The categories are: Food & Beverage, Music & Entertainment, Culture, Shopping and Giving & More. Anything named previously in my Favorite Things in NOLA 2012 is marked with an Asterix*. Most items have links to their site, but if you’d like to know more, use the search window on the right to find photos, videos, history and stories.
This year, I’ve added a gallery of photos. The first photos are of items listed and the last half are of stuff I love in New Orleans from Creole tomatoes to Ashley the Traffic Tranny.
I’m also revealing Your Favorite Posts of 2013.
1 – Endymion Extravaganza – My First Ball! – which is also your favorite post of all time.
Now to the list:
FOOD & BEVERAGE:
Breakfast – Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar
Must have item – the Lump Crab and Brie Omelet with sliced avocado, smothered in cream sauce. Surrey’s is cash only and bring a sweater.
Downtown Lunch – K. Paul’s*
Only served 11-2 Thursday through Saturday. The menu changes weekly with Paul Prudhomme and Executive Chef Paul Miller’s extraordinary food at ordinary prices (around $12). Their super-tasty hearty gumbo is a permanent menu item.
Uptown Treat – District Donuts Sliders Brew
Specializing in creative donuts and sliders with micro-roasted coffee. Try the daily special sliders like Hawaiian Braised Oxtail with Crispy Onion & Muscadine Syrup or the menu staple “Monsieur,” a panini-style donut with ham, gruyere, béchamel and dijon. Treat yourself to a fun donut like the Banana Split donut, the Sriracha Maple Glaze w/Candied Thyme or the Black & Gold donut with Lazy Magnolia Stout glaze, chocolate-covered chips and bacon. Also enjoy the beverage quick-chiller and the reclaimed musical instruments and vintage fun-stuff decor.
Food Truck – Food Drunk
“Chef inspired alcohol influenced cuisine.” I love the Drunken Pig Po-Boy of 15 hour applewood-smoked pig braised in Pabst with pickled green tomato relish, caramelized Vidalia onions, Creole mustard/beer sauce on duck fat toasted bread.
Dinner Experience – Commander’s Palace*
Chef Tory McPhail won the 2013 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: South. I love the “ballet service.” Commander’s has been serving fine food in a beautiful setting since 1880 and neighbors get seating before celebrities. And they still give out hats and balloons for birthdays and serve 25 cent martinis.
Food Fight – Got Gumbo?
Benefitting the United Way and hosted by Royal Sonesta, the annual event features around 20 chefs competing in traditional, seafood and exotic gumbos as well as a table decorating category for “best float” (like in a parade).
Beignets – Cafe du Monde*
Since 1862, there is no substitute.
Pasta – Coop’s Place*
Must have dish – Pasta Rosa. Inexpensive but long lines and you must be 21 to enter.
Hot Dogs – Dreamy Weenies*
Dreamy Weenies offers beef (Halal AND Kosher), lamb and vegan dogs with lots of topping combinations and yummy waffle fries – all right across from Armstrong Park. Try the Satchmo Dog smothered in red beans and rice and the “Pothole” with potato salad below the dog and chili and shredded cheese on top.
Pizza – Vieux Carré Pizza*
Vieux Carré will bring you hot, yummy pizza until at least 3 am in the French Quarter – even during a game. Only half a block from Bourbon St., they also have dine-in seating and sell slices to go.
Fried Chicken – Willie Mae’s Scotch House
A “Bucket List” item for anyone seeking the world’s best fried chicken. James Beard Award winner where a 3-piece meal runs about $10 (a few dollars more for all white meat) and includes a selection of sides including some of the best red beans and rice I’ve ever tasted. There’s always a line and you’ll have to wait again once you’re finally invited inside. A word to tourists – the group at the table next to us found some of the sides to be a bit spicy and though it’s called a “Scotch House,” don’t expect to find booze.
Drinking Spot – The Street*
Because we can drink and walk at the same time here. Once you’ve purchased a beverage, it’s yours to keep – just ask for a “go-cup.”
Cocktail – Brandy Milk Punch*
I’m breaking last year’s tie with the Crescent City Cooler. Brandy Milk Punch is a popular brunch drink and hangover-hair-of-the-dog as old as this country. Brennan’s claims perfecting the recipe but I had my first one at Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square.
Because juice never tasted so good and it’s “medicinal food.”
Local Beer – Abita Grapefruit
Made with Louisiana Ruby-Red grapefruits, pale, pilsner and caramel malts and cascade hops. I thought nothing could taste better than the elusive Abita Strawberry, but I love the crisp flavor of the grapefruit and how it compliments the beer. Who knew?
Sno-Ball – SnoWizard*
Still the best bang for the buck. Try nectar with sweetened condensed milk.
Gelato – La Divina*
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.
