Road Trip! Monday, September 19-New Orleans

There’s an explosion of flavor in my mouth and I don’t want it to end.  Jonathan and I are dining at Mr. B’s in the Big Easy,

and I’m trying out my son’s barbecue shrimp bathed in a spicy Cajun sauce, and oh God these people DO know how to cook, because the giant prawn we’re eating are to die for.  I’m having the grilled fish, and it’s excellent as well, but if you eat here, do yourself a favor and get their signature dish, which is the shrimp.  You won’t regret it.

This is a fantastic restaurant in every way.  The service is top shelf, the atmosphere is suitably upscale, and the food…what can I say?  It must be genetic.  The French originally migrated down here from Acadia, and they mixed with the Spaniards, Portuguese, and Native Americans, and the resulting Cajun or Creole cultures blended well.  So well that they have made themselves famous just on the strength of their cooking.

I started out with a thick crab cake with tartar sauce.  It was full of moist tender crustacean, with just the right amount of spice to give it a little zing.  Jonathan had a combination appetizer, which consisted of fried oysters with hollandaise sauce, a duck spring roll, and panko crusted shrimp.  I didn’t taste these, but Jonathan says the spring roll was the best he’s ever had, and he enjoyed the rest as well.

We finish this culinary experience with Chocolate Molten Cake, which is a masterpiece of a dessert.  The hot moist gooey cake is topped with home-made ice cream, and every bite is just a slice of heaven.  You simply don’t want to leave this place.  I’d love to have an apartment upstairs!

This is world-class dining ($125 with tip for two), and I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone.  I’ve been to eateries all over the world, from Paris to New York, San Francisco to Florence, and New Orleans is in the same league.  This is one of the best dinners I’ve ever had by far.  When it comes to Cajun cooking, there’s no better in the world than right here.

We started out this morning with a completely different kind of meal, at Café’ du Monde, where we have beignets and Café’ au Lait (actually I had the coffee and Jonathan had orange juice).  This is more than a Big Easy tradition, it’s a law that you MUST go here, so the place is completely full of people even at the late hour of 11 o’clock on a Monday morning.  But bite into one of these sweet hot concoctions and you know why, because they simply melt in your mouth like warm butter.  Don’t even THINK of just getting one order of three for the two of you, like I almost did.  You will greedily consume all 3 by yourself and want more, and no, you won’t even think of your waistline once while you’re doing it.  Just savor the moment.

Café’ du Monde is located in the French Quarter, just like Mr. B’s, but it’s on the river near the Market.  Dine here al fresco and enjoy the street scene, but don’t expect anything other than the beignets, because that and coffee are just about the entire menu.  Jonathan was so impressed he got a box of the mix, which I think is the only souvenir he’s bought on this whole trip, which should tell you something.  The secret to Jonathan’s heart is through his stomach, and I think he’s in love with New Orleans.

We stroll from the café’ through the market, where you can browse stalls filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, hot sauces, more café’s, and T shirts., then on north back up to Bourbon Street, which I’d only recommend if you’re in the mood for a strip show or a drink before noon, because it’s filled with nefarious creatures of the night any other time and completely out of control on Mardi Gras.  You won’t like it even then unless you’re an inebriated 20-year old and have never seen a woman’s breasts before.  But, there are some good places to listen to some great jazz during the afternoon, and of course it’s another tradition to grab yourself a cocktail, preferably a hurricane, at Pat O’Brien’s, to put yourself into that low country, laid back…easygoing attitude that so completely envelopes this city like a morning mist.

Jonathan and I take the St. Charles streetcar up to the Garden District and wonder around some of the old mansions.  There’s a magnificent display of antebellum homes in a range of styles, from Victorian to West Indies (my favorite), and a host of big names have stayed at them, from Mark Twain to Degas (Anne Rice is the current owner of one).  All of them feature huge roof overhangs and giant porches and porticoes, the better to escape from the intense tropical heat.  If you’re interested, the largest of these historic homes, the Robinson-Jordan house, is for sale for a mere $12 million.  By the way, bring correct change ($1.25 one way, $3 all day) for the streetcar, because they don’t make change for you, but you DO want to ride one of these iconic vehicles, which are still used by the locals as well.

We are staying at the Quality Inn Downtown, which is within walking distance of the quarter and the warehouse district, and I’d recommend it, even though they hit you up for an extra $15 a night on top of the $130 (with tax) for the room.  It’s nice and clean, and the staff are friendly.

I guess you can tell I love this city.  It’s truly a great American metropolis, with its own unique architecture, history, food, music, and culture, and the people have an attitude, summed up by “Laissez les bon temps roullez”, that anyone on vacation has to find appealing.  I love to listen to that thick Cajun accent when you talk to the locals, and it’s not uncommon to overhear a conversation in French as well.  There’s an element of hedonism here, and it’s a little edgy in some areas at night, but this is a real town filled with dark beauty and spectacular food just waiting to be enjoyed.  Go there!

Tomorrow, we go to visit more relatives, this time on my Dad’s side, in Clarksdale, Ms. See you!

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2 Responses to Road Trip! Monday, September 19-New Orleans

  1. Barbara says:

    Jill & Dave lived in the Garden District for 9 months. they lived in an apt. on 2nd st. I LOVED visiting them while they lived there. A great place to visit, not so great a place to live, especially with an infant. I’m so jealous that you’re there. I bought a wooden cross embellished w/cast off jewelry from a street vendor. It’s one of my all time favorite finds. I keep thinking I’ll take him some of my old jewelry to use on his treasures, but fat chance of ever finding him again:) Have fun!

  2. Jonathan says:

    That’s the great thing about NO: you just never know what you’ll find! I’m seriously considering an apartment there, but at over $250 a square, I’m not so sure. But it’s a great city, and if you love food and music and a lively atmosphere in a truly unique place, maybe the heat and crime are worth it…:))

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