New Orleans: Deanies

Frank and Barbara Chifici founded Deanie’s Seafood Market and Restaurant, which is now run by their kids. The family included farmers, cooks, and purveyors. They have three different locations, but our hotel was right across the street from the French Quarter location. We tried to go there on the first night, but there was a 40-minute wait. You would think that they were Irish, not Sicilian, because you are greeted with a bowl of potatoes. I was excited for their stuffed crab, one of my favorite ad hoc sandwich fillings.

Our timing was good because it was Happy Hour and apps were half off. Luckily my cousin Maureen joined us, because there was A LOT of food. Deep-fried artichokes were addictive.

We started by ordering crab dip, though in this photo you can see we left it standing since I knew it would stay hot the longest.

Also, bacon-wrapped shrimp, though it was a bit salty for me.

I went back another night for a solo steak dinner when Bob didn’t want to go out. It may be strange to order steak at a seafood restaurant, but I had eaten SO MUCH seafood by that time.

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New Orleans Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Wednesday morning we ordered room service, which was OK, but just OK in a food city like New Orleans. We met up with Anne, who has been my best friend since our teen years, and her husband Ed, who I’ve known almost as long. We decided to check out the Aquarium of the Americas, now called the Audubon Aquarium.

They used to have a lot of different sharks, but Katrina wiped out a lot of them. They still have the amazing albino alligator and lots of other good stuff.

They still have the big aviary but no bald eagle anymore.

Jellyfish!

And a big aquarium with a walk-thru tunnel. You can also pay extra to snorkel in it.

We walked along the Mississippi and listened to the crazy calliope music from the paddleboat. It runs on steam so it’s hard to control the tuning and it drives locals along the water crazy.

We walked along Decatur to eat at Coop’s. Here are some sights along the way. But I forgot they close on Wednesday so we ate at a bland cafe in the French Market.

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New Orleans 2024: Acme

Tuesday night Bob and I headed out to Iberville to hit Acme, and immediately everything reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Acme and Felix’s face each other and are both Oyster joints with creole food. There is a Pat vs. Mike’s level rivalry. I used to like Felix’s because they had an amazing stuffed crab po’boy. When we were looking for a place to get married, we made a reservation to see the upstairs balcony. When the woman found out why we were there she was furious with us, like we were taking up her time, and I mean, we had made a reservation. So, we sat down to eat instead, and I found out they didn’t have the po’boy anymore, so I ordered plain ole stuffed crab. Well, that lady wouldn’t let me have any bread with my meal because she knew I wanted a sandwich! And no way was I going to get what I wanted on her watch. Now, that’s in the past, but this time around we stopped in for a snack and I ordered a shrimp cocktail. It arrived HOT. HOT and SALTY. And with raggedy edges. So, no more Felix’s for us. It’s Acme all the way, except for their fish which is swai instead of catfish.

You can run into a second line just about anywhere in the French Quarter, and it doesn’t have to be a wedding or a funeral. We passed this one on the way to dinner at Acme, only a block away. We had a seat at the darkened bar since there is always a long line for tables.

Which is fine, because then you can watch them shuck oysters and enjoy a little patter.

I ordered Boo Fries, fries with a little debris – the drippings from roast beef. I don’t know if they invented them, as I have seen them other places but I like the name Boo Fries, so that is what OI always call them.

We also split a fantastic shrimp po’boy

and some char-grilled oysters, topped with Parmesan cheese, grilled, and set on fire – maybe with Herbsaint? A perfect welcome to The Big Easy.

Da Kulture Brass band was rockin!!!!!!!

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New Orleans Vow Renewal, Hyatt Centric

It has been 20 years since we got married in New Orleans. We are back for a vow renewal. Galatoires has purchased the balcony where we got married and wanted over 4k for an event. So, we are holding the ceremony at Dat Dog which has a gorgeous balcony and is letting us do it for the price of hot dogs! (Photo from their website)

We arrived Tuesday night and checked into Hyatt Centric, It’s the same place we stayed at during our wedding when it was called Chateau Sonesta, The whole place has had a fancy makeover, and our room is big and clean.

