In February of 1999 we made our first trip to New Orleans. I remember riding the streetcar named Desire. We were staying at the Omni Royal Orleans right in the center of the French Quarter. We had decided to have lunch out of the French Quarter so we had to cross Canal Street to get into the city. Just as we were crossing Canal Street the legendary streetcar named Desire was pulling up to pick up fares, so we jumped on board. As we were getting to our seats my Bride looked out the window and saw a gentleman’s hat shop and looked at the hats in the window and said they have a top hat. I looked also and said that the hat in the window was not the type I was looking for, but that we would stop after lunch and look around. At the moment we had a more pressing need, we were going to the legendary Commander’s Palace restaurant in the Garden District.
I had asked the driver to inform us when we had arrived at the right intersection and he suggested that we get off several blocks early, and walk around the Garden District. That sounded like a great suggestion, so off we went walking around looking at homes of the old South. What a great walk that was, and we were even pointed to the author’s home of Anne Rice. As we came upon the restaurant there was a cemetery across the street and everyone had informed us that we should at least visit one cemetery while in New Orleans. The city is below sea level, so people are buried above ground in special crypts and it was interesting to see some of the family plots and tombstones. Then off we went to the restaurant.
Commander’s Palace was a unique structure with turquoise trim and looked perfect for the area. There was a garden on the property and it was such a unique experience just to enter. Since we were there for lunch the menu was lighter then what would be offered for dinner, but there was more then enough to make our day. Dining in New Orleans is different from all other cities, and I believe one should enjoy the local cuisine.
My Bride started out with a “Mixed Baby Green’s Salad” with a garlic artichoke dressing, and I opted for the Oyster Bisque. She then had a “Louisiana Fried Crawfish Salad” with roasted corn and sweet pepper relish and grilled andouille tossed in a honey mustard dressing and cornbread. I opted for the “Crawfish Maque Choux” which consisted of a sauté of crawfish, corn, okra, peppers and onions in a dark crawfish sauce served with popcorn rice and garnished with bacon crisps. For dessert my Bride had “First of the Season Strawberry Shortcake” with Chantilly cream and I had a Bread Pudding Soufflé with a great whiskey sauce, along with classic New Orleans chicory coffee. As the manager was walking by, he looked at what I was having for dessert and inquired why I had not put the whiskey sauce into my coffee. I informed him that I did not know about or think about such an additive. I also said that the service by the wait staff was so impeccable that they had already cleared the whiskey sauce from our table. He immediately ordered another batch of the whiskey sauce to be made so that we could enjoy our desserts and coffee properly. He then took us on a private tour of the restaurant, gardens and the kitchen, it was grand.
Of course we did have wine with our lunch. It was Chablis from Burgundy, which paired wonderfully with the lunch especially with the crawfish entrees. It had just the right tang for the meal and very refreshing for such a hot humid day. Afterwards our server had the label removed from our bottle and attached to a souvenir card. It was a wonderful way to spend about four hours of the day.
After leaving we caught the streetcar back to Canal Street and decided to enter the hat shop (which is another hobby of mine). I asked for an opera hat, and not one of the inferior wool felt ones that were featured in the window. The gentleman asked for my size and we walked over to a stack of hat boxes that must have towered twelve feet or more. Using a hat box tool, he removed one hat box out of the tower and presented it to me. I tried the hat on for size and my Bride said “Get it; I am tired of you complaining that you don’t have one.” We found another hat as well, and they shipped the two hats home for us. All in all, a great memory of a lunch, a wine and a wonderful afternoon in a historic area; this is what memories are about.