Well, well, well. I’m sure at least one of you was curious where Nick and I headed off to on our Easter weekend adventure…
NOLA. Nawlins. New Orleeeeens. Whatever you wanna call it. We finally visited New Orleans, Louisiana, city of jazz, gumbo and hurricanes. Sadly, I left the camera at home, but we’re lucky to live in the age of technology, so I was able to capture some of the weekend by iPhone.
When most people think of New Orleans, they think of Bourbon Street. Everyone told us we had to go to Bourbon Street. We told ourselves we had to go to Bourbon Street. And so, as soon as we were checked into our hotel, that’s where we headed.
We came. We saw. We did not conquer.
As soon as we set foot on Bourbon Street, we knew it was a mistake. We were a little overwhelmed not only by the ladies walking around topless (sorry, girls, but paint doesn’t count as clothing), but also by the stench. Bourbon Street is by far the most foul smelling place I have ever been. Trash and vomit mixed with cigar smoke and fried grease. They literally have trucks that drive around in the morning, spraying soapy water, washing the puke off the street. Seriously. All we could think was, why did we come here? Why do people like this city so much?
We held our breath long enough to have a couple overpriced watered down drinks.
And some surprisingly delicious oysters. (This is the gulf after all, so I suppose even the sketchiest places have awesome oysters… but let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out next week that I’ve contracted hepatitis.)
We snapped a few pictures.
To prove we were there.
Then retreated, a bit defeated, back to our hotel, past the strip clubs and hippie stores.
But we didn’t stay in hiding long. Next up was dinner at Broussard’s, a very nice (read: expensive) restaurant suggested by a friend. On the walk there, things were looking up! Cute antique shops and art galleries lined the streets, and between that and the beautiful old architecture, I almost thought I was in Europe for a moment. When we got to the restaurant, we were led out to a table in a courtyard where ivy wrapped the balconies around us and white Christmas lights wrapped the trees. It was the perfect temperature on a beautiful night. We sat down, and as our two waiters placed our napkins on our laps and handed over a wine list, I said to Nick, “Now this is why I came to New Orleans.”
It’s too bad I didn’t capture any of that dinner. Because it was freaking phenomenal. We had a new-to-us Cote du Rhone, crabcake stuffed artichoke hearts, veal (for Nick) and scallops (for me), flourless chocolate cake and an iced wine martini. Definitely the best meal we’ve had in a while. Thanks for the suggestion, Laura!
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to listen to a group of big band street performers, and were in bed by 10 pm. We immediately regretted staying near Bourbon as our walls were shaking from loud music and screaming drunk people at 10 pm, 11 pm… probably at least until 4 am.
I was up bright and early, ready for some more delicious food.
Of course, a visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde.
If you don’t know what Cafe du Monde is, you need to know. They serve the most delicious, dense, warm beignets, covered in a thick coat of powdered sugar. Fried dough at its finest. Yes people, this is breakfast.
Beignets are the only food on the menu at Cafe du Monde, but they also have a small selection of beverages. They are famous for their cafe au laits, which are made with choffy: a mix of coffee and chicory, apparently a New Orleans thing. It didn’t taste much different than regular coffee to me, but the cafe au lait was rich and a delicious compliment to the sweet beignets. You’ll probably wait in line to get a seat at Cafe du Monde (we went early, thinking the Bourbon Street partiers would still be asleep, and it was already packed), but the line moves fast and these babies are definitely worth the wait!
After gorging ourselves on sugary dough, we took a stroll around the area, which was full of local artists selling their masterpieces on the street. We walked through a lovely park and ended up at this pretty church, to get us in the Easter spirit.
We returned to the same area on Sunday and wow… never have I ever seen such elaborate Easter bonnets on grown women. Southerners sure have their quirks. If only I had documented the scene by photo!
Next up? The aquarium! Nick loves aquariums, so if they have one anywhere we travel, we’ve gotta go. This one was a really good one! And they even had my favorites… the penguins!
