Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Orleans Trip Report - Nov. 14 - 21, 2010

I first went to New Orleans when I was 23. My friends were stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana and were officers in the army. I flew down to visit staying with them in Leesville. My time in LA was ten days but my time in the French Quarter was short. Only one day/night, but I have always remembered it, and have always wanted to return.  I bought a "Spuds MacKenzie" T-shirt that day in the FQ, for those of you that remember who Spuds was...I remember this because I still have the picture of me wearing it in NOLA.  I also have pictures of my friend and I dancing on a stage with male strippers.  One was wearing knee pads and a thong, which still makes me giggle...

This year, my son who is now twenty, just started traveling on his own.  He's had two vacations (3 weeks) with friends in Los Angeles without me...(sniffle).  We had a wonderful mother/son bonding Key West/Miami vacation in April so I can't be too sad.  We've vacationed together every year since he was six, sometimes twice a year, sometimes a month at a time.  He's my traveling partner - my best companion!  I am just starting to realize this "empty nest" feeling and it's been hard!  It's always been him & I the last twenty years, and it's all changing now as he's graduating into adulthood.  Great for him!  Ummm, not so great for me at times...I'm sure any parent going through this or who has been through it understands what I'm feeling! 

Sooooo... I was thinking that I have not done anything to celebrate my birthday in years.  I thought about if I could do anything for my birthday or otherwise, what would it be? The answer was, have dinner at "Restaurant August" celebrating my fave “Chef Du Jour” John Besh.  (I have to be honest, my new Chef Du Jour might be Bryan Caswell  from Houston now, but at the time I booked this trip (May), it was Besh.  Hey, it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind).  Anyway, I booked my trip...SOLO! I have never done anything quite so impulsive before. And in hindsight, being the biggest NFL fan, ever (since I was 13)...I would have made sure I got to a Saints game when going but I didn't even think about it til after.  So, this is how I would be spending my 46th birthday. I was sick about it the next day – worried, scared, and doubtful at what I had done! I tried to get all my friends, then distant friends, and then acquaintances to come along but I knew by not asking anyone beforehand, this was not going to be an easy task...and it wasn’t...I ended up on my own...

However, it didn't take that long to embrace the idea...the itinerary got easier to do and the entire restaurant planning just got downright exciting! I got some great help from Chowhound and TripAdvisor, as per usual.  I always use both boards extensively to plan when I travel.  Planning is almost as much fun as the trip to me!  I could eat what I wanted to eat without worrying about what my son wanted! I could go where I wanted to go, see what I wanted to see and do what I wanted to do all on my time.  What was to complain about really?   I still did worry about what I'd do in the evenings and how I would feel about going to a bar/club alone and if I'd be uncomfortable?  After all I read, I did have concerns about safety too, especially since I like to walk.  I wasn't feeling all that comfortable about google mapping and taking off to my destination(s) on foot like I normally do.  Walking is my way of absorbing how a city feels and I love to gaze, breathe the air, and try feeling what it's like to be local.  I had a hard time gaging where I would be safe to walk after many questions on the I decided I would have to play a lot by ear once I arrived...ask once I got there, with my google maps in hand...this left me, the anal planner, a little uneasy :-)

I was staying at the Inn on Bourbon and would be there for seven days.

  Inn on Bourbon St.  (pic from their website).

One more thing before I begin.  On the advice of someone on the TA forum, I bought and am reading "Gumbo Tales - Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table" by Sara Roahen.  As I departed I was only 1/2 finished and I haven't read anymore while here.  The half that I had completed gave me greater insight into NOLA food and I highly recommend it if you love food like I do and are planning to visit.  It also made me want to try gumbo again, which was not on my "to do" list before reading this...

November 14th:

There are no direct flights from YVR (Vancouver) to MSY (Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport).  My flight left at 8:40am with a 2 hour change/stop in Dallas.  NOLA is on Central Time which is two hours ahead of me (Pacific Time).  I arrived in NOLA 6pm sharp.  I tried to shuttle but was told it would be 2 hours.  I got in the taxi line and the goto person said he could get me a shared cab with 2 others for $14.  I did that.  I wasted a lot of time in that shuttle line, so honestly, if I were you, I would just go the cab line & let the goto guy know that you want to share.  I was willing to pay the $33 in full.  He offered me the savings.  I was let off first and gave the driver $20.  By the time I checked in it was 7pm.  I had reservations at Luke for 7:30pm.  I went on Open Table and tried to change it but no other times were available.  The front desk told me I should not walk there either due to safety so I was put off by that since it's only half a mile away but I didn't want to risk it on my first day.  I cancelled my reservation.  I was hungry and tired.  I walked out my hotel to go pick up some water & wine at Rouses and saw that Bistro @ Maison de Ville was seconds away...  I called them and they said they would gladly switch my reservation from Friday to now, so I was happy.  I also had a groupon for this for $70.  I paid $35 for it.

