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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Orleans and I am already regretting that there won't be a Day 4 - Day 3

photo by Shack


The plan had been to rent a car for the day and drive out to see a couple of plantations and maybe even continue on to Baton Rouge for lunch before heading home to New Orleans. Unfortunately, the car rental offices in downtown NOLA are opened from 9am to 5pm. If we wanted to return the car later than 5pm, we would have to return it to the airport and find our way back to the hotel and that wasn't much of an option. Keeping the car overnight would cost $30 to park and we could have driven it back to the airport but we would also have to pay another $75 for the entire day. Another unappealing option. So, word to the wise - if you go to New Orleans and want to rent a car for the day, plan more wisely than I did!

photo by Shack



In the end we decided to skip it and do something else and chose to walk to the Warehouse District and visit the WW2 museum. It was an overcast, balmy day and an interesting walk to the museum through a pretty industrial area that was a mix of buildings that were literally falling apart and homes that were beautiful and decorated for the season.
The museum itself is pretty grand and impressive but as Canadians, it was kind of an odd experience to see the first couple years of WW2 sort of ignored but it was an American WW2 museum so it's all relative and an interesting visit nonetheless.

 On the walk back, we literally stumbled upon cochon butcher , which was a place on my list but, for some reason, i thought it was really far from our  hotel and hadn't made any effort to get there. It is soooo worth the effort. A fabulous little take out place, with a wine bar and a bunch of tables for those who are lucky enough to find a spot to sit and eat in. It's also a butcher shop and all of the meats used in the sandwiches are made on the premises. I am not usually a huge sandwich kind of girl, but that is probably because I only love a GREAT sandwich and that is certainly what i got here.

chorizo, provolone, spinach, caramelized onion and olive spread

I had the daily special - a chorizo, provolone, spinach, caramelized onion panini with olive spread that was absolutely delectable. The chorizo was much hotter than I expected, often eating chorizo that is so mild that I am not sure why they call it chorizo, so be forewarned.   All sandwiches came with what tasted like home made potato chips and I was totally torn between finishing my sandwich and eating more of those salty, crispy chips. In the end, I could finish neither, which was par for the course on this entire trip. Shack couldn't even finish his moist, flavourful pulled pork sandwich, and that is saying something. Little Shack had a hot dog but it wasn't just any old dog, it was a hot dog made right there and it was amazing. I hate the texture of hot dogs and the second i hit a bit of gristle , I am done but this dog had a smooth, silky texture and my bite did not reveal even a hit of mystery bits and pieces.
pulled pork and delicious pickle potato salad


Neighbour one had the buckboard bacon melt and didn't like the slightly bitter collards but her husband and I disagreed and both thought it wonderful. We had to order the mac and cheese with pancetta to share and it was rich and stringy and salty and everything a good mac and cheese should be.
Butcher is the type of place I would frequent every week if it were to open up in Toronto and I only wish I had a place to cook so we could have bought some of the fresh meats they had for sale on the butcher side of the shop. We also agreed that we could have ordered two sandwiches and shared between the four of us, so keep that in mind.



After that, we walked back to the waterfront and made our way to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and their wonderful chicory coffee. It's not like any of us needed to eat another bite of anything but you can't come to New Orleans and not have beignets at Cafe Du Monde and let's be honest, what difference is a donut going to make at this point?





Five of us split two orders (you get three beignets per order) and I must say, I am proud of myself. I was wearing dark jeans and a black sweater and I managed to eat an entire beignet without getting any icing sugar on myself. Others in my party were not so lucky. Clearly, there is no way to eat them and retain any sort of decorum. You can try to dust off the excess sugar or to cut them into small, manageable bites but you will not succeed so Little Shack showed us the best way to attack a beignet and we all followed suit.
What can you say about these things? They are served freshly made, piping hot and piled ridiculously high with fresh, sweet icing sugar. They are perfection and the reason that Cafe du Monde is still hopping 24/7 since 1862.



We had a great evening walking around the French Quarter, visiting the voodoo museum and meeting Dr. John, the resident voodoo priest who lives upstairs with his python, a voodoo shop to poke around at the spooky wares and just soaking in the ambience of the place one last time. 



I am not going to tell you where we had dinner for a few reasons. Poor Little Shack, who had been such a trooper and never complained about not feeling well or not liking the food very much just wanted some sushi. It seemed like an easy enough wish to fulfil and we were all ready for a light meal of some nice, fresh fish and plain rice. I remembered seeing a place in our travels but couldn't recall exactly where it was and asked at the hotel. The lovely check in clerk recommended a different place but within easy walking distance, on the other side of Canal Street so we set off.
We should have turned around and left the minute we walked in to a completely empty restaurant but I couldn't go back on my promise of sushi.
I WAS WRONG SHACK AND YOU WERE RIGHT!
It was pretty terrible but the kid was happy and nobody got sick. Okay, so I was responsible for making our very last meal in New Orleans the worst meal as well and not only the worst meal in NOLA but the worst meal any of us had eaten in recent memory. I have blocked the name of the place from my mind but all you need to remember is this:
Do NOT go out for sushi in the FQ or anywhere within walking distance to the FQ!



To make up for our no good, terrible sushi dinner, we ended our final evening with surprisingly decent wine in single serving bottles which we drank out of paper bags. We played cards on the beautiful rooftop of the Hotel Monteleone while Little Shack swam in the heated outdoor pool. All in all, a great trip with great friends and the two loves of my life. I can only hope that the memories of our dinner at NOLA, our creole wings, carolling in Jackson's Square and the beignets wipe out the dreaded last meal from all of their minds and they will continue to love me and trust me to plan our next trip.



I have a few, small regrets: 
We never got to eat bbq shrimp at Mr B's, we never made it to Brigsten's and a few other places that were highly recommended, we still have not managed to drive out to the plantations on this, our second trip to New Orleans and I would have liked to spend an hour or so walking around the Garden District, looking at all of the lovely mansions all dressed up for christmas but that just means we need to go again!

It goes without saying that I regret NOT finding the great grocery store that was a 7 minute walk from the hotel that sold take out sushi so that we would have been able to skip our last dinner, my other big regret.



I don't regret spending three days in NOLA and not eating jambalaya, etouffee anything or po boys. As much as I adore the city, I do not adore much of the traditional local cuisine which is an odd predicament to find oneself in but with some careful digging, I still found delicious things to stuff in my mouth. I find that much of the food is over spiced for my taste and there is just too much flavour going on. I am not a fan of all the creamy sauces and the texture of cooked okra makes me want to do bad things to good people so gumbo is out of the question. It was the wrong time of year for plain, boiled crawfish and Little Shack and I came home with a strong need to eat good sushi and lots and lots of salad.  Bottom line is that even if you aren't crazy about Cajun/Creole cuisine, there is still plenty of great food that isn't the traditional fare  in New Orleans because the bottom line is that these people LOVE to eat, they love to eat large and they love to eat well.

oh, I am adding to my list of people I don't trust:
Vegans, skinny babies and people who claim to dislike beignets from Cafe Du Monde.