Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday, Day Four of Tales of the Cocktail with side trips to WWII Museum

Saturday: Family day at WWII Museum and American Sector Restaurant

My son, daughter and her boyfriend joined us for the ultimate family experience--a day spent at the WWII Museum and lunch at American Sector Restaurant, a Chef John Besh restaurant honoring American cuisine. To fully appreciate the décor, enter on the Magazine Street entrance, past walls of vintage sepia photos of 1940 movie greats: Clark Gable in his army uniform, Betty Davis, Carol Lombard, and many more. Fashioned around a mid-twentieth century soda fountain, the décor and the menu presents a nostalgic dining experience. From hot dogs to hamburgers or Crab Buster (light batter soft shell crab) on a bed of jalapeno cheese grits...soooo good. Drink up with homemade Sector Sodas or milk shakes along with the $7 kids lunch box menu.

We moved on to the Pacific War Exhibit since my husband’s father was a decorated Navy war hero from the Pacific War. A very moving experience and a good prelude for the film “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 42 minute journey through the war using rare archival films. The 4-D effects use life-sized props, animation and atmospherics. No need for 3-D glasses, the technologies of the screen and film go beyond anything you have seen. May be too intense for younger children.

Pastry Chef David Guas, New Orleans native and a James Beard and IACP 2010 nominee, sweetened the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards Ceremony with Banana's Foster Cheesecake with Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce and Cocao3 Mousse featuring Dark Chocolate, Bittersweet Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, spiked with surprise Liquors and sprinkles of Cocoa Nibs. Follow David and his book, Dam Good Sweets on television and radio shows across the country.

It was another fun-filled Tales of the Cocktail that will continue to spread goodwill and cheer about our glorious city for many months to come. Visit their website for events throughout the year and a peek into next year’s spirited event.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait until next July to make a trip to the Big Easy. Give the folks at Harrah’s Hotel a call and book your next trip to a city full of life and personality.

Friday, Day Three TOC and side trips on Magazine Street

Friday: Sucré for coffee and La Petite Grocery for lunch

Head on down Magazine Street, a funky seven-mile corridor of historic buildings filled with boutiques, restaurants, antique stores, art galleries, and bohemian coffee shops.

A chic place to meet friends or clients, the minty glow of the Sucré sweet boutique and the colorful display of disco-sparkled pastries sets the perfect mood for some creative brainstorming and inviting conversation. My morning began inside Sucré with a frothy latté in an oversized coffee cup chatting with Jennifer Bond, owner of Bond Public Relations.

Next stop La Petite Grocery, a stunning century old building with caramel colored walls and ceilings with a long bar decked out in warm woods. Chef Justin Devillier pairs fresh fruits and vegetables with seafood, poultry and meats. Friends Le Anne Gardner and Hope Philbrick join me for a refreshing lunch of appetizers and salad. Ask for the specials, but my all time favorites are the lobster or crabmeat beignets along with the Waldorf Salad—julienne apple slices, blue cheese, and walnuts with a vinaigrette dressing.

Had to forego Tales events for the afternoon to take care of some writing deadlines, but made it back to the Esquire/Don Q event on the second floor of Restaurant August. Saw some familiar faces including Susan Ford, publisher of Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine. The event was well attended with several New Yorkers kicking up the energy level a bit.

We (my husband and I) ventured over to Grand Isle Restaurant for their award winning Shrimp Caminada poboy that earned first place at the 2010 Poboy Festival. It’s sautéed shrimp and Asian slaw topped with fresh cilantro, parsley, dill sprigs, and basil served on crispy Leidenheimer French bread. Grand Isle also serves up a mean Duck Debris Poboy. Give it a try.

Thursday, Day Two of TOC and visit to Southern Candymakers

Thursday: Moonshine Breakfast, spirited dinner at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House on the corner of Iberville and Bourbon Street.

Every year the TOC seems to out do itself. This year every morning we’ve had a full breakfast compliments of Midnight Moon Moonshine on Thursday morning. And with a TOC badge enjoy a Saturday breakfast compliments of Van Gogh Vodka and lunch compliments of Mount Gay Rum. On Sunday, a Cocktail Spirited Sunday Brunch hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail, aka Paul and Ann Tunnerman.

