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NOLA Birthday/Dining Trip Report - September 9-15, 2013

Christine | Oct 29, 201311:48 AM

I’m embarrassed it’s taken me this long to write up our dining trip report from last month, but that’s the way it is. Here goes:

Arrived Monday, Sep. 9 late afternoon and had dinner reservations at Dick and Jenny’s. Had heard D&J might be a dubious choice after the new owner change (same chef/owner as Martinique on Magazine and Cristiano’s in Houma), but very happily, not so. Started with the Cornmeal Fried Oysters, Watermelon Gazpacho, and Barnyard Gumbo for appetizers. The gumbo had duck, chicken, andouille, and pulled pork in it. For mains, I had the Gulf fish of the night, which was Flounder with Pecan Risotto and a Savory Praline Sauce and Arugula. Yum-yum! DH had the Veal Piccata with Angelhair Pasta and Caper Gravy, and for drinks, he had an Abita Light, a Corpse Reviver, and Sazerac. For me, a glass of champagne, then a “Tchouptail” (their take on a argarita made with some kind of special tequila), and finishing with a digestif made with bourbon and Aperol (similar to Campari). DH also had coffee after dinner, and I will state right now he thought the after-dinner coffee he received at all restaurants was superior to what we normally get at home. I would say run, don’t walk, to check out Dick and Jenny’s, and give a shout-out to Jessica, our server. Great start to our week-long dining adventure in NOLA.

Tuesday, Sep. 10: Lunch reservations at Mr. B’s. I had one of the Restaurant Week lunch specials of the Seared Scallop Salad with Walnuts and Cauliflower, plus a Gruyere Cheese Soup. Delicious! DH had the famous BBQ Shrimp, as well as the Seafood Gumbo. For drinks, I had a Champagne Royale, a glass of Hogue pinot grigio, and a Pear Cosmo. DH started with a $1.50 martini made with Gilbey’s gin (guess that’s why it’s only $1.50 – ha), then switched to two Bloody Marys. Mr. B’s was excellent. Len was our server.

After Mr. B’s, we tripped into (and later stumbled out of) the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Jonathan more than competently took care of us, whipping up a Roffignac cocktail and a Ramos gin fizz for me, and a Montelone cocktail and a Sazerac for DH. Loved every minute of that experience.

Dinner reservations Tuesday evening at GW Fins. Started with Yellowfin Tuna Tartare (pretty sure they did not have the cold-smoked oysters on the menu that evening). I will state right now we unfortunately did not get our oyster fix on this trip because we were told it was still too hot for them.
Bummer! For salads, I had the Beet Salad with both red and golden beets (I love me some beets), and hubby had the Triple Iceberg Wedge. He had Broiled Pompano with Melon and Blue Crab Fritters, and I had the Carolina Jolt Snapper with Crawfish Etoufee’. I liked his pompano better than my jolt snapper and wish I had gone with my first inclination of the Red Snapper instead of the Jolt. Also wish the Scalibut had been on the menu that night. Ah, well. For drinks, I had a French 75 (I also love me some champagne), and he had a Bootleg Old-fashioned made with Goat’s Moonshine. For dessert, I had the Salty Malty Ice Cream Pie with Pretzel Crust, and we both had coffees. Jerin was our server. I will say that, although GW Fins was good and we had no complaints, I did not get that unique only-in-New Orleans vibe there, and felt I could be dining at any upscale seafood restaurant in the country.

Wednesday lunch reservations at Commander’s Palace: Let me just start by saying this was a stand-out experience, even though we sat downstairs instead of upstairs in the Garden Room. I have issues with stairs due to multiple sclerosis, so even though we could have dined upstairs, I opted not to navigate them because they looked fairly daunting and lengthy. But downstairs suited us just fine, and our server, Jeff, asserted we were in the best seat in the house, the “Ronald Reagan Table” which was the corner booth with a view of the whole room. Sweet! Apparently, it used to have a sign above the table designating it as such, but after Katrina, it was not put back up. Anyway, we started with the Oyster & Absinthe Dome and the Shrimp & Tasso Henican for appetizers. I chose the three-course lunch consisting of the Creole Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, the Honey-Lacquered Quail stuffed with Jalapeno Cornbread (to die for), and the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle’ with Crème Anglaise. Hubby had a Caesar salad, and a Shrimp Chile Relleno (chile rellenos are his favorite Mexican food, so thought he’d try the shrimp one at CP). For drinks, he had two classic (gin) martinis, and I had a melon one. Brad Brennan (son of Dot) even stopped by our table and welcomed us during his circuit of the room. He said normally Ti makes the rounds of the dining room, but since she was gone, he got called in from the Las Vegas location for that duty. I call that “It’s a Wonderful Life”! When leaving, I spied “In the Land of Cocktails” by Ti and Lally Brennan and decided to buy a copy. Much to my surprise and delight, I was escorted through the big bustling kitchen to the back bar to make the transaction. I didn’t even look around to see if Tory McPhail was there because I was so overwhelmed by walking through the Commander’s Palace kitchen and the specialness of it all. Both the food and service were superb, and we loved all our time and experience there.

Dinner reservations Wed. evening at Muriel’s: Wish I had taken the advice of many not to waste a dinner at Muriel’s, but do lunch there instead. It truly was the low point of our dining experience in NOLA this time. I think if it were located anywhere else except on Jackson Square, it would not be a dining destination. What is the term…burn and turn? I chose the three-course dinner, consisting of the Goat Cheese Crepes (heard they were good…not so much…reminded me of a pre-made frozen dish that had just come out of the microwave), Crusted Puppy Drum, and Bread Pudding with Caramel and Pecans. I also had a Muriel’s salad. DH had the fish of the day, which was Yellowfin Tuna, and the Shrimp and Eggplant Stuffing, which reminded us of nothing more than a doctored-up Stovetop stuffing. All of it bland and uninspired. The best item was his Turtle Soup. For drinks, I had the El Diablo, which was supposed to be a version of margarita with a kick, but turned out to be as bland as the food. He had a Hendrick’s martini, up with two olives. We thought Muriel’s was charging too much for the quality of food and lack of presentation. Service was adequate at best, the knowledge of our server was poor, and the pacing was bad. We have been to some chain restaurants where we were more impressed and satisfied. Another quibble DH had was the cheap paper towels in the restroom (something that for some reason he’s attuned to). Muriel’s was glaringly lacking compared to all the other stellar restaurants we tried this trip. Any hype associated with this place is not worth it, in our honest opinions. If there are others who love this place, we are happy for you, but we were disappointed.

Thursday lunch reservations at Clancy’s: Wow, what a wonderful local neighborhood place that puts out great food. Totally unassuming joint that hits all the marks on dining and service. We both started off with tasty house salads, then hubby had Veal Lyonnaise while I was oh-so-glad I took the recommendation of many on this board and chose the Smoked Softshell Crab with Garlic Meuniere Sauce. Absolutely incredible! I had a Pimm’s Cup to drink, while DH had his favorite Hendricks martini up. Clancy’s was great for lunch, and I bet it’s even better at dinner.

Thursday dinner reservations at Court of Two Sisters: many others on this board have slammed this place, but we were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed this place. Not only is their courtyard the most magical place on earth at night (no offense to Disneyworld), but the food was quite good. My aunt, who sadly passed away in August, always asked me if we’d dined at COTS every time we’ve been to New Orleans, and I always had to tell her no, thinking it was truly a tourist trap and not good. I regret now we didn’t go there sooner so I could tell her just how good we thought it was. DH chose from the We Live to Eat offerings and had the Fried Green Tomato with Shrimp Remoulade, the Shrimp, Crab, and Crawfish Etoufee’, and Key Lime Pie for dessert. Since I was burned out on seafood by this time (I am a Midwestern girl after all), I was craving a great steak, and their 8-oz. filet mignon did not disappoint, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and served with tasty mashed potatoes and onion rings. We also had two Court of Two Sisters house salads. For dessert, the Chocolate Mousse was calling my name. Scrumptious! Drinks were one Sazerac and the house Chardonnay for hubby, and two Bloody Marys for me. Service was very competent. I’m in agreement with Tom Fitzmorris on this one: Court of Two Sisters is definitely worth a try.

