Life has interesting and sudden turns. I did not plan to be in Louisiana nor NOLA, but here I am in Cajun Country, taking in new sights, sounds, and flavors. I can justify planning any trip just by the mere fact that there will be good eating. That’s all you need to tell me, and I’m SO there.
So, I did a quick 2-day stint to The Big Easy recently just enough to dabble in this eclectic and animated city. A city that pulsates with a thriving jazz scene and such a unique cuisine, NOLA is – without a doubt – one of the world’s culinary capitals!
I knew once I got there it was going to cause a stir in my foodie soul. And it did! New Orleans is a colorful and loud city full of motion and GOOD EATS!
We stayed at Loews New Orleans Hotel, walking distance the Riverfront, the French Quarter, and for those with an affinity for Blackjack — a 24-hour casino right across the street. The first thing I noticed is we had to pay for valet parking.
What the hey? Have I been away from the U.S. this long? I don’t recall ever paying for valet parking at any hotel in Dubai. Whether you are eating at a resto or staying at the hotel, valet parking is a courtesy service there. Or maybe it’s just THIS hotel? Either way, I was outraged.
If this is the norm here, then I’m in for a rude awakening once we transition back to the U.S.A. Pobresita de mi!
Other than that, the hotel was quite charming with comfortable enough rooms and a decent bathroom with good counter space. The staff was friendly and responsive, but the room service menu was outdated. Twice we tried to order something from the menu they apparently no longer served.
The 2nd time around, the room service operator put me on hold several times to sort it out. That sent me sideways a bit, but at least she was kind enough have the Chef make it anyway. I had to read her the description, which was kinda odd. Here’s my chance to have someone make my dream breakfast sandwich, in any which way I desire — I thought. I could have slipped some white truffles in there. 🙂 All I know is I want that bread we had the night before, so can you make it on that?? Sure can, she said.
The bread served in both orders was EVERYTHING! The chicken wings my son ordered the night before were some pretty darn good chicken wings. Super tender and juicy with just the right amount of sauce, so it’s not drowning in it. We could not have enough of those. Nom! Nom! Nom! I almost went looking for the Chef to see what the heck he put on those wings.
Waking up in NOLA
My first morning NOLA. Oh-the-excitement! I woke up early bright-eyed and bushy tailed excited about my booked Secret Food Tours New Orleans later that morning. I ventured out to grab some grub and the first sight I caught at 6:46 am was a young man stretched out on the concrete asleep. Not what I expected to see first thing in the morning, but I guess that confirmed that I was in party town indeed.
Deciding what to eat is the best part of any getaway for me. And I’m one gal who is always dreaming about what my next foodie adventure will be!
I walked past Mothers, who seemed to be preparing to open. I had read about them, but decided to try out Ruby Slippers instead. Maybe because I just liked their logo. Or maybe because Mothers looked a bit gritty. Who knows. I had also read some good reviews about Ruby Slippers on Travelocity, but I don’t ever take those to heart 100%, so here’s how it went.
Got there 10 minutes before opening and there was already a short line waiting to get in. But I heard there was are always long lines at these highly marketed tourist trap restos in NOLA, so no surprise. Once opened, the line moved swiftly, and I swear within 15 minutes the place was almost packed! Their menu had some pretty tempting options, but I went with The Peacemaker Eggs Bennie – the option when you have too many options and just can’t decide. 🙂 I went with the Booglaoo Benedict and Eggs Cochon, and ordered a cappuccino.
I don’t remember a poorer cappuccino anywhere. Lacking in espresso notes and too much milk. The Eggs Bennie was nothing special. I won’t go into great detail, but the biscuits at the corner Wagin’ Cajun are much better. Let’s just say I was disappointed overall.
Service was good, but my verdict for this joint is: boring food with a cute name in an ok facility.
There has to be better!
Secret Food Tour
A food tour is always in order for me, especially if I’m gonna visit a culinary hotspot within a short stay. So off I went to meet Donnean at my designated location for what turned to be a wonderful afternoon of storytelling, sightseeing, and tasting through the The Irish Channel. Best of all, it ended up being a private tour since I’m the only one who turned up. Donnean did an amazing job of illuminating NOLA’s unique culture, history, layout, and lore. We hit it off instantly! She wanted to know all about St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and Dubai and I wanted to know all about New Orleans. 😊
We stopped at Parasol’s, Tracy’s, Sake Cafe, Red Dog Diner, and Sucre for our food tastings. The latter part included a stop at Terrance Osborne’s Art Gallery, a casual walk through the opulent Garden District, and the grand finale at Lafayette Cemetery.
Of all the yummies I tasted, the winner was none other than a Catfish Po-Boy from Parasol’s. A local dive known to be an Irish Channel institution. Its claim to fame comes from its St. Patrick’s Day street party and its legendary roast beef Po’ Boys. It’s a little rough around the edges on the outside. Looked like a typical bar on St. Croix, actually. But don’t be fooled. This place is a total gem and approved by Guy Fiery himself!
