TWO DAYS AWAY: WHERE TO EAT, SLEEP, AND HAVE FUN IN NEW ORLEANS

MARTIE ON THE ROAD: NEW ORLEANS

where to eat and stay in New Orleans

Because I travel all the time, I get as many questions about where to stay and where to eat as I do about anything else so I decided to write about them for you. Here are some of my favorite spots from my trips to New Orleans.

Ask folks to say the first thing that pops into their mind when you say New Orleans and their answer, 99.5% of the time is Mardi Gras. While I love the carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras and all of the parades and celebration of tradition it brings, there is a totally different New Orleans. Plan your next visit when it is not Mardi Gras... perhaps around Christmas. It is my favorite time of year to be there. The streets, hotels, and homes are so beautifully decorated and the cooler temperatures and humidity-free days make it easy to really get out and explore one of America's most interesting and exciting food cities. The architecture and buildings- even the ones in disrepair, are fascinating. Make sure to look up as you wander the streets and alleyways. You might miss something spectacular if you don't!

WHERE TO STAY

Because I'm always on the road, a good bed with nice linens is important to me. And in New Orleans, I don't want to drive because parking isn't easy so I stay in hotels where I am close (walking distance or quick cab ride) to my favorite spots. 

The Hotel Monteleone: Is my favorite place to stay in New Orleans. A 4-star hotel right in the French Quarter, most rooms overlook the Mississippi or the Quarter. It has been owned by the same family for five generations. It feels like Paris- but the rooms are larger. The beds have luxury brocade linens which have a rich, old world feel. The hotel's famous Carousel Lounge-a revolving bar off the lobby- has become a bit touristy and crowded but still fun to sit and chat with people from all over the world over a Sazerac.

Hotel Monteleone: 214 Royal Street  New Orleans, Louisiana 70130 Phone: 504.523.3341  

JW Marriott on Canal: I'm a Marriott rewards member so Marriott hotels are usually my home away from home. The rooms are extremely nice with big, fluffy beds dressed in crisp, white linens. Important to me, a large bathroom with a marble vanity where I can actually put something more than a toothbrush. There's a rooftop pool (small, but still a pool) where I occasionally will relax and read a book, and it is walking distance to everything.

JW Marriott New Orleans • 614 Canal Street New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.525.6500


WHERE TO EAT

There are an unlimited number of wonderful places to eat in New Orleans. Here are a few I never miss:

COFFEE I BREAKFAST

RUBY SLIPPER: Breakfast with a Milk Punch is one of my favorite treats and Ruby Slipper is one of my favorite places to have it. They use all locally produced or house-made ingredients and have been named one of New Orleans' best breakfast spots for the past few years. I like the corned beef hash and the Eggs Cochon. They have several locations. I always go to the one in the Quarter. RUBY SLIPPER  1005 Canal Street New Orleans, LA 70112 • Phone: 504.525.9355

CAFE DU MONDE: Do I really need to tell you about Cafe du Monde? It is a New Orleans tradition. Beignets. Chickory coffee. Enough said. (Take some cash. I don't think they take cards.) Get an order of beignets. People watch. Tip the street performers. Don't wear a black shirt. Plan on doing a lot of walking because you most certainly will not eat just one! I like the location at the French Market best. CAFE DU MONDE  800 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116  Phone: 504.525.4544

CAFE BEIGNET: Alton Brown says these are the best beignets in New Orleans. So good, he featured them on an episode of Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. I believe him. CAFE BEIGNET 334-B Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 Phone: 504.524.5530

And Morning Call certainly gets a mention for their beignets. If you pass one, stop in. There was one in Metairie but it may have moved since I was there last. They don't have a website so I'm not sure.


LUNCH

CENTRAL GROCERY:  My first stop in New Orleans is always Central Grocery. Their muffuletta sets the standard for all muffulettas the world over. It is the bread that really makes the difference. Be sure to get one to go. You'll have a craving about midnight. Make sure to get a bag of made-in-New Orleans Zapp's kettle chips to go with it. I like the regular and the Voodoo flavor best. Central Grocery  923 Decatur Street  New Orleans, LA 70116 Phone: 504.523.1620

LUKE: Chef John Besh is well known to television foodies and his restaurants are all very, very good. August has won a Beard award and is one of the city's best. Dominica is popular with locals and tourists but I prefer its French cousin, Luke. A French Bistro with a New Orleans soul, Luke is a daily stop for me whether it is breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, or just a carefully crafted cocktail at the bar. In fact, it is my New Orleans office. Weekday specials are always excellent. Shrimp and Grits, Crab Bisque, and the Croque Monsieur or any of the fish dishes are hard to beat. I would be remiss not to mention the Vanilla Gateau Basque Cake with fresh berries. Always on the menu and always something I must have when I'm in New Orleans. LUKE • 333 Charles Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.378.2840

Top left: Vanilla Gateau Basque Cake with Louisiana Berries. Top right: Luke Shrimp and Grits. Bottom left: Chef John Besh. Bottom right: Selfie with John in Miami.

