Since the streetcar isn't operating, we call another cab to take us to the legendary Commander's Palace for their weekly jazz brunch. The palatial building was built by Emile Commander, as a wedding gift for his daughter. The wedding never took place, so the Commander converted it into a restaurant in 1880. Up until Katrina, it was the oldest, continuously running restaurant under the same name in the U.S. The 14 months of reconstruction and rebuilding brought the grand old space up to code and into the modern era, but the rooms and the décor and the impeccable service harkens back to another time. As we ascend the flight of stairs to the upper level dining room, we are greeted by a cadre of servers, each wishing us a happy Mardi Gras or a "good morning, welcome to Commander's" greeting. The brightly-lit room is full of windows, flooding the space with light. A trio of musicians roams the room, playing standards and jaunty tunes with Cajun and Blues roots. Ti Martin and Lally Brennan are now the face of the restaurant, having assumed the mantle of running this massive operation from the matriarch, Ella Brennan (who still lives next door to the restaurant).
Walking is again required after a doughy, sugary, caffeine-laced fuel-up. As we walked around the city, we noticed -- in addition to more "Bless You Boys" signs and "We Dat" placards, placed prominently in windows and storefronts -- that this football-crazy town was also completely immersed in some kind of crazy parade marathon. As a hick from Minnesota, I always thought that Mardi Gras meant a parade or two, followed by a big party on Fat Tuesday. What I didn't realize was that the parades had started in early January, and this weekend was the culmination, which meant two or three major parades each day. The parades are led and organized by Krewes, or clubs, with names like Endymion and Bacchus, and they wind their way through downtown, Mid-City, Uptown and the Garden District -- preventing easy taxi access and seriously interrupting the streetcar service.
On Saturday, a light breakfast at Café du Monde was required. The line is long at this hallowed New Orleans' coffee stand -- opened since the 1860s -- but it moves fast, and there are only two or three choices so ordering is simple: café au lait (coffee with steamed milk) and powdered sugar-dusted beignets (ben-YAYS), or French donuts.
Feb. 15, 2010
Okay, so what I see going on here (on/at MISSion Amy K.R) is that we (each of you and I) are building a real live community together. We share interests, we share missions, and a we share a home (base).
Feb. 15, 2010
(photo by Lee Bey)
Put your hands together for one of the city's most striking pieces of architecture: First Church of Deliverance, an Art Moderne beauty at 4315 S. Wabash.
The church was built in 1939 and designed by Walter T. Bailey, the first African American to hold an architecture license in Illinois. Those terra cotta-clad twin towers were added in 1946, designed by Kocher Buss & DeKlerk. The building's modernity wasn't by chance. In the 1930s and 1940s, First Church was an exceedingly modern congregation.
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.
Feb. 12, 2010
Amy is off on her tour this week, so we are glad to have guest-blogger Rebecca Kavanagh.
Just as the gourmet chef pulls out the Wonder bread for a PB&J on his day off and the housecleaner puts her feet up on a cluttered coffee table at the end of the day, I spent more time thinking about other people's grand gestures this week than planning my own.
Delightfully, the same could not be said of my husband. Who, let's face it, might have been feeling a bit of cyber-pressure to do more than stop at the Hallmark shop this year. Look what I found in my front yard yesterday afternoon:
Be Mine (photo by Rebecca Kavanagh)
Quite a wow factor for the cost of a can of Krylon.
Perhaps he was inspired by these thoughtful folks: