Scenes from the Go St. Louis Half Marathon

13 Apr

Click on any photo above to launch the slide show.

Barb and I have run the Go! St. Louis half marathon or marathon several times since moving to eastern Iowa about 13 years ago. It’s a fun, well-organized race in a neat Midwestern town. Barb and I really didn’t have any expectations for our performance in the race this year — it wasn’t an “A” race or even a “B” race. And maybe that’s why we did so well and enjoyed it so much. If you get a chance to run it, do it.

Over the years, we’ve found a few places to visit that make the trip even more enjoyable.

This time, we ate our pre-race dinner at the Schlafly Tap Room, located just a few blocks from our Drury Hotel, which was just a few blocks itself from the start line. Simple food and good beer at the tap room, which is housed in an architecturally appealing brick and timber building. I had the spinach lasagna with a raspberry Hefeweizen (the St. Louis version of a Purple Haze!). We took home a growler of a high-alcohol Imperial Stout. Good stuff.

And we had our post-race meal at Bailey’s Range, which was within walking distance of the finish line. The place featured unique burgers and sandwiches, and what they called “boozy shakes.” Barb had a white chocolate raspberry shake, while I had a Bulleit mint julep. Also, a great place for simple food with a twist.

A few other things I’d recommend from past trips:

  • Visit Laclede’s Landing, just off downtown
  • The Drunken Fish offers good sushi at Laclede’s
  • If sushi isn’t your thing, we’ve eaten a couple of times at Morgan Street Brewery, and enjoyed it both times
  • Of course, if you’re new to St. Louis, visit the Gateway Arch, also near Laclede’s and downtown. The view from the top of the arch makes the unique elevator ride worth the trip.
  • I recently read this book about the arch. It talks quite a bit about the difficulties in constructing an elevator for such an odd shaped structure. Good book.
  • It seems nearly every runner feels the need to have pasta before a race (not me), and St. Louis boasts a historic Italian neighborhood, the Hill, with a number of authentic restaurants. We’ve eaten at Zia’s twice, and you won’t walk away hungry. Perhaps the most famous is Charlie Gitto’s.
  • And if you’re looking to get off your feet for a few hours and just relax, try the Chase Park Plaza movie theaters, located near downtown. Added benefit: the theater serves mixed drinks and beer.

Rainbow over the Mississippi

27 Mar
A rainbow stretches across the Mississippi River on a misty, windy day near Keokuk, Iowa. A strong east wind was stirring whitecaps on the river and keeping the pelicans grounded. The pending storm nearly kept me from my nightly run, but I'm glad I went ahead as planned. I would have regretted missing this scene.

A rainbow stretches across the Mississippi River on a misty, windy day near Keokuk, Iowa. A strong east wind was stirring whitecaps on the river and keeping the pelicans grounded. The pending storm nearly kept me from my nightly run, but I’m glad I went ahead as planned. I would have regretted missing this scene.

Interested in seeing scenes like this for yourself? Here’s a link to a map of my community, Keokuk, Iowa, located on the Mighty Mississippi.

Here’s a link to a page on my newspaper’s website, dailygate.com, where you can find many valuable local resources.

Here’s a link to the local chamber of commerce and to the local convention and tourism bureau. Come visit us!

The art of mixing the perfect Ramos Gin Fizz at home

25 Mar
A bartender at Tujague's gives a vigorous and long shake to give a Ramos Gin Fizz its creamy, frothy texture.

A bartender at Tujague’s, located along Decatur Street in New Orleans, gives a vigorous and long shake to give a Ramos Gin Fizz its creamy texture and frothy head.

I enjoy cooking and home bartending as a creative outlet. The dishes and drinks I favor — gumbos, cheesecakes, cocktails and the like — provide opportunities to play with different flavors and taste profiles. And they present a challenge in their successful execution.

Certainly, the Ramos Gin Fizz meets these criteria.

Key ingredients are: gin, lemon and lime juice, orange flower water, sugar, cream, soda and an egg white.

The drink features a slight citrus taste, and it is often said it is “like drinking a flower, ” as described in the book “Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘Em.”

Gin fizz at homeAnd many say the key to a successful drink’s creamy texture is a long, longggggg shake.

Since first visiting New Orleans several years back, I’ve tried making the drink at home, with varying degrees of success.