PARKWAY BAKERY & TAVERN: You certainly cannot talk about food in New Orleans without a discussion about Po'Boys. The Po'Boys at the Parkway are a local favorite and have won all kinds of awards and critical acclaim. The shrimp Po'Boy is my favorite- piled high with freshest fried shrimp on the freshest  bread you can find. They have oyster Po'Boys- Monday and Wednesday only. Stacked about a dozen high, these give the shrimp a run for their money. Hard to choose. PARKWAY BAKERY & TAVERN • 538 Hagan Avenue  New Orleans, LA 70119  • Phone: 504.482.3047


DINNER

PECHE: Donald Link's Peche caught the attention of critics, the Beard Foundation, and the press when it opened in the Spring of 2013. Before it turned one, the restaurant earned its first James Beard awards for Best New Restaurant and Best Chef South for Chef/Owner Ryan Prewitt. I hate it because it is now super crowded and hard to squeeze in but worth the effort if you do. I always nab a seat at the seafood counter in the back so I can watch the chefs at work in the kitchen. If you have a friend with you, order the whole fish. If not, do what I do and graze over the small plates like tuna dip, the Shrimp and Fontina Croquettes, or a the cup of the Shrimp and Corn Bisque. Fried Bread? Don't be silly, A must. PECHE • 800 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA 70130 Phone: 504.522.1744

RESTAURANT R'EVOLUTION: I'm not sure I can be objective when it comes to Restaurant Revolution. I happen to think Chef John Folse hung the moon and his partner Chef Rick Tramonto might have hung the sun. This restaurant wasn't named New Orleans restaurant of the year in 2013 for nothing. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll find me there for Eggs Sardou with Hollandaise and artichokes for brunch any Sunday. The Salumi is second to none and the traditions and heritage of Cajun and Creole cooking are found in dishes like Snapping Turtle Soup, Fire Roasted Oysters with Bienville Butter, and Creole Bouillabaisse. Expensive? Can be. But very worth it, especially for the jazz brunch, a big occasion, or holiday gathering. RESTAURANT R'EVOLUTION: Inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel  •  777 Bienville Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 •  Phone: 504.553.2277

OTHER FAVORITES YOU ABSOLUTELY WANT TO TRY

COMMANDER'S PALACE: Chef Tory McPhail walks in the shadow of legendary New Orleans chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme as Executive Chef of Commander's Palace and made the landmark his own with a James Beard award for Best Chef South 2013 to prove it. Located in the heart of the Garden District (a short walk from the St. Charles streetcar line) Commander's Palace is probably one of the best known restaurants in the world and one you do not want to miss. Go for brunch, lunch, or dinner... you can't miss with the Shrimp & Tasso Henican, a spicy Louisiana white shrimp dish or the Smoked Seafood Croquettes: crispy Gulf fish and Louisiana white shrimp with grilled Creole trinity,  ripped herbs, pickled mirlitons and spicy crab boil aïoli. But if I didn't go for anything else, I would go for the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. COMMANDER'S PALACE • 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.899.8221

GALATOIRE'S: Where the locals go for lunch. My friends love this place for its old school tradition and classic favorites they've eaten since birth. Souffle Potatoes, Escargot, and their famous Oysters Rockefeller are standards. GALATOIRE'S • 209 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone. 504.525.2021

BON TON CAFE: For lunch or dinner. Highlights are the Turtle Soup, Bayou Jambalaya, and their other New Orleans signature dishes. The Rum Ramsey cocktail is a tradition! BON TON CAFE • 401 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.524.3386

THE GOOD STUFF

HANSEN'S SNO-BLIZ: No trip to New Orleans in the Spring or Summer would be complete without a trip to Hansen's Sno-Bliz. Hansen's is the original New Orleans snow ball and they patented the machine that makes that beautiful, smooth and silky ice necessary to achieve the ice cream like texture. The shop is virtually unchanged in decades... so not only is it simply wonderful, it is a cool experience as well. (haha- cool, get it?) I love the creamy ones. I love the fruity ones. Go early because if you don't, the line will be around the building. I dream of the Cream of Root Beer flavor called the Brown Pelican. AND yes. You have to have the condensed milk on the top. Divine. Simply divine. HANSEN'S SNO-BLIZ • 4801 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans, LA 70115 •  Phone: 504.891.9788

NEW ORLEANS AT NIGHT

THE SPOTTED CAT MUSIC CLUB: I'm often working when I'm in New Orleans so it doesn't often leave me time to go out on the town at night. One place I do love to go is the Spotted Cat. It is like a throw back in time with live music from legendary local players and the dancing goes on until 2am, even on Sunday night. It is called a jazz club but you'll find almost every kind of spin-off, too, like blues and funk. It is located in Fauborg Marginy, a bit off of the French Quarter. Take a cab over and there are always cabs waiting outside. SPOTTED CAT 623 Frenchman Street New Orleans, LA 70116

If you have a favorite place I should visit, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or via email. I'd love to hear about it! Let the stars be your guide... safe travels. xo

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MARTIE ON THE ROAD: JUNEAU, ALASKA JULY 2014

I was very honored to have been invited to Juneau, Alaska to participate in the 3rd Annual Haa Aani OysterFest. If you follow me, you know I participate in a lot of events around local seafood. This was my first trip to Alaska and I was, as my British friends say, gob-smacked. Meaning I was simply and completely stunned at the beauty of Alaska. No photo or television show can do it justice. You must go there and experience it for yourself. I have to admit that Alaska was on my bucket list, but not near the top. Now, I'd go back as soon as I had the chance. Here's a roundup of my 10 days in Juneau...

Martie on the Road: Juneau, Alaska July 2014

Martie on the Road: Juneau, Alaska July 2014

Here are a few things to know before you go:

Take a real camera. A cell phone camera cannot capture some of the shots you will want to take. When we were whale watching, I so regretted not having my camera with me when I saw the magnificent photos taken by other passengers on the boat.

The weather is a bit like London. A pretty, sunny day can turn rainy in a second so pack one of those fold-up rain jackets with a hood and take it with you everywhere you go.

Take a waterproof case for your phone; you will be out on the water so it is just a precaution. Pack a fold-up waterproof bag too, in case you do some shopping.

Dress in layers. Wear a lightweight tank or tee to keep you insulated if you go out on the water. A turtleneck, a lightweight button front shirt with sleeves, a medium weight pullover, and that ever present hooded rain jacket completed my attire each day. Some days I would end up with most of it in my bag but there were times when I was glad I had those layers.

You'll do a lot of walking and participate in outdoor activities so bring two pairs of shoes- just in case one pair gets wet, you have a day to allow them to dry before you have to wear them again. Also, changing out your shoes daily will help prevent sore feet and blisters.

If you are like me and have to have one, you might consider packing a blow drier;  the tiny travel blow drier I have is better than the ones I found in the hotels.

There are not too many places you can charge a video camera or phone around town so take a battery backup so you're always fully charged. You don't want to miss anything!

If you come into Juneau on a cruise ship, there are plenty of good- really good- restaurants in Juneau so don't rush back to the ship for lunch or dinner. Read on for some of my don't-miss restaurant suggestions.

If you are going to be in town for a while, it is worth it to buy a 1-week gym membership at one of the local gyms; hotel gyms are less than adequate. You'll do a lot of walking and outdoor activities in Juneau but if you are like me, you need the gym time each day to offset the calories from eating out 3 meals per day! There is always a chance of rain so the $25 I spent on a gym membership was well worth it.


The view as we depart Juneau for a day of whale watching from our Dolphin Tours jet boat.

The view as we depart Juneau for a day of whale watching from our Dolphin Tours jet boat.

My first day was spectacular. The skies were brilliant blue and the sun was shining... a day made for whale watching. I took a small jet boat from Dolphin Tours out to watch whales and I was not disappointed. Within minutes, I saw humpback whales; up close and personal. To protect the whales, the boats are required to stay 100 yards away but occasionally, one would swim within a few dozen feet- the pilot would maneuver to try to maintain distance but they seemed to want to see what we were up to. The day included beverages and snacks on the boat- nothing too fancy- local salmon and cream cheese on a bagel... but a nice touch. I really liked that the boat was small; our group totaled about 12 people. The captain and the guide were really nice, professional, and extremely eager to make sure we had a good time and saw plenty of whales.

The humpbacks put on quite a show the day I was there and the weather was perfect for whale-watching. This is when I really wished I had my camera with me and not just my phone. Even with the zoom, I could not capture the images I wanted.

The humpbacks put on quite a show the day I was there and the weather was perfect for whale-watching. This is when I really wished I had my camera with me and not just my phone. Even with the zoom, I could not capture the images I wanted.

WHALE WATCHING IN JUNEAU INFO: DOLPHIN TOURS www.dolphintours.com (907) 463-3422


After whale watching, I was excited to try out Tracy's King Crab Shack. I had met Tracy and her staff earlier that day to discuss our event the following weekend so I had nothing but crab on my mind for dinner. It was my favorite night of the trip... the food was incredible and the setting at the pier where the cruise ships dock was perfect for people watching and the long, communal tables make it easy to meet new friends from all over the globe. We had Tracy's famous Crab Bisque to start; warm, creamy, and chock full of lots of crab. Next, a huge platter of crab: Dungeness, King, and Snow. I think I liked the Dungeness the best but hard to say... it was all perfectly cooked and pretty incredible. Tracy's has a low-key, casual vibe and her team is eager to make you feel at home. It is a don't miss stop while you are in Juneau. Even if you can have dinner on your cruise ship, I would highly suggest skipping it in favor of dinner at Tracy's. If I can't convince you, take a look at these photos...

A monster King Crab just before I ate him.....

A monster King Crab just before I ate him.....

Dinner and a view... Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau is a don't miss experience. You will not find crab like this anywhere else. We even got to try fresh King Crab...

