised. When I organised to stay down south on 68th, I didn’t realise how far it was from Williamsburg, the hip place to be in Brooklyn.
I stayed in my hotel room until midday. My feet hurt. I needed to sort out my luggage, get myself re-centered. And to be honest, I just needed a sleep in. New York is so ever-bustling and busy, it was nice to sit 13 floors above it all in the quiet and recharge. There is a lot to do here, but I am not sure I could live here. Those that do seem busy, unhappy, and often stuck.
I am used to dancing in the street, smiles and laughter, and singing tram conductors. Today I was walking along Broadway, listening to Daylight by Matt and Kim, smiling and dancing a little when I stopped at the traffic lights. People actually looked at me grumpily. Why are you happy? They seemed to be thinking.
At noon I checked out, turned over my bags to luggage storage and set out to SoHo. I had four destinations today, first was the High Line Urban Park. Last time I was in New York this park was in planning stage, and I had always wanted to visit New York again so I could go here. The city turned an abandoned high rise train line into an urban park high above street level, spanning 1 mile (1.6 kms). It was a super sunny day, and the sunlight reflected off the piles of snow to blind those walking the paths. I can imagine this would be beautiful in summer, but in winter it was still nice to walk so high above the city – the air almost seemed cleaner there.
Today was the day I was to get up at 6AM and take the subway down to Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in SoHo, to line up for two hours for a taste of a Cronut from the place they were invented. If you haven’t heard of them, Cronuts are a worldwide sensation at the moment – they are basically a donut, filled and topped with assorted creams, made from a croissant pastry. Moist but flaky and covered in sugar, they have been replicated all around the world, but it is here at Dominique’s that they originated.
Today was my first full day in Manhattan, to spend as I pleased. I had no plans, no-one to meet up with, no one to see. I could just do and go wherever I wanted.
Up early this morning, I head to the airport to make the long trip to the other side of the country. Off to New York today, and it’s been a long day of travelling. I finally made it in, through snowy Chicago, and the sun came out just as I flew over Manhattan for a glorious welcome.
My week in Portland is finishing up. I’ve had the best time. Here is the film of what we have done, eaten, seen and visited all week.
For my last day in Portland, I was booked into the Portland Walking Tour: Epicurean Excursion. We were due to wander the streets of downtown, trying nibbles from some of the citys top eating spots.
A little different than the Forktown tours, as instead of a sit down taste at a number of fancy restaurants, we were wandering on foot and trying a number of different ‘tastes’.
Tasty n Sons is known city wide as perhaps Portland’s best brunch location, with a table for 6 on a saturday morning being a prized possession. We were meeting up with a few people, and so we head towards Tasty, put our name down and then head towards Ristretto Roasters for a coffee and a doughnut while we waited.
Soon, we got our call and head over to claim our table.
What to do in Portland except brunch. I was heading into the city for my Forktown Foodie Tour this afternoon, and thought I’d try a downtown brunch location as I was over that way anyway. Skylar recommended Mothers, a Portland favourite.
I looked it up and there were a few recommended standout dishes, but the one that caught my eye was the Wild Salmon Hash with leeks, potatoes and a touch of cream, eggs and toast with whipped butter. The salmon here is so very pink and full of flavour – the dish was super heavy with all the cream, eggs, potatoes and bread but it was so delicious I couldn’t stop eating.
Next up, I wandered the boutiques of the Pearl District and bought a Portlandia ‘Put a bird on it!’ sticker. I head up to Powell’s City of Books, the worlds largest new and used bookstore.
To start our 3 hour tour, we sat in at Besaw’s, a neighbourhood staple since 1903.
We started with mimosas with a pear reduction, and a beet arugula salad. Besaw’s are known for using local ingredients, and they also have their own 16 lot garden out the back of the restaurant that they source a lot of their ingredients from.
We walked up the road to Kenny & Zukes for an incredible reuben sandwich made with everything housemade from the pastrami to the bread (except the sauerkraut which was made locally), a local oregon Goodlife pale ale, half sour pickles, and bagels with chive cream cheese. The most famous Jewish deli in the city, the pastrami is made with beef plate which they call ‘beef pork belly’.
Over the road to St Honore Boulangerie for some choux pastries topped with pearl sugar.
Then down to Bull Run Distilling for a tour and a tasting of their rum, bourbon, vodka, gin and aquavit.
At this point we had consumed quite a bit of food and drink, but the tour was only half over. A short walk down the street to Wildwood, where they have been serving up seasonal cuisine with local ingredients since 1994. Founded by Cory Schreiber, a James Beard award winner, the restaurant supports local farms that practice sustainable agriculture.
Here we tried a bourbon and caramelized onion soup, a local red wine, and a pizza with taleggio, roasted garlic, spinach and chorizo from local Olympic Provisions.
Then down the road for what was the highlight of the tour for me, the PBJ Grilled food cart. I have never quite wrapped my head around the peanut butter and jelly craze of America – and especially grilled! I was a little dubious about this stop as how on earth could grilled PBJ’s match up to the rest of the amazing food we had tried. But Heidi of Forktown knows her stuff – this ended up being my favourite stop, perhaps just for the sheer surprise at how amazing the sandwiches were.
We started with The Spicy Thai, with Peanut Butter Sriracha, fresh basil, curry and orange marmalade on grilled challah. This was my favourite. The chef who owns the cart works with flavours until they combine perfectly, and this sandwich is a great example of this.
Next up the Oregonian, with Oregon hazelnut butter, Rogue Creamery Blue cheese, and housemade marionberry jam. Marionberrys are a blackberry cultivar bred right here in Oregon.
Last up was the Smoking Goat, with kalamata olive bread, housemade almond butter, Apple wood smoked bacon, goat cheese and apricot jam.
And then around the corner to our last stop, Two Tarts Bakery.
We tried a number of mini cookies to finish up the tour.
The Nob Hill area has a heap of cool boutiques, so after the tour I wandered 23rd for a while. I dropped into the Meadow, a salt, chocolate and bitters store and bought some local Oregon wood smoked chocolate.
After a long day, it was time to call it a night – I head back home and Skylar and I spent our Valentines night watching Thor. My feet were not up to any more walking!!
Walked down to Hawthorn and wandered the strip for a while – got lost in the huge Powell’s books, and then walked over the road to Harlow, Portlands premier vegan joint. Being a non-vegan, it is hard for vegan places to match what I could get somewhere else, but Harlow over-delivered. Cold-pressed coffee with coconut milk, bittersweet chocolate and agave accompanied my ridiculously amazing meal.