The restaurant was cozy, charming and small.  The host was very pleasant and the two lady servers were terrific.  I was happy with my choice.  I went with all 3 specials of the night.  The first was a curried yam and alligator bisque ($9).  I liked it.  Not blown away by it, but it had a enjoyable yammy taste and the alligator sausage was good.  (The server accidentally tilted the bowl as she set it down).

The next special was a flash fried oyster and Caesar salad ($16!).  This was delicious.  The oysters were the best part - extremely well done!  I was very happy I chose this dish.

Last dish up was a black drum fish with piccata sauce, gnocchi, asparagus, lump crab and capers ($34!).  It was very good.  Rich but light tasting.  The gnocchi was pillowy soft.  The lemon sauce was perfect with the dish.  The host said I had done well picking a Louisiana dinner, as the alligator, oysters and fish were all local..

I had an after dinner coffee drink.  That and 2 glasses of sparkling wine came to $103 after tax before groupon.  Wonderful service, great dinner.  I could find no fault except perhaps in the price, it was a tad overpriced in my in opine.  I walked around the FQ a little, decided I would find somewhere to have nightcap and then go to sleep!  I had been up since 5am.  I went to Herme's Bar at Antoine's but it was closed.  So I stopped in at Emeril's NOLA restaurant and had a martini at the bar.  Not great and $13.  Staff was nice though, told me Drew Brees stories along with other New Orleans Saints tales.  I watched the rest of the New England/Pittsburgh football game and went back to the hotel.  My room faces Toulouse street but it's very loud still.  As I type this I'm listening to a band playing "Sweet Child O' Mine" by GNR :-)  It won't keep me up though, I'm too tired.

November 15th:

I awoke at 6:30 am and had a peek out the window.  Rain, raining buckets!  So, my plans to head off to Cafe Du Monde were temporarily dashed.  An hour later, I decided to head there in the rain anyway before I started my day.  As soon as I stepped out, the rain stopped!  I wandered to Cafe Du Monde with a quick stop at St. Louis Cathedral.  It was very quiet and peaceful around the FQ. 

St. Louis Cathedral

Next stop, beignets!  It was very quiet and no line.  A good time to visit.  I asked for "little" sugar.

The beignets were very good while piping hot.  What's not to like about fried dough?  I ate one, drank my cafe au lait and bought 2 bags full of gifts which was heavy.  So I wandered around the serene FQ a little more before heading back to the hotel to take a nap before my lunch at Mr. B's Bistro.

Strolled to Mr. B's  for an 11:30 reservation.  Thought it was a very nice restaurant and again, I had awesome service.  I am a messy eater to begin with, so I was worried about ordering the BBQ shrimp, but this was my reason for visiting the place so I had to suck it up and do it.  Thanks to the CH board for this one.  I started with a blood orange margarita, for $3.  Gotta like those lunch time specials! 

Then I ordered the Gumbo Ya Ya ($7).  I am no expert on gumbo at all.  In fact, the only time I've had it is at Emeril's in Miami.  I didn't think much of it honestly.  BUT, today, my mind was changed forever.  This gumbo was so delicious.  So flavourful!  So good!  That andouille, chicken and broth was too good for words.   I know that if I lived here, this is one thing I'd order each time I came here. 

Then onto the BBQ shrimp ($18).  I was outfitted with a bib, and that was a good thing as I had many splatters on it by the time I was finished.  My server gave me a little lesson...hold the tail side to the left with my left hand.  Unwrap the shell, but don't worry about the feet til after.  Ewwww, those things are feet?  I never knew that before today!  With my long fingernails, this was a little work, but so worth it.  First is the picture how it looked when it was served, and then the reward after I got the shell off!  The BBQ sauce was just insanely good.  Butter, worster sauce, lemon, garlic, etc. etc.  It would be fun to bathe in it.  Thank goodness there was french bread to dip it in, which was the next best thing...

