Food fanatic, IT professional, Cloud Computing Expert, Software Developer and Travel fan.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013 00:00

New Orleans - Day 5

Today may be a bit food oriented because well, we ate a couple of good meals and then spent time at a convention... That's what we did. Actually who am I kidding? All of my posts have to do with food.

I spent the morning getting ready for my presentation and so we decided to go to Mona's Cafe (Lebonese) for an early lunch then head over to the Hyat. We both had Gyro/Sharma sandwiches which were very nice. It's nice to have flavor in our food. 

With breakfast/lunch out of the way we made our way to the Hyatt for Linuxcon. Kris joined me to listen to Linus Torvalds speak and then disappeared until later to listen to me speak. The rest of the Linuxcon crew joined a parade from the Hyat to the House of Blues with floats and police blockades too. New Orleans will do anything for a parade. Kris and I considered going along but then decided that after spending 5 days in a crazy city we could use some solitude so we headed west. We ran into a benefit to help raise money for food at the Lafayette Square. From there we caught the St Charles Streetcar and intended on riding it to the very end - we were going uptown.

When we stayed in the Garden District we saw quite a few old houses on our self guided tour but I'd recommend anyone interested in the old mansions to board the St Charles Streetcar and ride it at least until it makes a sharp right turn and just hang their head out the window to view many many old houses. Our ride was interrupted at Napoleon Avenue due to work being done on the streetcar line so the transit company put us on a bus and we rode to the end of the line on Carrollton Street. We were headed to a restaurant called Boucherie which is a French/New Orleans fusion restaurant that gets great reviews. At this point we're fairly convinced that the local food has humble beginnings and doesn't end any better so we're packing it in and eating anything that tastes great. The Commander's Palace/Kpaul/Cochon type of restaurants make great food even if they're really not that southern.

We arrive at Bouchon and it's about a million degrees out and the humidity is high enough that fish are sprouting wings. The very nice but formal young man at Bouchon informs us that he could get us an outside table within the hour but inside was booked for the night. Um, thanks but we'll check around first before committing to eating in the depths of hell. On the way to Bouchon we passed another Lebanese place called Lebonon's Cafe which was very laid back and inviting so we went in.

We ordered Kibby which was very nice and set the stage for our meal. Kris had the Chicken Shwarma and I did combination Kebab which were both fantastic. The hummus... I must mention the hummus as it was fabulous. It seems like you can't mess up something like hummus but Lebonon's Cafe showed us that you can raise the bar and raise it they did. Very smooth and wonderful flavor. Another great non-New Orleans meal.

Having eaten way too much Lebanese food we chose to retrace the bus route with our feet until we could pick up our trolley again and we nearly made it before hopping a bus. A good day indeed.



Tuesday, 17 September 2013 00:00

New Orleans - Day 4

Due to spending a night attempting to sleep while Frenchmen Street music found it's way through our hotel window we got started a bit late. Even though the Rose Nicuad had a nice story we weren't exactly thrilled with the idea of eating another Egg McMuffin clone (but twice the price) so we went west down Decatur street to see what we could find. Cafe Envie had good reviews and they made sandwiches. I had a panini that was so hard you could barely eat it... Still looking for a great breakfast spot. 

We were also looking for a good lunch spot and New Orleans cuisine was starting to wear on us. Kris said no more Po'Boys or else. I was fine with that and was missing food with a good flavor punch so we went to Mona's Cafe, a Lebanese place near our hotel. For whatever reason Lebanese food seems to be a big hit in the big easy. Maybe because grits really aren't that good... Both of us had Shwarama sandwiches (think Gyro but with flavor) and loved them. It seems we will be getting more acquainted with Mona's in the future.

The conference was a bit slow so I spent most of my time just preparing for my presentation the next day. Kris went off to do some shopping for us. Our hotel had a swimming pool and my pants had no belt. She planned on taking care of both concerns on Canal street. Shopping took her clear out to Walmart on Magazine street and she was still unsuccessful. Apparently even though it's a million degrees here nobody seems to need a swim suit. She headed back toward the Central Business District and I started walking to Cochon Butcher- a restaurant that may just save southern cooking. The meetup was a bit more nerve racking than you'd expect because Kris got tired of waiting for the bus and decided to walk the mile or so to Cochon Butcher. A short way from Walmart the neighborhood started looking rough. In this day getting lost is pretty hard to do because most people have cell phones with GPS. That is if they don't have a dead battery. The last message I got from Kris was that she'd meet me there and then silence. I walked to Cochon Butcher and waited, then another message saying she had caught a bus anyway and was getting off at Magazine and Joseph street so I walked toward the bus stop a couple of blocks away and ran into her about halfway there. 

The Central Business District and the Warehouse districts are much more modern than the French Quarter or Garden District. The CBD was built mostly in the last 50 years and the Warehouse district about 50 years before then. Just visualize in your mind a lot of old brick warehouses built about 1900 and you'd be spot on. To be honest the Warehouse district looked a bit Seattlish but without the hills.

We arrived at Cochone Butcher (Pig Butcher). Oddly enough this is the backside of a much more formal restaurant called Cochone but it gets better reviews than it's more formal cousin. Cochone looked good but Yelpers raved about Cochone Butcher so we walked on by Cochone, turned the corner and ended up at a small lunch counter style eatery with a case of various sausages and cut meats in it. Cochone Butcher focuses on pork sandwiches and other types of sliced meat. I came here for a Cochone de Lait sandwich - one made from baby suckling pig. Cruel I know, but very tasty. Kris had a more northern BBQ pulled pork sandwich that was wonderful. If I lived in New Orleans I'd eat here regularly. Oh, and there wasn't any grits or seafood gumbo in sight.

