I want to be a televangelist! No, really……

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There are few things I love more in life than Reckless Kelly and reality television. In what can only be described as divine intervention, I think I’ve come up with a way to bring these two things together that will be beneficial to all involved.

See, I want to start a reality show, starring me, in which I travel the country with Reckless, acting as a goodwill ambassador and evangelist for the band. Sure, there are street teams and such, but who wouldn’t want to get some backstage insight into the world of a hard working, hard rocking, road weary band and the people who love them? Or even better….watching people fall in love with them!

I see the first episode showing me telling my boss that I’m quitting my job to go on the road, inter cut this with scenes of the band’s pre-road rituals, sexy things like laundry and such. Then we are all simply on the road. The band and I are both in the honeymoon period of the trip. All that anticipation of what’s to come bubbling up. Only smiles and excitement. I already am working on a playlist for this montage. I’d be the music supervisor for the show….saving production costs already!

Once we arrive at the first stop, there is a bit of a “travel guide” portion of the show. I live to do research on where to go in new places and love to share this info with others. I will visit all sorts of cultural venues, bars and such. Eat the best food possible, never losing sight of my main goal….adding to the RK fan base. If you get me started talking about them, good luck getting me to stop. If someone isn’t at least vaguely interested in an event that can make one girl so dang happy….then good riddance, we don’t want you there anyway.

The goal in each town will to have at least 5 RK “virgins” come to the show. They won’t have to pay to get in….my first show was free and I’ve been paying ever since. Once at the venue they will be schooled in appropriate beverages to order, (whiskey or beer are always good) how to move through a tight crowd to the front of the stage and important lyrics and dance moves. Gotta know that you jump like a pogo stick during “Nobody’s Girl” and all of the lyrics to the final verse of “Crazy Eddie.” Most likely these folks will love the Beatles, The Who, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle and their ilk….so they will be able to hang during any covers the band may come up with.  When the lights come up and the new kids catch their breath, there will be a set of questions that will be asked to each. These inquiries will be skillfully written to confirm their new love of RK and to both encourage others to love the band as well as encourage the band to keep on trucking. It’s a huge win/win.

Post show, if bus call time allows and the new fans have proven to be worthy, there will be some hang time with the band. Never all 5 at once….that simply doesn’t happen enough for new people to think that’s how it is. Random pairings of band members will share their witty personalities and random insights with these people, further solidifying their new found love.

At this point we will all part ways. The new fans will go home to check out the tour dates to see when they can next see RK. I will go to the hotel and write a recap of the evening with some personal touches (a la Doogie Howser) and the band will hit the road on it’s way to the next stop.

I won’t travel with the band, but we will have occasion to meet up in places and experience cities together as well as check on on how we all feel about the progress of achieving World RK Domination.

My talent fee will be nominal. I will need to be able to have Noodle with me….but really, that benefits everyone. There needn’t be a huge production team. Handhelds and on dash cameras will suffice for most. Much of the budget will come in editing. But we won’t edit for drama….we will edit for truth.

I really think I’m on to something here. Who’s with me?!??!?!?!

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An Open Letter Re: Horrible Red Lobster Experience

To Whom It May Concern:

 

I am writing to relate the story of the most disastrous restaurant experience I have ever had. It happened at the Red Lobster in Antioch Tn. Usually I would use flowery prose to describe a situation such as this, but I believe a timeline and straight telling of the events will suffice.

 

March 7, 2012

7:10 PM: My mother and I enter the Red Lobster. We had been drawn in by the Lobsterfest promotion. There were a good number of people dining, but not crowded and there was no wait. We were seated pretty much immediately by the hostess on duty (who was made the fall guy in much of what happened later. She did an amazing job and holds no responsibility for this.) She takes our drink order.

7:11: Seated at our table a nice young man comes with our drink order, water with lemon and unsweet tea. He tells us that Dottie, our server, will be with us shortly.

7:20: No Dottie

7:25: I catch a glimpse of Dottie at the booth by ours and I try to get her attention. I fail.

7:27: Dottie is in a prep area right behind where I am seated. I call to her. She ignores me.

7:29: Dottie walks by and I call her name out. I tell her that we were wondering if she could help us and she tells us that we aren’t her table.

7:30: I catch the hostess (again….doing a great job!) and tell her that Dottie says she isn’t our server and ask if we can get a server.

7:32: Dottie comes to the table and expresses how this wasn’t supposed to be her table and the hostess didn’t tell her we were there. I had told her we were there…apparently didn’t count. She takes our order, with little incident. She asks what we are drinking. Then says “oh—you have sweet tea” to my mother. My mother explains that she has unsweet tea and would like a glass of ice since there was hardly any in the glass she had received 25 minutes ago.  My mother goes on to explain that she just wants ice…no tea. Dottie brusquely says she understands and walks off.

7:45: No ice. No salads. None of those amazing cheddar bay biscuits. Nothing has changed at our table except our anger level has risen. I ask the hostess if she can send a manager to our table.

7:47:  Manager arrives and asks what she can help with. I say that our server Dottie doesn’t seem to want to serve us. She says I am wrong…nice touch. I then express what has happened and she says she will take care of it.

7:50: Manager comes out with our salads and cheddar bay biscuits (really—those things are a delight!). Still no ice. Dottie is hot on the manager’s heels with another water for me (not requested), no lemon for my water (even though there is one clearly bobbing in my water glass) a glass of ice (finally) and a glass of sweet tea for my mother (not requested and incorrect). Upon being told about the ice tea issue Dottie rushes off to bring the correct beverage. I also requested lemon from Dottie. She brings a large (excessively so) bowl of lemon slices to our table.

7:51: Dottie checks on us and offers free dessert. We just got our salads and have understandable trepidation about our food being correct, dessert is the last thing on our mind. Dottie promises to bring more cheddar bay biscuits.

