Friday, August 30, 2013

Celebrating a Long history at The Roosevelt

            We parade at the drop of a hat in New Orleans. We raise our glasses and take to the streets with umbrellas at the slightest suggestions — and bring go-cups, of course because we’re lucky to have been born in a town where alcohol is allowed to travel in public. So it makes sense to celebrate a former governor, his favorite drink and the women who stormed the bar that made it famous.
            Today and Sept. 27 a favorite landmark among residents celebrates two historic events that may seem weird to others, but makes perfect sense to New Orleanians. 
            The Roosevelt New Orleans, a glamorous hotel that dates backs decades and was once the stomping ground of famed Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, honors “The Kingfish’s” birthday today with a performance by Spud McConnell in the hotel’s famous Blue Room, which Long used to frequent. McConnell, a local acting celeb, will perform a one-man depiction of the life and times of Long.
            Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and general admission is $65; call (504) 335-3138.
            Before the show, be sure and visit the Sazerac Bar, completely restored to its former glory and sporting several outstanding Paul Ninas murals from the 1930s. Long used to enjoy the bar’s famous Slow Gin Fizz, invented by Henry Ramoz in 1888 at his New Orleans bar. The drink is work intensive so only a few bars and bartenders in town perfected the task, but the Roosevelt Hotel was one of them.
            The Ramos Gin Fizz was a personal favorite of Long. Once, when he traveled to New York City and stayed at the New Yorker hotel that claimed the drink for its own, he promptly called The Roosevelt and had them send up the best bartender to instruct those poor Yankees on how to make the renowned New Orleans drink.
            Now, even though Long believed in the common man and insisted that “Every Man a King,” that sometimes failed to include women in New Orleans. For years, only men were allowed inside the Sazerac Bar. In 1949, a group of women changed that rule with a “Stormin’ of the Sazerac.” On Sept. 27, at 1 p.m., you can join the women of New Orleans recreating this event, which also includes a Ladies Blue Room Luncheon, fashion show and contest, swing music and much more. The price is $35, non-inclusive of tax and gratuity, and can be made by calling (504) 648-5486. Costumes necessary.

            So whether you’re sipping a Ramos Gin Fizz tonight or the bar’s trademark drink the sazerac in your pin box hat and gloves next month, be sure and take a good look at those murals. The large curvy one on the end sports several famous people, including Long himself. Can you find them?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

We take football very seriously — what’s the problem?

             I’m hesitant to write this blog because I don’t see anything weird about 90,000 people gathering inside a stadium screaming and yelling and drinking for the love of football. The fact that almost an equal number of tailgaters are surrounding the stadium in RVs screaming and yelling and drinking doesn’t strike me as weird either.
            When people tell me members of my alma mater are obnoxious and yell horrible things at the opposing team, not to mention that wonderful ditty we penned for Alabama fans, I don’t understand the problem. Are they Tiger bait or not?
            By now, from the looks of the photos posted here (no Crimson on my blog, thank you very much), you’ve probably caught on where I went to school. Yes, I’m a Tiger from LSU, part of the rocking Southeastern Conference that’s a serious group of powerhouses.
            And yes, we’re a weird group of people to the rest of the nation. On any given Saturday night, the population of small cities gathers around SEC stadiums. There are cookbooks, as in plural, celebrating out tailgating ways, much of which could be served in the finest New York restaurants. And we dress. Well, I don’t wear my finest because I don’t want to worry about cleaning bourbon and coke from my good clothes. But if you’ve been to The Grove at Ole Miss, you’ll know what I’m taking about.
            This is not your average college football.
            Yes, we’re weird when it comes to football. What’s the problem?

P.S. Email me if you want to hear the Bama ditty.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Take last train to the Lovin' Spoonful Cafe

    You know you’re in for a treat when you head out for a good meal and the restaurant’s walls are decorated in paint-by-number sets. Particularly when the artwork is grouped by subject matter — the cat table for instance or the Jesus section.
      It’s all part of the fun at the Lovin’ Spoonful Café in Clarksville, Tenn. In addition to the retro décor, there’s a blast from the past and then some on the menu as well. Diners can choose from items such as a Frito Pie (a layer of Fritos beneath the café’s homemade chili that’s topped with melted cheddar cheese and sour cream) or the meatloaf sandwich (the family recipe served warm and topped with cheddar and mayo on French bread). There’s “Spoonful sides” too, items such as Cowboy Caviar, fruit salad and jalapeno grit cakes. I couldn’t resist the Green Goddess dressing on my salad, sending me immediately back to my grandma’s house eating dinner off a TV tray!
            The restaurant offers catering for special occasions as well.
            Be sure and check out the bathroom area. More retro furnishings that will make Baby Boomers swoon.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If smoke comes out, there’s a new crawfish pope

