Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. Part I

Written by Patti on October 13th, 2010

Good Morning, Darlings!

You’ve read the article in Design Is Magazine. Now get all the behind-the-scenes skinny.

Driving the 3.5 hours from South Montgomery was a snap with Sirius radio in our rental car. Arriving in the Crescent City to 97F heat, we entered The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans to kind hellos and cool air.

Taking the elevator to the 6th floor, we gasped as we opened the door to our spacious suite. Beautifully decorated and overlooking the glamorous courtyard, we were astounded at every turn. 1.5 baths cloaked in marbled, with two sinks in the master. Two 42” televisions and a mini bar that held not only hangover remedies, but an “intimacy kit” which included condoms. One has to just giggle.

Our suite.

Safety First!

Kris, Public Relations Coordinator, took the most fantastic care of us and alerted the chefs that we would be dining at M Bistro for lunch.

Chef Bradley greeted us at our table and took us on an in-depth tour of the kitchen, including a look at the pastry room, the butchery (complete with a butcher named Butch) and the sous vide station.

M Bistro

Chef Bradley

Lining the wall of the dining room are three velvet draped “cheater’s booths”, sumptuously decorated and named “Stella”, “Desire,” and “Blanche”.

Chocolate sculpture

Back at our table our entrees arrived. Crab cobb salad for me and duck gumbo for my husband. Both scrumptious.

Crab salad

Duck gumbo

Other gifts from the kitchen were a scallop draped in hollandaise & caviar spiced with jalapenos, flatbread pizza with pesto and creole tomatoes and an amazing sausage boudin over sautéed greens and ham.

Scallop draped in hollandaise, topped with caviar, dotted with jalapeno

Flatbread pizza

Fried boudin

Johnny sent out a dessert tray fit for royalty – mini cheesecake, apple pie á la mode, mini beignets with a chocolate dipping sauce and my favorite, the sticky toffee pudding. I would have licked the platter, but my mother raised me better than that.

Desserts galore!

As the last bite was nibbled from the platter, we retired to our room for a short nap. Alas, short naps in The Ritz-Carlton’s luxuriously dressed beds morph into long naps and we almost missed our dinner reservation at Cochon for 6:30.


Since going from lunch to what seemed immediately to dinner, my appetite was not what it should have been at NOLA’s porcine palace. Small plates of fried boudin, breaded and fried hogs head cheese, grilled oysters, rabbit livers over jelly and toast, crawfish pie and their famous fluffy dinner rolls went almost untouched by me. My husband gave me a running commentary on the delights of each dish, while I gamely downed three Cokes, one right after the other. The highlight of the dinner for me was our dining companions to either side of us, who discussed New Orleans cuisine in detail between dishes.

We all toasted with a shot of Cat Daddy Moonshine at the end of the meal and went our separate ways, but not before doing one more moonshine shot at the bar with our new friend and mixologist, Matt.

Walking toward Canal Street after dinner gave us some time to digest and hold hands in the sultry night air.

Back at the hotel, we visited the club level where my husband taught me the basics of chess and let me take a few pawns here and there as we munched on little brownies and mini sticky puddings (that sticky pudding is fantastic!) and sipped champagne. It all feels so civilized and adult-like…until… we spot the whimsical candy bar, filled with treats from childhood – Necco Wafers, Bit-O-Honey, Fudge, Caramels, Cookies and no less than 5 different flavored candy sticks. Oh, and the rice krispie treats were delicious enough to make a 15 year old boy beam. We witnessed this.

Candy Bar

You might think that champagne, chess and brownies might be a prelude to bedtime, but as we hit the lobby and heard Jeremy Davenport and his band playing in the Davenport Lounge, we knew the night was far from over. We found two chairs in the crowded lounge, ordered up a couple of cocktails from our dear waiter Jamie, at his first day on the job, and settled in to enjoy one of New Orleans favorite sons play set after set of fantastic jazz. We even took to the dance floor a time or two.

By one a.m., we were ready for sleep. And we slept well.

We greeted the morning refreshed and ready to meet Chef Matt and Chef Bradley at the Farmers Market for a course on the city’s fresh vegetables, being chosen for tonight’s menu at M Bistro.

Marvelous Chef Matt Murphy

Chef Matt’s story is no less than a miracle.

A near fatal slip and fall accident at home caused the sturdy rugby-playing Irishman’s body to shut down on three separate occasions, forcing him to incur nineteen surgeries and several months in an ICU unit, followed by weeks in a rehabilitation center where he learned to walk again. Within two weeks of the accident, the chefs and hospitality community of New Orleans created a fundraiser for the chef, his wife and their infant quadruplet daughters, all of which were under the age of two. The “Chefs for Chef Matt Murphy” fundraising event drew two thousand patrons, three hundred auction items and forty-five of New Orleans finest chefs including John Besh, Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer, Tory McPhail, John Folse and Donald Link. Six months later, the Miracle on Canal Street that is Chef Matt Murphy returned to the kitchen of The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans to oversee a culinary team that is responsible for the hotel’s restaurant, Garde Mange, Banquet, In-Room Dining and Pastry kitchens.

Murphy said, “I feel so incredibly fortunate to be here today. The hospitality community and the chefs rallied to assist me, Alicia and the girls. My doctor had eight patients with similar symptoms, but I was the only one to live to talk about. I have a lot of people to thank from the doctors and nurses to the volunteers, chefs and hospitality community-at-large. There is truly no place like New Orleans.”

Apparently my robe and slippers were just too cozy, because we missed the chefs at the market. We did pick up some fresh goat roast and lemon dill chevre from Ryals, a local supplier to many of the local restaurants, including the Ritz. Creole tomatoes joined our gathered treasures and we went back to the hotel to beat the heat and grab some breakfast at M Bistro where Johnny fixed us both scotch eggs made with Cerise sausage. I also sampled the crispy Belgian waffle and Eric opted for a simple dish of scrambled eggs and a biscuit.

Market creole tomatoes

After another nap, Eric and I parted ways. Eric was off to shop and sample cocktails, while I toured the hotel with Concierge Rudy.

My décor tour with Rudy was truly spectacular. Armed with the bible of furnishings on the property, we inspected every nook and cranny, all the while building a delightful friendship. Rudy is fabulous and his wit is wicked. We got on like peas and carrots.

Concierge Rudy

The Sun King

Framed antique Mardi Gras invitations.

The breathtaking Grand Ballroom

But then, an alarm sounded. A real life alarm, closing off elevators and keeping the ladies in feathered hats in their seats taking tea.

The staff was so calm and reassuring that everyone just went back to enjoying themselves, with nary a speck of panic. I love the level of professionalism at every turn.

Tomorrow I will lavish you with the details of our tasting dinner with Chef Matt Murphy. You will be blown away.  I was.

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Sheila E – The Glamorous Life

M Bistro at The Ritz-Carlton on Urbanspoon


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