On New Orleans.

February 1, 2013

I’ve been threatening to take a trip to New Orleans for a while now. The idea of a vacation built entirely around snacks, drinks, and dancing has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. I could not have been more thrilled to be joined by two of my favorite broads ever, who just happen to be grad school colleagues, and the brilliant aforementioned supper club beauties.

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I love The Kates and liberal street drinking policies.

There was serious alchemy on this trip – perfect travel buds, warm weather, eating, walking, the kindness of strangers, dancing. I feel like we did a great balancing act of seeing “new” and “old” New Orleans – from classic cocktails in touristy bars, to an amazing local ingredient soul food pop-up dinner in a fantastic smokey bar  – from Oyster loaf and chicory coffee to avocado ice pops and local meat “southern antipasto”.

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Happiness is ice cold beer in tiny glasses, and fresh gulf oysters.

I think that our experience, limited as it was, was indicative of the way New Orleans is a city reverent of tradition, of folklore, of cultural history – but moving forward, partially because they’ve had to. Maybe that’s reductive, but it feels honest. Also, New Orleans is decidedly a “High Life” city, which was literally and figuratively refreshing. (Yes, I also had lots of great local brews also. I’m looking at you, NOLA Brewing Hopitoulas.)

Touristy? Yes. Legit fucking pisco sour? Also yes.

We were lucky to have had a (handsome) local tour guide (THANKS, JOSH!), as well as great recommendations from our network of pals and NOLA enthusiasts (Thanks, especially to Cait!)

Below find lots of pictures, and a list of the highlights of our trip.

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Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde. Maybe it’s obvious, but if you don’t like doughnuts and coffee, just get out of America.

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LEECHES!

Kate and I spent the better part of a morning wondering through M.S Rau Antiques, jaws agape. Bear Skeletons, living room sized silverware chests, tortoise shell everything. There was a man there whose sole job it was to wind antique clocks. NICHE. It was amazing. If I could go back, I would totally swing by Lucullus which specializes in culinary antiques.

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Literally, all of the oysters.

I loved starting my day with a dozen raw oysters and a cold beer, cause i’m a boss like that. The best? The huge, tongue-like incredibly fresh ones from Casamento’s, shucked by Mike, who sweet talked the shit out of us. Follow your oysters up with more oysters, fried, between two pieces of white bread, slathered with mayo, and an healthy shake of Louisiana hot sauce.

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New Orleans has really great signs. Really great colored stucco – greens and corals. The kind of charming disrepair I found and loved in Key West.

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Every single person we met in New Orleans was kind. Like over-the top nice. Like,” here take this extra bus ticket” nice. Like, “Oh my cousin is the maitre d’ at that restaurant, do you want me to see if I can get you a table” nice. Except this man. He was the most fluid, beautiful short order cook I have ever seen, with the ability to make every burger flip look hateful. Never has disdain looked so elegant. I loved him. And I loved the burger + egg he made me at 3 am. The Clover Grill was the NOLA version of a NJ diner, and I dig it.

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We didn’t really eat very many vegetables in New Orleans, i’ll admit. We did however, have all of the best meats, in excess. If there is a heaven, it smells like Cochon Butcher. We stood there, faces pressed against the meat cases, like puppies. We were able to nab a table outside in the sunshine, where we went to town on sandies. Bacon and collard green melt, with an unhealthy amount of their sweet potato hot sauce.

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And then, the sandwich of all sandwiches: The Gambino. House cured meats, mortadello, sopressata on the best ciabatta i’ve ever had, piled with perfectly dressed arugula. It was truly, a beautiful sandwich. Best enjoyed with beautiful ladies, cold beer, and Bruce Lee.

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New Orleans is a classic cocktail city. A cold beer city. A craft beer city, even. But it didn’t feel so much like a wine city. That was until Josh took us out to Bacchanal in Bywater. The premise was awesome. Choose a bottle of wine from their (fantastic) selection, maybe scoop some local cheese from the cold case, and take it out back into the huge outdoor space. The live music was amazing. The wine, beautiful. The company, superior. I want to live in a place where I don’t have to wear pants in January.

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We are the happiest customers.

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Cocktails! All of the cocktails! Sazeracs! Vieux Carre! Mint Juleps! Pisco Sours! At all of the classic cocktail joints! Hotel Monteleone is worth a trip, I think. We went on a Sunday, and were able to snag seats at the carousel bar!

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Not pictured, but CERTAINLY worth checking out!

  • The Crescent City Farmer’s Market! Amazing! Within the first half hour I was awake on Saturday, I had had chicory coffee, an amazing tamale, and an avocado ice pop. You want all of these things, together to start your day.
  • Sylvain Fantastic farm-to-table grub. Earnest, New American with deep southern roots. Their Southern Antipasti with country ham, pickled eggs, local cheese, and assorted little picklin’s was one of my favorite things I ate on the trip.

So go forth, readers, unto New Orleans! But call me if you are going, because i’m coming.

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