As Southern Decadence approaches its home stretch and events reach a fever pitch, it was quite a two weeks. Not everything I did, however, revolved around a decadent celebration. In fact, my two weeks can be summed up easily — boys, birthdays, booze and bayous!
I was off to the races so to speak on Monday when I participated in the NOAGE (New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders) walking group at Audubon Park. This weekly exercise group is a healthy way to meet people and enjoy the sights. By “sights” I mean hot shirtless boys jogging; that alone should be enough to put a little spring into your step.
On Wednesday, I did a hardhat tour of the new Louisiana Children’s Museum about to open (August 31) in City Park. This state-of-the-art facility impressed me with lots of incredible new exhibitions for the young and the young-at-heart as well as breathtaking views of the park.. They’re also opening their new way cool restaurant, Acorn, certain to be the city’s hot new private party spot. It’s amazing all the new things happening in City Park from City Putt to NOMA’s expanded Sculpture Garden and now the Children’s Museum.
The following day my company hosted a headshot party at NOSH (New Orleans Social House) located in the Warehouse District. NOSH has always been one of my favorite cocktail spots, but it also has a delicious menu. Guests enjoyed hair and make-up touch-ups while indulging in libations & nibbles, and as a bonus, had a professional headshot done.
The start of the weekend brought two celebrations. The Krewe of Armeinius hosted an Evening on the Avenue, St. Charles Avenue that is. This soiree was one of a few events the Krewe hosts to raise funds for their Ball. Cocktails and appetizers were served as supporters mingled with krewe members and found out more information about the ball plans for this year.
Afterwards, I attended the first of three birthday events for great friends of mine. I toasted the lovely Valerie Landry of Creole Cuisine, and one of the LGBT Community’s best allies, at a birthday dinner at one of the best local steakhouses in the city, Crescent City Steakhouse on N. Broad Street. I love this place, the food is delicious and the prices are affordable.
After dinner, we went for a nightcap to a place I’d never been to, Revel Cafe and Bar in Mid-City on Carrollton Avenue, a craft cocktail connoisseur’s paradise. Owner Chris McMillian is a co-founder of The Museum of the American Cocktail. As a cocktail historian, McMillian is known for telling stories or reciting drink-themed poetry while making drinks. I have to say Chris’ Ramos Gin Fizz was delectable. Definitely you need to check this place out.
Magazine Street was the place to be on Saturday evening, as people came out for Moonlight on Magazine Street, a block party featuring shops, restaurants, art galleries and bars between the 3500 and 4800 blocks. It was a great crowd as guests meandered along the famed thoroughfare shopping and enjoying evening libations.
After the stroll, my friends and I stayed on Magazine Street and attended the Boozy Basket raffle benefiting Southern Decadence at the Balcony Bar. Grand Marshals Countess C. Alice and William Antil were on hand picking raffle tickets for some great prices. It’s good to see Southern Decadence events expanding out of the downtown area. They raised lots of money and the baskets had some great liquor. Congrats to an event well done.
On Sunday, I was back Uptown for another Southern Decadence party, the Nearly Naked Pool Party, which lived up to its moniker as all sorts of menfolk waded around in barely anything. They even had a teeny weeny bathing suit contest. There was food, cocktails and lots of male eye candy to go around. What I love about this year is the mixt of events, some the same as previous years plus new ones added to the mix.
The following week was another full one starting on Tuesday with the Carly Rae Jepsen concert at the Fillmore. The Call Me Maybe singer has a new album, Dedicated, also the name of her tour. She put on a spectacular show showing off her superior singing skills. The songs off her new album were danceable and fun. She also had a large crowd and there was quite the gay following in attendance. The Fillmore is my new favorite place to watch a concert and we were lucky to get VIP box seats with perfect views of the stage. No one was sitting when Carly performed Call Me Maybe!
The following day, I took a little vacation down to Bayou Country. Except for a visit to Vacherie to see some of the plantations, I knew very little about Southern Louisiana. My friends at the Lafourche Parish Tourist Commission helped me fix that. For two days I immersed myself in the area.
The ride from New Orleans is full of picturesque fields of sugar cane, farms, small towns and, of course, the bayous. On the way, I stopped at the Laurel Valley Village Plantation, the largest surviving 19th- and 20th-century sugar plantation complex left in the United States with its nearly 60 original structures from slave quarters to a schoolhouse. I was able to get a fascinating personal tour of the property by the owner’s son, who moved back to help in the process of refurbishing the structures back to their old glory and preserve them for history.
The general store on the property contains many tools and farm implements used in the cultivation of sugar cane as well as locally made arts and crafts. It also has a small petting zoo with pigs, chickens, goats and a peacock. You can buy feed and hand feed these adorable animals. The peacock is breathtaking. You may have seen this place in some of your favorite movies such as Ray, Interview With a Vampire and Angel Heart. Most recently it was seen in Netflix’s The Highwaymen.
