Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mardi Gras 2012 Preparation

Posted by Benson

Mardi Gras season is in full swing down here in New Orleans.  My fence is covered in beads, all of the kids are out of school, police barricades line the neutral zone, and the office is full of king cake.  In short, life is good!

Mardi Gras is much more than the day before lent down here in the Big Easy.  It is a carnival season with as much pomp, fanfare, and time off of work as Memorial Day, Easter, or (let's be honest) Thanksgiving.  The houses on my street are always decorated for three holidays: Halloween, Christmas, and Mardi Gras!  My wife, being only a (relatively) recent transplant from Indiana, finds this extremely unusual.  Locals routinely pour a year of hard work and preparation into each Mardi Gras (just look at those floats!).  It is a local staple that every proper New Orleanian thoroughly enjoys, and it's also fantastic for the tourist trade.

Bill is the only one in the office that is part of a parade krewe (he's riding in the Elk truck parade on Fat Tuesday), but all of us have Mardi Gras preparations to do.  For me, this year's Mardi Gras involves two big events.

First, I will be heading down into the French Quarter in costume on Fat Tuesday.  This is a Mardi Gras tradition that my friends and I do every year.  

Second, and far more importantly, my wife Liz will be seeing her first proper Mardi Gras parade!  Believe it or not, Liz has lived down here for three years and still hasn't seen one of the big parades.  I can't really blame her though.  She was pregnant during her first Mardi Gras, and was in no mood to have drunken krewes throwing beads at her face while being the default designated driver.  Last year I convinced her to go with me to see Endymion, but the parade got horridly rained out and totally screwed up our plans.  However, this year we are going to see Bacchus come Hell or high water!

In order to ease her into the experience, I took her down to the Covington parade Olympia last weekend.  Bill had just gotten a place that was a block away from the parade route, so it was very convenient.  I also promised Liz that I would drive.  Covington, as you may know, is on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.  There are plenty of parades on the Northshore, but they're nothing like the huge parades that have been rolling in New Orleans since forever.  Liz, however, was rather amazed by Olympia.

Before going to Olympia, Liz had only been exposed to the Abita Springs annual Push Mow Mardi Gras parade.  Yes, push mow does mean lawn mower.  The Krewe of Push Mow often rolls with lawn mowers, either pushed or riding.  There's also cars, scooters, golf carts, bikes, and even a few trucks; but that should give you a sense of the scale.  Small local parades like the Push Mow are a staple of towns all around south Louisiana; everybody get's into the Mardi Gras spirit!  The Push Mow parade route goes right by my house, so we can't miss it.  The first year Liz was perplexed, but she has quickly warmed up to the little parade.

My son Ieuan at the 2012 Push Mow

Olympia, however, is an entirely different sort of parade.  Covington is a much bigger town than Abita, and Olympia rolls with an entirely different scale of float.  At the Push Mow, little girls throw stuffed animals at you from the back of a pickup.  At Olympia, floats roll down the street lined with krewe members, glowing neon lights, and pounding music.  Throws get tossed down at your uplifted hands (or face) as your cries of "Throw me something mister!" blend into the similar pleas of the surrounding crowd.

But as different as Olympia is from the Push Mow, Bacchus is different from Olympia.  Bacchus is a Mardi Gras tradition, but going back only to 1968.  It was founded by Owen "Pip" Brennan (of the popular New Orleans Restaurant) as a way to buck the stagnating Mardi Gras regime and inject new life and new accessibility into the Carnival season.  Bacchus rolls on Sunday evening before Fat Tuesday (a major faux pas in the 60's), always has a celebrity King (this year it is Will Ferrel!), and was founded on the principle of having the biggest, most outlandish floats of Mardi Gras!  Bacchus is a true super parade with more than 1,350 members and 33 animated super-floats.  It will be a wild time for sure and something Liz will definitely never forget.  I will be sure to report back on Monday with pictures, so stay tuned.

Bacchus Officers float - New Orleans and All That Jazz
As for Fat Tuesday, every year my friends and I hit the streets of the French Quarter decked out in costumes on a different theme.  In honor of this auspicious year when all the crazies are ranting about the end of the world, the theme this Mardi Gras is post-apocalyptic, and I've been working hard on my costume.  As a federal judge recently described it in a copyright case that I am working pro-bono, post-apocalyptic is like "The movie with Mel Gibson when he was still young where they're driving through the desert."

Accordingly, I have acquired a sweet leather biker jacket and decked it out in pieces of old tire and a variety of trinkets scavenged from a blasted, deserted, radioactive necropolis; or at least that's what they look like.  I've even got a gas mask, bullet necklace, and an old-beat up baseball bat all ready to go.  I've got all my tropes covered except a broken music box and a scrappy little dog.  Everybody else in the gang has reported high levels of costume success this year, so here's hoping we make the news again!

The down side is that I have to fly out to New York at 6:00 p.m. Mardi Gras day.  At least I'll be taking a cab to the airport.  As long as I remember to take off my baseball bat and bullet necklace I should be able to mix with the drunken tourists and stumble my way through security.    

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Orleans Dining

Posted by Bill

New Orleans Saint’s Archie Manning has opened a new restaurant in the Harrah’s casino.  It is a casual yet refined eatery that features more than 30 flat screen TVs, including a 13- by 7.5-foot mega screen for watching your favorite sports.  Manning’s also has a sports anchor desk just incase you ever dreamed of being an anchor man/woman! Manning’s is also filled with unique memorabilia from Louisiana football and the family of Archie Manning.  The walls are also flooded with artwork by local artists to give it a unique New Orleans feel.

Manning’s is a place that is great for both sports enthusiasts to foodies.  The menu features comfort foods from the Mississippi delta with some unique Creole twists as well as creative interpretations of tailgating classics.  You’ll find such unique selections as a Cast Iron Skillet Fried Filet topped with a Southern Comfort pan sauce; Oysters “Rockefeller” Spinach Salad finished with crumbled bacon, Gruy√®re croutons and herb vinaigrette; and a Beer and Cheese Bisque using locally brewed Abita Beer, just to name a few.

Gordon Biersch Brewery is an American chain but is a great place to stop in and grab a few brewskies and pub food. Gordon Biersch has an assortment of beers hence having “Brewery” in the name.  Personally, I prefer darker beers but the every selection is very fulfilling.  Gordon Biersch Brewery is right across the street from the Hilton and Harrah’s casino on the corner of Poydras and Convention Center.  This puts is just a bit outside of the French Quarter and very close to the River Walk and the Aquarium of the Americas.

Drago’s has multiple locations in the city, one right off the Causeway in the part of Metairie called “Fat City” and one in the Downtown Hilton.  Drago’s is a local seafood restaurant and will make you love everything about New Orleans cuisine.  The stuffed soft shell crab special is a local favorite.  Drago’s also has daily specials and daily oyster shuckers.  The Drago’s in “Fat City” always looks full from the parking lot but don’t let that discourage you.  The wait staff is usually able to find adequate seating for customers.  Local tip: they do tow cars out there so make sure you park in a real parking spot.

Mother’s in a New Orleans legend.  This staple restaurant has been serving all kinds of delicious, meat-filled sandwiches since 1938.  The signature po’boys reddened with “debris” are so filling and delectable that you will often find yourself fighting off a nap after enjoying one.  Esquire and Zagat has labeled Mother’s restaurant as one of the greatest po’boy restaurants anywhere.  With this reputation Mother’s usually has a line wrapped around the building on weekends and holidays, but is well worth the wait.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winter Fly Fishing

Posted by Doug

“There are no fish in the Guadalupe River.”  That’s what my friend in San Antonio said when I told him I was going fishing there in January.  In fairness, the Lower Guadalupe River - from Canyon Lake to New Braunfels - is known locally as a summer recreational area – in the deep south that means tons of young people floating down the river in inner tubes drinking beer.  But, it turns out there is more to the story.

Canyon Lake was created by the Army Corps of Engineers to control the seasonal flooding that occurs on the Guadalupe River. It was impounded in 1964, creating a lake covering 8,240 surface acres and is 125 feet deep at the pool level of 909 feet above mean sea level. One of the useful features of the dam is that it releases water from the bottom of the lake.  That means the water released is cold. Trout are cold water fish – they thrive in temperatures in the 60s and cannot survive much above 75 degrees.

