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New Orleans is a favorite of mine. I’ve done NOLA the hard way. You know, with copious amounts of hurricanes at Pat O’s, walking home with the sunrise, and avoiding water from the workers hosing puke off of the sidewalks. Ahhh… such memories. Now that I’m a little bit older, wiser, and my recovery time from a night of boozing has grown exponentially, I prefer NOLA the easy way.
For a place known for its debauchery, is there such thing as taking it easy in The Big Easy?
There’s so much more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street, gratuitous nudity, plastic beads, and voodoo dolls. It wouldn’t be the same without any of those things, but there is also a grown-up and somewhat sophisticated way to experience "The Crescent City."
International House: Two blocks from the French Quarter, yet still in the heart of the city, the International House is as grownup and as cool as you can get. A mix of old and new, this contemporary hotel impresses as soon as you step into the lobby. With 23-foot ceilings, plaster columns, and velvet-upholstered furniture, it’s plain to see that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel.
Just off the lobby is the Loa Bar. One part elegant parlor and one part saucy bordello, Loa is the place to go in New Orleans for the most innovative and imaginative hand-crafted cocktails. With fun drink names like Johnny & June, La La Louisaine, and A Polite Discretion, it doesn’t really matter what’s in the cocktail, although you can always count on the freshest ingredients and the finest spirits. And if this small hotel bar couldn’t get any better, Loa stays open until the wee hours of the morning, so feel free to people-watch out the giant floor-to-ceiling windows from the comfort of your comfy velvet chair until you’re ready to call it a night up in your room.
Don’t think you’re just going to show up at 8 p.m. on a Friday night and get a table at Cochon, one of New Orleans’ top restaurants. I actually tried it and was told it would be a two-hour wait. However, I was fortunate enough to grab a seat at the bar, which happens to serve a full menu. With a name like Cochon, French for pig, you can guess the restaurant’s specialty. A combination of Cajun and Southern flavors, the menu is small but packs an impressive punch. Some of the dishes I tried were:roasted shrimp with hog jowls, chiles, and cornbread; cane syrup-glazed pork cheeks with mushrooms and roasted corn grits; pork and black-eyed pea gumbo; Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches, and cracklins; and an oyster and bacon sandwich. Never fear if you’re not a pork fan; there are other options. But let’s be serious. Why would anyone go to Cochon and not eat swine? Don’t forget to wash all that porky goodness down with a Catahoula Hound Dog or Sacalait Punch.
Mr. B’s Bistro is owned and managed by Cindy Brennan, you know, of the famous Brennan family in New Orleans? It seems as if most of the best restaurants in the city have a Brennan connection, and that’s just fine by me. They know great food. With Creole-inspired dishes, Mr. B’s serves up a seafood- and meat-heavy menu, just as you’d expect on the Gulf Coast. An elegant atmosphere located in the heart of the French Quarter, Mr. B’s has similar dishes to its more famous (and expensive) brother, Brennan’s. Mr. B’s even uses the Brennan family’s famous bread pudding recipe. This place is a great choice when you’re looking to have a nice meal, but don’t feel like dressing to the nines and forking over a car payment.
Conveniently located a block or so away from the International House, the Ruby Slipper Cafe is a spectacular place to have breakfast or brunch. I should know. I loved it so much I ate there on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And bonus! They serve breakfast all day. The creation of The Ruby Slipper was inspired by Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and the overwhelming sense of homecoming after Hurricane Katrina. They pride themselves in buying locally, recycling, and composting, but I say their greatest achievement is the bananas foster pain perdu. This French toast made from French bread is topped with bananas foster topping and applewood-smoked bacon. It’s a diet killer but so worth it. Sit out on the sidewalk if the weather is nice. It’s a great place to watch the city and its cast of characters pass by.
Cafe du Monde...There’s not much to say about this New Orleans institution: fried dough, powdered sugar, Chicory coffee; get thyself there at some point during your say. Period.
It doesn’t matter how many times I go to New Orleans, I always make it a point to visit St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. An easy walk from the French Quarter, the church and Jackson Square surrounding it, changes depending on the time of day you visit. A steady stream of artists, musicians, and street performers fill the square. Have you ever wanted to get your palm read or to visit with a fortune teller? Ironically you can do that right outside the church. The exterior beauty of St. Louis is only rivaled by the inside. Walk in and take a look around. Don’t miss the beautiful ceiling.
I know that it seems rather odd that I’d suggest visiting the National World War II Museum in a city known for its upbeat and party atmosphere, and in reality, I was surprised that I wanted to go. But since this was to be a grown-up trip, I took the advice of my very grown-up neighbors (in their 60s) and made plans to visit the museum. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the sense of pride and loss that will wash over you before even stepping foot into the building. The sidewalks surrounding the museum are layered with etched bricks emblazoned with the names of those who gave their lives in the war.
Inside the museum is a bounty of World War II paraphernalia from large to small. Boats, planes, and tanks dominate the entrance. Once inside the museum, rooms are filled with everything from weapons to advertisements to uniforms to countless other artifacts that represent war time. Perhaps the thing that struck me most was seeing the World War II vets touring the museum. Most of them didn’t get around very well, but to see their eyes and eavesdrop on their stories was heartbreaking and magical at the same time.
After touring the museum, make sure and take time to see the 4-D movie, Beyond All Boundaries. Narrated and produced by Tom Hanks, this educational, yet entertaining film will cause you swell up with pride. You’ll be reminded about the cost of freedom and what makes the United States such a great place to live. With blasts of cold air during Normandy and vibrating seats coinciding with the rumble of tanks, this movie is an experience not to be missed.
All right, so maybe I didn’t take it completely easy in "The Big Easy." After all, New Orleans is one of the closest places to gamble from Houston. I couldn’t possibly be that close to legal blackjack and not take a seat at the tables. Harrah’s is more than 100,000 square feet, has tons of slot machines, and plenty of table games to entertain the most serious or casual gambler. My only complaint is that they don’t have single- or double-deck blackjack. Apparently I need to take that up with the state of Louisiana and not Harrah’s. It’s a great place to hang with the locals, play some cards, have a drink, and people-watch.
