Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Origami Restaurant: A Happy Accident in New Orleans

I will spare you all the details of our latest trip to New Orleans except for one happy accident. As we were leaving the Audubon Zoo, we all decided we would like Japanese food / sushi for lunch, and we’ve been to a couple on Magazine which we considered less than stellar. Normally, I’ve done my research. Not this time. In desperation, I Google “Japanese restaurant near me” and up pops Origami, 5130 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115, just seven minutes away.

With no further recommendation, we decide to take a chance. It is close. We are hoping parking may be easier than on Magazine. It is between us and the nearest entrance to I-10, which we will be taking after lunch to get back to Pensacola.

We get there in six minutes. There is parking right on the street. There are customers leaving and customers entering who look a lot like us, except we have children with us.

Once inside, we love it. The waitress approaches and shows no dismay that we have children. She shows us to a spacious booth.

It is a popular place, full of locals, regulars and relaxed people. They have a huge board on the wall with daily specials, and a menu so large that as I started reading, my hungry husband pointed out that there is a lunch menu and it would be faster just to order from that.

Once we had ordered, we all went to wash hands. Washing hands was a treat! The bathroom was actually very clean, and granddaughter pointed out the flower arrangement.

So many beautiful things to look at! I love it when a restaurant creates a sensual experience beyond really good food!

A huge flock of Origami cranes!

This is exactly the kind of experience we love to have with our grandchildren – lots to look at, tactile, visual, and a great way to spend a few minutes while we are waiting for our lunch.

We all love miso soup, even though it is good for us.

I am embarrased to tell you, this is my order. So much food! It is more like a complete Bento box, with soup and salad and rolls and even the seaweed salad I adore. Sadly, we couldn’t take it with us. I shared, but it was too much food. I later saw on the menu I could have ordered just the tempura; that would have made a better meal for me. Ah well, next time 🙂

Our grandson ordered a special roll called Bye Bye Katrina. He is like his grandfather, very adventuresome.

My granddaughter was also very adventuresome, she ordered the snow crab roll and assortment. It was healthy and delicious! She tried everything.

AdventureMan had the three roll assortment. It was too much food. One reason we ordered too much was that the prices were so reasonable we thought there must be less food. Not so, our grandson informed us, a friend of his parents had told them that you will always get generous portions in New Orleans, it is part of the whole Bon Temps and hospitality thing.

The waitress offered us boxes, but we were headed out on a three plus hour drive back to Pensacola without refrigeration on a hot and humid day . . . we had to decline.

We are thrilled to add this restaurant to our “healthy places to eat in New Orleans where they are also kind to children.”

Origami

5130 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115

June 6, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Family Issues, Food, New Orleans, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

MomFest in New Orleans

Didn’t we just have a fest in New Orleans? On Saturday, AdventureMan and I were having chargrilled oysters at The Original Oyster House, our favorite seafood place along the Spanish Fort causeway going into Mobile.

As usual, we were having a discussion about words. I had decided that Saturday would be the beginning of Mother’s Day, and as we were meeting up with our son on Sunday, and heading to New Orleans for Monday and Tuesday, it would end up being a four day celebration. AdventureMan wondered what a four day celebration would be called. I suggested a four day weekend, and he said, no, MomQuad. I didn’t like the sound of that, so I announced, definitively, that we would call it the MomFest, which had a less legalistic and more celebratory flavor.

Sunday, too, was lovely, having time with our son where we could hear about his life and his adventures in prosecution. His accused was very sure he would not be convicted – “If they have no face, they have no case!” but our son, by his careful and painstaking work, proved him very wrong.

And Monday we headed to New Orleans, hitting the road around 0830 for an anticipated 1130 arrival.

Oops. Not so fast. Just out of Mobile we ran into massive thunderclouds and shocking bolts of lightning, and torrents of rain rushing up from the gigantic wheels of the trucks who drove hell-bent-for-leather to get their cargos in on time in spite of the weather.

The storm was easing up as we crossed the causeway into New Orleans, and by the time we got to Magazine Street, it had stopped raining and the sun began to peep out.

We love the variety available on Magazine street, and we haven’t had Ethiopian food for weeks :-).

Yes! Cafe Abyssinia, here we come again, a family tradition when we hit New Orleans just in time for lunch. Our waiter this time was delightful, a man from Chicago, related to the restaurant owner, who has actually been back to visit family in Ethiopia. He had great stories to tell about his family there, how they love hearing about America, and how they made him feel so welcome, and a part of a much bigger family.

