Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dreaming of the Deutches Haus

In honor of my Dad's birthday today, I decided to blog about my dad and I's favorite upcoming Fall event in New Orleans, Oktoberfest at the Deutches Haus. (Pictured are my dad, me, and my brother, Richard) I love Oktoberfest; beer, brats, shots, chicken dance... I love it but, since I have not been able to make it to Germany to celebrate the New Orleans Deutches Haus has been my place to party for many years. This weekend kicks off the festivities which will continue every weekend throughout October. I have already been called by many of NOLA friends reminding me of the upcoming event, basically trying to make me jealous. ( Just a reminder to everyone back in New Orleans- you don't have to keep trying to make me jealous about how much fun you are having there- I know- I am jealous- it didn't take you calling me to remind me). Anyhow, I will be celebrating Oktoberfest around here somewhere, even if it is a party at my house, I think I still have those beer goggles, but it will never be the Deutches Haus. If you live in New Orleans or are just visiting this is the place to celebrate and you can check out all of the festivities at I will keep you posted if I find anywhere to celebrate around here. Happy Birthday dad; love you and wish I could be there to share a pitcher with you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"It's Not A Box"

I have always been in love with the children's book, "It's Not A Box", by Antoinette Portis. It emphasizes the element of creativity and imaginative play. When reading this book with the children that I work with, I picked up on a way to use our creativity and an empty box. Believe it or not but, kids at an early age pick up on everything that is said around them and the kids that I work with always talk about the "puter" and how they need to check "their e-mails." I know that they don't know what e-mails really are yet, (they are three years old) but to encourage their interest in technology we created a mini-computer out of:

Mini Apple Computer

a box
colored construction paper
print out of a keyboard
black chalkboard paint
and a mini-mouse that a friend of mine had


Assemble as you would like.

This was our result. Pictured here is Izzo playing on the "Puter"- she is not quite three yet.

Dinner Last Night- Grilled Lamb Chops and Cauliflower with a curried currant couscous

I will say that the Lamb from a local meat market around here has a severe mutton flavor and I will not be buying it again, but grilling cauliflower is a really fun and different way of preparing a rather bland vegetable, I parboiled the cauliflower and then seasoned it with salt, pepper, and olive oil before grilling it on the Green Egg (the best grilling machine ever). I also made a curried couscous with curry, currants, carrot, green onion, buttered onions, and parsley. I just buy plain couscous and add whatever I am in the mood for, but I like the way it tastes when adding curry paste.

The New Love of My Life...My New Mr.Coffee coffee maker

So it is no secret that I love coffee and now that I am 60 miles from the nearest Starbucks, making my own coffee is a necessity not an option. Before moving I did downgrade my coffee shop visits, so making my own coffee has always been something that I have done, but now I am really trying to do it well. I know that Mr. Coffee coffee makers don't sound like the best buy out there, but honestly I love this coffee maker. I have done many types of coffee makers in the past; the french press, the percolator, the cappuccino machine, etc.. but I needed something quick and pretty mindless for the early mornings. The vintage look and red color are what attracted me to this model and type in the beginning, but I had an old Mr. Coffee coffee maker that held up pretty well and made great coffee before, so I felt confident that this would probably be a good investment. I purchased it on E-bay, so after selling a few items of clothing that I had cleared from my closet during spring cleaning, I got it for almost nothing. I believe however, that it retails for about $125. Now I know it isn't a fancy espresso or cappuccino machine, but honestly I am not a barista and I just want a good cup of hot coffee ready for me when I need to crack my eyes open and this does it's job, and does it well. In conclusion, this coffee maker makes 12 cups of wonderful coffee (filtered and all) and the look of it is splendid, I could not be more pleased. More caffeine please.

Monday, September 22, 2008

French Café is it French or totally confused?

One great thing about living in Orange City, Iowa is that we are only two hours away from Omaha, my future home. I love Omaha and hope to be living there by this time next year or sooner, but I have some serious issues with a lot of there so-called good restaurants. For instance, yesterday on an excursion to Omaha, my friends and I dined at the French Café for dinner. This is rated as being one of the best restaurants in Omaha, but besides having a completely disappointing experience for the third time now, I believe the restaurant has an identity crisis.

