I’ve said it before, if you leave your house, this city rises to meet you. New Orleans is full of life and leaves nothing uncelebrated. Saturday in the French Quarter might include a food festival, a parade and a gala as it did for me last week. We stumbled first onto the longest oyster po-boy in the world. A thousand fried oysters from Acme Oyster House filled a 3 block long baguette on Bourbon Street. Different local restaurants dressed sections about 6 feet long. We parked in front of the maque choux (a Cajun and Native American corn preparation) section and I was delighted to find myself at the center of the action.
The Storyville Stompers Brass Band played as Jennifer Jones, a Second Line staple danced with her signature umbrella. Mitch Landrieu served up smiles and a short speech and some awards before making the first cut. The whole po-boy was served, for free, in under 5 minutes.
A moment on our Mayor. Landrieu was Lt. Governor of the Great State of Louisiana. With a father and sister who were both elected officials, one can assume he had political ambitions. But after Katrina, with the city in disarray, Landrieu sought to step backward on his political climb and take on the city’s post-disaster problems. He ran for Mayor in 2006 and was defeated by Incumbent Nagin. Last year, with Nagin exiting, he ran again and won a landslide victory. Why recount this? Because it bears pointing out that in a time where greed and ambition seem to fuel so much of our election process, Mayor Landrieu genuinely seems to want to serve the people of his community at the expense of his own political aspirations. And running twice means he’s committed to this city. Can you say that about your Mayor? Is your Mayor committed to your needs over his own advancement? Ours might be.
From the giant po-boy, we walked one block to Royal Street to try the many goodies offered at the Roadfood Festival, 6 blocks of restaurants, both local and from places like Texas and Tennessee, Arizona and Indiana, featuring great food from the road. I had a decadent grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried boudin (a sausage made with rice) from Johnson’s Boucaniere and my first sno-ball of the season from Plum Street Snoball. The Firefighters’ beignet eating contest went on without us.
Afterward, I heard the Treme Brass Band coming down the street and stumbled onto a parade. Lots of antique cars and horse-drawn carriages carried suited men and women and girls in lace-trimmed hoop dresses all carrying live flowers. Without even trying, I was thrown enough flowers to make a small bouquet. I asked someone what the parade was for. “Spring Fiesta!” Of course! Can’t let Spring arrive uncelebrated for existing and providing live flowers. The Fiesta focuses around a walking tour of homes and gardens in the French Quarter, but this city demands that you pick your parties. You can’t possibly do it all.
Then it was off to Harrah’s Casino for the Raintree Children and Family Services Paint the Town Green Gala. Raintree (established in 1926) offers services for foster care children, children with disabilities and at-risk children. They also have a home for teenaged girls who were unable to find placement in the foster care system. It’s noble work and all we had to do to support it was pay for an evening of food, music and auctions. The food was provided by local restaurants including an incredible spinach risotto from Drago’s, a subtle lobster ravioli from G W Fins and an incredible carrot souffle from Picadilly (yes, the buffet place – but good is good and it was great!).
The music was provided by Burgundy, a cover band specializing in great dance songs from the 70’s and 80’s. Despite the passage of St. Patrick’s, we honored the theme by wearing green making the many people line dancing look even more fun and inviting. I knew the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle but was fascinated to see how many more line dances everyone else seemed to know.
There was a silent auction of everything from artwork and jewelry to weekend getaways and local restaurant gift certificates. The live auction, M.C.’ed by Liz Reyes of Fox 8, fetched thousands for items like a supercool Who Dat guitar signed by Saints’ coach, Sean Payton.
It was a lovely evening benefitting our most vulnerable citizens and capping another perfect day in the Big Easy. And I even got to wear a gown made for my mother in Japan in the late 60’s that’s been sitting in my closet for decades waiting to party.