Friday, February 25, 2011

Eating Our Way Through Louisiana

Following is Shirley's account of our recent trip through Texas and Louisiana. The original plan was to invite friends along the way out for a meal or coffee, for a short visit. Neither Shirley nor I feel it is courtious to dash into someone's home in the evening and dash out early next morning. We also hate bypassing friends along the way. However, each invitation to coffee or a meal was countered with an invitation to stay a few days. The result, weather not withstanding, would have stretched a five day trip into three weeks...

Eating Our Way Through Louisiana

When the invitation to Mark’s 50th birthday celebration arrived, Rob and I decided to make a vacation of the trip to Monroe, Louisiana.  After many e-mails with different friends and family, we left on a two week journey through Louisiana and Texas.

Our first stop was in Dallas at the home of Martha, one of Rob’s high school classmates.  Martha had a delicious spaghetti dinner waiting for us when we arrived.  She has a beautiful home that she shared with us for two nights.  On Friday morning, Rob made his cinnamon whole wheat buttermilk pumpkin pecan waffles for everyone and another classmate, Joel joined us.  After breakfast we took two vehicles over to Dealy Plaza and toured the new JFK assassination museum.  At the end of the walk around the area, Martha and I went to the airport to pick up Martha’s sister, DJ and Rob and Joel went to pick up Joel’s wife, Linda, at Bass Pro Shop where she works.  (here, Rob was forced to entertain himself by wandering around among all the sporting goods) We all met at El Fenix mexican restaurant for supper where Martha’s daughter and son in law joined us. (to no-one's surprise, Martha has a beautiful daughter) Saturday morning, Martha fixed bacon, sausage and eggs for breakfast. After heartfelt goodbys we headed out for Louisiana.

We were staying at the Atrium Hotel, where we met up with Gwen, Hilrey, John, Gwen’s sister Cheryl and Gwen’s friend, Jewel and Myra.  Mark joined us at the hotel and we all drove to The Warehouse seafood restaurant for dinner with about 40 of Mark’s parishioners.  Dessert was Mark’s birthday cake and the pianist played Happy Birthday while we all sang.  After dinner we went back to the church where Mark was surprised by another party, complete with a band, dancing, more food and more birthday cakes.  One of his parishioners had created a photo gallery of pictures from Mark’s baby book and other pictures from his life.  On Sunday we went to Mass together.  Myra sang with the choir.  Mark said Mass beautifully, as always.  After Mass, we went to the church school gym and a ton of food was laid out by even more parishioners, more birthday cakes and more pictures added to the gallery.  A gift to Mark was a portrait of him to hang in the church narthex.  It was the best, hand painted, likeness of anyone I have ever seen.  In the afternoon the family gathered at Mark’s to watch the football game and visit.  That evening we all went to the home of parishioners Ralph and Gabriella for dinner.  They have a beautiful home (he is an OB/GYN) and she served salad with homemade dressing, pork tenderloin, asparagus and potatoes.  Gabriella was kind enough to share her recipe for the dressing.  We were joined by Mark’s faithful friend, Joann , and the Armstrong's daughter, and the twelve of us were seated comfortably around their dinner table.  Gabriella brought in an italian cream cake and Mark was served on their special family Birthday plate.  On Monday morning our family all gathered for breakfast at the hotel and then headed out for all points.

When we got to Huey and Donna's on Monday, we went to Casseroles for lunch and then drove around looking at houses for sale in HomeTown.  Didn’t find anything we were ready to plunk money down on this day.  Had supper at the Chinese buffet and then just relaxed at home.  Donna informed us that we ate breakfast in our robes (my kind of friend!) and so Rob baked cinnamon whole wheat buttermilk pumpkin pecan waffles again for breakfast.  After breakfast we went over to the new HomeTown High School where a nice senior girl took us on a tour of the facility.  It is beautiful and enormous.  The old school is still standing, and Huey had secured three bricks from the former elementary school that stood on the new high school site.  Huey took us by the cemetery and we discovered that the engraving for the date of death on Daddy’s stone had not been done and his headstone never placed.  So we went to the funeral home and arranged to have that done.  Went to Piggly Wiggly and got three shades of purple carnations to put on the family graves.  The four of us walked around downtown then.  I was amazed at the shops that been standing empty last visit now had something in them and the theatre was up and running movies every night.  The library was expanding to the two buildings adjacent to it.  It will take up nearly half the block when finished. The walmart had expanded, too, so something good is going on in spite of the paper mill and Trane’s closing.  We shopped in a small department store and got a lot of goods for a little money.  We had lunch at a new diner called Amjen’s downtown.  That night we went to another classmates, Danny and Lynn’s cabin for her excellent gumbo.  Rob brought out his meade.  A great visit was had with the four classmates. 

