Friday, April 11, 2014

new orleans :: part 3

sunday (2/19) :: night 3
Me and Pat had spent the day riding the street car, walking down Magazine Street, exploring the Garden District homes, a public library, and Audubon Park, so by the time night was approaching we were definitely hungry and ready to get off our feet for a while. We jumped back on the car and road it to the end of St. Charles to check out a wine bar I had read about called Oak. We ended up getting there right as they were opening, so we hit Happy Hour at the perfect time, half off bottles of wine! We picked out a white called Lola's Revenge, relaxed, and enjoyed it while the sun set.

[[ coffee shop. king cake. shops on magazine. oak. wine. brick sidewalks. ]]

While researching I came across a restaurant called Jaques Imo's several times. It was highly recommended and looked extremely unique, so I knew we had to go for dinner one night. Once we got there I was instantly charmed by the eclectic decor and twists on Southern dishes which reminded me of one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, Montage! It is definitely an awesomely odd place.

I had read about the mojitos there, so when we sat down me and Pat promptly ordered the watermelon, which turned out to be made with fresh watermelon and mint, go figure. It was amazing. I am seriously going to try to recreate it this summer. My sisters boyfriend had also mentioned that we had to order the Shrimp & Alligator Cheesecake, which I thought sounded absolutely disgusting, but he assured me that it was savory not sweet, and delicious. Though one of the oddest things I have ever eaten, he was not wrong. I can't really describe it any other way than rich, so if you are ever in NOLA, go check it out for yourself. Along with the cheesecake we ordered some of the best corn bread I have ever had (which I scarfed as soon as they brought it to our table), the seafood stew (which was so big I couldn't even finish it), and delicious grouper for Pat. We even got a complimentary dessert from our server because him and Pat started talking about All Star and it turns out he worked a little at the event as well. Needless to say that when we left I was EXTREMELY full.

After dinner we walked to the dingy little dive bar next door because it was supposed to have live music, but it didn't start until pretty late so we only stuck around for a drink, watched a little olympics, and then decided to head back toward our hotel. Thankfully the 24 hour street car is no joke, so we got on and rode it all the way back, which was a lot faster at night since there were hardly any stops along the way. The driver working the night shift was hilarious and interacting with everyone. As we drove by certain buildings, he would sing at the security guards who would dance back at him. Clearly they had some sort of system worked out. There was also a man on board who was taking request for Ray Charles songs, which he would snap and sing back to us, and another man with a super epic curly mustache.

[[ eclectic decor at jacques imo's. corn bread. cheesecake. grouper. watermelon mojito. seafood stew. the scene. dessert. maple leaf. local zine. street car entertainment. ]]

We got off the car at our hotel, changed in to warmer clothes, and then walked down to Frenchmen Street to hear some live music. We first went to The Spotted Cat, which was recommended by our server (and my sister). The music was really good, and seriously reminded me of the Aristocats which was cracking me up, but it was way too crowded, so we left and walked up the street until we heard something else we wanted to listen to. I can't remember the name of the bar we ended up in, but the band playing was awesome. They are called The Business and had someone on saxophone, bass, guitar, and a singer with some seriously awesome pipes. We listened to their full set before deciding to call it a night.

For some reason at this point I decided that on our way back to the hotel we really needed to stop at Cafe Du Monde again for some beignets... Because, you know, I wasn't full enough from dinner or anything... Maybe it was the heavy fog rolling in that inspired me, or maybe it was the drinks kicking in, but Pat thought it was a good idea too, so we set off for Jackson's Square. We grabbed three beignets and a coffee and enjoyed them while we walked the rest of the way.

[[ lobby selfie. live music & jazz on frenchmen street. ]]

monday (2/20) :: day 3
For our last full day I wanted to go back to The Quarter to experience some of the places we had previously missed. We started out at Stanley's in Jackson's Square for some brunch. I tried my first Muffalata there, which is apparently a New Orleans staple. They basically take a big loaf of bread, hollow part of it out, fill it up with Italian meats and cheeses, and a mixture of pickled carrots, green olives, and a few other veggies. I thought it sounded pretty weird, but it was definitely something I had never had before so I figured I would see what it was all about. It was pretty good, but it was salty as hell so I couldn't really finish it, or the pickle that came on the side. I don't understand how the people who live there eat deep fried and salted everything! I felt like I needed some fruit afterward. Pat got eggs benny with big pieces of pastrami. His was really good. In the future I would skip the sandwich.
[[ brunch at stanley's. eggs benny. muffalata. the dirty mississippi river. ]]

