NOLA-ing: NOLA Brewery

NOLA Brewery tours should be pushing people away. This simply is the best tour you can do in New Orleans in its price range. The tours are every Friday 2-3 PM & Saturday 2-4 PM. With admission into the tour you get two drink tokens.  Price is free (as of this writing). This is definitely Nola nerd couple approved.

NOLA Brewery might not have the widespread reach of Abita or the acclaim of Parish, but they do put out a consistent quality product. Their beers are perfect for summer barbeques or Superbowl parties. Their year round beers are light years better than any macro-brewed beer. In other words, I can’t understand why people still Budweiser, Coors, or Miller when they can get NOLA Blonde or Brown in a can.

nolabrew

The NOLA Brewery Warehouse

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Drinking: Local Brews

Being an ex-smoker, I don’t drink a lot of beer. Some people prefer coffee with their cigarettes; I always preferred beer. And the cheaper the beer usually the more I crave a cigarette. It’s truly the only time I crave one. So I rarely drink.

Yet, I do enjoy a good beer every now and then without a cigarette. Now, I’m no expert on craft beers. I have no problem with PBR and Miller High Life. Yet, if I’m going to spend the money on beer I prefer to shop locally. That’s why I’m happy we live in an area with so many good local beers.

NOLA Blonde is my favorite second blonde after my wife. Abita Amber is like an old friend that will never let you down. Purple Haze is the definition of a refreshing beer. Pontchartrain Pilsner from Covington Brewhouse and a dozen raw oysters sounds like a perfect meal to me. So does a piece of king cake with Strawberry Ale, also from Covington Brewhouse. If I’m cooking, my favorite beer is Hopitoulas.

Hopitoulas from NOLA Brewing

Hopitoulas from NOLA Brewing

Don’t worry designated drivers out there. Abita Root Beer is a good as a root beer can be.  In fact, I drink way more of that than any of the above beers.

Drinking: A Tea Education

Coca-Cola and I have come to a point in our relationship that is no longer beneficial to me. I must leave it behind. Water is a fine replacement, but where do I go when I want a pick me up drink? I do not really care for coffee, except expensive craft coffee that I do not have the time or the money to get into.

Brewing Tea

Brewing some Blueberry Bliss tea

This leaves me with tea.

Like most geeks my age, our introduction to the non-sweet, non-iced variety of tea dates back to the first time we saw Jean-Luc Picard drink an Earl Grey, hot. Like most impressionable college aid students, I tried it. I liked it, but quickly forgot about it.

Then came early this year. While shopping, I noticed in the tea section the herbal teas for the first time. Intrigued by the one claiming it promoted digestive health, I picked up a couple of herbal teas. I had some Earl Grey and Green Jasmine tea at home. The next day started my tea obsession.

I started with Earl Grey. No headaches that day. The next day I tried the digestive health tea. No stomach aches. Practically everyday of my adult life, I have had one or the other. Since I started drinking tea, I have had neither. Well, at least on the days I drink tea. The two days I did not, well…

This could be just power of suggestion with me telling myself that because I am drinking tea, which I know has healthful benefits, I fell better. I know correlation does not always mean causation. In this instance, I do not care. All I care to know is that I feel better on the days I drink tea.

tea brewing Kit

My Tea Brewing Kit

I have since added Lady Grey to my bagged tea collection. I have also started exploring brewing loose tealeaves. I purchased a perfect tea maker form Teavana that allows for easy home brewing. I also purchased some Blueberry Bliss Roobios Tea from them. While not a true tea, it is delicious. For my caffeine fix, I have been drinking English Breakfast by Twinning’s.

As with any new obsession, my goal is to learn everything about tea. I have started scouring steepster.com and teaviews.com to find out about teas. I have even checked out a book from the library about the history and culture of teas. While the staff at the Teavana was exceptionally nice and helpful the day I visited, I am really looking forward to visiting a few of the local merchants to learn about new teas. In addition, with a trip to London looming this summer for graduate school, well, let’s just say I am planning to get a few teas through customs.

I would write more, but it is time for a cuppa.

Drinking: The Old New Orleans Rum Distillery

The Old New Orleans Rum Distillery Door

The Old New Orleans Rum Distillery Entrance

Neither Cristina nor I are big drinkers but that didn’t stop us from touring the Old New Orleans Distillery. Located on Frenchman St. between the I-10 split, the distillery can be a little hard to find. In fact, if it wasn’t for the decorated door, we would have wondered if we were in the right place. That and a pretty decent crowd for an October afternoon tour.

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Eating: Teacakes Can Be Artisanal?: Velvet Espresso and Artisan Teacakes

This past Saturday Cristina and I wanted to make the trip uptown to visit our friends Eric and Vinnie doing there “guest” barista gig at Velvet Espresso and Artisan Teacakes. It was a perfect day for us to go since I had come in very late from the previous night’s basketball game. Coffee sounded like a very good idea for my foggy early afternoon brain.

Trying to avoid parade traffic, we decided to take Carrolton to get to Velvet which is located on the corner of Magazine and Arabella across from Whole Foods. Passing Palmer Park, we noticed that the Arts Council was having there Arts Market. Cursing myself for not knowing that ahead of time, I told Cristina we were going after Velvet. She didn’t need to be convinced.

 

Baristas: Vinnie and Eric

Vinnie and Eric hard at work at Velvet

We had planned to order some really crappy coffee on purpose to mess with Eric. We planned on doing this because Eric takes his coffee, as does Velvet, really seriously. Listening to Eric talk about coffee is a strange experience for someone who likes a little coffee with their sugar and cream. He talks about it the same way Ted Williams would talk about hitting a baseball. Velvet is not Starbucks. It’s not trying to be everything for everyone. It wants to serve refined coffee for people who really appreciate it, and I’m guessing that number is actually larger than most people realize.

 

 

A Cappuccino at Velvet

Eric made this cappuccino for Cristina

When we walked into Velvet, the first thing we noticed was how small it is, and small might be too big of word to describe it. However, the size works for this coffee shop in that its not the kind of place to sit there and study while getting pints of coffee practically IV’ed into you. It’s setup for you to just enjoy the coffee and teacakes and some nice conversation. Vinnie and Eric instantly smiled upon seeing us. Why not? Cristina and I can make anyone smile. Actually, they had just been slammed with the pre-parade crowd, and I think it was nice for them to see familiar faces. We asked for some random teacakes (or did Vinnie just correctly assume we wanted them?). I abandoned the idea of joking with Eric about ordering a Folgers, and just told him to surprise me. He served me an espresso with almond milk knowing that I’m lactose intolerant (I do carry pills around most of the time but this was a nice gesture). I wasn’t sure what to make of the espresso at first. I rarely drink coffee and if I do it’s just at gas stations on long drives. It wasn’t very sweet; in fact, it was almost tart. Then Eric states the coffee has strong citrus tones. The more he talked about it the more I liked it. He wasn’t selling it to me though.  He just really is passionate and knowledgable about coffee.  I respect that. He made a cappuccino for Cristina. Cristina realized she is a sweet coffee girl, so Eric recommended a latte next time. We were both in agreement on the deliciousness of the teacakes. The teacakes, think miniature cupcakes, were perfect little bites of sweetness. I also couldn’t pass up a Mexican Coke – coke with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Now it was time to head to the Arts Market.