Once again, I cannot break the tie. The smell of the Southern Candymakers shop ought to be illegal and both places make amazing pralines.
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.
Cake – Croissant D’Or Patisserie
Though I don’t know the name of the cake, a slice of their lemon-syrup drenched yellow cake with lemon chiffon icing sent me straight back to my childhood when people still made lemon chiffon pies – my favorite. I look forward to trying their French pastries, quiches, sandwiches and soups. Open 6am – 3pm every day except Tuesdays.
Chef – John Besh
It feels like I’m cheating on Susan Spicer and Tory McPhail, but I was definitely taken by John Besh this year. He made an insanely tasty crab salad with a beluga-like cous cous at a friend’s party and I ate 4 of them without bothering to be embarrassed. A James Beard Award winner with 9 restaurants, his Restaurant August was nominated for the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant award in both 2012 and 2013. Get the handmade potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and black truffle appetizer ($18).
Server – Daniel at Commander’s Palace*
Because he keeps you feeling constantly served without ever making you feel hustled along. Plus he’s easy on the eyes, has a good sense of humor and tells fun stories.
Bartender – Jennifer at Tujague’s
Jenny was my Favorite Server 2011 when she worked at Commander’s Palace. She brings the same enthusiasm, warmth, attention to detail and knowledge of local food and beverage history to mixing old favorite drinks and her own concoctions. I may have given her some ideas, but she was the mix-master behind my WWL 12 for the Road non-alcoholic drink, the Jiminy Cricket. Watch the video HERE.
Grocery Store – Rouses in the CBD*
Because they’re the first grocery store in the U.S. with an aeroponic herb farm on their roof, their bakery rocks, they make lots of yummy dishes for you to heat up at home like stuffed mirliton and shrimp with capers and they have a made-to-order bar for burritos and paninis.
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT:
Venue – Armstrong Park
Hosting everything from the Jazz in the Park concert series to the Class Got Brass school band competition, the park’s history as the birthplace of Jazz and center of Treme culture should be enough reason to visit. The park also features the Mahalia Jackson Theater and and statues of local icons like the eponymous Louis Armstrong and Big Chief Tootie Montana.
Festival – French Quarter Fest*
My favorite 4 years running because it’s free to attend and features some of the best local food and music the city has to offer during 4 days of fun in the heart of the Quarter.
I toiled over this because there are so many great musicians who had an amazing year and these men tied as my favorites in 2011 but Trombone Shorty closed out Jazz Fest this year, taking the baton from the Nevilles, and it was an amazing you-had-to-be-there moment. He also released his new CD, Say This to Say That, which debuted at the top of the charts and stayed there.
Glen David is putting the finishing touches on his new CD Redemption, but those of us who see him live have already heard many of the songs and it’s an amazing mix of spiritual and sexy. His voice still “melts like butter,” and his continued sobriety is inspiring.
Musical Wonder Woman – Jazz Henry
Still 17, she played Jazz Fest with her dad, Corey Henry of Galactic then went on to win the title of Red Bull Street Kings (Queens) with the first all-female brass band, the Original Pinettes. She also continued her role as “Jennifer” on HBO’s Treme. It may be early to call her a Musical Wonder Woman, but she’s certainly achieved a lot before before even graduating high school.
Brass Band – New Breed Brass Band
After 3 years, I realize Rebirth Brass Band may always be my favorite so it’s time to add some new blood. Formed this year with several members of Baby Boyz Brass Band and Trombone Shorty’s nephew, New Breed already sounds like they’ve been playing together since ever. Even more remarkable when you realize how young they are. After opening for Trombone Shorty in Lafayette Square, they came in second at Red Bull Street Kings.
Youth Band – Roots of Music*
For the 4th year because they provide training, tutoring, meals and rides for 150 kids throughout the city and the music is amazing.
Street Musicians – Tanya and Dorise
Tanya would appear to be the inspiration for Treme‘s Annie character (Lucia Micarelli) – a virtuoso who could play with any number of orchestras but she seems extraordinarily happy to have the freedom to play pop and rock and R&B in addition to classical alongside Dorise. Dorise expertly plays a hollow-neck Blackbird classical 6-string made of carbon fiber and kevlar and adds the beat to their percussion-free duets. Catch them busking on Royal Street.
Locally Shot Movie – Now You See Me
I am clearly biased since I get hypnotized by Woody Harrelson early in the movie, but this sleeper became wildly popular and profitable and used New Orleans as itself whereas most movies that shoot here are set elsewhere.
I also want to mention Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave and Lee Daniels’ The Butler – all heavily lauded films. I was also a fan of Mud and the raunchy comedy, This is the End.
