Christmas, New Year’s and 12th Night have swirled together in a magical mixture of revelry, cocktails and glitter to make this one of the most special holidays. My two weeks were full of parties, theater, restaurants, fireworks, and costumes! While most people in other cities make resolutions for the new year like giving up alcohol, sweets and other enjoyable things, we in New Orleans begin Mardi Gras season with parades, king cake and, of course, more cocktails. Let’s steamroll into this new year!
The Monday before Christmas, I met some friends for happy hour at The Crossing. In case you are not familiar, this bar kicks off the week with one of the best happy hours in the city. All Tito’s cocktails are $3 including different martinis. Since a dirty martini up with extra olives is my drink of choice, you can imagine my happiness in discovering this special deal.
Speaking of special things and festive parties, on Christmas Eve, my friend Matt Dow and I hopped around to three fabulous soirees to celebrate the holiday.
Our first stop on this party train was Rodney Thoulion and RJ Buras’ event at their beautiful home on the Westbank. Their party is always a warm and inviting mix of family and friends. They have a pretty delicious spread for guests to enjoy. It was a perfect fall evening with a nice chill in the air making it ideal to gather either inside or outside in their spacious backyard. Guests in attendance included Annie Gingrich, Princesse Stephaney, Andrea Halstead, Blake Robertson, Jeff Bater, Tim Irving, Vinson Alford and Julie & Clarence Cavignac.
Stop two that evening was the lovely home of Jim Tomeny. Jim’s house is another showplace with one of the most incredibly designed courtyards I have ever seen. Guests enjoyed food, drink and beer pong if they dared. I am not sure how Jim gets some of the hottest college guys at his party, but he does. Guests included Michael Shlenker & Don Schwenn, Brian Johnston, Rob Gerhart & Jerry Fredieu, Michael Styles & Ambush’s own Reed Wendorf.
My last stop of the night was Joey Bean’s (aka Debbie with a D) party at his newly renovated home in the Holy Cross neighborhood. Once again, there was scrumptious food and drink (the homemade spiked eggnog was everything). What they also had was carols at the spinet. Joey, as well as several of the guests, played and sang not only holiday songs but show tunes and original numbers. This memorable event was filled with entertainment and happiness. Joining for the festivities was actor Jay Canova, President of Armeinius Kevin Hemenger, and Ambush’s own contributor & theater expert Brian Sands.
Three parties, three different groups of friends, both old and new, and three wonderful memories. I could not think of a more lovely way to ease into Christmas Day.
Christmas was all about friends and family. I helped Mama Dawn host our family and some close friends at her home in River Ridge. We had an abundance of food. I know because I helped cook it all, as well as lots of libations. It is always nice to see my friends interacting with my family. It was truly a house filled with love (and unfortunately lots of carbs).
Later that evening, I went to my friend Laura Tennyson’s home where she and her husband (who is an amazing chef) Gary fixed a gourmet meal. It was a relaxing way to end the holiday. After the event, I rolled myself back to my house. Christmas 2019 was done.
On Friday, I saw the last theater show of the year, John, at the Beauborg Theatre located in the CBD. John, a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker, was directed by Xavier Juárez. The action takes place at a B&B in Gettysburg, PA. The show starred Troi Bechet, Janet Shea who added most of the comic relief, and Joe Fredo & Maile G Zox as a neurotic couple. The play ran right under three hours and it was whittled down from its original form. The actors did a tremendous job and the new theater is quite an impressive space.
The following night, my friend Matt and I went on a foodie tour through the Marigny and Bywater area. We started at a new place called Galaxie located at 3060 St. Claude Avenue. Once a service station (I used to get brake tags there), it’s now the home of a gorgeous new taqueria. This place is fantastic. The designers did an excellent job in transforming this once dilapidated 1940s gas station, tho it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, into a hip new space.
The main focus is their bar which is right through the roll-up garage doors. They have several delicious craft cocktails many with Mezcal (over 30 different kinds as well as flights) and Tequila as you would imagine. The prices are very reasonable. Galaxie takes its lead from the taquerias and culture of Oaxaca and Mexico City. Chef Hank Shackelford, most recently of Marjie’s Grill, Zasu, and Cochon Butcher, heads up the kitchen. Their menu is delightful with some tasty treats like Tacos al Pastor, Oaxacan-style barbacoa, and Baja-style fish tacos along with open-faced quesadillas, sides, and starters like grilled queso.
Next we drove down a few blocks to Luna Libre at 3600 St. Claude. This eatery serves Ark-La-Tex Mex food featuring tacos, cheese dip, chicken enchiladas verde with vegan and daily fish specials. They also have breakfast tacos on the weekend. But what we really enjoyed was the flaming margaritas, they were simply divine. They also have an outdoor spacious garden space and on certain days offer live music.
