A Weekend in New Orleans

Po-Boys, Beignets, Muffulettas, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Bread Puddin: New Orleans cuisine should be a food group unto itself. When eight of us took a trip there a few weekends ago, we ate everything and drank even more, following a balanced diet of local recommendations, classic New Orleans staples, and good old fashioned wandering.

Our party of eight stayed in the Lower Garden District, a short walk from the mansions of the Garden District and the antique shops of Magazine Street. Mojo Coffee House was the first stop every day, and some of us hit Lucky Ladle for our second cup of caffeine. I have to admit, I was a big fan of that chicory coffee.

Our first day in New Orleans was a Friday: a fortuitous day for an introduction to the Big Easy, if you like a martini lunch. Commander’s Palace, an infamous restaurant in the Garden District, open since 1880, serves 25 cent martinis on Friday. Thank god they limit you to three!

The food lives up to the hype, but the Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé with Warm Whiskey Cream really took the cake.
Before martinis and soufflé, we took our own walking tour through the Garden District, admiring all of the historic homes and Victorian mansions. We also strolled through the Lafayette Cemetery, which is right across the street from Commander’s Palace.
After lunch, our pace slowed to a saunter as we explored the Warehouse District and perused some of the galleries. Much to everyone’s dismay but against no one’s will, we landed at Harrah’s Casino. It wasn’t really our thing, but when in Rome, right?
The French Quater was a short walk away, and the sun was setting, so it was time to get the first (and last!) Hurricane of the trip, on none other than Bourbon Street.
Sipping our alcoholic slushies out of the ubiquitous styrofoam cups, we ended up at the amazing Piano Bar:Pat O’Briens.

At Pat O’Briens, you write song requests on cocktail napkins and hand them to the piano player on stage. If you’re lucky, or sit and drink long enough, she’ll play your song. Everyone drinks and sings along.It’s campy and amazing. After belting out Billy Joel and letting it rip for Tina Turner, we ended the evening with jazz and a nightcap at Three Muses on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny.

The next day’s journey started with an ambitious run to Audubon Park, followed by a happy trolly ride back to the French Quarter. The day’s consumption started at Johnny’s Po-Boys, the oldest family owned po-boy restaurant in the city. The cheese fries were outrageous alongside the incredible catfish po-boy.

After lazing around the beautiful French Quarter and finding the Ursuline Convent, the oldest surviving example of the French colonial period in the United States, we had a drink and heard some afternoon jazz back on Frenchmen Street, this time at The Spotted Cat.

Next, we took an epic walk from the Marigny to the Bywater. On the way, we met a local, walking his dogs, who talked to us about the city’s history, the jazz scene, and Hurricane Katrina.

We landed at Bacchanal, a wine shop with a large garden out back, where we sat and enjoyed a few bottles of wine after having a tasting inside. Night fell and it was time to eat, again.

We dined at Slyvains, a lovely restaurant in the French Quarter. The Chicken Liver Crostini was one of the best I’ve ever had, the Fried Eggplant with Parmigiano Reggiano and Lemon Aioli was perfect, and the Shaved Brussle Sprouts with Apples, Pecorino and Hazlenuts were stellar. The Crispy Duck Confit with Vidalia Creamed Blackeyed Peas, Maras Farms Sprouts and Bourbon Mustard was to die for. I really loved this place.

For coffee and dessert, there was only one choice: the legendary Cafe Du Monde. The chicory coffee is mixed with half and half and hot milk for the most delicious cup-full ever. And the beignets. Oh the beignets. Fried, doughy excellence, coated in powdered sugar. We saved the best New Orleans treat for last.

We danced the night away at Mimi’s, a fun, double-decker bar filled with no one over 23 (except for all of us), and we returned home to the Lower Garden overly-satiated and exhausted, but wishing we had one more day to eat and one more night to party.
A food lover’s picnic in paradise, a booze hound’s open bar, The Big Easy is a town where gluttony is not a sin; it is a way of life. (Also check the best folding table for picnic, coffee and dinner ^^)

(Thank you to Justine for the great pics!!)