Fall Under the Spell of Enchanting New Orleans
New Orleans is seductive. Right away you notice the good looks, of course. But like all great seductions, it doesn’t come on too strong. It begins slowly: a smile here, a friendly word there, a knowing wink from a local. Its warmth and charm start to work their magic and before you quite realize what’s happening, you’re happily under the spell of this beautiful city.
You can wear your comfortable clothes and leave those high heels at home–this is an old city with some treacherous old sidewalks. No point in breaking your neck or twisting an ankle for fashion. Just wear your glad rags and be festive. It’s a party town and individualism reigns supreme. This is, after all, a place where grown men and women spend a good part of the year planning for one of the biggest party scenes anywhere: Mardi Gras!
People in New Orleans are not snobby or brusque. The locals are friendly and willing to talk to you—they’re not in too big a hurry to pass the time of day. This has been a tourist town for a few hundred years now, and a melting pot of many cultures, languages and religions. So the people who call this place home know how to show visitors a good time and when they smile, it’s genuine.
Love antiques? To browse or to buy, you can’t go wrong on in the French Quarter on Royal, Chartres or Decatur Streets. But don’t miss Magazine Street, a six mile stretch through the Garden District and “Uptown” featuring some of the best antique stores, art galleries, restaurants and fun little boutiques to be found in the city. And just think of the calories you’ll burn if you walk all six miles. (Or you can catch The #11 Magazine Street bus at the corner of Canal Street and Magazine Street and ask the bus driver for the 1-Day Jazzy Pass for $3.00–this pass lets you get on and off the bus as often as you want to.) http://www.norta.com/
By the way, “Magazine” doesn’t refer to the glossy-paged thing you read: back in the day, a magazin was a place where goods for export were stored until they could be shipped, or where ammunition was stored. It’s a Spanish word for warehouse.
The food here is great and there’s lots of it and it’s not rabbit food. It sure is good, though, especially if you like meat or seafood or biscuits or sweets…how about the Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters? Go there hungry and wear some forgiving pants–that’s my best advice to you. http://www.courtoftwosisters.com/
There are far, far too many great restaurants here to mention. Whatever you like, especially food prepared in the great Southern tradition, you can find it here. I like Elizabeth’s. The owner Bryon Peck admits to getting his start working in “roach coaches” in California. He’s come a long way! Read it here: http://www.elizabethsrestaurantnola.com/philosophy.html
How about Pecan Crusted Puppy Drum, served with oven roasted pecans and Louisiana crabmeat relish, laced with lemon butter sauce? If that sounds good, head over to Muriel’s (801 Chartres Street.) http://www.muriels.com/index.html. It’s a lovely place for an afternoon cocktail and a nibble, as well.
If you love oysters, there are oyster bars galore. Try them all and let me know which you like the best.
Read the history of Tujagues before you go: http://www.tujaguesrestaurant.com/history.html . But go: for the shrimp remoulade, the BBQ shrimp, the brisket…and don’t miss having a drink in the original New Orleans stand-up bar. It’s historic and folkloric. Try a Sazerac!
Let’s not even get started on the alcohol–oh all right, let’s get started on the alcohol. What do you like? Have two–or three! Supposedly the word cocktail was invented in New Orleans—the story goes that Antoine Peychaud created the drink in a French Quarter bar back in 1838 and named it for his favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et fils. In 1873, the drink was changed when American Rye whiskey was substituted for cognac, and a dash of absinthe was added by bartender Leon Lamothe, and today he is now regarded as the Father of the Sazerac. In 1912, absinthe was banned, so Peychaud substituted his special bitters in its place. You can purchase these special bitters online, unless you find yourself in town.
I happen to be a fan of In the Land of Cocktails written by cousins Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, proprietors of the legendary Commander’s Palace restaurant. Well, really: it’s a book filled with cocktail recipes. What’s not to love?
For a great bookstore, filled with cookbooks, history books, fun and quirky books, and the latest books, too…A Tisket, A Tasket Bookstore 910 Decatur Street. It’s where I bought the books I’ve mentioned and many others, too. http://www.atisketatasketneworleans.com/
For an entertaining read, try The Coffee Shop Chronicles by local resident David Lummis. http://www.coffeeshopchronicles.net/.
Music spills from almost every doorway here, played by people who clearly love what they’re doing. If you’re not having fun in New Orleans, you must not want to have fun. But if you DO like to have fun, then you should plan to visit, and soon. “What happens in New Orleans…” you’ll have to write your own ending to that story line.
Once the sun is over the yardarm and you’re ready to switch from coffee to a stronger beverage, whip yourself up a little something to ease the way into a long afternoon, whether you engage with a great book or in a fascinating conversation with a new friend.
Makes 1 cocktail
1 tablespoon Herbsaint
1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey, preferably Old Overholt or Sazerac rye
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup
4 to 5 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist with the white pith removed, for garnish
Pour the Herbsaint into a rocks glass and swirl to coat the inside. Discard any excess Herbsaint. Fill the glass with ice to chill.
Combine the rye, simple syrup and Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously.
Discard the ice from the glass and strain the shaker mixture into the glass. Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon twist, add to the drink and serve immediately.
Hopefully it’s warm where you are, and there’s a fan purring in the background. Slow down, close your eyes and let it all sink in…
Do you feel it? That’s New Orleans.