My most recent trip to New Orleans was mainly for Satchmo Summerfest and White Linen Night. My 6:00 a.m. flight that Wednesday morning from San Francisco to Houston was not off to a good start. I was, as usual, sitting in a window seat half asleep. My stomach began cramping which led me to the realization that, OMG, food poisoning was kicking in! Having had food poisoning kick in midway through a flight from Paris to Seattle in 2013, I was NOT looking forward to the next 5-6 hours! It was torture to disturb the elderly couple sitting next to me whenever I had to use the facilities, as it took them quite awhile to exit their seats. Once we landed in Houston, I immediately ran to the ladies’ room there. I THOUGHT I was already feeling better until boarding the flight from Houston to New Orleans. I dashed to the facilities shortly after boarding, then again shortly after take-off. It might have been due to the ashen look on my face, but the flight attendant knew that I wasn’t feeling well. When I explained that it was food poisoning, she did everything she possibly could to make things easier for me. She brought me Sprite and some lemon slices to try to settle my stomach. Then she let me sit in the last row right next to the bathroom. She even let me use the bathroom shortly before the plane landed, though she emphasized that it was at my own risk and asked me not to exit the bathroom until after the plane had landed. Upon landing, she asked if I’d rather be the first person off or the last one. I opted to be the last one; she helped me with my carry-ons, too. At the New Orleans airport, I spent another good 20 minutes minimum tossing my cookies in the bathroom before feeling well enough to make my way to the baggage carousel and the shuttle. Once on the shuttle, I passed out for the most part, except for those excruciating stomach cramps. At my VRBO rental, yep, you guessed it, a few more hours of intermittently tossing my cookies in the bathroom, then finally being able to lay down and nap for awhile. After napping, I managed to shower, change and attempt to go to dinner.
Speaking of the VRBO rental, it was lovely and oozed NoLa/French charm, with some Asian touches as well. The attention to detail in regards to the lighting fixtures, rugs, pillows and artwork was perfect. It was like my own little Creole cottage a few blocks above Bourbon Street – close enough to walk to everything, yet removed enough to not deal with all of the noise.
My dinner reservation that Wednesday night was at K-Paul’s. Beings it is one of my favorite restaurants, I didn’t want to cancel. When my waiter (Edgar) came, I explained that, due to my food poisoning, I wouldn’t be eating much and wouldn’t be drinking at all. However, I would still be ordering the three-course prix fixe Coolinary menu, eating a few bites of each, then have him pack up the rest. My choices were the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade (SOO good!), the stuffed pork chop marchand du vin (also very good) and the bread pudding (another very good one). Rather than staying up late, I retired early after dinner.
My stomach seemed to have calmed down for the most part on Thursday morning. In anticipation of a total recovery, I went to Rouses to pick up some bottled water and a 6-pack of Heinekens. My next stop was Napoleon House. The older host was the quintessential Southern gentleman in a striped shirt with a bow tie. He said “Hi, doll! How can I help you?” I wanted to sit at the bar, so he responded with “I can make that happen,” as he led me to the bar, pulled out a seat and continued with “This seat has your name on it.” I eased myself into drinking by having a beer. The bartender, Kieth, asked if I was hungry. After explaining the previous day’s food poisoning, I attempted to eat half of a muffaletta. Meanwhile, another staff member behind the bar was yelling out area codes like 504, 619, etc. I asked if he was talking to me. He was! Apparently, some of them had been placing bets on where I was from. Even though I assured them that I live in the 415, they jokingly continued to call me “619.” I asked the host if I could take his picture, which he obliged. He then insisted on taking my picture with a few of the staff. En route back to the apartment, I stopped at Trashy Diva for a little retail therapy, buying a dress on sale. For Happy Hour, it was The Empire Bar inside Broussard’s. They have Absinthe Happy Hour from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. At the suggestion of the bartender, Michael S., I had the Duplais Blanc absinthe with an order of shrimp toast. Since they have an actual absinthe dispenser, Michael told me to meet him at the end of the bar. He placed two sugar cubes on an absinthe spoon over the absinthe in the glass, ran the ice water over it for dilution purposes, then instructed me to stir and drink. Though I asked him if they ever lit it, he assured me that their bar is very anti-fire! Dinner that evening was at Eat for their butterbeans with shrimp. Since they are a BYOB kind of place, I took along two of my trustie Heinekens, but only drank one. I then went to Patrick’s Bar Vin. Alas, Patrick wasn’t there. After a glass of pinot grigio, I tried a new (for me) place – Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. Lisa attended to me with a Honi Makai, which I really wasn’t feeling at all. Once I paid my bill and was about to leave, the head bartender, Chris, came over to ask about my cocktail. Since he knew I hadn’t enjoyed it, he promised to take it off of my bill, although it had already been rung up. At the time, I wasn’t aware that he’s a “famous” bartender, who helped to re-establish that bar and the French 75 cocktail in particular. After finding out that I live in San Francisco, he told me to look up one of his former bartenders at a Cajun/Creole restaurant there. Chris also suggested some good Cajun restaurants outside of the Quarter.
