We left off with TechGod and the Diva roaming the streets of New Orleans after a blissful musical eargasm courtesy of Tanya and Dorise
Dinner at Red Fish Grill
For Sunday dinner, I was invited to eat at Red Fish Grill, a Cajun cuisine hub that’s part of New Orleans’ venerable Ralph Brennan restaurant family. The menu was packed with myriad tasties from the Gulf, and I couldn’t wait to dig in!
I opened the proceedings with the alligator sausage and seafood gumbo (above), a rich, mildly spicy stew ladled over white rice. It was the perfect way to kick off dinner, as it literally warmed up my tummy for more!
And “more” meant the Redfish on the Half Shell (below), a bevy of sauteed crawfish tails sprinkled over a fillet of blackened redfish and served with mustard greens. AND it was strongly suggested to me that I add crab. And if that wasn’t enough, spicy chili butter was drizzled over … well, I don’t know, maybe the entire dish and the silverware, too, but you know what? I was prepared to eat it all, because it’s chili butter, y’all!
The fish itself was cooked to juicy flakiness, and the greens added a touch of zesty bitterness that contrasted beautifully with the entree’s spices. Big, fat plate of yum.
TechGod, who thoroughly avoids spicy stuff, opted for a simpler dish of grilled Gulf redfish and shrimp over spinach with crab thrown in for good measure. Because life needs more fresh crab, chickadees!
Red Fish Grill fosters a festive atmosphere evident from its decor and vibe as soon as you walk in. Totally apropos, as the resto is located right on Bourbon Street. So bring your beads with you as you stop in for dinner and drinks!
Late-night French Quarter stroll
After dinner and a quick stop back at the hotel, we set out to partake of one of my favorite activities in NOLA — aimlessly wandering the streets. Oh, and drinking. Definitely drinking. First stop was the Erin Rose Bar. How have I missed this Conti Street dive in the past?! Oh, right — I was probably tipsy.
Erin Rose had not only a ton of personality — as evidenced in this witticism seen in the ladies’ loo …
Despite the intake of food several hours before, we were feeling snacky by the time we got to one of my favorite late-night hangs in NOLA — the Deja Vu. It is an absolute must to order the fried green beans there, no matter if your stomach is telling you it’s full. LIES! Once these crisp and snacky babies arrive at your table with a side of ranch, you’ll be powerless to refuse them. And after one bite? Fuhgeddaboutit — the entire tray is going down the hatch. Happily, the Deja Vu kitchen stays open 24 hours a day, so when the noshing bug hits you after a
dozen couple cocktails, you can sate your appetite in the wee hours. Oh, and did I mention this joint has a full bar, too?!
Two hours and five songs on the jukebox after our arrival, it was time to keep on moseying through the French Quarter. I showed TechGod some of my other favorite haunts like Oz and Lafitte’s. But as we rounded the corner of the latter, good ol’ Daylight Savings whooped our butts again, and we realized it was past 4 a.m. EGAD!! We had a lunch reservation at the Loews’ Cafe Adelaide before noon … time for some beauty rest.
Up next: Louisiana lunch goodness and … a giveaway!!Read the rest
After my Baton Rouge adventure, it was time to skedaddle on to New Orleans, yay! But no trip is proper without a good meal to kick it off, and with that in mind, TechGod and I headed to a popular BR brunch spot to eat.
Sunday Brunch at Mason’s Grill
Mason’s Grill is known for decadent breakfast dishes with a Cajun spin — perfect for launching a day of further Louisiana exploits, if you ask me! Keeping with my gorging-on-fresh-seafood theme whilst in the Red Stick city, I opted for a crab cake benedict …
With a side of hearty breakfast potatoes and a mimosa to wake up my senses, this brunch had me ready to sail. And we kind of did, driving as we did on the looong bridge over Lake Pontchartrain.
Lovin’ the Loews New Orleans Hotel
It was a cloudy start to the day, but at least it was fairly warm. Soon we were rolling into the Crescent City, ready to check out our fabulous NOLA HQ, the Loews New Orleans Hotel.
