When you reside in the French Quarter like Sherry and I did, you walk everywhere. The last couple of days I was there we spent walking along Decatur Street. With the French Market and a series of other long buildings housing many popular retail stores like the Cafe du Monde which features fresh coffee and donut-like “Beignets” covered with powdered sugar, Decatur Street seems to be the center of the tourist trade. As cold and windy as it was Saturday and Sunday, the sidewalks were crowded. That the Saints football team was playing the Rams at the New Orleans Skydome for a playoff spot in the Super Bowl that Sunday only added to the numbers, but we were still able to enjoy the stroll. Sherry bought me a Saints baseball cap to remember the big day. She also looked at boots in a new shoe store, and Dallas, Sherry’s brother and her grand niece, Cierra, picked up a few small gifts for his friends at home in Bossier City. I noted two landmarks on the walk, places I want to return to, the impressive St. Louis Cathedral and the Jazz Museum.
There were two places we wanted to visit but could only be reached by car. Sharon, Sherry’s cousin who was visiting for a few days from Baton Rouge, did the driving to reach our first destination: Thomas Mann’s new retail store on Magazine Street. Thomas Mann is a self-described techno-metal jeweler. Sherry and her brother both have long admired his work.. Viewing the wide range of his necklaces, rings and earrings, I couldn’t but admire it as well. It is super creative stuff. Tom happened to be there and showed us around his new shop.which will allow him to keep up with his sculpting as well as continuing with his intricate metal jewelry. He once employed 6 technicians, he said, but is down to one young apprentice now. Before we left, I spotted two pairs of earrings I admired, smaller and lighter than most, and purchased them for Sherry and Kornelia. Sherry liked her metal mermaids. At one time she’d owned an identical pair but they had been stolen. Kornelia liked her heart-shaped earrings, too, but were too heavy. Sherry volunteered to find a lighter pair while she was still in New Orleans.
The second place was even farther away but was on Sherry’s “must experience” list. It didn’t take long to see why. The Commander’s Palace was not palace-like at all. On the outside just a long, two-story wood structure, brightly-colored. The inside, however, was elegant, and the second-floor Garden Room where we dined, the most elegant of all, the large windows looking out onto a tropical forest of green making the white-linen table cloths and stemmed-glasses gleam all the more. Of course, we know that even the most inviting of settings is no substitute for good food. We had no reason to worry, however, noting that the Commander’s Palace was admission by reservation only and full every night and that the wait staff, numerous and courteous,, were attentive to our every need.
So Sherry, Sharon and I did what you do when you realize you’re in good hands. We relaxed into the moment, prepared to enjoy whatever came next. As it turned out, we all ordered the same three-course meal: turtle soup for the appetizer, an entree of giant white prawns from the Gulf of Mexico in a rich and delicate sauce and for dessert, a bread pudding souffle with a light whiskey-based sauce, personally poured by the waiter. It was truly a special dining experience which lived up to its reputation. A Five star rating without question.
Because we were in such a cared-for dining environment, conversation came easily. I had a delightful time listening to Sherry and Sharon talking about their childhood and how they’ve managed to stay in contact over the years. It was obvious they enjoyed each other’s company. Among other things Sharon is a quilter and produces beautiful quilts. She made one of distinctive Tee-shirts Sherry’s deceased husband, Karl, had worn. It doesn’t sound particularly interesting but I’ve seen it and its exceptionally nice, a work of art for sure. Sharon has also been medically trained as a nurse practitioner. With a sure hand, she, at one point, helped me to clear my left eye so I could read my computer screen once again. I wanted very much to finish reading the proof for my upcoming book and she made it happen.
Now that I’ve been away from the Commander’s presence for a few days, what sticks with me is the unusual service by the wait staff. First of all, there were many of them (almost too many), mostly white, young and agile, (to manage the stairs with large trays of food), all dressed in casual uniforms of white shirts and ties, dark pants, gray vests and white aprons tied at the waist. They were obviously well-trained and knowledgable about etiquette and the extensive menu items (The Commander’s Palace offers six-course meals). I don’t remember hearing elsewhere so many “sirs” and “Mams” At one point, another waiter saw that Sherry had dropped her napkin as she rose to go the restroom. Without a moment’s hesitation, he walked quickly to our table, retrieved the napkin, made a point of folding it properly and placed it on the table by Sherry’s plate. I had dropped my napkin, too, during the meal. In that case, a waiter spotted it and quickly picked it up from the floor and handing me a new one..
Charleen, our Uber driver for the ride back to the hotel, had logged over 1900 trips with consistently good ratings.I never found out, though, just how much time she put in a week as an Uber driver. Paul, on the other hand, who drove us to the restaurant, was strictly part-time. He worked full-time as an accountant at Loyola University but had a family. He liked the flexability Uber offered to pick-up a little extra money.