Lobby: The lobby is actually on the third floor - so if you drive in on Canal, you come up the ground-floor lobby to the third-floor lobby. The lobby is really pretty - there is always a *huge* arrangement of fresh flowers, and it makes the entire lobby smell so nice.
Service: Everyone that works here (just about) knows your name. From the valet to the doorman to the front desk, and so on. When they see you again, they somehow remember your name! I don't know how they can do it with so many guests, but they do. The service workers are really thoughtful, and if you come through a hallway at an odd hour when they might be vacuuming or doing something else, they will stop or turn off the vacuum, and wait for you to get well clear before they begin again. I know people say this a lot, but it *is* the small things that really count, like remembering your name, and saying that it's so great to have you back since your last visit in December, things like that.
Food: We had room service Sunday evening and it was superb! From my salad, pasta, and creme brulee to Av's soup and fish entree, it was all perfect.
creme brulee at supper
Our experience is this: We've stayed at some great places in the Quarter, like the Hotel Monteleone and the W, but the R-C really is the nicest and most gracious. We sometimes try other hotels in New Orleans (mostly because sometimes the R-C can get VERY expensive - WELL over $300/day, sometimes more) and sometimes just to see what the other ones are like. But the R-C will always be my favorite.
Our room's bath
So it was our six year anniversary, and Av made these great plans for us to take the train (I loooove the train) to New Orleans. Since we were only going to stay a couple of days, the train would be perfect because we would just be walking around in the Quarter. Usually, we take the Volvo and mess around all over New Orleans - doing interesting things like going out to eat at fabulous restaurants - and then there are the things that I just *have* to do, like getting some doberge from Gambino's in Metarie, and watching a movie at The Palace 20 - while having a daquiri. And I know this is going to sound weird, but I like to take the car to Safari Car Wash on Veterans. :)
We got in a little after 8pm Sunday and took a taxi to the hotel (the Ritz-Carlton, my favorite). We had been thinking about going over to Galatoire's for supper, but were really tired for some reason, so we stayed in and ordered room service. Delish.
Food This Trip:
Muffuletta from City Grocery
Muffuletta at Central Grocery - this visit, we decided to do things that were famous but we had somehow never got around to doing before. The muffuletta at Central Grocery was excellent - messy and yummy. Olive salad, mmmmm.
Pralines at Laura's Candies - Laura's has both regular and chewy pralines (I'm not so wild about chewy pralines, just the regular ones), and the one I had was good, but if this makes sense, it was somehow *too* sugary (this is possibly the first time I have ever said something was too sugary!!). Not to come down too hard on Laura's, but they were even selling this....trail mix, I guess......that was called 'Jambalaya Cajun Snack Mix' - you can see it if you scroll down this page. The stuff is made up North! That's like going to a white-tablecloth restaurant and they give you Ranch dressing in Sysco packs. I say either be authentic, just Louisiana & Southern items, or start selling vulgar t-shirts and voodoo dolls from Taiwan like half the other shops in the Quarter. Just *wrong*!
ACME Oyster Po Boy
Oyster Po Boy at Acme Oyster House - everything, everything about this po boy was perfect. The bread. The oysters. Dressed perfect. Yum!
Roasted Duck at Dante's Kitchen - delish. We ate outside, and the temperature was perfect. We had company and everything was just perfect, perfect!
Shopping This Trip:
We really didn't buy a lot this trip, just a book at a used book store - and we also went into a Civil War shop in the Quarter because we've been meaning to get something with Judah P. Benjamin on it, so we came out with a $2 bill and a Confederate War Bond. We went into several other places, but there wasn't just a whole lot that we just *had to* have.
We'll probably be returning to New Orleans next month, so I'll have more then.
Possum in a Peach Tree
Spring-time is coming. Several of our neighbors' daffodils are blooming already, the Japanese magnolias are starting to bloom, and our peach tree is also starting to take off.
This past September, we were woken one morning by our dog Lox (she is a red mini-dachshund) barking over and over again. Once you have dogs for a while, you can tell from their barking what is going on. There is the "I hear something, so I'm going to do a little short barking so you know there's a dog around here", there is the "I see somebody or something so I'm going to bark-bark and let them know that I'm over here", and there's the "something is really exciting me and I'm just going to bark my head off". The last times she has had those episodes, something really was going on - twice there was a snake in the yard, one time a snake bit Bagel's nose, and this time there was a possum in our peach tree.
We couldn't immediately see what was going on, so we went out in the back yard and there he was, just very calmly sitting on a limb. Growing up in a small town, I had already had a couple of possum encounters (including one eating our cat's food in the backyard), but city-boy husband hadn't. So I told him to come see, take some pictures, but if the possum starts hissing to high-tail it back inside the house. Possums are pretty much like most other wild animals - they would rather take off than have to deal with a human - but if he were to get agitated and start hissing, it would be best to take off.
