Monday, August 13, 2007

Taquerias and mimosas, oh my!

So while D. turned 30 on the 3rd - which was also the anniversary of our first date - we decided to postpone schmoopy anniversary fun for this past weekend. On Saturday night, we walked hand-in-hand down Magazine St. to Nacho Mama's for dinner.

D.'s favorite kind of food has to be Mexican - I'm fairly sure he could eat it constantly and never tire of it. I knew this before we actually met in person, and when he told me the night before our first date that we would meet on his birthday, it was obvious to me that we would be eating Mexican food for our first date...and that clearly I must show up bearing a token gift - in this case, a light-up 99-cent margarita glass from Party City. We ate at that small Mexican restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale a lot before I moved to New Orleans, and I actually kind of miss it.

It made sense, then, to celebrate our anniversary with Mexican food. Nacho Mama's is great - it's housed in a small space near the Bulldog on Magazine St., and has an unpretentious atmosphere. Classic rock is piped through the speakers, and while the margaritas didn't look all that impressive, the mojitos kicked ass. The food, though, was just awesome (as were the prices). The menu boasts your typical Mexican-American standards, but they add a lot of local flavor to their selections - crawfish and corn quesadillas, catfish burritos, etc.

The food was damned good - I had a jerk chicken burrito, and D. polished off a huge chimichanga, covered in white queso. He's a convert...I think we've found our new place for local Mexican.

While Nacho Mama's predates Katrina in uptown NOLA, Mexican food has really become prevalent in the metro area since the storm. A lot of immigration to the area for construction jobs has created this - now you see billboards in Spanish on I-10, and drink specials are advertised in both English and Spanish in the French Quarter. Jefferson Parish is waging a war against the taqueria vans that sell piping hot enchiladas and flautas around the area, but man, those vans could stack up against just about any quality Mexican restaurant. Mmmm.

Naturally a night of Mexican food requires quality tequila, right? The Superior Grill on St. Charles is nationally-renowned for its amazing selection of tequilas and its disturbingly and deceptively strong margaritas.

But that's not all...on Sunday morning, D. surprised me by taking me to one of my very favorite places in New Orleans for brunch - The Columns Hotel, nestled between Peniston and General Taylor, right on the Avenue.

On D.'s first visit up to NOLA after I moved, I took him to The Columns for brunch. We sat there on the front porch for hours, watching Sunday traffic on St. Charles and generally feeling content with the world at hand.

Yesterday may have upped that feeling (minus the minor case of heat exhaustion I got from the 115 degree heat index). We strolled down to the hotel, were seated, and immediately began chatting with the hostess - she's an outgoing midwesterner who makes you feel right at home, whether she's pouring you endless glasses of champagne (or mimosas, if you like) or talking about Marilyn Monroe's tragic death. A middle-aged Yorkshire native plays standards on an upright piano and opines about the proper technique when making Yorkshire pudding. Tourists walk by and gawk up at the hotel, trying to imagine what it looks like inside (and it's impressive).

The view from the front porch of the hotel is equally gorgeous - you peer through ancient, Spanish moss-draped oak trees out onto St. Charles Ave. The view will only improve once the streetcar is running uptown again. ::crossing fingers::

And the food? It's just amazing. Yesterday we ate seafood chowder, a cantaloupe and mixed greens salad with a poppy vinagrette, and banana bread pudding. Dave downed a blackened rib-eye steak with a merlot sauce, and I went straight for the deviled shrimp with the grit cakes. If you're EVER in New Orleans for a weekend, try to make it a point to eat brunch at The Columns. It's just that wonderful.

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