Spicy Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Hot

There are certain places that you travel to where the use of spices is quite abundant. Needless to say, with rare exceptions all food has some sort of spices in it, even if it is just salt and pepper. Some places, though, go way beyond a few common ingredients and use a wide variety of spices in them. We really enjoy eating foods that have a variety of spices and have a sense of being exotic. Clearly it isn’t for everyone and we also enjoy foods that are spicy in the sense of heat as well. Since we try to recreate dishes from places that we travel, here are a few of the spicy dishes that we have previously prepared, in no particular order.

  1. Asian Roasted Duck – Not as complicated as it sounds and truly delicious.

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    Asian Duck

  2. Spicy Chicken Curry – Definitional a traditional favorite.

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    Spicy Chicken Curry

  3. Indian Butter Chicken – Cooking it in a slow-cooker makes it tender and flavorful.

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    Indian Butter Chicken

  4. Tandoori Chicken – An exotic reminder of our trip to India.

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    Tandoori Chicken and Fried Eggplant

  5. Spaghetti Arrabbiata – One of our favorite meals from, of all places, Frankfurt.

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    Our Version of Spaghetti Arrabbiata

  6. Lamb Biryani – Well worth the effort and we decided to give it a little bit of heat.

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    Lamb Biryani over Basmati Rice

  7. Moroccan Chicken – Cooked in a tajine, it is a one pot meal that is perfect for two.

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    Moroccan Chicken in a Tajine

 

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Should You Visit the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building When in NYC?

The observation decks at both the Top of the Rock and at the Empire State Building offer incredible views of the city. If you have the time, we’d recommend going to both of them, but what if you don’t have the time, which one should you choose? No matter which one you choose, you won’t go wrong, but we’d recommend the Top of the Rock if we had to decide. There are several reasons that we would choose the Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building, although in the end it is probably a personal choice.

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Outside of Rockefeller Center

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View from the Empire State Building

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On the Top of the Rock with the Empire State Building Behind Us

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View from the Top of the Rock

The observation deck at the Empire State Building is an iconic experience that has provided views of New York City for almost 90 years. Featured in films such as King Kong, the Empire State Building is one of the most famous buildings in the world. If the history of the building wasn’t enough to inspire you to visit, the views from the two observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors definitely should. The observation deck on the 86th floor is an open air deck that will take your breath away as you look out over the city, the bridges, and the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. Going to the indoor deck on the 102nd floor provides even more stunning views as you look out through the thick glass windows.

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Sign Near the Elevator in the Empire State Building

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Statue of Liberty Off in the Distance

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Looking Down from the Empire State Building

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King Kong Poster as You Exit the Elevator at the Empire State Building

The Top of the Rock may not have the history that the Empire State Building has, but it has plenty to offer anyone who visits. First of all, the “Rock” in the Top of the Rock refers to Rockefeller Center, which is where you can find Rockefeller Plaza as well as the NBC Studios and store. Regardless of the time of year, there is plenty going on at Rockefeller Plaza, which provides an extra incentive for visiting Rockefeller Center. Go early in the morning and you can watch the filming of the Today show or come later in the day and go to one of the many restaurants in the area. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Top of the Rock provides amazing views of Central Park as you look north and the Empire State Building down to Lower Manhattan as you look south. There are indoor observation decks on the 67th and 69th floor, but the best views can be found on the outdoor observation deck on the 70th floor.

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Views of Central Park from the Top of the Rock

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Empire State Building from the top of the Rock

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Walking Towards Rockefeller Plaza

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Sipping on a Cocktail in the Garden Restaurant at Rockefeller Center

Clearly it isn’t an easy decision, which is why we would certainly recommend doing both the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building while visiting New York City. The main reason for choosing the Top of the Rock if you have to make a decision is due to everything that Rockefeller Center has to offer. Whichever observation deck you decide to go to, be sure to take your camera with you and leave your fear of heights at home. Seeing the New York City skyline from the top of one of these skyscrapers is something that you will treasure forever.