For breakfast on Friday I walked a little ways out of the Quarter to Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant in the Central Business District. Service was quite friendly. If you were getting food to go, you ordered at the counter. If you were eating there, you sat at a table and the waitress would come to you. Nothing on the menu was more than $9.00 and the portions were hearty. I had the CBB (half biscuit), which was a biscuit with a cheese/jalapeno/sausage sauce and an egg. It was less than $5.00! Then it was on to the Satchmo Summerfest in Jackson Square. They were charging $5 admission, though everyone got a wristband with in and out privileges. I watched several bands, but took a break and went back to Napoleon House when it got too hot. Kieth welcomed me back, as did the other guys who called out “619 is here!” Never having had a Pimm’s Cup before, Kieth said that the regular one was probably good for me. I really enjoyed it; quite refreshing. I also had a side of jambalaya, which was merely ok. Then it was back to Jackson Square for more music. For Happy Hour, I decided to give Vacherie a try, since it was so close to my apartment. I had a couple of glasses of sparkling wine at $5 each. The bartender, Thomas, asked “What took you so long?” I had no idea what he was talking about until he reminded me that he’d spoken to me briefly when I’d walked by at least three hours earlier. My dinner plans for Friday night were to eat at Jacques-Imo’s outside the Quarter. As I was standing outside waiting for my Lyft driver, someone across the street was calling my name. It was John, who I’d met working at Camellia Grill a few years ago! He told me that he now works days instead of evenings and would be there on Sunday. Unfortunately for me, Jacques-Imo’s had a sign that said they were closed until August 17th. There really wasn’t much else in the area that appealed to me, so I took a Lyft back to the Quarter and went to Coop’s Place to try their “famous” jambalaya. The service wasn’t overly friendly, the atmosphere was ok, the gumbo (rabbit, chicken, andouille) had a kick to it, but was very dry. I wasn’t impressed in the least. I later walked down to Frenchmen Street intending to check out the Wild Magnolias at dba and the Wild Tchoupitoulas at Checkpoint Charlie’s. I perused the Frenchmen Street Art Market, too, but, much like last time, nothing truly caught my eye. As I was standing outside sweating up a storm and listening to a brass band play on the corner, Steve struck up a conversation with me. Since I was obviously very, very warm, he suggested that we go inside Dat Dog (where it was air conditioned) and he’d buy me a drink. We ended up in there for at least three hours talking, drinking and people watching. He was a nice guy and we had some interesting conversation. Steve (who’s black) made me laugh when he said “The one thing about white people down here is that they’ve got SOUL!” He said that because we were watching the two white tattooed bartenders bust some moves behind the bar! He walked me partway back to my apartment, but I insisted that it was fine for me to walk the remainder of the way by myself.
Saturday afternoon was lunch at Galatoire’s. Though I thought they opened at 11:00 a.m. and my reservation was for 11:30 a.m., they actually didn’t open until 11:30 a.m. The host directed me to the bar next door at Galatoire’s 33 Bar and Steak. I wasn’t up to drinking alcohol just yet, so the bartender was more than happy to give me water. Once Galatoire’s was officially open, I ordered their three-course prix fixe menu – crab and okra gumbo (fine), chicken bonne femme (good) and custard with fresh berries (good) for a mere $20.00. The gumbo didn’t blow me away; the chicken bonne femme was quite flavorful, though I was less enthused about the bone and skin; and the custard was good, not too eggy. When my main course took awhile to come out, a staff member ran by and deposited a nice piece of garlic bread on my table with an apology for the wait, although I still had a warm baguette. Several other staff members came by every so often to see if I was ok or needed anything. Saturday afternoon found me back at the Satchmo Summerfest. This time when it got too hot, I dashed into Muriel’s for a quick drink. I ran by Napoleon House again, but the bar was packed, so headed back to the apartment. I’d read that the Wild Magnolias would be playing at Howlin’ Wolf at 10:00 p.m., so thought I’d try to see them again after White Linen Night. Once in the apartment, I changed into a pretty white cotton dress from Bali, then had the Lyft driver drop me off over on Julia Street. He said he’d just started driving for Lyft, that I was his second customer and that he’d already dropped his first customer at White Linen Night. Several blocks of Julia Street were blocked off. Art gallery doors were open and everyone was encouraged to go in and check out the art. There was also a DJ in the street, plenty of food and drink to be had and even free WiFi. Of course, the vast majority of people were wearing white. It was such a nice summer evening event. I wandered through some of the art galleries taking pictures, then walked back to the Quarter. I went into Orleans Grape Vine for something quick to eat. The male bartender who was about to get off was rather jovial. The female bartender, Charlotte, on the other hand, seemed a tad surly. I didn’t want to drink alcohol; only wanted water. When I ordered still water from the male bartender, Charlotte made some comment like “Oh, major excitement – still water!” I think she was being sarcastic because I’d asked her what the soup of the day was, as well as what was in the gumbo. Both had crawfish, which I don’t care for, so I’d said to her “Well, both of those are out!” I ended up ordering shrimp remoulade. It was fine; the seashell-shaped dish it came in was far more interesting. I stopped in to Patrick’s Bar Vin again, but Patrick still wasn’t there. After a couple of drinks, I took a Lyft to Howlin’ Wolf. Ok, so I arrived a little after 11:00 p.m., expecting the Wild Magnolias to still be performing. I thought they’d play for half an hour, take a break, then play another half an hour. Instead, a group of self-described “country” boys in a band with a horn section were cranking out some R&B type music – covers, as well as originals. They were Tyler Kinchen and the Right Pieces. A group of young girls were screaming directly in front of the stage. Although the male singer was strutting about the stage in that Southern white boy way, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I found the band wildly entertaining in a slightly disturbing (to me) way. I stayed until their set was completely over, went back to my apartment and had the crap scared out of me when I entered in the dark, forgetting about the cat statue near the doorway! After catching my breath, I went back down to Bourbon Street for a nightcap – a mudslide-flavored frozen daiquiri!