Dinner and a view... Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau is a don't miss experience. You will not find crab like this anywhere else. We even got to try fresh King Crab...

JUNEAU DINING INFO: TRACY'S KING CRAB SHACK   www.kingcrabshack.com

406 S Franklin St
Juneau, AK 99801
Phone: 907.723.1811


One of the many picturesque fishing boat harbors in Juneau- they all look like a painting.

One of the many picturesque fishing boat harbors in Juneau- they all look like a painting.


I came to Juneau primarily for the 3rd Annual OysterFest and it was a lot of fun. We had a cloudy day but even that could not deter the people from these locally farmed Alaskan oysters! We had long lines and crowds all day long and the voting was heavy for the fan favorite awards. I taught some folks to shuck their own oysters... look at the images and you'll see the buckets of oyster shells to indicate they really got the hang of it. The Chargrilled oysters were very popular as were some of the exotic mignonettes like Coconut and Mango that were offered by local restaurants. The oyster event is very important to the local economy. It not only brings awareness to the fledgling oyster farming industry, it helps create a demand for the product that is vital to growth and job creation. If this year's event is any indication, I believe there are a lot of oyster lovers in Juneau!


The brand new Indian restaurant called Saffron swept the awards at the oyster event so I figured that would be a great spot for dinner. I was the guest of Chef Sharmila... her restaurant is a reflection on her personality; warm and welcoming, like home. I can see why she calls her food Indian comfort cuisine; it certainly is. I would walk back today for the Dahl (Indian lentils), the Roti (Indian flatbread), and the Tikka Masala. These signature dishes are the measure of a good Indian restaurant like fried chicken would be to a Southern restaurant and the execution was as good as any Indian restaurant I've experienced in India or London.  Definitely put Saffron on your list for lunch or dinner. It's the nicest way to warm up on a cloudy, rainy day in Juneau. Located Downtown, it is an easy walk from most of the hotels and just up the hill from the cruise ship docks.

If you saw the movie The 100  Foot Journey with Helen Mirren, you will certainly understand why I'm fascinated with Indian spices and this photo from Saffron!

If you saw the movie The 100  Foot Journey with Helen Mirren, you will certainly understand why I'm fascinated with Indian spices and this photo from Saffron!

JUNEAU RESTAURANT INFO: SAFFRON www.saffronalaska.com

112 N. Franklin Street

Juneau, Alaska

Phone: 907.586.1036


NEXT: TAKU GLACIER LODGE: SEAPLANE FLIGHT-SEEING PLUS SALMON FEAST

A seaplane trip out to Taku Glacier Lodge was one of my favorite outings from Juneau.

A seaplane trip out to Taku Glacier Lodge was one of my favorite outings from Juneau.

The only downside to my day at Taku Glacier Lodge was that I didn't get to actually catch the salmon I had for lunch... but it couldn't have been too much fresher even if I had. I took a seaplane out to the lodge from town; the pier is in the center of town. We loaded up for a three-hour tour (Yes, Gilligan, a three-hour tour) that took us on a flight-seeing tour of the area and the Juneau ice field on the way to the lodge.

I loved the pale aqua color of the water against the ice from the air. Breathtaking.

I loved the pale aqua color of the water against the ice from the air. Breathtaking.

Glacier images from the seaplane... notice the blue color in the ice.

Glacier images from the seaplane... notice the blue color in the ice.

You can see from the images below that the salmon was the star of the show once we arrived at the lodge. I watched as they built the fire from Alder wood and cooked the salmon. They began by lightly smoking the salmon, one reason they use fresh cut wood and not cured wood to build the fire. After about 5 minutes on the smoke with the flesh side down, the salmon is turned, basted with a butter and syrup mixture and placed over the flame, skin side down until it is done.

I learned that King salmon or Chinook salmon can have white or red flesh. The red color is a result of the plankton and other food in their diet and that the difference in the flesh is not due to diet, but genetics. The white salmon have an inability to process the pigments in the food they eat. You cannot tell the difference by looking at the skin of the fish- you can tell the flesh color by cutting the fish open. The red is more abundant so the white salmon is more prized. About one in twenty King salmon have white flesh. Some call the white salmon the "Ivory King" and it is starting to make its way to restaurant menus.

I did notice a very subtle difference in the white salmon compared to the red; the white was perhaps a bit more delicate. In addition to the salmon, I'd go back just for the chive biscuits and the Alaskan Sourdough bread. Those were fantastic. Other side items were baked beans, slaw, and a really good ginger cookie for dessert. I took one home for a late night snack. The beverages were chilled with special "glacier" ice which was clear as glass. They also had hot chocolate and a nice Russian spice tea. Since Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, perhaps they gave her the recipe. :)

The one big thing I learned is that King Salmon flesh can be white (some say ivory) or it can be red. There is no difference in the outward appearance; you cannot tell what color the flesh is until you cut into the fish. What they eat does not influence the flesh color, it is all simply a matter of genetics. Salmon farming is ILLEGAL in Alaska. The only salmon you will find here is fresh caught wild Alaskan salmon!

