Author: Melissa

Easy Meals to Cook on Vacation

Easy Meals to Cook on Vacation

Let’s talk about easy meals to cook on vacation! As I’ve been gearing up to take my entire little Krewe to France for a month (still in shock!), I’ve been plotting what meals I can make quickly and easily in our AirBnbs. Cooking in saves […]

Copycat Newk’s Favorite Salad Recipe

Copycat Newk’s Favorite Salad Recipe

Looking for a dinner salad recipe that’s filling, flavorful, fast, and easy? I love this copycat Newk’s Favorite Salad recipe for all those reasons! But first, a little background. . . One of our favorite restaurants to grab food from when on the road is […]

District Donuts: New Orleans Food

District Donuts: New Orleans Food

Officially called “District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew.”, District Donuts is a New Orleans spot well-deserving of a visit (or two) for any foodie. Along with creative donut flavors that rotate weekly (root beer, chocolate raspberry, strawberry cheesecake, and samoa, to name a few), their slider sandwiches are delicious, and they serve up excellent coffee as well! Everything is crafted from high-quality, fresh ingredients and you can watch them make the food, which is part of the fun if you ask me! Call it a one-stop shop for all things delicious.

 

District Donuts New Orleans food

We’re a little sheepish it’s taken us this long to put District Donuts on the blog, because it’s a spot we take visitors to regularly, as well as pop over to for a treat ourselves. (I mean, when it’s walking distance from French lessons, you do what ya gotta do to entertain the toddler crowd.) However, this delay does mean that we’ve sampled the menu pretty extensively! We can assure you that all donut flavors are delicious. We do tend to prefer the unfilled ones (the filled ones are very rich, definitely split them), but that’s a personal preference. The toasted coconut and chocolate raspberry flavors are stand-outs for us. And OH MY the chocolate glaze — it sounds so boring, doesn’t it? So simple? It’s NOT. It’s a rich, luscious chocolate ganache that is to die for. I bought one for my kids once and regretted not getting one for me. Their biscuits and fried chicken are no less scrumptious; any slider made with those is a winner!

 

 

 

Bacon Ranch Cheese Fries at District Donuts Chicken Slider at District Donuts

A newly discovered favorite (thanks to a friend RAVING on them) is their waffle cheese fries. Michelle recently tried the Bacon Ranch Cheese fries version, and despite the description reading like a heart attack waiting to happen, Michelle said it was 100% worth it and not a bad way to go. 😉 Waffle cheese fries are topped with ranch, candied jalapeños, and large chunks of bacon. Quality, top-notch bacon, natch. Michelle said (and I quote), “The jalapeños are indescribably good!!” (Note – these are also an option on their chicken sliders.) It’s very rich combination though, so you might consider splitting them.

 

Donuts at District Donuts

The atmosphere is a little hip and a little classic-warehouse-funky; the details are unique and entertaining to peruse. Most of the seating is booths (great for penning kids in!), making it easy to fit a small crowd in. Strollers are hard to navigate inside, so I’d recommend bringing a small one or visiting without a stroller if possible. Seating can be a little hard to come by when it’s busy. If you have a small ones (or want to enjoy some gorgeous weather when it hits), the original Magazine St. location has a charming back patio with more tables and chairs, plus a little extra room for wiggling.

 

Our personal menu suggestions would be to go with a group, and sample as follows:

Breakfast/Brunch: Everyone gets their favorite caffeinated beverage, a breakfast slider, and one donut — everyone gets a different flavor, and then share them for maximum tasting fun.

Lunch: Everyone gets two sliders, split some fries 2 or 3 ways, then split a donut for dessert. (Optional: Coffee at the end if you need to be revived from your food stupor.) (I have to admit we’ve never actually tried their salads, but they sound delicious, and I imagine that they are done equally as well as the rest of the menu.)

 

 

District Donuts has multiple locations (including one in Las Vegas!); you can see them all here, but the location we usually visit (and where the pictures are from) is located at:

2209 Magazine Street New Orleans LA 70130

(504) 570-6945

Hours: Everyday 7am-9pm

The donut flavors rotate weekly; you can drool over them on District Donut’s Instagram page.

