New Orleans wasn’t the next stop on our tour. But the American guy I’m currently dating (who claims to be from New Orleans but is actually from a much crappier town five hours down the road) has requested that I bump it up the blogging queue before he leaves Dubai to go back to the US next week. (I have that effect on men.)
SIDE NOTE TO MY MOTHER: No it’s not serious and no, you shouldn’t buy a hat.
Back to New Orleans. We arrived on a Saturday night, ideal for a little trip to Bourbon Street. After checking into the Renaissance Arts hotel in the Warehouse District, we wandered the eight blocks to the French Quarter. Home of Mardi Gras, home of the best southern cooking and home of naked women covered in leopard print body paint and plastic beads. What more could a girl ask for?
Food was one of the main reasons we chose New Orleans as a destination. Along with lying in bed and looking at crap on the internet, eating nice stuff is one of my main passions in life. So a visit to the foodie capital of the great south was a necessity.
The first thing to remember about dining in America, is that nobody eats with a knife a fork. Like an alternate alien universe, the cutlery will be laid out in front of you in an identical fashion to a British restaurant. Don’t be fooled. The etiquette rules so diligently followed by European cultures have been long-abandoned by Americans, who prefer to hack their food into chunks, before grabbing a fork with their right hand to forcefully shovel those chopped morsels down their gullets, like an enraged mountain bear emerging from hibernation. This spectacle is usually littered with shouted requests to the harassed wait staff. ‘I NEED MORE WARDER! CAN I GET MORE WARDER?’ they yell, as small flakes of half-chewed food spew across the room with impressive velocity.
The second thing to remember is that restaurant owners don’t actually bother with tiresome tasks such as paying their staff. Instead you’re expected to add 20% tip to your already whopping bill, to thank the staff for doing a job they should already be paid for. Around 50% of the time you’ll actually get good service. The other 50% of the time the service will be average to abysmal, but social protocol dictates that you must still tip. After all, it’s not their fault the US has never bothered to instigate an adequate minimum wage system like every other country in the developed world. I sometimes wonder if that’s why Americans never say please when they order? A subtle protest at tipping culture and the hideously exploitative US hospitality industry? Perhaps not.
Being British, the idea of appearing impolite is more emotionally traumatic than the bit where Bambi’s mum dies. So even if our waitress had come to the table offering a plate of fried dog, I probably would have apologised profusely and told her it was my fault for ordering in such a funny accent. Then tipped extra for the inconvenience.
Our first foodie stop in New Orleans was Nola Restaurant, situated on St Louis. Voted one of the best restaurants in the city by Trip Advisor, I’d like to say we chose it after thorough research of its rave reviews. In reality we were tired, grumpy and it was the first place we walked past on the way to the bars. Due to the fact it was heaving, we ended up sat at the open kitchen bar, which is an excellent way to peek at the goods before you order. I chose the buttermilk fried chicken with country gravy and sweet potato which just happened to be the best fried chicken I’ve ever tried. (And I’m something of a fried chicken connoisseur.) Vix went for the crab which didn’t quite hold a candle to my chicken. But you can’t win ‘em all.
Next stop was Bourbon Street, which is perhaps one of the greatest party streets of all time. The first bar we wandered into came complete with a mechanical bull, which Vikki was eager to try. But after a tattooed lady with pierced nipples used said bull as a platform to strip to a thong and wave her partially covered minky to an audience of bachelorette parties, we decided neither us could compete and left in search of more vodka. Honestly I’m not sure how she did it. I can barely take my clothes off standing upright in my bedroom, let alone hanging off the back of a bucking cow. After a few more bars and a bit more dancing, the rest of the evening is somewhat blurry. But that’s New Orleans. Go hard or go home.
To be continued….