Surviving the Big Easy: Mardi Gras

Check one off the bucket list. I finally made it to The City That Care Forgot to celebrate Mardi Gras. It’s a whole different ball game folks. New Orleans on steroids, as well as copious hand grenades and big ass beers. If you haven’t been, do it. Maybe not make it your first trip to The Crescent City though. It is a lot to take in, even for someone who has visited and survived many times. See my other posts about my favorite city in the world. Surviving the Big Easy and Surviving The Big Easy, Part 2. Where to begin. Obviously we had to run to Willa Jean immediately once we checked into the hotel for a frosé and some to-go pastries. Who needs coffee to start the day? Then off to The Quarter to begin the debauchery. Molly’s for a frozen Irish coffee. Harry’s Corner. Pat O’s for the sweet nectar of a Hurricane. Napolean House for an amazing muffuletta and a Pimm’s cup.  Josephine Estelle. You get the point. These are a few of my favorite things. On top it all, it’s only Thursday. It’s a marathon, not a sprint right? Have I mentioned I love it here? After regrouping at the hotel, you know, a shower and a change of clothes, it was off to to bar in the lobby to hang with Sara’s family and friends. I’ve heard lots of stories, so it was good to finally put faces to the names. Plus I was going to be spending a lot of time with the men since the women had a luncheon, as well as riding in Krewe of Iris in the parade. The men? Well we were left to our own devices. How much trouble could we get in right? Especially in New Orleans. So Friday we walked around drinking 3 for 1 beers. Many o’shitty domestics. The Cat’s Meow was a purrrfect place to spend a few hours on a balcony, observing the scenery that Bourbon Street can provide. I may or may not have seen a few scantily clad women exposing their assets. Yes I saw boobs for beads. When in Rome. A few however I wish I would have looked away. Tough life huh? So every year there is a different theme that Sara’s group dresses up for Mardi Gras. This year? Outer space. A Google search and many Amazon boxes later, I have a shiny silver suit, flashing LED lights wrapped around my arms, shades and a robot hat to top it off. You should have seen how many people wanted to take a picture of me as we walked around Friday night. Plus we all wore our costumes to a nice sit down dinner. Sorry not sorry. Robots use Sazeracs and a Vieux Carre or two for fuel apparently. Operation black out robot has commensed. The Carousel Bar, followed by a trip to the Erin Rose for my favorite window seat, tends to lead to a rusty, as well as hung over robot. Nothing like a little rest, a shower, and a Miller Lite first thing in the morning to make things better. Or at least manageable. As Sara and all the women were throwing beads off their float Saturday, the men and I walked the parade route on St. Charles. You think tailgaiting is crazy in North Carolina? It has nothing on Mardis Gras. We walked around with a cooler full of ice cold beer, meanwhile I saw hundreds of tents, many a keg, grills, bags of Popeye’s, shopping carts full of booze, broken champagne bottles everywhere, inflatable furniture, and an ironing board as a portable bar. All before noon. Yikes. Meanwhile I am wearing a purple tutu. And beads everywhere. Literally everywhere. I had a nice bead sunburn to boot. A pit stop for a bloody mary or two, followed by dozens of charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, does a body good. So does going back to the hotel room to lay down. After getting my third wind, Sara and I saw KISS on an Endymion float, had an amazing dinner at Compère Lapin and took in a burlesque show to end the night. Oh Mardi Gras. Another reason for me to fall in love with New Orleans again. It’s not just beads and breasts, dudes and daquiris. It’s friends and families getting together to reminisce and share stories of past Mardi Gras lore, celebrate the unusual sights and sounds of this quirky city, and to make new fuzzy memories. Cheers foodies!


