New Orleans – Thanksgiving Day 2012
I set out to tell you how every year we go out for Thanksgiving, and this year, we went “out” to New Orleans. I was going to tell you how we went to Las Vegas one year, and it snowed for the first time in some 50 years. We had rented a bike and were going to ride over to Death Valley. But the further up the pass we went the colder and wetter it got. Finally at the top we stopped to get gas, warm and dry. There was a tiny casino, and they had the most amazing Thanksgiving buffet ever. Everything you ever wanted, or knew about was there from sweet potato pie to green bean casserole. (I would ask why that is only served at Thanksgiving, but since I won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, I already have my suspicions.)
But I’m not here to tell you about Las Vegas. I’m here to tell you about New Orleans. I set out to write this on Tuesday night. But I spent most of Tuesday night packing a bag and then unpacking it. Then packing it and weighing it. Then unpacking it. I can easily get 75 pounds of clothes in a medium sized suitcase. Since I’m not willing to pay the over the limit fee, you must decide what you AREN’T taking with you, until we’re down to 50 pounds. You’d be surprised how much two pairs of jeans weigh. So no blog Tuesday.
Wednesday morning we left for the airport at 0430 (in the AM for people who use 12 hour clocks), and spent the next six hours on the plane or in the airport. We were able to check in the hotel early, which gave us time to perform the most important ritual of arrival for road trips. We went to the grocery store. We got fruit and cheese for breakfast, coffee, juice, beer (that’s really the point of the trip, the beer) and salty snacks. Then we went to dinner at a place called the Blind Pelican, listened to some live music and watched some bad basketball, drank some good beer, particularly the Hopzilla and the Hopitoulas. (Well, someone had some good beer, and the ginger ale I had was quite stellar, with a fresh bouquet, and a brisk bubbly action… whatever, it’s still ginger ale.) By the time we got done with 3 dozen oysters, some fish tacos and cheese grits, we’d made very good friends with Ernie-the-chef and he sent out another six oysters. Three were broiled with asiago cheese, parmesan cheese and seasoned bread crumbs. The second three were stacked with a slice of marinated pear, fresh spinach, red onion and a slice of jalapeno. Allow me to say, Oh. My. God. We should have started there. They were amazing.
When I got back to the hotel I planned to sit down and tell you all about it, everything we’d seen (which I had to add to my list of things to do this weekend) and done in such a completely short period of time. But there is no wireless signal in my room. Something about one access point in a closet , in a building with concrete and metal walls, and a room that is as far from the elevator (and closet) as possible without actually leaving the building. Thus, no blog on Wednesday.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving (obviously). Since we’d gotten to bed late, and had early dinner plans at the Palace Café, we enjoyed a casual morning, with coffee and conversation with our other guest, who I haven’t seen since …well, let’s see…last Thanksgiving when we went to Vegas. (I really should tell you more about Vegas at some point.) It was important that we get caught up and not to try and do it in a public restaurant, so it was good to just kick back, relax and talk.
Dinner was astounding. From the impeccable service to the view of Bourbon St., the table setting to the elegant atmosphere, this was an event to be savored. The menu held so many tantalizing options that we each ended up ordering one thing and then we shared around the table. For appetizers we had turtle soup and a cream of sweet potato soup with chunks of crab meat. (We got two of the turtle soup because we knew how good it would be.) If you’ve never had turtle soup, it’s a red vegetable based stew with ground meat, and spices. I still haven’t been able to place the one spice that was so memorable. It was completely amazing.
For entrees we had roast duck with foie gras, parsnips and a citrus salad. Our second shared entrée was a mahi-mahi crusted with andouille sausage and seasoned bread crumbs with a beurre blanc and chive aioli with roasted baby red potatoes. (Quite frankly, I think the phrases beurre blanc and chive aioli are a bit pretentious, but if that’s what they want to call white butter and chive garlic dressing, more or less, more power to them.) Our final entrée was a pompano panzanella. This was served on a bed of grilled eggplant, spinach and capers. It became a dilemma how much we really wanedt to share our respective entrees. I got no bites of pompano, and two bites of duck, and only grudgingly gave up any of my mahi-mahi.
Dessert brought a round of coffee, homemade carrot cake, apple cobbler and pecan pie. The cobbler and pie both included fresh vanilla bean ice cream (can there be any other?). The coffee was fresh, dark and strong. I tried to convince the waiter to just leave the pot (one of those nice sterling service pots, not a plastic ‘Nescafe’ twist top.) but he politely demurred. When we finished dessert and were enjoying our second coffees (I’d switched to espresso, but let’s just keep that to ourselves) we had him bring back the dessert menu just in case we’d missed anything.
We stayed to watch the parade, complete with marching bands, floats and plenty of beads. We were able to get right up to the curb as everything was going by, which was pretty cool. At one point, we saw a tractor (like Massey Ferguson farm tractor, not like Peterbuilt semi-tractor, or Kubota garden tractor) whizzing by in the other direction and then a few minutes later it came back down the parade route pulling a float, directly behind a tractor being pulled by a pickup. Turns out this weekend is the Battle of the Bayou, with Grambling State and Southern University. It’s almost like homecoming weekend. There’s the parade, a golf tournament, a marching band competition and a symposium on education in the rural African-American communities of Louisiana. Oh, and a football game. This has been a tradition since 1974, and the game is so big they play in the Superdome.
We ended up at the Blind Pelican (imagine that) to watch the end of the Dallas, Redskins game and the beginning of the Jets, Patriots game. Just long enough for a beer, don’cha know? The beer turned into two or three, I lost track, two pounds of boiled shrimp (with the heads on), a small margherita pizza…and the half time show. Good thing the hotel wasn’t that far away. Just in time we get home for the second half. Great timing we say. Everyone is asleep with 10 minutes to go in third period, and so, there was no blog last night.
This morning we stopped at Beignets to have espressos and beignets. We were going to go to a place called Café du Monde, which is a Must Do in NOLA. We went there, stood in line for about five minutes (ok, maybe 30 seconds), got out of line walked back two blocks, sat down ordered and listened to some fine jazz sax on the terrace. Turns out, Beignets is sister to Café du Monde, and serves the same menu as the original. The lady explained that the beignets at Café du Monde were more doughy with a thicker, heavier consistency and the ones served at Beignets were lighter and crispier similar to a croissant. I prefer my beignets lighter and crispier…and I’ve just been trying to see how many times I can say beignet. (ben-yay)
We walked down by the river front, watched the tankers and working tugs alongside the riverboat cruise and the paddle-wheel steamboat Natchez. We got to wander back along the French Market, which is one glorified flea market. (I’ve always thought they should be called fleece markets, but most of the time no one gets it.) Then wandered back up to Bourbon St where we caught a bus (I know, how déclassé.) to the hotel.
And here I sit. Getting caught up, getting you caught up. Writing postcards and making plans for tomorrow. There are a couple of things I want to do that may not happen, there are a couple of things that I’ll save until Monday, and there are a couple of things that we’ll plan on doing Sunday. For now, we’re shooting for Mardi Gras World and the New Orleans Museum of Art, and maybe the Contemporary Art Exhibit. Monday will be the WWII museum, and maybe the Civil War museum. We’ll see what Sunday holds.
B. – There’s a quiz later.