The New New Orleans: 5 Things To Do On Freret Street

Here are community leader Greg Ensslen’s top suggestions for visitors to get the most out of a visit to Freret Street.

1) Attend a fair. The Freret Street Market takes place the first Saturday of each month at the corner of Freret and Napoleon (look for the tents in the big parking lot). There’s food, live music, vendors, and it’s easy to shop even if you don’t have cash. Vendors accept tokens that can be purchased at the market’s main table. There will be two markets in December, including Freretstivus, a holiday theme fair on Dec. 8.

2) Have a drink. Cure, the artisanal cocktail bar credited for the revival of Freret Street, opens each day at 5 p.m. Happy hour runs from 5-7 p.m., with classic cocktails for $5 and half price bottles of wine on Thursday. The mixologists will concoct something exactly to your taste. (I brought a bag of grapefruit from the Crescent City Farmers Market and wound up with a refreshing drink.)

If you’d prefer something non-alchoholic, the High Hat Cafe makes its own tonics, lemonades and other sodas. Satsuma lemonade features real orange slices and fresh mint. Company Burger serves its own style of punch, made with iced tea, lemonade and orange juice.

%Gallery-170745%3) Eat something. Choices are expanding every day, but Ensslen considers Company Burger a don’t miss. There’s Dat Dog for gourmet hot dog lovers, and Midway Pizza, an art gallery/pizza parlor with (no surprise) a fully stocked bar. High Hat is kid friendly, as are many places along Freret.

4) Find a bargain. The Junior League of New Orleans operates the Bloomin’ Deals Thrift Shop, which has been a fixture on Freret since 1960. It has a bridal boutique, where all dresses are under $500, which is open one Saturday a month. The shop’s selection ranges from table ware to clothes and furniture.

5) Walk the neighborhood. Like Freret Street, the surrounding neighborhood is in a state of transition. Some homes are still undergoing post-Katrina renovation; others are still boarded up; some are spanking new. It’s a good example of what happened to a typical New Orleans neighborhood as a result of the storm. Just be respectful of homeowners’ privacy – although it’s likely people will be happy to chat.

For more on the New New Orleans, click here.

[Photo credit: Micheline Maynard]

Cockpit Chronicles: Video—Food in the cockpit. How it’s prepared and what is served

“I’m getting kind of tired of these chicken Caesar salads.”

I said those words just a few months into my career at American. The statement resonated loudly after I was furloughed and flying for a freight airline with barely a bottle of water on board, so I vowed that I would never complain about a crew meal again.

In fact, when I came back to AA I nearly cried when a flight attendant entered the 727 cockpit and asked us what we wanted to drink.

Now, after ten years of international flying, mostly to Europe, I’ve enjoyed more crew meals than I probably should have. Warm dishes on an airline flight might be foreign to today’s passengers and even some of our domestic pilots, but on the international side we still enjoy food just as it was in the earlier days of airline flying.

The usual transatlantic daytime flight might include appetizers, such as nuts and cheese, salads, a main course with an overabundance of bread and a slice of cheesecake perhaps, followed later by a Sundae or cookies. Before landing in the afternoon, there’s often a cheese plate or fruit dish, followed by a pizza or steak sandwich.

Honestly, it’s too much. But if you’re paying for a business class experience, over indulging every now and then isn’t bad. For pilots however, these crew meals can add more pounds in the first year of international flying than during a freshman year in college.

I limit myself to just the nuts as a starter followed by the salad. Later, if there’s any fruit available, I’ll have some of that, or if it’s morning in Europe, the cold cereal is a good choice. Anything more and I begin to feel overly tired during the overnight flight across the pond. Since I’ve cut back I’ve noticed a definite slackening of my uniform pants.

Typically three meals are put on for the three-pilot cockpit crew, two items the same, often chicken or steak and the third perhaps being a pasta dish.

Most co-pilots give the choice of meal to the captain, and the captain often defers back to the co-pilot. It can become comical at times; neither pilot wanting to make what is probably the least important decision of the flight. Alas, it’s typically decided that whoever is flying the plane for that leg should choose.

