Hilton New Orleans Riverside, and Paul’s Pastry Shop King Cake

We stayed at the Hilton Riverside for the first time this week. Usually I like to stay somewhere in the Quarter, but for various reasons this was a good choice for this particular stay (plus we got upgraded including the cost of breakfast downstairs, which was pretty good). Everything here was fine, except the parking deck (they aren’t offering valet service right now) is downright dark and scary.

Hilton Riverside, New Orleans LA

On the way, we stopped in Picayune (MS) to go to Paul’s Pastry Shop (they make *the* best king cakes – I think they’re better than Randazzo’s, Gambino’s, or Tastee making the McKenzie-recipe cake, even!). Paul’s was actually out of cakes, but we stopped at one of the other shops that sells them and bought the very last one – a pecan praline-filled one. Yum!

This is what close-up shots were made for:

King Cake from Paul's Pastry

Now what I **really** want to do this year is make a galette des rois cake – it’s the traditional king cake from France that’s just soooo beautiful. If it works out, I’ll post the pics and recipe in an upcoming post!

Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans LA

This was our first stay at the Omni Royal Orleans – Av wanted us to get a hotel right on the parade route for the Krewe du Vieux so that since I would be by myself (he’s in the parade) I wouldn’t have to walk anywhere to be able to see it. The parade went right in front of the hotel and I was all set (I’ll post pics of the parade tomorrow)!

This is our room – it was small, but pretty nice. Av wanted to get us a balcony room so that I could be up there for the parade if I wanted, but they didn’t have any available, and when he checked us in, he asked again but they only had the regular rooms open.

Hotel Room, Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans LA

For some reason, he asked if we could open the windows and they actually said that the windows were *nailed shut* because of people jumping out of them!!! WHAT?! Um…first of all I have a hard time believing that but also I can’t imagine telling a guest that, even if ever was true.

I was thinking that because this was a Omni hotel that it might be a little nicer. It wasn’t one of those hotels where everybody that works there knows your name (like when we’ve stayed at the Ritz-Carlton) but the lobby was nice and the room was okay.

The weirdest thing was that the commode flushed at something like 200 decibels. I would actually flush and run it was so loud!!! hahahaha!!

Anyway, we had a *fabulous* time – I’ll put pics up tomorrow of the Krewe du Vieux. Fun!

Chateau Sonesta, New Orleans – and Supper at Herbsaint

This was our first stay at the Chateau Sonesta – it was pretty nice; due to the shortage of help, though, there’s no valet, no bell service, no room service, no concierge, etc…..at this or most of the other hotels in the Quarter.

Since it’s the low season, the rates are back to bargain-level (I think the rates in all the hotels that first opened after the storm went sky-high (thanks, LePav) since FEMA and other government agencies were paying the bill – but now that the agency people are settled in and other hotels are opening, there’s a natural increase of supply which is bringing rates back to where they should be for this time of year).

Av and I always-always-always go to New Orleans for a few days in late December – sometimes just three or four days, like this year, and sometimes a week or so. We try to eat at some great restaurants, go to Celebration in the Oaks, walk and talk and shop…and genuinely get to enjoy New Orleans. On Christmas Day, we either go to a kosher restaurant in the Quarter, or one of the great Chinese places around (we’re Jewish – eating Chinese food that day is…tradition) and take in a movie (uh, also…tradition).

We usually stay at the Ritz-Carlton – they always have a special Papa Noel rate and give the guests little presents, but they’re closed for several more months doing renovations. The Chateau Sonesta is adjacent to the back of the R-C on Iberville, and I thought it might be nice to stay there. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was fine and we had a great time anyway. Here are some pics of our room:
Hotel Room, Chateau Sonesta, New Orleans

Armoire in Hotel Room, Chateau Sonesta, New Orleans

Desk in Hotel Room, Chateau Sonesta, New Orleans

Bathroom, Chateau Sonesta, New Orleans

We had a great time, and one of the better suppers we had – due to the amazing entrees – was at Herbsaint on St. Charles, not far from Lee Circle. It was opened by Susan Spicer (one of my friends is a huge Susan Spicer fan – she used to have this wonderful, wonderful little shop in the warehouse district with gourmet food that was available for take-out, but it closed a few years ago), and the chef is Donald Link.

