New Orleans: Day 2 – Garden District, Fancy Jazz Brunch, and the Revival of a Famous Dessert.

Warm chocolate pouring over the famous Mile High Pie – Pontchartrain Hotel

The following morning, I woke up with a bit of a much-deserved headache. I think I was slightly hung over… most likely. After strolling the French Quarter the previous day, we stopped for a full dinner at Café Sbisa on Decatur Street. I had eaten some of my blackened fish accompanied by many full glasses of water. (As you may recall, I had had 3 drinks by lunch and it was enough for me.)

Where was I? Oh, right: the hang over. It wasn’t too bad; just a basic headache. I needed a coffee really bad. So, I popped down to the Silver Whistle Café located in the lobby of my hotel. I ordered my Americano, with an extra shot because I don’t know. Anyway, I stared at the array of freshly baked goods behind the glass: warm Southern biscuits, buttery croissants, bustling muffins, and more. I ordered a ‘croque monsieur’ to go – ham and cheese croissant sandwich – brought it to my room and scoffed it down like a ravaging beast. Immediately, the headache was gone! And I smiled from ear to ear.

It was Sunday morning. I had scheduled an elegant brunch at the famed Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. I donned my favorite navy blue sports jacket and even popped on a bowtie that I had just learned to tie a week prior. (Pat on my back.) Stepping out of my hotel, I crossed St. Charles Street and proceeded into the quaint streets of the Garden District. I walked down the streets of Prytania, First, and Coliseum, admiring the incredible houses that lined each. I found the former home of the celebrated author Anne Rice – known for her vampire and witch book series that are set in New Orleans; and one of the main reasons why I wanted to ever visit New Orleans in the first place. I don’t know who owns the house now, but I bet you they are annoyed by tourists like me.

I continued to waltz along, passing the home of Archie Manning – famous New Orleans Saints football player, and father of the famous Eli and Peyton Manning. I continued along looking for the former home of musician Trent Reznor, and inconspicuously sneaking a peek of movie star Sandra Bullock’s home. Eventually, I made it to the house that was once a boarding house where F. Scott Fitzgerald once stayed just after publishing This Side of Paradise – his first novel – and while still courting Zelda.

The stroll through the Garden District was lovely, but I was dying of heat in my heavy navy blue sports jacket. Eventually, I slid on over to the bright blue Commander’s Palace; the reason I was even dressed up so nicely on this darn hot day.

We were seated in the main room to experience the famous and classic New Orleans Jazz brunch. As we ate, the three-piece band – trumpeter/vocalist, bass, and banjo player – made its rounds from table to table singing by request.

We had a 3-course meal, starting with a yogurt and fresh local strawberries. My main course of choice was the cornmeal crusted catfish on top of sautéed crawfish tails, red beans and grits; accompanied by a thyme-infused cocktail. My brunch companion ordered eggs Benedict, but instead of ham, the eggs sat on top a pile of slow braised pulled-pork, which sat on top of a beautiful biscuit. The jazz band continued from table to table, in the main room and out to the courtyard and back, stopping at our table again during dessert. My dessert of choice was the pecan pie a la mode.

Soon after brunch, we hustled back to my hotel to change out of the heavy elegant attire, and into more comfortable heat appropriate garb. Our other friends met us at the hotel for an afternoon cocktail on the hotel’s popular rooftop bar, Hot Tin. The bar’s name was a nod to local author Tennessee Williams’ famous play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Here, I had my second cocktail of the day: a pineapple upside-down daiquiri.

We collected ourselves and proceeded to tour the Garden District some more, starting with Lafayette Cemetery. After a short walk-through, the groundskeeper walked around with a megaphone and blow horn, warning all that the gates would be closing early. So, we hustled out and headed down to Magazine Street for more strolling. We stopped at the popular pastry shop Sucré for incredibly wonderful macaron; my favorites were Pineapple-Coconut and Bananas Foster.

Later, we had dinner at Coquette on Magazine Street – a locally sourced restaurant. The meal started with fried chicken and pickles. The rest of the meal included a garden salad, one of us had pasta with lamb neck Bolognese, and seafood stew. The meal was absolutely delicious and I recommend it to anyone that will be in the area. After a cheesecake type dessert, we went back to my hotel for a nightcap… and maybe an unintentional second dessert?

Back at the Bayou Bar – my favorite spot in my hotel – we ended the night with Chef John Besh’s revival of the Pontchartrain Hotel’s famous Mile High Pie. With it, we enjoyed cocktail experiments by the hotel bartender. When the pie arrived: Oh boy! Yes, a very tall, three-layer ice cream pie: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, sitting on a thin chocolate cookie crust, and topped with a cloud of toasted meringue. The server placed the pie on the bar in front of us and proceeded to pour warm chocolate sauce all over it. I was too happy to feel guilty for ordering this second dessert.

-Day 3 coming soon.-

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