After leaving the Gumbo Shop, we walked past Jackson Square on our way to Frenchman Street, where we had heard the real Jazz was at.

But first, remember how I was making fun of all the white hick dudes playing fortune-teller? So I snapped a pic of this guy for proof, and he quipped at me, “Oh, I guess this one’s never seen a fortune-teller?” to which I flatly replied, “No.” Then I got home and had to have a good laugh, because of course in this picture the fat, white, bald, fortune-teller is perfectly surrounded by some sort of glowy aura. I guess this proves he must have been the real thing. Only explanation I can think of… 😉

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On the way to Frenchman we passed an arts fair where you could watch the artists working. New Orleans is just so alive with art, all the time.

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But, we finally made it to the promised land: a great jazz club. And goddamn it was awesome.

In The Spotted Cat (http://www.spottedcatmusicclub.com/) we sipped on a Sazeracs (this time I watched the bartender to ascertain that it was done right), and listed to some badass live Jazz

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[youtube=http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEXJms6LoCo]

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It was just so fun. The band was lively, the bar was packed, and couples swing danced in front of us. The Smoking Time was on point; that trombone player was letting it loose, he was definitely my favorite. Then the fiddler got out a saw and started playing it with his bow. What?! Never seen that before, and it was damn cool. I could have happily sat there all night listening to them. The atmosphere of the bar was so different because everyone was just enthused about the jazz, not that seedy hook-up tension that pervades cheaper places. It felt alive and exciting and just happy.  We talked to some nice older dude and this European girl that was couch surfing with him, all the way from Lithuania. At the end of the second set we decided it was late enough we should go home, but I as soon as we were out the door I was already wanting more, and I have a feeling I will be for a long time to come.

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Rachael and I rallied after a brief disco nap, and got ready to go hit the town.

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We were back on those crazy bikes. The cool night air whooshed past us, our dresses fluttered in the wind, and we bumped and banged over the cracked city streets down Esplanade, into the Vieux Carré.

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First things first, we needed some real Creole cooking. We locked our bikes opposite Jackson Square and walked to the Gumbo Shop.

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http://www.gumboshop.com/

Out in their cobblestoned courtyard, we felt very European, sitting down to a meal outside at 9pm. It was closed in, so quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the street; just nice. Our neighbors on either side were very friendly and talked to us, espousing about how delicious the food was, and chatting about where they were from, what to order, etc.  We didn’t mess around with the menu too much, we went straight for the Creole Dinner and ordered it to split- it was plenty enough food.  We started with the Seafood Okra Gumbo: “okra, onion, bell peppers, celery, and a tiny bit of tomato sautéed and blended with shrimp and crabs into a thick brown Creole soup- served over rice.” Next came the Creole Combination Platter: Shrimp Creole (shrimp cooked in a spicy Creole tomato sauce), Jambalaya (smoked sausage, shrimp, and chicken in a seasoned sauce, and cooked with rice), Red Beans & Rice, and Macque Choux Corn (stewed corn with onions, peppers, and tomatoes). Finally we ended with Hot Bread Pudding in Whiskey Sauce. Unfortunately we were so hungry by 9, and it all looked so delicious, it was only by the dessert course that I had the presence of mind to restrain myself long enough to take a picture of our food before devouring it. So I will photo cred these to the randos of the Internet, but now you get an idea of what it looked like:

Gumbo served with rice.

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Macque Choux Corn, Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya, Red Beans & Rice.

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Hot Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.

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I must also give a shout out to their warm, fresh out of the oven French bread. Perfect crisp crust, soft inside. And maybe this is weird, but it was really good when I buttered it and then put some of their Creole seasoning on it. This should be a new thing. Their condiments were actually great. I’ve never been a hot sauce kinda girl, but in New Orleans I learned to love it. It didn’t just give me a burning sensation to distract me from the flavors of my food, which is my usual opinion on the subject. Instead, it really complimented and enhanced the flavors. It was delicious on the shrimp Creole, jambalaya, and red beans & rice.

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It’s hard for me to wax on about what it was like to eat it, because I find Creole food doesn’t have many easy comparisons to the food found elsewhere in the U.S. The flavors and textures are unique, and that’s a big part of the draw to New Orleans. The food you eat here just isn’t easy to find anywhere else. The gumbo was thick and a smooth spice, punctuated by the savor of the vegetables, and the acidity in the seafood. The red beans & rice is a bold, saucy dish- nothing like the Mexican version you might imagine. The jambalaya is a mix of well-seasoned rice with meat. Since I’m not much of a meat eater (although clearly I make exceptions for what I deem life experiences), this was the dish that I most appreciated the hot sauce on, to kick the flavors up a notch.  The shrimp Creole was maybe similar in texture to a Thai curry sauce, with the tiny shrimp perfectly cooked within it. Since I’m having such a trouble relating exactly what the Creole flavor is like, I can at least tell you that the ingredients in Creole seasoning are salt, paprika, onion powder, granulated garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, thyme, basil, and oregano. Hopefully that helps your imagination. The bread pudding held up with everything else. It was warm, sweet; nice whiskey sauce, juicy raisins. A solid, but not overwhelming, end to a delicious, and perfectly satisfying, meal.