The one big thing I learned is that King Salmon flesh can be white (some say ivory) or it can be red. There is no difference in the outward appearance; you cannot tell what color the flesh is until you cut into the fish. What they eat does not influence the flesh color, it is all simply a matter of genetics. Salmon farming is ILLEGAL in Alaska. The only salmon you will find here is fresh caught wild Alaskan salmon!

The glaciers in the Juneau glacier field from above; the blue color is not enhanced, it is created by a crystalline structure which absorbs and then reflects light in a brilliant blue hue.

The glaciers in the Juneau glacier field from above; the blue color is not enhanced, it is created by a crystalline structure which absorbs and then reflects light in a brilliant blue hue.

Juneau Ice Field: You can easily see the difference in the blue color. The color fades and oxidizes once the crystals are exposed to air.

Juneau Ice Field: You can easily see the difference in the blue color. The color fades and oxidizes once the crystals are exposed to air.

INFO: TAKU GLACIER LODGE    www.wingsairways.com

2 Marine Way Suite 175

Juneau, Alaska 99801

Phone: 907.586.6275    Email: info@wingsairways.com

The lodge itself has a rich history and fascinating stories about owner Mary Joyce, who in 1935 made the 1,000 mile trek from the lodge to the Fairbanks Ice Carnival via dogsled. That's just one of her incredible stories. Read more...


NEXT: TOURING THE CROWN PRINCESS

Another first for me was touring a cruise ship. Yes, that is right. I've never been on a cruise. As much as I have traveled and as many boats as I've been on in my life, I've never had the urge to take a cruise. As I was walking through town, I was lucky enough to bump into a group of executives from Princess Cruise Lines. They had several ships come through Juneau while I was there. They invited me to tour the Crown Princess and have dinner on board. In order to board a cruise ship, you have to be a ticketed passenger or go through security, just like you do to board a plane. The Crown Princess has every amenity you can imagine; outdoor movie theater over the heated pool, spa, casino, and upscale restaurants and bars throughout the ship. As you enter, the opulence and grandeur is apparent instantly; there is a magnificent four-floor atrium outfitted with custom chandelier and other elegant appointments including a string quartet playing classical favorites. 

As far as activities go, you can participate in everything or nothing... I liked the thought of that... and you can dine in one of the many restaurant offerings or have room service 24 hours a day. I liked that too! There are shows, music, dancing, and even culinary demonstrations. I was so impressed with the kitchens on board the Crown Princess. They make all of the food, including the breads and pastries, from scratch each day and the menus are changed out everyday so guests have a lot of variety and options. The night I was there, they had an Octoberfest theme complete with authentic German recipes made by some of the German chefs and staff on board. I had dinner in the main dining room at a table with some lovely folks from Georgia, California, Indiana, and Michigan. They had all cruised multiple times in the past and told me that the Princess line was their favorite. Our dinner service was impeccable and the food was very good and served hot which is difficult when you are serving hundreds at the same time.

Here's a glimpse of my tour around the Crown Princess.


NEXT: MORE DINING IN JUNEAU

Restaurants in Juneau are as diverse as they are anywhere but certainly, since seafood it so readily available, it is a prominent feature on local menus. One thing that is not as available is fresh produce and fruit; the locals treasure what they are able to get and especially prize anything they are able to grow.

The folks at The Rookery are baking up incredible house made pastries and baked goods each day including this decadent S'mores Cupcake with a toasted marshmallow topping. They might have the best coffee in Juneau and offer my favorite, French pressed coffee. (At the time of my visit there was no Starbucks but one was in the works in the lobby of the Baranof Hotel)

Freshly baked S'mores Cupcakes were just one of the many baked goods offered by The Rookery Cafe.

Freshly baked S'mores Cupcakes were just one of the many baked goods offered by The Rookery Cafe.

The Rookery also has a well-rounded menu for brunch, lunch, and dinner with quality Bistro fare like their Triple B Burger with applewood bacon, balsamic onions, blue cheese, and house mayo. Soups are made fresh each day. Local fare like fresh halibut will appear on their seasonally inspired dinner menu. Prices are very fair and the food is far and above what you'd expect to find in what appears to be a casual coffee shop. Breakfast or brunch on Saturday is popular with locals and tourists alike so go early or be prepared to wait for a table.

INFO: THE ROOKERY www.therookerycafe.com


THE TWISTED FISH 

I had been tipped off by a local that the salmon and halibut at the Twisted Fish was as fresh as it could possibly be since it came right off the boats right outside their door. I decided to check it out for myself and wasn't disappointed. The restaurant was full, always a good sign, but I found a spot at the bar. Another good sign? Several guys in chef coats from other establishments were also eating at the bar. I ordered the cedar planked salmon, since I make that same dish. I wanted to compare (keeping in mind I've never had salmon right out of the water before) their recipe to my own.

The Cedar Planked Salmon and an Alaskan White from Twisted Fish in Juneau.

The Cedar Planked Salmon and an Alaskan White from Twisted Fish in Juneau.

