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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler! Part I

Major plane probs caused me to arrive in New Orleans for Greg and Susan's wedding 12 hours late, which meant that once I actually made it there last Friday morning, I was go go go.  I'll be recapping the ridiculously awesome wedding weekend day by day, starting here with day numero uno:

I arrived at the Royal Sonesta Hotel - wait wait, before going any further, I must give them props for choosing an amazing hotel right smack dab in the center of Bourbon Street.  We were right in the heart of the booby shakin, bead throwing action.  Anyway, I got to the hotel, dropped off my bags, and headed straight to lunch with my parents.  My brother has been to NOLA plenty of times and told us we had to go to Mother's and we HAD to get the debris po' boy.  Mark was a little busy with the groom, but he made the place sound so good, that we couldn't wait for him to be ready and told him we would just meet him there.  I'm glad we didn't wait for him because that would mean longer before I got to try the debris.  Debris is the juicy bits of roast beef that falls into the pan gravy while it's cooking.  They scoop it all up, and serve it on a soft hoagie with shredded cabbage, mayo, creole and yellow mustard.  It is my new favorite sloppy joe.  My daddy and I split the po' boy and an order of crawfish etouffee (the New Orleans dish I was most excited to try).  The etouffee was very good (especially with a little hot sauce).  It means "smothered" in French, and I could be smothered in this stew.  But that debris was great.  Mother's should definitely be a stop on your next N'awlins trip.  Don't be scared by the line that wraps around the block.  It moves fast and just reaffirms the fact that everyone wants a piece of this delicious joint.


After lunch I had to try Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee with chicory.  Touristy?  Yes.  Worth the hype?  100%  The beignets are a cross between doughnuts and funnel cake, topped with a mountain of powdered sugar.  One is the perfect size - ultimately satisfying.  Wash down the super sweet snack with some of the cafe au lait.  The chicory adds a unique, very roasty flavor.  Don't miss this stop.  You'll feel extremely relaxed sipping your coffee, dusting powdered sugar off your clothes, and gazing at Jackson Square across the way.  And if you're trying to do New Orleans on a budget, this one certainly won't set you back.  Four of us split an order of three beignets with three coffees and I think our bill was about $9.

After Cafe du Monde, we moseyed around the French Quarter for a bit and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for happy hour with the rest of the crew.  After a drink or two, it was supper time.  I went with my parents and grandmothers to Bon Ton Cafe for a nice family dinner.  My father talked to the concierge to make sure he made a reservation at an authentic, non-touristy, New Orleans spot.  Of course, he still needed a second opinion, and Susan's father confirmed that it is indeed a locals' place which was enough to convince my discerning Daddy.  I had gulf fish topped with oysters and (the oils of which made a great sauce for bread sopping) and for my side, I chose creamed cauliflower.  I figured, I like creamed spinach and I like cauliflower; what could be bad.  Wow.  Cheesy and delicious.  We all split bread pudding with whisky sauce for dessert - my La La actually ordered a smaller dinner when she saw this on the menu for dessert.  The sauce had a strong whisky flavor - a little kick at the end of supper.  All that was more than pleasing to the tongue, but the best was the appetizer my Daddy and I shared: turtle soup.  I'd never tried this creole specialty before and now I'm in love.  I particularly liked that there was a little bottle of sherry on the table so you could add as much or as little as you like.  You may be able to find some versions of gumbo or etouffee in other places around the country, but it seems like turtle soup is strictly a New Orleans thing and seems to me to be enough of a reason to go back.

When we got back to the hotel, everyone had congregated in the hospitality suite.  Let me remind you that Greg and Susan are dear friends from home and college (and now just a few blocks away in NYC), but that Greg also happens to be my first cousin.  That means that a slew of college friends plus my entire extended family had decided to take over the French Quarter.  Thankfully, the hospitality suite had three rooms and a balcony because everyone was out and ready to party...including my Mom, who gave me a wad of cash and told me to walk downstairs to Bourbon Street and get her a hurricane.  I am a loving daughter so of course, I obliged and picked up a hand grenade for myself while I was at it.  It was my first time ever in New Orleans so a hand grenade was compulsory for me.  Later, we hit up the Absinthe House on Bourbon Street for some drinks.  By the time I looked around the bar and realized I had stolen my brother's styrofoam cup of frozen something or other and had been coerced into doing a Jager bomb, I knew it was time to go to bed.

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