After we ate, we walked down to the river so that I could get my first glimpse of the Mississippi. She was a dirty bird, and it was getting a little stormy at that point, so we didn't walk down the river as I had originally intended. However, there was a pretty sweet steam boat I got a few shots of. To escape the wind we took refuge in a little shop called Wish I had noticed earlier. Pat is such a trooper... he totally lets me do my shopping thing and never even complains! He is seriously the best. There was a ton of cute stuff in there, but I wasn't really feeling anything, so I just talked to one of the girls working for a while, snapped some pictures, and then we headed back out. 

[[ me. wish. a storm rolling in. ]]

On my last night before coming to New Orleans I had gone through some of Anthony Bordain's articles from his travels there and written down a few cocktail joints. One of which, called Kingfish, is in The Quarter and according to him has the best mint julep. Since we were in the South, I thought that we had to go see for ourselves (regardless of the fast that I hate whiskey). Pat did indeed get the julep and he said that it was damn good. I don't really remember what either of my drinks were, but they were both delicious. One was a fizz and it tasted like ice cream. One of the most entertaining parts about this particular place was that if you ordered anything with ice they grabbed a block and literally smashed it with a wooden mallet. 
[[ drinks at kingfish. ]]

After our drinks we walked around a little bit more and then wandered back toward our hotel to grab happy hour at a restaurant named Luke that my sister had told me about. Their happy hour turned out to be pretty amazing. Half off all beer and wine, and oysters for only 50 cents each! I mentioned before that the oysters in New Orleans are really fresh, so this was a great deal, especially considering how expensive everything else there is. Luke's full menu sounded really good as well, but we had been told that we had to check out a restaurant called Redfish Grill in The Quarter by both of Pat's parents, so we went back to the hotel, changed, and walked to dinner. Redfish was by far the worst meal/service/experience we had on our trip, which was a real bummer since it was our last dinner and there were so many other places I had wanted to try, but you can't win them all. If you ever go, I would not recommend that place. At all.
[[ details of the quarter. napoleon house. happy hour at luke. dinner at redfish. ]]

monday (2/20) :: night 4
We didn't want to end our last night on that poor dinner experience, so we walked back over to Frenchmen Street to check out their Art Walk and see if there was any more live music worth watching. On our way we walked through Bourbon which had gotten considerably more crowded in anticipation of Mardi Gras which was starting in a few days.

The Art Walk was pretty cool... they had a lot of interesting decorations there, like a light up couch and what looked to be some old carnival decorations, but in terms of the actual art there really wasn't much. I guess I was sort of picturing the Portland Saturday Market, but at night, with drinks. I'm still glad we checked it out, though it was a little underwhelming. I'm sure it is a fun hangout for locals.

[[ craziness on bourbon. the artwalk on frenchmen street. ]]

At this point I was starting to feel really crummy... I had been fighting a sore throat sensation all day, and after leaving the restaurant I just kept feeling worse and worse, so we decided to call it an early night and made our way back to the hotel. It was good that we did because pretty much right when we got back it started dumping rain! The second we got in bed Pat was out. I on the other hand could NOT fall asleep. Between my terrible sore throat (which felt like strep at this point), the thunder and lightening, and the crazy wind that picked up, it was just not happening. At one point I thought I would check the weather on my phone to see if there was an advisory saying when the thunder and lightening would end and saw none other than a freaking TORNADO WARNING!!! Tornados are one of those things that have an irrational fear of... irrational because we never ever ever get them in Oregon, but seriously, just heavy winds scare me. So obviously I just gave up on trying to sleep after that!

[[ the only alligator i saw in the window of a real estate office. tor-freaking-nado warning people. ]]

tuesday (2/21) :: day 4
We didn't have to get to the airport until around three, so in the morning we took our time packing up, checked out, and walked down the street to visit Cochon Butcher again. We had gone there for our first meal and eaten in the formal restaurant Cochon, but what I really wanted to try was the adjacent butcher/sandwich shop, aptly named Butcher. It did NOT disappoint. I got a simple turkey sandwich, but there were so many extra flavors that it was anything but ordinary. We also shared the macaroni and Pat got a Cuban (I think), which was amazing as well. If I was local I would find myself eating here all the time. There were so many other things I wanted to try.

