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Football, Fútbol, Food: Saints vs. Bucs, Manchester United and a new CBD restaurant

Inside Willa Jean in the Central Business District Inside Willa Jean in the Central Business District
The most valuable soccer team in the world, Manchester United, sits in behind the Cowboys valued at $3.53 billion. The most valuable soccer team in the world, Manchester United, sits in behind the Cowboys valued at $3.53 billion.

Football: Saints vs. Bucs

As the Saints head into Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, this brings back a similar match up from 2009.  The Saints opened their season against the Detroit Lions as 13-point favorites.  With starting rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions were considered heavy underdogs.  Many, if not all, prognosticators expected an almost certain Saints victory in the Superdome curtain raiser.

NFL locker rooms try to avoid bulletin-board material during game week. Nobody wants to say the wrong thing and unwittingly ignite the other team for a perceived "dis." Unfortunately, Jeff Charleston didn't get that memo and shared a few words with the Times-Picayune.

"It's fresh meat," the defensive end said of Stafford. "It's his first real game. He's our opponent, and you still have to respect him, but we're going to come after him." 

The headline in the Times-Picayune on the following day was "Fresh Meat" -- A quote that wasn't well received by the rest in the facility. 

All the pregame excitement over the sound bite didn't energize Stafford on the field and his first career start proved to be less than outstanding. The Lions were crushed by the Saints 45-27 that year.

Six years later Sean Payton and the Saints are in the same situation. Tampa Bay brings in rookie quarterback Jamies Winston, and the Who Dats favored by double-digits. 

This time around, however, the Saints defense isn't going that route. Most players I spoke with said they're treating Winston like any other quarterback. It’s a good company line answer, but no doubt a smart one as well.

Fútbol: Manchester United

Forbes released its annual ranking of richest NFL teams this week. Topping the list was the Dallas Cowboys valued at $4 billion. 

The most valuable soccer team in the world, Manchester United, sits in behind the Cowboys valued at $3.53 billion. 

Manchester United, who plays in the English Premier League, is co-owned by brothers Avram and Joel Glazer. They also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their father Malcolm, who previously owned both, passed away last year. 

An interesting note on Avram: He and his wife live in New Orleans. Actually, they live in the same neighborhood as Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson. Glazer's wife, Jill, graduated from Tulane and now they call the Crescent City home.

Food: Willa Jean 

When a new restaurant opens in New Orleans, without fail my Instagram and Twitter feeds get flooded with pictures of dishes from the new spot. And the new "it" place this fall is Willa Jean.

Since the August 6 opening in the CBD, the bakery has been packed daily. Making reservations is a must, especially for weekend brunch and lunch during the week. I booked my brunch reservations five days out, and was rewarded greatly with a poached farm egg topped with blue crab and hollandaise. Kelly Fields, chef and part-owner with Lisa White, didn't expect success to come so quickly for this Besh Group venture. 

"You can always hope for it, and it's the best case scenario, but never a guarantee,” says Fields. “It's a dream come true for me. John and I have talked about this for over a decade. Every day I come in here, it's still unbelievable."

Another reason for Willa Jean's early ascendancy is its affiliation with John Besh. Anything he touches turns to gold. One recent example is opening Shaya with Domenica and Pizza Domenica partner Alon Shaya. The Israeli restaurant is already considered one of the top restaurants in New Orleans, and is quickly climbing the national ranks.

"Everybody in New Orleans knows his standard. He's not going to put out a bad product, and not allow us to put out something that doesn't reach his standard," said Fields.

A new "it" spot will open soon in New Orleans and the social media explosion will inevitably go along with it.  Meanwhile, the plan going forward for Fields is to keep Willa Jean customer-driven.

"Right now we're listening to our guests. Telling us by what they're ordering, when they're coming in, and what they're looking for,” says Fields. "We'll respond in a way that best suits them, and allow us to provide the experience that they want.”

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