Two nights in New Orleans

I started my trip to New Orleans with a missed flight.

After paying USD60 something to get booked on the next available flight, I arrived in New Orleans around 8pm, and caught a cab to my hotel. After dropping off my stuff, I decided to venture out for a delicious meal. I had a list of New Orleans restaurants which a friend had recommended to me, and I was fortunate that some of them were within walking distance from my hotel.

I looked up two of the restaurants I had wanted to go and quickly decided to go to the closer one, Cochon. It was a nine minute walk from my hotel, and I arrived at the restaurant about an hour before closing time. The restaurant was still busy, and I was seated immediately and brought a copy of the menu.

I had already spent the entire trip indulging my gluttony and had basically come to New Orleans to indulge it some more. So with that goal in mind, I ordered a three course meal, and ate it alone.

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‘Rabbit and dumplings’ ($23)

My main course was the rabbit and dumplings, from memory I think it was something like rabbit encased in dumplings, in a Sauvignon Blanc gravy. The gravy was thick, rich and flavoursome, and the perfect accompaniment to the dumplings, which had a crisp top and tender interior.

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Dutch Apple Pie ($8)

The entire meal was lovely, and I enjoyed great service from the waiter, Chris, who chatted to me intermittently through the evening. By the end of my first two courses, I was already stuffed. Any normal person would have stopped after the first two courses, but being me, I decided to indulge myself with dessert. Chris recommended this one to me, and it was served about 15-20 minutes after I ordered. It was fresh out of the oven when it was served, and the piping hot apple interior formed a lovely contrast in temperature and texture to the vanilla ice cream. I liked the (subtle) cheddar crust, and the crusty top of the apple slices. It was an amazingly delicious dessert, but I regrettably couldn’t finish it. As I finished up my meal, Chris said some of his friends from out of town were visiting, and asked if I’d like to grab a drink with them. I said I would see how I feel after I got back to my hotel, then paid the bill and left.

I walked back to my hotel, and while walking I passed a security guard who said hello to me, and we exchanged small talk about the local free event down the street, before I continued on my way.

When I got back to my hotel, I rolled on my bed and lamented my insatiable gluttony. I fell asleep soon after that.

The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of room service (not food) knocking on my door. I replied something that would have been almost incoherent on the other side, but nevertheless resulted in the staff departing. After this I rolled around in bed for a bit and browsed trashy American TV before deciding it was late enough to get up. After getting ready, I decided on where to eat breakfast (Cafe du Monde, of course), and left the hotel.

There was a streetcar stop just around the corner from my hotel, and just as I walked out, one stopped. I paid a dollar or so for a ticket to the French Quarter, and enjoyed the ride.

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The streetcar’s last stop was Bourbon Street, and I got out along with all the other passengers and strolled Bourbon Street.

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Bourbon Street during the day

It was around 10 or 11am, and the street was quiet, though most of the bars were already open, blasting 00’s R&B and hip hop loudly. I passed some bars with one or two customers, but most of the bars were mostly empty. I seriously contemplated having a morning drink, but decided not to ruin myself for the rest of the day, and headed on. After walking the entire length of Bourbon Street, I walked back the same way, and turned left at the end to get to Cafe Du Monde.

Cafe Du Monde was located right at the end of the main street, and was unmissable due to the long line of tourists outside. I walked around the side of the line, and found out the line was for takeaway, so I strolled inside and took a seat.

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After taking a seat, a server came over to me and asked what I’d like (they literally only had beignets, and drinks). Three beignets was the standard, so I ordered that, and an iced coffee. It wasn’t 10 minutes after I ordered, when a server walked over to me and plopped down the plate of beignets and iced coffee.

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Three beignets, and an iced coffee

The beignets were doused very liberally in icing sugar (too liberally, for my liking). The texture was reminiscent of Chinese doughnuts eaten with congee. The interior was very doughy, and the heapings of sugar did not add much to the taste. Overall, I was quite disappointed with the beignets, which many people had highly recommended to me.

After my disappointing breakfast, I strolled around New Orleans’ French Quarter, taking in the sights. It was only around 11am, but already there were musicians out on the street playing jazz. After strolling for a little bit, and heading into random stores, I passed a voodoo museum, and had a look inside. The museum was tiny, and there was an African American woman dressed in voodoo getup, who welcomed me in. The entrance fee was $5, and I joined the others as we walked around the small museum, looking at photographs and relics.

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The photographs were interesting, and at the end, in the last room, there was a voodoo shrine for us to write wishes on and put them (along with a coin donation of course). Looking back, the whole thing was kind of tacky really, but I enjoyed it at the time.

After the voodoo museum, I returned to exploring the streets and started thinking about where to eat lunch. The previous night’s dinner had set the bar high, and I wanted to eat somewhere as good as it, if not better. After a quick look on Yelp, I decided to have lunch at Le Bayou, a restaurant on Bourbon Street, which was situated just across from the more famous restaurant Galatoire’s.

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French Quarter, New Orleans

A friendly hostess greeted me as soon as I entered, and led me up the stairs. She apologized for the loud construction taking place nearby, and we chatted about how lovely New Orleans was.

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Bourbon Street during the day
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Lunch menu at Le Bayou
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Shrimp creole

I had a hard time deciding on what to order, but in the end decided on the shrimp creole, a traditional Southern dish of shrimp cooked in a jambalaya stew.

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Cemetery in New Orleans

After lunch, I caught the cable car to a nearby cemetary, and looked around. It was the last stop on the cable car line, and only myself, and a couple of other people got off. The other tourists went to a cemetary across the road, while I went to this one. It was located on a busy main road, but I’m pretty sure I was the only person in here at the time. I walked around, admiring all the ornate tombs that looked like they were straight out of a Gothic novel, but began to feel too eerily deserted, so I crossed the road and caught a cable car to the Garden District.