I started with the tomato shrimp bisque (disappointment) and Av had the gumbo (okay). For our entrees, I had the “Muscovy Duck Leg Confit with Dirty Rice and Citrus Gastrique” which was sooooo amazing – the best duck, ever. Av had the “Pan Roasted Farm Chicken with Crawfish Risotto, Mustard Greens and Lobster Broth” which was also just amazing. For dessert, I had the “Banana Brown Butter Tart” which was very, very good but would have been better with either more banana or no banana at all. The flavored crème fraîche on top was just weird, though. Av had the “Warm Chocolate Beignets” which he said were just okay. For cocktails, we had a Sazerac (with a name like Herbsaint…), and a Pimm’s Cup.

Le Pavillon Hotel (stay 2 post-Katrina), New Orleans LA

We stayed at Le Pav less than a month before the hurricane (that visit here); here’s our trip a month *after* the hurricane:

Le Pavillon Hotel Room, New Orleans LA


Le Pavillon Hotel Room, New Orleans LA

Room: There *are* hotels open in New Orleans – they’re filled with government people. We were able to get a room at Le Pav for a couple of nights. I’m embarrassed to say what we paid for this room, but I can tell you that it was significant (what can you do?). This room, like the one we stayed in last time, was really small, and the bathroom this time was even smaller than our previous stay.

Lobby: The lobby is still as beautiful as ever. The hotel is filled with firefighters from Yonkers and EPA people and all kinds of government contractors. When Av was waiting for an elevator, a firefighter stopped him and half-jokingly asked if he was in the right place – he couldn’t believe that they had been put up in such a nice hotel.

Service: I’m just going to type in this letter that everyone receives at check-in:

September 26, 2005
Dear Hotel Guest,
We would first like to thank you for staying with us in our time of rebuilding the great city of New Orleans. During this rebuilding process some hotel services are not available and others, although available, are limited. As our guest, we would like to make you aware of these changes.

  • Due to the displacement of our staff, we are unable to provide daily housekeeping service. Once weekly service will be available. If you need anything such as towels, shampoo, soap, etc. please call extension 4250 and we will gladly bring it to you.
  • The water hotel is being treated with a chlorine solution but city officials have not yet declared it safe for drinking or brushing your teeth (my note: actually there were warnings that it wasn’t even, at the time, safe to get on your skin….so we brushed our teeth and bathed using bottled water.). We have bottled water available downstairs in the lobby near the elevator for your use, free of charge.
  • Late night front desk and telephone operator personnel will not be available between the hours of 11:00pm and 7:00am. Upon check in you will be provided with a direct phone number to your room which bypasses the operator station. Please give this number to anyone who may call you during these late hours. If you should need assistance, please speak to our security team located in the main lobby.
  • Breakfast and dinner will be available a la carte in the Gallery Lounge (and then it lists the hours). (My note: supper was a buffet on all disposable plates and cups. It was $25 per person.)
  • The Gallery Lounge will be open from 4:00pm to 11:00pm.
  • Room service is not available. If you need special assistance, dial 4250.
  • The rooftop pool, hot tub and fitness center is open from 5:00am to 1:00am.
  • Parking is located across the street. It is currently self-park, free of charge (my note: it stayed at capacity most of the day and night).
  • The cable television is not currently working (my note: we were only able to get one local channel on antenna).
  • Guest laundry and dry cleaning service is not available at this time.
  • Bell service is not available, however if you need to use a cart, one will be provided for you. If further assistance is needed, please let us know.
  • Our famous PB and J hour is ongoing between 10:00 and 11:00pm.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the front desk at extension 4250.

Ed Morin
Managing Director

Food: We did have supper there one night, the only option was a buffet, and it was $25/pp.

