As our plane descended into New Orleans, the cheers of football elation became more and more pronounced… the Saints game was broadcast over our flight radio, surreptitiously we noted as it was sponsored by a competing airline. Near disaster was met as our plane landed within minutes of the close-call game ending. scurrying to the luggage carousel, everyone called friends and relatives to act as impromptu sports announcers (boom goes the Dynamite) … calls finished with the relief of calling out the Saints as the game winners.
New Orleans’ football victory afforded Sweets and I the opportunity to be swept in to the local celebrations, folded into the mix of traffic congestion, police barricaded streets, SUV roving parties, this all before we were able to find our hotel in the now raucous French Quarter.
“The city be waulin tonight!”
Our first night journey started at 1am, our eyes gobbling up the sights offered: teetering groups, beads flashed, the stooped reveler claiming a corner of sidewalk, and whompy techno music. Bourbon Street had indeed erupted, just like Mardi Gras a local noted the next day. We marveled at the ever present alcoholic slurpee machines that propped up the Bourbon drag, a bit disappointed in the plasticness of it all.
Ducking into the 24 hour Clover Grill we settled in at the counter and amused ourself with the dancing antics of George the line cook, his adoring fans grabbing at his back pockets to leave him phone numbers, and the juke box that pushed everyone into the aisles belting out Ray Charles and Jackson 5. We munched on a club sandwich, and biscuits and gravy (which caught the attention of several who had never considered the savory gravy concept as a food item before!) and headed out to wander the streets again.
The morning after, we dunked away at Cafe Du Monde, and I began my quest for seafood.
Desire Oyster Bar kept me at a manageable level of oyster bliss that also extended into going back there for dinner with our Seattle friends Molly and Steve (our trip instigators! “be jealous or join us”). We slipped our spoons into an amazing Turtle Soup that came with a sidecar of sherry, and reveled in gumbo and more oysters that met their joyful demise in a restaurant wide toast to their lusciousness (spurred on by our Lovely Waitress and the oyster topped lime wedge she hoisted into the air).
That night we all cozied up at the candlelit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar courtyard, and congratulated our adventurous selves as we mocked the cold temperatures back home. Snow and Ice? Ha! (I should mention- that came back to bite Sweets and I in the heiny, by way of the Pdx snowstorm tuesday. Let that be a lesson to you- never mock Mother Nature, drink to her wide expressiveness instead.)
Morning feasting at Petunias demanded a moment of jaw dropping awe for the Pain Perdue as it sat almost menacingly in front of Molly, allowed both the Sweets to roll in the happiness of grits with sausages, and reminded me stupidly that Hollandaise and real crab are great stuff (the thought of hollandaise on mashed potatoes haunted/taunted me the rest of the day).
For our last dinner, Sweets and I scouted out dinner at Emeril’s NOLA. Initially we might have been feeling a touch ironic, but like the great coming around of Bourdain to his favorite Ewok, we enjoyed our meals there. The table side attention was estuary-like as it’s near fussiness collided with our casual demeanor; I sat in my jeans, Sweets in his Utilikilt, as our server brought Molly a black napkin (unlike our white ones) because she was wearing a black shirt. I was amused (or maybe that was the preceding cocktail speaking…) at how caught off guard I was by the effort.
Our meals all were quite punctuated in their flavors. We played musical plates with a round of appetizers, all of which were seafood kissed. The distinct caramel flavor of the bbq shrimp taunted me to lick the plate, and the buttered oysters with crab caused us to harass the bread boy. The main dishes we shared were ok (is it a good or a bad thing if your bbq pork is distinctly the exact flavor of bbq pringles? Perhaps this was a moment of Emeril playing El Bulli?), but I think the appetizers were the real toothsome moment of our dinner.
The ending note of our culinary journey was expertly punctuated by Molly and Steve’s secret Amuse Bouche, plotted since its serendipitous discovery earlier that day. Near the midnight hour, they led us to a red mirrored booth at Yo Mama’s and fed us bites of a savory, stick to the roof of your mouth burger, while watching my expression for signs of taste bud exclamations. I couldn’t place the distinctive gravy that topped our burger until I had its meaty distractions washed away by my beer… it looked like roux, cooked past the blond stage, not quite chocolately brown, but distinctly peanut butter colored. OMG, it was peanut butter!
Thick smooth peanut butter, topped with bacon bits was humping our burger! Truly a sight to behold… with plenty of napkins. I’m already plotting when and how to spring this taste next.
Thanks New Orleans, we needed that.