Third Full Day, LA Trip and Home….

Last lunch with family was yesterday; my cousin who is my age and his wife were able to join us and we spent a pleasant few hours with them. Fried chicken and fried okra from the local place and then a cup of Bluebell vanilla ice cream as I hadn’t picked up dessert when we went. My aunt always keeps plenty on hand and it was the perfect amount. Although Many has grown to the point to have a Walmart and a McDonalds, none of the chicken franchises have taken hold. The drive back to Shreveport was fine and in making reservations in the area of Bossier City where I usually spend the night, I was not aware of the construction tearing up parts of I-20. I had seen it on my way south Friday and considered changing my reservation, but thought getting through wouldn’t be too difficult. It wasn’t exactly, but what I hadn’t noticed was there was only one exit closed down and yes, it was the exit I needed. I hadn’t turned on my navigation system because I know that exit quite well. What I didn’t know was the alternative route. After making one wrong guess, I allowed technology to prevail. For some reason, I had also decided to try the Hilton Garden Inn instead of the usual Hampton which is close by and as luck would have it, they were short of staff and the room wasn’t ready. I had already intended to take a walk and that was as good a time as any. Granted, in my regular clothes in 90+ degree heat wasn’t my first plan. I certainly didn’t go for a fast walk and I did try out the shower not long after I got into the room.

The Hilton Garden Inns generally have an on-site bar and bistro and the menu looked adequate for my purposes. In fact, my vegetable in-take had been lacking and the bartender said their tomato-basil bisque was quite good. I paired that with another appetizer of three pulled pork sliders. The soup was excellent (obviously homemade) and the sliders were good.

Trip home was annoying only in the sense of a tight connection in Dallas made tighter by a slightly late arrival. However, for a change, the luggage in Miami came out more quickly than usual.

2d Full Day, LA Trip……

A leisurely morning and I did safely get bag and myself down the tricky staircase. Was able to start the day with a nice walk around the quiet streets although there was some traffic at 6:16 a.m. Oddly enough, I think I was the only guest at the inn. I did have an early lunch to be able to get into the well-known Lasayone’s. This is the old-fashioned Southern cuisine place that made the Natchitoches meat pies famous. All comfort food and yes, even they have added a few healthy options. I suppose someone orders that occasionally. The place looks pretty much like it did when I lived there fifty years ago. I don’t remember when it was actually opened.

Last on my culinary list was crawfish. Turns out the place in Many where we went for dinner was one of the few sit-down restaurants, Bayou Crawfish Hole, but considering my lunch, I opted for the crab cakes topped with crawfish ettoufee and only swiped two fried crawfish tails from my cousin’s platter. I was able to visit with her sister for a few hours. She came by my aunt’s house before she had to leave to drive to Mississippi where she was going to see her daughter and family. My other cousin, the one my age, and his wife might be able to come for lunch today. I’ll run out and get friend chicken for everyone and stay until around 2:30 before I leave for Shreveport to spend the night. I have to be at the airport at 4:30 tomorrow.

First Full Day, LA Trip….

I did a FB post about the bakery/cafe, Geaux Fresh in Minden where I went for an early lunch after visiting the cemetery. The TV series Hometown has done some “Hometown Takeovers” where they select a small town struggling economically, but trying to revive. They do a few projects, one of which is revive a small business. This cafe was selected during the Minden “Takeover”.  It is very nice, excellent food, friendly staff and they seem to be doing well. As it turns out yesterday was shrimp day for me. I had the spicy Cajun shrimp wrap at lunch and more shrimp for dinner.

I decided to take a different route to Natchitoches and go on a slightly longer drive that I hadn’t been on in years. Not much has changed. I also decided to stay downtown at a B&B and I should have checked their website more carefully. Charming Victorian, nicely furnished throughout, and the Wifi connection is good. It isn’t that I mind third floor with no elevator. It’s the staircase to the third floor is quite frankly dangerous. I can manage, but have to be very careful. And there is no in-room coffee maker. Location is good, too though if you are a walker – and I am.

