Sunday, April 24, 2011

Iconic NOLA eats!

I'm not sure why I didn't realize the level to which New Orleans is a foodie destination...  but as I did my research in advance of our trip, I couldn't help but salivate... and when we got there, I suffered fraom the anxiety of having to chose where to eat on our ever decreasing number of meals before our departure - the pressure!

A few iconic eats in NOLA:

(1) The po'boy: not just a submarine or hero, but THE sandwich of Louisiana.  You can get them from fine restaurants to corner stores to gas stations.  Thought to originate in the 1920's when French bread was filled with potatoes and gravy to feed striking workers... I'd heard a lot about Johnny's Po-boy Restaurant in the French Quarter, so we got there for an early lunch.

 Nothing like ordering in a local restaurant for the first time - it was jam packed, and I had to ask what "all dressed" meant, and missed my number being called (cuz I didn't expect it to be made so quickly!).

 We stuck with the classic fried shrimp po-boy (undressed - shredded iceberg, tomatoes, pickles and a little mayo on the side) - I usually deprive myself of it, but freshly-fried, tongue-burning food is mana from heaven... at least at the first moment the flavours burst on your tongue, the crunch of crispy, airy batter, hints of cayenne blended with a shmear of mayo... mmmm! 

We did wonder about the bread though - crispy on the outside, but processed bland air dough in the middle...  Probably the only disappointment of the entire trip.  Although we heard later of the "bread as vehicle" theory around po'boy bread...

(2) Beignets and chicory cafe au lait:  The iconic spot is Cafe du Monde (first opened in 1862) on Decatur Street past Jackson Square.  A super touristy place which I considered waiting in line for until I realized that they were filming Emeril Lagasse inside.... next time!

We came across Cafe Beignet, a little hole in the wall restaurant with a shaded terrasse that was pumping out these hot square doughnuts with a snowstorm of icing sugar on top.   Maybe that layer of sugar is to keep from burning your upper lip, as you've got to inhale them while they are still warm... and remember NOT to wear black if you are going to indulge!

(3) Fried Chicken:  Part of the Creole/soul food experience, which you can get even in a cafe called "Fiorella's" (which I found out later is one of the best places to get fried chicken in town)!  And on St. Paddy's Day, I had to indulge in their special - a $2 green apple martini - before lunch!

 This was a dangerous "beginning of trip" experience.  The still sizzling, lightly coated skin breaking like glass under my teeth, flavour burst of fat and spices as I sunk into the juiciest chicken I may ever have experienced - the textures and tastes all blending into an eye-rolling mouthful...  Whoa!  Made me want to eat more and more, and start a pilgrimage to find the holy grail of fried chicken....  and to never ever eat KFC again!  Note the red beans and smoked sausage with rice side... nice!

(4) The Muffletta:  But that will have to be a separate post....

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