To say this past month has been busy for us is an understatement of the highest magnitudes. We've been playing host to a variety of amazing people from around the globe, having just received our first ever award and it's a good’un! Check out our Seal of the Sazerac® award here. Added a few more personal touches to a couple areas in NOLA that we agreed needed some TLC (our new dark green velvet curtains behind the piano are a personal favorite).
To add to this list I decided to take a little road trip down through the Southern United States, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and onto the city of New Orleans. Visiting one of the best new bars I've set foot in for a long time, catching the Monday Night football game against the visiting Miami Dolphins, stopping by some favorite haunts and catching up with a few of the great folks living and working in the Crescent City. I guess you can say it all adds to the inspiration of what we're trying to craft with our own version of NOLA here in London. Lending greater authenticity with each passing moment that our guests spend in our cherished interpretation of such a vibrant city.
Fondest memories alert - For those of you that have traveled to or are from the city I'm sure there’s no need to remind you of how great it is on a Sunday morning to walk down the French Market and outside every café and park bench notice huge rings of white icing sugar covering the sidewalk... Great semi-permanent shadows of enjoyment from that mornings freshly made beignets, washed down with chicory infused Cafe au Lait.
It’s nice to visit NOLA at this time of the year when the weather is cooperating and seeing the city during one of it’s ‘slower’ months. Although I must say that even for an off-peak travel period you'll still find plenty to do and visitors enjoying the city for it’s cooler weather (still warm by London’s standards) and slightly smaller crowds. The rowdy bunch of visitors added by the Monday Night Football game helped add to the party atmosphere Bourbon Street is famous for on a Saturday night. No need to expand on any further details here - what happens in NOLA stays in NOLA ;)
My travels took me drinking in many bars including: Cure, Bellocq and their newly-opened venture that is just down the street from one of my all-time favorite restaurants Tujague's (pronounced two-jacks) called Cane and Table on Decatur Street. Cane and Table drinks selection really impressed and their venue looks fantastic. The space is a conversion of an ex-vodka bar. They've gone with a minimalist approach to their design I found parts of their bar reminiscent to what we are working to achieve at our NOLA here in London. Cane and Table is an open space that achieves an intimate feel and a great proto-tiki back-bar based around a very rummy cocktail menu. It takes your mind back to what Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop might have actually looked like near the turn of the last century (pre-slushy cocktail machines and Cuban trade embargoes). The bar offers a terrific smoking terrace out back - also very reminiscent of our very own NOLA, a few nautical touches as well as a couple of great chandeliers which help to reinforce the sultry sea-faring look. Unfortunately I only managed to make it there on a Sunday night and neither the principal, Nick Detrich (away in Hawaii for a wedding) nor the kitchen was open by the time I arrived. The cocktails were spot-on and the team at the bar was friendly and chatty even though I could tell from their stories that they had just been through very busy Friday and Saturday nights. Nick has graciously submitted recipes for our original cocktail menus back in London and I wanted to thank him in person but I'll have to wait to try the food and for that opportunity until my next trip in a few months time for Tales of The Cocktail® 2014.
I also had the opportunity to catch-up with a terrific friend of our NOLA (London) and one of the hardest working and most influential people the city of New Orleans and the drinks industry has ever produced, The New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society chairperson, Ann Tuennerman. Our visit to one of the most iconic bars in the city called Arnauds’ French 75 Bar found us sipping Sazeracs before the big game and chatting with the Casbrian family that have owned the bar since 1978. Ann's last-minute hospitality (I only informed her I was visiting a couple days before I arrived) was both gracious and sincere. Ann and her husband Paul are the founders of Tales Of The Cocktail® and are passionately involved in the preservation and heritage of the cities unique cocktail and culinary history. We had been in contact with Ann and knew that our team at NOLA were being honored with the NOCCP Seal Of The Sazerac®
in a few weeks time back in London and I thought it was a nice excuse to enjoy a Sazerac cocktail in one of our now ‘contemporaries’ (I do use that word most humbly). Arnaud’s received their Seal a few years ago and are famous for inventing more than one renowned cocktail throughout their almost 100 years of trade! Chris Hannah, the head bartender at Arnauds’ had already left with his son to be at the football game earlier so again I missed my chance to personally thank him for also contributing personal cocktail recipes for our menu here in London. Looks like I will have plenty of excuses to make the rounds the next time I'm through town.
As ever, time spent in New Orleans passes far too quickly and I found that my list of places, people and events grows with every visit to the city. As someone that has done a fair share of travelling I find it a rare experience for that type of wanderlust within the same city and include New Orleans to prestige collection of time-and-again cities that I never tire of visiting.
Till next time NOLA!