Day 10: River Road, A Dozen Oysters and a Courtyard Celebration

Saturday, 17 April 2004
New Orleans

I started the day on the balcony, finishing up another book. Then, where else, but to Café du Monde we go.

Today’s outing was a drive along River Road, our destination Laura Plantation. It was my second visit to the beautifully restored Creole sugar cane plantation. Of all the plantations that I’ve visited around New Orleans, this is definitely my favorite. Laura is unusual because of its Creole roots, and for the fact that it was a working plantation AND, throughout its history, was run by women. It’s also an unusual plantation tour because they acknowledge the existence of slaves. One of the few remaining slave cabins on the property has been restored, whereas on other restored plantations, slave quarters have been torn down. Local lore claims that the story of Brer Rabbit was first told by the slaves on Laura Plantation.

As before, the tour guide who led our group through the house was outstanding. She was a personable character who spoke with a French (Creole?) accent. She integrated family and local history throughout the tour with a lot of flair, bringing the place to life. We spent a couple of hours on the tour and wandering the grounds on a bright, warm day.

We drove back toward New Orleans along River Road and returned to the hotel in time to race across the Quarter to Acme Oyster House for a round of oysters before dinner. Since it was French Quarter Festival weekend, there was quite a line out front. We knew it would be worth it (the freshest oysters on the half shell in town) and the people-watching was great so we didn’t mind the 30-minute wait. Slurp slurp slurp and we were done. (Warning to self next time—Acme has the freshest and strongest horseradish, so go easy! Whew, meltdown.)

My birthday dinner at Bayona has been anticipated for years and was absolutely fantastic. For ten years now, since my first visit to New Orleans, this restaurant has been my all-time favorite. Anywhere! I have never had anything less than an A+ dining experience here, and that night was no exception. We’d requested a table in the courtyard, which is such a beautiful, calm retreat from the Quarter; you can’t believe that you’re just two blocks away from the craziness of Bourbon Street.

I began the meal with a Cosmo, fresh with lime, and an amazing appetizer of smoked salmon that melted in my mouth. Everyone’s main course was outstanding—there was plenty of ooohing and ahhhing around the table. Blue fin tuna, double-cut port chops and roast lamb in zinfandel sauce. I cannot begin to describe how good it all was, each dish with the perfect sauce accompanying it. We had a delicious wine with the meal (Sancerre Lucien Crochet), an excellent staff suggestion that we treated ourselves to in honor of the celebration. And to finish, one of the most amazing desserts I have ever had—a pineapple carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It sounds simple, but it was really something. There were amazing flavors of spices (nutmeg? cinnamon? clove?) and caramel drizzled on the plate—it was fantastic! This cake even drew raves from Anne, who doesn’t generally like dessert. (If can you imagine that!)


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