My dear friends, I give you:
Whiskeymarie v. New Orleans: Ma'am, just put down the fork, step away from the plate and no one gets hurt.
Day 1: 10:05 flight to Atlanta, one hour layover, then off to N.O.
I threaten my husband that I am going to try and work the word "hotlanta" into as many sentences as possible today. He is grateful that my anti-anxiety meds will eventually render me mute. I am seated on the first flight next to a very stinky hipster guy with really tight jeans on. Dude, it's called soap. Check it out sometime.
1st meal: Crappy salad and sweetened ice tea that we were assured by the waitress wasn't sweetened at the "Budweiser Cafe" in the Atlanta airport. And to answer your question- no. No, there wasn't a better option than the "Budweiser cafe". Trust me.
Both flights were on time, but unfortunately "misplacing" my luggage means Delta Airlines is dead to me now. I'm totally not inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner this year. Lucky for them I was so zonked out from the Ativan that I was unable to punch the luggage guy in the face, even though I really, really wanted to. I take his "what to do when Delta Airlines can't do its job and some disgruntled and underpaid airline worker goes on break early and just leaves your new suitcase sitting on the tarmac" brochure and we catch a cab to the hotel (3:30-ish)
Our hotel is lovely. Super clean, comfy, great staff and quaint in a distinctly Frenchy/New Orleans-y kind of way.
I need a nap at this point, it seems.
We lollygagged a while, then decided to wander in the city a bit.
I am officially in deep, deep love with the French Quarter. Every house has shutters, everything is painted in bright colors, music pours out from every nook and cranny, and you can take your drinks with you wherever you go as long as it's in a plastic cup. Bless your heart, New Orleans.
Dinner was casual, we ate here on my girl M's recommendation. I took her advice and had the muffaletta. Man, if calories weren't an issue I would eat a muffaletta every day for lunch, and possibly dinner, if allowed. Maspero's was my kind of place- sort of dive-y, but fantastic, simple food and $1 glasses of crappy house wine. Yum. Oh, and the Mr. had a GIANT plate of various fried fishy/shellfishy things.
The shrapnel that was the remnants of my sandwich:
After dinner I decided to hump a fire hydrant:
We took another of M's suggestions and stopped by The Spotted Cat after dinner for a drink and some live music. What a great place. Cramped, smoky and dark, with a really good jazz quartet playing. We didn't stay long 'cause we were POOPED, but I'm really glad we went.
*It was odd that there was smoking allowed EVERYWHERE we went. People were puffing away in restaurants, bars, stores, in the hotel, you name it. I don't smoke, but I have to say it was kind of nice to not see people huddled in doorways and alleys for a quick puff. Most places we went were open-air, and so the smoke really wasn't much of an issue at all. I kind of miss people being able to smoke wherever. I don't care what anyone says- it DOES look cool. Send your angry letters disagreeing with me to: Whiskeymarie, 1234 Drunkypants Lane, St. Paul, MN, 55100.
Remember these? They're everywhere in this city:
Lastly, a quick drink or two in our hotel bar, then sleep, glorious sleep.
Since everyone said we HAD to get beginets and coffee at Cafe du Monde, we decided to go there for breakfast. Call me naive, but I assumed that there would be additional food-like items available for purchase at this landmark, but nope. Nada. Overall, I have to say, "meh". I love deep-fried balls of doughy goodness as much as the next person, but I wasn't impressed with these. I've had better. Plus, I was kind of hoping to, oh- I don't know, have something along with my fried dough. Fruit? Nope, move along. We ate our dough balls, drank the scalding coffee and went about our business for the day, unimpressed with Le du Monde.
We spent the bulk of our day wandering around, just soaking in the city. We decided that Bourbon street stinks. Literally. Every few feet we would step into some unholy odor (garbage, sewer, puke, etc...) that seemed to hang thick in the air. None of the other streets had this stink. Bourbon street- what up?
We sat at an open-air cafe on the main drag/touristy street I can't remember the name of and had lunch. Every cafe had someone standing outside hollering for people to come in and eat, and every menu lists something as "world famous". I had one of the best bowls of jambalaya that I've ever had in my life. I wanted to go back for dinner, it was that good. The Mr. had gumbo and a muffaletta of his own. Maspero's muff was better, but this one was still pretty good. We had a couple of drinks, which would help explain our next move.
When, when, when will I ever learn to just skip the touristy crap? It's never a good idea, and it usually just ends up pissing me off in multiple ways.
So...we see this sign for Steamboat rides. Hey, that might be fun!, we muse. We can take a leisurely cruise down the Mississippi, relax a bit and just enjoy being somewhere warm. Yay! Boats!
We plop down $40 for tickets and wander around the riverside to kill time until the boat leaves. 2:00 arrives, so we head back to the landing to board.
A freaking LOUD organ playing circus music, 1,287,473 people waiting in line to board...ick.
In what was quite possibly my lamest attempt at a life of crime, I tried unsuccessfully to scalp my steamboat tickets. The dude looked at me like I was crazy. C'mon! Half price! C'mon!