As mentioned this was the third time I have dined at the French Café in the Old Market area of Omaha and the third time that I was highly disappointed. I know most of you are thinking, why would you go back to a place if it is not any good? Well for one it seems that there really are not many good restaurants in the Old Market of Omaha, even though they may claim to be, the disappointment seems to be widespread. I enjoy La Buvette, Vivace, and M's Pub, but I think they all have the same problem; they lack standard flavors, depth, and excitement. I know we are in the midwest here, but when you choose to go back to a restaurant that you know is not good, something is wrong, but I digress. French Café, It seems like it would be so easy, I mean classic french food has been around for centuries and not much has changed. Honestly my whole heritage is based around the French culture and French food and it is not that difficult; garlic, butter, salt, and pepper, some cream, and maybe a few herbs, but I guess the Chef at French Café doesn't know much about french food, considering that he had Thai dishes, Greek dishes, and Iowa Berkshire pork on the menu, and so many other atrocities. Lets begin dish by dish with what was wrong this time:

First- Cheese Plate.... How can you fuck up a cheese cooking even involved. Well this guy either doesn't know what a french cheese is or he doesn't care and just went to the average grocery store that day and picked up some Kraft specials. Honestly there was Dill Havarti, Cheddar, a fruit and nut cheese (disgusting), and finally a french cheese- but a bad brie none the less, and then the ultimate puzzlement, Hummus. Hummus on the French Cheese Plate. And you would think maybe this would at least all be served with a crusty french baguette and some nice herbed butter, but no. Wafer thin crackers with land-o-lakes margarine in their wrappers. So elegant. Seriously a disaster.

Second- Even though it is the French Cafe, I was in the mood for something a bit lighter, so I actually tried the Salad Argentine with Lamb Chops. I also chose this, because the last two times I was there I had the lackluster Steak Tartare, Smoked Salmon, and the Escargot. The lamb salad was supposed to come with a chimichurri sauce over greens, feta cheese, and Kalamata olives. Well the chimichurri was completely absent, leaving only the naked lamb, and I mean naked, no salt or pepper or butter, nothing. The olives were not good at all, literally I think they were old and over brined, and the feta cheese lacked flavor.

Third- As mentioned, all of the French Appetizers I had already tried and found them to lack flavor, so again I went with something a little different, the seared Tuna appetizer with a ginger cabbage and cilantro oil. Again, I know I ordered it, but are we in a sushi restaurant or a french one? I felt totally confused and after trying it, completely done with the food at French Café.

On a positive note I can say that the French Onion Soup and the Pommes Frites are exceptional there, but all of the other menu items are a failure. Now if service had been great maybe I would not have realized how my friends mussels were old, how the dill Havarti had no place on a cheese plate, and how the wine list lacked almost any french brands or names (pinot grigios?), but unfortunately the service is worse than the food. Literally I don't know if our waiter was stoned, hung over, or sniffing paint fumes in the back, but his lackadaisical attitude and lack of knowledge on how to even make a martini made me want to get up and leave at the drink orders, but none the less I gave the French Café its last chance, and my consensus is it is a confused mess and will never see me again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Get Your Saints Gear Here... at Etsy

That's right it is football season again and really for me that just means Saint's season. I do not watch football unless I am forced to or it is the Saint's. I have been going to Saint's games since I was a kid and there is definitely no place like "The Dome" to see a Saint's game, but now that I am in Iowa I will have to settle for my living room and no dome foam, but I am still gonna get decked out for games. I have discovered the latest and greatest thing for planning my Saint's outfits now and the best part is that everything is hand/homemade. If you have not heard about Etsy yet, than you need to get on the bandwagon. I started a pact that I would only buy gifts for people from Etsy now. Everything is unique and handmade by thousands of different artists, designers, crafters, strange birds and etc... No mass marketed Wal-Mart jersey's here (yes I do have one), just interesting and different things to add to your wardrobe or home. All of the items I have chosen could help to make your Saint's season just a bit more fun. Above is the kind of scary, but very cool, Saint's collage sculpture that could be a great addition to any "who dat" fan. But let's get into the cute stuff.

