Cuisine, New Orleans
New Orleans is famous for its chefs and their desire to make their mark with something new. If you're eating in Brennan's or Arnaud's or the Twin Sisters or anywhere else fancy enough to offer Bananas Foster you should definitely order it. Not only is it delicious, but the performance of making it alone is worth the price of a ticket.
Here's a little history copied from a country radio station web site's 100 best New Orleans restaurant dishes:
"The dessert was created because the Brennans were very intimate with the family that ran United Fruit Company, the world's largest banana shippers. It was the recipe of Chef Paul Blange, who inspired most of Brennan's early cooking, and is named after the people who owned the Foster Awning Company."
One of the most addictive substances available to you in New Orleans (legally anyway), is the Beignet (pronounced been-yea). These wonderful fried pieces of dough, topped with powdered sugar can be eaten one at a time, or plateful after plateful. The most famous place to pick one of these wonderful treats is in the French Quarter at Cafe du Monde, but don't feel as if you have to only try one here. There are plenty of places around the city to pick them up!
One thing you will likely want to have is a cafe au lait (coffee with milk), and for a unique taste, try the coffee with chickory.
Remember, beignet consumption in moderation.
Favorite thing: One of the best attributes of this city is the food. New Orleans is renowned for its mix of all cuisine's, but also for mixing in the south's Cajun influences. What is produced is some of the best food you can find. Some of the restaurants are very elegant, aesthetically pleasing establishments, but as I have found some of the best places to eat GREAT, not good, food is in very “hole-in-the-wallish” type places. You don’t have to spend a fortune at Emeril’s (although you definitely should if you can; see my Restaurants heading) to have awesome food. As far as restaurants that I have visited, I will try to list as many different types as I can. By no means is this an exhautive list! On your trip here, do yourself a favor and get away from the Quarter and find yourself one of these "off the path" restaurants. You might come out having eaten the best meal of your life!
The po-boy had its physical origin in the Oyster Loaf which appeared about 1900. The loaf consists of a one foot segment of a “French Bread” slice in half horizontally, smothered with butter, heated in the oven f at 300F for 6 minutes. When removed a dozen hot lightly deep-fried oysters (dipped in a spiced cornmeal batter) is placed on one half. This is slathered with mayonnaise and dribbled with a hot sauce (a little milder than pure Tabasco). It became the custom to “dress” this further with shredded lettuce, tomato slices and dill pickle slices. This tidbit in pieces was offered free at bars as a sustainer to encourage drinking or as they say “pour boire”. The name is ascribed to a the time of a street car strike (in 1929?). Two ex-conductors ran a sandwich shop near the end of the line on Canal Street where the “starving” strikers congregated and they were reported to have been sustained by baguette sandwiches filled with cheap beef and gravy provided by these sympathetic restauranteurs. (It was during Prohibition and the old pour-boire was not functional). But the name readily corrupted to something for the “Poor Boys” on the strike line. So the French Loaf remained as the Po-boy. When I was a student in the late 30’s , my first exposure to the sandwich was at a bar at the corner of Canal Street where the St. Charles streetcar entered it. Here they featured a (free) Po-boy sandwich with a drink for 25 cents. (Actually it was not “free” because the drinks were about 10-15 cents). We were under age and had root beer from the tap. A century has passed since the beginning and the Po-boy is stronger than ever. Whether it provided inspiration for the Philly Steak or the Submarine is for others to decide. If you read about what makes it unique(in other Tips) you will understand the difference to a gourmand.
Fondest memory: Living here an being able to eat.
What makes the best Po-boys is the “French Bread”. This is a New Orleans baguette , of a somewhat different texture. It should be extremely fresh (although buttering and oven treatment helps revive 6 hour old bread). The best Po-boy shops use only Leidenheimer’s brand. Our favorite place(Domilise-See Restaurant Tip) , receives truck delivery twice a day! The bite, slight crumble and absorptive capacity of the dough are critical. According to experts only verry fresh L’s bread fulfills the requirements. This is why it has been hard to duplicate a GOOD N.O. po-boy elsewhere.
The original po-boys have been altered by all purveyors due to public demands and inhibited American tastes. The standards: “roast beef and debris”or fried oysters are still the essential, but in N.O., the demand for shrimp for the more timid palate must be met. The dressing is an essential part of the preparation and the type of mayonnaise (usually a cheap commercial one) and “red-sauce”(blend of cayenne sauce and ketchup) is a “chef’s secret”. There are also a few eclectic offerings. Mother’s adds baked ham. Our favorites are at Crabby Jacks (See Restaurant Tip). Here the featured fillings are paneed rabbit, slow-roasted duck in a rich gravy, cochon au lait (juicy pork) and barbecued beef brisket ( with sauce). Both of our Po-boy sources have weathered the hurricane and are as busy as ever.
Fondest memory: Eating
• Bananas Fosters (cooked bananas over vanilla ice cream) at Brennan’s.
• Beignets (deep-fried squares of dough topped with powdered sugar) at Café du Monde (across from Jackson Square, 525-4544, open 24 hours, except on Christmas Day).
• Muffuletta (cold cut, cheese, and secret olive salad sandwich on round loaf of Italian bread; half should satisfy one person’s appetite) at Central Grocery (523-1620; 923 Decatur St; 8am-5:30pm daily). Also at the Napo-leon House where they warm it up.
• Oysters at Casamento’s or at the Acme Oysters House (522-5973; 724 Iberville St.; 11am-10pm and 11pm on weekends) or at Felix’s across the street if the line is too long. Also at Deanie’s.
• Boiled Crawfish at Deanie’s, Acme Oyster House, or Sid Mar.
• Shrimp Remoulade at Arnaud’s.
