Summer 2018 more than made up for a socially slow start to the year. While 2018 has been busy professionally, a circumstance for which I am grateful, the beginning of the year was somewhat lacking in terms of new adventures. Business has continued to be good throughout the year, and while I had to cancel my annual summer trip to Montréal, I was able to transform a brief work-related trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, into a personal adventure. This was my visit to the historic city and I have to say that New Orleans did not disappoint. In fact, my visit was so good that it has completely taken over this edition of “the best of.” Keep reading to find out why the best of my 2018 Summer is everything New Orleans.
As much as Sephora strives for world dominance in the beauty world, the mecca of all things makeup and skincare seems content to leave my little corner of the world unserved. Not only is there no brick and mortar Sephora where I live, which is understandable, but Sephora also does not deliver to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which makes no sense to me. After all, the U.S. Virgin Islands is part of the United States, but I digress. I mention this simply to say that it is rare that I find myself inside a Sephora or even able to shop at one. But during my stay in New Orleans I was exploring the downtown area and happened upon one. I was actually looking for Café du Monde when I spotted Sephora, beckoning me from across the street in its black and white splendor.
My feet seemed to be moving on autopilot as I walked across the street, both hoping and afraid that I would find a few of the products that I have had my eye on for a while now. After spending I don’t know how long inside, I emerged with nothing I had planned to buy, but a little black and white bag nonetheless. On my way out I spotted the Bite Beauty display – I don’t know why I didn’t see it earlier – and stopped dead in my tracks. I was captivated by yet another product I was not looking for, but of course needed: lip gloss. And in terms of easily accessible clean brands it doesn’t get much better than Bite Beauty.
Bite Beauty‘s French Press collection is a small range of six of the nicest nude lip glosses I have seen in a long while. I was instantly attracted to the Dirty Chai colour. But when I swatched it on my hand it did absolutely nothing for my complexion. I swatched nearly all the other colours in the collection and was pleasantly surprised when I swatched the French Press colour. It was a near perfect match to my complexion. Described as “warm brown,” the French Press colour is a shiny, juicy version of my skin tone. But I had already done some unexpected damage at Sephora so I decided to leave before making another impulse buy. On my way back from Cafe du Monde, though, I still had the lip gloss on my mind. And knowing that it is not something that I can easily get when I return home, I rationalized that this would be a wise purchase. Turns out that I wasn’t entirely wrong. Bite’s lip gloss in French Press is a very wearable nude, effortlessly helps make me look like I made an effort with my makeup and continues to look good at all stages of fading. This lip gloss is the best unplanned purchase I have made in a long time.
Bite Beauty‘s French Press colour is the perfect reddish-brown nude. It is moisturizing and shiny, but not greasy or sparkly looking as some glosses tend to be. French Press has a surprisingly intense colour payoff, layers extremely well and looks wonderful on dark skin tones without the need for lip liner or lipstick underneath to “make it work.” This is probably its best quality for those of you who, like me, do not regularly wear lipstick or are tired of needing three other products to made one product look good. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I do not regularly wear lipstick; more often than not it isn’t the most simple makeup product to wear. In between having to make sure my lips are expertly exfoliated, to finding and wearing lip liner, to combating any ashiness in the colour and harmonizing the lipstick with my complexion, to worrying about how the colour will look throughout the day as it fades I prefer not to bother with lipstick absent a special occasion. But this French Press lip gloss has none of those problems. In addition to having a buildable, wonderful colour, it is as appropriate for the office as it is for the weekend. The sponge tip applicator makes it so easy to apply that I feel confident applying it without a mirror. Word to the wise though, the French Press collection is scented and the French Press colour is espresso-scented. Depending on your feelings about coffee this may or may not be a good thing for you. Most days I don’t mind the scent, but I can’t say it really adds anything to the product. Regardless, Bite Beauty’s lip gloss in French Press was a great purchase and I definitely hope to repurchase it as long as this limited edition collection stays around.
New York, L.A. and maybe Miami. Those are the United States cities that seem to hold their own on the world stage. Up until 2005, if you were not familiar with the various cities and states of the United States, you might simply know the entire southern part of the country as “the south.” Admittedly, certain parts of the south are known for various reasons. My travels, as you know by now, brought me to New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz. But in August 2005, New Orleans shot to the forefront of the world’s stage when it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Over 1,800 lives were claimed by that natural disaster. And just like images of the tsunami that killed over 800 people in Indonesia in September 2018, images of the destruction, flooding and human misery and suffering from Hurricane Katrina are indelibly imprinted in my mind. I didn’t know the city before Katrina, but having witnessed those events in 2005, I absolutely want to visit and see how it, and more importantly the people had recovered. This trip was my first opportunity to do so and, God helping me, will not be my last. My introduction to New Orleans was an introduction to a city rich in history, culture and tradition. Three days is far too short of a time to do it justice, but it was just about the right amount of time to convince me that I need to return, and soon.
