NOLA? Sounds Like a Lovely Person…

By on 4 October, 2017 in Brandie Johnson with 0 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of visiting New Orleans for *gasp* the first time. I’m not sure how I managed to go 25 years without ever visiting, but I did. I’m not alone, however, my husband, David, had never been either. My new job gave us both the chance to remedy this unspeakable lapse in travel.

Leading up to the trip everyone who heard we were going to New Orleans said the same two things, “you must go to Café Du Monde for beignets,” and “you’re going to love NOLA.” I kept thinking, “who is this NOLA person?” Yeah, that’s how inexperienced I was with New Orleans. By the way, I did eventually work out what NOLA was (for the other uninitiated, it stands for New Orleans, LA).

On Thursday afternoon we set out on the four-and-a-half-hour trip. The weather was perfection. I read most of the way, but as we approached the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the view. Upon entering New Orleans I was surprised by the city, in a good way. I’ve heard all of the typical criticisms of New Orleans, it smells weird (it kinda does but they’re working on fixing that), it’s loud, it’s dirty. The truth is, it’s a beautiful city. The noise is lovely jazz music floating out of multiple restaurants and bars. It’s not dirty, it’s just your typical busy city. I expected the French Quarter to be like Times Square; and while the crosswalks took a minute to decipher, and David took a wrong turn and ended up lost under a bridge, the quarter felt more like a quaint small town. People played music on sidewalks, in front of luxury and boutique hotels, historic old buildings peppering the spaces between them. While I didn’t consider the city dirty or unattractive by daylight, I must admit, come nightfall the city is stunning. Here is the view we had from our room on the 31st floor of the Sheraton hotel.

By 6:30 Thursday evening, we had checked in and unpacked and we were ready to eat. We settled on Oceana Grill which is a short walk from the Sheraton. We crossed over Bourbon Street on the way, so we’ve officially been to NOLA. Oceana is located in an old three-story building. We were seated by a window on the second floor, overlooking the Royal Sonesta Hotel. The second floor is a gorgeous space with exposed brick walls, stunning oil paintings of local buildings, and a delicately stenciled ceiling. The drinks were good but strong, beware when ordering a double hurricane! I ate one of best pasta dishes I’ve had, Cajun Fettuccini Alfredo, and David ordered duck, I crinkled my nose upon its arrival but he said it was delicious. When the server asked if we would like dessert I eagerly nodded my head, David’s eyes widened. I wanted the Bananas Foster Ice Cream Cake and he wanted the Chocolate Kahlua Mousse. David insisted we should split the banana dessert since that’s what I wanted (he’s sweet like that) but I told the server to bring us one of each. I may have (did) eaten all of mine and then some of his, it was glorious. On the walk back to the hotel we passed an art gallery with bizarre but captivating array of work in the window. We also passed a jazz bar where a woman stood in the doorway selling test tubes of liquor, we passed on this particular offer.

Since we were in NOLA for my job I spent most of my time at the Sheraton where we were staying and where the convention was held. However, David did a little exploring. He visited the Audubon Aquarium. Though he didn’t do any of the meet-and-greets with the animals, they do offer encounters with all kinds of animals. When we visit NOLA again I fully intend to do the otter encounter. David ate lunch and dinner (and had drinks) at various restaurants along Canal Street. He reported nothing but good things about all of the places. I think he also wondered into a voodoo shop and maybe looked at a haunted house tour. He had three days’ worth of free time to fill.

I, on the other hand, ate all but two of my meals at the hotel. One of those meals out was Oceana, the other was Picayune Social House, where I ordered beef tenderloin well done and the chef likely wept as he cooked it. David had a beef tenderloin sandwich cooked “properly” and greatly enjoyed it. In fact, he had actually eaten lunch there earlier in the day and wanted to go back so I could try it too. Picayune had a happy hour going where all wines were $5 a glass and all specialty cocktails were $6. I’m not sure if it is still running as they were calling it their “Summer 2017 Happier Hour.” David ordered a candied old fashioned while I sipped a glass of white wine. Shockingly I did not order dessert here. The reason being I was actually attending a business dinner back at the hotel so I had to leave a little room.

True to form, I ate a pizza on this trip. I’m a bit of a picky eater and I didn’t much care for the meal served at the convention one evening, so once I returned to the room David and I ordered a pepperoni pizza with fresh parmesan from room service. Maybe it was the late hour (10:30 pm, what can I say, I’m a party animal) or the fact that I had basically been running off of a blueberry muffin and some potato chips all day, but it was tasty.

I know, all I seemed to have done in NOLA is eat (and it was on the weekend U2 was performing there!), but hey New Orleans is known for great food and I’m known for loving to eat. When we visit again, I’ll be sure to do more than restaurant hop and I’ll share all of the non-food related excitement with you.

Brandie Bradshaw Johnson is the managing partner of The NewSouth Bookstore in downtown Montgomery. In her downtime she enjoys: reading books, crocheting, cuddling with her two dogs, hanging out with her best friend/husband, David, and watching The Golden Girls.

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