Favorite Things in NOLA 2011

I continue to accumulate favorite things about New Orleans, but here’s my second year favorites in a nutshell. Anything named previously in my Favorite Things in NOLA 2010 is marked with an Asterix*. Though there are too many “ties,” revealing an inability to “just pick one,” I promise you there were so many more things I wanted to include, so many more people and places I felt deserved mentioning.

Most items have links to their site, but if you’d like to know more about why I love these things so much, use the search window on the right to find photos, videos, research and stories on this blog.

Beignets – Cafe du Monde*

Since 1862, there is no substitute.

Breakfast – (tie) Camellia Grill* and Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar

Camellia Grill specializes in classics like eggs, grits and bacon, all served with panache.

Must have item at Surrey’s– the Lump Crab and Brie Omelet with sliced avocado, smothered in cream sauce. Why didn’t it win hands down? Surrey’s is cash only and I freeze to death no matter what sweater I bring.

Grits – Zea 

Because they’re slightly cheesy and flecked with whole corn kernels.

French Fries – Quarter Grocery

Dipped in batter then fried, so good you don’t need ketchup. Made to order in the back of the 2 aisle grocery.

Soup – The Vintage Garden Kitchen at Arc

Because they deliver, the ingredients are local grown, they use olive oil rather than butter, proceeds benefit Arc and employ people with developmental disabilities – and the soup is outstanding!

Salad – Muriel’s*, Covey Rise Farms

Muriel’s Shrimp and Jumbo Lump Crab Salad features super fresh asparagus, mixed greens and lime-mango vinaigrette.

Covey Rise Farms is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where people pay for a harvest in advance then get $25 baskets of 8 fresh varieties of vegetables every week. Their Heirloom Tomato Salad, served during last year’s Vieux To Do, was packed with fresh herbs and flavors and the tomatoes were so ripe and flavorful.

Appetizers – Louisiana Pizza Kitchen*

Grilled Italian Artichokes – marinated and char-grilled, just like in Rome.

Pasta – Coop’s Place*

Must have dish – Pasta Rosa.

Pizza – Vieux Carré Pizza

Because Slice doesn’t deliver and Vieux Carré will bring you hot, yummy pizza until at least 3 am in the French Quarter – even during a game.

Gumbo – Chef Raymond Signal of  Loew’s Hotel

Perhaps the only way to have a bowl is to attend the annual Got Gumbo? tasting and contest (where I discovered him last year) but Chef Raymond Signal’s duck, andouille, and oyster gumbo topped with duck cracklins was the best I’ve ever tasted. Even the rice was perfect.

Downtown Lunch – Galatoire’s

Because my first Friday lunch there included a fallen politician, a bevy of blingy birthday babes, seersucker suits, a brass band, tables on fire, tiaras, a second line and great food and service.

Uptown Lunch – Gott Gourmet

Try the Shrimp BLT Wrap (a tortilla stuffed with Tabasco butter sautéed jumbo shrimp, fresh mozzarella, apple smoked bacon, roasted peppers and tomatoes, avocado, with chipotle cream cheese) as well as the refreshing cucumber jicama salad.

Sno-Ball – SnoWizard*

Still the very best bang for the buck. Try nectar with sweetened condensed milk.

Gelato – La Divina*

I like to do half and half – Chocolate Azteca gelato and a refreshing sorbet like mango or cucumber. La Divina uses fresh, local ingredients whenever possible and biodegradable cups and spoons.

Popsicle – Meltdown Gourmet Popsicles*

Love the salted caramel for a creamy flavor and the watermelon with freshly ground mint leaves for something more refreshing.

Pralines – (tie) Southern Candymakers* and Loretta’s

The smell of the Southern Candymakers shop ought to be illegal and both places make amazing pralines.

Brownies – The Grocery, Inc.*

Because they’re thick and chewy and served with a smile.

Cookies – Angelo Brocato

Cookies as good as the ones at Vacarro’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy and I don’t have to pay for shipping.

Dinner Experience – Commander’s Palace

Because they’ve been serving fine food in a beautiful setting since 1880 and because neighbors get seating before celebrities. And because they give out hats and balloons for birthdays.

Chef – Susan Spicer of Bayona

Because she lets her food speak for itself.

Server – (tie) Jennifer (Jenny) at Commander’s Palace, Deanna at Verti Marte

Jenny doesn’t miss a trick. Personable and professional, she’s a delightful addition to any meal.

Deanna takes the phone orders at Verti Marte and makes it feel like calling home. She calls you “sweetie” and darling” and apologizes if they’re out of brussels sprouts (which they almost always are) and coos, “I’m sorry I don’t have that, baby.” Service with some sugar.

