Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Tour of the SoFAB Museum

Here are pictures from the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, so you can get an idea of what this great institution is like (Keep in mind that we are only a year old and still growing! Small steps....)

The St. Joseph's Altar--There is a relatively large Sicilian population here in New Orleans, so much so that its traditional to see altars dedicated to St. Joseph on March 19. The altars are decorated with breads that have been molded into beautiful images of crosses and other religious symbols:

Here is the Cookbook corner where patrons can read cookbook dating back to the late 1800s as well as modern cookbooks:

The Famous New Orleans Snowball. As mentioned before, if you think Hawaiian ice is delicious, you have no idea what you are missing with the New Orleans Snow Ball. Fluffy decadent ice is shaved in a machine like the one seen below. This ice is like a fresh Christmas snow: magical and perfect!

Pralines are also a New Orleans staple: the image scene in this exhibit makes my mouth water!

Leah Chase: This extraordinary women and food icon is known as the "Queen of Creole Cooking." She is also known for bright colored cooking smocks and her delicious home-style cookin'!

The Entrance to the Museum of the American Cocktail:

Martinis: As seen in the Museum of the American Cocktail:

The White House Chef exhibit (one of 5 displays):
Overall, the museum is a fantastic space. It used to be a GIANT Limited (as in the women's clothing shop). But after hurricane Katrina, the Limited decided not to come back and that is when Liz jumped on the opportunity to utilize the space and bring the history of southern culinary tradition to life!


One of my projects at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum was setting up a state exhibit on Arkansas. Who knew that Arkansas is famous for its pink tomato or that Alma, Arkansas is the spinach capital of the world? Better yet- did you know that the Arkansas state cookware is the Dutch Oven? This my friends, its what food history is all about! Finding treasures in small town pride! Here are a few pictures of the exhibit done by "yours truly"

I also set up a small exhibit on the Laitram Automatic Shrimp Peeler which was invented by a teenage boy in the first half of the 20th century. The adapted washing-machine-shrimp-peeler he invented completely revolutionized the shrimp industry because the machine peeled shrimp 10 times faster than workers peeling by hand!

So we went out to the antique shops and found an old washing machine from the 1920s that is a similar style to the washing machine that this boy would have modified to make it into a shrimp peeler. You can see it below:

The basic principle: When you push a shrimp up again the turning rubber-wringer with the appropriate pressure; the rubber will grab the shrimp shell and not the meat, pulling away the shell from the delicious shrimp! YUM!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Pittsburgher in New Orleans

This past weekend my mom and my Aunt Noreen came to visit me in the Big Easy! They came in on early Saturday morning and I met them at their cute little Bed and Breakfast on the corner of Washington and St. Charles. My mom and Aunt Noreen stayed in the Oak Alley Room (named after one of the famous Plantations of New Orleans) and when we pushed open the heavy wood door, a charming oasis waited for us, complete with gourmet chocolates on lace doilies and complimentary sherry and dainty crystal glasses.

After we got settled in and took a little rest we headed over to Commander’s Palace for the Jazz Brunch. Commander’s Palace is right on Washington, about 4 blocks from St. Charles so it was an easy walk to the restaurant. We walked out of the sunshine and through the entrance and we were immediately engulfed by the air conditioning (I felt like I was walking into an old fashion ice box) We sat in the main dining room just to the right of the entrance. All of the tables had bushels of balloons on them- which provided a festive atmosphere (almost if I expected Mickey and Minnie Mouse to pop out from the Kitchen and greet us table side...anyone who has been to Disney will know what this experience feels like).
I knew it was going to be a fancy experience when the waiter placed the napkin on my lap for me, but I had no idea about the incredible food experience that lay ahead. We all ordered the Jazz Brunch special-- I ordered Turtle Soup with Sherry, The Cochon de Lait, and the famous bread pudding soufflé known as the “Queen of Soufflé."
The first course came out with 4 waiters in tow. With an ease only accomplished through months of practice, the waiters -in perfect synchronization- poured the soup into our bowls. Then with the swish of the waiter's wrist, my turtle soup was magically dressed with Sherry and ready to eat. It was Delicious! The broth was rich and very creamy with a texture similar to that of bean soup. The flavor was also nice and strong with a good amount of salt (Just the way I like it!)
Then the main course came out and I almost died! It was a roasted pig's shoulder-pulled pork style-drenched in delicious gravy with red peppers and other vegetables. The pork was graced by the presence of two perfectly poached eggs drizzled with gourmet hollandaise sauce. All of this was sitting on top of a buttered southern biscuit! It was TO DIE FOR! I cannot even tell you how delicious this dish was and how much I loved it! The pork was so tender...the gravy so flavorful and the eggs and hollandaise sauce paired with the southern biscuit really added a unique texture to the dish. It was a circus of flavors perfectly coordinated for my palate.

