The Best Of The Big Easy: The Ultimate Guide To Dining & Drinking In New Orleans
by Laura Schreffler
There’s a saying in New Orleans “Laissez les bons temps rouler” which, when translated, means “Let the good times roll.“This is a hedonistic culture, a fit for the mercurial weather, where one could easily imagine a vampire coming out the dark at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop to suck your blood. But it’s also the home of some exceptional food and drink (as highlighted each year at Tales of the Cocktail, which returned after a Covid-induced hiatus this year to celebrate its 20th anniversary) and many classic cocktails like the Sazerac and The Grasshopper — not just a place where drunken tourists meander down Bourbon Street with Hurricanes and Hand Grenades in their hands. Here is where you should be sleeping, eating, and drinking in the Big Easy right now.
WHERE TO STAY
The newest — as of August 2021 — and absolutely the most glamorous place to stay is the Four Seasons New Orleans, located on the Mississippi waterfront at the foot of Canal Street, just 20 minutes from both of the city’s airports, steps away from the French Quarter and the Warehouse Arts District — making it a prime spot for just about everything (including proximity to the Central Business District for business travelers and sports fans given it’s a hop, skip and a jump from the Superdome and Smoothie King Center). 341 light-filled, spacious and beautifully-appointed rooms and suites designed by Bill Rooney Studio with a palette of clean whites and pale greys, accentuated with white-washed oak furnishings, textured fabrics and wall treatments and, above every bed, a striking tri-panel plaster relief depicting South’s signature scent, the magnolia, offer a soothing place to sleep. Altogether, there are 280 guest rooms, 61 one and-two-bedroom suites ranging in size from 683-2,056 suite and two Presidential Suites, sized at 2,439 square feet apiece. All rooms feature a 65-inch flat screen TV, iPad for in-room controls, Nespresso coffee machines and tea kettles; and L’Occitane bath amenities, though the Presidential Suites are truly the places to be thanks to private offices; exercise rooms; dining tables for 10; butler’s pantries; a private office/den; and fitness rooms with exercises bikes.
Complementing modernist architect Edward Durell Stone‘s world-class design is a carefully-curated art collection, featuring local artists and those inspired by the city. Set within indoor and outdoor observation decks on the Hotel’s 33rd and 34th floors is a state-of-the-art cultural exhibit designed to honor, celebrate and share stories of the diverse cultures that create the magic of New Orleans. This fall, the hotel will open its crescent-shaped rooftop swimming pool, featuring four private cabanas and Mississippi River views; a 24/7 fitness centre conceived by trainer to the stars Harley Pasternak; and The Spa, where Spa Director Toni Sullivan’s team of highly trained therapists will customize treatments to get guests looking good and feeling good… especially those whose who have been doing a little too much “laissez les bon temps roller.” At 5,525 square feet , this fifth floor behemoth will feature eight treatment rooms, including a couple’s room, two relaxation rooms, a sauna, steam and Jacuzzi facilities, with design elements that incorporate raw white oak, shutters, gray travertine, rattan, and abstraction of wrought iron silhouette-projecting lamps. A quarterly program of visiting experts will welcome some of the most sought-after aestheticians and wellness therapists from across the United States, though treatments like the Southern Gentleman — a therapeutic massage using a warm infusion of rye whiskey oil plus a post-massage cocktail and snack — are always on the menu.
