a.k.a., How much can you eat in 40 hours in the French Quarter?
07.01.2011 - 09.01.2011
That's what we had in NOLA.
Doesn't seem worth it, does it?
Have you ever eaten in New Orleans? Oh, it's worth it alright.
We had been invited down to join a friend and her husband in the French Quarter for the weekend. Weather was against us, so our trip was planned for Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Quick, but long enough to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, while we were focused on the weather at home, we totally missed the storm clouds gathering to the west......
We arrive in New Orleans at the Lakefront Airport, the city's "old" airport, which still services general aviation. This little airport always has great service and they had called us a cab that was actually waiting for us when we landed. Our cab driver was a character. Having driven taxis in NOLA for 52 years, he was full of stories that he was eager to keep us entertained with all the way to our "home away from home," a little historic house on the edge of the French Quarter.
Nestled near the corner of Royal and Esplanade, on the quiet end of the quarter, I can't say enough good things about this vacation rental. What had to be at least sixteen foot ceilings, gorgeous furnishings and art, huge rooms, a "party shower" (I still don't really know what that is .... nor am I sure I want to), and the comfiest bed ever, it alone is a reason to return to this great spot.
We are ahead of schedule and our friends are getting ready. Matt wants ACME oysters, even though we have dinner reservations at Bayona in about 2 hours. We make a short walk over to the French Market streetcar station.
As we wait for the streetcar, I can't help but be mesmerized by the sky before me. The skyline of downtown sits like a shining beacon with an amazing sky of red and purple lighting the night. It's simply amazing.
Our streetcar arrives and for $1.25, we are whisked to the other end of the quarter, Canal Street, in no time and without my feet screaming at me, "Why did you wear those heels, you idiot???"
We get patiently in the line at ACME and I assure Matt that it will move fast. It always moves fast. He's anxious, worried he won't have time for raw oysters, so I send him down the street to Mango Mango for a couple of tacky frozen drinks in giant styrofoam cups. I figure that will give him something to do and hopefully, the Giant-Cup-O-Hurricane will give him a brainfreeze that will make him chill out. He returns and sees that in those 2 minutes, the line has moved about half it's distance. He's all good.
We finally reach the door, after only about 10 minutes, and hear our name being called. Right then he gets ....a look. A bad look.
"I don't have my wallet," he says, "It's gone.'
I can't believe we've been in NOLA only a couple of hours and he's already had his wallet lifted. Seriously? My mind immediately goes to the credit cards and $1000 cash that were in there and I feel sick. He's pacing up and down the street as I tell the hostess to let someone go in front of us...give us just a minute.
"Did you use it in Mango Mango?" I ask, "Go back and see if you left it.
He walks away grumbling something about how he wouldn't have left it in there...it's been stolen...we have no money.....A moment later he comes running out with his wallet in his hand! Thank the lord for the honest girl in Mango Mango! Crisis averted!
I no longer allow Matt to hold his own wallet as we are ushered into the madness of ACME Oyster House.
It's 3 dozen raw oysters later and we are meeting our friends to head to Bayona for dinner. We arrive early and have a seat in the courtyard patio for drinks. The night is cool, but not cold, and it's nice to be able to sit outside with a cocktail when there was snow falling when we left home. We are seated at an elegant table inside and have a fantastic dinner. A starter of lobster risotto and an entree of smoked pork shank with mashed potatoes go a long way toward making me forget the early troubles of the evening.
It's a quick walk down crazy Bourbon Street to Lafittes's Blacksmith Shop for drinks.
We are lucky enough to score a table and we sip on voodoo daiquiris that taste like a frozen grape crush (or sort of like a Dimetapp slushie if you think about it too much) and watch an odd collection of war re-enactment folks stroll around the bar. The combination of the alcohol, the dark of this extremely old pub, and the historic costumes could almost make you think you had been sent back in time. Thank goodness the really bad pianist in the back of the bar kept playing really bad tunes to remind us exactly where we were.
Oh, if I could only eat in my sleep...so many hours wasted. After a great night's sleep, we took a walk through the French Market and headed down to Cafe Du Monde. I was craving fried dough and chicory coffee. We perused the menu, which didn't take long since it only consists of beignets and beverages, and ordered. Moments later, a plate of sweet fried dough covered with powdered sugar and a strong cup of cafe au lait was set down in front of me. Heaven.
