Posts Tagged by New Orleans

Visit Mardi Gras World in New Orleans– Where #MardiGras is Made!

Mardi Gras World
With Mardi Gras just a few days away, Carnival season is really getting into full swing now! (That’s right – Mardi Gras is several weeks long…not just one day. It begins on the 12th night after Christmas – or the Feast of the Epiphany – and continues until Mardi Gras Day/Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and Lent.) If you’re planning to head down to New Orleans to hit some parades, eat good food or to just ‘laissez les bon temps rouler’, don’t miss the opportunity to head down Tchoupitoulas Street to the end of the Riverwalk where the extraordinary sights of Mardi Gras World are housed.

Mardi Gras Costume

There are plenty of tours in New Orleans, but only one offers a real, behind-the-scenes look at Mardi Gras, and that happens at Mardi Gras World!  This magical place gives you an authentic Carnival experience all year round and shows you what it takes to bring Mardi Gras to life year after year. You’ll get to see firsthand the hard work and extensive planning that goes into this grand event.

Mardi Gras 3

Mardi Gras Harry Connick Jr.Since 1947, Blaine Kern Studios has built the breathtaking parade floats for major parades not only for Mardi Gras, but for parades all over the world. Mardi Gras World was housed on the West Bank of New Orleans, just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, for decades. We lived on the West Bank when I was younger and my dad used to be a member of a couple of Mardi Gras krewes. The krewes are the ones responsible for “putting on Mardi Gras,” not the city of New Orleans. Dad was a member of the Krewe of Alla and Harry Connick Jr.’s music-based Krewe of Orpheus. My daughter, who was born in New Orleans, grew up playing on Mardi Gras floats both inside the old warehouse and on abandoned floats along the levee. These days, Mardi Gras World resides in a spectacular location on the other side of the river and parades would be nothing without the fantastical floats that line the routes year after year. The hard work that goes into making these spectacles is what makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans the greatest show on Earth!

Mardi Gras Painting

The animated and knowledgeable tour guides take the mask off Mardi Gras with an all-access tour, winding through the massive studio where these magnificent floats are built from the ground up. You can learn about the history of this unique and festive tradition and get a real understanding of the Mardi Gras. The whole family will love the experience of touring the space where artisans create spectacular floats for over 40 parades each year.

Mardi Gras Plaster and Clay

 

Mardi Gras AirbrushThere are plenty of opportunities for photos in front of floats, with props, or wearing a traditional Mardi Gras costume on this New Orleans tour. This is an experience you will want to take full advantage of, so don’t forget to bring your camera! (That’s me in the jester piece below – with a Ninja Turtle over my shoulder!  You never know what you’ll find around here.)  Tours include a display of Mardi Gras costumes, a historic video and a free slice of King Cake.  Mardi Gras Face

Wandering through the magical float den is an exciting experience for kids and adults alike, so immerse yourself in the color, music, history and magic of Mardi Gras any day of the year.

Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World on Facebook

Mardi Gras 2

Plan ahead!

Want to catch Mardi Gras season in full force? Here are the dates that Fat Tuesday falls on for the next ten  years. Plan your trip during the ten days or so leading up to this day.  Don’t forget that Mardi Gras is city-wide, not just in the French Quarter and is very family-friendly (aside from Bourbon Street!)

2015: February 17

2016: February 9

2017: February 28

2018: February 13

2019: March 5

2020: February 25

2021: February 16

2022: March 1

2023: February 21

2024: February 13

2025: March 4

Mardi Gras 4

 

Stay Where You Want – STASH Your Reward Points! #NOLASTASH

New Orleans Hotel Collection

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for Stash. All opinions are my own.

New Orleans is a vibrant melting pot of cultures that always inspires indulgence. New Orleans is where you go to eat, drink, listen to jazz, enjoy a parade, and forget your cares for a while and no matter how often you visit, it’s never the same trip twice. A city this unique should be experienced through immersion in it’s culture and history. You can find that in its beautiful boutique hotels – and those are found through Stash Hotel Rewards.  Stash includes over 200 independent hotels in 63 cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. The hotels include boutiques, spas and resorts and are all properties with ratings of three stars and above. Now you aren’t limited to earning rewards with big chains, with standard rooms that feel like standard rooms. You’re free to spend time in locations that allow you to experience your destination.

The Stash New Orleans Collection has some real beauties!

