Saturday, April 7, 2012

Louisiana Bound

Fire up the blog, I'm off for a very early birthday adventure with Jen, Brooke and Alana.  None of us actually have a birthday for another 3-6 months but hey it works for me- I'll be crossing a bunch of locales off my travel list with a Central American cruise leaving from New Orleans and still taking another trip in July for my actual bday.

Since I left my packing for the ultimate last minute and felt compelled to bang out the last of Mad Men season 2 before leaving, I got about a 2 hour nap in before heading to the airport but I wasn't too worried since planes make me narcoleptic and I knew I'd get a nap in.  When we got to JFK we discovered that of the probably 100 flights on the board, ours was the only one delayed.  We asked the woman at the counter why, she didn't know...... I know, it's because I'm on it.  Apologies to my travel companions.

One airport breakfast and one extra hour later we were on our way.  Jen had the pleasure of sitting next to a woman we came to know as Certifiable Karen.  She had obviously both visited the airport bar and decided her allotted liquid carry on allowance was best spent on mini bottles of booze and promptly began shooting vodka and Bushmills as soon as her seat belt clicked.  It became clear we were in trouble when a. she asked if we were down with O.P.P. (yeah you know me) and b. she started screaming when the plane took off.  Jen is not the biggest fan of flying and had taken a Xanax but in retrospect, probably should have given it to Certifiable Karen because there was zero chance of her passing out into a blissful, medically induced, mini coma with this woman poking her and telling her in her Big Ang voice about the reunion and funeral (reuneral?) she was going to New Orleans for.  Certifiable Karen spent the last 15 minute of the flight crying and I think Jen may have permanent PTSD, although she said she was force fed a pretty delicious cookie so there was a silver lining in there somewhere.

It was only 10 when we got in so the super helpful guy behind the desk at the International House hotel took our bags and we were off to start the trip right at Pat O'Briens.  We walked up Burbon Street where both the smell and the behavior indicated that a bunch of people had either gotten quite a start on the morning or were still up from the previous evening.  This included some drunk dudes with a cooler who may have been confused about local customs because they gave us leis instead of beads, and a guy being loaded into an ambulance looking like he needed & deserved the stomach pump he was probably about to get.  Needless to say we arrived at our destination with some obvious catching up to do.  We sat in the garden with their world famous hurricanes & mint juleps and were feeling quite relaxed (read buzzed) when we left.

We strolled around the city for awhile checking out the scenery and stopping into places that interested us- i.e. bars.  We had a drink at the Extreme Sports Bar and Grille, connected to the Ambassador Hotel on Tchoupitoulas St.  This was one of the possibly hundreds of Saints themed bars around the city, which was exciting for me since I've been cheering for them since I moved to NYC almost eight years ago- way before they were any good.

We then moved further up the street to a place called Wine Institute New Orleans (WINO) which had a pretty cool concept on wine tasting- their wine bottles are hooked up to machines that give 1oz, 3 oz, or glass pours and lists the prices accordingly so you can choose which and how much you would like to try.  You insert a card into the machine and it keeps track of what you've tried and pay for your tastings at the end.  They have all the bottles available to purchase (and many additional ones too) so if you like something you can take it home.  We tried a bunch and bought some bottles for the cruise so we didn't have to drink the bottom-of-the-barrel-box-o-wine stuff they would be serving.

Our "eat our way through New Orleans food agenda," as prepared by Jen, indicated we were supposed to have some muffaletta sandwiches for lunch but we ended up stopping at Cochon and thank god we did because it was just straight up delicious.  My "giving up unhealthy food" for Lent went out the window a day early when they brought us their southern biscuits but I'm pretty sure they came directly from Heaven so maybe it's okay with Jesus.  I could have, and likely would have, eaten 20 of them if not instructed by Jen to save room for our starters of fried cauliflower, pork cheeks, and craw fish pie.  The craw fish pie was met with rave reviews so I tried it but my continuing involuntary hatred of all things seafood prevailed and I went back to enjoying my cauliflower and pork.  Then out came the cochon with pork rind & braised cabbage, beef brisket with potato salad and macaroni & cheese.  My big dilemma in life promptly became choosing what my last bite should be because they were all so seriously awesome.  No photos of the action here because I was too busy stuffing my face.

We rolled out of the restaurant and back to the hotel for a well deserved nap, after which I might have been hungover- but no matter, there was a bar next in the agenda where I could get a hair of the dog and rally.  We walked over to Arnaud's French 75, a cozy little bar on Rue Bienville with jazz music and fancy cocktails & after a Bartlett Cobbler (lillet, creme de poire & fresh lime juice) I was feeling better, if still mildly headachy.

We had a 9:00 reservation at August, a John Becht restaurant, back on Tchoupitoulas (man did we love this street) in a beautiful space inside a renovated tobacco warehouse.  We opted to each do one of the two 6 course tasting menus and share so we'd get to try a bunch of different stuff & threw in an order of gnocchi with blue crab and truffle oil since Alana and I cannot let a gnocchi dish on a menu go untasted.

Unfortunately for me, during course number three of this ridiculously fantastic meal, I could no longer ignore the signs that my hangover headache was actually a migraine and I had to leave the restaurant.  Perhaps after  a 39 day stint of salad, granola bars and other assorted rabbit food during Lent, my body didn't know what to do with sustenance that tasted awesome and my brain short circuited.  I literally cried because I was so upset to miss out on the undoubted deliciousness of what was to come but I couldn't take it anymore & went home to Advil up and pass out.