Sometimes my travels take me to places I’ve always wanted to visit and other times I explore cities that were never on my radar. New Orleans was certainly the latter. I knew next to nothing about the city other than its popular drinking culture, great food, and of course, NCIS: New Orleans. Having never been a big drinker and being somewhat disconcerted by the culture of heavy drinking, it was never high on my list of must-visit cities.
See also: Traveling around New Orleans in search of the best vegan king cakes
My pop culture glimpses couldn’t be more accurate. Sure, there’s an active bar and drinking scene, but New Orleans has so much to offer its visitors. When I arrived, the first thing that hit me was the intense heat. It must have been over 90 degrees in early May, which definitely came as a shock to my system coming from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but with a bottle of water in hand, I was ready to take on the city.
Come on, let’s talk about being fat in NOLA.
Before we really got into the action, Morgan and I went to the Four Seasons to drop off our bags, freshen up and change into a new outfit. After staying at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, we expected a quiet oasis in the midst of all the action, but the Four Seasons at NOLA had a slightly different vibe.
As you enter the building, the stunningly beautiful chandelier bar is directly in front of you and the check-in area is directly on your right. Between the bar, restaurant, front entrance staff and check-in area, it’s bloody noisy.
But once you’ve left the hustle and bustle and reached your room, you’ll be transported to a relaxing, luxurious room with a wonderfully comfortable bed and a huge European-style bathroom. Our room also had a lovely roll top bath which I had no problem enjoying.
Speaking of relaxing before venturing into the city, have breakfast at the hotel’s Chemin a la Mer restaurant. Along with great city and river views, Chemin a la Mer has the very best pancake menu I’ve ever had in a restaurant ate!
Squish Factor: Like most hotels, the towels didn’t wrap all the way around me and the robes were too small. However, despite the European style bathroom with a separate toilet, the bathroom had enough space to be comfortable.
Have you ever eaten a meal that you just knew you won’t soon forget? Well, my dinner at Compère Lapin was definitely one of those meals. Chef Nina Compton grew up in St. Lucia and has a classic Fresh chef training under her belt. “She blends the native ingredients and rich culinary heritage of New Orleans with those of her Caribbean roots” to create magic on a plate. That might seem like an overused cliché, but when it comes to Chef Compton, it’s the real deal.
ceviche (Jodyan Morgan)
Dinner started with buttermilk biscuits which you definitely shouldn’t skip as they were heavenly. The fried peel-and-eat shrimp surprised me with the flavor Chef Compton was able to infuse into them. They were so good I didn’t mind peeling them at the table. Then there was the curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi – a genius combo that will have you throwing everything you think about eating curry, goat or gnocchi out the window in order to enjoy it. I could eat just that as a whole meal.
Make sure to end your meal with the Bolivian Passion Fruit Chocolate Cake, even if you usually skip chocolate desserts because it was just divine.
I’ve always enjoyed pretty much everything that happens on a boat. Romantic dinner cruises, fishing boats and even ferries put a permanent smile on my face. There is just something special about feeling the wind in your hair while enjoying the beauty of nature. And visiting New Orleans means taking a swamp and bayou tour. Grayline offers the full experience, including a relatively comfortable bus to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park-Barataria Preserve, followed by the boat tour itself.
You’ll be serenaded with local history along the way, and have plenty of time to purchase an alcoholic slushie to enjoy on board. There are also snacks! The tour itself is very relaxed. Exactly what you will see depends on the time of year – I was expecting to see more wildlife than we did – but the crocodiles were definitely worth checking out!
Squish Factor: We did the traditional tour, which I’m grateful for as the airboats didn’t look particularly accessible once we arrived.
For Middle Eastern-inspired food with Jewish roots that’s full of flavor and joy, make reservations at Saba. We sat on the patio which was a really relaxing way to enjoy a really hearty meal. The Louisiana crab topping hummus was an intriguing combo that worked really well and you must get a floral soda that makes a refreshing addition to any meal (add a shot of vodka if you’re into a cocktail) .
Homemade lemonade (Jodyan Morgan)
Although I don’t usually order chicken, the fried harissa chicken with charred green onions and caramelized lemon was perfectly balanced. There’s only one thing I wouldn’t order on the menu: the duck and matzah ball soup. But that might be because I grew up with the stuff and have a very specific idea of how it works should Taste.
Squish Factor: While the chairs out there don’t have armrests and are relatively wide, they do have a small edge that can be really uncomfortable if you slosh over the edge of the seat.
Fried Chicken Harissa (Jodyan Morgan)
Waldorf Astoria Spa
Folks, the Waldorf Astoria Spa at the Roosevelt Hotel not only had a robe large enough to actually cover me completely, but they also set up the dressing rooms to give you a locker with a robe that should fit you right away , without you having to ask for one. And the dressing room attendant was oversized too!
Morgan and I enjoyed a leisurely glass of champagne and chocolates in a relaxation room before being transferred to the treatment room.
It can sometimes be difficult for me to lie on my stomach because my chest is so big that I feel like I’m suffocating. I usually deal with this for a massage, but this time I requested a massage on my back and the masseur happily complied. It was a perfect way to enjoy a glamorous afternoon at NOLA.
For a premium, old-school dining experience that isn’t a steakhouse, you have to try Brennan’s. Not only do they beat the ballpark favourites, but their unique spins on more contemporary cuisine are simply wonderful. I had the pleasure of enjoying the perfect spring appetizer salad of fresh asparagus and avocado with salmon roe and horseradish cream that was to die for. Don’t miss it.
The steak tartare was traditional with a twist, served on a hash brown for the perfect bite. For dessert we got one of those flambéed desserts that was a bit too sweet for me. But a little pinch of salt fixed that, and the meal ended on a good note. My only regret is that I came for brunch and didn’t go out for dinner because Brennan’s deserves your full attention.
Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience
If you’ve looked at my tiktoks or read my travel articles, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not really a big fan of museums. I’m more interested in finding unconventional experiences, hands-on workshops, and of course delicious meals, but occasionally I make exceptions. The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience is one such exception. My parents were immigrants to this country, refugees and Hasidic Jews, but I never learned much about the history of the southern Jews.
The museum is relatively small but the story was familiar to me, like reading the same book just from a different perspective. If you know little about the history of Jewish immigrants, their involvement in slavery, social justice, and how they have kept Jewish history and traditions alive, you should set aside an hour while you’re in town. Although there were several interactive elements and some artifacts, the museum is very text-heavy so prepare to read a lot.
Mardi Gras School of Cooking class
If you want a meal that’s a little different from old restaurant service, consider taking a cooking class (I took brunch) at the Mardi Gras School of Cooking. Not only will you learn how to make New Orleans favorites like tender crab cakes and creamy shrimp and grits, you’ll also get to enjoy the meal you’ve prepared with newfound friends. And bottomless mimosas and other drinks are included. The course I took was really easy to follow and hands-on. That means peeling and deveining shrimp, chopping veggies for the Holy Trinity, and poaching eggs. You’ll even learn how to make a shrimp broth! You’ll go home with new recipes to enjoy and a full belly.
https://www.salon.com/2022/06/25/a-travel-writers-guide-to-eating-new-orleans/ A travel writer’s guide to eating New Orleans