Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I think it's pretty difficult to go to New Orleans and not have a blast. I've certainly never managed it at least. My first trip several years ago was for "business" - I put that in quotes because I spent all of about an hour in a conference room during the three days I was there. The second time was for Jazz Fest - the late-April music festival that brings huge crowds, probably second only to Mardi Gras, to the city. This time, we went to visit friends who recently moved to NOLA from San Diego after purchasing the classic Double Gallery Greek Revival house you see above. They're fixing it up themselves, and they still have a little work to do (ok, maybe a lot) but the fourteen foot ceilings, original windows and incredible amount of space (4000 square feet and a studio apartment with separate entrance on the back!) had us checking real estate listings within hours - just for fun of course. :)
Our first stop after arriving was Drago's in Metairie, on the way into town. They're famous for their charbroiled oysters, but I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. I love good oysters, but generally don't think they need to be cooked - or that their natural flavor needs much enhancement. I was stunned by how good these were. I ate so many my stomach hurt for hours, and I didn't even care. The oysters are shucked in the open kitchen and placed on the grill topped with garlic, butter, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. They arrive bubbling hot - you scoop them out of the shell with a squirt of lemon - swiping up the juices with the bread. Add a cold beer, and heaven has arrived. We also had some kind of crazy fried shrimp appetizer - tossed in a spicy sauce with peanuts. It was pretty good too, but the oysters just slayed me. There were other worthy meals too, but they deserve their own posts. Coming soon, I promise!
On Saturday morning, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Cafe du Monde - queen of all doughnut shops - for beignets and cafe au lait. Whenever I come here I can't help but marvel at how much it looks like Disneyland - but of course it came first, and Disneyland was modeled after it. I think Walt Disney was a little obsessed with New Orleans, truth be told, and I can understand why.
The beignets are as irresistible as ever, I am happy to report. That's a double order, pictured above. The mounds of powdered sugar are truly excessive. It winds up all over everything no matter how careful you are. (In the photo above, you can see it all over the floor on the lower right.) Be sure to ask for your Cafe au lait in a ceramic cup rather than styrofoam - it's just so much nicer. Unless, of course, you want to take it on a stroll around the French Quarter...
which, come to think of it, isn't such a bad idea. It really is just beautiful. There's just no place else like New Orleans, it's one of the few cities we have left in the US that has it's own distinct identity.
While on our stroll, we happened on this movie set in the French Quarter. Turned out Nicolas Cage was on set, filming a movie. (Incidentally, this was the same day he was arrested.) I would have been a little more excited about Brad Pitt - who was also in town filming recently - but I guess beggars can't be choosers. New Orleans is actually such a popular film and tv venue that our friends have picked up a little supplemental income acting as extras.
I really fell in love with the New Orleans architecture this time around. These French Creole Cottages, built in the 1800s, sport fun, bright color schemes. These can be found all over town, but are especially prevalent in the French Quarter, Marigny, Irish Channel and Baywater neighborhoods.
Then there are the mansions of the Garden District - like the Benjamin Button house...
and Sandra Bullock's house, right across the street. Brad and Angelina also have a townhouse in the French Quarter.
I know I've made you wait too long already, so I'll be back shortly with the rest of the NOLA posts (probably two) asap. Then we can talk about a couple of places in San Diego and a few other things I've been wanting to get to! xoxo!