NOLA 2012: Something fishy

On Thursday, the band of thundershowers still weren't letting us be. It was raining quite hard in the morning. Now, we live in a temperate rain forest. If we didn't know how to deal with rain, we wouldn't be here. But it generally involves things like raincoats and rubber boots, which just weren't going to fit in my luggage. We were prepared for occasional showers, but not for a torrent.

Still, we didn't want to sit in our room all day. We called a cab, which actually came rather quickly despite what must have been elevated demand because of the rain, and went to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on the riverfront, a bit upriver from the French Market.

We didn't go there right away. It was about mid-day. I wasn't really hungry, but I knew that if I didn't eat some kind of lunch, I'd be hungry in the afternoon. So I convinced Sweetie to take a detour into the Riverwalk Marketplace, a huge mall next to the aquarium. I figured the food court couldn't be too far away. I was wrong. It's as far from the entrance as you can get!

We did, however, find a Mexican place where we got a couple of cheese quesadillas, just the right thing to keep us going. And after all that walking, we were rewarded unexpectedly. Sweetie noticed that just past the food court, there was the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. This is something we had intended to visit but had never actually located. And there it was right in front of us.

So after lunch, we took a tour through the small but fascinating museum on all things about food in New Orleans and beyond. There were lots of old food preparation artifacts. There was information about typical Louisiana ingredients, like crawfish and red beans. As a cook who loves to make Cajun and Creole dishes, I found this all very interesting and informative. There were a few Katrina tie-ins, such as a menu making fun of the feeble FEMA effort. There was also a museum within the museum called the Museum of the American Cocktail, full of information and artifacts about various distilled beverages and the concoctions made from them, as well as a wall in a corner celebrating famous alcoholic artists and writers. All in good fun!

Sweetie and I walked all the way across the Riverwalk Marketplace again, with a brief stop at a handy annex of Café du Monde (mmmm, coffee). We then began our tour of the aquarium. It's an older aquarium but with a lot of good exhibits. I always want to see exhibits having to do with local habitat, and the ones on the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River were very good. I also loved the collection of seahorses, more different kinds than I had seen before. And then there were the jellyfish! There's something about watching jellyfish that puts me into a tranquil state. I love how they float and how their tentacles move so gracefully. I could watch them for, well, perhaps not hours, but at least for several minutes.

One problem with the aquarium was navigation. They had an exhibit of parakeets that took us a long time to find. It's actually outdoors (under netting) at the far end of the food court! I'm glad we found it. It's worth a buck to get a feed stick so you can persuade a beautiful parakeet to sit on your finger or shoulder. All for a photo op, right?

By the time we left the aquarium, the rain had stopped, so we could walk back across the Quarter. We turned around fairly quickly to make our dinner reservation at Bayona. Susan Spicer is a celebrated New Orleans chef and apparently was the model for Janette on Treme (except for the part about her restaurant failing). The restaurant is in what was once a house on Dauphine Street, quite a lovely space. I'm not sure if Bayona has a dress code, but I can't remember the last time I saw so many guys in suits! The crowd mostly seemed to be older, although Sweetie and I tend to forget that they're probably not much older than we are.

I started with a sea scallop appetizer that was delicious. Sweetie had some kind of crêpe that included Tasso ham that was also wonderful. (We ordered from the menu that changes daily so we're working from memory.) Then we went opposite our usual for the mains. I ordered flounder. She ordered a pork chop. Both were excellent. We couldn't help but notice how well the pork was treated compared to what I had at Commander's Palace. The chop was also huge, something you don't often see in a fine dining establishment. We finished with a lemon lavender semifreddo on an almond cookie with blueberry compote, a beautiful and delicious dessert.

Toward the beginning of our dinner, a young woman was seated by herself at the table next to us. I can't remember what got us talking, but something did. Perhaps the food, because she wasn't entirely pleased with her beet salad starter. She was an information architect (kind of a web designer plus) in town for a trade show. She was very nice, and I'm glad we got to chat.

We had thought about going to Frenchmen Street after dinner, but just as we were close to our B&B, it started to rain again. Since it was getting late anyway, we decided to surrender for the evening.

No comments: