Hard to believe but I’d never been to New Orleans before last weekend. Always wanted to go but just never got around to it. Last month my father suggested meeting there in February and we jumped at it. Flights looked pretty open for flying stand-by so we decided to go the weekend after Mardi Gras figuring it’d be a little more manageable. However, we didn’t take into account the snow “storm” that swept through Chicago disrupting flights all day on Friday.
After long delays, everyone made it although Friday was kinda shot. Didn’t matter, there was still plenty to do, see, and eat. We were staying in the French Quarter at Dauphine Orleans, a block off Bourbon St. Nice place, great location. For a first timer visiting New Orleans I think staying in the French Quarter was a great idea. You can walk to everything you need to take in, food is readily available, as well as drink.
Speaking of food, I must say, if I lived in a place where beignets are the way to start the day I’d be going to work with powdered sugar all over me. Cheryl and I had these treats every day we were there. And you should too if you go to New Orleans. Get your fill. It’s like gelato in Italy, eat it whenever you can because you won’t find it back home. Of course as a tourist you have to get some from Café du Monde (sneaky, laugh at the other tourists hint: just go to the take-out window around the back to avoid the huge line out front) but we also found a place near our hotel in the French Quarter called Café Beignet (the one on Royal St.) which we thought had better ones (bigger and lighter) and no lines. Bonus of Café du Monde’s backside is there’s a window where you can look inside and see the beignets being churned out.
Our big food event of the weekend (courtesy of Cheryl’s research) was dining at La Petite Grocery over in the Garden District. What a great place! I made an early dinner reservation in order to take advantage of their happy hour (from 5:30pm-6:30pm) where they have a featured cocktail for $5. Didn’t matter as none of us had it (although I would have tried one but ordered my cocktail, a perfectly mixed Old Fashioned, before finding out what it was, stupid me). We also snacked on their blue crab beignets (awesome) and an order of frites. Dinner was excellent! I stuck with the specials and went with a black-eyed pea soup which had the best smoky flavor to it. I asked our waiter how they got it that way and he said it was secret. Boo! I had escolar for an entrée which came with a veal jus and mustard greens, as well as a side of grits with pimento cheese. Not for nothing, and this is coming from a northern boy, I’d eat huge bowlfuls of those pimento cheese grits! Finished off with an amazing butterscotch pudding. I really shouldn’t say it was better than my grandmother’s but… Cheryl had their pasta rags appetizer, sheets of pasta with some sauce, and a rabbit dish which fried like chicken. It was also extremely delicious. For a really upscale dinner away from the Quarter, go here.
On Sunday we got up and went over to a place we saw on the walk home called Vacherie. If you go to New Orleans find this place for bloody mary’s. Had one of the best bloody mary’s I’ve ever had there. It was so…meaty. Don’t know how to describe it otherwise. It had lots of horseradish but wasn’t overly spicy. It was…chewy. But it had a delicious tomato flavor. The bartender explained they squeezed their own fruit juices so I’m guessing they do the same with their tomato juice. Oh and we went back later for happy hour. Their rum punch was just as good as their bloody mary. Fresh fruit juice, Old New Orleans rum, deadly delicious.
Sunday night we ate at Royal House Oyster Bar. Really good food and oysters. Oh and a 32oz hurricane. But seriously, the oysters in New Orleans are huge. And inexpensive. i had a pretty tasty crawfish etouffe here as well. That’s what Sunday dinner was, a big mug o’ hurricane, oysters, and etouffe!
Last day was Monday and I needed to get a muffaletta to cap off the trip. Central Market was closed but Frank’s next door was open. Both claim to be the home of the muffaletta. Since Frank’s was open we got ours there. Those sandwiches are huge. My father and I split one. Love the bread the sandwich is made of, very light and fluffy. The best part of the sandwich is the olive spread. I should have brought back a jar. Instead I found some file powder and Tony Chachere’s original seasoning. Love that stuff.
We had a couple of hours left to kill before heading to the airport we sought out the Monteleone hotel and its carousel bar. Yup the bar revolves. My friend Matt, who we met up with on Saturday, had told us about this place and said it took 12 minutes (I think) to make one revolution. I tried to get Cheryl to agree to one drink per revolution but she didn’t go for it.
Very fun trip! We went there with no real plan except for dinner on Saturday night and we didn’t really need one. It’s such a good food city and the people were all very friendly. When we go back (and we will) I think it’d be great to spend a couple of nights in the Quarter and then find a nice place to stay in the Garden District. That’s one area I’d like to explore a little more. Looked like there’s a lot of good stuff there most people don’t get to see since they go for Bourbon Street. Nothing wrong with that but New Orleans has much more to offer than to-go cups and beads if you look close enough.