 

International Trip Checklist: What You Need To Do

International Trip Checklist: What You Need To Do

So you’ve got your tickets booked for an exciting international trip! Now what? This international trip checklist is the fancy way of saying “here’s what runs through my head in the run-up to a trip”. Most of the bullet points listed below are truly 5 […]

Compère Lapin: New Orleans Food

Compère Lapin: New Orleans Food

My hubby and I sneaked away this spring for an overnight anniversary getaway in New Orleans (basically a staycation, but it was loverly). While we had the evening to ourselves we splurged on a nice dinner out at Compère Lapin (it was our anniversary, after […]

Restaurants in Slidell, LA (Where to Eat After a Swamp Tour)

Restaurants in Slidell, LA (Where to Eat After a Swamp Tour)

If you’re coming to visit New Orleans, you’ve quite likely got a swamp tour on your list of things to do. Deservedly so; it’s a unique glimpse into an unusual ecosystem, and an activity we often do with friends who visit us. Several companies based in Slidell, LA offer swamp tours, but that’s not actually the focus of today’s post. Do the swamp tour; it’s great and enjoyable. Then let us point you in the direction of our favorite restaurants in Slidell, as well as treats both hot and cold. All the restaurants listed are locally-owned, and serve awesome regional food (with the exception of the Thai place. It’s just delicious Thai food. ;)). They’re all also family-friendly and moderately priced. And last but not least, one of the advantages of a small town is that the very longest drive to any of these restaurants from the swamp tours is about 15 minutes. . . and some would be just 5 minutes away. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the best restaurants in Slidell, LA!

 

TLeblanc’s Creole Kitchenbest restaurants in slidell T Leblanc's

If you’re looking for authentic Creole down-home cooking, TLeblanc’s is the place to go. Run by long-time friends of ours, all their food is cooked in-house by two to three generations of the LeBlanc family, and is just plain delicious. Personal favorites are their fried green tomatoes with crabmeat remoulade sauce, killer roast beef po-boys, the BEST fried chicken (Tuesday’s lunch special, but you can always ask), crab and corn bisque, creamy mac’n’cheese, and excellent bread pudding. They also have delicious salads if people in your party are looking for a lighter option, ha! Food pacing is very important in New Orleans. . . Check out their website for more menu items, plus they update their Facebook and Instagram pages regularly with specials. Heads up: they’re only open for lunch most days, and closed on the weekends, so time your visit for weekday lunch! (Even better if it’s a Tuesday for fried chicken day. . .)

 

 

best restaurants in slidell beignets

Beignet au Lait

Literally just down the road from TLeblanc’s are the best beignets around. If you’re not from here, beignets are square donuts that come buried under a mound of powdered sugar. If you’ve come to the New Orleans area to visit, I’m sure they’re already on your list to eat. Beignet au Lait is tucked into a little strip mall off of Robert Rd., and, truth be told, does not have the atmosphere of the iconic Cafe du Monde. But iconic or not, Beignet au Lait’s version is way better! Beignet au Lait offers both classic beignets and those with flavored glazes, as well as cafe au lait (coffee with milk). They do also serve breakfast and lunch items, but we’ve never made it past the beignets.

 

 

Southside Café

Owned by a retired Marine, and filled with military memorabilia, Southside Café serves up some of my favorite sandwiches ever. All the food we’ve ever gotten has been delicious, but somehow I always come back to the sandwiches. Equally memorable is their excellent fried eggplant appetizer; long wedges of crisp eggplant are served with marinara sauce and dusted in Parmesan cheese. My hubby’s favorite meal there is a Reuben with a side of fries (great fries!) and honey mustard sauce to dip the fries in. I love both their Ponchartrain Pig (bbq pork with crisp coleslaw) and Honey Island Chicken sandwiches.

best restaurants slidell southside cafe eggplant          best restaurants in slidell southside reuben

 

 

Old Town Soda Shop

Slidell’s Old Town Soda Shop offers not only an enjoyable retro atmosphere but also the best ice cream on the Northshore! (The honor of the Southshore’s best goes to Creole Creamery.) Get a scoop of their rotating flavors and enjoy it in a vintage booth. Bonus for families with little kids: they offer “half scoops” which are plenty big to make kids happy, but go easy on the wallet. You can find even more info on their Facebook page.

 

 

Southern Delights Snoballs

Best snoball restaurant in Slidell

Also a must when in the New Orleans area, snoballs are unlike anything you’ve had elsewhere. Silky smooth shaved ice is topped with one of a hundred flavors for a cold pick-me-up on a hot day. Locals often get theirs “stuffed” (soft serve ice cream in the middle) or topped with condensed milk (surprisingly delicious). The “Blue House” does them well, and serves up many other treats to please every palate. Check out their Facebook page for seasonal hours.

 

 

Vera’s Seafood

If you’re in the mood for fried seafood, Vera’s is one of THE best seafood restaurants in Slidell! Their fried shrimp are ginormous and tender, and you can get platters that let you mix and match a variety of seafood. Don’t miss their soup of the day either; it’s usually a cream-based soup with a creamed vegetable pureed in it and seafood mixed in. Past favorites have been artichoke and crab or asparagus and crab. But whatever it is, it will be delicious! It also has a bayou-esque atmosphere, if you wish to continue the swamp tour theme.

