When it rains buckets in SF, I eat bowls of soup. My most frequent delivery order is Souvla‘s lemony and creamy avgolemono soup, with bits of chicken and rice that always settles on the bottom of the bowl (takeout container in my case). This week, I spared myself and my Caviar guys from the rain and did my best rendition of Souvla’s very own avgolemono soup.
Souvla-Inspired Avgolemono Soup
3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 1 large carrot, quartered 1 large leek, white and pale green parts cut in half 1 small yellow onion, cut in half 2 tsp. lemon zest 2 large eggs 6 tbsp. lemon juice 2/3 cup of long-grain white rice Cracked black pepper (to taste) Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
1. To make your soup broth, bring 4 quarts of water, chicken thighs, leek, onion, carrot and peppercorns to a simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
2. Once your chicken is cooked, transfer your chicken pieces to a plate to cool, then shred. Discard the other broth ingredients and use a fine mesh sieve to strain the chicken broth back into your large pot.
3. Return broth to a simmer for about 30 minutes to reduce it to about 2 quarts.
4. Now, it’s time to make the star of the show. While your soup is further reducing, whisk your lemon juice and eggs together until smooth and bright yellow. Then, it’s time to temper it! Grab a cup of your chicken broth that’s been reducing down and whisk it into your egg and lemon mixture, 1 tbsp. at a time. Take great care to stir it briskly—otherwise you’ll have a plate of scrambled eggs. As your avgolemono mixture because smoother, you can eventually add in the remaining 1 cup of broth.
5. Now, back to your large pot of broth. After it’s been reduced down to about 2 quarts, it’s time to add in your white rice. Stir regularly and cook for 6-9 minutes on medium-high heat so the rice softens.
6. Reduce broth and rice to medium heat and add in chicken that you’ve torn into bits to heat it back up. Then, slowly add in your avgolemono in small batches, whisking continuously until your soup looks creamy and rich.
7. Turn off the heat and let your soup rest for 5 minutes, then garnish with olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy!
Have any questions on how to make the soup? Leave me a note!
To say that I was prepared to visit Hawaii’s most populated island, would be a lie. The extent of my prep was buying reef-safe sunscreen and making sure I had swimsuits that fit. Not one ounce of pre-travel research was done. Having only been exposed to the more desolate Big Island, I was expecting white sandy beaches, quiet afternoons with a Mai Tai in hand and lots of palm trees.
Most of this came true, but with 300 more people around. Even with the crowd (and traffic) there was no shortage of things to do, see and eat on the island. Now that I’m back with a less-translucent skin color, here’s everything that I would do all over again on O’ahu. Shaka!
What to See
If you’re looking for a quiet, serene and secluded seaside spot—Waikiki is not it. Waikiki is bustling with tourists (both international and domestic), packed with brand name shopping that you all know and lines everywhere. But Waikiki Beach should be penciled in as a stop for the pretty blue waters and people watching at the beach. This is also the epicenter of Japanese food on the island, so don’t miss out on fresh bowls of udon, the classic spam musubi and mochi donuts.
Unlike Waikiki, you won’t find a single high-rise apartment or chain store on the North Shore. Instead, expect to find a single small town (Hale’iwa) that is home to the most restaurants and shops that this part of the island has. As long as you’re not there during a major surf competition, you’ll have access to quiet(er) beaches, more open roads and views of nothing but pineapple fields or Hawaiian hills. Oh, and the ocean. If you’ve got a car and like taking drives to nowhere, definitely park and put your toes in the sand at major surf spots like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, Chun’s Reef and Lani’s (where you also might spot some turtles).
Hankering for some snorkel time while in Hawaii? Hit up Shark’s Cove on the North Shore to see some needlefish, Hawaiian rainbow fish (my fave!), and sea cucumbers—amongst many other sea creatures too! Be sure to pack water shoes that protect your feet from rocks and DO NOT step on the coral (unlike some other folks I had to scold). Anything for you, Mother Earth.
