The first and last time I visited New Orleans was December of 1991.
I was there on a week-long business trip. I didn't travel with any co-workers, so I roamed the city alone after my day's work.
I had one of the "Best Meals of My Life" in New Orleans, a heaping serving of Crawfish Etouffee from K-Paul's. It was the first time I had this Cajun recipe, and it was a revelation. I was astounded by the spices, the texture and size of the crawfish. The meal was served on a generous bed of white rice. It was a taste sensation. I often think about this particular meal. I've had other versions of this, but so far nothing compares.
That week, I noted in my diary that I ate at the Palace Café twice, but nothing sticks out as a food memory.
On my last night there, I visited the famed Preservation Hall, a small music hall which features New Orleans jazz musicians, playing New Orleans jazz. The focus at the hall was the music. There were no chairs to sit on, just the floor. No food or beverages were served. Just music.
I remember how bright, sharp and sudden the music seemed to be in that very small room. It was magical, listening to the five musicians (a lot of brass, some strings, a piano) weave their gorgeous sound. The music struck me with its intimacy, its "nearness". As the horn hit some particularly aggressive notes, I remember thinking "he's going to knock us out with that sound!" I haven't experienced live music like that since.
It makes me sad that these places were part of Katrina's devastation.