From here we took the Riverfront Streetcar back to Frenchmen Street. We met a gal who was shaparoning 12 or so Chinese kids on a cultural exchange and talked a bit about Louisiana and the craziness of it all.

Early to bed so we can be early to rise. Tomorrow we really need to find a good breakfast place. There's one in Marigny by the name of The Ruby Slipper that's supposed to be good and not too far of a walk. 


Monday, 16 September 2013 00:00

New Orleans - Day 3

Day 3 - Frenchman street

New Orleans is divided into different districts and each have different character, for instance the French Quarter is known for lots of tourists and partying. The Garden District is known for grand old American mansions, the Treme is known for poor black folks, the Central Business District known for modern hotels and tall buildings and closer to the river the Warehouse district full of old 20th century warehouses turned restaurants and hotels. There are a lot more "suburbs" as they once were called. These would include Faubourg Lafayette, Faubourg Livaudis, Faubourg Marigny and many more. These Faubourgs used to be the suburbs to downtown New Orleans which at that point was only the French Quarter (curiously enough built by the Spanish). The Irish moved to the Irish Channel, the Germans moved to the German coast, the Americans moved to the Garden District etc... While in New Orleans we wanted to sample abit so we moved to Faubourg Marigny with it's famed Frenchmen Street known for having many live music venues.

I haven't mentioned how expensive hotels are in New Orleans. You'd be hard pressed to find a dive for under $100/night and a reasonable hotel (no cockroaches etc) will probably run you $120/night Sunday through Thursday. However, once the weekend comes that hotel price doubles to around $240/night. Staying in the Garden district over the weekend helped because the prices don't jump as high there. Our room a the Prytania park was fairly large with the bed in the loft, a living room, fridge and microwave. Our room at the Frenchmen hotel was just that -a room. It had space for a bed and a small ensuite bathroom. Don't get me wrong it was cute all painted in purple but it was small. We wanted it for it's location right ON Frenchmen street among the clubs. Other perks were it's small swimming pool in the courtyard where we could escape from the heat. However on the day we arrived the office door was blocked due to some repainting so we had to walk through the parking structure, climb some stairs and find our way to the back door. The stairs to our room were also blocked so we had to go around back to climb stairs to the upper outdoor walkway. No big deal really but then the electricity didn't work either. This is $150 a night folks.

We ate breakfast at the Cafe Rose Nicuad (not the restaurant pictured in the Marigny gallery below) down the street which was named after Rose Nicuad the first coffee seller in New Orleans in the early 1800s. At the time she was a slave and sold coffee in the French Market to the French people from a cart. Later she earned enough money to buy her own freedom which was allowed then. Cafe Rose Nicuad had many kinds of eggs, a few wraps and coffee. It wasn't fancy but it got us by. Since it was the first day of the conference we headed that direction on the Cable cars and found that the line that goes from the French Market all the way to the Hyat Regency only ran on the weekend. For the rest of the week you have to take the Riverfront Streetcar to Canal street, walk a block and catch the RIGHT streetcar from there to the Hyat Regency. If you catch the wrong one you'll end up at the City Park. The transfer from the Riverfront Streetcar to the right Canal Street streetcar ended up taking 30 minutes which defeats the purpose of doing it since I can walk from Canal Street to Frenchmen street in 30 minutes.

New Orleans relies a lot on their street cars and they seem to be an important part of their transit system. To be clear New Orleans has the longest continually running street car in America. When the St. Charles line started in 1833 it had to be pulled by horses and later was powered by steam engines. The other street car lines (Riverfront and Canal Street) have modern air conditioned street cars that are quiet and have electronic controls. However, the one I enjoyed the most was the St. Charles streetcar which carries the most people and uses ancient streetcars. Due to not having air conditioning they drive around with all the windows open including the drivers windshield. The driver operates several levers that we decided were for acceleration and brakes but it seemed to be more of an art to drive than a science. He was constantly pumping on one lever, rotating another etc. just to keep it moving at the right speed. It was all great fun. Headways were about 7 minutes for the St. Charles line which were great. You really didn't have to wait very long before a streetcar came down the tracks. I will have to say the St Charles cars were very noisy though, enough so that it was difficult having a conversation when it was at full speed. Still it was my favorite though.

We got to the Hyat on the Canal Street streetcar and I checked in, picked up my many t-shirts and miscellaneous items to hang from my neck and went looking for lunch. The convention recommended the Whole Hog Barbecue in the next building and since we were in the south why not partake in the southern tradition of eating BBQ? We stood in a very cafeteria looking line reading about all the amazing awards the Whole Hog BBQ has earned and it all looked impressive. But there was no smokers in view and it all looked very.... corporate chain. The food was OK but there was a very strong flavor of liquid smoke in everything. Once we identified what was going on all we could taste was liquid smoke. Even when we walked by every day the smell of liquid smoke became overbearing.

