As I wrote last week, I had won a trip for two to New Orleans when I supported my sister-in-law, B.J. Adler’s, nonprofit arts group. I didn’t realize at the time just how lucky I was to get a chance to visit such a unique city with a charm all its own.
As part of the “package” was dinner at the Commander’s Palace restaurant, where we were greeted by waiters in polka dot vests and black ties. One after the other, they greeted us with “Welcome, Welcome!” Their friendly greeting put big smiles on our faces as we were seated in a large room with crystal chandeliers and well-spaced, white linen-covered tables.
Our meal was as good as the surroundings. The cuisine featuring Cajun and creole food excited our palates, and their jazz brunch is a real New Orleans treat. After dinner, we discovered that the restaurant also has a table in the kitchen, a large outdoor patio and a glass-enclosed dining room facing the garden patio.
On our half-day guided tour of the city, we got a taste of the charm of the other neighborhoods surrounding the unique French Quarter with its wrought iron patios overlooking the street scene and its many historic buildings.
Fortunately, most restaurants survived Katrina but had to close, some for years, because they couldn’t get staff and there were no customers! The tourist trade had come to a stop! But they have come back and one restaurateur reported to me sales are up over last year. Arnaud’s Restaurant was my favorite because it’s where the “Brooklyn” cocktail was created.
Here’s the recipe for the unique drink: ½ ounce rye, ½ ounce vermouth, ½ ounce cardamaro and 1/3 oz of Luxardo maraschino liqueur stirred with ice and garnished with a Luxardo cherry! It was unique and worth repeating.
If you can’t get to New Orleans, try making the cocktail yourself. You will love it too!
Our next must-see stop was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. We had priority seating on a bench but to my surprise most of the visitors had to stand in what was a surprisingly small space accommodating maybe 100 people.
The night I was there for the 45-minute session, they offered $5 per request. I asked them to sing my favorite Louis Armstrong song, “What a Wonderful World.” The piano player, drummer, bass clarinet and sax and trombone group thrilled me and the audience cheered the performers. They ended the session with the appropriate favorite “St Louis Blues!”
The space was established in 1961 by Alan and Sandra Jaffe. They had stopped in New Orleans on their honeymoon and fell in love with what they heard at Preservation Hall. They decided to stay and became proprietors of the hall. Their vision helped to build both the reputation and business of the New Orleans site.
Powerfully, they ran the racially integrated jazz institution through the mayhem that accompanied the civil rights movement in the south and never bent to angry segregationists. The Jaffes were a force in helping bring the city back after Katrina forming outreach programs to help the jazz artists survive and assure the survival of the jazz scene in New Orleans.
Today their son Ben runs the business and keeps it alive and flourishing with lines still winding up the street with people waiting to enjoy the show that runs four times a night.
For more great jazz, Friendship Street offers club after club.
Being a lover of flea markets — after all, my family runs the Long Island City Flea Market every weekend — I was delighted to find that there are several in New Orleans. We visited the French Market where there is an extraordinary coffee shop Cafe du Monde that serves outrageously mouthwatering beignets, which are French doughnuts smothered in powdered sugar. One bite and you are in heaven!
Down the block is the flea market offering food and drink stands, fresh produce and a hundred vendors selling trinkets, souvenirs ,clothes, jewelry and of course tourist tee shirts.
I talked with a friendly, savvy man who’s been selling women’s apparel there for over 20 years and shared with me his fear that Amazon will put him out if business.
Not so fast! He’s got location, location, location — and charm.
As you might surmise, I found New Orleans a place like no other I’ve visited before. It combines great food, great music and survivors who love their city – also an easy one to traverse and fall in love with. I will most definitely return! After all, it’s just a two hour flight from New York City!