New Orleans Nightlife: All That Jazz

March 4, 2016 § 7 Comments

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Our cab driver from the airport told us that New Orleans allowed one casino — Harrah’s — within city borders under some euphemistic law that refers to the establishment as a place of “gaming.” Hah! We took a short stroll through it one night on our way to the riverwalk; it was actually quite nice inside.

Harrah’s and the adjacent Canal Street were still bustling with activity around midnight, but the riverwalk was deserted. The nearby mall was closed, the fountain wasn’t running, and there were barely even any lights to reflect on the water. So we just took a picture of ourselves and left.

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Bourbon Street

Ah, yes. Bourbon Street is a requisite stop for tourists, though we were glad to leave it behind after a cursory walkthrough our first night. Fortunately, we just missed Mardi Gras the week before, plus it was a Wednesday, so it wasn’t as rowdy as it could’ve been. Seeing the mostly empty bars selling sugary slushed drinks like Hurricanes and the mostly middle-aged people stumbling around was not appealing in the least.

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We took refuge at 21st Amendment, a cute bar just off Bourbon that served tasty shandies, among other things. The band playing that evening was The Royal St Windin’ Boys with Ms. Jenavieve Cook, and we liked them so much that Kaiti and I both bought CDs. I particularly enjoyed the clarinet :)

After that, we braved Bourbon again to check out Deja Vu Showgirls, a strip club that hosts drag shows on Tuesdays through Saturdays. It was my first time seeing drag, and I loved it! Most of the queens had incredibly lithe bodies and some unreal (literally, but still very sexy) hips. Case in point, this gorgeous lady:

Most of our entertainment, however, came from watching the couple across the stage from us. They were probably in their late 50s. The husband would NOT stop hitting on and trying to grope the hostess (also a drag queen), who did her best to fend him off while still flirting with/insulting him, all while the wife took pictures and cackled at her way-too-amorous companion. It made for a hilarious show.

On Friday evening, we ended up returning to Bourbon and found it much more packed, with a lot more young people. But there were still plenty of old people as well! Guess the partying lifestyle never ends in the Big Easy?

Our destination that night was Preservation Hall, an iconic venue that welcomes all ages and is BYOB. We stood in line outside for 45 minutes for the 10 p.m. show. Even though we were the second group in line, we only managed to snag the last row of seats because of all the people who bought “Big Shot” reserved seating online for $45 -_-

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Eating in New Orleans: Pistolettes & Beignets

February 29, 2016 § 7 Comments

I think I’m addicted to bread pudding.

We ate it every night on this trip. It was so good every time! And so different from the mushy nonsense I had in San Francisco. But I’ll start at the beginning.

(I apologize that most of these photos were taking with my phone in dim restaurant lighting, so image quality isn’t great.)

Day 0

Due to major flight delays on my end, Kaiti and I got in around the same time, so we had a late dinner while waiting for Lucy. We needed somewhere close to the hotel that was open past 10 p.m., so we decided on the Original Pierre Maspero’s right around the corner.

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The seafood pistolettes (stuffed bread rolls) were the standout. Hot and creamy and delicious! The Crescent City sampler, which came with small bowls of gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etouffée served as a proper introduction to Louisiana Creole cuisine. The latter in particular was my favorite: creamy and flavorful without being too salty.

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Holding back on the entrees meant more room saved for dessert, and this bread pudding did not disappoint! That’s a large dinner plate holding a serious hunk of bread. It was tasty and very dense, like carrot cake that had been made into French toast, though it wasn’t soaked all the way through so I wouldn’t give it a perfect 10/10. Either way, we didn’t manage to finish all of it and left stuffed.

Day 1

We started our day with arguably the most well-known of them all: Cafe du Monde.

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It was already pretty crowded by the time we arrived at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, but we found seating pretty quickly. (The line was out the door when we left later.) We were quickly introduced to the seemingly main demographic of New Orleans (or just New Orleans tourists): middle-aged white people, as far as the eye could see.

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I wasn’t expecting much from the beignets, considering I don’t like donuts and generally don’t like deep-fried foods. Still, we ordered two servings and got to eat two beignets each.

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Well, after tapping off 90 percent of the powdered sugar piled on top, I was irrevocably converted to a beignet lover at Cafe du Monde, solely because of how dense and chewy they were on the inside. Mmmmmm perfection.

We didn’t think our little breakfast would be enough to last the whole afternoon at the swamp, so we made a beeline for Central Grocery, which claims to be the originator of the muffuletta sandwich.

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New Orleans: First Impressions

February 26, 2016 § 7 Comments

jackson square

After at least a year of talking about it, Lucy and I finally made it out to New Orleans, Louisiana! Kaiti also joined us, rounding out the group and making it really fun when Uber drivers asked us where we were from — “San Francisco, Chicago and New York.” It was my first time in the South, as apparently Florida doesn’t count.

We stayed in the French Quarter, which was pretty close to most of the action any tourists would want. Some quick observations:

1. The first thing we noticed about the neighborhood was the pretty balconies on almost every building.

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All the cutesy old buildings reminded me of San Francisco in a way. We were fortunate to have nothing but blue skies during our trip, so we explored the relatively peaceful streets with gusto. Some parts of the neighborhood had quite a bit of tourist traffic, but considering the population of New Orleans is less than half a million, the whole place felt practically empty to us!

