Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Orleans Hard To Find Places, Food, and More

Mary Ramsey IBBP.com's innkeeper from 1870 Banana Courtyard Bed and Breakfast located in The French Quarter of New Orleans is back today for more tips on traveling New Orleans. Todays Tips: Hard to find locations, food, restaurants and more in New Orleans.

WHERE DO I FIND this lists both THE BEST, most ECONOMICAL, and sometimes THE ONLY place you can find items . . . . . .?


Alligator: Finding alligator MEAT, is a challenge, but Margaritaville usually has alligator. Dry Dock Café has alligator SAUSAGE, as does Praline Connection, or try Gumbo Shop, Redfish Grill, or Cajun Cabin (more expensive). Usually available year round.
BBQ (barbeque): N’Awlins isn’t ‘big’ on BBQ, but you can find good pulled pork sandwich at 13 Monaghan, and better yet, a pulled pork sandwich & ribs to die for at Zydeque Barbeque on St. Charles Ave.. (BBQ shirmp, see shrimp)
Baked Alaska: Signature dish at Antoine’s, but the restaurant is very pricey.
Bananas Foster (Flaming dessert): You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy this wonderful, flamed dessert (The expensive Brennan's and Antoine’s restaurants are not the only venues serving this delightful New Orleans specialty dessert). Redfish Grill is a lively restaurant that serves it. Go at lunch.
Beignets and Chicory Coffee: (Café du Monde)
• Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce: Dessert, but locals eat it for breakfast, as well. Praline Connection, Dizzy’s Café (4 blocks from main B&B on Esplanade Ave. Toward the lake), Gumbo Shop, Deanies Café (warehouse district)
Calas: Creole fried rice fritter. Emerils, Brennans, and most lod line N’Awlins restaurants. Or for the cheapest, try Elizabeth’s (it’s worth the long walk or taxicab to go. See RESTAURANT LIST for details).
Cooking Schools: There are a number of options for cooking classes or demonstrations that many of our guests have enjoyed. The most popular is The New Orleans School of Cooking +.
Crab: Season is March through November. Most paces with boiled crab are in the ‘burbs, but you will see some with vats in the restaurant window
Crawfish: Crawfish Etouffée, steamed/boiled Crawfish, or Crawfish Pie (Fiorelli’s on Decatur St.)
Crawfish, Boiled: Season usually runs from November through July. Best bet, go to King Rogers , a block down N. Rampart from B&B (@St. Claude) boils crawfish daily, in season, take out. In the French Quarter, take out from Matassa’s (Fridays, but call 1st) and Royal St. Grocery. Eat in = Acme Oyster House, The Alpine, French Market Restaurant, but they ain’t cheap! Ship: www.lacrawfish.com, www.nuawlins.com/crawfish.htm
Crawfish Monica: You may be out of luck finding this one! JazzFest enthusiasts have made this dish famous. The bad news is that about the only time you can get it, is at JazzFest. The spicy-creamy Rotini pasta dish, is a product of the locally based Kajun Kettle Foods company who only does catering for large events.
Crawfish Pie: Post Katrina, I only know of one place in French Quarter to find them: Fiorella’s (Hugh makes them for family Christmas dinner).
Creole Food: Arnauds, Galatoire’s, Oliviers
Crepes: Petunias (they are rather pricey, maybe not worth it in our city) . 817 St. Louis St. 504-522-6440.
Deep Fried Turkey: your guess is as good as mine. You have to fry it for a large group , to be served immediately, so I doubt that you’ll find it in a traditional restaurant. If you do, please tell me so I can add to this list (much of our info is gleaned from guest feedback)
Dirty Rice: Popeyes Fried Chicken on St. Charles Avenue.
Fried Green Tomatoes: Liuzza’s+in Mid-City or Café Atchafalaya+ in Uptown.
Grillades and Grits: Galatoires: Or for the cheapest, try Elizabeth’s (it’s worth the long walk or taxicab to go. 