8:00: Food arrives, all is as ordered (shocking!) Manager stops by and checks in. She also offers the dessert. We decline. She pushes the dessert again. Then mentions they have a really good brownie…and it’s small so we should have room. Small isn’t usually a selling point for desserts….but ok.

8:15: We have consumed all we care to of our meal. We also, just for kicks, check to see if the glass of tea that was brought to replace the sweet tea that was incorrectly served was now actually unsweet tea. Guess what…..it was sweet tea!!  We sit at our table and take some more time watching all the other servers rush around, taking care of their tables. People have come and gone since we sat down. I then overhear Dottie (once again in the nearby prep area) talking about how we were “pissed off because the stupid hostess sat us when she shouldn’t have.” Lovely.

8:17: Dottie comes by with the nearly forgotten cheddar bay biscuits and asks if we need anything else. We say we need boxes and the check. She says she apologizes for what has happened. I say she doesn’t (because if she were truly apologetic there would have been discernible effort to improve our experience throughout the evening) She argues with me. I tell her to get the boxes and our check and let us go!

8:22: She finally arrives with our check (with a scribbled note on it about having a blessed evening, blah blah blah),boxes, bags and (this is where it got odd) to go cups of Diet Coke and Dr Pepper. Neither of us were drinking these beverages. When I ask her why she thought we would want to go cups of something we weren’t drinking she grabs the cups in a huff and rushes off. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.

8:26: Dottie picks up the check with my mother’s debit card in it.

8:30: Dottie returns the check and my mother is faced with the desire to do something she has never done before, not leaving any sort of tip. She does just that and notes on the bill that the food was fine but the service was miserable!

8:31: We leave. As we are walking out the hostess apologizes to us again and we assure her that it was in no way her fault.

 

Note: The manager promised to keep an eye on us to make sure everything was fine. She checked in once and when I was trying to get her attention in order to get our check and leave, she consistently ignored me.

 

I get it, times are tough. Chain restaurants can’t be as fully staffed as they once were. People are serving tables that haven’t had a ton of experience, etc…But at no point in our evening did the situation improve. Quite the opposite. Dottie couldn’t contain her anger and frustration with us. We couldn’t contain our frustration either. I would think that when a complaint is registered before the salads come, all involved would do all they could to expedite the meal and get the complainers out of the restaurant. That doesn’t seem to be the case at this location.

 

From now on Lobsterfest commercials will make us get angry all over again and this story will be a tale we tell everyone we encounter.

 

Just thought you should know,

Heather Haley

 

Austin Part 3! aka….a test of my memory?

Wow–delay much 🙂

Last I posted we left off at Hula Hut.

Ahhh Hula Hut….you delightful spot, right on the lake, filled with happy people drinking happy drink and eating happy food!

We started off with cocktails of course. Grass Skirts were the choice of the evening. I am blanking out on the actual ingredients, but I know that Midori, Vodka and pineapple juice were involved. They were amazing! So light and fruity and fun. Far too easy to drink. Possibly dangerous on empty stomachs.

Being the safety girls that we are, we hit up the menu for something to much on.

I went for the Mexonesian Shrimp Flautas. As per the menu, these little nuggets of joy are fried wontons filled with shrimp, bacon, jalapenos and cream cheese and served with a plum dipping sauce. Spicy and warm, yet sweet and delicious……I was a happy girl.

Post Hula Hut we planned to hit up Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar to see the talented rascal that is George DeVore. I love this raspy voiced man. I love when he sings sad songs, silly songs, any songs. I love his zeal for life and his ability to laugh at himself with reckless abandon. We also met up with three lovely ladies I met through Reckless Kelly. We soaked in the music, drank fun cocktails, created scenes with the plastic mermaids that came with our drinks. There were few folks there that night, but we didn’t need a crowd to have a good time.

My friends had plans to hit another club. Kelly and I had plans to hit the sheets…..we were vacation tired, and it was great! We made plans to meet up at Maria’s Taco Xpress to get some sustenance before the Reckless Kelly Celebrity Softball Jam. Kelly and I got back to the hotel. She took a five hour shower (slight exaggeration) and I went straight to bed.

We awoke Sunday morning and prepared ourselves for the day. It was super windy out, but that seemed fine since it was also super hot out. We met our friends at Maria’s and partook of her amazing breakfast tacos. I, to this day, think of that orange sauce from the salsa bar and dream of having it available to me on a regular basis.

Did I mention it was hot? Like Devil’s asshole hot? Well, it was. This fact becomes important later in our story…..

We drove the Cube to Round Rock and arrived at the Dell Diamond ready for a sweaty day of softball played by musicians and music played by softball players. Wait…part of that isn’t true. The musicians played music too.

Since it was so flippin’ hot (seriously….this is important to remember!) I stopped the first beer seller I saw and got me a Bud Light Lime. Yeah, I’m hardcore like that. It took the edge off the incredible heat for a bit, but dang….it was just so damn hot!

The softball game was hilarious. Like laugh out loud funny. No one was taking it super seriously, so it was just a big mess of errors, silly string and trash talking. Good times, good times!

Once the game was over and Cody had been showered with Gatorade for coaching the winning team, it was time to move down to the field to get ready for the music.

They wouldn’t allow us on the field immediately as they had to cover what they could of the field and set up the stage, etc. We stood at the top of the stadium sweating. Praying for a breeze.  When you feel sweat running down the back of your legs, there is very little comfort to be had. We found an inside room that had the AC going and took refuge there until they opened the gates to get down on the field. We went outside, already missing the conditioned air and prepared to sweat for the foreseeable future. All of a sudden a VERY cool breeze kind of came out of nowhere. We thought someone had opened the door of a nearby freezer. We had no idea what they breeze was going to mean.

