We went to New Orleans last week and it kicked our ass. Which is why I didn't get this posted yesterday. We got home Saturday afternoon and, yeah, I was still not forming complete sentences until this morning!! It was our first time there (I know, I know) and I have to admit I had really low expectations because, Bourbon Street. Friends.....I was wrong. Not about Bourbon Street. It's the petri dish that you think it is....don't go unless you're under the age of 25. Seriously. It stinks.
But the rest of the city? Completely charming and the food and alcohol is amazing. Choices for days. Seriously......anything you are craving, you'll find it there, but can I suggest for your first trip that you, at least, get in the New Orleans staples.
and oysters.....omg get the oysters at Peche and Felix's
Let's not forget the beignets. If you want to avoid the lines at Cafe DuMonde, check out Morning Call in City Park. Beautiful place to sit outside if the weather is nice.
|Sorry I took the picture pre-powdered sugar. Once they were doused, they didn't last long! Oh and have the Cafe au Lait, even if you think you don't like it!|
The only thing I really wanted to try but physically ran out of room for was a Po Boy. Next time.
Exclusive Resorts has partnered with The Windsor Court hotel, so that's where we stayed. The hotel is old and beautiful and very New Orleans....the bartender mixes a fabulous drink.....but I wouldn't say the room was "Exclusive Resort" value. If you're a member, you know exactly what that "value" should be on a daily basis. So there was that. Not a trip-ruining experience, but something that needs to be noted. Moving on. Directly across the street from the hotel sat John Besh's flagship Restaurant August so that's where we went Wednesday evening. As expected, it was fabulous. Beautiful high ceilings, gorgeous woodwork, white tablecloths.....perfect. Plan on having a drink at the bar before dinner and leave room for dessert!! Great experience.
The next morning we went on a three-hour city tour with Al as our guide. Oh, Al. Quintessential New Orleans' character. He knows every celebrity in town.....they exchange New Year's texts.....or so Al believes. Actually, I believed him! So fun. Has lived in New Orleans his whole life, evacuated his family before Katrina hit but lost his business, all his money and the flood waters were up to the second story of his beautiful home which was not far from where the levees broke. He doesn't blame the levees for the devastation, however, and has a theory that involves the long-ago destruction of New Orleans wetlands. He may be right. Very informative and I feel like it was essential to the trip. It was a driving tour, so the only disappointment was not getting to take a lot of pics.....of say, his good friends' Sandy Bullock's and John Goodman's homes. He could have at least introduced us......
After that, off to a late lunch at Peche. Very cool place and I loved the relaxed interior and vibe. Fabulous cocktail that involved Gin, Ginger and Cucumber to start and then we ordered and dozen oysters (Ed anointed them the best he's ever had) and about 6 different tapas.......
.....and then my mind was blown when they brought the dessert menu that had liquor pairings, y'all. If you don't try the pineapple rum cake with dulce de leche ice cream and the El Dorado rum pairing, I'll find you and slap you.
Our favorite tapas were the fish sticks, the spicy ground shrimp and noodles and the brussels sprouts.
After that, back to the hotel for a quick nap then off to the evenings mixology lesson with Daniel Victory of Victory Nola who was named one of the Top 5 bartenders internationally by GQ Magazine and traveled the world as Bombay Sapphire's international ambassador before settling back in NOLA and opening Victory.
Above the bar is his private "classroom" where he gives private mixology lessons either for a group, or in our case, just Mr. B and myself. We learned to make the perfect Sazerac, The Original Hurricane and Ramos Gin Fizz. Daniel is really great at what he does, is personally engaging, has great stories and continued to entertain us the rest of the evening at his beautiful bar downstairs. His wife was even kind enough to call us a much needed (first ever) Uber at the end of the night. If you're taking a group to New Orleans for something special, say a bachelor or bachelorette party, birthdays, etc., this is a really fun, personal and private experience. And the food pairings they serve with each cocktail you make are not a mere afterthought. This is just a great place.