Wherever you turn for advice, you’ll find that the ratio of ingredients varies slightly. And you’ll find the techniques for mixing and shaking vary, too.

With all the variations, these are my suggestions:

  • Many recipes call for just a few drops of orange flower water, saying that it is a potent, pungent mixture. Well, in the sticks of Iowa, orange flower water is pretty weak, so I’ve had better luck using the higher amounts called for in some recipes (Sazerac Bar video below, 1 1/2 oz.). If I ever find a very strong mix, I’ll cut back to just a few drops.
  • The amounts of fresh lemon and lime juices also vary. Some call for the juice of half a fruit, some call for a couple dashes of juice, some call for a 1/2 ounce of each juice. Fresh juices are best, of course, but they can overpower the drink. I use just a little less than the juice from a half a fruit.
  • While the older recipes call for powdered sugar, most of the new recipes use simple syrup. Again, the amounts vary. But I have the best luck erring on the higher side — probably 1 oz. for one drink.
  • Same goes for the heavy cream. I’ve seen everywhere from a 1/2 ounce to 2 ounces. I’d use closer to 1 1/2 to 2 oz.
  • To get the tasty froth, the best tip I’ve seen is offered in the video from the Sazerac Bar: pour a bit of soda in the bottom of the serving glass, and use a high pour from the mixing shaker. Voila! Froth. In the video from the Library Lounge via Nola.com, the bartender tops the drink with soda and then stirs vigorously to develop the froth. That works, too.

Here’s the recipe from “Famous New Orleans Drinks:”

  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 3-4 drops orange flower water
  • 1/2 lime — juice only
  • 1/2 lemon — juice only
  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 oz. rich milk or cream
  • 1 squirt selzer water
  • 2 drops extract vanilla (optional)

Mix in a tall barglass in the order given; add crushed ice, not too fine as lumps are needed to whip up the froth of the egg white and cream. Use a long metal shaker and remember this is one drink which needs a long, steady shaking. Keep at it until the mixture gets body — “ropy” as some experienced barkeepers express it. When thoroughly shaken, strain into a tall thin glass for serving.

Here’s the video (below) from the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, via GoNola.com. This is an excellent recipe:

Here’s the video (below) posted by Nola.com, featuring bartender Chris McMillian at the Library Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.

And here’s a video (below) from Liquor.com — an excellent source for some tasty cocktail recipes — that was shot at Rye in San Francisco. Good video, but, jeesh, San Francisco for a Ramos Gin Fizz?

The stories behind the drink

The Ramos Gin Fizz, like the Sazerac and the Hurricane, is indelibly linked to New Orleans. And even more so than the other two, the Ramos has some colorful stories associated with it.

In the book “Famous New Orleans Drinks,” first published in 1937, author Stanley Clisby Arthur states that at that time, “The Age of the Ramos gin fizz is well past the half-century mark and its popularity shows no signs of abating.”

Arthur relates that the drink came to New Orleans in 1888 when Henry C. Ramos moved from Baton Rouge to purchase the Imperial Cabinet saloon.

At the height of the drink’s popularity, Ramos’ bar reportedly employed 35 shaker boys to meet the demand.

Of course, the drink, like all liquor, receded into the shadows during Prohibition. But Arthur writes, “After the return of legal liquor the trade name of Ramos on a gin fizz was acquired by the Hotel Roosevelt, and today that is it’s legal domicile.”

And from there springs another colorful story associated with the drink.

Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, a frequent guest of the Roosevelt, particularly enjoyed the mix found at the hotel’s Sazerac Bar. But while staying at the New Yorker hotel, Long found the drink sadly lacking, despite that hotel’s claim to be the home of the Ramos Gin Fizz. Read this post to see the incredible lengths Long took to ” teach these New York sophisticates how and what to drink.”

♦ ♦ ♦

If you’re interested in New Orleans drinks or cocktails in general, “Famous New Orleans Drinks” is worth purchasing. In addition the Ramos Gin Fizz, it offers recipes for the Sazerac, Mint Julep (and many other juleps), Old Fashioned, Manhattan, punches and much more. Now in it’s 23rd printing, the book is available direct from Pelican Publishing, located across the river from New Orleans proper in Gretna.

If you enjoy cocktails, you should follow the “Cold Glass” blog by Doug Ford. It’s entertaining and informative. Here’s his take on the Ramos Fizz.

