January 5, 2012

The city of New Orleans...

Looking back over the last quarter of 2011 I realize I spent a few fabulous October days in New Orleans and never shared them with you. I couldn't imagine why but then I remembered I had come home with a nasty ear infection. I actually acquired it while sitting in a bar watching game 6 of the World Series between our beloved Texas Rangers and the St Louis Cardinals. The company that night was amongst some of the best, the game a real nail-biter and I had to leave and go back to the hotel around the 4th inning because my ear ached so dang bad. Perhaps I should have known then that karma was not on our side as our Rangers suffered a heartbreaking defeat that night and went on to lose game 7 and thus were not crowned the 2011 World Series Champions. And, no, I'm not bitter - no sir-ee.

Despite the earache I did my best to make the best of my time in the Crescent City. And what do I consider to be the best use of time - why, I ate of course! New Orleans is a gastronomical wonderland and I take full advantage of its offerings whenever I have the opportunity to be there.

As with most of my trips to New Orleans I managed to finagle a ticket on the tag-a-long express. In other words, The Señor was going on business and I batted my big blue eyes and begged until he agreed to let me accompany him. Okay, it wasn't quiet that dramatic. He knows how much I love NOLA and invited me along without my even having to ask (well, maybe I asked but I didn't have to beg!).

At the last minute our travel plans got a little convoluted. The Señor was delayed and unable to make our originally scheduled flight. I was on a non-refundable ticket. Long story short - I arrived in NOLA, alone, several hours before he did. So what's a girl to do on a random Wednesday morning, alone, in the spectacular city of New Orleans? Why, shop and eat of course.

I wandered Jackson Square, stopped off at St Louis Cathedral for some quiet time, strolled the streets of the French Quarter and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch at John Besh' Restaurant August. I took advantage of the Prix Fixe Menu and although the meal was lovely I believe I enjoyed the room, staff and that one single glass of champagne most of all.

Following lunch I headed to the hotel. You see, I arrived in NOLA mid-morning, much too early for check in. The cab driver dropped me off at Jackson Square - sans bags I might add - as The Señor had our luggage and would be checking it on his flight. I must admit it felt sort of odd what landing in a city thats not your own - alone, no car, no luggage and no where to lay your head until that illusive 3:00 PM check-in. So come 3:00 PM I made my way over to the Iberville Suites, checked in to our room, hung the Do Not Disturb sign, donned the complementary bath robe and proceeded to nap until The Señor arrived some time later. Yes, it was certainly my kind of afternoon.

That evening we caught up with some great friends for a cocktail at the world famous Carousel Bar at the Hotel Montleone. Afterwards we took what turned out to be one scenic, not to mention entertaining, cab ride to Pascal's Manale Restaurant.

This was my first visit to Pascale's Manale and it was absolutely everything I had been led to believe it was. There were six of us and let's just say we had a feast! We started out with two appetizers - the Stuffed Eggplant (a combination of eggplant, shrimp, crabmeat, ham and seasonings) and the Combination Pan Roast (shrimp and crabmeat chopped with a decadent blend of green onions, parsley and seasonings with whole oysters). These are the restaurants descriptions and do not even begin to explain what the dishes really are. I believe the Stuffed Eggplant should read something along the line of "the closest thing you'll get to heaven on a plate" but, of course, that's just my opinion.

As an entree I chose the dish the restaurant is famous for - The Original Pascale's Barbecue Shrimp. This dish is over the top spicy, tangy, messy and finger-licking-good. Sop it all up with some good 'ole New Orlean's French bread and you have yourself one amazing meal.

For the life of me I can't remember what the others ordered that night. Flashbacks of the Stuffed Eggplant, Barbecued shrimp and French bread have left me in such a stupor that I can hardly think of anything else.

The following day I decided to check out Cochon Butcher. I had read all kinds of great things about this little sandwich shop and wanted to see what all the buzz was about. The articles mentioned the lines could be long at lunch so I arrived just at 11:00 and was able to walk right up to the counter. The shop is is small and has the obligatory butcher counter along with a sandwich counter and four high-top tables with chairs. There is also a counter built along one wall where diners can pull-up a chair. All in all I would guess the place could hold 20 diners. By 11:15 there were at least 20 patrons lined up and waiting to place their order. A big shout out to those Yelp subscribers who warned me about the lines!

