Wednesday, November 11, 2015

72 Hours in NOLA: Day 3

H ambitiously woke up to go to the gym every morning so we never overslept.

On Day 3, we started the day with another walk in the French Quarter. We wanted to get some breakfast before we met up with our guide for the walking tour through the FQ and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 so we headed to the all famous Cafe Du Monde for their renowned beignets.
It was another dreary morning (thanks to Hurricane Patricia) but luckily, it wasn't raining and actually, we caught glimpses of sunshine here and there.

We arrived at Cafe Du Monde just after 9AM which was impeccable timing because there were a few empty seats scattered here and there. Just a few minutes later, it got rather crowded and several parties were standing around, scoping the area for an available seat to pounce on.
The menu is rather uncomplicated. If you want something to eat, your only choice is hot and fresh beignet. If you're thirsty, you can choose from a selection of hot drinks, orange juice, and sodas.
The number one rule when visiting Cafe Du Monde is not to wear black; H and I both broke that rule. Fortunately, we were able to neatly consume our sugar-mounded donuts. We decided to share one order of donuts (having learned our lesson regarding overeating the past two days). H opted for a black coffee while I went with the ever-recommended cafe au lait.
Also, be wary because the tables are pretty sticky. Years of sugar dusting has left the tables permanently sticky.

The beignet themselves are amazing though. They arrive hot and fresh and the dough itself isn't overly sweet so the sugar snow is more than decorative. The donuts are fluffy and lightly chewy and definitely hit the spot, especially with a fresh cup of cafe au lait.
After breakfast, we killed some time walking around the Quarter some more. I kept commenting that the architecture reminded me of my trips to Spain. Later, during our walking tour, our guide explained that when the city was rebuilt after some devastating fires, the Spanish were ruling the city and the structures were rebuilt in the Spanish style. Wow, I have such a keen eye (and terrible knowledge of history). I'm sure my architecture professors would have been proud.
LE MONDE CREOLE WALKING TOUR

H and I both loved our walking tour. I'm not usually one to care about tours, but because we couldn't visit St. Louis No. 1 without a guide, we kind of had to. But in the end, I was happy because it was a really good tour.

We saw a lot of exclusive sites and learned a lot, including the difference between the terms "creole" and "cajun" - creole originally described the colony of settlers in LA and later came to describe someone of mixed ancestry; cajun comes from the term Les Acadians who were the people uprooted from their home in Canada and eventually settled in LA. So creole is more of a mixture of many different cultures (Spanish, French, Portuguese, African, German, Native American, etc.) and cajun has its roots more firmly in just French (or French Canadian).
The walking tour took us through many courtyards where the guide told us a mixture of facts and folklore and talked us through the history of this culture-rich city.
This particular building has a rather interesting history. Our guide told us that the New Orleanians were planning on rescuing Napoleon from exile and made a residence for him in this building. However, before the plan could be executed, Napoleon passed away.
We also stopped by Basin Street Station (which was newly renovated) to freshen up and hear about our guide, Bill's experience during Hurricane Katrina. Honestly, seeing how the city has bounced back in just a decade was really inspiring. Bill explained that it's just due to the spirit of the people living in the city and that's why partying is such an everyday occurrence. Everyone goes about enjoying the present because the future is uncertain and that's why the unofficial motto is "les bontemps roule" (let the good times roll).
ST. LOUIS CEMETERY NO. 1

My favorite part of the tour, of course, was the visit to Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. Because New Orleans is built on a swamp, burying the dead is not logical; burying a casket just resulted in it eventually resurfacing. So, the dead are interred in mausoleums and above-ground tombs. It's beautiful and haunting and an amazing site for anyone who likes being a little spooked.

The small details on some of the tombs were so beautiful; angel statues, embellished crosses, and in particular, this little pink rose really caught my eye.
I have to say, I don't really condone taking selfies in the cemetery (seems a little disrespectful). However, this particular tomb is empty because it's Nicholas Cage's future afterlife home.
All for one.
So this little tomb was the main reason H and I wanted to come and visit. This is the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau's daughter's tomb. And as you can see, it has been vandalized over the years; apparently someone spread a rumor that if you draw three X's on her tomb, she grants you a wish. This vandalism is the reason the main cemeteries are no longer open to the public.
This gorgeous white tomb is where Marie Laveau (the voodoo queen herself) is buried. Luckily, her grave is still pristine; she'd probably curse anyone who disturbed her.
IKO THE COCKATOO

