The inarguable highlight of our second afternoon in New Orleans was a trip to a landmark:
YESSSSSSSSSS! More on that in a second.
Since it became apparent very early on in the trip that consuming enormous quantities of (often fried) food was going to be an essential part of my stay in New Orleans, I decided to just go with it and maintain some peace of mind by walking extraordinary amounts. Our po’boys and daiquiri fueled first day included an impressive 10.5 mile walk. Our second, a beautiful stroll down Saint Charles Avenue to the famous French Quarter and back, 7.5 miles or so. I’ll take it.
Especially when there were praline samples to be had to fortify us on our trip.
And, since Steve was there and needed second lunch, pizza options to explore.
[Don’t we love that casual pizza places in New Orleans have beer pairings?!]
I clearly missed the memo about Gulf shrimp. Again, these were not tiny! These were jumbo shrimp! (Oxymoron alert).
Now, back to that first picture… in case you couldn’t quite guess the contents of that bag…
Ohhhhhh yes. The famous Cafe Du Monde.
Let me first say that the walk through the French Quarter to Cafe du Monde is lovely. Beautiful homes and hotels to be seen, the music of street musicians wafting around (particularly amusing was a girl who was playing the accordion with impressive talent accompanied by a dude who sang wretchedly and was clearly stoned out of his mind. It was quite entertaining!), fun little shops to pop into (including the most extensive hot sauce selection I’ve ever beheld at one spot).
And Cafe du Monde, while clearly a tourist attraction, runs like a well oiled machine. (Note! Cash only. But cheap. It’s like $2 and some change for what we got, and if you’re looking at price per calorie it’s epic!)
As for the beignets.. If you haven’t experienced them this description isn’t going to do much for you but they’re… fried dough. With powdered sugar. And SO MUCH MORE. Guys, beignets are… they just… I can’t even put into words how good they are. Doughy in the middle, crunchy on the outside, yeasty, crisp, sweet…. they are just absolute heaven.
On the map I saw a place called the French Market, and I was all excited to meander around it, envisioning handsome men carrying baguettes and cheese samples and the like, but it was ultimately a bit depressingly touristy. No cat lady t-shirts (though there were a lot of places selling things like that in the French Quarter, being a tourist-oriented part of town) but the restaurants looked more designed to please every palate than truly impart the culinary quirks of Nola.
I did enjoy this pun.
Meander meander. On the one hand, I was all, “Look at those exquisite buildings! I would love to live in the French Quarter!”
On the other hand… Bourbon Street. Yelling. Puking. Spilling. Fighting.
It being a landmark and all, Steve and I both wanted to experience it… just to say we had, pretty much. So off we went to indulge in overpriced drinks in the company of the friendly and inebriated.
The first place we ducked into had a balcony (big plus, and why we picked it), live music (semi-plus; I love live music but wasn’t that dazzled by their sound, but according to Steve their between-songs rappeur was “hilarious”. I was in the bathroom and missed it) but no mojitos (big minus; New Orleans is HOT and you really just want a mojito).
Fortunately, the very cool bartender joined us in bemoaning the fact that most of the bars along that strip did not serve mojitos because it’s a pain to muddle lime… then referred us to one that did, Pat O’Briens. And told us which of the (several) bars on their premises to which to bequeath our hard-earned dollars, which he assured us would have the lowest prices.
And the mojitos were ours.
With a nice fountain view.
I have turned into a real lightweight and spent the entire walk back from the French Quarter (keep in mind, almost 4 hours) spontaneously breaking into dance, blurting out deep down emotional pronouncements, and laughing at Peniston Street. Again.
Fortunately, the absurd effects of my single drink (!) wore off by the time we did dinner with the family.
My sister recommended Ignatius, another lovely restaurant on Magazine Street. Once again, we sat outside.
Like many of the restaurant choices in Nola, they had an impressive small plate selection, so I opted for the shrimp and grits and a side of greens.
