The following post is a continuation of the New Orleans: Sensuous City.
After the music, there’s the food. I ate very well in New Orleans, but I would put the blossoming food scenes in Baltimore and DC right up there with the meals I had in New Orleans. I had a great gumbo at Coquette. Our best meal was probably at Peche, a fish centric restaurant where I discovered what shrimp can taste like at their absolute best. There are also creative food explorations that we enjoyed…the Caribbean/New Orleans fusion at Compere Lapin or the modern Israeli cuisine at Shaya were definite highlights. And I love my beignets. Cafe du Monde…late at night…after the jazz clubs…fluffy pillows of sugared heaven to take you to happy dreams. But skip the hot chocolate there…it was a watery powder-mix homage to what hot chocolate should be.
What does make the food special is the same thing that makes so much of New Orleans special. There’s a real sense of identity and pride in the culture. You can taste it in the food. You can see it in the houses, the curving wrought iron and colorful paint with flower boxes blooming on the balconies. You see it on Bourbon Street where young men sit at old fashioned type writers, ready to write a poem on a theme of your choosing for a small fee. New Orleans is a town where you can show up. You can be yourself. If that means dressing as a New Orleans Saints themed Darth Vader, no problem. Or maybe doing a photoshoot as a gothic vampire inspired character. Maybe you’re just the queen in a tiara. No one blinks an eye. There’s a sense of freedom of expression everywhere you go, whether you blend in or stand out. I know that there’s more to it than that. In my limited time, much of what I experienced was “tourist” New Orleans, even if I did make efforts to wander off the beaten paths and find venues and restaurants that were finds. There were large swaths of the city I didn’t have time to get to, areas deeply impacted by poverty, hurricane Katrina, generations of segregation and racial inequality. I know that this culture and it’s history are more complicated than I could ever know in five days, leaving me eager to return to learn, explore, and know it better. (Continued in Part 3)