NOLA-ing: Being a tourist in our own city of New Orleans.

LivingSocial.com can sometimes have some amazing deals, though most of them seem to be about teeth whitening, hair removal, or house cleaning.  But every once in a while, you can find truly cool deal. Our first deal was going to the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery. Our second deal was through a tour company, Southern Style Tours, where you get a tour of New Orleans. Even though we live here, neither of us have ever taken a true tour of the city. So we decided to become tourists in our own city and explore New Orleans.

Eating: Company Burger and a Putting Aside Past Prejudices

Company Burger Single with Bacon and a Fried Egg

Company Burger Single with Bacon and a Fried Egg

All of January, Cristina seemed to be fighting a cold. All of January, I was having the Can’t Hardly Waits to see Color Me Obsessed about the Replacements…my favorite band. The night of the movie, she wasn’t feeling any better. She told me to go without her. This meant I would be dining alone.

I decided to check out Freret Street. We have been to High Hat before but that’s it. At first I was going to go to Dat Dog. However, the line was very long so I figured I would save that for another day. I ended up at Company Burger.

In Pulp Fiction, there is a scene in which Samuel L. Jackson asks for a bite of a hamburger because he’s girlfriend is a vegetarian which pretty much makes him a vegetarian. Cristina isn’t a vegetarian but she doesn’t care for hamburgers (except Cowbell’s…for now (editor’s note: Company Burger gets a lot of our money)). This means I relish any time I can order a good hamburger.

Company Burger didn’t disappoint.

I ordered the single with no cheese. I added the fried egg and bacon (nueske’s bacon ftw). What came out was a near masterpiece of a burger. Juicy in ways that Dave Thomas would have been jealous of, this was one satisfying burger. I sent Cristina pictures of the burger and she was intrigued enough to try her second burger just off the picture. The fries were crisp and starchy (again, near perfect). The aioli bar served up some great dips for the fries.

However, the best part was the pickles. Now, if you know me, you will understand that unless they are on a ham sandwich, I feel that pickles are nothing more than cucumbers soaked in absolute evil. I didn’t even read the menu enough to notice they were there. Usually when I bite into a pickle I make a sour face. Not, with these. These homemade bread and butter pickles were perfect. Next time I go may order a pickle sandwich dressed with a hamburger patty.

Now, that Cristina is feeling better, it’s time to return to Company Burger.

Watching: We’re The Replacements, Color Me Obsessed Movie Review

Postcards from Paradise: Color Me Obsessed

Postcards from Paradise: Color Me Obsessed

I bought my first Replacements album, their last, on December 27, 1990 at 8:47 pm. An obsession was born.

While I had lots of friends in college, none understood me like The Replacements did. It seemed as if they had a song for whatever mood I was in. They were losers, like me, who wore their heart on their sleeve. However, they weren’t emo. They were a rock band. A great rock band with an underage bass player named Tommy Stinson, his older, haunted by demons brother Bob on guitar, an artist named Chris Mars who happened to play drums, and a rebel with a soul writing the songs. The music drew me in but Paul Westerberg‘s lyrics kept me there.

For the next decade, I listened to at least one song once a day.

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Watching: A Cinematic Adventure with the 2012 Best Picture Nominees

Yesterday, Cristina and I sat through five of the nominated movies for Best Picture. We have seen three of the other nominees with only War Horse being left out. And because watching five movies in one day is an adventure, we decided to write our thoughts on this cinemantic journey.

Two of the movies were about the movies and specifically the silent era. I adored Hugo. Wonderfully lit for a 3D film (besides Avatar, 3D films are way too dark), this film seemed to be a love letter from Scorsese to the movies. The young child actors were well cast. While the movie did at times seem like a PSA for film preservation, it made me smile the entire time. The other film about the movies, The Artist, was a great homage to the silent era. The handsome leads were able to find the emotions needed for this film without saying the words. While it isn’t City Lights or The General, it too has you smiling the entire time. To Cristina it was one of her two favorites.

