Travel Guide: New Orleans

New Orleans is quite possibly my favorite vacation destination. I love the atmosphere (off Bourbon Street, that is), the architecture, the cocktails, the food—oh and one of my best friends has lived there since right after high school. So, inspired by my fifth visit a few weeks ago, here’s your guide!

Where to eat: I quite literally plan my days around meals in New Orleans, so this category comes first this time around! The absolute must for breakfast is of course Cafe du Monde. Go to the iconic location on Jackson Square—there will be a line on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s absolutely worth it for the best beignets and chicory coffee IN THE WORLD. Not exaggerating!

IMG_5054I would be content with beignets every morning, but if you need more variety in your breakfast fare, the Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters is absolutely incredible. You’d need two or three mornings to try everything, but if you’ve only got one, make sure to pick up as many crawfish and shrimp dishes as possible! Oh, and their biscuits are amazing. Ruby Slipper Cafe is another fantastic brunch spot—they don’t take reservations and there will be a wait, but it’s worth it! And their mimosas are great… and consist primarily of very tasty Champagne!

Lunch… mmm… lunch… There are so many options! Definitely make sure to get a po-boy at some point. This time around, I tried Mothers’ debris and gravy (that’s the meat that falls off the roast while it’s slowly cooking, along with a healthy helping of the flavorful juice) and it was awesome!

IMG_5057Regional specialties abound at the French Market—po-boys, crawfish, gumbo…. This time I tried Meals From the Heart Cafe’s crab cakes. Really crabby, really good, you can even get them gluten free if you’re in to that.

For a sit-down lunch or casual dinner, my number one choice is Gumbo Shop. I’m incredibly disappointed I didn’t get there this trip, I always get the Crawfish Combo Platter (with etouffee of course!) so I can get a little bit of everything! In years past, Cochon has also been a hit. If you end up venturing out of the French Quarter, try The Avenue Pub in the Garden District. They have a ridiculous number of beers on tap and their frites are uh-maz-ing!

The best part about knowing a local (besides knowing her, of course!) is getting out of the touristy areas and having and experience closer to real life in the city. For me, this of course means restaurants, and this trip that meant Capdeville. They specialize in whiskeys, I beleive, but the thing I remember most are the red beans and rice balls. They’re like Italian arancini, but made from the New Orleans staple. So tasty!

Honestly, there are too many amazing dinner places to name them all, but one of my favorite memories is K-Paul’s. Remember Chef Paul Prudhomme from the early days of food TV? He’s the big guy with the beard and beret, the “Magic” seasoning mixes, and a nearly 40-year-old standby restaurant. It’s heavy and southern and indulgent and absolutely delicious. He was even there when we went! This trip, we tried EAT New Orleans which was very good! And they were able to handle our 14-person party with no problem.

You really can’t go wrong. One of the best things about New Orleans is that they don’t let crappy (or good, for that matter!) chains open within the city limits. On top of that, the food scene is so vibrant, every restaurant has had to fight to survive—which means it’s really well done. Some of the best meals I’ve had were at restaurants I never even learned the names of—I couldn’t go back there if I tried… although I’m still dreaming of those corn and lobster beignets…

Where to drink: Again, you almost can’t go wrong (unless you order a blended drink on Bourbon Street. Then you’re just asking for trouble… and gut rot). I really appreciated the skill of NOLA bartenders this trip, as that’s a bit hard to come by in Bermuda. I had some delicious Old Fashioneds of course, but I also made a point to ask for a cocktail menu—something they don’t look down on here—and try something unique.

A don’t-miss spot for me is the Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone. First of all, the main bar is topped with an actual carousel roof and it moves. The entire bar, the stools, wells and bartenders all rotate slowly—if you glance at it, you might not notice, but if you’re standing outside the bar stools, you’ll have to take a step every few minutes to catch up. Even more importantly, the space is elegant and beautiful, far enough to the edge of the Quarter that it’s usually not too crazy, and they make amazing craft cocktails. My favorite is the Ginger Royal, a mix of bourbon, Champagne and who knows what else.

This trip we also hit up Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which despite being on Bourbon Street, is actually pretty cool.

DSCF4240What to do: Walk around! This last trip we were lucky to stay in the Marigny/Bywater area, which is a bit east of the Quarter. We were nestled in a residential neighborhood, so we got to see a lot of the beautiful architecture: Shotgun houses mixed in with Creole cottages and grand mansions, brick sidewalks and ferns hanging from every porch.

DSCF4204Since you’ll be starting your day at Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square anyway, start there. Explore the blocks between Decatur and Bourbon or all the way up to Burgundy—get some pralines, explore the shops, have a beer, maybe pick up some sidewalk art. There are carriages lined up at the square and I’d highly recommend a ride, although perhaps wait until the evening.

One end of Decatur (which it splits into St. Peter’s) in the Quarter ends with chain shops and Harrah’s Casino, but at the other end, you’ll find the French Market, the oldest public market in the country. I’ve touched on the food offerings already, but you’ll also find jewelry and accessories, art and gifts here.

Once you’re French Quarter-ed out (or just tired of walking), hop on a streetcar to the Garden District. You must have exact change ($1.25 at the moment), and it moves slooowwww, but that’s good—you’ll get a chance to look at all the amazing houses in this neighborhood. And really, the streetcar is an adventure by itself.

Yes, there are museums and tours you can take, but I think the best thing about vacationing in New Orleans is just being there, settling in and letting whatever adventures come your way happen. Enjoy!

Advertisements

The Story of a Blanket

blanket_5062

Do you beleive objects have memories? I sort of beleive they do—at least in the sense of the memories they can trigger in you.

