I recently went back to New Orleans for the first time in 7 years. I was going for the ALA Annual Conference, which was there this year. The last time I went was in 2011 the last time this conference was there. The Ritz Carlton was one of the conference hotels this year so I decided I would take advantage of the conference rate to stay at a fancier hotel than I normally would. Apparently that also tipped it so that my husband decided he wanted to join me on the trip. I can’t say that staying at this particular Ritz Carlton felt as fancy as other Ritz Carltons I’ve been in, but I’m really happy my husband decided to come with me.
The opening keynote on Friday was Michelle Obama being interviewed by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. She talked about Becoming, the memoir she is writing due out in November. It was a great conversation and it made me miss the Obamas in the White House even more than I already do.
After the opening keynote I met up with my husband for dinner. He’s a vegetarian so it was quite the challenge to find places where there was something on the menu that he could eat while also letting me enjoy New Orleans style cooking. Friday night we wound up at a place called G.W. Fins, where I had one of the best meals I can remember having any time in the recent past. Everything started off great with little biscuits they serve. The person who sat us warned that they were addictive and we should pace ourselves. I’m glad the guy serving them only came by our table twice because I definitely didn’t need to eat a third one, but I would have had a hard time turning it down. For my entree I had parmesan crusted sheepshead. It’s a fish I had never heard of before, but it’s basically some type of mild white fish. It was amazing and it was heartbreaking to not be able to take my leftovers with me. If you’re ever in New Orleans I highly recommend this restaurant.
We of course started off Saturday with beignets at Cafe du Monde for breakfast. Saturday was my major conference day. I hit up the exhibit hall in the morning with my husband who I got a free exhibit pass for. I went to a couple of programs that unfortunately were not that good. One was too basic for me and one provided some very terrible copyright information. I spent a couple hours staffing our copyright booth and answering people’s copyright questions in between people asking if they could take my picture at the booth. I finished the day off with a committee meeting.
Saturday night was the one night I didn’t make reservations for ahead of time. That wound up maybe not being the best idea as it took us awhile to find somewhere to eat that had availability and could feed my husband.I originally thought we might walk over to Frenchman Street and find somewhere to eat over there or on the way and then listen to some jazz in some of the bars over there. My feet were too destroyed by the end of the day to make that a viable plan, so I wanted to stick around somewhere closer to our hotel. We wound up at someplace called Mr. B’s Bistro because their website assured us they took walk-ins. The food there was okay, but not nearly as good as G.W. Fins. I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there, but it will do in a pinch.
Since my original music plan didn’t work out we wound up at Preservation Hall instead. I can’t complain about that. We got out of dinner just in time to get in line for the 9 pm show. We even managed to get in early enough that we got to snag a seat on a bench right in front of the fan, which made it only slightly less oppressively hot. I have no idea how those guys play 5 shows a night in that non-air conditioned space during the summer.
Sunday we decided to try Cafe Beignet for breakfast instead because there was one much closer to our hotel than Cafe du Monde. While I appreciated being able to get a banana and some iced chai along with my beignet, the beignets were not nearly as good. They were much more dense. I guess there’s a reason Cafe du Monde is the gold standard of beignets.
I had one committee meeting I had to be at on Sunday morning, so I went to that and then I called it a conference. I was paying out of my own pocket to go to this conference, so I didn’t feel bad in treating it somewhat like a vacation as well. We met up with one my friends for lunch at a place called Magazine Pizza, which met the criteria of being veggie friendly for my husband and having gluten free options for my friend. It was great to catch up with her. Since she is the only other person I know at least personally who goes to at least as many concerts as I do, I was happy to introduce her to my husband so he’s knows I’m not the only crazy music fan out there.
Speaking of being a crazy music fan I found out there was a Cajun Zydeco music festival going on in Louis Armstrong Park. We walked over there and found some shade to sit in and listened to some music for awhile. It was nice to get out and do something that actual people who live in New Orleans were doing rather than just hitting the more touristy places. Also sitting outside and listening to live music is one of my favorite things, so this was a perfect way to spend the afternoon in my opinion.
Sunday night we had reservations at a place called Brennan’s. I didn’t love my blackened red fish. Somehow the seasoning felt sooty even though everything was covered in tons of butter. I was much happier with the rock shrimp that came on the side as well as the zucchini and summer squash mix. I was very pleased with the squash, which is usually mushy and not my favorite. This still had a nice crunch to it.
Monday we basically had time to hit up Cafe du Monde one last time before heading back to the hotel to get showered and ready to head to the airport. It turned out to be a really nice trip. I’ve lost a lot of my normal conference pals in recent years as people have rotated off committees and stopped paying to come to the big conferences. With my husband there I ate at much nicer places than I would have on my own, and it was nice to spend the time with him.