Insider’s 4-Day Cocktail, Culinary & Jazz Tour of New Orleans | 2015


WHEN:
Your choice of four dates in 2015:

May 24th – May 27th, 2015 (Sun through Wed) ~ SOLD OUT
~ or ~
May 31st – June 3rd, 2015 (Sun through Wed) ~ SOLD OUT
~ or ~
June 7th – June 10th, 2015 (Sun through Wed) ~ SOLD OUT
~ or ~
June 14th – June 17th, 2015 (Sun through Wed) ~ SOLD OUT

RSVP:
619-295-3939

COST:
$1,325 per person based on double occupancy
$285 single occupancy up-charge

Please scroll to the end of this announcement to the DEPOSITS heading for detailed info on how deposits will be charged.

>>> Please SCROLL DOWN for the full itinerary below, but here’s the blow-by-blow. Please note that there may be a few minor changes (like cocktail or venue substitutions) but, for the most part, this is what to expect! Put on your seatbelts and grab a drink … it’s a long read!

~ 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.

~ Leave San Diego any time you want just so long as you’re in the French Quarter by late afternoon Sunday as the first event begins at 4:30. 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 a discounted room rate of $239 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. You’re on your own for the flight but can usually get one for less than $400 round trip. Southwest, Continental, United and Delta all have flights so if you have air miles on one of those airlines the flights may even be free. The taxi from the airport to the hotel is a flat fee of $33.

~ First stop will be a block away from the hotel at Pier 424 Restaurant. We’ll meet in the upstairs private balcony room overlooking Bourbon Street 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 private room, you’ll be greeted with a legendary Commander’s Palace Brandy Milk Punch, the first of over twenty (yikes!) specialty New Orleans cocktails that you’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. (Make sure to watch his poetic ode to the Mint Julep.) The guy’s legendary; a real class act that brings New Orleans’ bygone racy history to life.

~ 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 Chartres House, an old locals’ bar for an equally old-school Tom Collins cocktail. Actually, we won’t be getting out of the carriages at this stop as the Chartres House 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 make our way to Tujague’s (pronounced “two jacks”) right next to the famous Jackson Square.

~ Tujague’s was founded in 1856 and is the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. (Antoine’s, which we featured in the 2012 tours, was founded in 1840 and is the oldest. Sadly, it has steadily gone downhill over the last ten years. As much as it tears me up to say this about what was once a great institution, and what continues to be the oldest continually operated restaurant not only in New Orleans but in the entire United States, do not waste your hard-earned money there … you will leave disappointed and ripped off.) Anyway, back to something more positive. You will love Tujague’s! Obviously very old school. How old school? They don’t even have bar stools at the bar … it’s one of the original stand up bars. They make an authentic Pimm’s Cup (which we will be greeted with upon entering) and are the birthplace of the Grasshopper. (When was the last time you had a Grasshopper? Well, you’ll have one here tonight with a decadent, don’t-tell-your-cardiologist-about-this housemade cheesecake for dessert.) Tujague’s went through a close call with extinction recently. Evidentially one of the senior partners was ready to call it quits a while back and jeopardized the entire future of the restaurant by threatening to sell off their key piece of corner real estate in the Monopoly Game puzzle to a strip center developer. (Arrgghh.) People were literally flying in from all over the world for the last several months to enjoy what they thought was going to be their last dinner at Tujague’s. The entire city was up in arms. Fortunately, cooler minds prevailed and now Tujague’s is back with a vengeance. And, boy are we relieved! We’ll enjoy a decadent 5-course pre-fixe dinner here complete with their trademark brisket with horseradish sauce “appetizer” providing a reprieve between courses two and four that folks in the know have been enjoying here for a century-and-a-half. You’re on your own for wine here if you want, but we’ve got the bookend cocktails covered.