♦ ♦ ♦

Have you made your own Ramos Gin Fizz? Do you have any tips to offer? What’s your favorite bar for drinking the Ramos Gin Fizz? Leave a comment below.

Been there, Done that: Personal guide to New Orleans hotspots

7 Mar
Bourbon Street parade New Orleans

A band leads a parade down Bourbon Street in New Orleans during the 2014 NBA All-Star weekend.

I’m an unofficial ambassador for New Orleans. If I was actually paid for the number of times I recommend it to others, I’d be able to retire.

To make it easier to point friends in the right direction, I’ve compiled a list of places we’ve visited over the years. The following are some of our favorite night spots and restaurants, as well as a few other tourist spots that are worth visiting. The list comes complete with links to the appropriate websites.

Today, I’ve entered these as a post. But the links can always be found at this page on my blog. 

Restaurants

  • Brigtsen’s – Located at the intersection of St. Charles and Carrollton, this restaurant is a ways from the usual tourist haunts, but it’s worth the trip. It focuses on foods with a Creole/Acadian flair. The wait staff was friendly and attentive, and chef Frank Brigtsen came out to say hello to diners. It is located in a converted house and does not seat too many, so reservations are recommended.
  • Commander's Palace Garden District New Orleans

    Commander’s Palace, a landmark restaurant, is located in the Garden District.

    Commander’s Palace This is THE New Orleans restaurant, and the place that gave Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme their start. A bit on the pricey side and tie or jacket are preferred, although business casual will suffice sometimes. It’s worth the effort.

  • Emeril’s New Orleans – Wolfgang Puck said the banana cream pie here is the Best Food He Ever Ate in New Orleans. I don’t know how you’d just pick one item, but this would be in the running. Not super expensive. Emeril has two other restaurants in the city.
  • Emeril’s NOLA – Located on St. Louis Street in the Quarter not far off Decatur, this restaurant is easy to get to. Frankly, I haven’t had better food in New Orleans. We ate there for a Sunday lunch, and the prices were not expensive. We had two entrees, dessert, drinks and coffee, and our bill was just over $87. We made reservations the day before, but they may not have been needed for lunch.
  • K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen – Paul Prudhomme cooks up dishes that honor his Louisiana heritage.
  • Red Fish Grill – This is casual dining, but delicious New Orleans food. Located at 115 Bourbon St., so it’s just inside the Quarter, not far from Canal Street. BBQ oysters are a specialty, and save room: desserts are decadent.
  • Cafe du Monde – Beignets and cafe au lait. Just as good at the end of the day as the beginning. Don’t expect to order bacon and eggs; you can get beignets or beignets. Try the chicory coffee — you’ll either love it or hate it. On Decatur Street at the edge of the French Quarter near the Mississippi.
  • Cafe Beignet, where the offerings are more than just beignets.

    Cafe Beignet, where the offerings are more than just beignets.

    Cafe Beignet – The storefront location is on Royal Street right next to the police station. Hmmm, a French donut stop right next to a police station. The beignets are good, and, unlike Cafe du Monde, they do offer other kinds of food, such as eggs, French toast, et cetera. They are not open 24/7. If you order a “coffee,” you will be given chicory coffee, so if that’s not what you want, be sure to specify your selection.

  • Mulatte’s – Near the convention center, this casual restaurant features good Louisiana food and live cajun music every night. Very good corn and shrimp bisque.
  • Deanie’s Seafood – In the French Quarter. Worth eating here for the free appetizer of new potatoes cooked in crab boil (read: spicy).
  • Drago’s Seafood Restaurant – Located in the Hilton Hotel at the end of Canal Street and adjacent to the convention center. Charbroiled oysters are the best. Even if you don’t like oysters, give them a try. The corn and shrimp bisque is darn good, too.
  • Mandina’s – Located in Mid-City at 3800 Canal Street, Mandina’s can easily be reached by the Canal Street trolley, but it is a ways out. This has been a neighborhood restaurant for decades and offers a mix of Creole and Italian food — what an interesting change of pace!
  • A well constructed and tasty muffaletta, Cajun potato salad and an Abita beer at Cochon Butcher.

    A well constructed and tasty muffaletta, Cajun potato salad and an Abita beer at Cochon Butcher.

