When I went to New Orleans, I had simple goals:
You already know that I am a foodie, and NOLA is foodie heaven. The city’s cuisine benefits from diverse influences; if you love to eat, you will absolutely fall in love with all of the fun, colorful, and unique places to grab a bite.
Basically, food in NOLA is derived from three major influences – and I sampled them all, of course!
- Creole: French Louisiana (i.e. New Orleans) has distinct cultural influences from the rest of the deep south, although there is some intermingling. Creole cooking evolved from the direct descendants of French and Spanish colonists in NOLA; the word comes from a Spanish word that means “native to a locality.” Traditional French recipes were adapted by African slaves that cooked in the French kitchens and added their own brilliant twists. Creole food is usually drowned in butter according to French tradition. (YUM.) Well known Creole dishes include Remoulades, Bourbon bread pudding, Beignets, Cafe au Lait.
- Cajun: Refugees from the French Canadian province of Acadie (now Nova Scotia) settled in the area that is now New Orleans. Known as Acadians, then Cadien, then Anglicized to “Cajun,” their cooking was influenced by pure survival – hence the long-simmering pot dishes full of local bounty. Cajun food is often spicy and has lots of okra involved. Well known Cajun dishes include Roux-based Gumbo, Shrimp Jambalaya, Crawfish Etoufee. A New Interpretation of Cajun cooking includes Blackened Redfish (some argue this isn’t really authentic Cajun, but it’s hugely popular).
- Soul Food: Varies slightly from it’s cousin, Southern Country Style Food. Soul Food is derived from the English traditional foods of the Deep South, but while Southern Country Style Food uses choice ingredients, Soul Food generally uses the leftovers. Soul food is derived, roughly, from what slaves cooked for themselves, using the parts that remained. Well known soul-food dishes include Fried Chicken, Pork Cracklins, Collard Greens, Cornbread.
Now that you’ve had your New Orleans Food Lesson, let’s proceed with the food photography!
First, let’s begin with some charming touches in Mary Catherine and David’s home, which is where I stayed. Mary Catherine and I went to grad school together, and her husband David is a trained chef. In fact, he’s always wanted to be one; he drew a photo of his future restaurant as a child, which still hangs in their home. Now, David works at a local wine bar/store/cafe and also has part ownership of Gulf Pizza in the Algier’s neighborhood on the west bank. How cool is that?
Their home is full of signs of their love of food, and of New Orleans food traditions.
On Sunday, my first full day there, we had an enormous brunch (menu above) with some of their friends and family, replete with Mae Mae’s fig preserves (shown below-Mae Mae is MC’s grandma), Bloody Mary’s, and Mimosa. Another grad school friend was also in town for our reunion; that’s Ryann below cutting the quiche.
Ryann, MC and I spent an afternoon wandering around the French Quarter, and shared (actually, devoured) a YUMMMYYYY meal of Soft Shell Crab Poboy, Gumbo, and Bananas Foster.
That night we continued with Girls’ Night and of course squeezed in a Hurricane at the Birth Place of Hurricanes, Pat Murphy’s on Bourbon Street. Later we ended up at the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone…which literally SPINS! It was so cool. I set my camera down in front of my glass of port, left the shutter open for 20 seconds or so:
MC had a birthday while we were there, and we had a celebratory lunch at Commander’s Palace, which is an old, famous Haute Creole restaurant. The important thing to note about Commander’s Palace is that they have 25 CENT martinis for lunch on weekdays. Yep, that’s right, TWENTY-FIVE CENTS. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
Check this out: a soup trio of Turtle Soup, Gumbo, and the soup of the day, which had shrimp and whatever. I followed this with crab cakes and then bread pudding drowned in bourbon cream.
I literally fell asleep in the car after this meal. Whoops. 🙂 Guess I am not cut out for the martini lunch. Later that day, Ryann left NOLA to return to Charlotte where she lives. MC and David had to return to work the next day. So, for the next three days, I toured around NOLA on MC’s bike. One of my stops was at the Museum of the American Cocktail, which has lots of Prohibition memorabilia (top right: “What’ll We Do on a Saturday Night When the Town Goes Dry?”).
After the museum, I found myself at a restaurant called Cochon, which is in NOLA’s Warehouse District. Cochon means “Hog” in French, and the owner has photos from his family’s farm hanging in the restaurant. Very cool. The Cajun Food there was fabulous (touches of Soul Food, too). I ate fried alligator w/ garlic aoili, a mac ‘n cheese casserole topped with fresh parsley and mint, and of course, fresh biscuits. I also enjoyed a cocktail comprised of moonshine, cucumber vodka, watermelon. It was yummy but I couldn’t even finish it; I was worried I might fall off my bike into oncoming traffic.
That night David made us homemade red beans and rice, which is another traditional dish. No pics of that! I took the night off. 🙂 So let’s move on to the next bit of yumminess, which was my last night in N’awlins: Jaques–Imo’s on Oak Street, which is Creole with a twist of Soul. Some of MC’s friends joined us, and it was a great way to finish off my trip to NOLA. The whole experience there was amazing, including a little visit from Jacques-Imo himself!
All the dishes were so so yummy looking I took pics of the other girls’ dishes, too! 🙂
Clockwise from top left: a yummy corn thingie that was kinda sweet…and I am totally blanking on the name…and a side of mashed sweet potatoes. MC ate the next dish, which they call Drunken Chicken. I ate – finally – some Blackened Redfish! It.Was.Awesome. Then one of MC’s friends got the fabulous looking soft shell crab with a fried green tomato.
Before leaving town, I had to have a Beignet from Cafe du Monde. No trip to NOLA is complete without one! (Or three…) I wasn’t crazy about their infamous Chicory coffee though.
Can I go back? My tummy is growling, I gotta go … Bon Appetit everyone.