Monday, January 17, 2011

Eatin' like a tourist

We had a guest in town for the weekend. This actually kicks off a spate of upcoming visits, so I'm trying to play tour guide in a city I'm still exploring. What I know is eating and drinking. And sleeping in. But I think that we did show Ellen a good time. Or at least enabled her to have a good time.

Friday: picked Ellen up at around 2 and we went to get pressed po'boys at The Grocery on St. Charles and Sixth. Walked around the Garden District some and then headed back to the house to wait for our new futon to be delivered. Wandered around the Irish Channel a little bit- I pointed out the playground that we built in August with KaBOOM and told her the saga of Tracey's and Parasol's.

After the eventual delivery of our awesome futon, we went to the Avenue Pub for a couple beers- the smoke was a little too much for our Massachusetts guest (all public buildings, restaurants, and bars have been smoke free for several years now) so she took a walk around the 'hood. We met back up and made our way to Brigsten's for an amazing dinner. Tom and I started with file gumbo with rabbit and andouille and Ellen had the house salad (with grape tomatoes, feta cheese, spiced pecans, croutons, pickled red onions, & cane vinegar dressing.) The gumbo was excellent. Ellen was happy to have vegetables. (a common reaction to eating for a weekend in New Orleans, though I usually see it at the end of a visit, as opposed to the start of one. I think it's a veteran maneuver and I applaud it!)

Next course was also amazing: Tom had the broiled gulf fish with crabmeat parmesan crust, mushrooms, & lemon mousselline sauce. The gulf fish of the evening was black drum. Tom loooooved it. He said that it was one of the best meals he's had in New Orleans. I had the sauteed veal with a veal osso buco sauce and grits. Awesome. Ellen had the famous Brigsten's Seafood Platter. It included the following: Grilled Drum Fish with Crawfish & Pistachio Lime Sauce, Shrimp Cornbread with Jalapeño Smoked Corn Butter, Baked Oyster LeRuth with Shrimp & Crabmeat, Baked Oyster Bienville, Jalapeño Shrimp Cole Slaw, and Panéed Sea Scallop with Asparagus Coulis. I cannot recommend this dish enough. Then we had dessert: Pecan pie for Tom, Cafe au Lait creme brulee for Ellen, and strawberries and tres leches cake for me. Oh, and some single malt Scotch.

Really, really good. Definitely the highlight of the weekend. Of a lot of weekends.

The next day Ellen and I hustled off to the French Quarter for lunch downstairs at Galatoire's. We showed up early to wait in line, but there was no line to speak of so we had a bit of a wander. Bourbon Street at 10:30 is still sketchy, but a little better than usual. We returned at 11am, and took a seat upstairs at the bar until lunch service began at 11:30. I had a bloody mary which was quite tasty- so tasty, in fact, that I had another one once we were seated. Billy was our waiter.

Galatoire's was... OK. It had been heavily hyped, but I didn't get the great service that is often mentioned in connection. Service was acceptable, but maybe not having a waiter or being a regular or asking advice (advice that did not seem like it would have been forthcoming) on ordering put us on the detached service list. I ordered the souffle potatoes and oysters brochette, Ellen got the fried eggplant. Then I ordered the crab Yvonne and Ellen got the crab Sardou. Was all right. We had the pecan cake for dessert. Overall, a bit of a letdown. I will stick to Commander's Palace for my old-school traditional New Orleans splurges in the future.

The atmosphere was of course raucous and festive- there was a 30th birthday party going on and we broke into Happy Birthday singing for another birthday girl who was turning 8. Oh, I also ordered a Sazerac and there was an option to have it on the rocks, which: ?????????

After that, we wandered around, went to the Moon Walk River Walk and took the riverside streetcar up to Julia Street and poked our heads into some galleries and the Contemporary Art Center. Ellen was still itching to walk around but I needed to get home and rest up before the wedding reception Tom and I were attending at the New Orleans Museum of Art. So I called Tom for a pickup and went home to prepare (and nap) for the evening out.

