9/11/11 MSY

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Sep 21, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Every year I take a 9/11 semi-run. It has the dual purpose of
    getting me out of town and making a decade-repeated statement
    that I don't think anyone pays attention to. This year I got
    my buddy Anne to join me in Houston and come home with me.

    CO1232 BWI IAH 1119 1328 738 21C

    I didn't clear the upgrade list on a Sunday, that day being
    a supposedly particularly light travel day. I had the scant
    consolation of being #1 in line from the formation of the
    list to the boarding of the aircraft. Checked in with the
    gate agent, who offered the observation "sometimes not
    everybody shows up, but today they did." I did get the
    exit row aisle, though, which offered all the legroom and
    seat width I needed and which would have been quite comfy
    indeed had not some 300-lb guy changed from the later flight
    and set himself in the middle seat next to me (the last
    empty on the aircraft). He was pleasant enough, anyhow.

    We pushed back right on time, and about the time I would have
    expected us to take off, there was the dread announcement.
    Here any announcement other than "flight attendants be seated
    for takeoff" is dread. This one started "well, folks," and
    you know something had to be wrong. At least it wasn't wrong
    with the plane, exactly. What had happened. The airport had
    closed all the runways but one for some reason (claimed:
    maintenance), and the open one was the shortest one, and we
    were too heavy to take off from it, so we had to burn off
    half a ton of fuel, this to be accomplished by sitting off
    to one side and wasting gas for an hour. Why on earth would
    they not (plan A) taxi back to the gate and siphon off half
    a ton of fuel, saving time and money; (plan B) taxi back to
    the gate and kick off half a ton of passengers, saving time
    and aggravating 6 people to the gratification of 150; or
    (plan C) race around the airport for 20 minutes instead of
    sitting in the penalty box for three times that. Further:
    why the coincidence of this runway closure happening in the
    15 minutes between our pulling off the gate and our getting
    in line for departure. This all leads me to imagine that
    CO's operations management is even worse than UA's.

    The announcement was made that, because of the inconvenience,
    we were going to get free ... and my spirits and expectations
    leaped ... DirecTV ... and my expectations of spirits fell
    again. The offerings were the usual boring weekend morning
    junk mixed with a salad of 9/11 commemorations. I snoozed
    fitfully without the availability of free Courvoisier, that
    best of sleep aids. We took off and landed an hour late.
    During the flight, they offered a cheeseburger or various
    other things for 8 smackers. Surprisingly, there appeared
    to be some takers.

    CO 33 IAH MSY 1530 1637 739 3EF

    Despite the delay, there was still time to catch up with
    Annie at the club for a couple glasses of wine before our
    flight. The wine was bad, the company good. The bartender
    allowed passengers to charge their computers and phones on
    her powerstrip, also good.

    Continental's IT is as bad as anyone's, and on this flight
    3E and 4B were traveling together, and 3F and 4A were
    traveling together. It was not a rocket science switch,
    and not being rocket scientists, we switched. A perfectly
    fine little flight, during which I drank nothing, on the
    theory that I would have plenty to drink in New Orleans.

    We were met by some random guy offering taxi service. He
    seemed to be on the up-and-up, and his vehicle had a
    medallion, so we got into his taxi. As might be expected,
    he got us to our destination speedily, directly, and at
    the standard price.
    smack, flyingdawg and uggboy like this.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I'd found this kind of neat-sounding place on the edge of
    the Quarter called the Prince Conti and handed it over to
    Anne to reserve, and she found an executive suite at only
    $10 more than a regular room: when we got there, we were
    pleased to find that this was just as grand as it sounded
    on the Internet: it consisted of (from front to back) the
    anteroom, a full kitchen (4-burner glass top, big fridge,
    breakfast island seating 3 on each side), meeting/dining
    area (seating 10), library with fairly comfy foldout bed,
    bedroom, and bath. Oh, yes, a private garden of, oh, 200
    square feet, with plants that looked nice enough to be
    plastic but were real, and three walk-in closets.