Pow! Wow! Street Art in Kaka’ako
If you’re frequent readers of the blog or if we’ve traveled together, you know that I love me some street art. Pow! Wow! is a public arts project that brought local and international artists together in Honolulu for a week-long mural painting (among other things) extravaganza. It’s very much worth a visit, plus after you’re done looking at the art, you can pop into the locally owned stores and spots in the hood (like Here. and ARVO Café). Stay tuned in other cities, they’re growing quickly and expanding to Taiwan, D.C., Long Beach and beyond.
Traveling in O’ahu sometimes felt like a mini-Japan—from stepping into Mitsuwa Market to driving by a literal Japanese Food Court in the heart of Waikiki. It’s a smaller-scale replication of the actual, 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan and was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Located at the foot of a mountain range, it’s peaceful, lush landscape is totally unexpected. Stop by to slow down.
Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art
Constructed in 1937 by the “richest little girl in the world,” Doris Duke’s Shangri La served as her Honolulu home, which she built from the ground up (unlike her other homes). After being inspired on her around-the-globe honeymoon travels, Duke began construction on her island property and began to collect and fill her home with Islamic art from the inside, out. If you want to pretend that you too, were born into money or thoroughly enjoy art or architecture, stop by. Admission to her home also grants you a day pass to the Honolulu Museum of Art.
KCC Farmer’s Market
If you don’t know, now you know: I friggin’ love a good farmer’s market. As I reflect back on our Hawaii trip, I honestly think this was the thing I most enjoyed. From tasting fresh macadamia nuts, tasting Hawaiian honey, eating fresh rambutan, to drinking fresh sugar cane juice with lilikoi (the best thing I have EVERdrank), plan for a quick trip to KCC on Saturday morning or Tuesday evening. Try pairing it with your Diamond Head hike, as the hike is just above the college where the market is held.
What to Do
Hike Manoa Falls
We had big pipe dreams to walk to a waterfall, then jump into it’s running waters for a post-hike swim. Instead, we chickened out and were our rule-following selves and didn’t make it past the “do not climb” sign. The hike up to the waterfall is a quick 20-40 minutes depending on how speedy you are, full of tropical flora and is quite muddy and slick—so be sure to wear non-stick shoes and clothes that can withstand some dirt.
Swim at Kailua & Lanikai Beach
My favorite part about any warm-weather, seaside vacation? Cerulean blue water. Kailua and Lanikai beaches are located right next to each other, but traffic and parking could be pretty hectic to shuttle between the two. Lanikai frequently ranks as one the world’s top beaches, while Kailua is just plain beautiful. Block off an afternoon for each, then hit up Island Snow (see the Eats section) for a post-beach treat.
Hike Diamond Head
For a good sweat sesh, views of Waikiki and an endless expanse of ocean, put up with the crowds and hike Diamond Head. It’s a 1.5-2 hours round-trip hike, where the first part starts off with a paved path, then an easy set of switchbacks that then transforms into a seemingly endless set of stairs to the top. It’s an old army base, so you’ll also walk through a tunnel, then through a bunker to reach the top. Get ready to get sweaty!
Swim with Sharks
As I write this, I’m realizing that we had a pretty adventurous trip. Who would have thought that the girl who was once 100% convinced that sharks might swim up the toilet would one day swim with sharks? We went cage diving with North Shore Shark Adventures and swam with Galapagos sharks which, if you’re wondering, rarely eat people.
Take a Surf Lesson on North Shore
Barrels, big waves and surf competitions. After (many) more lessons—that could be you! If you’re a water baby (like me), it’s worth blocking off some of the day to surf the North Shore, in the very same waters as household names like Kelly Slater and John John Florence. We took lessons with North Shore Surf Girls right off of Hale’iwa beach park (perfect location to head to lunch right after). The feeling of catching a wave really can’t be beat.
Where to Eat
Kaimuki | 747 Kapahulu Ave.
Direct and to the point. That is how I like my people and my poke. Ono is a no-frills joint where parking is limited, your food is served in styrofoam take-out containers and you’re simply there to promptly eat, then leave. Get the shoyu and spicy poke, and save room for the Japanese side dishes they have stocked in their fridge.
Waikiki | 2310 Kūhiō Ave #124
Even though you might think eating hot noodles in a hot climate is a no-go, try resisting these handmade noodles (made with Sun Noodle flour!). Ordering mimics a Chipotle (or vice-versa) and don’tnotload your plate with tempura, onogiri and kaarage before you check out.
Barefoot Beach Café
Waikiki |2699 Kalakaua Avenue
Good food and views of turquoise blue waters—this is what brunch dreams are made of. Even though it’s technically on Waikiki, it’s situated far away enough from the main strop that you feel like you could steal some generous minutes of silence before you head back into the tourist horde. Go there for breakfast or brunch and order Dad’s shoyu eggs and a freshly blended pineapple, served in a pineapple.
North Shore | 66-030 Kamehameha Hwy
The perfect spot for a pre or post-surf snack. Like the name implies, Hale’iwa bowls serves up açaí bowls, fresh smoothies and juices to keep you feeling light and fresh in the Hawaiian heat. I sprung for the blue majik bowl, which solicited lots of stares from others, but a lot of good food for me.
Oh my malasada. Do yourself a favor and avoid eating any malasadas until you get to Leonard’s. What is it, you ask? “A Portuguese donut without a hole” as defined by Leonard’s Bakery themselves. They’re light, fluffy, but just dense enough. Get the Guava filling and try the Li Hing (sweet and salty) powdered version to get a taste of this island favorite.
Kakaʻako | 675 Auahi Street
Tucked next to a flower store and complete with an order-at-the-window window, Arvo is the brainchild of Instagram-loved Dixie Rose (who yes, I’ve been following for years) and Casey Wiggins. It’s cute, it’s hip and serves up freshly roasted coffee and Australian-inspired eats like vegemite toast.
Shaved Ice in O’ahu
Waikiki | 2255 Kalakaua Ave.
Apparently, Lawson is a chain of convenience stores in Japan, but a purveyor of very fine shave ice in Waikiki. No wonder there were so many Japanese snacks in there. Spring for the Hawaiian Punch flavor, it really does pack a punch of finely shaved ice powder.
Waiola Shave Ice
McCully | 2135 Waiola St.
The one, the only and the very famous Waiola. The best food on the island was mostly served in styrofoam containers—no exception here. Pull up and park, then attempt to master the ordering system (number of bowls, ice cream or no ice cream, then flavors one at a time).
Kailua | 130 Kailua Rd
We basically vacationed just like the Obama family in Oahu. But, only when it came to stopping by the very same shave ice spot that they go to too. Get it straight—visit the Island Snow location that’s closest to the beach to increase your chances of run-in with 44.
Need a map? Save this to your phone for your trip!
Alright, that’s O’ahu—through my take. What’d I miss? What do like to do? Let me know!
UPDATE: It’s now been 5 full years since I first had adobo. A friend and I were on our way to a magical place called Las Vegas and made a pit stop at his parents house who refueled us with homemade chicken adobo. I was sold (still am). Below is some adobo-thoughts from my younger self.
It’s my two year Chicken Adobo anniversary! Two years ago, I first mixed garlic, soy sauce, white vinegar, some peppercorns and some bay leaves into a pot, turned on the broiler and made the most glorious chicken I had ever tasted. In between the past two years, I’ve experimented with a dozen or so other recipes and found a few winners and losers. The key to perfect Filipino adobo is using high-quality chicken, the perfect ratio of soy sauce and vinegar, and patience.
Chicken Adobo Ingredients
4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 birds eye Thai chilis, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised with the backside of your knife
2 dried bay leaves
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring all of your ingredients but the chicken to a boil. Once you’ve reached a rolling boil, add in your chicken thighs making sure to not layer them on top of each other.
2. Bring your adobo down to a simmer and set your timer for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes hit, flip all of your chicken thighs over so the other side gets in on that adobo marinade.
3. Let them simmer for 15 more minutes (basically, 15 minutes on each side in a simmer), but bring your oven to the broil setting.
4. Finally, once your chicken has cooked through, place them on a rack over a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and broil for 5-8 minutes.
5. While your chicken is braising, bring your adobo marinade to a boil in an attempt to reduce down to a sauce.
6. Once your chicken is broiled, place them on top of freshly cooked white rice, spoon plenty of adobo sauce over and enjoy!
