23 September 2009

Eating Our Way Across the South, part 9...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Although we had very few ideas about what we might be seeing in Natchez today, we were excited to find out what the possibilities were and we were stoked to know we'd be in New Orleans by dinner time.  At least, that was the plan!!  We found a little breakfast place on one of the downtown streets and tried to be a little healthier than usual.  We split a yogurt, granola, and fruit cup, and Kim had a cranberry orange muffin (she said it was like eating cake!) and I had a blueberry scone that was about the size of a softball.  I didn't even eat half of it!!  We asked the nice lady in the coffee shop what we shouldn't leave Natchez without seeing, and she suggested St. Mary's Basilica, just around the corner, and the Longwood Plantation, also not far away.  We already knew we would be driving out of town past Mammy's Cupboard, so that seemed like a good start - we could always come back through this way on the flip side.

We had noticed the basilica on our way to the hotel last night, even commenting on it, but we hadn't known what it was.  There was a lovely park just behind the church - trees festooned with Spanish moss, a gorgeous fountain, a Civil War statue, and benches set in shady spots.  We walked around the corner to the TALL front doors of the building - it was quite an imposing ediface!  After taking a few photos from the outside and noting that mass was at 8:30 AM (it was about 11 AM), we started to go into the sanctuary when we realized there was a service of some sort going on, so we made a note to stop back in on our trip home, because the stained glass windows are supposed to be stunning.

Off we went to Longwood, following the instructions on the Garmin, so we saw neighborhoods that most people would have missed.  We passed several other plantations on the way, so we wondered what made Longwood so special.  We pulled into the drive and were instantly transported to an earlier time, driving down a long drive under an arcade of trees full of Spanish moss.  Our first glimpse of the house was impressive - it was very tall, and it was octagonal!  We couldn't wait to see the inside of it!  We parked and found our way into the gift shop, which was darling and full of funny books about the South, lots of good sounding cookbooks, postcards, and little pretties.  We did a bit of shopping as we waited for our tour to start - reading material for the road!

As is typical on many of these tours, we could not take pictures of the main floor, so I won't be able to share a whole lot with you, but here are a few of the details I remember.  The house was the dream of Dr. Haller Nutt, who wanted a different kind of plantation home, hence the shape and style of the house.  To build the facade, a kiln for making bricks was built on the property and 750,000 bricks were produced here.  At the time the war broke out, the facade was finished, as was the 10,000 square foot basement, consisting of nine rooms.  The house was six stories and would have 30,000 square feet of finished space when it was done, but most of the builders and craftsmen were from Pennsylvania and other states in the northeast, so they left most of their tools and supplies and went home.  At the time, people thought this 'uprising' would be settled quickly, so the workers thought they would soon be back to finish their work.  As you may have guessed, this never happened.

The war lasted four years, Dr. Nutt lost his fortune and then died before the end of the war, and his wife and eight children lived in the finished basement of the house for the duration.  As hard as it is for me to believe, the house NEVER got finished, yet it somehow survived.  It was finally purchased by a Texas man who has stipulated that it never be completed but that it be open for the public to enjoy as it is.  You'll want to be sure to go to http://www.mississippibeautiful.com/capital-river/longwood-plantation.html or www.natchezpilgrimage.com to see more of this fascinating, fantastic home! One thing that adds to it's historical value - since the facade was completed and the flooring put in for the other floors, the top five stories of the house were used for storage.  That means that almost EVERYTHING - packing crates, even for the piano - was stored in the house and many of the original boxes are still there.  Be sure to visit it when you come to Natchez!  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and you can tell that the people caring for and showing this house really love it!

Although we were sure when we started out this morning that we would be on the road before Mammy's Cupboard opened for the day, we were now going to be lucky to get there before it closed!  Only open from 11-2 and closed on Mondays, we were afraid if we missed it today, we might have missed it for good.  The Garmin sent us off in exactly the opposite direction than we should have gone, but common sense, a phone call, and the iphone got us to Mammy's.  And yes, Mammy's could be considered politically incorrect, although she is now painted more of a flesh-tone than I'm sure she used to be, but who could help but want to eat lunch under the skirts of a 28 foot tall woman?  Okay, that didn't sound exactly the way I intended it, but maybe you get the picture.  If not, look at our picture and then go to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/3344  for the rest of the story.

Even though we were still stuffed from breakfast, we could not resist lunch here!  Homemade bread, delicious sandwiches, and mile high pies - oh my goodness!!!  My roast turkey sandwich came with avocado and blueberry chutney and it was served with homemade vegetable soup and a side of potato salad.  It was SO GOOD!!!  Kim had a ham sandwich that looked equally tasty, but so that we could have some pie, we each only ate half of our sandwiches, then we shared a piece of chocolate icebox pie (we only shared it because it was the last piece...)  We could not wait to come back here when we were really hungry!!

By now we were afraid Rex would arrive in New Orleans before we did, so we skedaddled off down Highway 61 (the Blues Highway) bound for Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  No more stops for us (except for tea!) and we probably passed the airport about the time Rex's plane landed!!  But since we were sure we would have already been in NOLA and drinking by then, we'd had Kim's friends Jim and Alex arrange a ride for Rex!  We found our way into the city, to the hotel, and into the parking garage without incident, and soon we were joining Jim and Alex for drinks at the Old Absinthe House, just across the street from our hotel.  Rex got there not long after we did, so our New Orleans party weekend could officially begin.  I probably forgot to mention that we were celebrating Rex's double-nickel birthday, which is really on the 26th, and ORIGINALLY, the rest of his family (adults, not our kids) were to be partying with us.  We see how well that went over...they won't know what fun they missed and will have to read about it here!!

We met some of Jim and Alex's friends at the bar - thanks for the great hotel rooms, Allison!! - and then went back to the Royal Sonesta to make arrangements for dinner.  Russell, the concierge, set us up with late reservations at Clancy's, on Annunciation in Uptown New Orleans.  We cleaned up a bit, then took a taxi over to St. Joe's Bar for a drink before dinner.  It was a cool bar complete with church pews and other icons.  We sat out on the back porch until it was time to walk over to Clancy's.

Clancy's was a hopping place - packed with people (mostly local, I'd say) having a good time and enjoying great food - and it was loud!  I'm sure I won't remember what everyone else had, but I got some shrimp and crab gumbo, the Clancy's crab salad, and an order of fried green tomatos.  With crabmeat!  Rex and Kim got the gumbo, too, and I think Jim and Alex got salads.  Jim and Alex got veal, Kim got the same crab salad I did, and Rex got the lobster risotto that I was thinking about ordering - saved!  You can read more reviews at http://www.yelp.com/biz/clancys-restaurant-new-orleans if you are thinking about eating here.  We had a pretty long wait for dinner (good thing the bread was good!) but it was worth it - delish!!  We split some desserts - Kim, Jim, and Alex shared a big brownie with ice cream, and Rex and I had a frozen lemon pie.  Oh man, we hit the mother lode!  That pie was fantastic!!

Somehow, we made it back to the French Quarter and walked around a bit.  Kim had never been to Nawlins, so we made the obligatory trip to Pat O'Brien's for a nightcap.  The streets were wild - it's Friday night - so we saw all we needed to see and then went back to rest up for our big lunch date at Galatoire's.  I probably gained five pounds today - it was great!!

Where's the wheelbarrow when I need it?


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