Jun 18, 2016

Prairieville VI: one hotel, two restaurants, three families

Thursday morning was another one of those gray blurs. We were rushing around trying to get the last few things taken care of since this would be the last time we would be at Aunt Kim’s outside of the wedding. I finalized the playlist for the pre-ceremony and the ceremony on Tracy’s SONOS system, packed up our stuff, and then we were shuffled out the door so we could drop off the rental car and make it to Brennan’s on time for our brunch.

It’s a long way from Prairieville to New Orleans, but I really don’t mind the drive. Like I said before, I enjoy seeing the bayou and the overgrown jungle of Louisiana, and it’s thrilling to drive on the elevated freeway over the swamps and alligators, and to see in the distance massive waterworks and impossibly long brides across lakes so big you can’t even see the other side.

I’ve been to northern and central Florida before, the area where the conservative midwesterns go to age and harden their right wing ideologies. The natural landscape between Florida and Louisiana should be really similar, but its shockingly different. Where Louisiana embraced the tropics, and learned to live with the jungle, letting the landscape and vegitation shape the culture and lifestyle, Florida recoiled in horror, clear-cutting everything as far as the eye could see, and fighting like missionaries to make Florida into the Omaha or Akron they knew. I like Louisiana. I was not a huge fan of Florida.

We dropped off the car with no trouble, except trying to find the rental car waiting lot where mom, Tay, and Larry were waiting for us in the minivan. We drove the rest of the way in through traffic to get to the hotel. The Whitney Hotel.

Way back, Brenda had volunteered to take care of the block booking for the hotels, little did she know what a pain in the ass it is trying to get anything arranged in Louisiana. Every time we called the hotel ourselves, at least, they told us that their computer system had been down all morning and they hadn’t been able to respond to emails. Every time.

Anyway, Brenda stepped into the ring with that one and wrestled out the rooms we wanted. She had given us a few choices on where we could find available, relatively affordable rooms, and Saori and I both immediately picked the Whitney. We liked the fact it was an old bank building, the location was not bad, on Poydras, Canal would have been better, or someplace IN the french quarter, but these were all going to be much more expensive options and we wanted to make sure our friends would be able to stay with us as much as possible. The only other thing I knew about the Whitney was that is was supposed to be a very haunted hotel. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. We were running around so much between floors and rooms and errands, if a floating white spectre had handed me my room key as I rushed out, I probably would have said thanks.

Larry dropped the minivan and we quickly found our rooms. I stayed with Tay and Saori dropped her stuff at mom’s suite until her mom arrived later that day. Tay’s room technically had a window, but it was only a pale blue light that filtered in, due to the massive glass corporate tower which wrapped itself around the Whitney, a few feet from Tay’s window. Mom had a much better view.

We regrouped in the lobby and took an Uber to Brennan’s. Or maybe we drove ourselves. Or took a taxi. Somehow I found myself with everyone in a cool covered entryway leading into the restaurant. Brennan’s was fantastic. The restaurant wraps around a lush courtyard, the waiters fall all over themselves to serve you, and it is a seriously fancy place. The walls of the restaurant were decorated with painted murals of imagined or real (?) Mardi-Gras past. We actually had too many waiters. One would take our drink orders, dash off to grab his waiters pad, and another would take his spot, offering again, to take our drink orders. They did get it right eventually. Larry ordered a fantastic milk punch cocktail thing, Saori ordered a strawberry champaigne cocktail, and I had some kind of gin cocktail, if memory serves.

At some point of the meal, one of the watiers regailed us with the story of the restaurant, the history of New Orleans, the odd proclivities of the man whose house it once was, and the old connections between the cooks and classic eateries of New Orleans.

For the food, almost everyone ordered the New Orleans breakfast menu, which included grits, tons of grilled meat, and gumbo. I got a taste of the gumbo. Best I’ve ever had. Should have ordered a bowl. I ordered rabbit, buttermilk fried. It was great. Surprisingly light on top of a bed of spinich, so I was feeling great and satisified while everyone else was struggling to finish the heavier (but delicious) grits and grillades. They also served bread while we were waiting for our mains and it was fantastic. We went through nearly a loaf apeice. Larry was the only one who wanted dessert, but we all pitched in, helping him with a bread pudding. Which was also great. And finished with tons of delicious coffee.

Somehow we got back to the hotel- it’s strange to me that I can remember what I ate for dessert, but not how we moved back to the hotel! At any rate, at the hotel, we rested, I moved my bags down to Tay’s, we met up with Yoshiko-san and Kazuma who had arrived, and we spent some time hanging out with them in their hotel room while mom rested in her hotel room. Saori’s mother was quite distraught to hear about the legal complications with the wedding, so that was a long conversation.

Before long, though, it was getting into evening and time to meet up with dad for dinner at Bayona. Dad had made arrangements for dinner for Saori and I and Grandma Loretta since we hadn’t had a chance to spend any time together, and generously expanded the reservation to include Saori’s mom and brother when it became apparent they didn’t have any plans for that evening. I changed clothes and met up with again with Saori’s family. We took an Uber over to the restaurant, and the streets of the French Quarter were so packed, we eventually abandoned our ride and walked the rest of the way.

Bayona was really charming in an old cottage, and we were guided up to the second floor which doubled as their wine storage. We had a big round table and were one of the last to sit down. Dad sat next to Yoshiko-san and they chatted the whole evening. Dinner was excellent- I ordered, why not, rabbit once again, athough more of a rabbit roullade, if memory serves. We ordered a round of cocktails, and then wine, and another bottle of wine and more bread. Dinner was great, but it did take nearly two hours to actually get our entrees. Tay and I had planned out to meet the other guests for the crawl around 9, so we ended up ducking out before dessert, which I learned later was a real showstopper: the best pecan pie anyone had ever had. Considering the lengths of time many at the table had spent in the south and heartland, this is not a small culinary feat. I wish I could have had me a peice of that pie. And talked more! I chatted a bit with Kazuma and Grandma Loretta, but I wasn’t able to sit down really with dad. And then it was time for the bachelor party, so off we went. 
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