We were slowly getting burned out by mediocre southern food so Kris started doing some research on where we could get some really good local food and decided we should meet at Coop's place on Decatur in the French Quarter. The locals raved about it so I headed there after my conference was over. I'd decided earlier that it was just easier to walk to Frenchmen street than make the trolley connection and as I proceeded toward the streetcar door I got stuck in a conversation about the very same thing with a couple of tourists from San Diego - Tony and Virginia. I think the two of them had already started drinking (as the sun had already come up and we were in New Orleans) and seemed a bit puzzled over the whole transfer to another streetcar option so I brought them with me on 1 mile walk toward Frenchman street. I honestly thought Frenchmen street was no more than half a mile but at about the half mile marker Virginia said she wasn't going to make it and Tony informed me he wasn't in that great of shape.  Virginia was a short, older woman and Tony a tall, older asian man. Funny couple they were. I started doing the Columbus thing and fudging the numbers of how much further it was until I ran into Kris on her way to Coop's place to meet me. It was good that I found her as my phone was dead and I'd forgotten the name of the restaurant. I sent Tony and Virginia on down the street two more blocks to Frenchmen to listen to music as Kris and I backtracked to Coop's place. 

Coop's place is one of those local establishments that has a line out the door and down the street. It's a little hole in the wall and everyone in line said it was worth the wait so we joined them. About 20 minutes later we got a seat in what turned out to be a dive bar so dark we couldn't read our menus without light from Kris's cell phone and the music was blaring at almost eardrum splitting levels. We ordered a mix of things - Seafood Gumbo, Rabbit and Sausage Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Red Beans and Rice and Cajun Fried Chicken. The Red Beans and Rice tasted just like it sounds - food to get you through the day but not exactly exciting and again it had some liquid smoke taste too it. I didn't like the Gumbo at all but Kris thought it was OK. Kris enjoyed the Jambalaya but my favorite was the Shrimp Creole as it had some kick to it. To me the Shrimp Creole was the only dish that I actually felt like eating though. The rest I ate and probably wouldn't go out of my way to get again. None of it was just that great. 

As we were eating Tony and Virginia showed up. Seems the club down the street didn't have anything interesting going on and one of the employees recommended they go to Coop's. As we left we wished them a good trip and headed to our hotel. It didn't take us long to decide the evening wasn't over since we were now in music central so back out we went into the night to find a club with great music. That club ended up being the BMC (Balcony Music Club) which also ended up being our favorite over the rest of the week. Not only did they have no cover charge but seemed to have the best music as well. The bar served up several beers on tap but oddly enough was attached to a second bar (the Patio Bar) which had no outside access but through the BMC. Why would you make a bar with no outside door? Anyway the Patio Bar had 150 different beers on tap and only 145 of them were "Urine Beers". You know the ones that look like Urine, smells like Urine and taste like Urine. Note to self, New Orlean's German population has been assimilated and the desire for a good hearty beer seems be extinct. However the remaining 5 non-urine beers looked OK so Kris got a double chocolate stout from the UK. It didn't taste like chocolate at all but was nice and creamy and deep. 

It was Smokey Greenwell's ( Monday night Blues Jam at the BMC so various musicians signed the sheet and as the night went on they were put into the band that was playing. Unexpectedly a bit later Tony and Virginia show up and joined us at our table. They danced, the musicians played, people drank - lather, rinse and repeat. It was a good night and we bid Tony and Virginia goodbye for the last time and returned to our hotel to sleep among the sounds of music all down the street. 






Sunday, 15 September 2013 00:00

New Orleans - Day 2

Day 2 - The Garden District

Before our plane even left the ground I read The Accidental City and half of The World that Made New Orleans to help prepare for this very historic city. The former book was very detailed and took a bit of effort to get through. The latter was very music oriented which was great due to New Orleans being very music oriented itself. I enjoyed both and I'm glad I read The Accidental City first as it gave me a lot of background for the second book. 

The history goes a little something like this. 


  • Some Spanish guy named after an old Chrysler car company lands in Florida in 1539 and immediately sets up a t-shirt shop 
  • He then proceeds to travel through the Carolinas and Georgia and accidentally starts a debate about how to bbq a wild pig. To this day the debate has never been settled.
  • Later he gets lost and much to the surprise of the locals "discovers" the Mississippi river
  • Then he promptly loses it again and spends the rest of his life looking (in all the wrong places since it hadn't moved an inch)
  • Fast forward 200 years when the French send out some Canadians to find the Mississippi river more than once which they succeed at
  • To celebrate the discovery they have a party with the natives where alcohol flowed, people danced around half naked and music was as loud as possible beginning a long New Orleans tradition
  • Upon discovering that hockey rinks don't stay frozen in the south they immediately abandoned the site. Had the French mentioned this fact the Mississippi may still be lost to this day.
  • Twenty years later one of the Canadians grants himself a great deal of worthless land along the river. Coincidentally he also decides to build New Orleans at the very same spot.
  • Forty-five years of floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, more floods, mosquitoes, forced emigration, the first ever stock crash and famine are broken up with a few days of less than 100% humidity.
  • France loses a war to the British and gives Louisiana to the Spanish just to piss the Brits off. The British don't yet know they are the fortunate ones.
  • Thirty-five more years of floods, hurricanes, more forced emigration and a few devastating fires with no days on record of less than 100% humidity.
  • The Spanish want a refund and give New Orleans back to the French. The French unload it on the Americans in a deal that's "too good to be true".
  • The Americans start the long tradition of trying to outdo the French and convince a bunch of guys to dress up as women and parade down a street. It becomes an immediate hit.
  • The Americans continue trying to outdo the French and build bigger, fancier houses then those in the French quarter. The Garden District is born.
  • Open container laws are struck from the books, alcohol starts to flow (and I mean flow. Down the walls, across the street and into the drainage) and the rest has been a blur ever since.


