I was looking for a frozen yogurt place (and Atlanta is full of them) but they all seemed to have closed already, as it was a weeknight. So when I saw Jeni’s Ice Cream in the Westside Atlanta area, the first thing I noticed was that it was open, and even crowded. And the second thing I recalled was that I had eaten Jeni’s Ice Cream once before, from a food truck on a South by Southwest parking lot in Austin. But the permanent stores have far more flavor choices (such as the peanut-buttery Buckeye State which I ordered) than the trucks, and the all-natural ingredients make for great flavor and texture. I also have to notice and appreciate the later hours than most other Atlanta frozen dessert shops, which means that when most places are closed, Jeni’s is likely still open. The Ohio-based company makes its ice creams with only natural ingredients and flavors, and is definitely worth a visit. In addition to the Atlanta store, Jeni’s can be found across Ohio and in Nashville, Tennessee. When all else fails, it can also be ordered online and shipped to you where you live.
As I headed back toward the CBD, I drove through the Central City area, and with the weather blazing hot, when I saw a snow-cone sign on Washington Avenue, I took a detour onto the side street and found a snowball stand called The Red Rooster. While New Orleans people are familiar with snowballs, I need to point out that New Orleans-style snowballs are quite different from the snow cones that are sold elsewhere across the country. Not only are the flavors different, but so is the ice, which at the better snowball stands is shaved. This particular stand also serves food, and has a shrimp po-boy on the menu that I will have to try on a future visit. The street where the stand is located looked familiar to me, and might have been the location where I visited Eddie’s 3-Way Records back in the 1980’s. I recall that it was on a side street off of Washington Avenue, that it was a block from a housing project (likely the Magnolia Projects), and that there was a snowball stand nearby that served po-boys. Further down in Central City, I came to a number of inspirational murals, which are common in New Orleans. One listed the Zulu Nation Laws of Success, as well as a number of famous men and women and was attributed to the Central City Art Project. Another one stated “Be The Change You Seek.” One of the things I love about New Orleans is the prevalence of public art, official and unofficial, even in the roughest neighborhoods.
Great espresso-based drinks are not always easy to come by in Northeast Mississippi, so I was thrilled when I heard about the new AC’s Coffee in New Albany. The attractive little coffee house is located at the head of the new Tanglefoot Trail, a walking and biking trail from New Albany to Pontotoc that follows the right-of-way of the old Kentucky, Ripley and Ship Island Railroad built by Colonel William Falkner (whose son would add a “u” to his name and become a famous writer). On my brief stop at AC’s, I tried a breve latte, and was quite pleased, and was told that they also have frappes, some baked goods, and occasionally live music as well. AC’s has an address on South Railroad Avenue, but there is actually no such street, although it appears on maps. It fronts onto the Tanglefoot Trail, a block south of Bankhead Street, and can best be accessed by parking on Bankhead or North Railroad, and walking down the Tanglefoot Trail until you see the coffeehouse on your left.
When Memphis’ African-American repertory company the Hattiloo Theatre moved to new digs in the Overton Square area earlier this year, many probably wondered what would become of their old location on Marshall Avenue, closer to downtown. Those questions were answered recently when a portion of the space became the Dizzy Bird Lounge, a place that states its intention to become a jazz club in Memphis, something that our city has badly needed since the closure of Cafe Soul a couple of years ago. The space is relatively small but comfortable, with a downstairs lounge decorated with African-American artwork, and a small upstairs loft with tables and chairs. Although the theme of the place is jazz (“Dizzy” refers to Dizzy Gillespie, and “Bird” to Charlie Parker), the music on stage the night I visited was a soulful singer-songwriter from Memphis named Barbara Jenice, who was performing with keyboardist Timothy Moore and a percussionist, as well as a couple of special guests who sat in. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, the Dizzy Bird intends to have spoken word or neo-soul type events on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and more mainstream jazz on weekends. They currently offer fruit and cupcakes, and are otherwise BYOB, at least for the time being.
I had been invited by my friend Darren Towns, the bass drummer for TBC Brass Band, to go around with the band to their gigs on the Saturday of Satchmo Fest, and for the better part of the afternoon I had. But when I found out that there was an hour and a half interregnum between gigs, I decided to head out to Lake Pontchartrain and try a restaurant that I had been seeing for about a year but had never tried called The Blue Crab.
