USAdventure days 39, 40, 41, 42 & 43: Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Stayed at: Hotel Plaza Almendros

Ate at:
– Lola Valentina
– Las Comadres
– Poc Chuc
– La Catrina
– El Burrito Feliz
– Velazquez seafood

Got up to:
– taco eating. A lot of it.
– rented a golf buggy and drove around the island for half a day
– visited Punta Sur and the Temple of Ixchel
– visited the turtle farm
– Playa Norte beach
– did a whole lot of sweet FA really, and it was fantastic!

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Shop here: Kitchen Witch Cookbooks, New Orleans, USA

Kitchen Witch Cookbooks
631 Toulouse St, New Orleans
http://kwcookbooks.com

It’s lucky we had to leave the hotel at 4.30am this morning, or they’d have been dragging me out kicking and screaming; New Orleans managed to completely capture my heart in a few short but extremely full days.

I’ll be writing about this visit for a while to come no doubt, because there are a lot of things to love about it! One of the things I loved was the small stores, a lot of them quite specialised, absolutely gorgeous and run by the loveliest people, just like Kitchen Witch.

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They’ve been around since 1999, but moved locations into the French Quarter after Katrina, to contribute a little to the re-building of the city, and have been thriving ever since. As the name implies, they’ve got a bunch of cookbooks, purveyors particularly of the old, out of print and pre-loved variety, covering everything from Cajun to cookies, and all at very reasonable prices.

The gentleman I met on my visit, who I presume was Philipe, was very helpful. We also had a good laugh at his sign calling for Australian Vegemite donations – I hate the stuff, husband loves it!

It’s a gorgeous shop, a must visit for the keen home cook, and a great place to pick up some local specialty recipes!

USAdventure days 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 & 39: New Orleans

Stayed at: The Cornstalk Hotel

Ate at:
– Johnny’s Po-Boys
– Cafe Du Monde’s beignets
– NOLA Po-Boys
– Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar
– K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
– Coop’s Place
– District Donuts Sliders Brew
– Domilise’s
– French Market Restaurant & Bar
– Angelo Brocato – the best cannoli to ever be eaten
– Parkway Bakery
– The Joint

Got up to:
– Maison Bourbon for drinks and jazz
– Lafitte’s Blacksmith, America’s oldest bar (doesn’t even have lights inside!)
– Marie Laveau House of Voodoo
– Louis Armstrong Park
– St Louis Cemetery #1
– Musical Legends Park
– New Orleans City Park
– NOMA Sculpture Garden
– St. Louis Cemetery #3
– Frechmen St
– French Market
– Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers live at the Blue Nile (!!!) with special guest June Yamagishi (!!!!!!!!)
learnt how to do proper gumbo, creole chicken and pralines at The New Orleans School of Cooking
– saw Rebirh Brass Band play at the Maple Leaf Bar
– New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
– had a fantastic tarot card and palm reading at Earth Odyssey
– Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral
– saw John Cleary play at d.b.a.
– Frenchmen Art Market
– Garden District
– Magazine Street

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The New Orleans School of Cooking!

New Orleans School of Cooking
524 St. Louis St, New Orleans
http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com

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Now this was one hell of an experience! I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans, one of the reasons for which being the food culture here; it’s like no other part of America, in that it is SO unique and specialised. The mix of nationalities that had a hand in creating this city all brought with them elements of their foods from back home, which leads to dishes that have no comparisons in other parts of the world, like gumbo and pralines.

We purchased tickets for one of the cooking demonstrations, for around AUD$30.00 each, and it started from the moment we walked through the doors. We were greeted, checked in and invited to look around their store before the class began: questions welcomed and encouraged!

Right on 2pm, the gorgeous Pat breezed into the store and welcomed us all. Up to the third floor we trekked and took our seats at the scattered round tables, set with cutlery, recipes, condiments and drinks (water and iced tea) on a checkered tablecloth. The stove was already well and truly alive with a few pots of stock and the beginnings of a gumbo bubbling away.

Pat was quite simply amazing. This gorgeous lady gave us a full and truly entertaining run down of the history of New Orleans, constantly bringing it back to the food and history’s impact on Louisiana cuisine, intermittently fluttering back to the stove to explain the steps to getting the andouille and chicken gumbo together. Once everything was in the pot, she left it to simmer and do its thing, moving fluidly onto the next recipe, creole chicken.

She threw together another classic recipe, explaining as she went, all the while still giving us historical information and fielding questions from some of her more eager students; now, this lady really knows her stuff, answering questions on everything from the smoke point of butter and oil versus lard to how long your creole sauce will keep for. Count yourself incredibly fortunate if you should find yourself in her kitchen!

Again, leaving the creole to simmer away, she moved onto the pralines, the most famous of New Orleanian sweets. I plan to attempt all of these recipes when I’m back home, so if you’re interested in recipes and seeing how I did recreating them, visit back here soon : )

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Then, like the seasoned professional she clearly is, Pat’s lunch party was on! We were served bowls of gumbo and plates of creole chicken on rice. Beer appeared on the tables, as well as second servings for those of us who couldn’t get enough (more gumbo for me, please!). And that food.. It was like being served warm bowls of hugs, seriously.. New Orleans food is true comfort food. It’s rich and full of flavour. It’s the food you wanna be eating when it’s cold, when you’ve had a shitty day at work, when you’re mentally and physically exhausted. It’s not difficult to put together, but there are layers of flavours that work in absolute perfect symphony. If you don’t like the food in New Orleans, then you just don’t like food! Amazing class run by an amazing woman; do yourself a favour and sign up when you visit!

USAdventure days 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 & 33: New York

Stayed at: Da Vinci Hotel

Ate at:
– Papaya King
– Momofuku Milk Bar
- Levain Bakery
– Burger Joint
– Alice’s Tea Cup (Chapter II)
– Southern Hospitality BBQ
– Nippori (Japanese)
– vanilla bomboloni from Sullivan Street Bakery
5 Napkin Burger
– cream cheese & salmon everything bagel from Russ & Daughters
– pastrami and mustard on rye sandwich from Katz’s Deli
– New York cheesecake from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
– Tuck Shop and Beyond Sushi at the Chelsea Market
– Nathan’s Hot Dogs at Coney Island
– Ramen Burger by Keizo Shimamoto, pulled pork, brisket and burnt ends by Mighty Quinns Barbeque and a dulce de leche and almond donut from Dough at Smorgasburg/Brooklyn Flea Market
pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds
– the best pizza at Don Antonio
– Dominique Ansell Bakery
– Crif Dogs
The Halal Guys
– Pommes Frittes
(pretty much all of these will be blogged eventually so stay tuned!)

Got up to:
– Central Park.. Ran around in the snow like a maniac on the first morning in the city! I loved the Alice in Wonderland statue, Belvedere Castle, The Lake and Strawberry Fields!
– Top of the Strand rooftop bar
– Rockefeller Plaza
– Radio City Music Hall
– Times Square
– 37th Annual Three Kings Day Parade
- Bought some books at Kitchen Arts & Letters
– Queensboro Bridge
– Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
– saw Wicked on Broadway!
– looked out over the city from the Top of the Rock(efeller Center)
– Essex Street Market
– South Street Seaport
– saw the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park
– 9/11 Memorial
– bought more books at Strand Bookstore
– and Idlewild Books
– Grand Central Terminal
– The High Line
– Chelsea Market
– Flatiron Building
– Coney Island
– Smorgasburg Flea Market, Brooklyn
– crossed the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan at sunset
– Washington Square Park
– West 4th Street Basketball Courts

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