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Friday, August 5, 2011

A Very Southern Vacation

Jackson Square, New Orleans

Last Friday, David and I left for a one week trip to New Orleans and Seagrove Beach, along the Florida panhandle. We arrived in the French Quarter, before noon and strolled about a bit with David’s parents who had picked us up, earlier that morning, at the airport.

a must stop for any praline lover

Once we'd made our way from the western end of Riverwalk Marketplace to Jackson Square, we turned back to pick up pralines from Southern Candymakers--the best maker of pralines in the Quarter. One half-pound box later, David and I headed further west, towards Canal Street, for lunch at Mother's while David's parents opted to sit and watch the calliope… 

a Mother's bloody mary, to start

followed by a po' boy and gumbo lunch

We started with two bloody marys, followed by "turkey ferdi," seafood gumbo and turnip greens. After another stroll, back east, we met up with Mr. and Mrs. Friend and checked into our rooms at The Royal Sonesta hotel, on Bourbon Street. After we settled into our rooms and I took a brief nap, we decided to meet at Mr. B's Bistro (where David's brother once worked as a line cook) for dinner. Earlier that afternoon, Mrs. Friend was telling me about a trio of soups, served in demitasses, that she'd previously enjoyed there. I decided to second her option and chose "soups 1-1-1" as my starter. 

gumbo ya-ya, seafood gumbo and soup du jour, vidalia onion 

soft shell crab amandine

bread pudding

For my main, I selected fried soft shell crab amandine, generously topped with almond slivers and served atop haricot verts. For dessert, David recommended Mr. B's "famous" bread pudding. Dinner at Mr. B's certainly was a special experience and should be on anyone's shortlist of restaurants to check out while visiting New Orleans. 

elderflower cocktail at Palace Café

view of Palace Café's dining room, from the bar

After parting ways with David's parents who retired for the evening, we headed over to Canal Street to have a cocktail at Palace Café--another restaurant in the Brennan family empire. (The Brennans--of Mr. B's--are arguably the most notable restaurateurs in New Orleans.) David and I both ordered a St. Germain "champagne cocktail" while we took in the view of the dining room in which I had had my first taste of turtle soup (and bananas foster) just three years prior. On our way back to the hotel, David and I stopped and enjoyed an impromptu performance by a handful of terrific jazz musicians; we tried our best to retire early for our 6:30 a. m. breakfast at Café Du Monde the following morning...

street performers near Canal Street

Café Du Monde at midday

Being early birds on a Saturday morning, Café Du Monde only had their indoor tables set up. David and I selected a cozy corner table for two. A few minutes passed before a waitress came over to take our order for two plates of beignets (they come in threes) and two café au laits--the main attractions of Café Du Monde. The beignets were just as they should be and my café au lait was wonderful! (Use some of the confectioners' sugar from the beignets if you like sugar with your coffee.) Upon leaving Café Du Monde's (heavily) air-conditioned dining room, the lens on my camera immediately fogged with condensation...

early birds at Café Du Monde

beignet breakfast

early a. m. humidity at Café Du Monde

By 7:30, David, his parents and I were ready to leave for our five hour drive to Seagrove Beach, Florida (between Destin and Panama City Beach) to meet with the rest of his family. We arrived around two and upon settling in at the rental, were greeted with this breathtaking view:

five days of perfect beach weather

Once all (twenty two of us!) had arrived and settled into our rooms, we gathered up our sunscreen and beach towels and headed down for a dip in the ocean...

daily beach chair and umbrella service

Each of the following five days began with: breakfast, beach, lunch, beach, happy hour... each of which consisted of David's brother-in-law's cocktail of the week: bushwackers!

blender required

They suited (almost all of) us well. On the final night of our stay, David's brother, Andy cooked a seafood boil for the lot of us!

corn, shrimp and potatoes

a real southern spread

and fresh grilled grouper too!

On chef Andy's menu was: boiled shrimp, barbeque shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, grilled grouper, dirty rice, green beans and ham and French bread for dipping in the barbeque... I, of course, started with the shrimp and although I love to eat shrimp with their shells still on, David told me I had to peel them. (When in Rome...) The grouper was amazing and tasted just like the ocean and the dirty rice with sausage and chicken livers was the best I'd ever tasted.

barbeque shrimp, dirty rice, boiled shrimp,
green beans and ham, grilled grouper

With my second (and third) helping, I also sampled chef Andy's corn on the cob and boiled red potatoes--both steeped in the same pot as the shrimp. I'd never had such delicious corn (or potatoes) ever! 

Unfortunately, Tuesday was our final night at the beach house--we had to cut our trip short so that David could prepare a few things before leaving for his trip to Aspen for the Aspen Music Festival. David's father drove us to the Fort Walton Beach Airport where we waited for our flight to Laguardia. Later that night, David and I were welcomed home with a steady rain and a dark sky. Until next year...
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