Local Beer – Abita Strawberry

Seasonal only, but made with the finest Louisiana-grown strawberries and no artificial flavors, extracts or oils.

Brass Band – Rebirth Brass Band*

Nominated for a Grammy this year, I’m clearly not the only huge fan of Rebirth.

Musical Auteur – (tie) Glen David Andrews, Trombone Shorty

Because Glen David Andrews has the soul, the confidence and the fiercely growling voice of a man twice his age and the energy of a man half his age.

Because Trombone Shorty has been on a path to greatness since 3 years old when he was given his name, and he just keeps getting better. Must run in the family as he’s Glen David Andrews’ cousin.

Musical Wonder Woman – Sarah Quintana

Because finding her in the woods at Chaz Fest was like stumbling onto a Cajun wood nymph who sings like a nightingale. And she can do more with her grandmother’s Katrina-surving coffee cup than most people can do with an entire orchestra.

Youth Band – Roots of Music*

Because they provide training, tutoring, meals and rides for 125 kids throughout the city and the music is amazing.

Smell – Sweet Olive*

Breaking last year’s tie with “boiling seafood,” Sweet Olive has been perfuming New Orleans since the horse and buggy days with its honied ripe apricots scent.

Venue – Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Because it’s home to the Saints and the Twelfth Man – the loudest fans in the NFL.

Festival – (tie) French Quarter Fest*, Chaz Fest

French Quarter Fest because it supports local musicians and restaurants with 4 days of fun and food in the heart of the Quarter.

Chaz Fest because it takes place in someone’s yard. Now that’s local. And it’s where I discovered Sarah Quintana.

TV Show – HBO’s Treme*

Because it’s truly great (and they finally had the good sense to cast me).

Sports Team – The Saints*

Because they teach us that anything is possible and because they break new records every week, showing us that excellence is within reach.

College Sports Team – LSU Tigers

Because they just kept winning, no matter what (until the disappointing BCS Championship).

Athlete – Drew Brees

The world is a better place. And he is simply the best.

College Athlete – Mo Isom

A heavily lauded and record breaking soccer player for LSU, she’s also an accident survivor and a Homecoming Queen who hopes to become the kicker for the LSU football team. Plus I love her “Mo Versus…” videos where she challenges athletes like Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu in 3 fun competitions.

Parade – Southern Decadence

Technicolor wigs piled high on bearded heads, corsets and costumes, falsies and stilettos, this parade looks like it rolled out of The Wizard of Oz and down St. Ann and it fits perfectly in both worlds.

Dance Troupe – 610 Stompers

If you don’t know why, you’ve never seen them. “Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Moves” and a great sense of humor.

Charity – Raintree Children and Family Services*

Providing services for special needs children and foster children since 1926. And because they also run Raintree House, a group home for teenage girls with no family or foster family.

Way to Give Back – (tie) YLC Wednesday at the Square and Harvest the Music, Jazz Fest Beer Booth, recycling beads at Arc

Sorry to only be able to narrow it to 3, but they were all such fun and such good causes!

Both Wednesday concert series feature amazing local acts and are free. Every dollar spent on the yummy food and beverage goes to Young Leadership Council and Second Harvest respectively.

Working the Raintree Children and Family Services beer booth at Jazz Fest gave me a free day at Jazz Fest and a chance to help local foster and special needs children.

Sorting Mardi Gras beads at Arc is like a childhood fantasy where you can practically roll around in beads. And the complimentary lunch is a fresh-grown salad and my new favorite soups from The Vintage Garden Kitchen.

Tranquil Spot – The Singing Oak*, Lafayette Cemetery #1

“The Singing Oak” created by Jim Hart, is a live oak in City Park covered in giant wind chimes.

Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the Garden District is more than just a beautiful, quiet place – it’s filled with history and heritage.

Beer Spot – Molly’s at the Market

Because the juke box has great music, the patrons and staff are cool, it’s a pit stop for downtown parades and Thursday is $1 Miller High Life night.

Radio Station – WWOZ*

Because they play all the music I’ve heard live and now I know the songs and artists.

Newspaper – NOLA Defender*

Because they’re the devil I know.

Local Character (present) – Uncle Lionel of Treme Brass Band

Because, at 80, Uncle Lionel makes the bass drum sexy and outplayed Trombone Shorty with an umbrella.

Local Character (RIP) – Coco Robicheaux

Because so many were so deeply affected by his passing, though his music will live on.

Phrase – Who Dat!?!*

Because it unites the Who Dat Nation.

Dance – “Getting Crunk”*

Because we dance to the Ying Yang Twins’ (Halftime) Stand Up and Get Crunk after every touchdown.