There are so many layers to New Orleans with its rich cultural history that I can’t begin to tackle it all in just 36 hours. I’m quite pleased at what I did experience by not sleeping off a hangover in my hotel room. I can’t wait to take it easy in "The Big Easy" again. There’s no telling what else I’ll discover.
For more of Leah Walker's travels, visit Leah Travels: Life Is Short & The Road Is Long.
How to Do a Weekend in New Orleans
Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.
After interning at SmarterTravel, Ashley joined the team full time in 2015. She's lived on three continents, but still never knows where her next adventure will take her. She's always searching for upcoming destination hotspots, secluded retreats, and hidden gems to share with the world.
Ashley's stories have been featured online on USA Today, Business Insider, TripAdvisor, Huffington Post, Jetsetter, and Yahoo! Travel, as well as other publications.
The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A reusable filtered water bottle—it saves you money, keeps you hydrated, and eliminates waste—win-win."
Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "A week in a bamboo beach hut on India's Andaman Islands."
Travel Motto: "Travel light, often, and in good company."
Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window—best view in the house."
So you&rsquove made the decision to head to the Big Easy for the weekend. Fabulous idea! Here are some activities you can&rsquot miss on any weekend in New Orleans.
A Weekend in New Orleans: Salty Malty Ice Cream Pie, GW Fins
Usually when I visit New Orleans, I go right to favorite places in the French Quarter such as Jackson Square and Café Du Monde while picking up Mardi Gras beads along the way. But on a weekend trip to attend a conference, I went instead straight to GW Fins for their Salty Malty Ice Cream Pie. I had read about this intriguing pie and I and was eager to try it.
I started my dining experience by meeting Brenda, who is a knowledgeable server, and ended up being my culinary guide. She reassured me the pie was still on the menu. She also noted that it would change my life if I ate it. While planning my meal, I also met the husband of one of the chefs whose wife, during her internship at the Culinary School at Delgado Community College, developed the recipe with the executive chef Michael Blake Nelson. As the story goes, the inspiration for the pie came from Chef Nelson who wanted a filling that reminded him of ice cream he had as a child. Between the two chefs, they concocted one amazing pie.
As I placed my order for the pie, I asked for a recommendation for a drink to pair with it. Brenda suggested spiced rum, which she filtered through an ice cube to calm the flavor to compliment the pie.
People: Inventive chefs and servers who are guides to the history of items on the menu and can recommend flavor pairings.
Places: GW Fins, 808 Bienville Street, New Orleans, LA, 70112 https://gwfins.com
Pies: Salty Malty Ice Cream Pie
I have eaten and made ice cream pies before–the ones that have several layers of ice cream from the carton, or ice cream mixed with cookies or crumbled candy bars, and those with a pretzel crust an inch thick. But this pie exceeds any sense of what constitutes an ice cream pie. To start with, the pretzel crust is thinner than a pretzel but imparts just the right subtle texture and salty flavor. Then, the filling is a light, cloud-fluffy combination of the essence of caramel, cream, malt, and salt. To top it off, there are two chocolate-covered pretzel rings that complete the perfection of flavors. The chocolatey, malty, salty, caramely flavors lingered in my mouth for the rest of the evening. My life may not have been changed (yet,) but my palate certainly has!
New Orleans Cuisine
Our cuisine is built on a tradition that stretches from Paris to Port au Prince and from Cadiz to the Congo. It&rsquos one of the reasons we live here and why you come to visit. Every day, the city&rsquos more than 1,000 eateries ready themselves to welcome their guests with a gusto. They spoon the gumbo, blacken the redfish, smoke the pork and plate the dishes with a respect for the old flavors and a warm welcome to new trends.
Here, you can peruse where to dine outdoors, learn the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine and find the best spots to eat with kids that adults can appreciate as well. You can dine healthy, eat fried seafood, devour po-boys and find out where they get their name. Hungry after the show? There are late night cafes and bars that will feed your body as well as your soul. Take a class at one of the city&rsquos cooking schools, explore ethnic cuisine at Vietnamese pho houses and Salvadoran pupuserias. Looking for vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free options? Yes, yes, and yes. The New Orleans dining scene is a brilliant reflection of the city&rsquos diverse history, culture and neighborhoods.
Girls Weekend in New Orleans
Planning a girl’s trip on a weekend to New Orleans? Our detailed guide is on all things related to your next best trip with your beauties.
New Orleans is known for its nightlife, exotic food, and shopping areas. You can have all the fun once you fill the esta application form check esta status , and you are all set to go when it is approved.
With over a day to get your application approved, a tour to New Orleans will be an unforgettable one for sure. An online ESTA visa is an affordable and easier way to obtain permission to travel to various states of the US.
A trip is incomplete without shopping with your beautiful women. So, New Orleans is a shopper’s heaven where you can find all in one place here.
You can either go window-shopping or buy some of the best outfits in the town here, whether it is jewellery, antiques, souvenirs, or artifacts.
New Orleans has a lot to offer to shopaholics, and you will not regret even a second during your late-night shopping here. Some of the well-known shopping streets are
There are local music and food down the lane, which you can enjoy while shopping and get in the vibe and understand the culture of the city.
Late Night Restaurants New Orleans
Visiting restaurants late at night with your girls can be fun. You can have the best food in the town and go crazy with your girls. Whether you feel like having a burger, sandwich, or just plain salad, you get it all.
- Bouligny Tavern – Open till 2 a.m. on weekends, you can unwind and relax on the patio with affordable dishes and drinks on the table.
- The Delachaise – Yet another fancy restaurant to have a chill night, which is open till 2 a.m. with a delicious meal and fine drinks.
- Bayou Beer Garden – If you are in a mood to sip on chilled beer, this beer garden offers the best beer with a pleasant atmosphere at midnight.
- Cooter Brown’s Tavern & Oyster Bar – With amazing food and drinks, this bar that is open till midnight can be your go-to for midnight delicacy with your girls.
Bourbon Street New Orleans
A street full of lighting and lively crowd, it is a must-visit place. Known for endless nightclubs, unleash the party beast in you amid the loud music and bright lights.
Whether you are a party person or not, this street will get you in the mood, and you will be tapping your feet to the music even before you realize.
With a great history and at the centre of New Orleans, a weekend with your girls is incomplete without a visit to Bourbon Street. Pack the best of your dresses and have the best night of your life here.
Things To Do in New Orleans at Night
There is a multitude of things to do in New Orleans at night, and you can never find the time to say that your trip was a boring one.
Of course, a trip with your girls can never be boring, be it any place, and New Orleans makes it worth every penny. Here are some of the fun things to do here at midnight.
- Since it is the origin of some of the amazing drinks, you can try some of the classic cocktails with your friends.
- You can go to a casino, see a live show, immerse yourself in the live music on the street or take a stroll to view the beauty of the place.
- You can take a night tour, go on a cruise, or boat rides, or visit a museum and enjoy the night with your pals.
Known for its nightlife and music, a high-spirited city indeed. You can have the time of your life with your girls in New Orleans. Indulge in numerous activities and experience the lively culture in this city. Walk into the nightclubs in Bourbon Street and experience the never nightlife.
Once you have applied for an ESTA visa, you can check esta status to see if your application is approved or not. Since the entire process is online, you can get your visa virtually with just a few steps and as soon as possible. It is one of the best ways to apply if you have decided to tour New Orleans unexpectedly with your girls.
New Orleans Weekend Guide
Celebrate New Orleans' tenacity as this great city continues to rebuild after the devastating losses suffered after Hurricane Katrina. The city didn't succumb to despair and instead continues to focus its energy on the culture, dining, music and history that make it so beloved to travelers. Spend a weekend eating, strolling and imbibing, and you'll find it's hard to resist NOLA's spirited Southern hospitality.
Where to Stay
There's plenty of room to spread out in a luxe suite at Windsor Court Hotel in the business district. Each super-sized suite has a separate living room, bedroom and a small kitchen or wet bar area. Take advantage of all that room and book an en-suite Swedish massage. While most accommodations are suites, there are 56 deluxe rooms that are a spacious 400 square feet with the same lovely amenities. The rooms boast interesting artwork and windows or balconies that look out over the Mississippi River or city skyline.
The ritzy Hotel Monteleone is a historic landmark dating back to 1886 that has been a favorite among the South's literary elite, from William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote to modern icons like Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose and John Grisham. Despite its historic status, this French Quarter oasis is thoroughly modern with Wi-Fi, a snazzy fitness center and a sprawling Skytop Terrace that includes a cool rooftop pool. Go for a spin in the unusual Carousel Bar, a circus-themed revolving cocktail lounge that has been wooing hotel guests and locals since 1949.
Enjoy some Southern hospitality in an intimate setting at Maison Perrier, a Garden District bed and breakfast. The house is a gorgeous Victorian, but the mansion's history isn't nearly as buttoned-up: It's rumored to have once been a turn-of-the-century gentlemen's club. Rooms, named for these imagined ladies of the night, are romantic with every necessary comfort. The Jasmine is an elegant red room with a Victorian headboard, whirlpool tub and candles galore, while the demure Clair has calming lavender walls and a king-sized iron bed. Charming Dolly is a Provence-inspired cornflower-blue retreat with a fireplace and private balcony.
Where to Eat
New Orleans is a town for foodies with culinary delights around every corner. There are fancy restaurants with white-glove service, casual spots serving the ubiquitous muffuletta sandwiches and cozy cafes, like the iconic Café du Monde, where you can enjoy beignets and watch the world go by the French Quarter.
Chef John Besh is just one of the recognizable faces in New Orleans' culinary scene with 5 restaurants in the city and 1 in nearby Lacombe. Luke, located in the city's business district, is a classic brasserie with a daily breakfast buffet and Southern standards like shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles. In the French Quarter, August is a fancier option with an impressive wine list and French Creole flavors in dishes like pan-roasted sablefish or rabbit cassoulet. Parties can allow the chef to choose the dishes and enjoy a 3-hour feast with the John Besh Degustation menu.
For a truly decadent dinner, splurge at the French Quarter's Stella!, where a few grams of rich and buttery Russian caviar may cost more than your weekend accommodations. The 7-course tasting menu is equally splurge-worthy with a dazzling array of flavors and fresh ingredients in seasonal dishes like Italian summer truffle and king oyster mushroom risotto. Chef Scott Boswell plays with global gastronomy, combining flavors from French, Creole and Asian cooking with modern techniques. The results are dishes like pan-roasted Hawaiian Walu with a hot buttered popcorn crust and a grilled cheese dessert sandwich with candied pecans, powdered pistachio and a Captain Crunch and nutella explosion of flavor.
It's easy to work up a sweat in just a day of window-shopping in often-steamy New Orleans. The folks at Creole Creamery are happy to help you cool down with some unusual ice cream combinations. Sure you'll find the essential flavors on the menu, but we dare you to treat your taste buds to an outrageous scoop of sweet Peanut Butter Banana Malt or Sweet Potato Sassafras Praline. Go savory with a cold scoop of Tomato Basil ice cream or mix your salty and sweet with Salted Caramel or Strawberry Jalapeno Cheesecake. And if you must go with vanilla, at least experiment with an ice cream cone topped with Vanilla-Bourbon with Brown Sugar.
What to See & Do
At the heart of New Orleans, the French Quarter is the city's center of culture, eating and entertaining. You can spend your entire weekend in town wandering around this neighborhood, also known as Vieux Carré or simply the Quarter. Appreciate the architecture with French and Spanish influences that include walled courtyards and wrought-iron balconies. Grab a muffulleta sandwich at Central Grocery (923 Decatur Street), and take a stroll through Jackson Square. Go window-shopping in the boutiques and galleries along Chartres and Royal Streets. If the French Quarter is the city's cultural hub, Bourbon Street is the drinking epicenter with rows of bars and carousing in the street.
You've likely seen images of the devastation in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but Tours by Isabelle helps visitors understand the storm's true impact. The company's Katrina Tour sets off from the French Quarter, one of the city's few neighborhoods that was spared Katrina's wrath, and takes visitors on a 4-hour trip through the parts of the city that were hardest hit. These include the Ninth Ward, the London Avenue Canal Breach, the levee break at the 17th Street Canal and St. Bernard Parish. While the tour reveals the depth of the storm's wreckage, it also offers glimpses of hope as volunteers work to rebuild the most damaged parts of the city.
Embrace New Orleans' spooky side on a stroll through the city's storied cemeteries. The city's high water table makes for soggy ground and easy flooding, so all burial sites must be above ground. Rows of tombs and statues create visually striking miniature cities of the dead that conjure up local folklore, voodoo history and literary characters from Anne Rice novels. While alluring, many of these burial grounds are found in the city's edgier neighborhoods, so it's best to explore these spots on an organized group tour. As an added bonus, you'll learn more about the history and legends from an expert. Historic New Orleans Tours hosts a Cemetery Voodoo Tour through St. Louis Cemetery Number 1. The city's oldest cemetery dates back to 1789 and is the final resting place for the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and the backdrop for scenes in the cult classic "Easy Rider."
For many, the first thing that comes to mind for cocktails in the French Quarter is a boozy bar crawl with bottomless hurricanes and bawdy displays for beads. The Bombay Club sits neatly in the French Quarter, but cocktails at this elegant joint couldn't be more different. Talented bartenders prepare over 115 martinis by carefully hand-stirring top-shelf ingredients to create classic cosmopolitans and other concoctions like the Cajun King martini with Absolut Peppar, Citron, some dry vermouth and spicy olives. Patrons belly up to the polished wooden bar for single-barrel bourbons, a fine single-malt Scotch or a snifter of cognac.
The romantic Victorian Lounge at the Columns Hotel does romance the old-fashioned way with antique décor, a colorful stained-glass chandelier and a cozy fireplace. There's a proper porch where you can canoodle and enjoy some people-watching as the streetcars roll through the beautiful Garden District. When you're ready to head inside for the music, appreciate this timeless classic with a cool mint julep at the mahogany bar.
New Orleans is known for its thriving music scene, and even the state's worst national disasters couldn't stifle the jazz that spills out into the streets and alleys. Snug Harbor, located near the French Quarter in Fauborg Marigney, has an intimate music room with 2 shows each night. They include a range of styles including blues, jazz and R&B with big-band orchestras and single musicians on trombone, guitar or piano. All tickets are general admission so you can choose a ground-floor seat in front of the stage or opt for mezzanine seating looking down on the stage.
Travel Channel Insider's Tip
The French Quarter may be the only neighborhood in the area that is easy to navigate as the streets are laid out in a straightforward grid. For the rest of your exploring, invest in a good map and leave your car behind: Hit the streets in comfy walking shoes, take a ride on a trolley or rely on cabs to navigate the narrow, and sometimes confusing, maze of city streets.
A Perfect Weekend in New Orleans: Paradise for Adolescents and Foodies!
There is a roar in New Orleans that you just can't ignore: whether you're walking through the intoxicated, hurly-burly blur of Bourbon Street, or seeking a "quieter" restaurant in the Warehouse District (good luck!), you will be surrounded by people aggressively having a wild time. The fact is: they are there to have a wild time. New Orleans is a self-consciously joyous place that brings out the inner adolescent in us all. a six-pack-fueled hothouse where sin, in the very best way, always seems tantalizingly within one's grasp.
But there's another well-known, fundamental truth about New Orleans: it just happens to be, at the same time, one of the best food cities in the United States. Some would call it the best -- if the criterion is an indigenous, home-grown cuisine that has a high percentage of local residents deliriously in its thrall.
Happily -- very happily -- these two currents are far from antagonistic to each other. In fact, they connect perfectly in The Big Easy: if you do it right, dining well in New Orleans is simply a gastronomic extension of the crazy culture exploding all around you.
Just a quiet day on Bourbon Street
Here then is an up-to-date guide to doing it right -- the distillation of my recent Halloween weekend visit to New Orleans, where I wanted a good bite as desperately as I wanted a good time. To make things simple (and to kind of conform to what's humanly possible within a weekend!), I have divided the town, eatin'-wise, into eight of my culinary obsessions. In case you're wondering: yes, I did them all during last weekend's Thursday-to-Sunday binge!
Raw Gulf oysters, ready to be served
Without doubt, New Orleans is the premier American city when it comes to oysters. Whether you like Gulf oysters or not -- and whether you're inclined or not to ignore the warnings and eat 'em raw (I was!) -- 15 million pounds of oysters are normally harvested every year in the Gulf near New Orleans. Oysters are deep, deep in this town's DNA -- and oyster bars are blessedly ubiquitous. Fortunately, for the raw-bivalve-wary, there are no health risks in eating cooked oysters -- and Creole and Cajun cuisines are rife with cooked-oyster dishes.
For 30 years now, my first destination when I hit the ground in New Orleans has been the Acme Oyster House, on Iberville St., in the heart of the French Quarter I just don't feel like I'm in New Orleans until I get a whiff of this mollusk-mad, honky-tonk place. Let the good times begin!
Interior glow of the Acme Oyster House at around 5PM
Come real early to Acme on your first evening in New Orleans the line starts building up at around 4:45, which is when they get this party started. There are oysters available in many ways here -- but the heart of the place is the historic oyster bar, just to the right of the front door. Burlap bags at Acme hold thousands of Gulf oysters, and the shuckers open them right on top of the emptied bags. The oysters are the stars, of course. But Acme fans keep track of the shuckers too, as if they were professional athletes.
The veteran: Hollywood Broadway, pitching oysters at the bar for 34 years
The rookie: Edward Barnes, rounding out his second season
Now, if it's cooked oysters you seek, I have decided that my favorite cooked-oyster dish in New Orleans is delightfully un-fried (fried oysters float most people's boats): the chargrilled oyster, invented in 1993 by the owner of Drago's restaurant in Metairie, near New Orleans (with an in-town branch at the Hilton).
Chargrilled oysters at Drago's
This is a brilliant bit of cookery: oysters are splashed with garlic butter and grated cheese, then sent into a roaring inferno on the grill. The flame crusts the outside of the oysters, and they end up tasting like smoky wood, meaty juice and the salty waters from which they came. This is party food, for sure: a few dozen oysters, along with a bunch of Abita Ambers (the local beer), and you are on your way.
The front sign at Jacques-Imo's
I try to hit Jacques-Imo's next on my first day in New Orleans, around 10 p.m. at night, Uptown, in the neighborhood of Carrolton. And there are three reasons I do:
1) The party invariably heats up here the college students from nearby Tulane and Loyola drive the energy, but everyone else joins in. if you're over 40, I GAR-RON-TEE you will take decades off your clock just by bellying up for a Sazerac.
2) Jacques-Imo's has the best fried chicken in New Orleans.
3) There are other Jacques-Imo's dishes you won't want to live without!
First, the party. Folks gather here in the early evening, ready to howl. As you wait up to two hours for a table (they will take your res if you're five or more), you can stand among the garish colors at the bar.
A painting of Jacques-Imo's in Jacques-Imo's bar that captures it all
Or you can wait on the street, drinks in hand, or you can try to snag the table on the pick-up truck in front of the restaurant.
Dinner for two on Jacques-Imo's truck
Finally your breakthrough will come. at which point you'll walk up the stairs behind the reception stand, right through the crazy kitchen, en route to the rear dining rooms.
And then the real adventure will begin.
Fried chicken at Jacques-Imo's
Fried chicken is one of the town's secret specialties, covered over in all the Cajun-Creole chatter. But a town that takes its food as seriously as New Orleans does is obviously going to pay a lot of attention to one of the great southern specialties. One local company spiced up the batter, in 1972, and grew into the national mega-chain Popeye's (do not dare miss their chicken, and red beans and rice, when you're in the New Orleans area). More "serious" restaurants have "temple" status among fried-chicken aficionados Dookie Chase is a New Orleans legend (though Leah Chase has stepped away from the stove after decades of frying), and most guidebooks tell you that the revered Willie Mae's Scotch House has the best fried chicken in town.
About 10 years ago, Jack Leonardi, owner, hired one of the most famous local fried-chicken gurus, Austin Leslie, to head up the fried-chicken operation in his kitchen. Leslie's fried chicken, to me, is exactly what fried chicken oughtta be: a light, shatteringly crisp coating, thoroughly irregular, filled with wisps and curls that seem to grow organically out of the chicken below, which must be preternaturally juicy. Leslie died not long after Katrina roared through the city, but not without passing his secrets on to Jacques-Imo's staff -- which creates platters of Leslie tribute every night, to order.
But there's so much more from this great kitchen, which features smartly restrained twists on Cajun and Creole specialties. On my visit last week, the four dishes that stood out (other than the fried chicken!) were the fried grits with cheese, the shrimp and alligator cheesecake, the blackened redfish with a Creole sauce, and the mind-blowing Roast Beef Po' Boy, which has been dipped, against all odds, in batter and fried!
While we're on the subject.
A typically drippy po' boy. so good!
You might be a little confused by po' boys if you're just discovering the genre. The uninitiated always want to know the secret that literally defines the po' boy, but there ain't no secret! A po' boy is just a sandwich in New Orleans, made on Italian-style hero bread. That's it! The sandwich fillings? As diverse as the New Orleans people.
When you delve a little deeper, however, you find the subtleties of the po' boy are the things that keep it alive.
The bread has a certain style: it is lightly crackling on the outside, extremely light and fluffy within. (Many top po' boy shops use the loaves baked by local star Leidenheimer's.) The major motif is: wet sometimes this comes from the dressing within (almost always tomatoes, shredded lettuce and mayo), or, in the meaty ones, a hot juice on the underside of the sandwich. From these few factors, a blizzard of possibilities is spawned, and New Orleanians debate endlessly who has the best fillings, which po' boy frames the fillings best, which po' boys are the most satisfying, etc.
You're gonna have to start at one place, so it might as well be the famous Mother's, right near the French Quarter. The line down the street can be something of a party itself, especially if the staff is going around outside with Bloody Marys for sale to those waiting. But if you arrive at 4 p.m. or so, you might be able to saunter right up to the historic counter, and find the jacketed staff ready to serve you.
Mother's has a wide menu, but it is best known for its roast beef sandwiches and for the subsidiary sandwiches based on "debris" -- theoretically, the crumbs and shreds of beef that fall off the roast beef in the roasting pans. Sure, you can get the famous Ferdi Special, which is baked ham, roast beef, gravy and debris, but why not go all the way for the Debris Po' Boy?
A Debris Po' Boy at Mother's
Notice a few peculiarities. There's no tomato and lettuce, but there is cabbage -- a Mother's signature. Another thumbprint of Mother's is mustard on the po' boys. Lastly, the Mother's Debris Po' Boy is almost like a demi-French-dip, with a big pool of jus floating under the sandwich. You have to go to Mother's, of course -- but the debris on this particular Debris Po' Boy, last weekend, seemed more like stewed beef than debris.
I preferred the roast beef sandwich at everyone's favorite current po' boy mecca, Parkway Bakery and Tavern. though it is quite a ride from downtown, out towards the part of town devastated by Katrina.
A framed photo of Parkway, just after Katrina
The optimistic sign "WE'RE SAVING PARKWAY" now transformed to "WE SAVED PARKWAY"
The ordering line at Parkways is always insane.
Ordering at Parkway, before a 20-minute wait for your name to be called
. but the beers are extra-icy here, and, in good weather, you can hear your announcement from a large patio outside.
I say Parkway is a must no place is as likely to serve you a po' boy that is so classic in its style, so unfailing in its execution.
You can practically hear the crunch of this Parkway Hot Roast Beef with Gravy Po' Boy
The roast beef is more roast-beef-like than Mother's, and the wet undercoating here is in perfect ratio with that crunchy top. Last weekend, I also loved the Golden Fried Shrimp Po' Boy -- another type of po' boy that every place in town serves.
Parkway's Golden Fried Shrimp Po' Boy
Here, the shrimp are a little bit larger than most, deeply shrimp-y, seasoned beautifully.
But the very best po'boys of all in New Orleans may be at another slightly distant location: Crabby Jack's, in Metairie.
Now, Crabby Jack's just happens to be owned by the same guy who owns Jacques-Imo's, Jack Leonardi. You can see a similar color riot at the much more proletarian Crabby Jack's.
The lurid wall at Crabby Jack's
. and a similar desire to tweak gastronomic tradition just a little bit.
The blackboard menu at Crabby Jack's
Now, I have New Orleans friends who call this shrimp po'boy the greatest one in the city.
Shrimp Po' Boy at Crabby Jack's
. and I have no evidence that would allow me to disagree. The shrimp-spill that ruptures out of this sandwich is positively joyful, and the shrimp themselves are tight, sweet, perfectly salted. The traditional sandwich surroundings function beautifully here, giving this creation the golden ratio that defines po' boy perfection.
