Mardi Gras at Home

Mardi Gras at Home

Mardi Gras celebrations around the country have been cancelled or scaled back this year because of coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate safely at home. Since I’m married to a New Orleans boy, we will keep the good times rolling by bringing Mardi Gras and quintessential New Orleans treats to our home. From King Cake to beads and balconies, we will have it all here.

In lieu of Mardi Gras floats this year in New Orleans, many people are decorating their homes instead. My in-laws have been sending us the coolest pictures from the homes in Uptown and it has been great to see the spirit of the city living on even though one of their main events has been cancelled.

For our celebration at home, I’m focusing mostly on the food. I’ll be making red beans and rice and I ordered a King Cake for dessert. One of my husband’s favorite meals is red beans and rice and since he was born and raised in New Orleans, I had to do a ton of research to get the recipe right. The consistency was tricky to achieve, but after a few tries, I finally got it and I am so proud. To add a fun little twist, I served our red beans and rice in miniature bread bowls.

Red Beans and Rice served in mini bread bowls.

Brit’s Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients:

2 ham hocks 

10 cups water

2 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. Crystal Hot Sauce

1 tsp. Worcestershire

1 lb. red beans (soaked overnight and drained)

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onions

2 cloves minced garlic

3 tbsp. olive oil

¼ lb. hot sausage, sliced

¼ smoked sausage, sliced

3 bay leaves

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. pepper

To Make:

  • Place ham hocks, water, garlic, salt, Crystal hot sauce, Worcestershire and beans in a large Dutch oven and cook uncovered on low heat. 
  • In a separate pan, sauté celery, onion and garlic in olive oil.
  • In another pan, cook sausage.
  • Add sautéed vegetables and cooked sausage to the red bean mixture.
  • Add bay leaves, salt and pepper to the mixture. Cook over a medium-low flame for four hours. 
  • Remove ham hocks and bay leaves.
  • Serve over white rice.

Haydel’s Traditional King Cake from New Orleans.

I don’t think it’s possible to have a Mardi Gras party without a King Cake. Our absolute favorite is from Haydel’s Bakery, but if you’re not in New Orleans and ran out of time to get a cake shipped, Whole Foods actually makes a pretty good King Cake.

While I didn’t bring the house float trend to Austin, I did build a balloon arch inside! This arch was so easy to assemble and I think it turned out really well. Call me crazy, but I’m still throwing beads off of my stairs and pretending I’m on Bourbon.

How will you be celebrating Mardi Gras this year? However you do, I hope you are all safe, happy and healthy and as they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

XO,

Brit

Miami Travel Guide

Miami Travel Guide

Known for its stunning Art Deco architecture, sunny beaches and impossibly fun vibe, it was an easy choice for us to make Miami our first trip of the year. After spending a long weekend with my husband and pup in the beachside haven and scouring the city from South Beach to Little Havana, I’m sharing my travel guide for Miami with all of you.

I hadn’t been to Miami in more than a decade and the lure of 80 degree weather in January was just too enticing to pass up on. Because of recent COVID outbreaks around the country, we were a bit hesitant to actually go on our trip, but we were able to get flights on Southwest for next to nothing and got a great deal on our hotel room.

When looking for a hotel in Miami, it’s important to know which part of town you want to be in. If you’re interested in South Beach, I’d recommend the Faena or the Miami Beach Edition. When we booked our original trip, we found a deal on the Betsy Hotel and jumped on it. Although the Betsy photographs well and has a wonderful staff, I would not recommend staying here. The building is dated and the crowd that hangs out around the hotel is rough to put it lightly. We were very uncomfortable the one night we did stay there because the room smelled, we could hear noise from the street outside all night and the room just did not feel clean. The Betsy claims to have beach access, but it is not done through the hotel, it is done through a third party and you have beach access with a lot of other people.

After one night at the Betsy, we quickly switched over to the Four Seasons Miami which is located in the heart of Brickell, the city’s financial center. Although we had to give up the beach, we were so thrilled with our move. The Four Seasons Miami offers impeccable service, a stunning pool, an outdoor area that worked so well for our dog and clean and comfortable rooms (although a bit dated.) If you’re looking for a Four Seasons property on the beach, I’d highly recommend the Four Seasons Surfside. Unfortunately, this gorgeous hotel was a bit out of our price range and further away from most of the things we wanted to do so we decided to stay at the Four Seasons Miami. Another bay-side gem is the Biltmore Coral Gables. When we would go to Miami when I was younger, I would always tell my parents that if I lived in Miami, I would live in Coral Gables and I stand by that today.

If you’re looking to party, South Beach and Miami Beach will be perfect for you. From buzzy clubs and restaurants to partying on the beach, you’ll be happiest here. Brickell also offers a pretty cool night life scene with great restaurants and hotspots like Komodo. Keep in mind that Miami is currently observing an 11 p.m. curfew, but clubs are still open.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe, Bal Harbour/Surfside and Coral Gables/Coconut Grove will be the place for you. Bal Harbour and Surfside offer beach access, luxury shopping, fine dining and several celeb sightings while Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are a bit more laid back and not on the beach.

For fabulous shopping, museums and excellent dining, look no further than the Miami Design District. From public art installations to the famed Institute of Contemporary Art, you will leave this creative neighborhood feeling inspired and ready to take on the rest of Miami. If you’re looking for a bit of history or you have a cigar lover in your group, Little Havana should be on your list. Walking through this neighborhood just minutes from downtown, you feel as if you have been transported to 1965.

We LOVED the food scene in Miami, so much so that I actually ranked our meals from the trip and wrote a full review on them. We originally had reservations at Makoto, but had to cancel them because it would have taken us too long to get up there. If you’re staying in the Bal Harbour/Surfside area, definitely make reservations there one night.

Casa Tua, Mandolin and La Mar are not to be missed if you’re in Miami and if you’re looking for a classic Cuban sandwich while in town, look no further than Sanguich de Miami in the heart of Little Havana.

Houston Hobby Airport at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 24th.

COVID Travel Update

As most of you know, my husband and I have felt comfortable traveling to a few places during the pandemic. Everywhere we went, we felt safe because of small crowds, extra precautions people and places were observing and especially because all of our flights were not full. Well those days are over.

All four of the Southwest flights we were on for this trip were completely packed. Miami was packed. Although everyone wore face masks, I did not feel safe in many situations during this trip. Although I am very thankful we were able to go on this trip, had we known about the massive crowds we would encounter on the trip, we would have definitely reconsidered. I wish airlines would do their part and go back to keeping middle seats reserved for flights, it’s not responsible to have that many people in a confined space during a pandemic.