Back on the road, I soon made it to Thibodaux. Located along the banks of Bayou Lafourche, this picturesque little city was given the nickname “Queen City of Lafourche” — how fitting. I checked into the Dansereau House Bed and Breakfast (1847)located in the heart of downtown. This gorgeous behemoth of a home is spectacular. The five story structure boasts a cupola from which Dr. Dansereau would scan the city in the late 1800s and look for lighted signals in the town’s windows which would indicate an ill patient in need of his services. It’s reported that the first cataract surgery in the United States was performed in this house which remained a residence until 2009 when it was purchased and then re-opened as a Bed & Breakfast.
There was lots of excitement on my arrival day. When I checked in they were just finishing up filming scenes from a horror movie. Later that night when I returned they were doing a wedding shoot. Both these things seemed very fitting in this home. I stayed in the 3rd floor Governor’s Suite and it was incredible. Boasting an oversized walk-in shower, sunken tub, stained glass bathroom doors and large comfortable bed, one can see why it received this name. There is even an old-time one person-elevator that can bring you to the third floor if you do not want to haul your luggage up the flights of stairs. But I suggest taking the grand staircase, much more majestic.
After checking in, I met my friend from the tourism commission in front of the house and we did a walking tour of the historic downtown area. This quaint area definitely has the small town America vibe, very Norman Rockwell. In addition to the Dansereau House, other noteworthy buildings include the Courthouse, the old jail, Red Goose Saloon and the Venetian.
After the tour, we went to dinner at this outstanding restaurant called Cinclare Southern Bistro. This well-appointed eatery has a pretty amazing craft cocktail menu that changes seasonally and delicious Southern fare. For an appetizer, their Alligator and Andouille Cheesecake is divine as is their Fried Oyster Mushrooms. I had the fried soft-shell crab special and I have to say it rates as one of the top ways I have had it prepared. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner only and it is best to have reservations because it gets crowded. The service is superior and the atmosphere is open and light. It’s a marvelous dining experience and the crowd, both working and dining there, is very pretty. This is one of those restaurants that I would drive an hour to enjoy. After dinner, I walked back to the mansion which is as grand at night as it is during the day. Plus it’s spooky as hell at night, part of the place’s charm.
The next morning, we were on the road early and touring the parish. Our first stop was Port Fourchon which sits at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico and is easily accessible from any area in the Gulf and Caribbean. Located at the end of Highway 1 in Louisiana, Port Fourchon is in the center of one of the richest and most progressive industrial areas in the Gulf region.
We took a Harbor Police Boat for a water tour of the port after meeting with David Breaux, Deputy Port Director who gave some interesting facts about the area. This multi-use coastal port functions primarily as a land base for multiple offshore oil & gas support service companies. In addition, it’s a commercial and recreational fishing mecca, an intermodal transportation hub, a unique area for recreation and ecotourism, a hot spot for research on coastal restoration and marsh creation methods, and a fine example of how industry and environment can coexist successfully.
From our vantage point, you could see the drilling rigs in the Gulf. The vessels that service these rigs are just as impressive in size and scope of what they do. Some of these massive ships even had helipads on them. Equally impressive is their commitment to the environment around the area. They have managed to (while still striving to do better) create a balance between industry and nature. They’re in the process of creating a walking area for tourists to go out in the surrounding marsh which is home to lots of bird and animal life as well as some great fishing. One of the beautiful sights in the area is a bird dubbed the Fourchon Flamingo which I believe are really Roseate Spoonbills. For more information on the port, go to www.portfourchon.com.
We then went to lunch at Moran’s in Port Fourchon. Moran’s is the southernmost restaurant on the Cajun Bayou Food Trail. Located in the marina, seafood comes fresh off the boat at this spot serving everything from fried seafood dishes to poboys and homemade favorites. The food was delectable, and they also offer offshore fishing charters where guests can come in to the restaurant and cook what they caught earlier. They have a bar as well as some cabins to spend the night.
After lunch, we took the scenic route back passing through lots of tiny towns that I have only heard about. We did make a stop at Chine’s Cajun Net Shop where we saw hands-on demonstrations of how to make shrimp and oyster nets used for the local fishing industry. These nets ranged from small to massive ones that cost as much as $15,000. It was cool watching these older Cajun men making the nets like they were doing cross-stitch or needlepoint. They were speaking French to each other like some masculine quilting bee. We saw how they dip the nets and dry them out. I always enjoy when I get to see an industry’s behind-the-scenes and this was extremely educational.
Along the way, I stopped at Bourgeois Meat Market, also on the food trail. This old-fashioned Cajun meat market specializes in fresh cuts of meat as well as beef jerky, boudin, hogshead cheese, turkey cheese, and many other Cajun products. I have to say their cracklins were exceptional.
Still on the food theme, I next went and took a tour of Chef John Folse’s Culinary Institute. Known around the world as “Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World” and located on the campus of Nicholls State University, the Institute is dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary heritage. Under the watchful eye of Chef Folse, the students prepare meals throughout the year that the public can enjoy. When the reservations open for their special dinners, you have to move fast because they always sell out quickly.