Tail water trout fishing, fishing below a dam, it quite common.  In addition to providing the cold water trout need, the dam agitates the water being released providing the high oxygen levels that trout need.  A trout’s diet primarily consists of bugs and aquatic insects.  The limestone base of the river provides a favorable environment for these critters, so the trout have plenty to eat.  In other words, the environment is perfect for trout, at least in the winter, but not something that you’d expect in Texas.

Finding this combination of conditions as far south as Texas was the big surprise for me.  And, because it is Texas, the trout fishing is mainly a winter event when all of the typical trout fisheries are in deep freeze and the tubers are on the couch. 

Rainbow trout were originally stocked in the river by Lone Star brewery. I will let your imagination run with that one. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) determined that the cold water discharges from the dam would displace the native warm water species naturally occurring in the river. TPWD began experimenting with different species of trout to determine which would be the most suitable and cost effective for their stocking program and decided that Rainbow trout best suited their purposes. 

The Guadalupe River Chapter of Trout Unlimited (GRTU) was formed in the 1960s and has been actively involved in the management of the trout fishery program.  The river is heavily stocked by both the TPWD and GRTU beginning around Thanksgiving and into December.  Like most trout streams, however, the Guadalupe has large sections of relatively unregulated fishing.  When the fish go in, the locals turn out and freshly released hatchery fish are easy pickin’s.  But, there is also a Trophy Trout Regulation Zone and GRTU maintains a section of private access water.  So, all in all, the Lower Guadaulpe River seemed to hold promise for some winter trout fishing.

On January 24th, Matt and I headed out from Austin to meet our guide for the first of two days floating sections of the lower Guadalupe.  The forecast was not good and it was accurate.  The water was cold and so was the rain.  We were in the boat and on the water around 9:00 am and that’s pretty much when the rain started.  We put in at Rio Rafting Company, about five miles below the dam. This is actually a decent wade fishing spot and we caught several fish before moving down stream.  The action was all on the bottom with tiny nymphs – and I mean tiny. 

The drought has taken a heavy toll on Texas this year,  The river flow is very low and the water less than ideal.  As a result, these trout also don’t behave like normal trout.  They don’t hold in the fast current and feeding lanes waiting for food.  Indeed, they don’t seem to hold much at all, but seem to move around.  And, they bunch up – if you catch one, you will probably catch another in the same spot with the same cast.  It was really disconcerting to find water that looked very “trouty” only to have the guide move on through.  We covered about 5 miles of water, coming out at the Mountain Breeze Facility around mile 11.5.  This took us through the GRTU area and the Trophy Regulation area.  We both caught fish – not great in number or size, but fishing is good and catching is better.  And, it was still raining when we got out.

Two days later, we returned to the river and once again met our guide.  The weather had improved greatly.  The sun was shining and the air was cool - it was a gorgeous winter day in the south.  Kyle, our guide, was not looking very happy to see us and did his best to talk us out of fishing.  The rain had been heavy for two days and the water was a mess.  Although the current was not any faster, the water was dirty.  He was there at Rio River Rafting with another guide who was similarly discouraging his client.  But, the day was so nice we figured it was better to be in a boat on the water with a fly rod than just about anywhere else. 

To change things up, we went upriver to the Maricopa Riverside Lodge around mile 2.5 and fished back down to Rio River Rafting.  I have to say that this is a much prettier section of the river than below Rio River.  But, it is also the put and take area of the river and does not hold many fish a month after stocking.  We worked it pretty hard for a while with both nymphs and streamers to no avail.  I finally dropped my fly on a very nice rainbow that was worth a picture.  After lunch, we waded a stretch and while I goofed off, Matt hit a pod of fish and got three hits on three casts.  Then it was over as quickly as it started.

Like everything in Texas, fly fishing for trout turns out to be a little different – and being close to Austin, I suppose a little weird.  The trout act funny and guides will actually try to talk you into keeping your money.  But it was a nice break from the work routine and a good warm up for Spring trout on a mountain stream.  Matt and I are considering the Provo River in March.  I hear there are big, native brown, rainbows, cutthroat and even brookies in the upper regions.  