And that brings us back to the Garden District. As I mentioned earlier this is where the Americans built their fancy mansions. I knew the French quarter was pretty crazy so we rented a suite at the Prytania Park Hotel (not near any Prytania Park) in the Garden District (with no gardens) separated from the French quarter (built by the Spanish) to the west of Canal street (which was never a canal). Got that?

The homes are beautiful and Lafayette Cemetery was a kick as most Catholic cemeteries are. They say that Catholics deep down are real nice people so the Americans buried them above ground. Perhaps that's not the whole reason. Perhaps Spanish tradition and the water table have something to do with it as well.

One of the most interesting houses to me was Jefferson Davis' house. This is the guy who was the president of the Confederate states during the Civil war. I had no idea he had such a long military and political career before leading the rebel forces against the empire (or so it seems). He went to west point and fell in love with future president Zachary Taylor's daughter whom he resigned from the military for. They moved away immediately, got malaria and she died within 6 months of being married at the age of 21. Davis nearly died as well. He went on to marry a 17 year old girl when he was 34 and was elected to the House of Representatives. Later he gathered together a militia to fight in the Mexican American war. He was offered the spot of Brigadier General which he refused because he believed the States should appoint militia officers. He is then elected a senator, then secretary of war, then senator again before he gave a speech against the south seceding. Soon after he was elected to be the confederate president. After the war he elected to the senate again but was barred due to his history. I don't remember spending that much time on him in history class.

The heat in New Orleans was unbearable and the humidity more so. We were hungry so we attempted to go to the Commander's Palace which turned us away due to my sandals having open toes and me not wearing pants. For the record I WAS wearing something, just not pants. We decided to return at a later time wearing the proper attire.

After the previous nights mediocre run-in with Po'boys we decided to try a place known for them. In 1949 a restaurant called Tracey's came into being. It was an Irish pub in the Irish channel which is in the Garden district. The Irish Channel was so named due to the large immigration of Irish at one point. A few years after Tracey's was founded they changed their name to Parasols. Later the owner wanted to sell and the manager wanted to buy but he was outbid by someone from Florida (everyone gasp at the same time now). So the manager moved a few doors down and re-opened as Tracey's again and continued making the same Po'boys they'd been making for 60 years. If these guys can't make one who can? 

I ordered Boudin Balls a softshell crab Poboy and a Catfish Poboy. The Boudin Balls  - a sausage ball rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried, were very nice (Kris loved them) and the Poboys were pretty meh. There wasn't anything wrong with them but they're really just a sandwich. I'm sure I'll offend a few people but it's bread, lettuce, tomato and meat and none of it's very exciting. You can swap out the meat with crab or catfish and it's still just a sandwich without a whole lot of flavor. They reminded me of Subway but the bread wasn't as bad. I can see that the roast beef Poboy is the one to get but even then...

After wandering until we were overheated again we stepped into Still Perkin' a coffee shop in an old converted Skating Rink. The one thing I've noticed is the air conditioning runs full blast around here which is much appreciated. We've also noticed that not a lot of coffee gets sold in coffee shops here. That is hot coffee like at home. People don't seen to eat a lot of ice cream though even with the temperature what it is. This is very curious. 

As we were done with this section of the Garden District we returned to the hotel and cooled down. Since we've now had three mediocre meals we decided to go straight to the top - Commanders Palace. If $100 a meal doesn't buy you good food them nothing will (spoiler alert: it does). 

The Commander's Palace gets fabulous reviews on yelp and is very formal. To be honest I love great food but I'm not a very formal person but I can get cleaned up with a little effort. We were greeted by about 9 servers, one of which remembered us from earlier in the day. We were seated my our server who looked like she hadn't smiled in quite some time. It was clear she was not there for small talk. When they served the table ALL people were served at the very same time by an entire team. It was like the dishes fell from the air. The menu is arranged like a French restaurant with appetizer, main coarse and dessert all included. Even with the included appetizer I just had to order Foie Gras. New Orleans chefs are kind of funny as they try really hard to make their food southern even when it makes no sense. Case in point - under my very nice Foie Gras was a biscuit. Yes, a biscuit that did it's best to detract from the nice flavor of the Foie Gras. Next to it was another small piece of Foie Gras... wait for it... with grits hidden under it. I'm fairly certain the grits didn't contribute any more to the meal than the bisquit. Kris and I ate the Foie Gras off of both. Kris ordered Turtle Soup which was very nice although it would probably taste exactly the same if they'd used any dark meat as you couldn't identify the turtle if your life depended on it. I had the Gumbo which I was not very impressed with. Perhaps it's just their rendition of gumbo that I didn't like. For main course I had a praline crusted quail that was excellent. Kris had the Mahi Mahi which was pretty good. For dessert she did Creme Brulee and I had Bread Pudding with a rum sauce. The Bread pudding looked like a puff pastry in a soup bowl. Our server poked a hole in the poofed up part and drizzled the rum sauce into it. I liked it a lot. Finally a good meal in New Orleans. 