    Cochon Butcher – The muffuletta is a unique New Orleans sandwich and is offered at many places around town. We’ve sampled several — including Central Grocery’s —  and none that we’ve found does it better than Cochon Butcher. Search the blog posts for a more extensive story and photos. This little restaurant is located near the World War II museum.

  • Bon Ton Cafe – An authentic New Orleans Creole and Cajun restaurant on Magazine Street in the CBD, so it’s close to the Quarter.
  • Napoleon House – This French Quarter bar and restaurant, just a couple blocks from Jackson Square, was recommended by a couple bloggers for its muffulettas. On a quest to find the city’s best, I had to check them out. Here’s a post on what I thought.
  • Central Grocery – OK, it’s not really a restaurant, it’s, well, a grocery. But it’s also the originator of the muffuletta, the Sicilian sandwich that rivals the po’ boy for official sandwich of New Orleans. Located on Decatur Street near the French Market. Expect a line for those awaiting muffulettas. They’re big; a half is plenty for most men, a quarter for most women.
  • Antoine’s – We went here for dinner on Valentine’s Day 2014. It’s located in the heart of the French Quarter at 713 Saint Louis St. The food is old-school New Orleans, and in my opinion, lacks the flair and creativity of a Brigtsen’s or Emeril’s.

Bars with a musical flair

  • Frenchmen Street features a number of small music clubs, including the Spotted Cat.

    Frenchmen Street features a number of small music clubs, including the Spotted Cat.

    Spotted Cat Music Club – Located on Frenchmen Street, this little bar is a great place to listen to live jazz. It opens in the mid-afternoon and closes late. It’s one of dozen or so bars with live music on Frenchmen Street. Check out the Apple Barrel, Blue Nile and Snug Harbor, too.

  • d.b.a. – A much bigger venue than the Spotted Cat, which is just across the street, with lots of floor space for listening or dancing, and the band is spread across a large, elevated stage. A big wooden bar is accessible from two sides of the building. It offers a large variety of beers from across the country and even around the world, including a large selection of beers on tap, which isn’t always the case in NOLA. It also offers a number of specialty cocktails, but the night we were there, the bartenders weren’t keeping up with the simple orders, let alone the complicated ones.
  • Tipitina's, New Orleans, La.

    Tipitina’s, New Orleans, La.

    Tipitina’s – Another landmark music spot is Tipitina’s, located at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon streets. Tip’s history, as related on their website: “Tipitina’s began as a neighborhood juke joint, established in 1977, by a group of young music fans (The Fabulous Fo’teen) to provide a place for Professor Longhair to perform in his final years. The venue, named for one of Longhair’s most enigmatic recordings “Tipitina,” has survived in an ever-changing musical climate. In the past three decades, Tipitina’s has grown from a small, neighborhood bar into an international music icon. The venue has expanded into a two-story music venue…”

    New Orleans band Bonerama Mark Mullins

    Mark Mullins of Bonerama performing at Rock ‘n’ Bowl

    Here’s a link to a music video of the famous song of the same name, popularized by Fess, as he’s known popularly. This music video features another one of his popular tunes, “Go To The Mardi Gras,” which also features a prominent role on “Treme.” We went to Tip’s on a Sunday night, which is the weekly time for the Fais Do-do, or Cajun dance party. Bruce Daigrepont generally plays this gig, and we had a blast. Search the blog posts for more on this.

  • Rock ‘n’ Bowl – Located in Mid-City on South Carrollton Avenue, this bowling alley/bar/music venue books some of the best musical acts in town. We saw Bonerama here in February 2014, and it was a great spot for a concert. For a post on this venue and a couple others, see this post.

Bars

  • Pat O’Brien’s The inventor of the Hurricane. Located in the Quarter. They serve food, too… but I never make it past the Hurricanes. They are best consumed while singing at the top of your lungs in the piano bar. There’s also a large open-air courtyard that’s great for soaking in the sun on a nice NOLA day.
  • Ramos Gin Fizz Tujague's New Orleans

    Mixing a Ramos Gin Fizz at Tujague’s.

    Tujague’s – This bar (pronounced Two-jacks) along Decatur Street has an accompanying restaurant, too. But I never get past the bar. (Do you detect a theme here?) Don’t bother with a beer. Order the Ramos Gin Fizz and then ask the bartender what else is good. No doubt, it will be. UPDATE: Finally ate at Tujague’s. They offer a unique approach. They have a limited list of entrees every night, and every meal features five courses. The meal was OK, but I’d stick with the Gin Fizzes. An interesting sidenote: We ate there on Feb. 16, 2013, and were greeted by owner Steven Latter. He died on Feb. 18. UPDATE 2014: Faced with closure after Latter’s death, Tujague’s was sold and re-opened by Latter’s son, Mark. The new owner spruced up both the dining room and the menu. I’m eager to give this landmark another try.

