Lonely Island

My favorite house in the Faubourg Marigny.

There’s a house a couple blocks away from mine with the most brilliant combination of colors–each intricate detail is painted the perfect, bold Caribbean color. I slow my roll every time I drive by it and have wanted to sneak a snap of it for a long time. Seriously, this house is probably in several magazines and if it isn’t, it should be.

Many people will tell you that they love the architecture of New Orleans, but when I first moved here, the architecture was the most mind-bending aspect for me to digest. There is such a stark contrast between a lovely, freshly painted house that is so symmetrical and the broken streets it sits on or the very asymmetrical, derelict house that could be right next door. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, and much longer to love this somewhat heartbreaking juxtaposition.


But when I spy those cool Caribbean colors and see a tall palm swaying in the breeze, I understand why New Orleans has been called the Northernmost Caribbean city. And I love that sentiment. It speaks to this city’s uniqueness and to the heritage it shares with Haiti, a place where the contrast between ruin and riches is even more pronounced. A culture I only get tiny peaks into from where I safely stand in the affluent U.S.


My introduction to the island of Haiti was a tasting of Rhum Barbencourt many years ago. To this day, it is one of my favorites. And I’ve tried a lot of different rums!


My ears pick up a little Creole French now and then, and a few years ago, one of the most memorable musical acts I’ve ever encountered performed at JazzFest: RAM. These guys had infectious energy and I felt instantly connected to them. Or maybe I just prefer the island sound. Either way, I enjoyed them immensely, and there is no comparison to any JazzFest experience I’ve had since. They made a fan for life.


So, knowing what little I know about Haiti, I’ve also been intrigued to learn bit by bit about Haitian vodou. I’ve learned that New Orleans has one of the only Americans to be initiated as a Haitian vodou priestess, and that’s the owner of Island of Salvation Botanica, Sallie Ann Glassman.


Her shop was originally situated deep in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans and is now housed in the shiny new Healing Center building. My first visit was years ago when I was looking for herbs to use behind the bar at Iris. As I knew little more than the stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood and Disney, this interview with Sallie Ann helped me to understand what the vodou religion is all about.


And so when I was thinking of a name for my business, I followed the trail of scent, color, sound, and spirit to the word botánica, which took on new meaning when I combined it with my love for modern bartending. And Bartanica was born.


But Bartanica is influenced more by Ayurveda, which I know considerably more about, than vodou. I explain it a little more in the context of the name over on the blog. Click here to read it.


Thanks for reading and responding. It’s been wonderful to get your feedback and comments!


Best Regards from a Lonely Island in the North Caribbean,