Northshore Fun: Breweries and Vineyards

Posted by Benson

There's no doubt that New Orleans is a fantastic place for a good time, but if you're coming down for the crawfish boil, there's a lot of fun things to do on the Northshore as well.

The crawfish boil is in Madisonville, which is on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.  It's about forty minutes across the Causeway from New Orleans.  If you want to spend all of your crawfish free time in the city, you'll have an awesome time for sure, but if you want to experience a bit of the Northshore, what's a better place to start than breweries and vineyards?

The Northshore is home to two microbreweries and one vineyard, all of which you can visit for tours and tastings.

In historic Old Covington you'll find the Heiner Brau microbrewery.  Heiner Brau is a charming microbrewery in the heart of Old Covington.  You'll find it on Lockwood street a couple of blocks away from the courthouse (and Bill's house).  I have to say that I am developing a growing appreciation for Heiner Brau's brews.  Brewmaster Henryk Orlik is incredibly well schooled in the German brewing arts, and has produced a delightful range of brews.  Of course, the Oktoberfest is a favorite seasonal of mine, but the Bayou Bock is an awesome beer that the brewery makes year round.  It has much of what I appreciate in a great beer: smooth on the palate, a rich malty flavor, and flowery hops.

Heiner Brau just started doing tours again too.  You can visit the brewery on the second and fourth Saturday every month, which works out for us since March 10th is the second Saturday.  Tours start at 10:00 a.m., 10:45 a.m., and 11:30 a.m., so you can pop in for a tour and still have plenty of time to make it to the crawfish boil.  In the past, the Heiner Brau tour has been a relaxed, welcoming experience paired with a veritable waterfall of tasting.  I haven't been to the brewery's new tour setup, but I think it will be much of the same.  I'll swing by this weekend and report back.

The other brewery that you can visit on the Northshore is one of my favorite places in the world: The Abita Brewery.  If you know much about me, you know that I am a huge fan of the Abita Brewery.  I've watched this local favorite climb higher and higher in the US brewing world and still maintain its rigid adherence quality.  Defying the recession, the Abita Brewery is expanding yet again, and sending its amazing libations farther around the country than ever before!  The best part about this time of year though is that one of my favorite Abita brews, the Mardi Gras Bock, is back in season.

I highly recommend the Abita Brewery tour.  The Abita Brewery has set tour times, but on Saturdays the tasting room is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Tours are on the hour starting at 11.  The tasting room is nice, with all of the brewery's beers on tap and as many trips to the tap as you want.  Unfortunately, the Abita tour will probably be a little less intimate than Heiner Brau.  As the Abita Brewery has become more successful, the tours have become a lot more popular than they once were.  Just remember to wear closed toed shoes or they'll make you wear booties.  And here's a pro tip:  If the tasting room is crowded and the tour looks packed, just hang back in the tasting room and hob nob with the employees in there.  They'll tell you whatever you want to know and its easier to get to the taps.

Finally, if beer isn't your thing, and even if it is, you can visit Pontchartrain Vineyards for a change of pace.  one of the few vineyards around New Orleans, Pontchartrain Vineyards is rather unique.  The winery is a ways up north of Covington in Bush, LA, but it'll only take you about 15 minutes to get there once you're on the Northshore.  The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.

My wife and sister-in-law really enjoy visiting the tasting room.  Like Heiner Brau, it isn't heavily traveled and you get to have a lot of one on one contact with the proprietors, who are always excited to talk about their wines.  Tastings are five dollars, but it is a very modest fee for the experience.

If you're feeling frisky, and you have someone willing to do the driving, you could head over to the Northshore early on Saturday morning and hit all three before the boil.  You can start out at Heiner Brau in Covington with the 10:00 a.m. tour, slide 10 minutes east to Abita for the brewery tour, take a shortcut from Abita up to Bush when the Pontchartrain Vineyards tasting room opens as noon, and be back in Madisonville for the crawfish boil by 1:00!

