MONDAY: The four of us got up early and walked down to Café DuMonde for coffee and beignets – and they were as luscious as I remember!! We hoped to catch the ferry over the Algiers just so we could see the city from a different view, but alas, we had just missed getting to the ferry dock as they were leaving. Rather than wait for the next one, we decided to purchase tickets for the Hop on Hop off Bus, a tour that is less than 2 years old in New Orleans. We have been on tours with this company in many other places and love it!! I knew it would be a good way for our friends to see and learn about New Orleans for their first visit. ($29/pp for day pass or $39 for 7-day pass which includes garden district tour and cemetery tour).
We boarded the bus by the French Market and rode it up to the visitor center near the St. Louis #1 Cemetery (one of 42 cemeteries in New Orleans, we learned). The tour guide pointed out the newly completed pyramid-shaped tomb that was commissioned by Nicholas Cage as his final resting place. We got back on the bus and got off at Harrah’s to wait for our friends’ daughter, son-in-law, and baby granddaughter as they would be joining us for the afternoon before they were to catch their 6pm flight back to Tampa. At Harrah’s, 3 of us tried our luck with the $5 free play offered by the casino. No luck!
After riding the bus the rest of the circuit, we got off at the French Market in search of a crawfish boil. We were directed to MRB at 515 St. Louis Street, where they were offering crawfish at $6/ pound. We sat at the large shady table in the courtyard (away from the smoky bar), where we met their newly acquired red Macaw: HER name was Romeo. (If you go, be sure to ask her to do “Big Wing”). Everything was delicious!! Beside 3 pounds of crawfish, we sampled their delicious Boudin sausage, Red Beans & Rice and Sweet Potato encrusted fried pork chops. We all agreed, it was a great find!
We got back on the Hop on Hop off bus and rode it back to JW Marriot so our friend’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter could pack, then stored their luggage with the bellhop to join us for a final drink at the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel before their evening flight back to Florida. Even though there was no room at the revolving bar, it was a nice relaxing place for a drink nonetheless.
We had 8pm reservations at Emerils’ NOLA. We were hoping to luck out and get places at the counter overlooking the kitchen but it is the first place to fill up, and you really need to get your reservations in advance. After ordering a bottle of red and a bottle of white (the least expensive bottles at about $38 each, which in comparison to the other wine prices…not too bad) we chose our food: Stuffed fried chicken wings, BBQ shrimp for a few of the appetizers. Garlic Crusted Drum, Shrimp & Grits and Duck Confit & Fried Egg Pizza with truffle oil, arugula and parmesan (that was mine! Delicious!) were among the entrees ordered. I was very happy with place, loved the bright colored painted walls and the busy vibe; my friend found it a bit too noisy and sparse (there was nothing on the walls). She’s all about the ambiance, where, yes, I agree it is very important, but the food can make up for so much!
We took a walk down Bourbon Street (still pretty rowdy for the end of a holiday weekend) to check to see if Lafitte Blacksmith Shop might be a bit calmer and more like I remember. Yes, there were A LOT less people…AND, yes the big screen TV was shut off…AND yes, the candles were lit, but it really lacked the ‘romantic’ feel that I remember from 6 years ago. It actually looked really, umm, dirty, I guess you could say. Such a shame…..it was a very unique place. (And for all those people on the forum that I recently talked into going there)---I apologize!! This was my one huge disappointment on this trip.
TUESDAY: We got up early and headed over to the Central Business District for our electric trike tour passing by Red Gravy, hoping to catch breakfast there, unfortunately it did not open til 8:30 so we ended up at Welty’s Deli on Camp Street--a cute little coffee shop. I was happy with my microwaved scrambled eggs, sausage and grits, others were not as happy. We arrived at Buzz Nola at 201 Magazine Street at 9:30 where we met Brandon and our tour guide Erin. This tour is only a few months old, but is already getting very positive feedback on the NO board. After a brief bike check and rules of the road we headed toward the Garden District. It was just the four of us (and Erin) riding the 3-wheeled electric bikes, specially retro-fitted to handle the very bumpy, uneven streets of New Orleans. The tour lasted 3 hours with a 20 minute break at a café for a drink and rest. We traveled up and down the streets of the Garden District, and Erin showed us the points of interest. My only complaints and I think they will improve with more experience, is that they never learned (or even asked) our names. You would think that with a small group of 4, they could call us by our names rather than “Miss”. My other complaint is that they didn’t work in times for photos. Generally tours would know where the best ‘photo ops’ are and would schedule them in. We were out of the Garden District and back into traffic, when I realized we never got a photo of us all on our trikes.
After arriving back at the tour company, we had just about enough time to head over to St. Louis Street for the 2pm cooking demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Chef Kevin Belton was as welcoming as he was BIG. He walked us through the making of Pralines, Chicken Etouffee, and Corn & Crab Bisque. A very fun way to get out of the heat and have a few laughs ---and good food too. (We purchased tickets through Groupon- and at $12 (1/2 price) a very good deal!).
We headed out for our 7:30 reservations at Muriel’s extra early so we could check to see if the Acme Oyster House had a short enough line. Sure enough we were able to get in within 5 minutes WOOHOO! FINALLY I’ll get my Acme fix. We all had a couple of shooters, shared a dozen oysters and a crab cake. It was all as good as I remember and we planned on coming back again before we left.
Onto Muriel’s for our ‘real’ meal, and what a wonderful meal we had. They were offering a 3-course prixe fix menu. I chose the Gorgonzola Prosciutto Tart, the Wood-Grilled Pork Chops—double cut with sugar cane apple glaze and the Bread Pudding with candied pecans and rum sauce—All for $37.95—a bargain!! Hubbie had the Pan-seared Duck Breast: Duck confit with dirty rice, leeks, baby carrots, duck crackling with a cherry reduction sauce. Our friends loved the lamb chops and “Bayoubaisse” (and were also happy with the ambiance!) We were encouraged to check out the ‘haunted rooms’ upstairs including the Séance room. We were back to the room by 10 so our friends could pack and to get a good night’s sleep.
...final installment coming up....