Tag Archives: entertainment

135. Café Du Monde: Fried Dough at its Finest

6 Dec

cafe du mondeOh, Top Chef New Orleans, you’re killing me. When you edit in a shot of a certain green and white striped awning, Café Du Monde calls to me. And I think, “Yes, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, indeed I DO know what it means to miss New Orleans.”

What do I miss most about Café Du Monde? Two words: fried dough. Also, powdered sugar. Heaps of powdered sugar. Most of which will land on your blouse, pants, skirt, dress, suit jacket, tie, whatever. Maybe even your socks. It’s impossible to eat at Café Du Monde without making a mess of yourself. But that’s part of its charm.

Heaven on a plate...

Heaven on a plate…

You may be thinking “Perhaps I would order something other than beignets, then I wouldn’t get messy.” You also wouldn’t get fed, seeing as there is exactly one food item on the menu.

You might recall this excerpt from The Pelican Brief:

She bought a Post and a Times-Picayune from a sidewalk vendor and found a table in a deserted corner of Café Du Monde…A waiter finally made it by, and she ordered coffee and a plain bagel.

John Grisham might ought to have added that she (Darby) waited there till three days after the world ended and never did get served. There are no bagels, plain or otherwise, at Café Du Monde. And if “deserted corners” exist there, I’ve never seen them. But perhaps the crowds thin out at some point in the 24 hours they’re open each day.

I remember the first time I visited the Original French Market Coffee Stand. This was during the World’s Fair in 1984, when I sported one of my worst self-inflicted hairstyles. (I’d cropped my hair closely on both sides, leaving the bangs and back long–sort of a cross between a mullet and a mohawk. A mulhawk.)

Anyhoo, I sat at a hard-to-come-by table with various members of my family and was amazed that our waitress felt no need to write down the order. Later I realized this wasn’t such a miraculous feat given the limited menu options.

After a few minutes wait, we were presented with a pile of deep-fried dough covered under a mountain of powdered sugar. “This,” I thought, “is where I want to go when I die.” Which if I had the chance to eat there every day would happen sooner rather than later.

On the way out, one of us spotted a yellow box of beignet mix. Hallelujah! No longer would I be satisfied with makeshift donuts made from canned biscuit dough. Not when I could recreate the Café Du Monde experience at home.

Sadly, eating “homemade” beignets isn’t nearly as much fun because A. No cooks or waitresses and B. People-watching opportunities are limited. Besides which, deep frying dough requires a certain patience and skill that I lack. I probably still have a long-since expired box of beignet mix hiding in one of my kitchen cabinets.

Yes, y'all, they also sell coffee.

Yes, y’all, they also sell coffee.

Folks who’ve frequented Café Du Monde might be thinking, “What about the COFFEE? Get to the chicory coffee already!!”

Ok, so. I’ve heard tell that they make a mighty fine cup of Joe. I will take y’all’s word for it. Even after a decade in Seattle, I’m still not a coffee drinker.

But maybe that’s because I haven’t tried Café Du Monde’s legendary café au lait, half coffee and half hot milk. According to their website, the chicory softens the bitter edge of the dark roasted coffee, adding an almost chocolate flavor.

Sounds sort of like hot chocolate with extra caffeine. I will order a cup next time I’m there and report back.

beignet mixCDM coffeeIn the meantime, if you can’t get to the New Orleans area in the foreseeable future, don’t despair. On second thought, go ahead and despair. But know that you can order cans of chicory coffee and boxes of beignet mix direct from Café Du Monde here. The prices are quite reasonable, until you get to the shipping charges. Consider yourself warned.

What’s your fondest Café Du Monde memory? How many beignets can you eat in one sitting? And is chicory coffee really tastier than the regular stuff?

Photo Credits from Flickr Creative Commons: Cafe Du Monde exterior by praline3001; Plate ‘o Beignets by Tammy Camp and Café au Lait by Gwen Harlow.

127. Pilgrimage–Not Just for Pilgrims Anymore

28 Mar

Shadowlawn, Columbus, MS (c. 1848)

Shadowlawn, Columbus, MS (c. 1848)

Yes, folks, Tara may be gone with the wind (or more accurately, fire), but throughout the South you’ll find many a pre-war home still standing. Judging by the variety of coffee-table books and Pinterest boards on the subject, folks really enjoy looking at these not-so-humble abodes. But what’s better than ogling photos or casting admiring glances from across the street? Why, being invited inside, of course! For a fee, but still.

During a spring pilgrimage, Southerners travel from far and wide for the opportunity to stroll the gardens and peek under the dust ruffles of these stately mansions. In all my years living in Mississippi, I can only recall taking a tour once, during which I was shown a “secret” dresser drawer wherein treasures could be stashed. I recall thinking, “Hey, my mom’s dresser has one of those!” Of course, one would be disappointed to discover that the “treasure” in Mom’s secret drawer consisted of birthday cards, old letters, and memorabilia. Her actual treasures? Well, she stored her jewelry in Band-Aid boxes tucked away deep in the cabinets. Sometimes hidden so well, she couldn’t find it herself.

