Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Weekend in New Orleans

New Orleans is a city of eating and drinking, history, the Mississippi River, Mardi Gras, Hurricane's and a carousel bar. I spent a fun weekend there in February - and my first time to Mardi Gras!

We had a non-stop flight from Charlotte to New Orleans. After grabbing a taxi at the airport, we got settled in at our Airbnb - Sunshine Cottage - in the Central City area of the Big Easy. 

We were eager to start touring and enjoying the city so we hopped a bus around the corner from the house and headed to our first stop - Nola Brewing.  The downstairs was busy and the upstairs was closing for a private event so we had a short visit and went on our way.

 Off to the French Quarter by trolley, the next thing we knew we were eating dinner on a balcony on Bourbon Street. We even saw a wedding party parade down Bourbon.

 It was our turn to parade down Bourbon - we stopped in to hear some live music, the guys enjoyed Big Ass Beers but I was the only one to partake of a Hurricane at Pat O'Briens courtyard.

 Then we planted ourselves on the curb to watch one of the first Mardi Gras parades of the season - the Krewe de Vieux. The Krewe de Vieux is known for it's "wild satire, adult themes and political comedy" It was my first time to experience any of Mardi Gras - and it was so fun to watch! Spectators in costumes, crazy parade participants in costumes, beads and drinks, Mardi Gras is alot of fun. And it was time for these tourists to go back to their cottage for some rest!

We were off for Jackson Square for our free walking tour.It was a two hour tour concentrating on the French Quarter and our guide was fantastic. He told us that his job was to give us the best tour possible even though it was free - that way he would get a great tip! I enjoyed learning the history of one of the most interesting cities in the US. And one of my favorite cities! 

After the tour it was time for brunch - and a delicious brunch it was! We ate right on the square at Monty's where I had one of my favorite desserts ever - King Cake Beignets! Melted chocolate inside a fluffy beignet covered in powdered sugar!

Then we decided to try out the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone -  with a walk along the Mississippi first. The bar is small - super small - so all the seats were taken but with a little patience all 4 of us ended up with seats on the rotating bar. It was the only time I can say I rode on a bar!

We walked back towards Jackson Square and while the guys stopped at a brewery us gals walked through the French Market which was thriving on a Sunday afternoon. 

Our evening was spent on Frenchmen Street - New Orleans premier live music destination. I've been told that tourists go to the French Quarter and locals go to Frenchmen's Street. On a previous visit to New Orleans, I enjoyed dinner at Marigny Brasserie and a jazz band at Snug Harbor. So we stopped in for drinks at Marigny Brasserie and then strolled around the outdoor art market on Frenchmen . We put our names in for dinner at Adolfo's and listened to some music as we strolled. Our dinner at Adolfo's was wonderful! And just like that, it was time to call it a night!

Monday started with a visit to Cafe du Monde. You just can't go to New Orleans without stopping here. We chose Monday hoping the lines would be shorter - and it worked. We didn't wait long for a table and then enjoyed our beignets and chicory coffee. 

After that, we called Mardi Gras World to arrange for a ride to visit the large factory where the floats are made for Mardi Gras. It's $20 to tour the very large Mardi Gras World facility and they will pick you up and drive you there. After a short presentation explaining Mardi Gras and tasting King Cake, we went on a tour of the facility. We learned which Krewe's have their floats made there, who else they build for (Disney World) and saw artists at work along with a robot building an ice cream cone out of styrofoam. I thought it might be a bit cheesy and touristy, but surprisingly I enjoyed it very much and learned alot. (Did you know there are portapotties on the floats since people stand on them for an entire day?)

We hopped on the St. Charles streetcar to the Blind Pelican for Happy Hour. We were meeting our friends' daughter-in-laws friend -got that?- and she suggested the oysters and crawfish at the Blind Pelican which is directly on the streetcar line. Great prices, outdoor seating and good food. I highly recommend visiting here for Happy Hour if you're in New Orleans. 

