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BEST OF NEW ORLEANS™ 2001 - WRITER'S PICKS 

LOCAL LIFE
Best Returning Street Act
This spring, Casey the one-man music machine returned to New Orleans after several years on the road. His sculpture -- about the size of a semi truck's front grill -- includes items like pinwheels and flags and a small brass desk calendar (always turned to the proper date, of course). On the back, there's a tom-tom and other musical instruments, along with a harness. Casey lifts it all up, straps himself in, then meanders around the Quarter playing his little rhythms, and blowing on a whistle and a harmonica that are on a holder near his mouth. On approach, he looks like a musical rummage sale with legs.

Best Place To Eat A Bug
We're not talking mudbugs here. The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center not only has miles of hiking trails where you may unwittingly swallow a flying bug, it also has displays of insects -- including lots of roaches under Plexiglas -- and educational programs about where these pests fit into the ecosystem. Every year, the center also hosts a special day of dining featuring special dishes made from -- you got it -- bugs.

Best Alternative to a Florida Vacation
The seawall at Lake Pontchartrain doesn't have miles of white beaches, but it does have a beautiful and clear view of miles of water, usually dotted with sailboats. With the right attitude and a picnic lunch, the seawall's much cheaper than a weekend in Pensacola.

Best Other Alternative to a Florida Vacation
Because Lake Pontchartrain isn't quite tidy enough yet, and because of continuing shark reports in the nearby ocean waters, the land-locked shores of Coconut Beach Volleyball are seeming better than ever. Between a good game of beach volleyball and cheap beer, it's the perfect way to waste a weekend.

Best Legs on Bourbon Street
It's hard to beat the charm of the giant plastic chorus girl's legs that swing in and out of the building façade above the door of Big Daddy's. Obviously trying to capture the bygone era when an elegant but scantily clad singer would swing over Western bars while performing, the legs now serve as their own barker, describing a genteel version of what goes on inside. If nothing else, it's a no-confusion landmark for meeting friends in the French Quarter.

Best Herbaceous Hideout
Tucked away in City Park, the Botanical Gardens is a great place to get lost for a lunch hour, wandering through the roses and flitting through the butterfly garden.

Best Spot for Private Viewing of Public Fireworks
If standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the Spanish Plaza isn't working for you, cross the Crescent City Connection to the Algiers levee near the ferry, where the view of the river and the city's fireworks displays are unfettered by buildings, drunks (unless you brought them with you) or tall people.

Best Date to Prove You're in Tune With Nature
The monthly moonlight canoe trips with every full moon at Jean Lafitte Park.
Best Comeback by a Saints Player
A year and a half ago, Saints offensive lineman Wally Williams was told he might have been one hit away from being paralyzed. One of a seemingly million tragedies of Mike Ditka's final season, Williams' tragedy might have been fatal when he injured his neck during the 1999 preseason drills and eventually spent the rest of the season (and much of the offseason) recovering from surgery on his vertebrae. But Williams rebounded like the rest of the Saints under Jim Haslett and had the kind of season that answered those who questioned his fat free-agent contract, anchoring a Saints offensive line that provided pass protection and run support with consistency.

Best Window of Opportunity Now Closed
The free parking bonanza once offered by Harrah's at their immense parking garage at Canal Street and Convention Center Blvd now requires you also gamble, which makes paid parking probably cheaper.

Best Pre-Jackson Square Dressing Room
At the mirror to the left of the door to the French Quarter A&P, there's usually at least one "human statue" who regularly applies his white facepaint, unbothered by the stream of people needing a beer, cigarette, or grocery fix.

Best Discarnate Gallery
The 9th Ward Gallery Online (www.9thward.com) is just that -- a virtual showcase for the coolest Ninth Ward art, fashion, wigs and art rock unattached to any physical gallery space in the Mighty Nine or elsewhere. True to its origins, it can be a little ramshackle, with a few broken or abandoned links, but it's a very colorful site, filled with surprises, intentional or otherwise.

Best Gallery in a Former Supermarket
Barrister's Gallery
used to occupy a small retail space in the French Quarter that literally overflowed with African masks, tribal fetishes and weird visionary outsider art. Today, however, it occupies a much bigger space -- big enough, in fact, to stage plays and show movies -- that was once the Venus Gardens Supermarket on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd (formerly Dryades Street) in the heart of Central City. Reassuringly, it still overflows with African masks, tribal fetishes and weird visionary outsider art.

