Friday, May 31, 2013

NOLA - Part 4

Nick and I ended our Sunday night with an unbelievable meal at Commander's Palace in the Garden District.  From the moment we arrived until our departure hours later, we were treated like royalty the entire time.  I had noted on the reservation that we would be celebrating Nick's birthday and I'm fairly certain everyone in the place wished him a "happy birthday" as he walked by.  

Greeted with balloons!

The birthday boy looking handsome in his suit

Commander's is routinely on the lists of best restaurants in America (as recently as 2000, it was listed as THE #1 restaurant in the country), so making our dinner selections was ridiculously difficult.  Usually, Nick and I are fairly decisive when ordering, but we had to debate for quite awhile before we made our final decisions.  The head chef, Tory McPhail, just won the James Beard Best Chef for the south, the previous week, so we were tempted by the chef's menu.  But, we weren't sure if we had the room to consume all those courses with all the food we had already eaten that weekend!  Instead, we decided on a few different appetizers - I went with the blueberry salad and shrimp remoulade (I could drink remoulade sauce for dinner any night!!) and Nick went with the pork belly and soup trio...

Turtle soup (AHHHHmazing), seafood gumbo and oyster/kale soup

Our waiter was great and was more than happy to take a few shots of us throughout the evening...

As we were escorted to our table, the host told us that we had one of the best tables in the restaurant.  He wasn't joking - we had a view of the courtyard below and the entire dining room in front of us!

Any excuse to get to wear my rehearsal dinner dress one more time!!

It's rare that I order fish for dinner in a restaurant, but I couldn't resist one of Commander's famous dishes, the Pecan crusted gulf fish.  I could have licked the plate!  But, I had to resist because we had pre-ordered our desserts and I needed to save some room - I went with the famous bread pudding souffle and Nick went with the strawberry shortcake.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I always order chocolate desserts.  But, when in NOLA...  The bread pudding was F-A-B!  Again, I almost licked the plate, but I decided not to embarrass Nick.

However, Nick was embarrassed in his own way when his dessert arrived with a hat...

Nick's dessert

What a night!  I had dined at Commander's previously and it certainly didn't disappoint on this night.  I was so excited to share that experience with Nick, especially as we celebrated his big 3-5 birthday weekend.  We even got a visit from the owner of the restaurant when she stopped by the table to tell us that we won the prize for "longest commute for dinner."  She was lovely and chatted with us for quite awhile.  It was those small touches that made the dinner even more memorable.  

And, of course, after a quick visit back to the hotel to change clothes, we hit up Bourbon Street for a final stroll, a nightcap, and some live music!

Stay tuned for our final day recap as we hit the swamps...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

NOLA - Part 3

On Sunday, Nick and I got an early start with breakfast at our hotel and planned out our day based on different areas of the city we wanted to check out (aka - where we wanted to eat and drink for the day!).  We decided to start our day by taking the St Charles streetcar up to the Garden District.  Luckily, the start of the streetcar line was right outside of our hotel, so we bought our day pass and jumped aboard.  Just a short while later, we hopped off at Audobon Park and explored for a bit...

Audobon Park with Tulane in the background

The trees in Audobon Park are just amazing - so majestic.  It's hard to believe that you are still in the city limits with the drastic difference between this area and that of Bourbon Street...

We decided to walk along St. Charles for awhile and just check out all the fabulous houses in the Garden District.  After all that walking and since it was noon, we then decided that it was time for a drink!!!  When in NOLA...  We stopped at the Columns Hotel to grab one of New Orleans' tastiest beverages... the mint julep.  

One drink was definitely enough at the Columns - woohoo!  Time to board the streetcar to head back into the French Quarter...

Checking out the real estate along St Charles

Lots of beads in the trees along the Mardi Gras parade routes!

We decided to jump off the streetcar to grab lunch at a sandwich shop that came highly recommended, but we found out that it was closed on Mondays.  So, we needed a new plan.  We regrouped quickly and walked to one of Emeril's restaurants in the Quarter, NOLA.  We completely lucked out and managed to walk right in without a reservation.  In the end, we were really happy that the sandwich shop was closed because our meal at NOLA rocked!  Nick ordered a braised pork po'boy and I decided to go with the stuffed chicken wings.  Amazing.  

We were tempted by the dessert menu at NOLA, but decided to waive the options and head out to another place on our to-do list, Angelo Brocato, for gelato.  We jumped aboard the Canal Street streetcar and headed up Canal toward the dessert shop.  I had never heard of the place before, but the fact that it was ranked #1 on Trip Advisor with all the thousands of places to eat in the city meant that we had to try it!  It did not disappoint.  Nick's pistachio gelato was wonderful and I could have eaten ten more cups of my coconut gelato.  

It was official - we had covered half the city by 5pm just by following our rumbling bellies!!  We had a few hours to kill before our dinner reservation, so we decided to check out the Imax  movies playing at the aquarium.  The next show happened to be about divers and great white sharks - yes, please!  So, we relaxed in the air conditioning for an hour and enjoyed the quick show.  

What a complete day... and we still had dinner reservations for Nick's birthday at Commander's Palace!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

NOLA - Part 2

So where was I?  Oh yes, Nick and I's mission to eat/drink at least 10,000 calories a day while in New Orleans...

After tasting several different versions of the New Orleans staple, hurricanes, and grabbing a sandwich for lunch, we decided to just stroll around the French Quarter for a bit to explore.  The people watching is never-ending in the Quarter.