*Dates Jewish guy once* but learns how to make latkes from the internet. I guess when you hang out with someone for one minute, it doesn’t mean that you get the secret family recipe. I don’t remember the first time that I had latkes, but I do know that the thought of these fried bites makes my mouth water, especially when I fantasized about a dollop of sour cream on top. To all of my Jewish friends and one foe, happy Hanukkah to you! Also, if anything is sacrilege in this post text me ASAP!!!!
Sweet Potato Latkes Ingredients
2-3 chives or green onion stalks, thinly sliced
1 large sweet potato, shredded
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 large egg
1/3 cup neutral oil for frying (I like grapeseed oil)
Cheesecloth or paper towel
1. Grate your sweet potato with a cheese grater. Set the grated potato aside in a bowl that’s lined with cheesecloth or paper towels, then gather into a pouch and squeeze out any excess liquid. Transfer into a dry bowl and set aside.
2. Next, crack your egg in a bowl and mix in your chives or green onions. In the bowl with your shredded potato, mix in your flour, kosher salt and black pepper. Then, add in your egg mixture and stir. Don’t worry if it looks a little on the dry side, your latke will still fry up nicely!
3. Finally, heat up your oil in a frying pan on medium heat. To test if your oil is ready, drop in a morsel of your latke mix and if it sizzles once it hits the pan, your oil is ready. Using an ice cream scooper or a soup spoon, drop your latkes into the frying pan, flattening down your mound with the backside of a spatula. Fry for a minute and a half on each side, or until it’s a crispy golden brown.
4. Once your latkes are ready to come out of the pan, set them aside on a bed of paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Top with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!
Being Korean means that I * always * need have to have a jar of kimchi in the fridge and a bag of white rice (big or small) in the cupboard. To all the roomies I’ve had before (and currently), I’m so sorry. With many, I mean many bags of leftover turkey in my fridge too, it was only natural to combine my two Korean kitchen staples with those remnants from Thanksgiving.
Kimchi Fried Rice with Turkey Ingredients
1 cup cooked rice (the key here is to pre-cook the rice the day before and let it chill in the fridge, or have some frozen rice at your disposal)
½ cup cabbage kimchi, diced
1 tbsp. kimchi juice
½ cup leftover turkey, diced
2 tbsp. sesame oil (highly recommend using Kadoya)
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1. Add in 1 tbsp. of your sesame oil into a non-stick pan on medium heat and sauté your kimchi and ginger until the cabbage is soft and the mixture is even more fragrant.
2. Once your kimchi is ready, add in your rice, kimchi juice and turkey and cook until warmed. Once it’s ready, plate your kimchi fried turkey rice and get ready for the best part.
3. Okay, you’ve made it to the best part! In the same pan that you’ve just cooked your rice, add the rest of your sesame oil to coat the bottom of your pan and then crack two eggs in and cook sunny side up. Place them on top of your plates of kimchi rice, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top, then enjoy!
Picture this: it’s the day after Thanksgiving, you’ve just rolled out of bed in your pajamas, plodded into your kitchen, opened the fridge and laid eyes on 5 Ziploc bags full of leftover turkey. You, as a normal person whose synapses lead you to appropriate memories, probably thought: “Oh yeah, let’s have a turkey sandwich later.” My monkey mind instantly went to my childhood BFF Elizabeth’s (hey girl, how’s it going?!) 7th birthday party that was held at her parent’s bookstore aka where I spent approximately 13% of my childhood. A castle/princess/medieval/choose-your-own princess mural was painted on the wall, but all I can remember from that party are the life-changing tea sandwiches that were stacked on a cake platter. First of all, the crusts. were. already. cut. off. Second of all, I could pop like 4 different types of sandwiches onto my plate for my own personal buffet of tea sandwiches. Third of all, I have not been able to get said tea sandwiches out of my head for 20 years. So to answer the question of “what should I do with these Thanksgiving leftovers?” here’s what I’ll be doing.
Curried Turkey Salad Tea Sandwiches Ingredients
Makes 4 normal-sized sandwiches Makes 16 tea sandwiches fit for small hands
1 cup leftover turkey, diced (I went with light meat)
2 tbsp. curry powder
¾ cup tart apple, diced (I am a Fuji apple girl for life)
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ red onion, diced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
8 slices of bread
This recipe is way too simple to make but is super flavorful with the peppery red onions, savory leftover turkey and if you’re using good bread—golden, flaky toast.
