Fat Mardi Shrove

Yeah.  That ’bout covers it.  Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday, or the day before Lent begins.  Shrove Tuesday is just another way to say the same thing… 

photoRather than getting spiritual on you, I have a question.  Have you ever had a love at first sight experience with a place?

I have.  New Orleans got under my skin almost as soon as we deplaned.  Yes, I was there during Mardi Gras two years ago.  (Photo from the airport)  I didn’t have much time to be a tourist, but the locals were warm and welcoming, the food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and the whole cultural vibe – architecture, local flavors, etc. – was just different enough from my norm that I was fascinated… and in love. 

So it’s natural that today, as Mardi Gras comes to a screaching halt at midnight, my thoughts turn to shrimp and cheese grits with a fine wine, beignets, purple, gold and green…

Cathedral_Rock_Sedona_2010The Knight and I had the same reaction to Sedona, AZ.  Those red rocks are rumored to have mystical properties, but regardless… we were instantly smitten with the small town and those red rocks.

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OBX fall 2011

Likewise, we both routinely leave our hearts in OBX.  We’re past due for a trip, and I hope we can squeeze one in VERY soon.

Be sure to catch my favorite OBX restaurant on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  It premiered last night, and I’m counting on the Knight and our DVR to have captured it for me.  I believe it is the third OBX dining spot to be featured on that show, but I might have missed something…

I suppose that’s a hint as to how I bond with a spot.  It’s the food, the environment and the memories made, and then those undefinable qualities that bind me.  I mean…  I’ve made great memories in other places too, but they aren’t on my heart list.  For instance, DC is my college town and I love visiting, but it’s not a HEART place, nor is Chicago, even though I’ve had some of the best food ever in that city.

Where are your special places, and what gives them a hold on your heart?

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Fly-by

Just a quick little check-in to let you know I’m still around… and not getting emailed my comments from WordPress.  It’s enough to send a girl back to Blogger.   Does anyone out there blog on free WordPress and use a different comment tool/service?

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Where's my Mama?!

This weekend, I was in Houston for a conference.  Sadly, the way I do conferences, I fly in, miss the opening session or two, and fly out before the closing reception or whatever the wrap-up is.  This time, we were in Houston less than 30 hours.   Unlike NoLa last year this time, because of a special meeting we basically had to attend Friday night, we didn’t even get to really have a night on the town.

I also have to tell you… as someone who has done conferences as a presenter and a regular ol’ attendee…  If you’re the host group, do a goodie bag.  I know it’s just one more thing to ask your taxed conference hosting committee to oversee, but truly… my feelings were a little hurt and I feel I missed a chance to learn a little more about the city I didn’t get to see.

photo.JPGSee… even when I can’t fly in early and leave late, I can count on those host site bags to include a list of where to dine, some local history and tourism propaganda, and a snack or three.  If we’re lucky, there are other goodies too, like a locally produced hand cream, or from Baltimore, some McCormick spices.  Thankfully, someone has been reading my post-conference surveys, because at least there were very real snacks at our breaks this time.  (Never mind that I couldn’t eat the pimento cheese because while there was at least two quarts of dip left, the crackers were long gone…)

I also have to mention the very sobering moments at the end of our flight from Houston to Charlotte.  I’d seen the solider in his (Army) dress uniform as I boarded, and I had a strong suspicion as to what that meant, but I still shudder-sighed when the pilot announced during our landing process that we were carrying a fallen hero and asked that we all remain seated while his military escort deplaned.   The pilot repeated the message as we made our final taxi, and the very full plane honored both his request and the escort… save two.  One was not a native speaker – I know because I was behind him boarding, and it was a struggle for all involved in trying to explain that all of us still left to board had to check our rolling luggage, even if it did meet carry-on requirements.  The other I am assuming also didn’t speak/comprehend English, but that makes me wonder…  if we’d had a real emergency, how would they have reacted?  I sure hope they weren’t just being impatient and disrespectful.

