official day 3 in NOLA: the French Quarter, 22 march 2013
my friend drove me to downtown NOLA before work and even though it was past rush hours, the traffic on Canal Street never thins. she ended up letting me out while waiting for a red light, so out i hopped like Mario being ejected out of a world that he is unqualified to play in. i put on my mildly annoyed, mostly impassive face to alleviate the fact i was wandering in downtown NOLA for the first time with the directional acumen of an amoeba. a straight shot down on Canal took me to the Mississippi River in her murky glory, snaking around the mostly-concrete, sometimes-bare dirt riverfront. humidity by the river aggravated my normally wavy hair into a ‘fro-wannabe. paired with my multi-colored pashmina scarf i resembled a circus poodle, sans tutus.
the river took me to a turn at an unmarked street which turned out to be St. Louis, and i acquired a map from the one-man cube marked TOURIST INFORMATION. the clerk was nice enough to denote where i was. X marks the spot. streets of downtown NOLA are never oriented N-S or E-W because everything is based on the river, but the actual French Quarter was kind enough to have right-angle blocks, so i followed the thickening stream of people down Decatur Street, and eventually hit the corner of Decatur and St. Peter Street, opposite the Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar.
the line outside of Cafe du Monde was monstrous, but i was bent on getting my chicory coffee and beignets. if you look up beignet in Wikipedia, the pastry is described as “coated in powdered sugar”. mine were not so much “coated” as “buried” in powdered sugar. the beignets came in triplets, which i consumed alongside the half-cup of cafe au lait after i spilled the other half, overlooking the Mississippi river on my left and Jackson Square on my right. a traveling companion would have been handy then since beignet+coffee+purse+camera+umbrella required far more numerous hands than i had available. note to self: powdered sugar contamination on clothing during beignet consumption is inevitable. also, shaking my hair out of the way did not achieve the mildly seductive effect i was hoping for as much as looking like a dog with ear mites.
the French Market reminded me of haggling days past and my skills had atrophied to a vestigial intuition from disuse. the vendors were used to having clueless patrons pay whatever heinously named prices, so the one i bargained with was put off by my attempt to whittle down the price on a pair of (supposedly) Kenyan ox-horn/elephant-tusk earrings.
the French Quarter struck me not so much with its crowds or shops or smells, nor its legions of airborne pigeons that dive-bombed the restaurant patrons nor the ones on the ground which i almost trampled. it was the lattice iron bars on the balconies and the impossibly narrow doors of apartments and houses and the names of the streets set into the sidewalks in ceramic tiles and the street musicians who performed in ones and twos and groups, with their banjos and guitars and tambourines, sitting on a doorstep or their Harley-Davidsons or a paint bucket.
something else struck me: the utter discrepancies within the French Quarter from the bodacious and pungent chaos of Bourbon Street and suddenly the hush and nonchalant air of Dauphine Street. a half of block and a world away.
after systematically gleaning all of the streets and seeing everything i could not purchase, my friend called me to say she was on her way to pick me up. we decided to meet on Canal Street so i wandered to the Palace Cafe and ordered my supposedly “non-alcoholic” pear Bellini and people-watched. writing with a hemorrhaging pink pen wrapped in a napkin, i had half of a heart to say that i’m a traveling writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel if questioned by curious passers-by on my scribbling. by the time my friend conquered rush hour my cognitive and motor skills have started happy hours without me.
total walking time:
6 hours, plus to and from Borgne’s, apartments, and Down the Hatch
20 march 2013
- Copeland’s: fresh fish, lightly grilled (and not deep-fried, pretty non-mainstream), topped with Andouille and smoked sausage, shrimp, and vegetables of unidentifiable species in creole sauce. sidedish of creamed corn, with discernible corn kernels in real cream, with red and green peppers, onion, and moderately spicy cajun blend, and a flaky, buttery, and very salty biscuit to scavenge the cream with, accompanied by a few sips of a Hurricane (recipe to come). dessert of plain cheesecake in a butter-pecan crust, slathered, nay, drowned, in dark and light caramel.
22 march 2013
- Cafe du Monde: triplet beignets and chicory coffee. the beignets were more doughy than conventional doughnuts, with generous air pockets. not overtly greasy nor sugary, though the inundation of powdered sugar overrides any lack in carbohydrate content. the coffee was nutty, robust, and well-balanced by the milk. i bought a pound of chicory coffee for myself, which vacuum-sealed on the plane.
- Palace Cafe: pear Bellini. i suspect with pear bitter and white wine, possible Sauvignon Blanc.
- Borgne’s, on Loyola Street: happy hour and appetizers, but since i started early, i just got the appetizers. creole slider with lightly fried fish, pickled peppers (“Peter was the pickled pepper picker. Man, that could go so wrong.”), pickles, and cayenne-tartar sauce. shrimp and lobster croquet, lightly fried, perfectly moist on the inside, with basil and creole spice puree. pulled pork empanada, with horseradish and mustard sauce. the waiter served a steaming loaf of bread with rosemary and olive oil, topped with coarse sea salt to our table, and when we’ve devoured it with the whipped butter, brought out a second loaf. delicious.
- The Nile: traditional Ethiopian fare, curried lamb and stewed beef, with accompanying slow-cooked lentil and yellow peas, served on injera.
- Down the Hatch: Andy gator, Voodoo, and Hopitulas IPA.
addendum: this is what the corner of Decatur and St. Peter could look like. i need a proper camera.