As Grand as it gets

Juno was one to take everything pretty much in her stride…

Sending the love

Even when all around her were flirting with the madness of events…

Leprechauns huddle

When history is in the making (one pint at a time it would seem)…

History in the brewing

As the fans make their way to the Millennium Stadium for the Grand Slam decider for Wales with a strong Ireland team standing in their way…

And particularly as the pre-match fireworks light up the scene…

Pre match fireworks

Juno would be totally relaxed while all around are tense with the expectations and trepidations of the occasion…

Pre kick off [2]

But 80 minutes later, Juno would probably adopt a zen-like pose while all around react to the final score…

Yoda eyes down [2]

Final score

And we then wonder what all of the tension was about… wasn’t it a forgone conclusion?

The Grand Slam Champions

Until we speak again, it is also the end of an era, with only one message to be echoed around the streets of Cardiff

Premier League unplugged [16]

Perhaps being at the Cardiff City Stadium is a bit like watching Barcelona these days…

Until we speak again, it certainly was like watching Barcelona, as the final score was Cardiff City 2 West Ham United 0! Oh, and just for the record Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano

An eerily fabulous Sunday

If it’s something on the dark side that you are looking for, then try Plymouth in Cardiff! On a cool winter’s afternoon. What? Or, why, even?

Moon through trees

Take in a stroll around St. Fagan’s National Museum, but then, just up the hill a delight awaits the weary unsuspecting traveller… the Plymouth Arms

Glass pub name

Well, at least it saves you the gruesome prospect of having to plumb the sordid depths of Devon. With fire blazing, there is just one thing on our minds (no, that’s for later!)… a traditional Sunday Roast, with a hearty glass of something smooth and richly dark all the way from California, in the guise of Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon.

Roast sirloin of beef

Crunchy vegetables perfectly complementing the juicy roast beef and thick piping hot gravy…….. only one thing for it… another glass of the American falling over juice (though a few other varieties look tempting)…

Wine list

Until we speak again, Juno would surely have summoned up her English origins and ask us to suspend the surprise that something briefly so wonderful derives its name from English dockyards… or perhaps not!

Outside view

 

Premier League unplugged [15]

What happens when you mix a bunch of birds with an assortment of toffee?

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The home mascot, Bartley, may well be planning his own raid on someone’s toffees in the crowd…

Bartley at Everton match

Unfortunately, behind him on the pitch the Toffeemen of Everton FC were perpetrating their own raid on the poor unsuspecting Bluebirds.

Until we speak again, the home fans found themselves, not for the first time of late, caught up in the sticky stuff, as the final score read Cardiff City 0 Everton 3.

 

Steamroller malfunction

The England steamroller trundled into Cardiff this weekend intent on crushing Welsh ambition. But the Welsh demeanour was a mix of typically nonchalant ‘bring it on’ combined with a generosity towards the profits of Brains beers…

Stadium

City Arms

Meanwhile, others gathered to debate just how much guano would be deposited on the passions of the home nation…

However, in the real world, a tense hard fought match saw the steamroller stuttering in the wake of the sleek limo of the hosts…

Until we speak again, Juno had previously made a far more elegant journey from England to Wales, but always thought of rugby as more of a dogs game, what with all that predilection for hunkering down to sniff each other’s arses!

Scrum      1907_cats

Premier League unplugged [14]

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Well, she could have waited until after we played Watford FC (aka The Hornets)!

Here were the mighty Bluebirds, on the back of a two consecutive Premier League wins and a two week rest. Now ready to take on a good Watford FC team, but one that we need to be winning or at least drawing against, if that is, we have aspirations to be playing them again next season in the Premier League.

Until we speak again, all self-respecting Bluebirds fans should look away now… final score: Cardiff City 1 Watford 5 (yes… FIVE). I can still hear Juno purring with laughter at the thought of a bunch of birds being tormented and played with by a bunch of hornets.

Feast of New Orleans

Is it really 20 years since Jeff Bridges uttered the memorable words in his role as Jeff LebowskiThe Dude Abides! Well, I don’t know about you, but when in New Orleans your taste buds will be on a collision course for which that phrase is definitely the most apt response.

