Take New Orleans by storm in the sporty, yet still practical 2014 Toyota Scion. After all, New Orleans is all about the food, the people and the atmosphere so why not add to the atmosphere behind the wheel.
Begin your stay at one of the New Orleans Hotel Collection properties, I stayed at the Dauphine Orleans in the heart of the French Quarter. It's a unique boutique hotel featuring buildings that date back to the early nineteenth century such as the Audubon breakfast room where John James Audubon painted his Birds of America series from 1821-22 while residing at the Audubon Cottages. The bar, May Baily, was once a brothel, today, the Dauphine Orleans gets my vote for best place to stay for comfort, convenience and the folks who work there really like their jobs, how refreshing.
As you take to the road to visit the many "must see spots" both in the French Quarter and beyond, the 2014 Toyota Scion is definitely the choice for drivers looking for sharp features in an entry level vehicle. In 2014, the Scion tC has added to its styling too, thus taking on tweaks that include upgraded interior features and a special 10th anniversary edition for Toyota Scion diehards.
Competition includes the likes of the Kia Forte, Hyundai Velostar, Honda Civic and even the Volkswagen Beetle, but for compact, this one is a definite contender. Compact, but seating up to five passengers, the Scion tC is a hatchback coupe that comes in either a base trim or the 10 Series, which is a special edition. The bells and whistles inside are accompanied by a sporty interior with a thick steering wheel reminiscent of racing and the seats offer seat bolters. The knobs and dials are in the appropriate direction of the driver for easy use too. It should be noted as well that passengers in the backseat won't be disappointed as there is plenty of legroom. With the seats folded there is 14.7 cubic feet for all your hauling needs and the hatchback style definitely makes this easier all around. Catering to an entry level market that often means youth, the Scion offers a thing or two in the audio category. For 2014 the sound system has been upgraded and upped even more with the BeSpoke audio system as an option - that also includes a navigation system and smartphone integration that keeps you connected using many social media options.
Just in case, the 2014 Toyota Scion tC will give you zero to 60 in a little over seven seconds with the manual transmission and it's 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway with a price tag of a mere $19,725 for the tc.
While in New Orleans, do take the time to visit a few of the bests like the New Orleans tradition you don't want to miss; the Natchez steamboat. Cruises are daily and there is live jazz. I did the Sunday brunch cruise and the jazz was playing before and after the meal making the time onboard just right. You can also take the time to visit the steam engine room and remember, this is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River so you don't want to miss it on your New Orleans trip.
Known for it's food, there are still a few restaurants that stands out, here are my top choices:
In the Garden District
It is New Orleans' second most popular neighborhood so is stands to reason there would be a few restaurants you have to try there too.
The Commander Palace chef was named number 16 in the America with a James Beard Award and of course we had heard the name of this place many times. However finally trying the Turtle Soup made it worth the trip. I tried the soup at a variety of places, but Commander's Palace soup still wins my award for excellence. Takings the St. Charles Street Car from Canal Street was the beginning of our journey to the Garden District as we walked the four blocks from the street car line getting off at Washington Street to the final destination of Old New Orleans charm. Inside the Victorian architecture is the truly inventive and modern New Orleans cooking alongside the much loved Haute Creole. Testing the likes of Gumbo soup, Shrimp and Tasso Henican (my favorite with pepper jelly and picked okra), the classic Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish and the white truffle, autumn mushroom and Permesan risotto with chanterelle, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, our surprise was doubled when the wait staff came out with the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle, Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake and Lally's Praline Parfait. The latter was the best desert I have put in my mouth in some time, I just kept wanting one more bite, no one can finish the parfait, but I tried.
Not quite in the Garden District, but close enough and certainly not in the French quarter, this little neighborhood restaurant with classic French cuisine is that and more. Chef/Owner Aaron Burgau is cool so we like that vibe. He is born in New Orleans of French, Italian and Filipino roots and it all shines in his menu choices. He was named as one of the Top 5 "Chefs to Watch" by Louisiana Cookin' Magazine in 2005 and in 2007 he partnered with longtime friend and entrepreneur Leon Touzet, to open Patois. Patois' menu reflects Chef Aaron's commitment to fresh, locally sourced ingredients in classic French cuisine with a patois, or local accent. While we tried a variety of items from the menu, potato gnocchi, grilled octopus, gumbo and even the Mississippi rabbit, it was the sweetbreads that stood out. With oyster mushrooms, country ham, grits, and molasses, this veal thyroid is a delicate part of the meat that only skilled folks can prepare and only those with a delicate palette can appreciate.
In the French Quarter
When you think of New Orleans you usually think of the French Quarter. It is less than a mile long and half a mile across, but the Vieux Carre is what we love about New Orleans and was originally laid out in 1721. The district is also on the National Register of Historic Places and its trademark ironwork, Creole homes and shutters on the windows are second only to the food that can be found here.
Court of Two Sisters
Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters and I was sitting there enjoying it just like so many hve done before. The place has been around since 1732 and check out the charm gate, I touched it and made a wish. The Court of Two Sisters is, to many, the one place you have to go when you visit New Orleans. It has the French Quarter's largest courtyard and there are as many as 60 different items on the buffet from the made-to-order omelets to eggs Benedict, crawfish Louise and even Banana's Foster. It's the history here though (since 1732 something has been going on at this residence) and indeed, this location at 613 Rue Royale has seen royalty and aristocracy during its significant role in New Orleans history. Hint... hint... the Turtle Soup did win #1 here and my colleague was in agreement that this was the best of the pickings for Turtle Soup in New Orleans.
This restaurant located at the W Hotel French Quarter is part of the Commander's Palace family, but the menu and the food could not be more different. Sous Chef Jonathan Schmidt fed us well when we visited with a variety of foods to share from the opening with Yellowfin Tuna Cones literally served in avocado ice cream (risky moved that works), shrimp and tasso pinchos with ghost pepper jelly, sweet potato beignets and a nice twist; the Foie Gras Burger of which every morsel was eaten. Even more surprising was the accompanying foie gras ice cream float that I was turning my nose up at until I tried. To mix and match the flavors, mixologists Abigail came out to share with us her creations; my favorite was Paris Between the Wars with Dewars, Luxardo Bitter, lemon and Crispin apple cider and we also tried the Big Chief with Bourbon, Punt Y Mes, Averna, flambeaux and lemon peel. SoBou means South of Bourbon, but the French Quarter couldn't be more proud.
What Else to Do?
There is so much to do in New Orleans you won't know where to begin, easiest thing to do is spend some time enjoying the St. Louis Cathedral Concerts, cooking demos at a variety of locations and some amazing Reveillon menus at restaurants like Arnaud's Restaurant, Bombay Club, Broussards, Court of Two Sisters, Sobou and the Vacherie Restaurant. Also don't miss the French Market; it's 250 years old, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and Jackson Square.
One unusual find that beckoned me on this trip was my discovery of the Edgar Degas house. I had no idea Degas had lived in New Orleans, even if it was just for five months. You can visit the historic home, studio and courtyard and the owners have also made it into a fine bed and breakfast. Degas lived in New Orleans for five months in the early 1870s and it was here he was inspired for his painting "The Cotton Office" in 1873. This is an oil painting depicting a time when his uncle Michel Musson's cotton brokerage business went bankrupt. Quite unusual to find this Parisian artist with his inspiration taken from his months in New Orleans, when you visit you will also get the chance to listen to the history of his brothers and his one brother's divorce that caused the Degas rift with the local Musson famly and how the house was even split apart as well.
For more information visit www.neworleanscvb.com.
Photos by Russell Dandridge and Gold Cook