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When I created my 20 for 2020 list back in December of 2019, I had no idea that a world-wide pandemic was looming large on the horizon. One of my items on this year’s list was to try 20 new restaurants (#11). I do not eat out often, so I figured when given the opportunity to dine out, try somewhere new. I have already shared on my blog three restaurants that I have tried so far: Pho NOLA, Oceana, and Cena. Let me catch you up to speed on a few others I have also tried up to this point.

There are two restaurants that I tried this year that were take-out only. Back in July, I was scrapbooking with Shelly at her house. We convinced her hubby to pick up lunch for us from The Real Deal: An American Kitchen located in Hammond. This restaurant is run by an award winning BBQ pitmaster and specializes in BBQ brisket, pork, burgers, chicken, and ribs. I ordered red beans and rice with smoked sausage instead of BBQ. I was starving by the time our food arrived, so I failed to take a picture. I did enjoy their red beans and rice; however, when I order from this restaurant again, I will select a BBQ item. Back in September, my Daddy came over to help my hubby install crown moulding in our foyer area. We ordered lunch from Twisted Tomato Pizzeria in Hammond. I ordered a yummy BLT pizza. Everyone was pleased with the selections they had chosen. Since then, we have ordered again from this restaurant.

In October, my high school friend Helen came to visit from Colorado and stayed with Shelly and her family. Since it had been many years since her last visit to the area, she had a few restaurant requests. Luckily, I had not eaten at two of the restaurants on her list. Our first stop was Blue Tomato on Jefferson Hwy. in Jefferson Parish. It is an eclectic restaurant that features Mexican, Italian, and American cuisine. Helen, Shelly, my hubby and I met Helen’s sister Valenna and her husband Leroy at the restaurant. Helen recommended the Bacon Cheeseburger, so that is what I ordered along with a side of French fries. The burger was huge and scrumptious! Blue Tomato is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, dear reader.

The second restaurant that my hubby and I tried during Helen’s visit was Café Maspero in New Orleans. Helen’s main reason for wanting to eat at Café Maspero was the muffaletta. For my dear readers not from New Orleans, a muffaletta is a sandwich with ham and salami piled high on a seeded bun topped with swiss cheese and olive salad. There are variations of seeded bread, meats (pastrami, mortadella), and cheeses (provolone) used to make this sandwich, depending on which restaurant you order your muffaletta. The sandwich can be served cold or toasted. Personally, I am not a fan of the muffaletta, so the hubster and I split a golden fried seafood platter that consisted of fish, Gulf shrimp, calamari, jalapeno hush puppies, and steak fries. Barry and I decided to split the seafood platter because we were having beignets from Café Du Monde later in the day. We thoroughly enjoyed both the seafood platter and the beignets.  

The last new restaurant that Barry, Sr. and I tried was Margaritas in Hammond on 24 October. After seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas at the movie theatre, we decided to grab something to eat nearby. The first thing to catch my eye when walking into the restaurant was its colorful décor. We sat in a booth where the back of each seat had a pretty, vibrant panel. Barry had a radiant yellow sun behind him, and I had a hummingbird with brightly colored flowers behind me. I ordered a small Mango Margarita and items off of the à la carte section of the menu which consisted of a hard beef taco, a beef enchilada, and a tamale. Barry ordered a combo plate and a beer. We were both pleased with our dinner choices.  

Well, dear reader, I have only tried eight new restaurants this year. In a normal year, I could have easily met my goal. Unfortunately, that will not be the case this year. I have decided that I will add the remaining 12 new restaurants on my 21 for 2021 list. Hopefully, I can try one new restaurant each month in 2021. What new restaurants have you tried this year, and would you recommend them? Happiness!