If you don't feel like leaving New Orleans, you can still have some fun visiting microbreweries.  New Orleans is home to NOLA Brewing and a few other microbreweries.  I've focused on NOLA Brewing for a couple of reasons.  First, NOLA Brewing has a brewery tour every Friday at 2:00 p.m., but more importantly, NOLA Brewing has been making some awesome beers!  The brewery has been operating since 2008, so it is a relative newcomer, but its beer is master-crafted.  

I am a particular fan of the Hopitoulas IPA.  At 6% ABV it is a little stiff for a beer.  It has a nice, hoppy flavor without it being overpowering, and you get a brisk hint of citrus.  It has the full flavor you can expect in a good IPA, but the balance is such that it doesn't feel like you're being assaulted by hops.

If liquor is your thing, New Orleans is also home to several distilleries, such as the Old New Orleans rum distillery.  Old New Orleans has daily tours Monday through Friday at 12, 2, and 4 p.m.  On Saturdays, tours are at 2 and 4 p.m.  The tours are 10 bucks, but I hear that they are fun.  I've never been myself, but I have heard good things.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Posted by Benson

I've been to Boston plenty of times, both for business and just for fun.  It is a great city that is always a pleasure to visit.  Being a New Orleanian at heart, I have a fondness for old American port cities.  Port cities have a special character, and their economic and cultural significance usually means that there's a great deal of historical preservation, often right alongside the high rises and modern architecture of our modern industrial  society.  In this regard, Boston does not disappoint.  I love how the wonderfully preserved stables of the Boston cityscape can appear around a corner almost out of nowhere while at the same time feeling like ever-present landmarks.

We did a little work around Boston last week, and because we were flying out early in the morning we decided to stay at the Logan Airport Hilton on our last night in the area.  A few of us didn't feel like eating at the airport and were having trouble figuring out what to do about it until Mark Ihrie from Sights and Sounds suggested that we head over to the original Cheers on Beacon Hill.  

It immediately struck me that out of all the times I have been to Boston, I had never been to Cheers, neither the Beacon Hill original, nor the Marketplace replica!  So of course I immediately said yes and we grabbed a cab.

I have to say that was a really nice experience.  The bar is cozy with some decent beer on tap and awesome Tiffany lampshades.  Bill also got himself a little Cheers memorabilia, although the magnets that he purchased caused him to accidentally pilfer some cutlery.  You can see in the picture below that unbeknownst to Bill a knife has hitched a ride on his bag.

After dinner the night was young, so we attempted to take the scenic walking route down to the Marketplace Cheers replica.  It was a great stroll for a while, but it was a little too chilly for my southern sensibilities, so we ducked into the Beantown Pub.  It's a cool little pub on Tremont street not far from Boston Commons.  It has a nice vibe, plenty of pool tables, great wait staff, and bartenders that are generous when they mix a drink.  

We ended up hanging out at Beantown until the Bruins game was over, and it started getting a tad too crowded and rowdy.  I don't know much of anything about hockey, but Bill is a big Flyers fan.  He assured me that losing 3-0 is not something that makes one terribly happy, so we got while the getting was good.

All and all it was a great night, and I'll have to remember to check out the Cheers down by Faneuil Hall next time I'm in Boston.  It was a reminder that sometimes it's good to do the touristy stuff, even in your home town.  My wife and I love being home-town tourists during the off season in New Orleans.  Ya'll should also check out the Beantown Pub if you are in Boston.  It is a fun little place.

Crawfish 101: How to Eat Crawfish

Posted by Benson

Last year before the crawfish boil I posted an article about what crawfish are, where they come from, and most importantly how to eat them.  You can find a little video tutorial of the method towards the end of the article here.

I also found this handy diagram in Southern Living:

The method is simple, but it peeling a crawfish quickly and efficiently takes some practice.  If you find yourself having trouble, stick with it for a bit and you'll master the technique in no time.  Of course any of us locals or boil veterans will be happy to help you out too.

Depending on how a crawfish is cooked, the meat can be tender and fragile, or a little more firm.  The stiffness of the shell also has a lot to do with the temperature the crawfish is cooked at.  A properly cooked crawfish should have tender meat and shell that peels right off.  If you find one that's hard to peel, it's better to discard it and start on another one.  Hard to peel crawfish are probably a little overcooked, so you won't be rewarded for your effort.

