My New Favorite Girl, Willa Jean (New Orleans)

A whole lot has changed since we moved away from New Orleans in 2012. New neighborhoods are popping up all over the city along with so many new businesses. It makes my heart smile to see the city doing so well and my stomach even happier to experience so many new restaurant openings. One of the ‘newer’ places that have recently opened that I am just in love with is John Besh’s Willa Jean in the CBD. It is the mastermind of BRG Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fields and Pastry Chef Lisa White (of Domenica and PIZZA Domenica)  which is named after Fields’ grandmother.

I love the space which is designed by Curtis Herring. It adds a modern and elegant touch to iconic southern food. Brick walls, Edison bulbs and the restaurant’s “Uneeda Biscuit” mural add a stylish touch to traditional southern classics.

The bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, allowing the two chefs to show off their savory sides. The lunch and dinner menus are organized by “snacks,” “tartines/sandwiches,” “salads and soups,” “hot plates,” and “extra stuff,”. The Intelligentsia Coffee program is delicious but  Willa Jean also serves boozy slushies as well as tea- and coffee-inspired craft cocktails.

If you need to find me on any given morning in New Orleans, chances are I’ll be here sipping on my coffee and enjoying the space.

Open Sunday through Thursday- 7am-9pm; Friday and Saturday- 7am to 10pm

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Addicted to Fried Chicken since 2010- Rusted Rooster (Lafayette, LA)

There is something about fried chicken and biscuits that has me completely hooked. Growing up in Canada I never had fried chicken (unless you count KFC) but moving to the south opened up a whole new culinary door for me. From fried chicken,gravy and biscuits to the more traditional cajun dishes such as gumbo and red beans and rice, let’s just say I’m hooked. I recently discovered the Rusted Rooster, a small non-pretentious diner style joint on Saint Landry street in downtown Lafayette. Seems like the secret is already out and I’m the last to know as there is quite a wait for lunch and breakfast. Their fried chicken is out-of-this-world delicious as is their selection of burgers, sandwiches and breakfast staples. Their morning hash brown has me craving on a weekly basis. For those seeking a healthier alternative to fried goodness, fear not, as you can order everything grilled.

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Rusted Rooster
105 St. Landry St.
Lafayette, LA 70506
(337) 534-4135
Facebook.com/RustedRoosterLafayette

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Motherhood and the Blog

It has been so long since my last post and I would like to apologize for those that actually take the time to read and follow my blog for the sudden disappearance. But the long hiatus was due to none other than my little sidekick, the Baby Nomad, who recently turned one. Can you believe it? He is already one. Days turned into sleepless nights, nights turned into sleepless days and here I am one year later realizing that besides spending every wake moment with my son I haven’t done much else. Recently I started to feel a void in my days, I missed taking and editing photos and although we travel as often as one can with a one year old, I rarely have found the time to write about it. I felt as though I was beginning to lose myself. The first year as a mother completely consumed me emotionally, physically and mentally. Motherhood is fulfilling in every sense possible but it is as everyone says a 24 hours a day job which you can’t call in sick for…ever. All that being said, I wouldn’t give up one single moment of it. I truly wouldnt. One smile from my son and all the sleepless nights   are washed away from my memory.  I find myself missing him when he sleeps and wishing I could freeze time to cherish the moments more than time allows for. In one sentence motherhood has changed me. I am sure it changes every girl into a women, a mother, a caretaker.

All that being said I am finally coming back up for air and have made a decision to try to get life back on track. This is my life now and I must make room for everything in it. Life has taken on a completely different perspective. Hotels now need to be child-friendly, restaurants need to be accommodating, foods need to be stamp approved by Baby Nomad travel no longer means a carry-on suitcase.  As such the blog will also start to take a different shape. I hope you continue to follow along on my journey through this beautiful gift called life.

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With love and gratitude,

 

The Hungry Nomad

 


 

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The art of eating a soup dumpling | Vancouver, B.C.

