My shirt is slightly askew. My stomach is just beginning to protrude beyond my upper belt buckle, and my brain is practically screaming at me -- pleading, really -- to stop eating. I knew what I was getting into though. You don't plan a 48-hour eating itinerary for five college friends in New Orleans, and not think that you're going to have moments like this. We always plan our annual trip together during the weekend of the N.B.A All-Star game, since one of our friends covers the Lakers for the L.A. Times, and another works for the New Jersey Nets -- it's the only weekend they can legitimately take off. So after last year's trip to Los Angeles, we decided on New Orleans, since two of the guys in our group had never been there before.
We realized about two months ago that the All-Star Weekend takes place at exactly the same time as the Mardi Gras celebrations and parades kick into high gear.
The thought of a city basking in the glow of a Super Bowl victory after a painful 43-year wait hadn't even crossed our minds. While Fat Tuesday loomed a few days off in the distance, it was the weekend prior that would certainly be a challenge for us -- both with respect to hotels and restaurants. Since I've been to New Orleans a few times, I volunteered to set-up the eating and drinking itinerary.
After we landed and checked-in to our hotel in the Warehouse District, we jumped in a cab to head straight for Willie Mae's Scotch House. Opened in 1957, this shotgun shack of a restaurant was destroyed after Katrina, and then re-built with the help of John T. Edge's Southern Foodways Alliance. The SFA considers Willie Mae's a Southern landmark, and by the taste of their fried chicken, corn muffins and red beans and rice, I can see why there was a ridiculously long line of people waiting to get in on our way out.
Bourbon Street revelers
We walked around the French Quarter a bit that afternoon, but it was unseasonably cold on Friday -- around 35 degrees -- and the day was just miserable. Bourbon Street had the usual motley crew of barely-legal drinkers, bead-throwers and buskers, and in all honesty, if I never walk down Bourbon again, it will be too soon.