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Monday, June 9, 2008

New Orleans -- After thoughts

Random after thoughts about the trip:

History and Architecture are two subjects worth doing homework for before going to New Orleans.  They are both pivotal parts of what New Orleans is all about. 
Cajun/Creole cuisines are so strong and rich in flavors. I felt like the dishes were fighting among one another for my palate's attention.  Eventually, my taste buds were over-stimulated that everything started tasting the same.  

One more thing about the food.  Forget about calories and cholesterol, The Cajun cooking screams heart attacks and clogged arteries.  Just enjoy the food while you visit. You can always eat a bowl of salad when you get home.

There seemed to be an active lesbian community in New Orleans from our observation, not sure if it is true.  
For our next trip, I would like to make more effort to get out of the French Quarter, especially for dinner. There are many restaurants outside of the French Quarter that I would love to try. I would also love to take a plantation tour.
Forget Las Vegas.  New Orleans is the perfect destination for bachelor & bachelorette parties!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Orleans -- Swamp Tour & Esplanade Ave 5.26.08

*  Honey Island Swamp Tour                           * Esplanade Ave walking tour
Pat O'Brien's - Bar                                                            * Jamie Hayes Gallery     
Gumbo Shop - Dinner                                                     * The Spotted Cat - Bar

The Cajun Encounter tour bus picked us up in front of the hotel promptly at 8 AM. It was 45 minutes drive to the Honey Island Swamp. We drove by 9th ward, the most devastated area affected by Katrina. The evidence of the damages was apparent. We also witness a lot of constructions happening. The bridges were being rebuilt, the electricities and phone lines were recovered, new houses were built higher and stronger. Slowly, people were coming back.

It was a quiet beautiful morning. The temperature's was mild with little humidity. We enjoyed this tour immensely. It was one of the highlights of this trip. It was so peaceful sitting on the boat listening to our guide, Captain Ted talking about many fascinating swamp stories.

After returning from the swamp tour around 1 P.M., we went back to ACME oyster house for more fresh oysters & boiled crawfish for lunch. We initially wanted to try Felix across the street from ACME. However, Felix only had boiled crawfish on the weekend; and I had to have crawfish one more time before we leave the next day.
In the afternoon, we took the Canal St. Streetcar to the last stop City Park to begin our 3rd walking tour. We started from St. Louis No. 3 cemetery and walked on Esplanade Avenue all the way back to French Quarter.

This was my favorite walking tour among all three. It was somewhat off the beaten path away from most tourist spots. The Esplanade Avenue seemed to be a real neighborhood with many charming houses. By now, we could somehow guess the period and style of architectures by looking at the buildings.

There were traces of Katrina with a few ruined houses as we got closer to the French Quarter. Reading about the crime rate & safety in New Orleans prior to the trip, I was a bit paranoid, especially those few blocks around the highway 10. But most of the time, I felt pretty safe. There were residents watering their front yards or sitting on the patio with their dogs along the Avenue. The lush trees along the sidewalk were amazing.

After the walking tour, we stopped at Pat O'Brien in the French Quarter for drinks. I loved the ambiance in Pat O'Brien's: the dim lights, German beer steins hanging on the ceilings, the music in the piano lounge, and the water fountains in the courtyard. I ordered their famous Mint Julep made with mint, bourbon, sugar, and water. Not my thing. It was too strong and too sweet for my taste.


We also found another surprise in French Quarter: 
I first spotted the Voodoo dolls from the window display and really wanted to buy a voodoo doll as a souvenir. The Gallery showcased the artist's artwork with the most vibrant colors and vivid imaginations. There were tons of voodoo dolls with different colors, sizes, and shapes. They were SO adorable that I wanted to take all of them home. Hans literarily had to drag me out of the store.

We wanted to go to Cochon in the Central Business District for dinner. However, the restaurant was closed for Memorial Day. We eventually settled for Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter. By the 3rd day, we were very much gumbo'd out of our share of cajun/creole cuisine. However, we did not feel like to have other type of food that we could have anytime of the day in New York.

Crawfish Etouffee
The sauce was both savoy and sweet. It was good, but I just could not eat much of it.

Crawfish & Tasso Pasta in Cream Sauce
We loved this dish, the pasta tasted really good for a change.


After Dinner, we headed down to "The Spotted Cat" on Frenchmen Street. 
The facade of this building was so old and full of character.
The bar was small and bare. 

I love big band swing music. It was the reason that brought me to The Spotted Cat that night.   New Orleans Jazz Vipers was performing.  It was jam packed that many of us had to stand outside.  Their music was absolutely delightful.  We stood outside the bar with other locals, listening to their music, sipping cocktails from plastic cups, watching two excellent swing dancers take it away.  It was such a beautiful night.  The air was dry and cool. Everyone was relaxed and happy.  It felt just like the kind of a New Orleans experience that I was looking for here in the big easy.

