Tuesday, April 02, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 9

Food! Glorious Food!

                New Orleans is a city known for its cuisine. If I were to blog for three hundred days instead of thirty, I couldn’t possibly get to all the wonderful places you can go to eat in this culinary city. So, to write this today, I’ve thought about my favorite places and asked friends and family to give me their spots of absolute culinary delight. You may have favorite places that I won’t get to, so, please, let me know when I’ve missed an absolute must!

                Sometimes, I must admit, I personally have a little trouble making sure I don’t order food that’s too spicy for me in New Orleans. (My parents were Scottish and Irish; pizza was this rare and tasty treat in our house and I think I was seventeen when that arrived on the home table!) But if you have such a tender palette too, I will give you fair warning--be
careful and ask for mild offerings. If you’re into spicy, eating in NOLA will be close to heaven.

                Connie’s husband, Al, once told me that a gumbo was mild. My mouth was still on fire the next morning!

                Most of the world, however, can handle spice better than I.

                And because the city is really huge and there are so, so, so many restaurants to choose from, I’m going to stay in the French Quarter—all easy walking distance from anywhere in the French Quarter—except for my last.

                We’ve already touched on the subject of Café du Monde; that’s for café au lait and beignets and people watching. And I’ve mentioned the hamburgers and to die for potatoes at Port of Call.

                So here, I’ll start with K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. (416 Chartres Street)

                The master behind the restaurant is Paul Prudhomme who became famous—even among the already famous chefs of the world.

                I’ve been lucky enough to talk with him several times at the restaurant. He is a charming and gracious man.  The restaurant can get really crazy, so it’s best to call ahead for a reservation; if you don’t, you can try dining early or late. Paul Prudhomme is really responsible for introducing the concept of “blackened” food to a large portion of the world.

                The menu changes constantly and yet some dishes you’ll find frequently enough. What is done there with shrimp and grits
should be part of the dining delight of heaven. His chefs prepare equally wonderful tenderloin; crawfish, naturally. (Crawfish etouffee, oh yes!) For dessert, you have to try the bread pudding. Okay, just kidding; you don’t have to. I happen to love bread pudding. I also love the way that cute little food caricatures tell you about different recipes on the walls.

                Chef Paul Prudhomme was the youngest of thirteen children—imagine! He learned to cook with his mom, and I figure she must have spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I raised five children and feeding that much smaller number was a daily challenge. She taught him about fresh ingredients, and he holds to the freshest ingredients to this day. He’s acknowledged by culinary experts as being THE man to bring the distinctive cuisine of his native home to the American people; you can his wonderful spices on line and in specialty shops around the country. (Professional and amateur gourmets in all fifty states and twenty-five other countries treasure his offerings!) He has taught us all about gumbo and tasso and Andouille sausage and so much more! The restaurant is pleasant, there’s a courtyard, the staff is friendly—and it’s really a great experience all way round. I love coming here. It was also a privilege meeting him; he was a lovely man.

                Next up, to me, is Mr. B’s.  (201 Royal Street) Mr. B’s has a salad I really love, great
gumbo, fresh bread, delights that are local, some spicy, some not. They’re open for lunch and can get very crowded so again, reservations are suggested but I’ve walked in off the street many a time. It’s busy, bustling, and delicious. It’s right across the street from the Hotel Monteleone, convenient and easy when we’re putting on Writers. They serve up a bloody Mary that will shock you to life and also whip up a blood orange Margarita that is fresh and delicious. Somehow, in NOLA, the coffee is always the best to me. There’s a jazz brunch on Sundays which is always entertaining.

                Quick and tasty and right on Decatur Street (near Jackson Square, the river, mule-driven carriages and more) is Tujague’ (823
Decatur Street.) The restaurant claims to be the second oldest in the city and has been serving up Creole food since 1856. Guillerme Tujague came to America from France in 1852 and began by serving breakfast. The building itself was once a Spanish armory. Easy, pleasant, a nice taste of the city, and reasonable in price.

Another fun restaurant is Maspero’s (440 Chartres Street.) The building was erected in 1788. It was a coffee house where the famous met at one time, including the Lafitte brothers and Andrew Jackson—before the Battle of New Orleans. Living
history, once again. There’s a nice casual air here as the staff serves up Cajun cuisine.