My PawPaw (of blessed memory) used to tell me possum stories, like if one bites you, they bite & don't let go (I haven't heard that anywhere else). He also said that when he was a boy growing up in Attalla, that his family would occasionally catch a possum, put it under a tub, feed him for a week to fatten him up, and then cook him. PawPaw said that he wouldn't eat possum but that everybody else did.
BTW, the way to cook (a cleaned) possum is to put it in a roasting pan at 350* for about an hour along with sweet potatoes.
Thankfully, our possum was off in a couple of hours after a delicious meal of past-prime peaches.
A Black & White from FreshMarket
When I was in college, I spent a couple of months living with some friends in Norcross, an Atlanta suburb. We all liked to go to the Bagel Palace on Druid Hills Sunday mornings. This was really my first introduction to a Jewish deli-type place - there was a long line, and while waiting, you stand next to cases of lox, nova, whitefish (my fav), herring, egg salad, etc.
When one of my friends took me to Philadelphia, I went to a **real** Jewish deli market, where you take a number, and there's no small talk. It was kind of like when you go to The Varsity - when it's your turn at the counter, you're supposed to have already decided what you're going to have - there's no, 'uh, just a sec' with them - they holler "what'll ya have what'll ya have" before you even step to the register. You just don't want to be the one person that holds things up. My other "first" in Philadelphia was going to a very nice Glatt-Kosher Chinese restaurant. Chinese dishes are generally very easy to translate to kosher, because there's no dairy. Everything is either meat or vegetable, and any pork dishes can be made with beef.
Back to Atlanta: the Bagel Palace was in the same development as what we called the "Jewish Kroger" (lots and lots of us still call it the "Jewish Kroger") because so much of the food was under supervision. Inside the Kroger was/is still a tiny Glatt Kosher Chinese counter called "Chai Peking" - the first time I had ever seen a restaurant of any sort inside a grocery store. Some people are just wild about the place, but I'm not a big fan. Anyway. The same development as the Bagel Palace and the Jewish Kroger was another bakery that has since closed. I can't remember the name of it, but I remember that the people that worked there were **Totally Rude.** but the thing was, nobody cared because they made the greatest little treats, especially the 'black & whites'.
Black & Whites are cookies (see pic above) that are half chocolate, half confectioner's sugar icing and I think heavily associated as a Jewish food icon.
Not a whole lot of places here sell black & whites, so when we see them it is always a big deal!
I just received the latest catalog from Interface Flor, and they have some *great* new designs. I'm don't really have a room appropriate for the daisies, but I'm sure if I were still 12, I would be begging for them!
About two years ago, we put Flor in our kitchen. I know that most people don't go for carpet in their kitchen, but really, I'm not so bad about spilling things, and since our design includes mostly reds, grays, and blacks, I put the darker squares closer to the countertops so any mistakes would be better camoflauged. (I'll put a pic of the kitchen here a little later.)
What's underneath the Flor is some linoleum that was from the previous owner of our home. It really wasn't bad, but it really wasn't us. The day we got our Flor squares, it took about an hour and a half to lay the squares in and get the design the way we liked it. The squares are held down with little adhesive dots on each underside-corner, so they never pop up or get out of place. Bonus: whenever we want, we can completely change the design.
So for Valentine's Day supper, I fixed a turducken! Well, okay, by 'fixed' I mean I took it, thawed, out of the refrigerator and into the oven, and a couple of hours later onto a platter.
It wasn't a full-fledged turducken, because that would involve taking several hours to debone, etc - this was a "breast of turducken", much better suited for two people with lots and lots of leftovers. It was yummy!
Oh! And I got orchids too, purple and white-striped phalaenopsis. Beautiful!
Grand Opera House in Meridian
Above is a picture taken last week at the Grand Opera House in Meridian, which we got to go in and see even though it is still under renovation. The Opera House is actually on the second floor of the Marks-Rothenberg building (which was a department store in the late 19th and early 20th century), and to get to the opera house, you had to walk through the store. The store built the opera house, so this was a "marketing opportunity". :)
In the picture above, you can see the stage, the fire curtain, and some of the boxes.
The Opera House was leased to Saenger Theatres in 1923 and closed by Saenger in 1928 when they built "The Temple" theater. Really, although some renovation efforts have been made over the years, the theater was mostly just as it was in 1928 with the added decay of 75 years or so.
More pictures can be found here at the MSU website.
