I normally just post the highlights of every trip, but there's so many this time, I might as well format it as a report. This was easily the best NOLA trip we had since we started this annual/semi-annual tradition 5 years ago. It almost didn't happen as we got priced out of normal Columbus Day trip, which got every one of us depressed. But at the last minute I found that there were lots of good deals for this past weekend, therefore saving the day for everyone involved.
We got in on Thursday the 29th about 9:30 AM without incident and took the cab to Sheraton on Canal St. The whole city is under construction. Everyone is trying to freshen up before the Superbowl, but to me it looks like there's no way they will finish in time. Sheraton was no exception, half the lobby closed off. Construction noise on neighboring floors eliminated any possibility of daytime naps (we don't need them, but some of our friends do). On the positive side, our floor (28th) was COMPLETELY renovated and everything in the room was new and had that brand new room smell. And even though there was construction everywhere, this city sure knows how to decorate for Christmas - I thought New York is good at it, but NOLA is just as good if not better.
First order of events was me taking the wife (as a surprise) to Mignon Faget to buy some nice jewelry. She never buys anything nice for herself, so I figure this was a right opportunity. The street cars were not running so I decide to visit the Canal street locations. She ended up getting two rings from their new Honeycomb collection and the mood for the weekend was set. After that we head out to our first lunch at SoBou. While you could consider this a more high-end meal, it was worth every penny. The tuna cones (tapa-sized portion) were excellent and a great show of creativity, the kind of thing you would see on Iron Chef. Wife had the tuna while I had a foigras burger, which is just a portion of genius served on a plate. The quality of service matched the quality of food. Decor, while not traditional NOLA style, is modern and unusual (in a good way). What really set it apart for me was not just excellent food - there are a lot of GREAT restaurants - but the ATTITUDE of the staff. Usually the staff is tasked with talking up the food and the chef and how many awards and magazine reviews the place has. Here, it's a feeling of total humility. The server and the manager both thanked us for the compliments, but told us that their focus is on making constant improvements and that they appreciate every person who gives them a chance, being a new restaurant and all. After lunch we walked around for a few hours, just saying hello to the city. Two hours after lunch we were confident that we were stuffed, but our confidence has completely eroded once we saw the window of the French Market Restaurant that had oysters in it. The shells were the size of my palm, I'm NOT exaggerating. Got served by the shucker named Vincent, he brought the drinks and the bill as well. Heaven.
Our other 6 friends were not getting in until late, so we decided to take a nap before dinner which I chose to have at (another new restaurant?) MiLa. Another super hit! We had the Sweet tea- brined duck and seared tuna. I often make duck recipes at home and I'm taking this one with me. The peanut butter and chocolate tart desert was the best desert of the trip. Our server was from NJ, so it’s always a bonus to get the perspective from someone who lived in both places. Excellent service. Quiet, romantic setting, perfect for couples. Too dim and quiet for large groups, in my opinion. So this one is on the re-visit list.
After dinner, went to Copper Monkey to watch a disaster of the Saints game. Great little hole in the wall with friendly people, mostly from local service industry. Cheaper than Bourbon street drinks. Which brings me to the topic of Bourbon street. It's very common for locals and tourists alike to talk trash about it, but I always thought that it served the purpose for which it was designed - getting drunk in a place of debauchery and delightful sin. However, the getting drunk part disappointed this year. I sensed something was wrong when at some typical neon-filled bar I was asked if I want a a double when I ordered a whiskey. Do I look stressed? Sad? I didn't think so. Then the answer: a single shot is now about a quarter of an ounce. I have encountered this three more times before I decided to reserve real drinking for off-Bourbon and while on it, stay with Hurricanes and beer. Around 11:30 PM our friends arrived hungry so I took them to Deja Vu. Great little place with more drinks and LOTS of drunk-people food. It is the EXACT place you need to be when you're buzzing hard and starving. This part lasted almost until 1:00AM, after which we went to Pat O's for the traditional opening night ceremony, and before we knew it it was 3:00AM. I don't have a complete picture of the rest of the night from this point as I had been drinking all day; beer at lunch; (horrible) bloody mary at Lafittes, great bloody mary from French Market Restaurant (not the cafe with music, the on west side of Decatur), wine at dinner, whiskey on Bourbon, Copper Monkey and Deja Vu, hurricanes at Pat O's. Enough for one day.