Samson at Cafe Abyssinia

Then on to Zito’s and to Enrique’s to pick up items we had left to be fixed, polished or mended. Always a good reason to come back. We had a good visit, then headed to Creole Creamery on our way to The Parkview. Usually when it comes to ice cream flavors, AdventureMan and I go our separate ways, maybe sharing small bites with one another, but this time we both landed on the same flavor: Bittersweet Chocolate Torte. It was divine. We had to eat it sitting out in our car, as no one is allowed to sit inside and even the numbers who can come in are limited, but we were lucky. When we went back the next day, there was a long line of people outside, waiting for their turn to go inside.

I did look at VRBO for this trip, but it’s just an overnight, and oh, we love The Parkview. We love the parking, we love the park, we love the proximity to the zoo, and we love that you can catch the streetcar going in either direction just outside the front door, on St. Charles.

We had a different room this time, and I didn’t think I was going to love it, but we did. It was on the main floor, near check in and the breakfast room, but because of COVID, and in spite of the fact the hotel was fully booked, it was not noisy, the bed was huge with a good mattress and linens, and we had plenty of space.

So this was our bed. AdventureMan noticed it had a face on it, which after he described where it was, I could see it. But I also saw a heart, which he did not, and another stylized face high above, on the crown over the bed.

Can you see the face? The heart?
This is the face I saw on the top of the bed

We had dinner again at Superior Seafoods; we split the grilled oysters, each had a salad, and AdventureMan had grilled shrimp, while once again, I exercised poor judgement and had the rich and satisfying BBQ Shrimp. We had a 45 minute wait to get in – New Orleans high schools, Loyola and Tulane are having graduations, and the place is a madhouse – but we had a delightful conversation with a young couple, she was just finishing graduate school and the two of them were on a quest to eat as many oysters as possible before leaving New Orleans for Nashville.

When I say I exercised bad judgement, it is not a reflection on the food. The food was marvelous. I am diabetic and I have no reason on earth to eat injera (Ethiopian pancake-bread) for lunch, really creamy ice cream at midday, and grilled buttery oysters and buttery BBQ shrimp for dinner. It was very foolish of me. Oh well, every now and then I allow myself a little bad judgement.

When we hit the road the next morning, the heavens opened and torrents of rain followed bolts of lightning. Traffic was a little lighter heading east. Our sweet and caring daughter-in-law texted us to fill our tanks before leaving Mississippi, as on top of the pipeline hack for ransom, a major Pensacola gas distributor had failed an EPA requirement and many Pensacola gas stations were dry. Even as far back as Biloxi, gas stations had cars lined up. We did manage to fill the tank, and we turned off the air conditioning for the rest of the drive. The situation seems to be easing in Pensacola, but there is such a fear of a gas shortage that people are panic buying.

So today’s conversation was the difference between a buccaneer and a pirate. Do you know the difference? For a fascinating glimpse into early American history, you can read this lengthy and clear explanation here.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Chocolate, Cultural, Eating Out, Health Issues, Hotels, New Orleans, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

FamilyFest in New Orleans

Time goes on and we have heard rumors that New Orleans is actually safer than Pensacola. The family needs some time together, just to be, and we love to travel together.

To be as safe as we can be, we choose to rent a place through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and there is a large selection. We want to share space, and we also want this family of introverts to have space to escape one another, too. We found a beautiful place on Napoleon Avenue, close to several places we love, great walking, even a bakery, La Boulangerie, with fresh croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast.

We have a tradition of starting at the Cafe Abyssinia – Pensacola doesn’t have any Ethiopian food, which we love for it’s flavor and healthiness. We order the Vegetarian platter, and add Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew.

Cafe Abyssinia Vegetarian Platter plus Doro Wat

Then to the zoo. We hit paydirt, we don’t know why but the zoo is nearly empty. We have a Krewe membership, but we still had to make reservations. Totally worth it.

One of the reasons we normally stay at The Parkview is they have the most fabulous playground in the world. This time, it was a real thrill. All the houses in the neighborhood had signs in their yards saying “Thank You Drew” for the Saint’s retiring quarterback who created this wonderul playground and lives in this neighborhood.

