A December 2004 trip
to New Orleans by misconduct7
Quote: My sister and I decided to ring in the New Year with a bang. We decided that New Orleans would be the perfect place. I've never been to a more decadent city! The highlights have to be the food, the music, and the sultry ambiance of the city.
Hotel | "Holiday Inn Express New Orleans - Downtown Area"
Then I stumbled across the Holiday Inn Express for about $130 by using Orbitz. As a general rule, I check the hotel’s website too since they sometime have an even lower rate. BINGO – their website, www.ichotelsgroup.com, gave me a rate of $56 for weekdays and $112 for New Year’s Eve and News Years. A continental breakfast was also included. While it isn’t five-star, it was well worth the price, especially considering it was walking distance to the French Quarter and that there was a trolley stop right on the corner. Everyone at the hotel was very nice and helpful. It was clean, quiet, and comfortable. It was well worth the price.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 6, 2005
Holiday Inn Express French Quarter Downtown
221 CARONDELET STREET
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
If you only get one thing, make sure it is the Pain Perdu or "Lost Bread." It is their version of French toast, but it is unlike any other French toast that you have ever had. It is so good that you don’t need syrup! Just thinking about it makes me drool. Their crepes are overstuffed and big enough for two. Several people in line told us that everything here is good, but I’m not sure if we will ever get past the Lost Bread.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 6, 2005
817 St. Louis St.
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112
I had the jumbo coconut shrimp in red curry sauce, and my sister had the pork chops. Both were utterly delish! For dessert we had their homemade sorbet. I think that they said that it was a green tea sorbet, but the flavor was so unique, nothing like green tea ice cream.
They just opened a little over a year ago, and all of their staff is very attentive. The atmosphere reminds me of a bistro that you would find in New York, with dark wood and soft lighting. This place wasn’t in any of the guidebooks that I looked at, but I bet it will be soon.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 6, 2005
942 N. Rampart Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
After a great dinner at the MeauxBar (see my dining post), we finally decided to go to the huge block party that the city put on in the French Quarter off of Decater. They had a concert, people were throwing beads (even without being enticed by bare breasts), and at midnight they had a huge fireworks show over the harbor. Afterwards we headed to Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait to help us sober up. Make sure you visit this landmark – it is crowded at all hours of the day and it is fun just to people-watch. But here’s a tip: Don’t wear black; if you step within their patio, you are bound to wind up with powdered sugar all over you. We actually met some fellow Californians, as everyone is very friendly when covered in powdered sugar.
We then started to stumble back to our hotel, when we were sucked into the Jazz Parlor by the sounds of some toe tappin’ music. It was a great way to great the New Year.
Okay, we all know about Bourbon Street. Yes, you should go there, but you must realize that there is more to New Orleans that just that strip. I personally didn’t care for it. It smelled as though years of vomit have seeped into every crevice of that street. Sure, it serves a purpose, cheap booze and souvenirs, but I’d suggest the other areas in and around the French Quarter. Jazz and food abound, and you can’t go anywhere without encountering both.
What is a trip to New Orleans without a ghost tour? A city with such a sorted history is bound to be a few "lost souls" still wandering the city, right? I love a good ghost story, so we decided to book a tour with Haunted History Tours. It was the perfect night for it; it was foggy and misty, which really led to a ghoulish atmosphere. It was very informative, and it actually managed to scare my sister. She swears that she felt a ghostly presence tap her on the shoulder when no one was around her, but she has always been more susceptible to such things.
One of our favorite activities was a full-day tour with Tours by Isabelle. We did their grand tour ($120), which included two plantations, Oak Alley, and Laura Plantation (see my pictures), lunch, and a swamp tour. The great part about this tour was that our guide was so knowledgeable, and she kept us entertained throughout the long drive to and from with various stories and historical tidbits. Oak Alley plantation is what comes to mind when you envision a plantation. It looks very grand, like something out of Gone with the Wind. In comparison, Laura Plantation what most plantations look like. This plantation actually had a very interesting history behind it, and I was so intrigued that I bought a book from their gift shop that went into more detail. The plantation was handed down through the generations to the women of the family, which was very unusual for that time. The history for this area is just so interesting to me, and we were very fortunate to have such a great guide (sorry, I have forgotten her name).
After lunch we took our swamp tour. The guide warned us that since it is winter, we wouldn’t see much wildlife since most of them were in hibernation. He did a great job, however, keeping us amused. He pointed out various types of birds, told us about the ecosystem of the swamp, and even found a hibernating gator for us to pet. All in all, the $120 that we spent for the day was a bargain.
Well, since we couldn’t be there for Mardi Gras, we decided to do the next best thing - we went to Mardi Gras World. For $13.50, a van will pick you up and take you to catch a ferry to Algiers. On the other side, another van transports you to Mardi Gras World. When you get there you can grab some coffee and some King Cake and beads while waiting for the next tour to start. A tour guide will take you around and show you where they make and store various floats for the upcoming Mardi Gras. Then they will take you to a little room where they’ll show you a film that tells you everything that you ever wanted to know about Mardi Gras. Afterwards, you can even try on costumes.
One rainy day we went and visited the aquarium. I would highly recommend this, even if you are blessed with great weather for the duration of your trip. It is well-organized and fairly large, with lots of different critters to look at.
I also highly suggest that you take St. Charles streetcar. It takes you past some of the most beautiful homes that you’ve ever seen and includes a replica of Tara from Gone with the Wind and the home that they used for The Real World.
