Monday, December 12, 2011

Playing Tourist in the FQ

One of the fun things about having people visit - especially people who have never been to New Orleans before - is that it gives us the opportunity to go out and hit the cobblestones in the Quarter, which we don't do that often.

Saturday started out cold and cloudy, but we rolled out of bed to meet our old neighbors from Salem, their 2 kids, and the husband's sister and parents for breakfast at Stanley (side note: I find it hilarious that the Stanley employee uniform shirts urge everyone to mozey down to Stella! down the road to eat, all casual-like, when it couldn't be more different in vibe, price, audience, hours, dress code, and food.) Stanley is at the end of the right hand side Pontalbla apartments in Jackson Square and serves up some pretty delicious eggs in the morning.  I do enjoy being able to get my eggs benedict with a half dozen fried oysters atop them. They also have thick, dark, and rich coffee  which is much needed when starting out in the FQ at 8:30 in the morning. (Side note #2: an older couple peering into the FQ reproduction of the Camillia Grill, expressing concern that it wasn't more crowded.  IT'S 8:30. IN THE MORNING. PEOPLE BE SLEEPING! Don't worry, there'll be a line soon enough.)

Anyway, back at Stanley: a variety of breakfast dishes were ordered including the eggs with boudin and the eggs with fried soft shell crab. I had the eggs with the oysters, the kids had pancakes, and fun was had by all.  After breakfast, the kids tugged us to the guy dressed like a robot giving out lollypops. Watching people interact with the street performer was actually pretty amusing, I have to say.  I usually hustle by, not wanting to take focus away from the tourists that must be their bread and butter. Crossing the street (where there was an enormous line at Cafe du Monde, of course). we headed toward the French Market, because I kind of get a kick out of how random stuff in there is and there's lots of stuff for visitors to check out. Also, it's still before 10am so most stuff still isn't open!

However, I realize that Central Grocery IS open and that my friend loves muffelettas, and that the CG is not really conducive to big crowds of people and/or small children.  So I peel off from the group and go wait in the pretty short but slowly moving line to get 2 muffelettas- one for our visiting friend, and one for us! I've had muffelettas all over town (still need to get out to Nor-Joe's though) but Central Grocery's is still my muffeletta Platonic ideal.

Catching up with the group, I find that one of my guests has found a place in the Market that serves hot cider spiked with Old New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum.  Naturally, I get in on that action immediately.  Damn, I need t have one of those every morning for the rest of winter. We all meander through the stalls- I do a bit of Christmas shopping from one of the local artists there as well as getting some cheap (probably made in China) masks, because I NEED MASKS in the house, and I've been paralyzed by getting the exact right one from a local artist and OK OK I will continue my search, but like 17 mask-wearing occasions have come and gone since I moved here and NOW I HAVE MASKS IN THE HOUSE. (until the cats pounce on the one with feathers, anyway. Then I will have MASK IN  THE HOUSE.)

OK, fast forward through random FQ meandering, discussing architecture and laying down some New Orleans history TRUTHS on our visitors, long story short, we saw some street musicians on Royal (our friend said with amazement, "I never knew the clarinet could sound so soulful!") and then cruised up St. Phillip to grab some hurricanes from Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop en route to the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival. Lafitte's makes my favorite hurricane in the Quarter, although truth be told, I haven't tried that many of them since I had this one.  (I still have never been to Pat O'Brien's, heh.) Also, Lafitte's ambiance is fabulous (and hella rustic), especially on a cold day with that fire roaring. While waiting, we got the heads up on the best hurricane recipe to make at home (the secret is Dole's Pineapple Juice) from a bartender customer. Very educational and informative.  Thanks, opinionated drunk awesome bartender guy!

OK, on to the highlight of the day, the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival, sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation.  It had everything!  It had music (Shannon Powell and the Tuesday Night Allstar Band)!  It had shopping! It had Wayne Baquet! It had Ms. Linda, recently made famous on Tony Bourdain's No Reservations (as evidenced by the line)! It had gumbo! It had weird corsets for sale featuring feathers and alligator skulls! It had bargain priced clearout merchandise for Jazz Fests gone by! DAMN.  That festival was so awesome. Next year I am bringing chairs, staking out a table, and chilling all damn day. Was able to try two different gumbos - a dark roux chicken and sausage gumbo, which I thought was pretty good till I tasted Tom's Creole file gumbo from Lil Dizzy's, which knocked my socks off and rocked my world. It was like a religious gumbo experience.

After the festival, we had to all go to our separate corners for nap time (not just the kids!) so we went back home for a couple hours and then met up with our friends at the Napoleon House (which was right across from their hotel) and enjoyed a couple Pimms Cups. Tom and I split a half muffeletta, which was OK.  It's no Central Grocery, but it's still better than most sandwiches in Boston.

We ended up shopping a little while our friends prepared for the wedding they were attending that night, and that was the reason for their visit.  Went to Voluptuous Vixen and got a pair of Awesome Boots.  No, seriously, that's what they're called! I had a Groupon to use, and that seemed to be the perfect way to use it.  Then we headed back to the hotel to babysit for our friends' kids while they were at the wedding. The rest of our evening isn't very blog worthy, except that we were able to see the wedding's second line from the Cathedral to the reception from the hotel room, which was awesome.  It was funny/sad to see so many people fully bewildered by the second line concept and trudging along with their handkerchiefs dangling lifelessly from their hand.

The following day we enticed our friends out of the Quarter and got them to da Channel - they came out on the streetcar, and we went to the Courtyard to watch the Saints game with our friends and neighbors.  We'd procured some early season boiled crawfish from Big Fisherman on Magazine at Lousiana to ensure they had that experience as well.  And it was a HELL of a game.  Big props to all in attendance who worked really hard at not swearing in front of the kids during the 4th quarter! I also introduced out visitors to Bayou Teche and NOLA beer, which were both well received.  After that, we went back to our apartment where we sat around drinking beer and wine while the kids went BANANAS on our Big Bag O' Beads.

After we parted ways (I put them in a United Cab, of course), Tom and I plotted our strategy for Chef Pete's Thai extravaganza at his Hush Supper Club at Stein's... but that will be another blog post.  Soon!  (Spoiler alert: SO AWESOME.)

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