Sunday, January 30, 2011

Milk Bar

-- restaurant review -- 
ordering window

You're in New Orleans, you're hungry for some lunch...there is nothing better than a trip to Milk Bar (at 1514 Delachaise St in the Touro area). You can hold me to that. I happen to live pretty close to this place and I work about a block or two away but I would frequent it multiple times a week even if I was miles away. Last week I had Milk Bar for lunch three out of five's an obsession. Since I came upon it three months ago my fondness has only grown and never wavered. That's pretty good seeing as I am a harsh critic for restaurants and usually find one or two things I think could be improved. Not at Milk Bar. 
What is so good at Milk Bar? Pretty much everything. I have tried all of their vegetarian sandwiches and thought all were a culinary masterpiece. My carnivorous friends say the chicken, lamb, and other meat sandwiches are to-die for. The ciabatta bread that Milk Bar uses is from La Boulangerie (see an older post below) who has the best bread in probably all of Louisiana. I can only eat half of a sandwich, which means the other half is a great snack later! Every day there is a new soup and the staff post it on Facebook so you can know ahead of time what you might want to order. If you do get the soup let me say that the tomato basil is creamy and delicious and they give you a huge piece of bread with it that you'll never be able to eat in one sitting. The salads are all perfect. I almost never order a salad when I'm out. Mostly because I think they're usually overpriced, don't have fun ingredients, and it's something I can easily make at home. I do order them all the time at Milk Bar.
drink boards on the left and fixings station
My favorite items on the menu:
*The I Dream of Aubergenie (sandwich) with added mozzarella- roasted eggplant, roasted red pepper red onion, kalamata olives, feta, pesto on one side, hummus on the other, and i add mozzarella which they broil into an amazing melty mass. 
*The Maple Pecan & Feta Salad- spring mix, roma tomato, kalamata olives, feta, red onion, sauteed mushrooms, maple pecans, all tossed in a citrus balsamic vinegrette. 
*The Chocthunder from Downunder- a chocolate milkshake...

i dream of aubergenie sandwich

To top it off all orders come with Chupa-Chups. My fav flavor is the chocolate vanilla mix and one of the guys there always lets me get two :)

Milk Bar has about four-six chairs outside (2 small tables) and a bunch more inside. The area is not bit but not small, but it does fill up with lots of students and medical staff around lunch time. If you don't want to wait you can call in your order so it'll be ready when you arrive. The staff here are always really nice. A few weeks ago I went in and wanted to buy some fruit and they gave me oranges picked off of their neighbor's tree! Also, you should know that this is the only place where I can always find small bags of Zapps sour cream and onion chips. Overall, Milk Bar does everything right and would most definitely get 5 stars in my book!

cows are everywhere

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

wrangling down time

Wow, where does the time go?

Well lately it is going to work and yoga...and not much else. Work is 8-5 and i've been told that does not mean open the door at 8 and walk out at 5. Rather, it means be working by 8 and work up until 5 and then do things like shutting down the computer, taking out the trash (oh yes, did I mention I do the cleaning where I work?), and putting files away after 5. But, I am not here to get on a long work rant. Maybe another day. I'm actually still not sure, even as I write this, what I want this post to be about.

Maybe it's about time management. Like I said, I work at least 8-5 every day. I also (if you recall. if not, see my last post) have been doing the 30 day yoga challenge. Today is day #12 and I have taken a class every single day without fail. It's strange how easy it is to put on my lululemon's and drive over there. (okay one Sunday after a bloody mary was a little difficult...). Maybe it's because I made a commitment. I find that I now don't think of it as a lot of yoga. Whenever I get on my mat I think, "it's been a while since I've been here" which is funny since it's probably been 24 hours.

It definitely is taking up a lot of time but what did I really do with that time before? Yah, I'm not sure either. Make groceries? Vacuum? Those things can be fit in at other times, and even neglected a little.

But I do have a guilty feeling. I'm doing this wonderful thing just for myself and some part of me feels wrong for giving this to myself. Why is it that women often feel that they cannot do nice things for themselves but should be doing everything for everyone else? I've got to make a note to keep some balance in that realm.

