Thursday, March 1, 2012

new orleans - day 3

friday morning had us waking up early to go for a 4.4 mile run up esplanade (to the cusp of city park) and back, returning in time for another outstanding breakfast prepared by john. properly fueled, we head out to the garden district to visit lafayette cemetery no. 1, established in 1833 and the burial place of many from the yellow fever epidemic in the 19th century.

waiting for the streetcar
front gate

we made the odd segue from somber to celebratory for a special occasion lunch at the venerable commander's palace. a posh new orleans landmark since 1880, the restaurant was most noticeably under the helm of chef emeril lagasse, before he built his own culinary empire. our reservations were in the garden room, an open and airy dining area where one feels like they are eating amongst the trees.

commander's palace!
garden room

in addition to lunch specials, they have 25 cent martinis - sadly a max of 3 - to make the meal much more wallet-friendly. we get started with complimentary garlic cheese toast, which goes down quite well with my three martinis. heidi goes for the lunch special of turtle soup (each batch takes 3 days to make), panéed veal & crawfish and their bread pudding soufflé. i opt for the chicken and andouille gumbo, cochon de lait (abita braised pork shoulder housed in a light, flaky empanada-style puff pastry) and another bread pudding soufflé, as there's no way we're sharing this bad boy.

the service here again is exceptional. one's water glass never makes it below halfway before being attentively refilled, our entrées are revealed at the exact same time, and somehow i'm treated to a free martini! the soufflé is flat out ridiculous. i've never had one so fluffy and delicate, and the pouring of the whiskey crème anglaise takes it to orgasmic levels.

8.3 seconds later (approx)
we stumble out of there just after 3pm - a two hour lunch! - and stroll down to magazine st., where we make a beeline for sucré, affectionately dubbed a "sweet boutique." and a quick disclaimer: i don't stumble upon these eateries, but they are born from weeks of painstaking research. most people choose places to visit and then try to eat nearby. i'm the opposite - i target where and what i want to eat and if there happens to be something to see in the vicinity, well then hey!

storefront on magazine st.
only part of their menu
macarons + eclair
pretty mardi gras colors

the macarons were quite good, although i have to confess that the ones here at jin patisserie and lette are still better. however, they had a few unique flavors in chicory (used in the coffee at café du monde) and chocolate-covered chocolate. i'm not sure how we have the room to put down 8 macarons and an eclair, but sacrifices have to be made and we do so reluctantly (yeah right!).

it's now 4:30pm on friday and we're only halfway done! we hop on the streetcar back to the quarter and make another pitstop... this time to southern candymakers, home of arguably the best pralines (pronounced praw-leens) in new orleans. the family-owned shop makes them in a variety of flavors - including rum, sweet potato and peanut butter - but my fave are the creamy originals. they also make to-die-for tortues (french for "turtles"), so i pick up an assortment box to take back to my ravenous co-workers.

scooping them out
cooling on the marble

we hoof it back to the b&b and take a much-needed rest before heading back out for dinner. i say dinner even though neither of us are hungry, but our aim is to hit up the jazz club three muses for their 10pm show. green goddess was the lucky recipient of our last dinner in new orleans, and this eclectic hole-in-the-wall did not disappoint.

it's located in an alleyway called exchange place, so it's a tad difficult to track down. it's very small in stature, featuring a dining area with 2-3 tables in one room and about 5-6 tables located underneath a staircase in another. we start off with the half wedge salad and i tag team it with the "apearitif," a spritely cocktail using pear brandy as its base. they are tapped out of their wild mushroom bread pudding, so heidi goes for the smoked duck & chestnut pasta, while i select the char siu korean pork belly, complete with a quail egg served sunny-side up.

heidi remarks that her dish is the best pasta dish she's EVER had, and while mine can't live up to that billing, nevertheless it's an inventive and delicious plate of food. as an added bonus, chef chris debarr visits each of the tables to ask how everybody's meals are going, so it was a treat to chop it up with a celebrated artist.

after dinner, we head to frenchman st. in the marigny, and luck out into a table at three muses, minutes ahead of the 10pm performance of the glen david andrews band. after ordering yet more food - mandatory if sitting at a table - and several orange blossom sazeracs, we settle in and are treated to the best live musical performance in my lifetime.

now mind you, i have a background in classical music, studying cello for nearly 10 years, so i've listened to rostropovich, yo-yo ma, and countless others. but the glen david andrews band blew it out of the park. the small but incendiary standing-room-only crowd had nothing but love for the charismatic and forceful lead singer/trombonist, who performed two explosive sets with his amazing trumpeter travis hill.

afterwards, we shook hands with the entire band and walked home, delirious and drunk with amazement and awe on both of our faces. this was the nightcap to one of the greatest days of my life so far...

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