It was raining cats and dogs when we landed in New Orleans. Just getting out of the cab and into the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone was a sopping wet adventure. Weather.com had warned us, but even equipped with umbrellas, we weren't amply prepared for the downpour.
Yet, we were on vacation. A girls' weekend in one of the most decadent cities on earth. A cloudburst wasn't about to stop Sandra and I from having a good time.
Strike that. A GREAT time.
So moments after we checked in, we ventured forth into the rain, down Royal Street until it turned into St. Charles Avenue. There, we grabbed a streetcar to take us to Lafayette Square and the promise of an open-air "rain or shine" concert by music legend Kermit Ruffins.
But, alas, "rain or shine" was a whole lot of of cock-and-bull. All we saw from the comfort of the streetcar was an empty stage in an empty square. Luckily though, traveling only a couple blocks further, we were able to find shelter from the rainstorm. My favorite kind of shelter. Shelter with a bar.
Drenched, we grabbed a couple of barstools at Herbsaint, one of New Orleans' finest dining establishments, and let the good times roll the N'awlins way: with a Sazerac.
My first taste of the Big Easy is pictured above. A beguiling drink, consisting of Rye Whiskey, Absinthe or Herbsaint, simple syrup, bitters and a gracefully curled lemon peel, a properly made Sazerac has a way of transporting the mind and spirit to a place of ease. Such was the case after one sip of this lovely beverage.
We paired our cocktails with a small plate of big proportions, a walloping dish of spicy Louisiana Shrimp and Grits with smoky Tasso Bacon and Okra.
The vacation had officially begun.
With the plate practically licked and two more Sazeracs laid waste, we headed off in a cab to Herbsaint's sister restaurant Cochon. A casual hotspot specializing in tongue-tingling Cajun cuisine, we found ourselves unable to say "no" to anything put in front of us, including Paneed Pork Cheeks with Pickled Green Tomatoes, Apples & Peas, a tantalizing Wood-Fired Oyster Roast...
...an Arugula Salad with crispy, beignet-like Pumpkin Calas, Pecans & Tasso Bacon, Catfish Courtbouillon, and Louisiana Cochon with Turnips, Cabbage & teeth-shattering Cracklins. We rounded the meal out with a side of rich Arcadian Eggplant & Shrimp Dressing and a dessert of homemade, still-warm-from-the-oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
It was a revelation of a repast. A few more Sazeracs only gilded the gustatory lilly.
The night came to close at the fabled Carousel Bar, turning ever so slowly around the room as we nipped at two more cocktails for the road -- or in this case, for the elevator up to our floor at the Monteleone, and off to sleep. As we drifted off to Nod, I could swear that Sandra asked one of life's most important questions:
"What's for breakfast?"