  • Tracey’s – This sports bar in the Irish Channel is a great place to watch a game. It has 18 TVs, and you’re sure to find some fans supporting your team. We’ve watched a couple of Husker games here over the years, and there are sure to be fans of nearly any team watching a game there.
  • Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel – Named for what is believed to be the world’s first cocktail, the Sazerac is a New Orleans staple. The bartenders will gladly mix you one, and they’ll share a little history about the bar and the town. It’s an upscale bar, but feel free to walk in off the street. Be sure to take the link above to the website and read the story about how Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long educated New Yorkers on how to make another NOLA staple: the Ramos Gin Fizz.

Places To Go/Things To See

  • Bourbon Street – Do I need to describe?
  • Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral – This is likely the background on any live broadcast from NOLA, whether it’s a Super Bowl, Final Four, NBA All-Star or any other show. Jackson Square is ringed by artists selling their wares, and mule-drawn carriages line Decatur Street. Services are still held inside St. Louis Cathedral.

    Jackson Square walk toned

    Enjoying a walk around Jackson Square.

  • New Orleans School of Cooking – Located in the French Quarter very close to Emeril’s NOLA restaurant, this attraction is fun for anyone interested in New Orleans food. We’ve attended a couple of the demonstration classes, which are hosted by a NOLA native. You’ll get to sample the dishes.
  • A pair of walkers and a runner make their way around Audubon Park on a trail that circles the park.

    A pair of walkers and a runner make their way around Audubon Park on a trail that circles the park.

    Audubon Park – Located along St. Charles Avenue and easily reached by streetcar.

  • Garden District Walking Tour – There are many companies that offer walking tours. You can see the houses of many famous residents — John Goodman, Trent Reznor, Anne Rice, Archie Manning — and tour a cemetery or three, among other things.
  • City tour – Again, several companies offer tours. Ours took us through many different neighborhoods, past Lake Pontchartrain and through some of the Lower 9th Ward that is still rebuilding following Katrina. ADDENDUM: In November 2012, they stopped offering tours through the Lower 9th. Apparently, residents are tired of the tours going through their neighborhood … without some sort of compensation for the disruption.
  • The National World War II Museum – This sprawling complex started out as the D-Day Museum, which was established here because the landing craft that made D-Day possible were manufactured in New Orleans. On my recent visit to New Orleans, the women attended a cooking school, and the men visited the WW II museum. It was a day well spent.
  • Ghost tour – Several companies offer night tours of the supernatural in the Quarter. Most are offered at night. After a drink or two, it’s much easier to imagine the ghosts.
  • A streetcar heads down St. Charles Avenue. The neutral ground  - the local term for the street median -- is a popular place for runners because of its long unbroken stretch and the soft but sure footing it provides.

    A streetcar heads down St. Charles Avenue. The neutral ground – the local term for the street median — is a popular place for runners because of its long unbroken stretch and the soft but sure footing it provides.

    St. Charles Avenue Streetcar and other routes – A great way to get around in lots of areas in NOLA. The St. Charles streetcar will drop you very near Brigtsen’s. Have you ever heard of “A Streetcar Named Desire”?

  • City Park – There are a number of attractions at the park, including Storyland for the kids and the New Orleans Museum of Art, where we saw an interesting show of Civil War photographs as part of a travelling exhibition. The park is reachable by streetcar, but is the opposite direction from Audubon Park.
  • Lake Pontchartrain – Looks more like an ocean than a lake. Take the Causeway — the longest continuous bridge over water — across the lake to the North Shore.

Places to stay

  • Chateau LeMoyne – Just one block off of Bourbon and near Canal, this hotel was clean and a pretty good value.
  • The Saint Hotel – Located in the 900 block of Canal. We stayed at The Saint shortly after its grand opening. It was built in 1909 as a hotel but was never opened as such. It was converted into office and retail space, and, after sitting abandoned for several years, was recently converted back to a hotel. It has a contemporary lobby and rooms. We stayed here during its first month or so in operation and it was a good deal; the rates have increased substantially since.
  • Courtyard by Marriott near the French Quarter – This hotel is just a half block off Canal Street across from the French Quarter. Not exactly cheap, but for a good location in a major city, I thought it was a good value.