Their cedar planked salmon was very different than mine; they use a brown sugar based glaze that is sweet. I prefer my mustard soy based glaze but regardless, the cedar planked salmon at the Twisted Fish was perfectly cooked, not too rare, not overdone and absolutely delicious. I paired it with an Alaskan White which is a local craft beer...  I really liked it so from someone who doesn't often drink beer, you should know it was extremely good. I wish I could buy it back home.

INFO: TWISTED FISH www.twistedfish.hangaronthewharf.com


TIMBERLINE BAR & GRILL AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNT ROBERTS TRAMWAY

I don't know if guests expect to find a nice restaurant at the top of the of the Mount Roberts Tramway but Timberline Bar & Grill is just that with an incomparable view of Juneau and you might just see some wildlife, too. Eagles perch in the trees as you ascend to the top of the tramway and there are bears to be seen as well although I didn't see one the day I went. I sampled quite a few dishes at Timberline but without a doubt, the Crab Nachos alone are worth the trip. Crab dip piled high on tortilla chips topped with homemade pico de gallo, black bean corn relish, Cheddar, Monterey Jack cheese, and avocado lime dressing. Also try the Crab Cakes or the Salmon Salad.  

INFO: TIMBERLINE BAR & GRILL AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNT ROBERTS TRAMWAY

490 South Franklin                        
Juneau, AK 99801
Toll Free: 888.461.8726
Phone: 907.463.3412


SALT

The team behind Tracy's King Crab Shack also own newcomer Salt, located downtown and open year-round, the chef  uses distinctive Alaskan ingredients to create dishes that are both interesting and satisfying. I had a great evening thanks to and courtesy of Elizabeth and Nancy from Juneau Tourism. The menu changes daily based on availability of ingredients but the risotto I had was wonderful and the cocktails were inspired. The staff is well trained and well informed about the menu and preparations and the wine list is likely the best in Juneau. Look over the current menu...

INFO: SALT MODERN ALASKAN CUISINE www.saltalaska.com

200 Seward Street

Juneau, Alaska 99801

Phone: 907.780.2221


SPINNIN' PIG BBQ SHACK

I luckily stumbled upon Mike and Shannon Wiley's Spinnin' Pig BBQ and found a family with a passion for creating authentic Memphis style competition BBQ waaaaay North of Memphis. The Wileys were so welcoming and so hospitable, you'd think they were Southern. I sampled the ribs, the BBQ sandwich and their BBQ nachos. All very, very good and if I lived there, I'd be swinging by every few days to pick up a slab to take home.

The Spinnin' Pig is adjacent to the Western Auto store in Juneau. It's not downtown/walking distance but I'm sure you can get a taxi there if you promise the driver a sandwich. By the way, the Western Auto has all kinds of outdoor gear, hunting and fishing equipment, the famous Alaskan brand Xtra-Tuff weatherproof boots. It is also where you can get a fishing or hunting license if you need one.

INFO: SPINNIN' PIG JUNEAU   www.spinninpig.com  Phone: 907.723.7436

OTHER ACTIVITIES AROUND JUNEAU

ALASKA ZIPLINE ADVENTURES

My first zipline experience! I loved the ax throwing contest at the end. The zipline course is located on Douglas Island. The company will tell you where to pick up a shuttle to the course.

WEB: www.alaskazip.com

Eaglecrest Ski Area
3200 Fish Creek Road
Juneau, AK 99801

Phone: 907.321.0947

The view of the Mendenhall Glacier from park's viewing area.

The view of the Mendenhall Glacier from park's viewing area.

MENDENHALL GLACIER TOUR

The best way to get to the glacier is to use one of the glacier shuttle companies– $20 round trip picks you up by the docks, drops you at the glacier, you stay as long as you like, and then return on a shuttle.  Shuttle Companies:  M&M Tours  Phone: 907.523.1999 or Juneau Tours Phone: 907.723.9209.

The Mendenhall Glacier has a park with an extensive information center where US Forest Rangers can give you information on the glacier, the falls, the wildlife, and the Tongass Rain Forest and the flora and fauna found there. For more information...


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Thank you, Juneau, for your kind hospitality. I've made so many new friends, I cannot wait to come back.

TRAVEL: WHAT TO EAT AND WHERE TO STAY IN ALABAMA

I was so lucky to partner with the Alabama Department of Tourism to showcase dishes and destinations around the state of Alabama during Alabama Restaurant Week. I wanted to share what I learned: from Huntsville to the white sugar sands of the Alabama Gulf Coast, the food, the scenery, and the people make our state special. Plus we have magnificent hotels, resorts, golf courses, beaches, and attractions like Barber Sports Museum that make our state one-of-a kind.

Using social media to track my travels, I stopped into as many participating restaurants as I could during my two week road trip. Posting photos of the food and my travels from city to city; I met and spoke with the owners, chefs, cooks, bartenders and support staff behind Alabama’s vibrant and diverse food scene.