Best Place to Paint a Room or Fix the Porch For Less Than 10 Bucks
No one should attempt a home improvement project without scouring The Green Project, a Mid-City trove for inexpensive supplies such as lumber, paint, doors and windows, appliances, tools, fixtures, and more (not to mention a "Free Corner" that's always worth a rummage). This nonprofit is an education center with an emphasis on community revitalization, and a recycling/salvage center where folks can donate paint, building materials and garden supplies. This translates into big savings -- that $34 gallon of Beyond Red paint from Home Depot may have been a tad too orange for the original customers, but at $2, it might suit you just fine.

Best Masked Artist
Jose Torres Tama
used to show expressionistic charcoal drawings in local galleries when not busy performing as a fire juggler on Jackson Square. These days he works crowds all over the United States as a performance artist in costumes based on masked comic strip characters, dazzling all with his rhapsodic social criticism and piquant wit. He recently wowed a performance artists' convention with his In Exile Close to the Equator at the North Carolina Bat Cave -- a show he is now reprising at Café Brasil.

Best Jazz Fest Distraction
When it's feeling too hot or too crowded on the Fair Grounds, we like to have a seat at the bar upstairs and watch the televised horseraces, featuring pony races at another track. We know what you're thinking. But what's wrong with watching a horse race at the Fair Grounds -- even if it is Jazz Fest?

Best New Business for Al Copeland
The Chicken King takes the cake when it comes to running fab food franchises, like Popeye's and Copeland's restaurants. How about resurrecting McKenzies Bakeries? If anybody knows the art of the possible, it's Al Copeland.

Best Rivalry Renewal
The showdown between LSU and Tulane for a trip to the College World Series held fast the state's attention for an entire weekend. The host Green Wave, which tallied a perfect record against in-state competition during the regular season, managed to top the Tigers 2-1 in a three-game series at Zephyr Field. However, the city and both schools all won. Besides the obvious economic impact, the hoopla and excitement generated by the series gave new life to the old and somewhat forgotten rivalry.

Best Post-Prandial Stroll
After a sumptuous seafood meal at one of the fine restaurants near the South Shore, there is nothing like a relaxing walk along the levee near Bucktown, along a path that winds all the way to the Causeway Bridge. It's also a great jog, too -- but we don't recommend such radical activity after a fried seafood platter.

Best Place To Find Bizarre Objects Washed Down From Minnesota
The levee at the junction of River Road and Magazine Street is more commonly known as a place for Uptown dog owners to exercise their mutts. But artists who work with recycled objects also like to stroll down to the shoreline and scout for river flotsam: items that have fallen off ships (such as oversized iron bolts and screws), glassware, driftwood, farm tools -- anything swallowed up by the mighty Mississippi and belched out at the sharp river bend.

Best Place to Get Mauled by a Fowl
You can find ducks at other locations around the city, but none are quite as fearless as the ones at City Park. If you show up with a bag of food, stay near the playground equipment -- a quick climb up the wrong end of the slide might be necessary.

Best Place to Drink Wine on a Bayou and Dance Like Zorba
The always growing crowds at the Hellenic Greek Festival at the Hellenic Cultural Center testify to the universal appeal of its ethnic delights: platters of Greek food; whirling, costumed dancers; shots of ouzo. But our favorites are the bottles of Greek wine available for purchase -- grab a couple and bring them to the banks of Bayou St. John. Greece is the word.

Best Transformation by a Formerly Inhospitable Park
Remember when Lafreniere Park was nothing but a collection of trees too scrawny to give any real shade? Well, those trees have grown up now, and the park has become a real Jefferson Parish gem, complete with refreshments, an attractive new carousel, paddle boats, playgrounds and much more. Our favorite denizen is the rooster that struts around the ducks, crowing at all hours.
ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHTLIFE

Best Highly Exaggerated Report of a Local Death
The Dallas DJ duo of Kramer and Twitch (real names Keith Kramer and Tony Longo) reported in early June that Britney Spears had been killed in a Los Angeles car accident that also involved Spears' boyfriend Justin Timberlake (and massive amounts of alcohol). The fictitious "report" caused panic worldwide among the stars' fans and panic among the brass at radio station KEGL. Kramer and Twitch were promptly canned, although station officials cited a build-up of problems with the controversial pair. Within a few weeks, however, Kramer and Twitch announced they were relocating to Detroit for an all-talk format. Spears, meanwhile, is doing just fine.