This begs the question - was this fabulous meal southern? I'd say not. Outside of a few hints like grits under my Foie Gras and using Turtle in the soup it wasn't very southern but it was good so we went to bed happy. I was however, still in search of this wonderful New Orleans cuisine I'd heard so much about.








Sunday, 15 September 2013 00:00

New Orleans - Day 1

I'd been selected to speak at THE major Linux convention (Linuxcon) in New Orleans in September. I've traveled a lot as most of my readers know but for whatever reason I've never been to New Orleans. I've always wanted to go but whenever I board an airplane it's usually going overseas but now I had an excuse. To prepare I started to research a city that was part of the French empire for 45 years then part of the Spanish empire for 35 years while being briefly handed back to France before being sold to the very new United States. In addition to that it had a large immigration of German and Irish people that at one point made up 15% of the population. There were the Acadians that came from Nova Scotia after France lost Canada to the British. Those folks later became the Cajuns. The largest influence came from Africa - initially from Senegambia and then later Congo by way of Cuba and Saint Domingue (Haiti). When Haiti became the second country in the new world to gain it's independence (after the U.S.) the large French population fled to New Orleans resulting in a surge in the French culture. This time though it was a very Caribbean influenced French culture.

Take all of this plus 200 years of American culture, put it in a large pot to simmer and call it Gumbo. As you also know I'm a big foodie so I'll be discussing at length the culinary options in New Orleans as it's quite famous for it's cuisine.

I wanted to take Kris to New Orleans with me and I also wanted us to have airplane seats together. As there were no longer any adjacent seats on any reasonably priced flight we figured we'd take a chance on Southwest because at least we could make a mad dash for a couple of seats. Southwest as you may know doesn't have any seat reservation system and they're really not a budget option any longer and after going through the boarding process I wonder why they're even in business. You can weight the seat selection process by paying extra money but depending on the order paid you may end up in exactly the same category you were in previously. So there we were standing in our respective sections of our respective lines hoping that by the time we got on the plane there'd be two seats together... there wasn't. I grabbed a seat beside a 6'4" Texan who apparently thought he was carrying a couple of 14 lb bowling balls between his legs because he had to have them splayed so wide I put both of my knees in the aisle side saddle style. Later I realized he really didn't like touching another man either so every time my leg got close to his he'd move his over a bit so we weren't touching. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually I got the space I'd paid for and he was riding side saddle on his wife's seat. Kris sat behind me in the middle seat. I felt sorry for her the minute I saw where she was going to be sitting. These two very nice people occupying the window and aisle seats loved each other very much but they couldn't sit next to each other due to a small physics problem. The problem was they were physically too big. The seat between them was the buffer zone which amounted to a small strip of stagnant air and not much more. Kris nestled in like a thong between two very abundant butt cheeks and off we went.

Before we landed in New Orleans the pilot made an announcement that we had arrived in "New Orleans" to which some lady in the back replied "You'd think that as many times as he's flown here he'd know how to pronounce Nawlins". Perhaps he pronounces it that way because he's literate. Perhaps.

We exited the airport and walked into what felt like a very damp wool blanket that just came from the dryer. There you are humidity.... Our taxi driver was from <insert some country east of the east of the prime meridian and south of the Mediterranean> and careened around every car on the freeway. He got up to 80 mph at one point (in a 60mph zone) but we still managed to survive and arrived at Prytania Park Hotel in the Garden District near 10 pm. we planned on staying in the Garden District to get a feel for it then move to Frenchmen Street later in the week to be closer to some music and street life. We did NOT stay in the French Quarter due to the guidebooks saying it's crazy (and often repulsive, looking at you Bourbon street) and the price of hotels tripling during the weekend.

We got a suite at the Prytania Park Hotel which amounted to a loft with a very tight spiral staircase leading to our bed. Below we had a microwave and refrigerator, couch, desk and bathroom. For the price it was very nice. Most importantly it had air conditioning that ran 24/7. Coming from a green city it seemed a bit foreign to see someone run their air conditioning all day even when they weren't home but everyone did it. That and they didn't recycle which at this point I'd assumed everyone had started doing.

Being famished we asked the front desk lady where to eat. She said there's a good Japanese place a block over on St Charles street. Japanese? I came to New Orleans to have great southern food! We walked to St Charles street and asked a security guard and he again recommended the Japanese place and reiterated that it was good food. Still on a mission we went down the street to the St Charles Pub to eat some real local food. Kris got the Muffaletta (a very large round sandwich with sliced meat on it) because the people on the plane raved about them and they had been locals. I ordered the roast beef Poboy because EVERYONE that I'd met previous to flying told me to have one. The Muffaletta was comprised of mostly bread with a small amount of sliced meat. In a word, it was boring. The Poboy was a bit better but tasted strangely like a Subway sandwich with roast beef on it in a dark gravy. The gravy was pretty good but overall I was not impressed. There were no "OMG!" moments or even any "This is a damn fine sandwich" moments. It was just OK. I decided to reserve judgment until I'd tried the best Poboy places in town.

We were thankful to have air conditioning in the pub even though the local men were decked out in zoot suits with hats and everything. They didn't seem to mind the heat or the humidity. We slept great in our loft in our cute little hotel.

Note: This is not totally automated yet. I need to fix several things.

