New Orleans is truly all about letting the good times roll, and roll, and roll!
If you have not been back in a while, now may be the time as there is no place quite like it. Even if you decide to avoid the grit of Bourbon Street, the French quarter has so many streets to walk. And who doesn’t love antique shopping on Royal! While a 2 night/3 day stay certainly warrants at least one meal in the quarter – Friday lunch at Gallatoires or dinner at Arnauds, I prefer to dine in the fantastic warehouse district or head up town to the garden district and beyond.
We went with about 20 family members for a surprise 70th birthday for my mother and it truly could not have been a more perfect weekend for the fun loving, young-at-heart, go-with-the-flow swingers that we are!
We had absolutely incredible meals at Annunication, voted top new restaurant for 2014 by the Times Picayne – soft shell crabs, red fish covered in crab, and baked oysters Florentine. My favorite lunch is at Peche – curried mussels, crawfish linguine and the best raw oysters of the trip.
A trip uptown to Gautreaus was well worth the trip – a surprising little home with a fabulous dining room and James Beard winning chef Sue Zemanick delights with fried oysters with brie creme, truffled beef tartar, duck confit, sautéed snapper with blood orange beurre blanc. Charming and extremely personalized is the way I would describe Gautreaus, rated one of the top 10 restaurants in NOLA for 2013.
The true delight about New Orleans is the level of professionalism and interest that servers in the city take in their jobs. Each server we encountered was articulate, passionate and truly the master of their domain. They knew intricacies about every detail of the menu, the chef’s style and eating seemed to be their past time – some great conversations about New Orleans as a food town can be had anywhere.
I haven’t even mentioned the cocktailing! I’m not talking about the giant and lethal concoctions on Bourbon Street, I am speaking about the craft cocktails made by the most competent and impassioned bar staff I have experienced anywhere – perfect Saceracs, Caipirinas, Bloody Marys, martinis abound. Wine menus leave nothing to be desired and again, always easy to get a solid, personal recommendation.
There are three hotels in the city that my clients tend to prefer, and while we stayed at The Ritz-Carlton on this occasion, I spent some time doing site inspections over at The Roosevelt and the Windsor Court as well. While all fantastic options, here is the down and dirty:
- Located right on Canal Street with a back door to deposit you right in the French Quarter. Location is perfect!
- The service and product is as you would expect from a Ritz-Carlton – friendly, efficient, flexible.
- The main lobby is up on the 3rd floor so you can still find a sanctuary even while bordering the French Quarter.
- Who else meets your limo at the porte cochere with bloodies and mimosas for Mom’s surprise arrival? You ask, and yes, they deliver, spot on!
The Windsor Court
- Located near Canal Place shops and the Casino, the Windsor Court is equidistant to the French Quarter and the Warehouse District. If you don’t plan to spend all of your time in the French Quarter, this will be an equally convenient to reach other Uptown Neighborhoods for dining and museums.
- Though the property has a modern façade with large windows, the interiors are traditional and gracious. Each of the suites have slightly different configurations but the 01 series one bedroom suites have both views of the city and the Mississippi river. The Windsor Court has a personalized and intimate feel. A real bonus for families is the small outdoor pool where on nice days the hotel fires up the barbecue and runs an outdoor bar for guests to relax in the afternoons.
- Located on the opposite side of Canal Street from The Ritz-Carlton, The Roosevelt Hotel is a grand old hotel with tons of character while being quite lively. It may not have the serene sophistication of the Windsor Court or The Ritz-Carlton, but this is the place to be if you want to be somewhere absolutely full of life. Be sure to stop by the world-famous Sazerac bar, named after it’s cocktail namesake. One of the best Italian restaurants in the city is attached and has half price pizzas at happy hour. The pool scene is slightly juvenile for this old fuddy duddy, but has the colorful frozen drink machines and burgers on the grill for those that want the good times to keep on rolling.
Bottom line: New Orleans remains the capital of FUN – fantastic food, wonderful places to stay, and libations that keep on giving. If you have a birthday, are a foodie, looking for something lively, are tired of main stream or stuffy, want to feel young again or all of the above, it is simple: Book a seat to New Orleans, call Resort to Laura Madrid, and I promise you will thank me in the morning (or by noon, anyway)!