1. Mix all of your dry and wet ingredients into a bowl and stir together, tasting as you go. If you want more acidity, add the juice of half a lemon, more sweetness, just add a teaspoon of quality honey.
2. Take your bread and brush it with olive oil on one side and toast your bread on both sides until slightly golden and just barely crispy.
3. Add in a heaping spoonful (like ice cream scooper amount) to a slice of bread, then cut the crusts off (tea sandwiches need no crusts!) and then the sandwich into quarters. Enjoy!
Yes, I am aware it is November, which means that we are one month away from winter officially arriving and just weeks from chowing down on a turkey leg. But just let me wear a denim skirt gosh dammit! Maybe it’s because I’m gearing up for a two- week sun-soaked vacation in Hawaii or maybe it’s because I choose to live my life in blissful ignorance towards things like weather. This month, I’ve been trying to jump at opportunities to wear my frayed hem denim skirt by Madewell (which is sold out, but similar ones linked below!).
Weekends in San Francisco are getting chillier and therefore I’m more inclined to stay curled up on the couch instead of hanging at a park. But on the rare instances that I choose to venture outside, I’ll be pairing my denim skirt with chunky sweaters and city-appropriate ankle booties.
T-minus a few weeks until I am sunburnt! My favorite piece to wear while on any warm weather vacation is a skirt. They’re easy to slip in and out of and to wear with goes a goes-with-anything white button-up, which I will definitely be layering over my pale, not swimsuit-ready body.
For Date Night
The key to dressing for date night? Wearing a very complicated outfit that looks like you don’t know what a “weather app” or really what “temperature” means. But there’s a strategy behind pairing teddy coat with a denim skirt! Have a conversation piece so that you have something to talk about which makes it seem like I am complex and mysterious woman. But, once that layer is shed, I’m just a very simple girl who just wants to wear a white tee with everything and have dinner paid for every once in a while.
For a Night Out
In my old age, my nights out mean that I am following the rule of two: I walk two blocks to my favorite brewery, drink two beers, then walk the two blocks back home. I like to keep it simple now with everything, so I’ll spring for my other favorite two pieces: a moto jacket and a cami to wear with my jean skirt.
If you’re reading this and enjoyed a hot, humid summer—it must have been nice. This summer, I invested in a leather jacket that I hope to have for years to come. And wore it frequently. In the summer. Remind me why I live in San Francisco again, anyone? Since winter is going to make its way here sooner rather than later, I’m getting a head start on wrapping up my favorite winter skincare and beauty essentials that I will be finishing till the last drop until spring hits.
Even with a full 8 hours of sleep, a camel’s worth of water during the day and healing crystals by my side, I still wake up with dark circles. Enter these patches by Peace Out. I’ll be honest, they don’t magically lighten my under eyes but they do make them feel super hydrated and refreshed after a 20-minute soak. Bonus points for storing them in the fridge for an extra cooling sensation.
Would I purchase again? Eh, maybe. If I’m feeling luxe.
I feel like oils are (were?) having a moment—from face oils, to cleansing oils, to hair oils, to olive oils, everyone is just loving oil. My favorite oil du jour is the kind makes your hair silky, soft and smell like fields of jasmine. I’ve been running this hair oil by the Ouai through my damp strands before bedtime and then again in the morning before I style with hot tools, then just a little bit once I’m done. The result? Very soft hair that I just want to be all up in during the day.
Would I purchase again? Yes. Everything by the Ouai is my favorite scent.
Growing up, I swear my mom would slather a half a bottle of Coppertone onto my body before I hit the pool after school. Just 10 straight minutes of hovering my arms away from my swimsuit. I may not be swimming as much these days, but wearing sunscreen is a daily habit of mine (no thank you sun spots!). Since the SF fog has a tendency to hide the sun until you’re at least 45 minutes away from home, I’ve started carrying around this powder sunscreen from Supergoop! in my bag for quick SPF touch-ups. Plus, it pulls double duty as a mattifier (which I always need).
Would I purchase again? Yes. Can never have too much sunscreen.
