Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stanley and Antoine's Annex, New Orleans LA

…I got back to the hotel early after dinner at Clancy’s and got to bed by 10:30pm – Mardi Gras day was to be an early one as I wanted a good parking spot, early breakfast, and a good place to stand in the Garden District for the Zulu parade. Waking up at 4am I went for a spirited run, showered and shaved, and drove to my favorite parking space at the corner of Elysian Fields and Royal by 6:30. Having planned ahead in my traditional manner I knew Stanley would be opening at their usual time of 7:00am and I was waiting at the door when the servers unlocked and let myself and four others in. Taking a seat “anywhere you like” I opted for a seat along the window, but also with a good view of the kitchen.

Waiting for a good 5 minutes before I was brought a menu I checked out the interior – a decidedly nice space with a relatively nice bistro feel that was only enhanced by the large windows and great view. An open bar with the kitchen open and visible behind I saw the two cooks firing up the grill while soft new-age jazz played over the speakers overhead. Having walked by the space many times during the previous days I can’t say I ever saw it even close to full but I imagine the high ceilings and music could lend to the restaurant getting quite loud at times.

Greeted by my server, a young female who looked as though she’d just rolled out of bed – with a hangover – I was handed the “Mardi Gras menu,” something I’d not expected in that it was extremely limited and they’d not mentioned the limitations when I’d called to ask if they were open. Inquiring why this decision was made I was told that they expected to have “a lot of people in and out all day”…IE “we’re shooting for quick turnover” in my opinion. Ordering a cup of coffee – a relatively standard blend with cocoa notes – I was left to peruse the menu…all ten items of it.

No desserts, pancakes, or French toast I opted for the Eggs Stanley – a dish featuring Cornmeal-Crusted P&J’s Louisiana Oysters, Poached Eggs, Canadian Bacon and Creole Hollandaise on a Toasted English Muffin. Taking less than 15 minutes to arrive I will give credit where credit is due, the oysters and bacon were excellent and every bit as good as those at Brennan’s the day before – albeit less in number and less in price. Properly toasted I also liked the crunchy contrast of the English Muffin and appreciated the well poached eggs – creamy and clearly fresh. With regard to the Hollandaise – it really didn’t add much aside from a buttery flavor and some calories – not much nuance, no spice – but it looked pretty.

Having to request my refills, both of coffee and of water (served in what I swear was a double shot glass,) even though the restaurant was largely empty my server checked on me once again – when I was done with my meal. Asking me if she could get me anything else I stated no, just the bill, and it was delivered to my table moments later. One of the more affordable meals of my visit to New Orleans I guess I can chalk up the sub-standard experience and menu to the Holiday, but I wish they’d have forewarned me when I called.

Leaving Stanley and heading west I wanted to stop and get something sweet to eat while watching the parade and having spied Antoine’s Annex the day before I figured it was worth a shot. Entering the small shop there was no line and the server asked if I needed any help the moment I approached the register. Browsing the items I told him “just a second” and he went back to talking with his colleague who was putting out some of the freshly baked items including an individual King Cake, some croissants, and pastries such as éclairs and napoleons. Being Mardi Gras day I decided to try the King Cake and $3 and 5 minutes later I returned to my westward path arriving near the corner of 1st and St. Charles around 7:20am.

With the parade having started to roll our way I decided to step aside and enjoy my King Cake so that I could focus on taking pictures of the floats and catching some coconuts. Biting into the bagel-sized cake I must say it was quite a bit different from the version I’d tried previously (or would try after,) almost like a baked donut (but not a bagel) in texture with ample notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and butter throughout. Topped with a sugary glaze and sugar crystals in traditional colors the item was quite tasty but certainly not as impressive as the version from Haydel’s – but perhaps that is because I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Content and full I stood back with the folks along St. Charles and watched what was certainly my favorite day parade, Zulu, roll by along with all the walking groups and other parades to follow. Receiving a phone call from Emeril’s around 11:00 stating that they weren’t sure how/why Opentable had allowed me to make a reservation on a day they were closed - apparently they, unlike the place I ended up dining, couldn’t manage to be open during Mardi Gras due to their location. C’est la vie – lunch proved to be one of the best meals of my trip to NOLA and led to more parade surprises and fun.

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