Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: A Romantic Overnight New Orleans Getaway

Michael and I recently enjoyed a relaxing overnight trip to New Orleans ahead of our Media Trip to learn all about Gulf Coast Seafood. I’ll be sharing more about our amazing seafood experience next week, but first I want to tell you about our Spring visit to one of our favorite cities. Michael and I were engaged in New Orleans in 2001, so it's a very special city for us! We arrived in New Orleans on a cool Sunday afternoon and settled into the Omni Royal Orleans – our home away from home or the evening. The Omni Royal Orleans is conveniently located in the heart of the French Quarter – making it easy to walk to nearby attractions and restaurants.
We settled into our lovely room and rested for a bit. It featured soothing colors, a comfy King size bed, and a gorgeous wrought-iron balcony overlooking the French Quarter below. Before we knew it, it was time for a late lunch at Tableau – the newest restaurant in the late Dickie Brennans’ restaurant group. Tableau is housed in a historic Creole townhouse on Jackson Square -- a quick 5-minute walk from our home base at the Omni Royal Orleans. We were warmly greeted, quickly seated, and given menus. We started with a pair of appetizers -- the Creole French Onion Soup and the Demi Royal Sampler. 
The Creole French Onion soup was rich and flavorful thanks to the addition of andouille sausage and a melted Gruyere crouton on top. The Demi Royal featured a trio of Creole seafood creations: crabmeat ravigote, shrimp remoulade, and truffled crab fingers. This platter was the perfect way for Michael and I to have a taste of Tableau's fresh Gulf seafood. The seafood was fresh and sweet, the perfect start to our meal! The next items out of the kitchen were our duo of seafood entrees. Michael selected the Gulf Fish St. Roch, and I opted for the BBQ Shrimp & Grits. Both were perfectly cooked and beautifully plated.
Michael's fish was delicate and moist inside and topped with
buttery St. Roch sauce, which featured jumbo shrimp, roasted mushrooms, garlic, and green onion. My BBQ Shrimp & Grits paired huge head-on shrimp served in a pool of spicy New Orleans BBQ sauce that was spiked with local beer. The rich shrimp were paired with creamy and rich grits flavored with chevre. The combination of flavors and textures was amazing. We ended our meal with a duo of shared desserts from their extensive dessert menu. It was a hard choice, but we decided on the decadent Praline Monkey Bread Pudding and Pecan Pie Vol-Au-Vent, both of which were serve a la mode. 
The bread pudding featured brown sugar and pecans baked into a biscuit bread pudding. It was served with a decadent butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. It was very rich, but oh-so-good...and perfect for sharing!The vol-au-vent featured classic Southern pecan pie filling baked in a crispy puff pastry shell. It was served with a brown butter ice cream. This dessert was rich, and the brown butter ice cream provided a nuttiness that worked well with the pecans. We were getting full, and twilight was starting in the French Quarter. On our way out, Tableau's manager gave us a tour of the property. The restaurant is located adjacent to The Little Theater, which features popular live performances and plays. Between The Little Theater and the restaurant's main dining area is a lovely Creole courtyard that allows diners to enjoy their meal al fresco, weather permitting. 

It was a drizzly evening in New Orleans, lending an eerie atmosphere to the French Quarter. During our walk back to the Omni, I halfway expected to run into the Vampire Lestat from Anne Rice’s famous novels! We returned to our peaceful oasis at the Omni Royal Orleans to digest a bit and take in the beautiful surroundings. The lobby area is nicely decorated with antiques and fresh flowers, making it a relaxing place to sit and read or enjoy some people watching.
Before we knew it, it was time for our late-evening dinner reservation at the Omni’s Royal Orleans' well-regarded Rib Room restaurant. The Rib Room focuses on perfectly prepared prime rib and other grilled meats, along with tasty side dishes. The Rib Room's impressive dining room features dim lighting and dark wood accents. 
We decided to try a slab of the Rib Room's signature roasted prime rib, which is perfectly cooked on a huge rotisserie grill. The chef told us that the prime rib is seasoned and cooked until it's brown and crusted outside, and tender and juicy inside. It was the best prime rib I've ever had -- so flavoful!
We also decided to sample a fish dish from the Rib Room's menu. Their Gulf fish was grilled over mesquite and topped with a lemon butter sauce. The perfectly cooked fish was moist inside and served on a round of cauliflower with roasted fingerling potatoes. For those who don't prefer to eat beef, the seafood options at the Rib Room are a fabulous option. We ended our dinner with a shared dessert.
Michael and I never met a bread pudding we didn't like, so the traditional bread pudding topped with strawberries was our pick. It was the perfect portion for sharing, and it tasted wonderful. After a filling meal at the Rib Room, it was so nice to simply walk down the hall to the elevator and head back upstairs to our room in less than 10 minutes.

