Eating on the Fly: New Orleans

Our contributor stops down in NOLA

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Café du Monde is certainly the most famous venue for the beignet in New Orleans.

I am finding it not so easy to pay homage to The Big Easy. New Orleans could be very easily be placed as one of my top three favorite food cities, and it seems a little bit daunting to write about a city with so many first-rate restaurants. Then again, this is not an unusual problem: I find this to be the case with many of the cities I visit.

So I think I’ll just start with what I love the most: the "po’boy." "What are we gonna feed these po'boys?" You feed them the delicious roast beef po'boy from Parkway Bakery & Tavern, that's what! The French bread is so delicious, fresh, and plentiful. The meat is tender and juicy. Everything about this sandwich just soothes my soul.  How did this sandwich get its name? Benny and Clovis Martin were two brothers who owned a restaurant in New Orleans.  In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers served their former colleagues (these "po'boys") free sandwiches. This was the most reasonably priced and delicious food I had the entire time in New Orleans. You've got to venture away from your "comfort zone" (i.e. the French Quarter), but I made the trek, which was very well worth it.

Beignets: they never fail to cover me in powdered sugar. And it’s usually at the airport when I am stuffing one into my face. Passengers walk by, see me trying to avoid getting the white fluffy sugar onto my uniform, and somehow manage to make me laugh. And my uniform is dark. So it never fails; I wear half of my beignet. Café du Monde is certainly the most famous venue for the beignet. Established in 1862, the café only serves coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and beignets. Beignets are a square-shaped French donut, lavishly covered in powdered sugar. Light, fluffy, and flavorful, it is easy to polish off more than one — maybe even five at a time. Yours truly is guilty of doing so. 

My visit wouldn’t have been complete without dining at one of John Besh’s restaurants. Each of Besh’s restaurants is dedicated to the cuisine of southern Louisiana. Besh’s flagship restaurant August was out of this world. I firmly believe he may know some voodoo, which NOLA is accredited for. Most folks do their voodoo to cast spells. Besh does his voodoo to create earth-shattering cuisine. At August, I tried the foie gras as an appetizer, which was prepared three different ways. And as an entrée: pork belly ham, with crispy red creamer potatoes and peach mustard. Succulent and hearty, the flavors blended together perfectly. I also tasted my friend’s Gulf shrimp, which was large, plentiful, and grilled to perfection. For dessert we tried the Meyer lemon soufflé. It was light, feathery, and the perfect mix of sweet and tart. The restaurant is very historic, dimly lit, ambient, and cozy. The service is top-notch. 

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I can’t write about NOLA and not write about Hurricanes, although they are not my favorite drink.  his drink debuted at the 1939 World's Fair and was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped serving glasses. Although Pat O’Brien’s gets the credit for launching this drink with both light and dark rum, the best Hurricane is served at Lafitte’s. The Hurricanes there are made of fresh-squeezed fruit juices (not a mix, like many other venues), and plenty of the hard liquor that makes a Hurricane a Hurricane! Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop — built between 1722 and 1732 by Nicolas Touze — is presumed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. It is a cozy little dark venue, which would be a great place to make out with a date at a dark table in the corner, but not on a night when a ghost tour is going on, because it's packed. (I was there on a ghost tour.) Maybe after a few of the Hurricanes it would still be a great spot to make out with your date. Or not your date. Or just someone you met on the ghost tour.  Or a ghost. Or a vampire. Shoot! It's New Orleans — anything goes! After all, it is a city full of spirits. And spirits.