Eating Gluten Free in New Orleans

We were in New Orleans where much of the food is cream based and fried and definitely not gluten free. I was leery about finding gluten-free food, but my fears were unfounded. Using our favorite app, FindMeGlutenFree, we were able to eat without getting sick and most importantly, to sample and enjoy some of the local food for which New Orleans is famous.

Where and What We Ate:

Cafe du MondeThe coffee is gluten free, but the beignets, a square piece of dough fried and covered with powdered sugar, are not.

Jacques ImosThough the gluten-free menu was brief and somewhat misleading, the waiter filled in the gaps, and we discovered several gluten-free options, including Cajun Bouillabaisse (though it comes with bread so be sure to tell the waiter), Shrimp Creole, and Lamb.

Meals from the Heart Cafe: We tried the gluten-free blueberry pancakes and a gluten-free breakfast sandwich at this cafe. Even the po’boys can be made gluten free. We sat at a counter in the middle of French Market, chatted with the owner, and watched the people go by.

Mother’s Restaurant: We sampled the many different foods that New Orleans and the South are famous for, including red beans and rice, chicken jambalaya, turnip greens, grits, and shrimp creole. If you go, be sure to avoid the gumbo, fried chicken, fried fish, po’boys, and desserts.

Mr. B’s BistroMost of Mr. B’s dinner items are gluten free, including Mr. B’s Barbecued Shrimp (just be sure they don’t add any bread), the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Grits, and Wood Grilled Fish. Be aware of the Panko crusted fish specials, desserts (except the ice cream), and the basket of bread.

The restaurants in New Orleans are many. And so are the gluten-free options. We will be back!

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After the Party: Touring New Orleans on Ash Wednesday

When planning a trip to visit NOLA, we did the opposite of what most tourists do. We arrived after the party. The days were cool in February, but sunny. The crowds were there, but not overwhelming and not unruly. Here’s a glimpse into what our family of four (including two teens) saw and did during our less than 48-hour visit.

Bead Trees: We exclaimed when we saw our first bead tree, though its blossoms were few. We discovered more bead trees as we traveled on the Saint Charles Streetcar along the previous day’s parade route.

Bourbon Street: We meandered down Bourbon Street, dodging the partiers, sampling the pralines, admiring the art in the windows. The lights danced around us, the music ever present, the restaurants teeming with people.

Cafe du Monde: We walked right in and sat right down, avoiding the infamous lines of warmer days. We drank the chicory coffee and ate the famous beignets in the room tinted green.

Masks: In French Market, we viewed and compared, selected and haggled, looking for the perfect masks to bring back to New England.

Jazz: Unable to get tickets before we arrived, we waited in line at Preservation Hall, the last people into the 8 p.m. show. We crouched and peered from the courtyard into the crowded room – our feet tapping, our eyes dancing, our faces lit with the joy emanating from the musicians as they played traditional New Orleans jazz just a few feet away. Those with reserved seats were able to sit cross legged on the floor right in front of the band, with an unobstructed view of the tuba and sax, the drum and cornet. The next afternoon, we listened to jazz on the street and in Jackson Square.

Saint Charles Streetcar: We rode the streetcar from the French Quarter through the Garden District during the day and at night, accompanied by tourists, natives, and students (Tulane University and Loyola University are both located just outside the Garden District). 

To find out where we ate, check out next week’s post.

When Will It Be Green?

Even though spring is less than 2 weeks away, when I look outside, all I see is a winter wonderland.

Snow and Tilly

So I put on my skis one day and my snowshoes the next and continue to make new tracks in the snow.

And I dream of warmer places:  Hawaii, Santa Barbara, Florida, where green and blue overrule white and brown as the predominant outdoor colors. Where 45 degrees isn’t balmy. Where the sun is warm on my bare shoulders.

I keep reminding myself, April will be here soon.

Moteling in California

“Roll up the windows and lock the doors,” my husband said as he and the kids went to check out our motel room just off the highway in northern California. I looked at him in surprise. The place looked nice enough, though there had been a police car in the driveway.

JNESS-POLICE-CAR

A few minutes later they were back. “The police were pounding on someone’s door,” the kids said. “They said, “This is the police, open up!’” My husband reported, “The cop said it would be fine to stay here.”

And it was. But the next morning, while helping ourselves to the motel’s continental breakfast, we couldn’t help but overhear a heated discussion between a wiry, bearded man in his 60s with the woman working behind the desk. His hair was shaggy, his clothes were untucked, and he was irate. “I’ve been staying here every year for the past 10 years, and you’ve never charged me for my local calls before,” he said again and again in various word combinations until he saw my husband waiting for his bread to toast.

“You wouldn’t be safe if it weren’t for me!” the man said, his voice elevated. “If you’re not going to fight,” he stared at my husband. “You might as well move to Brazil!”

Choosing to ignore him, we ate our breakfast on the sunny curb outside the motel. A few moments later, the police arrived, but we headed for the car. We’d had enough excitement for that motel and drove away, heading for our next destination.

Trip taken 2010.

How to Survive All the Snow

If you’re like me, and you like the snow, but after awhile, you long for a change of scenery, you’ve got a few options.

