NOLA, day 2
I spent Friday morning touring New Orleans, while Mark was in meetings, but we met up for lunch at Cochon on Tchoupitoulas Street in the Warehouse District. Cochon is French for “pig” and the restaurant is a “boucherie” – butcher shop – making its own boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese. When I arrived, I told the waitress I had a gluten “allergy” and she filled out a little card with allergen info to give to the chef with my order. How cool is that! I ordered the smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad, right off the menu, no modifications needed. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious. The potato salad had just the right amount of “bite.” Spicy, but not hot. I ate every bite and might have licked the bowl if I hadn’t been surrounded by Mark’s business associates. I also ordered a “Dublin Dr Pepper” to drink – a real treat!
After I separated from the group, I went on a tour of famous New Orleans bars. I have to admit, I didn’t ask about gluten in any of these establishments. I had only a few sips of each cocktail and alcohol usually doesn’t have gluten, so I took my chances. For those interested, we visited the following spots:
TuJague’s – the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. This is an old-fashioned “belly-up to the bar” bar, meaning it has no bar stools. In fact, originally, there were urinals attached to the bar, so that the men didn’t even have to leave to pee. Ew. Needless to say, although the bar and mirrors are all original, the floor has been replaced. We had Tujague’s Lemonade – vodka, lemonade and cranberry juice. It was sweet and fruity -- my favorite drink of the tour.
Old Absinthe House – we had a traditional Green Fairy, made with much pomp and circumstance. Absinthe was made legal again in the U.S. in 2007, but it is not the same drink that was popular with Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, et al. The version sold in the U.S. does not contain thujone, which is the hallucinogenic that made Absinthe so potent. The revised Green Fairy cocktail also lacks an important ingredient – laudanum. However, the chemical change that makes the Green Fairy fairy-like is still apparent when it is prepared correctly. First, a sugar cube is placed on top of a slotted spoon, balanced over cocktail glass containing a shot of absinthe. The sugar cube is set on fire; then, ice cold water is dripped over the sugar cube, into the glass, where is reacts with the emerald spirit, turning it from bright green to milky green. As the color changes, the Brownian motion produces an effect that looks very much like fairy wings rising in the glass. There was a cool contraption that dripped the water into the glass – like a glass vase with a spigot. It was worth the ten bucks to see the preparation, but I have to say that I would never have been an Absinthe addict. I could get down more than a few mouthfuls of the bitter licorice-flavored concoction.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop – This place looked like a fairy-tale cottage and is one of the oldest structures in New Orleans. It was built some time before 1772. For a very long time, it was a gay bar, but in the 50’s it was bought by a policeman, who kicked the original patrons out. They went down the street and founded a new establishment, which they called Lafitte’s in Exile, which claims to be the oldest gay bar in the United States. At the Blacksmith shop, we had a Hurricane. It was made with fresh fruit juice, unlike the one at Pat O’Brian’s, which is more of a Kool-aid. Like most of the drinks it New Orleans, it was way too strong for me.
Court of the Two Sisters Carriageway Bar -- In order to prevent ladies from getting muck on their long dresses, the nicer buildings in the French Quarter had carriageways into the courtyard, so that the ladies didn’t have to disembark in the street. The Carriageway at the Court of the Two Sisters has been converted into a bar. The drink we had there was a Bayou Bash, a mix of Southern Comfort, Sweet and Sour mix, fruit juice, and red wine. It was quite medicinal tasting, which works, since Southern Comfort was originally marketed as a “medicine.” It was kind of like drinking NyQuil.
By the way, if anyone knows how you become a "court jester," please let me know. There were names etched in bronze all along the bar, listed as the "court jesters." My best guess is that they are the past bartenders, but the guy serving us refused to say, stating only that "you have to be male."
Back to food… we ate dinner that night at Clancy’s restaurant, which was definitely off the beaten path, quite far from the French Quarter. My meal there was excellent, though I didn’t do it justice, having already drank my daily allotment of calories for the day during my bar-hopping tour. I’m not normally much of a fish-eater, but I figured I needed to eat something from the water during my stay, so I ordered the Drum with Smoked Salmon. It was incredible – buttery and savory – and served with mashed sweet potatoes. The waiter told me it was GF, but that he would inform the kitchen of my dietary restriction, so they would be extra careful. At dessert time, I had a salted caramel pudding, layered in a wine glass, which was both tasty and pretty. It’s also nice to have something nifty for dessert. I like crème brulee, but it’s awfully nice to have a different option available from time to time.