Category Louisiana

Cochon and Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, LA

Sometimes when you’re making a trip, you have to make some hard choices. Such as: it’s lunchtime in the lower Garden District of New Orleans and you’re standing on the corner in front of Cochon, where the ribs are reportedly so delicious they made a friend of a friend cry, and the equally-praised Cochon Butcher, where devotees swear by their perfect sandwiches. How does one choose?


We started at Cochon, where we ordered the aforementioned ribs, boudin balls, and fried alligator bites, plus a cold microbrew to wash it all down. You know, health food.

cochon hot sauce

The ribs were in fact excellent, a little sweet, a lot spicy, and so tender they practically leaped off the bone and down your throat. The watermelon pickle they were served with was an interesting complement, sharp and vinegary which helped temper a bit of the heat from the sauce. The boudin balls were exactly what one might expect from deep fried sausage–comforting and utterly decadent. The surprise standout was the alligator. I’ve tried it before at some roadside cafe in the Everglades (apparently I was so nonplussed I didn’t even blog about it–there wasn’t much to say at the time save for the fact that they were chewy, greasy, gross, and I was cool with stopping after eating one.) The alligator bites at Cochon were good. GREAT. Not overly chewy, not sodden with grease, but surprisingly light tasting, and the chili garlic mayo made them sing. I stopped after a few, but not because I wanted to, but because room had to be saved for our trip next door.

butcher sign

santa chewie  le pig mac at butcher

Cochon Butcher is the lower-key cool Portland cousin of Cochon, the one that doesn’t need reservations and has a wookiee hanging out in the dining room. Although a number of items on their menu looked incredibly tempting, we elected to split only one (because, frankly, a few more bites each were all we could handle): le pig mac. Two house-made pork sausage patties, cheese, special sauce, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Look at that stunner. The toasted, glossy bun that you’d only see on a fast food big mac in a commercial. The perfectly gooey cheese, the special sauce oozing out just so. That side of house-made pickles. You know those late night burger runs in your twenties, where you’ve been drinking and smoking and screaming with your friends in some dingy loud bar for the better part of the night, and you’re so desperately hungry that the crappiest burger tastes like food from the gods? This tastes like that, only sober, in the daytime. And when you take big ravenous bites like a starving wild dog right out on the street, the people next to you will be too busy doing the same to judge you.

Sometimes the best choice between two options is choosing both.

The Presbytere Museum in New Orleans



bottles from the ceiling

The Presbytere Museum is a study in contrasts, from the height of revelry to utter devastation, showcasing gobs of money being thrown around for fun and how the poorest suffered during one of the bleakest periods in New Orleans history. You see, the upper floor is dedicated to the krewes and history of Mardi Gras balls and parades, while the lower floor is dedicated to the destruction and horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

From the moment I stepped into the first room, I was overcome with emotion. Watching the news, reading about it online, I still had no concept of just how powerful the storm was. I still don’t, not really. But I do understand it better than I used to. When you’re exhausted from hearing something on the news, you can just turn it off and walk away. There is no turning this off. It’s staring you in the face. It’s a garage door that was spraypainted with a message about a dead dog–a beloved pet that the owner would find a way to return and bury. It’s a teddy bear that was so  coated in mud and silt that you wonder how it could have ever been soft, a child’s cherished possession. Your decision to walk away here is more meaningful, deliberate. Can you close off the sound of the wind whipping in the next room, ignore the 1600 bottles hanging from the ceiling representing the people who died in the floods and the hands of the first responders reaching out to help?

Ten years later, New Orleans is still struggling to recover from Katrina. I know, you got tired of hearing about it. There’s always more tragedy somewhere. A new worthy cause. There’s too much pain in the world for us to try and bear, much less comprehend it all. But if you can, spare a thought today for the people who didn’t make it out. For the people who did and lost everything and had no home and no family to come back to. For the people who tried to start anew somewhere else and were treated like second-class citizens because of their ‘refugee’ status, in their own country. For the people who came back and who are working hard to rebuild their homes and their lives. And help them if you can.

katrina fema garage door

destroyed teddy bear

One of the ways New Orleans is recovering from Katrina is via tourism, and there’s no greater draw for tourists to their city than Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, a French Catholic tradition, was first (simply) observed in the New Orleans area in 1699 (though obviously celebrated elsewhere before that time, it did not originate in New Orleans). The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was held in 1837, and the celebration has grown significantly in scope since then, with more than 40 parades running through the city over the course of the event, each headed by a different krewe.

What is a krewe? It’s an association of people who pay membership dues in order to put on these grand events, and membership is determined by the krewes themselves–some limiting their members to relatives of previous members, and some are open to all who can afford to pay. Membership fees also vary wildly, depending on how sizeable and elaborate their parties and parade are. Each krewe hosts their own parade, decides their own theme, pays for everything associated with having a parade, from floats to costumes to throws. It’s my understanding that the only way to be in a Mardi Gras parade is to be a member of a krewe. Me? I want to roll with the Krewe of Barkus, mainly to be part of a dog gang and have a solid excuse to think about puppy costumes all day long.

krewe of barkus

butterfly float

hobgoblins of fearFrom the Mistick Krewe of Comus parade bulletin of 1891–their parade theme was Demonology and all their floats were badass, with badass names. Hobgoblins of Fear, Vampires of War, and the one my friends and I would’ve ridden on, the Harpies of Remorse.

mardi gras queen

zulu 2000

zulu king

astounding headdress

mardi gras costumeA mardi gras costume design sketch. I think a bunch of these would make a rad coloring book.

creepy wizard


seahorse costume

parade throwsThe average amount of parade throws for one person on one float.


Mardi Gras parades are the public celebrations for all to enjoy. Mardi Gras balls are highly exclusive social events, with elaborate invitations, fancy favors bestowed at the end of each dance by krewe members (some of which are so large and ungainly that they’re later mailed to the recipient’s home), a king and queen complete with crowns, wands, and jewelry so bedazzled they’d make Miss America weep with envy, and a strictly formal dress code. Such a thing would never fly in Seattle, where utilikilts are considered semi-formal. What I’m saying is, I am both super bummed that I have never been invited to a party like this and at the same time, I completely understand why no one with taste would ever invite me to a party like this.


mardi gras invitationIf you give me a piece of gilded china as an invitation to your party, you can be guaranteed of my attendance. I could be having dinner with the President that day and I’d be like “sorry, bro, can we reschedule? I’ve got a truly baller party to attend.” Once I told him about the china invitation, he’d understand.

crown and sceptre


the gifts of satanLiterally no reason to post this other than the name “The Gifts of Satan” makes me laugh every time I read it.

mardi gras carnival party favorThank you for the pleasure of this dance, here is an elaborate jeweled pin as a lovely parting gift.

           public restrooms    Also no reason to post these bathrooms other than they made me laugh.


New Orleans is a city that has known adversity and finds a way to party anyway, to celebrate life in a big way, to see a period of fasting ahead and say “fuck it, we’re going to eat and drink and party until we can hold no more”, a city that rolls with the punches and comes back bigger, stronger, and more vibrant. They’re still coming back from this last punch. But they are coming back.

A Spirited Encounter At Muriels in Jackson Square

muriels front

muriels seance room

seance room at muriels

masks at muriels

seance room

wooden face

drink in the seance room

me at muriels

us at muriels

If you believe what all of the haunted tours have to tell you, New Orleans is filled with ghosts, vampires, and more than a little magic. Conveniently, of course, these hauntings never stray far from the downtown core, because there are limits to how far tourists are willing to walk. So many rumors and myths swirl around the various hotels and restaurants, peddled by the establishments themselves, any number of contradictory tour guides, and people looking to make a buck from book sales and TV shows. The French Quarter two story mansion that houses Muriel’s, located on the corner of St. Ann and Chartres street, has a multi-storied reputation, most of it fanciful, wishful thinking, or straight from the rear end of a horse carriage. The building is original to the 18th century? Nope. There have been a number of properties built, razed, and burned on that spot dating to the mid 1700s. The property that stands there now was built around 1900. One of the owners, Pierre Jourdan/Joseph Lippardi (depending on who is peddling the story), was a compulsive gambler who lost his beloved home on a hand of poker and subsequently committed suicide on the property? Nope.  When Pierre Jourdan died (not from suicide), the property was left to his son, who was at that time also deceased (update those wills, people!). It’s changed hands a number of times since then but never via gambling or suicide. There are ghosts haunting up the place, especially from that aforementioned suicide? I couldn’t say, but probably not. Especially not from a suicide that didn’t happen.

Here’s the thing: Muriel’s is so cool. They shouldn’t need to make up a story about a ghost and always have a table set for said ghost to draw in traffic. It stands on its own. When you’re sipping a honeysuckle cocktail in their posh red seance room upstairs, you feel like you’re a part of the coolest secret club in town (albeit one that plays “Let’s call the whole thing off” on an endless loop, and I’d like to know who to blame for that one, be they human or ghost). And the food? The meal I ate at Muriel’s was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my entire life, and I am a prodigious eater. Between the three of us at dinner, we ordered nine different courses, and each thing was the best thing I’d ever eaten. I was too busy practically weeping with joy at the table to even think about taking pictures of anything. The gulf shrimp and goat cheese crepes were creamy, dreamy perfection. The savory gorgonzola cheesecake was tangy, salty, and the accompanying tart green apple was the perfect complement. The motherf’ing shrimp and grits were divine. And the double cut pork chop with a sugar cane apple glaze? I have dreams about that pork chop.  Sometimes when I’m sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change, I’ll think about that pork chop and smile. I’m happy to think that somewhere inside of me lies some energy from that pork chop so that in essence, I have become one with that pork chop. I guess you could say that I have been positively haunted by that pork chop. Mmmmm, ghostly pork chop.