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2. There were mule carriages! And these carriages were really big!! I guess mules are really strong? And cute! I was mostly impressed by the complete lack of smell from the animals. I can’t stand walking past the pungent horse carriages by Central Park. But these mules weren’t stinky at all!

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The Houses of San Francisco

September 20, 2015 § 7 Comments

The most striking thing to me about San Francisco, apart from the hills, is how uniformly cute and old the buildings are. For example, this bewitching beauty looks like it’s straight out of a picture book:

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I wondered, though, what these houses looked like on the inside.

During my visit, I stayed with Kaiti, who lives in an unassuming apartment building with bay windows. Bay windows are ubiquitous in this town!

She told me her building dated back to the 1920s; the floors and doors creaked so loudly it was like screeching. When I was home by myself on Monday, I could hear someone above me walking around, opening and shutting drawers, and thought to myself it could very well be a ghost in a building with this much history. (I might’ve been delirious.)

Anyway, I was enamored with some of the colorful Victorian rowhouses we came across, but I feel like it must be a lot of work to upkeep, plus I don’t like living in old buildings, so I just appreciated them from the outside.

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So cute!

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Such intricate details!

They certainly make the buildings in NYC look bland.

This pink house has seen better days, but just the thought of living in a pink house (THE DREAM!) made me smile.

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We also saw some very large and ornate gates (the one on the right was like 12 feet tall; you can see the tiny shape of the actual door in the bottom half).

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Kaiti decided to pose on a few stoops, like we were just friendly neighbors.

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Scalloped and baby blue — SO PRETTY

Vibrant and McDonald's colored

Vibrant and McDonald’s colored

This house has wings?!

This house has wings?!

SF Day 1: The Agony & the Ecstasy
SF Day 2: Staying Alive
SF Day 3.1: A New Morning

SF Day 3.2: Walk, Eat Until You Die
SF Day 4: At Last, the Bridge

San Francisco Day 4: At Last, the Bridge

September 17, 2015 § 5 Comments

I saved the Golden Gate Bridge for my last full day because I figured it would involve a lot of walking, which I was finally up for doing by Wednesday.

Kaiti and I started our day at Turtle Tower, a well-known Vietnamese restaurant in the Tenderloin area. She recommended I get their chicken noodle soup, which was good, but came with so many noodles that they sucked up all the soup before I had finished even half the bowl!

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While planning for my trip, I had read that Tenderloin was to be avoided, but I couldn’t be sure how sketchy it really was. Kaiti seemed to be fine walking through it by herself.

After our brunch, we walked around the area trying to buy a box of tissues for our drippy noses (I had forgotten to bring my usual cache), and I decided that those cautioning against traveling through Tenderloin had the right idea. Everything was run-down and far less cute or well-maintained compared to the rest of the city. There were also a surprising number of Vietnamese restaurants — interesting that these businesses coexist peacefully alongside the sketchy Tenderloin population?

Random passport cover on the street

Random passport cover on the street

We finally found some tissues at a Walgreens. The ramshackle bodegas we tried were no help.

Then, onward to the bridge! For some reason the address that Kaiti put into her Lyft app directed us to the other side of the bridge, so we drove back and forth across it for no reason (including paying the extra tolls?!). At least it saved us the effort of walking across it I guess.

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I saw quite a few of these GoCars around the city. Three wheels with hardly any visible protection from the elements/other cars — doesn’t look very safe to me?!

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San Francisco Day 3.2: Walk, Eat Until You Die

September 14, 2015 § 5 Comments

hed2

I didn’t have definite plans for the afternoon, which is why I somehow agreed to the grueling hike over and up to Coit Tower from the Ferry Building (I think Kaiti was trying to kill me). It’s only a mile from the Ferry Building, but the last bit consists of 400 stairs, and I really thought I was going to die. I would’ve been fine if I weren’t sick, but alas, my body barely managed the climb.

Fresh-faced at the beginning of our journey

Fresh-faced at the beginning of our journey

So far away T__T

Halfway to the tower, but still so far away T__T

I took a lot of breaks LOL

I took a lot of breaks LOL

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UGHHH KILL MEEEE

Blackberries on the way up?

Blackberries on the way up

The views at the top of Telegraph Hill were a small consolation. The bottom level of Coit Tower had a cool wraparound mural and small gift shop. We didn’t go up the tower elevator because we didn’t want to wait in line, and sadly, we did not see or hear any parrots.

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Looooong Bay Bridge

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San Francisco Day 3.1: A New Morning

September 11, 2015 § 6 Comments

By Tuesday, I felt a bit better — still congested, achy and now coughing, but able to move around more and finally bring my camera (Olympus OM-D E-M5) out in the afternoon for some better quality photos.

Kaiti and I started our day early, heading out at 7 a.m. for a double whammy breakfast at Craftsman and Wolves and Tartine.

C&W is known for their Rebel Within, a poached egg inside a muffin speckled with green onions, which was reminiscent of Chinese scallion rolls (hua juan). I also couldn’t resist picking up a fig tart because they were so pretty!

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We got to Tartine before 8 a.m. and there was already a line forming outside. I was full, but we ordered a cup of bread pudding, a mini lemon tart and a pain au jambon (ham croissant).

I’m always drawn to bread pudding on dessert menus because I love bread and pudding. Yet somehow I’m never completely satisfied, I guess because I always expect it to be breadier? More like French toast maybe? Tartine’s bread pudding had the texture of watery scrambled eggs. I’m not saying it was bad, but I probably shouldn’t order bread pudding anymore.

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