Tag Archive for travel guide

New Orleans’ Adventures: Honey Island Swamp Touring

The Gourmez happy in the swamp.

The Gourmez happy in the swamp.

This is the fourth entry in a series on my December New Orleans vacation. Lest you think this many entries is a few too many, just know New Orleans has always been high on my list of cities to visit, so I was pretty excited to finally do so! Blog #1 was on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, Blog #2 was on dining at night in New Orleans, and Blog #3 was on drinking at night in New Orleans—and no, drinking need not be limited to the dark hours in this town.

The dock at Cajun Encounters.

The dock at Cajun Encounters.

For our next New Orleans adventure, we went 40 minutes east of the city to Slidell. Honey Island Swamp is 20 miles long, and a good portion of it is protected for wildlife conservation. A large number of boat tour companies operate within the protected section of the swamp, and we chose Cajun Encounters on a recommendation. It’s $25 for a day tour of the swamp, and with a tour that takes about 90 minutes, it’s well worth it. I thought it a deal in all honesty. They offer transportation from New Orleans for an extra $20 if you don’t have a car.

First view of the river. Click twice for the largest picture.

First view of the river. Click twice for the largest picture.

Who doesn’t love Spanish moss?

Who doesn’t love Spanish moss?

Our tour guide was super nice and pretty entertaining for a man with only a few months under his belt. Questions were always welcome. We went through three distinct areas of swamp. The first was similar to a standard riverbank but with plenty of Spanish moss, reddish leaves, and cypress outcroppings called knees.

Knees in the water.

Knees in the water.

This was December, which means winter and the least active time for the swamp’s wildlife, so we were cautioned we wouldn’t see a lot of it. We didn’t, but there were some creatures to encounter!

Turtles on the left.

Turtles on the left.

Plenty of snapping turtles lined the banks, and they’d dive into the water when we got close.

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Travelogue: Tieton, Naches, and the Chinook Pass

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Sunset over the mountains.

This is the last of my travelogues from my October visit with my mom and stepfather in Central Washington. The first was on a day in Yakima and the second was on a day in Ellensburg. This entry covers the beautiful scenery to be found in the tiny towns of Tieton and Naches nestled in the Cascades and driving along State Route 410 West toward the edge of the Snoqualmie National Forest, also known as the Chinook Pass. There is no food in this post—shocker, I know!—but we did stop for pictures at a few restaurants and wineries along the way that are known for good eats or tastings.

The Naches Valley is gorgeous all on its own, as you can see in both of these panoramas taken off the side of Summitview Rd. that runs between Naches and Tieton.

Click twice for the largest view!

Click twice for the largest view!

Click twice for the largest view!

Click twice for the largest view!

The town of Naches has a number of pretty nooks and crannies, including their welcome building.

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Make sure you visit the fruit stands in season on the side of road leading toward Yakima.

I dare you not to eat one of these in person.

I dare you not to eat one of these in person.

Unique decorative squashes.

Unique decorative squashes.

Many of them also offer local goods like hot sauces and jams. There was a restored soda counter in one stand that now serves as a display for old-fashioned candies.

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Charlottesville Blogging 2: More Eating and Some Drinking!

Welcome to the second half of our Charlottesville weekend trip! My local friend had recommended a slew of restaurants for a nice dinner out in Charlottesville, but Ben rejected them all, settling instead on L’Étoile (817 West Main Street). Because it had been his birthday a few days earlier, he got to choose, and I must say, he chose very well.

It’s a nouveau Southern restaurant with French influences, and it looks deceptively small both inside and out.

In addition to that front room, where you can see Ben enjoying a beer, there is a large porch outside and a second floor. But it feels like an intimate space. If I had any complaints, it’s that our waiter was rather brusque, but hey, everyone has an off night. Everything else was top-notch, starting with the amuse bouche of a crab cake with pureed broccoli aioli and microgreens.

Gorgeous presentation, which was true of all the dishes. The crabcake was fine, and the greens were overwhelmed by the aioli, but it was a beautiful start to the meal. The next course, a three-cheese plate, was exceptional.

The flowing quality of that presentation was eye-catching. In addition to the cheeses and breads, it contained olives, roasted garlic cloves, thinly sliced and fried garlic chips, and red onions pickled with cloves. The red onions were not my chunk of cheese, but everything else was delicious. The bread was brushed with melted butter and liberally dosed with salt that combined best with the brie and blue cheeses, though it overwhelmed the chevre. But as a cheese plate, it was so much more inspired than I expected.

For an entrée, I opted for two appetizers, though I should have just had one, because the shrimp and grits was plenty.

It was served with a mirepoix, roasted tomatoes, and more of those microgreens and the broccoli aioli. They used thick kernels for the grits that added texture and crunch that made the dish.  Each individual element was delicious on its own and together. Mirepoix is often an afterthought, but it wasn’t here. It mixed perfectly into the dish, making it all more savory.

My second appetizer was a cold peach, goat cheese, and cucumber soup.

Oh look! More of that ubiquitous broccoli aioli! It was extraneous, but it made for pretty artwork in my soup. The peach, goat cheese, and cucumber all played an equal role in the soup, and it was both soothing and smoky. I may try to reproduce it at some point.

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