A Weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana

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As we get older, traditions become more important. They are especially important when traditions are of the guys’ weekend variety. Example: We must all leave New York City and go somewhere fun for Super Bowl Weekend because we have always left New York City and gone somewhere fun for Super Bowl Weekend.

In fact, this year’s getaway was Super Bowl Weekend V, and really technically just Super Bowl Weekend IV because last year we substituted my bachelor party on the weekend previous to the big game. No matter. This year, for the first time together, the Hotline Crew would take New Orleans, a city where one of us went to law school, two of us have visited frequently, and two members of our crew — krewe? — had never set foot. Oh, and for the first time since the extremely ill-fated Super Bowl Weekend III, the Patriots would challenge for football’s world championship before the weekend was over.

My last visit to New Orleans came during Jazzfest in 2010 — a time before Airbnb, or at least before I’d ever heard of Airbnb. This time, it was the obvious choice, and we ended up in the three-story townhouse in the Lower Garden District seen above. Tremendous spot…

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… and not just because the house was directly next door to the establishment Tacos and Beer, where the group of early arrivals enjoyed pre-dinner on Friday night. This patio would swell with Seahawks fans on Super Bowl Sunday, their cheers driving into my skull like rusty nails, but until then, hey — Tacos and Beer.

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Restaurant report: all Donald Link all the time. We took Friday night dinner at Cochon, complete with fried oysters even larger than I remembered them. The vibe at Cochon is great, and though the food on this visit didn’t blow me away, hard to think of a better place to start a weekend of epic consumption.

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After a late Friday and a lazy start to Saturday, lunch came in the form of a 20-sandwich platter pickup from Cochon’s next-door spinoff, Cochon Butcher. I am on record stating that their may be no finer establishment in the United States of America than Cochon Butcher, an opinion arrived at after lunching there back in 2010 and confirmed after this trip. They’ve more than doubled the size of the room, making it a much easier place to sit and lunch, and the menu’s grown as well [PDF], though we didn’t venture outside sandwiches on this trip despite MOP’s plea that the boudin is terrific. (Next time.) The Cochon Muffaletta, the cold roast beef, and a pressed-pork creation all absolutely killed it, along with sides of Brussels sprouts and potato salad.

The one glaring omission from our sandwich binge: the Blackboard Bacon Melt, which Eater’s Bill Addison recently declared the finest sandwich in the country. (Addison: “A genius construction of thick, crisp-soft cured pork layered with stewed collard greens, pepper aioli, and Swiss cheese on buttery toast. I crave it more than any other sandwich in America.”) Didn’t realize we’d missed it until Bill commented on my Instagram of the platter. Fuck.

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After an afternoon wandering the French Quarter, getting our two Nola virgins up to speed on Cafe du Monde, then grabbing Buds at old favorite the Chart House, dinner went down at Peche, another Donald Link restaurant and one new to the city since my last visit. Last year, the James Beard Foundation handed its award for the best new restaurant in America to this place, which seemed as good a reason as any to try it.

The space — like Cochon, it’s in the old warehouse district — is airy and cool, and the vibe, like Cochon, active and fun. We went with a bunch of shared starters (the shrimp toast, though boring in name, is absolutely sublime) before splitting a large whole redfish sauced in salsa verde. Excellent. Would eat again.

After dinner, the crowd outside swelled for the Krewe de Vieux parade, one of the first in the season leading into Mardi Gras. Now, for various and uncertain reasons, we somehow managed to miss the parade, but we made it into the official afterparty, which: insanity. Next year we do it right and costume it up.

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Super Bowl Sunday dawned warm and wet across the Bayou, and I walked around the corner from our rental to find the Cajun Boy and his renowned dog Sazerac. Cajun took me to this perfect hipster coffee spot, then toured me his house and neighborhood. The plan was to watch the game at a bar right by there, but fate had other ideas, and we ended up watching the game at our townhouse. It was a good game.

Monday dawned with several housemates having made a pre-dawn run to the airport. I followed in mid-morning to find flight into LGA already delayed two hours. Simple sleuthing made it clear that, with weather conditions deteriorating in New York, a flight out that afternoon wasn’t going to happen. When the departure time got pushed back to 6pm, I switched my flight to a Tuesday AM departure and headed back into the city.

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Where, over a late lunch at Cochon Butcher, I finally ate the Blackboard Bacon Melt. Worth the whole trip. (Dined solo on Monday night at Sylvain in the French Quarter, which I’d also highly recommend. Good food but an alleyway-entrance vibe that entranced me. Like a divier version of McCrady’s in Charleston.)

Thanks, New Orleans, and thanks, New England Patriots. Les bon temps rouler.

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