A visit to New Orleans, LA

Kimberly Higdon
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, especially since my husband is from Lake Charles and has me hooked on the food! So naturally I jumped at the chance to join him in NOLA even though he would be attending a convention and I would be on my own…  Some may think “no way,” but the chance to eat, drink, and do exactly what I want in a city that doesn’t sleep was exactly what intrigued me. It turned out to be one of my favorite stays!

Of course it all starts with where you stay. There are so many fine choices; however I must say that The Roosevelt New Orleans exceeded my expectations. Originally built in 1893, the interior of the hotel made me feel like I was stepping back in time as I walked down the corridor with its massive columns, antique chandeliers, and mosaic tile floors. As with most of New Orleans, The Roosevelt closed after Hurricane Katrina and after completing a full renovation reopened in 2009. The Roosevelt has since become a member of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels offering the finest luxury accommodations; blending history, glamour and today’s amenities.RooseveltUnfortunately it was little too cool to take advantage of the rooftop pool, but I did enjoy the fabulous views of the city from up there. Not to worry, there were plenty of other ways for me to relax and I did in the Guerlain Spa with a specialized deep tissue massage just for me. Fully relaxed and ready for the day, I didn’t even make it out of the Roosevelt before The Sazerac Bar beckoned me in for a drink. (It’s ok…you can drink before noon in NOLA!) One wall showcases large murals depicting life in New Orleans during the early 1930s while the bartender is more than willing to tell stories of all of the famous and not so famous patrons that have caused a stir – my lips are sealed!

Hopping on the streetcar, a great way to see the city, it didn’t take long before I was in the Garden District. The old Southern-style homes—or should I say mansions—were immaculate. No signs of Hurricane Katrina here. I was prepared for a day of shopping on Magazine Street but realized it is actually miles of antique stores, clothing shops, galleries, and restaurants. There is no way to see it all in a day, but I tried!MagazineStOne of my favorite shops was the Courtyard Gallery in the French Quarter.  They specialize in using salvaged items such as doors, shutters, and tabletops from Hurricane Katrina and carving them with New Orleans-themed paintings. I love the green aspect of their recycling; truly one of a kind interpretations of a historical city.

CathedralAnd history is the key word when speaking of NOLA. Take time to visit the Cabildo and Presbytere, two historic buildings which are part of the Louisiana State Museum. The Cabildo showcases Louisiana’s early years, while the Presbytere’s exhibit, Living with Hurricanes/Katrina & Beyond, focuses on the devastation and impact it had on lives in the area.

Nestled between the Cabildo and Presbytere is the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the U.S. and the perfect place to sit and reflect. Surrounded by murals on the ceiling, intricate statues, and powerful organ music, it’s an emotional experience.

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Another famous landmark, just in front of the Cathedral, is Jackson Square. Named for Andrew Jackson, a hero in the Battle of New Orleans and President of the United States, the park prominently displays a large statue of him on his horse. The Square is well known as a gathering place for artists, musicians, carriage rides, street performers, and magicians. You never know what to expect!Cathedral2
One thing you should expect is amazing food—I was not disappointed. Here are a few of my “will definitely go back” favorites:

Café Du MondeDuMondeNeed I say more? Famous for its beignets and dark-roasted coffee and chicory, this café is open 24/7 except for Christmas Day, and of course in the event of a hurricane. The original shop is in the French Market, but they have opened several others in the New Orleans area so you’re never too far from some of the delicious French-style doughnuts covered with powdered sugar.

The Hermes Bar at Antoine’sNew OrleansThis was the perfect place for a low-key lunch of a fried soft-shell crab po boy.  If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, they have 14 dining rooms, each unique with its own story. (Good luck choosing just one!)

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Galatoire’sGalatoiresA part of New Orleans for over 100 years, this icon has an abundance of seafood that is expertly prepared. The duck gumbo and stuffed avocado crab meat salad were perfect, but be prepared to stand in line: they don’t take reservations.

Arnaud’s Jazz BistroArnaudsNo trip to New Orleans is complete without a little jazz and there is no place better than Arnaud’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, live Dixieland jazz band and views of Bourbon Street, all while enjoying spicy Shrimp Creole, fresh baked bread and Louisiana-brewed Abita beer.

