I just came back from a long weekend
eating bonanza trip to New Orleans with a group of friends. When I planned the trip, I knew I wanted to cram a whole lot of stuff into not a whole lot of time, we had food to eat, music to listen to and houses to gawk at. And while there was so much more I wanted to eat do, I think we hit some pretty awesome highlights. I also think that I’ve found our new home. Now I just have to convince the Husband that New Orleans in August really isn’t that terrible
Anyway, back to the weekend, I should warn you, this is a long one people, so be prepared to read a lot and get hungry in the process. We got in late Thursday night and ended up picking a friend up from the Quarter which had no power due to a nasty thunderstorm and was totally lit by gas lights… seriously beautiful. So we left the quarter, because no bars were open and headed over to Frenchman Street. Frenchman is this fabulous block filled with bars that each has various musicians playing. If you get tired of one, you stumble on over to the next. And since there are no open container laws in the great state of Louisiana, you can stumble with your drink. As I’m getting over a nasty nasty cold, I was drinkless for a goodly portion of the weekend, so there was no stumbling, but you can still get the point. So we wandered through Frenchman, and ended up in this teeny tiny little bar called the Apple Barrel, where we listened to this rather large man with a grill of gold teeth (who I am SURE had at least two stints in prison) play a MEAN harmonica with a blue grass band.
The next morning we woke up and headed over to the Uptown area of the city for an amazing lunch at Clancy's, a New Orleans establishment. You know you’ve come into an old place when you are the youngest dinners by about 30 years. We overheard our waitress say to the elderly woman in a wheelchair “I’ve been waiting on you for what, eighteen? Nineteen years?” HOLY MOLY! Nineteen years?!? Clancy’s is a white table cloth, get yourself dressed in your finest, wait staff in tuxedo’s type of place. But for all of the appearances of stuffiness, it was warm and welcoming and amazingly delicious. The menu is handwritten and changes daily; there wasn’t a single thing on there that wasn’t cooked to perfection. The highlights: Crawfish Pie, Gumbo, Grilled Sweetbreads, Grilled Veal, Baby Drum (it’s a fish!), Lemon Icebox Pie and the Butterscotch, Salted Carmel dessert. So as you can see, pretty much everything we ate was amazing.
We wandered through the quarter for a while that afternoon and our friend took us to Bourbon House for their Bourbon Milk Punch. I’m not a fan of Milk or Bourbon, but this was like a Vanilla milkshake with juuuust a hint of carmelly bourbon. I had a sip and fell in love. It was delicious and trouble. When you head down, grab one. Trust me.
Dinner that night was at one of my favorites in the city another delicious Uptown find, Boucherie. Every time I’m in New Orleans, I head back for their Crispy Duck Confit and their Krispy Kreme Breadpudding (oh yes, that is correct…and it is even more amazing than it sounds). Boucherie is a modern take on creole cuisine. They take staples like brisket and pulled pork and elevate them with a simple upgrade of ingredients. We started with the Collard Greens and the Boudin Balls (rice and sausage, rolled and fried…a New Orleans Classic). For the people who had not been, which was 95% of our group, this was a prefect teaser for what was to come. I had the Wagyu Brisket, tender and cooked to perfection. My friend has their Peppercorn Smoked Scallops with Grits, five days later and she’s still speaking about them. Husband had the Bulgogi marinated Duck Breast, wow. WOW. And the best part of all of this, the food and beverages are SO reasonably priced. Coming from Chicago, this food would be close to twice the price. Wagyu for $16? UNHEARD OF!
That night we wandered through the quarter and ended up in Lafittes Blacksmith Shop, built in the early 1700’s, it’s the oldest bar in New Orleans and is lit only by candles. The mixed drinks are rotgut, but grab a Bud and sit for a while. It’s kind of insane.
The next morning we woke up and wandered down to the Warehouse District to Cochon, Donald Link’s homage to the Pig. We started with an order of the Woodfire Oysters; I would hurt someone to get at those again. Hot off the grill, salty and spicy, this dish was pretty much made for me. I’ve been here before and this is another place I will continue to come back to. Some meal highlights: Shrimp Etouffee, fried Alligator with Chili Aioli (buffalo style Alligator), Braised Pork Cheek, Rabbit and Dumplings, Macaroni and Cheese Casserole and the Pineapple Upside-down Cake (cornmeal cake is delicious).
That afternoon we walked around the warehouse district for a bit and then headed to our friends place in the Bywater neighborhood. His building is right on the river and has breathtaking views and not to mention a pretty phenomenal roof top deck.
Dinner that night was at the newest member of John Besh’s restaurant empire, Borgne (pronounced Born). The focus is Louisiana coastal cuisine, and they have such delicious dishes as Marinated Crab Fingers (they tiny legs of the crab marinated in an amazing vinaigrette), Fish in a Bag (sweet onions and crab fat), a gigantic Seafood Stuffed Artichoke (seriously, it was the size of two soft balls) and my delicious dinner, Deviled Crab (the top shell of the crab filled with lump crabmeat and seasonings with an awesome kick). Everything was really delicious and they were able to serve a group of twenty people without it looking like a total train wreck.
That night we went to the Midtown Rock and Bowl to see Kermit Ruffins, an amazing trumpet player and singer play with his band for an hour and a half. You know you’ve found an awesome musician when you’ve got 80 year old grandpa’s dancing alongside a bunch of 20 somethings The Kermit concert was followed by a trip back to Frenchman Street where we went into d.b.a and saw the second act of Rebirth Brass Band. It’s like a marching band meets hip hop, amazing. If you’re down in New Orleans, both of these guys play regularly and are worth the $10 for tickets, seriously. This was all followed by a 3am trip to Café du Monde for some beignets. For those of you who don’t know, a beignet is essentially a fried dough pillow covered in a mound of confectioners’ sugar. Obviously a perfect 3am treat.
Sunday was brunch at Sylvain. Their Sazerac was fantastic as was their pull pork shoulder with grits. The space was beautiful as well. A large back patio area surrounded by high walls and overhanging trees with an inside that was dark and cool. It felt like a place I wanted to sit and drink and read a book all day.
That afternoon we drove all around the city. Down to the Lower Ninth, up through the Garden District to look at the mansions, got to stop into a Cemetery and check out some crypts before dropping Husband off at the airport.
Dinner was at Bacchanal, a wine shop with a huge backyard filled with patio chairs lit by tiki torches and twinkle lights. We ordered a malbec and grabbed some tacos and other Latin America inspired cuisine from La Cocinita, the little red food truck gracing Bacchanal with its food presence that evening. I sat under the light of a tiki torch, munching on carne asada, drinking a malbec, laughing with my friends and dreaming of the day when I can move down here and call this my new home….I’ve made crazier things happen….