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All that jazz!

New Orleans celebrates tricentennial with yearlong celebration

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August 24th, 2017
Ecirb Müller’s Twisted Dixie Band performs at The Spotted Cat Music Club.

Ecirb Müller’s Twisted Dixie Band performs at The Spotted Cat Music Club.

New Orleans certainly knows how to throw a party, and in 2018, the celebration will be epic as the Big Easy commemorates its tricentennial. 

To prepare for the yearlong festivities, the city has invested in a variety of public works projects. Bourbon Street is getting a $6 million makeover and the streetcar lines are expanding to serve more neighborhoods. Special museum exhibitions, concerts, and fireworks displays are planned throughout the year. Annual events like Mardi Gras and the famed Jazz Festival will be “kicked up a notch,” as NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) chef Emeril Lagasse would say, to include tributes to the city’s 300th anniversary. 

“The 300-year history of New Orleans is a tale of creativity, enterprise, turmoil, triumph, and the magic of diversity,” says author and native New Orleanian Walter Isaacson, who serves on the city’s Tricentennial Commission. “I look forward to celebrating it all and looking at how it propels us into the future.”

Libations

In a city as hot as New Orleans, people tend to drink a lot. While Bourbon Street bars offer cocktails for less than $5, you’ll have to wade through scores of frat boys and bachelor party revelers to order your drink. 

Instead, head to one of the city’s upscale bars where craft cocktails are served in elegant and even historic settings. 

Start with French 75. Adjacent to the legendary Arnaud’s restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter, French 75 was honored with a 2017 James Beard Foundation Award for its commitment to premium spirits and classic cocktails. 

As you might expect, the establishment’s namesake cocktail is the best in the city. Made with Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice, and Moet and Chandon champagne, this French 75 is a cocktail to savor. It is the perfect accompaniment to gougères, cheese puffs made from gruyere cheese. Who knew cheese could be so light and airy? 

Another unique French Quarter establishment is the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone. As the name suggests, the bar is constructed within an actual carousel, and yes, it rotates. Don’t worry, you won’t spill your beverage or get motion sick because it makes one very slow revolution every 15 minutes. 

Outside the Quarter, don’t miss Hot Tin high atop the historic Pontchartrain Hotel. A great place to cool off after roaming through the city’s garden district, Hot Tin offers thoughtfully prepared cocktails to sip while enjoying a magnificent view of the city skyline and the Mississippi River. 

Good eats

The restaurants in New Orleans are world famous and many have been around almost as long as the city itself. While it’s certainly easy to spend a small fortune on dining, there are deals to be had.

Antoine’s is the nation’s oldest family-run restaurant and the oldest fine dining French Creole restaurant in New Orleans. Established in 1840, Antoine’s offers the consummate New Orleans dining experience. 

If you’re on a budget, try their lunch special: a three-course offering for the unbelievable price of $20.17. Further sweetening the deal, Antoine’s offers luncheon diners a special $.25 cocktail with the purchase of an entrée. 

When you finish your meal, don’t rush out. It’s time to have a look around. Over the course of Antoine’s 177-year history, the Alciatore family has amassed a collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia, photos, and other historical items that are beautifully displayed among the many dining rooms. 

Ask your waiter to give you a tour of the intimate rooms where kings, leaders of state, and celebrities have dined. Don’t miss the “Mystery Room,” where alcohol was served in coffee cups during prohibition. 

Another legendary NOLA restaurant is Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. It has won virtually every award a restaurant can earn and counts Emeril Lagasse and the late Paul Prudhomme among its former chefs. Tory McPhail, the restaurant’s current executive chef, won the James Beard Award in 2013.

Heavy cream and butter are the hallmarks of Creole cuisine, but if you prefer lighter fare, rest assured, Commander’s Palace and many other NOLA restaurants have healthy options on their menus. It’s part of a citywide program called Eat Fit NOLA run by Oschsner Health System. (For a full list of participating establishments, visit eatfitnola.com.)

Music 

A trip to New Orleans is not complete without some music. Bourbon Street music halls offer a steady stream of live performances throughout the day, but the raucous atmosphere of the French Quarter is not for everyone.

Head over to the hip Marigny neighborhood populated with unique shops, restaurants, and music venues. The Three Muses is a great place for casual dining and inspired soul. Down the street, The Spotted Cat is a cash-only bar where you’re sure to find local musicians playing their hearts out.  

The city’s tricentennial year is a perfect time to visit New Orleans. Whether it’s been a while since you last visited New Orleans or if you’ve never been there, you’re sure to discover a vibrant city that retains the best of its colorful history and traditions while simultaneously forging a modern identity that appeals to today’s tastes.  

For information about tricentennial events, visit 2018nola.com.

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