Friday lunch at Galatoire’s! Where do I begin to tell the wondrous story of our experience at Galatoire’s? First of all, a big thanks to Hazelhurst for the indispensable advice of how to approach the whole thing. We got all gussied up for the event (celebration of my 50th birthday): hubby bought his seersucker suit and straw hat here at home before we left, so we were definitely prepared, because it all paid off. We showed up around 12:30 and were seated immediately, no waiting. I think we got the last two-top in the house, back near the kitchen. I loved my view of the whole house…so very entertaining. And I do believe it was not my imagination that we received many approving eyes our way as we were escorted back to our table…stares that said, hey these two are tourists, but they’ve done it up right! We were asked if we had a particular server in mind, but since I couldn’t remember any names, Imre was our waiter for the nearly 4 hours we spent at Galatoire’s. We started off with the addictive Souffle’ Potatoes, then the Grand Goute, consisting of Crabmeat Maison, Shrimp Remoulade, and instead of Crawfish Maison, we had Fried Oysters. Wish we had not substituted the oysters for the crawfish, as the oysters were mushy and not flavorful. As we were told, it was still too hot for oysters to be good, I guess, even fried. I had the Asparagus and Hearts of Palm Salad, while DH chose the House salad. At Imre’s suggestion, the Pompano topped with Lump Crab thoroughly satisfied me. By this time during our trip, hubby was now craving a steak, so he got the 8-oz. Filet Mignon rare and deemed it perfect. During the course of our multi-hour debauchery, I had a French 75, a glass of the House pinot grigio, and two Bloody Marys. Hubby had four martinis. To top it all off, I had to have the Café Brulot. Boy, was that a winner! Whee! Another birthday gal (local regular who told us she was a realtor) came back when she spied our Café Brulot, and bestowed on me her Galatoire’s birthday beads, and I told her to help herself to a cup of Brulot. What a party! Many birthdays were being celebrated on Friday September 13, and it tickled me no end when Imre clinked spoon on glass to get everyone’s attention so I could be the recipient of the Happy Birthday song. A complementary birthday flan, complete with lighted candle, was then presented. We enjoyed getting to know Imre and finding out that Galatoire’s was his first (and still only) job after coming to New Orleans from Hungary in May 1970, and his three children are graduates of Harvard, Stanford and (I believe) Yale. Truly the epitome of the American Dream! Thanks again to Hazelhurst for cluing us in on how to do up Friday lunch (and a 50th birthday) at Galatoire’s in style. It was like a dream come true that we will never forget.

The birthday festivities continued on Friday night with a visit to Snug Harbor to see Ellis Marsalis Trio (his youngest son, Jason, plays drums). Hubby had an Abita Light and I a Restoration Ale. We sat right up by the stage. Loved finally getting to see this jazz legend perform, and it was a great ending to a great day!

Saturday brunch reservations at Atchafalaya: Great Uptown place for brunch. Would love to try for lunch or dinner sometime. I had probably the best iced coffee I’ve had in my life there, and DH made a couple trips to the Bloody Mary bar for the best bloodies he’s ever concocted himself. He really enjoyed the green bloodies the most, complete with cilantro. I had the yummy Duck Hash (I’m a sucker for duck hash, and again, this was the best I’d ever had), and he had the Eggs Atchafalaya. Great food and drinks!

Before going on a rum distillery tour, we walked to Port of Call to get a T-shirt for a friend, and picked up a Monsoon to go. Those things are dangerous, and POC was hopping! The short walk in the heat about did me in, though.

Old New Orleans Rum Distillery tour at 4:00: short tour, totally worth it. Love the smell of that place! It was fun sampling the four different varieties of rum. Bought a keepsake leather flask for hubby.

Saturday dinner reservations at Feelings Café in the Bywater: Boy, this place was a sleeper. I would call it “shabby chic”….so much quaint character…we loved it. And more importantly, the food was great. Started with Oysters en Brochette (fried oysters with a remoulade sauce garnished with a liberal dose of green onions). Hard to believe, but these fried oysters were much better than at Galatoire’s. I had the sautéed Drum with Pecan Sauce and Capers, and DH chose the Shrimp Pasta in Cream Sauce. Feelings may fly under the radar on this board, but if you want a laid-back, distinctly New Orleans, tasty meal, go here.

This was our fourth trip to NOLA, and as usual, I’m making a list of restaurants for our next visit. I think it will be awhile before we start to regularly repeat ourselves on dining destinations. What a problem to have, right? We love the city, its inhabitants, and of course, the food. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Till next time (which can’t come soon enough)….

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