I can’t say enough about the phenomenal amenities and service at this palatial building on Poydras Street. From the moment I stepped inside, I felt like every care and need was taken care of, or could be. As our luggage was whisked away, we had to rush upstairs to make our spa appointment at the hotel spa; the front desk representative assured us that not only would our bags be delivered to our luxurious room, but our hotel key cards would be dropped off at the spa during our treatment. Now THAT is service!
Happy spa times at Balance Spa
When they learned of the Diva’s pending arrival, the lovely folks at Loews treated me to the Girlfriends Getaway package, which includes a two-night stay (I could only stay for one, alas!), complimentary valet and cocktails in the hotel’s famed Swizzle Stick bar, gift cards for patio-and-hurricanes haven Pat O’Brien’s and beignet beacon Cafe du Monde, a 10 percent discount at the spa AND super-fun feather boas, just for kicks! Loves it!
Added bonuses from the lords of the Loews included a beautiful gift basket full of NOLA-tastic treats aaaaand a credit for at the Balance Spa. A relaxing, reinvigorating massage and session in the hot tub later, I was ready to hit the city!
Welcome drinks at the Swizzle Stick Bar
After the rest and relaxation fostered by Balance Spa’s wonderful services, I did the very opposite of post-spa hydrating and hit the hotel’s phenomenal little Swizzle Stick Bar, which has made a name for itself in NOLA for expertly created craft cocktails. You know your Diva had to sample the signature drink — the Adelaide Swizzle (above left)! Named after the aunt of the Ti Adelaide and Lally Brennan — the proprietors of New Orleans’ legendary Commander’s Palace — the Adelaide Swizzle is a flavorful blend of rum, lime, bitters and a secret ingredient, according to the recipe in the Brennans’ book “In The Land of Cocktails.” My palate didn’t give away the secret, trust me — I was too busy savoring the splendor of the drink to focus on guessing!
Post cocktails, we hit the street to use the Pat O’Brien’s voucher from Loews before our dinner reservation. Strolling up Royal Street, we came across performers Tanya and Dorise, whose evocative, emotional music interpretations grabbed my attention on my last NOLA visit.
Standing there listening to their stirring rendition of “Over The Rainbow,” I nearly cried — and plenty of folks paused from their hustle up Royal Street for a moment of pure bliss. Keep on keepin’ on, ladies — hope to see you in NOLA next time! Chickadees, check out the violin-and-guitar duo’s music here!
Stay tuned for the rest of my NOLA adventures!!Read the rest
This very afternoon begins my long-weekend jaunt through parts of southeastern Louisiana — I’m visiting Baton Rouge, then seeing what I can see in New Orleans. I’ll only be in NOLA for, literally, 24 hours, but you best believe I will jam-pack as much fun and fabulosity as I can in that one day. And perhaps even more in the Red Stick/Capital City of Louisiana. There will be eats. There will be drinks. There will be lovely hotels and even tours. And I’ll bring you every moment of it in the days to come! Yeehaw!Read the rest
Seems me and the NOLA gang have created a tradition in that fair city: visiting Cochon for a meal. It’s a ritual I don’t mind partaking in each and every time I’m in the Crescent City, because Cochon is a revelation of a restaurant.
Unfortch, during our last visit, I didn’t get to sample the beauty of the restaurant’s next-door offshoot, Butcher, though Detroit Diva did. A recap of her up-close encounter with a top-selling sandwich:
I can attest to the wonders of this heavenly emporium of meat. I put a pork belly sandwich in my luggage to eat when I got home; it was superb, and suprisingly held up well during its travels from NOLA to the D. The pork belly was flavorful and crispy, and the pickle balanced it out perfectly.
With a review like that, I was eager to return for a proper sit-down at the butcher shop/sandwich joint/wine bar, so we made it our Saturday night dinner.