Service is awesome. I asked for a quiet room. They asked me if I wanted to be facing Bourbon Street or the pool. I said I didn’t want to be facin NUTHIN. And they delivered. We were facing a private lobby that only two rooms use. The quietest hotel room of my life.

The hotel used to be the D.H. Holmes Department store, where Ignatius J. Reilly’s mother is shopping while the protagonist of the story waits out front, and ends up causing a ruckus as The Confederacy of Dunces opens:

Outside the D. H. Holmes department store on Canal Street in New Orleans, Ignatius J. Reilly stands amid the crowds beneath the clocktower, eating chips and surveying the outfits of the people around him. He sees that many of the people wear expensive or fashionable clothes and takes this as a sign of their moral and spiritual bankruptcy. He himself is dressed comfortably—in a flannel jacket, baggy pants, and large hunting cap with ear flaps—and regards this as the ideal outfit for a sensible and intellectual person.

The lobby and bar were nice.

The carpets were oysters. The bellperson said very few people notice that. There is a Redfish attached to the hotel, but you couldn’t call down and order and come pick it up. You had to go down to the restaurant to order and wait for your food, which was annoying when you are all cozy in bed so we didn;t eat there.

There were also very trippy pictures across from the elevators.

 

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The Trouble with Swai

My only problem with Acme in New Orleans is that they stopped serving catfish and started serving swai instead, as have many spots around New Orleans (In LA they often use it for fish and chips). You will notice on some menus around town they just say “fried fish” now, because it’s swai. Sorry to do this to you when you are looking for an appetizing food blog, but I have a thing about swai.

I have posted a separate article about Acme but I wanted to talk about this fish. Here is some info from Healthline.

Swai [that are raised on freshwater farms in Viet Nam] don’t have particularly healthy diets. They’re typically fed rice bran, soy, canola and fish by-products. The soy and canola products are commonly genetically modified, which is a controversial practice. 

The effect of swai fish farms on the ecosystem is a major concern. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program lists swai as a fish that should be avoided, as some swai fish farms generate waste products that are illegally dumped into rivers. The improper disposal of wastewater is especially concerning because swai fish farms use a lot of chemical agents, including disinfectants, anti-parasitic drugs and antibiotics. [Some] research has shown mercury levels in swai that are above the World Health Organization’s recommended limit in 50% of the samples tested. 

When swai and other fish are grown on crowded fish farms, the risk of infectious diseases in the fish increases. In one study, 70–80% of swai samples exported to Poland, Germany and Ukraine were contaminated with Vibrio bacteria, a microbe commonly involved in shellfish food poisoning in people. Some of the same antibiotics [given to the fish] are also used to treat human infections. If they’re overused and the bacteria become resistant to them, it could leave people without effective treatments for certain diseases. Seriously, find out exactly what fish you are eating.

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Copenhagen: Petersen’s

We were looking for lunch before hitting the underground museum and let the taxi driver suggest one of two touristy spots next to each other. It reminded me of a place for Oktoberfest, and indeed, they are called “gardens.” It’s all about red checkered tablecloths, picnic tables and flags.

“M.G. Petersen’s old family garden was started in 1858. The first licensee was the castle watchman at Frederiksberg Palace, Mads G. Petersen, who as a supplement to the pension received royal permission “to treat visitors to the palace gardens with boiling water, milk and cream, and in connection with this to serve coffee and sell bread portions”. Later, beer was allowed to be sold, but the military authorities point out “that beer may only be sold in bottles and not in bastions”.

Stegt flæsk (Danish: [ˈstekt ˈflesk]) is the “national dish of Denmark,” although a cabbie told us they just took a random vote; there is no tradition behind it. We ordered it anyways, along with an open-faced shrimp sandwich. The sandwich wasn;t as impressive as at G>L> Torv, but it was good nonetheless. We were served an enormous platter piled high with a chicharrónes-style pork belly and potatoes. The pork belly was delicious, but a little fried pork goes a long way, and I think this dish should be split between four people, not two.