    We didn't have an amazing amount of time to spend enjoying
    our suite; instead we amused ourselves mostly by poking our
    noses into the wide variety of dive bars on and off Bourbon
    Street, where there are available beverages of varying
    quality, all (that we could find) served in plastic
    disposable go-cups also of varying quality. For $4 you get a
    Hurricane that consists of a lot of ice, a lot of syrupy
    stuff, little alcohol, in a flimsy cup that threatens to
    spill your drink with every step; for $6, there's enough rum
    to taste, in sturdy plasticware; for $8 you get real fruit
    juice, real rum, and the supposedly canonic 151 float, in a
    pseudo-glass proudly emblazoned with the purveyor's name,
    Pat O'Brien's or whatever.
    flyingdawg likes this.
  3. flyingdawg
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    flyingdawg Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing this trip report. New Orleans is a wonderful place to spend suh an anniversary considering the turmoil they've experienced in recent years.
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Thank you, suh!
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    There was a dearth of notable meals on this trip. This may
    have been my fault: I wasn't willing to take any risks on
    this occasion, for various health-related reasons that I
    don't feel like going into here.

    I love the Acme: when I first went, it lived pretty much in
    prosperous obscurity. Now, thanks to the likes of the Sterns
    and the Food and Travel networks there's a line out the door
    at peak times, and the place buzzes from open to close. The
    shellfish are still the best and freshest available and their
    shuckers still the grumpiest and fastest in town. Adding four
    kinds of Abita on tap, it can't be beat. This time I had
    oysters followed by fried crawfish tails and a side of
    jambalaya, the meal being half wonderful. Four of 6 oysters
    were big, briny, and sweet; the others were big, flabby, and
    with as much character as a potato. Truth be told, I was
    afraid that hurricane Lee had driven enough fresh water into
    the oyster beds to make all of them like that, like the
    oysters you get in Houston, so I did better than expected.
    The crawfish were fresh and not Chinese, a big old plus; the
    breading thickish but not too salty. Good but not special.
    The jambalaya was nastier than before, made with fake broth
    I think. Anyhow, it has changed since last time. Anne was
    well satisfied with the ten-napkin debris-style roast beef
    po'boy - the only complaint being that she used only 7 or
    8 napkins on it.
    Bonnie likes this.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I hate proportional fonts.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Our other big meal was lunch at Commander's Palace, which
    costs half what dinner costs, which costs half of what it
    used to cost back in the palmy dot com print your own dollars
    days. In fact, though the service is as courtly as ever, the
    room just as grand, and the chef Tory McPhail probably as
    talented as the young Emeril or Paul Prudhomme when they
    worked here, two appetizers, two main courses, and 6 martinis
    cost what the martinis alone would have cost 10-15 years ago.

    We got a table at the back of the main room, just ahead of
    the stairwell. I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad table,
    but it's certainly a Different perspective. A genial though
    correct fairly cute woman waiter.

    The hook that is supposed to get people, young ones at least,
    to come out and spend a few bucks for lunch is an offering of
    25c martinis (limit 3 per person) in five varieties, to wit:

    classic - decent cheap gin, nothing special, garnished with
    a humongous olive, whose humongous pit hole was unfortunately
    stuffed with a ribbon of pinkish extrusion with flecks of
    pimiento; this available with vodka on request;

    Cosmopolitan (pinkish, made with cranberry liqueur and
    Rose's) - the best of the frou frou ones, quite limey and
    with a bit of a bite;

    Commander's Palace (orange, made with blue Curacao) - nice
    and blue, nice and orangey, but way too sweet;

    Ray's melon (green, made with Midori) - both of our least
    favored, a child's drink, not that the others weren't.

    Garlic-Parmesan bread (quite good though greasy) followed by
    pretty standard baguette.

    Anne's hanger steak, garnished with Tabasco onion rings,
    which she won't touch, so I got them, was excellent, cooked
    just medium-rare-to-rare as she requested. Unfortunately,
    the mashed potatoes, which she generally likes, were too
    salty to eat.

    I started with a dark, rich, and very salty duck gumbo that
    I finished by virtue of the fact that it was a small small
    serving, and I had a blue martini to wash it down, and I
    asked for crushed red pepper to go with, and what came was
    pequins, and I used the whole ounce that came out of the

    "Creole couchon de lait" - the Restaurant Week menu claimed
    that this was "sliced tenderloin, smoked shoulder, spicy
    cracklin' and shiitake boudin with Tabasco onion rings, red
    pepper paint, and liquefied hog's head jus," but the regular
    menu correctly described what actually came - crab-boil
    seasoned loin, salty and overcooked to my taste (but tender;
    also, probably just right for the multitudes) and some
    grilled sausagy thing, over a bed of good standard pulled
    pork, over a fried cake of crawfish jambalayaish thing, the
    plate drizzled with red pepper paint and the thick brown
    demiglace-based stuff that seems to be the signature gravy
    of the city. The onion rings, of which I had a double dose,
    were fine but not very Tabasco. It was a good but not a great
    dish - I'd have been happier with the Restaurant Week
    presentation, or even just with a bit of the cracklin'

    A gentle upsell from the waitress followed by the subwaiter
    who filled our water glasses after the first sip followed the
    busboy: dessert? The bread pudding takes thirty minutes, hint
    hint. Also, the molten chocolate cake takes extra time. The
    creme brulee is excellent. Whatever.

    Not for me. What I got for dessert: an order of the angry
    oysters, which are 4 lovely fresh ones fried in a batter
    laced with Tabasco (but not much of it), served over the
    kernels of an ear of excellent corn stewed in butter. This,
    we agreed after I gave Anne a spoonful of the corn, was the
    best dish of the day.

    The bill came to about $65 + tip.

    The only other ingestion that came close to interesting was
    our obligatory tourist visit to Cafe du Monde, where I had a
    glass of iced decaf, which came pre-creamed and tasted very
    good indeed. As always, the beignets were hot, fresh, messy,
    and pleasantly infantile.
    Bonnie likes this.
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    CO 4 MSY IAH 1515 1626 738 3AB

    We got to the airport around 2:15, and there were about 5
    customers at security. It seemed easier to just go in the
    regular line than walk around for the fancy people's one,
    but someone actually did that - I mentioned to Anne that
    we could make her day by unhooking the tape and getting
    to the fancy checkpoint before she arrived. As it was, we
    arrived at screening exactly at the same time as she did,
    and we did not cut in front of her.

    As security had taken moments, there was time for a beer,
    but the only club in this pier was the Delta one, so we
    paid some extortionate price for a Heineken and a mini of
    Gallo Merlot.

    The flight was fine.

    We landed in terminal C and had to go to terminal E; we
    followed the signs but decided at some point to take the
    funny little shuttle train, which ended up not saving us
    much time, owing to the peculiar arrangement of the airport
    (C, D, and E are all connected in a triangle, and the train,
    despite the signs, just goes to D, and you walk to E from
    there). As we had less than half an hour between flights,
    there was no question of sightseeing or libations or

    CO1277 IAH BWI 1700 2027 738 3EF

    A full meal service by an alert and pleasant crew.

    Started off with mixed nuts (almost all almonds) in a foil
    pack, a far less classy presentation than the United one,
    where they actually ladle the nuts into little warm ramekins
    for you. There's less waste this way, I guess.

    Both main courses came with minestrone. The stuff is one of
    the best offerings in the air, along with the cream of
    mushroom that sometimes appears. Great texture, crisp-tender
    vegetables, hearty but smooth flavor, and vegan to boot. The
    only better minestrones I've had have to have had either
    cured pig parts or Parmesan or both.

    After that Anne had spinach-ricotta ravioli, almost
    restaurant quality though a little tough from reheating,
    in a quite acceptable tomato sauce.

    The chicken and sausage jambalaya was really very good. The
    rice itself was suspiciously Uncle Bennish, but the substance
    - andouille slices, some kielbasalike slices, and chunks of
    tenderized but acceptable and not too salty white meat - was
    quite delicious and worth eating all of, which I did. There
    wasn't any hot pepper to be had (and I am no longer in the
    habit of traveling with it), but the dish almost didn't need
    it. This was so much better than the jambalayaoid substances
    at the Acme and Commander's Palace I couldn't believe it, and
    I surprised myself by finishing every last grain of it.

    Dessert was cheesecake, which Anne reported as above average.

    We chatted a bit over after-dinner drinks, but we were both
    less than scintillating by this time, or at least I was, so
    Anthony Bourdain and a rerun of his technique show claimed
    my attention for the rest of the flight.

    We arrived more or less close to on time.
    Freddie Listo likes this.

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