The reception was amazing- the museum was gorgeous, the art was terrific, the food was Indian, and the mojitos were provided by the Bridge Lounge. There was an Indian DJ there who spun both Indian and American dance music which was super fun. I danced lots and lots and lots. We'd planned to take a cab home (as we also arrived in a cab) but Tom was OK to drive so we drove a friend's car home, so that he could go on unencumbered to the afterparties, etc.

The next morning I was feeling a little rough, but I got it together to go with Tom and Ellen to Coquette for brunch. Service there was also oddly off- and that's unusual for Coquette. There was a large party and maybe an easily flustered server? I don't know. I had their Mardi Gras season Coquette Collins- it has shochu, Campari (???), and ginger liqueur, which, when combined with ice and soda water was quite refreshing. We three also sucked down lots of coffee, which was delicious as always.

Ellen and I had their butternut & acorn squash soup (with arugula pesto) and Tom had the sausage and squash cavetelli to start. Then I chose the simple breakfast item- scrambled yard eggs with grits, hash browns, and bacon. The bacon was far too salty for my hungover taste, so Tom ate most of that. When I'm too hungover for bacon, you know there's a problem. Ellen and Tom enjoyed their main dishes: merguez sausage gravy and biscuits for Tom and shrimp and grits for Ellen. Ellen also had the signature chocolate pot au creme with freshly made beignets for dessert while Tom and I just sort of rubbed our very full stomachs.

Then it was off to the cemeteries! This was one of the only specific requests that Ellen had- to go check out the Metarie Cemetery. Which we did. Very interesting tombs and structures there. A couple of really weird things and a few creepy things. I will post pictures once I get them from Ellen. After that, we went to the smaller cemeteries by my office- the St. Patrick's One and Two as well as the Dispersed of Judah cemetery and the Katrina memorial/potter's field.

At this point, we were WELL overdue for a nap. We returned home and everyone settled down for a couple hours. Once we rested, we headed out on foot to MVB for some burgers, fries, and shakes at our favorite neighborhood pop-up burger joint. We *just* missed the special burger, I think they sold out just a party or two ahead of us. But it was great. Amazing cheeseburger and chocolate gelato shake. Tom and I split an order of fries which worked out well, and Tom had a vanilla malt. (Ellen ordered the same thing as me.) We walked home fully satisfied.

Funny thing, Ellen wanted to get a Diet Coke with ice while we waited for our table, so we wandered down to the Bulldog and got a Diet Coke for her and a Bayou Teche Grenade, brewed with passionfruit for me and Tom to share whie we waited. Pretty damn drinkable. We ran into one of our Beer Advocate/Avenue Pub buddies who was leaving while we were waiting outside, who hooked us up with a Sierra Nevada Porter to drink- he said it paired well with the burgers. And wouldn't you know, he was right!

After dinner, we came home and I started re-watching Justified in preparation for its upcoming return with a second season. Oh, RAYLAN. Oh, BOYD.

This morning, we headed out to Surrey's for breakfast and I finally tried the Costa Rican breakfast, adding both black beans and chorizo, as is only right and proper. Tom had an enormous pumpkin pancake which he enjoyed, but would have rather had a couple smaller pancakes instead. It came with real maple syrup though, which is a rarity around these parts, so that was something. Ellen had a scramble with salmon and also had the opportunity to enjoy grits and a homemade biscuit on the side.

Then, off to the French Quarter, as our guest had some last minute things to check off her list. We stopped at Southern Candymakers, Lush (OK, that was just my errand), the ATM, the Vieux Carre liquor store (which has EVERYTHING you need, including an awesome owner who likes to chat,) and Cafe Beignet for some traditional beignets. Mmm, doughy, hot, and powdered sugar goodness!

We came home and got Ellen packed up and off to the airport. And then, of course, back home again for a nap.

Hope y'all had a good weekend as well! And for those who are up in New England expecting even more snow and single-digit temps, I'll just say that today was in the 60s with sometimes sunny (sometimes cloudy) skies. I'll clear my futon off for your visit.

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