Before arriving my friend and partner-in-eating asked me where I wanted to eat while in Vancouver. My response was “everything Asian: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, whatever, as long as it’s Asian”. That in short sums up what I will be eating for the next few weeks. In a city with such a large community of Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, one thing is sure: the food will be amazing and options, endless to say the least.  On our first day together we decided on dumplings. Because nothing can beat a little ball filled with a mixture of heavenly goodness. Being downtown and having no access to the Chinese mecca that is Richmond, we decided on the Dynasty House located on lower Robson street. Most of our Asian food adventures downtown revolve around the two block radius of lower Robson and Denman where many variety of Korean, Japanese and Chinese restaurants reside.

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Dynasty Dumpling had a small line up out the door which can never be a bad thing. But within 15 minutes we were quickly seated (despite a little hiccup over having a child and stroller with us). Guests were quick to offer their table so as to accommodate us, on the other hand, the hostess was not very happy about us having a stroller. But in the end, a nice man offered up his table after witnessing the commotion.

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I’ll skip a few lines detailing the bad service and get to the good part: the soup dumplings. The menu features Shanghaise dishes including a page filled with a variety of soup dumplings. We ordered the original pork dumplings and the pork and kimchi dumplings along with a variety of other dishes including other dumplings beef and rice cake, and honey glazed lotus roots. The first time I had a soup dumpling happened to be on a Chinatown tour in Philadelphia. It was there that I was taught the secret of how to eat a soup dumpling. Once served If you bite into one right away you will surely burn your tongue. It is best to wait at least a minute to let it cool. Then gently dipping your chopstick in the vinegar you can pick up the dumpling right underneath the chopstick and place in spoon. You will then have two options: 1- poke a hole and let the broth ooze onto the spoon before eating, or 2- biting off the top and sipping the broth before devouring the whole thing. Either way you are sure to feel the same effect: pure and simple ecstasy. 

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Am I crazy for loving Seagulls? | Vancouver, B.C.

The anticipation of traveling to Vancouver with my son has been building up for the past few months. It is the first trip just the two of us which meant feelings of anxiety and excitement played a tug of war. But, finally excitement overshadowed anxiety and we made it. For the next month I will share with my son and viewers my perspective on Vancouver. This includes many nature walks, farmer’s markets and a variety of Asian food adventures.

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Growing up I was itching to move away from home to go explore the world. I wanted to be anywhere but here and found any excuse to pack my suitcase and hop around Europe for months and years on end. But that was in my twenties. Now, in my thirties, with more travel options and more opportunities, all I do is dream and yearn to come home for the summers and winters and all the months in between just to take in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  It is funny how distance can put so many things into perspective and create so much gratitude where none existed.

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And so here we are- just me and my baby boy.

The first morning we woke up to the sound of our neighborhood seagulls. They start early and keep going until just after sunrise. Some people have roosters. We have seagulls. I know It may seem absurd to some but its those very seagulls that I miss when I am away. Those seagulls represent so much more than what most think of them as: loud, large birds that grab your food at the beach. To me they represent the vicinity of the sea, the vast blue sea surrounding Vancouver which I took for granted growing up. So many places I’ve lived don’t have access to ocean, to sea-life and everything else the ocean represents. I miss and yearn for the sea. I miss the seagulls. Now I live in a place with no direct access to the sea. No seagulls. And who wants to live in a place that doesn’t have seagulls?

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Later on in the morning, we went for a walk along the seawall towards Stanley Park. The sea breeze, fresh crisp air and sound of waves quickly caressed baby boy to sleep. We passed English bay and walked into the park towards lost lagoon where the nostalgic scent of blackberries started hovering in the air. It’s funny how a scent can bring back so many memories. That sweet smell of blackberries takes me back to my childhood picking berries in these very woods with my mother.  It was our own paradise back then.  Towards lost lagoon we walked through a family of Canadian Geese. How I have missed the site of these wild geese. They represent home. Along the lagoon, I parked under a tree, baby boy still asleep.  I looked at his innocent face deep in sleep and wondered what a peaceful way to take a nap.  So different than where we live where 40+ degrees in the summer prevent us from stepping  foot outside.  I sat at that bench for a while trying to take it all in, to cherish every moment because now unlike before I am a visitor in my own hometown. I have a round-trip ticket that makes every day spent here worth cherishing. And I will do just that-cherish every moment spent with my son in my beautiful city.


