The high point of a rather fraught dash through San Jose airport last Saturday morning was explaining my view of the Southwest queue as out-of order pipeline execution to Don Bitzer of Plato fame and having him agree with me. Even the unexpected change at LA to another plane wasn't too painful as the gate was nearby and we had a seat free between us for two of the three legs. We hit N'awlins after dusk and the humidity misted our glasses up the moment we stepped out, but at first it wasn't the wall of mugg I’d been expecting, perhaps because we'd been in the conference centre from 8am to 7pm for half the week.
Eventually we started exploring; we ate twice at the John Bresh restaurant across the road (Luke with an umlaut - rich and good, a mix of Alsatian and local, so the shrimp and grits had andouillette in and the pressed pork was suckling pig, and my clams and pork was both suckling pig and belly pork). The Redfish Grille was perfectly acceptable, especially for a dinner where we were chatting as much as paying attention to the food - the Nola beer and later the Magnolia Pecan beer were both good. We went to a crawfish broil; I declined to even find out what sucking heads is about and picked them apart bit by bit. We nearly killed ourselves slogging from the convention centre to a boat that we could have got a shuttle too. We found the tiny swimming pool on the roof, that shudders gently in time to your swimming. We trekked across the French Quarter to collapse at Café du Monde and prove that although Simon can inhale much of the vast quantities of icing sugar plastered over the beignets, he cannot breathe it… if NASA were considering icing sugar instead of oxygen for astronauts, we feel we have saved them the cost of formal experimentation. We had brunch at Mothers, and the biscuit was almost as good as the wonderful chewy crispy ham crust (order it as black ham, it's the gooey bits from the edges).
And we took an afternoon to explore, riding the Charles St tram from outside our hotel all the way down the Mardi Gras route out to the garden district - you know it's the route because beads festoon the trees, the power lines, the balconies, the light poles and everything else that stays still long enough. I particularly enjoyed the combo legal office and tattoo parlour and the gates of the zoo were beautiful columns (had we gone in, it would have been the orang-utan's first birthday. Instead we headed back and took the air-conditioned Canal St tram to the ferry and the ferry across the river and back - can't miss a chance to cruise the Mississippi! - but we had to go down to the car deck to get enough air. Once we got out and about the weather was like a hammer beating down; in the 90s but with a heat index nearer 110 because the humidity means you can't cool down. I flapped my folding fan until it folded up like a bird's wing and I enjoyed the open windows on the trams, including the one that took us along the river front. We were too hot to moon walk on the Moon Walk and the French Market was disappointingly modern and full of the same stuff you see everywhere, but we walked along the back of Café du Monde and saw the pastry cook pressing the beignet dough through a cutting roller and grabbing the cut squares in both hands and flinging them over his shoulder into the boiling hot fat behind him without ever looking back at it…
From there we meant to go on the walking tour but we kept forgetting to look at the map because we were looking at the houses and balconies; the back streets are much nicer than the booze and bodies of Bourbon Street (though I was amused by the sign waved by a girl outside a nude bar promising No Cover). We never did made it into the cathedral, just a nice little jewellery shop, and after a few hours of strolling we caught sight of the sunset and went for dinner at The Green Goddess, which is as cramped and as delicious as the tales promise. Excellent, excellent food. And the biodynamic McMinneville Oregon pinot blanc was amazingly rich and tropical (yes, mangosteen).
We slept in the next morning which meant we missed the breakfast menu at Luke and had to have lunch instead; how terrible! The BLT is crab rather than bacon, on brioche toast… And then it was all day on a plane back to San Jose where we have a last few days enjoying the hospitality of saffronrose and mrkurt before we go, er, home!