However, do not even think of leaving Crabby Jack's with out trying the Slow-Cooked Duck Po' Boy.
The Slow-Cooked Duck Po' Boy at Crabby Jack's
. oozing with ducky intensity, crossing the line even into the taste of long-cooked, dark-meat turkey. Positively a triumph of dripping-wet goodness.
Crabby Jack's closes at 3 p.m. on most days, so get here for a mid-afternoon lunch. But save room.
New Orleans' best muffaletta
Before you get out of Metairie, you must visit the home of the greatest muffaletta in New Orleans, Nor-Joe Import Company and Market Place.
I know. I know. Your book and everyone else says that you must go to the Central Grocery, a cramped deli right near the French Market in the French Quarter. The muffaletta (usually pronounced muff-a-LOTT-a) was supposedly invented here -- a big round loaf layered with Italian cold cuts and an olive spread. The Central Grocery, by acclamation of the un-curious, serves the best.
Nor-Joe is a similar kind of store, but a lot more spacious, with better Italian imports. Moreover, they will take 10 minutes to hand-make your muffaletta here, from the very best ingredients -- ask for it warm! -- and those are the only 10 minutes you'll wait. The sandwich itself is miraculous.
A small hunk of a muffaletta at Nor-Joe
Tender where it should be, melting where it should be, converting many muffaletta non-believers into rabid proselytes. There is only one caution: $12.95 brings you a full muffaletta, weighing in at about two pounds. You can hardly get your mouth around this thing.
A great attempt at negotiating a Nor-Joe muffaletta
Make sure you come with three friends, all hungry, have the counterperson cut the monster in four sections, and retire to the picnic tables in front with plenty of time on your hands (to match the plenty of meat on your hands).
You simply cannot come to New Orleans without sampling gumbo, the most famous local dish of all. Except that you'll often find dreary versions of it, at a lot of touristy places. I have an exquisite paradox for you: my favorite gumbo is served right in the middle of the tourist crush, at a lovely restaurant one block from Bourbon Street, called Mr. B's Bistro. It starts with a dark, dark roux, slowly stirred for almost an hour, before the addition of the other flavorings -- plus chicken and andouille, the star protein performers. The finished product is medium-thin, smoky, with a wild country flavor that is easy to believe reflects the Cajun swamps.
Gumbo Ya-Ya at Mr. B's Bistro
You'll love the atmosphere here as well, particularly on a nice day, with a cheery crowd, and sun streaming in through the windows. I make sure to grab me a Cajun Bloody Mary or two, to get in the mood.
Mr. B's Bistro's Bloody Cajun, among other libations
. before moving on to one of the best BBQ Shrimp dishes in The Creation.
Manale's may have invented it, but Mr. B's has perfected BBQ Shrimp
All in all, a lunch at Mr. B's Bistro is a great way to sample New Orleans Cajun-derived restaurant fare, mostly classic.
6) THE CLASSIC CREOLE RESTAURANT
As early as 1718, the word "Creole" was used to name French and/or Spanish people who were born not in Europe, but in the New World of Louisiana. Over the centuries, the word has broadened in meaning to the point of meaninglessness -- but today, at least in food terms, it usually makes sense. "Creole cuisine" is a kind of New Orleans fancy food, derived from classic French (much hollandaise and bearnaise sauce, for example), as well as the flavors of Spain (the love for shellfish, sausage and the presence of bell peppers).
There are a number of fancy New Orleans restaurants as rich in this tradition as they are in calories: Arnaud's and Antoine's are among the very famous ones, with a little more creativity over the last few decades at Commander's Palace. You should unfailingly go to one of them on your visit, to get a real taste of an important side of New Orleans.
But, as this trip confirmed for me:
If ya gotta pick just one, make it Galatoire's.
Saturday lunch at Galatoire's, in its historic mirrored room
Again, we have an insane location here: it is not near Bourbon Street, but on Bourbon Street, mere steps from the busiest spot. And yet, it breathes divine, rose-scented doses of the finest elegance New Orleans can hope to offer.
Galatoire's was established in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, an immigrant from the Basque southwest of France (near the city of Pau) today, there's another principal owner, but the Galatoire family is still heavily involved in the operation of the restaurant. What a century it has been various generations of this family have presided over the social lives of New Orleans' crème de la crème, in the tradition-steeped downstairs dining room, as far back as anyone can remember. It is a thrill to walk into this atmosphere today -- watching your fellow diners, most of whom have celebrated births and birthdays, wedding coupes and business coups countless times, relaxing at their natural, public home. The spirits are so high, and so infectious, nothing makes you feel as if you have instant native status quite as much as Galatoire's. As long as you're wearing a jacket.
This is a dizzying version of the same old adolescent adrenaline of New Orleans, but now at the monied, country-club level.
If you could choose your time slot at Galatoire's downstairs, nothing could be finer than a lunch table on a Friday it has long been "the" meal at Galatoire's, "the" meal where a toute Orléans turns out. But there are three Friday lunches in the year that are special beyond special: the Friday before Christmas, the Friday before Mardi Gras and the Friday before Halloween (in what is unquestionably America's best Halloween town). People start working on a table for these lunches a year in advance some are allowed to wait in line and enter, but the line starts on the Tuesday before the Friday! Others hire line-standers, who hold places for them right up to the entry moment.
Me? I could never hope to arrange a table at the Halloween Friday lunch at Galatoire's I don't have the heritage! But I got lucky last week: they allowed me in to take photos, then held a table for me the next day, which also has its glam.
Here's what the Halloween lunch looked like last Friday, as the revelers arrived:
Just before sitting down to lunch
I returned for Saturday lunch, to the same menu, and confirmed my gastronomic intuition: do not come to New Orleans' most historic restaurant expecting anything like the food you'd get at a well-regarded modern high-end restaurant. It ain't like that here. Good! To me, that's a tremendous reason to come to Galatoire's too many could-be-anywhere creative restaurants flood the planet as it is!
At Galatoire's, you'll be served traditional New Orleans food that probably seemed dated 30 years ago, but all of it cooked and served beautifully.
Mr. Dorris, who has been a Galatoire's waiter for 39 years
The first thing that rubbed me the right way was the bread and butter.
