NOLA Trip Report – February 13-19, 2011
We arrived in New Orleans on Sunday 2/13 at 4:00 p.m., checked into the New Orleans Courtyard Hotel (third time staying there; we love it because you get so much bang for your buck, room and cost-wise), and leisurely proceeded to walk down to Tujague’s in the FQ. There we dined on the veal chop and the 10-oz. filet mignon. We both enjoyed our beef dishes, as well as the requisite shrimp remoulade and boiled beef with horseradish sauce which are part of the table d’hote menu there. The beef was described by me and the hubby as some of the tastiest, “moistest” (is that a word?) pot roast we ever had, or at least that’s what it reminded us. It was a very beefy night. The bread pudding for dessert was forgettable, although DH liked it. Drinks were a bloody mary and Beefeater martini (him), and a NOLA Blonde beer and house merlot for myself.
Monday 2/14 Valentine’s Day started out with lunch plans at Dick and Jenny’s. Before we get too far, let me say I did not do very good research here, because D&J is NOT open for lunch on Monday, but they are open for lunch the other days of the week. My bad! After being dropped off by the cab and finding out the disappointing news, I decided we should hoof it to Domilese’s after being given some options within reasonable walking distance. Well, lo and behold, Domilese’s was not open for lunch, either. So then we trudged up to Magazine and came out right at Tee-Eva’s. Even though DH and I were not in too good of a mood at this point, we didn’t go into Tee-Eva’s even though I have ordered their sweet potato pecan pie online, and know they are probably fantastic for their other food. I saw Guy’s sign down the street and something flickered in my brain that maybe we should check that out, but out of frustration, hubby called a cab. We asked to be taken back to the FQ, but the wonderful cab driver, being a fourth-generation New Orleanian, suggested Mahony’s for a Peacemaker poor boy. We thought it sounded great, so that’s where we went and indeed it was great: we split the Peacemaker (fried oysters, cheddar cheese, and bacon) and an order of fried green tomatoes, which were excellent. The peacemaker was market price because of the oysters, so it was a little pricey at $23, but we went for it. Drinks were Abita Light, Abita Amber, Mardi Gras Bock, and a NOLA Blonde. So our aborted attempt at Dick and Jenny’s inadvertently worked out for an unexpected visit to Mahony’s, and an exploration of a part of the Uptown neighborhood.
We got dropped off in the FQ and went to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon and then stumbled into Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub down the street. Wish we had stopped in here at some point on our earlier trips because this place plays some of the traditional New Orleans jazz that we like. They are the oldest operating jazz club in the city. Hubby bought Volume I CD of Fritzel’s New Orleans Jazz Band and we’ve been enjoying it since we got home. Hope we’ll get to a live show next time we’re in town. After a couple of Bloody Marys and Sazzes, we headed back to the FQ Suites and freshened up for dinner.
For Valentine’s Day dinner, I had made reservations at Mat and Naddie’s in the Riverbend neighborhood. They were featuring four-course dinner specials that evening for V Day. Here is what we chose: oyster brie soup and hogshead charcuterie plate, fried oyster salad and Maytag blue cheese salad, angry shrimp and quail and waffles, and crème brulee and dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert. Everything very good, and I have to say it was the first time I tried quail. I liked the meat, very sweet, delicate and white, but it’s kind of like frog legs for me: I love the meat, but just not enough of it – ha!
Tuesday 2/15 we went old school and it turned out to be one of my favorite dining days: for lunch, we walked to Bon Ton in the CBD and had the pleasure of being waited on by the charming Sylvia. I took many CH posters’ advice and tried the crab au gratin…OMG, was it rich and decadent, full of creamy cheesy goodness. Glad it was served in a small dish. My side was lima beans, and they were so very tasty, too. Hubby had the crawfish 4-ways (etoufee, jambalaya, omelette, and Laurie). All crawfish preparations were excellent as well. The salads were fresh, cold, and crisp. DH only had water and I enjoyed my very tasty (and potent) Rum Ramsay. We enjoyed Bon Ton very much.
Tuesday afternoon we just walked around FQ again with drinks at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (hurricane and bloody mary) and then drinks at Hermes Bar next to Antoine’s. I wish the music at both these places was more toned down and unique to New Orleans, but oh well, maybe I’m just getting old. Drinks at Hermes were a Ramos Gin Fizz, French 75, and a Green Fairy for me and then 2 Sazeracs and a vodka (Stoli) martini for hubby. We met a local couple at the bar who had walked to the Quarter from their home in the Garden District and we were telling them about the other restaurants we had on our docket for the rest of the week and they seemed approving of our choices, so that made us feel good. Then time had rolled around for us to catch a cab to Uptown for dinner reservations at Pascal Manale’s. Another old-school choice that, for us, was a hit: one Andy Gator beer, one shiraz/merlot blend, one oyster pan roast, dozen raw oysters served at the table (we didn’t have to go to the oyster bar as some people have reported), 2 green salads, order of onion rings, 1 cup turtle soup, and one order of BBQ shrimp, and 2 after-dinner coffees. Service was excellent and I loved the traditional New Orleans vibe of the place. I told hubby the bib they tied on him in preparation for the BBQ shrimp should be a regular adornment for him when he dines.
