Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Do You Do?

It’s been a busy day. You’ve walked the Quarter for hours. You’ve ridden the slow moving St. Charles Street Car. You’ve jumped on and off the Magazine Street bus. You are tired. You need something cold to drink. And, most of all, you need a sugar rush.

After a day on your feet in the Quarter, what better way to take a break than pie at the French Quarter Camellia Grill? “For what seems like 100 years, the Camellia Grill uptown on Carrollton Avenue has been the destination of choice for giant burgers, fries, onion rings, milk shakes, freezes, apple pie heated on an open grill, and chili. With its pink walls and shiny everything, the French Quarter location looks just like the uptown original, and the menu is a carbon copy. Seating is available at two U-shaped counters manned by big-personality servers wearing crisp white jackets…” (gayot.

The two places have more similarities than differences. The waiters (the service staff is all male) present your straws with a flourish although the Carrollton staff seems to do it with greater panache. The counters in both are marble. Food prep is “short order” style. And both places provide you with giant heavy cloth napkins. Not standard at your average diner.

Camellia Grill is also known for its pecan pie which is warmed on the flat top, bottom crust first and then flipped to caramelize the nuts and sugar on the top. On this visit to the Quarter Camellia Grill, Chuck ordered the regular pecan pie (left), and I chose the chocolate pecan pie. Both were delicious and provided the pick-me-up we both required.

But something was missing. I just missed the historical ambiance of the original which can never be fully duplicated. But, should you find yourself on Chartres Street and in need of a break, this 3.5 Addie stop will fit the bill.
“New Orleans historic St. Charles Streetcar travels over 13 miles from Canal Street, through the Garden district, past Loyola and Tulane Universities and Audubon Park, where it takes a right-hand turn at Riverbend to continue up Carrollton Avenue.
Originally called the Carrollton Railroad, St. Charles Streetcars carried passengers between the French Quarter and the resort town of Carrollton.” (

We had planned to ride the streetcar to the end of the line, but discovered that major work is being done on the segment on Carrollton from Saint Charles to South Claiborne. Some might have been frustrated by the premature “end of the line,” but Chuck and I saw this repair work as a sign of New Orleans’ continuing progress.

But here we are at Saint Charles and Carrollton. What do we do? Just a block down is the Uptown Camellia Grill location, but we wanted something different. So we wandered into La Madeleine, a combination café and pastry shop. There had been a second outlet in the French Quarter for this chain, whose outlets number over sixty, but that has since closed, and the location in one of the Historic Pontalba Apartment building is now occupied by Stanley Restaurant. We gather that the Quarter residents did not embrace having a chain restaurant in their midst and left the Quarter La Madeleine to the tourists. This does not seem to bother the Uptown residents, and on the day of our visit the place was packed with seating at a premium.

The café has a full menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastas, but we wanted dessert. Chuck chose the Sacher Torte. “The story of the world-famous Original Sacher-Torte began in 1832, when the all-mighty
‘coachman of Europe’, Wenzel Clemens Prince Metternich, ordered the creation of a particularly palatable dessert for spoiled high-ranking guests.

"’Take care that you do NOT make me look a fool tonight,’ he warned. That very day, however, the chef was unavailable! The order was reassigned to a 16-year-old apprentice in his second year, the quick-witted chap Franz Sacher…. One thing was certain; the specialty which was finally presented to the masters and mistresses was a resounding success: a soft and fluffy chocolate cake with the tasty apricot jam under the icing” (

My choice was the Bûche de Noël which is traditionally “made with a Génoise cake and chocolate buttercream, and garnished with powdered sugar, raspberries, and spruce sprigs. Bûche de Noël…is a traditional dessert served near Christmas…in France, Belgium, Canada, Lebanon, Vietnam, and several other francophone countries and former French colonies. As the name indicates, the cake is generally prepared, presented, and garnished so as to look like a log ready for the fire used in the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice” (

While my slice only remotely resembled a Yule log, it--like Chuck’s torte--was neither too rich not too sweet (No, that green you see on the bottom of the slice is not mold), and both desserts deserve 3.5 Addies.
One afternoon we disembarked the River Front Trolley at the French Market. Our destination? Café du Monde. We were approaching from the back of the café and happened upon a scene probably not often seen by tourists. The final stages of beignet preparation. We watched the specialized roller cut the soft dough into squares. We watched the cook separate and stack the squares with his large but gentle hands. Then, in a motion too quick to be captured by the camera, he flung the dough squares behind his back into a giant vat of oil where they quickly browned and puffed. But enough of this. Let’s go eat some beignets.

We quickly found a table and fortunately the weather allowed the side awnings to be raised where we could watch the action on Jackson Square and listen to some jazz from a sax player.
We placed our order for café au lait and two plates of beignets. Piled high with powdered sugar, these present the ultimate in sugar rushes. What a 5.0 Addie way to end an afternoon in New Orleans.

And while Chuck and I were careful not to get the powdered sugar on our clothes, this didn’t present a problem for Kitty Humbug. “Who’s going to see the sugar on my white fur?”

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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