I was invited to a high school friend’s wedding in the French Quarter, New Orleans last weekend. When my husband agreed to watch the kids for the weekend I booked my ticket before he could change his mind. Who can pass on a girls weekend away in an eating capitol?
I often tell my clients to find inspiration and to facilitate creativity you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. When traveling, one must absorb the culture, observe the different behaviors and taste the local ingredients. Well I proudly followed my own advice and ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans.
I love oysters – raw, cooked, fried, you name it. My trip began with a visit to Drago’s known for their Charbroiled Oysters. Like no other oyster I’ve had, these were succulent, salty, buttery, garlicky, cheesy, and delicious. It was the perfect combination of textures and tastes. As if that wasn’t enough, we ordered a dozen raw oysters to follow and they were fresh, cold, crisp, and briny.
After dinner, the festivities began and we met the bride and groom to be and our high school friends by the Riverwalk and Spanish Plaza. We worked our way to The French Quarter and had cocktails at French 75 Bar (attached to Arnaud’s). It had an old school atmosphere with the bartenders in tuxedos, funky monkey lights with crystal tassels and a variety of specialty drinks. I settled on the Caibiscus crafted with Cachaca, Falernum, Hibiscus tea, Grenadine and Lime Juice. Our evening continued with a few cheesy bar stops along Bourbon Street – I had to pass on dancing at The Beach and drinking Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade cocktail. However, a visit to Bourbon street wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at Pat O’Brien’s. I don’t particularly like the Hurricane cocktail, but the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Roman’s do,” so I tasted it. I was craving dessert and ordered a White Russian or two instead.
Another must do, was Cafe Du Monde, which was our final destination at 1:00 am. The beignets were fabulous…not too hot, not too cold, not to fluffy and not too dense, all just right, drowning in confectioners sugar. I’m still raving about them to the point where my second grade daughter told me “Mom, why don’t you just write a small moment about them.” There is a reason Cafe Du Monde is an institution and open 24/7. Even though they sell their signature beignet mix, I’m convinced you can’t recreate the same experience at home. Whenever you try something for the first time and really enjoy your experience, the next time you try it you’re chasing the high. There’s got to be a science to it…the difference in water, frying oil (assume it’s been used multiple times), the actual shape & size and the heavy handed use of powdered sugar. That’s just the physical aspect of the beignets, but the waiters and waitresses with their white paper soda jerk hats and black bow ties hustling about, all create a memorable experience. I have the same theory for NY bagels and Philly pretzels. BTW – my black dress didn’t stand a chance, I was covered in powdered sugar, but it was worth it!
Saturday morning began with a quick jaunt to the the Audubon Aquarium. Had time permitted, I would have liked to visit the Insectarium – oh well next time. Eating was essential and we had to grab a quick bite before the wedding so we met our friends at Killer Poboys in the back of the Erin Rose bar. They only offer a selection of five poboys that are all “internationally inspired and chef crafted.” Although I’m not a big fan of cilantro or coriander, the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp (with marinated Daikon and carrot, cucumbers, herbs and the house special aioli) piqued my interest. It was delicious! The coriander was perfectly balanced and not overpowering, the shrimp were plump and fresh and I loved the doughiness of the bread with a hint of crisp, flakiness.
Our adventure continued as we headed to the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, which on their website states “Please do not come more than 15 minutes before scheduled wedding time it could cost the couple.” Keeping this in mind, it was no surprise that when we arrived I felt like I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie…dollar bills hanging from the chapel ceiling, Tiffany lamps haphazardly arranged, an old boom box, a few pews, a couch, four living room chairs, folding chairs and wedding knick-knacks randomly placed. Elvis’ appearance was an added touch, but I had a hunch he’d be there. When I first received the wedding e-vite to attend a “chapel” wedding, I mistakenly thought it was going to be held in Las Vegas and expected Elvis. The bride in jeans, with a white blouse and flip flops and an unshaven groom in jeans – both holding Styrofoam cups filled with a cocktail, seemed perfectly suited for the setting. Vows were exchanged with Elvis singing/asking the groom if “he would take the bride to be his hunka-hunka burning love?” As we toasted the newlyweds with champagne, we were beaded and given white handkerchiefs.
For a real New Orleans experience, we gathered outside the chapel and to our surprise there was a 2nd line brass band. With a police escort, 35+ guests practiced their “woos” and waved their handkerchiefs high in the air as we paraded and danced through the French Quarter. Tourists and on lookers watched as we threw beads at the crowd and drank from our red solo cups, which the reverend allowed guests to generously fill as he drove his electric wheel chair with a cooler attached alongside the parade. We paraded for a mile and ended at Mojito for cocktails and appetizers. We sipped on housemade mojitos, snacked on crab cakes, listened to the band, and enjoyed the wedding celebration.
At 6:00 pm it was time to eat again and we needed our grand finale, hurrah meal. The night before I had asked the local Pat O’Brien’s bartender to recommend her favorite restaurant and off we went to Jacques Imo’s in Uptown. This restaurant did not disappoint… I was fond of the watermelon mojito. As they say the rest is history.
It was a whirlwind two day weekend, but the most unique, non-traditional and memorable wedding I’ve ever attended. I truly appreciated being a part of the moment.