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Interior of a New Orleans cable car

It was about 2pm or 3pm when I got to the Garden District. By this time, it was sweltering hot, and I almost regretted the trip there. With no clear destination in mind, I chose a direction and started walking in it. I inadvertently came to the street where a famous restaurant, Commander’s Palace was, although it wasn’t open yet.

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The outside of Commander’s Palace

The outside of the restaurant was designed somewhat strangely in my opinion, with blue and white stripes, reminding me of an old time candy store. At the end of the street, was another cemetary which I had intended to visit, but it was now 4pm and it was closed already.

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Instead, I wandered the streets of the Garden District and looked at all the pretty houses.

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Not far from where I was walking, there was also a popular dessert cafe called Sucre, which I didn’t end up going to. Sweating sufficiently by this time, I decided to catch the streetcar back to my hotel to freshen up before dinner. After showering, I faced the hardest decision of the day- where to eat dinner. It was my last night in New Orleans, and I wanted a meal as good as my first had been. It came down to Herbsaint, or Mother’s, both of which were within walking distance from my hotel. Mother’s was the more casual of the two, and I thought, more comfortable for a solo dinner. Around 6:30ish, I left the hotel and walked to the restaurant, taking me around 9 minutes.

Mother’s is a no-fills, pay-at-the-counter style restaurant. There were a few diners scattered around the restaurant when I came in, and a few people waiting in line to order.

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Chalkboard menu at Mother’s

When I came to the front of the line, the girl at the counter greeted me as ‘baby’, and asked what I’d like. I said I’d have the crawfish etouffee. She informed me a main dish came with two sides, so I chose the red beans and grits to accompany the etouffee, then took a seat. It was about 10 minutes or less, until my main was served.

I wasn’t expecting anything fancy, but the quality of the food did not live up to my expectations. I can only really describe it is home-style comfort food, that satiated the appetite, although wasn’t extremely tasty.

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(L-R) Red beans, crawfish etouffee, and grits

This was the first time I had tried grits, and I had something more delicious in mind. It consists of ground corn, which is boiled. The texture is very similar to polenta. In addition to that, the serving was generous and much too large for me. I finished the red beans and crawfish etouffee, leaving a heap of the sadly bland grits. After finishing the meal, one of the waitresses came and cleared my plate. I asked if I had to line up at the counter again to order dessert, but she asked what I wanted and said she would get it for me.

In a few minutes, she returned with the bread and butter pudding. One of the waitstaff had recommended it to me when I came in as the dessert to eat, ‘if I wasn’t watching my weight’.

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Bread and butter pudding

When she brought it to me, I had the amount of the pudding ready to give to her, but she said not to worry about it. The random act of kindness made me enjoy the dessert all the more. The pudding was probably the least aesthetically dessert I’ve eaten in my life, but the taste more than made up for its presentation. The soft bread interior had the perfect texture to soak up the sweet caramel sauce. The dessert was the best part of the meal, as well as the hospitality. I left Mother’s with a tip on the table, as it had been unclear as to whether I should tip the cashier, and went back to the hotel briefly before heading out again to meet Chris, the waiter from Cochon, for drinks at Pat O’ Brien’s.

One of my other friends recommended Pat O’Brien’s to me, as a bar which made the famous New Orleans drink, the ‘Hurricane’. My other friend said after two Hurricanes, I would be drunk, but after three, I wouldn’t remember my name. I got to the bar early, and waited for Chris there. The bar was located in French Quarter, just off Bourbon Street. There were several sections of the bar, including an indoor section with long bar and stools, a live music room across from the bar, and an outdoor area with table service and a fountain.

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The drink was large, and unexpectedly sweet due for the vast quantity of alcohol I assumed must have been in it. Chris said the sweetness was all the fruit syrup they put in it. We had a few drinks here (I was careful not to have more than two Hurricanes), before we decided to leave to check out Frenchmans Street nearby. Another of my friends previously recommended Frenchmans Street as where to see “real” New Orleans live jazz. Chris also said you could find live jazz anywhere in New Orleans, but a lot of it was covers, while the musicians on Frenchmans Street played more original songs.

We caught a pedicab there (similar to the tricycles in Philippines, they involve a bike with a person cycling at the front, and one seat large enough to fit two people at the back). While on the way there, we chatted with our pedicab driver, about New Orleans, the music scene, and her previous life in Denver. As is usually the case when people get drunk, I engaged enthusiastically in small talk, and ended up finding out interesting details of strangers’ lives. After getting out, we said our goodbyes to our pedicab driver, and checked out one of the bars on Frenchmans Street.

The band played one of their own songs, and some covers, and Chris commented on how jazz bands in New Orleans were starting to play more and more covers, because it was what the audiences wanted, but it didn’t used to be like that. After what was my third or fourth drink, I felt increasingly tired, and decided to call it a night, but not before we grabbed some street food on Frenchmans Street- charcoal jerk chicken, with a bread roll and a jacket potato. Some of the best drunk food I’ve had in my life. I should also add that it was about 1am on a school night, and the streets were still lively with the chatter of intoxicated individuals, and music that spilled out onto the streets from the bars. Chris and I said goodbye, and I thanked him for taking me out on the town.

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The next morning, I woke up early, slightly tired, but without a hangover, and checked out. I Ubered to the airport, making sure I had ample time to check-in, then boarded my flight back to NYC for my last five days there.

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