For my mom’s side of the family, the pilgrimage was a time to bust out the hoop skirts and tricorn hats and put on a show. I inherited my fondness for all things fancy from the Lucas’. Two of my mom’s siblings were antique dealers and almost all the rest were regular customers. Every family reunion had a touch of the estate sale feel. But with more casseroles and cake.

Mom and Jenna (post nap)

Mom and Jenna (post nap)

For many years, my aunt Clara’s home Shadowlawn was part of the Columbus, Mississippi, pilgrimage tour, so naturally we were, too. My sister and I stood on the front lawn greeting visitors with a smile, wave, and perhaps an occasional “Welcome, y’all!” Each of my mom’s siblings would be assigned a room and provided with talking points along the lines of “the antique Victorian half tester bed” or “this vahse…” (never “vase,” always “vahse”).

I’m not ashamed to tell y’all that one of the highlights of my pilgrimage career was being promoted from lawn duty to room guide, and not just because the indoors had air conditioning. I can’t recall many of the room’s furnishing, but I’m certain there was an antique washstand (like the one we had at home) and at least one “vahse.”

During one particularly taxing day when my sister was around four or five, she climbed up on one of the beds and proceeded to nap. As the story goes, more than one tour taker was startled when Jenna moved saying, “I thought she was a DOLL!” Clearly, they do not know my sister like I do.

Me, dreaming of glass doorknobs...

Me, dreaming of glass doorknobs…

Between pilgrimages and July 4th family reunions, I spent a lot of time exploring Shadowlawn, from the room ‘o dolls from around the world to the exotic taxidermy collection. Once, I even spent three days locked inside a downstairs bathroom. (Ok, it might’ve been half an hour, but I’ve adjusted for kid time.) While I was in there, I admired the doll whose crocheted skirt doubled as a toilet paper cover. We never had one of those. On account of “they’re tacky.” Beside our toilet? A replica of Rodin’s statue “The Thinker.”

One of my favorite things about Shadowlawn was the glass doorknobs. As a kid, I told myself that one day I would live in a house with glass doorknobs. And now I do. My walnut vanity has not one but two hidden drawers. But I’ll most likely never own a vessel worthy of being called a “vahse.” Keeping it real, y’all.

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

As I write this, more than two decades since my last visit to Columbus, I wish I had paid more attention as a kid. I wish I’d appreciated the opportunity for such a pilgrimage. These days, Shadowlawn is a bed and breakfast, so I could go back if I wanted to. But now that Mom and most of her brothers and sisters are gone, it just wouldn’t be a pilgrimage.

In case you’re curious, it’s Spring Pilgrimage time in Mississippi. The Natchez Pilgrimage continues through April 9th and the Columbus Pilgrimage runs March 31 through April 13.

Have you toured an antebellum home? What did you think? Please do tell.

125. Graceland, Where the King Died on His Throne

7 Mar

gracelandOf all the Mississippi natives who’ve reached the first-name-only level of fame, I daresay that Elvis tops the charts for Most Interesting Residence. I reckon Oprah’s place is none-too-shabby, but I wouldn’t know, seeing as I’ve yet to snag an invite. (Sorry, Mr. Grisham, I know your admirers are legion, but the media’s not about to start referring to you as “John.” I mean, even Mr. Lennon never made it to single-first-name status and his band was more popular than Jesus. Except in the South. Where there’s two things you don’t mess with: Texas and Jesus.)

You know you want one...

You know you want one…

During my sojourns in Memphis, I’d passed Graceland a time or two before stopping in for a visit. I always thought they’d open up the gates and let me drive right on in. They. Do. Not. Instead, you park across the street and go into the souvenir shop to purchase tickets. After you’ve had sufficient time to examine all the trinkets at least twice, you’re transported to mansion in the manner of a herd of cattle, if they would fit on a shuttle bus.

But once you arrive at the mansion and pass the threshold, WOW, it all looks so…normal. Yes, that white couch probably seats about 17 folks (20 if you scooch in), but it’s not bejeweled in any way. Plus, I was kinda hoping for a disco ball or two.

billiard roomNow the billiard room is impressive in that it’s the only place I’ve ever seen where the fabric on the couch matches the fabric on the walls and the ceiling. They had the pool table roped off with a sign saying Please Do Not Touch. However, if you do, it’s not like you’ll be shocked, tasered, or anything. Probably. I’m just speculating.

