I was doing a daily “Things I Love” last year and they were going well. Except…it turns out I only love enough for a weekly list.
Just kidding. Once a week just seems more manageable from a workload perspective. The plan is to release one of these every Friday, and then a round-up of New Orleans-specific events for the week on Mondays. I might add another post here or there, but let’s see if I can master these two first. My track record is suspect at best!
So what have I loved recently? There’s a lot to love. Here are five of my favorite things from the last week (plus a few days, because I make the rules here). If you love something — one of these things or something else — and want to share it, yell it proudly in those comments!
1. Virtual Cooking Classes with the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI)
NOCHI has been hosting virtual cooking classes throughout most of the pandemic, and there’s no need to be in New Orleans to take part. Mariana and I finally tried one guiding students through how to make a king cake. I don’t want to brag, but ours was pretttttttttyyyyyy pretty good.
They’re hosting classes every Thursday in March (and many more beyond that) and they’re on a pay-what-you-can-basis ($10 minimum). Classes for the month cover everything from Shrimp & Grits to Poboys to German Food to Tapas. You’ll get a recipe list in advance, as well as detailed instructions and Executive Chef Maki on Zoom to demonstrate and answer any of your questions.
Plus it’s a surprisingly communal experience to attempt to cook with dozens of other participants you’ve never met. We had a great time. Learn more here.
2. We Landed a Very Inspiring Robot on Mars
I don’t know if it’s always been like this, but I’ve been really impressed over the last year with NASA’s commitment to getting the public as excited as they are about their adventures. Last week we landed Perseverance — the most advanced rover ever sent to Mars. Through all sorts of technology that is too in-depth to talk about in a blog post not about Mars rovers, NASA landed Perseverance on the Jezero crater — the site of an ancient Martian lake.
The rover will travel about 12 miles over next two Earth years, gathering samples and looking for signs of former life (like fossils).
That’s pretty cool already to me, but there were a few highlights that really made my heart grow.
a. Watching footage of the landing — how a massive parachute had to deploy at incomprehensible speeds so the rover could slow down, how different sections of the vehicle had to separate from itself like a well-choreographed dance, and how the rover was programmed to find the perfect landing spot without real-time human help — I was left amazed at what humans are capable of.
b. That parachute I mentioned, above, had an irregular design on it. It turns out NASA had placed a secret message in it to be decoded. And space fans figured it out. “Dare mighty things.”
c. We got to hear the first sounds ever recorded on Mars.
d. And it’s impossible for me to watch video of the Perseverance human team celebrating its landing without tears welling up in my eyes. I can’t even type those words without tears welling up in my eyes. It’s all awesome.
This video captures most of it:
3. A Great Rooftop Sandwich
I’m always on the lookout for fun things to do in the city that feel relatively COVID safe. Alto on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel here in New Orleans has some great programming. Most notably, they’ve had a monthly music and smores event with Helen Gillet playing cello that seems to sell out within minutes each time they post it. (Here‘s where you’ll find future event listings.)
But I just went for brunch, and it was really nice. The pancakes with fresh fruit and pecans were great, but the breakfast sandwich was out of this world! It’s got chicken, andouille sausage, egg, cheddar cheese, mixed greens and aioli– all on ciabatta bread. You won’t be disappointed.
Plus the cocktails are creative and delicious, and you can dip your feet (or your whole body) in the heated pool — all while keeping your distance from other guests. There’s a lot to love about Alto, but chief among them for me is that sandwich.
4. Cookbooks to International Markets
Mariana and I are (very slowly) cooking through the entire Alon Shaya cookbook, Shaya. Early on — and probably throughout — there are some ingredients and spices that are Israeli / Bulgarian and aren’t so easy to find in your average grocery store.
So that’s brought us to three international markets recently.
We went to International Market for the spices we needed, Kased’s International Market for the ground lamb required, and then Hong Kong Market because Mariana had never been and we wanted to complete the trifecta. It was fun to be reminded of what an international place New Orleans is, and also to know we can pretty much get whatever it is we’re looking for if we search hard enough. They’re each worth a visit, and I also high recommend Chef Alon’s cookbook.
5. Tank and the Bangas with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO)
The LPO has been working their tails off providing tons of music for, both, virtual and socially-distanced audiences. One of their virtual offerings has been The Orpheum Sessions — a series of concerts ranging from classical to modern pop.
Recently they released a concert with the 2020 Grammy-nominated Tank and the Bangas. This New Orleans band is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, and it was a joy to watch them perform their often-beautiful-sometimes-quirky music with the LPO.
Their genre is a mix of funk, soul, hip hop and spoken word (it’s really unique), and — for just $20 — this 45-minute show is a steal. Plus you’re supporting a whole lot of great New Orleans musicians in the process.
Also, if you’re under 40 years old and want to bring your love of classical music in New Orleans to the next level, ask me about LPO’s Prelude. It’s one of my favorite groups I get to spend time with, and I think you might love it, too.
Alright, that’s all for now! If you love one of these things — or want to share something else you love — let me know in the comments. Plus give me a Follow or Like on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — and sign up for my newsletter. Thanks for reading!