Then the DESSERT came and I think I may have died and gone to heaven! The soufflé was magical, but non challant, a pale creamy color with a sort of blush to the fluffy bread. Immediately after setting the dish on the table, the waiter broke the soufflé with one deft thwack of the spoon and poured whiskey cream sauce into the steaming pastry! The first bite was so magical, it was one of THOSE perfect food moments! I savored the perfectly balanced dessert. I was smiling while trying to chew while trying to exclaim to my mom and aunt how good it was!

My mom’s pecan pie was EXCELLENT as well! The flavoring was so subtle- you could tell it was a REAL homemade pecan pie and not some fake store-bought pie. My Aunt Noreen had a great praline parfait that tasted like the Onassis dessert at Christos in Pittsburgh- the cinnamon honey ice cream encased by a vanilla cookie cylinder with whipped cream and pralines as dressing.
Then we left Commander’s Palace with our wallets a little lighter and our stomachs WAY fuller!

We took the street car down to the French Quarter and we did a bit of boutique shopping and we headed to The Historic New Orleans Collection Research Center to look at some New Orleans restaurant menus from the 19th century.
That evening, we met at my boss Liz’s house for dinner at 7:00. The food was fabulous. Chicken cacciatore with garlic bread and a side salad. Simple and delicious. A "little Italy" right in the middle of Louisiana! I wasn’t even hungry after Commander's Palace, but the dinner was very good and I really like the chicken dish (which I had never had before).
The next morning we went to the Prytania movie theater to see An American in Paris. It was a perfect Prytania-Classic-Movie-Day. We had delicious freshly popped popcorn which we munched on while watching a Bugs Bunny Cartoon (prelude to the featured film). Afterward we helped ourselves to the complimentary Coffee and cookies and headed back out into the sunshine in the direction of Magazine Street which is known for its eclectic boutiques and old school cafes.

That evening, we returned to Commander's Palace (Because one time wasnt enough) for cocktails, appetizers, and dessert! I had the Oyster a la “Dom” which was absolutely amazing. It came out in a little ceramic bowl and inside was a cream sauce that was heavily flavored with tarragon and potatoes. The poaches oysters were bathing in this heavenly sauce and atop all of this was a crispy flaky pastry. The oysters were piping hot and plump- when you bit down on the oyster there was an explosion of flavor! We all got different kinds of desserts. My aunt Noreen had a chocolate volcano explosion type dessert, I had the bread pudding soufflé again, and my mom had a delicious peach and marzipan with mint sauce dessert. It was a perfect ending to a perfect weekend visit! Thanks for coming down to the Crescent City Mom and Aunt Noreen!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A date with Eliza Doolittle

New Orleans is a magical place. Nowhere else do you have a city saturated with Creole culture, deep southern traditions, and a vibrant modern enthusiasm! This city has suffered because of Katrina, but the people who live here fight every day to keep their city alive. They seek to fuel New Orleans into the future while cherishing the warm embrace of their past.

One of my favorite examples of this ‘fantastic love affair with the past’ is the Prytania movie theater located uptown. This quaint one screen movie theater was renovated with loving care and as a result maintains its early 20th century charm. I recently went to the one of the theater’s Classic Movie Series pictures, My Fair Lady. The movie experiences started off with a cute little old man singing the “Warner Brothers- movie-introduction-score” into a hand held mic. Then he went into a little speech about the beautiful colors in My Fair Lady and how Cary Grant had turned down the lead role and how the roses in the beginning scenes are some of the most beautiful flowers he ever had seen.

His little speech was charming and something that would NEVER have occurred in one of the mega-plex movie theaters that my generation has become accustomed to! To top of his little speech he announced that complimentary cookies and coffee would be served at the intermission of the movie (SUCH GREAT CUSTOMER RELATIONS AND A WONDERFUL TRADITION!). Hearing this, the whole audience was in a great mood as the pre-movie Bugs Bunny cartoon started. Without having to sit through any annoying commercials or movie previews My Fair Lady began to roll seamlessly just after the short cartoon ended.