I’ve enlisted the help of our flight attendant Susan, who made a brief appearance in my Boston to Paris video seven years ago, to appear again in front of the camera to show how she manages the cockpit and passenger meals for a 10½ hour flight from Rio to New York.

Notice just how busy Susan is before boarding. As the “number five” flight attendant out of nine aboard our 767, she’s ‘the cook’ up front, responsible for not only preparing and cooking the meals, but setting up the galley on the ground.

Passengers in the back also enjoy a hot meal, and there’s another flight attendant with three ovens getting ready to prepare that food as well.

Every month the meal types and even the kind of cheese in the appetizer change. Some plates are exceptional-a white chocolate glazed chicken dish sounded terrible but turned out to be fantastic-and some I’ve avoided after just one bite, such as the foie gras stuffed chicken.

The ‘insert’ shown in the video is mostly an international custom. It keeps the pilots from having to call back every time they’re ready for more water or soda. It’s brought to the cockpit only after takeoff to prevent anything loose from bouncing around the flight deck.

The sundaes and baked cookies aren’t normally part of our meals, but some of the nicer flight attendants will still offer them.

In the past, no two pilots could eat the same meal, and they had to be served at different times. At my airline, these restrictions have been relaxed, however.

For the past year or so, I’ve taken to capturing some of the crew meals with a camera. Apparently I fall into the crowd that likes taking food pictures. The gallery below shows some of my favorite crew meals of all time:

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Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the Cockpit Chronicles Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Dog: A late night snack

dog eat snack“I’m going to show you some place hardcore. Some place really Chinese.”

We had already spent a late night at our local hangout and I am more than ready to go to bed. It’s late, but my friend cannot be denied. Grabbing my hand and shoving me into a taxi, I assume that we are going to find a local place to eat nearby, a comforting meal of late night barbecue cooked up to order at virtually any street corner in China.

But as the taximeter counts steadily upward, I realize my friend is serious. A long time resident of China and a fluent Chinese speaker, his exploratory powers far outshine my own. As we pull into a chop shop to ask for directions, he tells me how ridiculous it is when people say that our city is small.

Xiamen is home to over 3 million people and covers an area of 1500 square kilometers. By Chinese standards Xiamen is a small town. But the tendency amongst foreigners (myself included) is to stick the easy-to-reach comfortable areas where foreigners tend to congregate. Bars, cafes, and the university are places that are safe and familiar, where foreign faces are expected if not common.

An intense conversation in Chinese with the laborers results in the bewildered taxi driver dropping us off in what seems like the middle of nowhere. The cab fair reads 50 RMB. 50 RMB! I didn’t even know you COULD pay 50 RMB and stay on the island!

As rain dribbles through my clothes I lurch into motion after my friend in the dark as he barks at a series of sleeping shop owners at 3 in the morning in Chinese.

“What’s open?! Where’s the restaurant!?”

The shopkeepers start, muttering and motioning to keep going down the road, promptly falling back asleep as we pass.

It’s so easy to lean back and rest on your laurels as an expat. After all, we’ve moved, we’ve settled, we’ve found the places of interest in the guidebook or the expat forums online. We’ve plumbed the depths.

But sitting at that restaurant, eating the dog and pan-fried silkworm larvae as my friend chats with the grinning restaurant owners, I realize again that I’m in a new country. There’s no end to the exploration and when you find yourself in a new culture, there are always hidden treasures to uncover.

[Flickr photo via Mike Saechang]

Ten places to eat in Seattle

I lived in Seattle for two years, and I’d venture a guess that if the 16,000 or so hours I spent there were broken down, a good 10,000 of them would have been spent eating my way around the city. Based on my highly scientific research (aka, trying nearly every restaurant in town), here are my picks for the top places in Seattle every food-loving tourist should try.

