JUST BACK FROM: NOLA. An ever-evolving port city molded by French, Spanish, Caribbean and American slave cultures, New Orleans is a feast for the senses with more to eat, drink, hear and see than even the city’s residents can grasp. Jetsetter Associate Editor Alex Pasquariello hit the town for a long weekend, taking his cues from the locals and letting the spirit of the Big Easy be his guide.
Drink. New Orleans is the home of the cocktail, and every sip comes with a story. Start your boozy odyssey off with the classics and see where they take you. Napoleon House was once offered up as a refuge to the exiled Le Petit Caporal and today is known for its Pimm’s Cup, an Anglophile fave mixing a splash of lemonade with Pimm’s No. 1. Then get dizzy on Vieux Carrés (rye, cognac, dry vermouth, benedictine and bitters) at the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar & Lounge, a former haunt of Tennessee Williams, among other writers.
Drink Nouveau. A new breed of New York City mixologists migrated south after Hurricane Katrina to stake their claim as the city reinvents itself once again. Leading the charge is Kimberly Patton Bragg, who cut her teeth at Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke in Manhattan before sliding into the Big Easy and Dominique’s on Magazine. Tonight she’ll be manning the bar at Tamarind by Dominique, where she crafts cocktails with classic Vietnamese flavors. Start with the Bird’s Eye Vieux (kumquat Thai spice liqueur, canton, lime, cilantro and a splash of soda). Back in the French Quarter, SouBo pairs mixological magic by Brooklyn ex-pat RyeGirl (née Abigail Deirdre Gullo, formerly of Red Hook’s Fort Defiance) and eats by the culinary team behind NOLA’s legendary Commander’s Palace. Sidle up at the bar and start with her Taylor Bird Sazerac (a Pernod absinthe rinse with cognac, Sazerac rye, bitters and a twist). Say “hey,” and RyeGirl just might sing you a song or mix up an off-menu elixir like the Seven Stages of Hell, a staggering (and secret) combo of liquors from the countries her grandfather served in during World War II.
Brew. Stumble into Royal Street Inn on a sunny afternoon, ask for the special, and barkeep Lara Desmond will hit you with a High Life and a shot of bourbon before you can say “Tchoupitoulas.” Do yourself a favor, though, and take the time to sample the bar’s local brews on tap including NOLA Brewing’s Hopitoulas IPA, which combines six malts and six hops for a piney boutique and just enough citrus top notes to go down easy.
Feast. After a few pours at Royal Street Inn your correspondent cajoled Desmond to share her “Cliff Notes to Food,” a guide that starts with Coop’s Place, winner of her “Awesomest Bar Food” award. The first thing to know about this spot is that nobody says Coop’s Place — those in the know call it Coop’s. Start with the fried crab claws and then move on to the scrumptious seafood gumbo; wash it all down with an Abita Jockamo IPA, another delish local brew. For “Best Cajun Food” it’s no surprise that she picked Cochon, Donald Link’s acclaimed porkfest in the Warehouse District. Start with the wood fired oysters before diving into the signature Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches and cracklins (mmm…cracklins). Farther afield in the Warehouse District, Tamarind sees Chef Dominique Macquet spin the city’s French culinary heritage with Vietnamese tradition (also heavily influenced by French colonialism). Keep it porky with the grilled double cut chop with saffron wok stir-fry jasmine rice and plum wine glaze.