Sunday, January 10, 2016

A New Year's Eve in New Orleans

I haven't been posting as much lately. My academic work is writing-intensive so it's often difficult to find motivation to write in my off hours. Rest assured, however, I have content to add to this blog and will continue to do so as I find the time.

The Lovely Spouse and I joined some long-time friends in New Orleans, Louisiana this year. As happens to groups of friends over the years, we have all spread to far-flung corners of the globe with our professional and personal lives. However, this year we decided to meet up someplace awesome for a long weekend of catching up and generally enjoying each other's company. This year that place was New Orleans.

The weekend was the first cold spell to hit New Orleans of the season so it was chilly and grey the entire time. But as you see, the city, especially the French Quarter, is still lovely.

We managed to find a bar on Bourbon Street, full of Aggies, where we watched the Aggies face off against Louisville for the Music City Bowl. The Aggies did far better than expected given the troubles the team had this year. Gig 'em!
Yes, they have Absinthe! Several lovely varieties, albeit not available cheaply. They also had a tasty drink called a Sazerac. I recommend this one for bourbon or whiskey drinkers. [If you don't like whiskey, you'll hate it.]
We visited Pat O'Brien's. Evidently it is THE place for a Hurricane cocktail in New Orleans. I find them overly sweet so I enjoyed a beer from one of the local breweries: Abita.
The flaming fountain at Pat O'Brien's is considered a landmark and meeting place. 
We visited Pierre Maspero's for brunch. 
The Sugar Bowl was evidently in town at the same time. We saw MANY football fans in town. Evidently OSU fans have a chant that they like to whip out on random occasions. 
The Lovely Spouse enjoyed some eggs with andouille. He said it was delicious.
I very much enjoyed my Grand Galette. A pan-fried hash brown cake topped with 2 eggs over easy, grilled tomatoes, bacon, parmesan reggiano and toast points. The coffee was surprisingly good. I don't usually enjoy coffee with chicory but it hit the spot at Pierre Maspero's. 
We visited Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo. Evidently, this is another requirement to any visit to New Orleans. No photography indoors. According to the person who answered numerous calls on the subject while we were there: they don't perform magic or voodoo, they only provide supplies. They also have souvenirs, including coffee mugs,t-shirts, etc. 

We visited the St. Louis Cathedral. It's a major landmark and you can't miss it. 
It is well worth visiting inside the cathedral. It's quite beautiful. If you go, be respectful and quiet as people are praying in there. 

The personal Bible of St. Louis. 

The area around Jackson Square reminds me, in some ways, of the areas around the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Similar shops and areas for people-watching.
We had lunch one day at Pere Antoine's. 

The rice and beans were quite tasty. We got there very early and waited for our group at the bar. The bar staff were awesome and extremely personable. 

The restaurant is lovely, but, as it took us an hour to get our check AFTER we finished our meal, we likely won't return. 

Mule-drawn surreys leave from the river-side of Jackson Square throughout the day. 

A local friend of ours took us to his favorite watering hole.

A nice hole in the wall, off the beaten path place for a few drinks and hanging out with friends. 

An Absinthe, mid-prep. Step 1, pour a few onces of absinthe into the glass. Step 2 put a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon. Step 3 light the sugar on fire then pour a few onces of water over the top. Mix and serve. Absinthe has a black licorice or anise flavor. You want to mix absinthe with water because it has a high alcohol concentration that tastes like burning otherwise. The sugar is to attenuate the bitterness of the herbs in the drink. The fire is for show.
We had some quick snacks at the French Market. We ate upstairs and had some of the best boiled shrimp of our lives. We didn't have time in our trip, else we'd return to have a full meal here. 

Joan of Arc stands guard over the Place de France. 
St. Joan appears to be well-armed, but no match for Sugar Bowl traffic. It was easiest to get around on foot until the game started.

So where did we eat our dinners? The first was at GW Fins. I didn't photograph it for the blog. Was it pricey? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The Scalibut (halibut poached in lobster broth with scallops) lives up to the hype. Tender, succulent, and indulgent. If they ever post a recipe I'll be the first home cook to try it out. Stand-out appetizers included the pork belly and Firecracker Tuna Tacos. I could easily make a meal of those and be very, very happy. The chicken crackling crusted black drum was also fabulous. At any other restaurant, this would be a star dish. However the Scalibut overshadowed everything with its awesomeness.

Did we make it to Cafe du Monde? No. As much as I love anything involving fried dough, I have little tolerance for waiting in line for it.
We also had an amazing dinner at the Palace Cafe that I did photograph for the blog. It will be the subject for a later post.

Seeing what New Orleans looked like on New Years Eve I can see how it would be absolutely wild for Mardi Gras. We didn't stick around for the dropping of the Fleur de Lis or the fireworks on the river, but instead had a group celebration at the house where we were staying.

On the whole, New Orleans was a great place to spend New Years Eve with a group of friends. There's plenty to see and do. My group also included art collectors who did some shopping in some incredible galleries. There are many independent artists and musicians creating some fantastic art out there.

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