With powdered sugar on my face, my pants, and my fingers....we headed back to the house.
We were meeting our friends at Mother's, all the way on the other side of the Quarter, for an early lunch. We decided to walk so that we could enjoy the sights and sounds of the French Quarter.
We must have been enjoying them too long, either that or we didn't realize just how far away Mother's was, because suddenly, we only had 15 minutes to cover a pretty long distance. We practically ran the rest of the way, and arrived at Mother's huffing and puffing about 15 minutes late.
Mother's was very non-descript on the outside. We were ushered in and stood in line, pouring over menus, paralyzed by indecision, knowing we had to order as soon as we reached the counter. Do I get breakfast or lunch? Do I want seafood? A po'boy? Debris? What about those side dishes? What about dessert? Coffee? When it was our turn, we blurted out our choices, feeling like we were in the Soup Nazi line on Seinfeld, afraid to hesitate lest we be sent to the back of the line. We were handed drinks and our number and went to find a seat. In moments, platters of food arrived. Eggs and grits, biscuits, fried oysters, black beans and rice....it was a mountain of food.
I had the debris po'boy....a soft white bun filled with their famous ham, turkey, and debris (shredded roast beef in a savory gravy) topped with shredded cabbage and creole mustard....and a side of greens.
We spend the next few hours wandering around the Quarter, taking in all that it has to offer.
We walk around the artists of Jackson Square, taking in the colorful offerings. We end up buying a painting from one artist, which she promptly wraps in a sheet and binds with masking tape.
We stand in line at Central Grocery. We look at jars of olives and pickles. We can smell fresh parmesan and baking bread. This wonderful but unassuming Italian grocery is home to one of my favorite sandwiches....the muffaletta.
A round loaf of soft Italian bread is sliced and piled with salami, ham, and provolone, and that is topped with a wickedly spicy blend of chopped green and black olives fragrant with anchovies and garlic. Oh yum. We got our sandwich, wrapped in white paper, a bag of Zapp's, and a cold root beer and headed to find a park bench by the river.
We walk along Royal. It's been blocked off to car traffic in many places and street musicians fill the tiny paved spaces. A variety of music drifts on the air and we simply walk and listen...walk and listen...until we arrive back at our little house.
We are meeting our friends at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone and we decide to walk down Bourbon Street to get there.
It doesn't matter that it's barely evening...Bourbon Street is ALIVE. We hear what sounds like a parade and see a police escort coming toward us. We stop and are treated to an amazing view of an entire wedding party and all its guests being led down the middle of Bourbon by a parade master and a band....all the guests waving white handkerchiefs to the happy march of "When the Saints Go Marching In."
It's cocktail time at the Carousel Bar. I'm standing trying to talk to my friend who is seated on a barstool. I walk at least 2 miles before I allow her husband to convince me it's okay to take his seat. We sip cocktails as we spin....and spin....and spin.
I am staring into the eyes of the Stud Lobster...a three pound monster on my plate at Drago's. We've just finished sopping up the last of the butter sauce on the char-grilled oyster plate with the few remaining scraps of crispy baguette. I follow the Stud with the biggest brownie sundae I think the world has ever known.
We are closing down the bar at Pirate's Alley. Who knew they closed so early? We are still trying to figure out what the mysterious paper sign taped to the fireplace means.
Hour thirty-nine and a half
I'm dreaming about where to have breakfast....and lunch....I'm thinking of thick bananas foster pancakes topped with sweet syrup when Matt shakes me awake. "zzzzz....huh?"
Remember those clouds to the west that we hadn't been paying attention to?
"I just called the Weather Center and they said if we don't take off in 30 minutes, we aren't leaving New Orleans today."
He calls our taxi driver and I, bleary eyed, pull on my clothes and stuff all our crap into our suitcase in record time. I don't even have time to brush my teeth, much less get a last cup of chicory coffee to go.....
We fly out of NOLA just as a HUGE storm front is moving in. I can see our flight path as it skirts the edge of the storm all the way above GA. We just made it, but I have been cheated out of my final meals. What about my french toast at Stanley's? What about my Port O'Call burger? What about....
I guess we'll just have to come back now, won't we?