And now…on with the show! (Did you miss Part One of the New Orleans adventure? Click here and catch up.)
As one would fully expect, on Saturday afternoon of a three-day weekend, the French Quarter and surrounding area were full of people. Not obscene numbers, but plenty going on. It seemed like a big weekend for bachelor and bachelorette parties, and we ran into plenty of drunk people at all hours of the day. But as we made our way to Cafe Du Monde for beignets, it wasn’t too bad. The sky was overcast and the humidity had dropped a little bit. It wasn’t the suffocating stickiness from earlier in the day, which made it easier to munch on hot fried dough!
The famous beignet spot
To be honest, I hadn’t thought about doing much out of the ordinary for my 40th birthday. Maybe something slightly bigger than a normal birthday, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. But then, last winter, I saw some of my friends doing some traveling for their 40th birthdays. And the wheels began to turn…maybe I should go somewhere too! And once that idea grabbed hold, it was hard to let go.
I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been, that had great food, and that would be fun to explore with friends. My final list was New Orleans, Austin (TX) and Portland (OR). Now, Portland broke the “never been” rule, but I’d barely scratched the surface and felt it was fair game. I reached out to the small group that I was hoping would attend and gathered opinions. After all, if they were going to spend money to travel somewhere for me, I’d like it to be more of a group decision. In the end, New Orleans won out and the Labor Day weekend extravaganza started to take shape.
Roll back the clock about eighteen months, if you will. I’m working out at the gym, just a two blocks from my Lower Nob Hill apartment. It’s a small gym, but it’s very often quiet and empty. A few TVs hang from the ceiling by the treadmills and ellipticals, and they’re always muted. On this particular day, as I lift weights a few feet away, I glance up at a TV during a rest and notice a chef making what looks to be cupcakes. (I believe it was the Rachael Ray Show but don’t hold me to it.)
I’m not a cake or cupcake fan at all, and I don’t recognize the chef. Figure he’s just some TV chef shilling a new product. But as the captions roll by on the screen, I learn he’s not just making any cupcakes, but they’re carrot cake cupcakes. And if there’s one type of cake I do like, it’s carrot cake. It’s not dry like most cakes, it’s got some spices working their magic, and of course there’s cream cheese frosting. And the captions explain that the chef makes it for his wife – I believe as a birthday treat.
I continue to work out and, as the segment finishes, I happen to catch his name – Curtis Stone – and learn he’s an LA chef. OK, so that’s interesting. I go home, look up the recipe to add it to my collection, and discover that Curtis Stone has got quite the interesting background. And more importantly, his new LA (Beverly Hills) restaurant, entitled Maude, has a very cool concept. Every month, they pick a seasonal ingredient and build an entire tasting menu around that ingredient. What a novel idea!
Cantaloupe sorbet to cleanse the palate at Gwen.
A few weeks ago, I officially went “over the hill” and left the 30’s behind me. As 40 approached, it became weirder and weirder to think of myself of being an age I used to consider so old. But I know 40 – to a kid – isn’t what 40 is to an adult, and 40 right now isn’t what 40 was twenty-five or thirty years ago.
I try to treat age as a state of mind and so, to the extent that my body will go along with me, I’m as young and energetic as I want to be! So, you’ll see below, how I chose to ring in a new decade.
Apple Fritter from Bob’s Doughnuts at the Original Farmer’s Market