As we finally made it to the field, the breeze had picked up and it was starting to get kinda dark and chilly. We enjoyed it, at first. When the rain clouds came we cursed them. It obviously worked since they only spit out a little bit of rain. But the icy winds continued. We had been at the stadium for 2 hours plus at this point. When we arrived it was 94 degrees. At this point it was barely 70.

But dammit all to hell, we had some of the best musicians this fine state has to offer up there playing their hearts out, so what else could we do but dance and smile and freeze?

One thing many folks there decided to do was to hit the pro shop and look for heavier clothes. I spoke to the cashier there and she said it was there best sales day ever and that they were pulling long sleeve t-shirts and blankets out of backstock as fast as they could. I am now the proud owner of a long sleeve Red Rock Express t-shirt…and it might be the best $30 I could’ve spent that day!

While I would normally be pretty sad when a concert ends, this time I was thrilled. I saw the heater of the Cube in my future. The temperature had dropped to 52 at this point. A 42 degree drop in about 6 hours……OY!

The Cube couldn’t warm up fast enough. We made the drive back in record time as there were long pants and long sleeves in our future. Kelly and I went to the room to change and then headed back out for the after party at Lucy’s. The crazy weather had worn us out….but the after party was not to be missed.

As we walked into the bar it was announced that Osama Bin Laden had been captured and killed. Looking back, perhaps that cold snap was simply hell freezing over?

The rest of the night will be summed up with a list; Tito’s Lemonade, nachos, crab fishermen, live scorpion shots, white girl dancing, American Idol contestants, people watching, girl talking, laughing.

We didn’t stay out late that night. Once back at the hotel we decided that the news of Bin Laden was a good reason to turn the TV on for the first time that weekend and we settled in and watched CNN for awhile (well, I did. Kelly had to take her 5 hour shower 🙂 )

The next morning it was gloomy and chilly. It seemed like Austin was telling us it was time to go home. We hit up Matt’s El Rancho and had some amazing tex mex and our last dose of queso and headed to the airport.

One scoop of Amy’s Ice Cream, a short wait and we were on our way home.

I didn’t cry when I left Austin this time. I’m so confident that I would be back soon and regularly that the tears would have been wasted…..

Part 2 of Austin: a guide, reflections and a love story.

We left off at Shady Grove.

My last trip to Austin was mostly spent under the cedar trees here. Sitting at the bar. Drinking Shady Things.  Eating queso. Looking at boys. Enjoying the wonders of daytime drinking.  It was great. When Kelly and I arrived this  trip, it was full (normal) hot (normal) and a great place to people watch. We put our names in, knowing we really just wanted a cocktail and a spot at the outside bar. Buzzer in hand we wandered over and started trying to determine who would be giving up their seats first. Turns out a table of fine looking gay boys noticed our plight and gave up their table. It was nice to know that gay boys still love me! We sat down, Shady Things in hand and just watched and listened and relaxed. The frosty goodness of the Shady Things calmed me down almost to the point of sleep. It was great. We found ourselves at a critical spot in the day….were we going to be drinking the day away (which would’ve been fine) or would we take our vacation to another spot? Once the idea of trashy magazines and slipping our feet in the chilly water of Barton Springs Pool came up…the decision was made.

If I were home, I would have gone home, changed into a bathing suit, brought rubber flip flops to walk in the pool and a towel to lay on/dry off with. However, we were on vacation. So we had magazines, leather shoes, a bottle of water and, in my case, rolled up our jeans to cool off a bit. I am very much in love with the Barton Springs Pool. It exemplifies so much of what I love about Austin. It’s funky and accepting. Hot and cool at the same time. Naturally lovely, but hardscrabble too. You can be as active or as lazy as you want. It’s just amazing.

Once we were sufficiently hot…which didn’t take long….we decided to go into the pool a bit. Warning: buy cheap flip flops to wear into the pool! The sidewalks are bumpy rocks that kill my (admittedly sensitive) feet. Even once in the super cool water (it stays around 68 all year long) they still hurt. So I scampered back to sit on the wall and watch the world. Kelly braved the shallow end of the pool and strolled around on the smoother rocks for awhile. Being there is very meditative. Even though there are all kinds of things happening, you can just get into the zone and check out pretty easily.  Once Kelly had her fill of the water, we found a shady spot under a pecan tree and watched the people use the diving board. We just stared forever. We watched all level of divers. We became fascinated with the group from the Austin School for the Deaf and their animated yet silent communication. Time passed, who knows how much really. But it became clear that once again, we needed to move on or stay where we were forever.

While looking for parking around the pool, Kelly had noticed a little train. Apparently she really has a thing for such trains and threatened to cry if we didn’t go on it. The threat was unnecessary,I was down for it. Tickets in hand we got as close to the back as we could (damn kids!) and melted/waited until the ride began. It doesn’t go fast, but it was still pretty damn awesome. You get a great overview of Zilker Park and you notice how many different types of people take advantage of this lovely oasis, with spectacular views of downtown and Lady Bird Lake. You see Barton Creek and usually get to see some dogs going for a swim. If swimming dogs don’t make you smile….please don’t sit near me! We were the only adults on the Zilker Zephyr that didn’t have kids in tow….AKA, the lucky ones. We didn’t care. A short trip on a little train around a great park should not be wasted on the young!

Once our ride was over, it became imperative that I have a shower. More specifically, another shower. We cooled off in the AC of the cube and made our way back to the hotel. I don’t know about you, but when I am hot, I am not hungry. However, when I cool down, I am hungry. I also know that being outside and then hungry, can make me grumpy. This had to be nipped in the bud! Luckily we had spotted a Taco Cabana on the frontage road near our hotel, so we stopped to get a snack.