If you find yourself mangling a bunch of crawfish in a row, and you always seem to be shredding the meat, you're probably being a little too aggressive with your peeling.  You want to catch the segments of the tail with the tip of your thumb and then peel them off with a circular motion, kind of like pulling the plastic ring off of a gallon of milk.  That should keep your fingers away from the tender meat.

We can't wait to see everyone at the boil!  This year should be an even bigger success than last year.  We've also been collecting a stash of gifts and door prizes for our out of town guests, so leave a little room in your suitcase.  I found some great pieces at the Abita Mystery House, so watch out!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Crawfish 101

Posted by Benson

For those of ya'll who have never been to a crawfish boil, you're probably curious about exactly what it is.  Before last year's crawfish boil I wrote a post about what a crawfish boil is and described its significance in the culture of south Louisiana.  You can check that out here.

Crawfish boils are important social events within the fabric of southern Louisiana culture.  A crawfish boil is a time for people to come together to appreciate all of the best things in our lives.  It is not just about making food and spending time together.  It is a shared celebration of home and culture.

While crawfish can be found all over the world to one degree or another, the way in which they naturally flourish in the landscape of south Louisiana is somewhat peculiar.  Because of this, in Louisiana, the consumption of freshly boiled crawfish in such large quantities has a very strong relationship to place.  Louisianians produce the vast majority of US crawfish and we actually eat almost all of it ourselves.  Even though Louisiana accounts for more than 90 percent of total US crawfish production, an estimated three quarters of Louisiana crawfish are produced for local consumption!

Nobody eats crawfish like we do in south Louisiana, but the way that we experience crawfish is also self-perpetuating.  Today, most of the crawfish in Louisiana is produced through aquaculture.  The mudbug thrives naturally in the Atchafalya basin, and this tasty crustacean was relished by each successive wave of the basin's human residents.  Even so, the crawfish long had a stigma in modern Louisiana culture.  It was, much like oysters, strongly associated with the diet of Cajuns, and was viewed as a low class food eaten by the rural poor.  But as Louisianians began to appreciate the story of their collective experience, Cajun culture became less and less stigmatized, and the crawfish along with it.

Today, the crawfish has grown into a symbol of Louisiana's cultural roots, and the delicious, jovial excess of a crawfish boil help to connect us with a unique past and allow us to participate in an identity based on recognition of our shared experience.  The Atchafalya basin and the port of New Orleans have always brought together a rich diversity of residents, and acknowledging shared experience has long been a vital part of successfully navigating such a varied social landscape.  The humble crawfish acts as a catalyst for this process because of its democratizing impact.

In southern Louisiana today, everyone eats crawfish.  Crawfish are plentiful, cheap, and make extremely good eating.  The crawfish has grown above social distinctions such as class, race, and gender.  It carries virtually no social stigma to locals and is a food that is accessible to almost anyone.  The consumption of crawfish, especially in the context of a crawfish boil, therefore forges commonality of experience that cuts across lines of difference.

Although the Louisiana style crawfish boil is relatively unique, the purpose it serves is not, nor should it be.  The Atchafalya basin and the port of New Orleans are a microcosm of what defines our country.  The Unites States is defined in many ways by its diversity.  It is a tapestry woven of many different strands, ideally focused on the singular goal of liberty.  Diversity is a source of great strength when otherwise disparate peoples are united in a common purpose, but liberty on its own is an all too nebulous idea.

In his recently published book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, author Charles Murray argues that what he identifies as an alarming rate of increasing class division is rooted in a lack of common experience between people from different economic backgrounds.  He argues that cultural differences have become so deeply ingrained that in addition to having different views on education, childcare, etc., people from different classes often experience popular culture in radically different ways.  They don't watch the same movies, listen to the same music, or even eat the same type of food.

Recognition of shared experience is vital to the success of our republican experiment.  Common experience helps to breed unity while simultaneously celebrating diversity.  It is how we are able to form and perpetuate a society.  But as Charles Murray has argued, our nation is drifting apart into increasingly insular communities.  In southern Louisiana, the crawfish boil helps to focus our attention on the commonalities of our experiences, rather than the differences.  It reminds us to focus on the ways in which we are connected, and if you take the time to look, you'll find that they are manifold.

