November in Nola - 2021
In November Don and I met up with family, for our 5th Nola Thanksgiving.
The gathering involved my 3 siblings and their spouses. 6 of us traveled from 3 different states to have the big turkey feast at my brother and sis-in-law's home. But we made sure to squeeze in one dinner, in the French Quarter.
The outing to Antoine's felt sinful for many reasons. It seemed crazy to indulge in a big dining adventure, before Thanksgiving! (but we always do)
I also felt some nagging guilt, about leaving my poor hubby behind. We love to share adventures, at iconic restaurants. But we planned this gathering (with my sibs and spouses) a year before. We had no clue that Don would have bypass surgery in October and a fractured back in November. Actually, Don was sort of happy to relax at the hotel, after our 6 hour drive from Texas.
After nearly 2 months of hunkering at home during Don's recovery, it felt odd to walk into a restaurant. It also felt strange to enter a New Orleans building, where we actually felt comfortable removing our masks. We've all been so cautious.
A year ago, we never guessed we'd be dealing with our second Pandemic Thanksgiving. But our group felt at ease, knowing that Nola restaurants required vaccination cards. (This was before omicron worries invaded the 2021 holidays!)
Mirrors and Windows
After we each showed our proof of vaccine to the host, we were escorted to a corner table in the front of the room. The floor to ceiling windows were perfect for peeking out at St. Louis street. The mirrored walls made it easy to spy on other guests.
Our table felt like an oasis. We were suddenly being pampered. They even rushed a coatrack over, for my brother's hat. Love that.
After nearly 2 years of zooming with my sibs/spouses, we were suddenly together in person... toasting across a round table. Ah, so many memories and photos of this family sitting around the round the Meyer Table, that moved with family from state to state! (blog tangent!)
Honestly the feeling was a bit surreal. There have been so many ups and downs and so many cancelled trips for all of us, during the pandemic. We weren't sure until this very day, that we'd really pull this reunion off.
Main Dining Room
Antoine's has over a dozen dining rooms and I was so pleased to be seated in the main one. This is the space that all guests have entered, for 154 years.
It was fun to settle in, on a chilly November night. The large Christmas tree was cleverly reflected, in all the mirrors! The room felt festive and warm. Cheers for warmth! Even as recently as the 1950's, the gas chandeliers were the only source of heat.
The menu was a quick reminder that Antoine's goes back 182 years! Antoine Alciatore started the French Creole business a block or two away, in 1840.
I was starved after a day of driving from Houston. I dug into the bread as I studied the menu.
Our waiter Austin took good care of us.
Luckily he was willing to humor me when I pulled out the old cookbook.
First, I asked Austin if they served French Pancakes A La Gelee. He said no, so I had to pull out the 1954 book to remind him, that they once did. He was a good sport and chuckled and posed for a photo. But it was a busy night and I hardly expected him to pull up a chair and flip through the pages... like some waiters have, with past cookbook encounters.
No pancakes for me, so I went for the dish that Antoine's is known for. Austin wisely reminded me that there was no spinach. Most people expect that, when they order this famous oyster treat. But Antoine's created the dish in 1889, with green sauce and a mix of herbs and vegetables. No spinach.
There's a story about how this creation came about. There was evidently once a shortage of escargot and this was a creative replacement. My Oysters Rockefeller was tasty, but I'll admit I missed the spinach. I also missed my special fork. The little utensil was hidden by my plate and showed itself, when my plate was cleared. Oops.
For my main dish, I chose the herb-roasted chicken with smoked ham, onion rice and 2 sauces.
Double sauce! Rochambeau and bernaise, pineapple confit! And how about the classic dish it was served in!
There was another classic dish that I was dying to try.
Luckily my Sis-in-law shared some of her Soufflé Potatoes! Thanks, Kate! Fried little airy puffs of yummy potato!
My other Sis-in-law was sad that we hadn't been warned to order the Baked Alaska earlier. But Austin was able to set us up, with a mini version.
Karen deserved this treat, since she had been a good sport, putting up with a nose scrape. She was also a good sport sharing this goodie, which meant she didn't get a whole lot for herself!
Our server Austin couldn't have been more delightful. When he brought out the check, it was on a very special little plate.
It's hard to read in the photo, but the words say: "Antoine's Restaurant Since 1840 (and) Austin Murray Serving Since 1978" That is impressive! Austin told us some quick stories about rescuing dogs during Katrina. But I wish I could have heard more stories from his 4+ decades, working at Antoine's.
Off to the Ladies Room
After finishing up, I took a trip to the Toilette Des Dames! I took a photo of the sitting area. I was curious about the art covered screen that covered the back door.
Only later with some reading, did I learn about a special door in the back of the Ladies' Room. The door was known to some special regular guests, during prohibition.
After dinner, we did a little wandering. We meandered through most of the endless rooms, on the first floor. The Mystery Room was one of them.
The Mystery Room was once a full bar, hidden in the carriage house. During prohibition, regular guests were given a cup with a key. The key opened that little door in the Ladies' washroom. Guests could get something a little stronger than coffee, for their cups. If anyone later inquired about their beverage, they were to answer, "It's a mystery to me."
Oh I love stories like this!
The 1840 Room
It was about 10 pm, so we did a fairly quick sweep through the halls and rooms. I could have spent an hour in each.
The 1840 Room was built in honor of the restaurant's centennial celebration, in 1940.
The Rex Room
A number of rooms are named for Mardi Gras krewes.
This bright green & gold room, was decorated in honor of one of New Orlean's oldest. The Krewe of Rex.
The Proteus Room
The seaside colors in the Proteus room, were a little more calming!
This was another private dining room, named for a carnival krewe.
I was glad to be touring around at 10 pm, on a weeknight so close to Thanksgiving. If it had been a Saturday a few weeks later, these doors might have been shut for private parties.
Escargot Society Room
I loved the snail on this wall!
This room was established for the Escargot Society, (of distinguished culinary enthusiasts) so I read. I Googled the club and didn't exactly find any scoop, so I guess I won't try to join.
I headed past a lovely old fireplace to find a totally empty bar.
This bar with windows onto St. Louis Street, would probably look very different on a Saturday in the summer. I was surprised to learn it was added in recent years.
The biggest dining area was in the center of the building.
It was busy when I first walked through to the Ladies' Room. I noticed that fewer men were wearing jackets. The jacket rule ended with Hurricane Katrina.
The large red room was empty when we headed back to the main room after our exploring. I was able to peek at some of the famous folks on the wall, without bothering diners.
There are way too many to name. Whoopi and Groucho looked down at one table, Katharine Hepburn at another. Almost every president since Hoover has dined here. And Brad Pitt has been known to ride his bike here.
Last to Leave
As we headed into the main dining room, it looked like we were about the last to leave.
We wished the fabulous staff a Happy Thanksgiving!
Before we took off, we got a photo of our family. (Missing Don and my sis-in-law on this night) It looks like the Meyer gang wasn't the only family in our photograph. Are those members of Antoine's family on the wall behind us?
What an amazing history. Antoine would be pretty happy to know that the restaurant he worked so hard to create was still making diners happy! His great-great grandson, Rick Blount is the CEO today. 5th generation! I love a good family and I love mine!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.