I believe Taco Cabana to be what Taco Bell wishes it could be. Simple menu. Tasty food. Real margaritas (not available at the drive thru unfortunately). Great value. For some folks our Cheese Enchilada Dinner and Brisket Taco Combo may sound like a meal, but we hadn’t eaten since brunch and all that fresh air can kill ya! So snacks in hand we went back to the room and chilled out. I took my shower and I was a new person! We knew that the next stop was the bats on Congress Street Bridge, but we weren’t sure what time they would be making their appearance. Luckily Austin has a bat hotline to call. The hotline told us that the largest urban colony of bats in the world (or US?) would be showing up around 8-8:15. This allowed us only a 20 minute nap, but it was a refreshing 20 minutes and we didn’t want to miss the bats.

Turns out….we could’ve slept longer. It was admittedly early in the bat season (which runs March-October, best views in late August) and apparently the females are pregnant, so they aren’t as active as when they aren’t pregnant (can’t blame them) so it wasn’t as crazy a sight as I have seen when I’ve seen them while attending ACL Fest. But those little mosquito eating (thanks for that) mammals did make an appearance, eventually.  They didn’t come in a huge wave, but more like puffs of smoke. You could see their movement before you could see them. Then, the birds with no tails (as they appear) would be flapping overhead. The bats weren’t super impressive, but it was a fun experience. It’s not often you can say you’ve been stood up by 1.5 million flying mammals!

It was after 9 and time to eat again. We pointed the Cube toward Lake Austin (I just can’t get used to Lady Bird Lake) and cocktail and snacks over the water at Hula Hut! Yes…I may be obsessed with all things owned by Chuy’s….sue me. But they take time to have fun food, drinks and ambiance. We were told it would be at least an hour wait to eat, but the valet was unaware of the power of the Cube. We bypassed the main dining room and set our sights on the outdoor Tiki Bar–which is where we wanted to be anyway!  Two stools were available at the bar and we were on our way to a life changing experience. That may sound like an exaggeration, but some life changes are small, yet important and come in cocktail form or wrapped in a fried wonton…as these life changing experiences did.

Come back to get the details of how my life was changed over the waters of Lake Austin!

Part 1 of Austin: a guide, reflections and a love story.

Never saw this coming!

I’m writing about Austin again.

Shocking!

But I just got back from spending  64.5 hours in that fine Texas town…and I must share.

We arrived around 10:30 Friday night. It was warm and a tad muggy and VERY windy. Our funky rental car took us for much needed food and beverage to World Famous 6th St. This was my travel companion’s first trip to Austin and she was instantly enamored with the crowds of happy people and massive choices of places to hang.  Our final destination was Opal Divine’s.  We were seated at a rustic picnic table on the large deck that looks over 6th street. We were parched and peckish. Since it was 11:30 by this time…a full meal seemed silly. Cocktails and appetizers seemed smart. Sweet potato fries with dill ranch–YES, the Divine Quesadilla; Spinach, mushrooms and roasted red peppers with cilantro pesto and feta cheese on a savory onion tortilla–OMG YES!  Then we had to figure out which cocktails to imbibe. The list is vast and varied, with each one sounding better then the next. I settled on the Divine Peach Lemonade which drew my attention with this description: The nectar of summer. Absolut
Apeach vodka, fresh pressed lemon and Cointreau. It was delicious. Each sip as good if not better then the last. I kept waiting for the taste to take a turn and not live up to the last drink, but it never did. It was delicious to the end. A lovely alcoholic experience. Kelly had a mojito, and while we are both completely spoiled by the mojitos at Rumba , she declared this one tasty and finished it easily.

With full bellies and the slightest of buzzes, we drove back to our hotel. A great Priceline deal provided us a relatively good location and lovely accommodations. I do believe that there should be a separate vanity in each hotel room so someone can shower, etc….while someone else preens and prepares for the day in ways that don’t necessitate privacy, but it is a VERY minor complaint. Our comfy beds welcomed us with soft linens and numerous pillows and we said good night to the Lone Star state with smiles on our face.

There was no early morning wake up call for us. THANK GOD. We awoke and started getting ready for the day at a leisurely pace. First order of business upon leaving the hotel was food. Destination; Magnolia Cafe . It’s not off the beaten path, rather, most folks beat a path there at some point when in Austin. Open 24/7 (the sign says “Sorry We’re Open”) a varied menu, beer….what more would one want? There is pretty much always a wait, but when you get to rub elbows with a gay softball tea, over accessorized UT students and the general tattooed masses of South Austin…it goes quickly. It is also recommended to take this time to peruse the menu.  If you can’t find something that strikes your fancy here, you are not hungry. Vegan—no problem. Gluten free….no problem. Meat eater….no problem. Want a gingerbread pancake with your Eggs Zapatino…done.

The location of Magnolia is nice also…as it sits at the end of the wonderful stretch of shopping, etc…known as South Congress, or SoCo. Parking can be a bit of a chore in this area, but The Cube had special powers and we found a space that we didn’t even have to pay for with little effort. First stop Tesoros. If you like folk art and finding things you can’t get just anywhere….go here! So many countries and ideals are represented here, it’s hard to not find something that strikes your fancy. Inexpensive accessories, fine handcrafted jewelry, milagros, sugar skulls , environmentally friendly pick up sticks made out of bamboo, handcrafted decorations made by Haitian artists that benefit the earthquake victims….something for everyone.

We didn’t buy anything there, I personally was somewhat overwhelmed as usual in this store, so we moseyed on. Next stop was Maya Star! Adorable clothes, fab shoes and accessories. Amazing toiletry items. It’s a great little store for window shopping. At least that is all we did there. Although I could see doing some major damage there 🙂

If you go to only one store on South Congress, hell, in all of Austin…go to Allens Boots! You walk in and are nearly overcome with the scent of leather. Then you notice all the colors and shapes and sizes and designs they have. I had decided that if I found a pair I really liked, I would bite the bullet and buy them. The first pair I loved was $500! I then decided that I needed to put a price limit on this because my mortgage company probably couldn’t care less how amazing the Old Gringo Abby Rose boots would look with a simple sundress. So I decided that $200 was my limit. It wouldn’t force me to eat Alpo or anything…and cowboy boots are an investment in my style future. The limit then went up to $300, then $400. Yet, even at that price point I could find no boots I loved. I found an AMAZING pair with so much detail I couldn’t even imagine how they were made….they were $1999.99. I passed. Kelly fell in love with a pair of boots. They were/are lovely! But her price limit topped out at $300….so we moved on.