After the cemetery tour, our guide wrapped up the walk by taking us to visit Iko, a bird on display, one last courtyard, and then finally, an old-fashioned sitting room in an old hotel.
COMMANDER'S PALACE
After our tour, we hopped into a cab and headed to the Garden District for our lunch reservation at Commander's Palace. It's not easy to miss this bright teal building.
The main reason we wanted to visit was for the 25¢ martinis. Yes, literally a quarter per martini; however, the caveat is that there is a limit of three per customer. Beyond three and that's just sloppy and this is a classy place. H went for a classic martini while I made my way through the three brightly colored flavored martinis. I started with a melon-tini.
Before our order was placed, we were brought a plate of delicious and crispy garlic bread. These reminded me of a fancy version of Cheetos, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. They were delicious.
To start, we each got a bowl of the gumbo. It was phenomenal. I hate okra (it's just too slimy) but the okra in this stew was cooked down enough that it just thickened up the liquid. There were big chunks of shrimp and fish and I even got a delicious oyster.
By the time I'd finished my gumbo, I was ready for my second martini and I got the cosmo. Fruity and bright and so easy to drink, these guys are dangerous.
For our mains, H and I decided to share two appetizers and one main dish. Like I mentioned above, we'd totally learned our lesson about overeating and since we knew we wanted to get dessert, we did our best to regulate our consumption.
We got the "Catcher in the Rye" which was a rye pappardelle with a woodsy mushroom broth and a mixture of wild mushrooms, a poached quail egg, and lots of cheese. This was so good and I can't wait to recreate this in my own kitchen. I might just make regular pasta the first time around (since I don't know how to work with rye) but I know that I'm going to grab a really good mix of wild mushrooms to justly pay homage to this tremendous dish.
We also got the braised pork belly with beet carpaccio. The sweet and lightly pickled beets added a nice balance to the unctuous and fatty pork belly. The bloomed mustard seeds also added some nice spice. This was a winner and I definitely want to work on my pork belly recipe too. Seriously, New Orleans dining made me want to get in my own kitchen to try to recreate everything.
We also had the roasted pork shoulder which was nestled on top of a piece of toasted ciabatta and served on a bed of white bean cassoulet with delicious boudin and crispy onion bits. This was so hearty and delicious. Again, I need to learn to roast pork shoulder.
We totally cleaned our plates.
For dessert, we were directed to get the bread pudding by our friends so we did. This is a special bread pudding because it's in souffle form. The souffle is light and fluffy and is drizzled with a whisky cream sauce, which is basically a drug. I've been having dreams about it since I've come back.
Because I could, this little blue martini accompanied my dessert. This was the Commander's Palace martini made with curacao. It was a little too artificial for me, but hey, this may have been my only chance ever to get 25¢ martinis (except probably not because I plan on going back to NOLA again and again).
We left feeling incredibly satisfied with a good buzz, thoroughly impressed by the service and the quality of the food.
LAFAYETTE CEMETERY NO. 1
This cemetery was right across the street from Commander's Palace so we took a little gander around. I'm not sure if a tour is required here; we did see a tour guide who warned us the cemetery would be closing in ten minutes (at which point, I made a rush for the gate because getting locked in a cemetery on a dreary, drizzly day is not necessarily my idea of a great time) but we managed to make our way in without a problem.
This particular tomb made me really sad because it listed a bunch of orphan boys who had passed away, including boys as young as 4 years old.
GARDEN DISTRICT
We also took advantage of our location and took a walk around the Garden District. This is the richer part of NOLA filled with amazing and gorgeous mansions. It's definitely worth a walk and though I imagine it would have been prettier and maybe more enjoyable on a sunnier day, I did appreciate the ambiance of the gloomy weather because so many houses had been decorated with spooky Halloween accessories.
MISS ROBICHAUX'S ACADEMY FOR EXCEPTIONAL YOUNG LADIES
I can't lie to you; the main reason we wanted to walk around the Garden District was because we wanted to see the AHS: Coven house. As we approached it from the rear, we recognized it immediately.
We're pretty sure someone lives here and I'm sure the owners get mildly annoyed by fangirls like us, but we were the only ones being cam-happy losers so we took full advantage.
ATCHAFALAYA
After our Garden District antics, we caught a cab back to our hotel where we dried off and changed and relaxed for a beat.

Soon it was time to eat again. J picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Atchafalaya for our final meal. I started with a beer, the NOLA pale ale, and started to pore over the menu.
We decided to share the fried green tomatoes to start. The tomatoes were really bright and a little crunchy (which to me made then taste kind of undercooked but it was my first experience with fried green tomatoes so I don't know how I feel about it). There was a crispy breading surrounding the tomato pieces and then piles of crab meat on top.
We had the hardest time trying to narrow down what we wanted to eat for our mains. We conferred and then agreed on three dishes that we proceeded to share.

The duck breast (which was the night's special entree) was cooked in a classic French presentation with a crispy skin and a citrusy glaze. The duck was incredibly tender (perfectly cooked medium rare) and the haricots verts and tender potatoes were a perfect sponge for the glaze too.
The pork scallopini was incredibly tender and moist (surprising considering scallopini is a pretty lean cut) and the creamy sweet corn polenta sealed the deal for all of us.
The third main we shared was the shrimp and grits. Our waitress told s that this is the dish they are known for and with good reason. The grits were awesomely creamy and cheesy and bold and the shrimp were tender and seasoned in a perfect blend and balance of spices.
We were all a little too stuffed for dessert but we decided to get some cocktails, digestifs, if you will. I had the 'Grandpa's Sour' which was rye, lemon, peach bitters, and egg white; it was super fresh and bright and I need to try to make this at home. J had the 'Wynken, Blynken, & Nod' which was made with rum, creme de cacao, coffee, and mole bitters; it tasted like a delicious boozy chocolate milk.
After dinner, we said bye to J (who graciously dropped us off at our hotel) and played with another Poppin' Cookin' kit. I know; we are just so cool.
The next morning, we were up bright and early with our bags packed. We hopped into a cab and headed to the airport where we enjoyed some NOLA-style breakfast sandwiches before boarding our respective planes home.
It was an amazing trip and I can't wait to go back!

I have one more NOLA-related post (with my video diary) so please come back for that!

xoxo.

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