I am fairly new to the chowhound site. I post more often on the NYC board since thats where I reside. Following is my travel log from my recent trip to New Orleans with my wife. Please forgive me for including non-food related things and if that is inappropriate let me know. However, since New Orleans is all about eating, drinking and having fun, there wasn't too much that wasn't food related!
Thursday, October 12, 2000
My wife had some business in New Orleans and we flew down a few days early for a brief vacation. We got into the French Quarter and checked into our hotel about 10:30 PM. We stayed at the Prince Conti Hotel on Conti between Bourbon and Dauphine. The hotel was fine but nothing special.
We were hungry so we went out in search of food. This was our first time in New Orleans so we took the obligatory walk down Bourbon Street headed towards the Central Business District (CBD). From Conti Street its only a few blocks until Bourbon ends. We made a left on Iberville and found ourselves in front of Felixs. This place didnt look like much, but it served a mean shrimp po boy. Allison had a burger. After adding a couple of draft beers, we were reenergized.
We headed back out and walked up Royal away from the CBD peeking in all the antique shop windows. Eventually we made our way back down Bourbon to our hotel. Bourbon Street may be the cheesiest place on earth. However, its hard not to have a fun time strolling down the street and taking in the sights. A beer and/or a hurricane doesnt hurt either.
Friday, October 13, 2000
We started the day with frozen café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde. Im not a coffee drinker, but the frozen café au lait was out of this world. If you dont already know, beignets are sort of like square doughnuts without the hole. Theyre covered in powdered sugar and are very yummy. Judging by the quick moving but ever present line to get into Café du Monde, we werent the only ones who enjoyed them.
We spent the morning exploring the French Quarter from head to toe. From the antique shops on Rue Royal to the French Market on Decatur. We quickly discovered that New Orleans is best for its food and entertainment. Its sights are fun, but dont take up that much time. The Quarter isnt that big, but we still worked up an appetite to go for lunch at Mothers.
Lunch at Mothers consisted of another shrimp po boy for me and a turkey po boy for Allison. Both were better than what we had at Felixs the night before. A po boy is the equivalent of a submarine sandwich, wedge, grinder, hero, etc. I guess that it all depends on where you are from. Mothers po boys came dressed with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and Creole mustard. It should also be noted that the local brand of potato chips called Zapps are great. They have a real crunch to them.
Refreshed, we headed over to the aquarium to check out the sharks and other sea creatures housed there. I tried to convince Allison to go see the Michael Jordan IMAX film, but I wasnt successful. Afterwards we made a quick pit stop at Café du Monde for some frozen café au lait. We then went to see St. Louis #1. This is the oldest above ground cemetery in New Orleans. It was a bit eerie and strangely attractive. Supposedly this was in a high crime area, but during the day we felt safe. I would stay far away after dark though.
After a long day of sight seeing and eating we went back to the hotel for a much-needed nap. Dinner tonight was at Bayona. We were meeting four of our cousins for dinner who were in town for a wedding. Bayona has a small but very interesting menu. Allison started with a goat cheese and mushroom toast while I had the eggplant caviar with tapenade and feta. The combination of the three tastes in my appetizer was excellent. For an entrée, Allison had the salmon with sauerkraut in a gewürztraminer sauce. It sounds like an odd combination, but was actually quite tasty. I had the duck breast with haricot vert, which was wonderful. Dessert for both of us was a no brainer. The pumpkin crème brulee stood out in a field of interesting desserts. It was awesome. The winelist at Bayona is very nice and reasonably priced. Also the sommelier was very nice too. My cousin is a bit of a wine connoisseur, but unfortunately we have dissimilar tastes. I let him order the wines. We had a 97 Chateau St. Georges Bordeaux and a 98 Ridge Sonoma Station. Neither were anything to write home about. I liked Bayona a lot and would highly recommend it.
I almost forgot I stopped into the Vieux Carre wine shop and left unimpressed. An average at best selection coupled with high prices and questionable storage made this visit a quick one.
Saturday, October 14, 2000
Breakfast of frozen café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde again. From there we walked over to the streetcar and rode it out to the garden district. We did our own tour of the beautiful homes assisted by the Frommers guidebook. The houses here are stunning. To think that the Garden district was once one big plantation is amazing. Afterwards we took a long stroll up Magazine street and window shopped.
Eventually we found ourselves at the Martin Wine shop on Baronne Street. Now were talking. A good selection especially of Burgundy and Bordeaux along with good prices made this place a winner. The only downside is that I felt this was in a bad neighborhood. The guard who patrolled the parking lot confirmed it for me. Maybe locals will disagree with me on this though. We still had a good deal of walking to do, so we left empty-handed. BTW, Magnums of 98 Geyserville are available if anyones interested.
