Thursday, December 27, 2012

Changes on Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans

2216 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA
The sun rose over La Belle Esplanade this afternoon and I saw that our neighbors in the blue house next door had made a change to the street scape.  Nothing drastic, mind you, but on a street cluttered with details, there is always something new to notice.  

I probably wouldn't have noticed myself today, but someone was taking a picture of the balcony next door.  Plenty of people take pictures of our inn, and the houses on either side of us likewise have their admirers.  All three were built at the same time.  They are sisters.
A photogenic manor
Our neighbor is an amateur vexillologist so he likes to hang flags on his front balcony.  Until recently he was flying the flag of the Island of Juist.  

It turns out he changed the flags today:
The house with the flags
A racing flag and the flag of the Bourbon dynasty.  I asked him about his selection and he smiled.  "It's a race to Bourbon... Street, that is," he told me.

Our neighbors are the nicest people you'll ever meet.  They sometimes help out when we are short handed.  Our guests who have met them find them friendly and helpful.  They know more about New Orleans than we do.  When we have a question, we ask them.

The vexillologist found out that one of our neighbors on the other side was born in Connecticut.  He has a soft spot for the Connecticut flag, so he asked if could hang a Connecticut flag at 2222 Esplanade Avenue.  The house's owner agreed.
The Nutmeg State flag
I asked him why he liked the Connecticut flag so much.  He said, "Because of the motto on it:  Qui Transtulit Sustinet.  He who transplants, sustains.  I've always found that to be true."

I'm from Connecticut, and I have to agree.  

So, we have nice photos of 2216 Esplanade Avenue today and one of 2212.  Howzabout about one of 2222:
An Italianate beauty
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast is located in the orange house.  The 2200 block is a lovely stretch in the middle of one of the most beautiful streets in New Orleans.  If you are looking to stay in picturesque surroundings.  I know the bed and breakfast inn for you.

Qui transtulit sustinet.
A votre sante.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A New Orleans Bed and Breakfast Story

There are shades of light on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans

The sun and the humidity cook New Orleans the way sauce is simmered on a stovetop.  You know what they say about the food in New Orleans: it is savory like nothing else on earth.  You can say the same about the people.  There is Southern hospitality, and then there is New Orleans hospitality.

A couple from Wenatchee, Washington stayed with us.  Who could blame them?  December in New Orleans is a tropical paradise compared to December in Wenatchee, a city that proclaims itself, “The Buckle of the Power Belt of the Great Northwest.”  Compared to that, New Orleans’ nickname as "The City Care Forgot” seems even more inviting.  Wenatchee is also known as the Apple Capital of the World.  New Orleans is known as the Birthplace of Jazz.  Wenatchee has no other civic nicknames or poetic monikers.  New Orleans has a couple dozen more depending on how many fingers and toes you have.

The couple from Wenatchee wore shorts and tee shirts during their whole stay.  The high temperature yesterday was 67 degrees, like springtime in Wenatchee, and probably like springtime wherever you may be reading this.  I wore a sweater on my trip to the bakery in the morning.  Frau Schmitt wore a sweater while she was preparing breakfast.  We have lived here long enough to nnotice when the mercury drops below 75.  The couple from Wenatchee asked if there was a beach nearby.  We recommended joining a pickup volley ball game on the banks of Bayou St. John. 

Andy and Donnie have been driving through the Sun Belt this December, trying to follow the Old Spanish Trail that links San Diego, CA with St. Augustine, FL.  It turns out that La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast  is located at an ideal location along the trail, the same way it is located at an ideal location at the center of Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.

Andy took a swallow from his cup of coffee laced with chicory, New Orleans-style.  He said, “People are friendlier in New Orleans.  Don’t get me wrong.  They are friendly in Wenatchee, too, and they have been friendly in Tuscon, El Paso, Beaumont, and Houston, but New Orleans is different.”

Donnie agreed while peeling a satsuma picked fresh from the tree in the our garden.  “I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Donnie said.  "We’ve been here two days, riding the bicycles you lent us, and everyone has been as sweet as the praline you left in our room.”  At La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast, we leave a praline from Ms. Loretta’s on every pillow.  It is a little treat that introduces the taste buds to the delights New Orleans has to offer.