“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living.” ~ Dione Lucas 

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I bought tickets for Barry and me to attend the screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as part of my Halloween Fun list during the month of October. We had not seen the movie in a theatre in over 30 years. In fact, the first time I had ever seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Barry and I were dating at the time and living on the south shore. We had gone with my BFF Shelly and Barry’s friend Danny. Back then, you attended the movie at midnight and brought your own props. Since this screening was at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts in Hammond, props were being provided by the theatre and the screening was at 9:00 in the evening.

Our original plans were to see the movie on Friday, 09 October; however, Hurricane Delta put a kink in our plans, and our show was postponed until Friday, 16 October. I was grateful the movie was postponed and not canceled. Before we attended The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Barry and I had dinner at Cena in Hammond. 

Cena

Cena specializes in Italian comfort food. Ironically, I had received a gift card for this restaurant as a teacher appreciation gift back in May when we were quarantined and could not dine in restaurants. So, I was excited that we were finally able to dine there. Additionally, eating at Cena would count as trying a new restaurant (#11 on 20 for 2020 list). There are still COVID restrictions regarding restaurant dining, so Barry and I ate at an outside table which was nice, especially since it was a pleasantly cool evening. 

Barry and I dining outside at Cena in Hammond

Barry and I decided to start the evening with cocktails. I ordered a Grapefruit Martini, and he ordered a Lemon Spritzer. We agreed to skip the appetizer. I ordered Shrimp and Grits for my entrée. YUMMO! The dish consisted of Gulf shrimp and grits in a delicious Louisiana BBQ butter sauce, topped with fried okra, crispy prosciutto, and asparagus. The meal was accompanied with a piece of garlic bread. Barry ordered the Casarecce which was a house-made pasta consisting of Gulf shrimp, spicy tomato sauce, fresh basil, and feta cheese. To complete our dining experience, we decided to split a dessert. What a treat! We ordered “The” Cannoli and we were not disappointed. This delectable delight comprised of two crunchy, tube-shaped pastries filled with a sweet, creamy filling with chocolate chips, cinnamon, and two generous dollops of house-made pistachio ice cream. It was heavenly.  

 

After our scrumptious meal, we walked about three blocks to the Columbia Theatre. It was time for my hubby and me to do “The Time Warp.” As we entered the lobby of the theatre, ushers were asking guests if they were virgins. In this context, virgins are first timers who have never experienced the show in a theatre with an audience, a live cast (a shadow cast), and props. If you were a virgin, one of the ushers drew a “V” on your forehead with bright red lipstick. Once we were in the lobby, Barry and I received our prop bags. The bags included party poppers instead of rice (wedding and Frank/Rocky confetti), newspaper (thunderstorm), a rubber glove (snapping during Frank’s creation speech), a noisemaker (end of Frank’s creation speech), toilet paper (“Great Scott!), a party hat (dinner), a picture of toast (Frank’s toast at dinner), and playing cards (“Cards for sorrow/Cards for pain”). Guests used their own cellphone for light at Frank’s castle.

We took our seats and waited excitedly for the show to begin.

Once everyone was seated and before the show began, the master of ceremonies asked the virgins to stand up so everyone could see them. Some shows have virgins participate in a pre-show sacrificial ritual (totally harmless); however, our virgins had to socially distance. There was also a shadow cast at the front of the theater representing the characters in the movie. They all looked awesome in their costumes. Their role was to mime the actions on the screen and to lip-sync their character’s lines.

For those of you that do not know anything about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it is a musical comedy horror film. The story is about a newly engaged couple whose car breaks down during a thunderstorm near a castle. In desperation, they go to the castle seeking a telephone, but soon discover the home is occupied for a celebration by strange guests dressed in elaborate costumes. They meet the owner of the castle, Dr. Frank N. Furter, who happens to not only be a mad scientist, but also an alien transvestite. Not long after their arrival, mayhem breaks out and the couple embark on a crazy adventure.

Finally, the lights went out, The Rocky Horror Picture Show commenced, and the audience went wild. Barry and I, along with the rest of the audience, participated in the “Time Warp” dance (my favorite scene of the movie). I was quite surprised and extremely happy that Barry got in on the act. We had a ball talking back to the screen, singing, and using our props throughout the movie. 

