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Easter Weekend in New Orleans


maggiethecat
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This was in my inbox tonight. (I'm so glad I put that little leather-covered reporter's notebook in her Christmas stocking.)

Hi mom, so I promised you a day two N.O. report, and I have to say, I’m glad I wrote everything down!  Wouldn’t want to forget anything.

DAY 2

I’m not going to give you a complete play-by-play, because I have to save my energy to describe UPPERLINE, my favorite restaurant. But first, we went to a fancy Magazine Street spa called Belladonna, and witnessed the very handsome Mayor of New Oreleans, C. Ray Nagin, pick out a moisturizer that would make his skin look good “on camera.”  We had some great bloody marys at Cafe Rani, across from the spa, that were garnished with shrimp, asparagus, pickled okra, lemon and horseradish.  I made up for the salad I ate for lunch by going into Aunt Sally’s later and eating half a bowl of praline samples.

But now for the CULINARY HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TRIP (with Cafe du Monde coffee coming in a close second) – UPPERLINE.  We could tell right away that this place was special. The woman who greeted us at the door was friendly, and before we were seated she recommended a band for us to check out near our hotel later that night (Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers.) 

Then JoAnn Clevenger, the warm and wonderful owner of the restaurant took us to our seats.  She made sure to ask our names and find out exactly why each one of us were visiting N.O. and what we had done so far in her city.  Then she did us a real service by recommending the crispy-fried oysters.  Sarah and I ordered a glass of champagne (Duval-Leroy Brut NV) and Angela had her best friend, the sazerac, join us too.  Then the oysters arrived and we were in heaven. 

After sampling these we had no choice but to order everything on the menu.  Angela got the Taste of New Orleans menu, which basically had every delicious N.O. specialty served in petit portions.  Sarah and I splurged on the Thomas Jefferson Louisiana Purchase Dinner, i.e. four courses of deliciousness.  Here are my selections:

1st:  Turtle Soup with Sherry paired with Madeira, Broadbent 5 Year Reserve – I found this even better that the Commanders Palace version (is that sacrilege? – ask your egulleteers.)  I realized that everyone should make turtle soup for the holidays.  Better find some turtle meat in Ottawa. . .

2nd:  Fried Green Tomato with Shrimp Remoulade (I guess this was invented and perfected at Upperline – I’m still regretting my restraint in not eating one half of the second tomato.  Pacing yourself is overrated!) paired with Sauvignon Blanc, Honig 2003

**I know I’m not a wine person, but just a note here, that Sauvignon Blanc was the best wine Sarah and I had ever tasted!  It SMELLED DIVINE - like a bright, fruity butterfly or something (obviously I can’t describe it!).  It is only the second time I’ve tasted a wine and thought, “I hope I remember this for a long, long time!”**

3rd: Cane River Country Shrimp – this was a combo of sauteed shrimp, mushrooms, bacon and garlic over crispy grits (JoAnn described the grits as “Polenta-like,”)  Why can’t I eat this every week????  Why?  Life is not fair.  Even the bacon exceeded my already high expectations, and bacon is ALWAYS good.  This course was paired with a Pouilly-Fuisse (sp?) Louis Latour 2003.  The menu said that “white burgundy was one of Jefferson’s favorite French wines.”  The helpful JoAnn supplied additional information on Thomas Jefferson’s culinary contributions for me to take home and study.

4th:  Louisiana Pecan Pie paired with Graham’s Ten Year Tawny Port – speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

So during the 2.5 hours that we enjoyed our culinary adventure, JoAnn was basically the fourth member of our party!  Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing her loud, surprising laugh knows that we enjoyed every minute of her company (although she somehow managed to make every other table feel special, too, hugging everyone  when they were leaving.)  Before we left she took us on a tour of her art collection and garden.  

Two things I learned from JoAnn:  #1:  That great, sweet smell in the Garden District comes from the sweet olive flowers and #2: “Energy is a renewable resource,” so basically don’t be scared to do exactly what you want in life, even if you have to work your tail off to do it.                   

Okay, mom, I will try to do a Day 3, which was also great, but seriously, Upperline was the best place we ate (and drank.) 

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Why does this not surprise me at all.  :laugh:

Um... why does what not surprise you? The acorn and the tree? The Seriously seductive experience of dining out at Upperline?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I am so glad that she loved Upperline. I like the food, but frankly, if Jo Ann was running "Jo Ann's Grilled Government Cheese Sandwiches" it would be just as good (especially if she fed you some of that fine bread pudding for dessert). She is one of the most charming women that I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

The first time I ever met her was in 1984. I was a manager at a cheesy chain place on Carrollton Ave that had just opened, Cuco's, and she came in with her son (original chef at Upperline). I had enjoyed dinner at her place (it had not been open long, maybe a year) and she had, even back then, been a gracious host to a 24 year old food geek (this food thing is nothing new for me) and his wife. I thought that her charm and solicitousness was just part of the act that she put on for her customers. She came into the place on a slow Sunday afternoon and, as I was wandering through the dining room checking dinner service set up, I heard this voice calling my name. When I saw who it was I was floored. This woman had managed to, with no real apparent concious effort, several weeks later, not only remembered my face, but she remembered my name and THEN asked after my wife, by name. I was floored, to say the least.

