Sixtieth in the south

We are repeat customers! In 2018, we were on what was principally a motorbike trip, from Victoria heading to the southern states. I have written about that experience often, you’ll find posts of that trip on this site. We just got back from another trip there (via air travel) at the end of Jan 2019. Lars had a milestone birthday, and when someone suggested maybe going back down south to celebrate, it was a done deal. Trip planning kicked into full swing.

A bunch of factors made this trip quite a bit different and very special. Firstly, of course was Lars’ birthday. Secondly, my parents joined us for the first week; thirdly, our friend Anders joined us from Sweden; and finally, the Gulf Coast was the destination because Lars’ daughter Marie, and her husband Ray, live in Mississippi.

That’s quite a cast of characters, with different dynamics coming into play. It was a great trip, and these dynamics made it very enjoyable overall. We travelled down with my folks, my dad turns 90 this year; my mom is a couple years behind him. They are super travellers, take it all in stride. Still they are my folks and for me, there was definitely a large element of me wanting to make sure they are OK. Warm enough, comfortable, making sure there was enough food, (which was never an issue, if you read on…)

We rented an air bnb in Ocean Springs MS. for three weeks, the four of us stayed there, while Anders stayed at The Roost closer to town for the first few days of the trip.

The main birthday meal was planned, we had reservations at Felix’s Fish Camp Restaurant in Mobile Alabama. We dined there last year with Marie and Ray, and it was wonderful.

The meal was great, although not a nice as the first. The wait staff wasn’t as good, to be totally honest. In the land of first world problems, we had reserved a window seat, but were moved for some unexplained reason; and the hostess/wait staff didn’t seem as professional as I was expecting. The young waiter rattled off their menu so quickly, it was hard to take in. Then, he was pouring our Dom Perignon and making a bit of a mess of it… Anyway, once we got settled in, we enjoyed the meal, and libations in fine fashion. Seafood mostly, mahi-mahi, cobi, seafood platter, oysters, with southern fixings, creole greens, hush puppies, fried green tomatoes, grits. It was a good meal, but I wouldn’t say stellar.

Felix group shot
Lars the red-eye birthday guy. and his fans, Anders, me, Marie, Ray, my mom and dad, Joanne and Doug.

I’m just going to go on from here, and document the meals, some awesome, some ok, and one really quite poor. This isn’t meant to be a food blog, but as is the case, the social act of getting together is often centred around a meal.

The first meal we had was at “Shaggy’s, a name which sounds a little weird on a good day. It’s a franchise, I believe, and there are a few of them across the southern states. We ate at the beach at Biloxi, oysters, catfish fingers, fried shrimp and crab cake po-boys. It was actually really awesome! We didn’t know what to expect, and by no means is this an insult to the restaurant; but were really surprised at how good the food was! We pay a heckuvalot more, for a whole lot less quality (and quantity) of food here in Victoria.

Next up, the Crawfish House, Ocean Springs.

Crawfish are boiled in spices, there’s not a ton of meat on them, but they are tasty. It’s very typical to take them by the pound, and with the meal are potato and corn on the cob which have been boiled in the same spices. We shared one of these platters, oysters rockefeller, and raw, fried shrimp, crab cakes and alligator bites. Oh, and wine, and four jugs of IPA. Welcome to Mississippi! It’s a great social atmosphere, very casual, all ages. The place to spend an afternoon enjoying a meal with friends and family.

Murky Waters, Ocean Springs MS. We had a meal here, and wow, very meaty! They bbq and smoke the meat on premise, and that’s what they are famous for. They don’t do take out apparently, if you want to eat their food, you eat it there.

The five of us shared shrimp platter with fries, and red beans, in my opinion the shrimp and fries were OK; the red beans were too sweet and very so-so. We also had the brisket, ribs, smoked chicken, onion rings, and potato salad; sausage and cheese, and fried okra. The food was OK overall, but nothing terribly special. The drinks weren’t great, margaritas were horrible, the taps seemed to have problems filling the glasses; and the waitress was on par with the drinks. It was very odd, when she placed the bill on the table, she laughed almost behind our backs; as in “who gets to pay for this?” She was odd, I have to say. Anyway…

French Kiss Pastries Ocean Springs MS. amazing cakes, desserts and pastries, and pretty good coffee. Anders would say, excellent espresso. We visited here many times over our stay in Ocean Springs. Oh, the eclairs!

Half Shell Oyster House – Biloxi, MS – I actually wrote a review on Trip advisor… it was so bad.

New Orleans

We had our first meal in New Orleans at Mother’s Restaurant, some say it’s touristy, I have no comment on that. The food was good overall, Anders ordered the world famous Ferdi po-boy, the sandwich made with roast beef in the ham debris, or drippings. I think he found it more interesting than awesome. Filling out the meal were seafood gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans, a southern staple. It was a cold day, so these warm comfort foods were welcomed.

Hard to believe that deep fried dough, covered in confectioner’s sugar are such the rage, but they are pretty scrummy. We had them once or twice at Cafe Beignet, this one on Royal St.

mom and dad beignet
My folks at Cafe Beignet.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House – We really enjoyed this meal, being a mid-January Monday, we had no problems getting a table, even though it was a little busy. The chicken, both baked and fried, was amazing. We also had red beans and rice, fried okra, cornbread muffins. Be aware if you eat at Mother’s, and you are a group of five or more. They automatically add the gratuity. When they present you with the machine for payment, you can’t see what you’re paying for. The screen is “add tip” or “no tip”. We ended up tipping twice, and felt a little burned… Anyway.