It isn’t just a swing-set, it is also public art 🙂

The Yoga Moms do outdoor yoga near this glorious old oak

“We’re staying in a mansion!” our beautiful, imaginative grand-daughter exclaimed as she entered our rental. It was less costly and more space than spending three nights in two rooms at The Parkview.

Dining room

Kitchen

Entry with stained glass
King bedroom
Walk in closet in King master bath
Huge sleeping porch BR with 2 Queen beds
Queen suite also has bathroom
We found we really needed the washer and dryer
Queen Suite Bath with laundry, Jacuzzi tub and separate walk in shower

Part of the fun was walking to places where we could order out to eat. Magazine street has so many good restaurants; the first night was Japanese, the next day was mid-day wood oven pizza from New York Pizza. We ate it too fast to get a good picture. It was delicious!

Our favorite meal of the trip, on one of our all time favorite New Orleans restaurants, Superior Seafood, within walking distance on Saint Charles. What is not to love? It is here, long ago, that we introduced our grandchildren to grilled oysters, fish sandwiches, and profiteroles!

Sunday Brunch, so they have live music
A lot of people go just for the oysters and the bread
A socially distanced group was having a birthday party

We ordered two dozen grilled oysters to share among the six of us. They are so rich, but they went fast. Too fast to photograph!

My entree, BBQ Shrimp. Fussy and messy but oh, so good!
Our grandson’s Catfish Sandwich, huge, and he ate it all!
Our granddaughter had the “kid’s” fish portion, also huge. Don’t you love that the catsup comes in a silver sauce server?

One of the highlights of the trip came at the time our waitress asked if we wanted dessert. When five of us ordered profiteroles, she exclaimed “Five?” She seemed so shocked! We assured her we wanted five portions (and a slice of carrot cake for one of the party) and she brought five, two profiterole each, SO good. They provide a bittersweet hot chocolate sauce in a silver server which you can pour over the profiteroles.

The next morning we all scrambled to strip our beds and pile all the sheets and towels in near the washer and dryer, make sure we left the kitchen as we found it, dishes washed, garbages emptied. It was a small price to pay for such a spacious and lovely location.

And the reward was breakfast at the new Two Chicks location, closer to the French Quarter hotels. We fortunately got there early, before the line formed outside to get a table!

I love to leave New Orleans with a taste of morning crepes in my mouth 🙂

We had picked up some items we had left to be polished and plated over a year ago. There they sat, with my name on them, but one of the pieces I was sure wasn’t mine. It is a bath box, and I was sure it was copper. When I picked it up, it wasn’t copper at all, it was sparkling brass. Zito’s Polishing and Plating does a fabulous job making our pieces from the Middle East look great again. Another stop was Enrique’s, to have some of our carpets mended.

So it wasn’t all walking and eating, we also had business to take care of, things we can’t get done in Pensacola.

On the way home, we saw a billboard nearing Mobile for Dick Russel’s, and we thought we would give it a try. We had to wait a half an hour, socially distanced and masked, although many of the people had noses out or a mask just hanging off an ear as they waited outside. The people waiting kept telling us we would love the BBQ.

The biscuits were fresh, and really good
BBQ Turkey, beans and cole slaw
Pulled pork, onion rings and greens

The truth is, we will never go back. BBQ is personal, and we were both horrified by the sauce, which others raved about. It tasted mostly like catsup to us. Sauce, in our humble opinion, makes the BBQ. This did not thrill our hearts.

All in all, however, a great family trip, our first outing as a family for over a year.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Music, New Orleans, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Covid Conversation

It’s been an interesting week. Last week, there was no swimming. It was a welcome break in terms of sleep; no alarm, being lazy (LOL, being lazy is sleeping until 0600 instead of 0530) taking a walk now and then when I needed movement . . .

It was also handy because at my annual skin scan, my adorable dermatologist wrinkled her brow as she looked at me through her magic magnifier and said “Oh! we need to take care of THAT!” and THAT was prominently on my cheek.

(A brief aside because I cannot resist – when I was shown to the exam room, the tech asked if I wanted a gown and I said yes, and then, not being a smart-mouth but because I wanted to understand, I asked “What is the alternative? Like I stand here naked? Do people do that?” Sometimes I really am a stranger in my own land, and maybe I’ve missed some growing lack of self-consciousness? The tech laughed and said “No, there are people who will NOT take their clothes off!” I tried to comprehend that and totally failed. “So what’s the point of a skin scan?” I asked, “How can they be examined?” The tech said “We pull at their clothes a little and look underneath, but yeh, it’s not complete.” Totally boggled my mind.)