Install Type

  • Non-interactive
  • Network boot
  • Commandline
  • Paravirtualized


  • XCP/Xenserver
  • Access to Internet
  • Working DHCP server
  • Working DNS name resolution


In this tutorial I create a disk, download a kernel, preseed file and install Debian Wheezy using the preseed file. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using an install disk. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a Ubuntu mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.


 Note: This tutorial is designed so you can copy and paste the text inside the boxes. I don't actually type any of this in and neither should you.


1. Getting the network info

This line gets the Network UUID for xenbr0. If you're using a different bridge you will want to insert it here. Get a list of XCP networks with xe network-list. This network is connected to the outside interface. This tutorial requires there to be a DHCP server on this network answering requests and providing network access to the Internet.

NETUUID=$(xe network-list bridge=xenbr0 --minimal)

2. Creating the VM and setting parameters

Here we create a new template from the Debian Squeeze template. Then we create the VM from the new Debian template, create a network interface and add it to our network from step one. Additional settings are for configuring the install repository and specifying thepreseed file from my site. The last setting turns off VNC so we can watch the install via a text console (very important in my environment).  Even if you can't see all the text below just highlight and paste. The text is there even if it's not visible.


TMPLUUID=$(xe template-list | grep -B1 'name-label.*Debian.*Squeeze.*64-bit' | awk -F: '/uuid/{print $2}'| tr -d " ")
VMUUID=$(xe vm-install new-name-label="Debian Wheezy" template=${TMPLUUID}) 
xe vif-create vm-uuid=${VMUUID} network-uuid=${NETUUID} mac=random device=0
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config-install-repository=
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:debian-release=wheezy
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:install-methods=http,cdrom,ftp,nfs
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} PV-args="netcfg/get_hostname=Wheezy debian-installer/locale=en_US console-keymaps-at/keymap=us console-setup/layoutcode=us console-setup/ask_detect=false interface=eth0 netcfg/disable_dhcp=false preseed/url= console=hvc0"
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:disable_pv_vnc=1

3. Starting the VM and watching the install

The VM installs without any interaction from the user at this point. It is however, nice to watch it using xenconsole. Once it's done installing it will shutdown.

If you're using XCP 1.0/1.1

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID
DOMID=$(xe vm-list uuid=${VMUUID} params=dom-id --minimal)
/usr/lib/xen/bin/xenconsole ${DOMID}

If you're using XCP 1.5b/1.6

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID ; xe console uuid=$VMUUID

4. Starting the VM and configuring settings

We need to boot the VM up again and using xenconsole log in to reset the finish configuration.

If you're using XCP 1.0/1.1

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID
DOMID=$(xe vm-list uuid=${VMUUID} params=dom-id --minimal)
/usr/lib/xen/bin/xenconsole ${DOMID}

If you're using XCP 1.5b/1.6

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID
xe console uuid=$VMUUID

Now that your Debian Wheezy VM is running you can login. The password was automatically set by the preseed file.

  • Username: debian
  • Password: password

Reset the ubuntu users password.  If you want to keep the IP assignment dynamic note the ip address.

5. Shutting down the VM and re-enabling VNC

If you're going to use XVP or some other method of connecting to the VMs direct VNC connection you'll need to enable it.

xe vm-shutdown uuid=$VMUUID
xe vm-param-remove uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:disable_pv_vnc
xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID

7. Export our VM for safe keeping

Before you start modifying the base Debian Wheezy image you should back it up.

xe vm-export uuid=$VMUUID filename=DebianWheezy-base.xva

Be aware that you may not have enough space on the Control Domain's disk to export it. A good solution (and shorter than explaining how to add disks to the control domain) is to mount an nfs volume and export it there.

mount nfsserver:/share /media/share
xe vm-export uuid=$VMUUID filename=/media/share/DebianWheezy-base.xva

This would mount the NFS share on nfsserver to /media/share. The exported disk would be saved on the NFS share.


Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:56

Fesenjan - a Persian favorite

Recipe originally posted on

I love rich food and I've come to love the mix of a rich sauce with meat over rice. You get this a lot with Thai curries, Indian Curries, Persian Korescht, and Afghan Quormas. This seems to be a very good format and economical too. Spices cost a lot but you don't need many and rice is cheap. Add meat of some sort and you have a great meal for a decent price. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that we have very limited selection of Persian restaurants and even when you do find one it's probably overpriced and low on quality. When I'm in Orange County I always eat at the Caspian Restaurant in Irvine not only for the environment but for the Fesanjoon. 


Fesenjoon (slang for Khoresht-e Fesenjan) is a "stew" made up of a sauce from walnuts and pomegranate syrup/juice. It's wonderfully tart and deep. You add chicken and serve over Basmati rice. Not everyone likes it but it's one of my favorite things to eat.


 I've eaten Fesenjoon at many restaurants and tried making it on many occasions. I've been somewhat successful but my Fesenjoon doesn't taste like the Caspians which is wonderfully smooth without being too sweet. Last week I ran across, a site run by man determined to bring Persian culture to the masses. What brought me to his site was a three part series on Fesenjoon. His cooking style is a bit loose so you have to pay close attention to what he's doing to get similar results. He also doesn't argue about what SHOULD be, it's your food make it how you like it. He seems to be intent on letting a few ingredients talk as apposed to having many ingredients fighting for attention - I agree with this philosophy. 


