Day 5: Christmas Eve
Visiting all the major hotels to see the Christmas decorations was a great way to idle away a few hours before our reservation for dinner. The decorations were a bit of a disappointment if only because I had my heart set on “bigger is better”, extravagant displays. Instead, the hotels downtown offered simple yet elegant showings, leaving me a little homesick for our own Griswold-ish decorations.
So I set my sights on “Reveillon”, because food cures all ills right?! Reveillon’s a dining tradition dating back to the mid-1800s. The word is derived from the French word for “awakening” — originally a meal eaten after Christmas Eve mass. A typical Reveillon included egg dishes, breads, puddings, turtle soup, and oysters along with “fortified drinks” (doesn’t that make them sound healthier?). The tradition was virtually extinct by 1940s, but in the 1990s the restaurants in the French Quarter came together to restore the tradition. This year more than 65 NOLA restaurants participated!
Sylvain in Jackson Square had a Reveillon menu that rang in at $65 per person. Hubby and I opted to get both offerings for each course, and nothing on the menu below disappointed!
Amuse bouche (a French term for a little bit of food served before the meal to stimulate the appetite): Beef and Oyster Tartare with Bienville Butter Crouton
1st: Endive Salad with Duck Rillettes; Satsuma and Turtle Soup
2nd: Roasted Pork Belly with Pomegranate and Fennel Salad; Smothered Confit Potatoes with Louisiana Crab
3rd: Rabbit Cassoulet, Baby Carrots, and Truffle Jus; Braised Short Ribs with a Cabernet Reduction, Root Vegetables and Smoked Marrow Butter
4th: Foie Gras Apple Tart Streusel with Duck Fat Gelato; Chocolate Pot de Creme with Spiced Chocolate Bark and Candied Citrus
Dinner was followed by a carriage ride from Jackson Square through Marigny and the French Quarter. Pearl, a sweet old mule, took us past the home of Madame Delphine LaLaurie, the Creole murderess you may know from America Horror Story’s “Coven”. Her gorgeous 1830’s home is reportedly so haunted that it sat unoccupied for more than 100 years! The current owner is said to visit just a few nights each year, reportedly with every curtain open and every light on in the house.
From there it was an easy walk back to Canal Street, where the streetcar brought us home to the Garden District, bellies full and eyes sleepy.
Day 6: Christmas Day
A minor crisis almost turned into a riot in the Green House Inn when the guests couldn’t manage to find the coffee grounds for our first cups of the day. The Inn’s staff was scheduled to come in late, allowing them to spend time with their families, and leaving us to our own devices. Thankfully the proprietor arrived just as the guests were busting out cupcakes and bourbon!
Having no substantive breakfast, hubs and I were looking forward to brunch at The Bombay Club. The famous restaurant and martini bar is a hot spot in the French Quarter. A meal of scotch eggs, boudin (sausage made with ground pork, rice, onion, green peppers, and Cajun spices and seasonings), and eggs benedict satisfied in every way. The staff and atmosphere were everything the phrase “southern hospitality” invokes and then some!
Fun fact: There’s no shortage of great restaurants in NOLA. There are 1,216 restaurants in Orleans Parish alone — up from 984 restaurants in August 2005, just before Hurricane Katrina — a net gain of 232 restaurants in the city.
After brunch we walked off some calories by visiting Chalmette Battlefield National Park, the site of the January 1815, Battle of New Orleans. The resounding American victory by General Andrew Jackson’s army won the day against a battle-hardened and numerically superior British force. The battlefield park fronts the Mississippi River and is home to a monument (remarkably similar to the Washington Monument), a national cemetery and a plantation house (built a few decades after the battle).
Finally, it was off to the movie theater. We had tickets to the sold out showing of Mary Poppins Returns. No, of course it’s not as good as the original, but it was enjoyable!
However you celebrated, I hope you had a Merry Christmas too!
Sharon and the Hero Dog