 

 

Thailicious

Okay, so Thai isn’t Southern cuisine (at least, not this continent’s. . . ), but we have a delicious Thai restaurant in Slidell if that’s what you’re craving! My personal favorites are their panang curry and fresh spring rolls with a peanut sauce, but my mother’s is their pad woodsen. Check our Thailicious’ menu and info on their website.

 

 

I hope I’ve convinced you that the restaurants in Slidell are worth a stop! Check some of these places out and let me know what you think.

Top photo from T Leblanc’s Facebook page. Other photo creds and thanks go to my sister and mother-in-love, who humored me by taking pictures of their food for me. We aren’t the only ones who love these places!!

Favorite France Blogs and Podcasts

Favorite France Blogs and Podcasts

Perhaps you’ve read enough posts around here to figure out that I (Melissa) love France. And France blogs and books. What’s not to love? The language is poetic, the French approach to food is almost reverent (creating meals that make you swoon), and the topography […]

Maïs Arepas Colombian Food: New Orleans

Maïs Arepas Colombian Food: New Orleans

My hubby and I had a marvelous (nice) date night out in New Orleans last week, and we finally made it to a Colombian restaurant I’ve been dying to try. Mexican/South American food is not a passion of my dear husband’s like it is mine, […]

Planning a Family Trip to France: Booking Rooms

Planning a Family Trip to France: Booking Rooms

Whew, am I breathing a sigh of relief– all of our rooms for our trip to France are booked! As I mentioned in my post about tickets, to me booking rooms is hands-down the most stressful part of planning. I’m not entirely sure why; I think perhaps because it’s so much money committed, and perhaps also because what kind of room you get can greatly affect your trip experience. As I booked our six different rooms, I did follow my general outline of how I usually book rooms, but below is even more detail and explanation, given that I just spent a couple of weeks walking through the process afresh. I did follow my own advice of not sacrificing location for price, thanks to Michelle’s urging when I was wavering from that stance. She reminded me how painful it is to commute a long way with small children. But I’m jumping ahead– we’ll get to that point! On to the “how to” of booking rooms in France!

Booking rooms in France

Why Not a Hotel?

Why don’t I just stay in a hotel with my family? Hotels don’t seem to be set up for large families and they rarely have kitchens, so I just don’t think hotels work well for families on an extended trip. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve second-guessed this method and checked out hotels, but I’ve never seen one that can beat the price of renting an apartment/house! Plus a house is so much more comfortable for a family, and you can save money on food with a kitchen.

What Sites I Use for Booking Rooms in Europe

My go-to rentals sites are VRBO, AirBnb, and Booking.com. (Disclosure: I’ve linked my AirBnb referral link, so if you use it I do get a credit.) We’ve had success on all three sites, but it seems that more people know about AirBnb and it tends to have the largest selection. Be sure you look at the total price for a room, not just the nightly price; different people charge different cleaning fees, and that can actually make a surprising difference in the nightly average. The search algorithm on AirBnb is somewhat finicky, in my opinion; you will see more rooms in your price range if you filter out all of the $400-500/night rooms! (What, you thought we did luxury travel? Sorry my friend, wrong blog. 😉 ) Be sure you’ve set your travel dates and number of people traveling before you search.

Note: if you use the same websites I do, it is worth mentioning that you won’t be renting from businesses. So what? This means that people’s plans may change, or someone may beat you to the draw on that one room, or the hosts may extend the minimum number of nights they’ll rent. All three of those things happened to me while I was booking this trip — don’t let it discourage you! Have your parameters, accept that there’s no *one perfect* room, don’t get emotionally attached to any particular one, and keep hunting! It’s worth the effort.

Booking rooms in France

 

What Amenities I Look for When Booking Rooms in Europe

As you’re searching for rooms/houses, there are a multitude of amenities/perks you can filter — almost anything, even what language the host can speak! (If you’re really not up for risking not being able to communicate in English. Though I’ve found that most people hosting travelers speak English.) However, I try to apply as few filters as possible, to give myself maximum options, and only filter by my absolute necessities. My necessities? A washer at longer stays and wifi. Don’t filter for a dryer, because that’s not typical in Europe and will greatly limit what you’ll find. I don’t filter for elevator (in case it’s not applicable to a good room), but I definitely make sure that there’s an elevator if the apartment is on an upper story. Why? Well, elevators aren’t necessarily standard even in apartment buildings, and Europeans don’t count floors like we do. What we Americans call the first floor, they call the ground floor (in France it’s the rez-de-chaussée), and what we call the second floor they call the first. So if the listing says the apartment is on the fourth floor with no elevator. . . you’ll be climbing 5 sets of stairs! We have done it, but know what you’re getting yourself into!

