N'awlins

There is something magical about this place.  New Orleans has always been on my list as one of those cities that was calling me.  From the food, to the culture to the history, Nola is a place of wonder.  

Ferns and Balconies on Royal Street

I will preface by saying that deciding to go in the middle of July is not for the faint of heart.  It's HOT.  I mean so hot that the rain steams off the street and you start to sweat the minute you step outside, but boy is this place cool. 

Beads Bourbon Street 

I mean, Everybody needs a quest. Gandalf is one of the many characters on Bourbon.

On Bourbon Street, it was only 5pm and happy hour started 6 hours ago.  People were walking and drinking, dancing and talking, with to-go cups in hand. This was intoxicating...literallyOur hotel ( Royal Sonesta New Orleans) was lovely boasting a jazz club, outdoor swimming pool, and two restaurants. It's best to opt for a room on the interior of the hotel overlooking the pool so you are protected from the noise, and debauchery of Bourbon Street late night. After dropping the bags in the room, we were eager to get down to the action for prime people watching and soak up all that Bourbon had to offer. The street is closed off to cars and it is a walking party with brass bands on the corners and live music pumping out of the bars. Coming from New York I quickly realized that this was Louisiana's Time Square.  Nothing was genuine, but everything was authentic. Each place offered the same thing, booze, live music and probably a hangover--actually definitely a hangover. After speaking with one of our cab drivers I learned that all the craziness on Bourbon kept the city afloat after Hurricane Katrina. There are "no locks and no clocks" on Bourbon, and that makes it a destination cash cow.  

Carousel Bar 

I learned early on that Bourbon Street is just the beginning of places to eat and drink in NOLA.  In the French Quarter there is the  Hotel Monteleone which boast the famous Carousel Bar.  I had my first ever Vieux Carre (what they are known for) a brandy based cocktail from the 1930's that packs a punch with rye whiskey, benedictine and bitters. This bar is a real life merry-go-round that gives the customers a slow rotating ride around the bartender.  Three times around that thing (moving at about 30 minutes for one full rotation) and two cocktails later, it was time for dinner. 

Peche was one of my most memorable meals in New Orleans and one of the best I have had in a long time.  The service was impeccable, and the casual decor encouraged me to indulge in the refined seafood based menu. Standout dishes include the baked Drum (a local meaty whitefish), and the crab and jalapeno capellini. 

Another great restaurant was Sylvain.  We stumbled upon this gastro pub while walking to another reservation and decided that the menu and romantic atmosphere suited us more than the empty restaurant we were headed to.  *Insider tip: NEVER eat somewhere that's empty.  Sylvain, located in an old carriage house has delicious American fare but what made the place memorable was the experience. The staff was knowledgeable and charming which made us feel welcome. 

Parts of the city also have a hipster vibe and with Tales of the Cocktail being a annual event the craft cocktail culture is alive and well. We visited Cane and Table which is a restaurant and craft cocktail bar known to have a focus on tiki drinks. The menu is extensive with a dairy free milk punch made with corn milk, and a rum punch served out of a whole pineapple. The bartenders look too cool for school, but are knowledgeable and care about a good cocktail.

Visited the Goorin Bros Hat Shop and got my Reformation Beyonce look 

Before I left I made of list of what I wanted to see, eat and drink and managed to tick all the boxes.  Po Boys at Parkway Bakery (the turtle gumbo is a must), beignets at Cafe du Monde (go late to avoid the crowd, and get entertained by the crazies), and a little east of the Quarter is Frenchman's Street that has great bars with live music and a market with local artists that is open until 2am. 

New Orleans is more than drinking on Bourbon Street.  There is wealth of great food and culture and an energy that is incomparable to other American cities. Go for the booze, stay for the food, and fall in love with the culture. 

<3 Love, Camille...

North Forking Daah-ling

This summer I fell in love with the North Fork. 

504 and my delicious glass of Cab Franc...

Mc Call Vineyards--Cab Franc vines to the right, burgers straight ahead! 