One of my favorite restaurants is being transitioned to what looks like it will be a nice Cantina and I erroneously thought my second favorite was closed. Turns out it isn’t, and I’ll remember that for next time. In all fairness, all the restaurants downtown are good, but not all are open for dinner.  Anyway, I actually did a “double” last night. That wasn’t my initial intent. I was at Mama’s Oyster House and had a cup of the shrimp and corn bisque, then a special appetizer of bacon-wrapped shrimp. I didn’t want a full entree, but that turned out to be not quite enough. Natchitoches is university town and it was a Friday night so things were getting a bit loud. There was a new place on the way back to the inn and I thought I could pop in there for another appetizer and glass of wine. But as I walking along at the Sushi place, there was a lit sign, “Bar in back” that looked intriguing. Natchitoches has a lot of New Orleans architectural influence, and this is one where there was a courtyard between the main restaurant and its second bar and dining room. The back was very quiet as only one guy in the courtyard and people at the one table were on their way out. I had my other glass of wine and the garlic shrimp skewer appetizer.

Louisiana Day 1

The morning started well, and considering other travel issues I had in the past, things were okay. I made the mistake of thinking I would get one of the fruit and cheese plates they sell on the airlines now. That didn’t work out and I knew the connection was tight in Dallas, but if there was a place to grab a bite close enough to the gate, it could work. Except as does happen, my flight went out of the section of the terminal that had the least services. There was a small bar, but only those prepared sandwiches which are mediocre, but by that point it would have to do and they did have Miss Vicky chips – jalapeno of course.

I am in a hotel I haven’t stayed at before and I won’t be staying here again. It’s okay to an extent, but the “on-site restaurant” is not open at night and while I do enjoy a Sports Bar and Grill – the one open – let’s just say the limited menu was very limited. However, they were friendly – the whole staff has been – and the catfish was excellent. Served out of a Styrofoam container and the hushpuppies were jalapeno so that required food item for the trip is taken care of.

There may be a bit of an issue with the rental car, which means I will backtrack to the airport and talk with them. Not sure if it’s a setting that needs to be re-set or they need to swap cars. Hopefully, it won’t take long. Today is fairly easy on time, so that isn’t an issue.

Lots of Fireworks……

Quite frankly, this was a year with everything going on, I didn’t have the energy to try and put much together for Fourth of July. Hubby had to go shoot the event which meant arrive around 6:00 and stay until 9:30 and I simply didn’t want to spend that long at the event. Maybe next year. Or it’s like a three-mile walk so perhaps next year I’ll go with him, stay for an hour or so, and walk back before it gets dark. That would be kind of interesting. Anyway, we did have one of our neighbors over for lunch. Again, it’s been a hectic time so fundamentally, we went with grilled chicken (BBQ style), grilled corn on the cob, beans, Publix potato salad, cold slaw, and key lime pie, plus Marie Callendar frozen apple pie I baked. For appetizers I only did deli tray and little meatballs lightly sauced with BBQ sauce and those were also from frozen. I polished off a couple of leftovers for dinner and Hubby grabbed something at the event.

I have no idea how much the neighbors spent on fireworks, but it must have been quite a bit. I usually go out and mingle for a little while and even passed on that. Someone else behind us (perhaps in the adjoining neighborhood) also had lots of fireworks. A couple of times, there was the display out front and in back which made for a nice array. I had the Capital Fourth tuned in as well and cranked up the volume for the 15 or so minutes I watched that part. Hubby had skipped on pie after lunch so I stayed up later than usual and had my final drink of the night while he enjoyed his apple pie a la mode.

He had to go in for morning boat instead of getting to sleep late and I don’t remember what the rest of his schedule is for the weekend.

Flamingo Point at Everglades…..

