Saturday, August 11, 2018

Take 5: Wedding Bliss

Photo: September Company
Didn't get invited to a wedding this summer? No worries. Here are five places to get your wedding cake fix.

Snowballs in New Orleans
No, it doesn’t snow in New Orleans but shaved ice here means something fine and delicious. And snowballs aren’t just ice and flavored sugar, although it’s fine if that’s all you want. Snowballs in New Orleans also come stuffed with decadent things like ice cream and condensed milk or topped with fruit, marshmallows or whipped cream. Our favorite is wedding cake, so every bite makes us think of cool ballrooms with great music instead of sweltering summer heat.

Dutch Maid Bakery
Dutch Maid Bakery
The oldest bakery in Tennessee exists in the small town of Tracy City, founded in 1902 by Dutch Swiss immigrants Louise and John Baggenstoss and continued by Cindy Day. Dutch Maid Bakery still churns out delicious baked goods but some of the items begun by the Baggenstoss, such as fruitcakes, weren’t selling as well for Day. She started experimenting with moonshine cake, moist cakes in various flavors with a subtle touch of alcohol. We purchased the wedding cake flavor and brought it home to family, which devoured it in seconds. Talk about yum yum good!

Indulge's Cake Shake
In Lafayette, Louisiana, they take a cake and make a shake. Indulge's “Cake Shake” comes in many flavors, including red velvet, chocolate, oreo brownie and strawberry shortcake but we prefer — you guessed it — the Wedding Cake Shake! The premise is fairly simple, it’s a milkshake with a piece of cake blended inside. And if you still want a slice of wedding cake, Indulge sells that too.

Take that wedding cake down to size at Smallcakes, a “cupcakery” in Marietta, Georgia. This bakery serves up almond cupcake with almond buttercream icing that’s topped with edible pearls. It’s the perfect wedding cake fix if you’re watching your weight. Sure, it’s still loaded with calories but it’s only a cupcake, right?

Blue Bell
Finally, there’s Blue Bell “Bride’s Cake,” a delicious combination of almond-flavored ice cream with cake pieces and Amaretto-flavored cream cheese icing. It’s like having your cake and ice cream too! It’s a rotational flavor and we’ve heard rumors it’s only available in Louisiana, so check their website or your local market to be sure. 

Blue Bell is a true Southern creamery. Located in Brenham, Texas, the company began in 1907 and started exporting its creamy goodness outside the state in the 1980s. Today, the ice cream is sold in 22 states. If you’re ever in Brenham, take the Blue Bell tour.

P.S. In need of great wedding photos, we recommend September Company. They did my son's wedding and every photo was amazing!!

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen who will crash any wedding for a slice of wedding cake.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

New Orleans cocktails follow the calendar at Loa

We’re all about cocktails here at Weird South, so when Loa, the unique bar of the boutique International House of New Orleans, sent us a calendar featuring their inspiring and original drinks, we took notice.

The International House exists within a Beaux-Arts historic building in the city’s Central Business District, once home to the nation’s first World Trade Center. But everything about this hotel screams originality. Dreamy, exotic Loa is no different, offering flavors that match the city in which it dwells — whimsical, creative, pushing the limits, even bizarre. Jean Lafitte, one of the cocktails they created for the New Orleans Tricentennial, for instance, incorporated Spanish moss gathered at night from City Park.

Here are seven local New Orleans rituals with Loa cocktails by proprietor Sean Cummings and Loa’s creative director Alan Walter, as provided to us by the hotel’s press release.

Carnival [March] - Inspired by a glorious 19th-century watercolor series by Carlotta Bonnecaze, the first woman and Creole to design Carnival costumes and floats for Mardi Gras, Loa offers Five O’Clock Tea cocktails served by a costume-clad Victorian Jackass. Composed of Aperol, Mate Tea, Ojen, Local Citrus Oleo Saccharum, Prosecco, and Sorrento Lemons, the ritual cocktail provides guests with a more sophisticated take on New Orleans’ most famous holiday.

St. Joseph’s Day [March] - Sourced from Loa’s own Bywater lemon grove, Sorrento Lemons infuse Walter’s Limoncello in honor of the festive Sicilian holiday.

Summer Dress [May through October] - Like all well-bred deep-southern households, International House unwraps and cools down in style for the summer season. At Loa, Walter embraces this changing of season with a refreshing take on a NOLA classic: made with seasonal fruit sourced from lead bartender Nick Inman’s home orchard, a Granita is the adult version of the nostalgic snowball which has rescued New Orleanians from the oppressing heat since the 1930s.

St. John’s Eve [June] - In Vodou, devotees don’t merely pray to the hundreds of vodou spirits, or “Loa,” they literally serve them. So for the holiest day in the Vodou calendar, Walter partners with Sallie Ann Glassman, New Orleans’ most famous Vodou Priestess, to create his annual John’s Way Elixir, in which seven waters maximize the healing properties of ingredients grown by Walter and his select purveyors.

Winter Dress [November through April] - As shadows lengthen and the days become shorter, International House restores its decor from Summer Dress, while Loa honors the changing of season with a fall-focused cocktail, the Chien et Loup, an ode to that time of the day when a dog becomes indistinguishable from a wolf.

