Plan Your Escape to the Big Easy

Worries about office politics and your messy playroom will disappear on this classic weekend in New Orleans

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Local Street Artist by Jane Schneider

Start the next day with breakfast at Brennan’s (417 Royal). Don’t mistake this for the Owen Brennan’s in Memphis; this is the old school: White tablecloth, six utensils, the real deal. You’ll do few things in your life as happily decadent as spending a morning with 41-year veteran waiter Mario as you eat a breakfast that includes an appetizer like turtle soup and an aperitif, say Brandy Milk Punch, a main course like eggs Portuguese: flaky pastry shells filled with freshly chopped tomatoes sautéed in butter with parsley and shallots, topped with poached eggs, and covered with Hollandaise sauce and wine, and a dessert that is set on fire in front of you (Bananas Foster was invented here). The old world service with deep Southern warmth will make you feel like royalty.

After brunch, hit Southern Candymakers (334 Decatur Street) for the city’s best pralines to bring home to jealous friends. Stop by the New Orleans outpost of Memphis-based women’s clothing boutique Muse (532 St. Peter St.) for Virgins Saints and Angels rosary-inspired Swarovski-beaded necklaces. Browse the first edition Tennessee Williams and William Faulkners in the exquisitely tiny Faulkner House Books (624 Pirate’s Alley); it feels like being a privileged guest in the library of a well-off Quarter resident. Here, Faulkner lived while writing his first novel in 1925.

It is an easy and scenic ride through the Garden District on the St. Charles streetcar from the St. James Hotel to heaven, where the sign above the door reads “Sucré.” Sucré is home to every sweet and delicious thing you can put in your mouth, and everything is made on the premises by bona fide pastry chefs. This includes cappuccinos with pictures of dragons drawn into the foam by expert baristas, magnificent salted caramel cupcakes in parchment paper liners, cherry croissants, and sundaes like the Taste of New Orleans.  

Did I mention Bananas Foster sauce, brown butter pecan gelato, bread pudding pieces with whipped cream, and roasted pecans? There are also Black Forest cakes, pistachio and rose petal chocolates — such wholly invented and impossibly perfect desserts lined up in the display case like fine jewels. The quality to price ratio is off the charts here (3025 Magazine St.).

As you head home, exhausted and sated, remember that you could visit New Orleans a hundred times and never stay in the same beautiful hotel, eat in the same delicious restaurant, drink the same snazzy cocktail, or shop in the same store twice. It’s the perfect weekend European destination that’s never too far from home.

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