We are fortunate to have two National Parks here – the Everglades and Biscayne. I’ve posted numerous times about both and of course, Hubby spends many hours in the Everglades with his photography. He also often covers different stories for the paper. One of those has been the saga of Flamingo Point. Everglades National Park is huge (1.5 million acres) and has multiple sections and entries. Once inside, there are also multiple places aside from the Main Visitor Center set up for walking and other activities. Deep into the Park – as in 42 miles – is the “end” of our section at Flamingo Point. There is camping, a small marina, and was a restaurant and hotel. Significant damage was done during Hurricane Katrina and in somewhat typical government fashion it took far longer to get back on track than one would expect. However, part of the delay was because they decided to build a new area with some extra facilities.

There is now a nice visitors center where the old motel and restaurant used to be and a new lodge and restaurant are close to the campground. Hubby has followed that entire process, but I hadn’t had a chance to go yet. He was unexpectedly off work Friday and we drove separately so he could stay after lunch and take more photos.

It does take an hour to drive and the thing is you don’t usually see much going through that part of the park. The spots for bird watching and so forth are off the main road. This time of year all the migrating species are gone, and noon to mid-afternoon birds and other wildlife aren’t active. In other words, the drive down and back wasn’t eventful. In keeping with elevation to avoid future storm surges, the new buildings are up approximately fourteen feet which does provide a partial view of Florida Bay. The restaurant is where you order at the counter and they bring meals to the table. They do have a full bar and the menu is mostly sandwiches, salads, and some soup as well as a few desserts. It is nicely decorated. I had a BLT wrap, Hubby had the grilled fish sandwich and they were both good. This is not really a place I would suggest as just to go for lunch – except once to experience it. To combine it with one of the walks will be pleasant though.

Not Fancy, But Good…

While we ordinarily do an extra fancy dinner at home for celebrations, this is one of those times when it’s less so. We’ve been having quite a bit of steak and decided tonight will be game hens and use some of the leftovers for sides, although I will of course bake the small apple pie as that is Hubby’s favorite. I did get shrimp cocktail though and champagne which we will have while “chefing”. As I’ve mentioned before, Hubby used to do roasted game hens stuffed with the wild and brown rice mix, then switched to grilling years ago. Not sure what flavor profile he’ll go with tonight. It’s usually Italian or southwestern or he may come up with something else. He does grill two because we each have half for this meal, then do the rest for a leftover. For that we pretty much go with either the smothered type similar to what one does for quail with gravy and mirepoix (we prefer the classic onion, carrot and celery) or we go Italian with cacciatore. Both are delicious and just depends on our mood.

Speaking of grill, Father’s Day is all culinary-based this year as his current grill has been rebuilt at least once which means it’s time for a new one. He simply hasn’t decided yet if he wants to stay with the Charbroil brand or go back to the Weber. He has also gotten a pellet-fired pizza oven; something we discussed in the past. I’m not going to try and describe it as he does have it all assembled, but is waiting another few days to actually cook with it. He’s been reading up on it and I will post after we see how it goes. Needless to say, this is another item I won’t be touching.

Pop-Up Card and Dinner……

I received an envelop and a box yesterday and mistakenly thought the envelop was an item I’d ordered sent separate from the items in the box. As Hubby was on his way out this morning – yes, he’s working on Mother’s Day – I opened the box first. In finding everything I ordered inside, I was now puzzled about the envelop. It contained a large, pop-up card that I assume was sent by the kids. Since I am capable of accidentally tearing these things, we will wait until this afternoon when Hubby is back and I’ll let him open it.

An aside before discussing dinner. Weekends are of course busy dive time and thus Hubby rarely has a weekend off. Between my various writing, I also work part of each weekend; it’s just the way things are. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we don’t go out for Mother’s Day, etc., because it’s always very crowded and we prefer to make a special dinner at home. I am going out with a friend whom I usually have lunch with on Sunday, but we’re going to the Red Crab where people tend to come in later.

