Surviving the Big Easy: Mardi Gras

Check one off the bucket list. I finally made it to The City That Care Forgot to celebrate Mardi Gras. It’s a whole different ball game folks. New Orleans on steroids, as well as copious hand grenades and big ass beers. If you haven’t been, do it. Maybe not make it your first trip to The Crescent City though. It is a lot to take in, even for someone who has visited and survived many times. See my other posts about my favorite city in the world. Surviving the Big Easy and Surviving The Big Easy, Part 2. Where to begin. Obviously we had to run to Willa Jean immediately once we checked into the hotel for a frosé and some to-go pastries. Who needs coffee to start the day? Then off to The Quarter to begin the debauchery. Molly’s for a frozen Irish coffee. Harry’s Corner. Pat O’s for the sweet nectar of a Hurricane. Napolean House for an amazing muffuletta and a Pimm’s cup.  Josephine Estelle. You get the point. These are a few of my favorite things. On top it all, it’s only Thursday. It’s a marathon, not a sprint right? Have I mentioned I love it here? After regrouping at the hotel, you know, a shower and a change of clothes, it was off to to bar in the lobby to hang with Sara’s family and friends. I’ve heard lots of stories, so it was good to finally put faces to the names. Plus I was going to be spending a lot of time with the men since the women had a luncheon, as well as riding in Krewe of Iris in the parade. The men? Well we were left to our own devices. How much trouble could we get in right? Especially in New Orleans. So Friday we walked around drinking 3 for 1 beers. Many o’shitty domestics. The Cat’s Meow was a purrrfect place to spend a few hours on a balcony, observing the scenery that Bourbon Street can provide. I may or may not have seen a few scantily clad women exposing their assets. Yes I saw boobs for beads. When in Rome. A few however I wish I would have looked away. Tough life huh? So every year there is a different theme that Sara’s group dresses up for Mardi Gras. This year? Outer space. A Google search and many Amazon boxes later, I have a shiny silver suit, flashing LED lights wrapped around my arms, shades and a robot hat to top it off. You should have seen how many people wanted to take a picture of me as we walked around Friday night. Plus we all wore our costumes to a nice sit down dinner. Sorry not sorry. Robots use Sazeracs and a Vieux Carre or two for fuel apparently. Operation black out robot has commensed. The Carousel Bar, followed by a trip to the Erin Rose for my favorite window seat, tends to lead to a rusty, as well as hung over robot. Nothing like a little rest, a shower, and a Miller Lite first thing in the morning to make things better. Or at least manageable. As Sara and all the women were throwing beads off their float Saturday, the men and I walked the parade route on St. Charles. You think tailgaiting is crazy in North Carolina? It has nothing on Mardis Gras. We walked around with a cooler full of ice cold beer, meanwhile I saw hundreds of tents, many a keg, grills, bags of Popeye’s, shopping carts full of booze, broken champagne bottles everywhere, inflatable furniture, and an ironing board as a portable bar. All before noon. Yikes. Meanwhile I am wearing a purple tutu. And beads everywhere. Literally everywhere. I had a nice bead sunburn to boot. A pit stop for a bloody mary or two, followed by dozens of charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, does a body good. So does going back to the hotel room to lay down. After getting my third wind, Sara and I saw KISS on an Endymion float, had an amazing dinner at Compère Lapin and took in a burlesque show to end the night. Oh Mardi Gras. Another reason for me to fall in love with New Orleans again. It’s not just beads and breasts, dudes and daquiris. It’s friends and families getting together to reminisce and share stories of past Mardi Gras lore, celebrate the unusual sights and sounds of this quirky city, and to make new fuzzy memories. Cheers foodies!

Home Sweet Home

Raleigh-drink it in, it always goes down smooth. It’s a fact, it’s the greatest city in the history of mankind. I’m Ron Burgundy? Anyway, I know I talk about my love for Raleigh a lot on The Well Red Chef, I can’t help it. Born and raised here, I have seen it transform over the years to what it is today, a great city to call home. So I thought I would compose a biased list of my favorite things to eat and drink around town. Just scrolling through my Instagram helps me remember them all. You know you do the same thing.

Crispy rice lettuce wraps, green papaya salad, pork belly soup and Piña Coladas at Bida Manda. It’s like my fleece vest in the winter, always warm and comforting. Craving them all now.