Listening to their stories, I heard a common thread: creating food is their life. It is their hobby turned into a business. Or the life’s work of a grandfather, a father and now, a son. It is their mother’s recipes or their sister’s passion. It is their all-consuming desire to create, craft, cook, bake, shake, stir, fry, and grill the very best food they can for their customers. They have smokers going ‘round the clock. They have bread rising, meat marinating, and their catch of the day coming into the docks. They stand for hours in front of raging hot ovens. Chef-owners like Jake Reed of Albany Bistro in Decatur are out picking beans at dusk for a special the next day. James Beard winner Chef Chris Hastings of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club is foraging in the woods for native mushrooms in the Alabama summer heat. Bakers arrive at 4:00 am to begin making the fresh cinnamon rolls and sticky buns at Fairhope’s Sweet Olive Bakery and Joann, the pie maker at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ in Decatur, will make hundreds of pies in a day… especially when Peanut Butter Pie is the special. James Beard award winning Chef Frank Stitt of Birmingham’s legendary Highland’s Bar and Grill has eggs from his own farm on the menu and he’s helped other farmers by designing menu items around fresh, local produce. It is no wonder that it has been nominated as a finalist for America’s best restaurant by the James Beard Foundation for the past five years running.

As I look over the numbers: 2,238 miles driven, 81 restaurants visited, 677 photos taken, and more than 254 dishes, drinks, and desserts sampled during my travels, I am certain that few of us understand the labor of love that shows up on our plates when we order at a restaurant. I am so privileged to have the opportunity to learn the extraordinary stories behind Alabama’s celebrated food… and I got to taste it all, too!

WHERE TO STAY: First on my list has to be The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. I've been going there since the early 90's when I first discovered it and it is absolutely one of my favorite places on the planet. I love the views from the Marina building- with bay vistas as far as the eye can see. I love watching the boats come and go. The hotel has a wonderful program for kids and families and you do not want to miss out on a day at the spa! They have one of the best in the region featuring an indoor pool, gym, and the tranquility room, perfect for relaxation. The outdoor pool is spectacular and offers a spot for everyone from families to those seeking solitude and a spot to read a good book. They have a chef's garden and the food is inspired by what's found locally. Shrimp, flounder and crab are mainstays and you'll find seasonal produce from the farms nearby including locally grown oysters. Sunday Brunch is a tradition you will not want to miss! Afterwards, take a walk down the boardwalk lined with beautiful bay homes and live oak trees. You can grab a rod and try your luck at fishing from the pier or rent a bike for an easy ride to downtown Fairhope. They have an incredible golf course and tennis facilities or rent a kayak or paddleboard and get out on the water. Each day, a drum corps announces the ceremonial firing of the cannon-- Yes, a real civil war cannon is fired each day because the hotel was once a hospital during the War Between the States. To me, this ritual always signals the arrival of afternoon tea or cocktails at Bucky's Birdcage. A crab boil on the beach or ghost stories around the campfire with S'mores might round out your day at the Grand Hotel. Whether you round up your girlfriends for a weekend away or take the family to our LA (lower Alabama) for some old-fashioned fun, you won't want to miss a stay at the Grand.  Visit their website for more info...

THESE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITES FROM MY TOUR; SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE PHOTOS!

