Wednesday morning was our last full day in New Orleans, and I’d scheduled a swamp tour by Dr Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours. I didn’t want to go on an airboat (too loud), and this tour was advertised as fairly biologically minded. The tour would send a van to pick us up at our hotel at noon (good since we didn’t rent a car), so we had plenty of time to get a few things done in the morning.
My husband went for yoga while I went on my ill-fated (but ultimately good) 6 mile run in which I took a tumble. After our exercise, we went to The Ruby Slipper Cafe for a late breakfast. My husband got an omelet while I went for the Egg Coubion, which was thin fried catfish over toast and topped with poached eggs, spinach, artichoke hearts, tasso ham and a creole tomato court bouillon (no idea of what that is but it was yummy). I didn’t eat the toast, (kinda soggy), but I really enjoyed all the rest.
The van picked us up right on time and we shared the ride with several other travelers. It took about 30 minutes to get to the swamp in Siddell. I didn’t realize how chilly it would be out there, so when the boat got moving, I was freezing. Also, it’s winter in the swamp so it wasn’t green and it was more flooded than in the warmer months. And pretty much all the critters were in hibernation. So, basically we saw Spanish Moss, some turtles (yay! my favorite), one osprey, a snake I’m pretty sure was dead and a cat. Excuse me, Swamp Cat.
We also saw a fishing village of shacks all along the swamp, which was interesting. Our guide said they were swamp people, or actually folks who fish and shrimp, etc., in the waters. I didn’t see any folk out there, although I’d been really hoping for a Swamp Thing sighting.
I’m glad I went, even though it was not the right season for it. I might’ve chosen to go to a plantation instead now knowing that “winter” is not very exciting in the swamp.
Instead of riding back to our hotel, we got off the van with another passenger in the French Quarter and we walked to Cafe du Monde to get their famed beignets and chicory coffee for a snack. They surely go through a ton of powdered sugar at the place. We noticed that the sidewalk outside was sprinkled with the stuff from people taking their pastry to go.
We took a leisurely walk along the river walk back to our hotel and enjoyed some more street music. Then it was time to change for dinner. It was a two mile walk each way, so I eschewed the sandals that had given me raw feet a few days earlier.
Dinner reservations were at Commander’s Palace, which is a long-time institution in New Orleans. It’s located in the Garden District right across from the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Right away, we knew it was going to be a good experience based on how we were greeted upon entering the restaurant. Very swank. My husband and I did dress up a bit, but my shoes were decidedly casual. However, except for the older clientele (a fur or two made appearances), we were the dressiest patrons.
The staff was top notch, friendly but unobtrusive. I started with the Shrimp and Tasso Henican, which came with sweet onions, pepper jelly, a hot sauce beurre blanc and, my favorite, pickled okra. Man, was this delicious. I think my husband got gumbo, but I was too busy eating my appetizer to pay any attention to his soup. I did share a bite of mine with him, and he almost ordered it for his dessert (he’s ordered weirder things for dessert before).
My entrée was another classic from their menu, Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish. I forget which fish it was, maybe drum? Flounder? This was served with crushed sweet corn, spiced pecans and a poached blue crab. Again, it was perfect and delicious. I ordered a side of winter root vegetables, which included multi-colored carrots and the wonderful addition of Romanescu cauliflower (if you’ve never had this, you must seek it out. It usually shows up in our New England farmers markets in late fall and only for a few weeks).
Then we each got our own Bread Pudding Soufflé. Normally I think soufflés are a lot of fuss and not all that exciting, but this was terrific and surprisingly light. My husband didn’t regret not getting the shrimp for dessert, and he’s not usually a real dessert person.
The next morning, our flight home was delayed a couple hours. We actually had to sit on the Tarmac while the plane was being fixed (always disconcerting) and we missed our connection. We got home later than expected, but luckily our driveway had less snow on it than we’d feared and we were able to get into the house.
And now, it’s back to normal life and I wish I were still in New Orleans. The trip was everything I’d hoped it be, and there is still so much left to see.