In New Orleans, we welcome everyone with open arms – you don’t have to be born here to hang like one of the locals. So when Hoda Kotb came to New Orleans to work at WWL-TV in 1992, it’s no surprise that she fell in love with the city – and the city fell in love with her to. Recently, Hoda returned to New Orleans for a live taping of the Today Show along with co-host Jenna Bush Hager, also a friend of New Orleans. We got the chance to ask both Hoda and Jenna what they love most about New Orleans, and why they just couldn’t wait to return.
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
Hoda: Harry Connick, Jr.
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
Hoda: I landed for a job interview, got off the plane and there was a jazz band playing in the airport. When I saw that jazz band, I said to myself, “I can’t believe this!” Literally, before I made my decision, I made my decision [to take the job in New Orleans.] I knew right then and there.
Jenna: Mardi Gras when I was in first grade.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
Hoda: The lower French Quarter.
Jenna: I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but I have to say the Garden District.
Hoda: Yes! The Garden District is awesome.
4. If it’s a beautiful day, where are you going to spend it?
Hoda: Running along the river and then stopping at Croissant D’or for a hot croissant and some coffee.
Jenna: Eating outdoors somewhere.
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans.
Hoda: It’s a basic one, but I love the barbecued shrimp at Mr. B’s and Commander’s. I’d like a whole bowl of sauce to dunk the crunchy French Bread in. And, bread pudding.
Jenna: I would either say a beignet, because beignets are my jam, or Galatoire’s where I went for a date with my husband.
6. What’s your favorite type of po-boy? Where do you get it?
Hoda: I like a shrimp po-boy dressed to the max. It doesn’t matter where you get it from.
Jenna: Whatever Hoda has and wherever she goes.
7. You’ve got friends visiting, and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
Hoda: For a stroll around the Quarter before it gets wild so you can get a sense of what it feels like. If someone is around, a random person in the Quarter, I like to ask them if we can peak in their house because when you walk in there is a garden and a fountain. All the surprises you don’t expect. And, hopefully the friend will be visiting during Jazz Fest so we can take them there.
Jenna: Yes, the music! I would take them to listen to live music.
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
Hoda: Oh, I don’t know. There are so many!
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail, and where do you go to get it?
Hoda: I like a vodka gimlet from anywhere.
Jenna: I hate to be cliché, but I like a hurricane!