This past week, I was in New Orleans with my new music group ensemble – Lunar Ensemble. Lunar was started my one of my best friends, and I joined the group as their composer-in-residence almost a year ago. They’re an awesome and really talented bunch of musicians, and it is such an honor to be associated with them!
Anyway, we were at Tulane University for a two-day residency where we work with the student composers at Tulane, present some workshops and perform a few concerts. My two and a half days there were so packed that all I managed to do was to get some food and maybe walk around a teeny bit.
The first day, I arrived in New Orleans late at night and managed to get an oyster po-boy with my friend Melissa, who was also an instrumental person of getting Lunar to Tulane. Po-boys are Louisiana’s favorite sandwiches. It’s a baguette-like sub with roast beef or fried seafood in it. I had the one with fried oysters, because oysters!! I hear the shrimp po-boys are to die for too, so that’s on a list of to-eats as well.
The next day, we went to the university early, and only after 5 hours of sleep. Had morning meetings with the composers and back-to-back rehearsal. We ran to a good crepe place – Crepes a la Cart (spelling is intentional) – nearby and inhaled my lunch. The servers are awesomely hippy and told me that if there’s one crepe I eat there, it has to be the chicken florentine. Best damn savory crepe I’ve ever had in my lifetime! We came back here with the rest of the group after rehearsal to grab a dessert crepe – french twist (strawberry, banana, frangelico and cream) – which was awesome too!
We had an awesome concert at Dixon Hall, which also featured a piece I wrote for them – frigia – and works by Schoenberg and Weinstein-Reiman. Lunar completely rocked the house!
After the concert, the composers shipped us off to a Carribean taqueria on Magazine St – The Rum House – and the ensemble downed FOUR pitchers of beer. I didn’t even drink any because I don’t like beer. The tacos were awesome though – I especially love the fried oyster tacos! The guacamole with mango was tasty too – the mango kinda cuts the lime in guacamole, mmm!
The next day, it was another early morning for me. I gave a presentation about facing the various challenges of being a composer, and also presented some of my music. I had lunch at their student center, which had a huge variety of foods – everything but the Creole foods I wanted to try. I had a chicken schwarma that wasn’t schwarma at all (just huge huge hunks of breast meat), but I really wasn’t expecting much from campus food anyway.
After rehearsals, we headed to this place Bruno’s just outside of campus for some burgers, po-boys and a game of pool.I had a shrimp po-boy, and I thought it was pretty good, though on the dry side. Then, we headed back to campus and played a killer show that night. Everyone was so glad to have us and the response was so positive!
After the concert, we went to the French Quarter downtown. It was insane and awesome. It reminded me of Fells Point in Baltimore, but many many times bigger, and with live music at every corner. Even for a person who hates loud music, drunk people and second-hand smoke, I loved the place! I even saw poets for rent, palm readings and all sorts of less than normal things!
We had dinner at this kinda upscale place called Miragny Brasserie. The food was meh and the service was downright yuck, and it was way too expensive for what it served. I had crawfish pasta that was recommended by the server, and it tasted so bland and there was hardly any crawfish in there – all for $18.95! I wouldn’t go back there again. 🙁
We then explored the place, went to Jackson Square, walked to the Mississippi River, then went to have beignets at Cafe du Monde, an old coffee shop famous for it’s cafe au lait and beignets. BEIGNETS! Those are really awesome. Think warm, fluffy fried dough coated in heaps of powdered sugar. Yee-um! We then took an extended walk from the French Quarter back to our hotel in the Garden district, it was a nice walk. It was 3am when we got back and I felt like the young and energetic college kid again!
After 4 hours of sleep, I woke up bright and not-so-early and checked out. I went back to the French Quarter via streetcar. The French quarter at 10am is pretty amazing. Bars are packed with sober people, and live music is still at every street corner. Tourists are everywhere and shops are open. The poets for hire, palm readers and street artists are also up and ready for the next day, which made me wonder – do these people ever sleep?
Walked around, went to the French Market and had a good cheap bowl of crawfish étouffée – easily the best meal I had the entire trip, and for cheap too! For $10.50, I had more than four times the amount of crawfish I had last night, and the broth was just so intensely seafoody and delicious! I now know to check Yelp for all my flooding needs, because although its a shitty business model that acts like a mafia, it still really works!
After that, Ii walked around a little more, saw the Mississippi River in the day, and it was back to the hotel and to the airport.
Three days in New Orleans was heck busy, but it was a blast! Most importantly, I got to see my lovely Lunies for a few days, played great music and explored a new city. Life is good, but it’s back to the grind in Boston again…