Wednesday 2/16: This was our day for a tour bus to Oak Alley and Laura Plantations at Vacherie, LA. After waiting overtime to pick up a young Venezuelan couple at one of the hotels (either they were honeymooning or not married at all – ha), we were on our way. Oak Alley was picture perfect, but for sheer history, we liked Laura Creole Plantation better. Our great Laura tour guide, whose name was Amethyst, told a fascinating story that I won’t go into here, but I’m eager to read Laura Locoul Gore’s memoirs “Memories of the Old Plantation”. Interestingly, the plantation was one of the largest French wine importer/exporters in its day, but the only wine they have for sale in their gift shop now is a Missouri wine made not far from where we live, probably chosen because of its French name, Les Bourgeois. After we got back to New Orleans, we asked the bus driver to drop us off at the Roosevelt Hotel because hubby wanted to have drinks at the Sazerac bar. We dined at Domenica (our first time dining at a John Besh restaurant) and had one Prosecco and one Chawlento Blues (that’s not the right name but I can’t think of the correct one) made with Plymouth gin (me), and DH had a Brenner Pass made with Tanqueray gin, and a Peroni beer. Eats were the ½-price pizzas, one Enzo (anchovy, tomatoes, garlic and mortadella), one Calabrese (olives, capers, spicy salami and mozz), one arugula salad with gorgonzola, beets, and spiced pistachios, and one Anolini pasta (“little rings” stuffed with pork, basil and tomato). All food was good and tasty although we could easily have been in any city eating this cuisine, and the service was just fine.
Strolling down the hall to the Sazerac, there we had 2 Sazzes (hubby), and I had one Sidecar and one Brandy Milk Punch. I should have tried their Ramos Gin Fizz since that’s what Huey P. Long liked to drink there, but I just wasn’t “thinking” at the time….
Thursday 2/17: This is the day when our friends (couple) arrived from Omaha for a first-time visit. They arrived at FQ Suites around 9:30 a.m., checked in, and then we whisked away via cab to Coquette uptown on Magazine for 11:30 reservations. Arrived before they opened, so we moseyed down to Tracey’s for a few “pre-lunch” drinks. The only two I remembered to write down were Sidecars and Beefeater Martinis, although I know our friends had a couple of other ones while we were killing time. At Coquette for drinks, we had a few of their specialty cocktails from the menu that were priced at only $5 for Thursday lunch: Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Coquette Collins, Sazeracs, and a Jackson, which was made with Benton’s bacon-infused bourbon. I don’t even like bourbon, but I sure thought this drink was yummy. We all four got the 3-course lunch for $20, I think it was. Some of the selections we got included gumbo, gulf shrimp, roast oysters, pork belly, pig ear/Bibb lettuce salad, pork rillettes with various garnishes and crostini, veal meatballs, beignets and blood orange panna cotta for dessert. The blood orange panna cotta was easily one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, so refreshing, so creamy, so cool. Everything was so fresh and prettily plated. We all really liked Coquette.
After Coquette, we walked down to Walgreen’s for some items our friends forgot to pack and on the way, we stopped in at a fantastic cigar store on Magazine. I don’t smoke cigars (ha), but hubby was in heaven, stating it contained the largest humidor he had ever seen. I do enjoy smelling the cigar aroma. He purchased three, and we were on our way then to Walgreens down the street. After that, we cabbed it back to FQ Suites so our friends could rest and freshen up for our evening strolling around the French Quarter.
I hadn’t made any rezzes for Thursday evening because I thought just walking around the FQ might be fun and see where the spirits led us. I kind of wish I had had more definite ideas in mind because after a couple drinks at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop again, we sort of unfortunately wound up at Bourbon House. This was after checking out the line at Acme and instead of just deciding to stay put there, we decided to wander in to Bourbon House. Now it wasn’t bad, mind you, and the service was great considering how crazy busy it was, but for the prices they charge there, the food should be much more outstanding than it was. To be truthful, I don’t remember a lot of what our friends had, but I know we got a couple dozen raw (they were good), and I got Fruits of the Sea (not so good), and DH had the seared rare tuna…which could have been found in any other city and probably prepared better. We got seated and served pretty quickly, but I feel Bourbon House, even more than Acme, is churning and turning the tourists, and we actually like the food at Acme. If I’d had my head about me, I would’ve said, “Hey, how about Felix’s across the street, or Redfish Grill down the street?” I know they’re touristy, too, but oh well, it was an adventure. At least our friend from Omaha got a tarot card reading on Royal Street before we dined at Bourbon House which was something on her list to do while in NOLA.
