On a brisk March Saturday morning I touched down in NOLA, a break from some long hours and nights at Pata Negra, a much needed short respite of food, wine, and song.
New Orleans is my go to destination for therapy, and I try to go at least once a year. Part of the fun is researching where to eat and drink and what band to see. Eater NOLA is a good source for new openings, and my native friend Brett fills in the real gems. Despite my best planning, there is never quite enough time to do everything, and it is hard not to rely on old standbys like Parkway Tavern.
This trip was full of new discoveries, as New Orleans is not just the French Quarter. It is a series of neighborhoods strung together by subtleties, according to topography and class, all tied to some force that is most certainly NOLA.
Touched down in Louis Armstrong Airport by 9 am and headed straight to Café Beignet for a fix. Lunched at the Green Goddess and had an unusual Bloody Mary with kimchi. The Vietnamese po’boy of shrimp and pork belly hit the spot, as well as the eggs. Checked out a few cocktail spots before check-in at the Dauphine Hotel. Sobou (trendy), St. Lawrence (divey), and blanking on others.
After a siesta, drinks at French 75 bar at Arnaud’s (always classy and great) with oysters and gougeres, and off to dinner at Boucherie, way out by cab in Jefferson Parish, resto set up in a quaint house with a porch. A Proper Pimm’s Cupp while waiting, and then some solid, bright cooking accompanied by a reasonably priced ’97 Stefano Barolo. Highlight was definitely lamb ribs and lamb falafel. Hospitality extraordinaire. Off to Frenchman Street to the Spotted Cat. Jazz Vipers were rocking it. Frenchman Street was kickin’.
Sunday brunch by Magazine Street at La Fin du Monde, more bloody marys (a little thin, but good) and shrimp and grits (very good). Caught the end of the Bulls game at The Bulldog (Mimi is a big fan) and then headed over to Luke’s for shrimp and oysters happy hour. Siesta, and off to ROOT, a new resto with people who know what they are doing, from the front door to the table. Best charcuterie I have had in ages, from face bacon to beef tongue to longanisa sausage on down, accompanied by pickled kumquats and meyer lemon compote, then followed by delicious rendition of aloo gobi with no sauce, but all the spice. Duck heart salad, deviled eggs and shrimp, cornmeal crusted oysters – I wish I had two stomachs. Washed down with a rose bottle of Beck NV. Took two to go cups (just because you can), and then it was back to Frenchman Street to hear a new band, Big Easy Brawlers. Lead was doing a great Busta Rhymes interpretation, lots of guests stopped in to play. Abita all night.
Monday morning meant the Bywater, a new nabe for us, and tough to get to. Lots of low houses with wild colors of purple and yellow. You get the feeling real people live there and you are not quite sure how it’s gonna be when night falls.
The destination was The Joint, home to heavenly barbecue and pies and such. What a dream brisket, pork rib, pulled pork combo. People’s BBQ joint for all sorts of people.
In an attempt to walk off the carnage, made several attempts to find art galleries, but all seemed closed or unavailable, so back to Bacchanal for a great wine experience. Shop as in a regular store, order some cheese, and then sit outside the backyard and soak in some sun. No mark up for the wine (unheard of in NY), and a riesling and red burg later, we moved on upstairs for cocktails. Our bartender named a drink after me. I forget what’s in it, but I saw her scribble the recipe in her notebook. Forgive me, because five cocktails later it was tough to remember anything really. Walked over to Maurepas for a bite, bold flavors and nice drinks, especially the shrimp hotpot, then double dipped over at Booty’s, street food from around the world done up, but the doomsday daiquiri finally put us out of our misery.
Tuesday lunch at Cochon, and we over-ordered (of course). After all it was to be our last taste of NOLA. Falling off bone pork ribs, roasted oysters in my favorite spicy sauce, oozing mac and cheese, fried alligator tots, rabbit livers with red pepper jelly, and some fine gumbo, washed down by nice half bottle of gruner and a pinot noir from New Zealand, with room for dessert, my fave, a pineapple upside down cake and chocolate pie. Spent the rest of the time at Best Records, just grooving to bands new and old, stocking up on vinyl and t-shirts. Alas there was a plane delay, and had I known, I would have spent my last moments at Parkway Tavern, but it was not meant to be. I held on to my to go cup from ROOT. Part cause I wish NYC had this open policy, and part because I wanna take NOLA in that cup back home with me. Looking at that cup sure makes me smile.