They were such little cuties! They also had otters, parrots, and an albino white alligator.
While at the aquarium, we decided to see an IMAX movie, Hurricane on the Bayou, obviously a movie about Hurricane Katrina. It was about 12:07, we had to be at the movie at 12:50, and Nick wanted to go eat a touristy seafood restaurant on the water. I didn’t think we had time. We went anyways. I won’t say who was right and who was wrong, but I will say that I didn’t get a picture of my shrimp po’boy because I stuffed it into my face in 30 seconds from a styrofoam container before a marathon sprint across the Riverwalk…
The movie was great!
The rest of the afternoon was spent window shopping, eating pralines, and wine tasting at a tropical wine shop. Nick’s trying to decide what kind of fruit wine he wants to make next, so we called this research. We ended up bringing home a Key Lime wine. Citrus wine… who knew!
Dinner Saturday night was at Cochon, a recommendation from my Dad. We were lucky and got a seat outside, despite having no reservation, on another gorgeous evening. I had a smoked ham hock– not something I would normally order, but I felt like I had to get it at a place called Cochon! (That’s pig in French, for those of you who opted for the Espanol in 7th grade). Nick tried another New Orleans treat, boudin, as an appetizer, and then had some rabbit and dumplings. Really, I don’t ever get tired of eating.
After dinner, we found our idea of a good time… a wine sampling bar!
W.I.N.O. (Wine Institute of New Orleans) is a really neat little wine shop and bar. They have these cool machines full of wine bottles. First you load a gift card with money (or just open a tab on one). You find a wine you want to try, put your card in the machine, and choose a 1, 2, or 3-ounce sample. The machine charges your card and dispenses your wine. You can try as few or as many wines as you want. The wines ranged from $1.50/oz (for a $15ish bottle of wine) to $10.00/oz ($100 bottle). We didn’t try any of those $10.00 samples, but we did find lots of good wines!
And since were in creole country, we decided to do as the Frenchies do, and had some cheese for dessert.
A hard goat cheese (never had one of those before) and a brie-type cheese that literally just melted on your tongue like butter. I wish I remembered what it was called!
Our trip ended with Easter Sunday, which, by the way, we got totally ripped off on. Apparently the Easter bunny does NOT make stops at hotels. How rude! Though I missed my family’s homemade mac ‘n cheese, glazed ham and corn casserole… I wasn’t complaining about the meal we ate either.
We went to one of Emeril’s restaurants: Nola. This was our second Food Network star restaurant experience. In Savannah, Georgia, we visited Paula Deen’s restaurant, and I’m surprised we made it out of there without going into cardiac arrest or diabetic shock.
Emeril’s Nola was a whole different ballgame. After one glance at the menu, I knew we were in for a treat. We started with homemade gravlax and bagels (always my favorite breakfast treat), which was out of this world. If I went back, I’d have three orders of it and leave it at that. Next, Nick had gumbo (when at Emeril’s… eat gumbo) and I had a BLT salad, which was fried green tomatoes topped with crispy bacon and arugula tossed in a buttermilk ranch dressing. I love Southerners for making salads fried and adding bacon to everything. Genius. They served jalapeno cornbread and mini ciabatta rolls on the side, both delicious. Not done yet… breakfast should always be 4 courses, right?
We were already getting full at this point (I supposed I should only speak for myself), but the food kept coming. Nick got Emeril’s gourmet take on shrimp and grits.
And I had a duck confit and fried egg pizza.
Whoever thought of putting duck confit and fried eggs on pizza is my hero (Thank you, Emeril). Just to make sure we didn’t get hungry again on our 3 hour drive home, we ended with a slice of Southern banana pudding cake. It definitely did not suck.
Well New Orleans, we may have had a rocky start, but I guess you’re okay after all. In fact, I may even love you. You can bet I’ll be back, and you better be ready for me!
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe Bourbon Street would have been fun in a previous life (in fact, I’m sure it would have been), but for now, I’ll take four-star restaurants and 10 pm bedtime over getting puked on any day.