With Fat Tuesday last week (and of course Marti Gras) it reminded me of New Orleans, Louisiana. Which in turn, reminded me of the French Quarter. This picture is actually of the church of St. Louis and sits right in what is known as Jackson Square. This area has many attractions that all of us tourists just love. But truly there are so many unique buildings, restaurants and shops in this area, that it is a tourist's dream (or nightmare depending on how you perceive shopping and other tourists).
We had several good meals in this area not limited to, but including Paul Purdomme's "K-Pauls" (Paul Prudhomme, the Cajun chef with a world-class cooking pedigree and a personality as big as the flavors he creates). A unique thing about dining at K- Pauls, was that there was just the two of us so they sat us with another couple of "two" at a table for four. The place is in such demand, that no one cares, as long as they get to eat there. We happened to be with a couple of nurses who were in town for a convention. They actually made for very nice dinner companions for my wife and I.
My favorite lunch was at the "The New Orleans Cooking Experience" which is inside the Old converted shopping area known as the "Jackson Brewery". Not only was the food excellent, but also we actually got to watch as it was prepared complete with jambalaya, red beans and rice, Creole gumbo, followed up with pralines for dessert.
Speaking of sweets... another favorite for my palate was the Coffee & beignets at the Cafe du Monde. Crispy Crème’s have nothing on these little babies! And people watching at the Cafe du Monde was a plus too.
As for the actual French Quarter and the famous Bourbon Street... I could have easily stayed in the Marriott and forgotten our trip down that street. It was really a place that was full of sidewalk (like) boozy slushy makers positioned every five feet (or so it seemed) and lots of women showing off their wears, similar to what I would have expected to see (along the brothel streets in some European country), where women of the evening are not discouraged.
Little did I know that New Orleans has a history of appealing to the carnal senses. Storyville, the famed red-light district at the turn of the last century, was known for its many houses of prostitution as well as being the birthplace of jazz music until it was closed down in 1917. After vaudeville, and the success of burlesque, striptease became a mainstay on the nightclub stages. In the Forties, stripteasers were in it for the money, as servicemen passed in and out of town looking for a good time.
As for some history about the area around the French quarter... French Canadian naval officer Jean Baptiste Bienville founded it as a military-style grid of seventy squares in 1718; the French Quarter of New Orleans has charted a course of urbanism for parts of four centuries. Bienville served as governor for financier John Law's Company of the Indies, which in naming the city for the Regent Duc d'Orleans sought to curry Court favor before failing spectacularly in the "Great Mississippi Bubble."
The French Period legacy endures in the town plan and central square, the church of St. Louis, Ursuline Convent and women's education, ancien regime street names such as Bourbon and Royal, the charity hospital, and a mixed legacy of Creole culture, Mardi Gras, and the important effects of African enslavement combined with a tolerant approach to free persons of color.
Foundations laid by the French and Spanish in the 18th century survived to shape the course of history in the city. The city plan, the central square overlooked by church and state, French arpents, city lots, faubourgs, heavy trusses, Creole cottages, the old Convent, and Charity Hospital came from the French side. But streetscapes full of repeating arches, Arabesque ironwork, covered passageways, and the still-alluring sense of guarded privacy came from His Catholic Majesty of Spain, not His Christian Majesty of France.
We had many adventures in our time there and some are more memorable than others. The meals there were all very good and not one of them was ever bland. I think that may be where Emeril Lagasse's got his "BAM!!!" from. Though a native of Fall River, Mass., Chef Emeril’s rise to fame and fortune began in New Orleans when he was hired as chef of "Commander’s Palace", the alma mater of Prudhomme (and a very nice place to dine itself). He's also got a place there called NOLA, as well as "Emeril's" which he stared after leaving "Commander’s Palace". For me, there were no bad meals in New Orleans... and boy... am I ever getting hungry now?"I am going to kick this up a notch.... BAM!!!"
~ Emeril Lagasse