The fact that I could paint this scene right now, if I could paint, still amazes me. I was flattered, of course, that I was remembered by an attractive woman, but I was even more impressed that she could do that and that she was actually paying attention during some fairly casual restaurant chit chat during a meal in her place. She must meet thousands of people a year, and she can still do that. And the best part is that when she is being nice, she is not trying. She really is that charming and funny and interested in her guests. That's a hard thing to find, in any business, but especially in that one. She's a gem.

I have sweet olives coming up my front walk, and like many people in New Orleans, a big, giant banana frescata (sic) and this time of year it smells like I have a big ass bowl of olives and bananas outside the door. In the heavy, humid evening air it's a pretty intoxicating thing, that scent, and in the part of Uptown where Upperline is, there are lots and lots of sweet olives in bloom right now. It's a very pleasant walk from the streetcar this time of year.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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. . .  seriously, Upperline was the best place we ate (and drank.) 

This is the problem I always have in New Orleans: go to Upperline first, just as a reminder of how great food and hospitality can be; or last, so that the rest of the trip isn't a bit of a letdown.

I know, the solution is obvious.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Oh dear. I'm loving this thread. MTC, thank your daughter for her eloquent journal entries.

And after reading Mayhaw Man's description of the sweet olive and banana scent, I'm more homesick than ever. Can't wait to return for jazzfest. Oh, and I also have some fond (if margarita-blurred) memories of Cuco's on Carrollton.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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I found this in my mailbox at lunch today:

Days 3 and 4

Well, I just looked at my journal for my third day in New Orleans (it's been over a week now, so my memory is dimming) and the first sentence I wrote was:  Healthy eating didn't happen.  This reminds me that Day 2 was a splendid gorge-fest of pralines, fried oysters and four course tasting menus inspired by the Louisiana Purchase!  So, I suppose I can reconstruct a memory that, after stumbling home from the Blue Nile very early on Day 3, Angela, Sarah and I had all agreed  to restrain ourselves on Easter Sunday.

Instead we woke up at noon, put on Easter skirts and heels, headed a few blocks down Frenchman Street to Cafe Marigny, ordered bloody Marys (okay, Sarah got a cranberry juice!) and waited to be seated for a late brunch.  We then stuffed our faces with biscuits and jam, french toast, crawfish omelets, glorious grits (my new friends, the grits!), and duck enchiladas.  Then we waddled back to our hotel and took naps.  When we woke up, we streetcar-ed to the French Quarter and wandered in that typical, we've-been-tourists-for-three-days type of way.  Poor Angela even suffered a watery,pinkish-colored sazerac with a layer of undissolved sugar at the bottom of the glass.  It was a low point, but things soon looked up.  We hightailed it out the door of that shameful bar, meaning we caught the gay easter parade going down Royal.  Now I, too, have experienced bead lust!  (I don't need a line in my journal to remember the witch who snatched the necklace with the big, green sparkly beads from my hands.  Those were MY beads!  The drag queen looked ME in the eyes and AIMED, dammit!)

The parade over, we wandered around again, this time with itchy plastic beads around our necks and rumbles in our stomachs.  Good thing we walked by NoLa just as it was opening for the evening.  This Emeril-owned place is something you could find at Mandalay Bay, in Vegas, with its gleaming open kitchen and special windowed elevator rising up from the dining room to the "who-knows-where-but-it's-probably-VIP"section. This scene was fine with me, as I was having a bit of a N.O. overload.  We sat at the bar, orderered absolutely delicious dirty martinis (alas, not for 25 cents!) and I ate a pizza with olives and tomatoes.  Yes, that's right, a pizza.  We all had delicious meals and the service was very good even though we were just cheap bar-eaters.  My only complaint is that one of the waiters kept re-folding our napkins for us whenever we set them down.  I'm sure it was well meant, but we found it disconcerting.

After a haunted tour (a great excuse to admire the beauty of the French Quarter at night), we went home and had a bottle of champagne.  Then we decided to start our night at Cafe du Monde.  After two hours of conversing over C&Bs, we decided to end it there too.

The next day, nothing much to note except that I did eat my first bad meal in N.O. (a turkey sandwich at the airport!)  Bad food was almost a novelty after the wild culinary ride I enjoyed in the Big Easy.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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