Traditional, French king cakes and where to find them in New Orleans.
Though the king cake traveled to New Orleans from France approximately 150 years ago, the practice actually dates back centuries earlier to ancient pagan festivals. A bean was hidden inside a cake and the man who was lucky enough to find it was made king for a year and then offered to the gods at the end of that year in an annual human sacrifice. Like many other pagan practices, the king cake tradition (minus the sacrifice) was adopted by Christianity and was instead associated with the Epiphany, a feast day that commemorates the coming of the magi and the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.
When I moved from the Carrollton neighborhood and back to the Garden District three years ago, there was a house just a few doors down that had been almost wholly razed except for the foundation. As the months passed, construction began, and after a year or so, it almost looked as if it had always been there. They designed the new house (at least the exterior) to look practically identical to the 1830s-era home they tore down.
Ages ago, when my income was a tad more disposable, I had a bit of a thing for salt and pepper shakers. I admired many sets but bought only a select few, and after a while, I had a mini-collection, approximately ten sets, of which I was rather proud.
Surely y’all remember writing about what you did on your summer vacation when you went back to school in September. It seemed like an elementary/middle school English teaching requirement. Naturally, my essays would include a lot of food and not much has changed over time. After 8 long years, I finally was able to take a short vacation thanks to my mother’s plentiful miles and my friend’s willingness to care for my elderly Shih Tzu while I was away.
Though some might believe it makes me a terrible food writer, I’m notoriously bad at patronizing pop-ups. I’ll mark them on my Google calendar, get all excited about trying new dishes from daring young chefs eking their way towards their own brick & mortar. Then almost inevitably, something will prevent me from attending … IE. illness, car trouble, money issues, a heated argument with my SO, my lazy ass … you get the idea.
When the Spanish-inspired Costera Restaurant & Bar opened in the Prytania Street building that formerly housed La Thai, I was easily one of the first to try it. My zealousness was not due to the type of restaurant nor was I overly anxious to see what Brian Burns, formerly chef de cuisine at Peche, had in store (well, in all honesty, I was actually a little excited about that). But what really pulled me in there, no joke, was the fact that Costera was an Uptown spot that was open all day long.
New Orleans’ wretched summer heat is already upon us and it’s not even officially summertime yet. Though I love taking walks with Pippin around my gorgeous neighborhood, my sweet pup turns 17 this year and he’s really slowing down … especially when the heat index is over 90°. Our long, long walks have recently shortened to a quick jaunt then back into our air-conditioned apartment.
Opened a little over two years ago, DTB or “Down the Bayou” is a restaurant in the Carrollton neighborhood described as offering “reinterpreted coastal Cajun cuisine.” Created by talented local chef Carl Schaubhut and run by his chef de cuisine John Hill, this intriguing, corner restaurant has been going strong, enticing diners with their dishes of fried cornbread with ham hock marmalade and goat cheese mousse, LA-1 Gumbo with blue crab and collard greens, and blackened redfish with succotash risotto.
As anyone who has followed my blogs knows, I have always had a weight problem. For reasons I’d rather not delve into as of yet (someday), I’ve used food for comfort since I was 9 or 10-years-old. People have many forms of escape to dull the pain of living, from drugs and alcohol to athletics or a well-worn book. For me it was mostly food. Sure, I dabbled in drugs during my youth, but stints with LSD and cocaine were more about fitting in, having fun and expanding my mind as opposed to easing the aches and pains of reality. For me, food was the ultimate safety net, the bastion of comfort and pleasure, the hole I would crawl into so frequently, that it’s taken all my life to finally emerge from its dangerous embrace.
Throughout my 45+ years on this planet, I’ve seen some pretty amazing natural phenomenon. While walking with my mom on Sawyer Camp Trail in San Mateo, we encountered a large buck standing on a hill staring down at us and as we glanced up, the sun just happened to be setting perfectly in between its antlers. Another time, while I was on a 6th grade camping trip, we discovered a large meadow of white wildflowers in the middle of the forest and when one of my classmates stepped into it, clouds of ladybugs burst from seemingly nowhere and many of them lit upon us … covering us all in red and black. Finally, at one of the many late night beach parties I attended in Half Moon Bay, we were shocked to find our footprints were glowing. Every time we stepped in the wet sand, green sparks would shine and then fade before our disbelieving eyes. We later discovered that a tiny, single-celled marine animal called “noctiluca” will often wash up onto the shore and when it’s disturbed, it emits a bio luminescence or those eerie green sparkles that glowed in our wet footprints.