Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in the Big Easy

 After a lovely week down in the Crescent City, we are back! Don't believe what people tell you, with  anything you should experience it for yourself.'s are two cents about New Orleans. 
  Judging New Orleans based on a stay during Mardi Gras is like judging New York based on standing outside for New Years Eve; for the best the city has to offer you really should go in the off season. The service is much better and you won't be treated like cattle with a wallet. 
  Upon landing in the city and checking into the gorgeous Royal Senesta hotel (which is located in the heart of the French Quarter) lunch was in order. The amazing thing about New Orleans is you can stuff your face with the most incredible food and think that there is no way you could ever eat again.....and a few hours pass as you walk around and you're starving! 
   Acme Oyster House opens up at 11 and the line starts forming even before that. Started in 1910, the original Acme is still in the heart of the Quarter. 
We ordered up two dozen oysters and made short work of them. They were delicious and the sauce had just the right amount of slow burning heat to compliment the salty coolness of the oysters. Their Peacemaker po' boy (with both shrimp and oyster) is served with a Tabasco mayonnaise and was voted number 4 in the top ten sandwiches. Here's a tip- no one is going to advertise that they have the worst po' boy in the city, everyone says they have the best. Pick a place and have a po' boy, test our a few places and judge for your self. 
Oysters at Bourbon House
   If the line at Acme is too long for your stomach to handle, you can go across the way to the Bourbon House, one of Dickie Brennan's restaurant's. Their slogan is, "If it isn't in season, you won't find it on the menu". While Acme's is a haven from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street, the Bourbon House is all about good food and people watching. If you are lucky enough, like we were, you can nab a window seat and take in the view (good or bad as it might be). We had the pleasure of dining on the day the Saints played those not quite angry birds, the Falcons. Watching everyone in full Saint regalia (especially the little kids) was a nice way to close a vacation. Again, oysters are a must here, and the Crystal Alligator had a nice flavor to it (proving that sometimes blue cheese does make something taster better).  
   We recommend skipping the overly haughty Arnaud's. So, we minks weren't wearing our finest diamonds and pearls that night, we had yet to unpack our bags and just wanted good food close to our hotel. Our waiter brought us bread (we minks love bread!) but alas, no bread plates and no knife to cut the bread with. Was this bread for show? Was it to be eaten with our meal? When we asked for bread plates, we received strange looks from our servers (we had three of them and they hovered the entire time, unless we wanted something and then they weren't there). Country mink decided to hell with it and broke hunks off the bread. The food was good, but the waiter chastised us for leaving crumbs on the table. 
   City mink highly recommends Muriel's. The bar is nestled in the back and their take on a sidecar (here they call it a street car) was down right tasty. The servers were attentive and made some lovely recommendations on wine. We chose the Table D' Hote menu and sampled turtle soup, pecan crusted puppy drum (the signature dish) and for dessert the best bread pudding you could ever dream of; rich and custardy with a rum carmel sauce...mmmm! 
Hillbilly Heroine at Cafe Adelaide's 
   On a less crowded evening Cafe Adelaide might have been on our list of greats. We repeatedly got passed over by the bartender who instead chose to serve a pack of perky gazelles. When we finally did get our drink it was tasty-moonshine always is- but it wasn't worth the wait and the sage garnish was confusing. Being Christmas Day, most of the staff wanted to leave and the restaurant kept letting people in, you could tell they were getting antsy. The gnocchi and escargot was nice, though it could have used a pinch more garlic to round out the earthiness of the snail.
   Country mink was happy with an accidental find on Christmas Eve Day. Gott Gourmet on Magazine St. was open when most places were closed up until the evening for their dinner service. The owner explained to us that his family always had a big breakfast on Christmas Eve and he was keeping that tradition. After agonizing over Chicken and waffles, the Crab and Brie omelet, she decided on the Jumbo Shrimp and Smoked Gouda with Yellow Grits; a dish that will be thought about fondly for many months. The grits were creamy (unlike the stiff dry grits we had the next day for dinner) and the shrimp portions were large. Roman Bread toast points were served along with the meal, and manners be damned, we scooped some creamy grit, shrimp and sausage goodness on the toast and enjoyed!

Beignet covered in powdered sugar
 One thing you must do in New Orleans- eat beignets! Two of the more famous locations in the Quarter are Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet. For the uninitiated, a beignet is a fried fritter that was originally brought the Louisiana by the Acadians. The square piece of fried dough is covered in powdered sugar (or drowned in it) and served in orders of threes. When you munch on your beignets sip a cup of Cafe Au Lait (half coffee, half milk). Now, you could go to your local coffee shop and have a cup, but it won't be anywhere near the same. Louisiana coffee is made with chicory, giving it a distinctive chocolate flavor and cutting the bitterness of the coffee. The tourists go to Cafe du Monde, there's always a line and that's just for the pick-up window. We recommend Cafe Beignet, the smaller, multiple locations lead to the beignets being made to order (you can watch the mass production of fried dough at Cafe Du Monde) and the small seating area means you can enjoy your drink and snack (anytime is beignet time!) without feeling like you have to hurry up and move for the next customer. 
   New Orleans isn't all about food, the shopping scene is just as vibrant. Here's just a couple of our favorites.....
Macaroons from Sucre
    For memorable souvenirs buy local. Skip all the tacky drinking shirts and get something a little more personal. A recently passed law declares that if you buy an original work of art, you don't have to pay state or local tax. This is a great way to support a local artist and to nab a one-of-a-kind piece to show off to your friends back home. We nabbed a "water meter" and "Honey Badger" t-shirt at Storyville Screen Printing, earrings made from recycled records by artist James Jensen at Dutch Alley, vintage inspired holiday stickers at Agora Galleries, the most comfortable pair of vintage inspired shoes from Trashy Diva, pralines (delicious though not the prettiest) from Aunt Sally's and the most gorgeous macaroons from Sucre
   New Orleans is slowly coming back from "the storm" as the locals call it, but there is still a long way to go. Many shops seemed abandoned and you could still see the water line from the surge in some areas. We are confidant that the Big Easy will come back, as long as the people go back to it too. 

No comments:

Post a Comment