Gumbo: Gumbo Shop on St. Peter or Praline Connection on Frenchman
Jambalaya: Gumbo Shop
Lobster: That’s NOT a New Orleans specialty, so you’ll probably pay dearly for it. If you ‘gotta have it’, try Andrew Jaeger’s. At least it’s less expensive there, but it’s in the ‘burbs, so you’ll need a car.
Oysters: 3-ways Rockefeller, Casino and Bienville, in a po boy, or raw oysters, shucked at the bar.
Po-boy Sandwich: (Yep. Anywhere else this would be called submarine sandwich, but ours are on French Bread): shrimp, oyster, or Softshell Crab are most popular, but roast beef with gravy is a favorite in any language). It’s worth the drive or streetcar ride to go to Liuzza’s in Mid City or Parkway Tavern in Faubourg St. John near City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Lots of tourists go to Johnny’s Poboys and Mothers.
Pralines: Loretta’s.
Praline Cured Bacon: Elizabeth’s, (it’s worth the long walk or taxicab to go.
Red Beans and Rice (with or without smoked sausage). sausage: Andouille or Boudin.
Shrimp: Shrimp Creole, Shrimp Remoulade, Shrimp Etouffée, fried or boiled/steamed shrimp
Southern Fried Chicken: Fiorelli’s
Tasso (local, highly seasoned, intensely flavored smoked pork): Adds a wonderful flavor to a variety of dishes, from soups to jambalaya to pastas and seafood. You’ll also find it in grits. Try Coop’s Place
Malt Milkshakes: Clover Grill 
Muffuletta: In 900 block of Decatur Street, Central Grocery (Napoleon House, if raining)
Oysters, raw, on the half shell: BEST are in Uptown @Pascal Manale’s + Acme Oyster > (good prices, but LOTS of tourists) 522-5973 @724 Iberville, or best surroundings @ Redfish Grill’s oyster bar (gorgeous bar), Bourbon @Iberville. Best season is mostly ‘R’ months, but they are usually available year round. http://www.oysterlover.com/5lb2.html.
Pralines: Loretta’s in the French Market or on N. Rampart St..
Seafood/fish/shellfish/crustaceans: You’ll find seafood at almost any good restaurant in New Orleans, here are a few of our favorites:
Creole style seafood, oh la la, oysters in Brochette: Feelings + wide variety: Deanie’s > Worth the drive to Crabby Jacks in Jefferson (yum, yum). Owner also owns Jaques Imo in Uptown. And a seafood distribution serve, so you know it’s fresh!
Liuzza’s in Mid City
Seafood, packed to ship: Big Fisherman (Garden District) or P&J Oysters (French Quarter).
Wide variety and HUGE portions. Ain’t cheap, though. French Quarter
Shrimp, BBQ: go to Pascal’s Manale (by car, taxi, or streetcar)
Shrimp Po-boy Sandwich: Fiorella’s on Decatur, Verti Marte on Royal ,or King Rogers on N. Rampart Street. Season February through October.
Soul Food: Praline Connection+ or Dizzy’s Cafe

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Must Do Sights to See in New Orleans

Let me introduce Mary Ramsey, Innkeeper of 1870 Banana Courtyard Bed and Breakfast located in The French Quarter of New Orleans. Mary and her husband Hugh have been running a B&B since the 90s and enjoy hosting guests from all over the world. Here is her "must do" list for a weekend of fun in New Orleans. To learn more about Mary and her B&B, visit: bananacourtyard.com To see a list of all ibbp.com's New Orleans B&Bs, see: New Orleans Bed and Breakfasts