Back to time management, Ben and I had been looking forward to this fun med school event for a long time. But when the time came to get ready to leave on Saturday night, we both decided that we just wanted to spend some time at home alone rather than go out and probably spend more time talking to our friends. To balance this out we met up today with friends at my favorite lunch spot in all of New Orleans (i'll post all about this place next!) today. It seems that by not going out on Saturday and by spending what could have been a boring lunch break alone with others today I got the best of all situations! And I managed my time well because now I saw Ben and friends at lunch, I worked my whole day, and now while Ben is studying I will go to yoga! :)

Sometimes, things work out well.

Other times, chocolate caramel crunch cake will make it better when it doesn't.
From Ye Olde College Inn

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 1- shoulderstand

Day 1/30 of the Yoga Challenge.

Well, it’s begun. LifeYoga had a get together in the studio yesterday where we had snacks (Bee Sweet cupcakes!) and met the other people who will be going through the challenge together. They also made us these cute little journals so we can keep track of whatever observations we make throughout the journey. Awesome idea.

I chose to start my challenge with a flow class later that day. It was a packed class and the room heated up quickly. My headache from earlier in the day melted away. My body remembered what it has done so many times before. It felt like coming home. It felt blissful. But, that’s all I want to say about that. 

Today is the second day so I am off to a class I’ve taken before- restorative yoga- that holds relaxing comforting poses longer and is a perfect end to a weekend. Yesterday’s class plus some bowling last night really agitated my pulled muscle, but I’m thinking that today’s restorative poses won’t bother it too badly.

While doing this challenge I thought it would be interesting to do a once-in-a-while post of some thoughts about a particular asana. Sharing some easily accessible yoga postures with everyone sounds like a lovely idea. So, today will be shoulderstand, or salamba sarvangasana.
yes, my butt is sticking out awkwardly...
Shoulderstand has always be a pose that brings me back to my childhood. I don’t know why, but my sister and I used to do this all of the time when we were lazing about at home growing up. Didn’t you? Shoulderstand helps you defy gravity, reverse aging, gain a new perspective, lets your blood flow in a different direction once in a while, and let’s you explore balance and areas of tension. Lately my shoulderstand is lazy and not exactly straight. But, in class the teacher suggested we play around with it putting the soles of our feet together or even lowering our knees to our foreheads. What an idea! With your knees pressing on your forehead your sinuses get some relief and it's like a mini massage! There are so many benefits of going to a class with a professional teacher (including staying safe) including learning new fun ways to alter a posture that you may have been doing your whole life!
play with it- or move into plow!
this looks strange but it's wonderful, try it!
*Because none of these photos shows how to properly hold shoulderstand and I gave no directions at all, I suggest that if you're interested in trying out salamba sarvangasana you take a look at and search for the pose. There you'll find hints about how to get in and out of the pose, etc. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the yoga challenge

I'm ready to talk about yoga.

Normally yoga is a private thing for me that I am not willing to talk about much, for no specific reason except that it's just for me. In 2011, though, yoga will play a bigger part in my life. Starting with the yoga challenge.

Now, I should explain that there are technically two yoga challenges for me. The first one began on January 1st when i decided that I would practice yoga every single day of 2011. I was going strong for the first few days with only a few difficulties. One was that I had to find the time to fit in a daily practice. This shouldn't be such a big deal except that it's so cold and dark here in the morning that I didn't want to wake up early and was sometimes busy until late at night. Time, however, was not the biggest challenge. Today is only the 12th and I have to admit the 365 days of yoga has ended. When I got sick on December 23rd I developed a tough cough that has stuck with me. This annoying cough actually gave me what feels like a pulled muscle over my ribs. It's not a dangerous injury but it is super annoying and actually pretty painful. Therefore, I chose to stop my intensive daily yoga practice and bring it down a notch until I heal. So far I'm not better but I think I'm on the mend!

The second yoga challenge begins this Saturday! New Orleans studio and boutique, LifeYoga, is doing a month long program where $99 buys you unlimited access to all of their yoga classes. On top of that, the challenge aspect is that starting January 15th the goal is to attend one yoga class every day for a month. LifeYoga is actually giving out rewards for anyone who completes the challenge successfully including a t-shirt, water bottle, massages, portrait session, 25% of the next purchase, and an entry to win 3 months of free yoga. Go HERE for more info from LifeYoga on the 30 day challenge and join me!