Fondling all that leather and almost spending that much money makes a girl thirsty. So off we went to Shady Grove. Which is a good place to start back later……

NOLA Day Three cont…

Wow….sorry for the gap in posting. But hey…that’s how I roll.

Since it’s Mardi Gras, it seems like a good day to jump back into these memories. It’s kind of odd how much I remember about this trip, nearly a month later. That NOLA, gets in there and holds on!

After the Ninth Ward, etc… we went back to the hotel to figure out what was next. The only thing that came up was Cafe du Monde and the French Market. So we grabbed a cab and off we went.

We were dropped off at Aunt Sally’s Pralines. My mom has been an Aunt Sally since she was a teenager…so she was pretty excited. Plus, we had been threatening to buy pralines since we got to town.  Aunt Sally’s is a big ol’ gift shop with all kinds of Nawlin’s paraphernalia that seems like a must buy at the time, but then sits on shelves. But they are KNOWN for their pralines. Once my mom made the choice of which tote bag she was going to buy, she proceeded to pick up the largest box of pralines she could find. It was only 12, half original and half chocolate, but if you’ve ever had a praline, you know that a little goes a LONG way. And PS, pralines ain’t cheap! After she dealt with the sticker shock of her purchase, we walked next door to Cafe du Monde.

Normally it is an open air patio, but since it was chilly and windy, they had dark green curtains pulled down to protect us. Probably to also protect innocent bystanders from getting pulled into a cloud of powdered sugar! Luckily I had read a lot about how to act like a local in NOLA and knew that there was not “hostess” and that if you saw an open table, it should be grabbed, even if you have to step on children and push over the elderly. Well…maybe not the last part, but it was first come, first serve….or at least first come, first seated. The menu is on the napkin dispenser and is beignets and beverages…..and souvenirs. We pretty much knew what we wanted and once I saw a souvenir plastic cup….I also knew I’d have to get cafe au lait later. I am a sucker for a souvenir plastic cup….for real!

It should be noted that there are numerous Cafe du Mond uniformed workers milling about….like almost too many. Or perhaps it just felt like too many once we noticed that few of them were actually doing any work. I’ll admit…it’s a total madhouse in there. Lots of tiny tables. Lots of people. The take out line seeming to never end, etc….but it seems like an empty table should be a sign that we needed some service. Eventually a VERY OLD woman came and I think she took our order, but to this day, I’m still not completely sure. What I am sure of, is that we didn’t see that lady for a LONG time. I started to be concerned that she had died and was perhaps being trampled on by Marathon runners in need of a fried dough and sugar fix (yeah…the New Orleans Marathon was that weekend, no, I did not participate!). I could imagine her trying to catch one last breath and instead inhaling powdered sugar and just coughing to death….. it could SO happen!

Anyway, we did eventually get part of our order…the old lady wasn’t dead!!! Then we got the rest of our order, had a strange exchange of money (I think she was a gypsy!) and went about the task at hand.

On our table were two orders of piping hot squares of fired dough, nearly smothered by a PILE, and I mean pile!, of powdered sugar.

This would be a good time to tell you how much I DO NOT LIKE powdered donuts. The texture is weird and I always choke on the damn sugar! However, I was all about the beignets.

I picked one up.

Dusted a bit of the sugar off.

Opened my mouth.

And proceeded to cough. This sent a cloud of powdered sugar toward my mom, who was doing her best Johnny Cash impression and was dressed in all black. The whole thing was in slow motion….I watched the sugar spread through the air, travel towards my mom and then settle all over her. Seriously, ALL over.

This, of course, made me laugh…which sent another cloud out. My mom was using damp napkins to clean up the mess. Take note, water and powdered sugar combine to make glaze! Add a cheap napkin and you have a glaze with big chunks of lint. Good times. Good times.

But the beignets were AMAZING!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best to use as few fingers as possible to eat them. It helps avoid getting an eye full of powdered sugar later…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let ME learn things the hard way for you 🙂

Once we finished our beignets, we headed out with no real destination in mind. Although, I will admit, I wanted to hit the Casino. Much like plastic souvenir cups, I am a slut for a casino. The noise, the lights, I love it!

There are LOTS, and I mean LOTS, of crappy t-shirt stores in the Vieux Carre. But there are also lots of crappy mask stores, that aren’t really that crappy. I can honestly say that I never knew one could do so much with a partial face mask, lots of glitter, lots of feathers and a bit of imagination. I could probably have spent hours and lots of money on them….I never found the perfect one, however. Plus…there was a daiquiri store just down the street.

It would seem pretty cool to have a daiquiri place just down the street. However, they are EVERYWHERE…which is, also, pretty cool.

For example…the photo above was taken of the daiquiri place around the corner from the daiquiri place that was around the corner from our hotel. It was also across the street from numerous other daiquiri places. Simple storefronts with around a dozen whirring machines filled with cheap alcohol and artificial fruit flavors.  It’s kind of like heaven.

I was somewhat dumbfounded when faced with that wall of cheap, sweet, alcoholic goodness. They had frozen Red Bull and Vodka….why didn’t EVERYONE have that? There were basic margaritas and a veritable artificual fruit salad of flavor to choose from. I went with the bellini…aka, fake peach and cheap alcohol. It was like the best slushie ever. 20 oz of goodness just waiting to be consumed. Be warned…these make for killer brain freeze…at least according to my mom. It makes sense though….they are so tasty you just want to go to town on them….but they are so cold, so be careful!

