Beyond Bourbon Street
More than six years after the storm, New Orleans proves you can’t keep an old girl down. We take the road less traveled and explore a city with a reputation for more than all that jazz.
- Written byKirk Silsbee
By now you’ve probably done some of the typical tourist things in New Orleans: ridden the French Quarter in a carriage, been beaded at Mardi Gras, walked through the glass corridor at the Audubon Aquarium, got dizzy on a Bourbon Street hand grenade and seen the live leeches at the Pharmacy Museum. Now it is time to dig a little deeper, and venture out of the Quarter to see some of the town’s other delights.
The Art of Dixie
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp Street, ogdenmuseum.org) is a great showplace for regional artists who may be outside the fine art mainstream but are always worthy of a view. Eccentric visions abound, like the dreamlike photographs of Josephine Sacabo, Ersy’s Lilliputian wood and brass fantasy constructions and the mythical paintings of George Valentine Dureau. A recent show brilliantly combined the swamp depictions of rhapsodic watercolorist John Alexander and expressionist painter-printer Walter Anderson. The complementary yet distinct visions set each aesthetic off in relief yet provide a context for each. Each show at this place is something of a revelation. Glass artist Andrew Brott and his wife, Kellie Grengs, operate BrottWorks out of their home studio on Freret Street (brottworks.com).
He creates one-of-a-kind glass sculptures, hangings and functional light fixtures for high-end buildings. Brott’s commissions have placed his work as far away as the Dominican Republic, Solana Beach and New Jersey. He also leads visitors in glass workshops; a visit comes with a PowerPoint presentation on how BrottWorks is helping to bring the formerly crime-ridden Freret corridor into commercial viability. Think you know the work of French Impressionist Edgar Degas? Not until you visit the Degas House (2306 Esplanade Avenue, degashouse.com). The four months he spent at his brother’s home in the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood produced “The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans” (1873), perhaps Degas’ earliest great painting. Plus it’s also a bed and breakfast and great place to hang your hat and absorb local culture.
Drive out to the Longue Vue House and Gardens (7 Bamboo Road, longuevue.com) and immerse yourself in old-world gentility and heritage. The eight-acre estate has a Georgian-style mansion and no less than 14 different gardens. Take an informative tour of the family home of Edith and Edgar Stern, New Orleans Jews who supported desegregation efforts. It’s now the site of many events and exhibits, like Clarence John Laughlin’s evocative photography and Dan Shore’s opera about the Civil Rights movement, Freedom Ride. The National World War II Museum (945 Magazine Street, nationalww2museum.org) is the largest ongoing exhibition of the global conflict that propelled America onto the world stage. Tom Hanks produced the 4D, wide-screen movie Across All Boundaries. Using state-of-the-art cinematic effects, it succinctly yet accurately recounts America’s part in the greatest global conflict of the 20th century. The powerful presentation has pan-generational appeal and is profoundly moving.
Food for Thought
At JoAnn Clevenger’s Upperline Restaurant (1413 Upperline Street, upperline.com), you not only get a fabulous meal, you get old-world Creole hospitality. (Maybe you saw John Goodman sit down with writer Roy Blount, Jr. at the place in HBO’s Treme series). Don’t expect to dine and dash. JoAnn wants you to take time to choose a suitable wine or cocktail, enjoy the appetizers, savor your meal, agonize over which dessert to choose and visit. She’s happy to talk about her art collection or her days at the Bourbon House in the Quarter, with the likes of Tennessee Williams and photographer Lee Friedlander. Clevenger is just as proud of her chef, Ken Smith, as she is her sumptuous menu. Smith is a native of Natchitoches and he’s responsible for Upperline’s offerings. For appetizers, try fried green tomato with shrimp remoulade, duck and andouille gumbo, or the seared warm foie gras Bonaparte. Dinner might be Cane River country shrimp sauté or filet mignon with garlic port or béarnaise.
Dessert? How about crème brûlée, honey-pecan bread pudding with toffee sauce, or Sundae Eugene—a dangerous combination of vanilla ice cream, semi-sweet chocolate sauce and toasted almonds. Joanne’s customers are her guests, and she even provides them with a visitor’s guide to her favorite food, wine, art, antiques and books. If you’re hungry at night, try the tapas menu at Rambla (217 Camp Street, ramblanola.com). The little dishes with big flavor just keep on coming, and one’s more exotic than the next: bacon-wrapped Medjool dates, pan-seared frog legs Provençal, grilled globe artichokes with lemon aïoli and cornmeal-crusted Gulf oysters, to name a few. For dessert, choose between the dark chocolate mousse with extra virgin olive oil, Spanish flan, and the richest sugar-dusted churro you ever ate.