Piroshky Piroshky
Had a little much to drink the night before? Hightail it straight to Pike Place Market and follow the sweet smell of dough to Piroshky Piroshky. This little storefront was my savior on many a hungover morning. There’s often a line but it moves fast, so make your selections before you get to the front. Go for my usual – the chewy, doughy, cheese and green onion – or try a traditional onion and potato or smoked salmon and cream cheese. Most piroshkies are under $5 and will keep you full for several hours.

Cafe Campagne
The closest thing you’ll find to Paris in Seattle,Cafe Campagne is the place to go when you want a decadent meal. Little sister to Campagne Restaurant, it’s a bit more casual and less expensive, while still offering plenty of French ambiance.The food is here rich – think poached eggs with pearl onions and bacon in a red wine foie gras sauce or Burgundy snails in parsley, garlic, and shallot butter – but the prices are not. Lunch and brunch plates average $15 each with dinner entrees not much more. Happy hour bites are all under $5.

La Buona Tavola
Another Pike Place favorite, La Buona Tavola is part Italian deli, part gourmet grocer. They specialize in all things Italian, including pasta, sauces, olive oils and small vineyard wines. The main draw though, are the truffle goods. You can buy jars of white or black truffle cream, truffle oil, truffle salt, truffle-infused sauces, and even (very expensive) whole truffles when available. Sit down for a $5 wine tasting, and order a truffle, prosciutto and cheese panini, or just sample liberally from the jars out for tastings.

Tom Douglas’ Lola
Actually any Tom Douglas joint will do (the city’s celebrity chef owns four restaurants, a pizza parlor and a bakery), but Lola gets my vote for the smooth, garlicky skordalia spread with pita dip for $3.50, and the tender chicken or lamb skewers ($6 at happy hour, along with $3 Greek beers). I preferred to come snack on small plates, but even if you settle in for a full dinner, you can still enjoy a wide variety of Mediterranean-influenced food on a small budget. Small plates range from $8-12, entrees are $22-28. Lola also serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and a late-night menu. Be sure to try the cinnamon and sugar dusted made-to-order donuts for dessert.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
Beecher’s is Seattle’s best known cheese shop, and with good reason. Their Flagship Cheddar regularly wins awards from groups like the American Cheese Society and Wine Spectator. They sell wedges of their delicious cheese, and offer cheesy meals like grilled cheese (with tomato soup, natch) and macaroni and cheese. While you wait, watch fresh cheese being made in the production room or nibble on some fresh cheese curds.

Salumi
Some things, like the sandwiches at Salumi, are worth waiting for. Owned by Mario Batali’s father, Armandino Batali, Salumi is a cured meat emporium and sandwich shop. There’s always a line, there are few seats inside (so plan on taking your grub to go) and they often run out of ingredients so you’ll need to plan on a back-up choice. But once you bite into a hearty muffuletta or fig, goat cheese and salami sandwich, all will be forgiven. Come just before they open or wait for the afternoon lull for your best chance at a short wait. Sandwiches are around $9 each.

Farestart
Farestart isn’t your typical restaurant. The menu is always changing and the food isn’t exactly consistent, but that’s because the people preparing and serving it aren’t your typical restaurant workers with years, or even months of experience preparing familiar dishes. The servers and kitchen staff are “homeless and disadvantaged individuals” learning a new skill – one that will hopefully get them back on their feet and on a path to self-sufficiency. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and only serves dinner on Thursday nights, when a guest chef from a local restaurant takes control of the kitchen. The three-course dinner is $24.95 and 100% of the proceeds go back into the program to help educate other students.

Elemental @Gasworks
The sign on the door at Elemental says “There are 1500 ‘normal’ restaurants in Seattle. This is not one of them.” And it’s true. Dining at Elemental requires a bit of effort. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and has only five tables. Dinner service begins at 6pm, but if you want to snag a table, come for cocktails at 5pm to be the first in line (conversely, come around 10pm and you might get a table; the kitchen stays open until midnight). The tasting menu changes weekly but offers multiple courses of seasonally-based dishes each paired with wine. The price is usually around $75-$80 per person so it’s a little more expensive, but well worth it for the experience that the husband (server and sommelier) and wife (chef) team provide. If you can’t get in at Elemental, or if you aren’t up for a 3-4 hour culinary tour, check out Elemental Next Door, where you can get half bottles of wine for $15 and appetizers like artichoke dip.

