I was twenty something the last time I was in New Orleans and one of those Hurricane concoctions on Bourbon Street must have blurred my experience. This city is a jewel even after Katrina slapped her senseless. They say it will never be the same but, I can't tell. Except for some remaining bruises, she's come through it, I'd say. New Orleans decorates for Halloween the way others would decorate for Christmas. A trolley ride down St. Charles past elegant old homes whose front lawns are littered with skeletons and ghouls tells you they aren't prim here. Our niece lives on State Street and the two pumpkins on her porch are modest compared to her neighbors' spooky displays. We heard a guide lecturing quite seriously about Zombies in Lafayette Cemetery and we frankly, didn't venture into the French quarter on Halloween. It looked too scary. But that's normal for NOLA, it' just loaded with "characters" and has that avant garde aura.
I wasn't planning to spend too much time in the French Quarter but decided I shouldn't miss a visit to Cafe du Monde. It was a mad house so I ordered from the window and took a bench in the side alley. I faced a window where I could watch them running big hulks of dough through a machine and tossing the pieces into vats of frying oil behind them without looking. Lunch was a stroke of genius. Fortune smiled as we got a seat at the highly touted Coquette. I was in my element sitting at the bar watching them whip up cocktails in glasses first sprayed with absinthe. I sort of expected Toulouse Latrec to hobble in. Did I mention the food? I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich with a side salad. It's the perfect example of exalted food I love. Everything on the plate was homemade, home grown or artisanal. I'm not much on restaurants but this place is superior in my gastronomic experiences. Big score.
Seated at another bar over cocktails we slurped fresh oysters with a shot of Tabasco. I've gone too long without this briny delight. We ended the evening with a famous banana brown butter tart at Herbsaint. They do it right there.
On Saturday, we worked up our appetite for lunch at Cochon Butcher with a long walk down
Tchoupitoulas (took me all weekend to get the pronunciation). It was packed but we persevered for a distinguished Cubano sandwich that left your lips with the perfect trace of heat. We wrapped up our visit at Dominica in the venerable Roosevelt and the original Art Deco Sazarac Bar.
New Orleans has a unique cultural signature in America. It's brand is synonymous with jazz, architecture, the Napoleonic code and, most of all, food. Living large is still the way of life in NOLA. I'm going home a bit larger but happier.
- Recipes & Random Thoughts
- I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.