Sunday, March 28, 2010

Southern Comfort – Part Four

After covering miles of the FQ streets in brand-new Nikes on the morning of day two my feet had enough. Walking ten miles was obviously unanticipated.

Before we jumped into our groovy rent-a-car for an afternoon trip into the garden district, a short hotel rest was a must. She had a walking tour planned. Just what my sore feet needed.

We found a parking spot on a garden district street adjacent to a traditional New Orleans cemetery complete with centuries-old crypts. Across the street, on the corner was a world famous restaurant. Down the block was the home residence of NFL great and quarterback baby-maker stud, Archie Manning.

The garden district attracts wealthy celebrities anxious to invest in historic properties as well. It’s a splendid area to live in for a few months out of the year. Maybe. Some celebrity owners mentioned by a local resident were John Goodman, Dan Akroyd, and recent homeowner Sandra Bullock.

I first became aware of the New Orleans above ground crypt cemeteries while watching Easy Rider in the late 60’s.

There was a hallucinogenic sequence filmed at St. Louis Cemetery #1, directly west of the FQ. Behavior like that is what probably made those historic places off limits to casual tourists. These places give me the creeps even while sober on a bright blue weekday afternoon.

Across the street from our parking spot was Commander’s Palace, the restaurant where Emeril Lagasse made his name. He went on to bigger things they tell me.

What was quite interesting was Archie Manning’s main residence. It appeared that a garden party was happening on his front porch. A few doors down a resident on his balcony holding what appeared to be an icy glass of brown spirits spoke to us. I asked this fellow if that house was where Arch actually lived. He confirmed it. When I inquired about the tour bus and folks on the porch with name tags he explained that they were NCAA big shots on tour, the men’s first and second round basketball tournament was being hosted at Tulane. Arch was providing some hospitality.

While a dinner at Commander’s Palace would have been nice I had my eyes set on a return trip to Pascal’s Manale, the place said to have invented New Orleans style BBQ Shrimp located south of the garden district on Napoleon St. just west of St. Charles.

The shrimp are from 6-8” long (head, whiskers and legs attached) and cooked in a butter and spice mixture but never grilled or BBQ’d as we know it. The description is a mystery but their trophy-sized gulf shrimp are legendary. After the bib was placed around my neck to protect my $10. polo shirt I dug into a platter of huge shrimp. The fingertip evisceration was simple but messy. Knife and fork were worthless. Clean hands had to do. They serve crusty bread loaves to break open and sop up the spicy and buttery gravy left in the bowl. Hot damn that was good.

While we could have dined at traditional NOLA haunts such as K-Paul’s New Orleans Kitchen, any one of Emeril’s places (the locals give them poor reviews), Commander’s or the original Brennan’s we prefer to find the out-of-the-way spots where locals dine. We went to Pascal’s because of a previous experience.

In a future post I will tell you of the best serving of BBQ Shrimp ever in N.O., at a place we never expected.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Dan from Madison said...

NOW it is getting good. Indeed, the shrimp and gumbo shacks are THE place to get the good grub in NO.

Also - Commanders is a must if you want a formal dinner there sometime.

Random note - Commanders is the place where my wife and I had lunch right after we got married. It is the only place I have ever tasted Dom Perignon champagne - it was several hundred dollars for the bottle, and to us a bottle of Korbel would have been just as good at one twentieth of the price. Oh well, I can say I did it and it was our big post wedding splurge, after all.