Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Crawfish Boil 2019: Hotels

Just a reminder, the crawfish boil is being held at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville, Louisiana on Saturday March 9, 2019. Mandeville is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. So we'll divide the recommendations depending on if you want to stay near the boil or in New Orleans. For anyone unfamiliar with the Greater New Orleans area, getting across the lake is a breeze thanks to the Causeway that cuts right across the lake.  

On the South Shore, New Orleans boasts a bevy of great places to stay. We recommend that visitors make their accommodations in the city as much of the trip to Covington is on the Causeway. And if you’re going to stay in New Orleans, you may as well stay in the French Quarter (especially if you’ve never been to New Orleans before). Staying in the Quarter is a unique experience and puts you right into the action. Most of the city's tourist attractions are easily accessible and there’s always something going on nearby.

The interior of the Sazerac Bar 

Currently, our favorite hotel in the city is the Roosevelt. It's part of the Hilton-Waldorf Astoria luxury hotel chain and about 10 years ago it underwent a complete renovation that modernized the interior but kept its New Orleans charm. The renovation restored the hotel's iconic Sazerac Bar to its original 1940s decor. The Sazerac excels at cocktails in a historic New Orleans space where Huey "Kingfish" Long used to drink and meet with constituents. If you want a comfortable hotel that also exudes old school New Orleans, the Roosevelt is the place to stay. 

Interior of the Roosevelt 

W New Orleans - French Quarter hotel. The hotel is in a quieter part of the Quarter down on Chartres Street, but still only a couple of blocks from Bourbon.

The Royal Sonesta 

The JW Marriott is on Canal Street, and is very close to the Quarter. Here you can be within easy walking distance of the Quarter without being surrounded by it.

If you're looking for an AirBnB, there are plenty available inside and outside the Quarter. Prices will be lower than they would be in the previous weeks because the Boil is coming after Mardi Gras. Currently, the average price per night for an apartment/house on AirBnB is $259 per night. Right around what you'd spend on a nice hotel room. 

Inside the Southern Hotel 
Now, we'll cover some accommodations in the Mandeville/Covington area. Covington has the standard range of visitors' hotels, but we thought it would be better to recommend some places for guests who prefer a quiet location close to the boil. 

There's also the Southern Hotel in Covington.  It's located in the heart of downtown Covington and houses one of our favorite local restaurants, Ox Lot 9.  The restaurant also has a great bar that makes fantastic cocktails. The rooms are spacious and there's a spa located within the hotel. 

Covington also has a Courtyard by Marriott and Annadele's B&B. Annadele's is a lovely plantation home near Old Covington. The grounds and rooms are charming and the restaurant is generally pretty good, especially for breakfast.

We'll be back next week with restaurant recommendations. Because if you're coming to New Orleans, there's no excuse not to eat well. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

DGA Crawfish Boil 2019: Announcement!

It's time for a big announcement---this year's DGA Crawfish Boil!

We're excited to be back at Maison Lafitte for the fourth straight year.  We're excited to welcome back Benny Turner and the Storyville Stompers as our musical entertainment.

We'll have tons of crawfish to go along with beer, jambalaya, cupcakes, oysters and more!

Once again this year, we're teaming up with the New Orleans-based Dirty Coast company for our crawfish boil theme shirts. We've been getting them from Dirty Coast for years and they're pretty awesome.  Past themes have included:

Po-Boy Patent
Listen To Your City
Soul Is Waterproof
Strange Things Happen Below Sea Level
I Know What it Means
God Bless the Bottom Feeders

Check back here in the coming days and weeks as we'll have hotel and restaurant recommendations, band profiles, and all the information you'll need to be eating crawfish like a local by the time March 9th rolls around. 

Line up! We'll see you at the Crawfish Boil! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Better Call Doug

A few years ago, our friends the Mighty Pelicans recorded "Better Call Doug" a song in honor of DGA's very own, Doug Green. The song is available below along with pictures from last year's Crawfish Boil. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

King Cakes Are Back!

Listen, we're not going to talk about happened in Sunday's game. The wound is still too fresh; it's just too soon. We all know what happened and the consequences. We'll just let the Pontchartrain Causeway sign have the last word. 