All Saints’ All Souls’ Day [November] - In heavily Catholic New Orleans, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day have been observed for centuries through rituals celebrating life over death. At Loa, Walter crafts an ode to the beautiful tradition, pairing Spiced Pecan Milk and Edible Flowers to mimic the whitewashed tombs, yellow chrysanthemums and red coxcombs adorning graveyards across the city, with Mezcal, an ode to the tradition’s Mexican roots. You can read our Weird South post on this here.

Magdalena [December] - To honor the female mysticism and explore the life and legacy of Mary Magdalene, Walter offers a soulful complement to a beautiful art exhibition, serving The Magdalene, a Green Chartreuse-based libation paired with Palestinian and Israeli Almonds, Turmeric, and Dark Chocolate.

Weird, Wild and Wacky South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen, a native of New Orleans who loves an unusual cocktail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

You can have your beer caddy — and drink it too!

There are Build a Bear Workshops and paint with wine parties. Now, there’s a chance to build a six-pack beer holder while tasting a flight of six craft beers! 

It’s the Build-A-Beer Workshop this Thursday, July 19, 2018, at artspace in Shreveport, Louisiana. The fun begins at 5:30 p.m. and all parts and tools are provided to create a beer caddy while artspace Studio Artists will lend a hand. The six different beers to be sampled will be provided by Eagle Distributing Company/Budweiser, whose employees will answer questions about the brews. The beers will be GRB Rhinestone Life, a wheat IPA; Parish Canebrake Wheat Ale; Tin Roof Voodoo Pale Ale; New Belgium Fat Tire White Ale, a new beer from the brewery; Bells Two Hearted IPA, just ranked the no. one IPA in America; and Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.

If that wasn’t enough incentive, a craft six-pack goes home with you as well. And…the first 30 people to purchase their tickets receive a bottle opener for their beer caddy.

Tickets are $30 and participants must be age 21 and over. Click here for more information. 

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who loves a great craft beer and a great craft project.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fridamania hits the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Photos by Ellis Anderson, The Shoofly Magazine
Frida Kahlo, a magical realist Mexican painter whose vibrant artwork defined a nation, inspired women and influenced fashion, has become a role model for artists, political activists and just those wanting to dress up and have a good time. And Fridamania has spread to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where the annual Frida Fest happens every summer in Bay St. Louis.

The fourth annual Frida Fest coincides with the city’s Second Saturday ArtWalk from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 14, 2018, in Old Town Bay St. Louis. There will be a Frida-look-alike contest, a Mariachi photo booth, gallery openings, face painting, tapas, pinatas and more! Want to see last year’s fun? Click here.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Frida Fest:
11 a.m.-6 p.m.: Taco Extravaganza at the Starfish Café, 211 Main St. (run by the PNEUMA-Winds of Hope organization dedicated to training adults in the culinary arts and life skills)

2 p.m.: Connie Bourgeois will help participants get “Frida-fied” with braids, brows and Frida makeup in the grassy area across from Smith & Lens at 106 S 2nd St.

3 p.m.: Piñata contest at Century Hall, 112 S. Second St.

4-8 p.m.: Free wine tasting at Bodega Spirts Liquor/Parrot Head Grill, 111 Court St.

4:30 p.m. Salsa tasting contest at Century Hall, 112 S. Second St.
Make your own little Casa Azul or decorate maracas with The Arts, Hancock County. Create a Frida Kahlo inspired self-portrait at the Main Street Methodist Church on the corner of Main and 2nd Street.

5 p.m.: Blue Magnolia will perform at the Mockingbird Cafe, 110 S. 2nd St.

5-7 p.m. Frida photos with Glitter the Goat at Social Chair, 201 Main St.
The Mexican Consulate in New Orleans will offer free Spanish books and tourism information.

5:30 p.m.: Loteria with Lugo on the patio at Smith & Lens, 106 S. 2nd St.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. NOHA traditional dancers with Cesar & Julio Mariachi and Skinz n Bonez and Bay Ratz Marching Battery -- roaming and entertaining Old Town.

7:30: Frida Be You and Me look-alike contest with celebrity emcees Desiree Ontiveros and Kookie Baker and celebrity judges Lathsky Gitana and The Traveler Broads, Maloney and Fender. Registration for this event will be from 5 p.m. to 7p.m.

Don’t forget that this is the monthly ArtWalk so galleries and other businesses will be open and offering discounts, new artwork, refreshments and more. There’s also the 5th annual poker run benefiting CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) beginning at 10 a.m. 

Want to read more about Bay St. Louis, one of our favorite Southern towns? Click here.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who loves a creative Southern festival.

Monday, July 2, 2018

St. Louis celebrates 'America's Biggest Birthday Party' as it unveils Museum of Westward Expansion at the Gateway Arch

On July 3, the Museum of the Westward Expansion at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis officially opens, offering interactive exhibits showcasing the city's history and the country's westward expansion. The museum includes full-scale models of traditional French colonial log cabins and a replica of the 1852 Mississippi levee, among others.