For my special dinners, I tend to go lobster or steak au poivre and steak won out for tonight. Hubby found two lovely filets – we sometimes have to ask the meat guy at the store to cut some for us – and I picked up the heavy cream for the sauce yesterday, some nice asparagus and dessert. I usually go for some kind of cake and decided this time to instead to get chocolate and lemon cream pies. These are from the freezer section. The brand Edwards makes whole pies or you can buy two slices in a box. I’m thawing one slice from each box and I like them both. I’ll let Hubby pick first although I have also offered half a slice of each. Oh, and as usual; one chocolate covered strawberry as garnish. I am conceding to Hubby on the wine as I would normally have bought a Mouton-Cadet or something similar, but we have extra Zinfandel on hand and that’s his favorite. He did already buy a bottle of Chandon for us to have while preparing the meal. Oh, he does the grilling and I do the sauce.


Interesting TV Show…..

I don’t recall how I ran across the show of “Bar Rescue”; a cable TV show I will provide warnings about if you decide to watch. John Taffer, according to the intro, has saved hundreds of bars during his 30-plus year career and he goes all over the country. The warnings before I explain why I watch it. Taffer is a quintessential New Jersey/New York guy; big and burly, an in-your-face, profanity-laced, stop-lying-to-me-and-making excuses approach. The bars range from bad to appalling and in many cases, family dynamics are involved; a bit heartbreaking at times. Some of the debt racked up is hard to imagine.

Herein lies the fascination for me. Someone involved finally acknowledges they need drastic help – the only kind he provides. Ninety-five percent of the time, at least one individual who is an owner and/or manager is highly resistant and initial intervention is required to even get started. Skipping forward, Taffer brings in a mixologist and chef to analyze the problems and provided solutions. Taffer is extraordinary in his understanding of every aspect of the bar business. For example, in one case in renovating the bar he added five stools. He explained in that market, those five should bring in $5,000 revenue per stool per year. Another example is differentiating between the profit margin of cocktails, draft and bottled beer and types of food items. Matching potential profit to the specific market is where he starts.

The pattern of the show is understandably why he’s there, tearing into everyone for like 45 minutes. One of the things I would like to know, but it’s not the drama part, is how costs are covered for the huge amount of physical renovation that takes place. (Many of the equipment items such as appliances or furniture are donated in exchange for promotion.)

The end results may include changing the name of the bar for re-branding and the renovations are often extensive. The shift in attitude and dynamics are of course key to the show and how initial resistance is overcome. At the very end, there is usually a “Six Weeks Later” text shown. In most cases, sales are up, relationships are repaired, and debt is being lowered. At times, problem employees have been fired; some however, are redeemed. In a few cases, the impression is despite all the efforts, bad habits will probably return.

Back and Busy…..

Although we did leave the cold behind on Thursday, ironically temperatures went down a bit here as well. Not to where anything other than long sleeves were required which meant great improvement over sweaters and coats. The list of to-do’s I already had lined up for the week was added to yesterday and timing is going to be trickier than I expected next week. I have to shift a few things around and do some extra coordination.

Hubby did get enough groceries yesterday to carry us through the weekend and there were some lovely lamb chops. While we do enjoy lamb routinely, Easter is one of the times we like to specifically have it. Bothering with a traditional leg is not something we do after having tried it once. The meal was good; just more involved than marinating and throwing chops on the grill. I’ve posted before about how lamb was never anything we ate in the deep South because back when I was growing up, it simply wasn’t really available. All that has changed of course as even if you live in a place without a major grocery store, there is the internet option.

We’re having snapper with roasted tomato and tomatillo sauce tonight to balance out the extra red meat of the past few days. Hubby will spice up the black beans to go with rice and I’m still trying to make up a bit on the salad side. The kids always enjoyed ordering appetizers for dinner and that did not include one as a salad.

Anyway, Happy Easter to all who celebrate it.