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Another View from the Empire State Building

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Standing on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building

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Prometheus Statue in the Lower Plaza at Rockefeller Center

 

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Lóndrangar and the Malariff Lighthouse on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland

One of our favorite memories in Iceland was driving around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It was recommended to us by the staff at the hotel and it was certainly one of the highlights of our trip. The Golden Circle is certainly an absolute must, but you will be surrounded by crowds and tour buses while driving around the peninsula, at least in winter, will have you enjoying the natural beauty of the island on your own. Two of our favorite sights while driving around the peninsula was Lóndrangar, which is a pair of volcanic rocks that jut up along the coast and the Malariff Lighthouse located nearby. It is also a perfect place to see the “black beaches” of Iceland, which are beachs covered in black volcanic rocks.

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Lighthouse at Malariff

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Amazing Black Beach

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Lava Rocks on the Shore

Seeing the twin peaks of Lóndrangar is certainly an amazing sight and pictures don’t truly do it justice. Centuries of erosion have left these volcanic rocks looming over the edge of the coastline. The entire area is volcanic crater that has been enveloped by the ocean and now only lava rocks remain. We were fortunate to see Lóndrangar from two angles, first looking at them with the ocean sitting behind them and then later from the Malariff Lighthouse. Since we were there during the winter, the black lava rocks really stood out against the snowy landscape and glacial mountains off in the distance.

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Rock Formations at Lóndrangar

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Blue Sky and Lighthouse

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Lóndrangar with Ocean in the Background

Next we drove to the Malariff Lighthouse, which is truly dramatic and well worth visiting. You are able to walk all around the lighthouse, which stands as a lonely sentry to protect ships from crashing into the rocky coast. As we arrived, the cloudy skies temporarily parted to provide an amazing backdrop to the white lighthouse. It is supposed to be a great location to see different water birds and even seals, but perhaps the weather was too cold for even them during our visit.

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Sun Along the Shore

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Rough Water

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View of Lóndrangar from the Lighthouse

After walking around the lighthouse, we continued on to walk down to the shoreline and see the waves crashing against the lava lined coast. It certainly provides a sense of how powerful the ocean can be in this rugged land. It also provides evidence as to the clear need for the lighthouse when you see the waves splashing high above the rocks along the shore. Iceland is such a beautiful country and this little snippet of the coast will give you a true sense of the destructive forces that have created not only Iceland, but the world as a whole.

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Contrasting Images with Black and White Photography

Needless to say, when traveling we take all of photographs in high-def and in color. With that said, we convert some photographs to black and white because it provides a different feel and some features actually jump out even more. We like black and white photographs so much that we have a small display of them in our home with very simple black frames around them. Generally speaking, we tend not to alter our photographs when posting them on any type of social media, but converting them to black and white is one of the rare exceptions, although we do that mostly for ourselves. Here are a few of favorite photographs that we have changed to black and white.

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Monkey in Panama

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Rock of Gibraltar

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Balancing Rock in India

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Young Girl in Bolivia

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Eiffel Tower in Autumn

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Heidelberg Castle

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Mountains in Iceland

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Quilotoa in Ecuador

 

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Don’t Get Hangry When You Travel

When you are traveling, you are often very busy, on a tight schedule, or lacking access to common conveniences such as restaurants or food stalls. Add a lack of food to the stress of being in a strange country or city can lead to the condition known as “hangry”, which is anger or irritation caused by not having enough to eat. It has probably happened to all of us at one time or another and now we can often see it starting in one another when we start to get short with each other.

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Fountain in Park

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Eiffel Tower and Autumn Leaves

One of our very first trips abroad was to Paris and we were definitely tourists and not travelers at the time. As is typical for overseas flights, we flew late in the afternoon and overnight to arrive first thing in the morning at the Charles De Gaulle airport. Not wanting to lose any time during our trip, we did what we always do, which is to immediately acclimate to the local time and start our day even though we’d been up most of the night. It happened to be at a time when there was a transportation strike, so we had to walk to all of the sights that we wanted to see that day.

