Laissez le bon temp rouler

John and I flew into New Orleans on an early morning flight on Friday. Our flight was packed with revelers ready for the weekend.  Bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, early Mardi Gras fans, etc.  To our delight, our hotel room at the W French Quarter was ready for us upon arrival. Once we got settled, we made a beeline for Cafe du Monde. Someone really wanted his coffee and beignets!

I settled for a Diet Coke (and the apple and cheese stick I consumed on the plane). Hey, no one said this gluten-free journey would be easy.

All the while, John and I were both fielding calls and emails. Such is life! We also did some shopping this morning, including a visit to one of my favorite NOLA stores – Santa’s Quarters.

I picked up some fabulous wine-related ornaments. Yes, Women Who Wine, these are for our holiday party!For lunch, we walked over to Cochon. John and I have eaten there multiple times and we are clearly big fans of the cuisine. Adhering to my diet, I dutifully ordered the sautéed greens and twice-baked potato.

I shouldn’t have worried because these were fantastic dishes. Full of flavor and deliciousness. After lunch, John napped and I worked. Working from home has taught me how to work from anywhere, including from a hotel room with a snoring husband! Later in the afternoon, John and I did a bit more shopping. I love all of the antique and specialty shops in the French Quarter. The area is perfect for strolling, shopping and people watching – all things we greatly enjoy.

For dinner, we got dressed up and walked over to Arnauds – a local favorite and culinary delight.We kicked things off with drinks at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar.

Years ago (in 2004) I surprised John with a birthday trip to New Orleans and we celebrated in the very same bar. Time flies. Anyhow, after drinks we settled into Arnaud’s for dinner. This was our first dining experience at the restaurant and we couldn’t have been more pleased. The ambiance of the restaurant is delightfully sophisticated despite the hullabaloo that occurs just outside on nearby Bourbon. This is a “coats for men” type of place which is certainly ok for us — have you met John? Now, on to the food. John began his meal with an endive salad and I had the alligator sausage.

Yes, friends, I kept it classy and dainty. Seriously, if you are ever going to have a dish like this, Louisiana (and Arnaud’s) is a good place to order it. Needless to say, it was delicious. The sausage was spicy, but not in a way that was not offensive or prevented me from polishing the dish off quickly. For my entree, I had the “Mitchell” – Black Drum topped with fresh tomatoes, olives, herbs and olive oil. It was melt-in-your-mouth amazing.

Truly — I am very picky about seafood and I loved this dish. John and I also shared orders of Soufflé Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus. Both were beautifully prepared and had the most brilliant flavors. John was especially fond of the potatoes.

We didn’t really have room for it, but we ordered dessert anyway. How can you not? We ended up sharing a flourless chocolate cake.

Amazing. Chocolate-y without being overpowering or too sweet. Our experience at Arnaud’s was memorable and fulfilling and the service was impeccable. This was a great way to end our first day in New Orleans.

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