[[ lunch at butcher. ]]

After our last meal in NOLA it was time to gather our things and head for the airport. We stopped in a fancy themed Starbucks to grab a coffee and then away we went, glad to be heading home after an exciting and exhausting trip.

[[ slap ya mama street sign! fancy starbucks. louisiana from our plane. ]]

I am happy that I got the chance to experience New Orleans in person, try some new unique dishes and some of the best corn bread I have ever had, take a ride on the oldest and endlessly charming street car, eat several beignets, discover coffee with chicory, and visit some truly historic areas including an amazing cemetery, an incredible antique shop, and numerous old Southern neighborhoods. Overall it was a great experience and I am glad to be able to check it off of my list as another place I have traveled. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

new orleans :: part 2

sunday (2/19) :: day 2
After exploring The Quarter in great detail the day before, we had plans to take things a bit easier and visit the Garden District for a different New Orleans experience. Before leaving home I had done extensive research on restaurants, shops, and attractions to visit, so I had our day pretty much mapped out before we left the hotel room. Basically I had divided the city in to two parts, The Quarter and nearby areas, and everything from the Garden District to the end of St. Charles. 

[[ good morning new orleans! ]]

It took us a while to wake up and get going, but we eventually made it out in to the sun and headed for the street car. The street car in New Orleans is pretty awesome, it runs 24 hours, costs only $3 for an all day pass, and is supposedly the oldest mode of public transportation still running in the US with charming wooden bench seats and an open air feel. After a short wait we were on board and enjoying the views of the city accompanied by a nice breeze from the open window. After about a 10 minute ride, we hopped off up the street from a restaurant my sister had told me about called Coquette. This brunch was definitely one of our better meals. I ordered the catfish (my second try) which was lightly breaded in corn meal and served over salad and veggies, and Pat got a super fancy ham sandwich with frites. Both were delicious. We stuck around for a while and ordered a few drinks including my first Pimm's Cup, which was the bartenders personal recipe. I wish I knew how to recreate what he made at home, it was so fresh tasting! The restaurant itself was in an old building (not so different from most places there) and had a lot of charming details. I would recommend it for those traveling down Magazine Street. 

[[ riding in the awesome street car. lunch at coquette. building details. ]]

The restaurant sits smack dab in the middle of one of the swanky Garden District neighborhoods, so once we were full (and a little tipsy), we wandered down the cracked sidewalks admiring the curbside homes. One of the most unique things about the older homes in New Orleans is that many of them actually still use flame lanterns instead of electric porch lights, which is something I had never seen before. This just adds to the already charming cast iron fences, railings, and epic porches. I was actually a bit jealous of some of the dogs lazily lounging on the front porches of these historic homes.

[[ historic garden district homes. cast iron railings. sidewalks labeled with street names. commanders palace (a super fancy restaurant). ]]

Next we walked down the street to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which I had read was one of the best in the city. Checking out one of the mausoleum filled cemeteries was definitely a highlight of my trip and I took a TON of pictures. 

[[ exploring the cemetery, one of my favorite parts of the trip. ]]

Down the street is the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library which was converted from an old Southern estate donated by the Latter family in honor of their son. Oddly enough it was my cab driver from the airport who told me to check it out, so we heeded her advice and rode the street car over to it next. The ground floor was pretty interesting since it had been primarily unspoiled and still contained vintage furnishings and murals, but they had "modernized" the upstairs floors which I thought was a total bummer. It was still worth checking out though.

[[ the library. interior vintage furnishings. more beautiful historic homes in the neighborhood. mardi gras decorations going up. ]] 

After a quick stop at the library, we continued our way down Magazine Street on foot towards Audubon Park. This ended up being more of an undertaking than I had originally suspected since my map made it look a LOT closer to us. I had seen so many beautiful pictures of the Spanish moss that grows in the South, so I knew we had to check out at least one of the parks. Once we finally arrived I was admittedly a little bit taken back by the lack of parkness... The trees were pretty sparse, the grass was pretty dead... In retrospect I would say skip it if you are short on time, but we were able to find a few denser areas so that I could still get my pretty moss pics. One cool thing was that the branches of the trees grow super low to the ground, almost as if they were an extension of the roots, which I had not seen before.

[[ exploring audubon park. ]]