Friday, September 30, 2011

Food and Fashion for Women with a Passion

It's hard to believe tomorrow is October 1st. Where did the year go? Of course October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I helped kick it off this week at a Women's Wine Club dinner at Saks Fifth Avenue in Fort Myers, FL. Brilliant move to hold women captive in the cocktail dress department, with cocktails in hand.

Its was quite an effort with Saks moving out racks of dresses to make room for dinner tables draped in pink; the staff from Cru rolling in racks of appetizers; the staff from Bistro 41 bringing in the main course, dessert and cases of wine for each course. We dined on delicious cheeses, Spicy Tuna with basil watermelon relish, Jumbo Blue Crab with hearts of palm salad, spice rubbed smoked Lamb Top Round with smashed purple potatoes and wilted field green, flaky apple turnovers with vanilla bean ice cream and a lime infused honey drizzle, all beautifully plated and paired expertly with wines from around the world. (Spanish bubbly, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Chardonnay, Chilean Carmenere and Santa Barbara Riesling)

Saks provided a short fashion show, we learned what the Susan G Komen Foundation is up to locally, were given encouraging statistics about the breast cancer battle and raised some money to kick off the month long awareness campaign. There are so many events to benefit Komen and products being sold in the name of this campaign. It's easy to get blinded by the PINK this time of year. Do your due diligence and make sure the events you support and products you buy really do give back to Komen and give back in a substantial way.

This event was a perfect storm: a location with a passion for fashion, chefs with a passion for food, an organization with a passion for saving lives and women with a passion for all of it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Down 'n Dirty in The Big Easy

I've blogged several times about the great food in New Orleans but have been negligent when it comes to other 'fun' the city offers; like music. Second Line Brass Bands to be more specific. You'll find these bands in both bars and on random street corners. They play  current music, only in the tradition of brass jazz bands, and of course good 'ole Nawlin's jazz. Their energy always draws a crowd and inspires lots of crazy dancing. It's AWESOME to watch.

To quote my friend Chris, "It's cool to be in the marching band in New Orleans".

Wanting to hear more, we went to Les Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street, where the popular Soul Rebels Brass Band plays (every Thursday). It looks like a bit of a dive outside so I knew it was gonna be great inside; pool tables in the front bar, live music in the back. Uneven flooring and a narrow hallway connect the two. Thank God I left the stilettos in the car. We successfully navigated the passage and entered a fabulous, gritty party. People were jumping, dancing, sweating, packed in tight and up close to the band. There's something about brass, makes people wanna move that ass. When the band took a break, so did everyone else. The drinks were cold and cheap and there was no cover. Love this place.

NOLA is obviously a great city for music, so it's no wonder Lenny Kravitz has a place in the French Quarter. As luck would have it, we found parking on his street after leaving Les Bon Temps Roule. I pressed my ear to his doors but could only hear the hum of nearby Bourbon Street.

I'm a fan of Lenny's music and have been strung out on his new joint "Black and White America". It's a positive fusion of  funk, rock, hip hop and even some jazz. Get it! I wonder if Lenny got any inspiration from the Second Line scene. I found this video of him checking out the popular Rebirth Band Brass Band in a club that looks similar to Les Bon Temps Roule. If Lenny does it, you know it's cool! Be sure to scout out these kinds of bars next time you party in NOLA.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Po'Boy, Happy Girl

I typically don't order Po'boys because I am blinded by all that bread. However, on my most recent visit to New Orleans, the birthplace of the Po'boy, I discovered why these sandwiches are sought out.

Seems every restaurant in the Big Easy serves them and everyone has an opinion on where to find the best. The Parkway Bakery and Tavern is on the top of many lists so I set out with a friend to discover why. Parkway is in an area of town known as Mid City, and at the step-off for the Endymion Mardi Gras Parade. We were having some difficulty finding it so we called from the car and were told "its just across the bayou." Now looking for a big body of water we had to do a double take at the site of Bayou St John; it's at best, a small canal by Southwest Florida standards. Never-the-less we crossed it and found the unassuming Parkway on the corner of Hagan and Toulouse.

A chef taking a smoke break told us the pastrami and corn beef were delicious and made in house. He then guessed that I would order the shrimp since I was a girl. I rebelled and ordered the ham. The meat was sweet and salty; the bread crispy and delicate on the outside, soft and pillowy in the middle; incredible. We also tried the Surf and Turf; slow cooked roast beef, fried shrimp and gravy. It was a delicious mess.  There were 25 Po'boys on the menu with everything from BBQ to Alligator Sausage.

I stared blankly at our server when she asked in her southern accent, "do you want it dressed?" The Parkway didn't seem like one of those kind of places. Turns out a "dressed" Po'boy comes with lettuce, tomoato, pickles and mayo. Yes please.

A tasty, seasonal Abita Beer (Louisiana brewed) was just the right accompaniment to lunch. My Po'Boy fascination didn't stop at the Parkway. I savored one with oysters at the famous Acme Oyster House and it was spot on. So were the char-grilled oysters. More on that stop later. So much good eatin' in New Orleans.

New Yorkers say the key to their outstanding pizza is the water used to make the crust; you can only get it in New York. The people of N'awlins have a similar claim when it comes to Po'boys; the key is the bread and you can only find the good stuff in NOLA.

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