There is good news. We can eat our feelings with king cake, that wonderful staple of the Mardi Gras season. For the uninitiated, the king cake is a pastry of extraordinary simplicity and deliciousness. King cake season runs through Fat Tuesday and it's impossible to celebrate Mardi Gras without eating at least one king cake. 

Cake to celebrate these guys? Sure, why not? 

King cake season lasts from January 6 until Mardi Gras. Why January 6? January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the visit of the Three Magi (or Kings) to the infant baby Jesus. The first king cakes appeared in France during the Medieval period as a way to celebrate this important moment in the Christian calendar. They soon became an important feature of Carnival (otherwise known as Mardi Gras). 

When the French came to New Orleans in the early 17th century, they brought their holidays and traditions with them. Explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville landed on the coast about sixty miles south of present day New Orleans on March 2, 1699—the day before Mardi Gras. The holiday and the subsequent French colony stuck. 

The king cake, however, did not take hold until the early 1870s. French immigrants brought their king cake recipes with them and in classic New Orleans fashion, a new tradition merged with the old to create something wonderful. It took until about 1950 for the king cake to become a popular staple of New Orleans cuisine. In the past decade or so, king cakes have really come into their own. Popular interest in all things New Orleans grew after Hurricane Katrina and next day shipping have allowed king cakes to be shipped across the country, spreading their influence and deliciousness.

Is that the baby Jesus there?

Now let’s talk about the cake itself. The King cake began as a circular bread dough topped with sugar with a bean inside. Over the past several hundred years, however, the king cake has evolved into a sweet cake covered with sugar and icing. The dough, previously hollow, is now braided and stuffed with cinnamon, cream cheese, or other fillings.  The colors atop a King cake are the same as the ones of Mardi Gras—purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.  

King cakes also feature a small plastic baby hidden somewhere in or underneath the cake. Tradition holds that the person who finds the baby is responsible for buying the next cake. Some claim that the baby represents the baby Jesus and that McKenzie's Pastry Shoppes, a New Orleans area bakery, were the first to put the baby in the cake. In 1990, McKenzie's owner Donald Entringer Sr. denied that the baby had anything to do with Jesus. He told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “I've heard people say it's supposed to represent the Christ Child, but that's not true. Why we picked this, I don't know. It was cute. It was just a trinket that happened to be a baby.” Whatever the truth may be, watch out for the baby when you bite into your first slice of King cake.

The former King Cake Capital of NOLA 

Unsurprisingly here at DGA, everyone has their own king cake preferences. Bill is a big fan of the King cakes from Butter Krisp Diner in Covington. He prefers homemade king cakes and ones filled with strawberry cream cheese. 

Benson has a lasting affection for the king cakes once made by McKenzie’s. Luckily, the Tastee Donut chain in-and-around New Orleans purchased McKenzie’s old recipe and sells them at their stores. McKenzie’s consists of a simple brioche without cinnamon or filling. There’s only colored sugar topping the cake. 

Matt prefers the Mandeville Bake Shop because it's near his house, though the best one he’s ever had came from Randazzo’s. 

Doug’s favorite king cake is whatever one appears at his house. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

NFC Championship Game Preview

Did you hear? The Saints won! 
            On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints started off their game against the Philadelphia Eagles just about as badly as you could imagine. On the Saints first play from scrimmage, Eagles defensive back Cre’Von LeBlanc intercepted a Drew Brees pass meant for Ted Ginn Jr. Philadelphia then scored a touchdown to go up 7-0. After New Orleans went three-and-out on their next drive, the Eagles marched down the field for another touchdown with a 10 play, 75-yard drive that ate up over five minutes of clock. Philadelphia’s win probability had swung from 26.9% to 70.8% in less than 11 minutes of game time. 

            Ultimately, though the Saints climbed their way back into the game thanks to some patented aggressiveness by Brees and head coach Sean Payton. New Orleans scored 10 points before the half, but it was in the third quarter that the Saints took the lead for good. Brees led the New Orleans offense on a drive that took nearly eleven and a half minutes, covering 92 yards, and culminating in a Michael Thomas touchdown. New Orleans offense converted 2nd and 20 and 3rd and 16 into first downs. They even overcame 3 penalties on the offense. 