This super cute Bobby Pin set is great and only costs $5.00. That is amazing.

These earings could be worn all year round from Saint's games, to LSU functions, and during Mardi Gras for sure. For $9.00 you can not beat it.

Seriously, could anything be cuter than seeing a baby wearing this. Even if you are not a Saint's fan, this is still a totally cool onesie and as a plus it can be for a boy or girl.

For the grown and sexy ladies though, I totally think this little babydoll tank top is adorable. I am getting my future mother-in-law one for sure. At $21.00 this shirt is totally "Saintsational".

Here is something a little different than your Mignon Faget jewelry of yesteryear. Give that stuff a rest and take a look at some new jewelry, like this necklace from a designer in Honolulu.

I am a huge fan of big cocktail rings, there is something about them that makes my hands feel regal. I am kind of gaining a collection. This one has been handcrafted by a woman in Wright City and is only $15.00.

For the men out there, I don't want you to feel left out. If you are feeling a bit more trendy than your jersey and face paint (hopefully not body too) then you might want to try one of these t-shirts made by Happyfamily in New Orleans. They are $24.00.

Last but not least...

Do something really great by buying one of these "upcycled" bags from GetReadySetGo. "Upcycled" literally means just upgrading something recycled or vintage. Most of these bags do not have Fleur De Lis emblems on them, but they are the cutest pieces of luggage. I would love to have this bag though to carry all of my tailgating needs to the dome.

I hope ya'll have gotten some ideas for some good gear. Keep the Dome rockin' for me and have a double Bloody as we cheer on our Saint's for another great season. "Superbowl 2008 for sure this year".

Everything seen above and so much more Saint's and Fleur De Lis stuff can be purchased at Etsy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eating Ethnic in and around Sioux County

One of my biggest passions in life is food. That should come as no surprise to you, since I am from New Orleans which is inundated with fantastic food at every corner, but even though my memories of home-cooking will always be cajun/creole, my heart and stomach are always craving something a little more exotic (for me- obviously cajun/creole food is pretty exotic to most people). So when I moved to rural Iowa I was not expecting to find any restaurants that catered to my ethnic food needs, especially any that could live up to some of the places I was used to ( Bangkok Cuisine, Taj Mahal, Nine Roses, and the mega Asian Superstore on the westbank - the best bank for Vietnamese cooking- all New Orleans greats). So when our friend, the chef and our roommate, Kirk, took us to Sioux City to eat at some of his favorite ethnic spots, I was little pessimistic to say the least. However, I should have known that Kirk knew what he was talking about since his father spent a lot of his life in Thailand and Asia and Kirk's favorite foods all center around Asian fare. So we headed to Sioux City to check out a few local Vietnamese places first. Cafe Danh located at, 1529 Pierce Street, Sioux City, IA 51105, was our first joint to explore, and we actually got the recommendation from some Vietnamese friends of ours that live around here. The atmosphere was nothing to be excited about, but that is a trend that seems to hold true for all of the haunts that we explored, however we came for one thing, well maybe two. Bahn-mi and Beer. Being Sunday, the only day that my boyfriend, myself, and Chef Kirk have off from work and living in a town that sells practically nothing on Sunday, especially alcohol, we were craving some relaxation and good food. So with a couple of Tsing-tao's and some Bahn-Mi we had heard about, we were ready for a little taste of heaven. Bahn-Mi "is a Vietnamese baguette made with wheat and rice flour, as well as a type of sandwich traditionally made with this type of baguette. The sandwich is made up of thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon, onions, cilantro, jalapeño peppers and meat or tofu. Popular bánh mì fillings include roasted or grilled pork, Vietnamese Ham, paté, mayonnaise, chicken, and head cheese."

