Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Voyager Bien: New Orleans, Day 5

The vampires had crawled back into their coffins, spirits retreated into the swamp, and the pirates set back out to sea... The first day of November brought an even calm to New Orleans, a ghostly quiet in streets on sunny All Soul's Day.
And speaking of haunts, everyone wanted Clover Grill for hangover brunch, though late last night's hubcap burger was definitely still with me. Still, I went along to get the full Clover experience.Just in time to nab the last table before the breakfast wait began, I embraced the greasy air filling the cramped diner. Service is definitely a large factor in Clover's appeal, sassy as you've ever had it, the brash men behind the counter here in the heart of Bourbon Street's gay district serve up a side of camp with your bacon. The unassuming menu even is chock full of laugh-out-loud witticisms.Hubcap burgers grillin'Craving a simple starter, I ordered grits, bacon, and coffee. (Plus I had high hopes for the river cruise jazz brunch party next on the agenda). The guys still needed their hangover fix though and dug in, ordering club sandwiches and burgers.
After breakfast we strolled to the waterfront where the Steamboat Natchez was docked and ready for our chartered river cruise and brunch, the Steam Calliope (a 32-note steam pipe organ) blasting tunes while we waited to board. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day for a boat ride. The sun sparkled on the surface of the Mississippi as bartenders on the deck mixed up spicy bloody marys with pickled okra. We sipped our drinks and watched the massive red paddle wheel begin to slowly turn and propel us out into the river.
After a while in the sun, we checked out the dining room on the main level where local jazz vocalist Anais St. John and the Harry Mayronne Trio were performing. A buffet of New Orleans soul food was being served as well. Still searching for my appetite, I had a tasty bowl of gumbo filé but skipped on the red beans and rice. I did however partake in my first New Orleans bread pudding which was delicious.
We returned to the deck for more warming sun and mimosas. I kicked up my feet on the railing and truly relaxed for what felt like the first time in ages. We enjoyed each others' company and secretly prayed that the dock wouldn't invariably reappear before us. But alas..

Back on land, Michael and I parted from the guys to catch a cab to City Park New Orleans to catch The Flaming Lips perform at one of the city's leading music festivals, Voodoo. No stranger to an outdoor music fest, the setting at City Park was a refreshing change of pace, giant ancient oaks draped in Spanish moss lining the main walk between stages, crisp autumn air, the smell of N'awlins food, and a clear full moon lighting the evening into night.We were in and out within hours, happy and fully satiated from our rather laid-back festival experience, free of mobby crowds, endless lines, and ridiculous parking. We hailed a cab immediately and were back in the French Quarter in minutes.

Definitely feeling hungry as night fell, we tried to decide where to spend our last supper in the city. We referred to a local foodie friend's list we scribbled down a few nights prior, somewhat randomly selecting Mr. B's Bistro, a new spot for both of us.
Mr. B's induces an immediate golden era time warp upon passing through the heavy rotating door. Starched waiters buzz between clothed tables, dark woods and golden hanging lanterns evenly lighting the room in a dim sultry haze. Prepared for the wait we were met with, we moved to the bar and ordered Sazeracs. The adroit bartender showcased his well-seasoned preparation of the New Orleans classic cocktail, capturing the attention of most as he created our perfect cocktails. We literally whimpered upon first taste. Another lovely sensation arrived in the form of a fragrant Creole barbecued shrimp dish to our neighbors at the bar. Oh man, this was going to be good.
Once seated, we didn't waste any time and started with the Gumbo Ya Ya – A rich country style gumbo made with chicken and andouille sausage. This was the most piquant gumbo I had in NOLA, and was so very pleased to find the recipe on Mr. B's site!
Next we shared the Mr. B's Crabcake – A pan sauteed jumbo lump crab cake served with a ravigote sauce. Seriously the hugest and most luscious crab cake I've ever had. Delish.
The fried oysters on the half shell shocked me at how light they were in texture and flavor – fresh mouthwatering cornmeal-battered bites, toothsome in part from the drizzle of bacon-horseradish hollandaise...
For the entrée we had a hard time deciding between the shrimp & grits and the New Orleans barbecued shrimp we had seen (and smelled) in the bar... We decided ultimated against the barbecued shrimp (but bonus: the recipe is on their site here!). The shrimp & grits was an amazing choice – a sauté of applewood smoked bacon wrapped jumbo Gulf shrimp served with creamy stone ground yellow grits and chicory red-eye gravy... We're talking death row last meal kind of good here. I could drizzle this chicory coffee reduction demi-glace on anything.
As tempting as hot buttered pecan pie or bread pudding served warm with Irish whiskey sauce was following the meal, we felt sick with riches and threw in the towel. We took a LONG walk home to work off some calories, and taking in the last stroll under the gas lamps before leaving the following afternoon. Not sure if from the life-changing meal or the thought of leaving, but in better light a small tear may have been seen in my eye.

Clover Grill
900 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116; 504.598.1010
Clover Grill on Urbanspoon

Steamboat Natchez
Toulouse Street and the Mississippi River

Mr. B's Bistro
201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130; 504.523.2078
Mr. B's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Voodoo Fest pics via flickr & radioforpeople.org

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