Eat, Drink, Mardi Gras

February 25, 2014

My weekend took me far away from Charlottesville…and my sweet baby boy! This was my first time leaving Mazen overnight, so it was a bittersweet trip. I haven’t left him before not because I didn’t want to but because the right opportunity hadn’t come up. I was invited on a trip to Europe last summer but I had to turn it down because I was breastfeeding, but as soon as I weaned I waited until the right trip came about. This trip couldn’t have been more perfect – I flew out early Saturday morning and was home by Sunday night. Even more perfect: an overnight visit allowed me to stay at my brother-in-law Andrew’s house!


Beyond Lactose Intolerance

The reason for my visit to the Big Easy was to attend a cooking seminar for (mostly) Registered Dietitians on lactose intolerance put on by The National Dairy Council. I was excited for the opportunity to network with other nutrition and fitness bloggers and bring myself up to speed on this health topic.


When I arrived in New Orleans I headed straight to the New Orleans Cooking Experience, which resides in a beautiful old building filled antiques and wafts of low country cuisine.


We didn’t have any formal programming – we simply talked about lactose intolerance while we watched the chefs prepare four delicious dishes – the best way to learn! Chef Michael Stolzfus is the executive chef and owner of Coquette, and he was a semi-finalist in the 2013 James Beard “Best Chef in the South” award. Due to my flight times, I missed out on a show-and-tell brunch at Coquette that morning, but those who did attend had wonderful things to say. Chef Zak Miller joined as pastry chef.


We started the event with a mocktail of horchata – a sweet beverage made from morro seeds with cinnamon, vanilla and spices. Ours was made with Lactaid with cinnamon, vanilla and maple syrup, among other flavors


Then we headed into the kitchen!


Our first dish was Brussels Sprouts with Ricotta and Blood Orange. Chef made the ricotta from scratch right in front of us. Having made goat cheese and mozzarella I know a little about cheese making but I think the ricotta was the easiest of them all! Add citric acid to full fat, non homogenized local milk, allow to clump into curds and whey and strain. Most of the lactose drains out with the whey so the remaining cheese is actually very low in lactose. (Hard cheeses like parmesan are the lowest kinds because they have so little whey.)



The dish was delicious – especially the bites with orange!


Next up we had an Artichoke and Parmesan Soup that was finished with Lactaid milk. It was actually really creamy despite not having heavy cream. Lactaid is just like regular milk with lactase added to break down the lactose, and while it’s a little bit more expensive, it’s still just milk.


We sat down at a table to enjoy our last two courses: Wagyu Sirloin, Greek Yogurt and Roasted Beets. Since Greek yogurt is strained, it’s also low-ish in lactose compared to regular yogurt.


For a sweet ending we had a Strawberry Chamomile Vacherin. Love me some meringues!



Check out more photos of our day cooking on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #beyondLI

The Ultimate New Orleans Adventure

When the event was over, Andrew picked me up dressed in a full Mardi Gras costume and we set out on the ultimate New Orleans adventure: a Mardi Gras parade, cocktails, bar hopping and live music. I even stayed out past 9! (Which I might not have done if I hadn’t been able to sleep to 9 :) )


Andrew’s cat Tux!


I was especially excited to check out New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and the best way to describe it is a flashback to college. People and beads and trash and beer everywhere! Andrew told me that while the French Quarter is known for its bead-hungry topless women, where we were was all family friendly. There were tons of kids and even more babies!



Our first stop was The Columns Hotel for a drink before watching of the parades along St. Charles Ave. This is my new favorite bar ever! The building was large and historic and had little lounge rooms tucked in every corner.



Play me a song Mr. Pianoman!


Within minutes I was recognized by blog reader Kimberly! That was an exciting surprise.


Andrew’s friend’s cute dog!


