Steve wanted to take a trip to New Orleans to celebrate his birthday so here we are, staying at the Marriott on Canal Street.  We arrived yesterday afternoon and met up with our friends, Mary Ann and Larry Nelon for drinks at 55 Farenheit.  Mary Ann ordered the classic Sazerac made with rye whiskey.  I tasted it and much preferred my cosmo.  Steve’s hurricane was a little too sweet.Mary Ann and I walked for about an hour to catch up and get a little exercise in before the evening meal.  We had reservations at NOLA for the kitchen bar.  NOLA is one of Emeril’s restaurants and is located on St. Louis Street.  We had a front row seat to the small kitchen and pizza oven where we watched the food being prepared and expedited by the Chef de cuisine Joshua Laskay.  The chef manning the pizza oven, a friendly young woman, was also using the wood burning oven to roast the drum and accompanying potatoes, the entree Steve ordered.  I wanted to try a pizza made in the oven as well, so I ordered an appetizer veggie pizza with the roasted squash, housemade ricotta cheese, curry oil and cilantro.  It was kind of bland.  Steve’s barbequed shrimp was a little too sweet, but the NOLA caesar with dijon anchovy vinaigrette was outstanding. Larry had the gumbo of the day–seafood with okra, and it was not as good as the gumbo back home at Gogo Gumbo in Boyd, Texas.   Mary Ann’s beet salad looked very appetizing but I didn’t try it. For the entree I ordered shrimp and grits (sauteed gulf shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-abita butter sauce).
Barbequed Shrimp
Veggie Pizza with House Ricotta
 Steve ordered the Garlic Crusted Drum cooked in the wood burning oven with Brabant potatoes, crimini mushrooms, bacon and sauce beurre rouge.  Larry had the Grilled Pork Chop and Mary Ann had Prince Edward Island Black Mussels in Garlic-Chardonnay Broth with Focaccia Bread.  My shrimp and grits was fair, a little too sweet for my tastes, however the grits were well prepared.  Steve’s drum was really the star.  The fish was flaky and flavorful, with crispy potatoes and wine sauce and the wood flavor was subtle.
Gumbo
Beet Salad
NOLA Caesar Salad
Mussels
The time spent in the wood burning oven kept the fish extra piping hot the entire time he was eating it.  I had plate envy.  Mary Ann’s mussels were in a broth filled with corn, bacon, and herbs and tasted really fresh.
Shrimp and Grits
Garlic Crusted Drum
Watching all the orders coming out was so interesting!  For dessert we had the Creme Brulee trio, vanilla bean with fresh berries, coconut with coconut truffle, mocha with chocolate almond biscotti.
Creme Brulee Trio
All three were equally delicious, a wonderful finish to an enjoyable dinner with friends. We walked over to Frenchmen Street, an area known for good music, and heard some street music.  I heard some singing from Vaso, a small club.  We enjoyed a few songs there before heading back to the hotel.
Mary Ann and Larry were done for the night, but we decided to visit Bourbon Street.  Our favorite club from our last visit, Fat Catz, had a lively band playing “Carry on My Wayward Son” so we stopped in for a bit.  We stood around for awhile in the courtyard of Cafe Beignet and listened to some music, but there were no tables so we didn’t hang around.  The usual rowdy crowd was staggering down the street with their giant fish aquarium drinks in hand, so we got out of there pretty quickly and back to the hotel. Our plan for Saturday morning was a trip to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and Cafe Au Lait.  When we got there we waited a few minutes before getting a table.  Our beignets and coffee were welcome after the long walk.  As we left the line for a table stretched out quite a long way–always a good idea to get there early.
Cafe Au Lait and Beignets!
We met up with our friends again and wandered over to Royal Street.   That has to be my favorite street in New Orleans.  Lots of beautiful old buildings, art galleries, shops, and musicians always.
Mary Ann wanted us to see the gallery featuring the artist who paints the blue dog, George Rodrigue.   Imagine, you can get a simple painting of a blue dog for thousands of dollars.  Even a little print will set you back at least $800.00.  I will go back tomorrow to do some more shopping in the little kitchen stores.
Lunch at Central Grocery was a treat.  The famous muffaletta was just as good as I remembered from our last trip.  We ordered one sandwich and shared it, but it was still way more than we could finish.
The “whole” muffuletta is big enough for 4
