at Restaurant Stanley
at Cafe DuMonde
Bright canvases, their colors the vibrant primaries in a box of melted crayons, evoke images of cast-off mardi gras beads sparkling in the Southern sun. Depicting mostly musicians, familiar street scenes (and signs), the paintings are displayed along the fence with a determined brand of New Orleans abandon. There to be enjoyed, but also purchased, as indicated by the hand-lettered placards requesting “no pictures, please” to remind the visitor that such sales are the sole means for the artists here to make their living. Taking a picture is like stealing a canvas. The sign translates “A little respect, if you will, traveler.” The many fortune-tellers that line St. Anne bark their services with various levels of intensity at passers by. “Let me tell your fortune, if I’m not a hundred percent accurate, it’s on me,” a bearded man in a blue shirt, fisherman cap and shorts shouts at me with a crooked, cigarette-stained smile. I smile in response. I think to myself if you only knew. In another life I told fortunes. “I’d rather not know how the rest plays out, but thank you!” I cheerfully respond. He smiles and wishes me good day. There are musicians. Clowns. A magician with small children crowded around him. So much talent. Like a traveling circus, no two shows alike at any one time, but many I have seen before, and I am sure, will see again. They crowd together to fill the open space beside the park. A large sign now proclaims “No traffic after January 2012. Strictly enforced.” It’s new. I can’t imagine how they ever let traffic through all the people, but apparently the City just gave up. Or gave in. To itself. To a part of its identity.
By the time I reached the stage Amanda and her band were performing on I felt like I should have reached Uptown already. Or at least the Garden Distrist. It was the far end of the River Walk, almost to the Casino, but our jet lagged feet felt every step. Until we were we at the stage and she began to play. There’s something in the music here that makes the feet move. You see it everywhere. They dance. The music starts somewhere and people’s feet move as though they all wore a pair of magic red slippers, but there is no force. No fear. Only joy. I had it too. The fiddle started and I began to dance. The reality began to sink in. I was back in the Big Easy. And it was time to eat.
at Muriel’s Jackson Square
The first place we stopped was not our usual Coops. We were tired and there was a very long line. So we walked back down towards the hotel and tried Muriel’s, which though smack in the middle of the quarter, is actually a decent restaurant. We ordered drinks, of course. After all, we were in New Orleans. A hurricane and a brandy milk punch. For appetizers, we started with Muriel’s specialty, a goat cheese and crawfish crepe. I also had a lovely blackened catfish covered in perfectly sweet, moist blue crab. The BH had ::drum roll:: a plate of beautiful barbequed shrimp. I’ve had beautiful versions of these dishes elsewhere, but frankly, they just don’t taste the same anywhere else.
After our meal, we wandered down to the river, our annual pilgrimage to Café du Monde. There is no better way to polish off a meal of spicy Southern food than with a little fat fried dough and some cane sugar. Beignets are steaming hot puff-pillows of sugary perfection. They should be their own food group.
at Cure Nola
The next morning was Quarter Fest, so we needed to eat and hit the road. We didn’t have to rise early, since our first show was Irene Sage’s tribute to Coco Robichheaux. If you know where to go in the city, eating well can done efficiently, even without a reservation. We made a bee-line to Stanley and hit just after breakfast and before the lunch rush. They don’t take reservations, but they serve the same menu until closing, so nothing was lost by going just at 11:30. We breezed to a table and I had my annual Breaux Bridge Benedict. It may be the prettiest breakfast dish on the planet, and it tastes as good as it looks. This delectable concoction is a mashup of Charlie T’s Boudin sausage, some smoked ham, served with a perfect gravy of creole hollandaise and American cheese, set within the puffiest flaky bread towers on g-d’s earth. With this feast I had my first Bloody Mary, which in the south always comes with pickled peppers and loads of spice. After we ate, we hit Irene Sage’s set right on time. It was set for 2:15 and amazingly the acts were starting on time this year. We were able to stay almost to the end before hitting MyNameIsJohnMichael who was playing at the Mint at the other end of town, where Decatur collides with the sea of sound that is Frenchman Street. Hang a right to No. Peters and there’s the Mint, with it’s lovely stages on the grass, the smaller crowds and the best views of the stage. When we got there, we managed to catch the end of Cosimo Effect a great little cajun band whose music again set my feet to tapping. I pulled into the park for an Abita Purple Haze and settled into the grass for some music. What a spectacular day that was, and we’d been in New Orleans less than 24 hours. Life was Big Easy good.
After a nice afternoon siesta, we headed to Cure, a sleek new hipster joint uptown, at the recommendation of @Mr_Cocktail, master of Tales of the Cocktail. When the Quarter is crowded and music schedules prevent the tight-schedule of reservation, it’s good to know a few locals. Cure is primarily a wine bar, but don’t let that turn you away if you’re in need of a stronger libation, as the mixology here is superb. Their full menu of small plates the perfect foil for our burgeoning appetites, we ordered three: the Charcuterie Platter, Valdeon & Tomato Salad and some Bacon & Bleu Cheese Tartines. It was definitely the Cure. Delicious and fulfilling. After eating, we took a cab back to Frenchman Street. There’s always music at Frenchman, and much of it can be experienced for a only small cover. (But if you enjoy the set, please tip the band). We’ve enjoyed various artists at Snug Harbor, the Blue Nile, and d.b.a. There is always something that appeals at one of them, and tonight was no exception. We quickly discovered Kermit Ruffins was blowing at Blue Nile. The traveler in line before us wanted to know if the act within was “Dixieland,” and when the attendant said no, he moved on. We were amused and gleefully turned over our ten bucks each. More room for us. Once in the Nile, Kermit shouted his famous “All Aboooaard!” and the party was on. The whole place was rocking and rolling to the strains of jazzed up standards and some of Kermit’s original pieces. Our own private dance party. And dancing has never been— So. Much. Fun.
