Browsing Category


Louisiana, On the Road, Southern, Travels

Spider webs and pepper mash: My trip to Avery Island

September 1, 2015

Throughout my childhood, my paternal grandmother was constantly armed with a bottle of Tabasco. Bland food was the enemy, and there was a lot of it around back then in restaurants, the occasional hospital room and church suppers. In her mind, it all needed correction. She’d reach into her purse for a standard issue 60 ml. bottle of Tabasco, and start dousing. Fast food fries would go from pale beige to orange in a matter of seconds.

That tradition stayed with me when I left Georgia at 18 for college in Washington, D.C. This was forever ago, when dining halls produced food that was crazy tasteless, and I took great pleasure in taking out my own secured bottle of Tabasco. Maybe all that Tabasco love was foreshadowing, because I ended up going to graduate school at LSU soonafter, and then finding myself never able to leave Louisiana.

But in all these years of food writing from Baton Rouge, I’d never written about Tabasco. I was thrilled a few months back when I got a magazine assignment on the McIlhenny family that granted me a behind-the-scenes tour of Avery Island and the Tabasco plant.

What an incredible institution this condiment is.


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New Orleans, On the Road, Restaurants, Travels

Mmmm, New Orleans. How I choose where to eat.

August 27, 2015

For last 10 years as New Orleans has marched back from Katrina, and for many years before that, I’ve spent a lot of time dining out in this luscious exotic American city. My husband John and I are among the thousands of people who live in a Louisiana city other than New Orleans (yes, those exist), making it easy to head to the Crescent City for regular food adventures. From our home in Baton Rouge, New Orleans is just over an hour’s drive, and when you live that close to a city whose culinary scene always reveals something new, you end up there for a lot of milestone birthdays, anniversaries and stolen weekends. After all, the money saved in plane fare is extra dough for food and drink.

But weekends don’t last forever, and choosing where to eat in a city lousy with great restaurants is tough. Sure, it’s hard to make a mistake, but it’s also fun to leave feeling like you’ve done your due diligence. By the time we hit our 15th wedding anniversary this year, John and I had finally perfected the right formula for choosing where to eat.

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Farmers Markets, Fresh produce, New England, On the Road, Summer Produce, Tomatoes, Travels, Vegetables

On the road: Vermont, the mothership of local produce

August 25, 2015

Here’s what’s  interesting about Vermont. Farmers markets and farmstands are out in the middle of nowhere sporting the most centerfold-worthy produce you’ve ever seen. There they are, situated along rural roads and byways with no trace of other retail around them holding fruits and veggies so lovely they look like they never wore dirt. Vermont’s farmstands I find particularly intriguing because they’re quiet little gourmet markets at the edge of functioning farms, and God bless ’em, they’re often open seven days a week, (a completely different arrangement than the weekly farmers market many of us enjoy). Here are a few glimpses of Crossroad Farm, a 30-year operation in Post Mills, Vermont.  It was a favorite spot of my grandmother’s, who spent her summers in the area. My family and I love visiting here.

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Desserts, Latin American Cuisine, Local, Oysters, Restaurants, Road Food, Travels

On the road: Savoring San Francisco without going broke

June 8, 2015

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, each one offering a different vibe and, if you know where to look, incredible grassroots food. On our recent trip, we situated ourselves in the Mission District because of its reasonable housing for a group of six, and its proximity to authentic affordable eats. John and I have been to San Francisco several times, but this was the first time we brought our children (ages 13, 11 and 8) and my mother-in-law. Here are a few highlights that might be helpful if you’re headed that way.

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Apples, Local, Travels

On the road: Georgia makes good apples

December 2, 2014

I’ve been in Louisiana since the early nineties (whoa, is it possible that much time has passed!?), but I’m a Georgia native. My husband and three kids and I return frequently to the Peach State to visit my family, always taking advantage of the local culinary gems (mustard-based pit BBQ anyone?). This year for Thanksgiving, we headed to the Blue Ridge area and, while there, hit one of our favorite stops, Mercier Orchards.

The family-run business features thousands of acres of fruit orchards (mostly apple), along with a large store that sells fresh produce, pastries and all kinds of fun stuff in jars. I can really go nuts at this place, hauling back several half-peck bags of  apples and extras like Mercier’s signature five pepper hot sauce, apple butter, peach pepper jelly, apple cider and sorghum syrup.

Here in Louisiana, we are blessed with a diversity of fresh fruit — peaches, blueberries, blackberries, muscadines, strawberries, watermelon, citrus fruits and figs –but it’s too hot for traditional apples. Eating an orchard gem like the ones at Mercier’s makes you appreciate how much better an apple is when it’s sold near its source. My favorite north GA apple is the Gold Rush, a crisp, sweet-tart multipurpose variety that’s great for snacking, cooking and baking. So far, I’ve used it in apple-brie breakfast quesadillas and chopped fine in salmon salad. I’ve also started delivering apples, along with the gorgeous citrus fruit emerging on our backyard trees, to my editors, clients and special friends.

It’s funny. It’s possible to mail order from Mercier’s, but I like the ritual of bringing home a bounty, feeling bummed when it runs out and looking forward to my next face-to-face visit.

Food torture is so satisfying!