“Last night,” Andy said while reaching for another biscuit, “we were totally lost in the Bywater.  We ate at Maurepas and then we couldn’t remember which way was east and which way was south.”

Frau Schmitt looked at me, knowing I was ready to explain that the cardinal points of the compass have no meaning in New Orleans, but Andy continued as he spread some of Josie’s Farmer Market fig preserves on his biscuit.  “We stopped in front of the All Ways Lounge and, luckily, we ran into somebody who set us straight.”

Donnie added, “She was beautiful, just like the lady in the picture.”

“What picture?” Frau Schmitt asked.

“The picture in our room,” Donnie answered.  “She was so nice.  She explained to us that we were heading downtown and we needed to go uptown.  She told us to keep pedaling up St. Claude Avenue to Esplanade, and turn lakeside.  Andy asked which side was lakeside, and she pointed across the street to the Hi-Ho Lounge and the Siberia bar.  ‘That side is lakeside, baby,’ she said.”

Andy gestured to Donnie.  “You have to try these fig preserves,” he said.  Then he said to us, “She was very nice and very beautiful, but you must know that.  She is the woman in the picture.”

“What picture?” Frau Schmitt asked.

This one:
La Belle d'Esplanade
A votre sante.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Best Fried Chicken in New Orleans

An establishment on North Broad Street, New Orleans, LA
As many people know, New Orleans has become the largest city in America that does not have a daily hometown hardcopy newspaper.   The venerable Times-Picayune is published three times a week for those of us who want to read Monday's comic strips on Wednesday mornings.  

The Times-Picayune Company, or whatever the corporate parent chooses to call itself nowadays, is concentrating on providing online content, thinking it is more profitable.  It is nice work if you can get it.

According to, the real time updated news site that people without a computer are supposed to read every day, La Belle Esplanade is right in the middle of a verifiably tasty fried chicken zone.  Except for Jaques-Imo's Cafe, which is located in Carrollton, the best fried chicken in New Orleans is located within walking distance, in several directions, from La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  

Willie Mae's Scotch House on North Tonti Street is heralded by the Food Network as serving the best fried chicken in America.  Dooky Chase's is another block, or about another two minutes walk from our front door.  Li'l Dizzy's is just down our street, on Esplanade Avenue.  McHardy's is on North Broad Street, about a football field's length away as the pelican flies, a little bit farther following Bayou Road and taking a left toward Uptown.  Why has neglected to mention McKenzie's Chicken-in-a-Box in Gentilly?  Probably because it is too far a walk from La Belle Esplanade.    

If you want to tour New Orleans celebrated fried chicken establishments, we know the perfect inn to serve as your headquarters.  When you eat in New Orleans, you never go hungry.  Frau Schmitt believes that a good day starts off with a good breakfast.  For dinner, she recommends fried chicken in our neighborhood.  She is right about this, as she is about most things.  Critics agree.

Some people who live in St. Bernard Parish say they drive to the corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Claiborne just to pick up a large sack of Manchu fried chicken wings.  You can eat your fill of fried chicken without walking more than six blocks from a very picturesque and historic bed and breakfast in New Orleans.  You can do a lot of other things, too.  Just ask.  New Orleans is full of delights.

A votre sante.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Flowers of Mardi Gras

A New Orleans-specific art form
Remember the Spy Boy suit that used to stand in the lobby of La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast?
Hand sewn beadwork and rooster feathers
When we bought the suit, it was full of moths.  We thought we had eliminated them, but it turns out that it is all but impossible.  The moths love to eat the feathers and there are just too many nooks and crannies in which they hide their eggs.  As previous reviews have noted, we run a clean place.   It wouldn't do to have moths be a part of the package.

Luckily, we went to the Palmer Art Market a month ago and made the acquaintance of Brian Bush.  He is a professional Mardi Gras sculptor.  

If you have ever had the joy of attending a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, you have seen floats bedecked with paper flowers.  Thousands of intricate, oversized paper flowers need to be made every year and somebody has to make them.  

