Our first morning was bright and sunny to match our moods. C was recovering from a cold so stayed in to rest, but A and I headed out for a wander. We knew our first destination was going to be Café Du Monde (800 Decatur Street, New Orleans 70116) for beignets and café au lait, and it just happened to be on the other side of the French Quarter from where we were staying, so we took a meandering route through the intricate wrought iron-lined streets. Once we arrived at Café Du Monde we joined the scrum for a table (later visits would demonstrate that it is not always super busy so since it's open 24 hours a day you can just come back at another time if you can't be bothered to wait). Beignets come three to an order, under a mountain of powdered sugar - I'd argue that you should just get one order per person unless you're saving room for something else, as the last thing you want to do is argue over a messy delicious breakfast.
While strolling around running errands (such as picking up tickets for a cocktail tour!!!) we passed Central Grocery (923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116), home of the muffuletta (a round flat sesame-seed loaf split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, capicola,mortadella, salami, pepperoni, ham, Swiss cheese and provolone, according to Wikipedia). So we had to get one for lunch. In our confusion about how large a muffuletta is, we ordered a whole, which was clearly meant for four people to consume. A put it in his bag and exclaimed about its weight. It's ok, he only had to drag it around for another two hours before we were ready to eat it. Sadly it was a bit disappointing - we found the bread to be a bit dry (though we saved a quarter to eat the next day and it was better then).
Heading east, we ended up at the French Market which was full of more food (oh no, there's no room!) and then a flea market section full of souvenirs and weird objects. We were later told by a tour guide that the best time to shop there is right before closing and the vendors expect to haggle, so ask for deep discounts.
On our way back to the apartment to meet up with C, we walked through Louis Armstrong Park which is full of statues of jazz musicians and a little manmade pond - apparently in warmer weather you can rent boats, but none were to be found in early January.
We'd signed up for a cocktail tour that started at 4pm - this was a hilarious activity that combined history, anecdotes and drinking with a spitfire of a tour guide (thanks to J & K for recommending it!) We went to the following (though every tour is different):
The Hermes Bar at Antoine's Restaurant (713 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130). The bar was too crowded so instead we got a wonderful tour of all of the private dining rooms and a look at the ridiculously ornate costumes worn by the King and Queen of Mardi Gras.
The French 75 Bar at Arnaud's (813 Bienville Street, New Orleans, LA 70112). Embarrassingly I am not entirely sure this is where we were, but we were definitely in a bar famous for French 75s so let's just assume I'm right. C discovered she loves the French 75. A also liked his Sazerac here (though it was not his favorite of the trip).
The Bombay Club (830 Conti St New Orleans, LA 70112). We loved the atmosphere in here, but were all cocktailed out at this point. A had a dry martini, which was fine, but honestly who knows how good things are in the last bar of a cocktail tour?
930 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130
Thankfully we had a long walk to dinner to clear our heads. This was a recommendation from several people, and ended up being one of my favorite meals of the whole trip. I still think about the woodfired roasted oysters - god only knows what they did to them but they were so incredible that all I want to do is eat them over and over and over again. We also sampled fried alligator (a little like chewy popcorn chicken) and gumbo (gussied up here, and I will confess I think I like the not-gussied up gumbo better). For mains, A and I shared the Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches & cracklins (hell yeah!) and then to be frank, the eggplant and shrimp dressing and macaroni and cheese casserole sides we shared with C pushed me over the edge into delirium. I cannot express how much I loved this meal and would happily go back as many times as I could afford.
The Hotel Modern New Orleans
936 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130
Just to drive a final nail into the coffin of this day, we had a nightcap before heading home. I know A had a port cobbler, but I'm not sure about mine - maybe something ominous like The End of the World? Anyway, while they were lovely, I'm sure my enjoyment was dampened by the exhaustion that was setting in. These were the most experimental of the cocktails we had in New Orleans, I think - most places seem to stick to the classics, while we saw ingredients here that had to be interpreted by the waitress. So if that's what you're looking for, give Bellocq a try.