I’m still on my natural skincare kick and finding products to swap in for old favorites. My latest facewash favorite is Indie Lee’s cleanser, which does make my skin look a little brighter. Or it really could be a very good placebo effect, but it very well could be the vitamin C and strawberry seed oil (both known for their brightening properties). My face feels refreshed, cleansed and ready to face the day every morning.
Ugh, RiRi. The woman knows how to make fun make-up. I strongly consider myself a no-makeup makeup kind of girl, but I’ve never been soclose to buying hot pink eyeshadow until I saw Fenty Beauty. As an incremental step into the world of more makeup, I picked up Gloss Bomb and boy, I’ve never looked back. Need coffee? Swipe on some Gloss Bomb. Bad day? Swipe on Gloss Bomb. Feel like your outfit needs a little something else? Gloss Bomb.
Have you ever flipped a bottle of shampoo around to read the ingredients? How about a tube of sunscreen? Whenever I read the labels, all I see is xyxyzyzzzyyyyzzyyxx. Totally normal ingredients that I want to be slathering into my skin, all over my body and willfully subjecting to this stuff absorbing into my pores. That’s why I’ve been transitioning my skincare picks from ingredients with zyyyyyxxxyyy to thinks like jojoba oil, lapis lazuli, and squalene. Now—these are all ingredients I can pronounce.
Have you ever heard of a company that asks their customers about what their next product should be? Meet Volition Beauty—the company that asks you to submit an idea, then for everyone to vote on which product they should make next and then, boom—it’s on the shelves at Sephora. Plus, all of their products are non-toxic and never tested on furry friends. This eye gel is the bomb too for depuffing and moisturizing that sensitive, around-the-eye area.
If you haven’t washed your face with a balm, you’re missing out on a very fulfilling skincare experience. This cleansing balm by Farmacy really does melt everything off—including waterproof mascara. Farmacy partners with two farms (like actual farms!) to gather the honey and echinacea that are key ingredients in most of their products. Plus, their very chic packaging is recyclable and printed on paper from well-managed forests.
The first swap that I made was switching my nighttime moisturizer to face oils by Herbivore Botanicals—a brand that I was itching to try out. Founded by a Seattle-based couple (quite literally in their kitchen), their focus is on creating high-concentrate products with food-grade ingredients with no fillers (aka non-active ingredients).
Would I purchase again? Big yes. I particularly liked the Phoenix and Lapis oil, the first for everyday moisture and the second for balancing my skin.
What’s up, honey? Yup, pure honey goes into this lightweight moisturizer that lasts all day. I’ve been a fan of mixing in the Herbivore facial oils with Honey Drop for added moisture throughout the day. Something new and fun too? Cupuaçu butter beads that go from full-on beads to melting into the skin after taking it out of the jar.
Would I purchase again? Probably not—it’s a little pricey for my bones at $45 for a jar, and doesn’t pull the weight that I need to feel like my skin is moisturized.
What are your favorite non-toxic skincare products? Give me the scoop!
Guess who has two thumbs and finally made their way to New Orleans? This girl! Back in the day, my aunt would take me to Disneyland every weekend where we would head to their version of the French Quarter, visit the Haunted Mansion and Tom Sawyer island. Little did I know that the real New Orleans would be just like Disneyland—just with way more beignets and cocktails involved. Here’s my take on where to eat, drink and see in New Orleans, all from yours truly.
Are you also on the hunt to eat the best fried chicken, all the time always? Just me? Cool. Do yourself a favor, call a car the minute you land and hightail it to Willie Mae’s Scotch House (not to be confused with any other Willie’s located throughout the city). You’ll be driven ~10 minutes outside of the French Quarter (FQ), dropped off in the Treme neighborhood and in front of a house that’s been Willie Mae’s since 1957. Their chicken is perfectly crispy on the outside and so, so juicy on the inside. Get messy, order the housemade lemonade and sit back and enjoy.
I couldn’t quite shake the San Francisco off of me, so we made our way to Willa Jean’s for a very chic brunch in this James Beard award-winning bakery, café and restaurant all-in-one. Head here for breakfast or brunch (maybe before a visit to the Garden District), and look out for The Biscuit Situation on the menu, their BBQ shrimp toast, crawfish and grits, freshly baked bread, new takes on lattes and, are you hungry yet?