Five Fun Facts about The Rocky Horror Picture Show

  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show was originally a small stage production in London called The Rocky Horror Show and was written by an out-of-work actor named Richard O’Brien.
  • The film was shot in the United Kingdom, premiered in 1975, and initially flopped. 
  • Audience participation was somewhat inspired by boredom. The film soon gained popularity because of fan participation.
  • The well-known lips at the beginning of the film belong to the actor Patricia Quinn who plays Magenta. However, she lip-syncs the song as it is sung by the actor Richard O’Brien who plays Riff Raff.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest-running theatrical release in film history. 

My hubby and I had a wonderful date night, dear reader. We enjoyed an incredible meal together at a new restaurant and interacted with a cult classic in a theatre full of Rocky Horror fans. Happiness! 

“I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.” ~ the Criminologist, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Science Fiction/Double Feature (click on the caption to the left to hear the song)

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Jackson SquareA month ago, my hubby and I stayed overnight at the Blake Hotel in New Orleans. Since he travels a great deal for work, he occasionally receives a free stay at a hotel. With COVID-19 cancelling plans and limiting activities this summer, we decided to take advantage of the change of scenery. Between me working as a supervisor for the ACT at Southeastern earlier in the day and restrictions in the city, we knew we would not be able to do much in New Orleans except maybe enjoy a nice dinner and go for a short walk around the French Quarter.

Fortunately, that Saturday (June 13th) Phase 2 was implemented for the city. We had originally planned to eat dinner at the hotel; however, the hotel was only serving breakfast and lunch. The front desk clerk made a few suggestions of restaurants that would be open and gave us a couple of brochures with menus. So, after looking over the menus, we decided to call Oceana to see if we could dine in and if we needed to make reservations. As luck would have it, we did not have to make reservations, and we could eat in the restaurant. Additionally, eating at Oceana would count as trying a new restaurant (#11 on 20 for 2020 list). It would be the second new restaurant that I have tried this year.

Oceana-tiniWe were greeted by a friendly hostess who asked us to write our names and phone numbers in a notebook before being seated. Apparently, due to COVID, this is a social practice for restaurants in New Orleans. Appropriate social distancing was implemented within the dining area, so we felt comfortable. Emily was our waitress for the evening. She was lovely and took great care of us throughout the meal. Since this was the first time eating out in New Orleans in some time and probably would be the last for quite awhile, we opted to splurge. We started the evening off with Eggplantcocktails. I chose the Oceana-tini (Absolut Vodka, Bols Sour Apple Pucker, Midori, & a touch of sour mix) and the hubster ordered a beer. Our appetizer was fried eggplant sticks. Yummy, crispy, and not greasy! I love fried eggplant, but I do not prepare it at home. When given the chance to order it while dining out, I take it. Next up, the entrees!

I ordered the Mardi Gras Pasta, and Barry chose Blackened Catfish. Our chef did not disappoint us. Our meals were scrumptious, and we both ate every last bite.

Mardi Gras pasta

Mardi Gras Pasta

Blackened Catfish

Blackened Catfish

NOLA Bread PuddingWhen Emily approached us about dessert, we ordered the New Orleans Bread Pudding (to split) without hesitation. I adore bread pudding, and there are so many ways it can be prepared, so I rarely pass up the opportunity to indulge in such a delightful treat. Yum-yum…yum-yum-yum! It was one of the finest bread puddings that I have ever eaten. I’m actually fantasizing about it right now.

