Something I love to do is cross cities and states off of my to-do list. I know sometimes that defeats the purpose of experiencing a place but since I've moved to Austin- I've heard nothing but amazing accolades for New Orleans especially from my food and cocktail gurus. I feel as if there's some kind of underground culinary railroad connecting New Orleans and Austin and someone who knows one needs to know how to get around to the other.
I finally made my pilgrimage road trip out to New Orleans when I had one of my best, Cordelia, come out and visit me from DC. We spent two whole days wandering through mazes of French and Spanish architecture, old Southern and colorful homes in the Garden District, and traveling by cabs for food, drink, and jazz.
Cafe Du Monde
- The only comment I've ever gotten about Cafe Du Monde is 'alright, well it's tourist-y, but you have to go.' This is why:
My first experience with beignets- sugary, soft, dough-y, messy, and completely satisfying. Cafe au lait with chicory coffee! I came to New Orleans wanting to try chicory coffee. Apparently, chicory root (yes, the root of the same plant that gives us endive and chicory greens) was added to coffee during the French revolution when coffee was scarce in order to add a little body and volume. It traveled way of Acadians in Canada and then to their settlement in New Orleans. It's an awesome flavor especially when mixed with hot milk. I was very happy to have this experience under the gorgeous awning waiting for the rain to pass in the French Quarter.
- I have been excited to try a John Besh for a long time. He's a great supporter of farm-to-table and just opened up a new restaurant on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. I took the advice of some peers to head to Luke for happy hour. I made reservations for 6:00 but apparently the hour was already over. The best part of the meal was the crawfish bisque and my beet salad. Yes- not fresh and unfortunately a salad you could find anywhere. The duck and rabbit liver pate was difficult to eat and my shrimp farci was unfortunately different from the dish I was picturing in my head. It came out fried which it didn't specify on the menu and the hollandaise that came on the side wasn't the greatest. I was a little disappointed in the experience but I'm also now looking at their La Petite Plateau Raw Bar and I'm thinking I should maybe give it one more chance. It may have been me. What I didn't order right at Luke I made up for at Cure...
- A bit of a cab ride through some not-so-happy areas and you manage to stumble into a romantic building holding a candlelit bar with comfortable leather booths and an accommodating staff. The cocktail and spirits list is beyond. I started with a Chink In The Armour- Bols Genever, Lillet, Mole bitters (yes, Mole bitters), honey, and lemon:
Full-bodied and an awesome finish. My second was a Ghosts of the Room- Plymouth gin, Campari, lemon, and Rabarbaro Amaro, an Italian liqueur with a rhubarb base, cardamom, China fruit, and bitter orange peel. A bittersweet drink but went down easy.
I finished it all off with a Beefeater's Aviation. To accompany: cajun-spiced popcorn and dates stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in pancetta. Hi, I'm a beginner wannabe cocktail geek in the making who finished the night off in a buzzed and hazy happy kind of way.
Recommended by a regular at Fino and also mentioned a couple times over by others and tour guides, we stopped off at Parasol's while making our way around the Garden District. After a quick tour through Lafayette Cemetery and giving googly eyes to the exterior of Commander's Palace...
shameless I know but still...
...we found a hole-in-the-wall Irish bar with the regulars ordering beers and peanuts and watching the DC-Atlanta baseball game. There was nothing else to order but a po'boy- the half and half fried oyster and fried shrimp. I can see why New Orleanians can get into this and I realized it's pretty much about the bread which mostly ends up in your lap but hey- worth it.
- Favorite meal of the trip. First off, they put crack in their table bread. Or it's just warm brioche. With something else. Then- we have pig cheeks and grits topped with a beef tongue salad:
The plate is light especially for eating the heads of two different kind of farm animals. All I remember is creamy pig cheeks and tender beef tongue. This has sparked my new obsession with offal. I feel ready to dive into more gruesome parts of pigs and calves and deer, oh my. Le sigh- vegetarian no more. Did I mention the rabbit and dumplings? I do believe this picture speaks for itself:
yes that was a "swinekiller" cocktail in the empty glass.
Ah, New Orleans. I feel closer to you, extremely intrigued by you, and I promise to be back again. For gumbo, jambalaya, boiled crawfish, calas, and pralines... so until the next time.