Pardon the Construction

Photograph, Matthew Hamilton – Unsplash.

Dear Readers: You’ll notice several abrupt style changes to the AnnCavittFisher blog over the next week as I move my website from WordPress.com over to Bluehost.

What you’ll see:

  1. I normally use a magazine style WordPress theme, which makes it much easier for readers to see a variety of articles on the home page of my site.
    • However, to initiate the move, the whole site will change to a very simple, classic blog theme where all of the articles will appear in the classic blog reverse order style. You may see this for several days.
  2. Once WordPress has assisted me with the move, I will install a new magazine theme, but things may look a little odd (poor image sizes relative to the columns of text), until I go through and tweak layout throughout the site.
    • This will take a week or more, since there are now well over 100 pages of articles!

Why move my site? WordPress.com has been a wonderful home for me for the first 2.5 years of blog life. The support team has been helpful, and the WordPress community has been a great place to be. However, as I move into making my blog my livelihood, I need additional freedom and functionality that I can’t get within the WordPress.com space. I’ll still be running a WordPress theme though — to my mind, this is far and away the best content management system on the internet.

So, pardon my mess! I’ve got a little heavy lifting to do before everything is back in order 🙂 .

Photograph, Samuel Zeller – Unsplash.

Looking for the Best Restaurants in New Orleans? SoBou Makes My List.

Meet SoBou, one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans. At SoBou, expect riffs on old favorites. Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s menu is playful, tongue in cheek. No boundaries — or at least not many of them.

Geaux Fish at SoBou -- a restaurant that's one of the best in New Orleans
Geaux Fish at SoBou. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

With good food at every turn in the Big Easy, what does a restaurant have to do to make an impression?

Tough question, isn’t it?

I grew up in NOLA and regularly make it back to visit, to take photographs, and to eat — it’s one of my favorite things to do in this wonderful city. In my mind, there are three things a restaurant must do to make my list:

  • Be innovative
  • Be fun
  • Be consistently outstanding

SoBou knocks the ball out of the park along all of these lines.

Front dining room at SoBou, "a spirited restaurant south of Bourbon." And one of the best restaurants in the French Quarter.
Front dining room at SoBou, “a spirited restaurant south of Bourbon.” Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I first visited SoBou on a road trip through New Orleans in May 2017. It had good reviews, the menu caught my eye, AND it was one of the Brennan’s family restaurants I’d never tried.

My meal was an early supper, and I had a great table with a view out onto Chartres Street. I chose Geaux Fish,  fun faux-Cajun wordplay on the children’s card game. Great name for a dish that changes based on fresh fish and the inventiveness of the chef. The night I had it, the fish was black drum served with crawfish tails, spinach, and gnocchi that had been cooked in the crawfish liquid. Very enjoyable!

Exterior of SoBou in New Orleans -- makes the list of the best restaurants in the city
A warm glow from SoBou on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Photograph courtesy of the Commander’s family of restaurants.

When you dine at SoBou, what will the dish be like? I don’t know — Geaux Fish! 🙂

I’d say that SoBou doesn’t take itself too seriously. Except of course, they do, in terms of the quality of their food and the experience. What I mean by this, is this is no “stuck up” restaurant. It truly has a free spirit.

It’s wonderful that there are many restaurants in NOLA that adhere to the classics in a tried and true way. We need that. Otherwise, you risk losing the traditional recipes/traditional methods. But cuisine in New Orleans is also a living, breathing thing and should be allowed to grow and change — otherwise it’s as stuck as a dead body in a mausoleum.

At SoBou, expect riffs on old favorites. Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s menu is playful, tongue in cheek. No boundaries — or at least not many of them.

In October, on a driving trip to Florida, I stayed a couple of nights at the Monteleone, and made a point of dining with SoBou again.

Honey Buzz Milk Punch at Brennan's SoBou restaurant in New Orleans
Honey Buzz Milk Punch: Honeynut Cheerio infused rum, acadiana honey, milk, holiday pie bitters. Photograph, Ann Fisher

Since there were two of us, I had the opportunity to try a wider variety of dishes. I love being able to taste many things without committing to a huge portion; small plates are big favorites.

I tried two of their current cocktails, one of which was the Pisco Punch (pisco, pineapple, tea, angostura, lime, fino sherry, violet). Pisco is brandy from Chile or Argentina. This was a delightful, light cocktail, with the tea and sherry preventing the pineapple and lime from being too acidic. The hint of violet was very subtle.

