Buns on the Table

pf-changs-atlanta-airportOver the last few years, it seems I have spent more time at the Atlanta airport that anywhere else in the country (including my home).  For at least the last year, the airport has been under going some major renovations.  The latest being a massive upgrade to the dining choices.  There are many more modern and appetizing choices now available, which is so important when you have long layovers or stranded due to “weather”.  Tonight I experienced one such “weather” event on my way to Beckley, WV where I was delayed close to 3 hours.  In the grand scheme of airport delays, 3 hours is nothing…but I digress.  Anyway, I was stuck and it was dinner-time so I decided to partake in a rather scrumptious dinner at PF Chang’s.pf-changs-airport

It has always amazed me how many tables can be stuffed into airport restaurants.  I walked in as a party of 1 and was seated almost right away at a tiny table that was sandwiched between two larger tables already occupied by diners enjoying their meals.  I had to squeeze between  my table and the one right next to me in order to sit.  As I did so, I could feel my butt graze the plates on the table next to me.  It was a good thing I was wearing black pants since there was no telling what type of sauce was now slathered on my back-side.  It was interesting that they didn’t move their plates nor did they stop eating what was in them.  I would have certainly lost my appetite.

One thing the airport restaurant designers did not consider is the space needed for img_4954luggage.  Nearly every traveler has at least one rolling suitcase to put in the overhead bins and many people have two.  So as I sit and wait for my dinner to be delivered the tables on both sides clear out and fill back up again.  This time the patrons on both sides of me have their luggage nestled between our tables to keep from tripping the servers as they walk by. Commendable on one hand, but on the other it leaves me with no exit strategy. So instead of savoring my food into oblivion, I am contemplating which set of luggage on which side of the table that I am going to stumble over when I leave, or better yet, which set of dishes and sauces will further compliment my attire as I squeeze back through.  Maybe luck with be on my side and one of the two tables will leave before I do.

img_4949My dinner choice on this night is my “go to” dish at PF Chang’s — Chang’s Spicy Chicken and Fried Rice.  I absolutely love this dish though it is way off the rail in terms of carbs and calories.  If my doctor or beachbody coach had a glance as my dinner choice tonight, I would have a lot of “splaining” to do.  The food was as expected – absolutely delicious.img_4955

The best part of any Chinese meal, is always the fortune cookie.  Years ago when I was in college, we had a tradition to add the words “in bed” to the end of any fortune cookie saying.  With that in mind, tonight my fortune was….

“You will pass a big upcoming test…’in bed’.”

Sounds like I may have a promising week after all.

Beignets, the Mysterious Helene, and the LaLaurie Mansion

It wasn’t that long ago that my travels took me to the city of New Orleans.Image What amazes me the most about this city is how you can feel the soul of the city as soon as you step off of the plane.  The history, the legends, the mystique of the city is glorious but can be quite overwhelming. During this particular visit, I played the diligent employee and spent most night at my desk in a corner room of the J W Marriott overlooking the magnificent downtown skyline.  Occasionally, I would wonder out to Canal Street for dinner, a quick stroll, or to browse through one of the many eclectic gift shops.  On the last night of my visit, I decided to delve a little deeper into the city and indulge in the city’s fine fare.

ImageOur first stop of the night was Cafe Du Monde, the home of the legendary beignets.  On this particular night, the tourists were out in force at Cafe Du Monde.  Of coarse it didn’t hurt that the evening was gorgeous and the moon was full.  As we stand in line at the outside carry-out window, I can’t help but to watch the bustling waiters/waitresses in their green, white, and black attire delivering fresh from the fryer beignets, drenched in powdered sugar, to the masses.  There are more waiters/waitresses here than I think I have ever seen at an establishment and most are extremely busy.  Their uniforms are very reminiscent of the style from the 1960 soda fountain clerks would wear, including the paper triangle hat.  (Of coarse you do realize that I was not around in the 1960’s so I can’t do an official comparison, but this is the feel of the place.)  We order our beignets “to go” so that we can be good little people and eat dinner before desert – all the while listening to our beignets call out to us begging to be eaten.

