“The dirty Charleston.” This is what I have always heard about New Orleans. “Oh you’ll love it, it’s just like Charleston, but dirty!” Let me say it right now, disagree. This is false. You can’t compare the two. It’s like saying, “this dark roast black coffee tastes like this sweet raspberry tea because they both have caffeine.” I’m trying to think of more comparisons, but having trouble so you get the point. New Orleans has a completely alternate vibe than Charleston. I’ve never seen a city like NOLA. The closest resemblance I can make is a mix between the Caribbean and Europe. It obviously depends on where you go in both cities, but I experienced different happenings in New Orleans than I do currently in Charleston.
Being a food enthusiast, I had Crockpottuesday intentions set before I even went. I planned to write about the food as a whole and make it my center piece of the trip. Okay, so I guess here I’ll give those people who relate the cities some comparison credit because I’ve always heard amazing things about New Orleans’ cuisine. Upon being picked up from the airport(and realizing I was waiting for Zoe in the departures pick up and not the arrivals pick up for 30 minutes) we headed straight to my first dining experience, Booty’s Street Food. The restaurant features street food from around the world and brings it back to New Orleans. I indulged in a falafel sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tahini that hit the spot and was all served on an awesome funky plate presentation.
Okay- this was a hip, cool, locals spot…maybe I’m seeing a little bit more of how you can say it’s like Charleston? Then something foreign happened. It was time to leave and I wasn’t finished with my delicious frozen slushy and the waiter brought me a to-go cup. OKAY- here we go, not like Charleston! Throughout my trip I never got use to this custom, but certainly did not hate it!
Later that night Zoe took me out to some of her favorite spots and something else magical happened. You know that feeling I get after a bite of something so delicious I become speechless? Many of you have seen this face when we dine out together in Charleston. It’s what makes me Susu. It’s what makes me love writing about food. It’s the passion I have found in the restaurant scene. It’s how excited I get about a Crockpottuesday dinner. Well, this same, strong emotion, hit me smack in the heart when I heard the most amazing jazz band at the Spotted Cat, the very first bar Zoe took me to.
It was compelling and moving. The sound was amazing. There was a trumpet, a saxophone, a horn, a clarinet, a base, and probably other instruments I can’t even name. I couldn’t turn my head and couldn’t stop listening with every bone in my body. People were dancing and everyone’s focus was on the band. I was so happy. It felt like the first time I really fell in love with music. This might be common for a lot of you. Many of my friends go to shows all the time and chase music around. For me though, this was a new appreciation. In that moment, listening to the live jazz band right before me, I realized I was as happy as tasting pork belly for the very first time.
After the Spotted Cat, Zoe took me to a bar called Maison. Here, of course, was another live band. And because it is such a small world, I ran into my two roommates from New York on Caitlyn’s bachelorette weekend! Zoe and I partied the night away with them and had a blast. I also may or may not have gotten on stage and had the guitarist play his guitar over me…Zoe too. Another large distinction between the two cities, bars in New Orleans literally do not close. Charleston, they close at 2am.
The next morning, after being slightly destroyed in a good way by the city, I decided that my center piece would be shifted. The focus would now revolve around New Orleans’ music scene. The unique music experiences I had there are why the cities are so different. Every restaurant and bar we went into there was a band. This is such an exceptional attribute New Orleans holds. You can’t find live music like this in Charleston. It seems that everyone there plays a musical instrument and its evident walking down the streets.
Another apparent difference that I immediately appreciated upon learning my way around NOLA was the unity. There’s no sense of social class, color, or discrimination in New Orleans. People of all walks are neighbors and everyone is friendly. In Charleston, unfortunately there is a very clear line dividing the South end of the peninsula from the North and East side of the peninsula. I wasn’t in NOLA long enough to have that much credibility on my observation, but as a visitor, it certainly seems like a hodgepodge of cultural living. It also seems that music is the joining force that sustains NOLA’s harmony. Zoe put it into perspective for me by saying, “The culture really permeates life. There are a million things that only happen or are the way they are in New Orleans.”
I can’t help it- let’s talk a little bit more about food now. Our fancy dinner was at Boucherie. Here, our waiter sold me on the fried duck skin appetizer. I am a huge fan of duck and then to add a sweet glazed fried skin to the mix…kill me now. It was hard to slow down especially while in front of people I had just met at the table. For my entrée, I was sold again by the waiter on the ribs. This is not something I usually order out, but he convinced me to try them. They were delicious and served with tempura fried broccoli-wow. And for dessert the table split a Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. What? Probably the best dessert I’ve ever had. The funny part, the waiter said every week they order 500 doughnuts and every time Krispy Kreme is utterly surprised…and they’ve been doing it for 5 years.
I also experienced crawfish for the first time. I wish I could do this. I can’t. I understand the fun though so I’m not a hater.
I would just rather stick to eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde.Zoe, you were an awesome host and that was such a memorable trip for me already. New Orleans, thank you for my new found appreciation for jazz and music. Until next time!