Dear Food Diary:
My trip to Nola was filled with good eats. I gained another pound just by looking at the photos again.
In an attempt to make my Best Eats list of New Orleans, I designed a compact, at-a-glance eating sheet based on the best individual dishes I had. Take a look!
Introducing the first edition of Best Eats
Depending on how popular and helpful this is to you guys, it could possibly start a Best Eats series of other cities (let me know what you think).
I made it into a jpg, so you can grab, print and go.
Here’s the drool inducing closer look of the list:
Foie Gras Burger – SoBou
If this isn’t the ultimate #foodporn I don’t know what is. The burger isn’t huge, but it sure makes up for it in rich fatty salty goodness. Juicy patty with a good slab of foie gras – seared perfectly all around the edges, crispy crust and a melt in your mouth luscious center.
On top, there’s duck bacon and a sunny side up egg. Packed high between buttery toasted brioche. With a side of chicharron instead of fries! Genius. I think the fat police would be proud. Oh! And foie gras ice cream float to wash it all down (insert George Takei saying “Ohhh My!”). This foie on foie action might start a migration for Californians. Even if it tasted more like vanilla.
Fried Alligator – Cochon
Cochon means pig in French. It’s no surprise their pork renditions are excellent. Any piggy like me would have a feast here. But shockingly, I was left wanting more of their Fried Alligator. Gator’s texture remind me of a mix between frog and fish – no, it does not taste like chicken. They were coated beautifully and fried golden and crispy. With a chili garlic mayonnaise on top. I don’t want to be cliche and say it was addictive, but how else could I describe this Southern crack? It’s a shame we don’t eat more gator in NY.
Étouffée – Luke
We had several versions of this classic Cajun/Creole dish but Luke’s was by far the best. Chef John Besh’s had rich robust flavors without being heavy handed on salt like other renditions. Fresh jumbo shrimps and sweet blue crab meat over a popcorn rice – it didn’t taste like popcorn, just puffed up and fluffy grains that soaked up the thick stew wonderfully.
Fried Oyster and Shrimp Po’Boy – Domilise’s
Domilise’s was definitely out of the way, but even on a rainy Tuesday, we had to wait on line at this family run spot. Our cab ride cost more than the sandwich, but totally worth it.
I couldn’t decide between fried oyster or shrimp, so got a combo instead. Perfectly fried, fresh ingredients. Baguette, creamy mayo, sweet tangy ketchup and hot sauce and lettuce. Simplicity at its mouthwatering best.
No website, info here.
Praline Bacon – Elizabeth’s
Who knew bacon could get better!? Holy smokes, I want to stuff myself with this strip of heaven every morning. The thin, sweet nutty coating is like a crisp buttery candy that gloriously compliments the salty fatty pork. The texture is an amazing mouthful of all things bad but ohhh so goooood.
I got a bloody mary to go. Don’t judge. The walk back to our hotel was far.
Crawfish Jambalaya – Bon Ton Cafe
This Creole take on paella arrived generously loaded with sweet crawfish. The rice had taken in all the flavors from the combination of ingredient and stock – soft without breaking apart. Onion, celery and bell pepper aromas welcome the senses bite after bite. We went back for more, but they were closed for a private event. *sigh*
Eggs – Stanley
Eggs Stanley is breakfast/brunch on steroids. Cornmeal crusted oysters, fried golden brown, achieving a nice crunch without losing the plump juiciness. Beautifully poached eggs, runny and sexy with Canadian bacon on a toasted English muffin. The creole hollandaise sauce on top is all butter and yolks, but totally balanced and worthy of licking the fork, knife and plate.
Breaux Bridge Benedict shines with boudin, smoked ham and melted cheese. Once again, a blanket of their creole hollandaise and poached eggs bring everything happily together. It sits on top of a crusty baguette that acts like a soft delicious sponge.
Charbroiled Oysters – Drago’s Seafood Restaurant
There’s no other reason to be at Drago’s than for their charbroiled oysters. These ultra buttery, garlic and herb covered oysters are elevated by their time spend under fire. Smokey throughout, it makes you want to lick each shell and anything it comes into contact with. Thankfully there’s bread on the side – not a drip of that garlicky goodness goes to waste.
Homemade Andouille and Boudin Sausages – Emeril’s
Fantastic homemade andouille sausage had just the right amount of heat. Smokey and a nice snap from the casing. The boudin version with pork blood was subtle and perfectly spiced. Great crispy exterior. The beer braised onions and
whole grain mustard complimented each with a sweetness and pop. Southern cooked greens on the bottom to balance it all out.
Fried Chicken – Willie Mae’s Scotchhouse
Their fried chicken is legendary. We waited out in the cold rain for close to an hour. The magic lies in their unique crust (a product of a secret wet batter). Deep fried to perfection. Once your teeth conquer the crunchy exterior, the juices of the dark meat start to drip. Salty in a good, I want another piece way. A side of rice and butter beans is a must.
No website, info here.
Beignet – Cafe Du Monde
Fried dough with a mountain of powdered sugar, this is a classic. The original location at the French Market is open 24 hrs a day, crazy lines during the day. To avoid the crowd, we had this messy sweet treat late at night. Their famous cafe au lait with a touch of chicory (root of the endive plant) is unique. Even if you’ve never been here, I would bet a beignet that you would recognize their iconic tin can.
Pain Perdu Bread Pudding – Muriel’s
I’ve never been a fan of bread pudding but this pecan filled square of moist boozy carb got me thinking otherwise. I’m guessing the Harvey Bristal Cream had a big part in it. Buttery caramel sauce with one of my favorite nuts – candied. We were there for a lovely Sunday jazz brunch and this dessert played songs in my mouth spoonful after spoonful.
Splurge Dinner – Commander’s Palace
Best overall meal. Chef’s tasting was tempting at less than $100, which isn’t a splurge in New York standards, but this was our most expensive meal during our visit. I was glad we ordered their their signature a la carte.
Foie Gras “Du Monde” Black skillet seared foie gras over a foie gras & candied pecan beignet with foie gras infused café au lait, warm sugarcane syrup, and chicory coffee “mist”. My kind of sinful combination. All the things I enjoyed from different meals in Nola condensed into one plate.
Satsuma & Grand Marnier Lacquered Quail was hands down the best quail I’ve had to date. The skin had an alluring crispiness not unlike that of Peking duck with a citrusy aroma from the satsuma. Whiskey soaked cranberry boudin stuffing over bacon braised Vidalia onions & cabbage with Crystal hot sauce pepper jelly. I’m usually not a fan of too many fruity components in my entree but the sugar level was skillfully held back – evident but not overpowering.
I would take this over Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing any day.
Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish is a Commander’s Palace classic. Hearty and balanced. The different textures are paired well with the flaky fish. Crushed sweet corn, spiced pecans, petite herbs, and Prosecco poached Louisiana blue crab. A mouthful of sweet creamy crunch. A dish to be remembered.
Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé took about 20 minutes – making this the diva of all dessert, also known as “The Queen of Creole Desserts”. An airy meringue makes this lighter than regular bread pudding. After breaking the center, a smooth whiskey sauce was poured into the dreamy center. Not overly sweet. Smile inducing. I needed a nap after this.
Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake also took 20 minutes. Appearance wise, it seemed outdated and pedestrian, but one bite and I saw it in a brand new light. Simple elements put together in a beautiful way. Sweet Louisiana strawberries layered in a warm buttermilk biscuit with whipped chantilly cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. The textures work so well with the fragrant berries. Summer on a plate.
After all this eating, it was nice to do some Walking and Exploring in Nola.