I have a special place in my heart for coffee. I find there to be such a romantic nostalgia surrounding it. I can very clearly remember my mom using Café Du Monde’s chicory coffee (that iconic yellow canister!) when I was 4 or five years old, to craft sweet, Vietnamese-style cups into which she would dip Chinese donuts. In fact, now that I think about it, it's strangely similar to the classic NOLA combo of a café au lait and beignets from the eatery — which, even as a non-tourist, I regularly indulge in.
Despite the fact that I’ve been an official New Orleans resident for a few years now, I feel like I’m always happily exploring the city for the first time, finding new things around every colorful corner. One of my most recent city adventures was at downtown's design-happy Le Méridien hotel, where I took a much needed staycation to work on my series of fiber drawings and to celebrate International Coffee Day!
Considering the workload I had, a boost in brainpower was much needed. Thankfully the hotel has a stunning, modernist coffee area, dubbed the Hub where I could get my fix and get inspired. I met up with the Master Barista, Anna and watched her masterfully concoct my cappuccino. We chatted about her other favorite NOLA dining spots (Bacchanal for wine and live music, and The Joint for barbecue) as well as the fact that my first ever job was at a coffee shop in college — though I certainly never had the skill set to steam, pour, and swirl latte art like Anna. She also shared with me the story of Rose Nicaud, the city’s first-known coffee vendor back in the early 1800s. Rose, who was a slave, offered notoriously delicious cups of coffee to workers and shoppers at the French Market every Sunday. Not only did she offer that important service to the local community, but she was a true inspiration to other women of color who wouldn’t have otherwise even dreamed of having their own business. How amazing is that? Yet another aspect of this city to surprise me and drive my creative endeavors. Next time you're in town, go holla at my girl, Anna. She knows so much about this city!
As I sat, sipped, and sketched, I was just as influenced by the hotel’s beautifully designed contemporary interior as I was the Joan Miró book I brought along for inspiration. And as for my answer to my mom’s Chinese donuts, I opted for Le Méridien’s must-have signature pastry, the éclair. Chef Johnny Luzzini took inspiration from various cities for his series of signature sweets. Obviously I had to try his New Orleans influenced version, which utilizes the city’s most iconic flavors, like chicory, sassafras, and pimentón. Sooo good!
After fueling up with two cups of coffee, I headed to my room on the 18th floor. I swear I could find magical, fleeting moments practically everywhere I looked. Have I mentioned how I’m a sucker for hotel living? That said, I like to Dabify any space I’m in to make it feel a bit more like home. I brought along my own colorful pompom tassels and added them to a minimal floor lamp in a quiet corner of the room. And Apolis’ New Orleans tote — left as a gift — was a perfect token from my staycation, especially given what seemed to be a theme of pride for this town, so much of which stemmed from just a great cup of coffee.