 We walked over to the French Market, an outdoor market filled with vendors selling mostly cheap gifts.  The food stalls were popular, selling everything from alligator to classic Creole and Cajun dishes, pralines, and local products.  The Cupcake Fairies were there selling their plastic cups of layered cupcakes with fillings meant to be eaten with a fork.  I wanted to try one but I resisted. We did try a local pecan praline though.  Although it was good I prefer my recipe for pecan brittle. We walked for another hour enjoying the sunshine on a cold day and finally made it back to the hotel. This is a vacation so a little resting was in order.  There is something about walking for hours in the cold that really makes you tired! We didn’t have solid dinner plans other than stopping at Acme Oyster House to try the famous oysters. Acme Oyster House has been open since 1910 and is known for its oyster challenges.  The top winner put away 43 dozen oysters!  I noticed long lines everytime we walked by the place on the last trip and this one so I figured it was either a good restaurant or just popular because of so much exposure on Travel Channel with Man Vs. Food, etc.
We walked over to Iberville St. to stand in line.  Fortunately, our wait was over in less than an hour. It was a lot larger inside than I thought it would be and seating was communal.  We were seated next to strangers in a table for eight.  I can’t remember where I read about chargrilled oysters but they were on my list of dishes to try on the trip so we ordered a half dozen.  We also ordered a fried seafood platter with catfish, shrimp, and oysters to share.  I don’t usually eat fried seafood but I’m pretty sure that Acme is not known for healthy grilled seafood.  The fried catfish was really better than any I’ve had in a long time and the shrimp and oysters were quite tasty too.  Nothing was greasy.  There were plenty of lemons, spicy, spicy cocktail sauce and tartar sauce.
The oysters were something else!  So hot you can barely touch them, bubbling with some type of buttery sauce, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and delicious with a squeeze of lemon and dash of Tabasco sauce with some crusty French bread.  We ended up ordering another half dozen.  Now I know why the long lines are there!
We waddled out of there full of fried food and rich oysters and I did not even want to think about the number of calories I consumed. I usually avoid all fried foods so when I posted a photo of our fried seafood on Facebook my daughter asked Steve, “Did mom eat really eat that?”  The bill for this meal was $58.00, about a hundred dollars less than our NOLA dinner! We walked out and noticed the line was stretched down to the next block, but I can understand now that people want their oysters!
Line waiting to get in Acme Oyster House
A trip to the Harrah’s casino for a few minutes sounded like a good end to the evening.  The smoke filled place was a little off putting so I knew we would be out of there quickly.  I put $20 in a quarter slot machine and figured it would be gone in minutes, as usually is the case.  The machine malfunctioned and a technician came over to fix it.  After he left the machine started paying off constantly.  Within a short time I had $200 in credit.  I cashed out when it went back down to $150 and gave the credit receipt to Steve to cash in.  After all, it’s his birthday trip. I was just glad to get out of the smoke filled noisy casino.
Sunday morning arrived and our plan to walk to Sucre, at 3025 Magazine St., was still on.  I added another stop to this plan, breakfast at the Surrey Juice Bar and Cafe at 1418 Magazine, about half way.  I read about the Surrey Juice Bar and Cafe in Yelp or Trip Advisor when looking for good breakfast spots.
Way too many things I would like to try
on our way out–line has formed
There was a clip on Youtube where it was visited by DDD that showed how they make their own bagels in house and cure their own salmon.  After all the local fare a bagels and lox breakfast sounded really good.  Our entire walk would be over six miles, but after all the heavy eating I was all for extra walking.  We set out about 8:00 and enjoyed our walked down Magazine Street.  This is an area in which old homes are being restored so there were some really cute two story traditional New Orleans style houses along the way as well as little shops and businesses.  We noticed azaleas and other flowers already blooming, early to us.  The Surrey Juice Bar and Cafe is a small building that looks like an old house.  Fortunately there was only a brief wait and we were seated.  A very quirky place with lots of art work on the falls and decoupaged table tops.  Ours happened to be covered with Bible verses.
 