New Orleans: The whole town’s a musical stage

5 Mar

If you like live music, New Orleans is the place for you.

For choices, accessibility, affordability, variety, quality and just plain fun, I can’t imagine there’s a better place in the country.

New Orleans band Bonerama Mark Mullins

Mark Mullins of Bonerama performs at Rock ‘n’ Bowl

NYC, just for its sheer size, probably has as many choices. Nashville, another music town, could compete. Maybe Seattle, possibly Memphis. There’s probably a few others in the discussion, but when you look at the whole package, it’s hard to beat the Crescent City.

On a recent trip, we managed to take in five different shows in four nights. And that’s only counting the formal shows, not the street musicians or the shows we glimpsed while strolling past various bars. And none of those shows were on Bourbon Street or in the French Quarter, the city’s two best known locations.

Our first night, we hit two different shows on Frenchmen Street, which has become the place to be for live jazz. We caught two sets by Miss Sophie Lee, who styles old-time jazz, at the Spotted Cat. And then we walked across the street and caught a set at d.b.a. by the Stooges Brass Band, which plays a hard-driving funk-rap-jazz-rock style of music.

The Spotted Cat is a simple little bar with a nearly ground-level stage. The audience is only arm’s reach from the band — and you’re never more than a couple dozen feet from the show.

Across the street, d.b.a. is a much bigger venue with lots of floor space for listening or dancing, and the band is spread across a large, elevated stage. A big wooden bar is accessible from two sides of the building. It offers a large variety of beers from across the country and even around the world, including a large selection of beers on tap, which isn’t always the case in NOLA. It also offers a number of specialty cocktails, but the night we were there, the bartenders weren’t keeping up with the simple orders, let alone the complicated ones.

We try to stop by the Spotted Cat every time we’re in town, but lately, we’ve learned it’s best to visit on a weeknight. Frenchmen Street, which is just steps beyond the French Quarter, may become overwhelmed by it’s own good reviews. If you don’t get into some of the bars early on a weekend, you’ll have a hard time getting in the door or claiming a spot of your own. If you like the crowds, by all means, visit on the weekend. But if you want a little elbow room, get there early or visit on a weekday.

Keeping my own advice in mind, we decided to head to Chickie Wah Wah, 2828 Canal St., on Friday night. Easily reachable by the Canal Street streetcar but far enough away that you have to put out some effort, this neighborhood bar is quickly becoming a favorite.

The drinks are reasonable, food’s available, the crowds aren’t overwhelming, the stage is easily viewed and the talent is top-notch.

Paul Sanchez Susan Cowsill Chickie Wah Wah

Paul Sanchez accompanied by Susan Cowsill at Chickie Wah Wah

We listened to New Orleanian Paul Sanchez, late of Cowboy Mouth, and he was joined for a few songs by Susan Cowsill, who sang one of my favorites, “Crescent City Sneaux. “

Sanchez has a long history of performing in New Orleans and around the country. He has appeared on and contributed to the HBO show “Treme,” including the song he co-wrote with John Boutte, “At the foot of Canal Street.”

Sanchez has also been working on a musical adaptation of the novel “Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans,” a book I read after our first trip to NOLA in 2008. The city’s story is told through the lives of nine people, sketched out between hurricanes Betsy in 1965 and Katrina in 2005. Sanchez and colleagues have written 39 songs for the musical and have released one CD of the music. I’ve searched, but can’t tell the status of their drive to get the show on Broadway.

On Saturday night, we headed to Rock ‘n’ Bowl, 3000 S. Carrollton Ave., for a performance by the high-energy trombone-centric Bonerama.

The sets included covers of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and the jazz classic (and a personal favorite) “Lil’ Liza Jane.” From their own catalog, they played “Bayou Betty” and, off the new CD, “Close the Door,” among others.

As you might guess, Rock ‘n’ Bowl lent itself to an eclectic crowd: there was a 60th birthday party, a class reunion, bowlers and, come 9 p.m., there was a dance-floor full of revelers, including the owner and one bartender doing things with a hula-hoop that would make the girls on Bourbon Street jealous. If you like brassy, up-tempo, funk-rock, Bonerama is the band for you. We’ve seen them once in Iowa (yes, Iowa) and once in NOLA, and I’d see them every chance I can.