Mississippi State is heading up the project with plans to renovate the entire M-R building (and other buildings on that block) for multi-use, including a MSU campus, a Meridian Community College campus, a conference center, space for other exhibits/museums, a parking garage, and performances at the restored Grand Opera House.
I can't wait to go once it is reopened in March of 2006! Yay!
We enjoyed a hosted supper Saturday night with many, many friends at Weidmann's in Meridian (MS). Weidmann's has been a landmark in Meridian since 1870, and has operated continuously since then, except when it closed for renovations a couple of years ago.
How it used to be:
It used to be open from early in the morning to pretty late each day, and the servers, who most had probably been there decades, were real professionals. There must have been at least 100 options on the menu, and everything we ever had was excellent, excellent. It was the type of food you would fix at home if you time the time or inclination. There was a long lunch counter, a dining room in the back with hundreds of signed photographs of national and local celebrities - from governors and astronauts to flag twirlers and cowgirls - and a room to the left as you walked in that had a very rustic feel, and I believe it was called the 1890 room (or 18-something room). Since butter was in short supply during WWII, Wiedmann's substituted and put peanut butter in crocks on the tables. The little crocks could even be purchased at the cash register (we have one).
Not a whole lot in updates had ever, I think, gone on at Weidmann's. Nothing was ever new. If it wasn't broke, there was no need in fixing it. Weidmann's was never broke.
How it is now:
This isn't going to be as positive as I like my writing to turn out, but.....
Weidmann's reopened in 2003 with 58 investors. I'm sure these were well-meaning people, but what they did to the Weidmann's institution is......wrong. Sure, if they were out to open a fine-dining establishment, well, you can do that in any town, in any either stand-alone building or even a strip mall. But to rip up a living tradition and put in its place a business that would have the pretentiousness to declare on the front door that it is "dark Sundays" rather than "closed", well, next time go.do.that.somewhere.else.
The new Weidmann's is white-tablecloth. Dim lights. Brick walls. One-long-sheet-of-paper menus. Wine lists. Hushed voices.
The food is good. Quite good.
It is just as good, and the new atmosphere is just as good, as any other mid-sized town that has a restaurant you just wouldn't feel right going into with bluejeans on.
Nothing remains of the old Weidmann's.
Well, sort of. It seems that the *new* Weidmann's wasn't doing so well financially, and back in October or November of last year that a new party came in and saved the restaurant from what may have meant closing for good. Here's an excerpt of an article about the transaction in the EMBJ:
But the operational end was not the only concern. The restaurant has failed
to court those who were loyal to the "old" Weidmann’s and those who continue to
perceive the restaurant as high-priced and "too formal."
"When it opened I believe it was slightly above the market not only in some of the food items, but in some of the price points," Wile said. "I think it was also played up that it was ‘fine dining,’ which to some people means you have to wear a coat and tie. That’s just not the case, at lunch or dinner. "Then I think the change alienated a lot of people who were loyal to Weidmann’s and had been all their lives. I think we may have underestimated the effects of that. While it retained
the name, it didn’t look, feel or taste like the Weidmann’s they knew."
Though the "old" Weidmann’s is now gone, Wile said some changes being made will bring back some memories of those days. The peanut butter jars have returned to the tables — although without the peanut butter due to health department restrictions — and old photographs are being matted, framed and hung throughout the lobby and upstairs in the lounge.
Marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian
Above is the grave marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian, MS. The story is that she died in 1915 while giving birth at a camp in Coatopa, Alabama (which is west of Demopolis). Her family brought her to Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian to be buried. A recollection of that event can be found at this very good site that also refers to the rest of the family of Emil Mitchell, who was Kelly's husband, the "King of the Gypseys". The story goes on about the burial customs and the fact that the grave was reinforced with steel bars and concrete so as to discourage thieves (because apparently many fine things were buried along with her body for use on the other side of the Styx).
collection of items left on Kelly Mitchell's marker
I have heard that when the Roma come through Meridian, they leave items on Kelly's marker. Visitors do as well (people seem to do that a lot...people leave all kinds of things in Montgomery at Hank Williams' grave....guitar pics, whisky bottles, etc. Next time I go through, I'll post a picture). This gravesite also seems to be a spot for people who do geocaching, so I'm pretty sure that some amount of this must have been left from them. Whenever we go through Meridian, we stop at Rose Hill to see what's on the markers. It is different every time.
Along with Kelly Mitchell are buried her husband, Emil, who died in 1942 close to Attalla (AL), Flora Mitchell (Emil's sister), Joe "Sharkie" Mitchell and Princess Diana Sharkey Mitchell, Slatcho Mitchell, Helen and Frank Mitchell, Mehil Mitchell, Lawrence Mitchell, Nicholas Gulumba, Costa George Bimbo, and Ovdoikia George Bimbo.
