We went there to party.
Of all the places in the world you can say that about, New Orleans is at the top of the list of most likely to succeed. If you find yourself in a daiquiri bar at three a.m. taking photos of WHO DAT? flavored daiquiri, you will know a feeling of success and satisfaction rivaling that of winning an election or getting the girl.
I could never live there. I'd be dead in three weeks. They say that when you live there, you don't eat and drink to excess every night like you do when you visit. Then why live there?
We were only there for three days and as many nights. It may have been one night too many. I hadn't been since I was nine, and was naive about what to expect. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon. After a meandering shuttle ride, we made it to the Hotel Saint Marie Antoinette on Conti St. (kahnt-eye). Black Berry Shortcake, the Birthday Girl, and I were all famished. We went to a little dive one door down from the hotel that was known for it's crab cakes. More like crap cakes. The French bread my po'boy was on was soft and whole wheat, the blood marys were more like cocktail sauce than a beverage and there were shell bits in the dried out looking oysters. What. The. Fuck? This was all wrong. The crab cakes, as terrible as they were, were the only redeeming aspect of the place. A sad turn of events for our first outing for bloodies, po'boys and oysters.
The Birthday Girl had plans for us go out for barbecue shrimp. I didn't understand what the fuss was about, I mean, I've had barbecue shrimp, big deal? We met her parents at the revolving bar of the Monteleone hotel. Before the meal, her father was persistently talking about the sauce that the shrimp came in, and instructed us how to sop it up properly, which is to say to his liking. He was persistent about everything.
I'd never heard of Pascal Manale's, or this famed bbq shrimp. Upon seeing it, I was confused. These are not barbecued!? These are not shrimp! The sauce was all butter and white wine. The shrimp were the size of small lobsters and the french bread was as perfect as the pattern created by the buttery sauce on my bib.
It was serious business and getting through the entire portion was hard labor. Papa Birthday was insisting I drink rum like he was, so I did. Despite our previous road bump, this meal seemed like an appropriate start to a weekend of excess and over-indulgence.
After a late night, Blackberry Shortcake and I awoke and went to Cafe Du Monde for café au lait and beignets. Unsure of the procedures, we wound up in the to-go line, taking our fried doughballs and chicory coffee off premises to enjoy. Watching people eat these beignets was hilarious, a mound of powdered sugar collecting on and between their feet. We soon became those people.
That night, after more drinks at the revolving bar in the Monteleone Hotel, we went to Jacques-Imo's. Their chicken livers were phenomenal. My panned rabbit wasn't nearly as delicious as Blackberry's cajun bouillabaisse. Overall, I enjoyed my meal. The tasso cream sauce and pasta that supported the rabbit left tasty bits to enjoy all night. After a concert across Lake Pontchartrain, I found myself in a beer bar on Bourbon Street with the Birthday Girl and a man named Mayo, Donovan Mayo.
He looked like part of the chorus in Guys and Dolls and was in from Baton Rouge for a wedding. Sometime around five a.m. a man walked into the bar that sold gumbo from his truck. The staff suggested I buy some of his seafood gumbo, as it was the "best in the city."
The late night gumbo peddler brought me a stryofoam cup filled with goodies, inside half of a soft shell crab bobbed in the thinnish, dark broth. It may have been the best in the city. I don't know. At the time, it seemed like salvation in a non-biodegradable grail. It was five a.m. and our beers were eight dollars.
The next morning came too soon, in fact it was already there. Saturday. The big day. I was going to Cochon's Butcher. I had been wanting to eat there for some time, ever since my own Butcher had made the pilgrimage to this palace of meat. They specialize in house-made charcuterie and offer their art by the pound, to go. They also had a small menu of items you could enjoy while sipping fine French wine and selected beer and spirits.
Ordering the charcuterie plate was obligatory, as was the cheese. Blackberry Shortcake had the Cubano sandwich, the Birthday Girl got the house-made hot dog, and I had the meatloaf sandwich. We shared an order of in-house boudin with homemade mustard. Everything was amazing. The charcuterie that day featured pork rillettes, two salamis and something resembling proscuitto. Almost everything came with spicy bread and butter pickles that were unbelievable.
After a few more drinks we were off to meet Birthday Girl's parents and some fresh-blooded friends for more food and booze.
We walked around the Quarter, confused, looking for Birthday Girl's sister. Krewe de Vieux was that evening and we were set to see some of the action. Unfortunately some damned fool fouled up the party with conflicting plans. As we waited for the parade, we stepped into what must have been a trap laid by Disney or Ted Turner: Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Never go there. Never order a bloody mary there. You may as well drink your own urine.
After that mishap, it was off to Lüke for more meat and booze. By now my body was getting accustomed to consuming at least nine thousand calories of food and alcohol per day. At least we were walking to most places. Lüke was a success. Like round two of an epic prize fight between my liver and the world. Winner take all.
They served duck and rabbit paté in hermetically sealed jars, the texture was elegant; the rosy insides were meant to be inviting. More charcuterie was ordered: headcheese, paté du campagne, stuffed trotters, more rillettes and paté and salami. Then came the order of choucroüte garnie that had been halved f0r me and my new friend, Pappas Chef. For some reason, we added extra portions of duck confit and cochon du lait. The half portions were massive, yet, undaunted, we dove in.
After this ridiculous feast, we went uptown to Tipitina's (after more confusion and jackassery) to watch the Radiators. Much jager was consumed. There was rum and dancing. Old men raged on old instruments. Afterwards, we went to a dive called the Apple Barrel, where we listened to a little band and suffered from bad service. After a few more bars and many more drinks we were asleep.
A brass band rattled me out of bed. I was hoping they would keep walking, but they didn't. They just kept playing. We went for more coffee and beignets. There was a stage set up below our window. Men were wearing dresses. We decided we needed breakfast first and ducked into a convenient eatery for gumbo and jambalaya. Afterwards, we had some coffee and beignets at Cafe Beignet, which in some ways was better than Cafe du Monde.
The sickness hit at the airport and I was down for the count. I wallered on the floor like the pig I was. Over two hundred pounds of filth and debauchery. I consumed an inordinate amount of fluids and felt somewhat better by the time we made it back to Houston.
New Orleans is the Mos Eisley of Earth: you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum, and villainy. Even the music is similar. I'll go back, and I'll know what to expect next time. I know which bar that gumbo-truck-guy was in, how to get to the Faulker House bookstore, where the best guts and bloody mary's are, that the bar is actually moving, and that hats are definitely a must.