May was “out of control” month.
Thanks to years of missed weekends and holidays, great managers and staff, a fear of dying before I have done “everything”, and a wife who says “Go for it”, I seized the opportunity last weekend to tag along with a best friend to New Orleans, for his nephews Bachelor celebration. (I wonder when they said over drinks and dinner months ago; “You should come Scotty” and I responded; “Welllll, I don’t knoooow, I am…OK!” if they regretted the invite. Hey, you never have to invite me twice to a good time.)
This long weekend came immediately (three days) after the previous long weekend in NYC with 7 friends. It was barely enough time to spend hours at both restaurants saying; “What do I need to do?” (and…”What’d I miss?”), re loading on cash and Advil, before heading back to Logan.
New Orleans is not New York. For way, way, way too many reasons to list. But, it is a damn good time and gets heated up in all kinds of ways.
What is awesome about New Orleans?
4,035,074. That is the alleged number of Oysters Rockefellers that have thus far sold at Antoine’s in New Orleans, the alleged founder of Oysters Rockefeller, since 1889, printed on the card that was delivered with our order. In New Orlean’s there is a story or two to be told. We heard a few. And, after 3 days in the French Quarter, we have created a couple of our own, since arriving for a friend’s nephew’s bachelor party.
(Opinion; The reason they invented ways to bake oysters with stuffing in the south is because their oysters suck. But that’s a story for another day)
For the record, although the (limited selections of) food in NOLA is awesome, Antoine’s Oyster’s Rockefeller are not all that. They were good, but I prefer some of the many, many other variations available.
Oysters aside, jumbo shrimp from the Gulf? Amazing. In New Orleans, they boil the shrimp in Cajun spices. Sooo good.
Oysters Po Boy; Many oysters (they are SO cheap), fried and stuffed into an Italian bread with spicy tartare (remoulade) lettuce and tomato? Amazing.
Cajun jambalaya!? Amazing. There are apparently two main styles of jambalaya, the Cajun/orangy-red style, with a lighter slightly spicy style-Think COBBLESTONES at folk Festival- and the Creole version, made with dark roux and tomato paste. A more brown-red, sweet and “burnt” style concoction, akin to the ol Sloppy joe. That version…notsomuch. The Acme Oyster House’s Fried Oyster Po’Boy was ”the best ever” Their jambalaya, almost as good as ours.
Waiters in jackets.
Like so many New Orlean’s restaurants, this is a pretty awesome thing to see. Even if many of those look a little old dingy and faded–which fits right into New Orleans in general–service in New Orleans is throwback style, to a time when wait service was more European in it’s approach and it’s dignity. (They say at Antoine’s, waiters inherit stations (and uniforms?) from parents, and that customers call “their waiter” for a reservation.)
At the New Orlean’s cooking school, where we were treated to a 70 year old Cajun Chef named Harriet, who hated “greezy” Shrimp Bisque, and loved peh-cone pralines. We were treated to Harriet’s mother’s opinion of Creole cooking. “They boyne evre’thang’.” We were also treated to Harriet’s many antedotes and free wheeling cooking style (“I dono, a cup, a cup ayna half, no matter if it tace good inda aind” as well as a tasty 3 course meal, complete with Abita Beer-as many as you liked.
Harriet’s Crawfish Etouffee (Ay-too-FAY) was considerably better than K Paul’s Gumbo, a dish that too often looks like lumpy dishwater and represents what Harriet’s mama used to say. It was dark red-brown.
New Orleans is dirty.
In both a bad way, and a good way. The streets and walk ways of The French Quarter are often stained or broken, street poles crooked, street signs bent and drain covers missing. But it somehow fits with the unshaven, drawly-speak, dirty water Mississippi, take your drink with you atmosphere. The cooks improvise their way to incredible compositions, much the same way the sax players and the clarinetists and the fiddle players and the harmonica players do, on seemingly every other corner. On a 90 degree weekend, New Orleans was steamy and sizzling.
Nudity is big in New Orleans.
From trashy flashing on bourbon St in exchange for cheesey cheap beads, to strippers in the door way promising you lots of great stuff–without ever mentioning the pending rip off (my friends told me) to the art work and scultptures. It’s all in the open…and nudity is good. (ok, not always.)
Did I mention the food in NOLA?
From Crawfish to Creole, Gumbo to Alligator, Po Boy’s, remoulade’s, muffalattas, jambalaya’s and beignets.
Art and Music
NOLA has real cultural fare and flair, to art galleries and street art, to street performances, the energy abounds. But the thing about New Orleans that is most amazing, is that there is great music wherever you turn. And I am not talking about bad renditions of “Don’t stop believing” and “Pour some sugar on me that are common to the (freakish) Borbon Street. Head to Frenchman St. Amazing.
Bourbon street is for the young and the stupid. (or the stupid drunk..ok..then it”s fun…) Every block has music leaking out into the street with the air conditioning. From pounding dance beats to true blues bands with trumpet mutes and gravely voices. Of course, although we may have heard “When the Saints go marching in” one too many times, the full bar sing along at 1AM was pretty damn cool.
Move away from Bourbon St, onto Royal, or St Louis where we found a much more “stylish” and cultural good time!
And, if you want crowds, but Mardi Gras scares you, Memorial Day weekend is the next best thing. IF you can stand the heat.