Sunday, November 23, 2008

Avocado Pesto and a Voodoo Queen

Only in New Orleans can you fill up on a brilliant avocado pesto tofu sandwich, wash it down with a sweetly tart watermelon limeade, and minutes later walk through a tombstone city whose most visited resident is a Voodoo Queen.
The Garden District is an area of the city that is punctuated by its late 1800's mansions, gorgeous architecture, ornate iron railings, and a generally Anne Rice vibe. It is home to Surrey's, an organic breakfast and lunch place on Magazine Street.

Surrey's is located in a residential neighborhood, and the inside looks like the renovated porch of an old, big house. Its walls were decorated with huge canvases painted with Louisiana bayous. In addition to non-vegan breakfast stuff (eggs and pancakes), Surrey's offered a tofu breakfast platter (a ginger stir fry); fresh squeezed, organic, and (mostly) local juices; Cajun-style hash browns; and an excellent avocado pesto tofu sandwich on sourdough bread.

The coffee was great and they had soy milk as well. The watermelon limeade was ridiculously, divinely refreshing. The service was excellent, very eager to point out vegan options and very sweet, constantly filling up our quickly emptying coffee mugs. If we had more time in New Orleans, we'd definitely go back. If we lived there, this would be one of our regular lunch places.

There is a huge Whole Foods in The Garden District, which has possibly the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. If we had more time, we'd have walked around this area a bit more. There are lots of little shops along Magazine Street, sort of the main drag in The Garden District. This is also the area to find one of New Orleans' cities of the dead, the cemeteries populated with above ground tombs. The water table lies four feet under ground, making in ground burials impossible.

Though brightly lit by daylight, I was hesitant to go into the cemetery. It wasn't vampire or ghost stories that frightened me, it was the maze like layout with uneven and broken tombs that could concievably provide excellent hiding spots for muggers and thieves that had me hesitant. I was jumpy the whole time we were there, which sort of makes sense, I guess. It would be a little weird if I was really comfortable in a place like this.
Though completely paranoid, my curiosity was totally piqued, and I was way too intrigued to just turn around and leave. We kept walking further in, turning at this tomb, walking to another. We saw black adorned mourners, and that oddly made me feel more comfortable since empty didn't feel right at all. Some of the tombs were crumbling, maybe due to vandalism, maybe due to weather, maybe due to vampires rising (maybe I shouldn't have re-read Interview with a Vampire while I was on the plane!). Eventually, we made enough turns to start heading toward the narrow entrance way in which we came in, and a huge tour group gathered there which almost made me feel silly to be wary in the first place. The crowd assembled around the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau's tomb, the most visited tomb in New Orleans. It is said that that an offering and an X drawn on her tomb will make your wish come true. I didn't try it, but it looks like a lot of other people did!

I found the intriguing thing about New Orleans in general, sort of perpetually in the background, is a combination of beauty and decay. It's tenacious and a little dangerous. There's a great quote about New Orleans in Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire:

"Hurricanes, floods, ...and the damp of the Louisana climiate itself worked tirelessly on every hewn plank or stone facade, so that New Orleans seemed at all times like a dream in the imagination of her striving populace, a dream held intact at every second by a tenacious, though unconcious, collective will."

I liked that description, and I could definitely feel that as we drove back to the French Quarter.
Moon Wok, a chinese restaurant on Dauphine Street in The French Quarter, offers a quick, inexpensive vegan meal. Vegan spring rolls were a nice appetizer. I was expecting tiny deep fried rolls. These were large, filled with greens and tofu and wrapped in rice paper. The main course was a tofu/veggie stir fry. Not the best I've ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.We splurged on a ghost tour, and I'm glad we did. We walked around the French Quarter at night with a guide that told us details about the history of the city that we probably wouldn't have come across otherwise.
Our last night there brought us to Sukho Thai, a fantastic Thai place in the Marigny, right by The French Quarter. This was by far the best dinner we had in New Orleans. We had the vegetable spring roll appetizer, filled with tofu, glass noodles, and veggies. The plum sauce complemented the spring rolls perfectly. Pad thai without egg and garlic tofu ended our stay in this city well. Completely satiated, we spent our last hours walking around the French Quarter, exactly where we started.


Theresa said...

Sounds like such a great trip everytime you talk about it! All those restaurants sound pretty yummy, but I especially want to visit the breakfast/lunch place. Such cool buildings around there, and yummy-looking food!

shellyfish said...

Your descriptions sure make me want to visit! I would love to visit the grave yard and do a ghost tour - it really looks enchanting!

Bianca said...

Oh damn, I've never heard of Surrey's! I'll have to try that next time I'm down there. NO is a quick 6-hour drive from Memphis, so I try to hit it up every couple years.

Slim Goodies, also on Magazine St., has a vegan breakfast too (tofu scramble).

All hail the awesome Marie Laveaux! I did a paper on her in college and my study group took a "field trip" down there to pay homage.