Fully sated, I wandered over to my Cemetery tour on St. Peter street.  I love how this tour shop looks from the outside!

Preservation Hall is across the street, so is Pat O'Brien's where I got a "to go" cup of champagne ($4.50).

We walked over to St. Louis # 1 cemetery.

Marie Laveau's tomb (reason I took this tour)

After the tour ended we walked back to the FQ.  Two girls said they were on their way to pick their mom up at Harrah's casino so I asked to walk with them so I could see where it was.  I went in the casino for a couple of hours, no wins, spent my gambling quota for the trip and had a couple of glasses of wine.  I walked back to the FQ down Decatur.  I walked around some more (I did a lot of gazing today!) til I went back to the room for a rest about 7pm.  I was exhausted.  I had reservations at Bon Ton Cafe and tried to call them to see if I could come earlier but they never answered their phone.  I tried 3 times, then wondered if they were closed?  So, I walked down to the Royal Sonesta and went to Desire Oyster Bar.  The place was packed!  I took it a sign of being good, but wrong!  It was not.  I was very disappointed with my meal. 

I ordered char-grilled oysters ($9.95) which looked good but were so salty they were barely edible.  The oyster were teeny and they also were gritty.  Yuck.  Then I ordered fried green tomatoes ($8),...which I normally love...but..No taste but oil and the sauce they served with it tasted like vinegar.  Then crab cakes ($11.95).  They looked good, had lots of crab but were also deep fried!  Taste was not good, I only ate one.  Even, the drink I ordered, my first Ramos Gin Fizz ($8) was not good.  It tasted like a milk milkshake!  I certainly would not return here to eat.   I should have taken a cue from my server Tony when I asked him what was good to eat there.  He asked me, "You mean like a signature dish?"  I said yes.  He said, "Nothing".  Then he laughed and quickly said everything was good...

November 16th:

Today was Plantation day with Tours by Isabelle.  Isabelle phoned and told me to eat lunch before leaving (12pm) as there would be no lunch on the trip.  I had a groupon for Oceana $30 and I paid $15, so I headed there for some crepes on Conti street.  I ordered the St. James crepe ($18) which had Shrimp, Louisiana crabmeat, onions, and bell peppers with cheese.  It was pretty good and there was lots of shrimp and crab inside.  I only managed to eat half as it was huge!  Honestly, what this crepe needed was a Mornay sauce.  That would have made it over the top good.

My lovely tour guide Diane (born & raised in the 9th Ward, then lived in St. Bernard Parish til Katrina, now living in Covington) was waiting for me on Bourbon St. at exactly 12pm.  Two more stops and we were on our way to Laura Plantation.  I can't say enough about the tour and story of this setting.  So very interesting and entertaining.  I highly recommend seeing this place.

Laura Plantation
Slave Quarters

Next we were off to Oak Alley Plantation.  This tour was not nearly as exciting or entertaining but the live oak trees in the front were worth the visit just for that.  They are over 300 years old.  One thing I learned is that "antebellum" means "before the war".  I thought it was a house style like a bungalow is.

The trees are breathtaking, it's almost a surreal setting.  Unbelievably gorgeous beyond words and my picture cannot capture that.  When leaving, our guide let us stop up on the levee to snap a pic of the Mississippi River.

I got back to my hotel just after 6pm.  I took a taxi ($8 including $2 tip) to Cochon where I had dinner reservations tonight.  This was the place I was most looking forward to after Restaurant August.  In hindsight, I should have ordered the cochon like every single person around me did!  I did go out of my comfort zone and order things I normally wouldn't have though.  First one was fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly toast ($9) .  These were good, but the more I thought about bunny livers, the less appetizing it became.  I ate two and left the last one.

Then the chef gave me an amuse of headcheese.  I was jealous, because the guy beside me got an amuse of cracklin's.  Anyway, I tried it, and this ended up being one of my fave dishes of the night!

Next up was wood fired oyster roast ($11)  Unlike the oysters I had last night, these were actually good!

They were cooked here:
The next dish was Boudin Balls ($8).  These, for whatever reason did not send me.  I only ate one (the one I cracked open for this picture) and left the rest.

The last dish was a side of eggplant & shrimp dressing ($5).  Yummy!

