Monthly Archives: February 2010

Farm to table

I nabbed one of the coolest assignments ever recently, with the new magazine Edible New Orleans. It’s great to see the locavore movement growing in a place where cuisine is already such a major part of the local culture.

Yeah, hot sauce!

I visited Tony Accardo’s farm to write about his amazing selection of heirlooms, which also feature prominently on the menu at Dante’s Kitchen. I loved this restaurant so much that I went back again last week. It’s in an old shotgun house near the river and the walls are lined with jars of pickled veggies from Tony’s farm. Many of the creative and delicious “local vegetable selections” use Tony’s produce, too.

But my favorite part has to be the hot sauce. Dante’s keeps two oak barrels on the bar with two house-made hot sauces, which you can sample in tiny shot glasses. This will seriously blow your mind, people.

One is the “eternal damnation,” made from 18 different peppers–all Tony’s. You really can taste the complex flavors layered in the sauce from all those peppers. It’s insane. The second is made from the fatality pepper, one of the hottest peppers in the universe. Apparently it’s “mellowed” some in the oak barrel, but it still about killed me.

I really appreciated seeing both the produce in the ground and on my plate.  It’s important, I think, to know where your food comes from and to maybe even meet the person who’s grown it. You get a sense of appreciation for all the effort that goes into farming–and cooking–which is something I think we often take for granted. It’s nice to slow down when you eat and sort of give thanks to all the people who have helped make that meal possible for you.

So the lighting was terrible for my admittedly amateur photography. But the food is beautiful. Check out next month's Edible New Orleans for some great shots!

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Roadtripping the Sicilian Coast

Taormina

Where to go and what to see when you’ve got a car in Sicily, Italy.

Fly into Palermo

The highlights of Sicily’s coast take about a week to tour. Start by flying into Palermo, Sicily’s capital and largest city. You can rent a car at the airport and make Palermo your launching point for a day trip to Erice.

Palermo’s big and messy, but its tightly packed churches, squares, and palaces make it fun to just wander (which is something you’ll want to do on foot, not by car, as the streets are a nutty jumble of pick-up sticks).

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Trips.

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Don’t believe in global warming?

You don’t have to.

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Change.

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Believe dat

In a few hours, the New Orleans Saints will play in their first Super Bowl. When they won the NFC Championship game two weeks ago in overtime, the city erupted in pandemonium. There were fireworks, cheering, horns honking, people screaming in the streets. Grown men crying. If they win tonight…well, I can’t even imagine.

So this must mean the Saints are the soul of New Orleans. At least that’s what the media has proclaimed over and over as they tell the story of how much the team means to a broken and battered city. Even Gregg Rosenthal, NBCSports.com writer and Tulane University graduate has more or less positioned himself as the outside expert on the city in his recent columns, wrote: “The team is the heartbeat the city, of everyone you meet.”

By that logic, everyone in the city would drop dead if the Saints no longer existed. There’d be nothing left to live for. There’s nothing else keeping this city alive. Apparently he’s forgotten the distinct local flavor that permeates the humid air. The joie de vivre of every day living here. The culture, the history, the brass bands and cuisine. None of this is contingent upon our football team.

But here’s why we love them, and here’s why they’ve made such a great story that writers like Rosenthal are compelled to make sweeping statements: Because the team reflects our underdog experience, because the team has similarly risen from the ashes, bounced back from adversity. Because our love for the Saints reflects our welcoming attitude towards outsiders. Because a winning football teams gives us another reason to party–not that we need one, but we’ll take it. Because guys like Drew Brees have given back to this community. And because we’ve waited a really, really long time for this.

You’ll hear a lot about the Saints’ story, the city’s story, today. But make no mistake: The New Orleans Saints are not the heart and soul, the lifeblood, the heartbeat, the whatever, of this city. The people are.

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My 3 best kept travel secrets

Julie Schwietert Collazo recently “tagged” me to participate in the Tripbase Best Kept Travel Secrets Project. So here we go:

1. Erice

Sicily

I don’t know of too many places where you can eat gelato next to medieval castles on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Erice is a  stone fortress high above the city of Trapani, where you can take a cable car ride to the top of the mountain. It’s got a bit of a touristy feel, with souvenir shops and a self-guided walking tour map, but I thought it was worth the ride.

2. New Belgium Brewery

Ft. Collins, Colorado

Not only does New Belgium have great beer, but they’ve also got a free brewery tour (with free samples!) and an environmentally-friendly business. They encourage bike commuting, use wind power, offer spent wheat for feed, and even have compostable cups. Plus, their office has a slide.

3. Ballard Farmer’s Market

Seattle, Washington

Everyone goes to the Pike Place Market when they visit Seattle, and I’m here to tell you they’re wrong. Pike Place is horrendously crowded; even though they sell a fascinating array of regional produce and other staples like king crab, you can find the same things at many of the neighborhood markets–and you can usually get a much more reasonable price. In Ballard, a fishing neighborhood of exposed brick and cold beer, you’ll find a festive market: folk music, families with dogs, wood-fired pizza. It’s often crowded, but much less so than Pike Place. And it’s so much more authentic.

I’m nominating these 5 bloggers to share their top 3 travel secrets on their blog:

Alexis Grant: Aspiring Author
Todd Wassel: Todd’s Wanderings
Suzzanne Westover: Own Up to Being Grown-Up
Catherine Ryan Howard: Catherine, Caffeinated
Michael Hodson: The Mobile Lawyer

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