New Orleans Getaway: Travel Tuesday

This past weekend I went on a New Orleans Getaway with Hilton HHonors to experience their promotion for The Great Getaway Giveaway  going on now until August 4th. You can enter to win a trip just like this by entering here The Great Getaway Giveaway.

After spending 48 hours in New Orleans, I love it more than ever! Here are my 7 must do’s in this iconic Southern City.

1. Stop at Pat O’ Brien’s, built in 1791. The famous Hurricane Drink originated here in the early 1940’s. They chose the name because the drink was, and still is, served in a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp. Their motto is “Have Fun”, and it’s obvious that everyone does sitting on the outdoor patio or the indoor famous piano bar.

2. You’ll love the Spanish meets French architecture as you walk around the downtown. Take a horse carriage ride and learn about the incredible history or enjoy seeing the town on your own. You never know what you may find.

3. Stay in the elegant, landmark Hilton hotel on St. Charles, which is in the heart of downtown’s business district, just blocks away from the famous French Quarter and Bourbon street. This historic building was originally built in 1926 and was the second high-rise built in this area. The hotel has 25 exquisite guest rooms and 25 spacious suites, a world class restaurant and so much more. I was amazed how huge my room was. There’s also a large fitness center and indoor swimming pool. The ornate marble floors, exquisite woodwork, and hand-crafted inlay ceiling tiles keep this stylish hotel second to none.

My room had one of the largest hotel tub and jacuzzi that I have ever seen. I did take the time to enjoy this! 🙂

4. When you head thru the French Quarter, start the day at Cafe Du Monde for the most famous (and mouthwatering) beignets, and then spend some time exploring Jackson Square. You’ll see street artists everywhere, boutiques, restaurants as you explore this beautiful city.

5. Head to Swirl for a midmorning or afternoon wine tasting with the finest wines, and local cheeses around.

6. Take a New Orleans Culinary History Tour where you’ll encounter, the history of Antoine’s, Arnaud’s and other famous New Orleans restaurants. You’ll also have the best sampling of Gumbo, Turtle Soup, Red Beans and Rice, Pralines, Muffulettas, Gelato and more. Need I say more?

7. Dine at Luke, one of the many of John Besh’s restaurants in New Orleans, adjacent the Hilton. Start the evening off with New Orleans cocktails such as Mint Juleps, French “75” and even a Sazerac. Check times for happy hour too!

You’ll love the New Orleans meets French Bistro cuisine at Luke. My menu favorites were the Baked Oysters, Seafood Tower, Shrimp and Grits with roasted jalapeño grits, andouille and green onion sausages, and Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Hot Buttered Pecan Sauce, of course. Less than 48 in New Orleans is not enough. I guess I’ll be planning a trip back very soon!

Enter to win your own trip via The Great Getaway Giveaway NOW thru August 4th.

Travel Tuesday Vacation Destination: Sandestin A to Z

Welcome to my new weekly column “Tuesday Travel”. I am so thrilled to be doing a great deal of “freelance traveling writing” for various media outlets this year, and I am looking forward to also sharing my travel experiences as well on Ingredients, Inc. every other Tuesday.

I am so lucky to live only 4 hours from the beautiful beaches of South Walton in Northwest Florida and the stunningly amazing golf and beach resort, Sandestin.  My family and I had an incredible opportunity to visit Sandestin this Spring Break, and when my youngest son called it, “a mini Disney World” at the beach, I could truly see why. I had so much to say about this comprehensive resort experience that when I sat down to write about it, I wondered how I could say it all. I am hoping this post on “Sandestin A to Z” will give you a short tour of why you should come to Sandestin for a visit.

A: Acme Oyster House-You will get a taste of New Orleans walking around The Village of Baytowne Wharf, especially this view of the streets and the famous New Orleans restaurant, Acme Oyster House.

B: Beach-It is no surprise that Destin has been named by Good Morning America as one of “Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in America.”

C: Cantina LaredoThe Mexican restaurant, Cantina Laredo, is located in Sandestin’s Grand Boulevard shops. My kids loved it, and their favorite part was having guacamole made table side.

D: Daiquiris-Sandestin has nearly two dozen venues in The Village of Baytowne Wharf, including pub sports bars, seasonal tiki bars, restaurants, shops, and even the famous New Orleans Daiquiri and frozen drink bar, Fat Tuesday. Love this evening view of Baytowne Wharf.

E: Another Broken Egg-This is one of our favorite breakfast restaurants. There are two Another Broken Egg restaurants on Sandestin’s Property.

F: Fishing-This was my backyard for the weekend, but every lake has a “catch and release” policy which is so fun for the kids (and adults.)

G: Golf-Sandestin has four incredible championship golf courses, and it is not surprising that Sandestin has been named one of the “Top 12 Golf Communities” by Forbes.

H: Happiness-Say no more.

I: Ice Skating– In the wintertime, Sandestin adds a synthetic ice skating rink in the heart of Baytown Wharf.