Want to listen to some of their music?  I know you will like it too.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Orleans -- The Garden District & Ferry Ride 5.25.08

*  Commander's Palace - Brunch                       *  Garden District walking tour
*  Johnny's po-boy - Afternoon snack            *  Harrah's Casino
*  Ferry ride to Algeter                                         *  COOP

The next morning, we took the St. Charles Streetcar to Washington Avenue. It was a 10 minutes ride from our hotel. Riding the streetcar was a really enjoyable experience that brought back nostalgia of the old times.

Jazz Brunch at Commander's Palace was recommended by many locals so I made a reservation a few weeks before our trip. The restaurant was right next to St. Louis No. 2 Cemetery. Unfortunately, the cemeteries were closed on Sunday. UGH..... definitely an oversight on my planning. 


I soon realized why the restaurant was loved by so many people. There was an aura of timeless elegance and southern hospitality about this place. The perfect service would satisfy the most difficult customers. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by every single staff we passed by. The Jazz band would come by every table to play music and chat with you. The main courses were served at once for the table no matter how big the party was. At one point, I saw 8 servers holding the entrees standing behind each guests of a party of 8. For that reason alone, I wanted to host a party for 20 people just to see them serving the main course!

Appetizer: Turtle soup
This was the first time I had turtle meat. The soup was a little too salty for my taste. Turtle tasted like ground beef.

Appetizer: Shrimp Tasso Hanican.
This dish was an eye candy! And it tasted as good as it looked. I loved the beautiful color of the sauce.

Main Course: Softshell Crab & egg.
I was never a big fan of softshell crab, but this dish totally won me over. The mustard sauce added an extra kick to the fried crab.


Main Course: Gulf Fish
The fish was pretty good, but I enjoyed the crab more.


Dessert: Strawberry shortcake
Strawberry shortcake is one of my favorite dessert, but this one by far was the best. The crunchy biscuit, whip cream, and fresh strawberries was a perfect combination.


Hans loved this bread pudding with the creamy whiskey sauce. The texture of the bread pudding was creamy, soft, and much better than all the bread puddings I had during this trip. 

Coming out of the Commander's palace around 1P.M., I was buzzed and happy. The chef in Commander's Palace seemed to be a big fan of cooking with liquors. We could taste all kind of liquors in pretty much every single dish.
We followed the guidebook's walking tour, began to explore the beautiful houses in Garden District.  There were so many periods and styles of architectures: Greek revival, Gothic revival, Creole cottage, shotgun houses, and etc.  I wish I had a better understanding of the history and characteristics of these architectural styles.  My favorite was 2425 Coliseum Street, John Goodman's house.

It was another hot and humid day. By the time we finished the walking tour, I was sweaty and tired again.  We decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up.  The streetcar was packed with visitors, and every stop had a long line of people waiting.


We rushed out of the hotel again around 3:40 to beat the 4 o'clock closing time at Johny's Po' Boys.  
It was another restaurant we wanted to try. 


Po' Boy is a hero sandwich with cooked meat, such as fried shrimp, fried oyster, roasted beef, etc. for your choosing.  To be honest, I did not care for it.  I would choose a Muffuletta any given time.

After Johny's Po' Boy, we decided to take the ferry to Algiers.   We passed by  Harrah's Casino and the shopping mall.  

The ferry ride from the French Quarter to Algiers took merely 2 minutes. Mardi Gras' world was closed by the time we reached Algiers.  We walked around the block and returned back to the French Quarter.  The ferry ride was a relaxing pastime until we hit the next eatery: COOP'S. 

Coop's Place was another low-key, straight forward, and rustic restaurant/bar. 

The crab meat stuffed jalapeƱos were really good, 
especially if you like spicy food.



Fried Chicken with Rabbit & Sausage jambalaya, red bean & rice, shrimp and creole.
The fried chicken was really good. 
I could not differentiate what's what from the rest of the pile.

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel along Bourbon Street.  Knowing that we had to get up early next morning for the swamp tour, we forwent a crazy night out of drinking and spent the night at our hotel rooftop swimming pool instead.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Orleans -- Within The French Quarter 5. 24. 08


*  Cafe du Monde - breakfast                                    *  Central Grocery - Lunch
*  French Quarter walking tour                               *  Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop - Bar
*  ACME Oyster House - Dinner                              *  Bourbon Street

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Orleans -- The big easy

Memorial Day weekend 5.24 - 5.27.08 

After wanting to visit New Orleans for many years, we finally came. 

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