Lets start with a stroll along Dauphine Street calling into EAT for a dish to truly baffle the likes of Juno and BellaBlackened Catfish… a lightly crusty outer skin with soft meaty fish. Just add cups of gumbo, rice, and generous portions of gherkin and tomato to provide an introduction to the coming days of what is likely to be a culinary explosion.

Meanwhile, at Joey K’s over on Magazine Street I stumble across a NOLA staple of Red Beans and Rice. A slice of Andouille Sausage brings out some spicy flavour. Not exactly the best accompaniment to a full on Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, so my recommendation is to sample the free water with the food, and then gently sip the wine.

For an introduction to the definitive ‘Taste of the BayouThe Creole House on Canal Street offers a trio of cups to tantalise the taste buds, as the gastronomic Louisiana trilogy of Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya are presented for inspection. If you know what you want, dive in, but if you are unsure this option helps you decide what next to dive in to…

Strolling further along Canal Street why not try the Palace Cafe for a hint of Shrimp & Grits with a Creole Muniere, or maybe Turtle Soup followed by their signature dish of Crabmeat Cheesecake. The creole munière is a gravy with just the right level of spice to give an amazing dish extra oomph. As for the cheesecake… you have probably never tried anything like this before, and will then probably want to spend whatever it costs on returning to NOLA to check out what you just tasted! As for the poor turtles, well, you just have to when the opportunity arises… don’t you?

But, not everything here is about visiting restaurants. In between the dining establishments that provide great drinks there are, you guessed it, the drinking establishments providing amazing food. Try Vacherie on Toulouse Street, and while sitting at the bar sipping a range of local beers why not wrestle some Alligator Bites, Collard Greens, Bacon & Brussels Sprouts, oh, and a House Salad for balance…

And New Orleans may just have a welcome and forthright message for any youngsters dreaming of eating their usual fayre… take a hike Colonel Sanders! For the real taste of Fried Chicken check out the Treme based institution of Dooky Chase, particularly with a side order of Candied Yams (and that’s a Shrimp Creole that my friend is choosing, in case your concentration was drifting across the table!)…

Talking of Treme based institutions, a Shrimp Po-Boy slides down well, even with Tabasco Sauce, at Li’l Dizzy’s on Esplanade Avenue, but as a Brit I note that not even NOLA can hold a candle to our chips (that’s proper chips, not the fries nonsense inherited from somewhere in the basement of French cuisine)…

By now you are probably wondering how your health is coping with all of this gastronomic fabulousness. So, if it’s something a little lighter your looking for, but, being America no less enormous… try a salad or two, or more! Starting with the sumptuously named Satsuma Cafe on Maple Street the recommendation would be a boiled egg and avocado surrounded by the funky leaves of a Kale Salad washed down with a Beet Lemonade

Or, drop in to Luke on St Charles Avenue for Fried Oyster Salad accompanied by something distinctively fabulous that they do with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Then again, if it’s music you like with your salad, try BB Kings on Decatur Street. The Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken is a terrific accompaniment for the Blues, man!

BB King's Club Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken

Did you say fine dining? Bayona on Dauphine Street provides a more delicate option than the soulful sounds of a blues club; but, starting with a Fig Salad or Quail Salad, the need for a deeper wallet will be more than compensated for on the tantalised taste buds…

Ultimately, thinking about all of this food, Envie is a place you may well be contemplating at this stage. Well it exists on Decatur Street and provides just the right accompaniment to a start of the day large cappuccino and OJ in the form of an Asparagus and Prosciutto Omelette with a side Biscuit (US rather than UK style of biscuit, that is)…

Until we speak again, not all institutions are necessarily good! NOLA is just waiting to ensnare you with a distinctive plate of their trademark Beignet. An avalanche of sugar covering a doughy case to a gloopy mess; think doughnuts ramped up to warp factor 10, this is something Juno and Bella would definitely turn noses up at and simply walk away… you may be well advised to do likewise, but when in New Orleans sometimes you simply have too dive in and hope!

Alka-Seltzer anyone!?