J: Jet Ski-If you like an exciting or casual ride on the water, wave runners are available to rent at the Baytowne Marina. 

K: Kayaking-Kayaking is one of our family’s favorite activities at the beach. Head to the Baytowne Marina for a fun afternoon kayaking in the bay.

L: Lakes-72 lakes exist on Sandestin’s 2400 acres. They are all beautifully landscaped and very picturesque.

M: Marina-Sandestin has an 113-Slip Marina with so many fun activities, including sailing charters and lessons, sailboat rentals, pontoon boat rentals, wave runner rentals, sunset cruises, Yolo stand-up paddle boarding and more.

N: Nature TrailJolee Island Nature Park is 5 acres and the perfect place for a walk, bike ride, picnic or cookout with family or friends. During the fall, I hear that there is a great Halloween pirate themed island trail with hayrides and more.  They call it, “Get Spooked on Jolee Island.”

O: Outdoors-Where else can you get hiking, biking, beach, running, golf, tennis, beach volleyball, basketball, canoeing, paddle boarding, boogie boards and water sports all in one destination?

P: Putting CourseThe Dunes adventurous Putting Course is located beachside. This 51-par course had 18 incredibly landscaped holes of fun. It’s a great thing to do when the kids want a break from the ocean.

Q: Quintessential Vacation-The beauty in Sandestin is almost surreal. This is truly a quintessential vacation destination.

R: Ropes CourseThe Sky Trail Ropes Course is a fun challenge for kids of all ages.

S: San Gelato Cafe-Located in Baytown Wharf, we visited San Gelato Cafe every day. Owners, Guido and Simona, moved from Italy to the Emerald coast. You can find two locations in Destin which serve incredible gelato, sorbets, sandwiches, salads, coffee and desserts. Their gelato is also distributed in stores throughout the country.

T: Tennis-Sandestin is equipped with 15 tennis courts, 12 clay and 3 hard courts. This state of the art facility is built around lakes on one side and the marina on the other.

U: Umbrellas-Enjoy the view sitting or walking the seven miles of beaches and pristine bay front in Sandestin.

V: Vacation-Sandestin has 19 swimming pools. Yes, 19! This picture of my son, Zachary, by the pool, is the definition of vacation. Just chillin…

W: Water-Do I need to say more?

 

X: Xcellent Accommodations: From beach to bay, there are nearly 1,400 accommodations ranging from deluxe studios to four bedroom villas.

 

Y: Yolo boardingYolo Boards, which are stand-up paddle boards, are made in Santa rosa beach, just down the road. The combination of surfing, kayaking and canoeing is a blast for kids and adults and also an incredible core workout. Lessons and rentals are offered daily at the Sandestin Marina.

Z: Zipline-Conquer your fears in Baytown Wharf on the zipline. Anchored by two 60-feet towers, this zipline crosses 650 feet across from tower to tower. And, yes, that is me in the photo.

April 2011

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Celebrate Mardi Gras: Healthy Hurricane

Mardi Gras 2011 is this Tuesday, March 8.  Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”, is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The Hurricane is a fruit-colored relative of the “daiquiri”, and it’s credited to New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien. In the 1940s, he created the fruity concoction and served it in hurricane-lamp-shaped glasses to give away to sailors. The drink caught on, and it has been a mainstay in the French Quarter in New Orleans ever since. My version of the Healthy Hurricane is filled with fresh fruit juices, making it perfect for kids to enjoy. If you want an alcoholic version, see the note about how much rum to add.

Southern Thanksgiving Dessert-Pralines and Praline Bundt Cake

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I was working in New Orleans last week, and one of my closest food friends took me into a fabulous classic New Orleans candy shop where they were making Pralines, Fudge and other homemade confections. It’s “Southern Candy Makers“, and next time you head to New Orleans, put this stop on the top of your list. It inspired me to try a new recipe with pralines for Thanksgiving. It’s really simple to prepare and my kids loved it for breakfast, a snack, dessert and especially for Thanksgiving.

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Praline Bundt Cake

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Cool: 1 hour

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

1  cup  chopped pecans

1  cup  butter, softened

1  (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1  (16-oz.) package dark brown sugar

4  large eggs

2 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon  baking powder

1/2  teaspoon  baking soda

1/4  teaspoon  salt

1  (8-oz.) container sour cream

2  teaspoons  vanilla extract

Praline Icing

Preparation

1. Arrange 1 cup pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

3. Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in toasted pecans and vanilla. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

4. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.

5. Prepare Praline Icing, and spoon immediately over cake. Sprinkle top of cake with Sugared Pecans.

Praline Icing

Ingredients

1  cup  firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2  cup  butter

1/4  cup  milk

1  cup  powdered sugar, sifted

1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Use immediately.

Southern Candy Makers has two locations on Decatur Street. See http://southerncandymakers.com

Recipe adapted from Southern Living Magazine see http://southernliving.com