New Orleans

I spent about 5 days in New Orleans last week, mostly for work, but there was also some time for exploring and eating fabulous food. Friday night I had the chance to meet up with my aunt and uncle, who live in Baton Rouge and drove down to NO for the evening. We started our night at Pat O’Brien’s, home of the Hurricane in the French Quarter. Last time I was at Pat O’Brien’s (with the same aunt and uncle), I was too young to drink one of these.

Please disregard the man in the background wearing a tank top. Most other people sitting in the beautiful garden were dressed appropriately!

After Hurricanes, we moved on to Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro. I’m really not sure what was better here–the food, the desserts, or the strolling jazz quartet (which was down to a trio by the time they made it to our table, but they were still great). We had a long, leisurely dinner and the food was just top-notch. For dessert, we had one of my favorites–bananas foster, prepared table-side, and followed that with a coffee drink that contained citrus liquors. I took a bunch of pictures of the waitress pouring liquor down the spiral peel of an orange and repeatedly lighting it on fire, but unfortunately none of them really turned out.

Here are the three of us enjoying our drinks! We finished off the night with a special request of the musicians. I asked them to play Begin the Beguine, which is a special song for me because it was our father-daughter dance at my wedding. What made it even more special was that my sister surprised me by learning the clarinet part and playing it with our wedding band! So of course I had to call her to hear the music during our little private concert.

That guy played the lead on what I think is a soprano sax, and these two guys backed him up:

I don’t get to see my aunt and uncle very often, so this evening was extra special and just a lot of fun! If you are in New Orleans and looking for a special place for dinner, I highly recommend Arnaud’s. It’s right on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and I never expected such a nice, white tablecloth-type place in the middle of all that crazy debauchery.

Most of the rest of the trip was work-related, so I’ll just share a few more food highlights. The conference took place at the Ritz-Carlton, and we got to stay there. Now, the hotel was NICE. I have never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton before and had pretty high expectations for it. However, I was hoping to be really blown away, and that wasn’t exactly the case. There was nothing wrong, and the room was definitely luxurious, and the service was impeccable. But the experience wasn’t head and shoulders above every other hotel I’ve ever been to, and I don’t think I would splurge on their normal rates to stay there myself.

The food and drinks there were another story. My favorite thing I ate at the Ritz was an appetizer of Coriander Ginger Shrimp with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce. YUM.

Another New Orleans must-have food highlight: beignets.

We got these at Cafe Beignet, again in the French Quarter. They don’t look like much, but paired with a good, strong cup of coffee they are just heaven.

One other great food experience that I don’t have any pictures of was oysters on the half shell with a spicy Bloody Mary at Royal House Restaurant (also in the French Quarter–if you like to eat and drink, that’s pretty much the only place you need to go). The oysters were so fresh, I could’ve eaten 100 of them and still not had my fill. That dinner made me really wish my dad was there, because he’s the one who taught me an appreciation of raw oysters loaded with fresh, pungent horseradish.

My main impression of New Orleans as an adult was that it’d be a great place for a girls’ weekend or bachelorette party–probably not really a city where Andy and I would plan a vacation, particularly since he’s allergic to seafood. Of course, having family nearby makes it that much better of a place to visit. I also felt particularly eerie every time I saw the Superdome. I know it’s used for sports all the time, but my mind kept drifting back to all those people crowded in there after Katrina. Other than that, I didn’t see any reminders of the hurricane, but I stayed in a pretty limited part of the city–French Quarter and Business District.

Next up on my travelogue (because that just seems what my blog has turned in to lately!): Easton, Maryland, a.k.a. my baby sister’s new home.

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