Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 New Orleans - Part Two

Saturday was a lazy morning. Instead of hustling out of bed and taking a morning walk around The Quarter we sat around the hotel room and watched TV. We had one event scheduled today: Brunch at Commander’s Palace over in the Garden District. Since we had to wear pretty clothes we decided to use Uber to get us to our destination vs. taking the iconic street car.

Our Uber driver was a man well into retirement age. He grew up in New Orleans and pointed out places along the way that had a link to his childhood. We passed the Ann Rice’s home as well as many other pretty mansions. There were many tourists out-and-about on Garden District walking tours as well as rows of rental bikes outside of Lafayette Cemetery #1.
Commander’s Palace doesn’t look like a high-end dining experience from the outside. The light blue paint white stripes doesn’t scream "jacket required", nor does the overhanging sign spelling out the restaurant’s name in light bulbs. It has been a restaurant since 1893, and has been the epicenter of New Orleans cuisine for decades.
Inside the building it’s a different story. The décor downstairs had all the charm of a southern parlor room. As we were led upstairs to the sunroom we must have passed 20 staff members – all of them welcoming us to Commander’s Palace. We had a corner table in the bright sunroom made a little more playful with balloons at each table. A jazz trio was working the tables (Which we don’t enjoy. Stand in one corner and perform. It’s awkward to have our meal disrupted and be pressured to come up with a song for them to play.).

We went into this meal knowing it represented the majority of our food consumption for the day. Brunch is a three-course event with appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Prices for the trio are based on your entrée selection. Our waiter brought over a plate of garlic bread and butter to start us off. There was no need for the added butter. For starters Holly had the soup trio which included gumbo, turtle soup, and the soup du jour of sweet potato. Dave had the crawfish gnocchi. Some crusty French bread replaced the butter-soaked garlic bread slices. Everything was top-notch and the pace of the courses was right. For the main courses: Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish with Blue Crab and BBQ Gulf Shrimp. Both were fantastic! Dessert consisted of a slice of pecan pie and the signature Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. The experience lived up to the hype and the prices were not horrendous for three courses ($39 for the shrimp and $45 for the fish – which included the appetizers and desserts). Actually, having this meal significantly reduced our food spending for the day since we could not eat anything for hours!

After brunch we walked a few blocks to Magazine Street. This is an area famous for its shopping, cafes, and bars. The little stretch near Commander’s Palace must have been the lame section of the street as there were not too many businesses on the block. Since Holly was wearing her uncomfortable "pretty shoes" we decided to get a car back to the hotel and get into more comfortable clothing.


After ditching the dress-up clothes we figured a good long walk would help with the digestion. We cut over to Bourbon Street to get a walkie of local beer from Beer Fest (tip: overpriced and has dirty taps. Local beers – especially Abita Amber - are available at most places) and headed towards the French Market. Before browsing the food and souvenir stalls we stopped in the Jazz National Historical Park. This tiny museum seems to exist to allow folks like us pick up our National Park Passport stamp and to host seminars and musical acts. While we visited a man was performing a steel drum demo.  

The market was packed on Saturday (as expected). We actually came here with the goal of eating Praline Beignets from Loretta’s  We waited in line for about ten minutes and stared at all the other great looking cookies and pastries in the cake. We had finally succumbed to the pressure and bought a King Cake cookie along with the beignets. Dave had cargo shorts so the cookie would be a before-bed snack. The praline beignets were filled with a caramel and pecan crème. They were good but we prefer the traditional style. We skipped browsing through the rows of vendors in favor of walking a few more blocks to a brewery.
Brieux Carre  is just around the corner from all the clubs of Frenchman’s Street. Upon arrival we were ID’d and wrist-banded. We lucked into their 1 year anniversary celebration. This meant more people in the tiny space to navigate around, and a lot more beer choices. We enjoyed a stout and sour ale while sitting in their outdoor space. As part of the celebration they were serving up crawfish, which were in season. Dave was hoping to get some this trip but the Commander’s Palace meal was still fresh in our stomachs. On the way back into the Quarter we found a fun spot for music – BMC (Balcony Music Club)  On stage was a 4-piece traditional New Orleans jazz band. We grabbed two reasonably priced Abita Ambers and enjoyed the show.

The weather was perfect today so we decided some quality time on the Pat O’Brien’s patio was required. It took a few minutes to get an empty table but the wait was worth it. Today’s crowd included several bachelorette parties and other folks whooping it up. Several of the large communal hurricanes were being served. On this trip we determined we couldn’t have two hurricanes – just too sweet. Fortunately Pat’s offers a wide variety of drinks. Still not hungry we decided to check out the Bourbon O Bar which was connected to the Omni hotel. This was an upscale retreat in the heart of the Bourbon madness. They had a great milk stout on tap for us to enjoy, but their food menu was limited. This meant we had to forage someplace else.
We finally gained some appetite and decided getting some food would be in our best interest. We headed into Cornet on Bourbon Street because it looked respectable. We lucked into a balcony table so we could watch all the antics from a safe distance. The menu was more chain restaurant than fine NOLA cuisine but that was just what we needed. Dinner consisted of appetizers that tasted good for chain restaurant food, but this was not destination dining.   

One "good" thing about having our hotel outside the Quarter meant we made a deliberate decision when we’d head back. If we were at the Four Points on the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse we might have fallen victims to the influence of visiting more bars to listen to the bands.  There weren’t too many appealing places on the side of Bourbon near our hotel. Back at the Roosevelt we visited the Sazerac Bar.  It was nice and old-timey but just lacked that certain vibe you get from a decent classic hotel bar. Finding no enchantment we headed up to our room and enjoyed our pocket cookie.  

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