We decided to check out the view from our balcony. It was a drizzly evening, lending an eerie atmosphere to the French Quarter below...and we couldn't resist snapping a picture. It was nearly midnight by then, so we sunk into our comfortable King bed, took advantage of the free in-room WiFi to check our e-mail and post some pictures on social media using our iPad. After that, we turned out the lights and quickly fell fast asleep. We wanted to be well rested so we could explore the French Quarter by foot the next morning. The next morning, we slept in a bit and took our time getting ready for our trek into the French Quarter. By morning the skies had cleared, and we had a lovely view of the sleep French Quarter below us. Such a peaceful way to start the day with a lovely morning and a view of the Mississippi River in the distance.
We were getting hungry, so we decided to walk through Jackson Square to enjoy a breakfast of beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde. For us, no trip to New Orleans is complete without at least one breakfast at this iconic location! There’s something quintessentially New Orleans about the powdered sugar-coated fried beignets and strong chicory coffee. After getting our beignet fix, we spent the rest of the morning walking around the French Quarter exploring shops and people watching.
During our walk, we couldn't resist stopping to take in views of the Mississippi River and St. Louis Cathedral, both iconic sites that everybody should stop to admire when visiting New Orleans. Zydeco music played from nearby shops, and we had this gorgeous view of St. Louis Cathedral in front us -- life was indeed good!
Before we knew it, it was early afternoon and time for us to head to our lunch reservation at Ralph Brennan's Red Fish Grill. This popular seafood restaurant is ideally located no matter where in the French Quarter you’re staying. Red Fish Grill is one of my favorite places to grab lunch in New Orleans -- the portions are generous, and the prices are reasonable. The seafood-centric lunch menu features the big-flavor food that Michael and I love. We were warmly greeted by the hostess and shown to our table. We looked over the menu and decided to start our lunch with a duo of appetizers and a cup of gumbo. We shared the fun BBQ Blue Crab Claws and BBQ Oysters, and Michael had to try a cup of their unqiue Alligator Sausage and Seafood Gumbo. All three of these dishes were so tasty!
The BBQ Blue Crab Claws featured lightly breaded crab claws served in a spicy butter sauce, with a cheddar scallion drop biscuit on the side. The BBQ Oyster was flash fried and topped with spicy Crystal BBQ sauce and homemade blue cheese dressing. The flavor was reminiscent of hot wings with blue cheese dipping sauce...so good! The gumbo was rich and flavorful, and the alligator sausage was delicious. Next up came our entrees. After 24 hours of rich food, I opted for a salad, while Michael selected a fish entree. 
My refreshing Grande Isle Salad featured boiled Gulf shrimp remoulade, jumbo lump crab, romaine, tomatoes, applewood bacon, avocado, boiled eggs, and a fresh corn relish. It was light and so flavorful...a perfect lunch! Michael's Wood Grilled Redfish & Crawfish Tails featured spicy blackened redfish topped with crawfish tails and a rich lemon butter sauce. It was served with tasso and roasted mushroom Pontalba potatoes. The fish was smoky and crusted with spices on the outside, and moist and flaky inside. We ended our lunch with a shared Bananas Foster Ice Cream Cake. This rich dessert featured thin layers of banana cake filled with spiced rum ice cream. It was served with caramelized bananas and flambeed tableside. What a fun way to end our meal! 
Photo provided by The Omni Royal Orleans
With that, it was time to head back to the Omni Royal Orleans and pick up our bags. The staff was so helpful -- they stored our bags for us while we were exploring the French Quarter, and they helped us find a cab to transfer us to our next destination. Our stay at the Royal Orleans was a wonderful experience! Be sure to come back next week to read about the continuing adventures of our trip to New Orleans and Biloxi -- where we learned all about Gulf Seafood.

Disclosure: The Omni Royal Orleans provided us hosted accommodations during our stay. In addition, the restaurants featured provided complimentary meals to facilitate inclusion in this article. All opinions are solely mine, and all photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or otherwise used without prior permission.

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