Elsewhere in this blog, I have discussed the odd fact that the seafood cuisine of New Orleans and of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are rather different, despite close proximity, and that while it has been fairly easy to find fried seafood in New Orleans, it has not been nearly as easy to find the kind of gourmet seafood that is fairly common in Biloxi, Gulfport or Bay St. Louis. That now seems to be changing, and while Hurricane Katrina decimated the old seafood restaurants on the West End, a couple of new restaurants have appeared along what New Orleanians call the Lakefront, and the Blue Crab is one of them.
All of the new restaurants along Lakeshore Drive have certain things in common, chief of which is beautiful views of the lake, the marina and the yacht club, and the Blue Crab is no exception. The view from its outdoor dining deck is truly amazing, and the resort ambiance is far more akin to something from Florida than something from Louisiana. As for the menu, there is little unusual for a New Orleans seafood place, and the prices are fairly reasonable. I opted for the fish of the day, which was pompano, and had it prepared in an almondine style, where the fish was breaded and fried, then topped with a butter-based almond sauce. As one might imagine, it was amazingly good, and accompanied by french fries that were golden brown and delicious. I chose to end my meal with a slice of key lime pie, which I enjoyed while watching the sun go down in the west over the marina. All in all, I was pleased with the Blue Crab, and will likely return.
When I left out of Pearlz Oyster Bar, I was thinking of how nice it would be if Columbia had a dessert cafe that was open late at night. Looking across Gervais Street, I saw a small cafe with an outdoor sign that was flashing pictures of different kinds of desserts. It proved to be a place called Nonnah’s, which is actually a full-service restaurant in its own right, but the desserts are made in-house and truly amazing. Although they had coffee, with it being so hot, I chose a cold drink instead, and tried the Key Lime Pie, which was very unusual, but very good. Rather than the yellow-green custard type of pie that one usually sees with key Lime, this one was a light, airy whipped pie made from cool whip, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice in a homemade graham cracker crust. A number of other tempting desserts were visible in the glass case. Nonnah’s is open until 11 PM on weeknights, and until 12:30 AM on weekends.
On Friday June 27, I flew into Columbia, South Carolina to be a panelist at the Vocalis Music Industry Conference which was being held over the weekend. With no conference activities scheduled for the the Friday night, I headed downtown to the city’s entertainment district called the Vista. Unlike Memphis’ Beale Street, the Vista District is a large neighborhood, about three blocks wide and perhaps six blocks long along the Broad River, and differs from other entertainment districts in that it has an equal number of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. While there are certainly plenty of live music venues, and liquor is available, there are also plenty of ordinary, family-friendly restaurants, frozen yogurt and dessert shops and boutiques. The place is also extremely attractive, and has little of the rowdy, drunken behavior that other cities often have in their entertainment districts. I decided to eat dinner at the Liberty Tap House, as I remember enjoying it in Myrtle Beach some years ago, and I have to say that I was quite pleased.
Any American of my age or older undoubtedly remembers Borden’s dairy products, and their classic mascot, Elsie the Cow, her cheerful face sticking out of a sunflower. But I wasn’t at all prepared to encounter a Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe along Johnson Street near downtown Lafayette, Louisiana, and was even more surprised at its classic, vintage 1940’s look. Actually, the Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe was opened in Lafayette in 1940, and by some accounts was the first Borden’s retail outlet in the United States. Whether it was the first or not, there is no dispute about it being the last. Briefly owned by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, it was sold a few years ago to private owners who have restored it and who keep it operating.
I had left my car parked on a residential street in Travis Heights in South Austin, so after dinner, I walked back down South Congress Avenue toward the Continental Club. I saw where the Toms Sunglasses Company had opened a coffee bar, but unfortunately, they were not yet open for business, and were having a preview party which was invitation only. So I settled for a cupcake at the nearby Hey Cupcake trailer, before walking back to my car and driving over to East Austin.
After my dinner at Acme Oyster Bar in Metairie, I headed across the street to something called the New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Company, which was just about to close but hadn’t closed yet. Having tried Morning Call and Cafe du Monde many times, I was eager to see what was different about this newer place, and I soon found it, in the form of a sign on the wall: “Home of the original Chocolate beignet.” Well, perhaps the only thing I like better than beignets is chocolate, so I had to try it. How was it? Decent. What was it? Basically some beignet dough to which had been added Hershey’s cocoa powder. Nothing all that fancy, but good nonetheless. So all in all I was pleased. The beignets are good, the cafe au lait was good, the parking is free. What didn’t I like? They close at 10 PM. If only they were open 24 hours a day!
New Orleans Coffee and Beignet Company
3005 Veterans Memorial Boulevard
Metairie, LA 70005