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 […]
Of all the adventures Melissa’s and my kids had over early summer break, the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum was the surprise favorite. Sure, when we told the kids we were headed to the beach or the Pensacola Children’s Museum, or the Airplane Museum, they knew to expect a good time. When I told my kids we were headed to “the Gulfport Train Museum” though, I think they were anticipating a very dry and boring museum. Then, when we pulled up, my eight year old exclaimed, “Is this it? It’s sooo small!” Melissa and her kids had visited before though, and they knew – this place is a hidden gem!
When we entered the museum, my kids’ eyes widened. The first room is filled with Lego models of all sizes and themes. There are trains running in display cases as well as on tracks suspended from the ceiling. My doubting oldest child could hardly be pried from this first room (the Star Wars Legos section in particular!), but there’s so much more! The original building houses a gift shop and two large rooms filled with train displays. A boardwalk connects it to the other two buildings in the complex, which are also filled with train displays, ride-on toys, and train tables that the kids can play with.
There’s a lot to do outdoors as well, so plan your visit for a sunny day! There are hand-pedal train cars for the kids to enjoy and a ride-on train for kids and adults that loops the outside play area (and goes through a spooky tunnel 😉 ). Our kids loved the pirate ship play structure and enjoyed seeing the themed trainscapes throughout the outdoor area. My favorite has Jurassic Park theme with dinosaurs (tied to train chassis) zipping through the flowerbed!
If you have any questions about the displays, the museum is filled with enthusiastic volunteers running the outdoor rides, answering the kids’ questions, and updating displays. As far as amenities, there are picnic areas outside to enjoy a snack or lunch, and each building has bathrooms available. With so much to see and to explore, we could hardly tear our kids away when it was time to leave!
504 Pass Rd, Gulfport, MS 39507
Hours: Open Tuesday-Saturday 12-5 and closed Sunday & Monday
Cost: Donations appreciated
Parking: In front of the museum, but if it’s full we found some nearby on the corner of A Ave. & 33rd St.
But wait, wasn’t this billed as a two-fer? That’s right! Anticipating the amount of energy necessary to chase our (combined) eight kids through the train museum, Melissa and I made a stop beforehand at Coast Roast. You should too! Only seven minutes away, Coast Roast is a great stop on your way to or from the Gulfport kids’ train museum. We sampled a latte and a hazelnut iced coffee and both were delicious! While their seating areas looked inviting, we made good use of the drive-through (parent win!) and headed for the museum.
Coast Roast (Gulfport location)
1601 25th Ave., Gulfport, MS
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6:30am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 7:00pm
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 […]
Though the idea of being able to speak in a secret language with your friends has appealed since childhood, I think I really got the foreign language bug when we moved to Germany several years ago. We immediately enrolled our four year old in a […]
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, so you know he loves me dearly. I had never had Colombian food before. But as much as I love Mexican food, I was curious to try its culinary cousin.
I first heard about this Colombian restaurant in New Orleans three years ago (yes, three years. It’s been busy the last few years. . .) How it came about was that one evening I was sharing nursery duty with a lady at our children’s program, and we were chatting away, getting to know each other. In the course of our conversation I learned that she was from Colombia. So, being the taste-bud led person that I am, I immediately asked if she knew of any good Colombian restaurants nearby. She screwed up her face as she ruefully considered what was available on the Northshore (nothing). Suddenly her eyes lit up and her entire face beamed. “Oohh, if you drive down to New Orleans Maïs Arepas is the best! It’s authentic; once we drove there and it was closed until the evening but we waited. We went and found something else to do until it opened.”
It did not disappoint.
An arepa is a South American corn cake, and a staple in the region; it’s thinner than a biscuit, about as thick as an English muffin, and often split for sandwiches. If my translation is correct, “maïs arepas” is “corn cakes”. Yummy ones. Maïs Arepas is just a block off St. Charles, in a gentrifying neighborhood. This means there was free parking and easy to get to! And yes, we did feel safe.
We got there five minutes after they opened on a Friday night (6:00), and were lucky enough to snag a table right away without a reservation. Very lucky indeed, for it is a small restaurant. Not 15 minutes after we sat down there was a line to get in, and the entire place was packed! We’ll probably plan ahead and make reservations if we come again on a Friday night.
As I mentioned, it’s not large, but cozy and lively all at the same time. Rustic traditional Colombian decor blends with modern elements for a vibe that fits the food — traditional but not old-fashioned in the least. I saw high chairs, so I have no doubt that children would be welcomed, but it strikes me as more of a parents’ night out restaurant. Which is exactly what it was for us. 😉 Our table had a view of behind the bar, and we were fascinated to see the variety and range of fresh ingredients being turned into cocktails.
We ordered a mojito, which was solidly delicious, then the waitress talked us into an appetizer since it would take 25 minutes for our arepas to arrive (everything is made to order). Are we ever glad that she did, because the appetizer was our favorite part of our dinner! We ordered the Picada Colombiana, which is they describe as “house-made morcilla & chorizo, chicharrón, papa criolla, cherry tomatoes, mini arepa, guasacaca sauce”. Whatever it was, it sounded pretty good. “It” turned out to be three kinds of sausage, along with cooked pork belly (similar to bacon); one of sausages was filled with corn and rice as well as the meat, and was incredible. “Papa criolla” were tiny golden potatoes that were perfectly crisp on the outside, and “guasacaca sauce” is the Colombian version of guacamole, and I LOVE IT. Next visit, this may seriously be my main course! It was all so flavorful.
