The last time I visited New Orleans was three long years ago….just a couple of years after Hurricane Katrina had wreaked such havoc on the place. And there were large swaths of the city, outside the French Quarter and downtown, the parts you see driving in on I-10, that looked like the disaster had happened a few weeks ago, not (then)two years ago. This visit things were much better…still some boarded up houses(but hey, we see that here in Baltimore)….but on the whole, the city seemed much more restored.
Now of course, they’re dealing with a slow motion disaster…one that is no evident on the surface…no roaring winds, no flooded streets, no washed away houses, no people standing on their roofs begging for help. A silent, deadly, oily assassin, gushing out in millions of gallons a day, and it doesn’t make a sound. Yet it will damage the economy as much or some say more, in the long run, than Hurricane Katrina.
Still nothing keeps the Big Easy down…the party goes on, no matter what. If you’ve been watching HBO’s Treme, you know that the people who live in NOLA, are devoted to living there, and no where else. It’s a quirky city, no doubt about it. And I love it. We actually considered going to Venice…the fishing town that has become a ground zero of sorts for the oil leak….but the concierge at our hotel said, “Honey, it’s two hours down and two hours back, and all your gonna see is military people and fishermen looking for work.” And as all I had was one full day in town, we ditched the idea, fast. Better to spend it pumping money into the economy, oui? And that’s what we did.
Here are some of the more interesting signs I saw around town…..
We didn’t spend as much time eating in the Quarter…a friend had recommended Martinique Restaurant on Magazine(here’s a link), way out Magazine really….quite close to Tulane University and the beautiful Audubon Park.
There I had the most amazing Creole and yellow tomato Panzanella (here’s a recipe) with wild arugula…and seared sea scallops Nicoise…they were cooked with tomatoes, shallots, garlic and capers and topped with little dabs of black olive tapenade. Yummy. Cute little place that reminded me of the small restaurant in Treme that the female chef finally closes…she just can’t make it. Martinique is one of those small, excellent restaurants not on the beaten path, but so well worth a visit.
And just catty-cornered across the street,is another super-charming place(seriously, NOLA has a ridiculous amount of great eateries) that we just had to try the next night….Bistro Daisy….opened by a husband and wife chef team who named it after their daughter. The night we went(without reservations, it should be said)…the place was packed, so we ate at the bar, and happily so….heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil….so fresh, so nice. And gulf shrimp saute(again, get ‘em while you can)…in an Herbsaint(NOLA liqueur), tomato buerre blanc with toasted fennel, red onion and yellow grits. Yeah, I know….totally sick, right? Just a fabulous dinner.
Went to a couple of interesting bars. The Columns Hotel…in the Garden District, is a famous place to linger over a cocktail, preferably on the lovely veranda, languidly watching the St. Charles Street streetcars go by, but when it’s hot as blue blazes…which it was…the inside is dark and cool. Gothic really…Pretty Baby with Brooke Shields(remember the uproar over that film!) was filmed there. I ordered a Sazarac…which is, well, interesting anyway.
Another bar I highly recommend is at the Pere Marquette Hotel on Common Street…the Bar Uncommon is skippered by mixology master Chris McMillian, who makes quite simply, the best drinks(s) I’ve ever had. Best ever, and I’m not a mixed drink girl. And he’s a fascinating guy, (who looks a little like Garrison Keillor from Prairie Home Companion), who helped found The Cocktail Museum in NOLA(great in its own right)….if you’d like to read about him, here’s an interesting article in Imbibe Magazine(hiccup). Order the Drowning in New Orleans….it’s a drink he invented….but imbibe only one, or you could drown too.