Hotel Mazarin

Hotel Mazarin - New Orleans Hotel Collection 2

Hotel Mazarin – New Orleans Collection

I’m so excited to be visiting New Orleans again in June. My family lives there, so we go frequently, but we don’t generally stay at a hotel.  This time though, we’re going to enjoy the Hotel Mazarin, right in the French Quarter and the iRetreat Conference hosted by the Double Duty Divas. (Stash Hotel Rewards has partnered with iRetreat and you can use IRETREATEARLYBIRD for 20% off your conference pass.) This year is the 5th anniversary of the iRetreat – a blogger conference for brands and influencers.

Hotel Mazarin - New Orleans Hotel Collection 1

Hotel Mazarin – New Orleans Collection

The Hotel Mazarin can be found in the Stash New Orleans Collection and features 102 brilliant and spacious rooms and the French Quarter’s most elegant courtyard with European style fountain as its centerpiece. Step outside and enjoy the jazz resonating in the streets and galleries and shops just a half block away on Royal Street. Bourbon Street is also just a half block away.  Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter!

Dauphine Orleans

Dauphne Orleans - New Orleans Hotel Collection

Dauphine Orleans – New Orleans Collection

Another jewel in the New Orleans Collection, the Dauphine Orleans is an unforgettable hotel in the heart of the famous French Quarter within 18th century townhouse walls. The Dauphine Orleans Hotel welcomes guests with personalized service in a unique setting. These historic buildings date back to the early nineteenth century. The Audubon breakfast room, for example, was the perfect setting for John James Audubon painted his Birds of America series from 1821-22 while residing at the Audubon Cottages. Visitors can take advantage of a quiet and relaxing stay at the Dauphine Orleans, while being within a short walk to the New Orleans streetcar lines, Bourbon Street and the Mississippi riverfront. The palm-filled French Quarter courtyard beckons you to relax in the shade or bask in the sun poolside at the saltwater pool.

Dauphne Orleans - New Orleans Hotel Collection 1

Dauphine Orleans – New Orleans Collection

Connect with the the Dauphine Orleans on Facebook and Twitter!

About Stash Hotel Rewards

STASH

This independent hotel points network awards five points for every dollar a customer spends. Points are earned immediately and do not expire. The system has no blackout periods or category restrictions, and travelers sign up free. Under the Stash Rewards system, each hotel sets the price for its room based on availability. A hotel in Florida, for example, would charge more for a room in the peak winter season than in the summer — and a guest member would have to cash in more points to secure a room during high seasons. It’s free to become a member and you get points to get you started just for signing up!

Learn more and connect with Stash on social media! You can visit the New Orleans Hotel Collection on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, Pinterest  and Vimeo.

Stash-Reward-Points-System-Program-Hotelsstash, new orleans, hotel rewards, iretreat, blogger conference

 

Know Your NOLA Cuisine

I can’t wait for football season! Especially when my beloved Louisiana State University Tigers come here to Georgia to play the mighty University of Georgia Bulldogs. Our daughter goes to UGA, but proudly sports her purple and gold when the Tigers and Dawgs play (she was born in New Orleans.) Both are nationally ranked…should be an awesome game! I’ve always got tailgating in the back of my mind and thought this would be a great time to share a little about the fabulous food and culture of New Orleans, Lousiana (NOLA).   Now you, too, can know your NOLA cuisine!

And, oh yeah…GEAUX TIGERS!

The Ultimate Guide to NOLA Cuisine

Have you ever had a New Orleans Snow Ball or enjoyed a Crawfish Boil?  You might need to plan a trip to the Big Easy!

 

 

Louisiana Crawfish Bawl…OK, Boil

Seafood boil
My brother called me a couple of days ago.  Seeing his number on the caller ID generally puts me in “what happened and is everyone ok” mode. Not that he never calls, but he doesn’t usually call without a pretty big reason.  This time was no exception…depending on your perspective. He was in the process of renewing the LSU season tickets. Remember…perspective.   My biggest takeaway from this phone call was his oh-by-the-way remark that he’d won a new boiling pot and gear at a silent auction at my nephew’s school.  My ears perked up!  It’s peak crawfish season right now and I love crawfish.
Crawfish boil
In South Louisiana, if you pop open a beer, a crawfish boil will break out!  You don’t really need much to have one once you’ve picked up the guests of honor. Folks back in the 50’s used to cook crawfish in big galvanized washtubs.  So all it takes is a really big pot with a way to heat it (think outside and propane jet burner here,) seasoning, the fixings and some newspaper.  This is a recipe shared by New Orleans legendary son, Mr. Frank Davis (moment of silence) via WWLTV.  (By the way, 40-50 pounds is the weight of a typical sack of live crawfish. That’s enough for 8-10 Who Dats from Louisiana or 20 out-of-towners!)

