Mom and SUEN take New Orleans (Dec. 4-7 Part 2)

Mom and me at the Christmas Parade

Mom and me at the Christmas Parade

Egg in a Jar at Lüke

Egg in a Jar at Lüke

The next morning, mom and I hit up our final Besh restaurant, Lüke. I ordered the ultra-rich Egg in a Jar, which consisted of poached eggs, grits, fried shrimp and a cream sauce. Mom ordered Shrimp and Grits, which was relatively similar except non-fried shrimp and a tomato based sauce. The meal continued the trend of unbelievable food in New Orleans and me feeling sick to my stomach after eating past my limits (it’s hard to stop when it tastes so good!).

We had originally planned on going on a walking tour of the French Quarter until we learned about a Christmas parade going through town that we decided was worth seeing. We sat on the curb of Canal St. for hours watching floats and dancers pass by.

We took a long walk to get to the French Market, which had a large variety of knick-knacks, flea market goods and foods. I tried an alligator dog that was excellent. Our feet were pretty tired after the walk, so we left to go back to our hostel for another break before dinner.

Christmas parade float

Christmas parade float

Our final meal in New Orleans was at the famous Pascale’s Manale, which many people had said would be disappointing – it certainly wasn’t! Although the service was very slow (it was understaffed for sure), the Barbeque Shrimp was a messy delight – they gave us each a paper bib, which was truly necessary – and the Frutta Del Mare (seafood pasta) was filled to the brim with seafood. We left again unable to eat dessert.

Mom getting messy eating some famous Barbeque Shrimp from Pascale's Manale

Mom getting messy eating some famous Barbeque Shrimp from Pascale’s Manale

Mom wanted to go to bed early that night, but I was keen on going out for a last time in New Orleans, so I went to the common outside area of the hostel and met a group of Irish guys traveling through the South together and a guy from Quebec who I would go out with. We started with a live charity concert at Freret Street PUBLIQ HOUSE, where the boyfriend of the lead singer proposed on stage (my response: “could anything more American happen than a public proposal in front of a bunch of strangers?” – Europe got me too sarcastic).

We left PUBLIQ and cabbed to Bourbon Street where we drank more and danced a bit. The boys and a female bartender legitimately forced me to take a shot out of bartender’s breasts, which served as my coming out moment: “No really, I don’t want to – I’m gay,” I said as she grabbed my head and pulled it towards her chest. They all laughed when I told her that was as close as I’d ever been (or wanted to be) to boobs. I’m sure I’m the first guy she’s ever had to force to take shots from her. At 2 a.m. I got a text from my mom asking if I was alive; I reassured her that I’d make it home safely. I got back at 4 and my mom asked me if this was what it was like when I traveled.

The St. Louis Cathedral next to Jackson Square

The St. Louis Cathedral next to Jackson Square

“Occasionally…”

Mom and I left early the next morning after one of our best bonding experiences ever. I can forever say I successfully got my mom to take a shot of Fireball AND that she knows all the steps to the “Cupid Shuffle.”

Love you mom!

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Mom and Son take New Orleans (Dec. 4-7 Part 1)

Mom and I take Bourbon!

Mom and I take Bourbon!

My travel bug officially came with me to America in the form of a mother-son road trip to New Orleans.

Mother and I left early on Thursday on a spill-all seven-hour bonding car ride. I’m only half kidding. More importantly, there were no fights (although I did plead with her to please drive just a little bit over the speed limit).

Doing the "Cupid Shuffle"

Mom doing the “Cupid Shuffle” on Bourbon Street

When booking our trip, even the least expensive hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter was about $160 a night with tax and all. My mom and I both felt a bit of guilt about spending that much money, especially when I was used to spending absolute maximum $30 for a night abroad, so I decided to look into hostels. I was lucky enough to find a private room at India House Backpackers for only $30 a person per night, adding up to about the cost of one night at the Best Western in the French Quarter.

Mom and I arrived at India House at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon, at which point she got really excited about how not-a-dump the hostel was and called at least three people to brag about my travel guide and money saving skills. I was just excited to hear an Australian accent again in the courtyard. I did notice that the hostel had a pretty awesome vibe and layout, with many buildings surrounding a large courtyard.

Oh I guess now is a good time to note that the weather was minimum 70 degrees during the day and absolutely perfect, a welcome change to the chillier weather I had been experiencing for the past who-knows-how-long.

Oysters

Oysters Rockefeller at Felix’s Oyster Bar.