I'm really excited about the 30 day yoga challenge. I am going to continue with my daily yoga practice after I complete the first month with LifeYoga. Already, I am antsy to get back on my mat and I am definitely not practicing the other aspects of yoga as much as I do when I am consistent with my physical practice. Hopefully my muscle will feel a lot better by Saturday when I get back on my mat for a strenuous practice...I can't wait :)

taken at Audubon park- November 2010

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cafe Rani

-- restaurant review --

Cafe Rani has a lot of things going for it that I must let you know about.

For one, it has a prime location. It is right on Magazine Street with popular shops surrounding it. There is a nice little indoor seating area with a bar that is comfortable but still nice enough to feel a little fancy. The outdoor seating, however, is really where it's at. With New Orleans' climate it is lovely to sit outside in the sun year round or under the shade of a huge leafy tree. I'm not sure if many restaurants in New Orleans can claim such a nice dining atmosphere as under an old Louisiana tree with the sunshine coming through and a light breeze.

The food is definitely the best thing about Cafe Rani and I would give just the food five stars. There is a vegetarian section of the menu and all of the food is made with the freshest ingredients. Cafe Rani claims that they were "green" before it was cool to be green. The eggs sardou has a creamed spinach and artichoke base for a fluffy egg and golden hollandaise sauce. With your sardou you can choose between chips (Zapps), grits, or cheesy grits. The cheesy grits were mm mm mm good because they topped the grits with a layer of toasty cheese instead of mixing it in. The entire meal was lick-your-plate good and to top it off I had my favorite brunch/lunch (or dinner, even) drink- a bloody mary. I enjoyed it but the drink was very light on the alcohol and wasn't spicy enough for me. I like my bloody mary with a little zap to my taste buds (like at Bridge Lounge). My dining companion had a burger and said he would give it 4/5 stars when compared to all burgers he's had in his lifetime.
eggs sardou and cheese grits
burger with avocado on top
I have to note: the only little ding on the experience is that we waited for our meal for a good long while only to have the waiter come tell us that he had forgotten to put our order in. This wouldn't have bugged me so much if the maitre d' wasn't so awkward and could've understood that all we were asking for was a seat in the sun.
virgin bloody mary and then rani mary
Finally, for two people to have brunch with one drink each but without dessert you're looking at about $35-40 (sandwiches and burgers from about $10-$15 drinks $7-$10). Luckily our living social deal got us the entire meal for fifteen buckeroos! Cafe Rani is usually pretty busy and is crowded with uptown ladies lunching or rich college girls meeting for drinks on their parent's credit cards. If you can stand the uppity crowd and the occasional shoddy service the food here is worth it! I will be back often, especially considering I only live a few blocks away.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2010 is over!

It's officially 2011 and I could not be happier about it. I've never looked forward to a new year so much. It's just some ways...2010 was hard on me! It started off great with a road-trip down to Florida to spend some time at my Grandparent's other house.
Florida bird at the beach
February was full of dancing and revelry with friends. Ben was cold but loving his job in Cambridge working with the homeless people on substances. I was buy writing my capstone paper!
rockin out in Boston
March meant going to Greenwich to spend time with the family for mine and my aunt's birthday (March 29th).
Ben defeated
And in April Boston bloomed.
flowers in the commons
In May I came to New Orleans for the first time for a quick weekend to choose our apartment. I should have been excited but that weekend was incredibly stressful and began a long process of me trying to process leaving everything and becoming a southerner. 
streetcar passing our bed and breakfast
In June, I graduated from MSPP with my masters degree! It was bittersweet as I loved being in school and graduating meant saying goodbye to all of my best friends. But my family came up and it was a really good time. 
wish I had fixed my cape thingy for this photo
 In July we said goodbye to everyone we knew and moved to New Orleans! We also got to come back (to NH) at the end of that month to go to Ben's mom's wedding. We went to the beach and saw one of my bff's!
dancing in the chilly summer air
In August we sweated it out in nola. We found our way around and set up our home on our own. We ate a lot and we went to a few festivals. We also travelled to Michigan for my family's big reunion.
my cousins are trained to pose upon request
In September I continued to cook and bake a lot. Without a job and not starting school I started to get frustrated. But we had fun too. 
southern magnolia in my neighborhood
October brought Voodoo fest with it! Three full straight days of music. We also flew to Kentucky to visit Ben's dad and Sally there. We had a lot of fun those first few months in Nola. 
above ground graves may be the only kind here
In November Ben was all settled in school and I started an office job on the first. Suddenly I had somewhere to be every day from 8-5 and things changed a lot. But we still had loads of fun. My grandma surprised us by flying down and staying with us! 
some lower ninth group in the french quarter
And, finally, there was December. In December we were very stressed. My job wouldn't give me any time off. We had no money to fly home. It definitely felt like the negative aspects of living down here were piling up. But, we pulled through it and even got to see our family in CT and Ben's mom! The year ended with us having airline drama and both getting pretty sick with the flu. But the good definitely outweighed the bad.
my cousin Katie by the tree's 2011! We rang in the New Year doing exactly what we wanted with our friends in our home in New Orleans. I made a long list of goals and have been starting on them. The weather down here is gorgeous right now and we're both enjoying the fresh start a new year provides. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

