In just one week we hit most of what spicy, saucy New Orleans has to offer. I wanted to dig in for a jazzy, haunted Halloween insider’s guide, but my stomach hurt after day two and I have a toddler. The main attractions in New Orleans are eating and listening to jazz all night. The former two prohibited the latter two, so I offer the same New Orleans experience brought to you by most.
THE FRENCH QUARTER
This crazy place was the first neighborhood built in New Orleans, all the way back in 1718. Since the whole neighborhood is a historic landmark it’s enjoyable simply to wander around and ogle the (mostly colonial Spanish) architecture. Any place with a tucked away garden courtyard will transport you.
A favorite spot in the Quarter is the Napoleon House-built for the man himself with the hope of sheltering him while in exile. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to be exiled-so he never even saw his own house. He’d be pleased to know the restaurant, now in his living room, pays homage in the use of his image as the only form of decoration. History alone is not the only reason to love it here; the restaurant offers delicious rice and beans and the only vegetable found in New Orleans-the cucumber in my Pimm’s cup. The Pimm’s cup is their specialty cocktail, by the way.
What would Napoleon think about that? I wondered.
Then I realized they say Pimm’s is their specialty to throw you off the scent of their real, most likely Napoleon approved specialty-The Sazerac.
The other French Quarter classic is Cafe du Monde with beignets doused in powdered sugar and chicory flavored coffee. It’s always packed. Why wouldn’t it be?
THE GARDEN DISTRICT
It was a treat to visit New Orlean’s poshest neighborhood the day of Halloween. This part of town was built when people wanted to get away from the French Quarter and have a little (a lot) more room to breathe. The area is famous for huge Victorian mansions-some of them haunted. Today they were still decked out for last night’s trick-or-treaters.
The Commander’s Palace is the restaurant in the Garden District. We did not plan to dine here on Halloween-you need a reservation, no T-Shirts, no shorts and closed toe shoes. We decided to throw caution to the wind and try anyway.
Not only did we get a table in the garden, a mint julip, and the Commander’s Luncheon-we got to watch ladies who lunch at their annual Halloween bash through the enclosed glass patio. They wore witch hats embellished with sequins and grew more exuberant as their twenty-five cent martinis (limit three) took effect.
The Commander’s Luncheon, while delicious, contained more items with staggering amounts of cholesterol than is appropriate to mention here.
Directly across the street from the restaurant is the Lafayette Cemetery-a big draw as scenes were filmed here for Anne Rice’s, Interview With a Vampire. Cemeteries aren’t entirely my thing, even the glamorous Père Lachaise in Paris wore me out after a bit, BUT-it was Halloween. When in Rome.
As we walked in I heard a woman say under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear, “That’s strange to bring a little boy into a cemetery.”
Is it?, I wondered. I hadn’t really thought about it. I always thought guided tours of cemeteries-like the one she was on-were strange.
Maybe it is strange to take a toddler into a cemetery-and perhaps his skeleton t-shirt didn’t help our case.
THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT
While this area is primarily for businesses, it’s also lined with beautiful art galleries and houses the best restaurant you could ask for in New Orleans- Cochon. It’s worth going for the atmosphere alone. It has a steamy, swampy, Streetcar Named Desire feel: yellow light, shadows of slow moving ceiling fans.
The food is delicious cajun, southern cooking. Pork, dumplings and rabbit. Turnips, alligator and mac and cheese. It’s not so good because they do anything outrageous to it, but because it tastes like love-like whoever made your dish is crazy about you. If anyone’s ever made you homemade chicken noodle soup to make you happy, then you know what Cochon tastes like.