At the Moonshine Breakfast, I talked with Brian, seventh generation master distiller of Piedmont Distillers, Inc. located in Madison, a tiny town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. I also chatted with some friendly folk, Jessica, Sara and Joe, all Piedmont Distiller employees about their new products featuring Moonshine infused with strawberries and raspberries. We did a little brainstorming on the best packaging. As you can see from the photo, they have the traditional bottle, and a new design, a mason jar with whole fruit visible inside the jar. Most agreed…mason jars. Very tasty with the infused fruit and natural sugars, plus the more nostalgic package helps conjure up all those “first sip of moonshine” stories.

On my way back to Harrah's Hotel, I stopped into the Southern Candymakers store at 334 Decatur Street for some absolutely decandent candy. Fresh made pralines, I mean dipped straight from the copper kettle. Along with an incredible selection of candy infused with the freshest ingredients, including some creative touches by long time candy and pastry chef, Jill.

Cocktail hours may never be the same after today’s cocktail hour at the New Orleans Cabildo. Tales patrons mingled and sipped cocktails throughout three story exhibit featuring Two Hundred Years of Louisiana History. Got to see it!

And a trip to New Orleans would not be complete without a trip to Dickie’s Brennan’s Bourbon House Restaurant. Home to N.O.B.S (New Orleans Bourbon Society), organized in 2007 members have grown to 1200 and still growing. And Wesley Noble always has new and innovative ideas for the member events, so stay tuned.

Tonight’s dinner featured cocktails by guest mixologists Kimberly Patton-Bragg and Franky Marshall along with food prepared by Bourbon House Executive Chef Darin Nesbit. Chef Darren worked his magic with a tantalizing menu highlighted by Tuna Gravlax Salad, Veal Sweetbreads, Smoked Softshell Crab, and a yummy Chocolate Caramel Bavarois for dessert.

Stay tuned for a full plate of Tales events Saturday, including a side trip to American Sector Restaurant, a Chef John Besh restaurant and part of the WWII Museum complex.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tales of Cocktail, New Orleans premier summer event

Get ready for a wild ride as we toast our way across the cityscapes of New Orleans at the 8th annual Tales of the Cocktail event. Before we begin our Tales Trail, let me say that what Ann Tuennerman has done with Tales of the Cocktail is pure genius…with a heavy slant towards miraculous. Imagine throwing a party in middle of the summer heat in New Orleans…egads.

But what if you threw this kick-ass party celebrating the cocktail? Throw in the frivolity, cocktails, food, air conditioning, and invite sponsors from all over the world. Oh Yeah!!! Just listening to the accents and talking with people across the globe is top on my list.

Using the New Orleans “Partee” rating scale…TOC comes in a close second behind Mardi Gras. Come see for yourself. Drop by the Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street, walk the lobby, go upstairs and take a stroll through the tasting rooms. Promise you’ll be baaaaack!

I roll down Poydras Street and just minutes from turning into Harrah’s Hotel, Kim Pappas, PR Extraordinaire, shoots me a call with an invite to the Sundance Iconoclast filming “Beyond the Bar.”

I check into the hotel, and I’ve got to say I just luvvvvvvv Harrah’s Hotel. Talk about Southern Hospitality, makes me proud to be a Southern gal. Huge room on the 22nd floor, OMG…the view…blue skies, monster ships gliding down the river, tugboats pushing barges, and the vintage ferry carting both cars and pedestrians from New Orleans to Algiers. I didn’t want to leave the room. It was a show by itself. Take a look at the view from my room.

Back to the filming at W Hotel…upstairs inside the second level bar Joaquin Simo was surrounded by a Sundance film crew. Translucent panels soften the light and a wall of Grey Goose bottles fade into the background. Joaquin shares his story on how to engage the personal connection between bartender and customer.

Two cameras stay focused as he demonstrates his change in body language from a rigid shoulder height shake to chest level, slightly rotating the shaker.

“I bring the shaker down to a smoother shake,” says Joaquin lowering his arms to chest level away from the center of his body. “It draws more conversation, includes the customer in the experience.”

Stay tuned as the Sundance Channel and the Untied States Bartenders’ Guild introduce “Beyond the Bar” beginning October 2nd at 9 pm ET/PT. Twelve one-minute documentary shorts will celebrate the voices of bartenders from across North America. The series is presented by Grey Goose. Each piece profiles a bartender with exceptional skills and highlights one of the many roles he or she plays “Beyond the Bar.”

