Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Orleans, I Love You

How I lost two pounds this week, I have no idea. Maybe it was the combination of fun, excitement and prevalent sauna-like conditions. Whatever it was, I'll definitely take it!

There were a lot of forces against me going to Tales of the Cocktail this year, but the biggest one to be reckoned with was Mother Nature herself (you cruel bitch!). Severe summer storms threatened, but luckily planes managed to work around them at Newark Airport last Thursday. I know my friends leaving Laguardia had a much rougher time arriving. For once, luck was on my side, and I made it only a couple of hours late to start another great adventure in the Crescent City. 

Sadly, I missed the Macallan Ice Ball Plunge, but I arrived just in time to quickly change and recharge for the spirited dinner cruise aboard the Creole Queen on the Mississippi! Beautiful faces new and familiar, substantial grub, high proof drinks, great chats, stunning river views and even a little swing dancing (sorry, Robert Simonson, I promise to be a more trusting dippee next time) set the tone for the next few days of bibulous fun. 

My first drink of the trip! A Four Roses julep. 

An unusually mild day followed an early rain storm on Friday. I took the opportunity for beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde followed by a breezy, leisurely stroll. Which landed me at the French Market to stock up on hot sauce.

And also outside Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, which is such a loathsome entity in a beautiful city, I won't even honor it with a link or a picture. But then I saw this sign outside Road Kill store, and it instantly brightened my mood. 

After a day of TOTC tastings, great grub (including a visit to my beloved Coop's Place) and bumping into friends in almost every corner of the French Quarter, my local pal, Mike, swept me away Uptown. Amazing Thai meal at LA Thai (where fresh vegetables, local protein and Asian tastes converge in New Orleans!) followed by music at Tipitina's. Friday is their no cover night. The Tulane kids are pretty onto it. 

This is where I met the long lost, close-talking, Cajun cousin of Keith Richards, who stumbled out the artist's door just in time for a smoke, unintelligible, consonant-free declarations and ogling, then crashed right back in again. Mike, his pal Ian and I just looked at each other, shrugged, and carried on talking outside. From there an unsuccessful visit to Bon Temps Rouler, where they had technical issues for music. But we did pass McKeown's Books, which has a wonderful sign. Read the bottom line.

Saturday morning, I needed some grease. Badly. Which is where Clover Grill came in. Short-staffed and slow, but just what the stomach called for. No, it sure ain't NYC. Thank heaven for that. (Read the fine print.)

Just enough time to meander. Balcony envy on the corner of Royal and Dumaine. 

Team Spirit, NOLA style!

A little friend came out to visit. By then, it had gotten very hot and I had orange fur stuck to my ankles. Such a cutie. 

That afternoon, I attended Tasteless: How Taste Alters With Age, lead by Darcy O'Neil and Wayne Curtis. This was a fascinating look into how everyone's taste and flavors receptors differ, how they change as we grow older, and how this translates to drink culture. As someone who now prefers spicier, bitter and more salty food (when I once wanted mostly sweet), I am still haunted by this lecture. It made me hyper aware of how my own penchants have evolved, the habits of the people close to me, and why bartenders shouldn't expect everyone to like the same drink made the same way. O'Neil: "I know a bartender who once made a cocktail that made a girl in Colorado cry." Great lecture. 

Further stops that day included Meyer the Hatter, The Bon Vivants Pig and Punch Party in Washington Square, the "sardine-packed" Imbibe Happy Hour at Arnaud's French 75, oysters at Bourbon House and a trip to see the lovely lady Abigail Gullo at SoBou. This is where I ate one of the greatest hybrids ever: pork cracklins with red pepper queso. Hey kids, sometimes you just gotta go with it. 

Know what you need after a night like that (Chart Room was involved too, unfortunately)? More Clover Grill! This was spotted along the way back to the Monteleone, a.k.a. TOTC HQ. 

Bartenders, I do love you so for all you do and put up with. But seeing y'all half naked at the Milagro pool party on the rooftop? There are no words. I do have pictures, but, well, let's leave that out for now.

OK, maybe with some cat paint enhancement. Just one. 

I needed something cold, sweet and refreshing. Know what's better than ice cream on a hot day? Frozen Irish Coffee at the Erin Rose, that's what!

I might have missed a Sazerac at the Carousel Bar and a good Po Boy on this trip, but there was no way I was missing the splendid garden scene at Bacchanal. Luckily, Mike and our pal Jason picked me up to take care of that need. Although it seems all of TOTC was onto it too that afternoon. At least we had our own shady table behind a large rubber plant. Here are my boys. Almost exactly three years to the day our great friendship chemistry was born. 

Sunday night already? How is that possible!!???? I didn't want this adventure to end. But as all good things must, that time was fast approaching. But a wonderful trip was ending in the most wonderful way: hearing Mike play trumpet with the Ernie Vincent and the Top Notes at dba on Frenchman. 

By now things were really swirling. NYC and New Orleans worlds colliding. People meeting. Alcoholic substances mixing. Dogs and cats, living together...

Note to self, no more early morning flights out. 

Special thanks to Ann and Paul Tuennerman, a.k.a. Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail, who have made this grand bender en masse event possible for ten years running. 

Extra special thanks to Mike Kobrin and also the Chart Room. I don't know if you saved my life or made it just a little shorter, but you certainly reminded me what fun (and in the case of the Chart Room, back-bending hospitality) is all about. Until next time, New Orleans. I sure do miss you.


Melissa Sarno said...

Great post! Sounds amazing!

winenshine said...

Thank you! It was a crazy time, but I loved every minute of it.