The Bahn-Mi at Cafe Danh

This sandwich contained a few types of pate, some grilled pork, and all of the other fixin's. It was so wonderful and because one sandwich literally cost $2.50, we took three home for later. Christian did try some of their Pho, but unfortunately I have to say it was really not good, however our next spot knew how to get it right. Da Kao, Chinese and Vietnamese Restaurant, located at 800 West 7th Street, Sioux City, IA 51103, is great place to get a large steaming hot bowl of pho, with all of the wonderful and fresh herbs and such that go on top. I would ask for extra cilantro though, because they never seem to give enough. Pho is the main dish that I would go to Da Kao for but their Spring Rolls are pretty good and they also have some good looking Chinese dishes, if that is what you are looking for. Just right up the street from Da Kao though has become the place of my infatuation, Diamond Thai Cuisine. It is no secret that i love everything spicy and any Thai curry dish would be my last meal If I was about to face my creator, so on another food scouting mission I took the belt off and let my waistline go for an all out gorge fest at Diamond Thai. I can't remember everything that we ordered, but the standouts were the beef salad, squid salad, lemongrass and seafood soup, chicken skewers, some type of sweet corn fritters, and the pumpkin curry.

Pumpkin Curry at Diamond Thai

Well I couldn't talk about ethnic food without including my other two staples, Sushi and Indian. Before moving to Iowa, sushi was a staple in my diet. I ate sushi in some form or another at least two times a week. It helped a lot that I worked right behind Whole Foods in New Orleans, and their sushi happened to be a perfect lunch pickup for me. But sushi was not really an option for me when moving to Iowa, where fish are barely found and if they are the quality mostly sucks, unless it is a good frozen import. So I was thrilled when I went to Fuji Bay Japanese Restaurant, located at 513 6th St., Sioux City, IA 51101. I went there on a covert operation, because my boyfriend told me not to even try sushi that came out of Iowa. So one day I bellied up to the sushi bar at Fuji Bay and ordered the sashimi lunch, I am not really a roll fanatic, because I don't want to mask the real flavors of what sushi is about, Fish. The sashimi had tuna, white fish, and salmon and it came with miso soup. Honestly, I am glad that those were the fish chosen, because I know that most people can get good quality frozen types of these fish. And the sashimi plate was great as well as the company of the sushi master himself. All around it was a good experience and I would definitely go back.

Sashimi Plate. Yum!

Well last on the culinary tour actually takes us away from Sioux City and to the more urban and upcoming area of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This is the only place to find Indian Food within 90 miles of here. Taste of India in Sioux Falls is great and even does a buffet for lunch with almost every type of Indian dish for you to try. I don't make it there often, because honestly I really don't like Sioux Falls at all, it has NO SOUL, but I will travel there to eat and shop.

I hope that if you are a foodie, like myself, and are traveling around the Sioux County area and beyond that this will give you some hope for finding some good ethnic spots, which happen to be cheap eats too. However, if you really want to find some good ethnic food and don't mind driving a bit, just head to Omaha, where you can find any type of good food imaginable. If you do travel to Omaha though and are looking for some recommendations, please don't hesitate to write me. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ingrid Lucia

One of the amazing things about New Orleans that i miss more than anything is the MUSIC. There is no better feeling than going out on a random night of the week and stumbling upon some great band or musician playing around town. I have no end to my favorite New Orleans musicians, but one that sticks in my mind and really makes me miss those New Orleans nights is Ingrid Lucia.

This is me and Ingrid (I am not friends with her, but I did happen to meet her) on one of my last nights of celebration before I moved from New Orleans.

Ingrid's style is nothing less than a beautiful homage to the sexy, yet demure jazz singers of the past however she brings it up to date with her original songs and fresh spunk. Her music will woo you into a jazz laden dream and send you off into New Orleans dancing the night away. "Sunny Afternoon" is one of my favorite songs of all times, literally it can transpose me into a good mood anytime I hear it and now that Summer is literally over here in Iowa and it has already dropped into the 50's, this song just makes me forget about the dreary winter ahead. Check out "Sunny Afternoon" and all of Ingrid's other music and shows coming up at her website at