I wandered over to the Monteleone Hotel, official Tales of the Cocktail hotel and homebase for many of the Tales of Cocktail events. Just a walk into the lobby will raise the old energy level. Be sure to stop in and pay tribute to one of the most historic bars in the country, Monteleone's Carousel Bar. Went to the second level and visited my all time favorite bartender, Daniel Victory, was manning the Martini & Rossi cocktail stage, along with two other bartenders. Daniel has some exciting news coming up in the near future. Stay tuned to future blogs.

Wednesday: Harrah’s Hotel and Sundance filming

Back to Harrah’s Hotel for cocktails and appetizers in the 528 bar adjacent to Ruth’s Chris Steak House located off the lobby of the Hotel. “All crab no filler” should be the menu title of their crab cakes with tons of crabmeat and the obligatory spices. Get them in the bar or as an appetizer in the restaurant. And don’t leave without sampling their calamari. Okay I did more than sample, but who could resist the lightly battered jewels with a hint of pepper jelly, goes down so good with their Pinot and Merlot.

Thanks for the wonderful food and conversation with Tara Theriot, and Alex McConduit, both terrific hosts and Alex has convinced me to join the world of twittering. Stay tuned for that!

Wednesday Night: Parties, parties, and more parties

A kick off party at the Contemporary Arts Center started the night off with a circus of characters. I walk in and someone is doing acrobats from long pieces of cloth hanging from wall to wall. Several stations of cocktails and food kept the spirits flowing until our bus ride to the Elms Mansion on St. Charles Avenue.

Probably one of the most iconic New Orleans scenes, a mansion cradled by towering oaks and manicured gardens. As the bus pulled up you could hear a collective “whoa,” although some were a bit more R rated…if you get my drift. A wrought iron fence, garden gazebo, and oak branches glisten against the black night wrapped with tiny clear lights. It was a magic evening, reminiscent of the old south with fireflies dancing across the warm summer night.

The dining room offered a nice selection of cheese and finger foods, while each room featured a bar and mixologists. From scotch and rum to a root beer liquor, Ann did a terrific job in highlighting the New Orleans Garden District.

For a romantic, inexpensive, and safe ride back to your hotel, pass up the cabs and save a couple of bucks and take the streetcar. It rides up and down St. Charles Avenue and at $1.25 a ride, you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, have a front row seat to one of the most exquisite Avenues in the country, and meet some incredible people along the way.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Historic trail from Washington D.C. to Prince William County, Virginia

Patriotic skies and rolling country sides
An historic trail from Washington D.C. to Prince William County, Virginia
By Deborah Burst

A faint whistle and stream of light pierce the early morning darkness as the Virginia Railway Express slowly pulls into the Manassas station. The daily commuter train offers the small town charm of Virginia suburbs and a scenic ride (less than an hour) to Washington DC, a beehive of commerce and historic museums. I grab a window seat but find myself drawn to people watching, men and women in blue suits and leather briefcases mixed with students in jeans and tattered bookbags. Some tune into their iPods and laptops while others bury their heads in newspapers.

I pop in my ear buds and listen to Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel and gaze at life along the railway stations watching the sun skipping the treetops in a blur of green and gold highlights. A vignette of backyard gardens filled with children’s toys rumble past commuter towns to the final destination--Union Station in D.C.

Inside the station I wander wide-eyed glued to the dynasty of architecture in massive arches and jeweled domed ceilings with three stories of food, shopping and travel vistas.

Washington D.C.

A vibrant energy permeates the city. Grab a cab or walk to the National Mall, a one mile outdoor corridor lined with museums flanked by the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

Make your first stop the Smithsonian Information Center, known as the castle, with information specialists, the Castle Café and coffee shop. After lunch at the Café, I mingle outdoors with the “lunch hour execs” on the clay track of the National Mall. It’s a midday workout with ladies in tennis shoes and business suits alongside shirtless men in jogging shorts joined by teams of young men and women playing Frisbee football. On the perimeter, a more sedate crowd relaxes on park benches shaded by cherry trees set against the patriotic skies of the nation’s Capitol.

One of my favorite museums, the newly renovated American History Museum, presents more than 3 million objects from the cultural, social, technological and political history of the United States. Teary-eyed exhibits such as the Abraham Lincoln’s Legacy brings to life the hardships and triumphs of a president, inventor and orator. The Star-Spangled Banner exhibit captures the Fort McHenry battle scene which moved Frances Scott Key to pen the national anthem. Then the original 30 by 34-foot flag glows inside a stage dressed in dark colors and minimal light preserving the fragile wool and cotton fibers. Exiting the exhibit, multiple versions of the anthem follow walls of patriotic photos.