The menu is small in size but packed with unique and yummy choices. They also offer daily specials that are not a normal part of the menu. I went with the Pork Pelly Sandwich and a side of cucumber salad. The combination of pork, mint, cucumber and alioli was totally unique. To this day when I think of it my mouth will water. I am now an official member of the Cochon Butcher fan club.

Okay, at this point my ear was really starting to bother me but I was determined not to let it ruin my trip. So, I hopped in a cab and headed down to Magazine Street and checked out a few shops. About now the ear was really starting to annoy me so I stood at a bus stop for what seemed like forever in hopes of a quick ride back to the Quarter. Seeing no bus; nor cabs, I decided to take a short walk over to the garden district and take the St Charles Trolley back up. I'm so glad I made this choice as not only did I see some awfully cool houses along the way but I also got to experience the loveliness of St Charles Street. Of course, I've seen it several times but each time is special and full of new sites. As it was the week before Halloween the lawns of the glorious mansions were decked out in their best Halloween wares and were quiet the site to behold.

By the time I stepped off the trolley my ear decided to let me know it meant business. I ducked in to a Walgreen's, bought some decongestant and headed to the hotel. To bed I went for the remainder of the afternoon.

Okay, folks - Thursday night, October 27th - game 6 of the World Series. The group gathers at Storyville in the French Quarter. The crowd is a nice mixture of us (Ranger fans) and them (Cardinal fans). There is fun banter. There is cheering. There are ooh's. There are aah's. There is an unhappy, middle-aged woman with an earache. Unhappily she makes her exit - leaving her husband and friends to cheer on her team to victory. Back at the hotel she watches as her Texas Rangers suffer the greatest loss in their history. Her husband; heartbroken and not to mention ticked-off, joins her back at the hotel. Game 7 lurks in the not so distant future!

Friday morning the Señor and I took a short trip to the world famous Gourmet Butcher Block and stocked up on andouille, stuffed chickens and shrimp dressing. Then we met our dear friend Angie at Sun Ray Grill for wonderful conversation and a little lunch.

We left the lovely Angie with a hug and a kiss and headed back to the city. Along the way we stopped off for additional decongestant and a new box of Posh Puffs. The Señor then promptly deposited me back at the hotel where I heavily medicated myself and napped for several hours. The Señor took one for the team by leaving me to sleep in silence. Yes, it was tough but he hit the streets of the French Quarter - wandering from one establishment to the other, partaking of cocktails and listening to live music. It was quite the sacrifice but he was willing to do it for little 'ole me!

That night we had an early dinner at K-Paul's. A meal at K-Paul's is always special. I love the room with its exposed brick and fun recipe-inspired art. By this point I had admitted to myself that I was truly sick so I wanted something light to eat. I went with the Roasted Pear, Pecan and Bleu Cheese salad and Fried Green Tomatoes. The Señor had the Blackened Louisiana Drum and Spinach salad. We both came away happy. I went straight to bed and The Señor sadly watched our Texas Rangers lose game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

Saturday morning - "going home day" - I'm never a fan of going home day and today was no different as I was scared to death what might happen when I placed my ear drum in a pressurized airplane cabin.

Being true to myself I decided I should have one last amazing meal just in case I should die from a ruptured ear drum. Besides, The Señor had not experienced Cochon Butcher and how could I keep such a glorious culinary find from him? Simply put, I couldn't.

We got there right at 11:00. There were already a couple of folks in line. He ordered the Cubano sandwich and a side of Hot Boudin. I, true to form, had another Pork Belly sandwich and another side of cucumber salad. And it was good.

While there we purchased more andouille and a couple of other items as I recall. And it too was good.

The Señor's impression of Cochon Butcher is the same as mine. It's a perfect little sandwich shop, with the perfect little butcher counter, who offers the perfect little wine list and some perfect sounding cocktails. The only thing that could make it more perfect is if it were ours.

Back at Louis Armstrong International Airport I said a little prayer and loaded up on Benadryl before boarding the plane. Thankfully the flight was uneventful. According to the doctor I was one lucky girl. Of course, I already knew that. I had just spent four fabulous days in the city of New Orleans.


Linda Duncan said...

Your post made me feel as if I were in New Orleans even though I have never been. I am very proud of your writing and recognize a real talent.

Alicia Kassis said...

Always stayed at the Montleone in times past.Maybe it will be in my future.
NOLA is a fun city and for me(I am always hungry)a great place to enjoy fine dining and sandwich shops all in one day.
You really transport me with your writings.. Thank you..