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde.  Beignets are one of my favorite things about the city.  Yummo!  The place was packed earlier in the day, so we decided to continue to walk around and try to swing back around later in the day.  Luckily, on our second pass, the line had diminished and we were able to sneak right in to grab a table.  The menu is limited, but a few orders of beignets and some ice coffee sounded perfect on a hot afternoon!

It's so rare for us to take pictures of each other these days.  Usually Georgia is our model, so it was fun to take some actual pictures of "us" this weekend...

Cafe du Monde

Waiting patiently for a waiter!

Nick playing around with the different functions on my camera!

And then they arrived.... the most perfectly warm, sweet, and tasty little goodies all packaged in half a ton of powdered sugar...

You've got to take a photo before you dig in!

Powdered sugar madness!

Damn straight I got my own order!

Yummy beignets = happy Jenn!

We decided to head back to the hotel for a few hours before dinner to just relax and hang out by the pool.  Unfortunately, our hotel's pool wasn't anything fabulous and was already in the shade that late in the afternoon.  But, we managed to pass an hour just chatting with a fellow tourist and watching the frat boys on the other end of the pool funnel beers while swimming!

We had a dinner reservation at Muriel's right in Jackson Square.  I had walked right by this restaurant hundreds of times, but never had eaten there.  However, they had great reviews on Trip Advisor and the location is amazing, so I figured we could try it out.  We definitely were not disappointed.  Nick tried out the alligator bites (the rumor is true - tastes just like chicken!) and I had an amazing goat cheese/crawfish crepe for appetizers.  Unfortunately, between appetizers, beverages, and all of our snacking, we had little to no room for our entrees, which looked wonderful.  I had ordered the BBQ shrimp and Nick had the pork chop.  They tasted great, but we definitely left too much on our plates.

Nick loves his girly drinks - trying out a martini specialty!

Again, with the crazy settings on my camera!

Nick's pork chop

My shrimp

We definitely needed a stroll after such a wonderful meal, so we headed out to Jackson Square to just roam around and take in dusk in the city...

St Louis Cathedral at dusk

Of course, a night in New Orleans means that at some point, you end up on Bourbon Street.  Like a typical Saturday night, the place was H-A-P-P-E-N-I-N-G!!  I'm always surprised at the demographic make-up of Bourbon Street - you name the age group and they are represented.  You have the young college kids drinking like crazy, but they are joined by bachelor/bachelorette parties, well-dressed folks coming out of fancy restaurants, tourists pushing around strollers with infants/toddlers/small children, etc.  The religious fanatics are handing out literature, the cops on horses help with crowd control, and beads and boobs are thrown around like everyday is Mardi Gras!

Trying out a new look for the night!

Bourbon Street

Panoramic shot on the action!

We finished off our night by playing some slots and roulette over at Harrah's casino.  What a day - and we had been in NOLA less than 24 hours.  We had a full schedule and plan ready to go for Sunday!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

NOLA - Part 1

We'll be taking a "Georgia break" for a few days as I recap Nick and I's fabulous weekend in one of my most favorite cities in the entire world - New Orleans!!!  I hatched the plot to kidnap Nick for his 35th birthday a few months ago.  Thankfully, Mimi and Papa swept into town to babysit the peanut for the weekend so that we could escape for an adults-only weekend in the Big Easy!!  I gave Nick clues for the 10 days leading up to our departure, but I refused to tell him where we would be going for the weekend.  On Saturday morning, we woke up at the crack of dawn and headed to BWI... with Nick having no idea where we would be going that morning.  After we got through security, I declared our destination!!  

The most ironic part of the entire destination... Nick had never been to New Orleans, which is the reason I selected that city for our visit.  However, just last week, Nick text me from work and asked what I would be doing the first week of June.  Ummm... working?!?  Come to find out, he was going to a conference... in New Orleans!  So, I got to take him first, but the man is already planning his return to NOLA just next week.

We landed in New Orleans, checked into our hotel and immediately decided to hit up the city!  Our hotel was only one block from Bourbon Street/Canal Street, so we headed down Bourbon and grabbed our first hurricane at Pat O'Briens!  Just walking down Bourbon Street is always a sight, even on a Saturday morning...

On our to-do list for the weekend was to hit up Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar - rumored to be the oldest structure to be used as a bar in the United States.  Since I found myself empty-handed, I immediately needed to restock with another hurricane!  Nick decided to try out some of the local beer and we just sat and relaxed for awhile watching the people come/go and stumble down Bourbon Street.  That's what NOLA is all about - just chilling, people watching, and enjoying good drinks!

Trying out the local beer!

Delish!!  Noon... and already two hurricanes in!

Hurricanes go down smooooooooth!

Hanging out at Lafitte's

We decided we needed some actual food after a few drinks, so we headed to the next place on our to-do list, Central Grocery.  Apparently I'd been there previously as a kid with my family, but I didn't quite remember the place (and apparently, I didn't like the sandwiches back in the day).  However, this time was a different story!  I had read so many great reviews of the amazing muffalattas at Central Grocery, so Nick and I waited in line patiently and headed to the riverbank to sit alongside the Mississippi and enjoy our sandwich.  There's only one item on the menu and it did not disappoint.  The muffalatta was absolutely amazing!

Waiting in line with everyone else waiting to get a sandwich!

Sitting alongside the Mississippi

Our scenic view from our lunch spot

After lunch, Nick got brave and decided to put his toes in the mighty Mississippi...

Jackson Square is one of the most beautiful areas of the city and I loved getting to share the sights with Nick, especially with the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in the background...

Wow - what a crazy morning!  And that was just the start of our New Orleans adventures.  Coming up... we eat more, drink more and then eat some more!