Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Night on the Town NOLA (Day 2)

Saturday consisted of a great tour of the Garden District from Free Tours by Foot. This group all over the US allows you to take a walking tour for free. You are expected to tip the tour guide. We rounded up well past 20% of the value of a typical walking tour, all in all we still saved money.  The Garden District was a long walk Saturday morning from the French Quarter, but the bus system made a short trip back to downtown. The St. Charles streetcar line was disrupted due to Super Bowl construction, but for anyone visiting this spring I highly recommend the ride!

All this walking worked up a great appetite. I had planned a nice night out. We started off our evening at the Waldorf Astoria Roosevelt Hotel. This hotel was originally built in 1893 as The Grunewald. It was taken over by the Fairmont in 1965. When it was the Grunewald it held a club called "The Cave" which is thought to be one of the first nightclubs in the US. The hotel and its bar were a place to see and be seen. During Hurricane Katrina the hotel was damaged and condemned. Not until 2009 was it purchased by the Waldorf Astoria line of hotels. It was restored to a blend of art deco grandeur including its famous nightclub and bar space  now open as the Sazerac Bar.  While according to our cocktail tour from Friday, the Sazerac was invented by a pharmacist whose shop was located near Galatoires in the French Quarter, this bar holds a reputation now for having one of the best in town. They offer the modern version (think Prohibition era) made with Herbsaint and Rye Whiskey as well as the original version featuring 1840's French Cognac. While the older version packs a punch to your wallet at seventeen dollars, it is fun to compare and contrast the flavors.

For dinner we headed Uptown through the Garden District to a quiet residential street. Good thing I had heard about the lack of visibility for our dinner spot or I think we would have driven right by. Gautreau's Restaurant has been serving New Orleanians for over a decade. Its star chef Sue Zemanick has received the James Beard rising star award for the past 4 years running.  When you walk in the door it is a surprise after all the hype to see the small butcomfortable dining room. Looking around it seemed everyone from families to couples were enjoying themselves. They all seemed to know each other and the staff seemed to know them. (I take this as a sign of a good restaurant, especially at this price point). This place felt like a hidden gem among the flashy super star restaurants all over town. The menu was to the moment with perfect pairings of regional and gourmet. We started with the Duck Confit over a white bean salad and the kale and quinoa salad. Both were fresh and flavorful, but not over sauced. you could taste the individual flavors of the dish. These were the perfect compliments to the fall weather. As our entrees we couldn't resist the filet I had read so much about and also had to try the special rack of lamb crusted in pistachios. The meats were tender and juicy. The steak rested on top of ricotta gnocchi and melted in my mouth. The crunch and salt of the pistachios complemented the earthy lamb. Entree Heaven! We vowed to make room for dessert and selected the brown butter pear tart with marscapone fig ice cream. Sweet and tart this was autumn in your mouth! While I wish I could share some of these with you there are occasionally some places that are too nice and too intimate a setting to take pictures. This was one of those nights. So you will just have to dream of the flavors and rush the next time you are there to get a reservation!

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