TV Show – HBO’s Treme* (Honorable Mention – American Horror Story: Coven)
Again, I’m biased as I played David Morse’s ex-wife on 2 episodes BUT it was always my favorite – a time capsule of New Orleans with live recordings of some of our greatest musicians playing themselves. Sadly, the series ended in December 2013.
I was surprised to find how much I’ve enjoyed American Horror Story: Coven. The show is sinister, sexy and fun. Some of the characters are based on historical New Orleanians and I love all of the locations they use.
Radio Station – WWOZ*
Because they play all NOLA music all the time. Available everywhere through live streaming.
Sports Team – The Saints*
Because they give us something to fight for rather than something to fight over.
Athlete – Steve Gleason
I know he’s not technically an athlete anymore, but his contributions to our team, our city and those suffering ALS make us all winners. In 2006, blocking the punt at the first post-Katrina game in the Dome made him an instant hero. Now, through his organization, No White Flags, he helps and inspires not only those affected by ALS, but everyone who is touched by his refusal to surrender. Watch his hourlong episode of A Football Life if you want to be inspired too. Though he exemplifies the dangers of sports-related head injuries, he continues to love the game and, with the help of the newly-returned Sean Payton, led the Who Dat chant in the Dome at this year’s opener.
Local Character (present) – Rob Ryan
The Saints new Defensive Coordinator is not a native New Orleanian but he has jumped into this community with both feet. Not only has he taken our defense from the worst in the league to the playoffs but he celebrates home games by buying rounds for everyone at Miss Mae’s. His “Dude”-like appearance inspired many Halloween costumes and some fans wear grey wigs to games.
As the owner and operator of New Orleans Model and Talent, Claudia represented most of the working-est actors in this town for decades. My agent since the week I moved here in 2009, she has been a friend, a confidant and my partner on this journey. I will miss her immeasurably as will many of this city’s best talent. I cannot possibly express how critical she was to the actors of this city or how much work she generated for our industry.
George Rodrigue was known for his beloved Blue Dog paintings which hang in homes and buildings throughout the city and the world.
Parade – Krewe of Muses*
A female parade with a Vegas-lighted stiletto leading the way, Muses has become a must-attend parade with my vote for best “throws” – hand-decorated shoes.
Dance Troupe – Pussyfooters
Again, I have to admit to bias as I recently became a Pussyfooter, but readers of this blog know how much I’ve loved this group of over-30 burlesque-inspired pink movers and shakers. These formidable women promote the values of service and empowerment and support non-profits benefitting women and their families.
Dance – Bounce
Though it birthed “twerking” and all the mess that came with it, bounce started in New Orleans and continues to amaze with it’s noodle-knees and rapid bootie-popping.
Song – Black and Gold by Chadquentin and Phat Word
(With All For One Brass Band and 21st Century Brass Band). After a fairly exhaustive search in my posts Saints Soundtrack and Saints Soundtrack Vol. 2, this is the new song I most want to hear when the Saints make touchdowns.
Rapper ChadQuentin is Chadrick Honore, Grammy-winning trumpeter from Rebirth Brass Band. Phat Word is a confident street poet and the owner of the sweet-buttery-smelling Geaux Nuts cart in the Superdome.
Phrase – Who Dat!?!*
Because it unites the Who Dat Nation and makes me believe anything’s possible.
Awesome Cultural Thing – Second Lines*
A moving block party with brass bands, food and beverages and plenty of dancing – some on rooftops and fence lines. Here’s a video and explanation of the tradition.
New Thing – (tie) Petite Restaurants and Million Mrs. Roper March
This year, several restaurants in the French Quarter opened faster, cheaper shop-style versions of their elite dining experiences. Perhaps following a trend made popular by Donald Links’ Cochon spin-off, Butcher (Favorite Uptown Lunch 2012), Galatoire’s opened Galatoire’s Bistro and a few others followed suit. I’ve only had the chance to try Cafe Amelie’s Petite Amelie but it was a real treat featuring fresh and finely-made salads, sandwiches, cous cous, juices, pastries and more. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 8am – 7pm.
Making their debut at Southern Decadence, the Million Mrs. Roper Marchers featured men in red afros wearing muumuus and carrying Mrs. Roper on-a-stick faces. Photo below.
When Tujague’s owner Steven Latter passed last February, the rumors were that the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans was set to become a t-shirt shop or a fried chicken shack or both. When the city freaked out, the family felt inspired to regroup and Mark Latter has since given the interior a facelift and business is booming.
Destroyed by Katrina, the Saenger Theatre finally reopened it’s doors. The beautiful restoration of the original 1927 design has attracted shows like Book of Mormon and Jerry Seinfeld.
Smell – Sweet Olive*
Sweet Olive has been perfuming New Orleans since the horse and buggy days with its honied ripe apricots scent.
