In the sunroom, the day before leaving for New Orleans, where we were meeting Nick and Erinn for a three-day-long adventure:
Beast: There are three museums I want to go to.
Foodie: I didn’t have any museums on my radar. Don’t you just want to walk around and explore?
Beast: Not if it means missing out on seeing Sidney Bechet’s soprano sax, or Louis Armstrong’s first cornet that he learned to play jazz on at reformatory school.
Beast: Do you think I should bring my clarinet?
Foodie: Maybe next time.
Beast: I really want to see some of those incredible Mardi Gras Indian costumes that get worn in the parades. They’re so beautiful!
Foodie: I don’t know, man. Isn’t seeing that sort of thing in books enough? We only have three days and I don’t want to spend them cooped up in museums!
Beast: Did you check us in for the flight yet?
Foodie: Yeah, why?
Because: Because I think you better log back in and check your privilege.
The Beast got to see that Satchmo trumpet in a museum. And I got to see Brad and Ange’s old house in the French Quarter. And those costumes? Who needs a museum when you get to see them in real life! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are the highlights of our three days in New Orleans.
Our hotel room at the Roosevelt wasn’t ready when we arrived early on Saturday morning, so the Beast and I took a stroll through the French Quarter and lined up outside of Cafe Beignet, simply because everyone else was. Was it worth the wait? You bet! Would I line up for fried dough again? Not on your life.
We met Nick and Erinn at Sazceracs, a bar in our hotel lobby. We had no choice but to start our adventure together with a round of the place’s namesake cocktail.
We did some more exploring and, thanks to Erinn, got tickets to see Dick Cavett in conversation with Rex Reed. Their stories about everyone from Truman Capote to Elizabeth Taylor to Groucho Marx did not disappoint.
Dinner was at Frankie and Johnny’s, a fantastic spot that’s been serving up delicious food since 1942. Photos of famous patrons lined the wall. As soon as Erinn saw one of Joe Nameth, she was certain we’d made the right choice. When I saw one of James Gandalfini, I knew it, too. Also, their house white was $15 a bottle and Erinn and I nearly shat ourselves we were so happy.
We took an Uber from Uptown to Treme with Tish, who pumped up the music when we got into her car and we all laughed and sang and yelled the whole way. Some day we will hear about the incredible success story of a woman in New Orleans named Tish who turned her grandmother’s praline recipe into a multi-million-dollar empire and we can say we know her.
We went to the Mother in Law Lounge, which was opened up by Ernie K-Doe, who wrote the famous single Mother in Law, which Simon has played in our kitchen for years and years. The place was flooded with five-and-half-feet of water after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A year later, with a lot of community effort, it re-opened. In 2011, local musician Kermit Ruffins (who also regularly appeared in HBO’s Treme) took over the lease.
We drank icy cold Heinekens and danced to Hip Hop and the bartender told us to come back tomorrow because there was going to be an actual second line parade that would culminate there. And yes, the Beast wore a seersucker jacket to the Mother in Law Lounge.
We may have overdid the night before and the next morning was rough. We met Nick and Erinn, who got around NOLA on bikes provided by their AirBnB, at Elizabeth’s for brunch. We had fried green tomatoes and crab cakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, not to mention a couple of sides of their famous praline-incrusted bacon.
Then it was time for the second line parade. They’ve been called “the quintessential New Orleans art form–a jazz funeral without a body.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen, and heard, something so celebratory, uplifting, and beautiful.
After two hours of walking, dancing to the brass bands playing New Orleans funk and drinking more cold Heinekens in the sun, Erinn and I walked back to the hotel for a dip in the rooftop pool.
The Beast and Nick stayed with parade and drank more Heinekens. That’s when they saw the traditional Mardi Gras Indian costumes.
We convened back at the hotel and heard all about it. They were very drunk but kept saying they weren’t. Then we headed to Mother’s for dinner. They’ve been serving up the “World’s Best Baked Ham” since 1936. It was pretty good. And the sandwich that many locals told us to order–the Ferdi special, packed with baked ham, roast beef, debris (the roast beef that falls into the gravy while baking), plus more gravy–was divine. There were lots of lots of photos of notable patrons on the walls here, too, including many presidents, and Stephen Harper.
Erinn called it a night. We were walking her home when the Beast and Nick saw a chair left over from the parade outside of Armstrong Park and Nick must’ve taken a hundred photos of the Beast posing in the chair and I must have taken a hundred of Nick taking the photos. I was so annoyed but I couldn’t stop laughing, which only encouraged them.
Nick, the Beast and I explored Frenchmen’s Street in the French Quarter. Also, I made Nick stand in front of Brad and Angelina’s former house at 521 Gov. Nichols Street. (Who was annoyed now?)
But the best part of the evening was hearing live music at Preservation Hall, where you can hear traditional New Orleans Jazz every night of the week for $10. There’s always a line-up, but we got in and I’m so happy about that because it was an extraordinary experience where young and old musicians shared their talents. Also, after listening to the music, I was no longer annoyed with Nick and the Beast who “were just trying to have fun.”
We met in the Garden District and strolled around in a cemetery and looked at stranger’s mansions. We forgot to look for Anne Rice’s and “Sandy” Bullock’s places. We learned that this is where a lot English-speaking Americans built their homes (about 30 years after the Louisiana Purchase when Americans flocked here to make some cash) because they didn’t want to live in the French Quarter with the Creoles.
We stopped for lunch at Joey K’s. Actually, Erinn and I stopped, while the Beast and Nick shopped across the street at an outpost of Nola Couture. By the time they joined us, we’d ordered for the table: fried catfish, eggplant and shrimp romoulade, and fried chicken, plus four mint juleps to wash it all down.
We came back to the hotel for a dip in the pool, and a bottle of bubbly. The Beast made me take shitty photos of him. I think he may have been drunk. Actually, we all may have been drunk for the entire three days.
Not wanting to not be drunk, we decided to have pre-dinner drinks at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in the French Quarter.
We were all still pretty full from our lunch but I really wanted to try a shrimp p0′ boy. Every year there are two places that win best po’ boy, which is essentially just a sandwich stuffed with stuff. They are Guy’s and Domilise’s. A new place, however, called Killer PoBoys, tucked in the back of Erin Rose Bar, was real close to us–and people who know far more about po’ boys than I do say they rival the city’s best. I can’t say, but it was a delicious sandwich, which I didn’t photograph because…drunk.
I decided that I couldn’t leave NOLA without having a second shrimp po’ boy, so we went to Camellia Grill and were served by Antoine, who gave us little plastic take-out containers–the kind places use for sides of, say, tartar sauce–of chocolate milkshake samplers. I can’t remember why I ordered a fried catfish po’ boy instead of the shrimp but boy I do not regret this.
We walked up Toulouse Street to the Ooh Poo Paa Doo Bar in Treme to hear some music. That’s where our trip together ended. We danced, we had more cold Heinekens. Everyone was so happy and friendly there. Why wouldn’t they be?
The places on our list that we didn’t get to but will get to next time: (Couchon, Bacchanal, Parkway Bakery & Tavern, Atchafalaya, Buttermilk Drop Bakery, Dickie Brennan’s Tableau, the Commander’s Palace, Buffa’s Lounge for Jazz brunch, Cafe du Mond for late-night coffee and donuts.)
Hotel Upgrade success story: because I am still a hotel maniac, I asked if upgrades were available after I didn’t feel “quite right” about our original room that had a special shower for people with disabilities. They were available, so for a small fee, we ended up in a 12th floor corner suite with an amazing view that made me feel like Brad and Ange but without all those kids.