Recently, my husband and I decided to meet two other couples for a winter vacation. One of the couples lives right near New Orleans so we picked this culinary Capitol for our destination. Three days of marathon eating, drinking, and laughing.  What an ideal vacation. What we didn’t calculate, was that we would be visiting in the middle of Mardi Gras, and a few days before the Superbowl!

Despite the chaotic timing, we chose the perfect hotel to make the trip.  We wanted a hotel that would make the trip memorable, and allow us easy access to all the fun events in New Orleans!  THE ROOSEVELT NEW ORLEANS (123 Baronne Street 504-648-1200) is old world elegance with modern convenience. The hotel opened in 1893 and was named The Grunewald. In 1923 the name was changed in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. In the 1960’s the Roosevelt was known as The Fairmont. In 2009 following a $170 million renovation it reclaimed its Roosevelt name and is now part of the Waldorf Astoria chain of fine hotels.

We chose this hotel because it was in the center of the places we wanted to visit.  The French Quarter is blocks away where we wandered through the galleries and fantastic antique and jewelry stores. We were just a quick cab ride from the WW II museum which is a must stop. You need to allow lots of time to see everything at this vast museum.

The hotel features 504 rooms, including 135 luxury suites. We stayed in a huge suite with sitting room, extra powder room, humongous closet with safe, and immense marbled bathroom with more counter space than one could ever fill!  For extra convenience, there is a UPS business center. On one of the warm days we were there, we sat outside at the fantastic outdoor pool, which also has a bar open in season.

The Blue Room at the hotel was a famed destination during the golden era of supper clubs from the 1930’s to the 1960’s hosting the big names in entertainment.  The dining is fab especially the Sunday brunch with crabmeat omelettes, banana nut pancakes, eggs Sardou, and live entertainment

To work off some of the heavy New Orleans specialties, test out the renowned Guerlain Spa, offering body therapies of all kinds. Massages, facials, hand and foot therapies, men’s specialized therapies, waxing, make-up applications, and all sorts of hair treatments are available.

The Sazerac Bar, a Roosevelt landmark for decades, is a great meeting place serving its signature Sazerac cocktail and Ramos Gin Fizz. But, the best meeting place is under the unique antique clock once featured at the 1867 and 1878 Paris exhibitions.  You will just love the care and attention to service and detail at this New Orleans perfect hotel!!

The first day we arrived, we popped over to the hotel where our lovely air-conditioned rooms were ready. Then we drove over to Cafe Degas (3127 Esplanade Avenue 504-945-5635) for their amazing Sunday brunch.  Do not miss the shrimp omelette or their famous eggs Sardou. We also had to taste the crème caramel and lemon icebox pie.

That night we went to Domenica, right at the hotel. It is a casual Italian eatery with delicious prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula pizza. Other pizzas include clams, oregano, Calabrese pepper, garlic, and olive oil; or Bolanzo with roast pork, fennel, bacon, and sweet onions. Our favorite dish was a paper-thin octopus carpaccio with fennel and light citrus flavor.

On the second day of our visit, we went to another old favorite called Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant (701 St. Charles Ave. 504-524-4114) for lunch.  Their gumbo was quite delicious. My favorite dish was the Louisiana shrimp and fish ceviche with cucumbers and pepitas. I also loved the grilled tuna sandwich on toasted olive bread with lemon pickle aioli. The cornmeal-fried oysters with coleslaw and hot sauce were good, as were the side of very lightly battered fried onion rings.

Dinner that night was our total favorite New Orleans restaurant John Besh’s August (301 Tchoupitoulas St. 504-299-9777).  The food at August is always amazing and the service is always world class.   When we got there several San Francisco Forty-Niners were chowing down on some rib-eye steaks, beefing up before the upcoming Superbowl game. I started with the Plaquemines parish citrus and jumbo lump crab salad with Benton’s bacon, fennel, and blood orange vinaigrette. The handmade potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and black truffle is a staple of the restaurant and not to be missed.  The breaded “trout Pontchatrain” with jumbo lump crab, wild mushrooms, and sauce hollandaise is another popular main course. I am still salivating over the roast breast of Chappapeela Farms duckling confit leg, foie gras, and sweet potato baekeoffe.   The banana pudding with peanut butter, marshmallow and nilla wafers ice cream is not to be missed.  Also, the dark chocolate pâté with Ponchatoula strawberries and creole cream cheese is sheer heaven!

With this eating marathon, we had to forgo the famous beignets from Cafe du Monde and go right to Domilise’s Po-Boys (5240 Annuciation St. 504-899-9126) for the best sandwiches in the South!  This hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop on the corner of a residential neighborhood is a New Orleans must. It’s all about the Leidenheimer bread which is delivered fresh all day long. The fried shrimp po-boy is perfection with all the fixings. While you wait, munch on Zapp chips and enjoy a Barq’s root beer. If you go on the weekend get there early, or the line will be out the door and up the street!

Our last night was at Commander’s Palace (1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221), probably the most famous restaurant in New Orleans. We sat upstairs in the beautiful garden room, which must be requested when you make your reservation. While waiting for our table the hostess toured us through the immaculate kitchen and bar.  When you order your drinks per-order one or two Creole bread pudding soufflés for dessert. Commander Palace’s classic turtle soup is a must. The flavors are deep and memorable. I also loved the spicy shrimp remoulade, which was both crispy and citrusy. I indulged in the pecan crusted fish which was a redfish called drum that night. The sauce of crushed corn, spiced pecans, herbs, and poached Louisiana blue crab is creamy and rich.  The brown butter roasted gulf fish is also pretty spectacular with sautéed char-grilled eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, and greens with a compound lemon oil and pistachio pesto. We saved a small bit of room for the soufflés, which lived up to their hype.  The meal was elegant southern dining; never rushed, just relaxed and delightful. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful time in the Crescent City.




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