Mardi Gras 2005 Day 5

Day 5 – Ash Wednesday

Everyone is a little sad the day after Christmas. Everyone is just a little let down. The same cannot be said of Mardi Gras. On Ash Wednesday, the entire city heaved an almost audible sigh of relief. On Ash Wednesday, the city of New Orleans put on its pajamas and turned off the porch light.

We realized upon waking that we were probably not fit to be out in public on our own. Considering our severe exhaustion and sleep deprivation, we were probably at the point of malleability at which we could be lured into a cult. For this reason, and since their room service was provided by Café Adelaide, a Brennan’s restaurant, we decided to have a leisurely breakfast in bed. The Eggs Benedict were good, but I had expected something more spectacular from a Brennan. The Pain Perdue, however WAS spectacular. It was pure heaven. It was uber-french-toast, all wrinkly and scrunched up. I suspected it may have been momentarily deep-fried.

We went over to Thrift City where I picked up armloads of Mardi Gras costumes on clearance for a few dollars each. We will be having a Mardi Gras themed anniversary party in May, so I was stocking up.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from the Bon Ton Cafe, so we had lunch/dinner there. I had worn Levis, expecting a “café” to be casual. The restaurant was much fancier than I had expected, and I felt a bit underdressed. But the cheerful waitress immediately made us feel at home. She was so chatty and fun, I wanted to pull her into the bathroom to put on makeup together and gossip about boys. We chatted with her so much, I was worried we would get her in trouble. But I looked around and noticed quite a few waitresses having indepth, meaningful conversations with customers. Yet no table was being ignored. Their staff was large enough that they had time to maintain impeccable service, while heaping attention on each customer. Chatting even seemed to be encouraged. What a refreshing philosophy.

The Crab Gratin looked wonderful, but rich, so we decided to split two dishes. The most appealing second dish was the sirloin tips in a red wine sauce. It seemed comforting, like a homemade stew. But I noticed that every single waitress there had an ashen cross on her forehead. Ash Wednesday is a day for fasting an abstinence in the Catholic church. No red meat. So now we had a dilemma, sure it looked good, but would it be worth going to hell for? I decided that the previous day’s activities were far more likely to endanger my immortal soul than those delicious sirloin tips. What are floats anyways, but giant golden calves?? I tortured Kristina by making her wait to eat until I took pictures of the food. God love her for putting up with me.

The Crab Gratin was probably the best thing I ate on the entire trip. There were pieces of crab as big as my thumb. And sweet, so sweet, without a bit of fishiness. The “gratin” was a crispy cheese crust, almost like a cheese crème brulee. A fromage brulee. The white sauce was light and not at all overpowering. The red wine sauce on the sirloin tips was so delicious we could have drank shots of it. They also had a nice gumbo and a salad dressing that Kristina was wild about. When the bread pudding arrived I didn’t expect to like it. I had already seen the recipe and noticed they used margarine instead of butter. I was so wrong. But along with the delicious bread pudding was the stunning kick of whiskey. I asked if the whiskey in the sauce was cooked, and was told no…it seemed as if they had just poured a shot of straight whiskey over the whole thing.

Walking back to the hotel, we were followed by two men who refused to pass us when I slowed and moved to the side. I turned and acknowledged them just to let them know I knew they were there. The one said casually, “I was just thinking about grabbing that ass” as he gestured in Kristina’s general direction. I channeled Janis’ take-no-shit N’awlins attitude and said, “Look, MISTER, Mardi Gras is OVER. You better straighten up and act right.” They rushed into Mother’s and we thought, “They don’t DESERVE Mothers.”

We went back to the hotel and put on our walking shoes for a foray through the Quarter. Really I was just biding time until I could eat again. We took a taxi to the Café Du Monde. Coincidentally, the taxi driver asked us if people had been behaving themselves around us. So we told him somewhat lightheartedly of Kristina’s groping and near-groping. At the end of the ride, the driver refused to take my money. I said, “We know it’s not locals. It’s stupid tourists. It’s not you.” He opened my door, and in this huge taxi driver’s eyes I saw such an infinite sadness, I threw my arms around him and we stood holding eachother in front of the Café Du Monde. He said, “God, we’re bonding.” I leaned back to look for sarcasm on his face and saw none at all.

The warm glow of the lights at the Café Du Monde and the gentle murmers of the crowd were calming and comforting. Everyone was relaxed in the quiet aftermath of Carnival.

We shopped for gifts, CDs and cookbooks, then headed over to Acme. I figured if the “Peacemaker” was truly meant to be brought home after a night of drinking, Acme must be open past 11pm. Who gets in trouble with their wife before 11pm? I was sadly mistaken. Or perhaps that story is apocryphal.

After 11 pm, it is as hard to find food on Bourbon street as it is easy to find alcohol. We were finally sent over to Déjà vu (no, it’s not a strip club, in spite of the name), a bar on Conti a few blocks up from Bourbon. Nice, cozy wooden benches. An “assorted” clientele of colorful characters. They had a good variety of beers, and the waitress was cool. I was hesitant to order seafood in a bar, though I had my heart set on a shrimp Po’Boy at Acme. I got pork chops, and they were outrageously good. The gravy was good. The potatoes were good. You just can’t get a bad meal in New Orleans.

So, for those of you in the Big Easy late at night, you have four
choices that I know of:

1. Camellia Grill…uptown where the streetcar stops. Way out there. Open til 3 am for Mardi Gras, open til 1 am.


2. Coops’ …on Decatur toward St Peters…across from Margaritaville..I have yet to ever find it closed.

3. Jumani …when the jukebox is turned down it’s not so bad. …Iberville a block down from Bourbon…they may close

around 3 am, but may not close at all

4. Déjà vu …Conti and Dauphine, 2 blocks up from Bourbon…24 hours

We had a scant few hours before we had to leave for the airport. Acme or Uglesich’s??? Uglesich’s or Acme??? The Sophie’s choice of Po’ Boys was driving me mad. Finally, since we were worried about missing the flight, and Kristina was still waxing romantic about her Ferdi, we made the rash decision to go back to Mother’s a second time.

I ordered a shrimp po’boy and red beans and rice. I knew their Po’boy couldn’t match Acme, but I hadn’t had a shrimp Po’Boy yet. I couldn’t leave town without having had a shrimp po’boy. Once again, I was proven wrong. The Po’boy was bursting with the most glorious pink, juicy shrimp I have ever had. I realized that every shrimp I have ever had in my life was overcooked.

About Kiki Maraschino

I like catfish. Sure, we all like catfish, but I think for me it is somehow deeper.
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