Awesome Cultural Thing – Game Day

I’ve lived in cities with Lakers and Redskins and Kings and Orioles, but I’ve never seen anything like game day in New Orleans. Every person, young and old, rich and poor, priest and stripper, wears Saints gear and watches every game.

Favorite Theatre – Audubon Aquarium of the Americas IMAX Theatre

Because it’s amazing 3-D movies put you under the sea or in flight and the pre-show music the afternoon I went included Phone Sex by Jason Miles, a song best described as Donna Sommers on Ecstasy.

Gallery – Photo Works*

Because photographer Louis Sahuc has been lovingly recording the French Quarter for decades in black-and-white and color, in landscapes and candids.  The gallery is like the city’s memories.

Artist – Stephán Wanger of Galeria Alegria

Because Stephán’s mosaics are not only beautiful portrayals of the city and it’s icons, they are made of recycled Mardi Gras beads so they actually are made of the city’s memories. Plus, he gives lessons.

Antique Shop – M.S. Rau Antiques

Though I love the Who Dat! signs worked from metal scraps and quirky, reasonably priced antiques of Greg’s Antiques, you can’t beat the decadence of a velvet-seated cut crystal throne, a half million dollar sapphire and diamond necklace, a $750,000 pool table that once sat in Buckingham Palace or the other 30,000 square feet of treasures established 100 years ago.

Who Dat and Carnival Couture Shop – (tie) Fleurty Girl*, Black and Gold Sports Shop

Fleurty Girl specializes in black and gold tutus and  jewelry as well as local t-shirts like, “Dome Sweet Dome.”

Black and Gold Sports Shop has every Saints and LSU item from salt shakers to baby booties.

Costume Shop – (tie) New Orleans Party and CostumeSouthern Costume Company

For buying, New Orleans Party and Costume has 2 stories of petticoats, wigs and costumes as well as balloons and party supplies.

For renting and for filming, Southern Costume Company is a full service rental, design, alteration and storage facility with over 9,000 square feet of inventory and offices.

Dress Shop – Trashy Diva

The most flattering, feminine shapes in beautiful fabrics and prints, there’s something wonderful for every woman in Trashy Diva’s dress, shoe and lingerie shops.

Plus Size Shop – The Voluptuous Vixen

Pretty and shapely dresses, lingerie and swimwear for women sizes 12 and up.

Hats – (female) Fleur de Paris, (male) Goorin Bros.

Fleur de Paris makes each hat like it’s a party on your head. Though most are very refined, each hat expresses some flight of fancy (or feather).

“Bold hatmakers since 1895,” Goorin Bros. is not your pawpaw’s hat shop, unless you pawpaw was super-cool. Part classic, part hip hop, Goorin Bros. American-made hats are functional and fashionable.

Perfume Shop – Bourbon French Parfums

Established 165 years ago, they do custom blending and feature  a re-creation of Marie Laveau’s Voodoo love potion. Intoxicating.

Mardi Gras Masks – Maskarade

An amazing array of leather, feathered or laser-cut metal masks  in every shape, color, character and animal imaginable.

Wig Shop – Fifi Mahony’s

Specializing in outrageous up-do’s (and great regular wigs), this is where the divas get their “do.”

Bookstore – Garden District Book Shop*

Because they constantly host readings and signings and have an eclectic mix of books with a heavy bent toward local writers and subjects.

Accessory – Second Line Umbrella

Because nothing says parade like a second line umbrella. They also shade us in the hot sun.

New Thing – Mardi Gras Parade Tracker

A phone and iPad application that gives real time GPS tracking of each parade by deploying people to walk the entire route with the frontline paraders. Now you know when to leave the house and how to time your bathroom breaks.

Litter – Mardi Gras Beads in Trees*

Because there are year-round reminders that life is a celebration.

5 Comments

Filed under Concerts, decorations and costumes, entertainment industry, festival, free events and lagniappe, Local Cuisine, parade, shopping, the Saints

5 responses to “Favorite Things in NOLA 2011

  1. I really love your blog! The game day scenario is sooo true! LOL
    I never have to wonder if it’s game day or not because, everywhere you look there are folks with Saints gear on.
    Who Dat!

  2. This is a great list! Glen David Andrews is a great performer. I tell everyone what a great show he puts on. Music must run in the family – besides Trombone Shorty, there’s James Andrews too!
    Would the muffuletta be the best sandwich?

    • So glad you’re enjoying the list. There are so many amazing musicians in this town that it’s next to impossible to pick, but I’ve seen them both several times this year and they stood out in an ocean of standouts.
      As to the sandwich, I think the po-boy eaters of this city might disagree with you. I, for one, am not big on sandwiches but can’t turn down Cochon de Lait.

  3. Danica

    I am thrilled to say that I have been to several of those places myself and loved’em. With YOU as my guide!!!

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