We closed out the trip at Tipitina’s, 501 Napoleon Ave., on a Sunday night. Tip’s has great music throughout the week — generally rock or funk or rap or the like — but Sundays is (generally) reserved for the Cajun Fais Do-do, or Cajun dance party. It draws the locals itching to stretch their legs with a two-step and features the music of Bruce Daigrepont and his band.

This is the second time we’ve made the Fais Do-do, and we’ve had a blast. You’re likely to get asked to dance by the locals — particularly if you’re a female — and Bruce will serve his home-made rice and beans and shoot the breeze with customers during the intermission. He asked for requests at one point in the show, and they were happy to accommodate my plea for “Jolie Blon.”

Rock ‘n’ Bowl and Tip’s are both reachable by a combination of streetcar and buses, or you can take a cab to either, which is what we did this trip to save time.

Four nights, five widely different venues, and not a bad stop in the bunch. Every place in NOLA is fair-game for a show, including the streets and parks. If you make it to New Orleans, be sure to leave plenty of time to take in the live music shows. And, if time permits, you might even stroll down Bourbon Street.

♦ ♦ ♦

In this YouTube video, Paul Sanchez tells the story behind the writing of “At the foot of Canal Street:”

Battle of the muffulettas: Napoleon House

28 Feb
Napoleon House muffuletta

A half-size muffuletta from the Napoleon House in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

In my search for New Orleans’ best muffuletta, I can now cross off another entrant: Napoleon House.

I stopped by this French Quarter establishment for lunch in mid-February. It was a bit before the noon hour, so the rush hadn’t hit, but as a single diner, I decided to eat at the bar.

The historic restaurant is located at the corner of St. Louis and Chartres street, just two blocks from Jackson Square and on a diagonal from the Louisiana Supreme Court building. With a front door that sits on the corner, you can watch a lot of the world walk by on a pleasant New Orleans day, and the French Quarter location makes geting there very easy for those out seeing the sights.

Having stated my desire to find the city’s best muffuleta, two fellow bloggers recommended I try Napoleon House. My quest to find the best may take a lifetime. There are two iconic sandwiches in New Orleans —  the po’ boy and the muffuletta — so there are dozens, if not hundreds, of restaurants that offer one or both.

For the uninitiated, a traditional muffuletta is Sicilian sandwich featuring salami, mortadella, ham, plus mozzarella and provolone cheeses, all topped with a (green) olive salad. It gets its name from the type of bread it is served on, which is round sesame bread. The loaf — and thus, the sandwich — is quite large, so it is often ordered in halves or quarters. If you order a whole sandwich, you’d better be really hungry or brought  a friend or two with you!

I ordered a half sandwich at Napoleon House, and that was plenty for me. However, bigger eaters may want to order something extra, since it came with just a pickle.

This sandwich was served warm, while many other versions are not. The bread was OK — not really dry, but it was thick enough that it added a lot of bulk to the sandwich without really adding a lot of great flavor. The meats were good, although not overloaded. The cheese was melted and tasty. The olive salad spread had a nice tang to it and wasn’t overly oily, which can happen with some muffulettas.

From my tastings, Cochon Butcher in the CBD (930 Tchoupitoulas St.) remains the NOLA muffuletta champion. They cure their own meats, and the sandwich had a much more robust flavor. Plus they have a whole host of original and varied side dishes. For my full review of CB’s muffuletta, see this post.

And I’d pick the original version at Central Grocery, 923 Decatur St., over the sandwich at Napoleon House.  Central Grocery’s version is overflowing with meat, and the olive salad is very flavorful — if a bit too oily.

Overall, the Napoleon House muffuletta was OK — better than eating at Subway, but that’s pretty faint praise.

♦ ♦ ♦

Here are some other useful links on NOLA’s muffulettas:

Another list of NOLA’s five best muffulettas.

GoNola’s take on muffulettas, including the mini muffulettas at Rouses Supermarket.

Another list of six NOLA area restaurants offering the muffuletta.

Is it muffuletta or muffaletta? Good advice: Go with the spelling used by the original.

A recipe for a muffuletta.

And finally, here’s a YouTube video of what looks like a darn tasty sandwich:

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