I have mixed feelings about The Help. It’s a very good movie with an even better one waiting to come out. The story of the white crusader who helps the people of color find their courage just seems to have been done one too many times (Glory, Ghosts of Mississippi). However, the film boasts excellent performances from it’s entire cast. I just wish the last scene was actually the start of the movie.  Finally, being free for the first time, Viola Davis’s story was just getting interesting.

The Descendants is also a well acted movie. It came the closest to giving me the feeling that I was watching someone else’s life. George Clooney is struggling to keep his life together after his wife is injured in an accident without a chance of recovering. It’s a journey movie of one finding one’s self and realizing that they have the courage to do what will make them happy. The final scene of Clooney’s character and his wife is a powerfully gut-wrenching scene.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the one film that I felt like saying “meh” after. The movie just felt manipulative to me. The movie deals with a boy, probably with Asperger’s, dealing with the lost of his father on that most terrible of days of our generation. It’s so well acted and so well directed that it seems to ask for an Oscar nomination. The film is brilliant when Max Von Sydow is on the screen.

Moneyball is a very good film. It’s downfall is that it almost comes off as documentary. Actually, that is what makes it a great film.

The most frustrating film is also the most beautiful of the nominees. Tree of Life doesn’t have a linear story line which makes it the only film I wouldn’t recommend. It’s a tone poem about…life, death, God, and the void. It does seem to have it’s roots in the Book of Job, but even one of it’s stars, Sean Penn, has no idea what the film is about. That doesn’t mean it isn’t great. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awful, either. This is truly the only film I have seen in years that can be judge solely on what your experiences tell you about it.

That leaves us with my favorite film (and the film that ties with the Artist for Cristina’s vote): Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The film has Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson in it but the true star is the streets and architecture of Paris. Owen Wilson’s character keeps switching from the present day City of Lights to the artist mecca of the 1920s in a journey to find himself and what will make him happy. And as he learns, Paris of any era might just have the answers.

Now, to plan a future trip to Paris…

Cristina’s note: If The Artist or Midnight in Paris does not win, the Oscars are a sham!

Traveling: Europe Cruise 2012

Being teachers, Kurt and I get the pleasure of having almost two months off during the summer. Because I run a tight budget and we live frugally during the year, we’re able to take a trip each summer. Kurt and I were discussing the possibilities for this coming summer, from a week in Disney World to a cruise out of New Orleans. As I’m checking out cruises, I curiously start looking at cruises in Europe. While scrolling through the many wonderful ports and attractions, one catches my eye – a 12 day cruise out of Barcelona. The more I explore it, the more intrigued I am. Half jokingly, I start looking up airfare. $1300? Ha ha…no. I push the thought out of my mind…or, try to at least. That night, all I could think about was this cruise. I had mentioned it to Kurt, and though he was interested, he was very doubtful about the cost.

The next day, I made a decision. I was going to call the annoying cruise guy that calls me EVERY time I log onto their website and see what kind of deal he could get me. Right off the bat, he gave me an airfare/cruise deal…of $6200, more than what I could do separately. No thanks! I bemoan to him that it’s way too expensive and he asks if their are any other cities I could fly from, since certain cities have deals. I mention Orlando…cha-Ching!!! They do have a deal…one I couldn’t pass up.

So, I booked the cruise! It sails out of Barcelona, with it’s first stop in Marseilles, France, a place neither of us has been. We’re thinking of doing an excursion to Avignon and seeing the Papal Palace. We then head to Livorno, Italy, where we’ll take an excursion to Pisa (having done Florence in 2010). The next day, we have an overnight stay in Civitavecchia, Italy, where it’s only a 90 minute ride to Rome. Though I’ve been there three times and Kurt’s been there once on our 2010 trip, he only got to do Vatican City and the Coliseum, since we were only there for half a day. This time, we’ll get to do all the things he missed. We’re thinking about even getting a hotel room to get the full experience and not have to travel back to the ship.