Not only are we all heirs to a common history of North American experience, but we are connected by a complex interplay of environment and culture.  We Louisianians may eat three quarters of our crawfish, but they flourish in an alluvial plain formed from a river system that drains more than forty percent of North America.  They are as much a part of the rest of the country as New Orleans is.  And it is in this spirit that we extend to all of our friends the opportunity to come to New Orleans and share some of our experiences.  We invite everyone to spare a moment and think about what we all have in common, regardless of how different we may seem on the surface.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Crawfish Boil: Hotels and RSVPs

Posted by Benson

Wow, the crawfish boil is just a month away!  Things have been moving fast around here lately, and the boil will be here before we know it.  Everyone should have gotten their invitations by now, so if you haven't gotten one and you think you should have, shoot Doug an e-mail.

Although the invitations don't say it, invitees are more than welcome to bring friends and family with them to the boil.  We'll have a a pile of wrist bands at the door for anyone you'd like to bring with you.  I had thought about putting two bands in every invitation, but I think Bill would have killed me.  Even with one band he was giving me dirty looks.

In order to figure out how much crawfish to buy, we'll need to figure out how many people will be at the boil.

If you are planning on coming, Please RSVP.

You can let us know you're coming by sending Doug an e-mail (dgreen@dgjury.com).

If you're planning on coming down for the boil and you haven't already booked your hotel, here are a few suggestions:

First off, the crawfish boil is being held, as always, at Friends Coastal Restaurant in Madisonville LA.

Madisonville is a small historic river town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  It's about ten minutes from our office in Covington, and about 40 minutes from New Orleans.

Madisonville is a lovely town to visit with a ton of charm and several interesting attractions.  But you can't find any accommodations in Madisonville.  There are a few places that you can try in nearby Covington and Mandeville, although the best places you will find are bed and breakfasts.

In Covington, one of the best B&Bs is Annadele's.  Annadele's is a lovely plantation home near Old Covington.  The grounds are charming and the rooms are rather nice.  My sister had her wedding at Annadele's and my wife and I were impressed with the accommodations.  The restaurant is also usually pretty good, and would be a nice place for breakfast if you stayed there.

Blue Willow Bed and Breakfast is another nice B&B in Covington.  I've never stayed there personally, but it has gotten very good reviews and I've always thought that it looked like a nice place to stay.

Maison Reve Farm is a lovely B&B about twenty minutes north of Madisonville in Folsom.  It is quiet, tasteful, and out of the way while still being close to the boil and New Orleans.

Even though New Orleans is a little farther away than accommodations on the north shore, I highly suggest that boil attendees find accommodations in the city.  Most of the drive to the north shore is taken up by traversing the Causeway Bridge, so it is a very easy drive to make.

If you're looking for something quiet and relaxing, a B&B on the north shore would be perfect, but you'll probably find yourself spending more time on the south shore no matter where you stay.

In New Orleans, I highly recommend the French Quarter for out of town guests.  Staying the the Quarter is a unique experience and puts you right into the action.  Most of the city's tourist attractions are easily accessible from the French Quarter, but you'll find that the quarter tends to be a 'round the clock type of place that remains vibrant at all hours.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel is a good place to stay in the quarter.  It is right on Bourbon Street which is a plus in many ways, although you will find it to be bustling, especially in early March.

Jamie likes the W New Orleans - French Quarter hotel.  She and her husband have stayed there before and recommend it highly.  Its restaurant, Bacco, is good, and the hotel is in a quieter part of the Quarter down on Chartres Street, but still only a couple of blocks from Bourbon.

The Omni on St. Louis is also good place to stay, and a bit more luxurious.  You'll find rooms with a lovely view of the St. Louis Cathedral.

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.

The Courtyard Marriott is down by the river walk, which is still within walking distance of the French Quarter, although it will take a stroll to get down to Jackson Square.

If you're looking for a more modestly priced hotel, the Country Inn and Suites downtown is a well-rated hotel with modest prices that still isn't terribly far from the French Quarter.  It is on the corner of Magazine and Gravier, meaning that it isn't really in the Quarter, but it is in a decent part of downtown New Orleans between Poydras and Canal Street.