[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y trip to New Orleans sure was a good time. I haven’t had that much fun since Paula Deen hosted cornmeal-buttermilk wrestling at the Playboy Mansion.
Louisiana Creole cooking is influenced by a melting pot of cultures–French, Spanish, African, among others–which is fresh, rustic, down-to-earth yet exciting. Voted #1 in Eater’s America’s Best Cities for Foodies, it does give you a pleasure you can feel down into your very soul.
Housed in a three-story carriage house, Sylvain is known for its stylish take on comfort food. Chef William Morris, formerly of Bourbon Steak, recommended the braised pork shoulder ($12) in crispy panko. It is surprising light, tender, pillowy soft. Fluffy, white stone-ground grits wear a jaunty hat of fried egg in a roasted tomato Hollandaise.
The charming and magical Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone was once the hangout of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Liberace used to perform here. Take a seat at the slowly-rotating bar under the twinkle of night stars while enjoying a Vieux Carre with Benedictine, rye whiskey, cognac and dry vermouth and bitters with a twist of lemon. It’ll sprout hair on your chest.
No visit to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Mother’s. The creamy, seasoned crawfish étouffée ($8.50/cup) over fluffy white rice is a must. Jerry’s jambalaya ($6.25/cup) is also hearty and delicious, a rich, dark red mixture of rice and savory chicken, sausage and braised beef. Sylvie Nguyen of Thrifty DC Cook swears by the desserts.
Stop by the Napoleon House where, according to mixologist JP Caceres at Bourbon Steak, has the best Ramos Gin Fizz ($5.50) in town. He’s absolutely right. Created in New Orleans by Henry C. Ramos in 1888, the legend goes that the drink is shaken for 12 minutes straight, passed down a row of thirty-five “shaker boys” in order to keep up with the prolonged, vigorous shaking. Perhaps this is inspiration for the Shake Weight.
I love the beignets at Café du Monde, but New Orleans native David Guas of Bayou Bakery will tell you that the ones at
Café Beignet are better. Either place you choose, these fluffy, fried squares of batter have enough powdery white sugar to kill a diabetic. I ate three.
There is an intense debate over chargrilled oysters, with Acme Oyster House pitted against Drago’s. At Acme Oyster, plump, meaty oysters lie under a web of firm, shredded Parmesan. It takes some effort to free these buttery morsels from their cup. At Drago’s the oysters are juicier, under a soft cloud of butter and grated Parmesan. While Dragos oysters are juicier and richer, Acme Oyster’s are equally flavorful and easier to digest. Don’t forget to soak up the garlic butter with some French bread.
Sylvain 625 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.265.8123
Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.523.3341
Mother’s Restaurant 401 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.523.9656
Napoleon House 500 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.524.9752
Café du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.525.4544
Café Beignet at Musical Legends Park, 311 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA.
Acme Oyster House 724 Iberville Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.522.5973
Drago’s 2 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA. 504.584.3911