With our beignets in hand, we head down the street in the search for a restaurant for dinner.  One thing I have learned when traveling, is that you should pay close attention to the number of patrons at a restaurant in order to determine whether it is worth chancing fate.  Using this, we pass up several establishments that were empty during what should be a bustling dinner time.  We walk up to a third restaurant and peer inside the window to see quite the crowd.  Looks good, so we take the leap and ask for a menu.  The server informs us that they “have no menu” but instead offer a 5-course dinner with a small selection of entrees (beef, fish, duck, lamb, and something else I cant remember).  Why not?  We take our seat at a table, where our dinner begins to turn a little odd.  The waiter arrives to take our orders, yet we don’t really know what is on the menu or the price points.  It seems strange and uncomfortable that we have to actually ask for the prices.  Do people just come into this restaurant and trust that they will be charged fairly?   In any case, I choose the filet as my entree, as it seems like the safest choice.

Now the fun begins.  Our 5-course meal includes:

  • a strange form of shrimp cocktail
  • leek and potato soup – This was actually very good.  A bit too spicy for my palette but very good, nonetheless.
  • a one square inch cut of beef brisket – I believe they actually used a ruler as it was almost in perfect cube form. This was very tender and flavorful also.  I think I could have enjoyed another cube.
  • the entree was served – My choice was Filet Mignon with seasonal veggies.  I will say that I have had much better filets at much cheaper establishments.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t even close to the best.  Definitely over-rated and way over-priced.
  • banana bread pudding – Very, very good.  I am not a fan of anything banana flavored (except the fruit), but this was mouthwatering.

Along with our meal, we were offered the privilege of enjoying a hotel sized glass of water and ONE (that’s right ONE) glass of tea.

The best part of the entire dinner came when I spotted a picture on the wall of a young woman who “appeared” to be a movie star from the 1950’s or 60’s.  I asked the waiter/bus boy who the person in the picture was.  He responds that he thinkImages the picture came with the frame.  After inspection, I don’t think so.  He takes the picture down and written on the back was the name ‘Helene’.  On the face of the picture, there was once a handwritten note and autograph.  While the ink was no longer visible, there was a clear imprint of the message that could only be seen when holding the frame at the right angle.  The message read something to the effect of “my love for the boy is as much as the family will allow. Love  Helene.”  I take a quick snapshot because I feel destined to uncover this picture’s true identity.  I have searched and searched and searched to figure out who this person is.  No luck.

Our last stop of the evening is probably the most memorable.  Earlier in my visit during one of my nightly strolls, I found a book about the history of a very famous house in New Orleans, the LaLaurie Mansion.  This house is said to be one of (if not the) most haunted houses in New Orleans.  As the legend goes, Delphine LaLaurie chained her servants in the attic where they lived in horrible conditions until the house burned down.  As the house burned, the servants perished because she refused any attempts to rescue them.  It is believed that the spirits of the servants still inhabit the house to tImagehis day.

After reading about the history of this house, there was no way I could leave New Orleans without visiting the house for myself. So off I went in search of 1140 Royal Street.  A few minutes later, we see the house.  In the moonlight, it appeared very majestic and quite beautiful.  I have no idea who the owners are but they seem to be doing quite well at maintaining the exterior of the building.  It is evident that this house is on the agenda for every ghost tour available in New Orleans.  There were at least four large groups of people walking by and listening intently to their guides as they told the lore of the building.  I snap a few pictures and then decide to call it a night heading back to the J W for one last night.

I don’t think twice about my pictures until I get home.  That weekend I’m syncing my phone to my desktop and take a look at the various pictures I had snapped throughout the last couple of months.  I pull up one of the shots of the LaLaurie house and in two of the windows, it really looks like someone or something is peering back at me through the window.   Very spooky!!! Could this be my imagination after reading the book or is this evidence of a ghostly world inhabiting the legendary LaLaurie Mansion?  You be the judge… I would love to hear your thoughts.