And now with bellies full of New Orleans, it was time to venture into the night and seek out some New Orleans for our ears and eyes. I’m talkin’ bout JAZZZZZ…

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Before you read this post, first observe the platform wedges I’m wearing in this picture. Then consider that I walked 4 miles in them. Now think to yourself, “Respect.”

From Café du Monde to Magazine/Harmony St (the bus stop from hell).

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After some solid tromping from the canal, we hit the Arts and Warehouse District. Our first stop was the welcome oasis of The Soda Shop, a cute, old-timey place connected to the WWII Museum. They make their own original sodas in-house. I got nectar; Rachael, honey-apple. Perfect for our parched traveler’s throats.

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Next we walked a block off Magazine to hit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. http://www.ogdenmuseum.org/

It had an amazing collection. I loved this crazy rocking horse made of beads, chains, wheels, and whatever else

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Rachael and I quickly discovered we had very different tastes in art. I adored this funky cow painting and told her I’d totally hang it in my house- to which she candidly replied with gusto, “I wouldn’t let that near my house with a burning pole!” A bit of a mixed saying, but I got the message ha.

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This was more her style, but didn’t do much for me.

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But we both agreed that “Sit down shut your mouth” was a winner. Especially appropriate as it was painted on an old TV.

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I liked that this sculpture was displayed in an atrium-like area.

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We both liked this story of a broken plate painted on a cabinet door, with bits of plate used for the mother and daughter’s clothing. The vignette itself was touching, but somehow the artist’s use of those mediums made it especially evocative.

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Funky bejeweled cats and dog-

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This collage was already off-putting and severe, but the use of light and the protruding frame to cast shadows made it even more so.

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This was dumb. All the figures are from famous paintings, but now they all have cell phones. Cool…. Not.

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A great collection, but my favorite was the exhibit of Eudora Welty: Photographs from the 1930’s and 40’s. Her snapshot style really caught the life in her subjects.

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More cool folk art.

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Ogden was completely worth the visit and reasonably priced too at $8 for students. I loved it.

But our travels were just beginning. Upon exiting the museum, we first needed to add our admission stickers to this pole collection and appreciate these ridiculous biker-safety posters-

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That must have been a fun photo shoot.

We walked and walked and walked some more down Magazine, entering the Garden District. It was beautiful, the dappled light coming down through the trees to light the old antebellum houses. But there was also the murmur of conflict you could feel everywhere in the city. The cracked streets and crumbling facades evoked a quiet but distinct undercurrent of man versus nature.

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A short detour off Magazine brought us to one of the city’s famous aboveground cemeteries.

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Back on Magazine, we finally we hit the good shopping area. It was a mix of funky stores selling vintage clothes, quirky local art/jewelry, and antiques, along with cafes, bars, and restaurants.

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Angry birds.

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I like the cat that’s straight busting through a crack in the wall…

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We found some great old jazz records.

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Fun earrings.

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I was digging the dentures.

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This woman artist melted down Mardi Gras beads into lampshades and sun jujus. I liked these because they incorporated the voodoo and carnival flavor of New Orleans in a new, creative way, very different from the usual horribly tacky souvenirs.

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These lights reminded me of jellyfish!

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Sun Jujus

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There were shops specializing in calligraphy, signs, posters, and post-cards. I should note that all the shop keepers we spoke to were usually the artists themselves, and perfectly happy to tell us about their work or help us with directions. It made shopping even more fun to make a personal connection with the locals.

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There were also plenty of typical hipster items for sale, i.e. anything inexplicably decorated with a mustache. We even found temporary mustache tattoos.

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If you needed your ironic religious paraphernalia, they had that too.

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In typical hipster fashion, the shopping bag for my floral sunglasses is a cookie monster-cookie Ziploc. I liked it.

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In the middle of all that shopping there was another welcome oasis: Sucre. They’re famous for specializing in hand-made chocolates, macaroons, and gelato. We shared a salted-caramel macaroon: delish. I got the peanut butter and fudge swirl gelato; Rachael got mango and basil-coconut. Smooth cold, and creamy: the perfect treat after all that walking in the sun.

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At the end of our trek, this is where shit got real. Real fucking annoying. We waited at this bus stop for 40 minutes, watching 5 buses go by in the other direction. Take a cab.

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Then back to our house to recuperate before nighttime adventures…

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