People ask me, "Can a musician really make a living in New Orleans?"  The answer is yes, and other professionals who specialize in the city's cultural economy get by, too.  Mardi Gras sculptors and innkeepers do.  So do chefs and waiters.  So do the families that inherit old money Uptown, and so do the artists who bicycle between the Bywater and Desire.  
Three flowers make a rainbow
With the Spy Boy suit gone, we needed to fill the wall space with something just as impressive.  Mr. Bush delivered the goods.  Literally, he delivered the merchandise to our front door and all of it was good.  "This is a beautiful place you've got here," he said.  "You do beautiful work," Frau Schmitt told him.

We ordered five flowers in colors of the artist's choice.  Brian Bush's sense of hue is as vibrant as the city he calls home.  We hung four of his handmade creations in the lobby.  Since one of our suites is Les Fleurs, we had the perfect place to hang the fifth.  More on that later.

For context, here is a shot of one corner of our lobby:
We need more flowers
My photography, as usual, does not do justice to the subject.  We have placed another order for three more flowers to hang in this arrangement.  We are practicing New Orleans ikebana.

What about Les Fleurs Suite?  What about that fifth flower you got from  Alright, I'll tell you.

Imagine waking up around 8:30AM on a Wednesday morning after spending an enjoyable evening that started with dinner at Crescent City Steaks at your hosts recommendation, included catching a show at the Shadowbox Theater, and ended with a short cab ride after the last set at Sweet Lorraine's, which your hosts also recommended.  You open your eyes and see a Mardi Gras flower abloom over the fireplace mantle.  Today is going to be a good day.
Nobody comes to New Orleans to watch TV
I admit that I am biased, but if I were going to visit New Orleans, I would stay at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  I am sure Frau Schmitt would agree, and she is usually right about most things.    

A votre sante.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Orleans Cemeteries

St. Louis King of France
There are three cemeteries in New Orleans named after St. Louis King of France.  St. Louis Cemetery #1 and St. Louis Cemetery #2 are located just outside the French Quarter.  Cemetery tours visit #1, where Marie Leveau is interred.  I don't think they go to #2, but I am waiting for one of our guests to take a tour to confirm this.

I do know that tours visit St. Louis Cemetery #3, which is on the end of Esplanade Avenue, right before City Park.  How do I know this?  Because the tour buses pause in front of La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast to talk about Gayarre Park and the three picturesque homes in the middle of the 2200 block.
La Belle Esplanade at 2216 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
After us, the buses pause on the 2300 block to discuss the Degas House, where the impressionist painter used to live.  At the next corner they discuss the Museum of the Free People of Color.  The whole trip to the cemetery is like that.  There is a lot to see and to talk about along Esplanade Avenue.

As I was commenting to a lovely couple from Idaho who are staying with us this week, picturesque decay is one of New Orleans' many-fabled charms.  While you will find very little of it on Esplanade Avenue, you will find plenty of it in St. Louis Cemeteries Numbers 1 and 2.  

St. Louis Cemetery Number 3, is another matter altogether.  It is a necropolis, but it doesn't make you feel like it is haunted, the way the other two boneyards do.  It could be because St. Louis Cemetery #3 is the final resting place for many priests and religious.  There are also numerous well maintained statues of saints, like the one of St. Louis King of France, for whom St. Louis Cathedral is named.
What cemeteries look like in New Orleans
What tombs look like in New Orleans
That's an apartment building for the living in the background
Like all Catholic cemeteries, the graves at St. Louis #3 are blessed every All Saints Day.  This year, the archbishop presided over mass across the street,  Then the archbishop, Father Robicheaux, and Deacons Bialas and Zaiontz, walked across Esplanade Avenue, respectfully stopping traffic on their way to bless the graves.
The 14th Archbishop of New Orleans on All Saints Day
During his homily, the Archbishop said: "The Church recognizes many saints, but there are many more that it does not officially recognize.  Some of those are buried across the street."  

Still more are scattered all over New Orleans.  It is that kind of a city.
The name says it all
I was late coming home on All Saints Day.  "Where have you been?" Frau Schmitt asked.  

"You won't believe this," I answered, "but I had to stop so that Archbishop Aymond could cross the street."

She believed it.  Unexpected surprises happen in New Orleans every day, and we are more blessed for them.

To learn more about La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast: click here.  If you are thinking of visiting New Orleans, there is no better place to stay, and no more interesting neighborhood.  

A votre sante.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A few New Orleans street views

A house that stops traffic
I took a walk around the block yesterday, as I often do.  2216 Esplanade Avenue sits an odd intersection of neighborhoods, the way these things are defined in New Orleans, LA.  Like anywhere in New Orleans, you can walk across the street, or turn a corner, and end up in a different world.  

You can walk across the street from 2216 and be on a different street.  Directly across from us is 2216 Bayou Road.  It's just the way things sometimes work out around here.  You get used to it.  Unless you are visiting New Orleans to become a mailman, it won't really bother you.   

When I visit a new place, I like to walk around to get my bearings. What kind of place is this, anyway?  If I am staying at a Motel 6 off the interstate, I pretty much know what to expect, so stretching my legs is short exercise.

If I were staying at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast, and I hope you do, I would walk around, lost in the details that make up the streets around Esplanade Ridge. 

With that in mind, I took a walk around the block today.  I headed in the direction of City Park and then I headed uptown on North Tonti Street.  I took a couple pictures, not too many.  
Corner of Barracks and North Tonti Streets
Esplanade Ridge bisects Treme.  The streets off and behind Esplanade Avenue are not mansions for the most part.  Most of them are shotguns with a few Victorians here and there.  The architectural fabric of these streetscapes makes you appreciate the layers of history that have settled in New Orleans.  It makes you feel lucky to be a part of the city, if only for a too brief time.

An elderly woman is usually sitting on the steps of the pink house, keeping an eye on things and sharing the news of the day and a smile with whoever strolls by.

While the people you meet on the streets are open and friendly, the city does have its secrets.  
The house next to the pink house, North Tonti Street
The house next door is beautiful, but you can never see what the front gardens look like.  You can hear a fountain from the other side of the fence.  All the painted woodwork on the second floor eaves forces you to imagine an oasis on the other side of that fence.
Corner of Governor Nicholls and North Tonti Streets
A few steps further and the streetscape changes.  This is an old part of town.  There are few buildings that are less than a hundred years old, most of them more.  On the corner of Governor Nicholls Street and North Tonti Street is the Odyssey House.  It was built in the 1880s as a home for poor widows.  They don't build them like that any more.
Some of the sidewalks look like this
If I had kept walking, in another four blocks I would have been at Willie Mae's Scotch House enjoying the best fried chicken in America according to the Food Network.  I had innkeeping duties to do, though, so I turned back to Esplanade Avenue, happy to be living in such a beautifully pleasant New Orleans neighborhood.  And, I hadn't taken pictures of the best parts of my short walk.

If you are looking for a historic and eclectic New Orleans bed and breakfast in a peaceable neighborhood close to the French Quarter, etc., consider La Belle Esplanade.

A votre sante.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Unique New Orleans B&B Inn

The middle of the 2200 block of Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans
We are making some renovations in the lobby of La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Many people come to New Orleans to attend a convention; it is a wonderful city in which to soak up useful knowledge.  Some people come to New Orleans for vacation, and New Orleans is a wonderful city in which to get away from the rest of world.  Some people come to New Orleans for a single sweet weekend.  I know of an ideal New Orleans bed and breakfast in which to do all three.

La Belle Esplanade is the middle manor in the picture above.  You can't miss it.  Tour buses pause en route up Esplanade Avenue to point it out.  

We made some renovations to the lobby of La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast today.  I decided to take some pictures, but before I did that, I took some pictures of the inn's outside.  First, I walked to the apex of Gayarre Park in the neutral ground to capture the facades of the three sister buildings, above.  Then I headed toward the back garden...
A sunny December day in New Orleans, LA
I walked over to the rear gate at that ensures secure parking, and I snapped a photo from the back of the property.
We trimmed some low-hanging branches off the pecan trees
It always make us happy to tend to the back gardens and look up.  From behind, 2216 Esplanade Avenue mirrors out spirits.  Ever upward.  It is like the arrow formed by the negative space between the "E" and the "X" on a Fedex truck driving downtown to deliver happiness.  