Next up: the infamous Jungle Room. I always thought the furniture was custom made for The King. Turns out he bought the whole kit and caboodle from a furniture store’s showroom. Everything from the primitively carved, fur-covered furniture to the green shag carpeting (on floor and ceiling) was already constructed and just waiting for some rich guy with crazy-ass taste to come in and buy it. Voila! Elvis! For an extra special treat, check out this 360° view of the jungle room from the official Elvis site. jungle room closeup

I loved how his bar/lounge featured a wall of TVs like you’d find at Best Buy. The arrangement on the wall, I mean, not the TVs. They’re the sort you might find at Goodwill, seeing as they were made in the 70’s. If Elvis IS alive, I’m sure he has a top-notch media room. With a ginormous couch. Apparently, he had a thing for huge couches. Also, the color yellow.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

I think these days they might let you go upstairs, but that whole part was roped off, so I don’t have much more to report. There were other rooms, but none that left an impression. They let you go outside and look at his grave, where there’s an eternal flame burning to keep his spirit alive. Not sure how it fares in the rain, but I reckon it’s the thought that counts.

There’s also a museum where you can see some of his outfits and other ephemera. It costs extra to check out his cars and airplanes, so I didn’t.

Finally, the shuttle bus takes you back to the souvenir shop parking lot so you can retrieve your car and drive off into the sunset. Unless, perhaps, you’ll like to take a final stroll through all the Elvis paraphenalia…No? Ok then.

Have you been to Graceland? What’d you think of it? Please do tell.

And now, I’ll let Paul Simon sing us out:

Photo Credits: Graceland Mansion and Billiard Room by Danube66, Flickr Creative Commons; Jungle Room by NoirDame, Flickr Creative Commons; Elvis’ grave by Su_Anna, Flickr Creative Commons.

Friday Favorites: Stuff I, Myself, Like

1 Mar

3744467338_cfe206a34b_mWeek 2: so far, so good!

Here’s my roundup:

Hope over at the Fairhope Supply Co. shares 23 Southern sayings she overheard during the course of one week, including “Does this camo come in pink?” and “She didn’t even bother to put the KFC on her own plate.” Enjoy!

I used a couple of Nick Russell’s amazing photos to illustrate my post on Faulkner a way long time ago. If you’ve never had the opportunity to explore Rowan Oak for yourself, these pics will take you there. Almost as good as sneaking past the barriers to get a closer look for yourself. Almost…

The writing's on the wall at Faulkner's house.

The writing’s on the wall at Faulkner’s house.

Click for recipe. Note: Site takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Click for recipe. Note: Site takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Planning a culinary excursion around the South anytime soon? Don’t leave home without Garden & Gun’s handy guide to the best eats. Sure, it’s incomplete at only 50, but even a list of 500 would be, so…

If you’re in more of a DIY Southern food mood, check out Something Swanky’s recipe for Pecan Pie Bread Pudding. It’ll definitely be the next version I try. Also, this is my new favorite spot for ogling food. Added bonus for putting “swanky” in the blog name!

And finally, for anyone who’s ever had a cat that loves boxes:

Hope you have a splendid (and swanky) weekend!

Photo credits: Howdy sign by KeddyO, Flickr Creative Commons; Faulkner’s writing on the wall by Nick Russell; Pecan Pie Bread Pudding (drool…) by Something Swanky.

How Southern are You?

27 Feb

il_570xN.337423180Ok, y’all, I just now figured out how to create an interactive quiz. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to make the embed code work, so if you want to find out how Southern you are, you’ll have to click this link.

Be sure to come back and let me know how you scored and whether you think I ought to make more quizzes.

Photo Credit: Question mark die cuts available at the GlitterDustDesigns Etsy store.

Friday Favorites: Stuff I, Myself, Like

22 Feb

il_570xN.385008154_4wu1Ok, y’all, today I’m introducing a new feature here at SSPL. If you find yourself wondering what all the other features are, well, this would be the first. There may be more to come. Feel free to cross your fingers, but refrain from depriving yourself of oxygen. Let’s see how this one goes.

On Fridays, I’ll be delivering a roundup of interesting tidbits collected from around the interwebs. They will most likely be Dixie-centric, but I reserve the right to wander off into French macarons should the mood strike.

So, without further adieu…

Southern Women by Allison Glock in Garden & Gun magazine reflects on the defining qualities of Dixie chicks with lines like: For my mother, being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn’s worth of salt in every recipe, and spending a minimum of twenty minutes a day in front of her makeup mirror so she can examine her beauty in “office,” “outdoor,” and “evening” illumination.

Sh%t Southern Women Say: I’d offer a description, but that pretty much sums it up.

In the interest of providing equal time for the estrogen-challenged folks, I invite y’all to check out Real Southern Men. The Best of RSM post is a great place to start.

