"First thing we're going to do is eat a dozen oysters."
Well, I said that, but the first thing we actually did was check into the hotel, grabbed a martini and a sazerac, walked into a city new to us...the motley city of New Orleans. We immediately felt like we belonged, but had lost our map. The neighborhoods are not structured N-S-E-W. They were arranged to curve with the Mississippi. So it took awhile to realize what "up river" and "down river" meant along with "in" and "out." Walking the streets was the only way to immerse ourselves; enabling us to peek in shops, snap a photo of porches dressed for Halloween and stop in for a cocktail or snack.
As chefs we had two objectives: eat what we HAD to eat and drink what we HAD to drink. The originals, the can't-get-anywhere-else's and have-to-haves. We didn't plan anything but our reservations for dinners and a few lunches. The days were spent meandering and happening upon the locations that bewitched us.
We came across the Napoleon House. This building has stood for nearly two hundred years and it bared it in its walls, floors, paintings and traditions. We had to try a Pimm's Cup. It was perfect for the warm, humid weather... a refreshing, adult Arnie Palmer. We also tried the English Pimm's; a bit more intense, richer and deeper in flavor.
So by now we were ready for those oysters. Nearly every storefront was a restaurant, nearly every restaurant offered seafood. It was a toss up where to stop. So, of course, we stopped many places. The best oysters we ate were a surprise to us because they were from Alabama, Dauphin Island. They. Were. Perfect. Daunting at first, due to their size, we tip-toed on the first slurp. The we dove. They were juicy, briny, salty and turgid. No other offers were taken, we simply ate these the entire time we were there. Along with the complex delight of eating these oysters was the difference in the presentation and shucking method of the individuals presenting them. By far our favorite was Bourbon House. (Yes, we enjoyed the he## out of the bourbon as well).
and the cracklins... well I'll tell you, I'll start driving right now to get another fresh, hot basket from their kitchen! Two baskets (and a board) later we were rolled into our cab and walked it off into the late night to see some music and the immediate change in atmosphere once the sun went down. New Orleans does not disappoint. Our favorite dinner was a bit out of our walking range-midtown, but worth every minute in the cab! It was Toups' Meatery. The staff was young and fun, the restaurant was just the right size, the meat board was perfection...
Another item making our list was an authentic shrimp po'boy. We grabbed this for breakfast one day (who wants to waste bites on eggs??) Hmmmmm...how do you choose the location? Ask a bartender, one that you've spent some time with. That's exactly what we did and he directed us to a small eatery ew would have bypassed, but we were so glad we didn't! The simplicity of this sandwich leads some to believe it is easily replicated. However, in the depths of NOLA when the humidity is high, the temperature is rising and when there's a lazy Susan of hot sauces at your disposal, I think the chances are slim to none. You just have to be there...
New Orleans was a city we saw in 4 days, which means we saw so little but it changed us so much. Not only did we meet some great people; we learned, we immersed, we were enveloped. The architecture was intriguing, the art was vibrant, the music surrounded us, the streets beat our feet and we couldn't have asked for more... except more time.