Syncopation, NOLA Style

Where else can you enjoy a Strawberry Ice Cream Daquiri on a hot afternoon with a live soundtrack of exquisite, blues and soul?

Then there is the taste of a soulful bowl of Chicken & Andouille Gumbo just before being entertained by the melifluous voice of local jazz legend Charmaine Neville.

Or, you can interrupt your picking at side plates of alligator bites, brussels & bacon, and fried green tomatoes with a session by a Kermit (Ruffins, that is)?

Or even sample a brew of Dixie while accompanied by the Dixieland sound of the Steamboat Stompers?

And does all this happen in Cardiff, you ask? Think not, I reply.

Until we speak again, New Orleans is all about off-beat and unexpected variety. A place where true Jazz legends secretively perform in what to all intents and purposes looks like a run-down shack (i.e. the Preservation Hall). And, that my friend, is syncopation!

 

Birth of the Cocktail

Once upon a time in 19th century New Orleans, a local pharmacist, Antoine Peychaud, created the first ever cocktail. I can only assume it was a quiet day for the business when he decided to create a unique strain of bitters, and to mix it with a range of ingredients most notably Sazerac Cognac… and in that moment the Sazerac Cocktail was created.

Within  no time the invention was celebrated in the aptly named Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, and it was soon to be found in it’s own Sazerac House on Royal Street. Fast forward some 170 years, on 2nd October 2019 the original cocktail celebrates the opening day of its new shrine on the corner of Canal and Magazine Streets

Sazerac House

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The original French Sazerac Cognac has been long since superceded by an American Sazerac Rye, but what exactly are you consuming before you eventually fall over?

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But, this shrine is not just a museum, it is also about to become the newest addition to the overall production line. Yours truly has signed the outside of the first barrel that will emerge from this new home… I only have 6 years to wait to taste it!

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Moving through this spacious well structured and informative museum leaves you with a strong sense of final purpose…

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Until we speak again, remember a few words of wisdom while indulging in this very moreish drop…

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Deja Vu

Coming back to New Orleans again is one thing, but the irresistible pull of brunch at the Palace Cafe on Canal Street comes down to one thing. It’s not the neatly tailored waiting staff, or even the delicate combination of dark wood panelling, white linen tablecloths and shiny floor coverings. It’s not the coffee; far better can be found with a little bit of intrepid searching.

No, it simply comes down to their signature dish… a savoury take on a sweet idea, topped off with a creole muniere sauce of just enough spice. Yes, for my regular reader, I’m once again introducing you to the Crabmeat Cheesecake that is every bit as good to the taste as it is stunning on the eye…

Until we speak again, this cat is simply going to continue suffering in order to bring you these magic morsels!

Going French in the Quarter

Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite… who cares when you are on vacation looking for a fine brunch without a heart attack inducing smothering of eggs and cheese? Well ladies, at least here you get your own entrance…

Croissant D’Or Patisserie on Ursulines is a must for anyone in the French Quarter of New Orleans looking for a small piece of France… American style (i.e. by not needing to go to France!… or even anywhere outside of America!).

The Brioche French Toast is to die for… well, perhaps not something so dramatic… so add the fruit bowl if you need a life support…

Until we speak again, there are better ways to go, apparently; but in Nou Awlings, who cares, as long as you’re indulging in what life has to offer…

Michael Jackson’s NOLA Resurrection

It’s the time of year when America gears up for its celebration of all things Halloween. Take a stroll around the neighbourhoods of New Orleans and you will quickly appreciate just how seriously some of the locals take it. This is Voodoo City, City of the Dead, or, is it just that Michael Jackson is back to reprise his greatest hits?

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Here, death has a special significance, whether it be in the form of a museum… hey, look out lady, stand still around here for too long and you might just end up in a duet with Michael Jackson on something like Remember the Time

Or maybe through the creation of a city of the dead above ground in locations such as Lafayette Cemetery or the St Louis Cemeteries. These mausoleums are a requirement for most, not just the rich, to stop the bodies floating to the surface in a city largely built below sea level… now, that would be a Halloween party with a difference! Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough is clearly a sentiment that must have bypassed these residents…

If you want to avoid premature residence in the famous cemeteries above, try some of the local voodoo elixir’s along N. Rampart in the French Quarter… if you have a mind to risk a reprise of Bad with Michael Jackson that is.