            All told, Brees went 28-38 for 301 yards and two TDs. Running back Alvin Kamara had 16 carries for 71 yards and wide receiver Michael Thomas dominated the Eagles catching 12 passes for 171 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. For as poorly as the Saints played in the opening quarter, they played fantastic from the second quarter on and sent the Philadelphia packing. 

            Next week, however, against the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans cannot afford to go down 14-0 again. This time they might not get back up. 

Total DVOA
Weighted DVOA 
New Orleans
20.7% (4)
26.0% (2)
Los Angeles 
23.7% (2)
19.0% (6) 

            Taking a broad look at both teams, the Saints and Rams are closely matched. Over the course of the entire season, LA narrowly edged out the Saints in Total DVOA, but at the end of the year, New Orleans led in weighted DVOA (weighted DVOA discounts earlier season games in favor or later season ones. Total DVOA treats all games equally). 


New Orleans Offense
15.9% (4) 
34.4% (4)
3.3 (8) 
Los Angeles Defense
0.8% (19)
0.2% (9)
1.5% (28) 

            When the Saints have the ball, we know what the game plan is. Drew Brees makes a lot of short and intermediate passes to Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Mark Ingram takes the bulk of the handoffs while Kamara gets his touches as well. Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael have a package of plays for QB/TE/RB/whatever other position you’d like him to play Taysom Hill. The Saints offensive line is once again excellent at pass protection—3rd in adjusted sack rate—and at blocking for the run game—2nd in adjusted line yards. 

The Rams defense has shown few signs of being able to slow down the Saints stars. In the last matchup with the Rams in November, Kamara and Ingram ran for 115 yards on 28 carries and Michael Thomas had 12 receptions for 211 yards. They don’t stop the run very well. They’re 19th in adjusted sack rate so they don’t get a lot of pressure and they’re 28th in DVOA against #1 wide receivers, so look for Michael Thomas to have another big game. While it would be foolish to underestimate legendary Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Los Angeles doesn’t have a dominant defense. 


New Orleans Defense
-3.1% (11)
10.2% (22)
-24.9% (3) 
Los Angeles Offense
24.6% (2)
32.1% (5)
22.1% (1)

            This is more interesting of part of the game. The Rams run the overwhelming majority of their plays out of 11 personnel—meaning that they have 1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers on the field. Their offense is so successful because of the way that Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay deploys this grouping in different ways. He constantly changes wide receiver routes and uses running back Todd Gurley as a receiver and runner—very much like the way the Saints use Alvin Kamara. Wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are a formidable 1-2 combo. Cooks, as he was back in his Saints days, is a dangerous deep threat and Woods works the middle of the field and the sidelines very effectively. 

            The question for the New Orleans defense will be if they can effectively stop Gurley on the ground and force the Rams to be one-dimensional on offense. But even when the Rams rely solely on their passing game, they’re tough to stop. In the teams’ November matchup, Gurley has 68 yards on 13 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Quarterback Jared Goff went 28-40 for 391 yards and 3 TDs. In total, the Rams scored 35 points. 


            The Rams and Saints are similarly matched on special teams. Both teams feature good punters—Johnny Hekker and Thomas Morstead. Despite his miss from 52 yards on Sunday, Wil Lutz has been one of the best kickers in the NFL this season. Los Angeles kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a month or so early in the season, but remains one of the league’s most accurate kickers. 

            Sean Payton is Sean Payton. He’s aggressive on 4th down. He and Brees have a rapport built over thousands of plays that is nearly unmatched in the NFL. There’s not much else to say here. Second year Rams head coach Sean McVay is the league’s rising star. The biggest requirement for a new head coach this year seemed to be knowing or working for McVay. Last season, he revitalized Goff’s career and turned Los Angeles from an also-ran into a championship contender. McVay might very well be the next Sean Payton in terms of offensive creativity and play-calling. 

