Cafe Du Monde: packed with soaking wet tourists and aging hipsters who had been out all night for the Halloween party/parade. We could tell this was true because of the large number of distinguishly dressed vampire men and scantily dressed vampiresses seated at the small, very small tables packed too tightly together. Both vampire-genders with the requisite painted on blood streams emanating from the corners of their mouths.
The air was thick with water from the incessant rain, humid in October, peanut oil and powdered sugar from the beignets, coffee, sweat, and the pitched battle between the differing notions about what is the most romantic New Orleans setting:
1) The Cafe Du Monde, hot coffee and beignets, on a sunny day after a nice leisurely walk
2) The Cafe Du Monde, hot coffee and beignets, on an overcast day after a nice hurried walk through the rain.
An old man sat just outside the over hang with his trombone. He played Happy Birthday for a man and woman touristy couple. Yay! Let's all sing happy birthday so these people can have a wonderful memory. Ironically, he led us all in a chorus of "You are My Sunshine". Rub it in old man.
Patt tipped the waiter who brought us our beignets and coffee a little more than she should've because we got the distinct impression that he suspected us of pocketing the tip from a previous couple when we sat down to the dirty table (the only empty dry one we could find). He had failed to bus it prior to our sitting down.
The walk back was a little better, it had finally stopped raining but the humidity and the aroma of rotting fish wafted in from the Mississippi River. We stopped at a few times on the way back to the hotel,- the cigar shop where one can see authentic looking brown people hand rolling cigars and the candy shops.
14 pounds of fudge and pralines later we were back at the hotel preparing for the highlight of the evening- Reservations at Emeril's just 4 blocks away.
Remember when I said it was raining? Well it had now really started raining. What had been periodic bands of steady rain interrupted by slightly longer episodes of misty drizzle had now turned to deluge. It was because of this, and not Patt's constant insistence that we ask valet services to retrieve our car, that I asked the hotel valet to get the car. To make sure we were not late we left an hour early.
In part 1 I mentioned that we were almost out of gas, so the first thing we did was try to find a gas station. The previous night there were no gas stations anywhere in New Orleans. None, But this night, when we had a whole hour to kill, there were gas stations magically deposited on every street corner. Marie Laveau is NOT DEAD! Thank you very much! I am convinced there is some voodoo magic in play when tourists low on gas in their car, and high on gas in their bellies enter the city. Magically there are two Canal Streets, magically there is a parade right through downtown, magically there is not stop rain from a hurricane named Patricia, magically, there are no gas stations anywhere. Magically, the city is trying to trap you there!
"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy, Horatio" - King Hamlet of Denmark.
Getting refueled provided us the ability to drive around in circles in a downpour in the middle of New Orleans until the restaurant opened. About 15 minutes prior to our reservation we had both had enough of seeing the same buildings over and again that we decided to pull up to the valet space at Emeril's. The Valet met us there; he opened the door for Patt and provided an umbrella'd walk into the establishment. We were invited to sit at the bar - the restaurant staff were still in their pre-open staff meeting/pep rally in one of the back rooms- Patt ordered a Blood Mary. As it turns out, the Bloody Mary was a safe conservative drink on that night. I applaud Patt for her conservatism...(do not read too much into this statement, it is entirely possible to be conservative without being Conservative).
"Oooh a Glenlivet 25" I said. So when the bartender approached me I ordered a "Glenlivet 25, neat"
Because when "I drinks whiskey I drinks whiskey, when I drinks water I drinks water." - Micheleen Flynn, The Quiet Man.
Of course, I could not back out now, so I confirmed my order. I will admit that I began to worry when the bartender pulled a ladder out from behind a column and began to climb. Could it be that those were, indeed, NOT display bottles and the Glenlivet 25 I ordered was so scarce, so precious that it had to be kept safe on a shelf 15 feet in the air, behind a solid oak bar defended by two tenders?
Yes it could be. Because as he was pouring out the shot he explained how the top shelf bottles were remnants of a Glenlivet Tasting the restaurant had recently had where patrons paid through the nose for the priveledge of tasting whiskey at a private party at Emeril's.
It was at this point I decided to sip my whisky and actually had enough left to sip with my dinner!
Okay, so, now it was my turn to try to be cool and not give away anything with my facial expressions when the bartender brought me the bill. I reviewed the line items contained therein.
"Bloody Mary, $10.50. Check"
"Glenlivet 25, $132. Check..." - you are now entering into my Stream of Conciousness Discussion with Myself - 'wait, what? must be the wrong bill, nope, right bill, Patt's bloody mary, my whiskey, with tip that's going to be just south of $200, my God! Better show Patt, no don't show Patt, but which card are you going to use?, it'll be embarrassing if you have to ask her which card to use, because you really don't pay attention to how much money is in which bank because you do that everyday at work and just let your wife handle the money, and, geeesh what kind of man are you anyway? Don't look worried, just take another sip of the whiskey, NO! Don't sip the whiskey, savour it! No don't savour it, keep it, keep it forever, YES YES YES, I keeps it forever, it is
Paid for it. Asked the bartender if I did a good job of hiding my concern in my facial expressions. He said I did and then he asked me if he did a good job of hiding his. I said he did. He then poured Patt and I a small shot of a much cheaper whiskey to try on the house.
Our name is called as the bar was filling up with patrons waiting on their own reservations. We are escorted to our table, a secluded table in the corner at the far back wall of the establishment. Waiters! Waiters! Everywhere, dropping napkins in our laps, moving and replacing various odd dishes, turning over wine glasses, introducing the specials. And me holding The Precious, sipping gently.
"So", Patt says, as she peruses the menu, "I have about $170 to spend, let me see..."
I ordered the Ceasar Salad - it was real! right down to the natural-state of the anchovies. The pumpkin soup - excellent!, and the quail. Patt got the gumbo, the charred kale salad which, she says, was the best part of the meal, and the duck.
Emeril's Banana Cream Pie for me and the Salted Caramel Cheesecake for Patt and I could not have had a better night! and I now know what Top Shelf Really Means.