Holiday Inn in Meridian, MS
Room: This room was a nice size, but a little dingy. We were upgraded at no charge to a room with a sofa. This hotel is set up in the older style - so rooms are accessible from the outside. I don't think generally a great deal has been put toward renovations over the years to this hotel.
Lobby: I don't know what the lobby looks like because we got there some time after 11pm so we had to check in *outside*. There was a little window on an exterior wall of the lobby where the desk manager came and checked us in. It was cold - and honestly, standing out there rather than inside the lobby, freezing, it really made me feel like maybe they thought either their own guests were thugs or people just walk up and are weird so they really need to do things outside after a certain hour. This didn't make me have any warm-fuzzies about my own safety, but our choices were limited and we were tired. There was another party waiting to check in when we drove up, but again, it didn't make me feel very safe that they didn't allow their own guests to enter - especially ones that had reservations already.
Service: The person that checked us in was nice, and I don't hold the fact that the hotel's policy is to make people wait outside in the cold against her. She probably isn't wild about doing guests that way, but if they *do* have a problem with weirdos, I'm glad that she is safe. Maybe they need to hire security. Who knows.
Food: We didn't eat here, but there was a room-service menu with limited hours (there is an on-site restaurant) and I believe a continental breakfast was included with our room rate.
Our experience is this: This hotel was $10 more expensive than the Holiday Inn Express in nearby Forest. I would take the HIX in Forest any day over this one.
Here are a few restaurants we like in Jackson and where we plan visit:
Places we like in Jackson:
AJ's Seafood Grill (wonderful fish dishes, nice atmosphere)
Mayflower Cafe (fish)
Cherokee Inn (meat & threes, esp. meatloaf)
Dennery's (one of my very favorites, great fish)
Primo's Cafe (sandwiches, desserts)
Want to visit:
Hal & Mal's
Que Sera Sera
Friday night we had supper for the first time at Keegan's (7049 Old Canton Road, 601.898.4554) in Ridgeland. A couple of years ago, it was voted 'most recommended restaurant' in the Clarion-Ledger.
Av started with a cup of gumbo. It wasn't gumbo. It wasn't bad - it was quite good - but it wasn't gumbo. There was no roux.....it was more of a vegetable soup with a proponderance of okra (which, to have gumbo, you have to have okra).....and there was no rice. No rice?!?!
The salads were very good, and Av and I both ordered off the special menu of the day. I had a duck with mango salsa, which was lovely, except the mango salsa was really a thick mango sauce. In any case, supper was excellent as was the service.
Would we go back? Mmmmm......probably not. There are so many great restaurants in Jackson (and Ridgeland) that this is probably one of those places that we won't return to - not because it wasn't good - it was. But it wasn't "wow!".
Holiday Inn Express in Forest, MS
Room: This room was really bright and nicely decorated. Everything seemed to be in very good condition and the bed was comfortable.
Lobby: The lobby was standard-issue.
Service: Very nice person at registration desk.
Food: We didn't eat here, but a continental breakfast is included.
Our experience is this: We would definitely stay here again.
Our room at the Riverview Hotel, Mobile
Room: The Riverview Hotel in Mobile was formerly the Adam's Mark Mobile. We've stayed here probably at least ten times (when it was an Adam's Mark). About five years ago, we first gave it a try as I was impressed that we could get a 4**** hotel under $80 in downtown Mobile. Once we got into our room, I was just taken with the view (the even-numbered rooms face the dock in Mobile, and there is something going on there all day and all night. For someone not used to seeing a dock in operation, it is really something). It was easy to forgive aging furnishings for that view. However, last year we decided that most everything there was so far past-prime that we would find somewhere else to stay for most of our trips there.
Last year, the Adam's Mark was sold and it is now called the "Riverview". The website states that they are now undergoing a $17 million renovation.
Uh, I don't know where or when, but there's no evidence of it. Anywhere.
We booked a room at a rate significantly higher than the old Adam's Mark rates. What did we receive? The same worn-out room with worn-out furnishings. Without exaggerating, I can say that I felt every single mattress coil underneath me all night. We won't be back.
Lobby: Very '80's. Very hunter green.
Service: There needs to be more people available at the front desk for check-ins, it seems.
Food: There is no excuse to eat here when there are all kinds of great places in Mobile! I'll post about that later..... :)
Extra: There's a walkway between the hotel and the Outlaw Convention Center.
Our experience is this: Never again. If I were a hotel manager, there is no way that I would have guests sleep on mattresses that........coily.