Foodies will enjoy the Julia Child’s Kitchen along with videos of Emeril Lagasse introducing the finer art of peeling crawfish. And children have fun learning engaged in science experiments at the Spark!Lab, a hands-on science and invention center. Mansion doll houses, Kermit the frog, Dumbo the flying elephant and countless characters are located throughout the museum.

Back in Prince William County (PWC)

The county is a blueprint for urban and historic renewal where residents have embraced historic towns preserving the architectural heritage and landscapes. Downtown Manassas brings together the charm of an old fashioned rail town grown during the late Victorian era. Many of the town’s houses and buildings reflect this style and now serve as museums, boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.

For a taste of Creole cooking, Okra is the local favorite, and for the best Tapas in town, La Capilla restaurant offers top notch South American cuisine inside the romance of an historic church. In nearby Woodridge set your sights on Dixie Bones for the best southern style fall-off-the-bone barbeque, and an old-fashioned burger and malt at Silver Diner.

Wooden rail fences and grazing thoroughbreds line country roads while highways roll through waves of forested mountains. The region owns two national parks, two state parks, and more than 50 county and municipal parks, wildlife refuges and preserved wetlands. Follow the North Valley Trail inside Prince William Forest Park. Blessed with peak fall colors, I walk along a russet colored trail showered by cool breezes and a storm of leaves. Hikers appear dwarfed by a ceiling of towering trees in a 17,000-acre park filled with multiple varieties of native plants and animals.

The beating heart of Civil War legacies

The Prince William County Civil War Heritage Trail brings to life some of the war’s most infamous battles at forts, museums, state parks, national battlefields, and historic farmhouses. Educational events along with lectures and reenactments follow the tour which is detailed in a colorful brochure with historic sites and a travel map.

To honor some of our more recent veterans, the newly built National Museum of the Marine Corps captures both the personal and technical side of war in a timeline of battle exhibits featuring everything from fighting gear to enduring inclement weather. The slanted triangle design resembles a silhouette of the flag-raising heroes of Iwo Jima set inside 135 acres of forests.


A region
rich in history and landscapes, Prince William County offers travelers a peek into the past, present and future. More than two centuries of military heroes are honored in museums and battlefields. Shopping mixes the old with the new in miles of antique corridors and the Potomac Mills Mall with more than a square mile of shopping. And enjoy the outdoors in open fields, rolling country sides and 12 public golf courses.

Travel Info
Prince William County,, 1-800-432-1792
Virginia Railway Express (VRE),, 703-684-1001
Smithsonian,, 202-633-1000
National Museum of American History,, 202-633-3129
Marine Corps Heritage Foundation,, 800-397-7585
Prince William Forest Park,
Journey Through Hallowed Ground,, 540-882-4929

Okra’s restaurant,, Dixie Bones,, Silver Diner,, La Capilla,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zoë Restaurant and Contemporary Cocktail shaking it up at W Hotel

Hello my literary friends,
Here's another colorful event that will fill that creative well for both fiction and non-fiction writers and I would dare say a good number of poets as well. After all Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams gained a lot of their motivation sitting at the Monteleone Carousel Bar, the host hotel for the Tales of Cocktail event.

The premier event of the summer, Tales of the Cocktail just celebrated its seventh year dedicated to the history and culture of dining and drinking in New Orleans. An international pool of celebrities, mixologists, chefs, authors and cocktail experts held seminars, spirited dinners and parties throughout the event. A must for anyone in the hospitality industry or those who savor a spirited glass of libations. From the Creole Julep, the Tales official cocktail, to the New Orleans famed Sazerac, book your calendar for next years event on July 21-25, 2010.

My thanks again to the W Hotel in hosting me for the event and for the Zoë spirited dinner. For more postings of the Tales event, visit For more info on the sleek and saucy W Hotel check out or call 1-877-822-0000.

W New Orleans Hotel paired up a perfect blend of spirits courtesy of the Contemporary Cocktail crew and the culinary creations of Chef Roberto Bustillo, Jr. who has won the NOWFE (New Orleans Wine & Food Experience) Gold Fleur de Lis in 2006 & 2007 and a Silver Fleur de Lis in 2008. Zoë’s contemporary setting set the stage for a sold out crowd with the usual Tales buzzing—both conversation and intoxication. What a night!!!

