If you follow me on social media, you may have seen that I recently took a work trip to New Orleans. This was my first time visiting and I must say, I loved every minute of it. I decided to extend my stay past what was needed for work, so I packed my bags and brought one of my best girlfriends along for the trip. Fortunately for me, my friend had been to New Orleans several times before and shared with me a few places I had to see. With a few recommendations from locals, the rest of our adventures seemed to fall into place. If you’re going to NOLA anytime soon, I’ve got you covered with a few places you don’t want to miss.
We arrived on a Wednesday evening a little later than planned, thanks to the nature of flying. We headed straight to the Windsor Court Hotel so we could check in and find a place to have a late dinner. The hotel was very chic and beautiful, filled with old Southern charm. I was immediately impressed with the large arrangement of pink roses at the entrance.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted and given a map with recommendations of places to eat within walking distance. I was delighted to discover that Luke, a John Besh restaurant, was nearby — and was even more thrilled when I found out they were still open at that hour. A ten minute walk later, we arrived, hungry and in need of a cocktail. The restaurant staff was so friendly and welcoming, and the food was delicious! Goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, shrimp and grits, and a bowl of gumbo found a spot at our table.
The highlight of the meal was the perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp, swimming in a skillet of creamy jalapeno cheddar grits. I can honestly say that was the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. A French 75 was my drink of choice for the evening. The combination of cognac, fresh lemon juice and champagne was very refreshing with a hint of sweetness.
I mentioned the staff was friendly — so friendly that they brought my friend a table cloth to wrap herself in when they overheard her saying how cold she was. Now that’s customer service.
After a rich and filling dinner and a long day of travel, we called it a night.
Thursday morning began with breakfast at the Ruby Slipper, a café in the French Quarter serving New Orleans breakfast and brunch classics. I’m a sucker for a good eggs benedict. I couldn’t resist the most popular one on the menu, the Chicken St. Charles — fried chicken breasts served over a buttermilk biscuit, topped with two poached eggs, and finished with a pork tasso cream sauce. Holy yum!
Taking a walk instead of a cab seemed appropriate after our filling breakfast. We strolled to Jackson Square, a historic park located in the French Quarter, where we also had a chance to stop and admire the beauty of the St. Louis Cathedral.
It was extremely warm out so we headed closer to the Riverwalk in hopes of catching a slight breeze. The airflow was much better near the water, offering a little relief from the thick air.
Late Thursday afternoon was game time for me and the main reason for the trip. I facilitated a grand opening event for my company’s newest store location and was very pleased with how everything turned out. It's always a little nerve racking planning events out of state, but I’m happy to report that all went according to plan.
I was fortunate enough to secure chef Ryan Prewitt of Pêche Seafood Grill for our cooking demonstration that took place during the party. Chef Prewitt had previously cooked for us during an event we hosted at our office in Charleston. I also had the pleasure of sampling his delicious cuisine for a second time at the South Walton Food and Film Festival. Given what I had experienced, I knew I had to take the opportunity to try out his restaurant while we were in town.
Once the party wrapped up, we headed to Pêche to celebrate a successful event! Luckily we were able to get the scoop on what to order — perks of making friends with the chef. This rustic restaurant, located in the Warehouse district, serves coastal seafood prepared with a modern approach to old world cooking methods. The open kitchen layout allows for a unique eye-level view of the fire where the food is prepared on the open hearth. The only thing missing was natural light needed to take photos that properly represented the amazing food that crossed the table.
If only my photos looked as good as the food tasted. This is the steak tartare, and let me tell you my friends, I’ve been dreaming about this savory steak topped toast since the day I sampled it in our office. I seriously could have ordered a few of these for dinner and would have been completely satisfied.
We also had the crab salad, golden beets, chanterelle mushroom toast and swordfish, all of which I can’t say enough about. The crab salad was light and refreshing. The chanterelle appetizer was rich and full of layers of amazing flavor, topped with shaved parmesan and a poached egg. It’s not a regular item on the menu, so if you’re there and see it listed, don’t miss out! I’m typically not a huge fan of beets, but these made me change my mind. The swordfish was great as well, although by that point we realized our eyes were clearly bigger than our stomachs, and yet somehow we managed to squeeze in dessert.
After a well-enjoyed dinner, it was on to the next spot to take in the night life. Numerous people suggested we venture to Frenchmen street, a small music district where the locals hang out and live music can be enjoyed any night of the week. We heard everything from jazz to blues and reggae. There is also a great art market in the midst of things where authentic local arts and crafts can be purchased. I’m kicking myself for not buying a gold bangle I came across made out of cymbals from a local band. I guess I will have to make another trip back.
The first two evenings in New Orleans were a success. We had quite the itinerary lined up for the next day, so I decided that should be a separate post. If you're still reading, thank you! Stay tuned for part two!