But never mind the afterlife, a quiet stroll in the Treme in the present will likely provide more than a hint of what it’s like to be Off The Wall

Then again, take a stroll down the neighbouring Esplanade Avenue and you may just gain a peak into the precursor to an intriguing domestic Thriller

But beware to protect your property, as once you have gone out to do your own thing, you might find that like many others around the French Quarter you’ve become the victim of a Smooth Criminal

The threat of skeletal misdemeanours aside, taking the bus along Magazine Street through the Lower Garden District may provide you with a lifelong NOLA message… you just Got To Be There, at least, that is, if you believe yourself to be…

Until we speak again, remember Halloween is just One Day In Your Life, so enjoy, and rest assured that Michael Jackson has been keeping some good company this last few years c/o a whole lotta NOLA legends…

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Feel the Big Easy

“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”, as the famous lyrics go from The Who. But what does this matter in the grand scheme of things down New Orleans way?

Well… “A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says what’s with the long face?” It might sound like the lead in to a comedy routine, but it is just something you might see on an ordinary day in New Orleans…

It is easy enough to ‘see‘ New Orleans… the all-out alcohol theme park that is Bourbon Street, embellished with ubiquitous beads, as it provides the backdrop to a perennial staging of the brotherhood and sisterhood of global redneckery. The hobos competing for hard earned dollars that the tourists wish only to pour down their own throats. The quintessentially potholed grime of French Quarter chic.

Kenaz Filan vividly captures the ‘seeing‘ of New Orleans as “a hospice where morals and good character could die in a suitably entertaining fashion.” Probably most usually accompanied with a suitable greeting and copious amounts of your favourite liquid…

But, is it enough just to ‘see‘ New Orleans? I guess for the inebriated it is, but this is so much more than a city… this is a way of life wrapped up in a diverse cultural history and presented through the medium of a multicultural human gumbo.

Look a little closer and you might just experience a whole new world of beauty and wonder. Because to get to know New Orleans you need to ‘feel‘ the real Nou Awlings.

It may be indelibly stamped with the sounds of jazz and the blues, most evocatively experienced by the street procession behind a traditional New Orleans brass band…

… but why not also listen a little closer to the daily soundtrack… that of competing freight train and steamboat horns that blast across the city; and the churning of streetcar wheels grinding through spacious avenues. Not to say of the constant chatter of back stories and life’s experiences being exchanged in the cauldron-like heat of the day.

However, for a recognizably noisy metropolis there is no shortage of places for quiet contemplation. This is a city truly ‘born on a bayou’, a remnant of which is routinely ignored by tourists who only see City Park on the opposite side of the streetcar terminus. But, for those with a fuller functioning compass, tranquility and a little historic charm (e.g. Pitot House) await…

Then again, if reinventing gravity is your thing, the meditation garden in Audubon Park offers up an Isaac Newton experience, as your breathing exercises are occasionally interrupted by acorns falling from the overhanging oaks…

The French Quarter may be a hotbed of Spanish and Creole architecture, but this is a city of Cajun influences amongst so many other immigrant representatives. Once you have got your head around the voodoo intsrpretations of Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya, the street names of Tchopitoulas, Terpsichore and Capdeville, then prepare your tongue for Crawfish Etouffee, Okra and Louisiana Seafood Gumbo, Beef Po Boys, Jambalaya, Muffulettas, and Alligator Sausage. But make your choice of establishment a little more discerning… why settle for a faux tourist French Quarter restaurant when the real deal is a shack only 15 minutes walk away at Li’l Dizzy’s in the Treme?

Then there is the quintessential flirtation with death! They might offer some lotions and potions to hold back the grim reaper, but don’t bet on it…

… But, when the voodoo strikes you down, try reserving a plot in a city of above ground cemeteries that is constantly battling high water table and below sea level inevitabilities!

Be warned, nothing happens too quickly here; there is no better embodiment of the Welsh phrase “I’ll do it now, in a minute!” than a native or adopter of Nou Awlings. In fact, some take the slower pace of life to a whole new level…

And, with a view to doing their own thing, rather than following the spirit of America, just how un-American can you get? (Some things were just meant to rile those Fump Truckers!)…

Until we speak again, I make no apologies for reminding you of the prescient words of Dan Baum, that New Orleans is “a city-sized act of civil disobedience.” Come, look, but above all else, feel it!

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What better source than a combination of a skillet of Brussels Sprouts (with added bacon) and a glass of the amber nectar?

Until we speak again, thanks go to the Vacherie bar at Hotel St Marie in the French Quarter of New Orleans for providing the stage and necessary equipment for the production of who knows what subsequent stormy conditions!