Driving out east, as the smog, tension and anxiety of New York City wanes, you check your phone less and start paying more attention to the quiet two lane road that leads to a relaxing, delicious salvation.

I was lucky enough to get an invite from my friend Brewster McCall who (no big deal) happens to own a vineyard.  His charming little guest house on his family’s alfalfa pasture is the perfect weekend pied-a-terre boasting three bedrooms, a full kitchen, and the most amazing maple tree.  The house is just down the main road from the vineyard and we were able to meet up with Brewster for the vineyard’s weekly Friday burger night.  The experience was super cute as the North Fork Table & Inn’s food truck serves the McCall Ranch’s Charolais beef raised on the vineyard. These McCall’s know how to do it right, and not only were they named the best New York vineyard in 2013, the property is sustainably wind powered and was the first to do so on the North Fork.  After getting an up close and personal tour of the ranch, I fell in love with cow number 504 who because he was nursed by hand is approachable, friendly, and dare I say it, lovable.  I had a brief City Slickers moment, and wanted to bring 504 home with me and name him Norman.  He’s a cow after my own heart going straight for my wine glass, a sip of the 2013 Cab Franc, and a lil' nuzzle.  More on 504 in the next blog if I ever decide to become a vegetarian…

We also stopped at Breeze Hill Farms and met Amy Dawn the proprietor who told us all about her haunted farmhouse as we snacked on freshly made hot apple cider doughnuts.  I repeat…HOT APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS.  These suckers were pulled right out of the fryer, and a quick toss of cinnamon and sugar made these the best doughnuts I've ever tasted. She told us how she grew up playing in the orchard trees on the property and lives completely off the land.  She and her team run the farm stand and take turns restocking produce and pulling hot pies out of the oven. After making fast friends, she invited us back to Breeze Hill for a farm-to-table meal she would personally prepare. Not for nothing, Im totally taking her up on this offer, as she fishes in a kayak on her private beach for her dinner and barters amazing homemade babaganoush with mushrooms on her farm.  

Claudios Clam Bar is the spot for steamers and a cold beer...

A fifteen minute drive from our little guest house brought us to the charming town of Greenport.  Here we had a quick snack at Basso  where the cheese, and paper thin charcuterie is straight out of Italy.  They also offer a tasty and authentic anti pasta of sun dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. Greenport is where you can catch the Shelter Island Ferry.  Before or after you hop on the boat, there is Claudioswith the best waterfront real estate, and happens to be the oldest family owned restaurant in the U.S. *Insider Tip: go to the clam bar as it is right on the water and plays live music--also not as fancy as the mother resto. 

A little ways down the pier is Little Creek Oyster Bar. It is a true standout in Greenport as it's a charming seaside shack where you get the privilege of shucking your own oysters.  After a quick tutorial by our server, we were left with a glove, a knife, and our own technique.  It was tough at first, but once we got the hang of it, they were the most delicious oysters I ever had.  The gratification of cracking one open makes it 10 times tastier than any oyster bar in the city. 

Awww Shucks! WE WENT IN! 

I have to say that my North Fork visit is what I imagined summer on Long Island to be.  The sunflower fields and local farms stands peppering the North Road are nostalgic, and the amount of affordable farm fresh produce is overwhelming. It's farm and wine country where the vibe is laid back and carefree. Unlike its sister to the south, there is no scene, pretension, or all white party to attend.  Don't get me wrong, the Hamptons are fabulous especially if you have a house, a pool and good friends to create your own party. However the North Fork has vineyards and nice people with farms wanting to cook for you.  Im just saying, that while everyone's worried about getting into the hottest restaurant of the summer that transforms into a night club at 9pm, Ill take a glass of Cab Franc and a cow any day.

<3 Love, Camille...

PS...Check out these other spots that we visited and were highly recommended: Wednesday's Table, North Fork Coffee Roasters, American Beech, Sparkling Pointe

PPS...All photo credit goes to your truly :)