and the story goes like this….
My world-traveling, über-food enthusiast friend Gail moved to New Orleans six months ago. She came back to Palm Beach to settle a few details and move the rest of her stuff out of her life or up to New Orleans; moving stuff to New Orleans meant driving it there; not shipping it, not moving it, driving it and she needed a co-pilot to get her and the stuff there, thus the phone call, the pitch and ultimately me agreeing to go.
Friday, June 7
On the heels on Tropical Storm Andrea, and me having the flu we packed up the rental mobile and headed onward and upward towards Northwest Florida.
First stop was Perry/Foley Florida. I’ve never been to NW Florida. It’s quiet there. Lots of land, open space….wide open space; trailer parks, pine trees, correctional facilities and cops who are beyond enthusiastic about their jobs, stopping and ticketing drivers not from Taylor County and let’s just leave that part of the trip in Taylor with Officer screeching sirens and flashing lights.
Saturday, June 8
Second stop, Apalachicola for Oysters. Gail has a thing for oysters, anyone who knows Ms. Casale knows this. Now that the trip is over, I do believe this “move” to New Orleans was merely a ruse for a road trip to Apalachicola for oysters and not moving her stuff but to truly drive 487 miles to indulge in the famed Apalachicola Bay oyster paradise. Ah, the things we do for friends. I was having civilization withdrawals at this point, so I started to channel what I knew best, otherwise known as Familiarity Association. It was here in Apalachicola that I began to seek out what I could relate to.
As a personal preference, I love tacos. Love. Love. Love them. Any chance I get, I order them. Ironically, at the Burger Beast 2013 Burgies Awards I presented the award to Jefe’s Original Fish Tacos & Burgers for Best Taco in South Florida. The owner of Jefe’s didn’t [exactly] know who I was or even remember me once introduced to me (again) so we have this running joke between us. Regardless of the banter between Jefe’s [Original Fish Tacos & Burgers'] owner and myself, I started to “feed” my familiarity in Apalachicola through Jefe’s as a medium….Toto, Toto, Toto we’re so not in Kansas anymore. I ordered an Oyster Taco, at Boss Oyster, I needed the soothing bizarre of my beloved South Florida. Stick to raw oysters in Apalachicola and get your taco on with Jefe in Miami.
So you think this is the end of Apalachicola?? Not even close. Four stops later, and Ms. Casale finds an oyster shack where she can purchase a bushel of oysters. Do you have any idea how much a bushel is? do you?? A bushel is 4 pecks or 8 gallons. Oystermen refer to a bushel between 45-60 pounds. When was the last time you EVER purchased a bushel of anything??? let alone highly perishable seafood, that you’ll be driving with for another 150 miles on ice, hoping it doesn’t melt so the oysters don’t open, drink the fresh water and die. (details that you don’t always think about).
Hey Tropical Storm Andrea, thanks for following us up the coast, now we’re spending the night in Biloxi, Mississippi because of your torrential rain with a bushel of highly perishable Apalachicola Oysters in a cooler, on ice, in an Econolodge on the second floor, without an elevator. B_TCH!
Sunday, June, 9
A 1.5 hour ride into New Orleans and our first stop is (after unloading the oysters at a friends) brunch at Dante’s with Bloody Mary’s. YEE-FREAKIN’ HA!
Dante, Dante, Dante….will you marry me???? I’ll make this easy on ya…..just make me thems thar Spicy Bloody Mary’s for eva, and we’ll call it a day……I don’t even need a ring.
Shrimp & Grits and a Bacon Cinnamon Roll was my first food taste of NOLA. I’ve never been to New Orleans, this is virgin territory for me and to experience this dynamic city with locals (people who live there) made my visit flawless.
After Brunch we headed out to the Cajun Zydeco Festival and the Creole Tomato Festival. The Zydeco Festival was just too cool for words. Funny how you’ll do things in public, on vacation that you would never dream of doing at home, even if you live in Miami; where nothing is shocking. It was here at the Zydeco Festival that I started to channel Stella, somehow, someway I was gonna get my groove back; and the streets of NOLA seemed like as good a place as any to start.
After the festivals and moving Gail up to the 3.5 floor of a historic non-elevator, non-air conditioned hallway, 60-stair spiral staircase building in the French Quarter we had our own festival of sorts; an oyster festival, on the rooftop of a 23 story building overlooking the city of New Orleans. The city looks majestic at night with all the lights, and of course, countless bottles of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc didn’t hurt, furthering my crush on my newly discovered New Orleans.
