New Orleans

Lunch was so great I thought it was worth a post.

Our casual stroll led us to the corner of Washington and Magazine Streets where we stumbled into Coquette, a bistro and wine bar. http://www.coquette-nola.com/

I think it was the "$5 Wine Wednesdays" sign that caught our eye. Waitress Kaylie Siekkinen was quick to greet us with a smile. Her brother Gavin is the general manager and explained how Chef Michael Stoltzfus opened the restaurant after Hurricane Katrina, a difficult time for many businesses.

After the storm many people left town which means there weren't enough people to support area restaurants. Shortly after that the economy began to tumble.

Not only did they survive, but they are expanding with plans to open a second restaurant with a different concept in the French Quarter. I asked Gavin why he thinks they've been successful during a troubling time. He tells me it's all about the food. A lighter fare packed with flavor. He tells us how the Chef will often substitute stock in recipes that traditionally call for cream. He believes this taps into a new societal awareness to eat healthier.

We give it a try and love every bite. The appetizer was a curiously delicious pairing of oysters with a pickled peach salad. I know that sounds weird but boy did it work! Up next, a chicken breast that Kaylie told us is vacuum-sealed in a marinade before it is served was savory.

Being in New Orleans we had to go with the beignets. Kaylie says theirs are made with a French pastry so are actually lighter than the traditional beignets you'll find at Café Du Monde. They were served with two dips. Mark preferred caramel whereas I enjoyed the "coffee pot de crème" which had the consistency of pudding.

Wednesday

9/7/2011

2:00 p.m.

New Orleans, Garden District

Just as National Weather Service meteorologist Gavin Phillips predicted it was a beautiful day; low humidity and plenty of sun. This was the day we built into the trip to take a breather. It was nice not to be on the road.

The historic St. Charles street car line runs right past our hotel so we boarded for a trip down to the Garden District. According to NewOrleansOnline.com, in New Orleans, we call our vintage electric rail vehicles streetcars - never trolleys.

With Mina strapped into a Baby Bjorn we wandered around brick paved roads with nowhere to go and in no particular direction. Simply enjoying the surrounding architecture was a treat. Gorgeous historic homes with delightful details like ornate molding, wrought iron balconies and tall wooden shutters.

Coming from the beige landscape of Phoenix's stucco homes and strip malls, our eyes feasted on the range of home colors. There were canary yellow ones and cotton candy pink. Electric blue and sea foam green.

It may sound grim, even morbid, but we also strolled around Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 which was founded in 1833. I found a website that catalogues the various types. http://www.nolacemeteries.com/

The city's high water table is what prompted the creation of these decorative above-ground tombs.

Wednesday

9/7/2011

10:15 a.m.

New Orleans

We are enjoying a nice and easy start to our day. We decided to stay in New Orleans a second night and so there was no rush to the morning. Before Mina I would say "sleeping in" was at least noon. Since her birth in June that's moved up a couple of hours to 8am? by that measure we got the chance to sleep in, which was fabulous. I was grateful because my pup Fahrenheit and I wound up having a late night. It all started when Mark asked for a beer.

We had just rolled into New Orleans from San Antonio. Mark said he'd watch the baby and our cat Buddy if I'd fetch him a beer. A good plan given Fahrenheit needed to stretch his legs. The hotel receptionist recommended I visit a neighborhood market which was a few blocks away. When I arrive I ask the clerk if I can leave my pup just inside the front door. In an abrupt and gruff tone he barks at me to get my dog out of there. Under his breath he mumbles something about dogs. His co-worker quickly offers to watch Fahrenheit but I decide I'm all set. Fahrenheit could use a longer walk and I'm sure there's another establishment that won't mind the company of a smiling pooch.

I follow the sound of big brass to Bourbon Street. There on the corner of Canal was a Brass Band performing for the handful of tourists who had gathered by a hot dog stand to take pictures and record video. Fahrenheit and I join the ranks. We enjoy a tune, toss $5 in their bucket and then continue on our mission to find Mark a beer.