Opening the meal at Galatoire's
. great, crispy-light garlic bread, warm, with an individual dish of butter for each of the four diners! Uncommon graciousness.
Up next was an array of what modern restaurants would call "amuses"-- though I'm growing increasingly un-amused by specks of this or that in a dubious emulsion of that or this. Not at Galatoire's -- where the party kicks off with serious, copious, simple food. First come the famous, puffy pommes soufflés. with bearnaise sauce! They are accompanied by an extraordinary bite. long wands of fried eggplant, served with powdered sugar. If that's not weird enough for you, they instruct you to mix up the sugar with Tabasco, before dunking in the eggplant! I approached trepidatiously I swallowed enthusiastically.
Confectioner's sugar mixed with Tabasco at Galatoire's
Then, if you have pre-meal room, go for the perfectly battered and fried pickles!
Fried pickles at Galatoire's
Next, don't fail to order the appetizer portions of cold shellfish specialties.
The head shrimp peeler at Galatoire's (100 lbs. a day of fresh Louisiana shrimp!)
Delicious cold shellfish at Galatoire's
This is New Orleans. The classic shrimp cocktail on the left is a kicked-up version of classic shrimp cocktail! The outstanding Shrimp Remoulade on the right clearly reflects the dozen ingredients that go into this sauce, with horesradish and mustard leading the way. And the Crabmeat Maison in the middle, creamy with a homemade mayo, tangy with white pepper, is pure time travel to another era.
Of course you want oysters topped and broiled in various ways.
The classic Oysters Rockefeller coming out of the salamander at Galatoire's
Although on Saturday, we skipped the classic, as the talented head chef, Michael Sichel, prepared an oyster dish for us topped with blue cheese and bacon.
Broiled oysters are an important Galatoire's specialty
Of the entrées, the one I wouldn't want to live without is the sautéed redfish filet (a great local fish, blackened or not), served with artichoke bottoms and snails, in the most suave, flavorful brown butter sauce I've ever tasted.
Perfect brown butter sauce underneath a redfish filet at Galatoire's
At entrée time, however, you could hardly go wrong, if you're time traveling, wandering the scrumptious museum case of amandined, meunièred, hollandaised, stuffed-and-sauced specialties.
7) NEW RESTAURANT CLASSICS
New Orleans, of course, does more than deliciously stand still. No trip to the Crescent City is complete without a visit to one of the high-end restaurants established in the last decade by a new generation of star New Orleans chefs. This is far from po' boy territory -- but ya gotta love the home-grown variety in this town!
Perhaps my favorite chef of the new-generation rock stars is John Besh, local boy who made good. Really good! National publications often proclaim his flagship restaurant August as the finest of fine dining in New Orleans. and he has followed up with eight other scattered restaurants as part of his restaurant group.
I'd been to August several times over the last decade, and decided to go back last weekend -- for my trip-ending, big-deal, celebration meal. I discovered that the once subdued 19th-century French-Creole space in the Central Business District is now mobbed with people hoping for a table! Well, drinking the home-barrel-aged Manhattan while you wait ain't too painful. But better to take care of your reservation a few weeks in advance -- then be amazed at the easy grace with which the wonderful staff puts up with all the adulation.
And then there's the food. I am not usually enamored by fancy-creative, unless two things are in place:
1) The chef is unusually talented and
2) The food carries elements, at least, of the locality it's in
August passes muster on both counts. Don't expect to see Besh there these days -- but he has entrusted his kitchen to another brilliant local boy, Michael Gulotta. It seemed to me on this recent visit that not only is the food a great example of the stellar-world-stage variety, but that Gulotta has worked a little more New Orleans into it. Oh, Besh was always a locavorist in ingredient selection -- but his important development years, cooking in France, always gave the food a Gallic sensibility (deliciously so). Gulotta -- who also worked briefly in Europe, at a high-end twinkler in Germany -- brings a little more of the richness of New Orleans food to the table. It's subtle, but it's heart-warming.
Here's an array of dishes that came my way last Saturday night:
Terrine of Chappapeela Farms Duck (a special last weekend at August)
Candied Acorn Squash and Jumbo Lump Crab Salad, with Benton's Bacon and Spiced Pecans, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, at August
Crispy Eggplant Gattafin with Roasted Garlic Mascarpone, Late Season Heirloom Tomatoes, at August
Persillade-Crusted P&J Oysters with Sun Drop Tomatoes, Creole Cream Cheese and Bacon, at August
Breaded "Trout Ponchartrain," Jumbo Lump Crab, Wild Mushrooms and Sauce Hollandaise, at August
Now, I'm not a big one for three-star restaurants, no matter how ground-breaking they are. But when I travel, I always try to figure out where there's the best sweet in the best local tradition. In New Orleans, I found my favorite ten tears ago, returned to it last weekend. and it's still my favorite.
The chocolate pecan pie at Camellia Grill, with chocolate ice cream
Intriguingly, pecan pie, a Southern specialty that sweet-tooths seem to adore, has never been one of my faves it is usually way too sticky for me, too cloying, too monochromatic in flavor. But I would never say that about the pecan pie at the original Uptown Camellia Grill. the best pecan pie I know.
Here's the point of difference: it's loose, not heavy, at Camellia Grill. Not TOO sweet. And it has the fascinating counterpoint of chocolate in it (you can get it without chocolate, but I prefer the dark one). AND. it is warmed for you right on the griddles of this old-fashioned diner, making it so sexily melty-tender.
Two griddled pecan pies, coming up
So, if you've come to the end of your New Orleans revel and you're looking for one more little bite of the South before you return to your hotel room, you could do a lot worse than a late-night visit to the charmingly S-shaped counters of Camellia Grill. Though not exactly a celebration, a visit has that post-game, start-the-hangover-cure kind of feel to it.
What? Protesting a few more calories? This is New Orleans, people! You'll be back to reality soon!
I spent my birthday this year at the French Quarter in New Orleans and I have no regrets.
Akin and I stayed at the Homewood Suites that was literally walking distance from the middle of it all. With all the restaurants at the French Quarter, we had endless options. I also loved how the city stays open late. We went in August and it felt as though a parade or Mardi Gras was taking place. Turns out that this was just how it is every day. IT IS A PARTY. It was crowded but everyone was friendly and just wanted to have fun. I can&rsquot even begin to remember all of the crazy things we saw while walking around the French Quarter. From a woman in a wedding dress (maybe she just got married?) to street performers, you&rsquore never going to run out of things to see.
