In parts one and two of this series, we explored historic New Orleans via postcards. However, the Crescent City has another persona, a romantic one where good food, good times, lively music and, on occasion, a little naughtiness prevails.
Perhaps no single event better defines New Orleans’ lighter side than does Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is a day involving merry making of all sorts and especially preparing and eating rich foods in anticipation of Lent. Celebrated in New Orleans since 1837, the traditional Mardi Gras parade begins with the arrival of Rex, King of festivities (Figure #1). As he rides through the streets, Rex is joined by thousands of celebrators many of whom are dressed in colorful costumes (Figure #2). Partying, drinking and feasting continues all day until the stroke of midnight and the arrival of Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season.
Mardi Gras is not the only time that New Orleans is associated with great food. In fact, there are dozens of five-star restaurants within the city limits. One of the most famous is Antoine’s (Figure #3). Established in 1840 by Antoine Alciatore, it is the oldest restaurant in New Orleans. Renowned for its French-Creole cuisine, Antoine’s was the birthplace for dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller, Eggs Sardou and Pommes de Terre Soufflés (Figure #4).
If its lighter fare you favor, you should visit the Café du Monde (Figure #5). Although the menu is much less extensive than that of Antoine’s, you will never taste better coffee than served at the Café du Monde. If their slightly bitter mix of dark roasted coffee and chicory is a bit too strong for your taste, order it au lait mixed half and half with hot milk. Whichever way you take your coffee, be sure it’s accompanied by several beignets, small square French style donuts covered with powdered sugar.
For those with a sweet tooth, try New Orleans’ favorite confection, pralines or plarines (Figure #6). Brought to Louisiana by French settlers in the 1700s, the praline was a candy made from sugar and almonds. New Orleans chefs modified the original French recipe by substituting pecans for almonds and adding cream as a thickening agent.
Night time entertainment is always in season on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The Old Absinthe House is a historic bar located at 240 Bourbon Street that has been at its present location since 1807 (Figure #7). Made famous by its cocktail, the absinthe frappe, the bar is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte who planned the defense of New Orleans there during the War of 1812 (Figure #8). For music, there’s Dan’s Pier 600 club located at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon streets (Figure #9). Over the years, Dixieland jazz greats like Al Hirt and Pete Fountain have been featured there.
Finally, take a two-hour adults only walking tour on the wild side through New Orleans’ infamous Storyville district (Figure #10). In 1897 New Orleans established a centralized prostitution district known as Storyville, named after the city alderman Sidney Story who sponsored the creation of the district. There, famous madams like Lulu White made millions managing brothels that catered to every taste. In 1917, at the request of the United States Navy, Storyville was closed.
With this series of three articles, a thumbnail sketch of the historic and romantic City of New Orleans has been presented. I hope you have enjoyed this postcard tour. Until next time then, good hunting!