• Eat beignets and drink chicory coffee @ Café du Monde located on Decatur St. across from Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral
• If you drink alcoholic beverages: At Pat O’Briens try a world-famous Hurricane cocktail or Mint Julep: 718 St. Peter St, 525-4823. At Port of Call, try the Monsoon (it’s lethal). Dauphine @ Esplanade.
• Listen to Jazz at Preservation Hall
• See the historic, above ground cemeteries (St. Louis #1 near the French quarter or Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District)
• Go on a swamp tour
• See the Louisiana swamp section at the Audubon Zoo
• Eat some bread pudding with whiskey sauce
• Eat a Muffuletta sandwich made on special sesame seed round bread, with olive salad (green olives, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, and olive oil), salami, cheese. Central Grocery on Decatur St. (if raining, Napoleon House).
• Go to the WWI ( D-Day) Museum
• Shop for collectibles, antiques, art or crafts on lower end of Decatur St., Royal St. Or Magazine St.
• Take the free pedestrian ferry shuttle to the 2nd oldest neighborhood in New Orleans: Algiers Pointe
• Ride the historic St. Charles or Canal Streetcars
• Eat some boiled crawfish, red beans and rice, or dirty rice The best (and cheapest) red beans and rice and dirty rice are at Popeye’s Fried Chicken. You can buy crawfish from a local market rather than at a restaurant.
• Try a seafood or roast beef “po-boy” sandwich. For true local color, and a good shrimp po-boy, there is a seafood market close to the main B&B. It’s frequented mostly by African Americans (and me): King Rogers Seafood: A po-boy or platter is about $6. While you are waiting for it to be prepared, go into the market to see the live cowan (turtles) in the tank, lots of fish, shrimp, raccoons, rabbits and o’possum (Yep, some locals do eat them), in addition to great boiled crawfish and shrimp. The crawfish are VERY SPICY, boiled with new potatoes, garlic and corn on the cob, which you can purchase separately or with your crawfish. Bring back some crawfish and we’ll set you up, in the courtyard and show you how to eat them New Orleans style with newspapers as place mats and paper towels as napkins.
• Learn about Mardi Gras @ Mardi Gras World or the one of LA State museums, the Presbytere.
• Go to a gospel mass Sundays.
• Visit the historic French Market and the flea market at the end (N. Peters St. @ Esplanade Ave.)
• Have a Lucky Dog from a street cart vendor (personally, we don’t think they are much to write home about, but they ARE a New Orleans tradition)
• Have a “2nd line” umbrella custom made to display at home.
• Like generations of New Orleaneans, eat some hand pulled taffy by the Roman Candy Man in his mule drawn cart in Audubon Zoo.
• Since 1902, locals have enjoyed eating Italian ices or ice cream at Angelo Brocato’s Ice Cream Parlour on N. Carrollton Ave, near Canal St.

Mary Ramsey
1870 Banana Courtyard
French Quarter/New Orleans B&B
Tel. 504-947-4475
Website: www.bananacourtyard.com

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco

Just a quick note today. If you are taking a weekend in San Francisco, here is a hidden site. The Fortune Cookie Factory is in Ross Alley near Stockton and Jackson. See how fortune cookies are made on original equipment. You can buy a bag of fortune cookies to take with you.

If you are looking for a place to stay while visiting the city, check out San Francisco Bed and Breakfasts.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Weekend Trip Along the Coast of Maine

I'd like to introduce innkeepers Scott and Ruth Thomas. They have owned and operated Brewster House www.brewsterhouse.com in Freeport, Maine for almost two years. Previously Scott was an attorney turned software consultant, and Ruth a law office administrator and homemaker. They have been in love with the Maine coast since 2001. Next to exploring the many beautiful locations in Maine, one of their favorite things to do is to help plan itineraries and activities to help share their discoveries with their guests.

Scott is our guest blogger today and will introduce you to some spectacular spots along Maine's Coast.

Yvonne's posts have gone from East (Florida) to West (California), so I'll take another extreme and talk about a long weekend trip along the coast of Maine, from Portland to Bar Harbor (and beyond). Of course, there is so much to do in Maine you can hardly do justice to any area in such a short time, but we'll do our best. Maybe we'll try longer stays in one area at a time in a future post.

For many on the East Coast Maine consists of the Kittery outlet centers (just across the border from Portsmouth, NH), Old Orchard Beach (for summer beaches and theater), and maybe a ski trip to Sunday River. But to a Mainer (some say Mainiac), Maine begins above Portland, so we'll start there and go north.

If you're driving, Portland is about two hours north of Boston, five or so from greater New York, on I-95. Otherwise, Portland's Jetport (PWM) is easily reached by several major and discount carriers, or by Amtrak's Downeaster from Boston. Since we're planning to cover the Maine coast in a short time, we'll just make a quick stop in Portland before moving on to our first night's lodging, in Freeport.

Maine's coast is among the most scenic areas in the world. Grab your camera and fasten your seat belt. Ready? Let's go!

In Portland, we'll get off I-95 at the I-295 interchange, and make our way through the stately old homes of Cape Elizabeth, on our way to the Portland Head Lighthouse. This lighthouse, commissioned by President George Washington, is one of the most picturesque and photographed lighthouses in the world. It's park setting is perfect for a picnic, a stroll, and maybe dipping your feet in Casco Bay.

