Showing posts with label pralines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pralines. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Voyager Bien: A Crescent City Farewell

99 degrees and 99% humidity. Just another August morning in the Big Easy.
My belly was full from Jazz Brunch and I had but a few hours left to run around town and check the remaining tasks off my list.
I was enthusiastic to swill my first authentic NOLA street daiquiri, although, to be honest, it may also be my last (nothing should come with a free Sex on the Beach test tube shot on the side)!
So long Monteleone Hotel and Carousel Bar, I'll miss you.
Café Beignet, you're officially on my list.
I noticed our pace slow around 3 o'clock when the sun proved unavoidable. We sought solace in the Royal House Oyster Bar, its marble corner bar and promise of a cold cocktail a welcoming respite. While the julep wasn't quite the afternoon delight I had hoped for, it was still refreshing, and the bartender was sweet to send us back outside with a full tall plastic tumbler of ice water.
Since Central Grocery is closed on Sundays, Rouses Market at the corner of Royal and St. Peter fulfilled my take-home grocery needs (like Camellia red beans!).
Several glasses of water later I was still having trouble cooling off. The Organic Banana in the French Market came to my rescue, a splendid real fruit alternative to the other street daiquiris and worth every penny ($6) for a frosty fresh pineapple, coconut and rum cooler.
A stop at Laura's Candies is a must, my favorite praline maker in the Quarter. I gobbled a pink champagne truffle as my rum pralines were wrapped up for the trip home.
Most exciting of all, I finally got my afternoon hang at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, my first glimpse of NOLA's history last October and the watering hole I've been dying to visit ever since that moment. Housed in a former -you guessed it- blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street circa 1772, Lafitte's is one of the oldest standing buildings in the French Quarter, and a step into the eerily cool interior is all it takes to feel its history. There are more spirits than what's behind the bar there, and as I drank my bourbon I would be lying if I didn't say I felt more folks 'round that table than Michael and myself!
A wedding party crashing Lafitte's for a photo opp
After a stop in Skully'z Recordz, to-go cocktail in hand (love it), it was time for a snack before the airport so we ducked into the Quarter Master market where the counter in the back, cheekily dubbed the Nelly Deli, had one muffaletta left, and it had our name on it.
A summer storm was brewing, and the town grew a little quiet, which comes as little surprise. Inside the cab, our good natured driver was giving us the scoop on which celebs were moving in and out of NOLA, as we headed out of the Quarter and onto the interstate, from Brangelina and Sandra Bullock's new homes to Nick Cage losing his haunted LaLaurie Mansion in his financial troubles. Rain began to patter the windshield and he paused his storytelling, silent for a moment. "It's hurricane season," he said pensively. But as quickly as the rain had begun, it ceased and a beam of sunlight pierced the clouds, illuminating an outlying field near the airport. The driver was back to his story about Jon Goodman, bright Cajun drawl finally declaring "but I guess that's neither here nor there for you Hollywood folks." I laughed, thinking about how much more impressed I was with the strength of this city than any of these celeb expats, and wished him well before stepping back out into the sweetly suffocating Southern heat.

Daiquiri Paradise Island
911 Decatur St. New Orleans, LA; 504.523.3257

Café Beignet
334 Royal St. New Orleans, LA; 504.525.2611

Royal House Oyster Bar
441 Royal St. New Orleans, LA; 504.528.2601

Rouses Market
701 Royal St. New Orleans, LA‎; 504.523.1353‎

The Organic Banana
1100 North Peters St. New Orleans, LA‎; 504.587.7903‎

Laura's Candies
331 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA; 504.525.3880

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA; 504.522.9377

Skully'z Recordz
907 Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA; 504.592.4666

QuarterMaster & Nelly Deli
1100 Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA; 504.529.1416

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Voyager Bien: Back to the Big Easy

"Yo, yeah dude let's go out and DRINK" the voice behind me boomed, into a cell phone I realized straightening up in my airplane seat. We had landed in New Orleans. I could feel the in-flight-sized bottle of bourbon bubble in my veins with excitement. I don't travel nearly enough in my opinion, and though I just explored NOLA for the first time but 9 months ago I was already back, for an early birthday weekend of Southern decadence in my favorite city for it.
Luckily our hotel front desk was open 'round the clock. We didn't get to Le Richelieu Hotel on Chartres in the French Quarter from the airport until close to 2:00am, and the oldest clerk I've ever seen crept to the box to fetch our key. The hotel was charmingly classic, with a spacious room (which was obviously 'updated' sometime in the '70s) and the convenience of a courtyard swimming pool - welcomed given this weather...
If you've been to the south in August, you might understand why it is NOT exactly tourist season. Leaving the hotel for a stroll around town Friday morning was like stepping into a sunny, maximum-heat steam room fully clothed. But a pretty fabulous one at that.
Every morning in NOLA for me has begun with a chicory coffee from CC's Community Coffee House, a New Orleans-born Louisiana's favorite.
The warehouse-lined outskirts of the Central Business District, once skid row, nowadays is where the hot NOLA chefs au courant house their heavy hitting institutions (several of which I visit, so stay tuned!).
With a cloying -and deadly stiff- daiquiri in hand to battle the heat we explored the antique shops peppered along Decatur to the far end of the Quarter bordering the Marigny.
The Marigny is one of my favorite parts of the city. I've heard it aptly likened to Echo Park, a vibrant and soulful neighborhood still a little rough around the edges.
It's also the home to the justly famed Praline Connection, which beckoned me out of my hangover last Halloween as ghostly revelers headed up the parade outside. Though not for dinner this time, we did pop in for a rum praline...
As if New Orleans hasn't struggled enough rebuilding its tourism post-Katrina, the BP gulf oil spill has thrown another wrench into the machine. But rumors be dispelled, NEW ORLEANS SEAFOOD IS SAFE TO EAT. And delicious as ever. "We had a period where our supply dropped considerably and prices skyrocketed," a server at Royal House Oyster Bar explained, while many fisherman were spending their days on paid cleanup rather than harvesting. For now, 70% of Louisiana's coastal waters remain safely open for fishermen, the most dangerous challenge being perception. And an unclear future. "We also just got these in this week," our server said presenting a 22oz bottle of Abita S.O.S. beer, a "Charitable Pilsner" that will generate 75¢ for every bottle sold to assist with the rescue and restoration of the environment, industry and individuals fighting to survive the disastrous oil spill. (Donate here).
Even with sweat pouring off my forehead, I couldn't contain my happiness trudging around the streets of NOLA. And OH the meals I would fit into the next 3 days! Lord knows it would contain as much local seafood as I could manage.