Butcher has the sleek, casual feel of a gentrified neighborhood hangout. Tall tables and cushy stools sit among shelves of wine, chalkboards listing specials and cases full of meat, meat, meat. The same aroma of toasted bread and charcuterie filled the air as last time; it was such a nice early evening, though, that Detroit Diva and I (Dimples was knee-deep in Lit Fest events) opted to sit at a two-top outside. And that was our only easy decision of the night, as the menu was soon dropped off.
Man, what to pick? I knew I wanted the pancetta mac n cheese as a starter, so that was a no-brainer. But for my main, did I want the tempting house-made hot dog “all the way”? Or the sandwich featuring the pulled pork that put Cochon on the culinary map? The Cuban sandwich? I was also jonesing for a muffaletta, which I’d never had in NOLA. In the late ’90s, there used to be a spot in Deep Ellum, where Twisted Root is now, that served up HEAVENLY muffalettas (does anyone remember this place?!), and I was curious to see how the Dallas one compared to a sammich made in its home state. But first, the mac n cheese.
If dining at Cochon and/or Butcher is now a new tradition, then part of that will involve getting this amazing little dish of pasta. Detroit and I had mulled over sharing one but quickly appreciated ordering separate servings! Tender noodles were swimming in a thick gravy of cheese — real cheese, not gloppy cheez — flecked with nummy tidbits of salty pancetta. We both reached for Cochon’s in-house hot sauce and dotted the mac with it … OK, Detroit verily doused her bowl with the stuff! I hardly paused for a breath as I wolfed this stuff down, trying to recall when I had a better version of the classic dish. I couldn’t.
Our entrees came, and one bite told me I was right to go with the Cochon muffaletta. An Italian-American concoction, the sandwich is an assortment of cold cuts and cheese topped with giardiniera, the diced-olive relish. Note this: the muffaletta represents the ABSOLUTE ONLY way I’ll ingest raw olives. And they’re wonderful in this setting — coddled between thick but not unwieldy warm bread and deli meats and cheese. A fine sandwich, indeed — between this and the shrimp po-boy from Alibi Bar, I was, in fact, on a roll with Big Easy sandwiches!Read the rest
There was one other foodie-centric seminar at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival that I was keen on seeing, nay JAZZED about: a session led by New Orleans celebu-chef John Besh.
The Besh sesh was titled Home Is Where the Heart Is: Cooking for the Family, and it was an offshoot of his book, My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking, which espouses a return to freshly cooked meals at home rather than convenience foods that have become so popular in our time-constrained world. Happily, Besh’s book — and the seminar — focused on easy, healthy recipes that are family-friendly yet keep flavor at the forefront. A delicious win-win …
Besh led his session from his restaurant in Harrah’s New Orleans, Besh Steak, with a hand from Chef Erick Loos, who heads the kitchen at La Provence, one in a stable of restaurants that Besh owns and operates (Besh mentioned that he nominated Loos for Bravo’s Top Chef — nice!)
After greeting us with a shot of tequila, and instructing the servers to keep it flowing (how very New Orleans of him!) Besh shared some anecdotes and home-cooking tips with the audience of about 80 as he served up some easy eats.
First up was a baked oyster dish covered in a healthy dose of cheesy breadcrumbs — absolutely delightful, though I didn’t finish my portion. This sample made for the third night in a row this oyster non-lover was eating them, I could only eat so many!
Our next taste was a prime example of time-saving meal planning, Besh said: It’s simple to braise some pork shoulder early in the week and use it in a couple of dishes later on. Brills. The above dish featured the tender pork shreds, tossed in a savory gravy with pasta and topped with parmesan shavings. Smashing as this dish looked, it didn’t exactly pack a flavor punch, but that’s definitely something audience members could tweak at home.
Our last little entree was an easy and refreshing fruit crumble starring fresh strawberries that’s the epitome of quick prep and big, tasty payoff.
After the Besh Sesh, Detroit Diva and I got to meet Chef John, and what a warm fellow he was. When we told him we’d eaten the previous night at his restaurant, Luke, he sweetly accepted our gushing compliments and asked us how we liked the fries — were they crispy? Perfectly so, chef!Read the rest