~ After dinner at Tujague’s we’ll walk across the street and down a couple blocks to Palm Court, one of the original jazz clubs and recording studios on the outskirts of the Quarter. You’ll be greeted with a Manhattan as you enter (or other cocktail of your choice if you prefer) and then sit down for almost an hour of some of the best old-school live jazz you’ll ever experience. (On our last tour here, we had the privilege of listening to the music of Lionel Ferbos, who had just turned one hundred years old. Sadly, Lionel … who was the spitting image of my own father … passed away last year at the ripe old age of 102.) Anyway, sorry to be so melancholy, but we’ve just had so many great memories here. And if you feel like dancing and need a partner, Nina, the proprietor for the last almost half century, will be only too happy to oblige! 😉

~ What an epic way to end our first night in New Orleans. You will have experienced (and tasted) an amazing overview of classic New Orleans cocktails, will have experienced the French Quarter via horse-drawn carriage cocktail in hand, will have dined in one of the most classic of classic New Orleans restaurants in a private balcony room, and will have enjoyed some of the finest live jazz the city has to offer. Can it get any better? Yup! Put on your seatbelts and get ready for tomorrow. And in the meantime, party on at your own risk … but my recommendation is to walk (or pedi-cab or taxi) the half mile back to the hotel, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up raring to go … because you won’t want to miss a second of the filled-to-the-brim day we’ve got planned for the next day. Just keep hydrated and drink lots of coconut water!

~ You’re on your own for breakfast Monday morning but I suspect a cup of green tea or coffee and a banana (and some of that life-saving coconut water … we’ll show you where to buy it right by the hotel) will suffice for most after the previous night’s indulgences. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

~ 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 feast along with a specialty cocktail which, of course, we’ll enjoy afterwards for lunch. First we’ll make Andouille gumbo and shrimp Creole which we’ll enjoy with a “real” Hurricane, and then Bananas Foster and made-from-scratch pecan pralines for dessert.

~ After that there will be about two 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!

~ Holy moley … are you ready for a seven-and-a-half-hour progressive dinner through the Quarter starting at 2:45 in the afternoon?! We’ll meet in the private upstairs dining room (with private balconies overlooking Bourbon Street) at Le Bayou, a restaurant about a block away from the hotel. Here we’ll start with 300 freshly shucked oysters on the half shell paired with an old school Gin-based French 75 Champagne cocktail. Oysters and champagne … does it get any better?! A civilized way to start dinner I think. As we leave for the next stop, we’ll not leave empty handed. The bartenders at Le Bayou will prepare Moscow Mules to-go which we’ll take with us as we depart the Quarter on board a caravan of pedi-cabs heading to the Warehouse District. A short ten minute ride later, we’ll arrive at Root, a cutting edge restaurant specializing in housemade charcuterie. Here we’ll enjoy one of the best salads I’ve ever had: pig’s ear and Brussels sprouts (trust me on this) paired with their “Stranger” cocktail … a smoky Mescal-based cocktail that even non-Mescal lovers will enjoy. (Mary went nuts for both the drink and the salad in case you were raising your eyebrows on this pairing!) After that we’ll walk eight blocks (or pedi-cab on your own) to Herbsainte, a famous new classic restaurant where James Beard award winning chef Donald Link holds court. Here we’ll enjoy a classic Andouille and chicken gumbo perfectly paired with their “Cat-5” (named after category 5 hurricanes) Bourbon-based cocktail. So after appetizers, salad and soup, it’s now time for the main course. Next stop is 12 blocks away (about 15 minutes on foot). If you’re not up to hoofing it, grab a pedi-cab; otherwise join us for a leisurely, calorie-burning walk to Royal House where we’ll once again take over a private upstairs dining room with balconies overlooking the Quarter. Here we’ll enjoy another New Orleans classic – Blackened Redfish paired with a Cajun Bloody Mary made with house-infused pepper Vodka. By now everyone will need a reprieve from food I’m guessing, so after dinner we’ll head to Fritzel’s, my favorite jazz club on Bourbon Street. We’ll have a private one-hour jazz set here accompanied by any cocktail of your choice. The music is rocking here – high-energy, old school classics played by some of the most talented musicians in the Quarter, many of whom we’re fortunate enough to be on a first name basis with after all our “research” trips! So how do you end the perfect evening in New Orleans? Well, let’s set something on fire! Actually two things: Banana’s Foster and Café Brulot. And what better setting than the courtyard of Broussard’s (a short 4 block walk down Bourbon Street) next to their 100-year-old wisteria vine that’s practically engulfed the entire patio? Here we’ll enjoy the aforementioned flambés lighting up the night with their high octane flames as we finally settle down for the last stop of the evening. Afterwards relax and enjoy another nightcap here on your own if your wish or walk (waddle?) back to the hotel as we’ve now come full circle on the progressive dinner and are only a block away from the hotel.