During dessert, lead bartender Laura Bellucci brought a seasonal version of milk punch for me to try; lovely take on this cocktail — sweet, but not overly so, certainly inventive version of a traditional favorite.

Smoky oysters en escabeche -- with a bottle of hooch in the background at SoBou restaurant in New Orleans
Smoky oysters en escabeche — with a bottle of hooch in the background. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Smoky Oysters en Escabeche: Cold smoked oysters on the half shell presented atop bed of seaweed, and garnished with a frozen rosé (called “F’rosé” at SoBou), with a scallions. I loved this dish. Such a different take on raw oysters – a delicate smokiness complemented by the delicate ice chips of rosé.

Red beans and dirty rice wontons dinner at SoBou in New Orleans
Red beans and dirty rice wontons. Photograph, Ann Fisher

Red Beans & Rice Smoky red bean purée. Dirty rice wontons Truly inventive fusion between the beloved New Orleans red beans and Mexican refried. Crispy, delicious wonton filled with dirty rice — perfect with a dollop of creamy red beans.

Chicken on the Bone  Four drumettes of fried chicken confit. Creole seasonal salad, guava jelly. I’m a big fan of duck confit, and this version with chicken did not disappoint!

Chicken confit and a different version of Geaux Fish in the background, this one with broiled tomatoes. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Cherries Jubilee & White Chocolate Bread Pudding with house made vanilla bean ice cream. Anyone who has been to Commander’s Palace is familiar with their fantastic bread pudding soufflé . Since SoBou is a member of the Commander’s Palace/Brennan’s family — it has its own version of this dessert. Light, airy — a nice tartness from the cherries to offset the white chocolate. This is possibly the best dessert I’ve ever eaten. Be aware: if you want this lovely, it takes 25 minutes to make — so tell your waitperson that you want it when you order dinner.

Cherries Jubilee and white chocolate bread pudding — wicked and wonderful! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Jazz Brunch and Bella Blue

My third meal at SoBou was a spur of the moment decision. I’d arrived in New Orleans in the late morning, and my group of friends wouldn’t make it in until 7:00 or so in the evening.

I looked at my watch. Hum . . .  what to do?

No reservations, but I set off to see if I could squeeze in to the Jazz brunch at SoBou.

One seat left at the bar! So lucky! While the bar menu is much smaller than the regular brunch menu, there was plenty to like.

The Jazz Brunch at SoBou is so much fun! Burlesque entertainment was a big part of the French Quarter scene from the 1940’s until the burlesque clubs were shut down in the 1960’s. Happily, it’s enjoying a renaissance in the Big Easy. Bella Blue‘s fan dancing is beautiful; a tasteful nod to erotic burlesque entertainment that is tame enough to keep most people comfortable 🙂 .

I chose the Legs and Eggs: poached eggs, apple cider braised pork osso bucco, with bourbon & bacon braised collard greens. The meaty, smoky pork combine well with perfectly poached eggs. There is a little heat from the Tabasco in the hollandaise, but it’s not overdone. I particularly liked their take on collard greens.

There is only one thing wrong with this dish — it’s SO filling! I loved it, but it’s impossible to eat anything following it. My recommendation: share it!

I leave you with a taste of a little jazz and fan dancing . . . signing off from a lovely Sunday afternoon in NOLA.

 

Bar Chef Laura Bellucci at SoBou restaurant in New Orleans
I really enjoyed the wonderful cocktails prepared team by Bar Chef Laura Bellucci! Photograph, Ann Fisher

 

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2017 NATJA Gold and Bronze Award Winning Articles on AnnCavittFisher.com

Yesterday, The North American Travel Journalist Association announced its 2017 Award Winners for excellence in Travel Journalism.

I am very honored to have been awarded a Gold Award in Travel Series, Online Publication for my three article series on Zambia, a Bronze Award in Cruises, Online Publication for Crossing the Atlantic on a Tall Ship, and then also placed as a Finalist in Travel Series, Online Publication for my series on the road trip to New Mexico.

Yesterday, The North American Travel Journalist Association announced its 2017 Award Winners for excellence in Travel Journalism.

