Heard Dat! Everything We Ate in NOLA

New Orleans has been on my bucketlist for many, many years. Mostly, I wanted to get to the famous Cafe Du Monde of the French Quarter. New Orleans is famous for spicy creole dishes, indulgent desserts, and fresh seafood. While in the city for the American College of Cardiology conference, Boyfriend (now Fiancé) and I made sure to try as many New Orleans classics as possible.

#1 Arnaud’s

Starting with one of the oldest NOLA institutions, we booked date night at this classy restaurant prepared to dine on some of the best, high-quality creole cuisine. Though this restaurant is just off of crowded, wild Bourbon Street, Arnaud’s weeds out the drunken riffraff with a fairly strict dress code. Waitstaff in tuxedos seated us in a comfortable corner of the beautiful dining room, even placing the napkins on our laps.

While waiting for the table we reserved on Open Table, we enjoyed drinks at French 75, the attached bar named after the renowned champagne cocktail. I enjoyed the sweet and sour French 75 while Fiancé sipped on a bourbon.

In true NOLA fashion, no one takes themselves too seriously. A warm loaf of bread was placed on the table. We were told to tear off the bread and don’t bother worrying about the crumbs. There was a delicious crust that crackled with every tear. We did our best not to fill up on the bread. Our waitress then stopped by with a unique little tool to quickly gather our crumbs like they were never there. (Another waiter was kind enough to give me one!)

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I ordered the “Jazzy Menu”, a tasting menu with choices of appetizers, entrees, and dessert. My appetizer was a delicious salad with spicy pecans, bold Stilton blue cheese, and acidic vinaigrette. Fiancé enjoyed a Caesar salad, then added on some escargot (my favorite). He tried one and said “it tasted like dirt”, so I ate the rest. The de-shelled snails are served in a pool of garlic, butter, and parsley with a small pastry on top.

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My main course was scallops in a creamy mushroom sauce and small whipped potatoes piped in between each buttery scallop. Fiancé had the Steak au Poivre, cooked rare. Arnaud’s, as a rule, does not bring steak knives as all steaks should be easily cut with a butter knife.

Finally for dessert, Fiancé enjoyed a decadent chocolate toffee bombe. My Paris-Brest was slightly disappointing as the pâte à choux dough was tough rather than light and airy.

#2 Heard Dat Kitchen

The best NOLA food is soul food. I found this hole-in-the-wall recommended on some websites. It is a true hole-in-the-wall, housed in a tiny shack attached to a small gambling room. There is a small window and one two-person table inside. The remaining seating is colorful benches outside.

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We ordered the homemade sugary fruit punch called “Dat Shyt.” The sweetness helped tone down the saltiness of our meal. Dat Fries were covered in Cajun seasoning, candied bacon, and a creamy sauce. I ate salty fried chicken with red beans and rice. The meat and sausage were so tender and the spice level was absolutely perfect. Fiancé devoured fried chicken with peppery mac ‘n’ cheese. All of our plates were clean by the end of our meal.

#3 Napoleon House

We stumbled upon this place by accident while wandering after finding the Carousel Bar was too packed to order a sazerac. I had read a brief comment on Chowhound that they enjoyed the sazerac there. The bar was full, so we agreed to be seated.

The sazerac here is made with absinthe, as the original recipe indicates. Per our waiter, they are one of the only NOLA restaurants to continue using absinthe. We ordered a charcuterie plate full of NOLA delicacies: pate, headcheese sausage, boudin meatballs, and alligator sausage served with toast and various toppings like pepper jam and mustard.

Fiancé ordered a half mufaletta which was huge! I have always enjoyed the tangy olive topping of this sandwich. The meat was tasty and not too salty. The fluffy focaccia bread prevented an overwhelming salt flavor from the combination of pickled vegetables and cured meats.

We ended our “second dinner” with cannolis filled with traditional ricotta cream on one end and chocolate cream on the other. I was immensely impressed by the shell, which did not become soggy and remained intact as we ate.

#4 Mother’s Restaurant

Mother’s reminds me of a New York Jewish deli, though keep in mind this food is not kosher. Line up outside and make your way past the deli counter to order at the cash register. The line looks long, but they serve quickly. Take a seat and one of the lovely waitstaff (who call you “baby”) will bring you your order. There’s more seating around the corner, so don’t be upset if there are no seats near the counter – the building is larger than it looks.

Mother’s serves up NOLA favorites like po’ boys, gumbo, and catfish. No frills, no fluff, and a ton of homestyle flavor. It’s fairly inexpensive, and obviously a favorite choice for lunch. Fiancé enjoyed a massive sandwich while I ate a perfectly portioned duck and andouille sausage gumbo. It was spicy without overwhelming my poor, sensitive taste buds. The meat was tender and I was comfortably full after finishing the size “Small” bowl. When you think of Creole food, this is the place to go.

