A typical day in New Orleans is anything but. Here for a gerontology conference, the Indian Summer weather and riverside location connived to make the city even more alluring. I'm leaving on a jet plane up to Boston for the break, but wanted to share a sampling of NOLA's charms:
The People! SO friendly and helpful. Everyone smiles down here. I miss the South...
The Culture! Faulkner House sponsored the WORDS and MUSIC literary fest this week, and I made it to the Friday evening gala held at the World War II museum. Imagine dining on oysters bathed in creme fraiche, truffle-mashed potatoes, and beef tenderloin while sitting under the belly of a C-47 bomber. Best of all, though, was meeting Simon Mawer, author of The Glass Room and winner of last year's Man Booker Prize (which I reviewed ==> HERE). He and his wife Connie are gracious, funny, lovely people.
The next day dawned clear and warm, so what better than to walk the Quarter? Off to Preservation Hall for a funeral parade to celebrate the life and brilliance of jazz musician William Patton, then on to shrimp and goat cheese crepes al fresco. Throw in a couple of cups of Community Coffee and the bluesy swells of Tuba Skinny, and you have a perfect afternoon.
The Food! You know you're in heaven when the worst meal you eat is at Emeril's! Think flash-fried calamari with an olive salsa, pan-seared grouper in a safron sauce, the signature banana cream pie. We ate light the next day for lunch, fried shrimp and soft-shell crab po boys at Johnny's, eaten in the madness of Jackson Square. Dinner at Le Foret... elegance bar none: amusements that included an artichoke bisque so smooth you could skip a crouton across it; a fois gras and shitake appetizer (shaped like forest mushrooms) paired with hazelnut-sprinkled shaved apple; quail perfectly braised and served with quail yolk-stuffed ravioli; and a sampling of excellent desserts. Exquisito.
Just when I thought the food could not get better, we traveled uptown to partake of the victuals at Dante's Kitchen. The kitchen preserves it's own pickles and veggies, all procured locally, and makes it's own flavored vodkas and brandies. I shared several small plates with my graduate student -- shrimp and stone ground grits with a red-eye andouille gravy (head-on prawns 4-6 inches long!); baby squash taglietelle with chocolate cherry tomatoes; duck two-ways, but I was loathe to share the Mexican hot chocolate pot topped with orange blossom marshmallows. All chased with a Violet Lemondrop, a scrumptious concoction of homemade sweet violet liquor and lemon-infused vodka.