High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Culinary Return: The Big Easy, Day 5.1

M and I had packed and pretty much passed out on Thursday night, both in preparation for having Breakfast at Brennan's, which numerous people informed us we must. AMB and K were on board, as was J. Og also braved Cave!Slayer, but sie was all about the sleep at that point.

A lot of vocabulary has just been beaten to death by the tourism industry, particularly with regard to New Orleans: Old World charm, elegance, etc. But it all really applies to Brennan's. The spotless stone floors glow with care and time; the wood reception desk and glass-and-wood display cases are warm and inviting; the archways and chandeliers draw the eye from floor to ceiling and along corridors; and . . . dear Baal I sound like I'm writing Tennessee Williams fanfic or intro text for Gone with the Wind. It's just a really lovely, elegant space. Even Og could appreciate that.

Also according to instructions, some of enjoyed the canonical gin fizz. We'd had pale imitations the night before at Remoulade, but these were the real deal: lightly creamy, delicate hint of orange, and pleasant from start to finish. M also sampled another drink that he enjoyed (an Absinthe Suissesse, maybe?), but it was too anise-y for me. I am now kicking myself again because none of us tried the Mr. Funk of New Orleans (which, I'm pretty sure is what and I dubbed a "Butterwick" in honor of and at their wedding.

There was also COFFEE! Excellent, hot, delicious coffee in a pretty silver pot. And fresh-squeezed juice, which I suppose is good if you're not into playing fast and loose with your stimulants and your depressants before noon.

M was the only one of us brave enough to do the full on Table d'Hote. In fact, he went one better than that. He had the Creole Onion soup, but then pulled a reverse on the entree and went for the grillades and grits (please note that this involves BABY veal, not that imitation toddler veal). For dessert, he had the bananas foster.

I was all about following the path of the unusual omelette, which had treated me well earlier in the week. My omelette is not represented on any of the menus that I can find, but it had andouille and cheese and deliciousness on its side. AMB had a tasso omelette (mmmm). I think K might've gotten the same omelette as I did, and I've utterly blanked on J's dish. Braver folk than I ordered the key lime pie, the pecan pie, and auxiliary bananas foster, but I couldn't even think about dessert. Not even when the waiter appeared to really, REALLY want me to have a sympathy order of bananas foster. (It was a very nice gesture, but seriously, Og cannot be responsible for hir actions in the presence of bananas en fuego before noon.)

Somehow we made it back to the hotel after breakfast, and the Fellowship was broken. J and AKS were headed back home by way of Atlanta, and M and I were off to a less capacious room for our last night in NO. AMB and K were kind enough to help us move (which meant that we doubled our likelihood of getting lost on the way to the elevator, simply because none of us could remember where it was).

M had to work, of course, but the rest of our remaining merry band was intent on heading down to the end of Magazine Street near Audubon Park. First up, though, I had to hit the FedEx/Kinko's to ship the posters off to Casa Wombata. This errand and planning for the excursion set us up for more wackiness in the service sector. Bear in mind that I was carrying a 4-foot-tall tube of heavy vinyl as I asked the clerk at Kinko's about shipping.

Clerk: Do you want to ship those ground?

Me: I think so. It's not important how soon they get there, so whatever's inexpensive.

Clerk: Ground is cheaper.

Me: Ok, ground then.

Clerk: You can't ship those ground. They're not packed.

Me: . . .

Clerk: I can put them in a FedEx bag if you ship them 3-day.

Me: 3-day it is . . .

Earlier at the Marriott, AMB bravely tries to obtain information about the St. Charles streetcar.

DRB: Can you tell me how much the streetcar is?

Clerk: $1.50.

DRB: Great. Thank you. Do you know how often they're running?

Clerk: Oh, I don't think they're running, are they?

DRB: . . .

Clerk: You can take the bus. That's the same price.

DRB: Ok, then. Thanks . . .

Like I said: Not bad service, just weird service.