Litter – Mardi Gras Beads in Trees*
Because there are year-round reminders that life is a celebration.
It was a big year for Guinness World Records in New Orleans as Galeria Alegria’s Stephan Wanger enlisted locals, students and tourists to create the “Largest Mosaic made out of Mardi Gras Beads” (42′ ft long and 8′ ft tall) in February. He then topped himself with his Natchitoches army of volunteers who took 4 months and over 2 million beads to create a 48′ ft by 8′ ft mosaic presented in December.
In September, O.G. twerker and “Queen of Bounce” Big Freedia broke the world record for “Most People Twerking” (358) during an event in New York.
Antique Shop – M.S. Rau Antiques*
Though I love the Who Dat! signs worked from metal scraps and the quirky, reasonably priced furniture of Greg’s Antiques, the 100 year old M.S. Rau is like a museum of decadence featuring art, furniture, lighting and jewelry. Check out the David Morris 72.58 Carat 3-strand diamond necklace ($885,000) and the 9 foot Jean-Pierre Latz clock made for Augustus III, King of Saxony and Poland, in 1745 ($1,250,000).
Fleurty Girl specializes in black and gold tutus and galoshes, local t-shirts and fun fleur de lis jewelry and household items.
Forever New Orleans carries beautiful frames, reasonably priced NOLA-themed jewelry and scented candles, local books and cookbooks, ornaments and more.
Costume Shop – Uptown Costume & Dancewear*
Racks and racks of wigs and costumes – it’s like being a kid again.
Dress Shop – Trashy Diva*
With slightly-retro 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.
Second Hand Shop – On the Other Hand
Packed to the gills with gowns, furs, dresses, sweaters, dresses, hats, shoes, jewelry and more, the store features “piano soirées” on Saturdays with wine, cheese and coffee. I was once there before Christmas and Santa played piano for us as cookies were passed around. With negotiable prices starting at $1, the collection includes clothing dating back to 1890 and designers like Chanel, Michael Kors, Versace, Ralph Lauren and St. John. Open Monday through Saturday 10am – 6pm.
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. part classic – part hip hop American-made hats are functional and fashionable. Leonardo DiCaprio bought a bunch while in town.
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. They also carry decorated second line umbrellas.
Wig Shop – FiFi Mahoney’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.
Book – Know Small Parts: An Actor’s Guide to Turning Minutes into Moments and Moments into a Career By Laura Cayouette
Okay, this is just a shameless plug for my own book with a foreword by Academy Award Winner Richard Dreyfuss and endorsements from Kevin Costner, Lou Diamond Phillips and many more. The book has also been used as a textbook at UNO.
Comic Book Shop – Crescent City Comics
The official comic book store of the Django Unchained gang, this shop has a super-helpful, knowledgeable and friendly staff and a huge inventory of comics, graphic novels and small press magazines.
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 – Kaia Martin-Paternoster*
Because 13 year-old Kaia’s charming big-eyed square-headed characters, her “dudes and dudettes,” are whimsical, modern and kitschy-cool. Find them at Bon Castor in the Bywater.
Photographer – Jeffrey Dupuis
An addiction counselor by day, Dupuis always seems to be at every live music event I attend. A former guitarist, his passion for music is obvious in his vibrant photos, many of which reflect the city in a literal sense (like the one below). His photos have been featured in Rolling Stone, Relix, Down Beat, Offbeat and Gambit as well as Jambands.com, HonestTune.com, Jambase.com and a number of artists’ CDs and websites.
This is one of the many categories I’m doing for the first time this year and I was overwhelmed with choices including Jerry Moran (who has great on-the-stage feel music photos), Joe Dunn (whose photos are haunting and painting-like), Frank Aymami III (who has a real gift for catching editorial moments), Willow Haley (whose vibrant New Orleans photos are exuberant moments in music), Marc Pagani (whose forced perspective shots feel like 3D) and James Demaria (whose photos of DancingMan504 are among my favorites) are just a few of the many talented artists here.
Designer – Lisa Iacono
We now have enough local designers to justify 2 different Fashion Weeks. Iacono’s flowy, feminine but edgy pieces led me to choose her for my Django Unchained red carpet dress (unfortunately, the carpet was cancelled). She and Tam Huynh also run NOLA SEWN, an enterprise producing the collections of over 30 designers.
GIVING & MORE:
Charity – Raintree Children and Family Services*
Because Raintree has provided 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.
Tranquil Spot – The Singing Oak*
A live oak in City Park covered in giant wind chimes created by Jim Hart. Still the best place in the city to recharge.
Hidden Treasure – Mardi Gras Indians
HBO’s Treme introduced more of the world to the magnificently plumed and intricately beaded world of the Indians but there’s nothing like seeing them up close or parading past.