|This is a really bad pic of Daniel. Sorry.|
OMG we had to get up the next morning and start all over again at 11:00am with an all day food and cocktail tour of the French Quarter. We were both still full and probably, technically drunk from the night before, but we put our big girl (and boy) panties (pants) and soldiered on! The first stop was at Felix's for oysters. You've got to come here when you're in town. They've been doing this for over 70 years and were absolutely the nicest, most genuine people we met. We bellied up to the bar, ordered a little hair-o-the-dog Bloody Mary and the oysters started appearing one by one....you eat one, they shuck you another one....over and over.....until you cry uncle! Such fun. Maybe the largest oysters I've ever seen.
Next stop was the French Market for a muffuletta. Hubs claimed they were delicious but since I'm not a fan of olives, I left this one up to him. The locals don't like to say this aloud, but apparently the French Market was one of the casualties of Katrina that turned out to be a blessing. The reincarnation is a better, more diversified product.
Then it was on to gumbo, shrimp and grits, and crab cakes at Cafe Amelie which is in the historic 150-year-old Princess of Monaco Courtyard and Carriage House on Royal Street. Absolutely the most beautiful setting of the day and the weather was perfect for sitting outside. The food was also amazing. At this point, we were STUFFED and luckily this was the end of the food portion.
The FUN portion was just getting revved up, however, as the first parade of Mardi Gras started at 3:00pm with the Krewe of Cork. And since they're all about everything wine, we had to go watch. Oh lawd.........
Then we did what you do in New Orleans.......walk around the French Quarter and bar hop and people watch! It was everything you've imagined!
We drove home Saturday morning in a fog (not the weather....our heads) just as Mardi Gras was really getting started. I only saw a tiny portion of what happens there during the next few weeks. It was enough!! Y'all enjoy without me.
I can't say enough about our concierge, Claudette, of Nouvelle Orleans Concierge LLC, who arranged all of our activities and hung with us the entire time......eating and drinking our way through the city. It would not have been the same without her guidance and vast knowledge. What an interesting life she's led!
I feel like I need to offer up at least one recipe of my time there, so I'll leave you with the perfect Sazerac. According to Daniel, how it should be made....
1 1/2 ounce rye whiskey
1 sugar cube
splash of water
4 dashes peychaud's bitters
splash of herbsaint
Fill an old fashioned glass with ice and a splash of hersait and set aside. In a separate mixing glass, muddle sugar cube and splash of water. Add remaining ingredients over ice and then stir. Discard ice and any excess herbsait from the previously prepared old-fashioned glass and strain cocktail into it. Garnish with lemon peel.
Other things that caught my eye the past week...........
We're finally getting the "official" election year started today. It's gonna be a long 10 months people. No matter what side you fall on. What are the Iowa Caucuses? And how are they different from other primaries. Here's everything you need to know. And what, exactly, is it like to live in Iowa the week before the Caucuses.
Hollywood's cutest couple, Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, posted this little ditty this week and the internet loved it. This pales in comparison to my favorite Kristen Bell internet moment. I cry right along with her the entire video. For different reasons.
My brother and I were texting about Idris Elba the other day and he mentioned the series Luther. I'd never heard of it so I binge watched the first four episodes of the first season on our way home from New Orleans. Elba is fabulous, but this series is fucking intense. I don't watch a lot of "crime" series, so I don't have much to compare it to, but are all the criminals this horrific?? That said, I can't stop watching.
I also downloaded this series after Al, our tour guide, mentioned that it was his favorite series set in NOLA. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I'll let you know.
This caught my eye after a conversation with our two guides on Friday. One has already been to Cuba and has three future trips already planned guiding groups. Claudette, our concierge, said that she deffinitely wanted to see the country in it's current, pre-americanized glory. Sounds like she'll need to get there soon.
Discovered this recently and love her voice. Reminds me of Sade.
Last, but not least, this cauliflower recipe is happening tonight!
Enjoy the rest of your week!