Boudin, Beer, and Good Times

Trip Start Nov 05, 2013
Trip End Nov 11, 2013

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Where I stayed
Le Pavillon Hotel New Orleans
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Monday, November 11, 2013

Instead of making a new entry for every day, we are going to simplify things (for us and for you) and just share our fun times and pix in one. So here we go...We traveled to The Big Easy by train. We have been so busy lately, we decided we needed a little "down time", which a 17-hour train ride each way certainly gave us. If you've never done Amtrak, you should try it, we always enjoy it. We bought the economy roomette which has two beds, toilet and sink with access to a shower down the hall. When you travel in a sleeper car, all of your meals are also included, which you can enjoy in the dining car or have delivered to your room. We thought the meals were good considering they are institutional (Aramark). The small room was a little tight though, so next time we will probably upgrade to the next size.  We stayed at the historical Le Pavillon Hotel only a few blocks from the French Quarter, the Superdome, and all the action. The rates in November are very good for this luxury hotel, not much difference in price than average to upper grade hotels which is why we picked it and we weren't disappointed. It was very nice, very comfortable and a great location. Plus, each night we were treated to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate milk, and hot chocolate!  We arrived at about 8pm and after checking in, enjoyed our traditional first drink at the hotel bar, then headed out to explore a little of the city, keeping an eye out for interesting dining establishments. The next day, we tried a trendy little place for breakfast called Merchant, which was so good we ate there two more times (Check out the menu). The greek yogurt, granola, and fruit parfait and the crepes were wonderful! Then we spent the day exploring the French Quarter, the Warehouse District (where the Boudin Festival is), and ended up on Frenchmen Ave. where many popular jazz clubs are. We ate lunch at Café Rose Nicaud, it was OK, but wouldn't go back. But we did go back later to Frenchman Ave. and had a great time at The Spotted Cat Music Club. No cover charge, just a one drink minimum and the music was fabulous.  The band's name is Orleans Six and they specialized in traditional New Orleans jazz. (We thought the band was so good, we bought the CD they were selling and we listened to it on the way home from the Charlotte train station: the music on the CD was every bit as good or better than what we saw live.) The people dancing were something to watch! For dinner, we decided we had to try some Louisiana oysters. We were going to eat at Acme which is so popular there is always a line, but we read online that Felix's across the street was just as good so that's where we ended up. The raw oysters were delicious but the fried ones had a little too much breading on them. You're probably going to figure out soon that this blog is going to focus a lot on food.  On Thursday morning we tried Petite Amelie for breakfast, a trendy little place in the French Quarter. It was good but not as good as Merchant. We always enjoy walking and exploring wherever we vacation but by now we were starting to need a reprieve, so after the morning explorations, we decided to catch a movie while we waited for Randy and Debra to arrive with Todd and Morgan. We saw Last Vegas at The Theaters at Canal Place. The movie was great and the theater very nice. When you buy your ticket, you choose your seat from a chart, then you place your order for whatever food and drink you want from a fancy restaurant/bar next door and a waiter delivers it to you. The leather rocking seats were huge and a fold out table revealed a call button to order more drinks and food. The snazziest movie house we've ever been in. We decided to wait for our friends afterward at Poppy's Time Out sports café on the Riverwalk but the food was really bad so we met them at Gordon Biersch , a brew pub across the street for a beer (locally brewed and very good) then headed to one of Randy's favorite places, Mother's. There was a line, but it moved relatively quickly and everybody loved their food. Maggie's gumbo was excellent and my Bloody Mary was VERY spicy. Then we all wandered into Harrah's and down Bourbon Street with the revelers and eventually called it a night. One thing we learned about New Orleans is that they should change the name from the Big Easy to the Big Party. Every restaurant served alcohol with breakfast and every restaurant offered drinks to go. You are encouraged to start early and continue the libations walking around all day and night with a drink in your hand. Randy said they even have drive-thru daiquiri bars there if you don't want to get out of your car. Whew! We also noticed the streets were filled with hippies and beatniks like it was the 60's or something. They all had dogs with them.  Randy took us to Stanley's for brunch on Friday at Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Maggie and I shared the Stanley Classic breakfast which was tasty, but we still preferred Merchant. We shopped and walked and shopped and walked most of the day. Randy eventually guided us to a Big Easy "must": Pimm's Cups at Napoleon House. We agreed, the Pimm's Cups are a MUST!  