The menu had a nice selection of organic vegetables and fruit juices–now this was my kind of place, finally!  I enjoyed a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange, apple, and carrot juice.  Steve had orange juice. All was very sweet and fresh.  My bagel and lox arrived and was just as good as I hoped.  The bagel was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside and the salmon was thinly sliced and flavorful.  I made little bagel/cream cheese/red onion/caper bites and savored each bite.  Steve had a huge bagel, egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich along with a big bowl of cheese grits.  The grits were made with stone ground grits and had a wonderful texture and taste, nothing like the instant grits usually served.
 
Looking at the menu I wished I lived in New Orleans so I could come back and try other items like the Costa Rican Breakfast with black beans, brown rice and avocado slices.
House made bagel and lox
 
We continued our walk on to Sucre.  A little rest was in order and a nice cup of dark hot chocolate was all I needed.  We selected a couple of gift boxes of authentic macarons, French style, to take back to Fort Worth.  Letty Thome from GoGo Gumbo told us about Sucre so we are taking a box to her and our daughter, Alexandra, requested some as well.
 
The walk back was very long and tiring.  We took a different street, a big mistake, and ended up on
 
Tchoupitoulas St., a busy, loud, industrial road which made it seem even longer.  Back at the room we had to collapse for awhile to recover from the cold, wind, and long, long walk at a brisk pace.
 
After a little rest we headed out to Royal Street to do a little shopping and just to enjoy the street music.
 
The weather had warmed up and we didn’t have to bundle up with so many layers.  There were street performers all along Royal Street including an excellent violin player, bluegrass, country and others.
 
I really enjoy this aspect of New Orleans and it’s one of the reasons we wanted to come back.
Smiling and trying not to think about the weight I’ve gained so far on this trip
Luke Dining Room
 
We had dinner reservations for 7:00 at August, a John Besh restaurant.  We had been there before and Steve wanted to return for his birthday.  We were seated in a rather dark section of the restaurant, so dark Steve couldn’t read the menu even with his bifocals.  I had to switch seats with him and then he was able to see better.
Amuse Bouche
  We started with a champagne cocktail, and had appetizers of blue crab and black truffle hand-made potato gnocchi for Steve and the Plaquemines’s parish citrus and jumbo lump crab salad with Benton’s bacon, fennel and blood orange vinaigrette for me.
Jumbo lumb crab salad
Gnocchi
  Steve selected the Breaded Trout Pontchartrain with  lump crabmeat, wild mushrooms, and sauce hollandaise for his entree.  I had the Rebessa Lirette’s Berkshire Duroc Pork, slow cooked belly, crispy pied, and tenderloin crepinette.  
Berkshire Duroc Pork
Trout Ponchartrain
We had Sauvingnon Blanc and Cabernet blend from Stag’s Leap for wines.  Each of our entrees was small, plated beautifully, and a taste explosion unlike anything else we ever try.  For dessert Steve selected the dessert that won the Southern Living best dessert of the south award, Banana pudding with peanut butter, marshmallow and “nilla wafer” ice cream.  I had the Napoleon of nougatine with Valrhona chocolate bavarois, and salted toffee ice cream.  The desserts were out of this world, each taste bursting with unique flavors.
Nougatine
Banana Pudding
Complimentary truffles
We were tired of walking so after dinner we went to the Canal Street movie tavern and saw the movie, Side Effects.
 
Our last meal in New Orleans, Luke, another John Besh Restaurant.  It was a short walk from the hotel on St. Charles Ave.  I had planned to have the “eggs in a jar”, soft shell crab with poached eggs and cheese grits but they were “out” of that item.  Steve ordered the fried chicken biscuit ($14.00) and I ordered the omelet of local crab ($22.00).  Rather expensive breakfast items, particularly the chicken biscuit, since a really good chicken biscuit at Chick Fil A costs about $3.00.  We had freshly squeezed orange juice which was great but when the food arrived after a really long wait Steve’s chicken was cold and my omelet was barely warm. I don’t enjoy cold eggs so I sent it back and asked for it to be brought to me hot.  The manager came over to our table to apologize and said she would take care of the meal.
Not expected, but that was fine.  My next omelet was piping hot and tasted OK, but really nothing more than pale eggs with pieces of crab inside.
 I could not detect the house made fromage blanc.  The “herb pistou” was nothing more than a few pieces of spring mix.  Steve’s McEwen grits were quite good, though.  I’m tempted to look on line and order some.  Luke was a beautiful place, lots of hype, but the food did not live up to the descriptions and it was overpriced.  I am not thinking we will come back here on our next visit.  Breakfast at Brennan’s may be the choice.
 
Back to the room to pack and on to the airport.  We’ll probably grab something to eat on the plane, but not New Orleans fare.
 
Back at home we celebrated again at Gogo Gumbo–where we had better gumbo than New Orleans and Steve was treated with their famous banana cream pie.