We’ve mentioned the second oldest restaurant, so now the first—Antoine’s. Antoine Alciatore came from Marseille. In 1840 he opened a rooming house or pension, naturally, with food to please and attract the visitor. The restaurant has been serving delicious food ever since. President Roosevelt once came here for lunch—you can come for lunch or dinner. Antoine’s continues to offer fine dining that is still
remarkably casual and friendly. You can see old photos on the walls and yet be charmed by the tablecloths and excellent service. It’s a lovely place to celebrate something special! Oysters Rockefeller are a specialty; they were first served here. (713 St. Louis Street)

The Court of Two Sisters is an excellent choice for a jazz brunch (or other dining!) The courtyard is lovely, the music divine, and the buffet long and filled
with choices.  (613 Royal Street)  It’s named for two sisters, Emma and Bertha, who once owned a “notions” shop here—current owners are not related. But, of course, it’s a beautiful, historic, and certainly haunted building! 

Arnoud’s (430 Dauphine Street) and Brennan’s (417 Royal Street) are both famed and elegant and offer wonderful food. A comparatively new choice among these long esteemed establishments is NOLA—Creole cuisine with a bit of a modern flair. (534 St. Louis Street) I’ve
really enjoyed NOLA every time I've been.

For a great sandwich? A shrimp po-boy or the like? I recommend the Acme Oyster House. There can be quite a line at lunchtime. That’s because it’s reasonable and the food is very good. You can find it at 724 Iberville Street. 

  I didn’t set out to list restaurants—you can find a list anywhere and here’s something that’s great about the city—it’s actually hard to find a bad restaurant. I’m going to mention
Napoleon House because it’s old and fun and in a building that was really erected with the hopes that Napoleon Bonaparte would come to New Orleans in his exile. We all know that didn’t happen—Napoleon remained on Elba where he passed away. Napoleon House remained-Napoleon House.  Like many places, it has a great courtyard.  It was really erected for Nicholas Girod in 1814-he was the man who sympathized with Napoleon
 and actually offered the deposed emperor the place if he came to New Orleans. The atmosphere here is fun and breezy. (500 Chartres Street)

All of the restaurants in historic buildings are proud of their history—often, you’ll find it on the menu and if you feel that you aren’t getting the whole story, ask your server. He or she will be glad to help you.  

Muriel’s offers up just about everything, in my opinion. The food is delicious; there’s
often a three piece jazz band playing. The building is charming and haunted. Once, for Writers, Helen Rosburg hosted a party here. Everyone came in antebellum dress and we had the entire second floor and used one room for old time photographs (taken by amazing mixed-media artist friend Lynn Sanders! Check out her work!) and we played charades
in another room and set one aside for tarot and palm readings. The night was wonderful
and I’m ever grateful to Muriel’s, and yes, I’ll always be partial. But, the wonder of dining at Muriel’s isn’t something you have to trust me about—ask anybody. Of course, it’s haunted. Balconies are beautiful and overlook Jackson Square!  (801 Chartres Street)

There are charming coffee shops, bars, little alleyway places, and tea shops just about everywhere.

You could also check out Irene's (lovely old fashioned feel and delicious food!) Or the Alpine—bread pudding that melts in your mouth. Or . . . .

Like I said, hard to go wrong.

The one restaurant I will talk about that’s out of the Quarter is in the Garden District. (1403 Washington Avenue) I’ve mentioned it before but it deserves a double-take. I’m referring to Commander’s Palace. Several stories, a garden, a terrace . . . wonderful salads, a bit of that amazing casual elegance that’s so charming, and entrees that are delicious. If you’re looking for a really nice afternoon, walk the Garden District and see some of the exquisite mansions, stop by the Garden District Book Store, feel the atmosphere of Lafayette Cemetery and marvel at the “city of the dead”—and then dine at
Commander’s Palace.

New Orleans truly offers so much in the way of dining. Name an ethnicity, and you’ll find it somewhere. But if you’re going for a real taste of New Orleans, you can check out a few that I’ve mentioned here.

Oh, one last! Feel like a peanut butter hamburger? Stop in at  Yo Mamas located at 727 St Peter.

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