The evening kicked into high gear with a grapefruit cocktail titled 212…then a zinger from Chef, a Hawaiian Red Tasmanian Sweet Crab draped with a chilled spiced Gazpacho. The cocktail crew whipped up a refreshing Don Julio Blanco with Fino and St. Germain Elderflower to balance the sassy tomato.

Louisiana in the summertime!! Remember the days of injecting vodka into watermelons? Our next meal brought back memories of drinking melon cocktails drenched in watermelon juice in front of the family’s camp. Our very attentive servers brought in our next pairing. The Del Maguey San Luis, sweet vermouth, watermelon juice and Averna with corn crusted scallop dusted in corn meal served over pickled watermelon and candied chow-chow.

Then the exquisite lobster and artichoke lasagna roll served with shaved black summer truffle and porcini mushroom foam. By this time, things were really getting high pitched—both in the provocative storytelling and the moaning & groaning with every presentation. You could feel and see the energy—sipping turned into gulping with the wicked combo of Partida Reposado, Amontillado Sherry, Apricot Liqueur, simply syrup and bitter.

Next on the menu…roasted sea bass (my all time favorite) dashed with sweet corn and fava bean relish accompanied with El Tesoro Blanco, Viogner, apple & lime juice and honey syrup. And for dessert, fresh ginger lemon Verbena sorbet crowned with our last cocktail, Milagro Barrel Select Anejo and Sazerac with Absinthe Ginger Rinse and Lemon Verbena Foam.

A smashing evening had by all and although our Contemporary Cocktail pals are jetting back to homebase the creative juices keep flowing with the Zoë Lounge mixologist extraordinaire Amanda Buhr. Join Amanda and savvy cocktailing hipsters for their 4:59 cocktail hour with $4, $5 and $9 specials. Or just let Amanda take control. She has that N’awlins magic spinning her spells, tickling the throat with mind blowing combos. Mojito fans will never drink another after Amanda’s strawberry mojito made with muddled fresh strawberries, mint and Jeremiah Sweet Tea Vodka. Just sit down and enjoy the ride!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


LAST DAY!!!! Saturday, May 24

Wining down and already looking forward to next year. This is my all time best wine/food festival. But don’t know how much the old tummy can handle.

Number one rule…MODERATION. But it’s soooo hard to resist all the temptations.

Skipped the morning seminars saving everything for the Grand Tasting at the Superdome.

Took a ride to Cochon’s Butcher shop and had the Banh Mi, a Vietnamese poboy with head cheese, pork pate and fresh herbs instead of lettuce. The Cuban sandwich is also an excellent choice. Darn should have taken a picture, you can tell I’m slowing down. Go see for yourself at 930 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans LA 70130 504-588-PORK,
mon-thu 10–10, fr+sat 10-11, sun 10-5901, more info and menu at

The Grand Tasting was…well…Grand! The event has taken more of an entertainment venue with Bonerama and Andrew Osborne on stage blasting good vibes revving up the huge crowd. Ran into Chef Lazone Randolph with Brennan’s restaurant…always a blast to talk to Lazone. We stood behind the Banana’s Foster (bananas with brown sugar sauce poured over Blue Bell ice cream) and watched hundreds of “fosters” fly off the counter.

Mark Newman (editor of Southern Breeze magazine) joined us, then Lee Froehlich and we had our own private party tapping into the back door of the nearby wine booth. Later a parade passed with Warren Easton Band and it felt like Mardi Gras again. Mini floats with chefs on board threw beads and the party was going into high gear. After the parade the band Bonerama kicked it up a notch.

Time to move on and get dressed for the Le Meritage vinter. Jyl Benson (PR gal pal) was the perfect host. Chef Michael prepares a very refreshing and laid back menu and has just been voted “Chef’s to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin Magazine. I had the house salad with a bouquet style presentation, nothing like I've ever seen, the whole table was talking about it, should have taken a picture. And the Tuna was pure heaven. Very fine job Chef!!!

The weather was great all weekend after predictions of “doomsday” thunder boomers. A group of us took advantage of the beautiful evening and hit the French Quarter bars. Started at Molly’s Irish Pub and had a Guinness…what else?! Then over to Pirates Alley near the St. Louis Cathedral, great patio to people watch, then a nice walk to Jean Lafitte Blacksmith Shop…my all time favorite bar in the Quarter.

It’s Sunday morning, the coffee’s gone, finished the Omni Royal Pralines and watching the chimney swifts playing tag outside my window. God I’m going to miss this place.

Big THANKS to Liz Goliwas and Cary Alden.