Cocktail, Culinary & Jazz Tour of New Orleans | 2012


TRIP DATES:
May 27-30, 2012
June 3-6, 2012
June 10-13, 2012

COST:
$1,295 per person based on double occupancy. $235 single occupancy up charge.

DETAILS:
Please scroll down to the end for a detailed list of what is and isn’t included in the cost.

SUNDAY
We’ve reserved a block of interior courtyard rooms at the beautiful Royal Sonesta Hotel right in the heart of the French Quarter on Bourbon Street. This is hands down our favorite hotel in the Quarter and the interior courtyard rooms are quiet even though the hotel is right on Bourbon Street.

We’ll leave San Diego Sunday morning and arrive New Orleans early afternoon. (If you want to arrive a day or two early, or stay a day or two longer, we’ve made arrangements with Royal Sonesta for discounted room rates for any additional days for our customers.) New Orleans is two hours ahead of us so we’ve purposely scheduled all of the events to start late and end late local time so you won’t be jet lagged and should return back to San Diego relatively unscathed.

After checking into the hotel, you’ll have about one to two hours to freshen up and relax before we hit the ground running.

First stop will be about a 12 block walk (or a $5 cab ride or a $2 streetcar fare) to the New Orleans Cocktail Museum where we’ll have a private cocktail seminar and tasting with Chris McMillian, probably the most famous of all New Orleans bartenders. Chris is a fascinating historian and story-teller and has been featured by the Smithsonian for his extensive knowledge of New Orleans cocktail lore. Upon entering the museum you’ll be greeted with a legendary Commander’s Palace Brandy Milk Punch, the first of well over a dozen specialty New Orleans cocktails that we’ll experience on this trip. Chris will then explain and prepare three more cocktails for us to sample: Ramos Gin Fizz, Mint Julep and the Sazerac. (These will be half-sized portions!) If you want to get a preview of what’s in store here go to youtube and search Chris McMillian for a sampling of his videos. The guy’s legendary; a real class act.

After the “seminar” we’ll walk outside where there will be a caravan of horse-drawn carriages waiting for us. Soon after boarding we’ll make a stop at Lu Brow’s legendary Swizzle Stick Bar for her famous Adelaide Swizzle. We won’t actually be getting out of the carriages here as Lu and crew will be delivering the cocktails to our carriages. Adds a whole new dimension to “curbside service” dontcha think?! (In case you were wondering, in New Orleans it’s legal to drink on the streets as long as it’s from a disposable cup.) From here we’ll slowly meander our way through the French Quarter for almost an hour until we get dropped off at Palm Court Jazz Cafe.

There we’ll be greeted with a “real” daiquiri at the door before sitting down for dinner and a three hour jazz performance by Lionel Ferbos and his band. At 101 years old, Lionel is the oldest performing musician in New Orleans and is still going strong. We had the good fortune to see him perform at Palm Court over Thanksgiving weekend and ironically I was able to find a youtube video shot at the same location and on the same month we were there. Here’s a prelude of what’s in store … enjoy! ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2odr8ccyjM

After dinner you’re on your own to either walk or cab it back to the hotel. It’s about a 10 minute walk or a $5 cab fare.

MONDAY
You’re on your own for breakfast but I suspect a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit will suffice for most after the previous night’s big dinner.

At 11:00 we’ll walk over to a local cooking school a couple of blocks down the street where we’ll have a private demonstration on preparing a classic New Orleans dinner which, of course, we’ll enjoy afterwards for lunch along with some local Abita beer. We’ll make Andouille gumbo, shrimp Creole and bananas Foster plus learn how to make pecan pralines from scratch.

After that there will be about two and a half hours of free time for you to explore the Quarter on your own or just go back to the hotel and lounge around the pool. Everything in the Quarter is within walking distance so this is a great opportunity to burn off some calories because you’re going to need it for what comes next!

Are you ready for a seven hour dinner?! We’ve got the most amazing progressive dinner through the Quarter planned starting around 4:00 and ending around 11:00. We’ll start with appetizers at Luke’s just outside the Quarter about five blocks away where we’ll be greeted with a gigantic iced table of about 300 oysters on the half shell plus one of my all-time favorite Champagne-based cocktails for everyone, the French 75. Oysters and Champagne … does it get any better?! For the main courses we’ll walk back to G. W. Fins, a contemporary seafood restaurant next to the hotel which is easily one of my top five favorite places in the Quarter. There we’ll have an assortment of super fresh specialty seafood dishes along with an artisan cocktail. After that we’ll take a short break to let the food digest and take a four block walk down Bourbon Street to Fritzel’s, an old European club for cocktails and a private jazz performance by my friend and clarinetist extraordinaire Tim Laughlin and his group. From there we’ll walk about three blocks for the one-for-the-record-books desert finale at Antoine’s, the oldest restaurant in the entire USA. We’ve got a private dining room with our own private balcony where our favorite waiter “Precious Paul” will serve us Baked Alaska (which was invented there along with Oysters Rockefeller) and a flaming Café Brulet cocktail. After the leisurely dessert he’ll give us a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchens, the Mardi Gras displays going back to the 1800?s, the other sixteen private dining rooms and finish by showing us the tunnel where booze was smuggled in during Prohibition. The place is cavernous (about half a city block wide and deep and three stories tall). Lot of history here to say the least and definitely a stop you’ll never ever forget.

After dessert we’ll walk (waddle?) the two short blocks back to the hotel to call it a night or, for the more adventurous, continue the party with some new friends on Bourbon Street.

TUESDAY
As in the previous day, you’re on your own for breakfast but I suspect a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit will again suffice for most after the previous night’s big dinner.

Then at 11:00 we’ll meet at the Mississippi River about seven blocks away to board the steamboat Natchez where we’ll take a leisurely cruise for a couple of hours while enjoying some live jazz on the water. We’ll have our own private dining room with its own private bar and outside balcony. We’ll enjoy a specialty cocktail upon embarking and then take a break from the rich foods to enjoy a “simple” lunch of some New Orleans classics: gumbo, po-boys and muffulettas … because you’ll want to save yourself for the finale dinner later that evening.

After the cruise there will be about four hours of free time for you to do whatever you want. There are tons of quaint shops, bars and restaurants to explore in the Quarter, or if you want a break from the hustle and bustle, the Garden district with its beautiful architecture and famous above-ground cemeteries is a short streetcar ride away. History buffs can also check out the national World War II Museum on the way to the Garden district.

The finale dinner will be at Muriel’s about six blocks from the hotel. We’re taking over the private upstairs dining room with its own private corner balcony overlooking Jackson Square. We’ll meet at 6:00 for hosted cocktails in the haunted Séance Room for an hour and then move to our private room for a four-course traditional New Orleans dinner.

Dinner should be over by 9:00ish (7:00 San Diego time) at which time you are free to walk back to the hotel to call it an early night or, if you want to relax and enjoy some more jazz but want to escape the 24/7 activity of Bourbon Street, we’ll take whoever wants to join us to visit some of the great jazz clubs seven blocks away on Frenchmen Street.

WEDNESDAY
Wednesday will be a travel day back to San Diego for most. There are many flight options so if you have pressing business back home you can schedule an early flight, or if you want to linger the final day on your own, then schedule a late flight. Return flights back to San Diego leave pretty much continuously from 5:30AM to 5:30PM.