            Two offensive gurus, a Hall of Fame QB looking for his second ring, and a Superdome crowd that will be absolutely insane. The game may come down to whichever team has the ball last. And if that’s the case, I know where I’m putting my money. Saints 41 Rams 38 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Saints-Eagles Preview

It's playoff time! 

           Now that the NFL’s wildcard weekend is over, we know who the New Orleans Saints will play during next weekend’s divisional round. On Sunday afternoon, the Saints will host the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The winner will move on to play the winner of the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys game for the NFC championship. As we’ve done in years past, let’s look at both teams using Football Outsiders DVOA metric (for a reminder teams are measured in percentages with 0% as league average).  Let’s start broadly and then move into more detail. 

Total DVOA
Weighted DVOA
New Orleans
20.7% (4)
26.0% (2)
0.0% (15)
3.6% (16) 

            This will be the second matchup between the Saints and Eagles this season. In Week 11, New Orleans thoroughly dominated Philadelphia 48-7. Drew Brees threw for 363 yards and 4 touchdowns. Mark Ingram ran for 103 yards and two rushing TDs. The Saints defense held the Eagles to only 13 first downs and 196 total yards. Eagles QB Caron Wentz went 19-33 for 156 yards and 3 interceptions. New Orleans’ victory was one of their most impressive this season. 

            Based on this previous matchup as well as each teams’ overall performance this season, FiveThirtyEight gives the Saints a 64% chance of victory. Overall, the Saints enter the playoffs as not only the favorites to win the NFC, but the Super Bowl as well. Football Outsiders gives New Orleans a 25.5% chance of winning Super Bowl LIII. FiveThirtyEight is similarly bullish at 22%. 

            The Eagles, however, have made some significant changes since their Week 11 matchup. After the loss to the Saints, Philadelphia won 5 of its last 6 games and captured the NFC’s sixth seed. For the last three games, backup quarterback and last year’s Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles replaced an injured Wentz in the lineup. In three games against the Rams, Texans, and Washington, Foles nearly 77% of his passes (87-113) for 962 yards with six TDs and 3 INTs. Over those last three games, the Eagles scored 86 points while allowing only 53. They are the proverbial “hot” team entering the playoffs. 


Total DVOA 
New Orleans
15.9% (4)
34.4% (3)
3.3% (8) 
0.0% (15)
6.7% (15)
-12.3% (9) 

            When the Saints are on offense, they have a clear advantage over the Eagles’ defense. Philadelphia had a league average defense and a secondary that has been ravaged by injuries. The Saints are well-equipped to exploit this mismatch. Philadelphia ranks 24th in DVOA against pass-catching running backs. In other words, look for Sean Payton and Drew Brees to dial up a healthy dose of short passes to running back Alvin Kamara. If the Eagles deploy extra players to take Kamara away, then the Saints are poised to take advantage of Philadelphia’s 15th ranked defense against No. 1 receivers and pass the ball to star wide receiver Michael Thomas. Additionally, the Eagles don’t generate much of a pass rush—22nd in adjusted sack rate—so Brees should have plenty of time in the pocket to find open receivers. 

            The strength of Philadelphia’s defense comes from their rush defense. The Eagles defensive line ranks sixth in adjusted line yards and second in the NFL at stopping opposing rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage. The Eagles have a good defensive line that is capable of stopping the run, but their linebackers are especially vulnerable—last in the league in terms of allowing rushes of 10+ yards. If New Orleans can wear down Philadelphia’s defensive line, they should be able to exploit the linebackers for big runs. 


Total DVOA 
New Orleans
-3.1% (11)
10.2% (22)
-24.9% (3) 
-0.3% (16)
18.1% (11)
-13.5% (27) 

            When the Eagles are on offense, things get a little more even. Philadelphia has an average offense overall with a good passing game dragged down by a poor running game. Unfortunately, the Saints strength is their run defense, but Philadelphia can’t run the ball effectively. So for Saints fans they’ll have to keep an eye on the passing game. Is Eagles quarterback Nick Foles getting enough time to find his receivers and take advantage of the Saints secondary? 