Once the sun set the parade really lit up the town. Andrew said I had to catch my first beads myself and the pair I caught were actually really nice – black and gold dipped. Unlike in the French Quarter, to get some beads in this parade you just had to enthusiastically put your arms in the air ; )



We headed out for a late dinner to Baru, a Caribbean-themed tapas restaurant. We ordered this amazing bottle of red wine and the following dishes…


Mazorca | Roasted corn / salao cheese / pink sauce / potato sticks


Chuzos | Grilled skewers of skirt steak / chimichurri / bollo {Steak in the back}


Patacones | Double-fried mashed plantains stuffed with guacamole / chipotle chickeen / cotija


Arepas | White cornmeal cakes / pulled pork / black beans


Later in the evening we hung out with some of Andrew’s friends and walked to see a show by one of Andrew’s favorite bands, Dumpstaphunk!! We actually saw them together in Charlottesville at a beer festival a few years back, so it was a fun coincidence to see them together again. We stayed out until 2am dancing!


I haven’t partied that hard since college and I don’t intend to party that hard for a very, very long time!!

I was only gone for a day, but I packed a lot in and was more than ready to see my boys again. I missed them so much!!!!!

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 @simple green moms February 25, 2014 at 8:14 am

looks like you had so much fun! it is so hard to leave your baby overnight (even when they are 18 months) but it makes it all the better to be back home =)


2 Hannah @ Sprints & Scones February 25, 2014 at 8:17 am

I love this! I’m heading to my first Mardi GRAS this firday and am so excited. I am going to add the Columns Hotel to my list!


3 Liz @ Tip Top Shape February 25, 2014 at 8:20 am

There is so much in this post, I don’t even know where to begin commenting!! I’ve never been to New Orleans, and to be honest, what I’ve heard of it made me not too keen to visit. But these pictures have absolutely changed my mind. I forget that it’s a city that steeped in so much history!


4 Natasha February 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I live in NOLA. It’s fun to visit, not fun to live here. Us locals do not like Mardi Gras at all and prefer to leave the entire week.


5 Kelsey February 27, 2014 at 7:25 am

I also live in NOLA but absolutely love Mardi Gras! For me it is a family oriented holiday – there are two different Mardi Gras that occur in the city .. the one in the French Quarter which can be very promiscuous and rowdy or the Mardi Gras in certain areas of uptown New Orleans that is very family friendly. While several locals to go out of town for the week, many choose to stay and enjoy the city’s festivities! Personally, I like Mardi Gras better than any other holiday!


6 Livi February 25, 2014 at 8:26 am

NoLa is SO fun! My roommate just had her debutante ball there {crazy southern traditions!!} and it was amazing!


7 Ali @ Peaches and Football February 25, 2014 at 8:26 am

What an AMAZING day! I can’t believe you fit all of that into just one day. What an experience! I can honestly say all of that food looks ridiculously delicious. I would want to try it all. A lot of time the super-fancy dishes are a bit too out there for me (or have stuff I don’t eat) but wow, mmm.

Even the brussels sprouts look worth a try. I ordered them locally once and they were a nasty pile of mush and I’ve never eaten them since. Somehow I think it’s all in how they are prepared…


8 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! February 25, 2014 at 8:33 am

WHAT A FUN WEEKEND! The Dairy Council event looked really fun (brussels sprouts and blood oranges?! Sign me up!)…as did all the Mardi Gras festivities!!! :)


9 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats February 25, 2014 at 8:59 am

New Orleans sounds like the perfect place for your first solo trip! I’ve only been once but it was probably the most fun weekend of my life. I met up there with my best friend while we were both in college. I think the real fun though came from the fact that we were only 20 and no one seemed to care!


10 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner February 25, 2014 at 9:32 am

Looks like so much fun! I have been making paneer (Indian cheese), which is pretty much the same process as ricotta. So easy and delicious!


11 Ali February 25, 2014 at 9:33 am

I’m currently in that waiting period to go on my own trip away from our child. He turns 1 next week and we are still breastfeeding. I’m not in any hurry, but when we are done breastfeeding, I plan to visit my sister in Minneapolis by myself. Glad you had a good trip!


12 Jackie February 25, 2014 at 9:55 am

What a fun trip! I really want to go to NOLA!


13 Janet February 25, 2014 at 10:12 am

So fun! My sister in law lives around the corner from Columns, and that was where we started my birthday celebration recently. So cool to see pictures of you in a familiar neighborhood :) I’m glad to know there are family friendly mardi gras celebrations, we may go this weekend.