  1. 2.5 c of walnuts
  2. 1 c of water
  3. 2 c of pomegranate syrup or 1/4 c pomegranate molasses and 1/4 cup sugar*
  4. saffron 
  5. turmeric
  6. one onion diced
  7. 2 lbs of chicken thighs
  8. 2 cups of basmati rice
  9. salt 
  10. oil 



  1. For the sauce place a portion of the walnuts in the blender with a little water and blend. If they're too dry to blend add more water. Keep adding water and nuts until they're coursely ground. You don't want a smooth paste here or you won't taste walnuts.

  2. Once their ground place them in a pot on the stove and cook them on medium-high while stirring to keep from burning

  3. Add pomegranate syrup and sugar - see my note below and turn to medium-low and simmer for 1.5 hours minimum. The sauce will get darker the longer you simmer it

  4. Heat oil in saute pan until hot, add onion and saute until browned. Dark sauces want browned onions, not just golden

  5. Add perhaps a teaspoon of turmeric, then add chicken thighs, brown on both sides and set aside

  6. When the sauce has been simmering for 1.5 - 2 hrs add it to the chicken and simmer again for another 60 minutes. Turn the chicken over on occasion to baste in the sauce

  7. The oils from the walnuts will rise to the top (and be green colored like olive oil) and the chicken will get a bit of a crust from the sauce on it

  8. Let cool and put in the refrigerator - this is a second day dish

  9. The next day put the saute pan back on the heat and warm gently on medium-low for about an hour

  10. Serve over basmati rice


* Note on syrup vs molasses. I bought a large jar of pomegranate syrup made in Slovenia. This looks like a jar of cranberry juice but you can tell the liquid is definitely thicker. It was already sweetened with sugar and two cups seemed about right. Adding sugar made the sauce overly sweet. If you have pomegranate molasses (common) you'll want to put in 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar as well. Adjust flavors accordingly.

A lot of times Fesenjan cooked at home and sometimes in restaurants is pasty and/or so tart you can't eat it. The pastiness seems to be from people undercooking it. Don't get impatient and eat it too soon, you'll be sorry. This dish can be eaten same day but it's much nicer the next day.


A couple of things that seem to make a difference 

  1. Put the pomegranate syrup in with the walnuts from the beginning
  2. Don't grind the walnuts too fine so the sauce still has a walnut taste 
  3. Cook the sauce for a long time. It will get darker and richer as time goes on
  4. Add Pomegranate syrup/sugar according to your taste
  5. Don't get crazy with ingredients - you don't need cardemon, coriander or any of that other stuff.



Thursday, 18 April 2013 08:05

Why the GOP should support High Speed Rail

This article is a  response to and article written by David Salaverry,  the founder of the California Conservative Action Group. The article - California High Speed Rail: Part One, Arguments For posted on Fox and Hounds was an interesting slant on California's High Speed Rail project. We take it for granted that liberals will vote for HSR and conservatives won't. David takes a different tone and introduces a few reasons why the GOP should take a lead on building this infrastructure and I've taken it upon myself to add a few thoughts to his words.

Thank you for writing with this perspective David Salaverry.  I'm afraid that if the GOP doesn't start thinking about getting something done they may not be in office anymore. At some point people will see the GOP as the "No you can't have education, No you can't have infrastructure, No you can't have transportation, No you can't live here and work". If you say no to everyone no matter how good your intentions there won't be enough people to vote for you because you're completely ineffective at doing anything but shutting stuff down. The Democrats on the other hand may end up being the "Yes they spent a lot of money but at least some of their stuff worked". It's sad that "some of their stuff worked" would be considered a success but in comparison "none of their stuff worked because they didn't do anything" is a failure to do anything.

At one time in history the GOP was the anti-slavery, pro-American enterprise, pro-infrastructure party. Now they're the "you can't have money unless you're a defense contractor" party. This is a sad state for the GOP party and I think only when they start losing seats in congress will they think about addressing the real issues. You could make the argument that the Democrats aren't doing anything right too but that would be a different topic. Currently we're discussing the GOP and High Speed Rail.

The crazy thing about HSR is that it does work in most nations they build it in. Operating costs are cheaper per passenger mile (7-9 cents) than airlines (12-14 cents) and in those countries the HSR breaks even or even makes money (TGV makes $1.6B a year helping to offset local trains deficit).  I haven't quite figured out why the GOP is so against passenger rail because we're not exactly inventing something new and risky. I've come up some possible reasons. Most are arguments I've heard in forums.