By this time both my male counterparts on either side of me had left (convention of super computers which I referred to as super nerds) and a solo woman had joined me also from same convention, Barb from Utah.  She shared her cracklin's with me!  She ordered the cochon too.  After dinner she and I walked over to Emeril's for a drink.  I talked her into Emeril's banana cream pie.  So, I got to see the flagship restaurant though I won't be dining here this trip.  We stayed for a couple of hours, then we walked to her hotel which was a block off Canal.  I walked back from there and took Bourbon street and I had beads thrown at me from the balconies and no I wasn't flashing!  I also had old pervy guys telling me I was beautiful and to come to their restaurant to eat.  I'm too old for Bourbon street, me thinks!  At night, it absolutely does nothing for me, though I like it in the day, the earlier the better.

November 17th:

I slept in til 10am today!  Walked to MiLa for lunch.  I liked this place..a lot!!  Service was great.  Food was terrific.  Great flavours and the 3 course prix fixe for lunch is a steal for $20.  First off, scallion cornbread and a sweet potato roll was dropped with lima bean spread and creamed butter in the cast iron pans.  I love those itty bitty pans!

Next up was an organic green salad with Louisiana feta cheese.

Next up was my entree of pork cheek ravioli and baby turnips.  This was so good.  The pork was so delicate and delicious tasting.  Loved this dish!

Last up was banana ice cream.  I'm not  a dessert girl, so I did find it sweet, but it did have a good banana taste to it in the couple of bites I had.

So...after MiLa,  I walked 2 miles to my Garden District Tour which met at Washington & Prytania Street off St. Charles.  I walked all the way down St. Charles.  It was a beautiful day and I needed the walk!  Tour guide Dave was great and I enjoyed it a lot.   We started off in Lafayette Cemetery # 1, so I got to see another interesting bone yard while here.  A lot of which Anne Rice based her stories on too.  First house we saw was the house where "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was filmed:

Here's Anne Rice's old house.  She moved pre-Katrina and the tour guide says she did about 6 months before.

The guide said this is Archie Manning's house who still lives there and where little Peyton & Eli grew up...

After the tour I walked back the same way I arrived.  I did make a stop at Luke restaurant this time as I knew it was Happy Hour.  Service wasn't that great, but I liked the oyster shuckers and we talked about good restaurants in town (most of which I've been to or am going).  Cochon was a fave of theirs too. I also met a fellow foodie at the oyster bar from Colorado (super nerds convention) and we had a great time chatting!   So, 2 Sazerac drinks ($4.50 each) & a dozen P&J oysters ($.50 each) later, my tab costed me $16.47!  I love deals like this.  I was very happy leaving here!

Walked back to the hotel, and as I was walking, I had just read on the TA board that a good place for fried chicken was Brothers Food Mart at Carondelet, so I stopped and got 2 chicken wings for $2.60.  They were good & nicely spiced but they obviously were sitting for awhile.  I enjoyed them though and ate them back at the room while typing this up.  All that walking today made me hungry!

Then, next, taxi cab to Coquette for dinner on Magazine street.  The pictures were taken in very dim lighting and I'm not a camera whiz, so they are not very good  I left most of them out of this as I couldn't save them.  Wines by the glass were $5 each tonight, so I took advantage of that and ordered the 4 Course Tasting Menu ($40).  Starting dish was butternut squash cavatelli with duck confit & grilled mushrooms.  This dish was very smokey tasting and probably my least favourite of the night.

Next dish was black drum with miso brown butter, sunchoke puree & Gulf shrimp.  It was so good, I cannot even put it into words!  The drum fish was 100% better tasting than my first dining experience at Bistro @ Maison De Ville.

Next dish was hanger steak with candied cipollini onions & chanterelle mushrooms.  Very good too but not as good as the previous dish...

Last dish was beignets with chocolate & coffee pot de creme.  I ate I said, desserts don't do anything for me and honestly, I liked my beignet better at Cafe Du Monde but it may be because it was fresh out of the fryer there.

I took a taxi back to the FQ.  FYI, it was $11 pre-tip each way to Coquette.  The cab let me off at Canal & Bourbon and I didn't mind walking back or it probably would have cost double if I got him to take me to the hotel with all the closed streets & traffic.  I stopped at the Old Absinthe House and had a Sazerac ($12), and then a Pimms Cup ($9).  Then I was ready for bed!

