It was my first time in the fascinating city of New Orleans. The airport taxi dropped me at my hotel – the Pontchartrain Hotel – in the Garden District. I had decided to stay away from what I had assumed would be chaotic mess that was the French Quarter, but later find out that the FQ wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. However, I preferred the quiet beauty of the Garden District. Just a block away, across from the hotel, you enter into the streets of the area’s beautiful architecture, but more on that later.
The well-dressed doormen held the large doors as I walked underneath the deep red awning and into the lobby. The interior of the hotel was beautifully decorated with multiple colors that fit well together; colors of which popped out at me were red, gold, black and a pale teal. I checked in with the incredibly friendly staff; the first encounter of many that exemplified what I had been told of: Southern hospitality.
It was only about 11:00am and my room wasn’t immediately ready, so while waiting for my room, I explored one of the hotel’s bars – The Bayou Bar – located on the main floor. The bar’s interior was mostly made of rich wood, with panels of paintings depicting the bayous of Louisiana. The bar itself seemed to be made of a long piece of tree trunk.
I took a spot at a small table, not far from the bar, and perused the menu for a quick bar bite to hold me over until lunch – I was starving, but lunch reservations with the my friends were set for 12:30pm. After introducing myself to the waitress, she convinced me that my first time in New Orleans should begin with a New Orleans classic: the Sazerac cocktail. The hotel’s version was made with duck fat house-infused rye; yes, you read that correctly duck fat. The element made the potent Sazerac a smooth flavor with a rich finish. I think it was the best Sazerac I have had yet. I could not, of course, drink such a strong drink without a nibble, so we accompanied the cocktail with a delicious plate of another N.O. classic: crispy oysters. Three young waiters, dressed all in white, served the plate. The main waiter placed the plate of oysters on my table and pointed out the house-made hot sauce dropped on each oyster. It is important note here that the eateries in the Pontchartrain Hotel – the Bayou Bar, the café and the elegant Caribbean Room restaurant – are all established by renowned New Orleans Chef John Besh. The oysters, of course, were incredible. I won’t even bother trying to explain the deliciousness, but I will say that it was a perfect snack to hold me over before lunch. Should I have gotten the drink? Well, probably not until after lunch, but hey, when in New Orleans, you’ve just gotta go with it.
The bartender then asked me what is the cocktail that I am most looking forward to trying while in New Orleans. I admitted I already knew that I definitely wanted to try the Ramos Gin Fizz. He explained that it was a drink that takes a while to mix because it needed to be shaken for a long time to froth up the egg white – yes, the drink includes egg white. Most bartenders would prefer to mix one when the place is quiet, and being that the Bayou Bar happened to be quiet at that moment, he kindly offered to mix one for me. After some slight protest by me, I reminded myself, I’m in New Orleans so I should just go with it – I just couldn’t resist. Besides, my room was not ready yet, and I still had enough time before lunch. Yes, I did say ‘before lunch’ and that should have probably been a red flag to myself that I seemed to be drinking before lunch; something I NEVER do. But, I suppose when one is on holiday, one tends to do many things they don’t normally do. So, the gorgeous white frothy drink was made, and the process of mixing it was pleasant to watch. I loved the cocktail. It was more than I had imagined it would taste, exceeding my expectations, just like the city of New Orleans had done in the end.
I will finish this entry by stating that, my room was ready just in time for me to finish the Ramos Gin Fizz. I brought my bag upstairs then, proceeded to meet my friends at the restaurant, where I showed up in a bit of a fog and ravaging with hunger.
Lunch at Compère Lapin was actually serving brunch. But we enjoyed incredible starters and I met the renowned bartender of the year Abigail Gullo – who offered suggestions for us all. Yes, I had another drink. I couldn’t be rude and not have one of her incredible concoctions. Right? So, yes, three drinks by lunch. Not good. But, I stopped there. I had to. It was water for the rest of the day for me. I swear.
-Day 2 coming next.-