For my 30th I knew exactly what I wanted – to take a vacation to somewhere that I could eat a lot of good food. I struggled with this for awhile because everywhere that I wanted to go was 1) too expensive (Europe, South America, Thailand, Australia …) or 2) too cold. I did not want to be cold on my birthday which is unfortunate because my birthday is in winter. Not much I could do about that. I thought about Cali, Florida . . . and finally landed on New Orleans.
Back in the days of yore, I had visited New Orleans with my high school jazz choir – we sang at the International Association of Jazz Educators Festival but New Orleans in high school is not exactly the same as New Orleans when you are an adult. Oh the food. We ate so. Much. Delicious. Food. And my healthy appreciate of Chef John Besh has bloomed into full blown amazement (we may or may not have eaten at three of his six restaurants while there . . .). In case you ever end up in New Orleans, you must go to Domenica during happy hour (4-6) for the 1/2 price pizzas (get the clam pizza!) and 1/2 wine/beer/well drinks. The pizza crust is divine. And then go to Luke for happy hour (4-6) for $.50 P&J oysters and 1/2 off drinks. And then make sure to go to Restaurant August for their prix fixe three course lunch menu ($21 per person) – I could not get over the quality of the food we ate there. One of the best meals of my life at such a great price!!
This was the view from our roof top deck at our hotel (a special shout out to my incredible Aunt that paid me for my time building her a website with the use of her timeshare). Yep. That’s the super dome.
As with any city that I spend any time in, I have to get to their museum. New Orleans was no different. Did you know Degas had a house in New Orleans? Yeah, totally biked by it.
The museum had a lovely sculpture garden that was in the middle of City Park.
And street music. Everyone had their take – bucket drumming, saxophones, and Delta River Blues bands like this – don’t they look like river rats from Huck Finn? I still can’t figure out how they can sing with a cigarette in their mouth.
On the day of my birthday, we took a culinary biking tour. Yep. It was as awesome as it sounded (Little Dizzy’s for fried chicken and Liuzza’s for their NOLA style BBQ shrimp and gumbo). Our guide had some knowledge about the horticulture of the area so I asked her if she could mix things up by sharing some of it if we happened to come across anything noteworthy. Enter giant live oak that is the oldest live oak in New Orleans – the McDonogh Oak. 600 years old. Crazy.
We didn’t have a whole lot of room in our bellies after eating so much on the tour, but we still made it out to grab a bite and they were sweet enough to write me Happy Birthday in chocolate.
There are some super old churches in the area but most are deserted. Apparently if you are looking to buy a cheap historic church building, NOLA is the place to do it. Saint Louis Cathedral on the other hand, is still gorgeous and in great shape. It was also the site of an unlikely Christmas jazz concert that we attended!
And of course, beignets and cafe au laits. We took a mandatory stop at Cafe du Monde to get hyped up on sugar.
Other food worth noting? Elizabeth’s Restaurant for fried green tomato egg’s benedict, Surrey’s for fresh juice and boudin breakfast plate (and brie, avocado and crab omelette), Cochon Butcher for just about anything and everything (including bacon pralines), Old New Orleans Rum Distillery (for the tour), Three Muses (food and great jazz!), Cafe Amelie (gorgeous courtyard), Bellocq for drinks, French 75 Bar (upscale bar), and finally Jacque-Imos for alligator cheesecake.
I came away from this trip with more than just a full belly of incredible food. For a town that started out as a bunch of French convicts, Haitian refuges, African slaves, Sicilians, Irish, and a whole hodge podge of other influences… So much character and mystery from their fern and moss covered hidden courtyards, flickering gas lanterns, double tiered balconies and cities of the dead .. there really is no other place like it.