Surviving The Big Easy, Part 2


We survived The Crescent City, although it wasn’t because of lack of effort on our part. New Orleans, you win again. So we initially wanted to head down for Mardi Gras, but because of new jobs, it was delayed until French Quarter Fest; although we spent more time exploring, as well as punishing our livers and waistlines, than enjoying all the local music. There was just so much to see and do, as well as eat and drink, that within the 3 days we were actually there, we tried to fit in as much as possible. We definitely did that and then some. Since we didn’t check in to the hotel until midnight Friday, we pretty much hit the ground running. A quick drop of the bags and we were off to Dat Dog, and things escalated quickly. After a fill of amazing dogs, we made it to Decatur St. for Molly’s and The Abbey Bar. That’s one of the great things about New Orleans, you feel welcome all the time and not treated as a tourist, especially in some of the great dive bars the city has to offer. Plus I was nicknamed baby bear by the bartender at The Abbey; long story. Anyways, walking into Molly’s once again, I felt like I had just been there, despite it being almost 2 years ago. After having a few beverages, it seemed like a logical decision to go to Café Du Monde at 5 AM. Hey, there are no lines and we were able to sit inside. Try going there at 10 AM; you’re waiting in line with the rest of the tourists. The next morning we were off to Willa Jean for brunch. A short walk from the hotel, it’s an amazing space with great food, and even better people. Plus they have a frosé; a frozen rosé. Enough said. But you gotta love a place that hands out complimentary mimosas while you wait. I love this city. After brunch it was off to Jackson Square for more beverages, music, and family time, followed by 3 for 1 beers and Pat O’Brien’s. Life’s a marathon, not a sprint right? We eventually stumbled down to the river for some festival time. We really were lucky how perfect the weather was the entire trip. It was sunny and in the 70’s every day; absolutely stunning. After a short stop to refresh at the hotel, it was on again. Now it was to the new Ace Hotel and Josephine Estelle for beverages and a few snacks. We opted for the fried cheese, Parmesan soufflé, and asparagus with a fried egg. Great cocktails, good food, and a beautiful bar; quintessential New Orleans. And this is still the first day! My feet and liver hurt just thinking we have 2 more days of this. And so many to-go drinks; frozen mango daiquiris, frozen Irish coffee from Molly’s, etc. Still no hand grenades though! Everyone always says they need a vacation from their vacation. I truly needed one though. By the time Monday got here, I felt like death. I knew going in were gonna go at it hard, and trust me, we did. Staying up until 5 in the morning eating and drinking terribly, as well as walking all over the city, it eventually catches up to you. But the next day you get up, shower off the dirt of the city, and hit repeat; then begin with a to-go frosé and a sticky bun from Willa Jean. It’s New Orleans, you rally. Have I mentioned how much a love Nola? There were plenty of other highlights of trip though; lunch at the timeless Commander’s Palace with the .25 cent martinis (limit of 3 by the way), dozens of oysters at Acme, late nights at the Erin Rose, bottomless dranks at Cane and Table, the lamb burger from The Company Burger, relaxing at The Palace Café, great music at The Maple Leaf, and strolling along Magazine Street. Man, I had such a great time. I didn’t want it to end.  We did so much in such a short time, but there was still so much more we wanted to do. We almost need a solid 2 weeks just to explore the whole city, rather than just The French Quarter. I need a lot more money, more time off, and a possible liver transplant to do it all. Oh well, at least I have Mardi Gras to look forward to next year. Lord help me. Cheers foodies!


Surviving the Big Easy

Sorry for the delay of my post-New Orleans shenanigans. I’m sitting here in my living room under a blanket with a space heater on full blast if that explains anything; the heat has been out since I got home. I’d give anything to be back there now with my flip flops and t-shirt and Abita Amber in hand. It seems like I really haven’t been at home since I got back from The Big Easy. Enough about that, man New Orleans was a blast. I had been once before, back in college, which is ancient history. So I was happy to go back again with a greater appreciation of food and beverage, as well as the service industry in general. Plus I needed a vacation in a bad way. I did not partake in the drinking of any hand grenades in case you were wondering. There were plenty of other beverages in which I imbibed. The great thing about New Orleans is that everything has a history or a great story behind it, especially the food and drink. The Hurricane, the Sazerac, and the Café Brulot were all invented in New Orleans; and I tried them all. If you’re in town you have to go to Pat O’Briens for a Hurricane. Yes, it’s a little touristy, but the waiters look like they just won The Masters with their green jackets. I had two amazing dinners while I was in town, albeit at two very different establishments: Herbsaint and Antoine’s. Antoine’s is definitely old New Orleans; it’s been there since 1840. Plus they invented Oysters Rockefeller, how cool is that. I think what sets places like Antoine’s and other old school restaurants in New Orleans apart is the service. The waiters in their tuxedos who have been working there forever treat it not as just a paycheck, but as their career. There is a craft in being able to serve the public for that long, plus I’m sure they make a ton more money than I do. But it was pretty awesome to get a behind the scenes tour of Antoine’s and all its history and secrets; a definite highlight of the trip. Herbsaint was equally as amazing. Who doesn’t like house made spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried poached egg on top? The coconut custard pie was probably one of the better desserts I have had in a long time. Very simple, but delicious; and it was pretty tasty with Eagle Rare on the rocks. Of course I had a muffuleta while I was here, as well as a trip to Drago’s for charbroiled oysters. Charred oysters dripping in garlic, cheese, and butter, served with crispy bread to soak up all the goodness was another highlight of the trip. It was great just being able to walk all over the French Quarter and Bourbon Street and check out all the unique bars, stores, and antique shops, all with a beverage in hand of course. 3 for 1 beer. Enough said. Why does this not exist in Raleigh? Good thing I had my drinking shoes on, because my feet were really sore the next day. Nothing a little Bloody Mary and eggs won’t fix. I didn’t only eat and drink the entire time I was there, although that was a significant portion of it. I did check out the World War II museum. It was massive, although a little too crowded for my liking. I only spent two full days in New Orleans, but I could have spent another week there. There is so much to see and do if you love great food, unique cocktails, and old Southern history. My liver might have been a little angry at me, but it was an amazing trip. New Orleans has to be one of my favorite cities I have visited. If you haven’t been, make it your next trip, you won’t regret it.