New Orleans: Part Food

New Orleans. We’re back for the food and the drink. I’ll take your hand and lead you through the complex flavors of this gastronomic wonderland.

Let’s start on Decatur Street. The smells of freshly baked pralines float out the doorway of Southern Candymakers and spread into the humid air. A smell that cannot be contained. I promise you have never inhaled a better combination of butter and sugar in your entire life. Have a sample or buy a whole box. 

We now follow the curve of the majestic Mississippi River along Decatur Street until the Cafe du Monde appears like a beacon of green awning-ed glory. This establishment was started in 1862 and people still sit at one of the simple white tables complete with matching chairs squeezed wherever possible. Grab a table, the waitress will be over shortly. The menu is small and requires no additions. Order a café au lait and at least one order of beignets. These fried fritters are covered in powdered sugar and taste of luxury and exuberance. IMG_3025

Your sweet tooth temporarily filled, it’s time for true sustenance. Whether it’s late in the morning or early in the night, people are eating and drinking everywhere. Unable to choose where to eat next, let’s choose them all. Oceana, recommended by our cab driver, has a delicious assortment of creole dishes (despite its tourist appearance) and David the waiter gives us the signature bread pudding for free. After dinner #1, it’s time for seafood. The line outside Felix’s does not deter us and soon we are sampling a variety of delectable oysters. Take any and all recommendations. The waiter will not lead you astray and the gumbo is delicious. 
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IMG_2994Thirsty? As you move through Jackson Square, take a left at the cathedral. Sample the Pimm’s Cup at Tableau on the balcony before heading over to Napoleon House, the legendary home of this beverage. Ready for a change? Leave Chartres Street for the refined Roosevelt Hotel complete with chandeliers in the lobby and handsome men at (and behind) the bar. You absolutely must get a Sazarac. As night falls, join the hordes of happy drunken lovers on Bourbon Street and b-line it for Pat O’Brien’s, known for flaming fountains and infamous Hurricanes. Drink, dance and repeat before stumbling home to your hotel. —-

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Good morning! Upon waking up and taking a cold shower, make your way over to Mothers. You’ll be glad you did. The portions are huge, the eatery is cafe style and the ham is divine. Prefer white tables cloths for brunch instead? Try Antoine’s or Galatoire’s for an elegant way to start the day. Beware the waiter at Antoine’s with the shaky hands. He may just spill….

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One more district to explore before your eating/drinking tour is complete. Grab the streetcar out to the Garden District home to a number of celebrities including Sandra Bullock, John Goodman and the fictional man-turned-boy Benjamin Button. Walk the tree-lined streets and admire the Southern beauty curling around the pillars and peeking from behind the flowering magnolia trees. Don’t forget to grab a shrimp po’ boy at Parasol’s and a drink at The Columns before heading home. IMG_3014

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In tasting your first oyster and drinking your first Pimm’s Cup, the city makes sure you will return home happy and full, lacking in nothing except more time here.

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New Orleans: Part 1

Today marks almost one week to the day since I returned from New Orleans. This city dazzles in necklaces of gaudy indescribable beauty as a lady who sips Pimm’s Cups and watches the sudden rains wash Bourbon Street clean of guilt and grime. NOLA is a woman who has seen the world–the best and the worst of human nature–and her veins run thick with Southern history. She was the one American city I was dying to go and having met her, I wouldn’t say she was American at all, but a country and a force onto herself. 

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St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square

And so, it seems only natural that our small band of college friends would reunite, for the first time in exactly a year, to celebrate the joys of living in a city that cerebrates life itself. I don’t know if I will ever again experience a trip with friends that was so complete in all aspects of the journey, a trip so full I suffered from almost no moments of regret. Each day since I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what caused so much joy and the only thing I can see is New Orleans herself, the beautiful combination of people, music, food and culture all falling into place. 

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Street performers attracted crowds for daring juggling acts and magic shows. Restaurants with white table clothes and strict dress codes shared the same street as strip clubs with flashing neon lights and smiling girls. Live music shook and tickled the air: marching bands paraded on the street, lonely guitarists asked for tips, full jazz bands played late into the evening. Beer was cheap and people of all ages, shapes and sizes carried their filled plastic cups throughout the city looking for the next adventure. The locals talked to the bachelorette parties and the tourists found the local cafes. Anything seemed possible.P1060397

 I couldn’t stop marveling at the attention to detail. The musicians took such time in their riffs and their harmonies. Each house with a balcony had ironwork that deserved a photograph and a sigh. And the Mardi Gras floats. On our first morning we took a tour of Mardi Gras World and saw the floats that are designed, created, and decorated each year for the special celebration. We learned the history behind the crews, who gets to ride on the floats and how they get to stay up there so long (hidden bathrooms on board). The artists worked full time, all year round to get their creations ready for the debut. In a world of tradition, being the best seemed like destiny. P1060416

The weather was beautiful. Most days were hot and sticky but the temperature and humidity didn’t seem to bother anyone. Every day was a party no matter if the sun was shining or your face was slick with sweat. Just a couple minutes south, the Mississippi River wended slow, a muddy body of water that threatened the city like a sleeping snake. Our hotel on Royal St. was just a block east of Canal St. where the streetcar ran and one block south of Bourbon St. where the nightly debauchery would take place. It felt like we were at the center of a churning, boiling fabulous world. P1060440

I’ve only just sent the scene. And I haven’t even mentioned the food or the drink or the night I played a small tuba in a crowded bar. All to come. Just know that if you have not yet had the chance to visit New Orleans in the last week, it’s about time you go.