Long reports, but hopefully with helpful details such as total pricing and dishes ordered.
The pre-story: A 5 day, 4 night trip to celebrate the 13th birthday of our daughter (my husband’s step-daughter, but he is very much a dad to her). Pretty tight agenda in some spots, but with lots of additions due to the outstanding TA New Orleans forum!
Today was our Go-All-Out-Day. I had saved what I thought to be the quintessential restaurants/meals for our last full day in New Orleans. It was also the day that had the least scheduled activities, allowing us to wander and experience the French Quarter as we pleased.
First on the agenda though was the business of returning the car rental. The previous night’s storm had cooled the air considerably – temperatures had dropped to the 50s in the evening and were only in the lower 60s by the time we drove back to Enterprise on Baronne. Knowing that we had a full day’s calories to burn ahead of us, we opted again to walk the 1.5 miles back to the Garden District B&B. Halfway back, we saw a city crew cutting up a huge tree that had fallen during the storm right on the streetcar power line. A proprietor adjacent to the tree filled us in (lightning strike) and a passing resident also told us about her blackout experiences. Being from Los Angeles, it was weird for me to have complete strangers talking to me – sad, right? But I was truly charmed by their friendliness, and the hub and I chatted about the huge differences between the two cities for the rest of the walk back.
Knowing about the dress code at Commander’s Palace (business casual/dressy preferred, no shorts, button-down/polo shirts preferred for men) we changed and prettied up. Hubby wore very dark jeans and a nice gray button-down, the kid wore a dress and sandals and a light sweater (it gets chilly in there), and I wore a long dress with a crocheted cover up. We walked the 5 blocks over and were still 20 minutes early for our 12-noon lunch reservation. No matter. They walked us through the front room – hubby liked the black/white color-stitched walls with fake birds attached! – and to our requested table in the Garden Room, overlooking the courtyard and close to the oak tree. We were the only people in the room, but were assured by our awesome server Brian that it would change drastically within the next half hour. He was right.
One of the many things I love about CP is the pace of the meal. We were there for 2 ½ hours, not rushed at all; it was relaxing and civilized. The service is impeccable. If your water glass is “sweaty” it is replaced. You are given time to savor and appreciate every course. Multiple servers present every course to the diners at the same time. They truly go above and beyond – this was evidenced by one of the family of owners visiting our table and asking how we enjoyed our meal. We remarked that it was a must for us every time we visit, and that our daughter requested her birthday lunch there specifically. She seemed genuinely happy to hear that, and offered to us a tour of the new wine cellar and special group table after our meal, which we eventually took her up on!
The food: every table gets garlic bread (crunchy, garlicky, light, a fine example). We got 2 orders of the soup 1-1-1: this day it was turtle soup (salty and brandylicious), crab bisque (lightly flavored, true crab taste) and gumbo (good amount of meat, but Mr. B’s gumbo ya-ya wins this bout). Hubby has his own while the kid and I split the other. Next was an appetizer of sautéed crawfish over corn cakes with a smoky, savory sauce. It came with a whole steamed crawfish on top. Now, at this point my husband and I had imbibed one or two each of CP’s legendary 25cent martinis with not a whole lot in our stomachs. That said, this sprightly little fellow perched atop the food struck us funny, and the kid rolled her eyes and we giggled through the dish.
The kid and the hub ordered ala carte. I had ordered the Creole Luncheon which this day included turtle soup (the 1-1-1 upgrade was a small additional amount), the Creole bread pudding soufflé (more on that below) and the Panned Chicken and Crawfish (this was tasty, the chicken was light & not greasy but sad to say I wasn’t as hugely impressed with it as I was with their two entrees). Hubby ordered the Caribbean-spiced shrimp over grits (spicy and sweet and creamy, he oohed and aahed through it). The kid had the black drum with mango salsa (delicately flaked fish with a zippy sauce).
