I’ll admit , the goal for my trip to New Orleans involved food: lots of scrumptious, rich, Creole food. Alas, this isn’t a food blog so I’ll refrain from gushing about some of the best meals I’ve ever had… Wait a minute, I can’t pass up a chance to talk about these restaurants, so let me work some culture into my obsession with good food… BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!
I had an opportunity to visit the new Hurricane Katrina Exhibit at the Presbytere in the Louisiana State Museum. “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond”, takes a holistic view of the devastation of Katrina by providing visitors with a historical overview of New Orleans’ most devastating hurricanes (pre-Katrina) and contrasts the historical view with a comprehensive timeline of events leading to Katrina. This multimedia exhibit weaves a tapestry of stories from people trapped in homes, first responders, politicians and civic leaders. It was a moving look back at one of the darkest points in this country’s history.
There are also signs of life and hope beyond Katrina. The last room of the exhibit showcases the resilience of NOLA and it’s rebuilding with the help of locals, churches, musicians, non-profits, students and celebrities all pulling together to move beyond and not be defined by tragedy. The piece above is called “Messages of Remebrances” by Mitchell Gaudet. The bottles and glass hands are suspended from the ceiling with the bottles representing Katrina’s death toll and the hands representing the relief efforts giving viewers the feeling that they are being lifted out of the water.
Restaurant Break: Outside the French Quarter in the 5th ward Dooky Chase’s serves up creole soul food. The restaurant was named after the late Jazz musician Dooky Chase, and his 88 year old wife Leah still works in the restaurant today. Dooky Chase’s has been home to Jazz greats, Civil Rights luminaries and politicians.
I had an opportunity to meet Leah Chase as she was working the room. When I asked her what the secret was to keeping the restaurant in business over 65 years, she smiled and said, “lot’s of hard work!”. It has paid off. Despite being damaged and closed by Katrina, a fundraiser generated the funds to re-open its doors. Their buffet was one of the best I’ve ever had. Bonus: Dooky Chase has an incredible African-American Art collection too!
After the Katrina exhibit, I needed some levity; luckily the Prebytere also has a Mardi Gras exhibit! This colorful, jubilant exhibit tells the story of Mardi Gras, from the throws, King Cake, floats, customs, costumes, masquerade balls and frivolity from one of the world’s greatest carnival celebrations. I adored the historic costumes and jewelry showcased here. One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit shined a spotlight on the costume balls complete masks, ballgowns and ephemera including dance cards; these cards were carried by women at Creole balls listing the names of the men she danced with for the evening.
So, if I had to replace male suitors with food (hypothetically speaking of course), what would my New Orleans culinary dance card look like? Here is my list of must have meals when visiting NOLA:
Quadrille: Beignet and Café au Lait at Café Du Monde
Waltz: Bread Pudding Souffle with Whisky Sauce at Commander’s Palace
Deux Temps: The Lobster Bisque,Gumbo and Turtle Soup trio in demitasse cups at Commander’s Palace
Promenade: Pork Belly Sandwich, homemade chips and roasted Brussels Sprouts at Cochon
Well, my dance card (and stomach) are full just thinking about the food!
After visiting the Mardi Gras Exhibit I really wished I could have been in New Orleans for the celebration. Thankfully Mardi Gras world gives you a peak at the Mardi Gras floats without having to deal with the drunken crowds.
Located in a large warehouse near the port, Mardi Gras World houses floats and other Mardi Gras memorabilia. Located next to the warehouse, The Grand Mansion is a replica of a Plantation home complete with Oak Trees and a moonlit sky. The grounds are incredible and it is the perfect venue for a big party sipping a mint julep or a Sazerac.
(Drink Tip: The Sazerac is the oldest American cocktail and the Commander’s Palace makes a mean version)
So this Devil float was crazy, which got me thinking of the craziest meal I had in the Crescent City. Hands down, Jacques-Imo’s in the Garden District throws the best block party in town (disguised as a restaurant of course). When the best seat in town is a gutted converted pick up truck decked out as a table for two, you are in for a crazy night. If you are in a rush, don’t bother coming here because it’s a popular place and the food is out of this world. Be prepared to take shots with your server, relax and have a good time.
I felt like I only scratched the surface of New Orleans and cannot wait for a return visit!