I have never been so happy about masking in my life. Having a big crispy spot about the size of a quarter on my cheek makes me feel like a teen-ager again, like every eye will be fixed on my boo-boo.

With my mask covering my big blotch, I got my second COVID vaccination. Yes, I might be suggestible, and then again, I am not a big baby, but my arm was sore almost immediately. By evening, I had chills so bad I was taking hot baths to feel warm enough. I had a headache just between my two eyes, and I was SO tired. The next day, I felt the same. Finally, the second night, I took an Aleve and slept wonderfully. The next morning, I was fine.

So I really needed the week off from swimming. One funny thing about the COVID vaccination, and again, who knows, it may be in my mind, but all of a sudden I have a sharp sense of smell again. It comes from my father’s side of the family, some of us have it and some of us don’t, but I think it had faded, and right now, it is noticeably back again, and oh, what joy it brings me.

So all the health drama is over now, I am back at swimming, and we continue to have work done to make our house safer and more energy efficient. A roof inspector, seeing our stack of photo albums (labeled Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, etc.) asked us if we had ever been to Alaska, and that started a great conversation, one we are hearing over and over as more people get vaccinated.

“We’ve decided we don’t want to wait any longer. We don’t know how many good years we have left. We are going to travel now, while we can,” he said.

He and his wife want to see Alaska. They want to see France. We had a great conversation, and I sent him some information by e-mail.

COVID has had its gifts, and awareness is one of them. Couple after couple have told us the same thing, this feeling of urgency to do it now, while we can.

We have four trips booked. One, a passage from Japan through Kamchatka and the Aleutians and the Alaskan Gulf, we’ve had booked for over a year. Another is a trip which COVID cancelled, but we want to do it and have scheduled it again. Another is coming up soon, a trip with our family to New Orleans, where we will continue to socially distance in a VRBO near Magazine, near the Audubon Zoo, near the Saint Charles trolley and several of our favorite restaurants with our family, and one back out to Yellowstone and Glacier, staying in cabins, mostly with kitchens. We’re good with take-out; in fact we’ve grown to really like it.

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite

It’s not a hardship for us. We are introverts. We travel quietly. We stop and observe. I take photos. At night, I write reviews and research possibilities for the next day’s route. Part of the fun I have in life is finding really fun places to stay, some of which, like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, or Ahwahnee in Yosemite, (LOL, “Yo! Semite!”) have to book far in advance, like sometimes a year out or more. Right now, several of the most popular cruises are already booked in 2021 and 2022 by people a lot like us, yearning to be back out on the road.

El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon

People in Florida are concerned about another wave of COVID following Spring Break. I am thinking here we are, all eager to get back on the road, us restless Boomers, and we’ve forgotten the pounding compelling imperatives of youth – meeting, mating, maybe even committing. But that’s another conversation . . .

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Departing Apalachicola via Hurricane Michael

Our last day in Apalachicola, we have a leisurely breakfast, cooking up the last of the eggs, using up cream for coffee, milk, we pack up the rest and hit the road.

Today we are going back through some of the hardest hit territory when Hurricane Michael hit. 1t is hard to believe how much damage still exists, and hard to see the trees broken off like toothpicks, the utter lack of tree cover in some areas. Equally unbelievable is the re-building boom going on in this hurricane-prone part of the Gulf. A lot of money going in; I hope they are using steel beam construction and the highest quality prevention.

Mexico Beach

Tyndall AFB

Calloway, FL outside Panama City, FL

Slowly, slowly, people are hauling away the signs of damage and repairing, but there is still a shocking amount of visible damage remaining, and a lot of work to do.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 3 Comments

Family Coastal Restaurant, Eastpoint

After walking on the beach, we had a great appetite, so we were delighted to come across Family Coastal Restaurant, with all kinds of people parked in front. We could tell this was a popular place to gather on a Sunday morning, and it had an outdoor deck with no one on it.

Occasionally AdventureMan will read a post and remember our experience differently. This is the last time we ate in a restaurant, although I maintain we were not IN the restaurant, and AdventureMan maintains we had to walk through the (admittedly, very crowded) restaurant to get to the outdoor, screened deck, and that the servers did not wear masks, even though we did.