I have to admit that I didn’t want to leave this wonderful place at the end of the movie! It was tempted to stay for the 4:00 showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince because I wanted to hold on to the magical mood that this charming theater had put me in (and it was not only me- all of the audience from the little old lady wearing a straw hat on my left to the young teen with a pierced lip and Converses to my right- thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the old-world-charm of the theater). The Prytania theater is exemplary of the wonderful culture and tradition that one can experience in New Orleans. I cannot wait to visit it again soon!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Week 1 in the Big Easy

My Camera has been out of commission for a while, so unfortunately my blog will be picture-less for a bit longer.
First things first- New Orleans is AMAZING! What a vibrant, wonderful, appreciated city! My favorite part of New Orleans is the people because they all LOVE their city and enjoy sharing their experiences with anyone and everyone. Their passion is contagious and I find myself smitten with the city and perhaps en route to falling in love with "The Big Easy".
I have been here for one week- and I have already accomplished many of the "must-dos", but I also feel like I haven't even touched the surface of what this city has to offer.

Top 10 moments of the week (in no particular order)

1) Audubon Park: This might be the most gorgeous city park that I have ever been to in the United States- more so because of the energetic people than the landscaping. Everyone who lives uptown flocks to this urban oasis to jog, bike, walk their dog, and just sit and read. There is so much energy and happiness in this park that it drapes the oak trees just like the famous Spanish moss.

2) The Bayou: This Saturday the Yale group took a 2 hour drive out into the Louisiana countryside to take a Swamp Tour! This was REAL Louisiana from the smoky bar, to the mangy dogs, to the lakeside camps (or cabins). We saw HUGE alligators, flocks of blue herring and egrets all the while listening to the oldies station and cruising on Richard's (our guide's) boat.

3) Second Line Parade: Particularly in the French Quarter, there is a tradition of the Second Line where a big marching band, or brass band, or just a group of people singing parade through the streets of New Orleans in celebration (This may be for a wedding, a funeral, or just for fun!) There is nothing like the pulsating beat of the marching band drawing you in and calling you to let go and dance in the streets!

4) Po-Boys: Pittsburgh may be famous for Primanti Brother's sandwiches, Yalies may love Wenzels, but New Orleans tops the chart with their Po-Boy sandwiches. I went to Parkway Bakery yesterday to have the infamous Po-Boy Roast beef sandwiches: Necessary Elements include a very crunchy baguette, perfectly marinated and roasted beef, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayonnaise. Simple- yet it could rival the food at Antoine's.

5) Snowballs: This is yet another infamous New Orleans treat which is comparable to Hawaiian Shaved ice, or your run of the mill snow cone. But Snowballs are much MUCH better! The ice is so fine and is the consistency of a 'fresh snow fall'. Then (at the Plum Street Snowball place at least) they DRENCH your ice with delicious flavoring...there is no skimpy or halfhearted dressing of this ice! I had Bananas Foster flavoring on mine and I might argue that it was even BETTER than the actual dessert (and a lot cheaper too!)

6) Gospel Choir: So I was riding back home with Andrew the other night and we passed a group of people standing outside of a church-- they were all holding candles and were staggered on the church steps. We decided to make a U-turn and circled back around. As we got closer to the church we could hear the soft yet haunting song being sung in unison” There is no death that can reach them". As we passed by the choir began threading in harmonies to the chorus that made the impact of those words (repeated over and over) even more powerful. It was a magical New Orleans moment that could not be captured in any tourist book or magazine.

7) Degas House: Yesterday (June 19) was Edgar Degas 175th anniversary! (Happy Belated B-day!) We went to the Degas House (or Musson Family House) here in New Orleans to listen to live music and walk around the house (which is now a functioning Bed and Breakfast)

8) Ogden After Hours: Every Thursday, the Ogden Modern Art Museum hosts 'after hours at the Ogden' where you can go and look around the gallery, buy the cocktail of the week, and listen to live jazz music while you stroll around the museum. Fantastic!

9) Bastille Day: July 14 was the French Independence Day and I got to help out with an event that the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) was hosting in coordination with the French Consulate. There were 500 people in our quaint little museum on Tuesday evening- most speaking in French, Franglish, and very few in English!

