One Funky Gumbo

“In New Orleans…..You can’t separate nothing from nothing. Everything mingles each into the other…until nothing is purely itself but becomes part of one funky gumbo.” – Mac Rebennack A.K.A. Dr. John, Musician

After closing Sunday and immediately having the first two Nunsense  rehearsals, it was time to take a break from the past few crazy weeks and take the traditional late spring trip with Hampton. He started planning our first vacation two-and-a-half months out. We’d barely been dating two-and-a-half months. But it all worked out (: The man does love to plan — and eat! All our vacations are about food — and I’m definitely ok with that.

After seeing Savannah, Asheville, and Charleston it was time for my next Southern class to take a field trip to New Orleans. As per usual, we had lots of reservations lined up and relied on the kindness of bartenders to send us other places.

During wanderings our first day, we discovered Effervesence. Bubbles and a grilled wheel of cheese? Fantastic way to start.

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The bartenderess there pointed us on to Meauxbar for more small plates. Duck. Fat. Popcorn. Also, my first of many celebrations of Negroni Week. For a good cause, right? (:

While at Meauxbar, we ended up in conversation with the diners at the next table — one of whom happened to be a server at Commander’s Palace, where we had a reservation in two nights. With our approval, Susan requested that we be placed in her section, and the service and meal lived up to the top-notch reputation

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When you coordinate with the building. At the famous Commander’s Palace!

We were very much looking forward to visiting Compère Lapin, home of Top Chef favorite, Food & Wine Best New Chef, and James Beard finalist Nina Compton. Oh, my word. Not only were our entrees delightful, we started with a steak tartare with a very interesting smoky cream topping. We weren’t sure if it was butter or….? Turns out, it was smoked whipped beef fat. Wowza.

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#nofilter #nofilterneeded

We visited Bar Tonique at the suggestion of a foodie friend and had delightful craft drinks both cocktail and mocktail. That bartender sent us to Cane & Table, which we never would have found due to construction, but we were pleasantly surprised by more craft drinks and some delightful chicharrónes.

Our favorite brunch was at Atchafalaya. We arrived just as the rain did, and were very glad to have reservations – even though there wasn’t a table available yet. The bar area was packed, but by the time I finished my first trip through the Bloody Mary bar, we were seated. A simple smoked salmon and avocado BLT was packed with both salmon and avo, two of my favorites!, and Hampton really liked his fancy French toast.

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A vacation favorite that we stumbled upon was Saint Lawrence. The first night we were in, they had the best of 80’s tunes overhead and an AMC movie musical on the tv’s. A great beer selection and great service brought us back several times.

We also checked out Turkey and the Wolf, thanks to write ups in both Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. Hampton loves a wedge salad, and he said that it was one of his favorites. The bacon lardons were a big hit, and he even ate most of the tomatoes! Sadly, they were out of their famous soft-serve. Guess that means we just have to go back, right?

Sylvain was the last of our pre-arranged reservations. We couldn’t decide between a smoked salmon plate with pickled blueberries, a Southern Antipasti with all the pickled things and cured meats, and the crudo of the day. So we got all three and a scallop entree to share. And thank goodness we did! The yellow fin tuna crudo, with a small salad of fresh things and a beet vinaigrette is definitely one of the best things we’ve ever eaten. It was gloriously fresh and meaty and the salt mixed with the beets and the salad with the bitterness of arugula and radish… divine. Bonus: leftover pickles – including an egg – were a great breakfast the day we left (;

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After arriving on a Wednesday and not getting to it on Thursday, we decided to avoid the weekend crowds and hit Cafe du Monde on Monday. Not that it’s ever not crowded. There was a huge line — and some rumblings overhead — as we walked by after breakfast, so we ducked into Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar to wait out both the storm AND the line. During a break in the rain, we were able to walk right into a table for their famous beignets.

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And look! No sugar on my WFDD.org CharnoffChic shirt.

We were good tourists tried both the Hand Grenade and an official Hurricane, and also visited Central Grocery. If you didn’t already know my love of pickles and olives and cured meats, well… it’s a strong, strong love. Having an original muffuletta was a trip highlight! Also, Hurricane > Hand Grenade.

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We also got to the Clover Grill and Le Croissant d’Or, two of Hampton’s favorites from previous visits. A cheeseburger, fries, and Coca Cola and ham and cheese croissants with fresh fruit and espresso. Very different, very equally perfect in their own way.

I should probably also mention that our hotel, Hotel Monteleon, had a carousel bar. Carousel. Bar. Yes, it rotates. It’s honestly why we stayed there (my sister-in-law did some years back), but we only got to take advantage of it once due to the crowds. It was worth it (:

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Another trip highlight was getting to see a former DC-area castmate and some of her current castmates on the national tour of MAMMA MIA as they held a cabaret to benefit New Orleans Pride the night we arrived! We called it early most of the other nights because… people.  So many people. And while we started our mornings rather late, we did a LOT of eating. And Drinking. And Walking. And especially after the craziness of the prior three weeks, I needed the rest.

Not to say that we didn’t see a lot! For several meals we cabbed to our destinations and walked back to the Quarter. Along the way we hit some great local bars, the Old U.S. Mint and New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, as well as the National WWII Museum. I was proud of myself for only crying once there. However, my vacation read was The Nightingale, set in the same era, and tears were flowing on the plane ride home with full-out sobs in the car as Hampton drove us from the airport.

And speaking of books, I didn’t notice until we were literally on our way out the door to leave that the Hotel Monteleone had many literary connections. Apparently we always used the other doors….img_9560

My Instagram has all the edited highlights that I didn’t include here. Look for “#hauntednothaunted2017” in honor of the various real estate sales signs around the French Quarter.

Oh, and I should probably confess that I didn’t actually have any gumbo or jambalaya due to my onion and celery phobias.  But I’m pretty sure Flat 493 will be experimenting with Ann-safe versions in the near future. We did have crawfish tails at Commander’s Palace, but a local who was eating a big plate of boiled crawfish at a bar warned us that it was the end of the season and we probably wouldn’t get good ones anywhere else, and we were too full from brunch to order our own.  Another reason to go back!

‘Til next time…..

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[featured image found on Pinterest, originally from DNO, I believe!]

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