The Bernie Burger at The Player’s Retreat. Best burger in Raleigh hands down. Added bonus they have a High Life waiting for me on the bar when I walk in. You can find me and AB holding up the bar frequently.

Stuffed clams and chicken saltimbocca at Café Tiramisu in North Raleigh. Yes, it’s OTB, but worth the trip to see Paul, RD, and Richard for amazing Italian food. Plus Tammi makes a great Manhattan.

Cocktails at Gallo Pelón for their always interesting take on mezcal as well as Fox Liquor Bar for anything bitter made by John Parra. #staybitter

I may be a little biased now since I work there, but the pork rice bowl as well as the lamb sausage at Garland is fantastic. Check it out. Do it.

Thursday’s at Kimbap. Three courses and a bottle of wine for $49! Pork belly nori tacos and Korean pancakes are a must have.

Dessert and bubbles at Bittersweet. S’mores and 4 am pancake are always perfect. It’s what downtown Raleigh has always needed, a place to go for something sweet after dinner, or even before.

Kale Caesar at Gravy. The food can be hit or miss, but the Caesar is not. Full of spicy garlic, vampires will definitely stay away from you.

The trinity as I call it at Calavera…Tecate, Espolón, and spicy sangrita. The Three Amigos of alcohol.

Although I didn’t really appreciate it while I worked there, but the crispy top of the mac n cheese at Poole’s is outstanding. One or two bites and that’s all I need. Not sure how people can eat an entire mac and still function. I’d be a zombie.

Day drinking at Paddy O’ Beers…staff is always super friendly and knowledgeable. It’s just a great place to chill and read the Independent on a lazy day, or after a long shift in the kitchen. And great hipster watching.

All of this writing has gotten me hungry and thirsty. I’m sure I forgot some places, please forgive me. Boxcar, Stanbury, Raleigh Brewing, etc. But get out and explore Raleigh and all it has. If you haven’t been to any of these places, check ’em out. Cheers foodies!

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Miscellaneous, Part Deux

Back again folks, glad to be writing again. Had a little dry spell, my house was like an igloo. So I finally made it to Bittersweet in downtown Raleigh. If you haven’t been there, check it out. You can get cocktails and bubbles, along with great desserts. Raleigh has always been missing a place to get something sweet after dinner. I have a major sweet tooth; after a great meal I want sugar. It’s my biggest complaint sometimes with restaurants. Dinner is great, but desserts are boring. Cheesecake? Some sort of bread pudding? Molten chocolate? Etc. You get the idea. Hereghty Patisserie, Lucette Grace, and Bittersweet are three great options here in town for those of us who like great desserts that don’t fit the typical mold. Hopefully it’s just the beginning for Raleigh. I suppose I was spoiled in New Orleans. Baked Alaska? Yes please.

So the other night I had a two top come in late to the restaurant. By late I meant 11:30 ish on a Sunday, and they were restaurant people. I will not disclose where they worked, but it was not in Raleigh. Anyway, got me to thinking about protocol of dining in a restaurant late at night, especially if you work in the industry. Personally, I always check the hours of places that I am thinking about eating, especially if it’s fine dining. If it’s Cookout or Wendy’s, not a big deal. However, as someone who works in the kitchen, I’m not going in late to a place. I’d rather come back another time when I can actually enjoy the full experience and not feel rushed. If I’m spending that kind of dough I want to make it worth my while. On a side note, we were told everything was rad. Foodies.

One more thing I have been thinking about is the ordering of protein temperatures. By that I mean what is medium plus? Rare plus? Well plus? Pittsburgh medium? It’s all subjective. Half the time when I order a medium burger it’s gray in the middle; which is why I always order medium rare. I’ve been cooking a lot of tuna recently, MR of course. But when someone orders a medium rare plus tuna, what does that mean? Pretty much you want medium. If it’s ever a plus order, I just cook it up. And yes I have cooked Pittsburgh medium before. The term Pittsburgh just means you want a hard sear or char on the outside, and it’s usually rare or medium rare. I’m still waiting for the day I get a Pittsburgh well done. I’m just going to leave it on the grill for an hour. Give the customer what they want right? On that note, going to one of my favorite Raleigh restaurants tonight, J. Betski’s. Stay tuned. Cheers.

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