I’m already making a list for my next visit. Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!—Kimberly Higdon, Controller

For more great destinations, visit NashvilleLifestyles.com/entertainment/travel

Alton Brown brings his ‘Edible Inevitable’ tour to Nashville

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Television culinary celebrity Alton Brown is coming to Nashville on Thursday November 7 to bring his “Edible Inevitable” tour to TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall at 8 p.m. The combination variety show/cooking demonstration event has been a hit as Brown has made his way across the country, leaving a swath of planned destruction in his path, thanks to a particularly messy cooking demo that necessitates a “Poncho Zone” for the front three rows of the auditorium.

In advance of the show, Brown spoke with us about his relationship with Nashville and answered a few other silly questions.Alton4

“I love coming to Nashville. I used to perform regularly at Gaylord Opryland. Your food scene has really changed so much over the past few years; it’s really grown! I’m definitely going to set aside some time for visiting restaurants while I’m in town. But I’m not interested in finding what’s new and trendy. I just want to find some excellent food and a good glass of whiskey.”

“I made a visit to Nashville recently to tape a future episode of my podcast. I spent time with Scott Witherow and his crew at Olive and Sinclair. I’ve been focusing on Southern food producers, and I really love what they’re doing at Olive and Sinclair. They are inherently Southern in both zip code and mindset.”

Then it was time for the silly questions. We asked how come the first pancake is never any good.Alton1

“I’ve actually studied this. It’s not that the first one isn’t any good; it’s just that the subsequent ones are better. It has to do with getting the excess heat off the griddle so that the pancake can cook more evenly. Also, people don’t let their batter sit long enough before cooking. You have to allow the leavening in the batter to thicken, so batter is better after 3 to 4 minutes. Ideally, you should make it the night before and keep it in the refrigerator.”

Recently at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, MS, Kat Kinsman of CNN’s Eatocracy and Kim Severson, Atlanta bureau chief for the New York Times staged a Lincoln/Douglas-style debate on the merits of pie vs. cake. We questioned where Brown comes down on this particular controversy.

“Oh, I’m definitely on the pie side. Pies take more advantage of the great agricultural resources of the South. Pies show off the amazing nuts and fruits that are grown around here. Cakes just don’t show off as much.”

Tickets for Alton Brown’s “Edible Inevitable” tour are still on sale now at tpac.org.

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Exclusive: Behind the Scenes of CMT Crossroads with The Band Perry & Fall Out Boy!

Nashville Lifestyles was at the exclusive filming of a CMT Crossroads episode that united country megastars The Band Perry with emo rockers Fall Out Boy.

The Band Perry
Our initial reaction: “Huh?” But the instant the unlikely friends hit the stage at Rocketown on Oct. 2—riffing, bantering, and dressed in matching black ensembles—we thought, “Oooh.” Kimberly Perry’s feisty, forceful vocals were the show’s highlight, although FOB frontman Patrick Stump held his own wailing on Perry tracks like “Better Dig Two” and the beautifully somber “If I Die Young.” (After the latter, Stump quipped that he’d considered swiping Kimberly’s “…and I’ll wear my pearls” line.)

Sprinkled throughout the genre-bending set were chipper versions of Fall Out Boy hits like “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and the newer, anthem-y “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Alone Together).” The two bands—which we have anointed The Boy Perry—also were allowed to tackle one agreed-upon cover; we don’t want to spoil the fun, so let’s just say that FOB bassist Pete Wentz’s familiar eyeliner wasn’t the show’s only homage to Freddie Mercury.

CMT Crossroads: The Band Perry & Fall Out Boy premieres Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. CST.

A First-Timer’s Look at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium

ErinAbout a week ago, I sat in on the 16th Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, which is organized and attended by (in my opinion) some of the most fascinating people in the South. It was my first time attending the Oxford, Mississippi-event and I was hooked from the get go: As a first-timer, I was invited for bloody Marys and biscuits at director John T. Edge’s home to kick off the weekend.

I was introduced to a dozen new faces, all of whom were as excited and anxious to start the weekend as I was. The high-octane beverage helped, especially since it was packed with spices, pickled okra, and a hefty pour of Cathead vodka. There were biscuits and souvenir Tabasco go-cups, to boot. That sense of hospitality was carried through the entire weekend. One evening, we were handed a flask filled with a potent bourbon cocktail (to be consumed on a school bus as we rode to fried catfish dinner); the next afternoon, we received illustrated tea towels.