We put our things down in the hostel and took the street car (taking public transportation was another point of excitement for mother) down to the French Quarter for an early dinner. We were deciding between Acme Oyster House, which was recommended by loads of people, and Felix’s Oyster Bar, which was recommended by my dad. Acme is a little better known, so we headed there first only to find that it was booked for a private party. Felix’s it would be.

We sat at the bar and promptly ordered a half dozen raw oysters and a dozen Oysters Rockefeller, which were all gone in a matter of minutes. We made a second order consisting of fried crawfish tails and a half dozen char-grilled oysters. The massive amounts of seafood would be a trend in our New Orleans food-ventures.

Preservation Hall. Photo by Encyclopedia Britannica (photos not allowed)

Preservation Hall. Photo by Encyclopedia Britannica (photos not allowed)

After my stomach couldn’t take another oyster, mom and I headed to the 8pm jazz show at Preservation Hall, a New Orleans must-do. It’s important that you get to the venue at least 30 minutes early – it’s a small place and I ended up sitting up front on the floor. The 45-minute jazz show was a total treat, if not too short, and had me tapping my toes even though I was sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Mom joined the band!

Mom joined the band!

My mom thought she’d want to go home after the show, considering we’d had a long day in the car and a big dinner, but we both had a resurgence of energy listening to the brassy sounds of southern jazz. It became clear to me that it would be a good time to check out Bourbon St., mother-son style!

Mom and I had quite a few drinks together, including the notorious NOLA Hand Grenade and her first ever Fireball shot. We caught live music, checked out street bands, listened to some jazz and even went dancing in a club (I take credit for teaching mom the “Cupid Shuffle”). We left at a reasonable midnight – a little late for mom and a little early for me.

Complimentary appetizer at Chef John Besh's August

Complimentary appetizer at Chef John Besh’s August

Friday morning, mom and I woke up for lunch at one of famous chef John Besh’s restaurants, August. This would be a strong continuation of the incredible New Orleans cuisine we would eat and probably our favorite. The waiter brought us a complementary egg dish that I can only describe as some sort of egg-whip-mousse. It was a fantastic start to our meal. I ordered the $20.15 prix fixe menu (only on Fridays), which is pretty much an unbelievable deal for the caliber of the restaurant. I started with crab bisque, had a fish entrée and finished off with a butterscotch custard. My mom got a cauliflower dish that was unbelievable and we both split the very rich and very small crab and black truffle gnocchi as an appetizer.

Lafayette Cemetery #1in the Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery #1in the Garden District

From August, mom and I left to go to the Garden District for a tour with New Orleans Free Tours by Foot. This is pretty much a must-do for any first-time visitors (or even residents) to get a good feel for the area and some interesting New Orleans history. We started in Lafayette Cemetery #1 and made our way through what may be the most beautiful residential area of New Orleans. The group offers a series of other tours, and we regretted not being able to make more of them. After the tour was over, mom and I strolled an extra couple of blocks to see the building used as Miss Robichaux’s Academy in American Horror Story: Coven.

Miss Robichaux's Academy from Coven

Miss Robichaux’s Academy from Coven

We went back to the French Quarter to get the best pralines in town from Magnolia Praline Company, which made great gifts for our family. Speaking of gifts, some of the best foods in New Orleans can be taken home, such as our new favorite hot sauce, Love Potion No. 9, and olive salad (Central Grocery is famous for its version of the tapenade). We stopped in a bar for a couple of beers, which we were able to finish on the street with New Orleans’s lack of open container laws, and some fried oysters and okra.

Fish in a Bag at Borgne

Fish in a Bag at Borgne

After a short rest at the hostel, mom and I left for another Besh restaurant called Borgne. There was some high school football event going on in the nearby Superdome, so the place was absolutely filled with rowdy football parents, but they cleared out in time for my mom and I to enjoy a conversation that we could actually hear. We ordered the duck poppers for an appetizer; mom ordered a fried oyster wedge salad and I got the fish in a bag and a side of creamed corn. Everything was top notch, so much so that I unfortunately didn’t have room to order dessert.

Meeting up with Katie and her sister at Café du Monde

Meeting up with Katie and her sister at Café du Monde

My friend Katie happened to be in town with her sister that night, so I separated from my mom after dinner (she was very proud to be able to find the hostel herself using public transportation – go mom!) and met Katie at Café du Monde. Mom and I had stopped there briefly on our first night for a café au lait and beignets, and I was too full to eat anything more, but it was great catching up with Katie after a long time and meeting her sister who lives in Louisiana for the first time.