Meanwhile, our big fundraiser is this Saturday.  If you’re local and you like poker, I believe we have a few seats left in our poker tournament.  I also have two general admission tickets I’d like to give away if you’re interested…

Target 2011

Marjie, I’m SO GLAD you found these cute shoes for me last spring.  Now, I just need to decide whether I’ll go bare-legged or buy hose.   Otherwise, my outfit is taken care of, thank goodness.  Dress, shoes, special undergarments, earrings…  I’m good to go, with no time to change my mind.  If it’s not pouring down rain Saturday, the girls and I will have a fabulous, long walk, rather than me running around like Chicken Little!

What have you been up to?

Shopping Philadelphia

You’d think with Macy’s across the street from our hotel, I might have some great fashion finds, huh?

photoNope.  We only shopped in two small storefronts.  We knew we had time to kill on our way to the reservations we didn’t keep Friday night, so there was no hesitation when we spotted Doggie Style.   I should mention that both of my companions are dog-mas too; one has the dapper Sarge, an airedale, or King of the Terriers to the rest of you, while the other is mother to Elwood, a dashing hound mix.

(The tag line at the top of their logo is “they bark, we listen”.)

First up are the not-pictured Pumpkin Crunchers.  They aren’t pictured because I wouldn’t have gotten photos of anything other than Sissy’s nose, feet, etc. had the Crunchers left their nearly hidden location on the treat table.  She is particularly MAD for them.  Gretchen likes them quite well, but not to the point her nutty sister CRAVES them.

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(Why yes, that is the DIVA herself keeping any eye on the cookies!)  Of course, the big orange one is for Sis, and the cool margarita is for Gretchen.  Locally, I have some trouble finding fancy cookies free of Sissy’s allergens, so I had to snag ’em!

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Kitty magnets!

There were harnesses, collars, and even non-doggy items.  My partners in crime bought fun plush toys for their fur-kids, and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier.  We’re somewhat seriously considering looking into their franchise opportunities!

When we ditched our reservations in favor of Zavino, we had time to kill.  There was a soap shop across the street, so we wandered in, having no idea that we’d almost miss our seating because we couldn’t stop shopping at Duross and Langel.

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I went a little crazy.  There’s a “tub toy” fire truck (really a ladder truck, if you must know) for the Chief (aka: Knight), dry shampoo for the fur-girls, and the rest is MINE.  ALL.  MINE.  Two exfoliating soaps, cuticle cream and some pink grapefruit  sugar scrub that makes me weak in the knees.

photoYou need to see this label. A coat freshener that also repells bugs?! Do I need to tell you that THREE containers came back to VA?  Elwood, Sarge, Sissy and Gretchen will all be smelling a little sweeter now.  Of course, I’ll report back on what we all think of the product.

(Yes, there’s ground corn meal in there, so both girls will be brushed outside, in the front yard, so Sis can’t ingest it.  Fingers and paws crossed, but if it is problematic, at least I know it can go live with Elwood or Sarge.)

Does anyone else use a dry shampoo on pets?

Phood in Philly

This week should be better than last, but no promises.  I actually ran away for a conference Thursday through Saturday last week, and I have some cuteness to share… if the storms will quit knocking out our phone, which means we have no internet…

In the meantime, I can say I was in Philly – er… Philadelphia, PA – for the Junior League annual conference.  I traveled with two friends, the outgoing and incoming presidents of our League.  

Thursday night, we had the Reading Terminal Market to ourselves for the opening reception.  We made a meal out of roaming the aisles and scooping up steamed dumplings from one vendor, crabcakes from another… had crepes made to order, and my gal-pals had mini cupcakes from the Flying Monkey.   There was also all the water, wine and beer one might want, all of it included in our conference registration fee.

Photo from Zavino's online menu

Most of our meals were included in the conference package, and while I do think the Marriott does conference fare better than most, it’s still chicken in a funky sauce, globby starch, etc.  However Friday night, we roamed the streets in our area (more on two particularly awesome shops when I can get photos AND upload them) and settled on dinner at Zavino.

Again, no photos from me, but it’s a great little spot with good pizza, small plates and wine.  We started with the beet and goat cheese small plate, followed by a 3-cheese plate the spinach pizza, and washed it all down with a bottle of Prosecco in honor of one gal’s 5th wedding anniversary.  She sent her hubby a photo of her sipping her bubbly, and he sent her a photo of him with a cold, frosty mug of beer.

I’d never spent any time in that part of Philly, so I thoroughly enjoyed having the lone evening to stroll the neighborhood with my companions.  More on what I bought and from where soon!