You’d be crazy to not eat some Cajun food in Louisiana. Even if it’s a little steamy outside, order the rabbit stew with dumplings, their take on charbroiled oysters (with chili-garlic butter) and drinks mixed with moonshine and crawfish boil (but not together).
You know I love a converted warehouse. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, now you do. With no less than 5 different food stalls, a stunning marble bar in the center and waiters yelling out your name to come pick up your order, Auction House Market is worth a visit just for the change of pace from your normal sit-down restaurant experience.
Lately, I’ve been a big fan of cocktails and outstanding experiences at bars. Nowadays, this does not consist of talking to QT’s but really chatting it up with bartenders who know their stuff and having some unforgettable drinks throughout the night. I ended up spending 3 consecutive nights at French 75, headed up by Chris Hannah, the award-winning head bartender at this spot right off of Bourbon (and literally the star of every publication that has written about NOLA). He’s mixing up newer takes on old, old classics, while somehow keeping once well-loved drinks, well, still loved. The best souvenir I brought home? A list of NOLA favorites hand-written from Hannah himself.
Famous for its flamingo pink exterior and flamingo-decked mirrors, it’s obvious to see how I was convinced to head inside. Otherwise known for their Creole fare, Brennan’s is also notably famous for their Caribbean Milk Punch mixed with rum, bourbon, cream and plenty of vanilla. So sit back, relax and order one as a quick escape from the heat of the South.
Compère Lapin (or brother rabbit) was another recommendation from our friend Chris (who is probably besties with the head bartendress, Abigail Gullo). We only stayed for one drink slushie each, and they were good. Think refreshing, not tropical and perfectly Southern—someway, somehow. Order one, sit at the bar and chat it up with Abigail (which we didn’t get to do), but I bet she’s really cool.
To be honest, we didn’t get to stop by the brewery, but rest assured, I did have their beers. Their pale ale might just be the best I’ve ever had and word on the street is that this brewery rocks. Apparently, it comes complete with an outside patio, string lights and if you’re lucky, live music just alongside the river. Sounds so #dreamy.
Do yourself a huge favor and go check out some live music at Preservation Hall. It’s $20 at the door, cash-only and the best part is that there are no phones or cameras allowed during the show. It’s just you, all the other guests and a very good band at the front of the house. Be sure to get there on the earlier side of the next show time (they’re every hour, on the hour from 5-10 p.m., except for 7 p.m.), I would say 30 minutes beforehand is your safest bet.
Even if you’re not into “touring,” the Garden District is worth the trolley ride out from Canal Street. Visit the above-ground cemetery that inspired Anne Rice, see her old house, Sandra Bullock’s mansion, the spot that Nicolas Cage bought and even the Manning family house. Now that I think about it, it was more a celebrity real estate tour with many beautiful mansions along the way. Still worth it.
Maybe when I’m older and grayer, I will move myself out to a swamp and feed marshmallows to alligators. Visiting Honey Island swamp was definitely a highlight of the trip. It wasn’t an airboat tour, but the flatboat was able to get us into narrow bayous, up and down the river at what felt like, high speeds and a lot of animal spottings like swamp raccoons, egrets, herons, gators, turtles and even a wild bachelorette party.
Are you a woo girl? If not, skip Bourbon Street entirely and head out to the locals-favorite Frenchman Street instead. We stopped by The Spotted Cat (yes, the exact place where CNN does NYE!) and listened to a bluegrass band and had a whiskey shot. We were totally fine that night (we were not).
Mardi Gras World
Want to see some Mardi Gras floats without actually experiencing the crowds? Head to Mardi Gras World (there’s even a free shuttle from major hotels!) where you can see how the props are built from giant pieces of styrofoam, paper-mâchéd over, then painted over every year by the same family that started making them in the 19th century.
Just like Disneyland! Every street in the FQ is like walking back in time, with old French-style houses in pastel colors, porches that are just made for perching and a live band that might dot a street corner. Rent a bike at dusk to see the neighborhood, try a ghost tour or an architecture tour if you’re more refined and just soak up the sights. Royal Street is known for all of it’s shops (mostly antique), Bourbon just might be the Vegas of the South and all the other sidestreets have something up their sleeves too.