I found myself in New Orleans over the weekend. I’ve been here twice before, but neither time was to see the city; each time was to be a part of a more generic tourist horde.
Once was in college when Mardi Gras coincided with Spring Break. A bunch of friends got together and all pitched in some sum of money that was almost a night’s stay. Then we packed ourselves – 6 if memory serves – into the biggest car we had drive the 10 hours from Atlanta. Space was limited so wardrobe was too. That wasn’t a bad thing since, given the general level of mess everywhere on Bourbon Street (the main Mardi Gras tourist party area), whatever you wore was sure to get ruined. If you’ve been you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t end up seeing much of anything outside of that debaucherous corridor.
The second time I was here was for a bachelor party and the results were similar. Lots of booze, little sleep and not much scenery. Ended up missing my flight, camping out at the airport all day waiting on a standby seat, then staying the night to take the first flight out Monday morning. Strike two for me here.
This time though the reason for the trip was not revelry, so I stood a good chance at getting to take in the culture.
Walked down Magazine Street, a quiet shopping street. Magazine has mostly smaller shops, unlike so many other similar streets in other cities like Boulder or New York. But then those places don’t have a Bourbon Street.
Grabbed a beer at The Bulldog which boasts over 80 beers on tap. They also have a beer tap fountain on the patio.
Even though I was stuffed I am a sucker for a good burrito. That’s how I found myself in Juan’s Flying Burrito. Great place, fantastic burrito.
Found a place called the Circle Bar. Lots of people standing outside a house, amongst buildings where no house should be. Accidentally happened into front row seats for the concert about to start.
That’s how I met Lips. She’s a singer in a band (Lips and the Trips) and invited me to come see her perform the next night at a coffee shop. So I said why not. They were good and got me into yet a different part of the town – equally as nice and quiet.
Then I headed down Frenchmen Street. That’s an area of town where live music is squeezed out of every corner and cubby and mixes together like a cajun dish or creole language. Went to a place called dba on a recommendation and it was fantastic. Good jazzy blues band played and some great beers on tap and in bottle, including the fantastic Racer 5 from Bear Republic.
All in all it was a great trip. I did make the requisite migration to Bourbon Street, but unlike a decade ago I found it didn’t interest me at all. It seemed just a smelly alley compared to the rest of the city. I know many people for whom New Orleans is their favorite city. And it’s growing on me too. It may not be San Francisco or Lasa, but it feels comfortable to me now. Just one good trip was all it took to wash away the iniquity of past lives there. So I’m looking forward to the next time I get the chance to head there.
Recently I performed an experiment where I ate vegetarian for a month. I learned a lot, but it’s not one I’m eager to repeat.
This experiment also gave me the opportunity to test a theory I have: Vegetarian meals have to be a better value on menus. The reasoning for this is that menu space is relatively expensive in most decent restaurants. In order to recover the cost of that space, the restaurant will have to sell a lot of the dishes that are on there. Restaurants will want to have an option for vegetarians because denying one vegetarian may deny a group of friends. Since they can’t count on the relatively low percentages of vegetarians and vegans in the population at large to provide the necessary revenue, these dishes will have to also appeal to omnivores. Therefore, they have to draw the omnivores from other meaty dishes. This translates into either better taste or lower cost.
For the most part the results of my testing this theory were inconclusive. Some places have excellent veggie options, some places have only mediocre ones, like a veggie burger patty. This is sometimes the case even in fancy places which should try harder and which should also attract a disproportionate number of vegetarians, since the diet is primarily one reserved for the more wealthy of our society. I also had mixed success with vegetarian/vegan restaurants. One was excellent, the other was only so-so.
In general I found that the best places for a veggie option were ethnic food places. Indian restaurants topped the list, because of the prevalence of vegetarians in India. But also, burrito joints and Italian places had a surprising number of options. Chinese and other Asian eateries often have a choice of meats, tofu or nothing so it’s possible to eat well there too.
Arriba Taquiera in Budapest serves mission-style burritos. 1300Ft=$7 ish. Red sauce is too sweet. Green sauce has a slight curry flavor. Tortilla not right. Not enough rice an beans so it’s mostly tortilla. Carnitas too salty and dry. One of the worst burritos I’ve ever had. The best I’ve ever had in Europe.