Over the holidays I went with a group of friends to New Orleans. We stayed in the heart of the French Quarter, at the historic Hotel Monteleone. Founded in 1886, four generations of Monteleone’s have operated the hotel. I love that its family run to this day. The city is famous for its antique shops, and needless to say I was in heaven. Just a step outside our hotel on Royal Street were some of the most beautiful shops I'd seen with museum quality antiques from furniture to jewelry and art. It was hard to wrap my head around, but on Royal and Chartres Streets you'll find $5,000 sofas, and just a few blocks over you'll stumble across tourists carrying "huge ass beers", drinking hand grenades (there's wikipedia entries for these if you need more detail) and well the famous stretch of strip clubs. Magazine Street, a six mile stretch beginning in the Garden District is also home to antique shops, book stores, vintage clothing boutiques, art galleries and coffee shops.
Tamara and I spent a great amount of time visiting the shops on Magazine Street. We discovered Ah-ha, on the corner of Magazine and 9th Street. Try looking up a website and you won't find one. The girls that own it do not advertise at all, but their window displays are enough to draw you in. You'll be sure to find great pieces by Free People and Ella Moss. We couldn't help but drool over all the Tom Ford sunglasses in Art and Eyes. Branch Out carried some great vintage and environmentally conscious clothing for women and men. And some other cute shops were LF Store, T. and The Occasional Wife. Though I couldn't afford anything, I would have happily stayed at Maison de Provence looking at antiques all day. But I instead found myself in stationary lust at Box Paper Scissor and Scriptura. Once we tired ourselves of shopping, we people-watched on the patio at The Bulldog and then took a jaunt up to The Milk Bar for po-boys and milkshakes. On our way back we walked through the side streets admiring the 19th century southern mansions and late Victorian homes.
The food. Where do I begin? The first night in New Orleans we had a late dinner at Muriel's in Jackson Square. Like many of the historic buildings in the French Quarter, the restaurant is said to be haunted, here by the ghost of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan. More can be found about the other ghosts and sightings at Muriels's here. But what we thought was most interesting was that a table is always reserved for Mr. Jourdan, complete with bread and wine. There are a number of haunted history walks you can take in the area to learn more about the other haunted buildings. But back to the food for a second. Restaurants in New Orleans are extremely generous in their portion sizes. And we thought ordering a multi-course meal was a grand idea. We started with shrimp and goat cheese crêpes served in a buttery sauce of Chardonnay, onion, tomato, and bell pepper. Following this Mike and I had the pan roasted half chicken with a Southern style cornbread dressing and a lemon-thyme compound butter. Tamara tried the double cut pork chop topped with a Louisiana sugar cane apple glaze, and served with pecan glazed sweet potatoes and southern style greens. Needless to say, after dinner we went back to the hotel and to bed. We couldn't move if we tried.
Looking for more suggestions of places to eat? Cochon offers cajun southern dishes and Chef Stephen Stryjewski cooks with locally sourced meat, seafood and fresh produce. The restaurant is set in a former warehouse and has a modern, yet rustic interior. Love! Mothers Restaurant is the spot for po-boys. It was established in 1938 and is a New Orleans institution. While the landscape around it has changed, the restaurant has not. Each time we walked past there were line ups down the street. It goes without saying you must visit Commander's Palace. The service is incredible and you tour through the kitchen on your way to be seated. Apparently there's even a Chef's table in the kitchen, though I can't imagine how far booking must be done in advance for that.
Cafe du Monde is a must visit if you go to New Orleans. The original cafe opened in 1862 in the French Market. Their beignets draw line ups down the street. Beignets are square French doughnuts with icing sugar. They sell the mix as well so you can make them at home.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop was built sometime between 1722 and 1732 and is the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. It is said that the Lafitte brothers operated the blacksmith shop as a legitimate appearing business, as a front for their Brataria smuggling operation. There is no electricity inside. Only candles are used to light the interior of the tavern, lending to much of its atmosphere (and ghost sightings). LoBarBjnqaasBaratariacchh smuggling operationarataria sggling opeationataria suggling operation
We started off our night by walking over to d.b.a on Frenchmen Street. This building is located in the in historic Faubourg Marigny, and dates back to the 1880s. They feature live music every night and we were lucky to take in some really amazing jazz and brass bands. After this we headed back down to Jackson Square to watch the truly spectacular fireworks show over the Mississippi River.