I am very honored to have been awarded a Gold Award in Travel Series, Online Publication for my three article series on Zambia, a Bronze Award in Cruises, Online Publication for Crossing the Atlantic on a Tall Ship, and then also placed as a Finalist in Travel Series, Online Publication for my series on the road trip to New Mexico.


Gold Award, Travel Series Online: my series on our safari in Zambia

A three part series covering our safari in Zambia. My daughter Catherine had just graduated from high school, and we joined my sister for a trip of a life time — our first safari in Africa. My two favorite posts cover our walking safari, an experience I can hardly wait to repeat.

Our African Safari in Zambia

So, you want to go on safari in Africa. But where?

To say that the continent is vast is a gross understatement. Africa holds more than 20 percent of the Earth’s total land mass. How we chose Zambia and a description of the beginning of our safari. Link to Our African Safari in Zambia.

 

In her hills and hollows, in her wrinkles, perhaps . . . there is the topography of the whole earth. African Elephant. Photograph, Ann Fisher

Walking Safari: Day One

We walked single-file out of the Camp Tena Tena just after dawn on a Sunday morning.

There were six of us. In the lead, Chris carried the rifle, followed by Braston our guide. I came next, then my daughter, Catherine, my sister Carolyn, and finally Bishod, guide in training.

To walk the savannah, down, up and over empty oxbow lakes, and then step into the cool shade of a grove of ebony — it’s like that. You feel Africa close. Link to Safari: Day One.

Hippo Highways: Day Two of our Walking Safari

After a light breakfast and some coffee, we left for our second day of walking.

Why do three women from Texas love Hippo Highways? Because in Africa, even flat isn’t flat! Link to Hippo Highways.

 

 


Bronze Award, Cruises Online: my article on the Atlantic crossing on Star Flyer

 

Crossing the Atlantic on a Tall Ship

And so it begins . . . I am on Star Flyer as she heads out into the Atlantic making for Barbados and winter in the Caribbean.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a tall ship is the stuff of dreams. Rope and cable thrumming in the breeze, the crack of a sail filling with wind: these are sounds old in human time — these sounds lie deep within our collective consciousness. Link to Crossing the Atlantic on a Tall Ship.

 


Finalist, Travel Series Online: my series on road tripping in New Mexico

A series on a road trip from the coastal plains of Texas to Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch, a discussion of Route 66 and the great American Road Trip, meeting a quirky old man in Santa Fe, losing my heart at Ghost Ranch, and discovering Georgia O’Keefe.

Road Trip to New Mexico

One of my best friends is living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for several months to complete a project — and I thought, what a perfect excuse for a road trip! “I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” — Jack Kerouac, On the Road. Link to Road Trip to New Mexico.

Embracing Santa Fe

Each time I return to New Mexico, my affection for this state grows . . .

Doc looked like he came straight out of central casting. Film order: we need a quirky old man to play a part in a Coen brothers film set it Santa Fe. Link to Embracing Santa Fe.

 

Ghost Ranch

In the great wide open places, I can see the forever. The sky enfolds you, and then you are inside it. Whatever small place you came from is no more because you are part of that sky and the big beyond, and the rest isn’t important.

When the Spanish first rode into this valley in northern New Mexico, they called it Piedre Lumbre — the shining stone. Link to Ghost Ranch.

Postcards: a Windstar Wind Surf Cruise in the Caribbean

A gallery of photographs from a Windstar cruise on the Wind Surf Yacht: the Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary out of St. Maarten.

Photographs from my cruise on Windstar’s Wind Surf. What a lovely itinerary! We embarked in St. Maarten, then dropped anchor in Falmouth, Antigua. Afterwards, we went on to the British Virgin Islands for short hops to Soper’s Hole on Tortola, Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, and then to Virgin Gorda. Our final stop was Gustavia in St. Barths before returning to St. Maarten.

How is St. Maarten post hurricane? Both airports are operational and over 60 flights a day are landing on the island. According to a New York Times article published on February 2, 2018, “300 hotel rooms are currently available to book on the island’s French side; before Irma, that number was 1,700. At least 10 more hotels are scheduled to reopen before the end of the year.”

The article continues, “On the Dutch side of the island, around 80 percent of the restaurants are open, and 1,600 hotel rooms are available to book; before the hurricane, 4,115 rooms were available.” Full article here: St Martin Starts a Comeback.

If you look at Windstar’s itineraries, they are sailing to many ports the Caribbean, out of Barbados, San Juan, Puerto Rico, — but will return to St. Maarten in December 2018.