           We eat just about anything in South Louisiana, including the low man on the underwater totem pole, the crawfish. These creatures live in freshwater wetlands, which is pretty much all of South Louisiana. And because they love water, such as bayous, marshes, swamps, ditches and the like — again all of South Louisiana — it’s not uncommon that you’ll find them burrowing in your backyard.
            In summer the most common species of crawfish crawls deep in the mud and stays there for most of fall and winter. When they come out of their holes in spring, it’s crawfish season, meaning Louisiana residents gobble them up. It’s amazing the species has survived.
            One of the most unusual sites you will see in South Louisiana are little mud "chimneys" poking out of the ground. Inside these chimneys there’s a crawfish or two living in his underground tunnel.
            Since Bob Thomas of the Loyola University Center for Environmental Education explains it so much better than I can, here’s his take on things:
          “Crawfish chimneys are those “smokestack”-looking things that appear in ditches, fields, and our yards each spring,” he writes. “Everywhere you see one (sometimes a crawfish will make two), there is a crawfish living in a burrow underneath. Their tunnels may extend down into the earth 3 feet or more, sometimes being a single burrow going straight down, but more often being a main tunnel with a couple of side tunnels, each with a room at the end. They are normally full of water.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Here you go, Lafayette!

             When the Marquis de Lafayette was visiting central Georgia, he remarked that the countryside reminded him of La Grange, his French country estate. Because of his heroic status in the American Revolution, the people of LaGrange, Ga., named their town in honor of Lafayette, George Washington’s aide-de-camp.
            Today, Lafayette welcomes visitors from his fountain perch at the town’s center, a replica of the LaFayette statue located in LePuy, France. And visitors toss coins into its water as part of a long-standing tradition.
According to town legend, Lafayette told Col. Julius C. Alford that tossing coins into wells brought luck. Upon leaving for the Creek Indian War of 1836, Alford tossed a coin into one of the two LaGrange wells and said, “Here you go, Lafayette.” His men decided to do the same.
Today, the custom continues but with two coins, to double a person’s chances at luck, and within the Lafayette fountain. Luck seekers stand with their backs to the Lafayette statue and toss a coin over their shoulder and make a wish. Then they turn and face the Marquis and toss the second coin while making another wish. If they so desire, they can add a “Here you go, Lafayette” as well.
Explorations in Antiquity
LaGrange and the homage to Lafayette sits south of Atlanta on the road to Montgomery, Ala., a sweet collection of charming historic buildings, downtown murals, the historic LaGrange College and nearby West Point Lake.
The home and gardens at Hills &Dales estate is a must-see to any visit to the region, offering a tour of the home and the 176-year-old gardens. The Italian villa on the 35-acre property was built by textile magnate and philanthropist Fuller E. Callaway Sr., accenting gardens begun by Sarah Coleman Ferrell in 1841. Some of the estate’s many features include a boxwood garden shaped with a “God is Love” message, a greenhouse full of magnificent orchids and other flowers and ancient magnolias.
Hills & Dales
For something truly unique, LaGrange’s Explorations in Antiquity Center offers full-scale archaeological replicas from biblical times, allowing visitors to walk through residences, workplaces, houses of worship and even an authentic shepherd’s tent of the Judeo-Christian times of the Middle East. There are catacombs to showcase burial rituals, plus logged crucifixes from felled trees resembling what was used at the time, as opposed to the lumber versions most of us see today.  Visitors can watch docents weave on looms and shepherds create butter and attend lectures and demonstrations.

If this interactive museum with its special events and time travel experiences weren’t enough, Explorations also serves an authentic biblical meal using recipes and traditions of the First Century with a guide who explains the customs of the day as well as the meanings behind Passover and the Last Supper. Visitors will enjoy foods such as unleavened bread, olives, a salad comparable to a Greek salad and grilled chicken and lamb, among other treats. Groups are needed to request such a meal, so if you can arrange one or manage to join another do! It’s an excellent lesson in history, religion, culture and fun.