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New Orleans - Day 2 and NOLA rocks our world


On day two we took a tour of the city so we could get a quick overview since we have been there since 1997 and our son and our friends were visiting for the first time. I have to say, I am conflicted about the visit to the lower 9th ward. I cannot deny that it was moving and fascinating to see the devastation that took place and I am shocked to see that there is almost no rebuilding happening. It's great the Mike Holmes and Brad Pitt are building a few amazing new homes and use design that takes into account that this community lives perilously below sea level, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what was lost. You would think that Katrina took place 6 months ago when you see what is going on there. It was very, very sad and our driver and guide is of the opinion that the tourism industry is the reason that nobody is rushing to rebuild the lower 9th - there is more money to be made from taking tourists there if they leave it the way it is. I felt a bit dirty to be honest.

The rest of the tour was informative and did not feel overly rushed. You get out at one of the cemeteries and get to walk around for a few minutes and take pictures. It seems that every tour group visits the same cemetery and our guide told us it is because it has an iron fence as opposed to an opaque stone wall and that means that we are safe inside because we can be seen from the outside. It's easy to forget that many parts of  New Orleans are a bit on the dodgy side when you spend most of your time in the very safe French Quarter. It's most likely the reason why they don't do hop on and off tours like most other cities.

After the tour, we were famished and were exited to finally eat some bbq shrimp at Mr B's but once again, we were smack dab between lunch and dinner service. We decided to eat at ACME and , much like Deanies, we were not impressed by the food. The oysters were fine, my shrimp bisque was fine, the neighbour's food was fine but we didn't come all this way for fine. If the kid had been feeling better we would have taken the trolley and went out to Juan's Flying Burrito, which came heavily recommended, or I would have spent a bit of time trying to find Sylvain in the French Quarter for some french bistro food. The sign is my favorite thing about the restaurant and that's really the way it should be. Skip the hype and skip this place if you can.

Dinner on our second night was the thing we were all looking forward to the most. The neighbours only had one request - they wanted to dine at an Emeril restaurant. I chose NOLA because it was in the FQ and also because the venue and the menu seemed a bit less formal and it was not as seafood heavy as his Emeril's in the Warehouse District and one of the neighbours doesn't really love seafood. Finding a menu that is not laden with seafood is not an easy task in New Orleans but NOLA had many delicious sounding items on the menu that didn't feel like they were throwing a boring, old meat bone at the non seafood eater.

As soon as we arrived we were made to feel like they had spent the entire night waiting just for us and now that we had arrived, the party could begin! Our server, Travis, could NOT have been more accommodating or knowledgeable and he clearly read our needs and became our dream waiter within seconds of laying eyes on us. I think we all fell a little bit in love with him. The food was very good - not mind blowing but very good and the service elevated the evening to one of the most memorable dining experiences any of us have had. I am so glad that I chose this restaurant for our big dinner together.
Now, on to the food.
For apps we all ordered something and then shared because, luckily, we are all happy sharers and we all want to taste the most variety that we can. I don't trust people who don't want to share a bite of this delicious thing that they are eating with the people that they love. I also don't trust vegans or skinny babies by the way.

Crispy Duck Livers
with Slow Cooked Southern Greens, Caramelized Onions and Creole Mustard Aioli

Duck Confit and Fried Egg Pizza
with Parmesan Cheese, Truffle Oil and Baby Arugula

New Orleans Style Crab Cake
with Crystal-Butter Sauce, Spicy Boiled Corn Relish, Chive-Garlic Crema and Creole Red Bliss Potato Chips 

These were the three most memorable apps. I had the bbq shrimp, which was tasty but not as good as the bbq shrimp we ate elsewhere so I would not order it again. Not bad, just not special.

The duck livers, on the other hand, were so delicious. Crispy coating that shattered on the first bite and the slight bitterness of the greens, the richness of the duck liver and the creaminess of the aioli was a perfect flavour and texture combination.  I only had one bite, but it was one delicious bite and I would order that to horde all to myself the next time.

The pizza was just plain tasty and rich and salty and fatty and wonderful and I just love a bit of soft egg yolk to melt over each bite. Really nice.