It was our last evening so we stopped off for one last drink to toast the weekend. As I've said before, New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. So much charm. So much character. So much personality. I love the Southern Hospitality, the food, the drink and the history. This visit was way too short - I'm ready to go again!

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Eating (and Drinking) Portland

Portland, Oregon is known for it's breweries, doughnuts and it's innovative cuisine. On my recent trip there - which lasted a mere 24 hours - I ate a few of it's more famous foods. And visited a few of it's breweries. Come along as we eat and drink in the City of Roses!

Voodoo Doughnuts
There are three Voodoo Doughnuts locations in Portland - one is in the food truck area known as Cartlandia - and when I found out I was staying right around the corner from one, well, that was all I needed. This counter service, cash only doughnut shop is synonomous with Portland. There are over 50 types of doughnuts that come in those famous pink boxes. And I saw quite a few people carrying them downtown.

I had heard mixed reviews about Voodoo - some say Blue Star are far superior - but I knew I had to try them. We visited around 11 at night so the line was super short. We bought a dozen - including the old dirty bastard (a yeast doughtnut with chocolate frosting, oreo cookies and peanut butter), a classic apple fritter, and the famous Portland Cream (yeast with Bavarian cream with chocolate icing) and the Bacon Maple Bar.

Now take this review with a grain of salt because I've never met a doughnut that I didn't like. And I really liked these. Every one that I ate or even tasted was delicious. So if you're in Portland and you want to see what all the hype is about get yourself to a Voodoo Doughnuts. What can it hurt anyways?

Salt and Straw Ice Cream
I tasted Salt and Straw at the NW 23rd Street location known as the Wiz Bang Bar which is cool in and of itself. It's in the very unique Pine Street Market in the Esquire building and it's billed as a soft serve dessert bar. The Pine Street Market is a food hall with 9 restaurants including Bless Your Heart Burgers and Pollo Bravo.

Salt and Straw, started by 2 cousins, is not only known for it's unique flavors - I had the Rhubarb Honey Frozen Yogurt which was extremely light and refreshing - but it's also known for making unique flavors out of rescued food such as Lemon Curd & Whey, Toasted Baguette PB&J and Gin Spices and Tonic. Unfortunately, I didn't even think of taking a photo - plus I didn't have a camera or phone with me as I walked around eating my ice cream in a homemade waffle cone. Next time I'll have to try their some of their rescued flavors!

Portland City Grill
It was such a sunny day that the front desk clerk at our hotel suggested we check out Happy Hour at the Portland City Grill. Located on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp building, this restaurant has skyline views. We still couldn't see Mt. Hood but we did have awesome views of the city and a light dinner of their Happy Hour specials -I've never met a mac n cheese I didn't like so I went with the Poblano Mac n Cheese featuring the local Tillamook White Cheddar and Mr. UR had the Spicy Chili-Garlic Pork Riblets. Both were delicious. Side note: Happy Hour Specials are only valid in the lounge. The restaurant looks like a special occasion place but you can also dine there.

Deschutes Brewery
Named after Oregon's Deschutes River, the Deschutes Brewery and Public House in Portland has 26 beers on tap - some brewed exclusively for this Portland location. We spent about an hour there - enjoyed a large pretzel and some spiced nuts, saw about 8 million burgers delivered to other tables - and enjoyed some Deschutes brews. Check out that carving!

10 Barrel Brewing
We headed over to the rooftop deck of 10 Barrel Brewing in the Pearl district. Super crowded on such a nice day. But we managed to find a rooftop table and enjoy a beer or two - I opted for a sour. Which was quite good. Definitely a popular place!

Fat Head's Brewing
Our last stop of the day was Fat Head's Brewing. Originally based in Cleveland, this brewery has won numerous medals for it's beer. I tried the Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale - my favorite of the day - and we split some apps. A nice place to sit for an hour of the afternoon. Good beer. Good company.

A fun day with gorgeous, sunny weather - and I finally got that view of Mt. Hood later in the day!

What is your favorite place to eat -or drink - in Portland?

This post is part of a link-up with: The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!