November 18th:

My birthday.  Sucks to be old!  :-)  And worse, it sucks to be hungover!  I got up at 10am again and really did not feel like moving.  An hour later, I still wasn't moving.  Thinking of sazeracs was making me nauseous!  I rarely drink hard alcohol so I was paying dearly for it today.  I stood in the shower forever and about 12:30 limped off to Galatoire's.  I had visions pre-visit that I'd eat trout almondine, shrimp remoulade, crab salad, etc.  All I could even think of stomaching was eggs benny ($15) & lyonnaise potatoes ($6).  I ordered a Bloody Mary but couldn't drink it as it was so spicey it was making me sweat and my stomach started to rumble.  My nice waiter Harold returned it for me and brought me a glass of champagne which I was able to get down.  When I ordered, Harold had said, "That's it?  No appy?"  I told of him of my hangover, to which he told me to drink more, have a nap and start all over again.  When I went to the restroom, he quickly came over and asked if I was ok?  I told him yes.  He said he was worried my breakfast came up when he saw me head there!    The restaurant was beautiful.  I wish I felt better.  Here's breakfast, that I just picked at and barely ate half: 

After I left, I headed back to St. Louis Cathedral and to the Louisiana State Museum to visit the "living with hurricanes: Katrina & beyond" ($6).  It was very well done.

The exhibit above mentions our Vancouver Urban Search & Rescue team that were one of the first to respond.  I have a friend who is on that team and when he returned we talked on the phone about it.  He got choked up and I started crying at my desk at work.  I managed not to cry today but I had a huge lump in my throat as I remembered all these things in the exhibits.  I get teary writing this, as our phone call was haunting and I will never forget it...

Next I headed over to Central Grocery where I bought Peychaud Bitters for a friend & myself.  I know, how could I do that the way I feel about Sazeracs today???  I bought Camellia Red Beans, Crystal Hot Sauces, the legendary Olive Salad for the muffulettas ($13.39).  If you get it packaged for flight, it costs $.60 more which is what I did.  $40 later and a seriously heavy bag, I had to return back to the hotel to drop it off.

Then, I headed back down Decatur to go to the French Market.  I got most souvenirs and gifts knocked off here and more.  I headed to the Santa's Quarters and got a nice Fleur de lis Christmas ornament.  Walking back I stopped on the street and listened to a great band for awhile!  They really made me feel good, so I tipped them well.

Then I decided I was now starving, so I went back to Central Grocery and bought a half muffuletta ($7.60).  Came back to the room, and just ate 1/4 of it.  Delicious!!!

Then I headed over to Herme's Bar at Antoine's for a drink.  I wanted to check it out.  I had a lot of time to kill before dinner at August too.  My reservation wasn't til 9pm.  The bar manager Mike was a load of knowledge about everything!  It was like having a tour guide behind the bar!  He then took me and another couple from New York on a tour of the restaurant.  It was beautiful.  Now the lady in this couple said I looked familiar to her. So I mentioned I was from Canada.  She said, no it wasn't that, that I looked like a t.v. star, then she said chef star.  I waited.  Then she said Ina Garten!  Are you kidding me?  I told her that was insulting!  She said Ina was beautiful and I agreed, for being 62 years old!  No offense Ina, but I do not want to look like you!  I didn't tell the lady she looked like Sandra Bernhard, did I?  ;-)

I sat there until it was time for dinner.  Mike suggested I head to Frenchmen street for the music, so I told him I'd consider doing that.  I wanted to do this but didn't want to go by myself.  I tried the Oysters a la Rockefeller since they originated at Antoine's...and they were, well, yuck!  I only ate two, the first one because I wanted to eat it, the second because I couldn't believe it tasted that awful!  Then he gave me a postcard saying I was the 4,029,523 person that had ordered them.  I wonder if the other 4,029,522 people thought they were as bad as I did?

Walked and got to August right at 9pm.  Because I had it put it was my birthday on the reservation on Open Table, they said Happy Birthday to me when I checked in.  Then I was embarrassed I had done that.  My table wasn't ready so I had a seat in the bar.  Met two lovely ladies from Florida, Laura and Anne, on a convention too, but the first time it wasn't for super nerds!  We had a great time chatting.  They ordered tequila.  Don Julio I think.  Anyway, I said, sure and got one too.  Then the bill came, $22!  Ouch, but heck, it was my birthday and it was nice and smooth.  I was feeling no pain after that and my hangover was now completely gone, on my way working to a new one!