Posters mailed, we hopped on the bus and tried not to be worried about the sign warning us about the penalties for attacking transit employees, which was in Reader's Digest large-print format. The bus ride took us through the Garden District where there seemed to be a lot of real estate for sale. As I was saying to M today, visiting NO in October—especially this October—may have been a grave error. I found myself saying over and over again, "I could live here. I really could live here." We've decided that we need to return in July to remind ourselves that there's no way we'd survive a single summer there.

I don't think we saw much of the real destruction on that ride. M saw some on the train in, and certainly AMB and K saw a bunch on their trip out to the swamp tour. But certainly that area of the city was both harder hit and more forgotten than the Quarter.

We exited the bus around Calhoun and began shopping our way back down magazine. I very nearly wound up with these Vans, and AMB very nearly wound up with these; sadly neither of us got quite the right fit. (And I confess that I have since obtained these.)

We moseyed onward, stopping in any shops that caught our fancy. Most were in houses, so it was a great opportunity to soak up the enviable architecture. We hit a bath and scent store along the way where AMB obtained much-needed rubber duckies for the bunnyface F1 generation. One store dealt exclusively in vintage accessories. Most of you know that I have a much lower than average attraction to and concern for purses than the average XX individual, and even I saw that there were some genuinely beautiful bags in there. Also, K tried to talk me into buying the most beautiful compact in the world, but I simply could not justify spending $60 on a pocket mirror when I often go weeks without looking in the regular mirrors in my home.

We hit a boutique called Sweet Pea & Tulip that also has a location in the Quarter (one that we somehow missed in the shopping extravaganza on Thursday). I somehow lucked into a pretty peasant/hippy top on clearance. It's white with purple-grey faux finish, melon trim, and has a periwinkle and melon embroidered/sequined design front and back. I realize that sounds like a nightmare, but it's very pretty. Another boutique called Fairy (Woman's Clothing) came very close to doing a LOT of damage to my wallet. There was a gorgeous pale green wrap blouse that (mercifully) happened to hit me in exactly the wrong spot. There were also cute cargo pants that did weird things to my butt. (I can only imagine what they would have done to someone who actually has a butt.) I also remain grateful that I didn't see the vintage skull bead necklace until we were on our way out.

Given the near miss at Fairy, it was sensible to take a breather and Luna Cafe, a great coffee shop that took up the main floor of a house. In addition to good coffee and delicious cookies, this had great seating on the porch (overlooking the Starbucks across the street) to recommend it. But even if it had failed in the most basic necessities and lacked other fringe benefits, it would have rocked if only for the sign over the toy area at the back of the house, which read:
Unattended children will be given espresso and a puppy

As we continued our journey, we stopped at Blue Frog Chocolates, where I picked up a taxonomically confused chocolate gator for the friend who covered my midterms for me. We stopped in a few more boutiques and "antique stores" that leaned more to the thrift shop end of the spectrum (not that there's anything wrong with that, and I very nearly scored an Emergency Home Sacraments Kit very like the one we had when I was growing up. This was a far superior EHSK, though, because it had a kind of electric blue enamel inlay behind Our Savior.

Time was sadly growing short, though, and all too soon it was time to point ourselves back toward the Warehouse District to collect M. Our cooking class was scheduled to begin at 5:30, and we definitely did not want to be late. Despite rush hour traffic, though, our United Cab Man had us at the House on Bayou Road by about 5:10. We rang the bell and were waiting for a response when a deep, authoritative voice from behind us asked if we were there for the cooking class. As one, we turned to find . . . a guy in full combat fatigues coming up the path.

This would turn out to be Tom, husband of Judy (the business part of NOCE, and former archaeologist. Had I but known his identity at the outset, I would have been obnoxiously talking shop with him all evening. As it was, I only got in a little bit of this when he generously drove us back to the hotel at the end of the evening, and by then I was so full of delicious food that I was barely conscious.

Speaking of barely conscious, I'm afraid I'm going to stop here for now. I'm rapidly fading, and I still need to work out before I can sleep. The best and last is yet to come.

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