Our next stop is Dubrovnik, Croatia, another new place. I’m probably most excited to visit this place, not only because it’s in Eastern Europe, a gorgeous seaside city, and extremely old, but it’s also the filming location of my favorite television show, Game of Thrones.

We then head to Venice for another overnight stay, a place which I visited ten years ago, but Kurt has yet to see. We finish the trip in Messina, Sicily. We plan on doing an excursion to Mt. Etna, an active volcano. Kurt is terrified of heights, but how many opportunities do you get to go up into a volcano? I’ve never been to one, so this is truly exciting. I’m already looking forward to the photos I can add to my power points for World Geography.

We opted to spend an extra day in Barcelona since neither of us has been there either. Kurt has a cousin that lives there, so we will hopefully get to spend some time with her.

The best part is that through careful planning, this trip will not set us back monetarily at all. We are very fortunate to have such great jobs that allow us to save and have the time to travel. Though if all goes according to plan, this might be our last big trip for a few years…we’d want to wait until our kids are old enough to appreciate the places we’d take them. And maybe by next summer, we’ll have one. And I think he or she will be worth the wait.

Traveling: 1000 Places: #1 – The New Orleans Restaurant Scene

If you haven’t noticed, I am slightly obsessed with traveling. In the country, out of the country, in Louisiana, even in New Orleans, I love touring, history, experiencing new thrills. One of the books I read that helps me pick amazing places is 1000 Places To See Before You Die. I thought I’d do a themed category called 1000 Places, where I document each of the places from the book that I’ve been. Currently, I rest at 43/1000 using the updated book. The new book has about 200 new places. How did they add 200 new places without deleting any of the old places? By combining places. For example, in the old book, five entries were Anne Frank House, Canal Cruises, Red-Light District, Rijksmuseum, and Van Gogh Museum. In the new book, they combined all of these into one entry: Amsterdam. Right there, I lost four entries I had. But I am okay with this…I would rather have 200 new and exciting places to challenge myself to visit!

These entries will be randomly chosen, based on what I feel like writing about. So my first one will be near and dear to my heart: The New Orleans Restaurant Scene.

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Eating: Menus are First Impressions

My mother in law is opening a little breakfast and lunch cafe in Panama City, Florida. Being that I teach a digital graphics class, she asked if my students could design a menu for her. Real world application is about as high level as learning can get so I developed a rubric and after giving them some tips about good design, I let them get to work.*

The more questions the kids asked the more it got me to thinking about menus. So at the risk of having most of you leave this post while reading this sentence, I’ve decided to rant a little about menus.

Menu’s help make first impressions. And the only way for a restaurant to make an impression is to be readable. As I tell my students, fonts have a voice and choosing the right one will help give a restaurant a voice. Restaurants should stay away from overly decorative fonts. Also restaurants should also stay away from Comic Sans (unless it’s a comic book restaurant). Also, restaurants need to stay away from Papyrus unless you are serving ancient Egyptian or Roman food. Either nice block letters or an elegant script font is all a restaurant needs.

Menu length is important and in this case size does matter but in that smaller is better. When I get a book for a menu, I know I’m not getting a very good meal. It might be ok, but there is no way a restaurant can serve that many things well. One page menus, in my experience, usually mean better food. You see this all the time on Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant: Impossible. Less is always more.

However, a menu that is one page but filled with type is not the answer either. The brain needs negative space to help keep order. The brain also needs hierarchy. Don’t make the description in the same size font as the name of the dish.

There is one thing that I hate seeing on menus besides all milk-based desserts: Advertisements. I want to order off a menu not a newspaper. If a restaurant needs to resort to doing that, then maybe they should take a long look at their menu and do some editing.

What do you think?

*When the winning menu is finalized, I’ll post it on here.

**For the people who do read this blog, we would like to apologize for the lack of posts lately. ; We will be doing our best to update more regularly.