At this point, we were full. But we couldn’t pass up dessert. Nuh-uh, no way. The kid got my Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé – this is a light as air soufflé, the dome of which is punctured through by the server with decadent whiskey sauce. They give you 2-3 spoonfuls and leave the remainder for you to use as you wish. I believe this is a must-order, as it nicely completes a true CP meal. Hubby ordered the chocolate chip cookie dough soufflé with a melted white chocolate truffle imbedded in it. This was rich, and is a treat for chocolate lovers like him. I had the strawberry shortcake, with awesome southern biscuits topped with Domino sugar crystals, fresh and sweet strawberries nestled between, and a filling of Chantilly cream. It was the perfect complement to my meal – light, fresh, and not too filling. Total price for 4 martinis, 1 shirley temple, 1 3-course luncheon, 1 soup upgrade, 1-1-1 soup, crawfish appetizer, 2 entrees, and 2 extra desserts, plus tip: $156.00
We walked back to our room and promptly fell asleep. I’m talking serious food coma. While I was napping I had a curious thing happen. I felt three taps on my calf, looked up and saw no one there. Last year I had heard someone say “mommy” when the kid was fast asleep in the other room (she doesn’t sleep talk, and the voice wasn’t hers). So I already had a feeling that there was something otherworldly in the house. This didn’t scare me at all. In fact, the tapping woke me up right about when I wanted to. I thanked the friendly spirit and got the rest of the fam up as well.
Back to the French Quarter. We had about three hours to kill before our 8:30pm reservation at the Chef’s Counter at NOLA Restaurant. Ambling up and down the streets, we found ourselves near the far end of the French Market. At this point, I heard the voices of the TA Forum Members whispering “margarita” in my ear – so off we went in search of El Gato Negro. Once there, the friendly server pointed us toward the small back bar and a menu, plus informed us of the seasonal varieties available that day. Hubby thought cilantro in a margarita was odd (I would have tried it but didn’t know if I could handle one by myself), so we ordered the seasonal: honey tangerine and lime. This margarita was exceptional!!! Fresh juice, quality tequila – I drank most of it myself, gladly! Price with tip: $10. We then ventured back to Muriel’s, grabbed water for the kid and a Streetcar for the hub, then made our way back up to the balcony. Hubby is a musician at local joints around LA and he had brought a few blues harmonicas with him on the trip. With the balcony to ourselves and with the sun going down in the west, he thought it a perfect time to play his harp. He attracted a small crowd below as he played his freestyle blues until it got dark. It was truly one of those perfect moments.
NOLA was crazy busy when we arrived, and we didn’t get to the Chef’s Counter until 9:10pm. A single gentleman at the counter stayed longer than they anticipated, and they couldn’t seat all of us. No matter – with the amount of food we had at lunch, it gave us time to whet our appetites again. Once we sat, we were given jalapeno corn muffins and small brioche rolls with room temp butter to spread. Our seats at the counter provided us with previews of every dish, and seeing how big there were (and having been there numerous times in the past) we knew not to order anything more than an entrée in order to have room for dessert. The kid got the “Hickory-Roasted Duck with Whiskey-Caramel Glaze, Buttermilk Cornbread Pudding, Haricot Verts-Fire Roasted Corn Salad, Natural Jus and Candied Pecans” (yes, I copied that from the online menu because I had to do it justice. This bird was outrageously delicious, smoky, crispy, sweet. An absolutely perfect dish. Hubby got the “Grilled Pork Chop with Brown Sugar Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Toasted Pecans and Caramelized Onion Reduction Sauce” aka The Jurassic Pork (one of our servers gave it this nickname), as it was the biggest, juiciest pork chop we had ever seen. Hub declared it the best pork chop ever, and I had to agree. I had the “Pan Roasted Harris Ranch Rib Eye with Patatas Bravas and Chimichurri” which actually translates to the biggest rib eye I’ve ever seen atop small roasted potatoes and chimichurri sauce. It was perfectly done, with the right amount of simple seasoning to bring out the flavor of the meat.
Dessert! Kid: “NOLA Banana Pudding Layer Cake with a Graham Cracker Crust, Homemade Vanilla Wafers and a Warm Fudge Drizzle” (like eating a fresh chocolate-covered banana, lighter than you’d expect and a customer favorite according to the server). Hubby: “Warm Ooey Gooey Cake with Layers of Moist Chocolate Cake, Marshmallows and Toasted Coconut served with Coffee Ice Cream” (presented in a cup, sundae-style, a bit too rich for me but he gobbled it up). Me: “Warm Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Salted Caramel Pudding and Whipped Crème Fraîche” (the smallest of the three which was fine, with good-tasting petite doughnuts, excellent pudding, and a small dab of crème fraiche). Total price for 3 entrees and 3 desserts, two beers, plus tip: $169.
Sadly, this was our last night in New Orleans. We took our time appreciating the sights and sounds of the quarter, taking everything in and committing it to memory. We promised each other – and the city – that we would be back as soon as possible.
Next: a last afternoon of shopping, muffalettas, beignets, and what we learned about wearing boots in the Quarter and budgets.