The food, the music and the eclectic culture!
If there is a shrimp, lobster, fish, gumbo wotnot and stuff like that on EVERY menu, you can pretty much guarantee that I am sold on a place.
So I was happy as a Desperate Housewife in New Orleans when there were such things as Po-Boys, Jambalya, Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp, Crawfish Etouffe and all that fish-tastic gubbins to choose from.
I did not, however, partake in a Muffuletta (why does that word make me laugh..?), nor a Beignet. Neither are to my taste, but given that I had never had either before I kind of feel I should have done, just because, but I was so full of shrimp and fishy stuff I couldn’t even think about it.
The Muffuletta sandwich is Italian in origin and is served on an entire round loaf of Italian bread (about 10 inches across) and then piled high with Provolone cheese, Genoa salami and Cappicola ham, and then topped with olive salad – chopped, green un-stuffed olives, pimento, celery, garlic, cocktail onions, capers, oregano, parsley, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s perfectly salty and unequivocally mouth-watering. The sandwich is HUGE, so its best split between at least two people, or maybe more depending on how hungry you are.
The French-Creole colonists who came to inhabit the city in its earliest days originally introduced beignets to New Orleans in the 18th century. The concept of the dessert is simple – dough is fried then covered with mounds of powdered sugar – but the result is extraordinary. As a precursor to today’s doughnuts, beignets are made from square-cut pieces of yeast dough and do not have a hole in them like most doughnuts. When served hot, they are absolute perfection, especially when accompanied with café au lait or chocolate milk.
New Orleans certainly spoke to me with its food, but I was hoping for more than just words with the music scene, this being the home of Fats Domino and Louis Armstrong. I wanted to be moved, touched and TRANSPORTED by it. And I was not disappointed. Frenchman Street gave us just what we were seeking, and more.
Oh my, jazz, blues, swing….it was all there to choose from. We met with two charming Southern Gents who I saw looking sassy on a Sunday afternoon and they, with appealing Southern charm, invited us to accompany them to The Spotted Cat. And marvellous it was too!
From The Spotted Cat (where we met smashing fellow Brit, John, who lived in NOLA for 30 years and resided from Harrow, where I used to live, and then meeting some girls from the UK, one from Cheltenham and one from Bath, both towns in which I also used to live – can you Adam and Eve it!?) we went to a jitterbugging bar, which, again, was like stepping into a different decade. I can’t describe how awesome if was, and a little unreal. It just felt so authentic.
Next up, a blues type bar showing a band that really blew me away called REVIVAL. This girl has a voice! The band was tight, talented and very funny. Shivers down the spine, folks. A homeless guy stood watching and he was moved to full on tears by this girl cos she had soul.
And those not in the music venues were also pretty cool. This is a totally awesome way for kids to spend their Sunday afternoon, don’t ya think!?
And, finally….the Gospel music. Wow, breathtaking. The hostess for the Gospel brunch at the House of Blues, which, by the way, was the best brunch I have ever had, was a recovering drug addict. She was funny, humble and gave a rocking performance. This was the best hangover cure EVER!
And though all these musical encounters, it made me realise that the people of New Orleans are very proud, but also very humble, very friendly and very welcoming, very funny and also open with their sadness. What an eclectic, engaging and entertaining mix of folks in NOLA.
Next up: history and ghost tours and interesting NOLA facts!