Best Theatrical Argument for Restoring a Monarchy
With his play With Malice Towards All, Jim Fitzmorris scored a recent hit for the Red Noses company at the Shakespeare Festival at Tulane. But Fitzmorris is also the scion of a political family -- including uncle Jimmy
Fitzmorris, the former lieutenant governor -- and he drew on a lifetime of first-hand experience with the political pros. The portrait he turned in is enough to make us reconsider the whole experiment of democracy.

Best Bar Where Harry Carey Would Have Felt at Home
Milan Lounge
screams Chicago with its walls of Cubs memorabilia and Cubbies games on the television. Inside the unassuming white building with the red awning are bartenders and clientele who know enough players, stats and trivia to rival any bar in or out of the Chicago Loop. All they need is the bratwurst.

Best News for Seated Music Lovers
Following a six-month forced hiatus for a building code violation, the Dragon's Den finally re-opened for live music.

Best Annual Jazz Fest Act that Should Become Full Time --
For two years now, Stanton Moore, Charlie Hunter, Skerik and Mike Dillon have gotten together to jam at various venues during the Jazz Fest weeks. But why limit themselves to this annual collaboration? They're too good together to save it up for once a year.

Best Semi-Private Party to Try to Crash
Deep in the heart of oh-so-funky Bywater, which is better known for its ancient neighborhood bars and Ninth Ward grit, the Country Club looks like a posh oasis with its salmon-and-blue exterior. Inside, a sleek hardwood hallway leads to a pool-dominated courtyard that has been the site of some of the hippest parties in recent memory. Otherwise known as the Swamp Club, these nighttime pool parties hosted by the dynamic duo of Bunny Trick (and DJ-ed by Running With Scissors actor Flynn De Marco) are clothing-optional and tough to find out about. Good luck.

Best Hat Trick
Settle into one of the cushy couches or chairs in the front corner of Winston's Pub on Metairie Road and let your eyes wander up the walls to see the coolest collection of the oddest hats you'll never wear. Feathers, fedoras and flannel make for bar conversation brimming with fun.

Best Local Lifeline
Local musician Peter Holsapple chimed in on the July 22 pop-star celebrity episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Holsapple served as a lifeline for Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker, who referred to his friend as a guy who might know things other people wouldn't. Rucker even worked in a mention of Holsapple's band, the Continental Drifters. (We all know Holsapple delivers the musical goods, but alas, he failed that night to give his pal the right answer.)

Best Substitute for Movie Pitchers
Both Tulane University and Loyola University offer sanctuary for film refugees from the now-closed Movie Pitchers. Tulane's McAlister Auditorium features popular Hollywood flicks you missed at commercial theaters. (Visitors should have a high tolerance level for catcalls from frat boys.) And on Sept. 11, the Loyola Film Buffs Institute (FBI) starts another season with both classic and obscure films (kicking off with the 1932 "semi-documentary" Kuhle Wampe), playing to a more serious audience in one of several classrooms at Bobet Hall. Find the FBI's schedule at www.loyno.edu/filmstudies.

Best New Reason to Visit the West Bank
First it was the Vietnamese food. But now, it's the addition of the Palace Theatre 16, which offers a calmer alternative to the madness that is the Palace Theatre 20 out in Elmwood. A buck for the toll (or the ferry) on the way back is a bargain. This smaller Palace has a fraction of the crowd -- and a better concession stand.

Best Place to See and Be Seen Down River
A year ago, it looked like the musical chairs of clubs opening and closing would drastically alter the Frenchmen Street scene. Now that everything's shaken out, one thing has become crystal clear: In one year, d.b.a. has become THE bar to go to east of the Quarter. Sure the prices are a bit high, especially in a recession. But when you've got 20 premium beers on tap, countless others in the bottle, top-shelf whiskeys, all served in a warm glow of an atmosphere featuring tongue-in-groove walls and sconces, you've got one special bar.

Best Measurement of the Shim Sham's Club's Success as a Legit Theater
Hedwig's Angry Inch
was a suitably off-color unit of measurement for the snazzy, louche, retro-chic nightspot on Toulouse Street. The glam-rock gender-bender musical starring Flynn De Marco and directed by Richard Reade and Carl Walker) has been a smash in the home of the ineffable Shim Shamettes. We are told that other dramatic offerings are in the works. Bring them on.

Best Place to See a Former First Lady Drinking Beer From the Bottle
Spot none other than Jackie O at Cooter Brown's, where pint-sized celebrity reproductions line the walls, each clutching a different brand of beer. We always knew she had it in her.