Michael got the marinera arepa, which is “grilled jumbo shrimp, citrus slaw, avocado & salsa rosada”. To be honest, it didn’t wow either of us, though it was tasty enough. We would have enjoyed a little more “pop” to the flavors, and I wonder if chopping the shrimp wouldn’t help too. . . I ordered the pollo grilliao, which is grilled chicken with caramelized onions and mozzarella.
We both liked my arepa much more! (But how can you not with caramelized onions and melted cheese??) It was much more satisfying to eat. Both arepas were served with delicate crispy plantain chips.
I’ve never had arepas before, but I thought they were delicious; I do also love cornbread and tacos with corn tortillas, but arepas are much more tender and more interesting than either of those foods. They paired beautifully with the savory foods, but I can totally see them with honey and butter too.
I couldn’t resist getting dessert, something I rarely do. I opted for their passion fruit flan. The tang of the passion fruit was intensified by a passion fruit juice reduction drizzled on the top. It was a smidge overcooked, but nonetheless delicious, and the perfect way to end our meal.
My Colombian friend’s enthusiasm was well-placed, and I look forward to exploring the menu further; maybe next time for a girls’ lunch out, so we can split several dishes. (Their soups are top of my list — I forgot until afterward that my friend specifically mentioned them!)
(If you want to drool over more pictures of their menu-which appears to vary seasonally-, head over to their Facebook page.)
1200 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Tuesday-Saturday, lunch from 11:30-2:15, dinner from 6:00-9:45
Today we’re delighted to talk about one of our family’s long-standing and favorite traditions in Pensacola! Colloquially known as the Aviation Museum, at our house even more informally called The Airplane Museum, its official title is the National Naval Aviation Museum. Due to the Naval […]
One of the fun things about visiting Pensacola in recent years has all been finding all the new and delicious places that pop up in between our visits. I try to keep an ear to the ground for recent developments and openings. One thing I’ve actively been looking for is a good bakery in Pensacola. My last beach trip Craft Gourmet Bakery popped up in my search, and I immediately put it on my “to-eat” list. It definitely did not disappoint! Tucked away in a little strip mall (not far from our favorite shopping), Craft Gourmet Bakery has only been open since November of 2018.
One Sunday morning Christie and I decided the time was right for a bakery visit. The shop is airy, open, and inviting. When we arrived the owner, Jordan, happened to be behind the counter. She was as warm and inviting as the shop itself, and clearly passionate about what she does. (I love eating food that people love making.) Before opening her bakery she used to be the pastry chef at George’s, which she highly recommended. Another one on the “to-eat” list! She enthusiastically invited us to sample her house-made gelato, featuring unique flavors such as honey lavender goat cheese and mint infused with fresh mint (rather than an extract). Both were delicious and creamy.
Between Christie and me, we walked away with five different bakery items to try: a black garlic sourdough baguette, a key lime mousse tart, a berry claw, a maple bacon morning roll, and a cheddar chive bacon scone, plus a latte. While the latte was little on the milky side for our druthers, overall it was excellent, surprisingly so, right up there with any third-wave coffee shop. It was mellow and nutty, with a lovely microfoam. In most bakeries the coffee often plays second fiddle to the pasties, but not here! Jordan herself made the latte, no less.
We managed to wait until we got home to dive into the goodies. Every. single. thing. was delicious, beautifully balanced, and well-crafted indeed! The cheddar chive bacon scone (which Melissa couldn’t stop eating) was packed with flavor and neither heavy nor dry. The key lime mousse tart (which Christie couldn’t stop eating) was melt-in-your mouth light, appropriately tart and not cloyingly sweet. The maple bacon morning roll (the one that, well, Michael couldn’t stop eating…) was once again, tender and perfectly balanced between sweet and smoky, with the faintest hint of warmth from some cayenne. The range of flavors available in the bakery means something is available for everyone’s taste. As we cut into the berry claw, we could hear the crisp lamination of the croissant dough, something that Jordan was obviously proud of when she was touting her croissants as house-laminated. The pride was justified.
It’s not the cheapest of bakeries (expect to pay $4-$7 for your pastry or dessert), but you know what they say about getting what you pay for. Next on our dessert list is her triple chocolate mousse bomb, which she says is a best-seller.
Last, but most certainly not least, the black garlic sourdough baguette was amazing. It had a crisp crust, chewy interior, and was hefty in the way bread ought to be. Its perfectly sour sourdough was subtly complemented with a tang of garlic; leftovers were divine toasted with butter. (Leftovers, you say? They existed only because I refused to share with my children or my husband who said sourdough wasn’t his favorite. It happens to be my favorite.) Plus, at $3.50 this marvelous baguette is a totally affordable indulgence. In case you can’t tell yet, Craft Gourmet Bakery is officially our favorite bakery in Pensacola, and I will be hitting it up every trip for some awesome bread and other treats! There is a daily rotation of bread specials; hopefully next trip I’ll be here on a Thursday for their Cranberry Walnut bread.
You can eye up Craft’s current specials and seasonal goodies on their Facebook and Instagram pages, and find lots of information on their site. Note that they don’t open until 9am on the weekends, which means you get to sleep in and still be here when the doors open.
Craft Gourmet Bakery
5555 N. Davis Hwy, Suite H
Pensacola, FL 32503
Saturday & Sunday 9am–5pm
Looking for delicious Italian food in Pensacola? Look no further than Franco’s Italian Restaurant near downtown. This Pensacola institution is celebrating their twentieth anniversary this month, and Melissa and I enjoyed revisiting it recently with our moms. One of the awesome things about growing […]