On Wednesday we drove to Hammond and stopped at the Mardi Gras warehouse in Lafayette on the way.  When we got to Myra’s, she was not feeling well so we ordered in pizza and I made a salad to go with it.  We relaxed with the television that evening.  On Thursday, Rob and I went to Berryland Produce stand and bought Louisiana favorite eats to take home and Rob shopped at Joe’s store.  Rob went to the casino in Kinner with Joe that night and they both lost their shorts.  Myra and I had leftover salad and watched a little television.  On Friday we left Myra’s and had lunch with Dawn at the seafood restaurant, we like, in her neighborhood in Baton Rouge then headed on to New Orleans.

Checked into the Place d’Armes Hotel and walked around Jackson Square to look at the art  for awhile then went to the Gumbo shop for supper.  It was not as good as it was the last time, but still worth the visit.  Started our Abita Beer tasting with Turbo Dog.  Saturday we started the day with beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde.  Walked to the Jazz Museum and did a little shopping in the French Market.  Took the trolley to the Riverwalk and bought our tickets for the river cruise.  Then walked back to the quarter, toured the Jean LaFitte Museum and had gumbo for lunch at Montrel’s Bistro.  After lunch we took the trolley back to the Riverwalk and boarded the Creole Queen for a ride down the Mississippi to the Chalmette Battlefield, scene of the 1815 defeat of the British at the "Battle of New Orleans". A park service Ranger gave a rambling but informative talk on the battle. After a blast from the Creole Queen's whistle we re-boarded for the trip back up the river to the Riverwalk.  We scurried back to Jackson Square where we attended Mass at St. Louis Cathedral and went back to the Gumbo Shop for supper.  In the morning we went to Brennan’s for breakfast.  Rob had the baked apple with cream and I had the strawberries with cream and we both had eggs benedict and a flaming bananas foster.  We were served by about five different waiters.  After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and drove back over to Hammond.

Dawn’s girls (beautiful, like their mother) are both competitive cheer leaders.  Mollye had competed the day before and Sadie was competing on Sunday afternoon at the Southeastern College campus.  Sadie’s group took second place in her division.  We all drove over to Brady’s for lunch and then back to Myra’s where the girls played in Joe's playroom over the garage, and the adults joined in.  After the girls left, we met Joe at a hibachi grill for a enormous supper of seafood and rice prepared on the grill in front of us.

Monday we headed out to visit with John and Mary, another of Rob’s classmates, in their beautiful home.  All the classmates we visited with were on the cruise with us in 2010 except Joel and Linda and Danny and Lynn.  After lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches, I had a sinking spell so Mary and John took Rob to visit the U.S.S. Kidd in the afternoon and Mary made oven fried chicken supper and King Cake for dessert that night for all of us.  It was the first home cooked meal, besides breakfast, we had had since we were at Martha’s in Dallas.  Mary is a very good cook and very organized in the kitchen.    On Tuesday we were watching the weather with some concern about a front coming through.  So, after Rob, with Mary's able assistance, made his cinnamon whole wheat buttermilk pumpkin pecan waffles on their belgian waffle maker, we headed out to the State capitol building and rode to the 27th floor tower.  After that we went to the Louisiana State Museum and viewed lots of information and exhibits concerning Huey Long’s political life, and Louisiana history and culture.  While we were inside, the storm passed over with a heavy rain.  After a light lunch at the Jackson’s we went to Calandro’s and bought more Louisiana eats to take home.  That night we went to a very good seafood restaurant and had very good bar-b-qued shrimp and twice bake potatoes.  Wednesday morning Mary fixed scrambled eggs, biscuits and sausage for breakfast.  She puts pepper Velveeda cheese in the eggs.  Delicious!  We said our goodbyes to Louisiana in 27 degree weather.

On the way to Houston we talked to our friends near Houston.  Carl had a frozen well, Chris had frozen pipes and so did Cindy so they were all camped out at Carl and Betty’s. We decided not to add to their burden. After consulting with Martha by phone, we discovered North Texas was already frozen and iced over, with another storm on the way. Consulting with a friend in Kansas revealed a storm was expected there just about the time a thaw was due in Texas. This prompted a try to beat the incoming storm home. We made it as far as south Dallas (after a quick stop at the Corsicana bakery!) before the ice and dark encouraged us to stop for the night. Left Thursday morning and drove through ice covered roads all the way to Wichita Falls, Texas before it thinned out. That is 140 miles and it took us 5 hours. We were blessed to stay moving on the road and get through it without any mishaps. We were happy to see Oklahoma had dry roads and the rest of the trip was uneventful.

We always enjoy going to Louisiana and are always sad to leave. So the plan is to get our act together and see if we can’t return to Louisiana on a permanent basis.

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