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Paris Neighborhood

Park in Paris

Park in Paris

We made the most of the day, had a light lunch, and enjoyed walking along the Seine, seeing the Eiffel Tower, and just walking the streets of Paris. As the afternoon came to end, we decided to head back towards our hotel on the Left Bank to find a restaurant for dinner. This was our first trip to Paris and we didn’t know at the time that most restaurants don’t open until at least 7pm for dinner and most don’t open until even later. To make matters worse, we found ourselves lost as we tried to make our way back to the hotel. The net result was that we started snapping at each other and yes we were getting hangry. Eventually we ate dinner and we were back to holding hands and enjoying one of the most romantic cities in the world.

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Notre Dame in Paris

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Looking Down the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower

These days we always make sure to carry a power bar or snack with us as there have been many times where we don’t have access to a meal. Whether in the jungle or driving through remote areas, having something with you at all times is always a good idea. That doesn’t mean that we never get hangry anymore, but we certainly try to avoid it as it can ruin part of your day. Have you ever gotten hangry during your travels?

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Eiffel Tower in Autumn

View from the Eiffel Tower

The Streets that We Walked in Paris

 

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Easy and Delicious Shrimp Frittata

One of the things that you can find throughout your travels is some variety of a frittata. They are light, easy, and can be adapted for the cuisine of almost any country. We really enjoy fresh seafood when we travel, so we decided to do a shrimp frittata that was not only easy, but extremely delicious. The use of lemon and fresh parsley also helps to brighten up the dish and make it even more luscious. Frittatas, like a good quiche, can be a meal on its own, but we decided to pair it with some green beans and red peppers. This recipe serves two, but can easily be adjusted to serve a larger group. It also would work well with other shellfish such as lobster or crab instead of the shrimp or even a combination of all three.

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Frittata Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Large Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley – chopped
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese – grated
  • Zest of 1 Medium Lemon
  • 1 tsp of Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 6 oz Shrimp – peeled, deveined, and fully cooked
  • 1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes – more or less depending on your taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Frittata Mixture

INSTRUCTIONS

Steam the shrimp until pink and fully cooked.  Let them cool, peel and devein them, and then roughly chop the shrimp. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese, shrimp, and the lemon zest and juice. Stir to mix all of the ingredients together. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a small, oven-proof, pan until it just begins to bubble (don’t let it start to brown). Add the egg mixture and lightly stir for about a minute and then place the pan in the oven. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the egg mixture sets up and begins to lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let it stand for just a minute or two before cutting into portions to serve.

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Plated Portions

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Melt the Butter and Oil

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Just Before Putting in the Oven

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Light and Fluffy

 

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Mysterious Tiwanaku in Bolivia

Walking through the ruins of Tiwanaku brings both a sense of fascination and yearning for more. This once great capital fills you with a sense of mystery, both because of the seemingly impossible building methods used by the inhabitants over two-thousand years ago as well as the lack of knowledge that we’ll ever have because of the condition of the ruins.  Unfortunately, many of the stones that originally made up Tiwanaku are now used in the walls of the homes in the surrounding villages.  It has also suffered from a lack of preservation by the Bolivian government, which doesn’t seem to have the same sense of history, despite the fact that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Walls of Tiwanaku

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Temple Statue

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Entrance to the Sun Temple with the Statue in the Center

As with pretty much everything that we visited while in Bolivia, when we walked through the ruins of Tiwanaku, we were virtually by ourselves.  Other than the small market outside of the site, hoping to sell trinkets to whatever tourists made their way to visit this important piece of history, we walked the trails along the walls of the ancient city alone.  Our guide, Ricky, told us of the history of Tiwanaku, which dates back to about 200 B.C. or possibly even earlier.  Most of the remaining ruins are those of the three temples that celebrated the three worlds revered by the inhabitants of Tiwanaku, Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.  It isn’t the Heaven and Hell of the Judeo-Christian beliefs, but simply the belief that there were three different worlds that their gods inhabited.  Our understanding is that the pre-Incan people that inhabited Tiwanaku believed that all life on earth came from the depths of Lake Titicaca, which was much larger back when Tiwanaku was a bustling metropolis and its shores probably extended to the site of the ruins.