Since no list of stuff I like is complete without at least one mention of food, feast your eyes on these treats from Chocolate, Chocolate and More. Yum!!

From Chocolate, Chocolate and More--Click for recipe.

Click pic for recipe.

Have y’all heard about The Southern C, the social network of the South? You can read all about it on the Southern Living blog or you could just take my word for it and join. Tons of great content about all things Dixie. I admit to being a little biased, seeing as I’m a featured contributor, but you’ll find all sorts of gems from fellow Southern bloggers, including Hope at Fairhope Supply Co. and Nealey at Dixie Caviar.

image001

In May, I’ll be at the Southern C Summit, and hope to see some of y’all there. Details below:

We are bringing together the best of the southern blogging community, businesses and brands for learning and networking opportunities. Our intimate niche gathering of southern creatives will offer rich content, conversation and collaboration all overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Jam-packed with educational sessions, panel discussions and keynote presentations from well-known southern names and social media leaders, attendees will learn useful take-away information and strategic ideas to implement immediately.

Be inspired by our speakers. Be inspired by one another. Share ideas. Sharpen your skills. Discover what works. Make connections. Form friendships.

To help promote the first annual summit we are having a photo contest on facebook and the prize is a free pass to the summit! Check it out- only 10 days left!

We are still offering early bird pricing so if you are interested in coming to the Golden Isles to learn how to elevate your blog or brand- register today!

What’s your favorite find of the week? Please do tell!

Photo credits: Awesome “Hey Y’all” sign available at SlippinSouthern’s Etsy Store; Chocolate dipped pecans by Chocolate, Chocolate, and More.

121. If Duct Tape Can’t Fix It, Maybe It Ain’t Broke

20 Feb

That's fixed. What's next?

That’s fixed. What’s next?

Here in Seattle, hipsters have taken to duct tape like the previous decade’s hipsters took to knitting needles. They’re getting crafty with it, y’all. First came the duct tape wallets, quickly followed by other accessories like key fobs, braided bracelets, purses, and flower pens. From there, it’s a rain-slicked slope to making duct tape clothing and shoes. And then this happens: Half Naked Woman in Hot Pink Duct Tape Injures Three Cops. True story. I just Googled “duct tape Seattle” and whoop there it was.

A while back, I was meandering through Target (the only way to go) and happened upon a display of duct tape right out of my 80’s schoolgirl fantasies (the ones that didn’t feature Duran Duran). Did y’all know they make duct tape in EVERY color and pattern? In addition to the aforementioned hot pink there’s purple, green, orange, plaid, penguins, polka dots and everything in between. Even zebra print.

Duct tape doesn't get any cuter than this...

Duct tape doesn’t get any cuter than this…

Of course, folks in the South were using duct tape long before duct tape was cool. And they’ll be using it long after duct tape goes the way of banana hair clips and friendship bracelets. However, every Southerner knows that duct tape isn’t for MAKING stuff; it’s for FIXING stuff.

Before I expound on the many uses of this tool kit on a roll, let me answer the age-old question: “Is it duck tape or duct tape?” Yes. Apparently, the product was developed for the US military during World War II and used for repairing weapons, vehicles, and other equipment. Soldiers dubbed the olive-drab-colored substance “duck tape,” possibly due to its waterproof qualities.

After the war, a silvery gray version became available to civilians who used it to wrap air ducts (among other things) and thenceforth it was “duct tape.” Cut to 1975 when the company Manco snapped up the “Duck Tape” trademark, added a cute duck to the logo, and sold 800 gazillion rolls of it.duck tape

That’s the verbose way of saying: “duct tape” is to “tissue” as Duck Tape™ is to Kleenex™.

So, what can you mend with duct tape? Well, here’s what you can’t fix: broken hearts, moldy bread, and zombies. Anything else is worth a shot.

I reckon the most popular use for duct tape is car repair–exterior, engine, upholstery, you name it. But it’s also great for mending furniture, windows, refrigerator shelves, bikes, plumbing, and so much more. Check out failblog and picture the possibilities. Whee!

My all-time favorite use of duct tape (aside from some exemplary car repair courtesy of my dad) comes from my friend Scott’s house–back when he was a bachelor before said residence was completely remodeled and became known as Karen and Scott’s house. Emphasis on the Karen.

Y’all, he was using duct tape to reattach peeling wallpaper. To Reattach Peeling Wallpaper! Or was it electrical tape? Memory falters. Two things I’ll never forget about chez Scott were the bathrooms. One didn’t have a door and the other didn’t have a ceiling. I guess he ran out of duct tape.

What’s the craziest duct tape repair you’ve ever seen? Have you ever personally fixed something? Or, hey, MADE something??

Please do tell.

Photo credits: Chair repair by laszy, Flickr Creative Commons; Adorable duct tape journal available at The Elegant Duck ETSY shop

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