#5 Cafe Du Monde

The original Cafe Du Monde is located in the French Quarter near Jackson Square on Decatur Street. There are 2 lines, one for seating and one for “to-go” orders. I recommend eating in the restaurant as the long line goes quickly. Once you’re at the front of the line, jump on any empty tables. The waitstaff will quickly tidy up messy tables. Keep in mind this is cash only.

We quickly sat at a small table. A waitress cleared the previous order, including the piles of powdered sugar. We ordered a cafe au lait and a hot chocolate to go with our beignets. It warmed us up after waiting in line in the chilly weather. These beignets are world-famous for a reason. They are light, fluffy pillows of fried dough buried in sweet powdered sugar. Get messy and enjoy!

Restaurant to Skip: Willa Jean

I’d heard great things online about Willa Jean, a fairly new restaurant to the NOLA food scene. Not to be confused with the famous Willa Mae Scotch House, this place is more modern and trendy. I enjoyed a latté flavored with herbs and turmeric. We split some poutine before our entreés. I had a rabbit pot pie, and Fiancé had their famous fried chicken sandwich Our food was about average, and our meal was essentially ruined by a nearby table filled with obnoxious women swapping sexcapades. Shortly after our dinner here, we stumbled onto Napoleon House, which was better in every way.

Have you tried any of these restaurants? Are there any “must try” places that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

What We Ate in Vegas

My birthday last year ended up being a trip to Vegas, courtesy of Boyfriend (now Fiancé). The Las Vegas food scene has an odd reputation. In one hotel you can find elegant Michelin starred restaurant not far from a greasy fast food joints famous for massive burgers or pizza. Famous chefs open their chains or run hotel buffets. There’s an insane number of options to choose from, but here are some of the places we tried!

#1: Black Tap

Black Tap’s mother restaurant in New York earned its fame on Instagram. Their popularity started with Crazyshakes, milkshakes with “extras” like pieces of cake and candies around the rim. For my birthday, I wanted to have one of these giant milkshakes. Out of the many choices, we picked the Cookie Shake: a vanilla frosted rim with cookie crumbles topped with a ‘cookiewich,’ crumbled cookies, chocolate chips, whipped cream & chocolate drizzle.

The milkshake lives up to its “crazy” reputation. It was huge and covered in sugar. I wasn’t able to finish it by myself or with the help of Boyfriend. Was it worth $15? I’m not so sure, but I did it for the ‘gram.

We ordered some fries with gochugang ketchup (my favorite!) to off-set the intense sweetness.

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Boyfriend ordered a burger, as “craft” burgers are supposed to be Black Tap’s specialty. There was nothing particularly special about the burger, though Boyfriend enjoyed it and finished the whole thing.

#2: Sprinkles + Margaritaville

Wandering around the strip, you’ll walk by plenty of shops with snacks and drinks. Las Vegas allows for open containers, so I grabbed a delicious mango margarita from Margaritaville. They were generous with the alcohol, but the flavors covered up any harshness.

While sipping from my souvenir cup, we came across Sprinkle Cupcakes. Sprinkles has a Phoenix location and is owned by one of the judges from Cupcake Wars. As a rewards member, I get a free cupcake on my birthday. I probably should have considered a flavor better matched to my drink, but I loved this Cuban Coffee Chocolate cupcake.

Sprinkles cupcakes are rich and flavorful. The menu changes frequently (even offering special edition cupcakes for holidays and events).

#3: Hash House A-Go-Go

It’s no surprise that Vegas is home to some intense hangover food. I heard about this place from Guy Fieri’s Triple D show, and it just so happened to be in our hotel. This restaurant describes their fare as “twisted farm food.” They make country breakfast on a Vegas scale.

I ordered a single apple pancake. The entire pancake was even bigger than my normal dinner plate. I probably would have appreciated more cinnamon and spices, but I was happy to recover from the night before with this carb monstrosity.

I think Boyfriend should have won a T-shirt for finishing his tower of chicken and waffles. He might have preferred fewer fried green onions, but the chicken was moist and flavorful. I thought the waffles were a bit dry, but that was easily remedied with maple syrup.

#4: Bardot Brassiere

Birthdays usually mean fancy dinners, at least for me. I reserved a table at this lovely restaurant inside the Aria, run by famous chef Michael Mina. As a high class restaurant, the menu changes often so what we ate may not be available if you visit.

We started our meal with a spin on chicken wings, duck wings a l’orange. For the entreé, I enjoyed my favorite protein – lamb – with crisp veggies and smooth potatoes (underneath). Though I probably should have had red wine, I tried Chablis for the first time and loved it.

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I wish I could find more pictures of this meal because it was truly lovely. I’m glad we booked early, because later in the evening the place was packed! The ambience is like a Parisian café set in the post-WWII era, stunningly beautiful. The food was fantastic and the service was great. This a great

I’ve been to other restaurants in Las Vegas (including my favorite: Sage in the Aria), but I always love to try new places! What’s your favorite restaurant in Vegas?