Best Cameo in a Hollywood Movie by a Sort-of New Orleanian
When we last checked in with Henry Griffin, he was taking his hilarious short film Mutiny to the Sundance Film Festival and beyond. He was equally hilarious in the opening sequence of last fall's The Way of the Gun, in which he plays "P Whipped," a pissed-off club goer who seethes while his loud-mouthed girlfriend tells off Benicio del Toro and Ryan Phillipe for sitting on his car. For no other reason, the scene is fun to watch for Griffin's trademark, Sideshow Bob-like red locks, but you also almost lose it when he makes the ultimate challenge: "You wanna do the Man Dance?" Griffin has pretty much made L.A. his permanent home but returns to his hometown frequently. Too bad he trimmed those locks, though. As Steven Soderbergh remarked when he heard the news, "That's like Sampson getting a haircut."

Best Stage Banter of the Last 12 Months
Harry Connick Jr.
lightened up the proceedings at the recent Satchmo to Marsalis concert with some expert showmanship and quips, including a dead-on impersonation of Wynton Marsalis, and a prayer to the heavens before he engaged in a piano duet with Ellis Marsalis. More than any of the other accomplished musicians on stage that night, Connick embodied the showmanship of Pops.

Best New Place to See Cutting Edge Theater Between the Autumnal and the Vernal Equinoxes
Housed in a warehouse on Marigny Street, just downtown from Elysian Fields, the A.R.K. is another boost for Faubourg Marigny -- as the happening place for the new bohemia. But there's no air conditioning. Authenticity's great, but see you in September. Late September.

Best Publicity Stunt
Ernie K-Doe, for faking his death a few months ago. Yes, the Emperor of the Universe, much like Tom Sawyer before him, was sitting in the back of the audience watching his own funeral. And then dancing in his own very own second line. It was all very clever, K-Doe. But the jig's up. So put one of your brilliant suits and hop back up on stage already. We miss you.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS

Best Beverage Occlusion
They don't serve alcohol, but the folks at Café Lebanon know how to keep you entertained while you wait for your falafel. They scatter a handful of raw, meaty pine nuts across the surface of Lebanese iced tea perfumed with orange flower water. Position your straw well and suck hard; you'll be ready for a refill before it's time for baklava.

Best Use for Those Little Chinese Take-out Boxes Other Than Lo Mein
Plum Street
sno-balls of the larger varieties fill up Chinese take-our boxes rather nicely, but be sure to have a bib -- or perhaps a tarp -- handy.

Best Menu Addition
Sure enough, this town is lousy with shrimp po-boys, and while we all know who the legendary favorites are (Domilise, Mandina's, etc.), there's another po-boy that's become the talk of Faubourg St. John. The BBQ shrimp po-boy at Liuzza's by the Track, which last spring moved from the specials board to the menu, is neither a typical po-boy or BBQ shrimp rendition. Spiced with pepper, tarted by lemon, sweetened by sugar and enriched with butter, this is the kind of po-boy to cross town for.

Best Dish Still Not Added to the Menu
If you don't know of the existence of crab claws in cream sauce at Sal and Judy's, you could spend every visit unaware of one of the restaurant's best dishes. It's never on the menu -- but always available.

Best Gelatin That Doesn't Come in a Little Box
Eating gelatin for dessert doesn't seem as pedestrian when it's floating over ice in sweetened coconut milk. Plus, no one you know is likely to see you indulging at the West Bank's hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant, Tan Dinh. Slices of yellow jackfruit, chewy hunks of young coconut and beads of gummy gelatin swim over ice in one glass; layers of sweet red beans, yellow bean paste and green, jiggly worms make a vanilla-touched lava lamp in another.

Best Place to See Off-duty Chefs
We've seen a trim Chef Paul Prudhomme dining quietly in the corner of Taquero's, and Chef Dominique Macquet waiting for his take-out order in soiled Chefware.

Best Pickle
As much as it has improved our quality of dining, it's time for a new condiment to usurp the lofty standing of the sushi bar's pickled ginger. The replacement waits upon the lunch buffet table at India Palace: mango pickle. It's a sultry dish of unripe green mango, still chunky and fibrous, pickled in an oily mix of turmeric, fennel seed and heat. Mango pickle does for Indian lentils what Tabasco does for our own red beans.

Best Weird Ice Cream
A few whimsical elements counter the lovely but staid environment of Victor's restaurant in the year-old Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Most pronounced is the kick Chef Frank Brunacci and his staff get out of ice cream. You might find olive oil ice cream on your shrimp and cilantro salad, a scoop of cherry alight on your pistachio pot de creme, or tomato sorbet with crab and cauliflower remoulade.