10) Cafe Du Monde: Famous for its fried donuts and its simple yet delicious cafe au lait- this is an New Orleans staple right in the middle of the French Quarter in Jackson Square. A charming place, but unfortunately no French people actually work there.

As the French Say (Bisses!)

Monday, 29 June 2009

Holden Beach NC (My Paradise!)

For the next two weeks I will be at Holden Beach North Carolina soaking up the sun and spending some quality time with my family. The beach is as lovely as ever and the sun is certainly shining :) Here are some great shots from our first day!

Walking on the beach:

The Summer Sun:
Eagle Kite Flying in the Sky:
Sunset looking back out towards the Causeway:


The day before I came home to the States for good, I took the train up to the little river town of Henley-On-Thames to watch some of my Yale friends row in the international rowing competition known as Women's Henley. The town itself was in one word: CHARMING! From the gingerbread-like houses along the river to the traditional English pubs, Henley-On-Thames was the perfect boating town.

Some cute little cottages on the river:

The Angel: Where we had traditional English pub fare

I was SO HAPPY not only to see my friends but to see them row in competition! Tt was AMAZING! The power and grace and spot-on timing of their strokes was MAGNIFICENT! I am so proud of Allix, Dara, and Caroline and now that I have dabbled with rowing, I can further appreciate their efforts and accomplishments!

The Yale Women's Eight rippin and ready to go at the start line:

Allix just after her race:

The Yale Women's Eight boat is currently competing at Royal Henley- one of the largest rowing competition in the world! Good luck Caroline and lady bulldogs!

Visiting Laura in Durham

I also had the wonderful opportunity to go visit my best friend Laura up in northern England in the little town of Durham. Her college (St. Aidan's) was hosting a Summer Ball called "Out of this World" that I went to with Laura and her friends. We had a blast singing Karaoke in the bar, Boogieing at the Silent Disco, and chatting in the Mood Pods!

Laura and I at dinner in St. Aidan's dining Hall:

I got to meet "The Queen"

After another all night/morning long ball I was pretty whipped! So we relaxed the next day and went to a BBQ party at one of Laura's friend's house. The next day though we were up and rearin' to go for a fundraiser Netball tournament. This was REALLY fun and a great chance to meet more of Laura's friends. We had fun dressing up or wearing "fancy dress" as they call it in England. Our team did not really have a theme to our costumes, but we certainly had pizazz (with fake mustaches to boot!)

Laura and John celebrating after Laura's score:

Shaun diving around with his cape on:

Human Pyramid:

Then Laura and I took a day trip up to Scotland and poked around for a few hours. We didn't do anything that touristy, but just walked around the city enjoying the nice weather and the gorgeous/haunting architecture of Edinburgh!

Then it was back to Durham and then back to Oxford. Here are a few picturesque photos from my trip to Durham:

Regent's Park Summer Ball

As I mentioned before, Oxford has a long tradition with hosting Summer Balls. Regent's Park (my college) hosted and Arabesque themed ball in June. There was an outdoor tent layered with rich fabrics and poofs to relax on while smoking flavored tobacco. There was a fortune teller's tent where you could have your palm read, your fortune read in a crystal ball, or your future determined by the shape of your tea leaves. It was a nice opportunity to hang out with friends the entire night long and watch the sun rise!

The Magician Show: Here he is throwing knives!

The Shisha tent:

Playing with an African Python:


After the wedding I took my cousin Sharon's wonderful children to our local amusement park: Kennywood! We had a blast on the water rides and in "Kiddyland"

Down by the Turtle ride eating the famous Potato Patch fries and corn dogs! Yum!


The Wedding of the Century!

I absolutely adored being a part of my brother Max's and Lauren's wedding! Seeing my family and meeting a whole new family was AMAZING! I don't think i have had that much fun in a long time :)

Here we are at the rehearsal dinner which was at a charming country mansion. The bridesmaids and brides decided to test out strength by attempting to lift up the groom for some photo ops!

While I was off doing my bridesmaid duties, my brothers and parents took part in the pre-wedding photo shoot

Here we are moments before walking out to the ceremony! There is always time for a little photo shoot ;)

The ceremony:

Me and my cousin Jamie at the reception:

With 325 guests at the reception, we were bound to have a great time! The food was excellent and the DJ made fantastic music choices and EVERYONE was on the dance floor :)