Finally, we fed ourselves again at Bourbon House on Bourbon St. with some delicious raw oysters and fried calamari. It is a very nice place and we would eat there again. From there, it was on to the Boudin, Bourbon and Beer Festival in the Warehouse District. There was a huge line for all the people like us who had purchased tickets in advance and Randy and Debra said the crowd was two or three times last year's. But the wait was worth it. Once in, we were treated to all the food, drink and live music we could handle. The event is a fundraiser for Emeril's foundation which benefits young people interested in the culinary arts. There were over twenty high profile chefs offering their boudin creations. As soon as you entered, a waitress brought you a tasty bourbon crème on the rocks. The bourbon was offered by Buffalo Trace and the beer was from Abita, a local brewery. All were excellent. Probably our favorite foods were the jalapeno boudin balls and the boudin bratwurst. The sweet potato meringue puffs and the chocolate bacon (yes, I said bacon) bourbon pralines were good, too. The last hour we spent listening to Grace Potter perform with only her drummer from the Nocturnals. She plays many instruments and her voice is reminiscent of Janis Joplin. Very entertaining. Saturday morning we tried the Red Gravy restaurant for breakfast, a place we had passed several times and looked interesting. It's an Italian restaurant run by a lady from New Jersey who is a very good chef. The pumpkin pancakes, autumn harvest waffles and Italian breakfast sausage were all delicious. The place was very small (which, in this case, means cozy and quaint) and we would definitely eat there again. In the afternoon, we decided to make a pilgrimage to the Superdome to see how it looked post-Katrina remodeled. As you can see by the pix, it's pretty nice. While we were in the Superdome shop, the manager ran out to tell the staff that Sean Peyton's girlfriend was coming and she could have whatever she wanted. Nice!  Afterward, we met Randy and the gang at the Gumbo Festival at Louis Armstrong park and enjoyed some more beer and jazz. Our favorite local beers, by the way, are NOLA Brown and Abita Turbo Dog. The bands were good and particularly interesting was a hip-hop jazz brass band by the name of the Hot 8 Brass Band. A nice lady we met on the train (who also happened to be a bomb specialist for the TSA) said Hot 8's type of music is called Second Line and is traditional New Orleans brass band parade style music. At night we all decided to catch the LSU-Alabama football game on TV at Walk Ons, the #1 sports bar in America according to ESPN. It was a pretty wild place. Every TV (50+) but one (there was one Texas fan there who had to see them eke out a victory over West Virginia) had the LSU game on and the announcers blasting over the speakers. The place was packed and we were very lucky to get two seats at the bar after waiting about an hour before the game. Every booth had three self-serve taps and a computer so you didn't need to wait for a server to help yourself to another beer. You could also order a very large container called a HOPR (hopper) with a tap at the bottom that held 8 beers for $22 (don't get the calculator out, that's $2.75 each). The food was excellent sports bar food. The half-pound burgers were stacked high, the mozzarella sticks were called logs (because they are), and the Zydeco (spicy Gulf shrimp salad) was amazing. We discovered Walk Ons when we trekked to the Superdome. It's only two blocks from our hotel and there is a nice little Irish pub, Happy's, next door to it where we enjoyed a pint during that trek. Sunday saw our last breakfast at Merchant :( followed by some shopping at Jackson Square where we picked up some art sculpted from discarded metal roofs from the devastated Ninth Ward. And of course, you can't go to New Orleans without trying some beignets, which we did for lunch at Café Beignet on Royal St. in the French Quarter. Hot and fresh fried dough squares covered in powdered sugar that melt in your mouth...yummy! We just couldn't bring ourselves to stand in the long line at Café du Monde and we're glad we didn't because this café was very cute and the beignets and fresh-squeezed lemonade were delicious. We also wanted to do a city tour so we visited an official visitor's center and they recommended the City-Cemetery tour from Cajun Encounters. We received a nice guided tour of the city, seeing and learning about:Everywhere we went, the guide pointed out how high the water was during Hurricane Katrina and what the symbols meant that were still remaining on the houses in the Ninth Ward. Rescue workers would mark each house with signs of life, death or otherwise. It was a very humbling experience. Many, many houses are still abandoned. She said the city lost over 100,000 people who left and never came back. After the tour, we ate our last New Orleans meal (for now anyway) at The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. Great ambience, service and food. Would definitely eat here again. We had the Saints-Cowboys Pre-game Dinner Special which consisted of three courses and a glass of wine for $35. Superb bargain for the quality of the food and venue. For appetizers, Maggie had the FRIED OYSTERS with crumbled bleu cheese, chopped bacon, and Remoulade sauce and I had the JUMBO SHRIMP with caramelized onions, roasted jalapenos and red pepper cream cheese. My SECOND COURSE was the GRILLED BREAST OF CHICKEN with diced red potatoes, roasted squash, zucchini, and purple onions, while Maggie had the FRESH FISH OF THE DAY (Grouper, which they pronounce Groupeeyay in New Orleans) with roasted white corn Maque Choux and finished with cilantro aioli. For dessert we both had the COURTYARD BREAD PUDDING with Whiskey Sauce (can you tell I copied all of this from the online menu?) Yum!  After dinner we, of course, had to watch the Saints-Cowboys game and since we didn't have tickets, what better place than Champions Square outside the Superdome where they had it on a gigantic (and unbelievably clear) screen with cocktail bars and rabid Saints fans (OK and a few Cowboys fans) everywhere. Laissez les bons temps roulez!  And roll, the Saints did: 49-17.  As I pen this, our train just passed through Birmingham, AL enroute to Charlotte, where we hope to arrive on time at 1:21AM. See you all soon!
Post Script: When we go back to the Big Easy, we are thinking we will stay in one of the beautiful bed and breakfasts in the Garden District and ride the famous green trolleys in and out of the city.  The GD was filled with exquisite mansions.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Grandmammy, on

What a wonderful blog makes me want to go to the party city. When did you have time to do all this?

Stacie on

What a fun time! Thanks for sharing.

ted on

A lot of people go places,and some people know how to make it a novel.
By train.,
whow!! I am going to want to hear more.

finn on

It's almost as if New Orleans was visiting you rather than the reverse! This sounds more like a conquering than a visitation! How Swissish!

CQ on

No matter where you go these blogs almost make me feel as I was right there too! Thanks for sharing

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