Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Trip To New Orleans

Last week we drove over to New Orleans and spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Boubon Street in the French Quarter. This was my first long trip, 200 miles each way, since I had my knee replaced.

Map of the French Quarter, New Orleans
Click on the map for a larger and more readable image.

It was an easy trip on Interstate 10. We stopped frequently for me to stretch and walk around a bit. We changed drivers often so no one was behind the wheel too long.

Morrison's, Mobile, Alabama, still open in May 2009We stopped for lunch in Mobile, Alabama at Morrison's Cafeteria, an old favorite. It is now part of the Piccadilly chain, but Morrison's began in Mobile so three of the restaurants there still have the Morrison's name on the roof.

We got to the hotel mid-afternoon and were glad to be staying in the heart of the French Quarter. The Sonesta had a great Internet deal and we got a room on the top floor with the private R Club down the hall. Free drinks and apetizers in the afternoon, free breakfast in the morning and a high speed Internet computer available 24 hours a day. For dinner we had reservations at NOLA. This would be perhaps the fifth time we had eaten there and we have memories of excellent food and service.

Sadly, although Emeril Lagasse is the restaurant's founder and remains the executive chef the place is now a tourist trap. Quality control seems no longer important. Due to his TV exposure the crowds come anyway despite less than stellar ingredients, indifferent preparation and friendly but sluggish service. The quality of one of our entrees was less than average; the other was inedible. We were not charged -- they wanted us to leave, quickly. I hope his other restaurants in New Orleans and around the country are getting better supervision. Please don't mess with the one in Gulfport!

Middendorf's, Pass ManchacThe next morning was beautiful. We had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel's rooftop R Club with great views of the Quarter. We decided for lunch we should drive to Pass Manchac and eat at Middendorf's.

Jack wrote about our lunch there and his memories of Pass Manchac a few days ago, click here to read his post. On the way back to the hotel we drove across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. At 24 miles it is one of the world's longest bridges. When you start on the Causeway from the north you cannot see New Orleans at all. Soon you see the faint skyline of what appears to be the Emerald City, but it's really New Orleans you see on the horizon, growing bigger and bigger.

Desire Oyster BarAfter we got back to the hotel we decided to find somewhere casual for supper and the best place was at our hotel: Desire Oyster Bar at the corner of Bienville and Bourbon Streets -- the very heart of the Vieux Carré . The food there is wonderful, it's noisy and crowded plus it's open to the street. At night Bourbon Street is closed to cars so the tourists and street performers take over. We had a great view of it all from our table by an open window next to the sidewalk.

The Shed BBQ, Ocean Springs, MississippiIn the morning we headed for home and at lunch time found ourselves in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. We made our first visit to The Shed BBQ. We had never been nearby when we were hungry so this was our time to check out The Shed. It's rustic(actually it looks like it's falling down, but that's just stage design), it's jammed with people and the food is great. Worth the trip.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Orleans Photos

Royal Sonesta Hotel, Bourbon Street, New OrleansHere's a slideshow of photos taken during the New Orleans road trip.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Road Trip: 
Middendorf's Restaurant 
Pass Manchac, Louisiana

Pass Manchac Historic Roadside Marker
While we were in New Orleans last Tuesday we drove over to Manchac -- AKA Akers, Louisiana -- to have lunch at an old favorite restaurant -- Middendorf's. Here are Jack's comments.

You won't find Middendorf's Restaurant unless you're looking for it.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, this venerable and regionally famous seafood joint is located in Pass Manchac, Louisiana, about a 45 minute drive from New Orleans, slap dab in the middle of a swamp.

We drove up from New Orleans for lunch and returned by way of the 24 mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from Mandeville back into the Crescent City. Lunch was great. We weren't surprised.

The new Middendorf's

Middendorf's is famous for its fried catfish, sliced so thin you can almost see through it. The large menu includes a wide variety of seafood, including "Manchac style" gumbo, the style I grew up on. Like clam chowder in New England, gumbo in south Louisiana comes in many varieties. The Manchac recipe remains my favorite.

Years ago, my grandfather owned a fishing camp in Pass Manchac. It was a rickety structure built on pilings near the shore of Lake Maurepas. I spent many days with my family at Manchac -- one of my jobs was to walk the long pier, checking the crab nets and piling any crabs we caught into a basket.

