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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Blog, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 9 comments

A Restaurant Guide to New Orleans

 

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

 

Writer’s Note:  New Orleans is my favorite city in America.  Over the next 18 days and nights, I’ll be here and will share with you what I love about this special place.  With the final WSOP Circuit stop of the season now happening at Harrah’s New Orleans (May 8-20), followed by the WSOP National Championship (May 22-24), many poker players and their colleagues will be coming into town, as well.  Hope to see you in the Big Easy!

 

The title of today’s article was originally going to be — “Top Ten New Orleans Restaurants.”

How foolish!

There’s no way to narrow down all the incredible restaurant choices in this fine city to merely a handful.  So instead, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite restaurants with some special menu recommendations — all the way from fine dining down to cheap eateries.  I’ve also included a section on restaurants that I think are a bit overrated, which should probably be avoided (assuming you share my tastes).

First things first.  I can’t stand nouveau cuisine.  Hate it!  Listen up — I want to eat my food, not stare at it.  Too many pretender-chefs seem to think food presentation is more important than the things that REALLY  matter such as taste, texture, and temperature.  Sticking with the “T’s,” when it comes to dining, nothing beats tradition.  Which is why New Orleans is my taste bud’s mistress.

In New Orleans, food is part of the culture and tradition of this city.  I love the New Orleans restaurant scene because most of the places are private and/or family owned.  Corporations haven’t taken over and ruined everything yet.  Food is a reflection of what lives in the Delta — both plants and animals — not just another means of profit.  No other city in America has as many old-style family owned and operated restaurants as New Orleans.  Here, you’re likely to see the owners either hanging out in the dining room or working the kitchen.  To me, that makes this place really special.

Warning:  One tip — Don’t dress in shorts and a t-shirt.  Many of these places have a dress code or at the very least you will look and feel out of place.  People or New Orleans also tend to dress better than normal when going out.  Keep this in mind when you’re dining at one of the most expensive places.

In order to appear on the following list, each restaurant selected has to have what I call a “wow” factor.  The food, service, and experience must be exceptional.  I’ve dined at each of these places more than once, so I know each of these choices is consistently reliable.

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Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics, Travel | 0 comments

The African Interviews (Part 1)

 

africa-map

 

Writer’s Note:  Today and tomorrow, I’ll be sharing three stories.  Each shares a connection to Africa.  They’re all deeply personal.  And until now, I’ve never written about or told any of these stories before.

 

Out of Africa

Question:  What’s the world’s second most-populous continent?

If you saw today’s headline, you probably guessed it.  The answer is Africa.

More than one-billion people live in Africa, which is more than the entire population of Europe.  There are two-and-a-half times as many Africans as North Americans.  Imagine 25 Californias.  That’s Africa.

Africa also happens to be the second-largest continent in the world.  It has one-fifth of all the land mass on earth.

There are 54 African nations and I’ll bet most people can’t pinpoint more than a small fraction of them on a map.  I had this deficiency once too (and still do), as you’re about to learn.

Indeed, of all the places on Earth, Africa is the least understood, the most misunderstood, and the littlest-known in every sense — politically, geographically, socially, culturally, and historically.

Practically no one amongst us knows anything about Africa or its people, and this includes many otherwise intelligent people who know considerably more about every other region of the world.

It seems that even among intellectuals, Africa is forgotten.

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Posted by on Apr 15, 2013 in Blog, Rants and Raves, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 20 comments

Warning! Do Not Eat at this Restaurant!

 

pancake-house

 

I just finished walking two fucking miles through the mountains of North Carolina only to find the ending point of my destination closed for business.

I did this not just once, but twice.  Once on Saturday, and again a second time on Sunday.

You might ask — at what precise hour of the day were my two excursions?

My first venture ended at 2:20 pm.  My second venture was completed at 1:05 pm.

Question:  What kind of fucking pancake house padlocks its front doors at 1:05!

I’ll tell you precisely what pancake house.  Stick around.  Grab a chair.  Pop some popcorn.

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Posted by on Mar 31, 2013 in Blog, Personal | 3 comments

What I Saw in the Romanian Revolution — VIII. The Lines

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communism-ROMANIA

VIII.

THE LINES

Revolutions aren’t about guns and political dogma.  They are about bread and milk.

We read reports about torture.  We knew troublemakers disappeared.  But few actually saw these horrible injustices.  Instead, we saw the things we were meant to see.  A crime-free society.  Methodical security.  Streets free of graffiti and litter.  Trains running on time.  An orderly population dutifully marching to every state-sanctioned command.  Sure, evil was there.  But one rarely witnessed it firsthand.

What was seen, and what couldn’t be hidden however, were the lines.

The long lines.

Lines were everywhere.  Lines formed for just about everything.  There were lines for bread.  Lines for milk.  Lines for eggs.  Lines for meat.  Lines for gasoline.  On occasion, a shopkeeper would suddenly appear in front of the store, post an announcement, and a line would immediately begin forming.  Some people jumped in line having no idea what they were buying at that moment.  They simply lined up because something new was about to be delivered and this was an opportunity to get it fresh.

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Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews, Travel | 1 comment

The Saxophone Player

 

atlantic-city-nolan-dalla

 

If the city has a sound, it’s the shrill of the saxophone.

The sax is a wailing cry amidst the cries, a screech of spirit amongst the dispirited.

That day, a familiar tune echoed within the concrete caverns two blocks off Atlantic City’s Boardwalk.  This wasn’t the carnival street of cotton candy and salt-water taffy immortalized in the postcards.  Nor was this a good day to be outside.  A feverish grey fog blanketed the city, shivering in a cold rain.

The moment of melancholy was made even more so by completely deserted streets, save for this lone visitor spending his final day in Atlantic City and the source of that marvelous pitch of the sax.  Someone was giving the gift of a song.  And my insatiable curiosity mixed with genuine conviction that any such a gift and personal sacrifice should be honored, motivated me to deviate from my path and discover who it was playing that saxophone.

Indeed, this would turn into my mission.

As I jogged through the falling raindrops and neared one of many cement alcoves fixed between two parking garages, the lost tune filling the air became more familiar.  Finally, the song found a home in my state of conscious.  It was Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

What an odd tune to hear on this dreariest of days.  This wasn’t a place of rainbows.  Nor was this a city of hope.  It’s a song that implies tomorrow can be better than today.  It’s a song which suggests the step ahead will be better than where we’re now standing.  It’s a song of eternal hope and optimism.

Perhaps the surrounding made this moment all the more surreal.

The cold and bare concrete walls amplified what’s a beautiful song and made it glorious.  The sound of a solitary soul blowing his heart into a musical instrument before no paying nor even listening audience was profoundly more powerful than the most celebrated symphony orchestra.  This was someone who was playing music purely for music’s sake.

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