Best Raw Meat
Our only East African restaurant offers a cannibal sandwich to elevate the ground chuck and raw onion on pumpernickel toasts of 1970's poker games and buffet tables. The Red Sea's kifto is a butter-textured beef tartare with cumin and curry. Either raw or rare, it's meant to be scooped up with the Eritrean staple, injera (a spongy crepe made with a teensy grain called teff), which is replenished faster than you can eat it at the Red Sea.

Best Eerily Friendly People
Someone call the Sewerage and Water Board. We suspect the water at the CBD's Bayou Bagelry is spiked with lithium. Smeared with cream cheese and serving the power crowd, the staff's perkiness and generosity at 7 a.m. is otherwise inexplicable. They are rivaled only by the chanting of "Welcome to Cici's" that is heard constantly at Cici's Pizza -- but we suspect those drumbeats of greeting are mandated in some employee handbook.

Best Sugar in a Glass
With all the attention given to the addictive fried catfish and soul-centered jukebox at Barrow's Shady Inn, we feel obligated to mention that their secret recipe sweet iced tea is the best we've sipped this year. Unsure whether it sides more on the side of tea or lemonade, the hummingbird-sweet beverage is among fewer than 10 items served at the underrated hideaway.

Best Food Adventures
Truly adventuresome diners go out of their way to try the freakiest items: the tripe, the tongue tacos and the monkfish liver. Uptown newcomer Lilette offers additional (and delicious) choices of under-appreciated insides. Boudin noir (blood sausage) is ripe with sweat and earth and crumbles like clay from its fried casing; buttery and slightly squishy bone marrow also makes appearances, sometimes with veal glace over white truffle-soaked Parmesan toast, and sometimes in a similar sauce glazing burly hanger steaks.

Best Use of Fungus
Don't let a dinner date at Mat and Naddie's go by without sampling the portobello mushroom cheesecake appetizer. One bite of the smoothly textured, seductively earthy dish and you'll actually believe all your vegetarian friends who tell you that they really don't miss meat.

Best Free Food
It's also a nifty hat trick: if you bring in a sombrero, any size, Nacho Mama's gives you a free burrito.

Best Place to Be a Cork Dork
Maison Bleu
and its proprietor, Howard Ferguson, make a strong argument for a new category: geekiest wine program. That's a compliment. Ferguson works with a negociant (blender and bottler of wines) in southern France to blend Maison Bleu's food-friendly house wines, which all sell for under $5 a glass. And you shouldn't feel pressured when your server offers a finger taste from one of the more expensive, small vintage bottles. Wine geeks love company.

Best Culinary Comebacks
Hats off to Chef Anne Kearney and the Peristyle staff, who made a remarkable comeback after a devastating fire closed the restaurant for nine months last year. And the most anticipated restaurant opening at press time goes to Cafe Negril on Frenchman Street in Faubourg Marigny, where Jamaican Chef Cecil Palmer is making his own comeback. Palmer's Mid-City restaurant closed without warning last winter, before anyone could stockpile meat pies or sweet potato pudding.

Best New Flavor at Hansen's
If there was one thing Hansen's Sno-Bliz lacked during their decades of perfection, it was root beer. Now, Ashley Hansen has concocted a syrup she says tastes just like her grandfather Ernest Hansen's root beer did when he made it at home years ago. And in honor of the lemon he used to garnish his homemade soda, Ashley drizzles tart lemon syrup on top of the sno-balls her grandfather shaves Thursday through Sunday at the Uptown institution he and wife Mary opened 62 years ago. And after you polish off the root beer, get back in line for the latest flavor combo rage: tart lemonade and sweet spearmint. But hurry -- the venerable stand soon closes for the season.

Best Tubes
The right amount of cheese, the right amount of sauce and baking make the manicotti at Fausto's Bistro a mouthful of pasta perfection.

Best Layering
Ice cream on top of a sno-ball is a great treat, but Sunny's in Kenner kicked it up a notch by devising the stuffed sno-ball: sno-ball, ice cream, sno-ball, ice cream. Equal portions of each treat is thus guaranteed -- as is a wonderful brain freeze.