My table was ready in the main dining room, which was beautiful.  Hostess told me John Besh had been in the house earlier.  He is opening another Luke restaurant in Texas.  I ordered the degustation menu with pairings ($125).  I took pictures but the lighting was even dimmer than Coquette so they are all failures.  I took a picture of the menu though, so you can see what I had.  There was an amuse of some sabayon fish thingy with truffles in an egg shell.  Interesting.  Next, the gelee was not for me.  The texture did not agree with me but the duck liver was excellent and the salad.  The buttercup pumpkin soup was maybe the best soup I have ever had.  The sablefish was amazing.  Pheasant, ate it all.  I faded on the pork dish, could only eat half though it was melt in your mouth good.  I only had a spoonful of dessert.  The Sommelier here, Jonathan, was fabulous.  I've done a lot wine paired dinners and I usually find them pretentious.  He was not, and he did a great job of explaining everything and how/why they worked together.

So, another solo diner, John from Texas (super nerds convention) and I started talking.  Within 2 minutes of our conversation, he made some sort of reference like was I trying to pick him up for sex?  What?  Am I that obvious?  I'm kidding!  I can't remember exactly what he said, but I was shocked!  And I asked him to repeat himself several times because I knew what he was implying.  Normally I would have just got up and walked away and I briefly considered doing just that, but instead, I invited him to go for a drink!  :-)  We went to the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon.  He actually turned out to be a nice guy.  He was younger than me and was leaving in the morning.   He said he had to run an errand for his hungover friend and he said he would call me at my room in a half hour.  I knew he wouldn't and that was OK.  It was an interesting finish to my birthday dinner and I found him very amusing!  I then went and had a glass of wine at Pat O'Brien's as I wasn't quite ready to bite the dust. Talked to a couple of women from Kentucky for a little bit who were happily drinking Hurricanes.  All conversations were meaningless at this point.  As everything started to become blurry, I  knew it was stick a fork in me time. Not even sure what time I got back to my room but I know I was glad I didn't have to walk far!  Sat up talking to my son for awhile, then I hit the bed HARD. 

November 19th:

I got up at 2 pm today but no hangover!  Missed my lunch reservation at Feast so I called and changed my reservation for dinner.  Figured out my cash situation and I spent a lot of money yesterday.  It was not meant for me to eat at Bon Ton Cafe it seems, because that was supposed to be dinner tonight.  It's 3pm now and I'm eating my last 1/4 of muffuletta and contemplating getting ready.  Who am I kidding, I'm not going anywhere today til I head to Feast. I had also planned to go to Mardi Gras World & the WW2 museum.  But, I am feeling OLD and burnt out!!!!  :-)

Walked over to Feast which is right at the Riverwalk Marketplace on Julia Street.  Not many diners inside, and it was very quiet.  Waiter was nice and I ordered a Hendricks martini ($12).  It did not go down well and I sipped it the entire dinner.  Then I did something stupid.  I ordered warm pork fat toast ($8.45), and then crispy pork belly ($23.95)!  Dumb move on my part.

By the time the pork belly arrived, I was full.  I could not eat another bite of fat!  I did eat the crispy skin and had a couple of bites of apple with a couple bites of pork.  The waiter came by and I told him he could take the plate.  He asked me if I wanted it to go.  I said no and he seemed offended.  I assured him it was delicious and it was, I was just stupid to order so much fat!  My love of pork fat got the best of me!

I walked back from Canal via Royal street and decided to go to the Carousel bar at the Monteleone hotel, but when I got in, I didn't feel like staying or drinking actually.  I was feeling grumpy and anti-social!  So, I walked by Herme's Bar but it was full too, so I just passed it by, wandered past all the crowds on Bourbon and went back to bed listening to the band, wherever they are, singing Poison's Talk Dirty to Me!

November 20th:

Last day as my flight leaves at  6:40am Sunday.  Facebook reports I'm going home to snow so I'm not looking forward to that!  As I should have, I awoke at 8am, bright eyed & bushy tailed.   So, I went for a morning stroll around the FQ.  This is how I like it, nice & QUIET, and it feels like it's mine alone to explore:

Brunch today was at Commander's Palace.  I walked down St. Charles again but hopped on the Street Car at Lee Circle.  Packed like sardines, wish I would have continued walking instead.

All I can say about this place is service, service, service.  It was so fantastic here, you could not help but smile.  Everyone was so nicely dressed too, it was just a great setting.  Loved dining here!!!  I was seated in the Garden room, I think.  Unless the Garden room is outside?  Anyway, it was a room overlooking a garden.  I was not near the window though.   I had the Jazz brunch ($39).  He let me substitute the turtle soup for the gumbo and champagne for the Bloody Mary. I was happy!  The turtle soup was delicious!  The sherry drizzle really did enhance the flavour.  Loved it.