Shack declared the crab cake the best he has ever eaten and when he asked Travis about the sauces, he told us that they can be found on emeril's website but I have not found it yet.  I had three mediocre crab cakes in three days in New Orleans so this one was a revelation by comparison lol. Nothing makes me grumpier than a poorly executed crab cake but nothing makes me happier than an excellent crab cake. I am an easy girl to please.

The best mains were my duck, my son's fish of the day and the neighbour's fried chicken. Shack's steak was perfectly cooked and the other neighbour's fish was very good they were nothing out of the ordinary and not worth mentioning other than to say that they were good. You know, although all of the food was very good, none of it was in the "THIS IS THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER EATEN" category but those entrees stood out for me. 

I am not including a photo of the fried chicken because , frankly, it looked like a big plate of fried chicken and the photo we took of it with the iphone cannot convey the crispy, shattering buttermilk battered skin, the creamy, moist, delicate chicken that lay beneath and the country ham cream gravy is not exactly a photo opp waiting to happen but what those flavours do in your mouth will make you smile the entire time you are eating and you will most likely eat more than you should because it's too comforting and delicious to stop when your wise old brain tells you to. You will have to undo your top pant button and your brain will be whispering "i told you so" and you will feel like you need to fast for the next three days but you will still be smiling.

Grilled Mahi Mahi
with Risotto, Fennel Herb Salad, Toasted Almonds and Citrus-Herb Vinaigrette 
This fish was perfectly cooked, the risotto was perfectly cooked and the vinaigrette was really lovely and the bright citrus flavours balanced out the richness of the risotto perfectly. My son was so happy to have two of his favourite things on one plate. The poor thing was not loving all the heavy, saucy, over seasoned local cuisine at all and if you add the fact that he was much sicker than he was letting on, I am surprised that he was as cheerful as he was up until this meal. Nothing is worse than feeling like crap and not being able to find one thing to eat that appeals to you but this fish made up for it for him. He didn't like the fennel salad but I did, so I ate it. Bonus!

Hickory-Roasted Duck
with Whiskey-Caramel Glaze, Buttermilk Cornbread Pudding, Haricot Verts-Fire Roasted Corn Salad, Natural Jus and Candied Pecans

My duck was also perfectly cooked, the skin was nicely crisp, the meat moist and flavourful but there was simply too much of it. I ate one piece and I have to be honest, I couldn't even tell you about the corn salad or the cornbread pudding that the duck sat on because once I ate my piece of duck, I was finished. I couldn't even taste anything else. I understand that Americans like their giant portions and want to feel like they are getting something for their hard earned dining dollars, but I want to be able to eat the food I order, to taste smaller bites of more things and I HATE sending delicious, uneaten food back to the kitchen to be thrown out. I feel terrible about the sheer quantity of food that the five us left uneaten just because there was far too much of it served on the plate in the first place.
Okay, excessive food rant over.

For dessert, Little Shack had the creme brulee trio and we all had some of that. It was all very good but he prefers his creme brulee in a shallow dish so there is more burnt sugar surface and I have to say I agree.

 The neighbour had the banana pudding layer cake and loved it. I did not love it but I am weird about desserts and do not have a huge sweet tooth so take that with a grain of salt. I also thought it was too bananaish and since it was a banana pudding layer cake, that is probably the way it is supposed to taste but I am not crazy about banana. Again, if you love banana, you will probably enjoy it much more than I did.

Shack had the bread pudding and said it was pretty good but he wasn't over the moon about that either - again, we are not huge dessert people but we like what we like and it didn't fulfil his bread pudding desires. He still has that perfect bread pudding we used to eat back in the salad days at our old haunt, Lolita's Lust and I fear he will never be able to find one that is going to be able to touch it.

By the time we looked up from eating, we realized that the place was empty, save for us and our waiters were busily polishing glass and setting tables while they were chatting and joking with us. Not only were we not made to feel rushed to leave, they were relaxed and warm, happily posed for pictures so that Little Shack could fatbooth them and Travis, Shoddy and Alex are my new best friends. I have already sent two other other people there and told them to make reservations and request to sit in Travis' section and I just ate there a week ago!

Nola won't be the food to make your heart skip a beat but when you wrap up the entire evening, the mixture of the food, the service and the ambience, you will be very, very happy you went and you will be looking forward to your next visit before you get out the door.

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