Friday 3/18 was our last full day in New Orleans. Lunch reservations were at Patois. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. This was truly a standout. In no particular order, we tried: potato gnocchi, butternut squash and shrimp soup, leek, cauliflower and potato soup, calamari salad, oyster salad, smoked brisket sandwich, and gulf shrimp and housemade fettucine. Dessert was pain perdu with a chocolate/hazelnut cream and topped with some of that divine Benton’s bacon, crispy and divine. Coffee and espressos all around, too. I love the fact they call their bloody mary “Beautiful Mary”. That potato gnocchi is to–die-for, as some other folks on this board have attested. Patois struck just the right note between succulent southern home cooking, with a creative refined, yet decadent twist. Love the sign of the fork nailed to the light post outside with the words “weapon of choice” written below. Priceless. It was also good to have it confirmed by the cabbie, Keith, who drove us back to the FQ that the HBO series Treme is spot-on for capturing the feel and flavor of the real New Orleans after Katrina, the good along with the bad. He also pointed out in which direction on Dufossat the “Real World” house was located.
Dinner reservations on Friday night were at Cochon. Although I think we all liked the place, three out of four of us were a little disappointed and felt it didn’t live up to the hype. I had the cochon with turnips, cabbage and cracklins and liked it just fine. I also had the arugula salad with pickled squash, crispy pig ears and charred cayenne dressing and it was good. The two gentlemen both had one of the specials, a smoked pork shoulder which they deemed too dry due to heavy-handed trimming of the fat. I had a bite and liked it, although I’m weird and like dry meat. Hubby also liked his ham and bean soup. Mrs. Omaha got one of the other nightly specials which was a whole oven-roasted redfish. Everyone liked the preparation and taste of it except me. Some of the sides we got were lima beans (looked and tasted more like butter beans to me), broccoli rice casserole, macaroni and cheese, and grits and greens. I thought the lima beans were much more tasty at Bon Ton for example. Maybe it was me, but I thought all the sides a little bland. All in all, the food was pretty good but not as good as we had hoped. I wouldn’t mind going again at some point, but will probably try Boucherie next time to see how it compares. However, Cochon was the first place I tried an Ace Peary Cider and for that, I will always remember it.
After Cochon, we cabbed it to Frenchmen Street and strolled around, finally ambling into The Blue Nile and saw a fantastic duo who played from 8-10: female vocalist Mykia Jovan and keyboardist Jason Butler. If you have a chance to catch their show at the Blue Nile, please do. Hubs wanted to see Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers play at 11:00. Before they started, he went over to the bar and said hi to Kermit and shook his hand. Said K was very gracious and happy that someone said hello. Kermit and the Swingers took the stage at 11:20 and we stayed till midnight, then left our Nebraska friends to enjoy the rest of the evening/morning on Frenchmen as we had to check out the next morning. A funny little story that may not be funny to anyone else, but while we were waiting for Kermit and the band to start, we had the “pleasure” of listening to over an hour of pop dance music or new R&B, or whatever the young folks are calling it these days. Anyway, the ubiquitous Black-eyed Peas “Tonight’s Gonna be a Good, Good night”was played, and we oldsters all groaned “oh no, not that song”. Well, what do you think Kermit and the Swingers played about 3 songs in? You got it: the Black-eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna be a Good, Good Night”! Hilarious! I’ll never hear the chorus of “Do it, do it, do it, do it” without remembering that night at the Blue Nile.
Saturday 3/19 was our last day and we had lunch at Port of Call because it’s so freakin’ fantastic and so convenient to where we stay. We split a Schooner Salad with blue cheese dressing, and one mushroom burger and baked potato. Yum! The place was hoppin’ with carryout drink orders and people waiting to get inside and eat. Can’t blame them because the drinks at POC will rock your world. We saw also that another of our favorite places, Buffa’s, across the street from POC, had a big banner displayed that they have a new owner and new menu. I guess the tuba player doesn’t own it anymore. Can’t think of his name, but hope he’s doing OK. Our Omaha friends were staying over on Saturday night and we were a little jealous because they were going to enjoy the Krewe du Vieux parade that evening, the first parade to kick off the Mardi Gras season and the only parade that still uses mules to pull the floats. The report later was that it was a hoot and they really enjoyed it: just the right blend of political incorrectness and ribaldry. They ate at Praline Connection on Saturday and here’s what they had, straight from “Mr. Omaha: “Yes, Mary had the stuffed green peppers, stuffed with a mixture of ground shrimp and ground beef. Really light actually and taste of the bell pepper was well into the stuffing. I had red beans and rice and a smothered pork chop (breaded, fried, soaked in gravy), obligatory brick-sized cornbread. The best thing though was the "Gumbo Zaire" which was a mixture of collard and mustard greens and rice in a spicy broth.” On Sunday, they toured Houmas House at Darrow, LA, and liked it very much, too. Here’s what they had to eat: “Mary had a crawfish fettucine, and I had veal and cheese grits with a Spanish olive sauce. Also traditional mint juleps made with Bourbon :) It really was as good as any of the other places we dined, just really far from town...”
Another great time in New Orleans and we can hardly wait to get back again which will probably not be till sometime next spring. Already making another dining list, one of my favorite things to do. New Orleans, you are what dreams are made of – thanks again to the wonderful city and people who live there and make it so wonderful. See you in 2012!
542 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
Bon Ton Cafe
401 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
3454 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA
Pascal Manale's Restaurant
1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115
Port of Call
838 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116
144 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130
823 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
532 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
8115 Jeannette St, New Orleans, LA 70118
123 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA 70112