If you’re lucky enough to be spending Mardi Gras in the Big Easy, make sure to read this primer first. “Carnival” describes the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day (also known as Fat Tuesday), the day before Lent, the Catholic time of atonement, begins. And while some in New Orleans use that term, most just call all of the season of revelry “Mardi Gras.” It actually begins on Epiphany, January 6; but the big celebrations and major parades really happen in the last two weeks leading into Mardi Gras Day (which is a city-wide holiday in NOLA).
In the lobby of this stylish hotel, everything is oversized, from ceiling height to furniture. Peering through the sheer white curtains to the left, guests will see a sprinkling of cool-looking people around the pool table at any hour of the day or night. Behind another set of white sheers on the right is the restaurant Tempt, with a menu that claims to be an “updated takes on Southern and New Orleans cooking.” In-room dining, handled by the same kitchen, is offered from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. As an antidote, the gym is complimentary.
An entertaining and enriching “Girls Getaway” in New Orleans
by Patricia Mack
FestiGals was created by Diane Lyons, a veteran New Orleans meeting and special events planner, who was touched by a simple phrase so often voiced by women visitors to the city — “I HAD NO IDEA!”
“The feedback from groups would be that they had “no idea” just how exciting and diverse our city is,” Lyons said. “I started thinking, ‘what if I created an experience specifically tailored to the needs and interests of women?’ ”
“It’s like a Mardi Gras in your mouth!” proclaimed a guest at our table while dining at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, chef Paul Prudhomme’s restaurant in the French Quarter in New Orleans. I wish I had come up with that apt description, as it is exactly what the food is: colorful, vibrant and lots of fun.
As dishes kept coming to the table, it was clear that I could not eat all of them (see photos below), so I was reduced to smell, sample and taste only a few bites. My big regrets were that I could not take them home for the next day as I was staying in a New Orleans hotel while dining around the city to immerse myself in Louisiana‘s tastes and flavors. But let’s be clear, the flavors from chef Paul are unique. And they are so much to the point that he has now published nine cookbooks, and has his own line of dry spices, rubs, bottled sauces and marinades called Magic Seasoning Blends.
Despite his busy schedule, I had the real pleasure of sitting down and enjoying lunch with John Besh in New Orleans at his fine dining establishment August, which made GAYOT’s 2008 list of the Top 40 US Restaurants. While chef de cuisine Michael Gulotta was preparing the delicate dishes, I was discovering the other side of the pans of chef Besh.
Besh is very concerned by his surroundings, whether it is people, the city of New Orleans or the environment. He uses produce from local farmers and fishermen for all of his restaurants: August, La Provence, Lüke, Domenica, Besh Steak, and The American Sector. That practice supports the local economy, cuts the carbon footprint, and guarantees more organically-grown vegetables. He even has his own vegetable garden in the back of La Provence restaurant, located a few miles away from the city in Lacombe. A native of southern Louisiana, he is consumed with putting the city and the state back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina (traces are still visible after five years) and the oil spill (he was part of the effort of December 1st Dine America’s Night Out for Gulf Seafood).