But in the grand old tradition of New Orleans (and to speak to the true essence of this article — with a focus on where to gorge oneself) the Four Seasons does not disappoint. In fact, two local celebrity chefs have joined forces with the property to create some over-the-top dining options. The first, Miss River, is already booked out for weeks, so if you’re going, plan in advance. This eatery is a “love letter to Louisiana” from New Orleans Chef Alon Shaya that offers an ingredient-driven menu with fresh takes on area-specific favorites, with bold and familiar flavors. Some of the best options include a rich duck and andouille gumbo; salt-crusted Gulf red snapper; a clay pot presentation of “dirty” rice; and a whole carved buttermilk fried chicken designed for sharing in the dramatic settings indoors and outdoors designed by Alexander Waterworth Interiors.The wine program here is a destination in itself, elegantly balancing New and Old World varietals to perfectly complement the cuisine, including a collection of fine Champagnes and sparkling wines from around the world. An intimate alcove houses The Sommelier Table, where up to five standing guests can enjoy curated tastings guided by the sommelier. Imbibe Carts seductively circle the room, providing tableside pourings of a well-curated selection of Champagnes, aperitifs and digestifs. But this eatery isn’t just here for fine dining and libations: it’s also an absolutely gorgeous place to spend time, an Art Deco wonderland thanks to a pink quartzite polished marble bartop; Fior di Bosco marble; brass detailing on the bar, backbar and decorative screens; bronze detailing on the decorative arched screens; colored stained glass by artist Lesley Green; bespoke scalloped flooring tile; textured scalloped wallpaper in soft pink tones; walnut timber; silver antiqued mirror; bespoke lighting; leathers by Moore & Giles & Whistler; and cotton velvets by Altfield, Dedar and Zimmer+Rhode. Ralston Crawford’s 1950s photographs of New Orleans musicians and Second Lines as well as art from Horton Humble, Lara Morgan and Caprice Pierucci further enhance the stunning space.
Chef Shaya has also conceived the shareable bites menu as well as a luxe caviar service at Chandelier Bar — the spectacular central meeting area in the lobby lounge that extends out to a garden patio. Beverage Manager Hadi Ktiri — formerly of Arnaud’s French 75, when said venue won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar program in 2017 — has created an inventive drinks menu is stirred, shaken, muddled and poured beneath the jaw-dropping 15,000-piece light and glass installation by Preciosa that gives the bar its name. Locally-created, international favorites like the Ramos Gin Fizz, French 75, Sazerac and Hurricane are served up alongside high-end bubbly by the glass, such as Ruinart and Dom Pérignon. Live music will be offered year-round, showcasing some of the city’s most talented artists.
But that’s not all. Award-winning chef Donald Link — one of the most recognizable culinary names in the city and one who has been nominated umpteenth times for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award — famous for eateries including Herbsaint (which earned him a James Beard award in 2007 for Best Chef South), Cochon (a 2007 Best New Restaurant nominee), Cochon Butcher, Pêche Seafood Grill (a 2014 Best New Restaurant James Beard winner), La Boulangerie, Gianna (a James Beard Award nominee for Best New Restaurant 2019), and his private event facility, Calcasieu — has opened his latest effort at the Four Seasons. Chemin a la Mer (meaning “pathway to the sea”) honors his Louisiana heritage with a menu of steaks and seafood, prepared with French flair. The eatery also houses a grand oyster bar.
And finally, there’s the spa. This haute hotel officially opened its new spa in April, and it’s been a local and visitors staple ever since. It also happens to be the first establishment in Louisiana to offer products and treatments from acclaimed French skincare brand Biologique Recherche. Inspired by the allure of the bon vivant lifestyle and a hint of excess, The 5,525 square foot space includes eight treatment rooms, including a couple’s room with a soaking tub; a relaxation lounge; steam room; and cool mist experience. Design elements include the use of raw white oak, shutters, grey travertine, rattan, and abstraction of wrought iron silhouette-projecting lamps, with additional elevated touches of beautiful artwork by Nicole Charbonnet and Allison Janae Hamilton. The stunning space is a perfect foil to a series of French beauty techniques and treatments, which, when paired with state-of-the-art technology, offer immediate results. It offers both an organic and results-driven menu of treatments for the discerning aesthete including (our favorites): the Triple Lift Facial, an intensive treatment that helps fight against signs of premature skin aging via active serums, a remodeling machine, and the micropuncture lab, which stimulates collagen production for immediate results; The Body Method, which reduces water retention while refining and shaping; and the Southern Gentleman, a treatment inspired by New Orleans’ most famous cocktail, the Sazerac — a therapeutic massage that ends with a classic Sazerac (and snacks).View Article