Lorrrrrrrrrrd those shrimp and grits were good. (Sidebar: have we been taking note of how much shrimp I ate in New Orleans?! Hoping I didn’t have any underlying cholesterol issues prior to this trip!)
The shrimp, per usual, were fat and juicy and cooked just right but WOWZA that gravy was sumthin’. Smoky, tangy, and rich. And the grits, while certainly serving as an impressive butter vehicle, still had a nice assertive flavor and texture of their own. This was GOOD GOOD GOOD.
The greens were my attempt at getting a serving of vegetables in for, oh… the first time on the trip? They were those lovely Southern-style greens. You know, cooked for hours and hours
until basically devoid of nutrients.
Malindi got the same shrimp and grits along with a fried green tomato salad (!) that she shared. And both my mom and Steve got the Jambalaya, which was A+.
Cute story: I thought our waiter was kind of reserved or unfriendly or something, but then as he was clearing our plates, he noticed Malindi still had food left, shot her a grin, and told her to “keep nibblin’”. ADORABLE.
Final note, Steve TREATED everyone to dinner! Thanks pal!
Another crappy night’s sleep, involving a deflating air mattress (…) followed. It was just as well that I didn’t sleep much- more time to see what the lovely city had to offer. I snuck out of Malindi’s dorm room, leaving Steve to get a bit more shut-eye, and made the pleasant stroll to The Chimes once again.
Jill was nice enough to invite Steve and I for breakfast.
Due to a legal system that contains a certain amount of whimsy, The Chimes is not allowed to have any on-site cooking. So, Jill goes down the street to the French Bakery every morning and brings in delicious baked goods.
Nibble nibble nibble. I didn’t eat all of these… but more bread may have happened too :)
Then we were off to another bee-yoo-tiful neighborhood, Bayou Saint John. New Orleans is a little weird with the urban planning- you drive around and you’re on grimy, ugly, strip-mall-y roads, and then you take a turn and drive two blocks and BOOM, you’re somewhere GORGEOUS. It’s all a bit uneven.
This is a bayou. (Secret: I have no idea what a bayou actually is. My little sister spent four years in Louisiana and she does not know either, which makes me feel better).
We originally arrived to attend the Bayou Boogaloo street festival, with live music and the like, and the colorful sign looked promising:
But we turned out to be too early. So instead we took the recommendation of an incredibly friendly local who told us we could find what she considered the best po’boy in New Orleans here:
A LOT of people agreed. I heard some local types go, “Ugh, that’s right, it’s Tulane graduation this weekend.”
Some of the past visitors were famous!
(Can you imagine trying to eat a messy po’boy wearing a suit and tie?! Reason 203485720835602837502835 I don’t want to be president.)
After a long wait to order and then receive our food, I would’ve eaten just about anything, but these sweet potato fries went down real nice. Particularly, in a fun combination I made after raiding the condiments bar out of simple curiosity, with cocktail sauce.
As for my po’boy, initially a bit enigmatic..
Pulled open to reveal it was comprised of a roll, fried catfish, lettuce, tomato, and pickles…
The bread was only so so. And the lettuce was pre-bagged and seemed to be giving out in the Louisiana heat.
Not to worry. I just ate the perrrrrrrrrrrrfect catfish. Fish and chips lunch, Nola style. It was magnificent and in and of itself earned Parkway Bakery its fame.
Also: back in 2005, Parkway Bakery flooded six feet deep. So a toast both to their perfect catfish and their enduring spirit.
The post-lunch activity could’ve easily consisted of a food coma, but instead we took a stroll, to the City Park. We didn’t make it into the museum, but we checked out the sculpture garden, the old-fashioned amusement park (which was ADORABLE; I was heartbroken it wasn’t open) and peeked in at the film they were shooting (!) (Didn’t recognize anyone)
The best part, though, was the natural scenery. As my mom wisely pointed out, you can see where they got the inspiration for putting Mardi Gras beads on trees. The lovely Spanish moss makes that shape naturally!
More to come!