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Hospitality and event organization aside (the entire weekend of lectures, meals, and entertainment were executed flawlessly and to the minute), the weekend was packed with informative conversations, both formal and casual. The theme of this year’s conference was “Women At Work” so everything revolved around women and food. It started with the car ride down; I was joined by food writer Jennifer Justus and author Alice Randall (Jennifer summed it up nicely in a recent wrap-up post) and continued once we arrived, just in time to watch the Thacker Mountain Radio program. There was an interview with fashion designer Natalie Chanin followed by a performance from The Gee’s Bend Singers, who are both fine quilters and choral singers. Friday, Alice and her daughter Caroline Randall Williams, presented their newest project, a cookbook, due out next fall. We were entertained with stories about Caroline’s grandmother, Alberta Johnson Bontemps, who left Caroline her massive cookbook collection, which includes a full range of Junior League cookbooks that were once housed in her grandmother’s guest toilet. The speech made me laugh out loud and also crave a cookbook collection like hers.

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Alice Randall presents a talk with her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams

There was a clever lecture on Eugenia Duke, creator of Duke’s Mayonnaise and a moving documentary by filmmaker Joe York about Alzina Toups, of Alzina’s Restaurant, who also won the SFA’s Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame award this year. Her restaurant will surely be my next food pilgrimage

Between all of this, there were funny and fascinating conversations with people from all over the South as well as other members of the Nashville food world like Karl and Sarah Worley of the Biscuit Love food truck, Kahlil Arnold of Arnold’s Restaurant, and Lisa Donovan, pastry chef at Husk. It was a big Nashville contingent, I was told. I imagine it will only keep growing.

The meals were spectacular, made even more delicious by the conversations happening over them. One lunch by chef Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill in Atlanta, was the prettiest plate I’ve seen all year.

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As a first-timer, going into it, I didn’t know what to expect—and like many I’ve spoken with, still feel overwhelmed by everything I experienced. But driving home on Sunday, I was struck by how fulfilling and satisfying the weekend turned out to be. The food, drink, friendships, takeaways, and knowledge have all sunken into my bones, held firmly in place by the fact that I now have 375+ reasons to return again next year.

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—Erin Byers Murray, managing editor

Behind the Scenes at Christie Cookies

Cookies
Working at Nashville Lifestyles gives me the unique opportunity to go behind the curtain and experience some “unseen” territory in this town. A few weeks ago a small group of food bloggers and I aproned-up and witnessed the 30-year-renowned Christie Cookie recipe from start to finish. We toured. We tasted. And now we’re talking.

Christie Cookies
CC2Nashvillian and Vandy grad Christie Hauck opened his first retail store down on Church Street near the main library. Gussied up in a rented suit and red cumberbund, he plated up cookie samples and took to the street. Blame it on the Heath toffee or the real butter, but people were hooked. The Christie Cookie is now a booming mail-order business sending out “the perfect cookie” across the nation—about 89,000 tins of baked perfection during the holiday season. If a gracious client, friend, or family member has ever sent you a tin of Christie Cookies, you know they don’t last long.

Bite-Sized Facts:
• The factory and headquarters is located in the heart of Germantown at 3rd and Madison. They have free tasting every month—test their cookie of the month plus their existing flavors. These small batches are available for a limited time and you can a whole tin full of your favorite.
• Keep up with the new flavors of the month by ‘liking’ the Christie Cookie Facebook page. Coming up: August-Chocolate Chunk, September-White Chocolate Cranberry, October-Rocky Road.
• All the cookies are trans-fat free, Kosher certified, and do not contain high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives.
• Also available are brownies, muffins and a line of chocolates that have the same focus on quality ingredients, just like the cookies.

