Trois Jours à Nouvelle Orleans

WELL! I must say, New Orleans was pretty great. The word that I used to death while I was there? “Charming.” And it truly was – I find that very few things charm me, but here was a whole city that did. The neighborhoods. The architecture. The trees, plants and flowers. The streets. The street names. The wrought iron. Just a lovely place.

My friend Tim had just visited and mentioned that the city often seems desolate – and I agree. Clearly, this has something to do with losing a third of the population after Hurricane Katrina. But even in obviously well-maintained and populated neighborhoods, there seemed to be little activity. No one out tending the lawn, walking the dog – not even many cars driving around. It could be a bit eerie.

Anyway, I arrived Friday evening and checked into the Hotel Modern. Had a very nice, quiet room with a really comfortable bed. After unpacking, I went for dinner at Root. I’d read that they served dinner until 2AM and it was a ten-minute walk from my hotel. Since it was after 10PM, I didn’t want anything too much, so I ordered some Vietnamese-style vermicelli salad with grilled tofu. And, in the most unexpected twist of my visit, I am still raving about the tofu. Two large slabs, apparently marinated for 24 hours with soy, sesame and a bunch of other Asian flavors, grilled like steaks with an amazing char on the exterior. Absolutely the best tofu I’ve ever eaten.

Saturday morning, I took a guided walking tour through the Garden District and its cemetery. Saw many, many lovely houses – though toward the end of the tour it devolved into, “And here’s Sandra Bullock’s house. And that’s John Goodman’s house. And here’s where Nicholas Cage used to live…” And here’s me not giving a rat’s ass. But it was free…

Dinner that evening at Boucherie. I didn’t realize it was such a tiny place – small tables in an old house (yes, it was charming, of course). Four seats at the bar, so I grabbed the one on the end. Was served a Riverbend Martini (gin, orange liqueur, cucumber, orange & lemon juice) by the (charming, natch) bartender, Michael. Besides helping me navigate the menu, he steered me toward an amazing Achaval Ferrer Malbec to accompany the literally falling-off-the-bone tender and delicious St. Louis-style ribs I had for dinner. Dessert was a Thai chile chocolate chess pie. I tend to steer clear of chocolate desserts – they are typically the least inspired offering. But this one was great – mildly chocolate-y  enhanced with a sharp yet subtle bite from the chile. Topped with some perfectly sweetened cream, it all came together beautifully – reminded me a bit of a black & white milkshake, but for grownups.

Then, to Bourbon St. Wow – it is a hellmouth. Stinking of stale booze, puke and despair, drunken tourists stumbling every which way, touts barking the desirability of their particular establishment. Yeesh. Made it to Dumaine St., which is where a few gay bars are located. They were OK – crowded, lively, loud music, friendly bartenders, bachelorette parties (ugh). But I did stay and drink and dance,  so clearly it wasn’t too terrible.

Sunday breakfast in the French Quarter (a.k.a. Vieux Carré, apparently pronounced “Vook Array” in the local dialect. So much for getting to practice my French accent…). Did a bit of walking around, but not much. Had a nap, then met up with my friends Jacqui, Saunia and Oscar (the dog). They took me to Bacchanal, which was great. It’s sort of an odd place – a tiny little ramshackle wine store on a corner. But you take your bottle out to the very large garden, where there are tables and chairs, along with live music. Food served, but you order at a window and eat off paper plates. It was really great – we managed to score a table on the small upstairs balcony overlooking the scene while chowing down on pork shoulder, steak, salad and a dessert of sweet goat cheese in puff pastry. And maybe one or two glasses of wine…

Spent Monday on a more thorough walk through the Quarter. It’s really just lovely – and amazingly quiet once off of Bourbon St. Had a couple of Pimm’s Cups at Napoleon House, then took the streetcar back over to the Garden District for a walk down Magazine St. for a little shopping. Also explored some of the side streets I hadn’t seen on my walk on Saturday. Again, just absolutely charming…

Dinner that night at Cochon, just a couple blocks down from my hotel.  Started off with crawfish boulettes (heh) which were sensational. Then a really tasty pounded pork loin (heh), breaded and fried, served atop a German potato salad. Very schnitzel-y and delicious – though I could barely finish half (yes, I am dainty!) Plus, I had to hit the bars one more time, so I didn’t want to be too full…

Bourbon St. definitely less raucous, though still rancid. The gay bars were very quiet (granted it was only 9PM) and didn’t even have their balconies opened! Back home early-ish, packed, slept, then off to the airport at a leisurely 11AM. It was definitely a bon temp!

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3 thoughts on “Trois Jours à Nouvelle Orleans

  1. Another amazing travelogue…makes me want to go to New Orleans, even though I’ve already been twice and kind of hate it. You’re inspiring, mon ami!! (P.S. Stayed at the Monteleone when I was there)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, Eric. I hate to feed your ego, but you do have a way with words, especially when it comes to your travels. As Tina, above, has said, makes me wish I could visit! And that tofu looks and sounds superb!

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