~ As in the previous day, you’re on your own for breakfast Tuesday morning but I suspect a cup of green tea or coffee and a banana (and some more of that life-saving coconut water) will again suffice for most after the previous night’s big dinner.

~ Then at 11:00 we’ll meet at the Mississippi River about six 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 spicy Cajun Bloody Mary upon embarking and then take a break from the rich foods to enjoy a “simple” lunch of jambalaya, shrimp Creole, and southern fried chicken with bread pudding for dessert … but make sure to save some room for the finale dinner later coming up in five short hours!

~ After the cruise there will be about five hours of free time for you to do whatever you want. There are tons of quaint shops and bars 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 only 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 The Pelican Club three blocks from the hotel. And what an amazing dinner we’ve got planned. Pelican Club is a cavernous 23,000 square foot restaurant with rooms (some haunted) that go on forever. We’ll meet in their bar at 7:15 sharp (please be on time!) for a special “cocktail” reception we have planned for you that should set the tone for the evening. After that we’ll enjoy incredible, one-for-the-record-books, six-course dinner that pairs a specialty cocktail alternating with a different wine for each course. Mary and I stumbled upon this restaurant quite by accident while doing recon for this tour, and entered somewhat warily without high expectations. We sat at the bar, ordered only one menu item to be on the safe side in case it was a bust, were completely blown away by it, ordered another, were blown away again, and then pretty much proceeded to order the entire menu. The chef/owner finally came out to see who these two crazy people were that were ordering mass quantities of food, and we struck up an instant friendship. We then proceeded to go back for the next three nights (yes, it was that good) and then put together this pairing menu that is guaranteed to blow your mind.

~ Dinner should be over by 10:30ish (8:30 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 there are tons of great venues close by. You’ll probably find me back at Fritzel’s!

~ Whew! 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 one 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.

DEPOSITS & PAYMENTS
Reservations will not be guaranteed until a non-refundable deposit of $225 per person is received. A second non-refundable deposit of $400 is due 75 days before the tour starting date and the final non-refundable payment of $700 (plus the single occupancy up charge if applicable) is due 45 days before the tour starting date.

TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE
Please, please, please understand that we cannot issue refunds for any reason whatsoever. (This includes but is not limited to illness, a death in the family, loss of income or anything else.) If you want to get trip cancellation insurance in the event something comes up on your end that prevents you from going on the trip at the last minute, there are several on-line sites that can provide that service for as low as $60. Here’s a link to one site if you’re interested: http://www.insuremytrip.com/plans/index.html and here’s a link to a local San Diego travel insurance provider: http://www.csatravelprotection.com/. I cannot stress how strongly I recommend that you at least look into coverage, as it seems that every trip we do there’s always at least one person who can’t make it at the last minute for one reason or another, and while we always feel horrible about the circumstances surrounding it, at that point we are totally on the hook for your expenses whether or not you show up. We strive to make these tours as affordable as possible, and simply are not in a position to absorb the costs of cancellations. Thanks for understanding.

ATTIRE
Casual and comfortable! (I personally will be in shorts and flip-flops the entire four days … big surprise there.) Please also note that this is a physical tour that involves lots of walking, and that New Orleans sidewalks are notorious for large cracks and loose tiles. High heels are absolutely, positively, for sure, highly NOT recommended for your own safety! Expect daytime highs of 85 to 89 and nighttime lows of 68 to 74. Some rain is always a possibility so be prepared with an umbrella and a light raincoat which hopefully you won’t need. Also bring a light jacket for the evenings and a bathing suit if you want to go swimming at the hotel and you should be pretty much set.

Here’s the hour by hour (subject to modification) itinerary. Thank you and we look forward to sharing another special adventure with you!