Frank Davis’ Perfectly “Bawled” Crawfish

For every 43 pound sack of crawfish, use:

1 whole bunch of celery

4 heads of garlic (tops removed)

12 lemons, sliced or quartered

6 large onions

10 bay leaves

3-4 boxes salt

1/2 cup cayenne pepper

8 oz. Zatarains liquid crab boil (or 6 bags Zatarains dry crab boil)

10 ears of corn (cut in thirds)

30 “B” size creamer potatoes (small reds)

3 lbs. smoked sausage

The first thing you do is empty your crawfish in a No. 3 washtub and cover them completely with cold water. Makes no difference where your crawfish come from (farm pond or swamp), the only thing you must do is wash them. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PURGE CRAWFISH IN SALTWATER! That’s an old wives tale. It isn’t necessary and it doesn’t work! All it does is kill the little critters! But it is necessary to wash them several times. I recommend you do at least 4 or 5 washings, dumping the old water after each filling of the tub. In short, you should wash until the water comes out clean. Then drain off the last rinse completely and get your boiler ready.

In a large pot – 90 to 102 quart is suggested if you plan to boil the entire sack at once – put in enough water to completely cover the crawfish when they are added, and bring it to a rapid boil.

Then, toss in all the ingredients except the corn, potatoes & sausage and boil them for about 15 minutes – you want the flavors to mix and create a seasoned “stock”.

Next, drop in the corn on the cob, potatoes and smoked sausage (the lagniappe – extras).

You want to put them in before you put in the crawfish (because the crawfish cook quickly, and if you don’t pre-cook the lagniappe, the entire boil won’t be finished at the same time).

Let the lagniappe cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

When all the extras are three-quarters done, add your crawfish and cover the pot. The water will stop boiling immediately. So here’s how you figure cooking time. Just watch the pot, and when the water comes back to a full boil, time your crawfish for just about 2 minutes, shut off the fire, and remove it from the burner.

Then drop some crushed ice on top of the crawfish, (which will make them sink), and soak the crawfish for about 25 minutes so that they pick up the seasonings.I do suggest you test the seasoning every 5 minutes or so to keep the crawfish from getting too spicy for your taste. Drain, serve and stand back!

Crawfish Boil 8

Serving and Eating

Gather your family and friends around a the biggest table you’ve got, push ’em together (the tables, not the family and friends!), whatever it takes.  Cover everything with newspaper and add some cocktail sauce, hot sauce, salt, butter and rolls of paper towels. Dump all the crawfish and extras down the center and dive in!

crawfish boil

Francis Lam explains the rules of the beloved crawfish boil.
1. You’ll be happiest meeting crawfish with a bottle of ice-cold beer in your hand, the cheaper the better.
2. Look for crawfish whose tails are curled under. Tails that stick straight out mean that the crawfish died before being boiled. And that means that they didn’t come to the party looking to make friends, anyway.
3. After you’ve been introduced to your crawfish, it’s time to break him in two. Hold the head and the part of the tail closest to the body in your fingers, and give them a gentle twist while pulling on the tail. This is where I refrain from making any juvenile “Do you like head or tail?” jokes. 
Eating Crawfish
4. Squeeze the head hard with your fingers, crushing it to release the juices, and suck. Spicy, salty and rich, this can be the best part. Be careful not to blow a blood vessel, though, by sucking too hard. Then everyone will have to get all concerned and wait for the ambulance to arrive, and the rest of the crawfish will get cold. Don’t be rude: stay alive.
5.  To get to the tail, peel off the first two sections of shell to expose the meat. Then, pinching lightly at the bottom with your thumb, gently pull the meat straight out of the shell. If you do this right, you’ll hold the vein down with your thumb, and you’ll extract the tail and devein it at the same time. If it doesn’t work out that way and you’re anal, you can simply dig the vein out with your fingers. But that will slow you down as everyone else keeps mowing down more crawfish.
Bottom line…don’t be shy. Go and get friendly with the crawfish before they all make friends with someone else. I know I will!
crawfish boil
Have you been to a crawfish boil?  We usually add shrimp to the boiling pot, too.  People add lots of things in addition to the corn, sausage and potatoes.  Mushrooms, artichokes, cauliflower…have any good ideas?  What are your tips for making flavorful boiled seafood?  How do you feel about boiled versus steamed?