I’ve just finished a blanket that I started approximately one hundred years ago—ok, two—while my mom was in the hospital. This is the blanket that kept my hands busy while I kept vigil and listened to her ragged breathing in the ICU. That is my clearest memory of working on it—sitting in a dark hospital room illuminated just enough by some HGTV program, volume turned down so I could hear her take another breath.

And yet, four or five weeks later, we packed up the hospital room—pieces of blanket included—and took my mom home. My sisters and I cooked Easter dinner and decorated with a welcome home sign and were more thankful than I can describe that our still-fragile mother was back in the home she had raised us in.

The blanket got packed away for the summer—who wants to crochet when it’s 80 degrees out, amiright?—but then as the weather turned colder and my relationship with a man I thought I would marry fell apart, out she came again. First, I would bring my project to his house so I wasn’t bored when we stopped talking to each other. Then, as he needed more time to himself, I made progress at home, watching the circles pile up next to my couch.

All of that seems eons away as I finished the last few circles this fall and winter—although it still fits the theme, as I didn’t start working on it again until it started getting dark early and Andrew worked late and I felt a bit lonely.

So I suppose this blanket is imbued with sadness, but it also seems to have cultured strength and resilience in me. I may never have ended up taking so many chances without those tragic events that my blanket witnessed—and I certainly wouldn’t have ended up here.

She’s proudly on display now, making Bermuda feel a little more like home, and you know the memories that will come to me every time I walk by.

blanket_5066

Be Mine

I think it goes without saying at this point that I love a good monogram. I printed myself some monogrammed coasters with my new wood type when I first got it and finally got around to listing them in the shop!

mono_coaster_5036While I was working up the samples, I also made a little coaster garland for Valentine’s Day—an idea I’ve had in my head for quite a while. It turned out so cute and I think it would translate beautifully into any holiday, or for the names of the couple at a wedding!

coaster_garland_5082 coaster_garland_5084

A Year of Letterpress

When I redesigned my website a few months ago, I gave my card-of-the-month club a bigger presence. I love the idea of creating a relationship with stationery lovers and sending them a little something special each month.

card-club-3However, the card club does skew toward gift giving, and if you know you’ll be moving sometime throughout the year, or you just want everything all at once, it wouldn’t work for you. So, I recently created a listing for a year’s worth of cards. The collection covers major special occasions—birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc.—and a handful of holidays, plus thank you cards and greeting-free notes you can use for any occasion.

Year_cards_5005Truth time, folks: I also have an ulterior motive with this one. I’m hard at work on a new collection for spring and I’m running out of space for all my inventory! So, for one more week, a set of 40 cards will run you just $80! Once things settle down and I find space for everything, they’ll go up to $100, so get them now! Go! Go buy them!

Stay Away From Crack

We had a tragedy here at 622 press about two weeks ago. I’ve been so stressed out about it, I barely spoke a word about it to anyone.

Bess has been put through the ringer in Bermuda, but nothing could be worse than a crack through one of two main joints (which create the pressure that makes the beautiful impression into paper). I had her all cranked up and off-kilter, trying to get a decent impression on an uneven printing plate. I knew what the awful sound was as soon as it happened, but I prayed “Don’t be broken. Don’t be broken.” as I opened the press back up anyway.

crack_5014

This had happened once before, several years ago, so once I finished a mini cry session, I started searching for a cast iron welder in Bermuda. Welding cast iron is requires more skill and equipment than your average metal, as the surrounding material needs to be heated thoroughly to bond with the new weld. Last time, my superhero dad just happened to know a guy who fixed it right away. This time, I had to disassemble my press and send it off in the back of a junky car with a stranger.

It turns out the welder (the only result when I searched for a cast iron welder in Bermuda) didn’t have a kiln large enough to fit the top bit of my press into, so he ended up completely taking it apart—but don’t worry, he sent me a picture that looked like a pile of scrap metal, as though that would ease my anxiety. Several days (more than three times as many as quoted) and several hundred dollars (more than twice as much as quoted) later, Bess is back home.

I’ve been quite timid with her so far, but I’ve been able to get two projects finished since she’s been back, so it seems like things will be ok. I’m trying to take the whole experience as a lesson in mindfulness—a reminder that unfortunately has been sorely needed. Not only would I never have broken her if I had really been paying attention, but I also let ink dry on several pieces of equipment the week prior because I got distracted during clean up.

DIY printing plates

lino_5028

Before the big move, I picked up a couple linoleum printing blocks at an art store in Madison. The printing plates I order from Owosso are expensive and getting pricier all the time, so I thought carving my own would be a great way to save a little money on simpler designs.

One of the components of my new collection happened to be perfectly suited to hand carving, so last week I sat on my porch with my Dremel and went at it! Below is the before and after—can’t wait to see how they print!

lino_5025

Readymade Wedding Invitations

final_bee final_big names

As I’ve mentioned in a few past blog posts, I’ve been working on wedding invitation designs that couple can just pluck off the digital shelf, send me their event information, and—presto!—their invites arrive within a few weeks. Last year I had several couple get in touch with too little time before their nuptials, so I thought these would be the perfect solution for last minute brides.

final_floral coaster final_floral framefinal_floral thanks

I’ve also recently realized that for non-designers, starting to brainstorm a design from scratch is totally overwhelming. I’ve had a few designs bopping around my head for a while that haven’t quite suited any of my clients thus far—so my hope is that by having a design in front of them, couples will find the process easier.

final_peony

Find all current designs here—I’ll be adding more all the time! Get in touch if you’re getting hitched!

final_fireworks final_firework thanks