“Stegt means ‘fried’ and flæsk means ‘strips of pork belly’. It is lightly salted but not smoked. Stegt flæsk is included in The Art of Danish Cooking by Nika Standen Hazelton and Scandinavian Cooking by Elizabeth Craig where the dish is translated as “bacon with parsley sauce”[5][6] Flæsk is also translated as ‘bacon’ in older language guides.[7] The main difference between bacon and flæsk is that flæsk is never sold smoked, and often not salted either. By contrast, anything marketed as ‘bacon’ in Denmark invariably will be both smoked and salted.”

​”With live music many weekdays and all weekends, dance floor for the dance-loving and playground for the youngest, M.G. Petersen’s Family Garden is a place for the whole family and ideal for fun and parties of all kinds; Birthday, christening, confirmation, summer party, company picnic – Easter, Pentecost, St. His and much more.”​

“For 5 generations, the Petersen family ran Haven, and it is worth noting that in all the years it was the girls in the family who had the license. In 1977, the Gardens were sold to the Sørensen family, who were licensees for 27 years. In 2005, the garden passed to Dan Holst, after which Joachim Hansen bought the garden in 2007.”

Atmospheric restaurant with traditional Danish food (petersensfamiliehave.dk)

 

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Copenhagen: “Sporvejen” The Burger Bar of the City

The burger bar of the city “Sporvejen” is a cute little diner opened in 1975. Two old city trams were disassembled and used to fashion the charming interior. But it was a gorgeous night when I visited, so the inside was empty and the patio was crammed. There were a lot of college-aged groups having a fun time. It was a great, comfy place with friendly service that made me feel at home in an unfamiliar city.

There is a certain element to “American”-style places that means “gigantic.” Kind of like we see Texas. I ordered a Diet Coke and my server asked what size. I said, “The biggest size.” Because in Europe you get tiny cups and keep having to ask for refills. He kept asking me, “Are you sure you want the BIG one?” After convincing him that was what I wanted, I saw the reason for the questions. A group next to me asked if they could take a picture. Don’t order beer in a boot unless you know what you’re doing.

Besides enormous sodas they serve draft beer, café latte and a cocoa-type rum drink called a Lumumba. There was a wide variety of burgers. Some were obvious, like “guacamole burger” and some less so, like Karryburger. My server explained them all and I settled on a curry burger. I wanted to try something different and he assured me it wasn’t too strong. He was right and it was one of the best damn burgers I’ve ever had, thick and juicy, and impossible to finish. The fries were thick steak fries and served hot.

 

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Copenhagen: Smorresbrod at Cafe GL. Torv.

We were very close to a place I had picked out for smorresbrod. I usually make a map of all the recommended restaurants and interesting places, then kind of wander without a strict schedule. If we get peckish I look at my map and there is usually a place nearby. Today it was the Cafe GL. Torv. The building, which houses the cafe, was built on top of an old moat – with beer bottling and food servicr since 1671.

It was some of the best food I have ever eaten. I expected it to just be herring, herring, herring, but there was a dazzling array of open-faced sandwiches.  I don’t drink much these days, but I noticed a drink being served at another table with a very long story, and I am a sucker for a good story.

So, a barrel of this aquavit was forgotten on its trip to India, and returned to Denmark. It turned out that the longer maturing time and the rolling seas of the trip had made a smoother, more rounded spirit. Today they distill the aquavit with special herbs and spices like caraway and star anise, then pour it into sherry casks and send it on a long ocean journey across the equator and back.

So how was it? Well, to me, all this stuff tastes like rubbing alcohol. So, it was a smoother, more rounded rubbing alcohol with notes of caraway and star anise.

It was a smorresbrod restaurant, and they recommended two per person, which was way too much. The Green “pliace was possibly the best sandwich, Pliace is a fish, but this was battered and fried Jerusalem artichoke, like a vegan fish and chips. It was amaaazing!

We also ordered a roasted beef, which was cooked to just the right level of pinkness and topped with vegetables, fried onions and edible flowers. Delicious!