ITINERARY (4 DAYS AND 3 NIGHTS):

SUNDAY: May 24 and May 31 and June 7, 2015
04:30-04:45 Walk to Pier 424 (1 block from hotel)
04:45-06:30 Cocktail seminar with Chris McMillian including 4 cocktails in the private balcony room at Pier 424
06:30-06:45 Walk to horse-drawn carriage caravan (1 block)
06:45-07:45 Horse-drawn carriage ride through the Quarter with to-go cocktails delivered curbside at Chartres House
07:45-10:00 5-course dinner in the private balcony room at Tujague’s including Pimm’s Cup welcome and Grasshopper dessert cocktails
10:00-10:15 Walk to Palm Court Jazz Club (4 blocks)
10:15-11:00 Jazz set including a cocktail of your choice at Palm Court Jazz Club
11:00 Walk (or pedicab/taxi) back to hotel (14 blocks) or visit more jazz clubs on your own

MONDAY: May 25 and June 1 and June 8, 2015
09:45-10:00 Walk to cooking school (5 blocks)
10:00-12:30 Cooking class and cocktail demonstration including lunch and a cocktail
12:30-02:45 Free time
02:45-10:15 7.5 hour progressive dinner through the Quarter and Warehouse District
02:45-03:00 Walk to Le Bayou (1 block from hotel)
03:00-04:00 1st Stop: Le Bayou (1 block from hotel) for oysters on the half shell + French 75 cocktail in a private balcony room
04:00-04:15 Pedicab to Warehouse District with to-go Moscow Mule cocktails
04:15-05:15 2nd Stop: Root Restaurant for pig’s ear salad + specialty “Stranger” Mescal cocktail
05:15-05:30 Walk to Herbsainte (8 blocks)
05:30-06:30 3rd Stop: Herbsainte for gumbo + specialty “Cat-5” Bourbon cocktail
06:30-06:45 Walk (or pedicab/taxi on your own) back to the French Quarter (12 blocks)
06:45-07:45 4th Stop: Royal House for blackened redfish + Cajun Bloody Mary cocktail in a private balcony room
07:45-08:00 Walk to Fritzel’s (4 blocks)
08:00-09:00 5th Stop: Fritzel’s for a private jazz set including a cocktail of your choice
09:00-09:15 Walk to Broussard’s (4 blocks)
09:15-10:15 6th Stop: Broussard’s for bananas Foster + flaming Cafe Brulot cocktail in the courtyard
10:15 Walk back to hotel (1 block) or visit more jazz clubs on your own

TUESDAY: May 26 and June 2, 2015 and June 9, 2015
10:45-11:00 Walk (or pedicab/taxi) to the Mississippi River (6 blocks) to board the Natchez riverboat
11:00-01:30 Riverboat jazz cruise including a welcome Cajun Bloody Mary and lunch in our private stateroom on the Natchez
01:30-07:00 Free time
07:00-07:15 Walk to The Pelican Club (3 blocks)
07:15-07:30 Hosted reception in Pelican Club bar (don’t be late!!!)
07:30-10:00 6-course finale extravaganza dinner paired with 4 cocktails and 3 wines at Pelican Club
10:00 Walk back to hotel (3 blocks) or visit more jazz clubs on your own

WEDNESDAY: May 27 and June 3, 2015 and June 10, 2015
08:00-??? Free time until your departure

INCLUDED IN COST:
1. Three nights lodging at Royal Sonesta Hotel
2. Cocktail seminar and drinks with Chris McMillian
3. Horse-drawn carriage ride with cocktail along the way
4. Dinner and two cocktails at Tujague’s
5. Jazz set and a cocktail at Palm Court Jazz Club
6. Cajun cooking class and lunch with a cocktail
7. Oysters and a French 75 cocktail at Le Bayou (progressive dinner stop #1)
8. Pedi-cab ride with a specialty cocktail from Le Bayou to Root
9. Salad and a specialty cocktail at Root (progressive dinner stop #2)
10. Gumbo and a specialty cocktail at Herbsainte (progressive dinner stop #3)
11. Blackened redfish and a specialty cocktail at Royal House (progressive dinner stop #4)
12. Private jazz set and a cocktail at Fritzel’s (progressive dinner stop #5)
13. Bananas Foster and a Cafe Brulet cocktail at Broussard’s (progressive dinner stop #6)
14. Riverboat jazz cruise including lunch and a cocktail
15. 6-course finale dinner paired with 4 cocktails and 3 wines at The Pelican Club

NOT INCLUDED IN COST:
1. Airfare to and from New Orleans (about $390 round trip from San Diego)
2. Cab fare to and from the airport (about $33 per couple each way)
3. Carriage driver tips (plan on $10-15 per person)
4. Pedi-cab tips (plan on $5 per person)
5. Musician’s tips at Fritzel’s (plan on $5 per person)
6. All breakfasts (but I doubt you’ll be hungry)
7. Cab or pedi-cab fares if you don’t want to walk