After the daiquiri stop we were on our way to Harrah’s. There isn’t really anything special about this casino…or any casino for that matter. But the noises and sights and smells always make me happy. Well…not so much the smells. SO MUCH CIGARETTE SMOKE….like Vegas in the 90’s levels. It doesn’t seem as though they have upgraded to the super mega air cleaning systems they have in Vegas….but that’s alright, they had Jackpot Party!  The best slot machine EVER….until that night, when it failed me. I never even got the Jackpot Party bonus, aka the whole point of playing the game!! Luckily they had Village People Party…which is basically the same, but I got the bonus a few times. Once again, the gays have my back!

There is also an amazing creation in the gaming world known as The Sex & the City Slot Machine! It’s glittery and pink and shows clips from the show and the bonus rounds have you trying to get the most Manolo’s etc…..it’s FAB.

But, as it normally goes in Casinos…the house won. I was down $100….which isn’t bad, but since I was playing nickel slots is pretty sad, and my mom was overcome by the smoke, so we grabbed a cab back to the Hotel Dauphine.

There is a funky, yet nondescript place across the street from the hotel that looked like it might hold a place to get some food. It being New Orleans, it did! I had red beans and rice (according to the waiter, it had been a red beans and rice kinda night) and they were delish! Creamy beans, super hot andouille and fluffy rice. Just what I wanted to eat. Things just seem to hit the spot in NOLA. The city knows what you want/need more then you do….and it provides.

Coming up: a trip across the longest bridge over water in the world and revisiting a new friend.

NOLA Day Three

I can’t seem to think of a subtitle for this post.

I think it’s because this day may have been the most important day of my trip. This is the day that NOLA got into my heart and I’m pretty sure she’s there for good. This was the day when the giddy flirtation and newness became more serious. She showed me what she looks like without make-up on and I didn’t mind her morning breath.

Since we had our pricey breakfast the day before, I was tasked with checking out the free continental breakfast provided at the hotel. I had dreamt of having cornflakes with 2% milk for breakfast. Guess what was on the first table in the room that held the continental breakfast? I cannot express how many little things like that happened in New Orleans. This is a city that aims to please and is usually right on target. I grabbed some cereal and pastries and went back to the room.

It was decided that we would start the day off with Po Boys. But from where? I think you could easily spend a week in New Orleans and only eat Po Boys from the places that were considered “best” and never eat the same thing at the same place.  I had seen Anthony Bourdain visit Domilise’s. Countless people had mentioned Parasol, but there had been some recent ownership changes, etc…that deterred me from going there. President Obama had gone to a place called “Parkway Bakery and Tavern” immediately after landing in New Orleans AND they had a surf and turf Po Boy—-so they were the winner. We went right at lunch time, which seemed both stupid and great. The restaurant is new Bayou St. John, in a neighborhood that has probably seen better days, yet also seems to have better days ahead with all of the new construction. We parked underneath a section of bead trees….yeah, the trees in New Orleans grow BEADS! Don’t believe me…..check out these pics!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could tell you exactly what to do when you walk into Parkway so you don’t wander like we did. But the wandering all worked out and we got a table right by the front window so we could watch the neighborhood go by. Apparently in the bar is the only place you get table service and we had a delightful and cute bartender take care of us. We ordered our Barqs and set off to make our sandwich decisions. I knew that I wanted the Surf n Turf  (slow cooked roast beef topped with golden fried shrimp and roast beef gravy) But my mom wasn’t sure.  She saw the grilled ham option on the menu, and as she is known to do, wondered if it would compare to the long lost B&L Inn in Niles, Mi. She decided to take a chance. We got both of our sandwiches “dressed” (lettuce tomato mayo and pickles) and settled in. Look how happy my mom is 🙂

I didn’t take any pictures of our food. We kinda tore into it too quick for me to think about it. If you had been in our place….you would have done the same! I don’t recall being handed a sandwich wrapped in white paper that had such heft! When I unrolled this culinary gift, I understood why! The roast beef was falling out bringing piles of fried shrimp with it. I squeezed the fresh french bread to make it more manageable and lost some more shrimp. There were just SO MANY SHRIMP! The meat was as tender as Sunday Dinner at Mom’s. The shrimp were fresh and fried to perfection. The sweet potato fries we shared were crunchy and sweet and salty, as they should be. My mom’s sandwich wasn’t quite a B&L, but it was damn good. I don’t believe that either of us finished our sandwich…and we got the regular size! I saw folks with the large ones that were twice as big and figured that they must have planned on having the remains for dinner that night, possibly breakfast the next day.

Our next stop was the Lower Ninth Ward. I knew the general direction we needed to go, but decided to look up where Brad Pitt and his Make It Right Foundation were building homes. I typed a street name into Betty and we were off. Going to an area like this, I had to wonder how much of the dilapidated sights we were going to see were Katrina related and how many were poverty related. I will never know….but there are some sights that are 100% Katrina…and I will never forget.

I thought I took a lot more pictures in the Lower Ninth then I actually did. I guess I just have some very vivid memories of what we saw. Apparently they just got official street signs in the last year. Perhaps in Katrina’s world, the fifth anniversary gift is street signs. The roads are still horrible. I would assume they weren’t the best maintained roads in the area before the storm, but now, they are barely roads at all. Three weeks under water does crazy things to city streets. Makes them a LOT like country roads. I wish I knew how densely populated the are had been. It seems like it was probably pretty dense, but so many of the lots are so overgrown that you can hardly believe that houses were ever there. Then there are the lots where you can see evidence of foundations. Then there are the houses. The photo below is a good example of many of the houses still there:

This could be a great ad for the Dish Network, if there had been any chance that there was TV service during or after the storm…..but at least the dish held on. This double shotgun house doesn’t look like it would take much to finish it off. I wonder who used to live there? Was it one of the many houses in the Lower Ninth that had been passed down through families and no paperwork existed to say who owned it when the storm hit?  I wish I could do the CSI photo zoom and see if there had been anyone found in this house….but that piece of information has been hidden by the “house numbers” painted over the rescue crew “x”—-I suppose that helps the pizza guy? Do they have pizza guys in the Ninth Ward these days? They do have people living there. Living in homes that have been fixed up after the storm. There is no way to think they got through unscathed as it is all one elevation in the Lower Ninth and that elevation is all below the levee wall. Yet, you see people living in homes. Next to homes where people died. Next to empty, forgotten lots.Next to homes that look like they will fall over with the slightest breeze. The saddest thing I saw was a little brick house. You could tell that they had tried to clean away the rescue team “x” but it was still very much there. How horrible must it be to walk in your house and see that every day? Then again, maybe they are just glad they can walk back into their home? Maybe they decided that the mark should act as a reminder that these people persevere, but never forget. There was a fella checking his mail as we drove by his house and I wanted to scream “I am so sorry this happened! This should never occur. We should have taken better care of our own people!” But I didn’t. I smiled at him and he smiled back and hopefully that makes us both feel a bit better about things…if only for a bit.

Now…don’t get me wrong…there are some great things happening in the Lower Ninth. The Make It Right folks are not just going in and throwing up cookie cutter houses. They are building architecturally amazing structures that are all eco friendly and able to withstand stronger storms then mean ol’ Katrina. They are DELIGHTFUL!  All are very colorful. They are little boxes of hope growing from the rough ground around them.   They are just like the funky places yuppies build when they come in and takeover a neighborhood. However, you have to have lived in the Lower Ninth when the storm hit to get these houses. You also have to help build them, not necessarily yours, but somebody’s.

How flippin’ cute are those?!?!?!?!?!

They’ve built around 20 so far and have 20 more in the works. There are plans to do at least 150 total. The Lower Ninth is where more then half of the people killed by Katrina in the state of Louisiana died. Currently only 19% of the population has returned, some 5.5 years later. But there is a current of vitality in the area. They haven’t given up and if they haven’t given up at this point….I doubt they ever will.

Next up: Why you shouldn’t wear black to Cafe Du Monde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOLA Day Two: continued

It has been decided that my mother and I are nappers. We do many other things, mind you, but we are AMAZING nappers. When on vacation, our skills really shine. All that breakfast eating, city touring, etc…made us sleepy and our hotel proved to be a perfect place to take a break.

I slept for like 3 hours. I do this often. As I said, I’m a napper. When we were both sufficiently awake, we decide to take a trip just outside of New Orleans to Drago’s We had both seen an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate where the charbroiled oysters served at Drago’s were mentioned. I was going to my mom’s house for dinner that night and at about the same time we mentioned we needed to try these things. Right before our trip a coworker of mine, who was also a NOLA native, told me I had to try them also. Even if I didn’t really love oysters….which, until this trip, I can’t say I did. After we finally found a parking space (really Metairie..parking sucks!) we sat down and immediately ordered a half dozen charbroiled oysters. Apparently 90% of the tables order the oysters upon being seated. The other 10% just don’t know what they are missing!

Mind you, this dish is not pretty. The platter comes with the huge oysters scattered about and virtually swimming in the butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese that is what makes these puppies sing! They came with a large hunk of French Bread. I had mentally told myself to avoid being lured into the bread that evening so I’d have more room for seafood…..but the bread was a vital part of the experience. I grabbed my little oyster fork (things that have special utensils are just cool!) and stabbed the biggest oyster on the plate. It wasn’t slimy like a raw oyster and not quite as firm as a fried oyster. It was PERFECT! Yummy and garlicy with the rich butter taste and a slight charcoal flavor. The first one I ate even had a little bit of sand in it…but that really only enhanced the experience…and proved how fresh these were. The family that owns the place used to be fishermen and as a result, they only buy local seafood. The thought of Croatian fishermen always makes me think of San Pedro, which makes me feel like I’m in a good place. I was definitely in a good place.

 

(ok–I came across a photo that looks damn good to me…but I know how good the damn things TASTE!)

Once we ate all the oysters, the reason for the french bread became abundantly clear! We looked at the plate and noticed that all the empty oyster shells were filled with buttery, garlicy goodness. I grabbed the bread and went to town sopping up all that wonderfulness. I do not have words to describe how good this whole experience was……

In addition to the oysters, we had ordered a friend shrimp platter and spinach dip to share. The spinach dip may seem an odd choice, but I tell ya, even the spinach dip is special in New Orleans. It was AMAZING! Possibly the best I’ve ever had.

Which brings us to the shrimp. OMG the shrimp. Huge, luscious gulf shrimp. Cooked to perfection. The batter was crispy without being greasy. I have eaten more then my fair share of fried shrimp in my time…but these were, hands down, the best. The cocktail sauce had the perfect horseradish kick.  Each shrimp was both a delight to consume and one step closer to them being gone…..the comedy/tragedy of a good meal!

It should be noted that my mother decided to have a couple of vodka tonics this night. She doesn’t really drink, like at all, anymore. She was a tad toasted… this information is important in the next part of our story.

As I have said, I researched like a fiend in preparation for this trip. I knew we had to have beignets at Cafe Du Monde, but I had also heard of a place that locals swore by and it happened to be right down the street from Drago’s. Morning Call is in a strip mall behind a HUGE shopping mall. Unassuming both outside and in. We ordered one order of beignets ( my mom was full…and a bit drunk) to share. They came unadorned. There was a powdered sugar shaker on the table so we could regulate its inclusion in the snack. The beignets were tasty,but the real story from this stop is my tipsy mom. There was a man at the table next to us whose dentures didn’t seem to fit right as they had that lovely “whistle” action, particularly when he said anything with an “s” sound. This gave my mom the giggles. Big time! I think this fella was only using words that had an s in them. So she giggled. He whistled. She laughed powdered sugar all over the place. It was a great time!