Cajun Cookery on St. Peter’s Street – was just around the corner from where we stayed in the Warehouse district. It was a great little find, we shared nachos slathered with savoury chicken, black beans, and jalapenos; chicken strips and cajun fries, red beans, sausage and rice, grits, (Lars’ favourite) and beer. Very good!

Lars, Anders and I had our last meal in New Orleans at the Wine Institute of New Orleans, W.I.NO. Anders wasn’t as impressed as Lars and I; we thought it was great! It’s a self service wine bar, with 120 different options. They had some rum options too. They had cheese and charcuterie plates, which is what we shared. Other than the cheese  being too cold, we thought it was great way to try some different wines, and share some food.

A summary of the places we have eaten in New Orleans:

Lars, Anders and I took a little road trip to Gulf Shores, and then to Pensacola, Florida. It’s the first time any of us had been this far south, and east. We drove to Mobile Alabama, then south to the beach. We really enjoyed walking at Gulf Shores and Pensacola Beach. We stayed in Pensacola, checked into the Pensacola Grand Hotel in the afternoon, and decided to take an Uber to Pensacola Beach. We walked the beach a little bit – the sun was waning, it was cooling off, so, time to find a spot for dinner!

Florida

Flounders Chowder House Pensacola Beach, Fla.

What an excellent choice this turned out to be! Between us we had two fish platters Anders took the red snapper, with baby potatoes and asparagus; we shared the mahi mahi with rice, asparagus and a side of fries. Before that though, Anders in his brilliance ordered one pound of boiled shrimp, and fried pickles! The shrimp were good, the pickles a total surprise! I ate too many, they are so good!

Strawberry daiquiri, pinot grigio, and IPA beer. And a key lime pie that almost made me weep…. It was awesome, even if I did overindulge in a nasty way.

death by keylime pie
I dare you…

OK, that takes care of the food diary. Here’s the activity portion of our visit.

We visited New Orleans last year (2018), and it was amazing. It really is a place that has to be experienced, and we were fortunate to visit there again. This time, we were showing my folks and Anders the town. Far from intimate, but familiar enough with the French Quarter, waterfront etc. to introduce them to this wonderful and unusual place. This time we took a cemetery tour, where the guide touched on the Spanish, French and Haitian-“voo-doo” history and influence, and of course the very unique way in which  the dead are interred. Very interesting and worthwhile.

I think I wrote about learning about the hurricanes Katrina, and Camille in a post from our last visit. We visited again, the Louisiana State Museum, Katrina / Hurricane exhibit, and still we are so astounded at what this part of the world went through and rebuilt from.

We went to the WWII museum, not my first choice of activities, but Lars and Anders were both interested in seeing it.  They also have an airplane museum which is impressive, and a 4-D show of US participation in the war. It is very US centric view of the war, which I guess isn’t surprising.

I had not heard of the king cake before this trip to New Orleans. The history of the king cake varies depending on region. It seems to be related to Lent, and in New Orleans, the Mardi Gras Celebration. They are a very big deal, and are sold everywhere, from tourist  shops to bakeries, to Walmart. We had heard one of the better bakers, Camelia Bakery, Randazzo Cakes were being sold at a local store in Long Beach MI. It really was a mini-frenzy, they were being bought in multiples, and were flying out the door. (It was also the NFL conference final two days later, so we thought maybe that had something to do with it?) We tried one, pricey, $24 US for this. Maybe one with the cream cheese filling would have been better? But still it was fun to experience something that’s so important and relevant at this time of year.

Oh yah, and the king cake has a “baby” baked inside. According to wikipedia, in New Orleans “… Today, the baby symbolizes luck and prosperity to whoever finds it in his/her slice of cake. That person is also responsible for purchasing next year’s cake, or for throwing the next Mardi Gras party. In some traditions, the finder of the baby is designated “king” or “queen” for the evening”. Well since Anders bought our king cake, and he found the baby, I suppose he’s off the hook on this one.

Randazzo's King Cake

Back to Biloxi and Ocean Springs

We spent only a few days in New Orleans before heading back to Ocean Springs. Anders, Lars and I had a lot of time to just enjoy the area, so in between the meals, we did walk the beaches down in Ocean Springs, Biloxi, and Gulfport. Here are a few pics of the coast including Mississippi, Gulf Shores Alabama, Pensacola Beach Florida, the walks and us.

The beach at Ocean Springs

Trains, bridges, and some boats too

A bit of surprise at first, hearing the horns late in the night, early in the morning and at any time in between. We got used to them quickly, at times feeling the rumble, and always hearing their horns continuously, when passing through. The trains were transport only, passenger trains haven’t been down that way since the 70’s apparently. In one of the videos, the train was hauling army vehicles, which looked quite unreal from afar.

Here are some photos of bridges, boats and the tootin’ situation.

Lars and Anders, on the bridge between Biloxi and Ocean Springs

The eclipse

We were in Ocean Springs for the super blood wolf moon lunar eclipse on Jan 20, 2019. Skies were clear, crisp and a bit cool. Here’s a pic, click on it to see more of the same in flickr.

Eclipse, January 20, Ocean Springs Mississippi,


We were down in the south for three weeks. We aren’t the type to race around and keep busy, so it was a real pleasure to just have slow mornings and go with things, the weather, “chores”, work schedules etc. Having this amount of time really allowed us to become familiar with things, where Ocean Springs felt like home for just a little while.

It was a great start to the year, and I think I can say that with confidence, a wonderful start to Lars’ 6th decade. Family, friends, to share in laughter and celebration. Skal and grattis!

I’ll end with some photos: Lars’ photos and some silly ones. Anders’ is my best-goofy-photo-friend.

Silly starter

 

 

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