Extra: The PB and J was nice.

Our experience is this: Le Pav wasn’t our favorite hotel before the hurricane, and although we appreciate that there was room for us, the fact that we paid a multiple of the rate we did last time didn’t exactly endear us to it. The Ritz is great (we stay there a few times each year), the Monteleone is nice, the W is cool, and Queen and Crescent isn’t expensive (those four are our fav hotels in New Orleans). Many more hotels are opening in December, and that should bring prices down.

Le Pavillon Hotel, New Orleans LA

Le Pavillon Hotel Lobby, New Orleans LA

Lobby at LePavillon

Room: This was our first stay at the Le Pavillon. On TripAdvisor, it’s the highest-rated hotel in New Orleans. The rooms are quite small (but that’s not uncommon in New Orleans – rooms at Hotel Monteleone are about this same size) but furnished comfortably.

Lobby: The lobby is the best part of the hotel – just gorgeous. Several seating areas, lovely chandeliers, nice paintings. Every evening, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are served in the lobby.

Service: Although this is certainly a fine hotel, it isn’t the Ritz-Carlton. Everyone doesn’t know your name. The same level of service doesn’t seem to be there. Our reservation was *lost* upon check-in, and the error was blamed on Travelocity for not faxing them the reservation ((I’m not saying that’s not true, but Travelocity really faxes reservations to every hotel? I can’t imagine what would happen if a hotel’s fax ran out of paper, then memory, to retrieve reservations. Also: faxing?)). In any case, they were apologetic about it, but it took us about twenty minutes to check in, and we weren’t offered any upgrade or the valet service to be comped or anything. We didn’t ask for it, but I was thinking that if this kind of thing had happened elsewhere, that might have been offered.

Food: We didn’t order off the room service menu, but it seemed really overpriced (even at this level of hotel) without much in the way of choice. We instead walked to Acme Oyster House.

Extra: The hotel’s on Poydras, about four blocks from the Quarter – but it’s within walking distance of a lot of nice things.

Our experience is this: The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans stays as our favorite hotel there; Le Pavillon was nice, but there wasn’t really anything about it that made us say to ourselves, “wow, I can’t wait to go back!”. On the other hand, the night we were there, rates at LePav – at just under $100 – were lower than many, many other hotels in town (including even a Hampton Inn in Metairie! cough!).

Hotel Room, Le Pavillon, New Orleans LA

Our Room

Bathroom, Le Pavillon, New Orleans LA

Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans

Bedroom, Ritz Carlton in New Orleans

Armoire, Ritz Carlton in New Orleans

Bed Tray, Ritz Carlton in New Orleans

Desk, Ritz Carlton in New Orleans

Lobby: The lobby is actually on the third floor – so if you drive in on Canal, you come up the ground-floor lobby to the third-floor lobby. It’s really pretty – there is always a *huge* arrangement of fresh flowers, and it makes the entire lobby smell so nice.

Service: Everyone that works here knows your name. From the valet to the doorman to the front desk, and so on. When they see you again, they somehow remember your name. They’re all really thoughtful, and if you come through a hallway at an odd hour when someone might be vacuuming or doing something else, they will stop or turn off the vacuum, and wait for you to get well clear before they begin again. I know people say this a lot, but it *is* the small things that really count, like remembering your name, and saying that it’s so great to have you back since your last visit in December, things like that.

Food: We had room service Sunday evening and it was superb! From my salad, pasta, and creme brulee to Av’s soup and fish entree, it was all perfect.

Salmon, Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans

Pasta, Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans

Creme Brulee, Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans

Our experience is this: We’ve stayed at some great places in the Quarter, like the Hotel Monteleone and the W, but the R-C really is the nicest and most gracious. We sometimes try other hotels in New Orleans (mostly because sometimes the R-C can get VERY expensive – WELL over $300/day, sometimes more) and sometimes just to see what the other ones are like. But the R-C will always be my favorite.