It had already been quite a day, and it wasn’t done.
After returning to my room and quickly refreshing, I was off to dine again in downtown Thibodaux, this time at Fremin’s Restaurant which is housed in one of Thibodaux’s landmarks, formerly known as “The Roth Drugstore” (1878).
In 1998, the Fremin Brothers of Thibodaux — Dale, Francis, and Barry — purchased the building with the commitment to restore it to its original decor. The first floor includes a beveled glass and mahogany storefront and the original pressed tin ceiling. The second floor features a wrought iron wrap-around balcony, original longleaf pine floors and beaded board walls. Both floors contain solid mahogany bars and porcelain mosaic tiles.
Once again, this was another incredible dining experience, a marriage of Creole style and Italian cooking. I enjoyed the Flounder Roulade which was a flounder fillet stuffed with a seafood dressing then baked and topped with sautéed jumbo shrimp, tomatoes and mushrooms–heavenly.
When I finished dinner, I walked (or waded) back to the hotel stopping briefly at Spahr’s Seafood Downtown for one of their famous Bloody Mary’s. A most unusual nightcap I know, but they said it was good, so I had to try it, and it did not disappoint.
Friday was my last day in bayou country. I checked out of my room early and jumped on the road and headed to Des Allemandes for my first airboat tour in Louisiana. In all my years of being in the hospitality industry, the only airboat tour I’ve ever been on has been in Belize. Weird, right?
I picked the perfect company to start with, Airboat Tours by Arthur. Arthur Matherne is a true Cajun and knows how to give an awesome tour. The tours go through swamp, over the marsh, and through moss draped trees. You’ll see hawks, herons, egrets, and occasionally bald eagles. They have over 50 species of gorgeous birds and when they take flight over the marsh, it’s breathtaking.
We saw lots of alligators and one, in particular, got my attention, a fifteen-foot monster named Bubba. Do not let the name fool you; when something that size comes up to your boat; even the steadiest of people get a little nervous. But Arthur had that baby eating out of the palm of his hand, literally; he fed the alligator raw chicken. Crazy!
This was one of the best swamp tours I’ve been on in a very long time. Both locals and visitors should love it, and it’s just a little under an hour outside New Orleans. For more information, go to www.airboattours.com.
The tour was my farewell to Cajun country and I went back to NOLA. I want to thank my friends from the Lafourche Parish Tourist Commission (Timothy, Kellie & Melissa) for their hospitality. This was such a memorable trip and I am already planning to go back. For more information on Lafourche Parish, go to https://www.lacajunbayou.com.
Back home, I didn’t waste any time and went to the second of my three birthday festivities. Matt Dow celebrated his special night with some friends at Charlie’s Steakhouse, one of my favorite places to have steak in the city. We got to sit upstairs at the Elvira table. Now that’s a party! After another sumptuous meal, we went for dessert and coffee at a favorite spot of mine, Piccola Gelateria on Freret Street. They have the best gelato and even have dairy free for those of us with delicate sensibilities. It’s strange, I can down a bottle of tequila without issue, but give me some milk and I am down for the count. So much fun!
Saturday was all about art with White Linen Night on Julia Street. Once again, this event started by the Contemporary Arts Center was a huge success. The galleries opened their doors to the multitudes as thousands of people enjoyed cocktails, strolling up and down the street, and looking at art.
I started my evening at the CAC to see their new exhibit Identity Measures (on display through Oct.) which presents a diverse group of artists that explore identity not as a fixed structure, but as an insistently mobile assemblage of traits and vulnerabilities. It has some thought-provoking pieces.
After, I decided to stroll in my white linen and saw so many friends out and about. I stopped for drinks at one of my favorite spots, NOSH, which was having a champagne special. I also made another brief visit to the CAC’s VIP space at the Auction House, before returning to the CAC for their late night party with lots of great entertainment including drag superstar Vinsantos and his cast of divalicious girls. It was a great way to cap off the night.
Sunday was the last birthday celebration. The fabulously entertaining performer Theresa Addams celebrated her birthday with brunch at the festive Flamingo a Go Go. Bottomless rose and mimosa were consumed as we hung out at their courtyard’s firetruck table. Theresa is new to the city but making quite a name for herself as a performer. The brunch was a lovely way to start off a Sunday Funday.
After brunch, some friends and I went and visited the ever-so-sparkling Princess Stephaney at Mags 940. We had a few more adult beverages and tried some of her craft cocktail creations. I love being her guinea pig.
Next, we ventured into the French Quarter to Café Lafitte’s in Exile for a few more drinks and to say Hi to the newly crowned Winter Wonderland King Jeffrey Palmquist. Always delightful, we hung out for a few hours before going to GrandPre’s for the Southern Decadence Hamburger Cookout. There were great burgers and sides as guests chowed down with Countess C. Alice and William Antil. Yet another fun event.
That concludes my two weeks. I hope everyone is getting their glitter, high heels and costumes (or lack thereof) ready, because Something Decadence This Way Comes!