Sunday, October 21, 2012

What You Can Eat in New Orleans !

I've promised more New York, but I have to write a quick post about one of Diana and my favorite food cities in the nation, New Orleans !

No trip is complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde, of course, conveniently open 24 hours a day, where the service is always sketchy at best, but the beignets are served hot, dusted with powdered sugar like freshly fallen snow, and where the cafe au lait washes it all down mighty fine.

Our original visit to Carrie years ago included a trip to Surrey's, a colorful little cafe with Day of the Dead inspired artwork adorning the walls and an assortment of freshly squeezed juices with options of wheatgrass and kale shots.  Much as I remembered from before, the sweet dishes far outshone the savory ones; in particular, it is the banana french toast that continues to haunt my dreams.

Made with the the city's ubiquitous french bread, filled with brown-sugar-laced banana puree, seared and finished off with a ridiculous rum sauce, this decadent dish is best shared.

The special of the day, a lump crab omelet with brie and avocado, just tasted off (metallic?), despite a thick, generous helping of crabmeat, which is always appreciated by my seafood loving self.

In my hot and heavy pursuit of the best fried chicken in New York, and across the nation, my heart will always go aflutter for Willie Mae's, so no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at this southern institution.

A $2 plate of cornbread is a must; the order comes with two plain muffins and a couple of squares of margarine.  So old school, dudes.

The cornbread is sweet, moist, and soaks the partially hydrogenated oils perfectly.

The plates of fried chicken can come as orders of dark or white meat, and we all know what's most delicious.  My plate of thighs, drumsticks and fries were a fried beauty to behold !

The clear differentiator of Willie Mae's fried chicken, among all other fried chickens, is their thick, crispy tempura shell, fried to a deep, deep golden brown.

While the shell is fairly oily, it is crunchy to the core, and seasoned with cajun spice.  The meat is, without question, moist and flavorful.  Altogether, it is just a brilliant plate of amazing, deep-fried Southern happiness.

(The only thing I would recommend is to get another side than fries alongside your chicken.  Our fries were heavily salted and hard to eat.  A side of red beans and rice might've made a better pairing.)

Carrie's #1 favorite spot in New Orleans during her residency here was Creole Creamery, so I paid the ice cream shoppe a visit on her behalf.  This is what real friends do for each other !

A $4 mini sampler, featuring 4 'mini scoops', gave me a nice taste of their flavors including chocolate peanut butter, coconut, salted caramel and mint chip.  The ice cream is tasty, rich and thick, putting the creamy in creamery.

A dinner at Commander's Palace brought back memories of Diana's historic feats of polishing off 8 pieces of their amazing garlic french bread before dinner arrived, . but I was only able to polish off six glorious pieces of this bread myself.  If I was a chipmunk, I woulda left the restaurant with cheeks filled with this heavenly breadstuff.

A bowl of turtle soup brought up conflicting thoughts about my love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but was hearty, flavorful, and hit the comfort spot on the bullseye.

The pecan-crusted gulf fish, topped with blue crab meat, was plated with this unbelievable golden sauce, light and sweet, tasting of fresh summer corn.  An unusual but unbelievable flavor combination with the gulf fish.

And as with any classic dining establishment, leftovers are exquisitely wrapped up in aluminum foil.  Commander's Palace remains an ideal dining destination for anyone visiting the area looking for a bit of traditional Southern hospitality.

If you are looking to walk off your beignets from Cafe du Monde, walk your way to the French Market, a bustling, open-air market filled with snacks, cajun spices, countertop restaurants, freshly shucked oysters and these amazing fruit smoothies.  

For a light, quick snack, vegetarians and seafood eaters alike can converge at Meals from the Heart.  They boast of their crab cakes, with a trademark name of "crab cake passion," but the real star here is their tilapia poboy.

Thick filets of fresh fish, lightly seasoned with cajun spice (of course) make for a light refreshing lunch during hot, humid times of classic New Orleans summer.

The crab cake passion, with poached egg, is a fine plate, but the crab cakes are stringy instead of lumpy with more breading than I would typically prefer.

We were in town for the Satchmo Summerfest, a free jazz festival held in the French Quarter celebrating the great Louis Armstrong.  I was incredibly impressed with how well the festival was run, with stages under large white tents that somehow masked the unbearable summer, and allowed us to focus on the beautiful sounds of brass.

Because the festival is free, it's encouraged for eventgoers to eat at the food stations at the festival, so that was the least we could do !

We had not one, but three cups of New Orleans snoballs from Plum Street Snoballs.  The best flavors were cream-based, sweet and light.

I had a bowl of lemongrass chicken over vermicelli noodles from Amy's Vietnamese, and though the chicken lacked much flavor, the light fish sauced dressing just made the fresh, crisp dish perfect for outdoor fare.

My boss gave a recommendation for The Camellia Grill, citing the best omelets ever.  It's a bold statement, I know.  We stopped into the location in the French Quarter, which had a winding counter for every customer to have a front-row seat to the action.

I ordered an orange freeze with my breakfast, which is basically an icy shake made with orange concentrate and ice cream.  Totally breakfast appropriate.

However, the fun ended there. The omelets were flat and lusterless.  The hashbrowns greasy and limp.  This was one plate of breakfast sadness.

So we fixed matters with a short lunch later at Coop's Place, a dingy bar with friendly staff and plates of cajun-spiced fried chicken.

The crisp batter was more traditional, but with the dusting of cajun love, irresistible.

The fried oysters were too heavily battered to be enjoyed, but hell, I'll never turn down a plate of oyster anything.

The last thing I ate in New Orleans before hopping the plane back to New York was this pineapple cilantro popsicle from Meltdown - so tart and refreshing, but had me pining more for richer flavors, like Vietnamese coffee and salted caramel.  Some other time !

And that's a quick run-through of N'awlins!

Smell you later !

Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur St New Orleans, LA 70116

Willie Mae's Scotch House
2401 Saint Ann Street New Orleans, LA 70119

Creole Creamery
4924 Prytania Street New Orleans, LA 70115

Meals from the Heart
1100 N Peters St New Orleans, LA 70116

Plum Street Snoballs
1300 Burdette St, New Orleans, LA

Amy's Vietnamese
1235 N. Peters St., New Orleans, LA

The Camellia Grill
540 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70130

Coop's Place
1109 Decatur Street  New Orleans, LA 70116

508 Dumaine Street  New Orleans, LA 70116

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