By Anne Roderique-Jones
Discover great places to eat and browse pottery in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.
Fine china is a thing in the South. My mother — and especially my grandmother — love to talk shop about dishes: patterns, colors and brands. Oh, the brand is very important. My mother’s side happens to be partial to Noritake. But I find that it’s like bagels in New York or po’boys here in New Orleans — we all have our favorites. Even though I’ve been gifted with my grandmother’s set of wedding china, I wouldn’t dare be caught without my own: a 12-piece set of Noritake (naturally) Crestwood Platinum to be removed from the display hutch when serving any meal that’s not eaten in front of the television.
But I’m more of a no-nonsense kind of gal — and while fine etched china is well, fine, I prefer my set of handmade ceramic dishware. It’s simple, a bit worn and totally imperfect. I think it’s a good analogy to marriage. In fact, my very own set of ceramic dishes is what inspired my love for handmade pottery.
It makes sense that I treasure such a craft — I live in an area where, next to food, art is celebrated and pottery has strong roots. So, I decided to take a road trip that marries two of my passions: pottery and food.
I started in New Orleans, which is home to Newcomb Pottery, considered one of the most significant and celebrated American art potteries in the first half of the 20th century. The Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane is located on campus — not far from my house — and is open to the public with a rotating roster of engaging exhibits.
While Uptown, it’s best to don your stretchiest pants and pop into Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar for a sandwich. When it comes to aesthetics, the place is nothing to write home about, but none of that matters much when you get your mitts on a fried oyster po’boy, dressed, from this shop on Annunciation.
From here, it’s time to embrace the po’boy coma (that’s a thing in New Orleans) and hit the road for an easy one-hour trip to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. First stop: Bay St. Louis, a delightful beach town, home to a cheeky little shop called Clay Creations. Along with a smattering of colorful homes and local businesses, the shop is situated on Main Street in the downtown area. Shop owner Jenise McCardell creates handmade plaque sculptures of homes, businesses and schools located along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. Her husband, Mark Currier, is a master potter who also sells his art in the shop.
I’d be remiss not to mention Lulu’s on Main. Helmed by Nancy Moynan, an alumnus of the esteemed Commander’s Palace, Lulu’s menu showcases a killer Barbecue Shrimp and drive-an-hour-good Grillades and Grits. The building also is home to an in-house boutique, where rooms are chockablock with gifts, clothing, jewelry and — of course — pottery.
There’s also The Blind Tiger, which is everything you dream about when conjuring up images of a beachside seafood shack. The massive Royal Red Steamed Shrimp is so fresh that the restaurant doesn’t even own a refrigerator. The meal is best eaten with a napkin tucked into your collar and a handful more at the ready; it’s not an elegant meal, but it’s mighty fine. If the weather’s nice, sit at an outside table with beautiful views of the water.
Farther South on Highway 90 is Coast Roast Coffee in Biloxi. Owner Shawn Montella is more mixologist than barista with his nitrogen-infused drip coffee that closely resembles a Guinness — sans the booze. I’m driving!
The strong dose of caffeine provides the ideal boost for a spin around Biloxi’s eye-catching Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. The building was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry and dedicated to the work of George E. Ohr, the self-proclaimed "mad potter of Biloxi." People can take a quick day class if they’re feeling creative and in the mood to get their hands dirty.
My trip wraps up in Ocean Springs, where I peruse works from the Anderson family at Shearwater Pottery. It seems that the buzz of potter Peter Anderson and his family is palatable around this town. At Shearwater, you can purchase their works, some of it ringing in at a very affordable price tag. I get inspired and look forward to making my own pieces on the wheel.
And if you’re so inclined to make an overnight out of it (as I did), The Roost is a new boutique hotel in Ocean Springs. The property boasts a snazzy Walter Anderson suite and pays homage to the artist with a large print in the stunning interior — complete with chandeliers and oversized chairs. It’s such a short drive from New Orleans that I make it home the next day for lunch — on my old, chipped ceramic dishes that I’ll love and cherish forever.
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