  1.  Favorite Sandwich: The Bacon LT from Sandwich Farm in Huntsville. They cure their own bacon and slice it thick and serve it wedged between local tomatoes and pan-fried mozzarella.
  2. Favorite Stop: Belle Chevre Cheese Shop & Tasting Room, Elkmont, Alabama. My friend Tasia makes incredible goat cheese and I loved getting to see her new shop and watch her at work. We caught up over French press coffee and a piece of Apple Dapple cake with whipped Belle Chevre icing.
  3. Favorite Story: Chef Michelle, the owner/chef at Sugar B’s in Prattville pursued a lifelong dream and went to culinary school then opened a bakery and restaurant. Michelle arrives at work each day before sunrise to start baking and does it all with three children, two of them with special needs. She is an inspiration!
  4. Best Brunch: TIE: Albany Bistro, Decatur. Go for the Beignets or the Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy (a North Alabama tradition) and stay for the relaxing atmosphere and warm Southern hospitality you find in this friendly neighborhood spot. What’s not to love about a place with a dog named Biscuit as a mascot! Also, you will not want to miss the incredible brunch at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. It is massive and features a number of chef stations including a carving station, omelet station, waffle station and more!
  5. Best Bite: Crispy Pork Belly with Pineapple Upside Down Cornbread from Chef Wesley True at True Montgomery; a perfect pairing.
  6. Biggest OMG Moment: Walking into the lobby of the stunning and remarkably restored Battle House Hotel in downtown Mobile, Alabama or perhaps opening the door to their rooftop pool with massive palm trees in the middle of expansive city views.
  7. Favorite Vibe: The Gulf at Perdido Pass, Orange Beach, Alabama. Take your living room and throw it out on the beach amid palm trees, umbrellas and a relaxed cocktail bar. Add some fresh daily menu specials and you might just hang out here all day.
  8. Best Ethnic: Phuket Thai Restaurant in Huntsville. They use old world techniques and authentic recipes; I had the Kao-Soi, a superb Northern Thai curry noodle dish that I would travel back for right now.
  9. Favorite Hotel Room: The Grand Hotel, Fairhope. The expansive view of Mobile Bay and the soothing sounds of the water on the beach at night are complimentary.
  10. Favorite Table: The tables by the Bocci Ball court in the garden at Chez Fon Fon in Birmingham have long been my favorite but I do love to sit at the chef’s counter at Hot and Hot Fish Club and take it all in. There’s a potential new favorite… the “engagement” table at Fisher’s Orange Beach Marina. This is the table where several couples have recently gotten engaged. It overlooks the marina, the boats and you’re at the perfect angle to watch the orange-pink sunset.
  11. Favorite Oysters: No surprise here. Wintzell’s Chargrilled Oysters were my favorite this year.
  12. Most Impressive: Watching Chef Tres Jackson, chef/owner of Epiphany carefully craft his cuisine with locally sourced ingredients and house made everything.
  13. Most Unexpected:  Below the Radar Brewhouse, Huntsville, Alabama. Not only do they craft their own beer, they craft an elegant menu to pair with it. The entire menu including the desserts, are made from scratch. My favorite was the Summer Peach & Pale Ale Sorbet and this Pan Seared Grouper over Herb Crusted, Red Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus.
  14. Favorite Gumbo: 219 in Mobile. Their Dirty Rice Gumbo was different, rich and savory. Fantastic.
  15. Best Fish: The Jerk Snapper at Fisher’s Orange Beach Marina.
  16. Favorite Chicken Salad: Tie. The legendary chicken salad at Claunch’s Café in Tuscumbia and the Napa Chicken Salad at Fig Tuscaloosa were my favorites of the 17 different chicken salads I sampled.
  17. Best Overall Meal: I’m such a fan of Chef John Hamme and Chef Brandon Burleson at Voyager’s Restaurant at the Perdido Beach Resort. They served me an incredible tasting menu and my favorite dessert of the trip, some delicious berry thing I ate before I took the photo.
  18. Favorite Find: Old 27 Grill in Fairhope. Well-crafted comfort food with local ingredients, a great vibe, outstanding bar, and live music all take me back to Judge Roy Bean’s for any of you who remember it… with better food and without the goat.
  19. Favorite Pie: Peanut Butter Pie from Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur. This pie has a great story. JoAnn, a girl I knew from high school days makes the pies at Big Bob Gibson’s and we had a reunion after 25 years while I was there on the tour! Incredible!
  20. Favorite Cocktail: The Intimidator. Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina made a smoked bourbon Manhattan that I simply adored. The elegant atmosphere, the house-made bitters and a huge ice sphere made it memorable.
  21. Favorite Veggie Plate: The fancy looking and down home tasting veggie plate at Little Savannah in Birmingham was my favorite this year.
  22. Heart on a Plate Award: The “Desde de Jardin” (Spanish for from the garden) specials from Chef Leonardo Maurelli at Central in Montgomery are truly his passion for farm fresh, local food on a plate.
  23. Prettiest Plate Award: Has to go to the Forager’s Walk from Chef Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club. Foraged greens, edible flowers, herbs, and mushrooms are plated on locally crafted Earthborn Pottery; it looks like art.
  24. Biggest Surprise: The Fried Banana Pudding at Baumhower’s. They take a tortilla, fill it with homemade custard and bananas and quick fry it to a golden brown and top it with a caramel drizzle. Who knew?
  25. Favorite BBQ Plate: New Market BBQ in New Market, Alabama loaded up my plate with brisket, ribs, smoked turkey, pork shoulder, fresh local corn on the cob and their smoked ‘Smac and Cheese’ plus an endless glass of really good sweet tea.
  26. Favorite Meat and Three: Birmingham’s Eagle’s Restaurant was recently featured on the Travel Channel and I know why. Homemade scratch cooking including cornbread and greens like my mom used to make.
  27. Favorite Tomatoes: I ate many different varieties of tomatoes (including many different fried green tomatoes) but this summer tomato salad from Chez Fon Fon in Birmingham was tops.
  28. Favorite Family Recipe Dish: The Fudge Pie from Nolan’s Restaurant and Lounge in Gulf Shores. Hands down my favorite chocolate thing I ate on my trip.
  29. My Favorite Photo: A peek at the chefs at work at Fisher’s Orange Beach Marina through portholes they rescued and installed so guests can see what is happening the kitchen.
  30. Favorite Ribs. Big Bob Gibson’s, Decatur. They win national BBQ contests and rightfully so.
  31. Most Shared Photo: Southern Pecan Bread Pudding from The Dish in Florence, Alabama was shared the most through social media.
  32. Most “Likes” Photo:  The view of the pool and bay at The Grand Hotel was the most liked on my Facebook page.

There’s a reason it is called Sweet Home Alabama. Come see for yourself!