            That question will be answered in several areas of the field. First, the Saints rank 4thin adjusted sack rate and the pass rush led by Cam Jordan will be key in containing Foles. Philadelphia ranks 17th in adjusted sack rate, but their line has been playing better in recent weeks. If the New Orleans pass rush can get to Foles early and often, then the Eagles will be in trouble. If they can’t, then Foles will have time to pick apart the Saints secondary. The Saints cornerbacks, after being a strength of the defense last year, are a real weakness this season. Defensively New Orleans ranks 30th and 31st against No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers. They’re also 29th against pass-catching running backs. If Foles has time in the pocket to find his receivers, then this will be a competitive game. 


            The Saints have the edge in special teams. After some pitiful showings in recent years, New Orleans finished 9th in special teams DVOA. The strengths of the Saints special teams are their kicker Wil Lutz and punter Thomas Morstead. Lutz and Morestead were worth 6.8 and 5.3 expected points this year. Philadelphia’s special teams were average across the board—15th in DVOA—except for their punter Cameron Johnston, a former Australian football player. He added 6.4 expected points from his punting alone. 

            Sean Payton and Doug Pederson are well matched. Both are known as aggressive play-callers and are among the league leaders in going for it on fourth down. Don’t expect either team to play it safe during this game. 

            While the Eagles have been playing better since the 48-7 beatdown in Week 11, their path to victory is narrower than the Saints. Philadelphia needs the back end of their defense to hold up against the Saints passing attack. If they try to take away Kamara, then Brees will favor Michael Thomas and vice versa. The Eagles also need their offensive line to hold up against the New Orleans pass rush so that Foles can find his receivers. If they don’t, then the Eagles will be in for a long day. 

New Orleans 38Philadelphia 17  

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Celebration in the Oaks

            New Orleans City Park is known for its collection of live oak trees, Botanical Garden, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. The live oaks are perhaps the most famous part of the park. Some are over six hundred years old and predate the European settlement of Louisiana. The park grounds themselves have a rich and diverse history. The area started out as a dueling ground where male residents of New Orleans could settle their disputes outside of the watchful eyes of city authorities. In the 1850s, a district court created the park out of land left to the city by a deceased plantation owner. By the end of the 19thcentury, the City Park Improvement Association was founded to begin transforming the land into the park that we know today. It was not until the 1980s, however, that one of the park’s most popular and beloved traditions came into existence: Celebration in the Oaks

            In 1984, the Botanical Garden was in need of a new fundraising campaign to fuel the organization’s growth. Mary Rodgers, the chair of the Park’s PR Committee, wanted to drape lights in the Park’s oak trees. However, the idea was too expensive for the time and instead the director of the Botanical Garden, Paul Soniat created a program called “A Tribute to a Christmas Tree” where local artists decorated Christmas Trees. They were displayed in a tent at the Garden. 

            The idea of decorating the oak trees in lights never went away. For a few years, there were small light displays around the Garden. Those in charge of the park believed that a larger light display would be popular, but it took several years for a plan to come into place. In 1987, the oaks at the front of the Park finally were covered in lights. A local energy company designed a way of powering the lights and underwrote the cost of the electricity. By installing the lights at the entrance to the Park, park management had created a whole other way for visitors to experience the lights—in their cars. Before visitors had to walk around the Botanical Garden to view the displays. Now with the lights spread out through the park, guests never had to leave their cars. This meant that many more people could see the lights at any given time. More lights and more people naturally meant growing the size and scope of the event. So Charles Foti, a local sheriff, organized the construction and installation of holiday exhibits including a “Cajun Christmas Village.”       

            By 1991, the Celebration in the Oaks received over 350,000 visitors. The popularity of the event led to the creation of additional garden areas and child’s play areas. Over the years, the Park has added a charity walk/run, guided tours, a miniature train, floats, and a host of other attractions. Like the rest of the city, City Park was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, but the organizers of Celebration in the Oaks managed to pull off an abbreviated version in 2005 and as the city recovered from the storm, the celebration grew once again in scope. 

            Currently, the Celebration features nearly 600,000 lights, attracting over 165,000 people per year. The fundraiser provides 13% of City Park’s yearly operating budget. It opens on the Friday after Thanksgiving and closes on January 3. And it’s a New Orleans holiday tradition that is not to be missed.