  1. It costs money and spending ANY money is bad. This doesn't make sense because just upgrading the freeways and airports for the increased population for the next 30 years costs the same as the HSR as the cost analyses for California showed.
  2. Trains are old technology, planes are the way to go. This 1950's era thinking is old technology. HSR has proven to be the most efficient for trips from 100 - 500 miles. Just because these folks have never traveled beyond their local Walmart doesn't make it not so.
  3. Environmentalists push trains since they emit less Co2. Is there a negative to lowering Co2 that I don't know about? Even if global warming is a hoax making less pollution is generally considered a good thing.
  4. Putting everyone on public transportation is socialism and we don't want to be Russia. Airplanes are public transportation... we all ride together. With trains you ride in comfort.
  5. We don't like the idea that the government would own the infrastructure instead of private enterprise. Two words - Freeways and Airports. Both are owned by the state and both work wonderfully for their intended purpose.
  6. Liberals like trains and we can't support them. This is how you get nothing done in Congress. At some point people will have had enough and stop electing you. Try to agree on something once in a while. Your career may depend on it.
  7. Only rich people could afford to ride it. Like airplanes and cars. Driving your car one mile costs 55 cents. Only a fool thinks their car costs the price of gas. Everyone has to do maintenance, pay for insurance, tires, depreciation etc... The more you drive it the less your car is worth and the closer you get to having to buy a new one. Driving 500 miles (HSR's maximum) will cost you $250 whereas the train would cost you half that. Even planes are cheaper than driving at that distance. Save your car for driving short distances where it's the best mode of transportation.
  8. It won't go where I want. Trains go between cities and I'm a conservative so I live in the country. This is actually a VALID reason which is why you should be in the planning process. Trains have the ability to stop in smaller towns whereas planes don't. HSR could have an advantage if you live in the country.
  9. I don't want my tax money going toward something I'll never use. Currently about 30% of freeways are paid for directly by people who use them by way of gas tax. The rest comes from taxes collected from people who will never use that freeway. Currently Amtrak's dilapidated network of 70s era trains have an average farebox recovery (ticket sales) of 55% or nearly double that of freeways. Amtrak relies less per passenger on subsidies than freeways. HSR if done right will break even as it does in most countries thus having a lower burden on taxpayers not using it.
  10. I'm all for private companies like airlines providing my transportation, not government inefficienciesIf you think those private enterprises are surviving because they're more efficient you may surprised to learn they're heavily reliant on subsidies.  Airports are run by the government as is the FAA, and the TSA. Most every flight is subsidized to keep the airlines solvent. The subsidy varies depending on which airports the flights use and how popular it is. The average flight out of LAX is only subsidized $9. However, a direct flight from Spokane WA to Irvine CA is subsidized roughly $200. 

I'm sure there are other arguments but I haven't thought of them yet. Comments?

Monday, 08 April 2013 09:33

Install XenWebManager on XCP host

 This tutorial is for installing XenWebManager on an XCP host but should work just as well for installing XenWebManager on any Redhat based hosts (CentOS/Fedora).

It's best to install XenWebManager on another machine or even a VM for security reasons but I could see installing it on a host for simplicity's sake.

You will need to be root in order to follow the instructions below.


1. Download and install the packages


cd ~
tar -xzvpf xenwebmanager_beta_full.tar.gz 
cd xenwebmanager/tools


2. Run XenWebManager

Run xenwebmanager service. The install script above already configures it to auto-start on XCP host bootup. To turn auto-start off - chkconfig xenwebmanager off...

service xenwebmanager start


3. Allow port 8080 through the firewall

iptables -A RH-Firewall-1-INPUT -p tcp --dport 8080 -j ACCEPT
service iptables save
service iptables restart


4. Connect to the XCP Host

Open a web browser and connect to your XCP Host's IP address on port 8080. My host's IP is so I would type into my web browser Address bar. 





















5. Configure xenwebmanager to manage your XCP pool

Once you've connected to XenWebManager  you need to add your server. Click on the "Add Server" button in the top left hand corner and enter your XCP poolmaster's Hostname, Username and Password.


Monday, 08 April 2013 00:51

Install XenWebManager Appliance

Possibly the easiest way to get a graphical management interface running on XCP is to use the Xen Web Manager Appliance. The appliance is a complete Virtual Machine with XenWebManager installed and ready to run. 

These commands should be typed into your XCP cloud host.


1. Download and import the appliance 

This is a very long URL from Sourceforge but it does work if you copy and paste it.

cd ~
wget gunzip xenwebmanager.xva.gz xe vm-import filename=xenwebmanager.xva



2. Verify the appliance and start it 

[root@testcloud1 ~]# xe vm-list name-label=xenwebmanager
uuid ( RO)           : 70f63ce4-b775-22c6-a556-a03a7bea6220
     name-label ( RW): xenwebmanager
    power-state ( RO): halted

[root@testcloud1 ~]# xe vm-start name-label=xenwebmanager


3. Get the IP address of the appliance

Opening a console on the VM is done differently on XCP 1.0/1.1 then it is on XCP 1.5/1.6. Copy and paste these instructions.

On XCP 1.0/1.1 

DOMID=$(xe vm-list name-label=xenwebmanager params=dom-id)
/usr/lib/xen/bin/xenconsole $DOMID


On XCP 1.5/1.6

xe console vm=xenwebmanager


Log with the following credentials

Username: root
Password: xenwebmanager


Get appliance IP address

Once we've logged into our Appliance get the IP address using the ifconfig command.

[root@xenwebmanager ~]# ifconfig
eth0      Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr B2:5C:69:8C:22:1E  
          inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
          inet6 addr: fe80::b05c:69ff:fe8c:221e/64 Scope:Link
          RX packets:2377 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:42 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000 
          RX bytes:273930 (267.5 KiB)  TX bytes:7146 (6.9 KiB)

My appliance IP address is  Exit the console by pressing the Control Key and the right square bracket - control ]


4. Connect to the appliance

Open a web browser and connect to your appliance IP address on port 8080. My appliance IP is so I would type into my web browser Address bar. 





















5. Configure xenwebmanager to manage your XCP pool

Once you've connected to your xenwebmanager appliance you need to add your server. Click on the "Add Server" button in the top left hand corner and enter your XCP poolmaster's Hostname, Username and Password.