There is a LOT of walking involved in New Orleans so make sure to have comfortable shoes on. This is not the time to strut in your high heels. My three inch heels were the highest heels I packed and that was just for our photoshoot.
We stayed in the city for three days and it felt like the perfect number of days I could have handled the hustle and bustle of New Orleans. We arrived on Friday and explored the French Quarter to get a vibe of what the city had to offer. Trust me when I tell you that food in New Orleans is magnificent. *licks all five fingers* So rich. I may have gained a few pounds just from the trip but hey, I enjoyed every calorie-filled dish and those delicious beignets. BEIGNETS ARE LIFE! It didn&rsquot matter if it were from Cafe Du Monde or from Cafe Beignet, you&rsquoll still enjoy the beignets either way. I literally dreamt about them after biting into those warm pillows of dough and sugar. Can&rsquot wait to go back to this culture-rich city!
You don&rsquot necessarily need a planned out itinerary for New Orleans because you will easily find something to do. Go with the flow and take in all the cool things you will stumble upon in the French Quarter. I had a blast for during my birthday weekend in New Orleans and would highly recommend everyone to visit at least once! >> Enjoy the clips I&rsquove put down below to get a snippet of what NOLA is about. <<
Where To Drink
Mimi&rsquos in the Marigny
A hipster bar in the Marigny district, with live music and a Spanish tapas menu.
Rue de la Course
A bohemian coffeehouse on Magazine Street, a terrific shopping strip.
An old dive bar beloved for its cluttered, lived-in space and outsider-art collection.
An always-crowded bar in the Bywater, where locals pack in to hear New Orleans jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins play weekly Thursday-night sets with his band, the Barbecue Swingers. Ruffins often serves his own homemade barbecue at the shows.
Thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, we were able to take an early morning direct flight from Austin to New Orleans, completely for free. That’s a savings of about $300 per person. Once we landed, we headed over to our hotel for this trip, the Four Points by Sheraton in the French Quarter, which we also booked completely for free on points. Cash rates for this hotel were running about $341/night when we booked, which means that with a points rate of 12,000 points per night, we managed a redemption rate of about 2.8 cents per point — a pretty good redemption that also put us in the heart of the tourist district.
Our double room at the Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter was simple but spacious.
All in all, thanks to using points instead of paying cash, we saved over $1,200 on this little three day weekend in New Orleans, which we were then able to spend on food and activities instead!
The bathroom of our room at the Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter was nothing special.
Despite arriving early in the morning, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our room was already available. Being that I was traveling with both my husband and best friend on this trip, we opted for a room with two Queens instead of our usual King.
The desk and tv area of our room at the Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter in New Orleans.
After dropping our bags, we were starting to get hungry, so we headed off for our traditional first destination in Nola: Jackson Square and Cafe Du Monde. There, we enjoyed two orders of beignets and cafe au laits all around, while being serenaded by street performers.
Covered in powdered sugar, the beignets from Cafe Du Monde are not for beginners.
Hunger at bay, we decided to stroll around the French Quarter a bit, stopping in the cute shops and galleries and taking in the sights along the way. We wandered past the Joan of Arc statue (one of my personal favorites) and onto the French Market, which was decorated for Halloween.
The Joan of Arc statue in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
The festive French Market at the end of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
After spending the morning walking around, we’d managed to work back up an appetite, and were ready to start imbibing some cocktails as well. We decided to spend our afternoon doing a “tiki tour” through the Quarter. We started at Port of Call, for a world class burger and giant rum-based cocktails.
Port of Call, on the very edge of the French Quarter serves amazing hamburgers accompanied by giant baked potatoes in a dark dive-bar type setting.
From left to right, the Red Turtle, Neptunes Monsoon, and the eponymous Port of Call cocktails at Port of Call.
Up next, we wandered over to a couple places that, despite promising names, were decidedly NOT tiki bars…lest you also be fooled, Aunt Tiki’s is just a dive bar, while Attiki’s is a hookah restaurant. However, we found the real deal at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29. There, we enjoyed the “Snake Versus Mongoose” — a group punch beverage adorned with a ton of fresh mint and very long, colorful straws.
Finally, we were hoping to visit Tiki Tolteca, but they were unfortunately closed for a private event. Instead, we swung by an old standby: the Crescent City Brewhouse for flights of their craft beer and a tasty cajun treat: fried alligator bites.
Alligator bites from the Crescent City Brewhouse.
Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel and clean up for the evening. We had reservations at Shaya, which I was really looking forward to after hearing multiple positive comparisons between Shaya and Zahav, my absolute favorite restaurant in the world which we visited while in Philadelphia a couple years ago.
The soft cooked egg hummus at Shaya was delicious.
From left to right, the baba ganoush, labneh, and heirloom tomato salatim at Shaya.
Entrees at Shaya. The slow cooked lamb, market fish, and foie gras.
Everything we had was very good — in fact, my best friend said the hummus was the best she had ever had. However, I don’t think it quite rates up there with Zahav. This was certainly delicious food, and a great addition to the New Orleans dining scene. Zahav is just THAT good. And this didn’t quite compare.
After Shaya, we headed over to local bar Le Bon Temps Roule, with the hopes of catching the Soul Rebels live in concert. Unfortunately, we learned that they too had a private event that night, and would not be playing their regular Thursday night spot. We enjoyed a few cocktails and chatted with the friendly bar staff instead, then ultimately headed back to the hotel for a relatively early evening on the first night of our three day weekend in New Orleans.
Get away from all the madness of the French Quarter by walking to Frenchman Street for a more local experience. If you&aposre a serious music lover, check out Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro as it has the best in live jazz in the city. For dinner, take a cab to Treme and dine at Dooky Chase, where you will find "Queen of Creole Cuisine," Leah Chase cooking up favorites like fried chicken, shrimp clemenceau, and stuffed shrimp. End the night back in the French Quarter at Arnaud&aposs French 75 with its signature cocktail, The French 75, a lovely mixture of cognac, lemon, and champagne.
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