Life in the big city, and everything in between.

“The Big Easy”

In Food on August 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

New Orleans, also know as “Nawlins”,”NOLA”,”The Big Easy”, and “The Crescent City” just to name a few, is famous for it’s cuisine, music, and annual festivities and celebrations, most notably Mardi Gras.  After Hurricane Katrina the city was declared off limits to residents while efforts to clean up the city began. Today the city has regained most of its pre-Katrina population. I recently visited New Orleans with my family after and was so astounded to see the city flourishing with tourism. It was just how I remembered it. I had such an amazing time that I needed to share my experiences. One of the first things I did when I arrived in New Orleans was head over to Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter, which is known for their beignets.  These square- shaped pastries that are called “French doughnuts” are absolutely delectable. When you hear people from New Orleans say they are “Goin’ fo’ coffee an’ doughnuts,”  you can bet they are headed to Cafe du Monde.

The second thing I did, after eating beignets of course, was make room for an old fashioned Bloody Mary. I know there are many variations on this cocktail but I like mine spiced up and garnished with olives, celery, and occasionally pickled beans if the bartender has some. While I was in New Orleans I had one for breakfast everyday and I am not exaggerating.  Whether you have this delicious cocktail as a hangover remedy to pick you up in the morning or get you ready for the evening, the Bloody Mary will serve its purpose. Another reason to visit New Orleans is for their Creole cuisine. The local ingredients range from French, Spanish, and Italian to African, Cajun, and a hint of Cuban. Among my favorite dishes are fried oysters (as well as Gulf coast oysters on the half shell), boiled crawfish, jambalaya, gumbo, and etouffee. I probably gained a solid five pounds eating in New Orleans but it was well worth it. In a town synonymous for the food it is hard to know where to begin. For oysters I went to the Acme Oyster House. We didn’t have to wait very long in line but that wasn’t a concern for me because I would have waited all day for what I was about to experience. The char-grilled oysters were mouth watering. Drenched in butter and topped with parmesan and garlic, these oysters were mind blowing! We also ordered the raw oysters on the half shell which were super fresh, large, and juicy. I was fortunate enough to experience Acme before the oil spill disaster. Although the long term future of the Gulf region is uncertain, it is safe to eat Gulf Coast seafood now.

I want to give a shout out to some of the other restaurants I visited during my time in New Orleans.  Mother’s Restaurant you really do make the world’s best ham. Yes I had an amazing lunch here but it was the warm, friendly staff that will bring me back again.  You may have heard of John Besh. He has won the James Beard Foundation Award, named Ten Best New Chefs in America in Food & Wine, and appeared on Iron Chef America. He is also responsible for Besh Steak at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans. I was very disappointed to see so many negative reviews online about Besh Steak. Of course most of the bad reviews were because people did not like that it was located in a casino. Do the surroundings really matter as long as the food is great? My dad ordered the 16 oz. slow roasted prime rib with roasted fingerling potatoes and haricot verts. I had the 10 oz Filet of Beef Tenderloin with dauphinoise potatoes, asparagus, and smoked marrow butter. Every bite was better than the last! It was really hard to choose from the menu because everything sounded amazing. Do yourself a favor and visit either Besh Steak or one of his other restaurants in New Orleans. You will not regret it.

Before you leave New Orleans you have to make a trip to the Lafayette Cemetery. The above ground tombs are remarkable. It is said that the cemetery was the site of mass burials of yellow fever victims from the 1850s. It was also the location for some well known movies such as Interview with the Vampire and Double Jeopardy. You enter the cemetery through an old, rusty gate. The narrow paths and tombs, as well as the crosses and statues give it a sense of mystery. If you are a thrill seeker I suggest going  alone and in the late evening.  We met an elderly woman who was a tour guide for the cemetery for many years and she was kind enough to share the history of the cemetery with me and my family. Unfortunately over the years many of the cemeteries, including the Lafayette Cemetery, have disintegrated and are beyond repair. She has continued to do the tours because the proceeds go to the repair and restoration of the tombs. Visit the Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District and see the history and architecture behind these massive tombs. And if you want to contribute to the restoration there are many ways to do so. Save our Cemeteries is one non profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and restoring these historic cemeteries.

I hope sharing some of my memories of New Orleans will give you an idea for your next vacation. Watching my mom take her first jello shot out of a test tube (she would kill me if she knew I posted this picture) and seeing my dad relax, smoking a cigar and listening to some good ol’ jazz music was something I will never forget.  Whether for the food, the jazz, the nightlife, or the culture, it’s time to head to “The Big Easy”.


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