14 KathEats February 25, 2014 at 10:49 am

What Street! ? So does Andrew


15 Heidi February 25, 2014 at 10:17 am

You are absolutely right Kath about ricotta. I made all types of cheeses growing up (from goat’s milk) and ricotta is the easiest. You took me back to my childhood. 😀


16 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh February 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

Wow, you did pack a lot in! Looks like you had a great time and good for you for not havin’ to flash the goods to get some beads. 😉


17 Julie Rosene February 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

So much fun and good food packed into a day! Mazen’s hugs must have been extra sweet when you got home!


18 Sara February 25, 2014 at 10:50 am

You were in my in-laws’ neighborhood! I wondered why everything looked so familiar. :)


19 Jesse February 25, 2014 at 10:51 am

kath, i’m starving again and i just ate breakfast! what a delicious spread of food on a fun adventure:)


20 Janet Newhall February 25, 2014 at 11:01 am

Kath, they live on Marengo, which is two blocks West.


21 KathEats February 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Andrew is off of Peniston – most hilarious street name ever!


22 Lynn @ the actor's diet February 25, 2014 at 11:07 am

As far as I’m concerned that’s the way to do Mardi Gras – quick!!!


23 Jenna February 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Too funny! I went to Tulane and a good friend of mine is the owner of Baru! So glad you got to go there, it’s amazing! This post made me so homesick for NOLA! Hope you had a taste of king cake being down there during carnival season! 😉


24 KathEats February 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Awesome!! Our dinner was excellent


25 Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog February 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm

What a fun experience! I’d love to go to NOLA for Mardi Gras sometime. The lactose-free meals sound delicious. It’s nice to know hard cheeses have less lactose in them. Never knew that!


26 Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} February 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm

What a great first trip! The food and entertainment looked so great! I am a huge NOLA fan so I am glad you had a great time!


27 Jess February 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm

What a fun trip! I’ve never been to NOLA but would love to go sometime. That event looks great too! I love hands-on continuing ed activities :)


28 [email protected] February 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm

I was just there for the Marathon and I loved New Orleans! Would love to check out the family friendly version of mardi gras!


29 [email protected] February 25, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Sometimes we just need one of those nights!!! The tapas looks sensational!!!


30 Natasha February 25, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Glad you had a great time here in NOLA and even better you stayed away from the Quarter. As my kids say, it smells like a diaper in that part of town.


31 KathEats February 25, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Last time we were there we stayed in the French Quarter and I went for a run in the morning – talk about gross smells to inhale while you run!!


32 Maria February 25, 2014 at 3:17 pm

This post makes me so nostalgic! I just moved away from New Orleans last may. I miss it terribly! The Columns was easily one of my favorite hangouts too, so great choice there. And it’s so nice to see visitors getting out of the French Quarter and exploring the garden district/uptown a bit. Glad you enjoyed your trip!


33 Duffy February 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Ok – so I have family members who are seriously lactose intolerant, and they won’t eat these things unless they have medication on them. So I’m interested in when you say “most of the lactose drains out” or “low-ish in lactose” whether that means that a lactose intolerant person could eat them without having issues. It just seems weird that they would cook with actual milk – it’s like saying “This is a vegetarian cooking demonstration that just uses a little bit of meat,” you know? It seems confusing unless it’s perfectly fine for them to eat.


34 KathEats February 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Lactose intolerance varies greatly from person to person so I’m guessing your family members are very sensitive. Others who are more moderately intolerant can do cheese or yogurt but not milk or ice cream. They didn’t cook with actual milk in our demos – only Lactaid and then other dairy foods with low lactose.


35 Micki February 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I’m one of those people with an actual lactose and whey allergy, so lactaid isn’t an option :(

Above, though, you say “Lactaid is just like regular milk with lactase added to break down the lactose, and while it’s a little bit more expensive, it’s still just milk” but here you say it isn’t milk. I guess I’m wondering why dairy alternatives like nut milk wasn’t discussed as an option. Obviously it’s the dairy council. I would think they would at least talk about the alternatives and why their options are different/better.


36 KathEats February 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm

It is milk – but it’s altered milk so it doesn’t have the lactose anymore. The point of our cooking class was to talk about low-lactose or lactose-free dairy, so we didn’t have the time or agenda to discuss alternatives, but of course there are many of those.