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Omnivores Dilemma

Recently I have been occupying my time with the best selling book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and there honestly could not be a more pertinent book for me to be reading right now. The author, Michael Pollan, does a fantastic job of explaining the dillema that Americans mostly face of now having an abundance of food, and how that has created so many new problems for us as a population. Not only have we practically eliminated any real connection between ourselves and the foods that we eat, but these foods are now lacking any of the real nutritious elements that our bodies so crave and need. More directly linked to me and my current location though is how Pollan puts Iowa and its farmed corn at the center of these new food and health related problems. It has never been a secret that Iowa produces more corn than any other place on the planet and that the farmer's in the area that I now live have been getting rich off it for decades, but we as a country arent' really eating that much corn, so where does it all go? Well this book definitely answers that question and if you are un-enlightened as to the nutrional facts of what goes into the things that you eat, than you are sure in for a surprise. Pollan describes Americans as "Corn Walking". This term originated from the Maya living in Mexico because of how much corn they had in their diet, but Americans have far surpassed any other culture in the consumption of corn. Pollan states, "Corn is in the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and frozen waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and the bologna, the margarine and shortening, the salad dressings and the reslishes and even the vitamins. There are some forty-five thousand items in the average American supermarket and more that a quarter of them now contain corn." These facts are pretty amazing, but one thing that the book has not yet gone into (but I am sure it will as I progress) is that corn is mostly sugar. These concealed sugars present a large problem for me being in the childcare field; all of the school lunches that children are getting are loaded with not only preservatives but, also hidden sugars from corn which may cause children to become hyper, excited, and possibly cause their attention to drop. For me, this presents a problem when the children I watch are not napping and their sleeping schedules become erratic This can make a child groggy, angry, and not fresh. Many parents don't realize how much sugar is in certain foods and my absolute nemesis is Ketchup. What kid does not love ketchup? However ketchup is so full of high fructose corn syrup that we might as well be giving our kids candy.

So far, I don't believe that Pollan is making out corn and the Iowa farmers to be any more than a link to the much larger problems that we have with our national nutrition crisis, and it is a crisis, but living now in Iowa and seeing farmers every day that are paid six figures or more just to farm corn or in some cases to not farm anything at all, just drives this problem a little closer to home for me. Our nutrition problem is so bad off that the American government has made it impossible for its populus to ever get healthier unless the government is willing to lose money and cause the Farmer's that they bank role to go bankrupt.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Orange City, Iowa Farmer's Market

These were the finds at the Orange City Farmer's Market this weekend. There were lots of potatoes, onions, apples, and squash available as well, but I have been cooking with a lot of those recently and I think I am going to make a homemade pasta sauce tomorrow. So between these tomatoes and the ones from my garden I think I am in good shape. I also picked up some free-range organic chickens from one of the vendors. Though it comes skinless and cut up it is a great deal and looks lovely. I can't wait to use those. Of course it would not be the Farmer's Market if I did not get some baked goods from my friend Mary.

She always does fresh baked bread, but this time she outdid herself and made the best Lavender Almond Tea Cakes. I don't know where she finds the time. But all together it was a great Farmer's Market for Orange City.

Roux even came too to see what was going on.

Roux the St. Bernard

I had always wanted a dog, but living in an apartment in New Orleans with a dog just wasn't a real option for me. So when we moved up to Iowa we knew that we had the space and time to devote to getting a puppy. We took home Roux on June 15th, 2008; she was 11 weeks old. She is a pure bread St. Bernard from a breeder in Council Bluffs. She was and is absolutely beautiful and I knew from the second I saw her that she was coming home with us. I believe she weighed about 30 or so pounds when we got her and now she is pushing 60. She is absolutely though a gentle giant and she provides so much fun for us. I will be updating you regularly with her progression to beast status, but for now enjoy this puppy picture of the day that we took her home.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Missing out on my first Mardi Gras was a low in my year.

I moved to Iowa in JANUARY! Yes I did. The snow was thick and everywhere. However, the weather seemed like a beautiful scenery change and I adjusted quickly, but missing Mardi Gras was difficult. This is one of Christian and I's favorite memories of Mardi Gras. Walking in the St. Ann's parade on Mardi Gras day is one of the greatest expereinces in the world. We planned our costumes with friends for weeks and even got some pointers from some real Mardi Gras Indians. These memories are always what will make New Orleans forever in my heart.