Best Dessert With a Secret Weapon
On the outside of Morton's of Chicago's Godiva Chocolate Cake, this secret-recipe creation looks just like a big chocolate cupcake with a scoop of ice cream. With your first spoonful you will find a warm, delicious stream of chocolate sauce tucked just inside.
News and Politics

Best Use of Slush Funds
We love to bash lawmakers for their discretionary annual funds, but the truth is, much of that money goes to worthy causes. For our money, state Rep. Mitch Landrieu does the best job of doling out the pork. "I try to focus and education and technology, and to use the money to make a difference," says Landrieu. Some examples: $50,000 to NOPD to put portable computers in all Second District squad cars, so that officers can access vital information instantly; $50,000 to the Singleton Charter School in Central City for a new computer lab; and $25,000 to the late Rev. Harry Thompson's Good Shepherd School for construction and computer equipment.
Most Misunderstood Burglary of the Year
The guy who broke into the Department of Transportation office in Kenner and stole the holographic license coverings. Police speculated that criminals were probably going to try to cash in on other people's federal rebate checks. But we suspect the motive may not have been that complicated. We're picturing a guy who had spent one too many hours waiting for his license or his brake tags at DOT offices. Let's say he was sitting there with number 62, and it had been two hours since the woman had yelled out 12, 13 and 14. That's enough to turn any man to crime.

Best Slap in the Face
The conclusion of Mayor Marc Morial's hired consulting firm that there is no way New Orleans can currently support high-tech industry. The report named the obvious as reasons: infrastructure, education, bad business climate, and the fact that people largely come here to party. Duh.

Best Slap in the Face of Obvious Realization
Saying the roads of the city are a "crisis," Mayor Morial announced the paving of over a hundred streets in a quick blitz of road work funded by block grant money that has accumulated over decades.

Best National Spotlight on a Louisiana Politician that Doesn't Involve Scandals, Indictments or Prison Sentences
In June, state Sen. Paulette Irons was among a diverse group of 10 elected officials and civil servants to receive one of Good Housekeeping magazine's annual Women in Government Awards. The magazine recognized the efforts of Irons, a New Orleans Democrat and onetime teen mother, to curb Louisiana's chronically high youth pregnancy rate. At a Washington, D.C., ceremony, Dr. Isabelle Sawhill -- president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy -- presented the award to Irons.

Best Display of Boiling Blood Pressure
When news of the breakdown in negotiations between the state and Saints spread through the city like wildfire, many planned to be in front of a television that night for the planned press conference and rebuttal by Saints owner Tom Benson. What viewers saw was the 73-year-old Benson give a passionate, at times nearly incoherent, red-faced rant about his love for the city, the team and a desire to keep the Saints in New Orleans. While most understood the intensity of the heated negotiations, few were prepared for the venom with which Benson spoke.

Best (Last?) Reason to Still Say We're Better than Mississippi
While most shudder to think that our eastern neighbors now boast the kind of economic engine that could possibly lure the Saints there, Louisiana can still claim "Dirty South"-superiority over Mississippi following their referendum that kept the Confederate emblem as part of the state flag. The comfortable approval given to the Stars and Bars in the vote drew national scrutiny on still-present racial tension and other cultural oddities in the state. Louisiana, which often shares statistical rock-bottom with Mississippi, could at least once remain above the fray.

Best Oversight of a Couple Thousand People
While the issue of a new stadium for the Saints remains far from decided, the football organization drew sharp criticism for one proposed solution. Revealing plans for a new stadium that would anchor a 40-block development around the Canal and Claiborne intersection, this proposed site would require demolition of the Iberville public housing complex and up-rooting of its 2,000-plus residents. Considered a model for HANO with occupancy rates hovering in mid-90 percentages, Mayor Morial contended that such a plan would be refused by the city.

Best Buzz Bust
The New Orleans Police Department took its war on drugs directly to the night-owls meandering the city's clubs during Jazz Fest, arresting dozens, mostly tourists, on drug charges outside Tipitina's Uptown and, to a lesser extent, the Maple Leaf. The search of individuals uncovered a dizzying array of substances ranging from marijuana to ecstasy, valium to heroin. Police acted with complete approval and cooperation of club owners, who were also dealing with neighborhood complaints, including those of one resident near Tip's who, while leaving to take his dog out for an early morning walk, reported being asked if he wanted some "shrooms."
Media

Best New Orleans Radio Station not in New Orleans
100.3 "The Rajun' Cajun"
in LaRose is a treasure trove of classic and obscure swamp pop, with a record library partially built from donated records from local jukeboxes. The station plays exclusively Louisiana music -- something no other station in the state can claim -- and also offers French and Cajun programming in the mornings.

