I went to five of the places on my New Orleans anticipation list. Mr. B’s is impossible to get into without reservations, and we decided to go on a bus tour to the Garden District instead of going for brunch at Court of Two Sisters. Plus, we were with a group of 12, so it is impossible to democratically figure out where to eat. Ya gotta roll with this when you travel. Instead, we unearthed some other New Orleans eating gems. I successfully consumed jambalaya, po’boys, a muffaletta, pralines, beignets, gator gumbo, fried chicken, and shrimp and grits, so I was happy.
Our first night, based on a recommendation from the hotel staff, we wandered over to Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar. We dutifully stood in line (man, the Americans do not mind standing in line) and squeezed our way into two seats at the bar beside the hot sauce station. I liked this place. It is a brightly lit diner, with proper Cajun food. I had a gummy, yummy jambalaya and Mike tucked into red beans and sausage (see above).
I always go on a food tour when I’m in a new city. This time was Tastebud Tours, which was a pleasant combination of a walking, history and food tour. It was a great way to get the lay of the land around our French Quarter neighbourhood, and we got our bearings for our next four days of revelry. There we discovered that New Orleans is a traditional city, chock full of stories about their food and celebrations. There’s the King Cake with a baby Jesus inside, Cajun (one pot & inexpensive) and Creole (French & fancy), and a great mix of French, Spanish, Haitian, Irish and Italian influences. Look up in the trees, and there are Mardi Gras beads hanging everywhere. I learned a valuable lesson – do not laugh while eating an icing sugar dusted beignet (above), or you will inhale the sugar and not stop coughing.
We went to the Carousel Bar at the glamourous Hotel Monteleone just to say we did, and had pricey cocktails while watching the bar turn slowly around. (We were unable to snatch a spot right at the bar. There was a huge realtors convention in town and they were greedily taking up all the spaces on the carousel).
My favourite dinner came next, at Red Fish Grill, which is a boisterous and lively place. I had Bbq Gulf Shrimp and Grits, which featured spicy andouille sausage and sweet potato grits with plump shrimp perched on top. That’s New Orleans in a nutshell: spicy, sweet and plump.
I consumed a number of muffalettas and po’boys. Muffalettas are round Italian sandwiches on soft sesame buns, stuffed with Italian meat, provolone cheese and a runny yummy olive salad. I proclaim the best muffaletta to be at Central Grocery. Here’s something I’ve learned in my many years of eating: if there is a huge line up and rules to be followed in order to secure food, then the food is going to be good. This is true at Salumi in Seattle, Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice in Kaua’i, Hamura Saimin Stand in Lihue and the Italian Centre Deli in Edmonton. And actually pretty much everywhere in Italy. All this means is that you’d better know what you want to order. Be confident and definitive, don’t waffle, and have your money ready. Or you may be yelled at or banished to the back of the line.
I did not hesitate when I ordered my muffaletta, and took it to the back counter to eat a quarter of a huge drippy sandwich. I got olive juice all over my light pink shirt. A messy success.
New Orleans is obviously a sandwich town. Along with the muffaletta, the famous po’boys are mini-sub sandwiches filled with a variety of stuffings: roast beef and shrimp are common. You have to push your way through a crowded pub to the back of Erin Rose to stand in line to order a Killer Po’Boy. Persevere, as it is worth it. I ate both shrimp and pork belly po’boy sitting on a bar stool at midnight on two different occasions. This is hearty, belly filling fare.
As you can see from the picture above, I did not consume any fruits or vegetables while I was in New Orleans. I ate mostly brown, white and beige food. (It took me a week of drinking water and eating clean back at home to finally detox just from the food). The calories consumed in New Orleans are similar to those accumulated on an all-you-can-eat cruise. Walk a lot, and don’t worry about it. Salads are awaiting you back home.
More eating: eggs & stuff at the Ruby Slipper, deep and dark duck and gator gumbo at the Palace Cafe (both on Canal Street). Our final night out we went to GW Fins with our party of 12. This place is swanky, with flawless service. I had lobster dumplings, the Scalibut (scallops baked into halibut – why not?) and Ban-Nila for dessert (Nila wafer and banana ice cream – the closest thing I got to Bananas Foster).
Five days after we arrived, we rolled ourselves onto a plane for our 6:30 am flight back home, and arrived back just in time for the beginning of a long dark Canadian winter. Our awaiting children amused us with a taste test of Louisiana Hot Sauces:
New Orleans, what a place. Eat, drink and be merry – it is all in good fun.