Tourist Home in Flagstaff

It’s summer vacation! That means travel, barbecues, family time, and days off. If you live in Phoenix, you’re probably dying to drive up north to get away from the heat. Flagstaff is popular in the winter, but there is plenty of hiking and other natural attractions to draw tourists in the summer. As a result, downtown Flagstaff has been developing a more trendy food scene.

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On National Doughnut Day this year, Boyfriend and I did some research while up in Flagstaff. A Yelp search brought up Tourist Home downtown. The name comes from the origin of the building – an old boarding house for tourists in Flagstaff. Located conveniently next to a city parking lot, you can use one of multiple entrances to go inside. Though the outside building design is loyal to the older, brown, cabin-style architecture you would expect to see up north, the interior is well-designed and trendy. Take a seat at the bar or head to the bakery counter to order.

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There is a vast array of pastries, but given the “holiday,” we focused on the doughnuts available. Tourist Home is famous for their cruellers, so of course we had to get one…. followed by two other doughnuts because they were having a special, okay?

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My favorite was the ?

 

Boyfriend liked the creuller, but he enjoyed the

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I promise we ate food other than doughnuts for breakfast. I ordered a slice of the quiche of the day, expecting a small slice for a healthier contrast to the doughnuts I’d had earlier. Instead I ended up with a piece that puts Chicago-style pizza to shame. The dense, massive slice was accompanied by a very fresh, lightly dressed salad. The salad was a acidic and light contrast to the heavy and salty quiche.

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Boyfriend opted for a local favorite – huevos rancheros. Homemade tortillas were topped with black beans, an egg with a runny yolk, cotija cheese, and a smooth, spicy tomato salsa. This was served with a side of crispy home fries. This is still his favorite, despite trying huevos rancheros at other restaurants since our visit to Tourist Home.

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I’m not sure if the breakfast was the greatest I’ve ever had, especially since the price of food seemed higher than in Phoenix. I enjoyed eating outside in the cool breeze, watching people pass by walking their dogs. I was impressed by the variety of the menu. Breakfast at Tourist Home can vary from juices and protein-rich options to coffee and doughnuts or other rich pastries. After breakfast, enjoy a walk around the city, hit up an event on campus, or head over to the famous Riordan Mansion.

Price: $30-$40 for 2 people
Atmosphere: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Food: 3.5/5

Everything We Ate At Disneyland

Summer is almost here! This means family vacations, roadtrips, and maybe even trips to Disneyland! Some people may go to Disneyland for the rides, but I’ve recently come to enjoy the smaller details of the Happiest Place on Earth. Clothing, customized ears, souvenirs, and food all add to the magic. I did my research on the most highly recommended snacks. Keep in mind you can rack up quite the bill buying all of your food at the park.

#1 Pooh’s Corner: Tigger Tail

After getting soaked on the Splash Mountain log ride, I needed a sweet treat to forget about this misery of wet clothing in the cold December weather. Right next to the ride’s exit is Pooh’s Corner. Stop in for sweet treats with a Winnie the Pooh theme. Tigger has always been my favorite, so I ordered a Tigger Tail – marshmallow’s stacked in a zig-zag then dipped in orange and black chocolate with orange sprinkles.

#2 Bengal Barbeque: Chicken & Beef Satay

Across from the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland is the … Keeping with the theme, they offer “exotic” foods from “far off places.” The main course is primarily meat skewers. This was a meal set called the Bengal Rice Plate, which comes with chicken skewers, a “tiger tail” breadstick, and a beef skewer. I enjoyed the flavors, but there was not much food despite the price. Boyfriend and I were still quite hungry following our little meal. If you feel like a quiet place to eat, we stole away to the deserted Aladdin pavilion nearby.

#3 Belle’s Tavern: Poutine

Our lunch from Bengal Barbeque wasn’t really enough to share, so we wandered to find another place for lunch. We stopped in at Belle’s Tavern in Fantasyland for a heartier meal. Boyfriend ordered a burger meal, pretty standard for most Disneyland restaurants. We also split an order of poutine, which is a French-Canadian dish made of meat, cheese, and gravy over French fries. The cheese curds tasted like they were probably frozen at some point, so I think I might have preferred melted cheese instead. The meat was tender and rich from the gravy.

#4 Tomorrowland: Lightsaber Churro

After we trekked through most of the park, our last few rides were located in Tomorrowland. We enjoyed a late night snack of Lightsaber churros, which is really just a churro dipped in colored sprinkles. Disneyland churros are readily available all over the park, but the lightsaber version is only available in Tomorrowland. Choose the Jedi or the Dark Side (blue or red)! I’m not sure if there’s an increase in price, but there’s not really a difference between these and their regular churros.

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Do you guys have any favorite Disney treats? I really wanted to have a Monte Cristo in “New Orleans,” but the reservations were full for the whole day! Make sure to use the Disneyland app to book early, so you’re not caught wandering around to the most deserted restaurants.