The museum grand opening and ribbon cutting begin at 10 a.m., followed by a grand opening celebration at the North Gateway.

Then, in celebration of the nation's birthday on Wednesday, there will be "America's Biggest Birthday Party" July 4, 6 and 7 with musical acts such as Martina McBride and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, a parade and nightly fireworks.

The landmark Arch has seen lots of new updates, including a greenway allowing better foot traffic from downtown St. Louis to the river's edge and six miles of trails. The cramped but exciting ride up the 630-foot Arch remains and is a must-see for any visitor to St. Louis.

Need a place to stay? The closest hotel to the Gateway Arch is the Hyatt Regency St. Louis, which also received a renovation.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South blog is written by travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen. Part of this blog post contained information obtained by a press release from Hyatt Regency St. Louis.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Take 5: Write on! Five Southern accommodations with a literary bent

Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans
For two years F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, lived in a home in Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. Even though their time here was quick, they wrote portions of their novels, "Save Me The Waltz" and "Tender Is The Night." Now, the circa-1910 Craftsman house within the city’s historic Cloverdale district contains the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and is the last home the Fitzgeralds lived in that’s open to the public. But here’s even better news – there’s a two-bedroom apartment with modern amenities and private access available for rent and guests receive a complimentary tour of the museum.

There were so many authors who visited Key West and some, such as Ernest Hemingway, who lived on the southernmost island of the continental United States. The Authors Key West Guesthouse, a bed and breakfast, honors those writers in its compound of historic Conch-style houses, suites and rooms. There’s even a pool spa for those who need to relax while drawing inspiration. While in Key West, be sure to visit the Ernest Hemingway House

Walk into the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans and you’ll immediately spot a tribute to the authors who stayed, played or wrote here. Truman Capote claims to have been born at the historic hotel, but most will say his mother went into labor here. Other writers who have walked through the marble lobby have been William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Anne Rice, John Grisham and Stephen Ambrose. Even suites have literary names so you can stay in the William Faulkner Suite if you like. Hotel Monteleone is one of only three U.S. hotels to receive the Literary Landmark designation by the Friends of Libraries, USA.

4. Alexander House
Each room pays tribute to a famous author in the Alexander House Booklovers’ Bed & Breakfast in the quaint town of Princess Anne, Maryland, along the state’s Eastern Shore. There’s the jazz-inspired Langston Hughes Room, the nautical Robert Louis Stevenson Room and the more austere Jane Austen Room. View portraits of authors on the bed and breakfast’s wall or enjoy a good read in the home’s library. There’s even afternoon tea in the Victorian’s Café Colette, which is sure to inspire.

Writers are invited to live in residence at The Betsy in South Beach, Miami. The hotel offers a New York apartment-styled “Writer's Room” complete with fast internet, its own library and a desk donated by the Hyam Plutzik Centennial Committee to commemorate the poet’s time in Florida in the 1940s (Plutzik is also the father of hotel owner Jonathan Plutzik). Since the hotel began offering the Writer’s Room, more than 400 working writers have stayed here. To see who’s staying now, click here. But for the rest of us, there’s still that wonderful literary theme to enjoy — The Betsy places a bookmark with a poem on guests' pillows every evening. 

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. She adores a literary getaway.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dogs leap for fun at the annual Canine Cannonball

Think only kids love to cannonball into water? This weekend it’s the 2018 Canine Cannonball at Dog Days Bar and Grill in Osage Beach in the Lake of the Ozarks, central Missouri. It’s a water Olympics for dogs, so to speak, consisting of three events that test each dog's athletic prowess. And no matter who wins, these dogs much be having the time of their lives.

Athletic events include the Big Air Wave, the canine equivalent to the long jump, where participating dogs run down the 40-foot by 8-foot competition dock and jump off into the water for distance. The Extreme Vertical is a dock dog's version of the high jump. In this leap-for-height event, a canine leaps high into the air off the "dock" to retrieve a toy suspended above the water. The third event, the Speed Retrieve, is a timed event that has the dog jump into the water and swim to fetch a toy.

Cannonball activities get underway today (Friday, June 8, 2018) with registration and practice rounds taking place at 1 p.m. The first official events begin with three heats of the Big Air Wave at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. On Saturday, registration and practice rounds begin at 10 a.m. with three more heats of the Big Air Wave taking place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The Extreme Vertical event rounds out the day's competition at 5:30 p.m. The events conclude on Sunday with registration and practice rounds beginning at 10 a.m. followed by the final two heats of the Big Air Wave at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Speed Retrieve takes place at 3 p.m. with the Big Air Wave finals beginning at 5 p.m.

All Canine Cannonball events are free and open to the public. All donations collected throughout the weekend benefit the Dogwood Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter in Osage Beach. Staff members from Dogwood Animal Shelter also will have adoptable pets on-site for the duration of the three-day Canine Cannonball. All adoptable animals are up-to-date on their vaccines and have been spayed or neutered. For more information on the Dogwood Animal Shelter, or to view their adoptable pets, visit www.DASLakeOfTheOzarks.comFor more information or to register your canine olympians, visit

For more information about the Lake of the Ozarks, visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau's (CVB) website at