 

How I Decide What Rooms to Rent

Reviews and location are hands-down the biggest factors! I read through reviews extensively to check for any possible issues/surprises, and what they say about location. Things that catch my eye (in a good way) are:

  1. Proximity to public transport
  2. Good location/proximity to sights
  3. Comfortable beds
  4. Nearby bakeries/grocery stores
  5. Good wifi

If someone says the métro/tram is super close, and there’s a great bakery next door, and the beds are comfy, plus the host is nice — well, sign me up! As I mentioned in the previous point about watching for elevators/stairs, reviewers will usually mention if they had to climb a lot of stairs. Not necessarily complaints, but as a reviewer that is something I try to help other people be cognizant of also. Google maps is my friend — you can map how long it will take to get to sights you’re planning to see from the room you’re considering, and also can virtually walk around with the street view. It’s great fun to get a vibe for the neighborhood you might stay in!

Family trip to France

 

How Much to Spend When Booking Rooms in Europe

How much you’ll spend on rooms depends mostly on what city you’re in, how big it is, and how close to the city center/attraction you want to be. What time of year it is is also a factor (yet another reason to travel off-season). Big cities cost us about 40% more (looking at you, Paris). So if you’re staying exclusively in a big city, increase your budget accordingly. Obviously how many people you’re traveling with also affects cost. I think I started booking my rooms with an unrealistic idea of how much I would have to spend for 6 or 7 people. HA. (I told you this would be a learning trip!) Christie is paying a share of the room cost, which obviously helps my budget out quite a bit; traveling with someone else and splitting a room (even part of the cost) is hands-down the best room budget tip I’ve got! We all get nicer accommodations and pay less than we would on our own. Everyone wins! On our last trip, we had a car, so that changed things, plus there were fewer of us. We didn’t pay more than an average of $130 a night for the 4-5 of us.

As I said, we prioritized spending on rooms this trip for several reasons.

  1.  We’re traveling with 4 small children, and felt that a long commute to our sights every day would would add a lot of stress. So we booked rooms close in.
  2.  Christie needs to be able to work from our room, so there always needed to be a space for her where she could shut out the, um, exuberant busyness of little kids!
  3. Since we’ll be traveling for so many days, we wanted space to spread out and rest. The kids will need to play, toddlers will need to nap. I’ll do laundry, and maybe even blog!
  4. We also hope/plan to be eating in most evenings, and wanted sufficient kitchen space to make that work.

So you want the scoop, right?? We’ve spent an average of $208.67 per night on lodging for 6/7 people, for a total of $5634.01 for 27 nights in France. My family’s share of that was $3756, for an average of $139.11 a night, and Christie’s was $1878, for an average of $69.56 a night. Like I said, I hoped that we’d spend less, but that’s still way cheaper than any hotel we could have found, and I’m happy with where we’ll be staying. Those are the averages, but I was unable to find rooms in Paris (relatively close in) for less than $250-300 a night. Paris was my biggest sticker shock! We’ve always been able to stay in smaller rooms in Paris. Your money definitely goes farther somewhere that’s not Paris. (Our spacious house in Carcassonne was $125 night!!) I’ll link to our exact rooms after we visit and I can tell you what I think about them.

Could you spend less than we did? YES. But expect to have smaller spaces and be further away from the action. In my opinion, if you have small children that’s rarely worth it.

Booking rooms in France

Budget Update

Between our tickets and lodging, we’ve currently spent a total of $5638.32, which if I’m sticking to my hoped-for $7000 total leaves us just under $1400 for food and activities (and train tickets). Doable? Probably not quite. But it could be close; we won’t know until all is said and done!

 

What’s Next

Tickets and rooms are the most time-sensitive parts of travel planning — most everything else will be much easier and the more fun part of planning. I’ve read quite a bit about where we’ll be going; I’ll read more, and make tentative lists of what we’d like to see and do and eat! The main next step will be booking our TGV tickets to get between the big cities. TGV stands for Train à Grande VitesseFrance’s high speed trains. The farther out we can book them, the less we’ll pay.

Are you planning a family trip soon? Or would you like to? Where do you want to go??

Creole Creamery: My New Orleans

Creole Creamery: My New Orleans

Want to eat some amazing ice cream next time you’re in New Orleans? (Is that a stupid question or what?) We are embarrassed — nay, regretful — that it’s taken us this long to actually go visit Creole Creamery. Michael’s cousins have been raving on […]