Next was Eggs Couchon De Lait.  Yes, this is the last pork dish, I swear!  It was good but I will admit, I did not each much of the pork and none of the fat but I enjoyed it very much!

Then as I said, I do not do desserts, but I do have two weaknesses...Tiramisu & Bread Pudding.  So I was actually looking forward to the Creole Bread Pudding SoufflĂ© finished with Whiskey Cream Sauce.  Now this made me smile ear to ear!  It is the best bread pudding I have ever had!

Also excellent was the Jazz Trio they had wandering around playing at the tables while you ate.  What a great time.  What a pleasant experience this was!  Highly recommended!!!!  Also, when my head waiter brought my bill over, I was talking to my other waiter about his nice smile.  He took the compliment well and said he loved smiling, then he shook my hand and thanked me...smiling....  I wonder if he thought I was trying to pick him up?  ;-)  Then the head waiter came back and took the bill out of my hands and gave me another one.  I looked at him puzzled and he said, "I wanted to take one of your glasses of champagne off and give it to you complimentary".  I didn't ask why but just said, "Thank you very much!"  So, I was only billed the brunch price but had 2 glasses of bubbly.  Nice!  I am curious why he did that though, I should have asked...

Unfortunately, I took the street car back and it was even crammed tighter.  I did talk to a guy from South Africa and a couple from N. Louisiana as we were all snuggled in like bugs in a rug together!  I found my son some good T-shirts and bought a friend NFL beads once back on Canal.  All shopping was complete, except for pralines for my son.  So, back down Decatur I went and bought all the pralines I needed, from both Southern CandyMakers and Aunt Sally's.  And I bought some Zapp's potato chips to take home.  I did not have a Po Boy while here!  :-(  I was still too full from brunch to even consider having one. 

Then I went up & down every street in the FQ, watching street performers, bands, people in general, the sidewalks (dangerous!) & the architecture which I love here!   I stopped at Herme's bar to say hi to Mike, but it was so loud in there with a LSU game on the t.v., so I just had one and headed out and he was very busy anyway though we did get to chat a little bit.  He did go over to his bartenders and told them to make sure they took good care of me!  Then he told me to get over to Frenchmen Street tonight when I told him I didn't go on my birthday.  I'm packing now before my final dinner at Bayona.

I don't know why but I didn't expect much here.  The service was OK, but not as good as the other fine dining places I've been.  I got sat beside a table of two that were breaking up and we were the only two tables in our little dining room.  It was very uncomfortable and depressing.  She kept crying, and he just kept rubbing his face and staring into his Blackberry!!!  Every once in awhile, she'd wail out stuff like, "Do you think you'll ever find someone better than me? ".  Then they'd go back to eating.  I almost laughed out loud!  I stared at the wall a lot. was awesome!!!  I couldn't have asked for a better finish to New Orleans!  I had three appys.  First one was a scallop dish ($11).  It was on the "specials" menu & I don't recall what it was, but it was sublime!  I'm afraid the lighting was as dim as the other fine dining places and my pictures failed again.  Next was an heirloom tomato salad with crab toast ($10).  Just perfection.  Sooooo good.

Last, I had the sweetbreads ($12) and again, just wonderful....might be the best sweetbreads I've had to date, but I'd really have to think on that one...

Wrapping up NOLA!  Loved, loved, loved it!  Loved the food, loved spending my tourist dollars here!  Liked the "solo" trip but I did miss company at times...especially when I wanted to be social but had to rely on the "kindness of strangers" to entertain me!  :-)

I would stay OFF Bourbon street (meaning hotel) next time, but that's just because I'm old now and the frat party mentality wasn't doing it for me!  I loved the French Quarter and everything I saw.  I never felt unsafe, but I used Canal as my guide and walked everywhere on busy streets.  Lots of staff at places I went to said it is easy to fall off on a wrong street, day or night, and find yourself in trouble.  If you've read this far along, I hope I've helped in planning and/or entertained you a bit!

From Bourbon Street, "Goodnight!"