 

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Tico meal at El Arado in Manuel Antonio (Costa, Rica)

El Arado is one of those places that should not be missed if you are seeking a quality meal in Manuel Antonio.  While the directions seemed easy enough we passed the street and went all the way down to Quepos only to drive back and finally find the road. The gravel road is dark and truly off the beaten path of all the fancy hotels and tourist spots. The restaurant is just a few minutes drive down the road.

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We arrived to an empty restaurant. One old and friendly tikka came to greet us and showed us to our table. The owner and the cook were watching a Spanish soap opera. The owner came over to greet us but his limited english and our limited Spanish led to a stale conversation. We knew we were getting the baked whole seabass and so we quickly ordered and preparations were under way. About half an hour in a French couple came in to join our lonely meal. The restaurant doesn’t offer much of an ambiance, however, the meal was truly spectacular. The fish were wrapped in foil and baked to perfection on a barbecue pit, served with a side of rice, plantains and black beans. Let’s just say our meal was so good that we wanted to return night after night. If you are visiting Manuel Antonio and want real, quality, tico cuisine do make the trek off the beaten path to this gem.

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Hungry Nomad’s Guide to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Finally this past week my husband, baby and I travelled to Costa Rica to spend a week on the pacific coast in a magical place called Manuel Antonio. I researched a lot before I went and somehow did not manage to find enough information to help me fully prepare for the trip. Below is my tried and tested guide to Manuel Antonio for those in need of a little bit more than what the travel guides provide you with.

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DSC_0539Flight: It was a short 4 hour flight from Atlanta to San Jose on Delta. Once we arrived in San Jose we were transported to the car rental area where we picked up our vehicle. I highly recommend booking your car in advance or you will spend at least an hour or more before all the paperwork is done and you are in your car and ready to go. GPS is a must unless you have an innate ability to travel on foreign roads and not get lost. The drive itself was picturesque and worth the 2.5 hours it took to arrive to Manuel Antonio. We passed through the countryside and jungle, saw small villages and actually got to experience Costa Rica. The other option is to take a 30 minute local flight from San Jose to Quepos. From Quepos there are buses which run along the road to Manuel Antonio National Park.

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Hotels: Manuel Antonio is actually a long stretch of road leading from Quepos to Manuel National National Park. The road is windy and positioned on the side of a mountain with hotels located on both sides. One side closer to the ocean with dramatic views, the other in the middle of the jungle and more distant views of the ocean. We had the opportunity to spend time in two different hotels on both ends: Gaia Hotel and Reserve and Parador Resort and Spa.

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Restaurants: While both hotels we stayed at had fine dining options we like to get out and see what the locals eat. For lunch on most days we ended up at hole in the walls ordering the typical tico dish, ‘Casado’ which consisted of choice of meat, black beans, rice, salad and fried plantains. The food at our hotel, Gaia, La Luna was not good especially given the price point, the only advantage was the beautiful sunset views from the restaurant and the friendly service. On our trip to our second hotel, Parador, we found Emilio’s Cafe which quickly became a favorite of mine and was frequented on more than one occasion for the food and mind-blowing views of the pacific. Other discovered favorites included the authentically Israeli Falafel Bar and off the beaten path, El Arado (see linked posts for review).  Prices in Manuel Antonio are comparable to Miami or any other international destination.

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See: The main reason anyone heads to Manuel Antonio is the National Park. Although it is one of the smallest national parks in the country it is the most visited. I can see why given its beautiful pristine beaches, abundance of wildlife and easy accessibility. Before arriving I pictured us trekking through the jungle just me, husband and baby. I prepared for the worst buying all the necessary hiking equipment and preparing mentally for hiking through the jungle with a 6 month old. When we arrived at the gates I quickly realized just how far off I was. There were many tourists lined up at the gates waiting to get in. The park only allows 800 people in so its best to arrive early. Although if you arrive early you will be arriving at the same time as the tour buses and will walk in with a large crowd of loud ‘humans’ thus scaring the wildlife. We arrived around 11 am and found it to be quieter. I highly recommend hiring a guide as you will not see anything without one unless you just happen to be an expert yourself. With our guide we saw a large family of capuchin monkeys, two-toed and three-toed sloths, tree frogs, bats, snakes, butterflies, lizards and much more. A 45 minute walk through a wide paved path led us down to the main beach where the crowds were gathered. Again, I imagined skipping through the water just me and my husband and was let down to see so many people. I guess the secret is out. Still there are many isolated spots on the beach where you can feel as though you are one with nature.