Of course, after eating all of that delicious food and feeling like a pregnant whale, we had to walk around to let our meals digest. Unbeknownst to us, we were about to get a surprising eyeful. One of the restrictions that was lifted in Phase 2 was the opening of bars. While there were not nearly as many people frequenting the bars on Bourbon Street as on a normal Saturday evening, there were more than we expected considering social distancing limitations. Anyway, as we were strolling along, I spotted butt cheeks (three sets in fact) through the open doorway of one of the bars. Imagine my surprise! At the exact moment that I am telling Barry what I had seen, a group of scantily clad bike riders passed right in front of us. We didn’t find out until the next day that we had witnessed World Naked Bike Ride NOLA. You really never know what sights you will see in the French Quarter.

We returned to our hotel to enjoy the rest of our evening. The next morning we had a pleasant breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Café at the Square. Shortly afterwards, we headed home. Our overnight trip may have been brief and lacked some of the bells and whistles the city of New Orleans normally offers; however, Barry and I had a fantastic time because we were together, and we rather enjoyed the change of scenery without the usual hubbub. Happiness!

Kat & Barry-Oceana

“A change of scenery can help everything.” ~ Drew Pomeranz

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It has been a little over a week since I went on my adventure to Pho NOLA with my awesome friend Michelle. She is quite adventurous when it comes to trying new restaurants and new foods, which usually entails a good bit of ethnic food. In addition to American fare, we have eaten Korean, Cuban, and Mexican together. Because of distance, we do not get to hang out together as much as I would like, so when an opportunity presents itself, I take it. I can always count on Michelle to suggest somewhere terrific for us to enjoy a fantastic meal and a wonderful conversation.

Meatball Pho

Meatball Pho

When deciding where to eat lunch, I shared with her that one of my 20 for 2020 (#11) was to try 20 new restaurants this year. Since I had never eaten Vietnamese food, she suggested Pho NOLA in Metairie. I relied totally on Michelle to help me order because I had no clue. Of course, on my first visit, I had to try the pho (pronounced fu).

Brisket Pho

Brisket Pho

For those of you not familiar with pho, it is a popular Vietnamese soup traditionally found on the streets of Vietnam that is served in restaurants globally. It consists of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat. The key ingredient in the soup is the broth which simmers for many hours. A variety of meats can be used, including chicken and shrimp.

Trying PhoI ordered a combo meal: meatball pho with a grilled shrimp Banh Mi, a Vietnamese PoBoy (sandwich). Michelle opted for the same, but ordered brisket pho. The bread used to make the sandwich comes from a well-known Vietnamese bakery in New Orleans East called Dong Phuong Bakery. The bakery is famous for their king cakes. I have not been fortunate enough to try one of their king cakes; however, the bread that was used to make my Banh Mi was delicious.

SmoothieMy first experience eating Vietnamese at Pho NOLA was gratifying. My food was scrumptious. The meatball pho was heavenly and a perfect choice for the cold day (warm with a perfect blend of seasonings). A basket was brought to the table with basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, and scallions to garnish the pho. I chose only to add bean sprouts and cilantro. My sandwich tasted fresh and flavorful with the right combination of grilled shrimp dressed with aioli (light mayo mixture), pickled carrots and daikon (radish), cucumber, and cilantro. YUMMO! We topped off lunch by ordering BOBA Smoothies with tapioca pearls. I requested a mango and pineapple smoothie (delicious), and Michelle requested an avocado one (equally delicious). She was sweet enough to let me taste her avocado smoothie. Now, I dream about these delightful concoctions. What a wonderful treat with my AMAZING friend! Pho NOLA was a hit and a perfect place to start trying twenty new restaurants this year.

Pho NOLAHaving lunch and spending time with Michelle is always a happiness boost. Trying a new restaurant AND a new cuisine with her was a joyful adventure. I will definitely eat Vietnamese cuisine again, and I look forward to trying the different types of pho. Dear reader, I highly recommend having an adventure eating a cuisine that you have never tried before or visiting a new restaurant. You can even be adventurous at a restaurant that you frequent often by trying something new. I’d loved to know what new foods or new restaurants that you have tried recently. Please share your adventures with me because I have 19 more new restaurants to try before the end of 2020.

“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

 

 

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