Sunday, February 28, 2010
New Orleans - Day Two
We woke up to a gray sky the next morning which kept a chill in the air. We bundled up and went downstairs to the Riverwalk mall to pick up our trolley passes. Thankfully, already outside was a river trolley waiting to take us to the famous Café Du Monde. We followed the trolley driver's directions and walked along the wall of the French Quarter and found a long line still late in the morning. We stood around for a few moments until Guy spotted an empty, but still dirty, table. We took notice for a few more minutes and no one else seemed to want to sit, so we shimmied past the crowds and sat down. A lady soon appeared and cleared the table while taking our order. We both requested the classic: café au lait and beignets. We were at the original café which is open 24/7 and seems to never slow down. Our food didn't take long to appear and we couldn't wait to dig in.
The au lait had a subtle bite to it, but was still smooth and delightful with the chicory addition. The beignets were big, puffy, warm mounds of goodness. The thick layer of powdered sugar caked to the roof of our mouths when we'd bite into them and melted as we enjoyed the French doughnut. After we enjoyed our breakfast and set out into Jackson Square, we noticed another line on the other side of the café - the line to wait to be seated. Oops...
Even on a cloudy day, Jackson Square was lovely and peaceful. We stood around for a bit just taking it all in.
We glided into the St. Louis Cathedral which was beautiful. The air smelled of faint candles burning and the organ was playing soft music. Everyone inside couldn't take their eyes off the paintings overhead.
We decided to spend our vacation just wandering around the city without worrying about keeping track of time. We walked up and down all the streets of the French Quarter and stopped into any stores which looked interesting. Our first stop was Maskarade, a charming boutique with beautiful designer Mardi Gras and masquerade masks. The shop is very kind and allows visitors to try on the masks and take photos.
After goofing around for a short time, we found ourselves in Pirate's Alley, which I found amusing. I would celebrate everyday as Pirate Day if it were socially acceptable (Arrr!). We entered the famous Faulkner House which has been transformed into a bookstore.
I snuck around to the back gate and snapped a photo of the interior patio since we were the only ones besides the two ladies working up front, and my camera kept making clicking noises. I was afraid they'd be upset, so I hurried back around the corner so they wouldn't fear I was being mischievous. The bookstore has tall, thin cases which made me wish I could swing around the room on a rolling ladder and just read into eternity.
I was now in library mode and wanted to find more bookstores. We found the créme de la créme next at Kitchen Witch - a giant bookstore that only carries cookbooks! I wandered around all the dark corners of this bookstore for hours. They even had a sleeping puppy curled up in bed and kitchen witch dolls swinging from the ceiling. The store owner was very informative and gladly helped me research a cookbook that was sadly not in stock. I combed through the originals of Julia Child and many other rare cookbooks; it was amazing to get to hold and thumb through them in person.
After I'd had my fill, we set out to Quartermaster Deli at the edge of the French Quarter for lunch (looking at all those cookbooks sure made me hungry). The deli is hidden in the back of a convenience store, but they also are open 24/7 and have free delivery.
I ordered a turkey sandwich on wheat and had it toasted since it was still chilly. We sat down on some house steps across the street to enjoy our modest lunch. The sandwich was steamy and dripping with flavor. This is a favorite among the locals, and I would love to sample more from their menu.
After wiping the crumbs from our mouths, we ventured over to Dauphine Street Books.
The interior looked like they were playing jenga with the books in the mass of organized chaos. I leaned against a wall of books and got lost just skimming through several mystical varieties. The books put me in the mood for something more mysterious, and we next found the Boutique du Vampyer. Local artists have created art inspired by the popularity of vampires and we had fun musing through their selections.
We decided to rest before dinner and took a break in the late afternoon. Winding our way back through the streets I spotted a boutique, Just Dogs!, that carried gourmet treats for dogs and had to quickly run inside. I picked up a small variety of flavors for my dog to bring her back as a reward for behaving at the babysitters.
Another local favorite is Coop's Place. They have been rated as having the best jambalaya in New Orleans by several different sources, so we had to see for ourselves.
The all brick eatery was very charming and intimate, with soft lighting keeping the establishment aglow. We discovered just in time it is a sit yourself kind of place, while a line formed outside as we were getting comfortable.
We ordered a bowl of their famous Jambalaya Supreme to share before our entrées. This dish is prepared with a classic medley of vegetables and a smörgåsboard of meats: rabbit, sausage, tasso, shrimp, and crawfish. I gave them extra points for not bringing out the dish piping hot at an unpalatable temperature. The jambalaya arrived warm and fresh, at just the right temperature for us to enjoy immediately. It was well seasoned with a hint of tomato present with the other vegetables. We thought the meat was uniquely cooked separate from the vegetables and then blended together, since the meats retained so much flavor and were not soaked through. This was definitely the best jambalaya we've ever tasted (besides the one Guy makes).
As a surprise at the end of our evening, a cat wandered over to our table. I had noticed the cat bed and dishes in the windowsill, but assumed the cat was off in the back somewhere sleeping for the night. I'm a huge animal lover, and thought it was pretty cool they allow their resident cat, Stella, to hang out with dinner guests. She let me pet her for a moment, and then I set her on the ledge to get a drink and quick snack. She then hopped down and went looking for other friends.
We went back to the hotel to change and then walked over to Hotel Monteleone for martinis at the famous Carousel Bar.
I was so excited to sit at a rotating bar. We had to wait for a few minutes for a seat to open up, but it wasn't long thankfully. In the adjoining room a pianist plays favorite songs as the ceiling has twinkling lights representing stars overhead, including some that flash like a shooting star.
I ordered a simple chocolate martini to enjoy as we went around in circles and relaxed while listening to conversation and catching a bit of the winter Olympics on small televisions around the room. The bartender was the best I'd ever seen and was a pleasure to watch whip up drinks all around the bar. I couldn't imagine all the hundreds of drinks he must have memorized. He never hesitated to any request made, including his ability to make well received recommendations. It was a pleasant way to end our second day.