Lastly, although it may sound morbid, you must go to at least one New Orleans cemetery. It really gives you a feel for the city and its history. Some of the headstones and mausoleums are just beautiful in a very eerie way.
When I go on vacation, I feel one of the best ways to experience a new place is to taste it. New Orleans is the greatest city to prove this point. One of the first places we decided to visit was Petunia’s. It was a small townhouse that was converted into a restaurant, and their service was as efficient as the atmosphere was cozy. We waited in line for about half an hour, which we spent talking to people in line. The people here are so friendly, and I get the feeling that their favorite topic is food. We got many suggestions for what to order, but the one that kept coming up was the pain perdu, which is like French toast. One woman looked orgasmic when talking about it. Once we were inside, my sister took that suggestion, and I had the Maw Maw’s Cajun breakfast. We almost never order the same dish so that we can sample from the other’s plate. When the waiter set down the plates, he mentioned to my sister to try it without syrup first. He said that this French toast is like any other and tastes so good most people don’t need syrup. Now, my dish was good, but boy, did I have plate envy! So much so that we ended up coming back on our last day so that we could both have a plate of pain perdu to ourselves. Other items worth mentioning: the bacon is maple-smoked and was the best I have tasted, and their crepes are huge and big enough for two to four people to share.
Next on our culinary stop was Jacques-Imo’s Café. Their food is best described as Creole/soul food. This is a little out of the way if you are staying in or near the French Quarter and requires a trolley ride and some walking. However, the trolley ride is one that you should take anyway and the walk helps burn some of the calories you will be ingesting. Now, let me warn you that there is a long wait, since they do not accept reservations. We waited almost an hour and a half, but many people suggested that we eat here, so we waited. Unfortunately, most of the nearby stores were already closed, so there wasn’t too much to do but to hang out in the very busy bar area. Jacques Leonardi, the proprietor, is quite a character. He made several rounds among his guests to entertain them and see how their food was. Like the café’s decor, he is quirky and eccentric. Some of walls are hand-painted in a kind of twisted fairy tale/voodoo way, and everything is mismatched, but I think it lends itself to the very unique and unexpected dishes served. Corn muffins are provided as an appetizer, but we also ordered the shrimp and alligator cheesecake. Yummy! This dish was light and rich at the same time—definitely one of the best things on the menu. For dinner, I had the New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp (I love this dish but wished I would have taken the opportunity to try something more unique), and my sister had the stuffed catfish des allemands catfish with crabmeat dressing. They were large portions and very good, but we managed to go above and beyond the call of duty and share a coffee bean crème brulee. This is a great place if you are up to the wait.
Another great place is Palace Café. We came here for a three-course brunch, which included a roving jazz trio that would make stops at just about every table. The music was great, and you could make requests for a small tip. The brunch allowed you to pick an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. I actually got up the courage and tried turtle soup. It was dark broth infused with sherry, with little bits of ground meat (which I assume was turtle). I’m not sure it is something I would order again, but it was worth trying. My sister had the crabmeat cheesecake (good, but we liked Jaques-Imo’s better). We had grilled Gulf fish and catfish pecan meuniere for our entrees and Coca-Cola cake with Southern Comfort ice cream and a lemon linzer torte for our desserts. Everything was very good. I think it was about $30 per person, and we didn’t have a reservation, but they do take them.
We also ate at Pascal’s Manale, which is in the same area as Jaques-Imo’s. They are said to be the originators of the New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp. It has a large bar/wait area with a fresh raw oyster bar to the side. Man, I have never seen anyone shuck oysters faster than the guy behind that counter. There is usually a large crowd waiting to be seated, so I am sure that he has had lots of practice. I know that I had the BBQ shrimp, but I can’t remember what my sister had. I know that we both enjoyed our dish more than the other’s. They had a large menu that included steaks, Italian, and seafood. I liked the place; it had a very rambunctious crowd, and it had a local pub-type feel.
MeauxBar was just what we needed when we needed it. After days of heavy sauce-laden Cajun/Creole food, we were ready for something light. We were actually just walking around when we decided we were hungry and stopped in. The menu is Euro-Asian and is very inventive. I had the jumbo coconut shrimp in red curry sauce, and my sister had the pork chops. Both were utterly delish! For dessert, we had their homemade sorbet. I think that they said it was a green tea sorbet, but the flavor was so unique—nothing like green tea ice cream. They just opened a little over a year ago, and all their staff is very attentive. The atmosphere reminds me of a bistro that you would find in New York, with dark wood and soft lighting. This place wasn’t in any of the guidebooks that I looked at, but I bet that it soon will be.
Oh, and what is a visit to New Orleans without a visit to its culinary staple, Commander’s Palace? This is a very grandiose restaurant, and we made reservations for their jazz brunch on our last day. It is set in an 1880s Victorian house, and we were lucky enough to be seated in a room that looked out to the garden area. The first thing you notice is the incredible service. I noticed that they will serve everyone at your table at the same time. Not a big deal when we had a party of two, but across from us was a party of 10, and they had enough attendants to make sure that every plate was set down at exactly the same time! You just can’t help but feel special in that kind of setting. The food is as wonderful as the service. I had the soup sampler, which included a mini portion of gumbo, turtle soup, and tomato Florentine, muscadine and chicory coffee-lacquered quail (ohhh, so good!), and my sister had the peach pain perdu and the eggs Jeanette. Everything was so great here—it is a little more on the pricey side, but it is well worth it. It was a perfect way to end our trip.
Diamond Bar, California