Knowing that I was going to be in the south, I had visions of soul food dancing in my head weeks before my travels. Of course I knew I had to have beignets at Cafe du Monde. But fried sweet dough is not that impressive. Virtually every culture has their own version of a fried dough dessert. But unless there is something more to it, as is the case with churros and que de castor, there is only so much excitement about a fried dough dessert. The real treat in being in the south are the rich, home-style southern dishes made with enough butter and lard to kill you and enough love to bring you back to life. After some brief internet research I made plans to visit Neyow’s Creole Cafe and Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Neyow’s is known for its seafood and Dooky Chase is famous for its fried chicken. Both reputations are extremely well-deserved. At Neyow’s my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach. There were so many dishes I wanted to try, but I narrowed it down to three dishes that seemed absolutely delicious and that I would be unlikely to find outside of the south. That meant I dined on char-grilled oysters, mac n cheese and fried crab claws. I had no idea what to expect and, in retrospect I should have had the crab claws grilled, but they were still good. However, the real stars of lunch, and my trip really, were the grilled oysters and mac n cheese. Absent a particularly delicious sauce, I don’t like oysters. It isn’t simply because they are raw. Raw tuna and salmon are delicious. But no matter how much my dinner companions rave about the oysters on the menu, that is one dish I am usually not ordering. But these oysters. Oh. My. Goodness. Life changing. Neyow’s coats the oysters in a garlic butter topping and actually cooks them over an indoor grill. I felt both sympathy and thankfulness watching one cook stand there in from of a hot grill and churn out order after order of char-grilled oysters. They are served with just the right size French baguette, partially sliced and placed atop the oysters in their half shell. The oysters were cleaned quite well; I detected slight grittiness in only one or two. After eating the delicious oyster the baguette serves as the perfect utensil to soak up the remaining garlic butter topping. I could feel my arteries narrow with every bite and it was absolutely worthwhile.
As consumers, we tend to know that a lot of the instant food we eat is more or less an effort of close approximation of real food. From a philosophical perspective, Plato might call instant food an object that is imitating its true form, home cooked food. For example, we know that a Twinkie is supposed to be a convenient substitute for cake. And Chef Boyardee is supposed to be a ready-made replacement for various pasta dishes. But for some reason I never questioned Kraft Dinner and I don’t know why. Maybe that is because Kraft Dinner doesn’t masquerade as baked macaroni or macaroni pie – the only dishes that, up until the Summer of 2018, I knew as mac n cheese. I never knew there was a legitimate soft and creamy mac n cheese. But that was before Neyow’s. Now, knowing the truth, I feel like my whole life has been a lie. What else don’t I know about the food I have been eating my entire life? I don’t even know where to start. And I certainly don’t know what the ingredients are for Neyow’s mac n cheese, but one thing emerged with certainty and clarity after trying it; carbs should not be allowed to taste this good.
Everything about Neyow’s mac n cheese is perfect. The macaroni noodles used are thinner than any I have ever tasted. The sauce is a perfectly smooth and creamy yellow sea of indulgence. The cheese sauce has the perfect sharpness. This dish is so soft and smooth that chewing is entirely optional. Served hot, Neyow’s mac n cheese stands unrivaled as the ultimate comfort food. The only down side is that it has to be eaten before it cools. As the mac n cheese cools it remains delicious, but loses that je ne sais quoi that would understandably allow me to wish I could indulge in this dish day after day, knowing the cost might be the loss of blood flow through a major artery. Granted, I had probably already consumed about 5000 calories by that time. But, I struggled between savoring the mac n cheese and the grilled oysters, neither of which had anything to do with each other, but both of which are two of the best dishes I have ever tasted.
Most of us have some dishes that, no matter how many times we make them or where we buy them, they will never come close to the homemade version we ate while growing up. For me, that dish is my father’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Though he taught me how to make it, and I have had many other versions throughout my lifetime, his is still the best by far. It wasn’t until my trip to Dooky Chase’s Restaurant that I tasted fried chicken that even came close. Open only for lunch, Dooky Chase’s is a restaurant, art gallery and museum wrapped into one. Of all the “high end” and unnecessarily formal venues I have dined at, this is one of the few places where I have to say I am glad I dressed for the occasion. While you might be a tourist in New Orleans, you run the risk of feeling out of place if you wander into Dooky Chase’s with cutoff jeans and flip flops. When you visit this historic landmark dress for the occasion. If you don’t you can’t say that is because you weren’t warned. Now back to the food.
Dooky Chase‘s fried chicken is the stuff dreams are made of. It is perfectly seasoned and expertly cooked until golden brown. Also, it is not greasy. As simple as that sounds, it is nearly impossible to find. I also ordered red beans and rice and stewed okra, which were good. But the fried chicken was clearly the star of the show. There are some famous restaurants where, after eating there I just don’t understand the hype. Dooky Chase’s is not one of those restaurants. One bite of the fried chicken and it is easy to see why it is a mandatory stop for rich, famous and powerful, and why Dookey Chase’s is a New Orleans landmark in and of itself.
Roaming the streets of New Orleans! What more entertainment do I need than freely and casually exploring the city of jazz, and southern food, and beautiful architecture, and rich history and culture? Admittedly, I did not get to see nearly as much of New Orleans as I would have liked, but I definitely logged a good number of hours walking around and discovering small parts of the city. Bourbon Street really is not on my radar as a place to spend any significant amount of time; it is enough to say that I saw it. Instead, the Katrina tour and the swamp and plantation tours were what really caught my attention. Unfortunately, they will have to wait until next time. But my less-formal introduction to New Orleans was all the entertainment I needed.
The reason I found myself in New Orleans was for the National Bar Association‘s 93rd Annual Convention. After a late night at a family event the day prior, I caught an early flight into New Orleans. I arrived at the Omni Riverfront Hotel where the front desk staff graciously allowed me to check-in early so I could shower, change and head straight to the Convention. The National Bar Association had invited a panel of attorneys who had first-hand disaster legal aid experience following Hurricanes Irma and Maria to speak on the topic of Finding Community in Chaos: The Critical Impact of Disaster Legal Aid. It is always an honour when someone thinks that your knowledge and experience is such that it would be a benefit to share it with others. Naturally, I was flattered to be on the panel. Even better, the attendees who came to the panel discussion seemed genuinely interested in the topic and concerned about the underlying issues. My thanks goes out to the National Bar Association, the Virgin Islands Bar Association and my fellow panel members.
How was your 2018 Summer? How does it compare to what you did last year? Do you have any plans for next year? I would love to hear about your summertime adventures in the comments section below.