• Oyster Rockefeller at Antoine’s.
• Whatever your waiter recommends at Galatoire’s.
• Blackened Redfish at K-Paul’s.
• Po’ Boys (sandwich on French bread with fried shrimp, fried oysters, roast beef, etc… “dressed” typically with lettuce, tomato, mayo, hot sauce): at Domilise’s or Franky & Johnny’s uptown. Also downtown at Uglesich’s, Johnny’s Po’Boys and the Verti Mart.
• Roast Beef Po’ Boy at Parasol’s.
• Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop or at Coop’s.
• Turtle Soup at Commander’s Palace.
• Barbecued Shrimp at Pascal’s Manale.
• Chocolate Pecan Pie at Camellia Grill.
• Burgers at Port of Call, the Clover Grill, or Camillia Grill.
• Pralines at Southern Candy Makers or Laura’s.
• King Cake during the Mardi Gras season from Gambino’s.
• Bam! Call way ahead of time if you want to eat anything at any of Emeril Lagasse’s three restaurants: Emeril’s, NOLA, and Emeril
Preamble: This is not a delicate eating experience. First find a space at a table or counter with elbow room. Then have at hand a dispenser of small paper napkins and a drink of choice: beer, wine or a soft drink. Remove 6 napkins.(One should probably be given a bib, but this is not a Maine lobster, only a sandwich). It is helpful if you have sharp incisor teeth not worn old ones like mine or capped ones). Open the paper wrapper and center it or the paper plate close to you. The loaf should be ordered to be cut in 2 or 3 pieces. when ordering. Ready.
The Eating: Take the loaf section firmly in both hands with a cut edge up (not the heel) , compress it slightly , noting the discharge of juices onto the paper not your shirt, lean over the table and bite firmly into the loaf about 1/2 inch from the edge. Hopefully the juices and meat are not too hot! Stop; continue your bite until you have severed a off a piece so you can chew the softening bread and ingredients. Put the loaf down and take one or more napkins to wipe your soiled face and fingers, while savoring the melange of tastes: the sweet of the meat, the silkiness of the dressing, the tart of the dill pickle, the hot pepper! Think of the meat . Should you have ordered a different one? (Next time). If your shirt is stained , never mind, this is par for the course (it will clean up with “shout it out”). Continue as above, it is easier now as it cools. The second portion (the victory lap) proceeds until you are satisfied. When the eating is done compress the pile of napkins and locate the disposal container.
Fondest memory: Eating
Definition: A standard in any New Orleans kitchen - home or commercial. A spicy and delicious Cajun stew traditionally made with crawfish, vegetables and a dark roux though sometimes the crawfish is substituted with shrimp or (yikes) chicken. Warning: some may consider this blasphemous. Étouffée is usually served over rice. The word comes from the French étouffer, which means to smother.
Pick restaurants carefully. Lots of hype does not mean great food. For instance: Antoine's Restaurant has always been associated with New Orleans, but in deciding whether to go there, we walked by at prime time on a Saturday night and there were only 4 customers in the restaurant. I can guess what that means.
Fondest memory: Had a great walk on river walk along the mighty Mississippi. Started out early in the morning and finished at Jackson Square for Cafe au Lait and Beinget's (spelling ?). The Cafe au Lait is wonderfull, but the beignets were greasy, doughy and got powerdered sugar all over my black pants. Proceed with caution on the dough balls.
Favorite thing: Also on the third floor are the fudge candymakers. This fudge will melt in your mouth. While they are finishing with fudge theu swirl it in the air, joke with crown and sing. It is enjoyable. The guy who seemed to be the leader said if you bought a large amount of candy you could have one of the candy makers go home with you free of charge. Did not take him up on it. I will add more to this page when I get more pictures developed. I really enjoyed New
Try a muffelata. Phone book thick, round Italian sandwich containing ham, salami, provolone cheese, and a green and black olive and vinegar dressing.
Got mine from Franks on Decatur, but locals say that Central Grocery has the best.
Goes good with chocolate milk.
EAT! I tended to eat at small establishments for a more intimate down home feeling. To party there are all kinds of places along Bourbon Street. My favorites included Patrick O'Brien's (very busy place with dueling pianos), Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (very old establishment which was a front for the pirate) and, of course, the Preservation Jazz Club.
Fondest memory: Hanging out with some people I met there and meeting the locals, one of which invited us over to his house to listen to Miles Davis. Left there early in the morning and the fog filled the streets and gave a glow to the old streetlights. Very ethereal.
Eat at the Acme Oyster Bar. Sit at the bar, slurp down the oysters and enjoy the show of the guys shucking the oysters and get a side order of jambalaya. Best anywhere!!!
Fondest memory: Get a Bed and Breakfast along Prytania or St. Charles and take the streetcar in and out of the quarter. Be sure to catch 'EJ and the Electric Band' at the 'Funky Pirate' and, by all means, go to the 'Famous Door' and listen to Jeff Chaz and the All-Star Band. Unbelievable!!!
Favorite thing: Here's the soda bar mentioned in the paragraph above. The store owner mentioned to me that many movies include scenes shot at this bar, including Micky Rourke's dark film, 'Angel Hart' with Lisa Bonet.
This is the interior of one of the GREATEST, most relaxing, anciently elegant bars in town; The Napolean House. It's owner offered it to the Emperor Napolean as his residence in exile if he ever escaped from St Helena. Napolean didn't make it, but the name stayed, and today it is my favorite place, along with Lafitte's, to hang in the Quarter. Paint peels off the walls, ceiling fans whirl, soft music blends into the backdrop, and there is absolutely no better place to be in New Orleans. Abita is the local beer, and Muffaletta's are the best sandwhich.
500 Chartres St., 524-9752