Breakfast on Sunday morning was at Camellia Grill on Chartres Street. Although you just squeeze in wherever you can get a seat, John ended up being my waiter after all. I ordered a bowl of gumbo, which, though not spicy, was good. He was joking with me, saying something about me sneaking into town. When I was leaving, he insisted on paying my bill. What a nice guy! A second line was scheduled for Sunday starting at 11:30 a.m. from St. Augustine Church in the Treme all the way back to the Quarter and the Satchmo Summerfest. I walked down Governor Nicholls into the Treme, slightly unsure about the neighborhood. There were so many pretty houses, though, and no one paid me any mind at all, except a homeless man who was very hungry. He said that he’d really appreciate it if I’d go to the corner store and buy something/anything for him to eat. Being short on time, I simply gave him the cash in my pocket, which he appreciated and thanked me profusely for all the way down the block. When I reached the church, several people were hanging out on the stoops in front of the neighboring houses, waiting for the sermon to finish and the second line to start. They started at least half an hour late, but it was SOOO much fun. I wanted to dance along, but I was mainly running from one side to the other trying to nab a few great photos. Whatever the first street was, it turned onto Esplanade and then on to Decatur back into the Quarter. There were a couple of brass bands and steppers, some baby dolls, VIPs in cars, a man on stilts, etc. People lined the streets taking pictures and joining in. By late afternoon I went to try out Café Soule. At first, I was the only customer. I ordered jambalaya. Although it didn’t taste quite “authentic” to me, I really enjoyed it, for some reason. The restaurant was very cute inside in that French way. As I was leaving, a couple at the bar motioned me over. “We were sitting you next to you at Napoleon House the other day. You’re from San Diego, right?” they said. I laughed and explained that the staff there likes to call me “619,” but I live in Northern California. They were a very nice couple from South Carolina. We mainly talked about which restaurants and bars we’d been to, as well as our travels. They also told me a funny story about their friends booking a place with AirBnb for the first time. Well, it ended up being a TRAILER, which they had to share with another couple, so… they left! Anyway, I’d had the waitress pack up my leftover jambalaya with some plastic cutlery and two to-go cups. I’d run into the homeless man and his friend in the Quarter, and he was STILL thanking me. When I went to look for him again, I could only find his friend. So I gave his friend the leftover jambalaya and two Heinekens (plus the to-go cups) from my apartment. Since someone had paid for MY breakfast that morning, it was only right that I pay it forward as much as possible. Back at The Empire Bar, I ordered more absinthe from a different bartender named Michael. This Michael didn’t put the absinthe in the dispenser, however. He merely put the sugar cubes on the absinthe spoon over my glass, then handed me a small decanter with the ice water in it. He was rather friendly with me, so I told him that he’d probably see me later that evening when I had dinner at Broussard’s. He didn’t, though, as I had dinner there without passing by the bar again. Broussard’s three-course prix fixe Coolinary menu was only $19.20, which was quite a deal because I had a chicken/corn/whatever soup (good taste, but a little watery), chicken Pontalba (the BEST thing I ate on the entire trip!) and bread pudding (complete failure; spongy and bland). The service was extremely good. I made one more stop at Patrick’s Bar Vin (still no Patrick!) before calling it an evening.
My intended breakfast on the final day was to be at Jimmy J’s. Being too lazy to walk those last two blocks, however, I ended up dining at Café Fleur-de-Lis instead. I ate the breakfast poutine, accompanied by a bacon Bloody Mary! I had to go out with a bang! My waitress, Claire, was hilarious. I hadn’t quite finished my bacon Bloody Mary, so she gave me a to-go cup and I was on my way! I wandered around taking more pictures. One of the staff at Soniat House was kind enough to let me into their courtyard after he saw me gazing inside longingly. It was beautiful and serene in there. Once the shuttle picked me up and deposited me at the airport, I couldn’t resist eating one last time. I had gumbo and jambalaya from Dooky Chase’s, but they were both mediocre. I should have saved my money.