We drove back to the hotel with full tummies and laughing the whole way.

Day Three: Parkway Po Boys and Pink Dumpsters!

NOLA Day Two: Bring on the $140 breakfast for two!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give up?

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.

NOLA Day One: Finally!

I got MAYBE 4 hours of sleep the night before we left for New Orleans. I hopped out of bed and was faced with the fact that I hadn’t really packed and was too excited to do all the things I needed to do to prepare for our departure. So, I watched TV. Snowpacolypse 11 was on it’s way to Nashville and I couldn’t help but worrying about getting caught in nasty weather, which would only delay my arrival in NOLA even more then life already had. I was freaked, but I persevered.

We got on the road right at our desired time of 8 AM. It was cold, but not snowing and we were going the opposite direction of the storm. Soon enough we were in Alabama and my mom and I were both peckish. Sure, we were on the way to one of the best eating cities on the planet…but that Denny’s sign was beckoning. See, we don’t have Denny’s in Nashville. I’ve spent a lot of fun hours in Denny’s. Sometimes a girl wants buffalo chicken fingers and a salad with ranch. This was one of those times. We ate our food, bought water and strawberry bubble gum and were back on the road in no time.

Next we hit Mississippi. Not a lot to say about that state. Not a lot going on there….at least along the interstate. It did, however, mark the last state between me and Louisiana. Once we got a ways into the Magnolia State, the rain started. A light steady rain fell on us. Not enough to wash the salt off my car from driving through areas anticipating snow, but enough to necessitate windshield wipers. Through that light rain I saw this sign:

My heart skipped a beat. The fleur de lis. The French Welcome. I was finally there. I was in Louisiana. A state I used to fear, that now consumed so many of my thoughts. I started bouncing in my seat and probably drove a bit faster….but I was to excited to really register such information. Betty (my mom’s GPS) was showing that we were getting closer and closer to NOLA, with only a huge lake, a lot of rain and lots of one way streets between us.

As we drove over the I-10 bridge I thought of the scenes I had seen from there during Hurricane Katrina. Scenes of people trying to evacuate but being told to turn back. Right off the exit of the interstate, there was Circle Food Store. The last image I had of it was this:

This store in the Seventh Ward had been a one stop shop for the neighborhoods surrounding it for nearly 70 years. Yet Katrina had other ideas. Many photos on the news and in the papers centered around this store. The infamous photos of Caucasians “getting necessary supplies” and African Americans “looting”….with the only difference being the color of their skin, were taken around the Corner Food Store. And there I was. Idling at a stop light, looking straight at it. It was a strangely special sight.

After some missed turns due to charming but oddly placed street signs, we arrived at our hotel. Nick, who would become our favorite valet, greeted us warmly and when I asked if he could make the weather get better…he said he’d try. In New Orleans, anything is possible. We checked into our room and were thrilled to find that we had not only one, but TWO balconies. Sure, they overlooked the parking atrium and it was 40 degrees and raining outside, but dammit, we had two wrought iron balconies. Wrought iron balconies in NOLA are just meant to be….

We took a short breather in the room and then set out for dinner. Our dining destination was a place I had wanted to go for easily over 10 years. I can’t remember where I first heard about it, but it stuck in my mind and every time New Orleans was discussed, I would think, “Man, I’ve got to go to dinner at Jacques-Imo’s!” That cold and rainy February night, I did just that. We drove through gorgeous Garden District mansions and found ourselves in Uptown driving down a crazy street towards a crazy restaurant. I dropped my mom off and found a parking space on a side street lined with cars that had all the wonderful liberal-leaning bumper stickers that make me comfortable. I almost thought that WWOZ bumper stickers were some sort of parking pass for the area.

I scampered through the rain, met up with my mom and as we were guided through the busy kitchen towards our table, I almost piddled. I mean, not really…but metaphorically, for sure! I ordered my Abita Strawberry and started munching on the delish cornbread muffins laid out before us. Covered in a sweet and garlicky sauce….I knew the night was going to live up to my expectations.

The poster above my mom’s head was this one:

It made me laugh. She was also sitting in front of a fairy figurine that was missing a leg and the walls and ceilings surrounding us were covered with painted flowers and vines. It was super noisy, but in that good convivial kind of way. We decided on the fried green tomatoes for an appetizer (mom couldn’t be swayed into trying the shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake!). The tomatoes were perfectly unripe with a savory breading and the bbq shrimp and remoulade that topped them were delectable. Huge gulf shrimp, heads still on, cooked perfectly and ready for eating! A small spinach salad with a plum sesame vinaigrette and one perfectly fried oyster also proceeded our main entrees.

Our entrees covered the spectrum of “regular” and “not so regular.” My mom LOVES fried chicken. She also happens to make some particularly amazing fried chicken. A coworker of mine said that Jacques-Imo’s had the best in the city, so that’s what she ordered. I, on the other hand, was feeling frisky and ordered the Paneed Rabbit entree. Pan fried rabbit served over pasta with a shrimp and tasso cream sauce.  Oh man, who knew the Easter Bunny could be so tasty. The breading was thick and flavorful and the meat itself was lean and flavorful. Like the best, meatiest chicken you’ve ever had. The creamy pasta and the spicy tasso and plump shrimp made me a super happy camper. I barely touched my macque choux and mashed sweet potatoes, but those were pretty damn good too. My mom said the chicken was good…but was kinda ticked at herself for not branching out a bit. However, the next morning when she was eating the leftovers…she was singing a different tune, and that tune LOVED that damn chicken.

We ventured back to the hotel in the rain. The plan had been to meet up with a family friend who was in town also. But the rain made that seem like a not so good idea, so we snuggled into our comfy beds and started anticipating the wonders the next day had in store.

Coming up: the $140 breakfast for two and how it was worth EVERY penny!