Saturday morning brought with it another perfect day. Sunshine sky, the temperature hovering just around 80 and the humidity tolerable. This time of year is usually fairly turbulent, thunderstorms and sun, sun and thunderstorms. But Saturday was picture perfect. We were off to see Kelsey Mae at the Mint. Folk music fills the air as I sit on the grass, and stare up at the bright sun shining through the lush Louisiana trees. Kelsey sings a song about trees and sunshine. I drink an Abita, I dance, I repeat.
|Bleu Cheese & Bacon Tartine
at Cure Nola
With a nice break before we were scheduled to check out our next selected act, we dropped by the famous Johnny’s Po-Boys. My younger generation had checked them out on our last visit and reported that they were indeed all their illustrious reputation would imply. After about fifteen minutes in line, we were able to place our order. The menu is a bit confusing, as it is extensive and questions are greeted with something between disdain and boredom. Most of the older “fast food” places in New Orleans are like this. The employees don’t seem terribly happy to be dealing with so many tourists, but they turn out a beautiful product, so who cares? It’s not a white table cloth kind joint and the price reflect that. We ordered the Muffaletta and the Sausage Po-boy and both were delicious, tho the portions were impossibly large. What makes a po-boy special is the bread, the meat and the toppings, otherwise it just another sandwich. Their bread is fresh and warm, their meat all home made or locally-sourced, produce is properly ripe and the olive “dressing” tapenade used on their muffelata is the most flavorful version of this ingredient I’ve tasted to date. Well worth the wait, folks.
After a day in the sun we have learned a valuable lesson. Drink a lot of water to offset the alcohol and the heat. Dehydration is a bitch in the humidity of the South. A short nap can’t hurt either. On our way back to our room, we stopped at Jackson Square to catch Irvin Mayfield. This bandstand is a little harder to negotiate than some of the others, as it is tucked away in a far corner and requires threading through the hordes of people to find a place on the pathway where the musicians can be seen. But the best part of festivals is that one can hear the music, even if the view isn’t perfect. We didn’t really mind the crowds, as somehow they make the Square come alive. All of us together, listening to music and walking on history. Magical stuff.
|Scallops & Corn Maque Choux
at Marigny Brasserie
That evening we were again on our own in a crowded Quarter seeking food without reservations. My plan had been to head out of the Quarter during Fest, but I wondered if Frenchman was far enough away from the crush to find an early dinner. It was. I’d heard good things about the Marigny Brasserie, and they had a table. We walked over to the edge of the Treme and were seated promptly. We shared an appetizer, Scallops with Corn Maque Choux and I had an Angel Hair Pasta with Blackened Chicken. Food lived up to its rep. Solid, well prepared and delicious. Bar made nice cocktails, what more can a girl ask?
Sunday morning already. Fest was ending all too soon, but at least it was time for our planned brunch at Galatoires. When in Rome… well, okay New Orleans, ya gotta do one of the big three. Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s or Antoine’s at least for cocktails, although my recommendation would be to check out a classic Southern jazz brunch. Music, champagne and something with eggs. Galatoire’s has racks for the men’s hats and still requires suit jackets for men, ties optional. I haven’t seen the “jacket closet” in a restaurant since I was a kid and Man Men was for real. Their seared Foie Gras was to die for. And yes, I had foie gras for Breakfast. See above. I’m in New Orleans, y’all.
Sunday brought both the end, and the best, of Fest, a performance by local favorite Susan Cowsill. Her voice carries out over the Mississippi as she sings love songs to the City that claimed her brother in ‘05, another victim of Katrina’s raging floods. They never found his body, so she sings to the River that took him, and I swear the Big Muddy answers back. “I’ve got him, girl. He’s with me now.” the River whispers in the breeze that blows her hair across her face as she sings. The thing that broke her heart now cradles her brother in its tides. It’s Circle of Life thing. Susan’s songs reflect an understanding of that circle that is at the same time heart-wrenching and uplifting.
|Breaux Bridge Benedict
at Restaurant Stanley
|Seared Foie Gras
—end of Part One.
Below are the addresses of the restaurants at which we ate during Quarter Fest. (Part Two coming soon. I promise)
4905 Freret Street
Galatoire’s209 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA
504.525.2021 (No reservations for Sunday Brunch)
Johnny’s Po-Boy511 St. Louis St
New Orleans, LA 70130
Marigny Brasserie640 Frenchman Street
New Orleans, CA 70116
Restaurant Stanley @
547 St Ann St
Chef: Scott Boswell
Jackson Square New Orleans