Inspired by the goodies they sent home with us, I put together a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwiches from food blogger Lindsay Landis’ Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook. I paired Christie Cookie’s chocolate chip cookies with Lindsay’s recipe (click here to get the recipe) for a decadent and amazing result. Cookie SandwichesA small plate of these cookies at the office was divided and conquered in less than 5 minutes which means next time I’ll have to make more…
DealThe nice folks at Christie Cookie are offering all Nashville Lifestyles readers a 15% discount! Use the Promo Code “LIFESTYLES” from now til September 9 at ChristieCookies.com and surprise someone (even yourself) with something sweet!

— Valerie Hammond, Designer/Web Editor

Preview: The Tippler and Pisco Portón

The next big thing in the Nashville cocktail scene may just be The Tippler, a massive three-level lounge/restaurant opening in August in the ground level of The Adelicia building in Midtown. Most recently the penultimate home of Fish and Co., the space has been closely watched by local foodistas anxiously awaiting the new tenant.

The Tippler is a spin-off of a very successful Manhattan establishment located in Chelsea Market. Known for artfully-prepared innovative cocktails and classic architecture, The Tippler aims to replicate that formula with their second location. On July 23, a gathering of Nashville mixologists and spirits purveyors got a sneak peek of the bar at a special event presented by Best Brands and Pisco Portón, the best-selling Peruvian liquor made in the oldest distillery in the Americas.

Music City Tippler
Pisco is a distilled spirit made from eight different varietals of grapes, the only fruit-based white liquor as opposed to grain products like vodka and gin. Best known as the base for a tart Pisco Sour, this spirit can be used to create all sorts of interesting cocktails. The guests of honor at the event were Johnny Schuler, the head distiller at Pisco Portón and Dale DeGroff, noted mixologist and cocktail historian. Schuler and DeGroff regaled the assembled audience with tales of the history of the distillery, which dates back to 1684, and DeGroff mixed up a bowl of Button Punch from a recipe that was popularized in San Francisco in the 1870′s. The cocktail is mentioned in the writings of Mark Twain and Jack London, and the revelers at the launch party agreed that it has aged quite nicely.

Music City Tippler
Other Pisco Portón cocktails were served as accompaniments to a four-course dinner prepared by the kitchen staff at The Tippler, a meal which promises good things for Nashville diners once the saloon doors swing open to the public. Best Brands Business Solutions Leader created several of the cocktail recipes and was kind enough to share one with Nashville Lifestyles readers.

Peruvian BBQ
1.75 oz Porton
¾ oz Lime Juice
½ oz maple syrup
1 dash of Bitter End BBQ Bitters

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake to chill. Serve up in a champagne coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a basil leaf.

More about the Tippler in Nashville Lifestyles HOT LIST issue!

—Chris Chamberlain, NL contributor

Where to Stay in Panama City: Laketown Wharf

Janna LandryIf you’re looking to hit a Florida beach with the family this summer, my recommendation is Laketown Wharf in Panama City. They offer that area’s best bang for your buck. With direct flights from Nashville on Southwest, your family can be body surfing, building sand castles or just relaxing on one of the most beautiful white sand beaches within just a few hours. This contemporary, soaring white Sterling Resort property sits at the center of the active Panama City strip, so it’s close to restaurants, shopping, and family attractions and is just a short distance from Pier Park and Frank Brown Park.

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Laketown Wharf has five different pools, including a rooftop pool on the 10th floor and a kid’s pool, a fitness center, and a huge boardwalk that wraps around the lake on the property. There’s a cool light show to music each night in the center of the lake. We also loved the newly expanded porte-cochère at the front of the resort for loading and unloading luggage when those pop up storms blow in.

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All of the 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom condominiums have larger floor plans so there’s that feeling of being in a home rather than a hotel. The condos are beautifully furnished and decorated, featuring 32-inch flat screen TV’s in the bedrooms, and high-speed internet. Every balcony faces the water offering spectacular Gulf, Lake and Golf Course views.  After our active days on the beach, it was lovely to watch the sunset from the 22nd floor balcony while enjoying a cold beverage.

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This is my favorite Panama City stay when my family needs a few days on the beach. With renovations in progress, additions to this great resort will include a coffee café, an on-site restaurant, and a renovated pool cafe. Make your reservation now for a quick get away, or you can rent long term and stay awhile.

Laketown Wharf, 9902 South Thomas Dr., Panama City Beach, FL
(866) 695-8734; laketownwharf.com

—Janna Landry, Account Executive