"Excellence" and "recovery" were the watchwords last night at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, where several hundred of the city's swellest gathered to salute the mayor and give him the Award of Distinction for Recovery, Courage, and Leadership in the days, months, and years since Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levees.

The evening went off without a hitch, despite the absence of the entire New Orleans City Council (still checking that, but I'm pretty sure it's accurate) and a protest of about 75 people outside on Canal Street.

The real juice this morning: I'm hearing that a prominent French Quarterite, who was on the side of the protestors and not the celebrants, was actually booted from the hotel.

And now the photos:

Co-host Stewart Juneau and his wife Juli greeted guests at the front door of the Ritz-Carlton's 2nd floor ballroom. The party had been moved at the last minute from the Juneau's 15th floor penthouse to the ballroom.

Mayor Ray Nagin greets guests and well-wishers. The gentleman in the hat is Bernardo, the mayor's official photographer and one of the event's co-hosts.

Dr. Ed Blakely, the city's "recovery czar," making the rounds. His name wasn't listed on the invitation's organizing committee, but he was indeed there.

Bernardo, the mayor's official photographer and co-organizer of the event, shakes hands with a member of Rebirth Brass Band, who provided entertainment along with members of the James Rivers band.