Ok, we are back from New Orleans - we had a WONDERFUL trip! We didn't get to all of the restaurants we planned (let "serendipity" take over a few times per a previous poster's suggestion
...thank goodness), but had some great dining experiences. Here are the highlights:
Saturday: Mr. B's for lunch - we arrived in NOLA a bit earlier than Mr. B's lunch hour, so we headed to Acme to try the char-grilled oysters. Now, we are not oyster lovers, but there were so many recommendations we had to go for it. Glad we did - we sat at the bar, had a Bloody Mary, and shared a half-dozen. Two LARGE, two medium and two fairly small, but all with a delicious garlic-cheese-smoky flavor. The atmosphere was laid back and friendly. A great start to the trip. Mr. B's lived up to the positive reviews. We started with gumbo (husband had the Ya-Ya, I had the seafood). The Ya-Ya was tasty but benefited from the addition of some hot sauce. The seafood gumbo was delicious as served. BBQ shrimp for our entree (shared) - very rich, very succulent, and worth the work de-heading and peeling! Desserts were the white chocolate brownie (pretty standard) and a peach/plum/blueberry crisp. This was served warm over vanilla bean ice cream, very nice sweet ending to our first meal.
We did the Cocktail Tour at 4:00. I'm glad we decided to do it - we probably never would have gone to Tujagues, where the history shared by our guide Joe (he wrote the book on the Cocktail Tour) was better than the drink they offered. We also stopped at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (shared a hurricane and a voodoo) , Muriel's (Pimm's cup and Fleur de Lis), an Absinthe bar (just watched the drink ritual) and Antoines (home of the first Sazerac? We abstained). I know we could have created our own tour, but we really enjoyed the social experience - you make fast friends when you raise so many toasts together! Joe was funny, knowledgable, obviously loves the city, and offered suggestions for other things to do while we were in town.
Dropped into the Clover Grill for dinner. Our burgers and fries were just the ticket - we may have been very easy to please at that point...
Sunday: Commander's Palace for Jazz Brunch. Thank you to those who suggested we request the Garden Room! There was such a different atmosphere as compared to the more formal dining areas. Started with the best Bloody Mary's in town - they seemed blended from fresh tomatoes, just the right amount of spice, salty olives, and pickled green beans. I started with the Egg Sardou - Poached and served on an artichoke heart with creamed spinach and hollandaise. Very nice blend of flavors. Husband had the turtle soup, which he really loved. Entrees were pecan-crusted sheeps-head (a gulf fish) with lump crabmeat. This was a huge portion - I really enjoyed the thinner filet; the thicker piece served on top was a tiny bit tough. My husband had the black angus tournedos of beef - outstanding flavor, he ordered "medium" and it was definitely on the rare side of medium, but delicious. My favorite part of the meal was their cheesecake. Of course we tried the bread pudding souffle, but the cheescake was a pleasant surprise with the most wonderful creamy texture, hint of lemon tartness, and overall flavor. This was a great meal - the only way to make it an even better experience would have been a little more jazz. We had wonderful trios making the rounds, but a lot of time between without music. I couldn't get enough of it.
After a walk around the Garden District (Ms. Brennan at Commanders helped us with our walking tour route) and a chance encounter with a charming 85-year-old local who graciously invited us into her home for a personal tour (she was so proud of her home and family history), we headed back to the FQ.
Couldn't believe we were hungry before our 8:00 dinner reservation at Nola, but we were. We stopped into the Crescent City Brew House to listen to some jazz and shared a Seafood Cheesecake appetizer (I think I was on a cheescake high from earlier). This was surprisingly tasty, combined with a couple of Weiss wheat ales.
Dinner at Nola - yes, it is noisy. With the open 2-story construction design (looks cool) it probably can't be avoided. The gumbo was duck and andouille (my husband pronounced it the best of the trip). The garlic bisque had good flavor but was way too rich for me. The entree more than made up for it - hickory roasted duck with whiskey caramel glaze. The combination of flavors was just outstanding, with a crispy skin and incredibly moist, tender meat...all I can say is wow. I didn't want to stop eating it, which meant no dessert. Husband had the garlic-crusted redfish. I didn't taste it because I didn't want to mess with the flavors of my duck (really out of character for me). He enjoyed it...
Ok, I feel like this is going on forever - just a few quick more items:
Coop's Place - some of the best fried chicken we've ever tasted on the Taste Plate (rest of the taste plate was fine but not outstanding). I remembered a blog suggestion to try the Pasta Rosa - not something I would normally do in this kind of a dive bar, but was it a great choice! Penne pasta, shrimp, spinach, feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, some heat in the spices, really a wonderful dish.
Napoleon House: Warm muffaletta was a real winner - the combination of the melted cheeses and the delicious crispy edges of the ham from being grilled...perfect compliment to Pimm's cups on a hot day.
K-Paul's: Blackened Tuna and Blackened stuffed pork chops were good. The very best thing we had here was the fried green tomato appetizer, topped with shrimp remoulade. The texture of the tomatoes stood up under the sauce, and the delicious flavor of the remoulade made me wish I could have had this as an entree.
Beignets: Preferred Cafe du Monde to Cafe Beignet, like most posters!
Drago's (Hilton): Had to try the char-grilled oysters to compare to Acme. The oysters were much larger, and had great flavor, but to tell you the truth, the overall atmosphere was "generic modern hotel bar" and we enjoyed Acme more.
Thanks to everyone for your advice, and thanks for hanging in if you are still reading this ridicuously long post. We loved New Orleans, the food, the music, the people, and once we save up a few bucks we hope to be back!