Listen—Do You Want to Know A Secret?

by Nancy Bestor

IMG_1991On a recent trip to New Orleans, Bob and I were studying Yelp reviews, looking for an interesting place to have dinner, when the words “Secret Feed Me Menu” caught my eye. That’s right, the Louisiana Bistro in the French Quarter has a “secret” menu. You tell the chef that you would like either a 3, 4 or 5 course meal and that you want him to “feed you.” After letting him know of any allergies or strong dislikes, you put your meal in his hands, and he prepares whatever he feels like cooking for you that night. This option isn’t listed anywhere on the restaurant’s menu, you have to know about it and ask for it, kind of like the animal or protein style burger at In N Out (but a whole lot better!). The restaurant is even a little off the beaten path, down a quiet street in the Quarter, with a simple unobtrusive front.

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Bob and I could not pass on this opportunity. We both like to be fed, have no strong dislikes, and love secrets (well I do anyway). How could this meal go wrong? Turns out, it could not. We arrived at the Louisiana Bistro at 7pm on a Saturday night and left 3 hours later, both fatter and happier. We felt like royalty in this quaint spot. For every course (and guess how many courses we chose), Chef David would come to our table with our dishes, telling us exactly what he prepared for us. He got down on his knees at the edge of the table and told us his secrets—okay they weren’t really his secrets, but he did break each dish down by ingredient, and let us know exactly how he made it. I saw someone at another table ask the waiter what we were having, and when he told them it was a dish specially prepared for us, I couldn’t help but sit a little straighter, and delight a little louder in what I was eating.

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And boy, did we eat well. Our meal included mirliton (or chayote/squash for us laymen) and gulf shrimp in a whiskey caramel sauce, alligator bread pudding, pork ribs and collared greens, blackened catfish in a creole tomato sauce and alligator tail with sweet potato hash. For all the food we got and the personalized service, the meal was not horribly expensive at about $65 per person. The dinner was delicious, the service great, and the surprise of not knowing what you were going to get an enjoyable aside. It reminds me a little of choosing a hotel on Priceline or Hotwire. You know the quality of the hotel you’re going to get, and the location, but you just don’t know the hotel name itself. We knew the quality of our food would be good, but just didn’t know what we would be eating. It was fun, and it also made me feel like I was in a secret club. And who doesn’t want to revert to middle school and join in a secret club every now and then?

 

Superstition Ain’t The Way

by Nancy Bestor

I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve never heard one, seen one, or been startled by one. As a kid, I always loved the Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo stories where the “ghost” was proved to actually be someone trying to scare away the amateur detectives. On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion ride is one of my favorites in Disneyland, because a good scary ghost story is always entertaining. So when Bob suggested we sign up for a Haunted History Walking Tour of New Orleans when we visited the city last fall, I was happy to oblige.

Tour guide Denise met our group at dusk to lead us on a two-hour walk around the French Quarter. She did a great job of pointing out interesting buildings and recounting historical facts – and of course, she titillated us with the ghost tales of the Quarter. We learned about a haunted floor of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, where the ghosts of photo 3children roam the halls, giggling and stomping their feet. Then we heard about the LaLaurie House, a home where the owners allegedly abused their slaves. We were told that spirits now haunt the house, due to its violent history. And there’s the beautiful Hotel Provincial on Chartres Street, which was once a military hospital. Apparently, the ghosts of soldiers still roam the building. Guests have reported seeing wounded soldiers crying out in pain, and bloodstains on bedcovers that mysteriously appear and disappear at will. There is even a restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter, Muriel’s Jackson Square, that offers a table nightly for the ghost of Pierre Jourdan. The former owner of the historic building, Jourdan is said to still “reside” in Muriel’s, so each evening they set a dinner table with candles, wine, and bread, welcoming Jourdan’s spirit to dine.

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Bob, like myself, is a ghost skeptic (I’m glad we found each other), so it was an amusing tour for both of us. Denise, on the other hand, is a believer, as apparently were many of the people on the tour. They too told stories of unexplainable things they’d heard while staying in French Quarter hotels, and times where the goosebumps on their arms confirmed their suspicions about ghosts. Our tour guide was a great storyteller, and whether the stories were true or not really didn’t matter to me. The Haunted History Walking Tour of the French Quarter was an enjoyable way to spend the evening, and well worth the $20, even if I didn’t get chills from ghosts passing by my side.