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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eating my way through New Orleans

Mid-Afternoon Beignet at Cafe du Monde
















Frankly, we didn't get very far, eating our way through New Orleans. First off, we only had 4 days there and second, there is way, way too much great food to get through, even if you had months.

Full disclosure: I absolutely loved New Orleans. We had never been there before and I had heard many things about it, good and bad. Forget the bad. It's good. No, it's great. If you haven't been there, go. If you were there before Katrina, go back. I don't know if it's as good as before (certainly for many of the residents, it isn't, since some neighborhoods still haven't come back) but for tourists it's a blast. There is food, there is art, there is culture. And there are the people, who are just wonderful. Obviously, they are resilient. The owners of the B&B we stayed in moved back to the city about 5 weeks after Katrina. They had unreliable electricity for months. They had no potable tap water for 5 months! But, back they came and rebuilt their beautiful B&B in an historic neighborhood, the Faubourg Marigny, downriver from the French Quarter. (It's the Royal Street Courtyard. It's charming, lovely and a bargain.) New Orleans needs tourists. Help them continue to rebuild by going to visit them. You won't regret it.

On to the food. Because, one of the best reasons to go to New Orleans is the food. It's unique - lots of Creole (a combination of Spanish, African, French and American influences), as well as German, Cajun, French, American, well, most anything. New Orleans has always been a city of immigrants and it shows in its dining scene. We saw very few fast food chains in the city. These folks know good food and they have enough local fast food (can you say "po' boy?") that they don't want lousy hamburgers. Good for them! Here in no particular order are my favorite dishes.

Mussels in white wine at Adolpho's on Frenchman Street. Some of the meatiest, sweetest mussels I've ever had. Tons of garlic. Absolutely delicious. Adolpho's is Creole-Italian. Italian figures big in the Creole cuisine, but it's not really Italian. It's thoroughly New Orleans.

One of the best snacks in the world















Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde. If you don't go to Cafe du Monde for this, you have missed one of the grand New Orleans traditions. Yes, tons of tourists there but who cares? The beignets are perfectly fresh, generously dusted with powdered sugar. Well, dusted isn't quite the right word. Buried, actually. The cafe au lait is excellent too. You have no excuse to miss Cafe du Monde; it's open 24 hours a day.


Praline bacon (with grits), callas, boudin balls
















Praline bacon, callas, and boudin balls at Elizabeth's in the Bywater. The Bywater is the next residential neighborhood downriver from the Faubourg Marigny. Not a place you happen upon unless you went looking for it. But, you should look for it. Praline bacon is their signature dish - thick cut meaty bacon with a crust of brown sugar and pecans. The perfect combination of salty sweet piggy goodness. Callas are an old New Orleans recipe. They are sweet rice fritters and you rarely see them on menus anymore. They are spiked with a good dose of lemon juice, I believe, giving them a unique tang. Unusual and delicious. Boudin balls are deep fried sausage balls, served with a creole mustard sauce. Again, delicious! Just skip the biscuits.

Corn and sweet pepper fritters at Mat & Naddie's in Uptown. Actually, a lot of what we had at Mat & Naddie's was fantastic. We had a 4 course Reveillon dinner here. Reveillon is a December New Orleans tradition. Originally, it was the big feast after fasting at Christmas. Now, it's a bunch of New Orleans restaurants offering multi-course dinners for very reasonable prices during the month of December. So, December is a good month to visit New Orleans if you are a foodie. The corn fritters were light and crispy, like little crunchy clouds filled with sweet corn. These people know their fried foods! We also had incredible shrimp risotto, smoked quail on manchego waffles and eggnog creme brulee. They have an excellent wine list filled with unusual selections too.

Aren't they pretty!















Chocolates at Sucre on Magazine St. Not only are they stunningly beautiful, they are delicious. I bought a collection of them for my dear chocolate-loving friend Ronnie and she assures me that they were all wonderful. I bought some for myself and I agree! Sucre is a lovely sweet shop, on a funky section of Magazine St. Magazine is the prime shopping district, full of galleries, restaurants and shops.

There was so much we didn't get to try, like muffeletas, raw oysters, bbq shrimp and po' boys. So, we need to go back. There is always more good stuff to discover and eat in New Orleans.

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