From Cape Elizabeth, you can easily take a quick trip down Commercial Street in Portland, seeing the old Port, with it shops, art galleries, restaurants and boats. If you had time, you could take a cruise on an antique schooner, or ride the ferry to one of the outlying islands. But we want to get to Freeport, so we'll return to I-295 for the 20-plus minute drive.

Freeport. Home of L.L. Bean and the Maine Hunting Shoe. Rated best in the US in customer service by the National Retail Federation, L.L. Bean's five stores top the list of the over 160 shops and restaurants in Freeport. There are several B&B's in Freeport, many within walking distance of the shops and restaurants. Ask your Innkeepers to make reservations at Azure Cafe or Jameson Tavern for dinner, and then walk to the shops, and on the way back, stop in for your dinner. Remember, L.L. Bean's stores are open 24x7, so you can always go check out their Factory Store, or go back one more time, any time, night or day, every day of the year.

After next morning's B&B breakfast, we'll want to get a relatively early start (so you better plan time to run back to L.L. Bean for that sweater you almost bought last night!). We'll take US-1, which stretches from Key West in Florida to the Canadian border with Maine. In Freeport it is also known as Main Street. We're heading for Bar Harbor for our second night (lots of B&B's there!). This is normally about a three- or three-and-a-half hour drive. The way we'll do it, however, it will take more like eight hours.

Heading north out of Freeport, we'll pass through Brunswick, then Bath. Just across the river from Bath, we'll make a hard right turn and follow the sign for Georgetown and Reid State Park. Crossing the bridge, we're on Georgetown Island. Its largest town, Georgetown, is the home of Georgetown Pottery, and well worth a visit. Continuing East (well, because of the shape of Maine,
this is really South, but that's another story...), we come to Reid State Park. Reid, and its sister park, Popham Beach State Park, both provide something unusual in Maine - sandy beaches. Reid's beauty comes from the stark contrast between a half-mile long sandy beach and the rocky crags at the end, guarding the entrance to the adjoining river.

When we've finished admiring the spectacular Maine coastline at Reid State Park, we'll go the last mile down the road to Five Islands. This little, but beautiful, village is home to Five Islands Lobster Company, where you can find very reasonably priced lobster (and other seafood) fresh from the day's catch.

Returning to US-1 in Bath, we turn north again, where our next quick stop is Wiscasset (which claims to be "the prettiest village in Maine"). This lovely little town is filled with antique shops and cute eateries, not to mention Red's Eats, a Maine institution, and rated by many as the home of the best lobster roll anywhere.

As we continue northward, we'll bypass the turn to Boothbay Harbor, saving it for another trip when we have more time to explore. Just a bit farther up US-1, we'll take the exit for Damariscotta. As you descend on the ramp, look to your right, for when the trees break, there is the quintessential New England village on the banks of the river, complete with the steeple of a
little white church. Passing through the picturesque village, we'll take Route 130 to Pemaquid Point lighthouse and its majestic perch, high up on a rocky point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Returning from Pemaquid Point, we'll turn onto Route 32 at New Harbor, where we'll wander along the coastline, then rejoining US-1 at Waldoboro. Just a bit north is a wonderful place for a late lunch, at Moody's Diner (you can't miss its orange and white sign on the right. Moody's has been a family-owned institution for about a century, and they are decorated with photos of their guests wearing Moody's T-shirts in exotic locations around the world. The food is great, as is the atmosphere!

Back on US-1, we'll pass Route 90 on our left (Taking this would save about 30 minutes, but we'd miss our next stops. We'll take it on the way south.). Next we come to Thomaston, home of General Henry Knox, George Washington's Secretary of War. Thomaston also houses the Maine State Prison Store, where you can find incredible bargains on hand made woodcrafts and other items. Continuing through Thomaston, turn right at Route 131, and follow it to Port Clyde, where well see the Marshall Point Lighthouse. The keepers house is a museum, and the setting is amazing! Returning via Route 131 turn right at Route 73, to come to Owls Head, home of the Owls Head Transportation Museum and Owls Head Lighthouse. From the lighthouse you get a fantastic view of Penobscot Bay.