You know how you can tell how other people are thinking by how they look at you. Most of the camouflage-dressed hunters and local people crowded in the waiting area to have an indoor table found our mask wearing somewhere between amusing and incomprehensible.

AdventureMan reminds me how the unmasked server got right up next to me to point out something on the menu (I didn’t notice and it didn’t bother me). While we were waiting for our food, a couple other couples joined us, socially distanced, on the outdoor deck. Inside the restaurant, there was an open salad bar and tables packed closely together, and lots of happy chatting going on table to table; they all seemed to know each other and this was a local gathering place.

I was delighted the server told me that I could have my oysters grilled, as opposed to deep fried, so I ordered them with cheese grits and steamed vegetables. The oysters were OK. I ate a bite of the grits, and most of the vegetables. The hush puppies were delicious. I envied AdventureMan his meal.

Below is AdventureMan’s fried oysters, fried okra, fried onion rings and fried hushpuppies. It all looked so good, and being a generous hearted man, he shared one of the fried oysters with me. Mine didn’t take up much room on my plate . . . Fried food, when done right, just looks so appetizing . . .

When we left, it was even more crowded than when we arrived.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Pilgrimage to St. George Island from Apalachicola

A very short drive from Apalachicola, but a whole different world. Cross two amazing bridges/causeways which are an adventure in themselves, so beautiful, so wonderfully engineered. We are always in awe of what it takes to connect dry land over a lot of water, and how really smart people can also figure out how to generate electricity, maintain the equipment, and bring it to far flung locations.

Moody sunrise

Headed out of Eastpoint toward St. Georges

Coming into St. Georges

We drove all through St. Georges; we stayed her once when our son was a student at FSU but it all looks entirely different now. Finally, we get to our favorite part, the beach at the far eastern end of the island. You can park and walk even further east, or west, or whatever you like. There are few people there on this sunny cool day, and it is a glorious day for a long walk.

Day tripper friendly

Shell heaven! Piles of shells everywhere!

Wind patterns on the sand

What is the beach without some surf?

Surf, sand, shells and sun; we are as happy as we can be. No masks on the beach, no need, few people and far apart. It is a glorious day.

More wind/sand patterns because I am a dork who cares about these things . . .

This was a great part of our get-away.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | 1 Comment

Highway 98 back to Apalachicola

This is a beautiful drive, it never gets old.

My friends have fishing camps and hunting camps; some of the fishing camps you can fish from the porch, just like the fishing camps along the Dordogne and the Gironne in France. I think some of the hunting camps double as venues for poker games and some serious drinking.

When I was a little girl in Alaska, bear were serious business, and every Alaskan child learned early to make noise, not to run and never never never to get between a mama bear and her cubs. I can imagine a Florida bear is a nuisance, getting into garbage and tormenting the dogs, but I haven’t heard of a human being having a problem with a Florida bear, other than hitting them on the highways.

All along this route we see some serious money going in. Some is Florida people, building their dream home in a beautiful, if dangerous (hurricane) location. Others are people sick of the snow and ice and cold of the north, building their more modest retirement homes or sheltering in trailer (caravan) villages. This very pretty little village is Carabelle, just east of Tate’s Hell State forest. (I just love that name, LOL)

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Community, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Hamaknockers and We Exercise Bad Judgement

Have you ever noticed bad judgement happens in bunches? Like you can be really good for a long long time and once you let loose, even just a little, your self-discipline just goes to hell?

It’s all Hamaknocker’s fault.

So for the third time, we are choosing to eat inside a restaurant where not everybody is wearing masks, and how can you wear a mask while you are eating? We do manage to sit apart from the other customers dining in.

Now . . . more bad judgement.

We ordered platters. I ordered the chicken, and it was a lot. I also ordered applesauce, because I don’t see that on the menu often, and it was really, really delicious. I think it must have had a LOT of sugar in it.

AdventureMan ordered the pork, and there was a lot of pork, too.

So this was the really really bad part. We had a refrigerator back at our hotel, and it is a cold day. We COULD safely take extra food back to the hotel and enjoy it later.

We did not.

We ate the whole thing.

Hamaknockers is what we call Michelin Red R cuisine – really good local food at reasonable prices.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment