“Have the pilot prep my jet. My wife and I are flying to New Orleans.”
* * *
The flight took roughly three and a half hours. In that time frame, Cole and I enjoyed a few pairs of daiquiris, delighting ourselves in conversation about the impending itinerary upon touch-down, how long we were staying, and all the delicious Cajun food we were about to eat.
We settled on three days, considering that we didn’t know each other all that well, and Cole had to return for business soon anyway. He informed me that, in the meantime, the board was handling Andrews Enterprises – I was briefly reminded of the interference in Larry’s promotion, and felt responsibility for my part in dismantling it.
The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport was not directly in New Orleans, but rather on the very western outskirts – arguably part of the border town Kenner. Upon arrival, we were immediately picked up via small, black sedan and driven in New Orleans proper. The route wrapped around the airport outside, stretching along the airfield for quite some time before giving us a few turns and depositing us on Interstate 10, right in front of the city.
I marveled at the completely different aesthetic of the buildings as we were driven down the winding, curving Interstate. On our left, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome dominated the area, the large dome carving out a space among the massive cluster of buildings. As interstate exits wrapped around like tendrils, whipping out and lifting our passage higher into the air, we curved downwards and upwards while moving towards our destination.
The driver took us off near Downtown New Orleans, and we circled around the Superdome as we merged onto the main streets of the Business District. The streets appeared cleaner, with far less people than the insane throngs of passersby that I experienced back home. Even without a subway system, the pavement wasn’t completely inundated – and the medians in the middle of the streets featured geometric art shapes, as if a pack of design students had overthrown the Tourism board and decorated everything in sight.
Our hotel was a relatively new building, not far from here. A tall, pristine building with incredible Greco-Roman architecture on the street level, the Herelton Deluxe was a fantastic display of exquisite excess. Our executive suite, somehow arranged that very day, was a fancy reimagining of the penthouse back in New York – featuring plenty of rich, red, wood paneling, a luxurious King-sized bed, and a private Jacuzzi with marble countertops and a comparably massive flat-screen television surrounded by comfortable leather furniture.
“You spared no expense!” I gasped, taking everything in as my mouth gawked open at it all.
“I am afforded certain luxuries,” Cole smiled. “Come. I’m starving, and I know you must be too.”
* * *
We chose to eat a nearby, somewhat discerning restaurant that boasted top-shelf Louisianan cuisine with criminally high prices and, in my opinion, better taste. Although, I have to admit that I’m glad I was already accustomed to spicy food, because what I enjoyed that night was on a whole other level.
For our appetizer, we enjoyed fried alligator strips alongside tart shrimp rémoulade, followed by a sampler plate of oysters en brochette, fried okra, hush puppies, seasoned butter bread, and crawfish bites.
After we had slowly but surely conquered our starter courses, our soups came out a short while later – a creamy crawfish bisque for Cole, and a bowl of hot, spicy gumbo for myself.
The main course was whisked to our table a short while after the bowls were cleared. Cole had ordered himself a free-for-all dinner that included zesty baked bell peppers stuffed with dirty rice and jalapeno, a hearty helping of traditional jambalaya complete with chicken, shrimp, and Andouille sausage, and a robust side cup of crawfish étouffée. Meanwhile, I had gone for something a little simpler – a fried catfish platter with fried shrimp tails and hush puppies, over a wide bed of spicy seasoned fries – tossed with a blend of garlic, chili pepper, and a little cayenne.
For dessert, we split a sizzling, flambéed bowl of bananas foster. Our server was sure to whip up the incredible burst of steam and light fire tableside, eagerly presenting the classic New Orleans dish with great reverence.