Frau Schmitt has been buying Christmas lights for the lobby, but she hasn't been doing it for Christmas.  We hung them around the pilot doors between the front room and the check-in desk.  The following photos are taken under various lighting conditions to give a well rounded impression that a camera cannot capture.
The camera doesn't lie
The bust of Caesar Augustus that presides over the lintel has never looked more majestic.
View from one of the lobby chairs
Then I turned on the lights
Then I closed the shutters and turned off the light in the front room
We had a lamp in the office that we turned on as a nightlight for guests.  This is a much nicer way to illuminate the room.  It was Frau Schmitt's idea and she was right, as she usually is.  We are going to to the same with the pilot doors in Les Fluers Suite, which we like to think of as the most romantic of all five suites we have available.

Yes, I just said that we have five elegantly appointed, two-room suites available at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  If you look at our calendar, you will only see four suites listed.  Aside from Les Fleurs, we also have La France, Le Pelican, and the Clio Suites.   We also have Les Saintes Suite which will have its finishing touches put on it at the end of next week.   Stay tuned.  It will be available for reservation very soon.

On the way out of the house, I had to take one more picture.
New Orleans' patroness is Our Lady of Prompt Succor
The Green Madonna looks over the front steps of La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  It is always reassuring to see her standing among the striped ginger.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Harrison Avenue, New Orleans

St. Dominic's Church, New Orleans, LA
When I am looking to buy something for the lady of the house, I often head up to New Orleans' Lakeview neighborhood.  More suburban in feel than much of the rest of the city, Lakeview's main street is Harrison Avenue.

There is a local supermarket, a few very good restaurants, a few stores, a bank, a gas station, an ice cream parlor, a library, everything you would want in a small town.  There is ample parking on the shaded neutral ground.  It is never terribly busy up on Harrison Avenue; just the pleasant hum of local traffic.  

I could go to one of the coffee shops on Esplanade Avenue when I want to get some computer work done.  Community Coffee is just a few blocks away, and it is pleasant to sit under the oak trees outside.  Or, I could walk a little farther up Esplanade to Fair Grinds, which is a good place to pick up some neighborhood gossip.  The problem with these two establishments, if you can call it a problem, is that I spend more time chitchatting with my neighbors than I do getting any work done.  That is the usual way a day passes in New Orleans.

It is on days like this that I head up to Lakeview.  I go to Nola Beans, a pleasant little coffee shop that is full of artwork inspired by the neighborhood.  The women behind the counter are very pleasant and, though I am a bit of a regular I don't know too many people who live in Lakeview.
Nola Beans on Harrison Avenue
Right next door to Nola Beans is the reason men in New Orleans come to Lakeview to go Christmas shopping for the ladies in their lives.  
Little Miss Muffin on Harrison Avenue
A warning: The merchandise in Little Miss Muffin may cause allergic reactions in men.  This is a store with a distinct feminine appeal.  There is jewelry and a selection of fine women's clothes to the right.  The rear of the store is dedicated to children's wares.  To the left, after entering the front door, about a third of the store is full of gewgaws and gimcrackery, artwork and crafts, glasses and china, serving dishes, statues, candlesticks, place mats, vases, and other things that women love.

Guaranteed you will find the perfect gift for the lady in your life at Little Miss Muffin, whether it is for Christmas or not.   I always do.

We like to recommend Harrison Avenue to our guests at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.  Besides the simple ambiance of the street, there is enough to keep a visitor occupied for an hour or two, and right on the other side of the canal is City Park.  The good restaurants include Susan Spicer's Mondo, the Steak Knife, and the Velvet Cactus.  You can eat in or take out at Harrison Cove at the Lakeview Grocery.     

Lakeview was heavily flooded in 2005 due to the federal levee failures during Hurricane Katrina.  While Harrison Avenue has been repaved, the weight of the water buckled the streets everywhere else.  Some streets are as rough as a walk on the moon.  The state of the streets is the opposite of the tidy homes and manicured lawns they serve.  Another surreal New Orleans juxtaposition.

By way of a preview of Celebration of the Oaks, we were in City Park this morning when I noticed some signs set up athwart the railroad tracks.
Proceed with caution in City Park
I took some pictures of the dinosaur display in the light of day.  Imagine what they will look like at night from the window of a passing train.
Velociraptor in daylight, City Park, New Orleans
Velociraptor in front of the sculpture garden, City Park, New Orleans
Tyrannosaurus Rex, City Park, New Orleans

A votre sante et joyeux Noel.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas weather in New Orleans

Christmas on Canal Street
If you are from up north, you may be confused by New Orleans weather during December.  It doesn't feel like winter.  There is no snow.  Today, the high temperature will be 74 degrees Fahrenheit, with a midnight low of 65 degrees.  

There is no autumn to speak of in New Orleans.  Summer seamlessly slides into winter without a care in the world.  In New Orleans, autumn feels like springtime in Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, or Spokane.  No wonder everyone in New Orleans is happy.  It is a city without snow shovels, without snowblowers, and without road salt or slush.

The fronds of the palm trees do not turn a burnished gold.  Nor do the leaves of the magnolia trees, the oleander, or the southern oaks that line Esplanade Avenue.  If you expect December to be bitter, come to New Orleans for a spell.  It is better than wherever you are now. 

In December, you can tell who is a tourist in New Orleans.  They are the people wearing shorts.  Those of us who live here tend to bundle up when the mercury drops below 70.  Both hosts at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast wore sweaters in the morning and in the evening.  Around noon, they shed their layers and basked in the sun, sitting in the garden in back as flocks of songbirds migrated further south overhead.

New Orleans is pleasant all year long.  This is true during Mardi Gras.  It is true during the Fourth of July.  It is especially true during the Christmas season.  In the Lower Garden District, Saint Alphonsus Church is hosting its annual nativity display: over 60 creche scenes from all over the world are displayed in a stately church that is no longer actively used but is slowly being restored.

The hosts at La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast don't know everything that is going on in the fair city they call home, but they have a good idea of the highlights.  You can make plans and an itinerary of what you want to see during your visit, but be prepared to be distracted.  In New Orleans, there is a fresh surprise around every corner.  It is Christmas in New Orleans.  Some people say this is the best time of year.

A votre sante and joyeux Noel.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas in New Orleans

Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA
We were walking past Our Lady of the Rosary up the road from La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast (yes, that's what the church looked like this morning in the dawn), when we both noticed that this weekend is the beginning of the Advent season.  You know what that means?  Christmas in New Orleans!

The nice thing about being located right in the middle of Esplanade Avenue is that we can walk to the French Quarter or Frenchman Street if we choose, or we can go in the other direction to City Park.
An alligator rheindeer
If it is Christmastime in New Orleans, that also means it is Celebration in the Oaks.
An alligator Santa
Most cities light up their parks with Christmas displays.  You probably have something like this in a city near you.  Unlike other places, however, New Orleans is built for walking.  This is true of the Esplanade Avenue, and it is true of Celebration of the Oaks.  When you go to Celebration of the Oaks, you don't drive around by yourselves, you interact with everyone else.

Celebration of the Oaks is held in the Botanical Gardens, in the Amusement Park, and in Storyland.  The amusement park is open and full of Christmas trees decorated by local schools.  You can take the miniature train around the park and see the lights over one of the lagoons.  Storyland is open, too, with its sculpture garden illustrating fairy tales. 
The romantic light of Celebration of the Oaks
There is ice skating, carousel rides, hot food and drinks.  The showstopper is what's in the botanical gardens.
A celebrated oak at night
A hobbyhorse
The best light sculpture in City Park, however is not the sleigh being pulled by alligators, it is not the Papa Noel show, it is not the giant corn in the vegetable garden, it is this....
Pink elephant, New Orleans, LA
I was talking to Eric the other day.  "I don't know when the last time was that I saw a real alligator," he said.  "Sometimes, you'd see them in the Industrial Canal just after Poland Avenue.  When I was a kid we'd go looking for alligator eggs along the edges of the canal.  My uncle used to pickle them."