Ode to a New Orleans Sno-Ball

Snowball flavors

Chances are it’s still cold where you are. But way down in south Louisiana, where it’s 75 and (mostly) sunny at the end of February, sitting down with the season’s first cup of fluffy ice drenched in a diabetes-inducing sugary syrup is something we look forward to every year.  This is not a snow cone.  This is not shaved ice.  This is a sno-ball, a fabulous summer treat with ice that is much finer than the others.

My friend Hartley Casbon  explains that “in the familial hierarchy of frosty delights, the snow cone is like the weird, entirely uninteresting, unapproachable and altogether forgettable distant cousin – by marriage, of course – of the snowball. The snowball and the snow cone share no genetic similarity. Their only common ground is that they are both cold and they both are a vessel for flavored syrup.”  I wholeheartedly concur.

Sno-Ball Stand Menu and Flavors 4

Miss Ellen’s Sno-Ball Stand is a glow stick-yellow hut on an unpaved lot in Barker’s Corner, Louisiana, just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. It’s the kind of shop that you can drive by fifty times and one of two things happen. 1) You never even know it’s there or 2) you stare longingly at its little sliding window hoping/wishing/praying to see the OPEN sign, no matter what time of year it is. (Miss Ellen could be in a generous mood in December, right?)  Its coordinating hand-designed and ever-evolving menu board hangs all year round and touts it’s widely eclectic variety of snowball flavors. It’s easy to tell when new flavors arrive. They’ll be the ones written on slips of paper and taped to the sign.

Sno-Ball Stand Flavors

Once you get to the window, you’d better be ready.  Ever been to The Varsity in Atlanta? (“Whaddya have? Whaddya have?) It’s like that.  While the staff are happy to let you taste samples of ice topped with their favorite syrups, the patrons (read “kids”) in line behind you won’t take as kindly to the delay as they wait in the 90+ degree heat. Can’t decide? Feeling the pressure? Overwhelmed? Order a couple of different flavors.  They’re only about a buck if you don’t get fancy with ice cream and other extras.  The biggest bargain in the South!

Sno-Ball Flavors

I ordered one of my favorites, “LSU” topped with condensed milk. An “LSU” is a half grape and half cake batter sno-ball that is yummy and oh so purple and gold!  I watched as they packed the snow in my cup, shaped the top with with a funnel, and started the deluge of syrup. A New Orleans sno-ball isn’t just topped with syrup. You don’t simply get ice with a tinge of color.  You should be prepared to immediately stick a straw in your mouth to suck down the overflowing juice before doing anything else. Once you’ve cleared the rim of the cup, you can safely move on to the business at hand. (Insider tip: those in the know order a “small insert-your-favorite-flavor-here sno-ball in a medium cup.”)

As I waited for my mom’s cup of grape heaven, I looked over at the flavor menu. Even though I’ve read it a hundred times, I’m still amazed at the creativity – good and bad – of its offerings.  Sno-ball stands tend to be judged by locals on the number of flavor options.  Miss Ellen’s is over 100 choices strong, three of them named for cartoons, four different cakes, ten are named for alcoholic drinks, several variations of “Clear”, “Sour”, and “Sugar Free”, pickle juice and the ever-popular “frog in a blender.”  The mac daddy of sno-ball flavors, however, seems to be Nectar or Cream of Nectar, a super-sweet flavor with origins in the mythical K&B drugstores. Typically a blend of almond, vanilla, red and something fruity. Like gumbo, everyone has their own recipe.  The ultimate result is a flavor that is akin to the nectar of the gods. 

Sno-Ball Stand Menu and Flavors 3

My husband, a New Yorker, has embraced most things New Orleans during the last 15 years.  He loves sno-balls and readily admits their superior quality to any other – even  to those from his beloved Big Apple.  He will not, however, stray from his ice cream stuffed creamsicle sno-ball to try any other flavors. While sno-ball fans will defend their favorite flavors with a ferocity usually reserved for sports teams, he should at least try something else so he’ll have a point of reference, right?  I’m going to say that this lapse hurts his street cred as an adopted New Orleanian.  Certainly not felonious, but it gives me pause. Lucky for him, I’m usually distracted by a gaggle of happy children with a rainbow of colors running down their little hands…or my happy mom.

Sno-Ball Stand Menu and Flavors 5

We’re excited that it’s finally sno-ball time this year, and it’s not even Mardi Gras, yet! Have you tried one of these perfect treats? What’s your favorite flavor?