Eventually we took the streetcar back to Canal Street and walked over to Acme Oyster Bar for lunch. I had an oyster poboy and Allison had the Creole jambalaya. I liked my po boy better than the one at Mothers. Unfortunately, Im still a bit wary of raw oysters after a nasty bout with food poisoning earlier in the year caused by a bad raw oyster. Otherwise I would have sat at the bar and pigged out. FWIW, I thought the bread used for the po boys at Acme made their po boys a superior product to the one at Mothers. However, it should also be noted that I didnt try the Ferdi, a special po boy that Mothers is known for.
After lunch we went over to Harrahs to drop a few dollars into the slot machines. From there we picked up another frozen café au lait for further sustenance and sat down to watch a very funny street performer. There are quite a few street performers in New Orleans, but this guy was a comedian and was a cut and a half above most of the other street performers.
I forgot to mention that we changed hotels this morning and were now staying at the Bourbon Orleans. This was a considerable step up from the Prince Conti that came courtesy of Allisons company. We headed back to the hotel for a nap.
Dinner tonight was at Peristyle which had recently reopened (six weeks ago) after a devastating fire. We started with a glass of sparkling wine from the Loire. I cant recall the name, but I believe it was called Monmousseau. It was very reasonably priced and quite good, with a crisp acidity and tiny, plentiful bubbles. Ill have to find the name and buy a few bottles. The meal started with Gruyere puffs and warm bread baked at the restaurant. For an appetizer, Allison had the pissalidiere, a warm tart with caramelized onions, capers, olives, anchovies, and goat cheese. This was great stuff. I had the special appetizer, which was a chicken liver and proscuitto terrine. This was very good too. Peristyle was impressive so far. For entrees Allison had the quail stuffed with veal and leeks (?) served with crispy polenta cakes and I had the grilled tuna with pink peppercorns served over green olive risotto. We had a service mishap when our waitress brought out a wrong entrée for me (she brought lamb that looked great!), but it was handled with class by the staff. It actually worked out well since we were planning on sharing anyway. We just split the quail dish and then split the tuna dish afterwards. It made it like our own tasting menu. The quail was easily the best dish that Ive had in the past six months and that includes recent meals at Le Cirque in Las Vegas and both Po and Esca in NYC. Im hoping to find the recipe somehow. The tuna was also great, but it took a backseat to the quail. We had bottle of 96 Louis Jadot Fixin that was everything that a $25 domestic Pinot should be but usually isnt. It had a lot of red fruit with some earth. It was drinking perfectly right now. Peristyles wine list is very good with a large number of selections under $50. Our waitress insisted on buying us glasses of champagne due to the mix up with the entrees. It was totally unnecessary, but very classy and much appreciated. We were stuffed and thus passed on dessert. I thought that Bayona was excellent, but Peristyle was awesome! Its only downside is the poor acoustics that make the restaurant very loud. But that didnt detract at all from the wonderful meal.
We walked back to the hotel for a change of clothes before hopping in a cab to go to Mid-City Lanes Rock and Bowl. This is a New Orleans institution that features bowling, live music and alcohol not necessarily in that order. Between dancing and bowling we had a great time. Unfortunately the $1.50 drafts went down too easily and I knew that I would pay for it the next morning. What a great place. I even have the huge blister on my finger to prove it.
Sunday, October, 15, 2000
Woke up a bit late with less of a headache than I expected. Got beignets and frozen café au lait at where? You guessed it Café du Monde. Afterwards we walked over to the D-Day museum and while on the way had a slightly frightening encounter with an aggressive homeless man who wouldnt leave us alone for a block. He was very big, drunk and fairly persistent about getting money from us. Luckily, he went away without further incident.
The D-Day museum is a humbling experience. I cant even begin to imagine what it must have been like on the beaches at Normandy. It makes you want to thank the nearest veteran for their efforts. It was quite touching when one of the people waiting in line picked up the tab for a WWII veteran and his wife who were there visiting the museum. We spent several hours wandering through the exhibits and learning a lot of amazing things that I wasnt aware of before our visit.
We then walked back for a late lunch at the Central Grocery on Decatur that consisted of some muffalettas. This is an Italian sandwich made with salami, ham, mortadella, and provolone, topped with olive salad and served on round sesame foccacia. This may have been the greatest sandwich that I have ever eaten. A word to the wise half a muffaletta is plenty!
After lunch we watched another very funny street performer who made balloon figures for children. He was dressed as a clown and had the audience laughing hard. We then went back to the hotel so I could pack, shower, and catch a bit of the Yankee game before my flight home while Allison got prepared for her conference that started the next day.
New Orleans is a food and music lovers paradise. I leave the city several pounds heavier and much in need of a gym. I look forward to returning.
Laissez Bon Temps Roulez!