La Boulangerie

--restaurant review--

La Boulangerie, aptly named the bakery in English, is a French pastry and bread shoppe at 4526 Magazine Street. Of course, I noticed it's adorable blue and yellow decor walking down Magazine Street months ago, but my first real experience with La Boulangerie's wares was at one of my favorite lunch spots-The Milk Bar, where La Boulangerie supplies the fresh crusty rolls for sandwiches.
But, I had recently heard good things about the pastries and could not fathom a better way to spend a Sunday morning (before the game) by biking over to this cute store and having a croissant with coffee. Many other New Orleanders must have been thinking the exact same thing because while we slowly nibbled on our pastries the line never ended!
La Boulangerie offers an array of French pastries, breads, cakes, and even personal sized quiches.

While the tortes, pies, and especially the opera looked amazing, we opted for an array of croissants. We shared the plain croissant, a chocolate croissant, and (my favorite universally) the almond croissant. The coffee, I'm sad to report, was a do-it-yourself cup with the only options being sugar and cream. With amazing French food like this, I was super disappointed by the quality of the coffee and noted that in the future I would have to pick up a cup somewhere else and bring it in to enjoy in La Boulangerie's comfy couch seats. 

The plain croissant was the winner of the favorite thing we ate. Light, fluffy, and with that amazing glaze on it the plain croissant was close to what I have had in France and definitely something that I would go out of my way to eat again. The chocolate croissant was a rectangle shaped loaf of croissant with a dime-shaped bit of chocolate on one little spot of the inside. I recalled having better chocolate croissants at the mall in my childhood. The almond croissant was very different than any I have had before. It was thick and weighed more than any pastry should. The inside was not full of almond paste but rather but lightly glazed with it. The outside was covered in powdered sugar and soggy almond slices. This item disappointed me as almond croissants have always been such a big hit with this eater. At the same time, I would go back again and order it a second time in hopes that the almond croissant was just poorly made that morning. 

La Boulangerie does have ample seating including some tables and a couch surrounding a coffee table. While I was there there was an adorable father holding his baby and a the mother next to them knitting while enjoying their pastries and coffee (how adorable!). The inside is decorated in those typical New Orleans signs, but in French!, and also a chocolate chicken. Since we're in New Orleans you can expect to pay cash. However, you also should expect to be treated in a typical French style with curt responses and no extra chit-chat. Some customers have found La Boulangerie's wait staff to be rude and have taken their business elsewhere, but I would say that if you can stand not to be ushered in warmly you'll be fine. 

My biggest mistake in visiting La Boulangerie was not trying any of their breads. I do believe that that is where the bakery truly shines and will definitely be returning in the near future to grab a crusty french loaf.

Overall, La Boulangerie would not warrant five of my stars. They would benefit from upgrading their coffee and making sure that their chocolate and almond croissants were perfect every time, instead of slightly subpar. That said, overall I did enjoy my first experience at La Boulangerie and I promise I will return in the near future to try those muffins..and breads...and the chocolate mousse!