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Gate of the Sun

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Temple Stairs

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One of the Statues

One of the greatest questions about the building was the skill in which the stones of the walls were carved to fit perfectly, without any gaps and without any kind of mortar.  Scientists have tried to recreate building the walls without the use of modern equipment and have not been able to replicate the work done by those ancient people so long ago.  And, as with other ancient sites such as the pyramids of Egypt, large stones were quarried miles away and somehow carried to build these temples, a feat that is seemingly impossible.  That has led some people to speculate that perhaps the ancient people of Tiwanaku had help from some sort of extra-terrestrial beings, but it is far more likely that they just had skills and techniques that have been lost over time.

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Possible Calendar on the Gate of the Sun

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Solid Wall with Figures

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Entrance to the Akapana Pyramid

We enjoyed seeing some of the amazing things that still remained though, including the “Gate of the Sun”, which we were told contained an ancient calendar.  One could easily imagine the ancestors of the Amarya people using the different stone structures as a celestial calendar to determine the seasons.  The site itself is very vast and there apparently has been some recent attempts to use ground penetrating radar to determine if there are more ruins to be found in the surrounding area, perhaps buried just below the surface.  As we stood at the site where the priests would recite prayers and give speeches to the people, Ricky explained that there were other stone platforms every few hundred yards where lower priests would repeat the words of the head priest so that all of the people in the large city could hear what was being said.  It takes a little imagination, standing there pretty much alone in these ruins, to envision it filled with thousands of ancient people.

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Supposed Alien Face in Tiwanaku

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Akapana from the Distance

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Very Worn Statue

Tiwanaku, despite its condition, was still definitely awe inspiring.  Walking amongst temples that were built in South America long before Europeans would make their way to the shores of these lands provides a brief glimpse into the pride displayed by every Bolivian that we met.  There was such a vast civilization with cities and buildings that have withstood the ravages of time that is truly fascinating to see.  If you visit La Paz, Bolivia, taking time to go to Tiwanaku is certainly worth taking the time to visit.

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On Our Way to Pittsburgh Once Again

Pittsburgh is a city with a very relaxed feel and friendly people. We are going back for a quick visit, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t looking forward to some good food, like pierogies, and seeing some people that we met previously. The weather might not be nice enough to walk around too much so we’ll have to make the most of our free time. These photos are from our last trip, but we are looking forward to making new memories.

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The Strip in Downtown Pittsburgh

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Yellow Bridges

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Classic Pierogis

 

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Time for an Annual Website Review

It is important that you take a look at your social media accounts and websites at least on an annual basis.  Whether it is your profile photos or information, tag lines, or about pages, information needs to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes on an ongoing basis. Realistically speaking, it is probably worth doing more than just once a year, but that is about the minimum amount of time to let go by and using the start of the new year is an easy way to always remember to get it done.

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Possible New About Photo

Whether it is looking at any unintentional clutter on your landing page or making sure that it is easily navigable or looking at the content on your about page and making sure that it is up to date, there are a variety of things that we try to do at this time of year. We are always amazed when we take the time to go to our About page and update it, how much we tend to “set it and forget it”. Since it is often the first place that people visit to learn about who you are, it definitely shouldn’t be such an after thought.

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Maybe Our Profile Photo

Profile photos are another thing that need to be revisited often and making sure that they are consistent across all of your media sites. Whether you use a photo or something like an avatar, it is important that it isn’t too out of date. Having a photo that is several years old isn’t a true representation of yourself. With that said, it is definitely time for us to update ours as it is a year old at this point. We’re traveling next week, but we expect to get our updates done before the end of the month. Do you have a schedule for updating and refreshing you layout and profile information?