We then made our way to the Franklin located at 2600 Dauphine Street. The restaurant is housed in a former corner grocery store, and is a nice mixture of both a neighborhood and trendy spot. They have a great craft cocktail selection and delicious snacks like BBQ Spiced Pecans and Warm Olives.
Our final stop was directly across the street, the gay neighborhood watering hole Cutter’s which was the perfect laid back way to wrap up the night. The walls are adorned with art from talented local artists available for purchase. So you can shop and drink at the same time.
My first Sunday Funday was more relaxing than partying, but I did make it out in the afternoon to the home of Marc Behar and Jeff Sbisa’s Hanukkah party at their Garden District home. The event brought a lot of well-wishers and culminated with the story of celebration and a naughty gift exchange. There was lots to drink and eat, especially their various homemade latkes which were mouth-watering. Guests included Matt Dow, Brian Sands, Lawrence Gobble, William Sparks, Michael Shlenker & Don Schwenn, Glenn Reames, Angie Bowlin and Martin Robinson.
Afterwards, Matt and I ducked out to catch the new Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalker. I am not sure why there was so much negativity for it. It may not have been perfect, but it was a satisfying way to end the series with enough twists and action to keep the storyline moving nicely. It was also wonderful to see the delightful Carrie Fisher grace the screen once more.
With all the Christmas celebrations behind me, it was New Year’s Eve and time to leave 2019 behind and usher in 2020. I rang in the new year at the first event on the new riverboat City of New Orleans with friends Barrett & Beaux Delong-Church and Bizzie & Matt Dow. The new boat is gorgeous and had four floors of beautiful event space with their top deck being a prime spot to watch the fireworks– literally right in front of us. Good food, great cocktails, lovely space and wonderful friends, welcome 2020!
After the Fleur di Lis dropped, the fireworks were done and the bar closed, we made our way into the French Quarter and stopped to play at the gay establishments, ending at the Corner Pocket. It was quite a night. Very excited about the new year and all the possibilities.
I was extremely hung over on New Year’s Day but I managed to meet some friends for brunch at Who Dat Cafe in the Marigny. They had a black-eyed peas and cabbage special in order to get my luck and money fix for the year. The food here is always good and the service is superior with a friendly staff both in the cafe and coffee bar area. The rest of the day was reserved for my couch and binging television shows I wanted to catch up on. Not a bad way to spend day 1 of 2020.
Saturday was an easy day, with me hanging out with Mama Leggio, but I did try a new restaurant that recently opened up in Mid City. Junior’s on Harrison is a new eatery that is welcoming, open and warm. It is two stories with the downstairs being family friendly and the upstairs being more adults only. They are open for lunch and dinner, and have classic food as well as some contemporary dishes. It is definitely a neighborhood place with delectable food with healthy portions. If you are like me and prefer a more children free zone when you dine, I suggest upstairs, but either up or down you will have a great meal.
Even though my two weeks ended on a down note with the Saints stunning loss to the Vikings in overtime, I knew the following day would make it all better with the start of Carnival Season. Before I tell you about my 12th Night escapades, tho, I just want to thank The Crossing for being one of my favorite spots to show the sports ball shows.
The Crossing is not just a great place to watch games it is an incredible social experience. First, they have televisions all over the place so no matter where you stand, you have a perfect view of all the action. Second, they normally serve food and for the Saints game, they went all out with a delicious sausage medley and meatballs (all meat, there is a gay joke somewhere in there). And last, when the Saints score, shots were given all around to guests. Free (and inexpensive) cocktails, food and friends, who could ask for more?
Afterwards, I made the long walk back to the Marigny from the French Quarter making a quick stop at Mags 940 to have one more cocktail with Princesse Stephaney who can always cheer you up!
On 12th Night, I knocked one off my annual bucket list by participating in the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade that honors the Saint’s birthday. I was privileged to be asked to be in Margarita Bergen’s entourage for the parade. Margarita was this year’s Queen Yolande. The king was French-born sign-making master Simon, and the horseback-riding Maid of Honor (representing Joan of Arc as a young girl) was Lusher High School student Zoe Kanga.
The parade was an amazing event not only to watch, but to be part of. The crowd was wonderfully festive and it was hysterical interacting with them. I handed out custom matchbooks, and talked about lighting up the night. The parade’s groups (if you pay attention carefully) tell the history of Joan’s life. I especially love the Flaming Heretics. Margarita was a beautiful queen and it was an honor being a part of the parade. Item one scratched off my list. Nine to go.
Afterwards, I attended Frank Perez’s 12th Night Soiree at the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture. A fabulous party, guests were either dressed to the nines or in full costume regalia. I wore my Sassy Gay Monk outfit that I had on in the parade complete with glittered sword courtesy of costumer extraordinaire Daryl Dunaway (aka Countess C. Alice). There were cocktails and merriment as guests enjoyed an evening of Carnival fun. And congratulations to Duaine Daniels who is our new Grand Reveler.
Until next article, Happy Mardi Gras everyone!