Best Off-Season Saints Reporting
The Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan has been one of the NFL's busiest beat writers of late, with the Saints' stadium issue an all-consuming subject. Duncan has met the challenge with an expertly reported mix of coverage that ranged from analysis of comparable small-market NFL cities like Buffalo, to an insightful look on the Saints public relations woes. And the season hasn't even started yet ... .

Best Disparity in Coverage of a Single Issue
The relentless editorials of Times-Picayune sports writers Peter Finney and Dave Lagarde denounced the Saints' need for a new stadium, while the WWL 870 AM sports tandem of Buddy D and Kaare Johnson devoted hours to sermons on keeping the Saints and why a stadium would benefit the city.

Best Female Addition to the 10 p.m. News Desk
Jennifer Hunt, Kriss Fairbairn ... Jennifer Hunt, Kriss Fairbairn. How to choose. Both have done admirable jobs replacing their sister predecessors, Hunt replacing the phenomenally popular Angela Hill (opposite Dennis Woltering) on WWL and Fairbairn replacing the jewel-eyed Susan Roesgen (opposite Norman Robinson) on WDSU. While Hunt has proven she's more than just a pretty face, we can't help but tip the scales to Kriss Fairbairn for a straightforward approach that almost rivals Hill's no-nonsense charm.

Best Local Musical Version of the Drudge Report
Gambit Weekly? You're too kind. The Times-Picayune? That's a hoot. No, when people really want to know what's going on around here, they check local photographer and all-around music supporter Pat Jolly's email list. A message board for all kinds of arts, entertainment and other types of news (and occasional unsubstantiated gossip), Jolly's list is a must for those not only in the know, but who want to get the word out. Be careful what you wish for, though: some mornings, those emails come in like a tidal wave. If you want to subscribe, just find her at a second line and give her your email.

Best Way to Get Weird Online
Rick Delaup is the self-appointed chronicler of the bizarre, and in New Orleans, that might as well be a full-time job. Intrigued more than the average bear by local idiosyncrasies, Delaup keeps an ongoing log of his findings on www.eccentricneworleans.com. There you'll find profiles on everyone from Ruthie the Duck Lady (whom Delaup also chronicled in a documentary), Evangeline the Oyster Girl, and the enigmatic Ninth Ward musician Quintron (just to name a few). Delaup has extensively studied the history of New Orleans burlesque, and at last glance was working on a documentary on the subject.

Best Broadcast of a Giant Sucking Sound
The decision this past year by WSMB 1350 AM, to remove all syndicated ESPN programming caused waves of groans by area sports fans. Many relied on WSMB's daytime sports programming -- especially for news on the national sports scene. Perhaps the most egregious offense is the switch in after-lunch programs, in which the witty Dan Patrick Show was replaced with the safe-sex croonings of Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
GOODS AND SERVICES

Best Reason to Juggle a Hot Beverage While Driving Down Vets
There couldn't be many, we admit. But the double shot of a Starbucks drive-thru and a Cafe du Monde drive-thru a little farther down the way is more than enough to make us try.

Best Place To Buy Ty Beanie Babies
Sure, we all claim to buy these cute little stuffed animals for kids, but how to explain the small bean-filled dogs and cats at the workstations and in the cars of people with no children? At Le Wicker Gazebo, you'll always find a wall full of uncommon "Beanies" large and small, starting at about $6. The wide assortment is just the thing to keep small hands harmlessly occupied while you browse through the jewelry, glassware and home decorating items in the shop.

Best Guilt-Free Threesome
The four-hands massage at the Ritz-Carlton may be the best way to experience a full-body pleasure involving three people -- that doesn't involve some creative explanation or at least a bouquet of flowers. This royal treatment was a favorite of French Queen Marie Antoinette. Cake, indeed.

Best Place to Shop With Your Pet
Stop by PetSmart to pick up food or litter and you are sure to see some very happy pups riding around in their very own shopping cart, or skipping carefree through the aisles.

Best Place To Go Faux
Yes, it's roasting hot, making just the thought of donning a winter coat unbearable. But it's air-conditioned inside Gallery 2207, and since most folks aren't going coat shopping these days, it's a good bet you'll be able to score a hip fake-fur-trimmed parka or cute little faux mink jacket on the cheap. If you're not in the market for winter wear, you can sift through the many racks of vintage dresses, sorted by color, for a groovy '70s wrap dress or Jackie Kennedy-inspired Chanel knockoff.