Pike Place Chowder
Tucked away in Pike Place Market (just look for the long line and you’ll find it), Pike Place Chowder is one of the few places local Seattleites on their lunch break will actually wait for food – especially on a cold, rainy, winter’s day. The clam chowder here has won numerous awards on both coasts. In addition to New England and Manhattan clam chowders, they also serve a smoked salmon chowder, seafood bisque, and (my favorite) the Dungeness crab roll – a huge baguette piled high while heaping scoops of Dungeness crab. It’s $12 but easily feeds two when paired with a $6 bowl of soup.

McMenamins
I’m probably biased when it comes to McMenamins. My husband was a manager at this location (one of dozens of pubs in the Pacific Northwest chain that also includes hotels located in renovated historic buildings) and I spent many an evening at the bar, sipping one of the brewed-onsite beers like Hammerhead and Terminator Stout. It’s where I began to comprehend that there was a whole world of beer outside of Bud Light. Before that, my idea of a “craft beer” was Blue Moon. The food is your average pub grub: burgers, tater tots, salads. But the beer – oh the beer – is fantastic. Pints are discounted during happy hour (3pm – 6pm daily) and the staff is always willing to give you a sample or two to help you decide on your beer.

These ten restaurants are by no means the definitive list of great places to eat in Seattle. For a fancy meal overlooking Puget Sound, try the Waterfront at Pier 70 (yes, the same one those crazy Real World kids lived on); for New-American fusion, head to Restaurant Zoe (which was recently named one of the best in the country by Open Table); looking for romantic Italian, Il Bistro fits the bill; for a hearty breakfast, order a crumpet topped with egg and pesto at The Crumpet Shop . . . I could go on and on. The bottom line is: Seattle is a foodie town, so if you’re coming for a visit, come hungry.

Julia Roberts angers villagers in India during a Hindu holiday

When Julia Roberts and her film crew took over a temple in Pataudi, a small town south of New Delhi, India last week, the locals weren’t too happy about it. Perhaps if the timing of the temple’s film shoot for “Eat, Pray, Love” had been better planned there wouldn’t have been an issue.

Instead, it seems that the folks who scouted out the temple as a location didn’t do their homework about when taking over the temple would be less problematic for the people who use the temple for it’s original purpose–praying and worship. Navaratri, an important nine-day religious festival was happening at the same time of the filming of Robert’s latest project.

This snafu created a mess of bad feelings.

Coinciding with the beginning of autumn, Navaratri’s purpose is for people to worship manifestations of the Divine Mother. It’s one of the most important Hindu holidays. Because Julia and her gang had taken the temple over, no one was allowed in, thus the villagers weren’t able to worship there–something they’ve done every Navaratri, I’m sure, ever since the temple was built.

Navaratri is centered on three Hindu goddesses: Durga, the warrior goddess; Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. If they had been able to access the temple, the villagers would have been offering prayers for the protection of health and prosperity.

Ironically, it seems as if Roberts has been able to access the power of two of those goddesses–Durga and Lakshmi just fine which possibly has led the villagers to wonder if she is making a movie that ought to be called “Eat, Pray, Love–but Not Here.”

The goddess that Robert’s and gang should have spent a little more time accessing is Saraswati. Knowledge about a culture goes a long way when traversing holy ground.

Hopefully, Roberts and the producers have figured out some way to make amends. At the time of this BBC article, the people in charge of filming weren’t talking about the issue. The villagers certainly were.

Yesterday, Navaratri ended with Dussera which celebrates the victory of good over evil and the motherhood of God.

In case any location folks want to film in a Hindu temple, here’s a link to the BBC resource, “Religion and Ethics tools.” It tells when the Hindu holidays will occur through 2013.