I slept somewhat fitfully my first night in the Crescent City. The shutters on the balcony doors made odd shadows on the ceiling and when I woke up in the night I wasn’t sure where I was. Once I realized I was in New Orleans, I was good.
We took our time getting up and around that morning. We were on vacation after all. Our 11AM reservations at Brennan’s forced us to get in gear and we walked the couple of blocks to this lovely salmon colored building with great anticipation, but no real idea what we were in for. I had researched the breakfast menu. Hell, I researched pretty much everything for this trip. But it seemed like the Prix Fixe menu seemed like the best idea. A word to those who might want to also try the prix fixe menu…there are upcharges for some items, most of the items I wanted….of course. For example, the Turtle Soup I wanted for my appetizer (um….why don’t more places have appetizers with breakfast?) It was such a New Orleans dish and I wanted to try it so badly. I was not disappointed. It was like a hearty minestrone. The turtle meat didn’t seem out of the ordinary in flavor and had I not known what it was, wouldn’t have even wondered if I was eating some sort of Creole delicacy. My mom wasn’t feeling the Turtle Soup thing and went with the Southern Baked Apple with Double Cream. For those who have known her…she is a changed woman. That apple rocked her world in ways you wouldn’t think were possible. I worried that she might need alone time with the apple. I was prepared for her to lift the bowl to her face and lick it. Brennan’s just wasn’t a bowl lickin’ establishment, but she kept her cool and regrettably finished the apple.
Then it was entree time. The Eggs Bayou LaForche was my choice. Poached eggs atop Andouille Cajun sausage and Holland rusks. Topped with Hollandaise sauce. OMG…..SOOOOOO good. Best Andouille I’ve ever had. The rich eggs and the spicy sausage interacted with the incredible hollandaise in ways my taste buds weren’t used to. My mom went for the Eggs Hussarde, a Brennan’s original; Poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon and Marchand de Vin sauce. Topped with Hollandaise sauce. Imagine the best Eggs Benedict ever, then add a beefy red wine sauce to the situation. She was still talking about the apple, but enjoyed her entree more then the average breakfast.
Dessert came next. Dessert with breakfast is something that really should be more wide spread. All that savory goodness needed something sweet to top off the experience. Chocolate Pecan Pie caught my mom’s eye. She may never eat regular Pecan Pie again. The semi-sweet chocolate cuts through the super sweet pecan filling and makes you want to cry tears of joy. It should also be noted that the pecans were not the normal pecan halves, but rather were chopped, as suggested by The Pioneer Woman . DELISH!
Since we were at Brennan’s, the home of Bananas Foster, you’ll never guess what I had for dessert.
I’ll give you a minute.
While you’re thinking, here is a picture of me enjoying a lovely mimosa.
I had Banana’s Foster! Bananas sautéed in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and banana liqueur then flamed in rum. Served over vanilla Ice Cream. All this was created right in front of us by our fab server Ruffin (he gave my mom the recipe for THE APPLE when we asked if it was in the cookbook they sell!) The stirring, the pouring, the flames. All there, right before our very eyes.It was AMAZING! So warm and yummy and sweet, but not too sweet. OMG!!!!!
On our way out of the restaurant, my mom stopped in the ladies room. I started to be worried about her as she had been in there quite some time, but then I heard voices. She had struck up a conversation with the bathroom attendant. A lovely 83 year old woman who had worked there since 1972. They had such a nice interaction that they hugged. That’s the kind of thing that happens in New Orleans. And it just feels right.
It also makes a $140 breakfast seem reasonable. For what it’s worth, I’m not usually one to talk about how much money has been spent…but this needed that detail as a sample of how things are just different in New Orleans.
We walked back to our hotel and decided to get the car and drive around to kill time until our City Tour. We retraced our steps from the rainy drive the night before and drove through the Garden District. Such amazing homes, but not the stodgy homes you often associate with wealth, comfy looking homes that had plants out front that were just a little over grown and fences that were just a tad off from being perfect. Homes that had been loved and appreciated and lived in. Some were already decked out for Mardi Gras. I adore this city’s affection for celebration. More places should adopt this wayy of life. Wait, I take that back, let NOLA do it. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they just do it better then anyone else could do it.
It was close enough to our scheduled tour time that we parked along the river and checked in. For those who think of New Orleans as a steamy, hot city, go in February. It was FREEZING! The wind was whipping off the Mississippi River and right through my bones. Look at this photo and imagine the wind hitting your face with such furor that you worry that it might just fall off:
Eventually our bus driver showed up and we piled into the warm bus. For an overview of the city, I cannot recommend the Grayline City Tour more. 25 miles, over 2 hours with a stop at one of the cemeteries will teach you a lot about this crazy city. Lots of little nuggets of information that will make great party talk later. However, the thing I might remember most about this tour was something that wasn’t mentioned by the bus driver at all.
Right after leaving the French Quarter, we turned onto Esplanade Ave. There they were. Two shotgun houses, one pink, one yellow. Emblazoned on their front walls, in bright red and dark black paint were Xs. The dates on both were 9-11. Nearly two weeks after Katrina hit, these houses were checked. Over five years later, the Xs remained. My chest tightened when I saw them. All the books and documentaries in the world couldn’t have prepared me for them. In the less then 24 hours I had been there, I had fallen madly in love with this city and there I was, faced with her scars, so many years after the fact. I wondered if the tour guide had been told to not mention them, but then realized he didn’t need to. We all saw them. We all knew what they meant. And I’d like to think that we all felt a bit ashamed that we had let something that ugly happen to such a beautiful place.
Later, the tour guide started talking about the storm. He was a NOLA native and had dealt with it all. We saw water lines on houses. We saw one home that still had a FEMA trailer in front of it. We drove by the Lake Vista neighborhood and saw an idyllic planned area that was now home to quite a few overgrown empty lots and abandoned homes. This wasn’t the poverty stricken Lower Ninth, these were neighborhoods like those I’ve grown up in…and they were not like they used to be. The tour guide showed us where his bank used to be. He told stories of the grocery stores that took years to come back. He showed us the street sign that only had a couple inches along the top that hadn’t been under water. We drove under a 14 foot tall overpass and he mentioned that after the storm, this wasn’t possible, the water was up to the overpass. We saw the pumping stations and pipes that were meant to save the city, that simply couldn’t deal.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a Katrina focused tour at all. The cemetery stop allowed us to learn all about the strange burial rituals used there ( a topic for a whole other post, trust me!) and the stories of land disputes. We saw Degas’ home and learned the truth behind the mystery statue in the Fauborg Marginy. ps…Fauborg translates to “Faux City”….what a much classier way to refer to suburbs!
We ended our tour and headed back to the hotel for a little afternoon nap.
Next up: How Charbroiled Oysters can change a girl.