I thoroughly enjoyed this small ship cruise — which is SO different from being on the large cruise lines. You’ll find a full review of the Windstar Cruise here: A Wind Surf Cruise: The Yachtsman’s Caribbean.

What a beautiful part of the world this is!

 

Find a full review of the Wind Surf cruise here:


 

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Leave Me A Link and I’ll Share Your Page!!

Love how Danny supports the whole blogging community!

Dream Big, Dream Often

As most of my followers know I am big into helping other bloggers gain more exposure. My goal has been to grow a community of like-minded people and I am part way to my goal.  I am bringing back the open call to leave a link and I’ll share it for you!!

The basic rules are simple: leave me a link to your page.  I’m not sure it gets much simpler.  You can leave as many links as you want and I’ll cycle this post from day-to-day so more people can jump on board.  The link post I’ll create will publish on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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A Night at the Met: an After Hours Visit with Michelangelo

This is my kind of Night at the Museum — Michelangelo, me, and very few other people! A review of an after hours VIP visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Michelangelo exhibit.

Metropolitan Museum facade at night during the Michelangelo exhibit
My After Hours visit to the Michelangelo exhibit: very special! Photograph, Ann Fisher

This is my kind of Night at the Museum — Michelangelo, me, and very few other people!

Michelangelo's sketch of Masaccio's fresco Expulsion from the Garden displayed in the exhibit Michelangelo Divine Draftsman and Designer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Michelangelo’s sketch of Masaccio’s fresco Expulsion from the Garden. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

The Met show, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, contains over 200 works of art by Michelangelo and his colleagues (133 drawings by the master himself), including chalk drawings, paintings, and works of charcoal on paper, along with bronze and marble sculptures.

The exhibit was eight years in the making. The exhibition’s curator, Carmen C. Bambach, started with a tour to Europe to visit the different works under consideration, and once a list was developed — then came the arduous process of soliciting the artwork.

Many of the drawings are rarely seen at all, and certainly not together. On the left is a very early sketch — the young Michelangelo’s Study of Adam and Eve after The Expulsion from the Garden fresco by Masaccio. It’s fascinating to see drawings from this period in the artist’s life.

In an interview with Artsy, Bambach said, “This is a drawing that hardly anybody has seen in the original other than the specialists,” says Bambach. “Though it’s housed in the Louvre’s collection, it is rarely seen. Having that very powerful drawing in red chalk and in the company of all [other] late 15th-century works…is really a first,” she says.

The exhibit is an extraordinary opportunity to see Michelangelo’s evolution from a young artist into a sculptor, then into a painter, and finally into an architect, through works of art that have never been displayed together at one time. Sadly, the exhibit runs only three months . . . and the clock is ticking: the end is coming quickly. It closes February 12, 2018.

In late January, about three weeks before the exhibit is set to close, The Met announced that over 500,000 people had already visited Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer.

This is, of course, the problem.

My daughter Catherine went to see the exhibit in the fall, and although she was there when the museum opened, the Michelangelo exhibit was quickly swamped. It’s hard to feel a personal relationship with a work of art when you’re standing eight people deep trying to look at the same drawing.

And the crowds aren’t just for the Michelangelo exhibit. According to the New York Times, over the last 13 years attendance at the Met has soared from 4.7 million to over 7 million annual visitors.

Entrance to displayed in the exhibit Michelangelo Divine Draftsman and Designer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Entrance to the Michelangelo Exhibit. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

One of the most beautiful rooms in the exhibit was the space devoted to the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The illuminated copy of the ceiling in a 1:4 scale is displayed along with the master’s sketches of many of the figures in the fresco.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling: an illuminated copy at 1:4 scale of the original displayed in the exhibit Michelangelo Divine Draftsman and Designer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
The Sistine Chapel ceiling: an illuminated copy at 1:4 scale of the original. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

As our world becomes more crowded, and more people travel, personal and quiet access to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the things I value most highly, and that I am willing to pay to have.

Second to last room in the displayed in the exhibit Michelangelo Divine Draftsman and Designer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
In an increasingly crowded world, access and quiet may be our greatest luxuries. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

A closing photograph from the Michelangelo exhibit, the Young Archer.

