New Orleans: 6 days!
I just returned from New Orleans, the first visit since I was a teenager - 25 years ago or so. The occasion was an art education convention (I am a high school art teacher). I went with 2 other colleagues, neither of whom had ever been to NOLA.
Our first meal was dinner at Mother's: I had the fried seafood combination dinner, and others at the table had the jambalaya. We had it with Abitas. Yum. After dinner, we ventured into the French Quarter, where I saw Arnaud's. I dragged my friends into the bar (Arnaud's French 75), where we ordered Sazeracs. This is now my favorite cocktail. My new mission is finding Herbsaint in Southern California.
Day 2, we had lunch at a nice tapas bar, RioMar, around the corner from the convention center. We had a variety of cheeses, lots of manchego and aged goat, eggplant, olives, tortas, and mussels with chorizo. The finale was a paella of mussels and saffron. I had a nice Argentinian Malbec with mine. This was one of the best lunches. Dinner was at Remoulade, the inexpensive arm of Arnaud's. I had the crayfish jambalaya, which, though tasty, was a miniscule portion, and frankly left me famished. Had a few Abitas along with it. Unfortunately, we got to Arnaud's French 75 too late, this night.
Day 3, breakfast at the Trolley Stop Cafe on St. Charles, near the Pontchatrain Hotel. Good, Southern Breakfast: eggs, bacon, grits, and a biscuit and gravy. The grits were perfect, and the biscuit was tolerable for a restaurant one (mine and my mother's are the best). Community Coffee is great, too. Having learned our lesson the previous night, we stopped in at Arnaud's French 75 *before* dinner, where Chris made some fine Sazeracs to start the evening. Dinner was boiled crayfish at Deanie's in the Quarter, accompanied by, of course, Abitas.
Day 4 began with breakfast at Mother's. I must say, Mothers edged out the Trolley Stop, though they both had their charms. I had a fried oyster poboy, dressed, and a cup of gumbo, along with coffee. Others at my table had a more traditional egg breakfast. Fortunately, my colleagues and I are good enough friends that everyone freely sampled everyone else's food at every meal. Dinner was at K-Paul's. Though this place is not universally loved on this board, we had a delicious meal there. 2 at the table had the bronzed salmon, and one the filet. We bought a bottle of Argentinian Malbec (again, I think it goes well with strongly flavored food), which was pretty good with the salmon, but transcendent with the filet. The bread was delicious, the fried green tomates, the artichoke with shrimp remoulade, were all wonderful. The only dishes that we found fault with were the desserts: the creme brulee with praline pecans, and the pecan sweet potato pie. Both had way too much going on. I'm a traditionalist. I like sweet potato pie and pecan pie. I do not like them hybridized. Afterwards, we retired to the Hotel Monteleon, where we had Vieux Carres.
Day 5 was breakfast at Cafe DuMonde. I had forgotten how delicious it was. It was worth the ridiculous wait that a spring Saturday morning brings. Our last dinner was American: we watched the NCAA basketball tournament (go UCLA!) over steak frites at Gordon Biersh. It was surprisingly good.
Day 6, we had a farewell brunch at the Palace Cafe. We started with appetizers: banana beignets and the panned oysters (yum). Dishes ordered were the eggs in a brioche nest (table favorite), the crab quiche, and the pork debris with garlic spinach. These were accompanied by coffee, mimosas, and champagne.
I didn't want to leave.
>> "I dragged my friends into the bar (Arnaud's French 75), where we ordered Sazeracs. This is now my favorite cocktail. My new mission is finding Herbsaint in Southern California." <<
Hooray! Another Sazerac fan! And you couldn't have picked a better bar to try a Sazerac than Arnaud's French 75.
Herbsaint was introduced in 1934 as an absinthe substitute (absinthe was banned in the States in 1912). An interesting page about Herbsaint:
The original Sazerac was made with absinthe, and now that absinthe is once again legal in the States, some bars are beginning to make Sazzes the old-fashioned way -- with absinthe instead of Herbsaint.
So if you can't get your hands on Herbsaint, a Sazerac made with Lucid or Kübler will be absolutely authentic. (Another absinthe, Marteau, is scheduled for release later in the year).
What inspired you to try a Vieux Carré at the Monteleone? Great choice, and another great cocktail.
I love RioMar, and want to plug the flan. It's possibly the best flan I've ever had in my life.
Chris, the bartender at Arnaud's, made us a Vieux Carré, and then told us to go and try the one at the Monteleon. I liked it almost as well as the Sazerac.
And, I've considered buying some absinthe. My local fave wine store carries Lucid. They also have Herbsaint, I discovered today. Choices, choices. I did order some Peychaud's bitters online. Can't wait!
I also want to go back to NOLA very soon.
I meant to ask you if Chris Hannah was your bartender at Arnaud's! He's excellent, isn't he?
Lu Brow is another great N.O. bartender. Ms. Brow presides over the Swizzle Stick Lounge at the Loew's Hotel on Poydras Street. Definitely worth a stop the next time you're in town.
Not for discussion on this board, but this might interest you: