Friday, February 03, 2006

Bleary-Eyed Dusk in New Orleans

I've had New Orleans on my mind recently and after reading a recipe for Banana's Foster on a favorite blog the other day, I thought I would go ahead and write about the hub's and my trip there last year around this time. We had the absolute best time, of course. Who goes to New Orleans and has a bad time? I'm saddened to think about the destruction of Katrina. I'm hoping that it will come back even better than before. We'll have to plan a trip there this year, if for nothing else but to help the economy. Perhaps a weekend jaunt while we're in Alabama during Spring Break is in order.

I had visited New Orleans many years ago with my family when I was about 11. Each summer, we would pack up the car and head South from DC. Our first stop was always to see my mom's side of the family in West Georgia including Aunt Mary and Aunt Nita. We would stay there for a couple of weeks between houses and then head further South to see Dad's side of the family in and around Dallas. For some reason, dad got a wim to go through New Orleans in route to Dallas. It was the first time he gave me his Minolta camera to take pictures all summer long. The novice I was, I loaded the film incorrectly and it didn't catch and wind--not one picture from New Orleans the summer of 1972.

I remember distinctly the Spanish moss growing on big oak trees, afternoon showers each day and the wonderful sounds of jazz filling the streets in the evening. During that time, there weren't the "girly" shows in every other entrance of today and it was ok for a family to enter an establishment to listen to the jazz playing there while the parents enjoyed a beer or two. It doesn't seem that long ago, but I guess it was a different era. Guess I'm getting old being able to say that. It was here that I was first reprimanded for asking for ketchup for my steak. My father, a true Texan, appreciated a good steak when one was to be found. I'm sure it was the finest steak house in New Orleans where I asked the waiter for some ketchup. My brother Jim, aka the "food snob," let into me. "A good cut of beef doesn't need a condiment to cover up it's flavor," he stated at the tender age of 13 out of embarrassment. I'll never forget it. That was the very last time I ever put ketchup on a steak (in a restaurant) and I relay that message to the boys today.

The hub had a business trip there last year and of course I had to jump on the bandwagon and go with him. He booked us at The W on Poydras (not the one in the French Quarter--too loud there!). I love, love, love W hotels. They refresh me with their new-wavey decor and sounds. This one was especially nice with a wonderful library in the lobby, right next to the "lounge." Our first night out was quasi business, so we ate at Galatoi's on Bourbon Street. Oh, how delicious that was. I had the crevettes a la creole, shrimp over rice with a creole sauce. We ordered several vegetables to pass around, but I remember the Pommes de terre soufflees (fried potato puffs) the most. Every thing was absolutely heaven to the taste buds. You don't go to New Orleans to lose weight, that's for sure. It's all about eating and drinking.

We started our first morning with beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde at the Riverwalk. I knew it would be the only "morning" we would get up, so we went for it. The beignets were out of this world--after they finally cooled down, ouch. That afternoon, we strolled across the street from The W and ate lunch at Mother's.
Again, needless to say, it was gastronomical. The hub didn't want to wait in line, but I was determined to try this place. (My dad always said, "If there are a lot of cars in the parking lot, it has to be good." Well, a line of people has to say the same thing, right?) It's such a quirky little joint, crowded, sometimes sharing a table with a stranger or two and always quite loud. You wait in line and you kinda feel like you're in line at the Soup Nazi's in New York City--a little intimidating once you get through the door. "You want to do this right," I was told the night before by an acquaintance on Bourbon Street (there will always be "acquaintances" after you enter the French Quarter). Be prepared, as best you can, to place your order once you get up to the cafeteria-looking counter. This is where one out of the three or four people behind it ask you what you want. It happens very quickly, so, again, be prepared. You're then given a copy of your hand-written order and proceed over to the cash register, kinda cattle-runnish. Now it's time to find a seat and wait for the abundance of whatever it is your ordered to arrive. Let me tell you, it is well worth the wait and the hustle and bustle of getting through that line. Once you sit down, you can relax and enjoy your meal. It's quite fascinating. One of us ordered the "Debris" sandwich. It was enough for two--chunks of roast beef with gravy on a bun. Yum. I think we strolled back to The W and took an afternoon nap, we were so full. Oh the joys of being on vacation without the kids.....

That night, we ate at a large bistro named Palace Cafe on Canal Street. I don't remember exactly what I ordered, but I think it was a mix of two of their appetizers because I was still full from Mother's. I do remember it being outstanding in presentation. And, "while in Rome" we had to order Banana's Flambe, cooked tableside, for desert. I thought I took a picture of the waiter preparing it for us--must have been the martini taking the pic cause I can't find it! Oh well. It was splendid. The rest of the night was pure Bourbon Street. 
This was our night/morning on the town. We hit several "music" venues with a couple of drinks in tow for each. (If you haven't been, you're allowed to take your drinks on the street with you as you depart. How fun is that!) We ended in a blues club listening to the sounds of The All Purpose Blues Band. Finally, we stumbled back to the hotel to rest our aching heads.

We awoke in the afternoon the next day; and the funny thing is, when we greeted other folks in the elevator with a "good morning," they replied "good morning" too. It was well into the afternoon! They must have tied one on the night before, also. That day, the hub and I went our separate ways. He went off to the D-Day Museum
The girly girl I am, I had no interest in that. So, I jetted off to the Canal Street Ferry to shuttle me across the river to Old Algiers and home to Mardi Gras World
I've never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so I wanted to see some of the floats up close and see how they're made. I had a nice stroll along the Mississippi. At each street crossing, there was a lamp post dedicated to a famous New Orleanian. It took me longer than I thought to walk to the place, so I missed the last tour. They were nice and let me wander around by myself until closing time. The abundance of floats and float parts was amazing. It's a definite must-see! I really enjoyed it on my own, but I bet the tour would be outstanding.

Our last evening was spent living-it-up Cajun style. We went to Mulate's on Julia Street. They had live music--Jay Cormier & Cajun Country--with a big ol' dance floor right in the middle of the tables. It was such a hoot to watch all the amazing two-stepping and waltzing on that dance floor. 
It made me want to try another go with the hub at dance lessons (a WHOLE other story there!). I had the les haricots rouge (red beans & rice, my favorite) with a side of seasoned haricots verts (green beans). I have no idea what the hub got, I was so enthalled with my own plate and watching the dance floor. It was such an amazing night. We retired early that evening. We had satisfied every sense.

Such an amazing trip. Now I really want to go back, and soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds nice;-)



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