Monday, June 10, my birthday. This was part of the plan from the get-go, birthday celebration New Orleans style. And stylin’ we did. I’ve had many fun and memorable birthdays with equally as many fun and memorable friends over the years and this one was no different. I met up with Edible Marketing who also lives in New Orleans. Jen has an adventurous soul and embraces life to the fullest; quite frankly no one can ask for more in a friend and tour guide. I was in very good hands with Jen; there was no menu, no cobblestone street, no cocktail and no photo op un-turned in the 60 hours I spent in New Orleans. Pardon the pun, but I got a great taste of New Orleans in a very short time. There was no rest for the weary.
Birthday Monday went something like this…..croissants and cafe au lait at Croissant d’Or. There are certain simple pleasures I just love; you know that small delight that just resonates with you on every level; warm buttery croissants and good coffee is my contentment.
A couple of detox and youth revitalizing spa treatments were up next at a contempo spa, where all the services are automated, i.e., beauty pods. Hydro-Derma Fusion, a heat and steam treatment, Luminous Facial/ Light Therapy and Red Fusion a skin rejuvenation treatment. In hindsight, I should have detoxed after my 60 hours in NOLA, not before getting started. But I was all glow-y and radiant for my birthday and ready to take on whatever New Orleans could throw at me.
After getting beautified, it was time for another type of hydration and the first stop was The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans. A few more firsts were in order, my first Sazerac cocktail, along with a Pimms Cup and a Ramos Gin Fizz.
It’s not always wise to start at the top because most times not everyone can hold a candle….not even close and this is what happened with the Sazerac. I had the cocktail a few more times at a few more places and no one could make it like Matthew at The Sazerac Bar. It was that good. Actually, exceptional is more like it along with the impeccable service. Once they knew it was my birthday, out came the red carpet. Everyone deserves the special of The Roosevelt, just once.
New Orleans is a walking city. A few blocks this way, a few blocks that way and you’re where you need to be or you’ve discovered something you never knew existed. So few more birthday cocktail stops along the way and Jen and I find ourselves back at The Roosevelt at Domenica for Happy Hour.
Domenica is a favorite of both Jen and Gail. Happy Hour is daily with half-priced drinks, pizza and bar menu. It was the Squash Blossoms and the interesting choices of wine by the glass that won me over. So much so, we did it x2.
Because New Orleans is a walking city and the 99% humidity that seems to come with it calls for multiple showers, multiple times a day. So back to the French Quarter apartment it is for round 2 of primping and preening before the birthday nightlife commences.
Sometimes the best laid plans are no plans at all. And that is exactly what my birthday nightlife was all about. We flew by the seat of our pants and landed at Bar Vin for innumerable bottles of Champagne, Bloody Mary shots made with tequila and some damn fine fried chicken and biscuits from Willie’s Chicken Shack. When it’s your birthday, you can do whatever you damn well please, and it doesn’t have to make any sense…..at all. Big shout out to Greg, Patrick and Liz for one very memorable birthday! Thank you for sharing!
Tuesday, June 11 the morning after, started at Stanley‘s with THE BEST iced coffee I have ever had along with soft shell crab benedict with a creole hollandaise sauce and a side of corned beef hash. If there wasn’t a price to pay for food sinning, I would revel in the sheer debauchery of Stanley’s menu……every day.
Tuesday was tour day. Museums, street car rides, a trolly tour of the city, and walks through graveyards. I posted the below picture of our museum tickets with the comment ” Being all cultural now in #NOLA” and the comment thread with The Chowfather went like this:
The Chowfather ”What??? You need a sazerac!!”
Me: I’m in equal opportunity tourist! Had a sazerac yesterday at sazerac bar it was to die for. Along w/ pimms cup & ramos gin fizz.
The Chowfather ”Ok just make sure you’re staying properly hydrated in the humid bayou”
Funny thing about being an equal opportunity tourist, you try to see and do as much as you possibly can in your allotted time. I didn’t know much about New Orleans so the Trolly Tour was insightful, helpful and educational. The museum, with both the Katrina and Mardi Gras exhibits were moving and exhilarating. I highly recommend a walk through the Louisiana State Museum.
In between each, stroll, tour and stop was a food & beverage layover. Beignets, Iced Coffees, French 75s and Side Cars, Brews and bites. As fun and tasty as it all was, I really came here for classic Gumbo and Jambalaya. I needed and wanted these traditional NOLA food items. I held out as long as I could and found the best place for them, K-Paul’s. The gumbo changed my life! It was beyond exceptional. And the Jambalaya…I felt the earth move. I came, I saw, I ate. I am complete.
I didn’t eat everything. I didn’t get to every place, I certainly tried though; and props to Jen for making it happen. It was a daunting task for just 60 hours. I walked everywhere I could so I could try this and eat that. There needs to be a New Orleans visit II. Weekend trips here and there to visit my wonderfully generous friends just might be in order.
NOLA I hardly got to know ya…..but what a ride it was.
Click here to view my photo gallery of New Orleans on Flickr.