It blew my mind that a sandwich could be this good! While the catfish is the supporting player in this sandwich, I found the real star to be the bread. Story goes NOLA’s German settlers tried to make French bread, and this style of bread – Leidenheimer bread – was born. The center was soft like cotton balls, the crust crisp, thin, yet chewy. Apparently, New Orlean’s below sea level land mass and relentless humidity serves one good purpose — it bakes good bread, making it bake and rise differently. Hmmmm….whadya know!
OMG…this breeeeead! Donnean grins like she’s seen this reaction before and says – I know, right?
I seriously recommend this wonderful walking tour so yes – #yaliapproved. 😊
When you’ve just traveled 25 hours across multiple time zones to get to your destination, you just may end up losing all sensibility and going with the first massage parlor you lay your eyes on no matter how questionable it looks. You know — the kind where you sit on the couch and your skin starts to itch.
After almost 3 hours of my walking tour in New Orlean’s Irish Channel, I was pumped up and wanted more, so I hit the NOLA streets and commenced to walk towards where all the revelry is. Twenty minutes in after walking past some of the gorgeous architectural treasures towards the French Quarter, there it is — an Asian massage parlor that looks like it paid off the health inspection officer and has a mamasan somewhere in the back managing bookings for massages that wander over to your gluteal fold and beyond.
My son wanted to get a quick massage, so I shrugged my shoulders and said eh – what’s the worse that can happen?
I opted for the foot rub to sooth my achy jet-lagged wanderlust feet. Halfway in, I suddenly feel a hand rough as sandpaper massaging my right shoulder.
You want shoulder massage too?
Clever. You already got your Vietcong murderous hands on me, so why not.
He proceeds, I had to tell him several times — softer, please.
My God! Why can’t he get that – ughhhhh!
So here’s the juice of this story. Dude STARTED TO MASSAGE MY EARLOBES! I mean he went ALL IN. I was like no he is NOT massaging my ears with such fastidiousness. Good lord!
And just like that, I felt all the tiredness slowly leaving my body. Like a ball releasing all its air after being stuck with a glass head pin.
So I was not mad anymore, until….
If was all over and I saw he did not wash his hands and proceeded to go outside and to solicit more victims.
I showed this pic to my son later on and told him what happened. We BOL’d and he said: Mom, look at him…he was scoping out your ears.
Note to self: Never again, unless it looks like a germ-free isolation room.
The French Quarter
From here, we moseyed on through the rest of our walk through the French Quarter, taking in the sites old-style 18th-century French style structures with wrought iron balconies. Some of them reminded me of the ornate balconies in Old San Juan. As we walked toward Bourbon Street, things got seedier. The grit revealed itself. Homeless people here and there, a few who looked like they’d had their fill of Hurricane cocktails by only 5 pm, and sadly buildings that need much TLC.
I knew it could get worse, and I was tired and frankly not interested in seeing lasciviousness or any other wild stuff, just like I was not interested in stopping into Bangkok’s red light district during our visit there earlier this year. So we wrapped up our walk and headed back.
I knew, realistically, time was not on my side with this weekend trip. I’d love to explore this area of NOLA again that appears to be such an integral part of its music, history, and food culture. Will be back one day for sure!
The state of Louisiana offers breathtaking scenery! Bayous, marshes, swamps, with life-affirming green trees and buzzing wildlife. I so enjoyed the drive back from NOLA to Lake Charles. I can smell the dampness of earth and freshness of the mud. I can feel the vaporized water in the air sticking to my skin at our pitstops. Aaaah trees! Water! How I miss thee! Living in the desert will make you long for any sight of green and giddy for even a puddle of water.
My eyes widened when we crossed Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Seriously the most amazing bridge ever! The 3rd longest bridge in the U.S. spanning over 18 miles long. We, humans, have come a long way from logs over rivers. Just look at what we can build! — were my thoughts as we drove through this infinite man-made wonder soaring above swampy alligator-infested lands. Turns out not too far from our drive there’s an even longer and scarier bridge — Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which is the world’s longest bridge over continuous water. I was able to catch a great view of this mega lake too. Just breathtaking!
Our short road trip ended with this stunning sunset at Lake Charles.
It was honestly not on my radar, nor was Don’s Specialty Meats, but at least I got to taste my first boudin sausage. Sadly, I was not impressed. It tasted like chunky pudding wrapped in a casing. I guess maybe I was expecting a Puerto Rican morcilla taste. Days later, I tried it again at Rikenjaks, but it did not win me over there either. I guess this white sausage made of pork without the blood – AKA Boudin blanc – is just not my thing.
Overall, I can say (in my ‘Nawlins accent) — I passed a good time. 🙂