37 Jillian February 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I’m kind of cracking up, because I had never looked at Lactaid before- I assumed it was a drug because people refer to it like it’s something special. Lactase is just an enzyme- you can buy it on it’s own from health food stores (without additives like sucralose/ aspartame, although hopefully they don’t put that in the capsules, too), and it’s included in most digestive enzyme formulas.


38 KathEats February 27, 2014 at 8:14 am

I’m not sure what you mean about the sucralose and aspartame – the Lactaid milk doesn’t have those (unless you’re buying a flavored kind?), but the supplement is also a good option for folks.


39 Jillian February 28, 2014 at 11:17 pm

They’re in the chewable supplements- regular and ultra, respectively.


40 Allison February 28, 2014 at 1:20 am

Would you consider altered milk to be “real food?”


41 KathEats February 28, 2014 at 7:02 am

In this case yes. It’s just adding an enzyme. It’s not as pure as the original but I don’t have a problem with lactase.


42 Lisa @bitesforbabies February 25, 2014 at 3:36 pm

What a memorable experience…and ALL that food looks AMAZING!!!


43 Jessica February 25, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Fast trip! Glad you had fun.


44 Megan February 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

All of that food looks amazing. I love arepas! I’ve never been to New Orleans during Mardi gras. Looks like a good time!


45 Donna February 25, 2014 at 5:36 pm

You go to Nawlins during Mardi Gras and have no Cajun food??!? What a shame!


46 KathEats February 25, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I only had one meal out to choose from! We actually had plans to go to a more hole-in-the-wall spot after for some rice and beans, but our tapas were way more filling than we imagined. Next time!


47 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs February 25, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Sounds like a great weekend! All of the food photos look delicious!


48 Lauren February 25, 2014 at 8:59 pm

What a fun trip, and all of your food looks amazing! I went to NOLA for the first time a little over a year ago and absolutely loved it. The beautiful historic building were my favorite!!


49 Katy February 25, 2014 at 9:19 pm

WOW! What a great trip! I am actually going to New Orleans in April and I cannot wait to explore the culinary culture! Can’t imagine how crazy Mardi Gras is, but I hope to experience it some day!


50 Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves February 25, 2014 at 9:24 pm

How fun! The eats and experiences look absolutely fabulous. Those brussels sprouts do look pretty darn delicious! And Mardi Gras is always fun :)


51 Danielle Hughes February 26, 2014 at 5:18 am

Oh WOW! How awesome. I love the photos and the FOOD!!! I hope I get to go one day and see for myself. I wish…I wish… hehe


52 Caroline Combs February 26, 2014 at 5:52 am

I know people who live not far from the French Quarter and they invited me (open ended invite, YAY!) to come over the pond whenever I want. I think I will time my visit to coincide with Mardi Gras. Looks awesome!


53 Claire February 26, 2014 at 11:45 am

Have you considered doing a post on lactose intolerance and different food and supplementation options? I’d love to learn more about what you learned at the conference!


54 Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit February 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

What a fun day away! Perfect way to get in some work with play! :) Mardi Gras is on my bucket list. :)


55 Stacy @ Every Little Thing February 27, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Great band to see in NOLA! They are always a fun time.


56 jeri February 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

What’s the deal with dairy? I’ve seen people say dairy isn’t actually good for calcium and bones. I get so lost in what this diet does and that diet does. I know I am lactose intolerant and that’s why I drink almond/coconut milk. Well rather drink it with cereal. But I love cheese. I know sliced cheese is processed and I need to stay away from that. But other than that, again, what’s up with dairy? Thanks


57 KathEats February 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great nutrient-dense food!


58 Bridget Swinney March 3, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Hi Kath,

It was great to meet you in NOLA and share the day of wonderful recipes. Glad you had fun at Mardi Gras on Saturday! Love the blog!


59 KathEats March 4, 2014 at 6:57 am

Thanks for stopping by Bridget!


60 sally mae March 14, 2014 at 9:01 pm

I am so glad I spotted this post! I am leaving my 27 month old for the first time on Sunday…except I am going on a yoga retreat in Mexico for a whole week! I am excited and scared to death to leave. I know I’ll have so much fun and I desperately need some time to myself, but I can’t even fathom how much I am going to miss him. It was nice to read that another mom left home for a bit (even just a day!) to do something that is important to you. :)


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