Monday, October 08, 2007

The Crescent City

I'm spending the weekend in New Orleans. It is my first time in New Orleans, and it has already been clear to me what the main thing to do is: eat.

And I'm sad to say, out of four meals so far, only one meal was truly something, two were okay, and then there was the one was with my mom that was part of her meeting, but that doesn't count.

Saturday Night, so far disappointed with New Orleans with the exception of going to Art for Art's Sake. Afterwards, we ate and walked down Bourbon Street. That is something I never want to do again. I'm not fond of drunk people with oversized beers, pounding music mixing together from all sides, and the strong scent of liquor mixed with vomit and urine. I find it disgusting-and not in an exhilarating way.
Sunday was much better. Despite twice getting caught in the on again/off again heavy rain in the morning. The first quick downpour led to my riding on a streetcar for the first time. As soon as it started moving, it stopped raining. No more than a minute we got off at the end of the line, halfway to our destination in the Garden District, it started pouring again. Mom thought we should hang out in the underpass until it stopped. The air was so damp that we gave up on having the umbrella dry even after the rain did stop.
The rest of our walk was pleasant. We saw pretty houses, and others that still needed to be repaired. There was a new looking AT&T store in front of a crumbling yellow house. That made some things clear.

When we arrived at Commander's Palace, mom was damp and excited to be inside; I, miraculously, was comfortable in the steamy weather. The recently redone hundred-year old restaurant was definitely worth the weather. We walked in, and a server led us through a line of servers that greeted us with warm smiles, through a dining room, up a flight of stairs, through another dining room, and into a smaller dining room with striped walls with matching curtains that blended right in. It seemed almost as if it should be tacky, but it wasn't in the least.

Our three-course jazz brunch was spectacular. Mom was worried when I said I wanted to go there for brunch and insisted we get a reservation that it was going to be all show and no taste. After she had a piece of garlic bread (made with real garlic and cheese) with her chicory coffee, she changed her mind. When she read over the menu, and our waiter said that the pecan-crusted gulf fish was drum, Mom insisted I try it. Drum is her new favorite fish. She had it a few nights ago for dinner, and was blown away. She was also thrown by the size of a soft-shell crab her friend had gotten, and decided to get soft-shell crab.

We started with salads, a romaine salad similar to a Ceasar, except with a buttermilk-black pepper dressing and toast points, and a Warm Rabbit and Apple Salad that had pears, apple, candied pecans, warm rabbit, and a sweet vinaigrette.
Our entrees were also wonderful: the pecan-crusted drum with lump crab and a corn bisque-like sauce converted me to a drum lover. Mom's scary large soft-shell crab with its crunchy fried exterior and melt in your mouth interior with a remoulade was delicious. And I never thought I really liked crab.

And the bread pudding souffle, the signature dessert, was that classic New Orleans bread pudding topped with a puffy meringue. Mom's praline sundae had a tasty cookie wrapped around it that I couldn't stop eating. Plus, I really like candied pecans. After our dessert came, the jazz trio came around to our table and asked what we would like to hear. Mom asked if they had anything original, and they just played covers, but they chose Down Yonder in New Orleans to play for us.

After breakfast- and yes, depite my long narration, that failed to mention the polka-dotted bathroom walls, there was more to our day than a delicious brunch - it was time to do some exploring.

It was raining again when we left the restaurant, so we took a cab to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and spent a few hours looking around in there. There was an exhibit that was a guy who changed his name twelve times in a year, changing his persona and style each time, until his twelfth name, which is what he still goes by thirty years later with a style he still produces works of art with.
We walked back to our hotel from the museum on the same street we'd walked back on the night before. I got a picture of a Lutheran Church the night before, and it looked so different in the daylight. The street where the galleries were also looked less friendly.

After spending a while in our room (I was doing some homework, Mom read the paper), we decided to explore the French Quarter. We took the wrong street the first time, Dumaine, but walking back to the hotel, we found the street to see. Royal. It's chock full of galleries, restaraunts, and cute shops. Right off of Royal, on Toulouse, was a used cookbook and music store called Kitchen Witch. I was so glad that when I saw the sign that said "Cook books" I turned back around and headed towards it with Mom. We spent probably half an hour in it, and the owners were so friendly, as were Bob, the official greeter who happened to bea cat that reminded me of Jack, Sophie, a large black dog, and another dog whose name I don't remember.
I ended up buying a new book that's pretty recent called "Ruby Slippers" a cookbook with stories about Katrina that was put together by a twenty-nine year old woman. So far it is interesting to read.

We also saw a portion of Bourbon Street that was residential. Not quite the Bourbon Street thought of, but more pleasant.

Now that I've discovered Royal Street though, the French Quarter doesn't seem like such a bad place.

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