Pork roast with mushrooms

And basically a Danish avocado toast with super ripe avocado, smoked and fried onions, aioli and egg.

The most traditional of the sandwiches was shrimp and dill. We were stuffed! I wanted to return later in the trip but didn’t get a chance.

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Copenhagen: Skt Petri and its Environs

The buffet breakfast was unrivaled. There was even an entire section devoted to vegan offerings.

And my favorite, a full English fry-up

as well as the usual granola/meusli bar

After breakfast, we wandered around the neighborhood checking out the architecture and ended up in Gammeltorv, Copenhagen’s oldest square. The town hall was located here from 1479 until it burned down in 1795. I figured out a complicated way to transfer the Krone to a USD. Just ignore the last number, double the first two and remove 1/4. If something is 115 Krone, it’s 11 x 2 = 22 minus 1/4 = $15. In general, Copenhagen was much more affordable than Stockholm. That may be because our hotel in Sweden was in a commerce center with nice places to take business associates out to lunch. Whereas in Copenhagen we were right by the college, so there were lots of little places to stop in for a delicious bite. So that is your budget travel tip of the day:

Stay near colleges!

And of course some window shopping.

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Copenhagen: Skt Petri Hotel

Bridin had a connection and got us rooms at a gorgeous 5-star hotel called Skt Petri (Saint Peter). It was well-located a block from the train, two blocks from a food hall, and with a walkable neighborhood of shops and restaurants. We arrived on the big party of Pride Week only 2 blocks away, but we were exhausted and needed immediate sleep. After a plate of pasta with mushrooms and an unidentified plate that might have been dessert?

Skt Petri was very chic.

And a little quirky

The room was really nice.

and what is on TV 24/7?

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Lithuania: Hill of Crosses

I’ve been curious about the Hill of Crosses ever since our first trip to the Baltic, but this is the first time Bridin suggested we go. There is an expensive parking lot with a gift shop. It’s kind of a long walk to the hill. But you can also park on the side of the highway for free and you are right next to the hill.

LOCATED 7.5 MILES NORTH OF the town of Siauliai, in northern Lithuania, the Hill of Crosses was created on an old hill fort. From Atlas Obscura:

“The nearby city was founded in 1236 and occupied by Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire during the 14th century. Crosses are thought to have first appeared on the site during this time as a way of expressing the desire for Lithuanian independence.”

“During a peasant uprising against Russian control of the area in 1831, the practice of placing crosses in remembrance of missing and dead rebels began. By 1895, it is recorded that there were 150 large crosses on the site, and this number grew to 400 by 1940.”

“During Soviet occupation of the area that lasted from 1944 to 1991, the Hill of Crosses became a symbol of defiance. Three times during the Soviet occupation, the hill and its crosses were bulldozed. Despite these attempts to end the symbolism of the site, both locals and pilgrims once again begin erecting crosses.”

“It’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 crosses on the hill as of 2007. Thousands visit the site each year, with the most famous visit occurring in 1993 when Pope John Paul II came to dedicate the site. A stone marker bearing his words, “Thank you, Lithuanians, for this hill of crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land” now lies at the foot of the hill.”

Bummed out Jesuses:

Ripped but bisected Jesus

Cheer up, sleepy Jesus…

Why do I feel like this Jesus is holding up a severed head like Kali?

 

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Lithuania Bound: Rucava, pop. 495

We went on an overnight trip to Lithuania, and on the way we stopped in a little Latvian town called Rucava . The visitor center was located in an old mill that Bob’s grandfather used to own.

It’s cool that he has an ancestral mound and places like this. My ancestors’ farms and land are long gone, not that there was much to begin with. There were lots of old instruments and a random assortment of fishing equipment and a very unusual bear-like decoration.

A very pagan-looking partier

I am peasant. I make the rye bread. I bring to castle.

On the upper floor there was an art gallery displaying the cool collage artworks of Agita Laugale.

View from the upstairs windows

As we drove, we counted 15 stork’s nests. On the way back, on a different route, there were 24.

People even have plastic storks in their yards instead of the plastic flamingos Americans love.

We stopped in a small Lithuanian town for lunch, and there was a weird small town suspicious vibe, like, “You ain’t from these here parts, is ya?” Some of that can be attributed to it being a former Soviet-occupied country. In the first little restaurant we walked into, as Bob and I awkwardly stood around waiting to be seated, a woman came out of the kitchen and screamed at us in Lithuanian. Then Bridin came in, and I suggested we find somewhere else to eat, as we had just been yelled at. Bridin pointed out the screaming coming from the kitchen, and in an effort to assure me it wasn’t personal, said, “See? she yells at everybody.” But it takes around an hour to be served in Baltic restaurants, and I didn’t want to spend all of that time listening to screaming. We found a nice little pizza place around the corner. Pizza in Eastern Europe is pretty dependable.

 

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Liepaja: Wandering Solo and Thrifting

That little shop in the market whet my appetite for some thrifting and I found several places within walking distance. I like taking pics of the buildings as I wander. I felt very safe just creeping down empty lanes and alleys.

I liked this painting. I was looking for one like it for ages for my retired seafarer room.

Another painting that caught my eye…why is the angel forcing that child off the cliff?

I loved this little person, but they were super heavy. I can only buy small and lightweight souvenirs.

I did buy one of these. It seems like the back should be open for you to store your garlic, but it’s a purely decorative anthropomorphized garlic.

There were lots of trippy figurines.

I was naturally drawn to the albums

IYKYK

and the dolls…

The second thrift store I went to was closed for another 30 minutes and I decided not to wait, but this cat hung out with me for a while.

Afterwards I had lunch in a hipster Asian fusion place called TEIKA, where I was finally able to explain to someone how to make real iced tea!

There were gladiolas everywhere. We didn’t know where the fields were, but it seemed every single person was casually carrying a bunch home from the market.

I started off with their delicious wild mushroom soup, which I had ordered to go the other day and had to return for. It has little pate choux dumplings in it.

Followed by shrimp in a buttery sauce meant to be eaten on French bread.

I ended with a salad that had many of my favorite ingredients: dried cranberries, raspberries, almonds and arugula, but it was advertised as burrata and seemed to be whipped brie. Very unusual. It was topped with an adorable chunk of honeycomb.

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Liepaja: A Relaxing Day

Monday Morning, I wandered over to the pharmacy to pick up a few things. I had to get something for mosquito bites and Bob wanted baby aspirin. I used my finely honed mime skills and semi-literate translation app. We were doing OK, with her figuring out everything I needed until I scared the crap out of her.

“You can’t give aspirin to babies!!! Aspirin will hurt the baby!!!”

“No, for me, for the heart.”

“For you,  not for baby? No aspirin for the baby???”

“No, I’m not going to hurt the baby! I mean, there is no baby! Only me.”

So if you’re ever in Eastern Europe, ask for “Cardio aspirin.” NOT “baby aspirin.”

We met up with Bob’s mom and went to the movies. I love the movies here because they have these snacks that are like styrofoam bacon. You know Asian shrimp chips? Like that, only little bacon chips. I had thought we were buying too much, but Bob’s mom was right. I ate the whole dang container.

One of Bridin’s favorite restaurants is Olive. They have a varied menu, but everything we have tried so far is delicious. Fruity iced drinks are very popular right now. But they are made with mixes. It’s very hard to get regular iced tea made with real black tea.

We shared shrimp on rosti. It was fantastic.

I ordered a curry with handmade tagliatelle.

Sometimes it’s nice to just have a mellow day.

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Liepaja: To Market, to Market

  1. We had a lovely day visiting the outdoor market, then hit the grocery store, which I always find fascinating. Just like last year, there were huge jars of chanterelles for 4 Euro, and this year they had boletus.

The mushroom monger wanted to take a selfie after I asked him if I could photograph his wares.

Last time I was fascinated by the pictures in a closed thrift store. It was open, and I went in. With the current anti-Russian sentiment, I was very surprised to see this.

I love the market!!!!

We then hit the grocery store. I could peruse grocery stores for hours.

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