Eric grew up in the Holy Cross neighborhood.  "The only time I see an alligator nowadays is when I take the kids up to Celebration of the Oaks.  We take the 91 bus and make a night of it.  The kids like to sit on Alligator Santa's lap to get their picture taken. "

I asked Eric if he had seen any of the other animals featured at Celebration of the Oaks.  "Sure enough," he said.  "I've seen more than my share of pink elephants in my day.  Heck, they're around every corner on Bourbon Street."

Whether you are interested in enjoying the show at City Park during Christmas in New Orleans, or if you are interested in enjoying the holiday ambiance of the French Quarter, we know a colorful New Orleans bed and breakfast that is taking reservations.   

A votre sante et joyeux Noel.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The best pastrami sandwich in New Orleans

Cooter Brown's, New Orleans, LA
I ran into Lyle yesterday.  He is always telling me that the best pastrami sandwich in New Orleans is at Cooter Brown's in the Riverbend.  I always ask him if they have a good reuben, and he always says, "Matthew, once you try this pastrami sandwich, you'll forget all about having a reuben."

Lyle lives in Arabi, the first neighborhood in St. Bernard Parish after New Orleans ends.  Like many people in this part of the world, Lyle doesn't own a car.  He takes the bus to work.  He says, "If I was going to get to Cooter Brown's by the bus, it would take me at least an hour and a half.  Then I would have to come back.  That's a big investment of time for a good pastrami sandwich, but I'd say it's worth it."  He always adds, "My stomach is telling me that I just might have to get out to the Riverbend soon."

The Jackson Barracks, headquarters of the Louisiana National Guard, is the boundary between New Orleans and Arabi.  Lyle couldn't have lived further on the opposite end of town from Cooter Brown's if he tried.

The Riverbend is where the St. Charles Avenue streetcar turns to follow the bend of the Mississippi and heads up South Carrolton Avenue.  Right behind where the tracks make their turn, there's Cooter Brown's.  It isn't much to look at from the outside.
Voted best beer selection in New Orleans
It isn't much to look at from the inside either unless you are a connoisseur of welcoming tap rooms.  If you are, let me assure you that the inside is beautiful to behold.  We don't go to Cooter Brown's often.  While we don't live as far removed as Lyle, when we are in Carrollton around lunch time, we usually stop on Maple Street or Oak Street.

Frau Schmitt and I were tidying up La France Suite when she asked me if I wanted to go out for lunch today.  I suggested a trip to the Riverbend.    She was suspicious.  "You don't usually like to go out of your way," Frau Schmitt said.  She was right, as she usually is, so I explained that I felt that it was time to finally follow Lyle's recommendation.  "Cooter Brown's?" Frau Schmitt said, "isn't that a dive?"
Cooter Brown
Since I do so rarely want to go out of my way, Frau Scmitt opted to trust Lyle's judgement.  After all, New Orleans is full of surprises in the most unlikely places.

We split the Owner's Special.  The menu describes it as Kosher pastrami and imported swiss cheese dressed with sauerkraut.  The menu only describes a part of this marvelous sandwich.  It comes on a toasted, over-sized sesame seed hamburger bun and, in addition to sauerkraut, it is dressed with lettuce, tomato and pickles.  If the bun was square this sandwich would be a cube bigger than Rubik's though somewhat smaller than an X-box.  Half a sandwich was enough for both of us.  The pastrami, cut thin and piled high, is as good as Lyle says.

When we were finished, Frau Schmitt said, "I could go for a whole one myself.  That was a good sandwich."

Back at La Belle Esplanade, a bed and breakfast where the hosts are enthusiastic about their city and always looking to discover some new intelligence to pass onto their guests, Frau Schmitt said, "I'll go back to Cooter Brown's instead of going to Maple Street or Oak Street for lunch.  That was a very good sandwich."

Wherever you stop on the St. Charles streetcar line, there is something to see and something to eat.  Ask two people who know.

A votre sante.
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