Sunday, February 27, 2011

#4.5: Eat my way through the Big Easy—BURP!

New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.
- Mark Twain

Once upon a time, I was a girl who ate to live. As a 16-year-old ballet dancer, I would sit under the barre, feet shod in toe shoes, devouring a greasy cheeseburger before my pas de deux. But I did it because I didn't want to get any skinnier (and *ahem* flatter). But as healthy as my appetite was back then, I ate for a purpose. I didn't know that there was such a thing as eating for the sheer pleasure of it.

For good or bad, whether it's a blessing or a curse, sometime in the last five years a switch flipped and I turned into someone who lives to eat. Nothing brings me more excitement than figuring out what to fill my ever-expanding belly with next. Which is why while I was in New Orleans, it came to me that had I put more thought into it, #4 on my list should not have been "Party in New Orleans for Mardi Gras." If I were being really true to myself, I would've put down "Eat my way through the Big Easy" instead. But no matter. I did both!

What follows is a quick roundup of our most memorable eats in NOLA (see more detailed posts at The Chiconomist). If you ever come down South to experience Mardi Gras, try to stay hangover-free long enough to indulge in all the deliciousness New Orleans has to offer.

My #1 favorite thing to eat in NOLA, bar none, is Louisiana's state doughnut: the beignet (Yes, official state doughnuts exist, though only Louisiana and Massachusetts have declared one—MA's is the Boston creme doughnut, of course).
We tried the beignets at NOLA institution Cafe du Monde, as well as Cafe Beignet on Royal Street. Cafe du Monde lived up to its hype, with beignets fried to create a delicious crisp shell and a soft,  chewy interior, all of it generously dusted with confectioner's sugar. Cafe Beignet's version was lighter and fluffier, belying its fried origins. My friends preferred the chewy texture of Cafe du Monde's beignets. I think they're different but equally good. I do not discriminate between delicious deep fried doughnuts.
If there was a restaurant that I could vote to transport to New York, it would be Cochon. The ambience is casual but sleek, the service warm yet knowledgeable, and the food comforting but beautifully cooked. Plus, they worship all things pork. My kind of place. The highlights of our meal at Cochon included succulent roasted oysters, addictive alligator with chili garlic aioli, a fresh and perfectly cooked whole red snapper, the most flavorful spicy pork ribs I've ever tasted, and the marvelous pork cracklings topping the cochon—that's Louisiana-style suckling pig, yessiree.
One of the most memorable meals we had down south was just outside of New Orleans and one we happened upon out of sheer desperation. Starving after our swamp tour, we barged into a shack called Wilson's Kountry Korner willing to eat pretty much anything. God bless their deep fryers because in this little shack, we had the best fried chicken ever plus a serving of that majestic thing called swamp fries. What, pray tell, are swamp fries? It's a pile of french fries smothered in roast beef, gravy and two kinds of grated cheese, and as disgusting as that may sound, it is HEAVEN.
As partial as I am to the New York brunch scene, I was quite smitten with New Orleans' version: jazz brunch at Commander's Palace. It was so lovely to be in the beautiful Victorian-style Commander's Palace listening to live jazz while indulging in sinful Southern fare. My favorites were shrimp and tasso henican, hen's egg carbonara, shrimp n' grits, pecan pie, strawberry shortcake and that oh-so-decadent Creole bread pudding souffle.
There's definitely much more to New Orleans than the crazy Bourbon Street scene and I'm glad we experienced some of it. I'm sure we barely scratched the surface, however, and I would love to come back to explore the Big Easy further. Heck, why stop at the Big Easy? I foresee some sort of list in my future with a mission to "Eat my way through the South." It just has to be done.


  1. I love beignets but its impossible to not get powdered sugar all over everything!

  2. Whenever I go on vacation, we take pictures of all our meals as well. When I travel with someone new, I have to explain that we all order different things and share. :)

    I just managed to eat my weight in chinese food while watching the oscars, but I am dying to try all of these foods...NOW!

  3. 101 Things - Wearing a white t-shirt helped immensely!
    Things to Do - The waiter at Cochon gave me the strangest look when I started taking pictures. I guess they're not used to that down south yet! My friends all know that they can't touch their food until I've taken a picture. Poor guys :-)

  4. Hello Celine,
    This post is very nice. I love this dish. It is very delicious to look at. Thank you for sharing the post. Hope your next recipe will published soon.


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