WHO DAT? ME DAT!
I had the best intensions of starting out 2011 with some healthy recipes to get us all back on track. But that will have to wait a bit because I just got back from my first trip to New Orleans- and I have some stories to tell…
My first stop in this incredible city was at The Sazerac Bar in the famous Roosevelt Hotel. This is the spot where the Sazerac was created. They’re also known for their Southern Gentleman cocktail shown above which is Maker’s Mark and pure cane syrup poured over muddled blackberries and mint. These are dangerous, very dangerous.
Next up was a streetcar to The Garden District to dine at The Commander’s Palace. Once a brothel, this restaurant has won the Lifetime Outstanding Restaurant Award from the prestigious James Beard Foundation among many other honors. It was here that I tried Turtle Soup for the first time (which was so kindly spiked with sherry) followed by an unforgettable Foie Gras served over (what else?) beignets! Many exciting dishes followed but the one that I can’t get out of my head is the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle topped with Whisky Hard Sauce pictured below. If you think all bread pudding is alike- Commander’s Palace will certainly put a rest to that kind of thinking.
No trip to New Orleans could possibly be complete without visiting Cafe Du Monde for a Cafe Au Lait and Beignets. Having this for breakfast is so wrong, yet so right! Open 24 hours a day, the sugar and the strong Chicory Coffee is a perfect way to start your morning and/or sober you up mid-afternoon.
After being rudely snubbed by the hostess of a “well known” restaurant (the ONLY time I felt any hostility in this wonderful city), I left in a huff, walked around the corner and plopped myself at the end of the line for Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter. Thank you terrible hostess at the famous restaurant which I will not name (because it’s hard to pronounce that French word)- you did me an enormous favor!
After indulging in raw and chargrilled oysters, this Fried Oyster & Shrimp Po-boy below sealed the deal of making Acme Oyster House one of my favorite haunts in town.
Our last meal of 2010 was to be had at Cochon in the Warehouse District where we feasted on dishes such as:
Paneed Pig Foot with Pickled Green Tomatoes, Beets and Horseradish Cream…
Pan Roasted Shrimp with Grapefruit, Chiles, Tasso, Basil and Cornbread Black Eye Pea Cake…
Duck and Smoked Oyster Gumbo…
And a Roasted Pork Shank with Braised Red Cabbage and Green Apple Slaw.
Hearing about all of the fun we were having, my mother decided to make the trip to join us. Our first stop when she arrived was Pat O’Briens on Bourbon Street. I don’t know how many of you have been bar-hopping with your mother, but it’s a very weird experience. Strange as it was, we were having a blast! Here we are indulging in some Milk Punch.
No one makes breakfast more of an event then Brennan’s in the French Quarter. A dining experience not to be missed! We decided on the “Typical New Orleans Breakfast” which included Brandy Milk Punch and Bloody Bull Cocktails, Community Chicory Coffee, Eggs Hussarde and, of course, Brennan creation and now world-famous Bananas Foster prepared tableside by our terrific waiter Cody who flamed the bananas in butter, sugar and rum then served them over vanilla ice cream. Look how Cody doesn’t even flinch with a 4 foot blasting flame in his face!
That evening we all walked back over to the Warehouse District and dined at Chef Emeril Lagasse’s eponymous restaurant: Emeril’s. Memorable dishes included Homemade Andouille and Boudin, Barbecued Shrimp, Angel Hair with Smoked Mushrooms, and Seafood Gumbo. My sweet-tooth kicked into overdrive when they brought out an Emeril Original – Banana Cream Pie with graham cracker crust, caramel sauce and chocolate shavings.
On our last day, after getting our daily Cafe Du Monde “fix” we headed over to The New Orleans School of Cooking for an unforgettable cooking class taught by well know local Chef Kevin Belton. A 6’9″ former NFL football player-turned-chef, he knows more about Cajun/Creole cooking than anyone you’ll meet. We had so much fun and I highly recommend this class to any curious cooks visiting New Orleans. Chef Kevin showed us how to make some of the classics: Red Beans and Rice, Pecan Pie, Cornbread and authentic New Orleans Pralines.
Oh gosh, I haven’t even mentioned so many other treasures- like John Besh’s amazing restaurant August serving up some of the finest dining in the city. And Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – the oldest continuously operated bar in the United States serving the best Hurricanes in town. And I challenge you to go into Laura’s Candies and not leave with a bag of something special (psst- they ship!)
So now I’ve returned to LA, and I’m getting back on track with bowls of cucumber salad, steamed fish, and a constant wearing of gym clothes since that’s where I’ll be most of January working off my New Orleans vacation. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I think every now and then we should all follow some advice I found on Brennan’s Menu Page…
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