A wonderful Cajun woman, Mrs. Hebert (that's pronounced A-BEAR) cooked for my grandfather. She cracked the crabs and blended them into her very special gumbo. Those special Manchac flavors that I remember from all those years ago are still alive and well in Middendorf's version.

Even though we had a great cook at the camp, no trip would be complete without a meal at Middendorf's. I confess that at 8 years old my palate wasn't very adventurous. I almost always had a hamburger.

Middendorf's Restaurant 75th Anniversary Banners

That old fishing camp didn't make it through Hurricane Camile in 1969. Middendorf's suffered from another big storm, Katrina, in 2005. Its original structure was badly damage. So they moved lock, stock and Tabasco next door to a building formerly used for private parties and events. Extensive renovation is underway on the old building. Our waitress said they hope to move back late this summer.

Happy 75th Middendorf's! And many, many more.

Middendorf's restored original building.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Pensacola History Featured In This Month's Smithsonian Magazine

Greetings from Pensacola, 1930s postcard.

Here's a link to Smithsonian Magazine's online edition and an article about Pensacola and its maritime history. Don't miss the photo gallery and the video.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Farmers' Markets, Summer 2009

Bailey's Farmers Market
Photo from Pensacola News Journal --

Last February Pensacola's huge produce and plant store, Bailey's, closed "temporarily." The hand written sign on the door said they would be back in April. Well it's May and there's a for sale sign in the parking lot. Bailey's will be missed.

Last Wednesday the News Journal had an article about local growers and they included the following list:

-- Andrew's Sod and Fruit: 3900 Tungoil Road, Walnut Hill, 982-9263. Specializing in Centipede sod, they now also grow strawberries and other vegetables.

-- Lundy Blueberry Patch: 8655 State Road 89 North, Milton, 623-0652. U-pick, fresh blueberries in the early summer and pecans in the fall.

-- Steve's Homegrown Sweet Corn: 1201 State Road 99 South, Walnut Hill, 327-4020. Family-owned, fresh vegetable market specializing in sweet corn, peas, butter beans, okra and other locally grown vegetables. Fee fishing in stocked catfish ponds is also available.

-- Touchablue Berry Farm: 7100 Molino Road, Molino, 587-5072. U-pick blueberries.

-- Holland Farms: 2055 Homer Holland Road, Milton, 675-6876. The family-operated farm offers a wide variety of produce throughout the year, including watermelon and a fall peanut harvest.

-- Grimes Blueberries: 6814 Sunshine Hill Road, Molino, 587-5281. U-pick blueberries.

-- Carraway Blueberries: 790 Molino Road, Molino, 587-5439. U-pick blueberries.

-- Beulah Berries: 6658 Suwanee Road, Pensacola, 453-2384. U-pick blueberries.

-- Green Acres Farm: 10810 State Road 97, Walnut Hill, 698-6663. This small family farm raises pasture-based chickens for eggs and meat -- plus turkey, lamb and dairy goats. All animals live out on pasture and are rotationally grazed.

-- Lowry Farm: 2118 Lee Morris Road, Jay, 675-0383.
The family-operated farm offers green peanuts, peas, sweet corn and watermelons. They open the second week in June.

-- Green Cedars Farm: 9280 Gibson Road, Molino, 698-0107. Green Cedars produces naturally grown, nutritionally superior pastured poultry, eggs and lamb and some select fruits and vegetables. Farm tours for customers, school and church groups are available.

-- Salter's Farm Market: 8847 Chumuckla Highway, Chumuckla, 994-4734. Salter's Farm Market is a local tradition in Chumuckla. Known for growing and selling greens, tomatoes squash, cucumbers and melons, the Salter Family has been in business since the 1980s. The Salter slogan is, "If we grow it, you'll like it!"

-- Riverwalk Market: 5191 S. Willing St., Milton, 626-6246. Riverwalk Market brings local residents, artists, chefs and farmers together to offer a unique variety of quality wares. The market is across from Veterans Memorial Park and the Riverwalk boardwalk along the beautiful Blackwater River.

-- Palafox Market: Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. Visit The Downtwon Improvement Board runs this farmers market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 26. The market includes locally grown seasonal fruit and fresh vegetables, homemade goodies, original artwork and free WiFi. Arrive early for the best produce selection.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu Map (North America)

Image from
Click here for a swine flu map of North America along with the latest details of the epidemic. It's from

Here's a link to CDC's Swine Flu page.

The road sign image at the top is from's swine flu update page, also worth checking out.