How was your (thanks for putting them in time-out, Blogger) weekend?

Details, details!

So… I had a request for DETAILS about my food experiences in New Orleans.  Sigh.  Where to start?!

I had my one and only beignet at the hotel.  There just wasn’t an opportunity to get to Cafe Du Monde for the REAL thing, but I did bring a box of their mix home for the Knight.  If mine happen to look at all like that, I’ll take photos and let you know what the fried dough and powdered sugar fan at our house thought.  If he loves ’em, I’ll also try the flight attendant’s recommendation of refrigerated biscuit dough, quartered, fried and powdered with cinnamon.

Friday night at G W Fins, I had biscuits.  Evidently, based on that article, I’m not the only one with a biscuit problem at Fins.  I also had a pecan crusted sole served with pesto gnocchi and – be still my heart – pea butter.  There was another word in there – shoo?  shue?  – but alas, it’s not on the Fins’ website.  It’s worlds better than it sounds, and the waitress did tell us it is FINELY pureed peas and, well… butter.  There were veggies in there too, but honestly, I’ve told you about the things that really mattered.

Their tiramisu was also stellar, but my friend also had something very chocolate and decadent, and she thought her dessert was a little round piece of heaven as well.  Oh – if you didn’t read my previous post, we both had the same entree each night, so I can’t comment on anything else, but I’m positive anything at either establishment is incredible.

Saturday night, we did The Pelican Club.   I had the shrimp and four-cheese grits.  There were forty other things on the menu – from appetizers on down – that I would have liked to try, but I was practicing restraint, since portion control clearly didn’t make it in my carry-on and stayed in Virginia.  It was truly the best bowl of shrimp and grits I’ve ever had, and believe me, I’ve had a few.  

I ordered the pecan pie – which wasn’t the best ever, but the vanilla bean ice cream served with was VERY good – and my friend again had a very chocolate something that she ate on until she hurt.  I’d get that – chocolate decadence was the name at one place or the other – if we went again, which I hope we will!

Do you have restaurants you HAVE to go back to, in any city, town or country?  I know that’s how the Knight and I travel…  we find a place we love and the trip isn’t complete if we don’t eat there…

Big Easy

Have you been to New Orleans?  If not, hop a plane now before the next storm closes your airport and go.  Yeah, I think it’s raining there now, but trust me… it won’t dampen your spirits.

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My daylight view of NoLa

I didn’t get to see it at all during daylight hours, except from our room window.   I was there on League business, and the days were LONG, deep and productive.   We didn’t get to any of the great restaurants y’all suggested, but we had FINE dining experiences just the same. 

We stayed on Canal Street, and Friday night, we were too tired to even take a cab uptown.  We just asked the concierge for recommendations.  We landed at GW Fins.   I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had a better meal.  I started with Conundrum, which is my new favorite wine.  (Be still my heart… the wine shop on my way home carries it.  Sissy, dinner will be late because Mama needs new wine.)

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Doesn't Sissy need this wreath?!

Saturday, our nearby recommendations failed us.  My travel companion is a loyal Yelper, and Yelp didn’t paint the right pictures of the places we were sent.  One looked awesome, but neither Yelp nor the concierge told us we needed reservations.  We weren’t willing to wait two hours.  So, we’d passed The Pelican Club both nights and we thought it looked nice… it was.   The moral of this story is that when in NoLa, if it’s good enough for dinner, call ahead for reservations.  That’s probably obvious to most of you, but such is the curse of living in podunk.  Even the places that require reservations around here will work you in pretty quickly in most cases.

I can also say I’ve never been in a friendlier city.  From the doorman to the NoLa League president and everyone in between, they couldn’t stop telling us how happy they were to have us in their city.  Now, I do suppose that the locals still there now are the ones who are very passionate about their hometown, but still… it was delightful to be their guest.

I do have to mention one cause our Friday lunchtime speaker champions.  If you went to a theater last weekend, you might have seen the Women of the Storm public service announcement.  Regardless, I hope you’ll take a moment to click over and watch the video or just cut to the chase and sign the petition.

Since most of my readers are women, I’m going to take a moment to remind you that we are powerful.  As a collective force, there’s almost nothing we can’t do.  What are you passionate about?