(Photo: Andrew Cribb/Getty)
Everyone loves the thrill of introducing a friend to their new favorite restaurant. For Deirdre Faucheux, a corporate concierge at the New Orleans Marriott, this is just one of the perks of the job. Deirdre, a self-proclaimed “food snob and bar snob,” is an expert in helping guests discover how to eat well in New Orleans, an important part of really getting to know the city.
What do you do?
I work in the concierge lounge, answering guests’ questions and making a lot of recommendations. I like to give people a whole picture of the city; what makes it so special and uniquely New Orleans. We just have so much to offer, and I can help spotlight things for them to experience here.
Are you a native New Orleanian?
I was born here, and my family goes way back as well. I’ve spent time in other parts of the country, and I’ve traveled, and I love that all I ever have to say to people about my home is “I’m from New Orleans.” When it comes down to it, I just don’t think I could picture myself going really anywhere else. Here, you got a little food, you got a little dirt, you got a little decadence, you got a little music, you got a little soul.
What makes New Orleans such a great place to visit?
Our “onlies.” We just have so many things no other place can even compare to. Our beautiful cemeteries, because we’re the only place to bury our dead above ground. We’re the only city with a mobile historic monument — our streetcars. Our food is second to none in the world! And, everything and everyone around here is all tied together, so as I like to say, “We may be big, but we’re small.”
What’s your most memorable culinary experience in New Orleans?
The summer before last at COOLinary (a spotlight on New Orleans dining that runs through the month of August and features special menus and promotions from over 50 restaurants throughout the city), I sat down with Susan Spicer from Bayona, and she made us a smoked duck pepper jelly peanut butter sandwich. It may sound strange, but it was delicious like you wouldn’t believe. I just love that sweet and savory combination; it reminds me of the way my grandmother would fix us her meat pies drizzled with cane syrup. It’s just too good.
So what are your favorite restaurants or other top picks for New Orleans food and drink?
That’s the hardest question to answer, and the one I get asked the most! It changes [because] every morning I wake up and some new fantastic restaurant has opened that I need to try. And I am pretty much a “snob” about my food and drinks, but I do try to get out to all these places and pass my honest opinion along to the guests. For a bar, I do love SoBou, with Abigail Deirdre, but there’s also the bar at Kingfish with Chris McMillan, who has been touted as the mixologist in the city.
It sounds like a lot of it comes down to the individuals involved.
For me, that’s what I’m looking for, the names like Besh, Folse, Susan Spicer, etc., that have proven themselves to value quality. And, of course, the bartenders I mentioned that I love, because I know with them I can get what I’m looking for, and that amazing personalized service that really makes it special.
What is an absolute “must-try” for someone visiting the city?
New Orleans is the only city with its own cocktail, the Sazerac. Of course, I tell guests about the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel where it originated. But one of my very favorite bartenders, Abigail at SoBou, mixes the rye Sazerac and the cognac Sazerac to make the best one in the city, in my estimation. So, I send them to her.
New Orleans has its known hot spots, but what are some great spots visitors to the city often overlook?
Well, as I said, many of the best chefs are paired with local farmers from the farmers market, so I often send people there so they can get a look at the farm-to-table-freshness for themselves.
I make sure to tell them about Frenchmen Street with its great music and bars, especially since we just passed the smoking ban in bars. It’s actually just outside the French Quarter, in the Faubourg Marigny, and I like to explain the different “faubourgs,” our subdivisions, to them.
What’s your best advice for first-time visitors to NOLA?
Take off your beads! Even those of us that have lived here forever love to be a tourist in our own city, but that doesn’t mean you really want to look like a tourist. Also, don’t be shy! We’re friendly here.