Best Place To Dress A Devastatingly Hip Child
Winky's
on Magazine Street is known for its übergroovy grown-up clothes and accessories (Union Jack miniskirts, rodeo shirts, glitter sunglasses) but don't overlook the kids' section. Miniature hipster garb includes 1950s bibs, rubber boots shaped like cats, and onesies imprinted with Roy Rogers photos and other retro designs.

Best Use Of Old Windows, Copper Tape and Shiny Baubles
On Magazine Street in the lower Garden District, gravitate toward the soap bubbles shooting out of the machine above Cleopatra's, a nook for unique (and affordable) recycled art. Old windows, adorned with items such as colored beads, autumn leaves and strips of copper, become funky wall hangings whose visual impact ranges from bansai-like simplicity to a mad riot of color. There's also a good selection of beautiful indoor and outdoor fountains covered in a mosaic of tiny tiles. Ask to say hi to the exotic birds that live in back.

Best Place to Treat Your Feet
Run, don't walk, to the frequent sales at Feet First, whose low prices on to-die-for designer shoes and boots plummet to the basement during sales that bring savings up to 70 percent off. Don't leave without checking out the belts, jewelry and handbags -- you're likely to find an inexpensive beaded purse to go with those fabulous sparkly slides you just discovered.

Best View of Bayou St. John
You may have driven, jogged or biked along the only bayou that winds through the New Orleans city limits, but the ultimate view of Bayou St. John is from the seat of a kayak. Laid Back Bicycle/Kayak Tours lets you paddle down the bayou, checking out the fabulous houses that line the water's edge or giving you an up-close view of Park Island, a small, man-made island in the bayou.

Best Juice List
If you thought 7 Eleven had the corner on the market for monster refreshments, you haven't seen the juice list at Centroamericana. Passion fruit, guanabana, tamarind and papaya only touch on the selection -- all served in Big Gulp portions. They could put every last daiquiri stand in Metairie out of business if they cut out a drive-up window and started adding rum.

Best Place to Get Strung Along
The Bead Shop
. Making your own jewelry is completely addictive and everyone's favorite new hobby.

Best Place To Paint Your Face and Buy Art at the Same Time.
At Pinky's Beauty Bar, it's all about artistic application, whether you're talking about the retro glam décor, makeup, fingernail polish, jewelry, clothing or art. The small store has a range of hard-to-find designer cosmetic labels, and is the exclusive purveyor of the Too Faced product line. To make the home more attractive, Pinky's provides a variety of original artworks from local female artists.

click to enlarge Best Use of Slush Funds: Mitch Landrieu
  • Best Use of Slush Funds: Mitch Landrieu
click to enlarge Best Stage Banter of the Last 12 Months: Harry Connick, Jr.
  • Best Stage Banter of the Last 12 Months: Harry Connick, Jr.
click to enlarge Best Herbaceous Hideout: City Park's Botanical Gardens
  • Best Herbaceous Hideout: City Park's Botanical Gardens
click to enlarge Best Place to Drink Wine on a Bayou and Dance Like Zorba: Hellenic Greek Festival
  • Best Place to Drink Wine on a Bayou and Dance Like Zorba: Hellenic Greek Festival
click to enlarge Best Eerily Friendly People: Bayou Bagelry
  • Best Eerily Friendly People: Bayou Bagelry
click to enlarge Best Place to See a Former First Lady Drinking Beer from the Bottle: Cooter Brown's
  • Best Place to See a Former First Lady Drinking Beer from the Bottle: Cooter Brown's
click to enlarge Best Place to Eat a Bug: Audubon Louisiana Nature Center
  • Best Place to Eat a Bug: Audubon Louisiana Nature Center
click to enlarge Best Bar Where Harry Carey Would Have Felt at Home: Milan Lounge
  • Best Bar Where Harry Carey Would Have Felt at Home: Milan Lounge
click to enlarge Best Measurement of the Shim Sham Club's Success as a Legit Theater: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Best Measurement of the Shim Sham Club's Success as a Legit Theater: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
click to enlarge Best Display of Boiling Blood Pressure: Tom Benson
  • Best Display of Boiling Blood Pressure: Tom Benson
click to enlarge Best Food Adventures: Lilette
  • Best Food Adventures: Lilette
click to enlarge Best National Spolight on a Louisiana Politician that doesn't Involve Scandals, Indictments or Prison Sentences: Sen. Paulette Irons
  • Best National Spolight on a Louisiana Politician that doesn't Involve Scandals, Indictments or Prison Sentences: Sen. Paulette Irons
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