Snow and Icicles

You can:

1) Embrace the cold and sled, snow shoe, or ski. (See my post “How to Survive a New England Winter.“)

2) Look for warmth.

In between snow storms this past week, I stopped in at the greenhouse at Water Fresh Farm in Hopkington, Mass.

Water Fresh Farm

I dined in front of a fire at Red Barn Coffee Roasters in Southborough, Mass.

IMG_3263And I visited the Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market inside a greenhouse at Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland, Mass., where people ordered pizza from a mobile wood fired pizza truck, tasted wine and cheese, bought root vegetables, jams, fish, meat, and even mushrooms.

Wood Fired Pizza Wayland Farmers' Market Inside

Where will I go next week? The forecast is for more cold. Maybe this time, I’ll go for option number 3 and get on a plane!

fire in pellet stove

When to Visit an Elephant Seal

When the air is cool and the days are short, the elephant seals come to their own special place along Northern California’s shore to mate, to calve, and to raise their young before venturing back out to sea. The place, Ano Nuevo State Park, is located about 55 miles south of San Francisco, about half way between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. 

After years of hearing about Ano Nuevo State Park, my family finally ventured there to see and to learn about the elephant seals one late December day. After meandering down the coast from the city, we arrived at the park in time for our 2 p.m. tour.

Ano Nuevo State Park

At a massive 8,800 pounds (that’s right, over 4 tons!), elephant seal bulls are wild animals and potentially dangerous. Visiting their habitat is allowed only on guided tours led by park naturalists between December 15 and March 31 during the mating season.

A Bull

As we walked along the trail, listening to the naturalist and taking photos, large rocks turned into sleeping giants. Twenty foot long gray masses slumbered while we tip toed by, leery of danger signs warning us to stay at least 25 feet away.

Sleeping Giant

During our 2 1/2 hour tour, we heard bellowing and watched young calves more quickly toward us, curious, just like us.

Talkative Seal

On the Go

If you’re curious, too, you can make reservations in advance online through Reserve America or by calling 1-800-444-4445.

Trip taken: December 2010.

12 Hours of Blizzard Juno!

There’s nothing like getting a month’s worth of snow in a few days!

After a brief snow storm on Saturday, January 24, 2015, about 5 inches of snow fell on our outside table before the rain compressed it. Here’s what the table looked like on Saturday and pretty much what it looked like when we went to bed on Monday night.

Before Juno

Here’s what it looked like at 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

At 8 a.m.

Juno - 8 a.m.

At 9 a.m.

Juno - 9 a.m.

The dog still hadn’t been out. So, we started shoveling and blowing. It was 17 degrees, and windy.

Juno and the dog

It kept snowing all day. At 4 p.m., I took this photo.

Juno - 4 p.m.

At 7 p.m., I took this last photo.

Juno - 7 p.m.

We stayed warm and never lost power. Instead, we went snow shoeing. Today, after shoveling again, I’ll be out on my skis.

When to Visit Walden Pond

I first discovered Walden Pond when a friend took me there for a summer evening swim. I’d studied the Transcendentalists in college, had heard of Thoreau but had never read Walden. We walked along the trail to a place my friend knew, away from the crowds. We swam to cool off from the hot summer air.

Since then I’ve visited Walden several times. In the morning, when people gather to swim; during the day, when the beaches are crowded with small children; and on the weekends, when people from the city seek an escape from the summer heat. I’ve picnicked along its banks, hiked along its trails, swam and kayaked its cool waters. But until last November, my visits have remained in the summer months. Last November, I discovered how magical Walden Pond can be without the heat and without the crowds.

On the Pond Banks Cabin SiteWalden Pond

Trip taken November 2013.

How to Make a Christmas Baby Feel Special

Do you know anyone who was born on Christmas Day?

I do, and my mother, Marialyce (aka Rusty), is one of them. Maybe that’s why she made such an effort to make birthdays such a celebration for her children. Because December 25th was never just her birthday. As a child, her parents put a candle on a mincemeat pie for her birthday cake, and many of her gifts were combined Christmas and birthday presents.

014

I started making birthday cakes for Mom with an Easy Bake Oven some time around age 6 or 7. After a molasses cake was a flat fiasco, I turned to Mom’s Julia Child cookbooks. For years, I made an orange chocolate cake with mocha frosting (Le Glorieux with Chocolate-Butter Icing, which just happens to be gluten free). A few years later, we began separating the occasions; opening up Christmas presents in the morning and birthday presents with cake in the evening.

Although she planned parties for many, birthday parties for Mom were few over her lifetime (she could count them on one hand). So when she turned 75, we decided to surprise her.

That Christmas, Mom and her husband planned a visit to my sister’s home in Alabama for the holidays. On Christmas Eve, my husband, our two kids and I flew into town, rented a car, and drove to my sister’s house. Posing as carolers, we rang the door bell about 9:30 pm. As we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” my sister called Mom to come see the Christmas carolers. As she came into view, we switched to “Happy Birthday” and watched her smile changed from delight to incredulity.

I’ll never forget that Christmas and what fun it was to surprise her. We’ve all heard that sometimes it’s better to give then receive, and that year, it definitely was.

Merry Christmas! Or should I say, “Happy Birthday!”?

Trip taken December 2004.