From Owls Head we'll pass through Rockland and the incredibly beautiful town of Camden, with its classic harbor views and boutique shops. The road rises out of town, passing several wonderful old homes (some of which are Bed & Breakfasts), and you pass through the antiquing venues of Searsport and Bucksport, before coming to Ellsworth. At Ellsworth we'll make a right on Route 3 toward Bar Harbor, where we cross the short bridge to Mount Desert Island. As we wind around the island toward Bar Harbor we pass the entrance to Acadia National Park - one of the most visited in the US National Parksystem.

If we've arrived before sunset, be sure to go into the park and drive up Cadillac Mountain (it can be chilly up there, even if it is hot at sea level). You can see for miles along the coast, and even the cruise ships docked at Bar Harbor look tiny. And you've found the best place to watch the sunset!

On Mount Desert Island you can choose from B&B's in Bar Harbor (walking distance to the shops and restaurants), or in one of the other towns on the island, Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Bass Harbor, etc. Another option is to get a short distance away from the crowds and stay in Blue Hill (just south of Mount Desert Island) or Winter Harbor (just north).

After getting a good night's sleep (that was a long day yesterday!) and another wonderful B&B breakfast, we'll continue up the (much) less populated coast. We'll head north again, past Machias to Quoddy Head State Park, where we'll visit West Quoddy lighthouse. This distinctive red-and-white striped lighthouse is easily recognized, as it is frequently seen in calendars and on postcards.

Turning south, we'll stay on US-1, passing the now familiar towns of Machias, Ellsworth, Bucksport and Searsport, making our way back down the coast to Camden, where we'll stop for the night. Again there is the opportunity for a trip on an old schooner, and plenty of shops and great restaurants, not far from your B&B.

After our last breakfast at a B&B for the weekend, we'll resume the trek southward and home. Just south of Camden, we'll take Route 90 to cut off some distance and save a bit of time, then on down US-1 to Portland (anybody want to stop at L.L. Bean in Freeport one more time?), where we'll say a wistful "goodbye" to the Maine coast.

Each of the areas we've seen on this quick dash up and down the coast has enough to do to keep us busy for several days, but this is at least a sampling of what is there. Much more remains for our next visit.

Scott Thomas
Brewster House Bed & Breakfast
Freeport, Maine USA

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Davenport to Half Moon Bay California

I've given you a few ideas for excursions in Florida. Now, I thought I'd hop to the other coast for weekend ideas in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today's trip: Driving US1 from Davenport to Half Moon Bay.

Let's base ourselves in Santa Cruz for today's trip. It is a town full of restaurants, has a boardwalk and a funky feel to it. Of course I have to let you know about a few of our bed and breakfast that would be perfect for this stay. If you would like be in the downtown area, check out Adobe on Green Street B&B. If you want more of a country setting, try Freedom Rose House Bed and Breakfast I'll leave you to explore Santa Cruz on your own and we will head out on a day trip.

Now that you are set, let's start out on our day trip. We will be going North on US 1 for about 9 miles until reaching Davenport. Davenport is a small beach town of about 200 and offers spectacular cliff views of the ocean. You can also hike down to the beach from the bluffs. I like stopping at the Davenport Road House and Cash Store to start the day with an outstanding breakfast. No matter what you order, get a cinnamon roll to share. After or before breakfast, browse the shop for locally made crafts. I also like walking over to the Lundberg Studios Contemporary Art Glass.

When you are ready to move on, I suggest making Ano Nuevo State Park your next destination. The main reason for this stop is to see the elephant seals that take up residence here. You can take a tour December through March. I've been there in the off season and have explored by myself. While there aren't as many seals in the off season, you will still see some. During breeding season, you must take a guided tour. Allow about and hour for this stop.

Next, I would make Pescadero your stopping place. This small town is fun to walk through and wonder in an out of local shops. If you are ready for a meal, I always enjoy Duarte's Tavern and Restaurant.

Our final stop for the day is Half Moon Bay and Moss Beach. The town of Half Moon Bay is fun to wonder through. It is lined with cafes and shops. You can also take a stroll or play along four miles of broad, sandy beaches. When dinner time rolls around, I would suggest The Moss Beach Distillery in Moss Beach, just a short drive norths from Half Moon Bay. 650.728.5595.
It is set along a bluff, has wonderful food, history, and a ghost.

That is it for today. Next up, a walking food tour of San Francisco.