If you are not going to get to see the exhibit before it closes, consider getting the catalogue, which is one of the finest I’ve ever seen: you can find it here in the Met shop online.

Detail of the Young Archer, by Michelangelo displayed in the exhibit Michelangelo Divine Draftsman and Designer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Detail of the Young Archer, by Michelangelo. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Practical Information about my After Hours viewing

Wonderful story about two children who run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum. As an adult, I STILL love this book! From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

The ticket I purchased through Viator granted access to both the Michelangelo and Hockney exhibits. I arrived twenty minutes ahead of my 6:00 admission, and entered the museum at a street level door at 81st Street, an area reserved for groups. They checked the After Hours ticket holders off the list, and whisked us up in two elevators.

We walked through a couple of rooms on the way to the Hockney and Michelangelo exhibits. No, you can’t just go rambling through the museum! All side rooms were cordoned off.

I have to admit, I was having twitchy feelings about sneaking away and trying to spend the night at the Met 🙂 . If you’ve ever had a desire to live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and you haven’t read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, it’s wonderful.

Empty Rodin gallery on my way to A Night at the Met with the Michelangelo exhibit
I passed through several galleries on the way to the Michelangelo exhibit. Here is the empty Rodin gallery that I enjoyed looking around on my way out of the museum.

The night I went, there were three entry times to choose from: 6:00, 6:30, or 7:00 pm. At each entry time, according to what I read, entry was limited to 150 people over the whole evening — staggered out fifty at a time, so that not everyone entered at once.

After Hours Viewings at the Met  — Availability for this will come and go. The After Hours viewing nights of the Michelangelo show are finished, but look for them to happen from time to time for exhibits that are particularly popular and crowded.

Viator VIP Empty Met  Regularly available: a 1.5 hour tour before the Met opens to the public. Note, you will be with a guide for the tour, but then you can stay for as long as you like, and see anything you like on your own, once the museum opens.

Viator VIP: Mornings at MoMa  A similar tour is available at the Museum of Modern Art.

Other Tips for Visiting the Met

While the strategies listed below may not work as well for special exhibits like Michelangelo, the entire Metropolitan Museum is SO HUGE that you can definitely have a quieter experience without paying a premium price:

  • Go on the weekdays, not the weekend. A no-brainer, right?
  • Go early, or stay late –Be there when the museum opens, or choose to visit one of the several nights each week that the museum is open late. Check out the Met’s hours.
  • Become a Met member . . . did you know that there are special early hours and evenings, only for members of the Met? Check out the schedule for upcoming members-only hours and events.
  • Try a concert — yes, you will have to pay extra for these, but there are always interesting performances happening at the Met and the Cloisters that allow you experience them in an entirely different way.
  • Dine at the Met. Somehow, there’s something pretty special about wine, food, and art. Take a look at the different eating and drinking venues at the Met on Fifth Avenue.
  • And really all of this means — do your homework. If visiting this amazing museum is an important part of your visit to NYC, look at the Met calendar as you are planning your trip!

Disclaimer: While I paid to take this tour, I do have an affiliate relationship with Viator, which means that if you book through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you, my reader. I use Viator’s services — and I particularly love the VIP access to museums, which I’ll be buying again. I never recommend things that I don’t love, believe in, and do. Thank you for your support! It makes this my work and this web site possible.

Additional info: I first found Viator VIP experiences when I was in Rome a couple of years ago. My friend Joyce had never been to Italy, and we had to do all of the crowded Roman sights. Since we were going to be there in the summer, I started doing research to find ways to see the Colosseum and the Vatican without lines — and without dying of heat.

The VIP experiences I have had with Viator in Rome have been very special: Breakfast at the Vatican, and Night Tour of the Coliseum with a rooftop dinner, both so good I did them twice: once with Joyce, and then the following year when my sister and I were in Rome. You can read about those here — Rome: Beating the Crowds.

Calendar Wallpaper for February 2018

Welcome to the second month of 2018!

For February’s desktop wallpaper calendar, I’ve chosen a young mule deer I photographed  just before sunset at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, in February last year. The deer has paused on the edge of the field to check for signs of danger before proceeding out to graze.


Note: On my MacBook Pro, I saved the Wallpaper onto my desktop, and then dragged it into my Photos. From the System Preferences on my Mac, I went to “Desktop and Screensaver,” then selected the wallpaper image from my Photos. Choose the option “Fit to Screen.”