Twelve Nighttime Hours in New Orleans. Just Me and Food.

Last February I made a pact with two of my friends. The premise was that we would never return to New Orleans unless we were running a marathon. That way we’d burn off at least SOME of the king cakes, beignets, jambalaya, plates of cheese grits, and daiquiris that you can’t helping consuming while in the French Quarter.

So I am clearly breaking this pact as I speed down I-10, going 80 mph through a lightening storm so I can get to Mother’s before it closes. I’m only going to be in town for 12 hours (counting sleeping time) and I have to hit as many restaurants as possible.

I have to stop for gas outside of Baton Rouge, but I still manage to pull down Poydras Street and run into the restaurant at 9:50. I fly in, soaking wet, breathless, and triumphant over my reckless driving success.

The staff does not look amused. My triumph turns to embarrassment and I order my po’ boy and bread pudding to go. I slink out of the joint without taking any pictures. You can check out another blogger’s pictures and a more extensive review of Mother’s here.

 I enjoy my takeout after checking into the most disgusting hotel I’ve ever stayed at. I call this guy I’m kinda dating and inform him about the lack of towels, the plunger in the middle of the tub and the Kleenex that’s stuffed in the door’s peephole. He helpfully texts the following message: “U betta watch ur back down dere for flyin cockroaches. Ya heard me lil whodi?”

 As usual, I have no idea what the bayou-born guy is taking about, which is probably for the best. I’m still recovering from last years ‘ghost ride the whip’ conversation.

Telling myself that cockroaches can’t possibly fly, I check the beds for bugs anyway. This is just what happens when you book a hotel en-route via cell phone using Expedia’s ‘cheapest price’ option. I will not be returning to The New Orleans Midtown Hotel.

I check out of the hotel approximately five seconds after I wake up and point my car towards Decatur Street. I grab some beignets at Café Du Monde and reverently head to Central Grocery. I’ve been craving a muffaletta for seven months now. The sesame bun, olive mix, provolone and slices of meats do not disappoint. Perched on a barstool in the back of the store I try to savor my Italian sandwich by eating it slowly. I fail. It’s gone in ten minutes.

In rapid succession, I gulp down two cans of Diet Pepsi, order another muffaletta to go, run back to my car, turn the dial to Voodoo 104, and hit the road.

You gotta love NOLA. Despite the hotel and the fact that I was only in town for four waking hours, I leave the city full, smiling, and singing.

Half a Muffaletta and Half a Marathon

1/4 of a muffaletta - I ate two of themThe main reason I run is so I can eat more. Nowhere was this more apparent then in New Orleans. The moment my friends and I descended upon the French Quarter we began our 13.1 course meal of beignets at Cafe du Monde, Po’ Boys and bread pudding at Mother’s, and hurricanes wherever we could get them (after noon, of course). We told ourselves that we could eat all this because we’d be burning it off on race day. However, I think we’d have to run seven 1/2 marathons to cancel out all the gastro-delights that were readily available in NOLA.  

Our favorite dish was the muffaletta.  This Sicilian delight may not be what first comes to mind when you think of the cajun obsessed French Quarter, but it’s the sandwich I’ve dreamed about every lunchtime since. Invented in 1906 at Central Grocery Co. (923 Decatur St.), this handheld meal consists of thick Italian bread, salami, ham, provolone, and olive salad. It is too die for. And you actually will die of thirst unless you have at least two cold sodas available. Muffaletta’s are a tad on the salty-savory side.  

When I returned home to Las Vegas I went out on a quest to find an approximation of the muffaletta. The Jason’s deli franchise claims to have a decent muffaletta, backed up by a food network nod, but I was not impressed. I didn’t even finish mine. The cheese was melted, it had to many olives, it just wasn’t right. I longed to go back to Louisiana – just for lunch time.

However, a few days later at Nora’s, my favorite Las Vegas restaurant, I was sharing an antipasto salad with some friends and my taste buds immediatly went back to Central Grocery. Nora’s italian olive-provolone-salami salad is surely not a muffaletta, but reminiscent of  it. I guess the best dishes can’t be duplicated, but great food will always be around. And therefore, so will my running shoes.