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Perhaps Something from Panama

 

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The Food of New Orleans

New Orleans is definitely a destination for food lovers with all of the quality restaurants offering authentic regional food at various prices. Whether you are on a budget or want to go out for an elegant dinner, there are many choices that will provide an incredible eating experience. Seafood is at the heart of the meals that you will find in New Orleans, but there are plenty of other dishes that are uniquely Cajun. You will likely find Po-Boys, Gumbo, Jambalaya, and beignets on most menus as well as fresh snapper, oysters, and Crawfish Etouffee. There are other interesting items such as turtle soup, fried aligator, shrimp and grits, as well as local takes on eggs benedict.

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Crawfish Etouffee

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Meeting the Chef at The Briquette

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Duck Breast Jambalaya

The very first restaurant that we ate at was Oceana’s, which is just off of Bourbon Street and turned out to be a place that we visited several times because their food was so good. Like many restaurants, if you don’t go during non-traditional meal times, you can expect to wait in long lines that stretch down the street. Fortunately we like sitting at the bar as well as eating at different times, so we didn’t have any trouble getting served. We ate Oysters Rockefeller, Oceana’s Famous Oysters, Aligator Bites, Seafood Crepe, and a wonderful Bloody Mary during our different visits. The Crawfish Etouffee at the Royal House was one of the best meals that we ate during our entire stay. For a filling breakfast or brunch, going to the Stanley at Jackson Square can’t be beat and we had their Seafood Breakfast, which had fried oysters and shrimp, fried soft shell crab, and eggs benedict. It was delicious.

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Oceana’s Famous Oysters

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Seafood Breakfast at the Stanley

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Bloody Mary at Oceana’s

We went out for a couple of more upscale dinners including The Briquette where we were introduced to the chef by the owner and got to see our own fish on the grill. The food there is always fresh and we had the whole Red Fish filet as well as tournedos of beef and scallops. We also ate at Muriel’s on Jackson Square where we ate Turtle Soup, Cauliflower Soup, Duck Breast Jambalaya, and Pan Seared Scallops. There were also stops at Tableau and the Chartres House for Gumbo, Crawfish Bread, and Spicy Pecan Popcorn.

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Oyster Po-Boy with Red Beans and Rice

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Shrimp and Grits

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Beignets

We were in New Orleans for a week, so if the list of places that we visited seems long, it is simply because we were eating out several times every day. Obviously we had to have an Oyster Po-Boy, which we did at Desire as well as getting fresh oysters. We went to Curios for brunch where we had traditional Beignets as well as Shrimp and Grits. We made our way to the Carousel Bar for a Caesar Salad and Le Bayou for fresh oysters as well.

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Turtle Soup

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Spicy Caramel Popcorn

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Gumbo

Needless to say, when in New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter, there is more than just food. For drinks we went to many different locations, but one of the most interesting was Pirate’s Alley Café, which truly is in an alley. The 21st Amendment where we were treated to live jazz and a few glasses of wine. Finnegan’s was one of our favorite Irish dive bars, but we also enjoyed The Erin Rose where they serve an excellent po-boy. We enjoyed live music at The Drinkery as well as a few other places, including street performers on Bourbon Street.

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Pan Seared Scallops

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Erin Rose Irish Bar

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Crawfish Bread

You won’t go hungry when visiting New Orleans. With so many options and friendly staff wherever you go, there really aren’t too many bad choices. We’d recommend doing what we do, which is to ask the bartenders and wait staff at the places that you visit where they would recommend that you eat, usually requesting that they tell where the locals go, not necessarily the tourists. We were given great recommendations as well as just finding places as walked throughout the French Quarter. As we mentioned before, it is busy, so be sure to either make reservations in advance where you can and expect lines in the places that don’t accept reservations.

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Fried Aligator Bites

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Fresh Oysters

 

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