We decided to suck it up and just go.
Me waiting in line to board:
Luckily, they had a bar, and the trip was kind of interesting and scenic. The bazillion other people on board made it less than stellar, and it was pretty cold on the water- but we lived.
I really should have signed us up for a tour with these folks:
For our after-dinner cocktails, we wandered back off the beaten path near the Spotted Cat. We went to the Hookah Cafe, which was cooler than it sounds. We didn't partake of the hookah, but they made me a mean watermelon martini, and it was good & mellow people-watching. I don't get the whole hookah thing, but hey- I don't get a lot of things, so there you go.
I find myself wondering: New Orleans, why do you hate breakfast so?
In an city that doesn't seem to even wake up before 10:00, where all of the stores don't open until 11:00, and around dusk is when things seem to just get moving...why oh why was it nearly impossible to find breakfast of ANY sort around 10:00a.m? We seriously walked for about an HOUR before we found anyone serving anything resembling breakfast, and we ended up having unimpressive egg sandwiches at a sort of "self-serve" joint. Let's work on that one, o.k. N.O?
More walking, this time we wandered out of the French Quarter and into other districts in the city. One of my favorite things about New Orleans was the fact that there are gorgeous city parks everywhere you go. Statues, flowers, giant trees, people eating lunch, napping, basking in the sun, great public art...
Lunch was at another cafe in the French Quarter, not bad, but nothing special. I had a pretty good salad (I really needed a few veggies at this point) and the Mr. had gumbo again and really good sweet potato fries. We went to this particular cafe mostly because they had a 2nd floor terrace we could sit on to get a few more bits of sun and people-watch while having a few cocktails.
More walking, a little shopping, then back to the hotel for nappy-time.
We had dinner reservations at 8:30 for the Commander's Palace that night.
I say had because I canceled them.
Yes, I know. Sacrilege.
I get a reservation for a landmark, an institution- and I go and cancel them.
Let me explain:
Up to this point, we had been lucky to have eaten some really good food, for the most part. I knew that for our last big meal in town I wanted something really special, but I wasn't getting at all excited to go to the Commander's Palace. I wasn't really even looking forward to it.
When it comes to big-ticket dining, my instincts are rarely wrong, so I decided that I wanted to go to this restaurant near our hotel that we had walked by a few times so far. Something about it just seemed like it was our kind of place. I was done with the gumbo/jambalaya/muffaletta stuff. Now I wanted something that was "New Orleans with a twist".
Best decision I ever made, canceling that reservation, and making a new one.
We went to Stella!, a not-too-big cafe with an ambitious menu. This was easily one of the most inventive and interesting menus I've ever had the pleasure of choosing from. I was giddy just reading it.
We had white-glove service (which was a bit odd at first, I must say. The whole thing had an early 80's Michael Jackson vibe to it) in a dining room that can best be described as "fusion" decor. Think old-school foofy French meets Tokyo circa 2045.
Pre-dinner: A glass of bone-dry rose' for me, a Heindrick's and soda for the Mr.
With dinner: Fiddlehead Cellars 2001 "honeysuckle" Sauvignon Blanc. Heaven in a glass.
For me- Veal and shrimp (yes, I took a chance and ate the gross little things) gyoza with tempura mustard raab and spicy peanut sauce. So. Freaking. Good.
For the Mr.- "Peanut butter and jellyfish" salad. Tempura-battered baby octopus and jellyfish with watermelon, cucumber and a light, somewhat peanutty vinaigrette. I didn't eat the wiggly things, but I tried the watermelon with the dressing. Holy crap. Delicious.
For me- Duck 5 ways: Seared, pepper-crusted mid-rare duck breast, mini "mu shu" style duck with summer squash, "lacquered" leg and thigh, duck miso broth and foie gras wontons. If there ever was a more perfect dish, I challenge you to tell me what it is. God I love duck.
For the Mr.- Miso and sake-glazed Black Cod with shark's fin omelet, wilted mustard greens, roasted spring garlic and lobster-scented butter. He just kept smiling and saying "this is soooo good" while eating this, so I assume he liked it. I tried the shark-fin. Odd, but good.
Dark chocolate cake with "hot buttered" pink lemonade, which can best be described as pink lemonade buerre blanc. My arteries cried a little just typing that.
One of my most expensive meals ever, but worth every penny and then some.
Back to the hotel for a drink at the bar, then good night.
We had to fly out earlier on Thursday, so we just had breakfast at the hotel. Not terrible, but not great either.
All in all, it was a pretty great trip.
This city has a feel to it like no other I've been to.
Laid back, welcoming, food and music-centered, and really, really pretty in a faded and elegant way. I felt instantly comfortable, like I had been there a million times before but still had a million things to see and do.
But most of all I liked just sitting in the cafes, a cold cocktail in hand and a plate of something delicious in front of me, watching it all go by.
Thanks, New Orleans. As soon as I lose the ten pounds I put on this time around I'll be plotting and planning when I can go again.