Lunch on Esplanade Avenue
Catch a wish. Dreams come true on Esplanade Avenue. Days unfold in luxurious and fragrant bouquets on Esplanade Avenue. Take a deep breath. That’s New Orleans you’re smelling, a waft of Heaven on earth. New Orleans smells good because New Orleans is good. Esplanade Avenue is very, very good.
I am having lunch today at Café Degas on Esplanade Avenue. What a beautiful day it is! Every day is a beautiful day in New Orleans, of course, especially on Esplanade Avenue, but today is really exceptional. Today is exquisite. I wish you were here.
A leisurely lunch is a New Orleans tradition.
New Orleans is unlike anyplace else in America. Some people say New Orleans is French in its love of fine dining and the art of conversation. The pace and the climate leads other people to claim that New Orleans is the northernmost Caribbean city. Days unfold without hurry or worry. New Orleans really is The City That Care Forgot. Living on Esplanade Avenue, if only for an afternoon, is like plotting one's life in a therapeutic spa. Lunch is one of the regularly scheduled treatments that nourishes one's body and soul here.
The windows are all wide open at Café Degas this afternoon and the lightest of breezes is drifting, to and fro and frittering, between dining room tables. The kitchen aromas are mingling with the perfume of the flowers planted in front of the café. Everyone who walks by looks at those of us sitting inside. We smile at each other and, sometimes, we wave to each other. Look, there goes Charlie! Hi, pal!
Charlie just waved back. He is headed home with a paper sack of groceries in his arms. I bet he's got a soup bone in that sack for his dog, Lucky.
New Orleans isn’t lazy. New Orleans is relaxed. Are you ready to come and find yourself feeling at home? Relax and take a sniff of a whiff of Heaven on earth. Esplanade Avenue waits for you. Life goes on at an accommodating pace, as easily rolling as the Mississippi River's tides at a barge's speed. No hurry means no worry. Not hurrying gives you the time to pause and enjoy the day as it unfolds.
The middle of the day is the most pleasant time of day, a time to sip a sazerac at Café Degas and ponder life’s more easygoing mysteries in New Orleans while the party of six seated closest to the street melodiously chatters in French as they toast each other in French, and while two tables of paired blonde and brunette ladies, separated by an empty table in between them, and by about thirty years, catch up on the news about their careers, about their husbands and boyfriends, about their plans for Mardi Gras (which will fall on the second weekend in February next year), and about which of the specials sounds better today, the braised rabbit or the foie de veau.
The waitress is carrying a small tart with a lit candle to the elder of the two blond women. The French people are singing Happy Birthday in English: “Happy birthday, dear mademoiselle, happy birthday to you.” We all clap when the cake is delivered.
It is hard to make a wish in New Orleans because the best thing you can imagine has already come true. What else is there to wish for?
I am having the crab and mirliton bisque garnished with two red crab claws. The waiter asks if I would like anything else. What else is there to want beyond a leisurely lunch at Café Degas on a sunny New Orleans day that smells so good that I wish I could bottle the air and sell it in New York City or Los Angeles? I’d be rich. New Orleans is rich in subtly tangy essences and associations that linger long after a deed has been done.
New Orleans, most wonderfully along Esplanade Avenue, is ineffable. A day like this, a lunch like this, is a thing that is hard to remember in all its details but impossible to forget in its appreciation.
I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be rich with money. I am content to be rich with good memories, the best kind. New Orleans is a city in which good memories are hatched and they are nurtured to immortality. The best memories made in New Orleans are made to last forever. The best New Orleans memories aren’t made in the French Quarter. For visitors to our fair city, the best New Orleans memories are made on Esplanade Avenue. I can pinpoint the exact location.
I’m done with lunch now. I am headed home. My home is just a fifteen-minute picturesque stroll from Café Degas, along shaded and colorful Esplanade Avenue. Home is where the heart is. On Esplanade Avenue, your heart can find a place to rest in New Orleans. On Esplanade Avenue, your heart can go on----on Esplanade Avenue. Esplanade Avenue can be your New Orleans headquarters for as long as you choose to call New Orleans home.
[Today's installment is a lightly rewritten version of an essay that appeared on our sister blog's October 27, 2017 installment. To learn more about Esplanade Avenue, in person, in the flesh, in the round, first-hand, with experienced guides to give you insider tips, visit the website of our sponsor. Keep reading.]