  1. I was reading your thread over on Chowhound and I love your write-up. Just a note about hotels in NO, if you signed up for a Total Rewards Card at Harrah's, you can get comp rooms on Sunday through Thursday. My next trip I was unable to get a comp room because I hesitated to book them 2 months ago and waited too long. However, I got $79/night for Monday through Thursday next month for my 58th birthday. You might try getting a card and watching their calendar. Log in to Total Rewards, start to book your room at your preferred hotel and when it brings up your room options, there is a little link at the bottom right of each selection that says "view availability calendar". There are dates that say "comp" and those are the rooms you can book for free. They sometimes charge a minimal fee for wireless service if you use it but that's all. I've noticed that NO Harrah's has very few comp days anymore but all the other Harrah's offer lots of comp rooms, especially Sunday - Thursday night. I've always been more than pleased with all of my Harrah's stays and the one coming up in NO is the first one I'll have to pay for. You don't have to gamble much either so don't let that stop you from getting a card and getting some free lodging.

    Happy belated birthday!!

  2. Thank you texasredtop, that is a tip well worth knowing! I'm glad you liked the trip report!

  3. Hi Christine,
    We met on the plane, landing in New Orleans. I am glad you time in New Orleans was mostly positive. You were brave and experimented on some food that as a native I haven't even eaten. Happy Belated Birthday and just keep kicking! I do at 60.
    Leslie the screen printer

  4. Hi Leslie! Geaux Saints!!! :-)

  5. Hi Christine,
    What a great read! You could be a travel writer! I loved the look of those giant shrimp and the Marie Layeau house.
    I had no idea you were such a food expert. Wow.
    Thanks for sending this to me.

  6. I love this blog! I just bought a flight to NOLA for April 2011...solo trip as well! I'm planning on staying at hostels (I'm a wee bit offence! :) and hopefully can meet others there but I'm a total foodie and have started to make a list of places to check out! (That's how I came upon your Chowhound thread) Thanks for tips and the entertainment. :)

  7. J from Toronto - you will have no problems meeting people, especially if you sit at the bar in restaurants or bars, look how many people I met and I'm old! ;-) Glad my trip report helps in your planning. Have a great time!

  8. Great post! I'm planning on going to NOLA for a convention next summer. You messaged me on Yelp! This was a good read for ideas of things to do, other than eat food. But also what food to eat (and what to avoid?). I've stoked!

  9. Nice blog! Really enjoyed reading it. Love that you have done all my research for me, when we decide to travel. Missed your calling Miss food critic/ journalist!

  10. Champagne in a to-go cup? You are my kind of lady! Thank you SO much for sending me this link. I leave solo for New Orleans on the 21st and i couldn't be more excited. I don't think i will reso as much as you but your restaurant choices are spot on! I'm staying at Le Pavillion and based on your experience, i think i made the right choice. Again, thanks so much for writing this!

  11. Jo from Toronto here again! I had to come back to your blog to reference a few things :)

    For the Garden District walking tour, was it necessary to join a tour at all or would I be able to do it myself?

    Do you think it's necessary to make reservations at Cochon?

    If you ever come to Toronto, let's eat!

  12. Hi Jo! The Garden District tour wasn't expensive, only like $20, but, you could do it yourself but there is a dangerous area close by so I would do some research. Security patrols the Garden District.

    I would make a reservation at Cochon, definitely...

    I will look you up in T.O. Email me and let me know how your trip to NOLA goes!

  13. Hey! My trip to NOLA is coming up soon and I couldn't help but refer back to your blog for ideas. I need some advice. I am going for a conference and will be busy for 4 days of 6. I will have free the evening that I arrive, and one whole day at the end of my stay, and half a day on the day I leave. I may have time during the 4 days to experience a little night life and maybe some jazz.. but I am not sure if I will have time to explore the city.

    So the advice I need is: on the 1 full day I have free, would you recommend using the day to go on a plantation tour (planning to rent a car and go with 3 friends)? Or stay in the city and explore it properly (i.e. St. Paul's Cathedral... what else?). I will have a bit of time and I'm staying close to Cafe du Monde to go have beignets and explore things near the convention centre.. but that's it.

  14. Hi Bobina! If you and 3 friends are going to get a car, I think the plantations would be fun to do and worth the day exploring. Houmas House was highly recommended to me.

    Two things I didn't get to see were the WW2 museum, also highly recommended and Mardi Gras world which I would do if I went back, both of them.

    Also, you might look at visiting some of the cemeteries, they're fascinating! You're going to have to decide what you want to see most! :-)