Day 5 / The Daze Between ... Monday, May 1

The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday between the two weekends of Jazz Fest, also known as the Daze Between, are a time to relax, recharge, catch up with life in the outside world, take in some street music, and in general get to know New Orleans and its people a bit better. It's turned into a part of the trip that is almost as enjoyable as Jazz Fest, and today was a perfect day to do it.

As is often the case, the weather after a stormy day was immaculate. There was not a cloud in the sky, the humidity was low, there was a very light breeze, and the temperature was comfortably warm. Simply perfect. Officially, the high was 82, the humidity during the daytime was around 30 percent, and the breeze was never more than 8 mph out of the northwest.

We had a pretty late night at the House of Blues and Daisy Dukes yesterday, so we didn't get to the Staybridge breakfast this morning. I mean, it's OK, but it's not worth setting an alarm clock for! So, when headed out this morning, our first priority was coffee and a bite to eat. The new location of the Envie Espresso Bar and Café on Decatur Street in the French Quarter across from the House of Blues is a perfect location for this. It's open to the street so that you can enjoy the weather on a day like today, and the ambiance in the café, with friendly people and customers and always great music to go along with the sounds of the espresso machine are just great. We often say that New Orleans is a city that feels like a European city in so many ways that it makes a vacation there even more appealing. Café Envie is a place that reinforces that feeling.

It was already warm enough for Laurie to have an iced Americano, while I had a regular café au lait. A late evening meal at Daisy Dukes has some staying power, so all we had to eat was a shared muffin.

After lingering for quite a while (we don't schedule ourselves too rigorously on the Daze Between so as not to disturb the daze), we headed off to Royal Street to catch some music and check out some shops and galleries.

Heading up toward Royal Street, Adrian Fulton's art gallery on Conti Street was interesting. He basically paints on whatever he happens to find on the street, mostly corrugated boxes, but also metal, wood pallets, etc., etc. He's a native of Philadelphia, graduated from the Philadelphia School of Printing and Advertising (now closed). He produced murals while working as an illustrator in Sicily and came to Louisiana through National Guard service in 1993. After what he calls 20 rocky years in technical career fields, he shifted his efforts back to his first love, which is art.

As you look at the gallery it looks to be in disarray, but if you look carefully you'd see that he is a very good and creative artist. Along the side of the building, on an alley known as Exchange Place, is where you will usually find him. As he paints on a box, he will flip it over and then fold it in half and turn it inside out, painting on every side. He just throws it around, showing no concern for saving it. He sees his painting as a way to connect to people. He is a warm, happy person with a brilliant mind that runs at a mad race. The whole experience at Fulton's gallery is made all the more pleasant by the presence of Abby, his friendly little dog, who you will often see dressed in some sort of outfit. Fulton is yet another true New Orleans original!

As we turned onto Royal Street, we encountered a couple of guys playing a keyboard and electric bass guitar, doing some Bob James style smooth jazz.

We checked out Sutton and Kako Galleries on Royal Street. A family business now in its fourth generation, Sutton Galleries features original oil and acrylic paintings, hand-embellished limited editions and more from American and European artists. Notable were some beautiful glasswork constructions from Mary Hong and some beautiful impressionistic photographs of New Orleans from Joe Dunn.

  

Kako Gallery, which you access by a long hallway leading to a lovely courtyard and garden, features work exclusively by local artists (New Orleans and southern Louisiana), most of it very reasonably priced. The people there are very friendly; it’s just what you’d expect in New Orleans. 

A bit further down the street, at her usual location outside Rouses Market at the corner of Royal and St. Peter, we had a second happy encounter with the clarinet master Doreen Ketchens. After so many years of not seeing her, this second time, and on a day like today, was just great.

Next we walked down Pere Antoine Alley, beside St. Louis Cathedral, and parked ourselves on a bench in Jackson Square. The traditional jazz band was playing, which we love, and all of the other sounds and sights in this area make it one of our favorite places to hang out on a nice day. After a while, we began to notice that everyone was taking a picture of the statue of Andrew Jackson and/or the cathedral, so I began to take pictures of the picture-takers. You can see the results of that diversion on the Photos page for Day 5 in the New Orleans Trips section of the website. It was a fun way to pass the time.

Eventually, we continued down Chartres Street to the French Market area, passing the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary's Church, which you can read a bit about on Day 5 last year. We had some fun with one of the carriage tours as the driver pointed out that a lot of celebrities lived in the area, claiming to be celebs ourselves. 

Once in the French Market we decided it was finally time for lunch, so we headed to an old standby, the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen on Barracks Street across from the Old U.S. Mint and the French Market proper. It's a very comfortable place with friendly service and very interesting pizzas. We cooled off with a Hopitoulas IPA from NOLA Brewing. After sharing a baby spinach salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and beets with a poppy-seed vinaigrette dressing, we got a bit adventurous and got a pizza with imported Italian mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, artichokes, and ... eggplant and fried oysters. It may have been a bit too adventurous!


We headed back to the Staybridge to stash the leftovers and take a break. On the way we passed a couple of electric violin players in Jackson Square (with loops, no less), a traditional jazz band on Royal Street, and a lone, very quiet electric slide guitarist sitting along the fence in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court building. You can see videos of all of today’s street music here.

         

Later this afternoon we walked a block up to Camp Street and headed away from Canal Street and the French Quarter to do some exploring in the Warehouse Arts District. Among the interesting buildings we saw were St. Patrick's Church, a Gothic beauty that dates back to 1840.

Next we came upon the old Lighthouse for the Blind, which is now an events center available for rental. Though it's modeled after the historic Port Ponchartrain (Milneburg) lighthouse, it was not built to serve navigation; rather, it served as a metaphor for the beacon the Lighthouse for the Blind organization hoped to become to visually impaired citizens of New Orleans. 

When the Louisiana Commission for the Blind purchased the building in 1924, the lighthouse was added to it and, eventually, their name was officially changed to the Lighthouse for the Blind.

We didn't get to the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) until just before closing so we didn't get inside. The CAC was formed in 1976 by a group of visual artists when the movement to tear down the walls between visual and performing arts was active nationwide. It began as an artist-run, artist-driven community organization when the area where it sits was nearly empty. As the arts district grew, so did the CAC, evolving to meet the increasing needs of a diverse audience and artist communities. 

     

Renovated in 1990, their building mixes the timelessness of New Orleans' historic architecture with contemporary materials and usable open spaces. It has about 10,000 square feet of gallery space on two floors for artists' bold experiments in painting, theater, photography, performance art, dance, music, video, education, and sculpture. In addition, there is room for the CAC's education and outreach projects, which offer intimate arts education settings where students, most for the first time, work together with artists, generating a greater impact through more personal, interactive experiences. Definitely a place to check out.

We turned down Andrew Higgins Boulevard and passed through the massive World War II Museum complex until we reached South Peters Street, which we turned onto to head back to the hotel. 

On the way we passed some interesting looking restaurants, the Ugly Dog Saloon and BBQ, the Wood Pizza Bistro and Taphouse, and Cochon and the Cochon Butcher, all places that we'd like to try sometime. The highlight on the way back to the Staybridge was passing the famous Howlin' Wolf Club and its wonderfully painted facade.

    

Tonight, we had a late dinner at Emeril's NOLA restaurant. Late on a weeknight is good for NOLA; the crowd has thinned a bit and you can actually hear yourself think. While we love NOLA, it is definitely loud when it's busy. 

Our wine was Vista Hills Pinot Noir from Oregon.

I finally tried Emeril's stuffed chicken wings (shrimp, pork, onion, and wood-ear black mushrooms) with a homemade hoisin dipping sauce, and then had the day's seafood special, corn-meal crusted Louisiana catfish over rice with baby shrimp étouffée and two potato salad croquettes. Both were down home good.

Laurie had fried green tomatoes with poached shrimp, celery root vinaigrette, horseradish aioli, and baby greens. For her main course she had a Louisiana crab cake with Creole corn macque choux and green tomato chow chow.

Our dessert was banana toffee bread pudding with whipped cashew toffee cream cheese, cane syrup caramel, and drunken monkey ice cream (made with Myers's dark rum, bananas, chocolate chips, and cashew brittle pieces). A glass of Royal Tokaji Late Harvest finished the meal.

Everything, from the setting to the service to the food was fabulous as usual, our sixth year in a row there. 

We took our time heading back to the hotel, enjoying a beautiful Gulf Coast evening. A new thing this year appears to be large groups of bike riders cruising the streets  on bicycles with colorful LED lights on the wheels, usually accompanied by one rider with a cranked-up boom box playing hip hop or electronic dance music. Once you get used to it, it is pretty cool.

 

© Jeff Mangold 2012