Overall, Manuel Antonio was not as developed as I thought it would be…which is a good thing. It is still authentic and lacks that ‘cater exclusively to tourism’ feel that you may get in other destinations (such as Mexico). Of course, the area is sprinkled with many hotels and restaurants but yet its still rough around the edges and wild. It was an absolute  amazing destination for those wanting a little adventure.

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Salon by Sucre- French Quarter (New Orleans)

Sucre’s Joel Dondis and chef Tariq Hanna have finally opened their French Quarter masterpiece Salon by Sucre. Sucre is one of my favorite spots for dessert in New Orleans and it seemed like the only logical next step to expand to the French Quarter. In fact, I am not sure what took them so long to make the move. It definitely fills a void in the quarter for great dessert shops. The new Salon is nestled in on Conti street across from the state Supreme Court building. While sipping wine on the second floor balcony looking at the historical building across the street, we could hear the horse carriages go by giving one a feeling of stepping back in time. That is why I love the French Quarter so much.  Salon by Sucre features a dessert store on the first floor along with a new coffee bar along with seating upstairs for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea service. While sweets are the primary reason for my trips to Sucre, on this occasion we opted to try out their menu. A bottle of wine along with a cheese and charcuterie plate were ordered and thoroughly enjoyed. Their selection of wines is endless and the options for cheese and charcuterie were perfect.

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Salon By Sucré on Urbanspoon

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Gel Cor Kebap Salon (Istanbul, Turkey)

I have been reminiscing about my trip to Istanbul a lot lately and as I picked through my thousands of photos, I ran across a few I took at a restaurant we visited tucked behind the Grand Bazaar. The only reason we found out about it was because we made friends with a local shop-owner who gave us the name and after running around the maze which is the Grand Bazaar we finally found our way to it. It’s called Gel Cor Kebap Salon and you will not find it unless you ask the locals. It’s one of those ‘hole in the wall’ type places but by all means it is not a ‘hole in the wall’. It’s just one of those amazing place that only the locals eat at. And while it has been a while since I ate there, I will let the photos do the talking for me. 11-P1060532 12-P1060537 13-P1060539 14-P1060540 15-P1060541 16-P1060544

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Wood Pizza Bistro and Taphouse- Warehouse District (New Orleans, LA)

The newest restaurant addition to the Warehouse District is Wood Pizza Bistro & Taphouse located just across the street from Cochon. We were in town for Mardi Gras and as expected all restaurants were packed before the parades began. Initially, we wanted to have a sandwich at Cochon Butcher but with a line up around the corner we thought twice. Looking around I noticed this unassuming new restaurant with a large outdoor seating along an old brick wall. It reminded me of many places in New York and I was immediately attracted. It turns out that head chef, Will Salisbury, grew up in Long Island (no wonder) and spent months eating his way through Italy (as I have). So it was a win-win.

IMG_6673 The restaurant as the name gives away serves pizza and salads. Not any kind of pizza but the real wood-burning oven kind.  Inside, the restaurant is cozy and small with a small pizza assembly open-concept kitchen tucked in the corner and a larger bar serving awesome regional beers (40 beer taps with lots of craft brews from Louisiana and the South).
The pepperoni and mushroom pizza was delicious with a perfectly baked crust, generous amounts of fresh mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and pepperoni. The large salad was generous enough to feed our party of 3 all washed down by our pitcher of beer. Wood has definitely raised to the top of my go-to places in Nola for good eats on a patio. If you are craving pizza, you know the real Italian kind then definitely head to Wood. You won’t regret it!

 

 

Wood Pizza Bistro & Taproom on Urbanspoon

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