From the fast paced craziness of Los Angeles we moved on to a different type O crazy in New Orleans, the largest city in the state of Louisiana. We were excited for ‘Nawlins’ for a number of reasons, its old world distinct French architecture, creole cuisine, some of the best jazz in the world and it’s kooky off-beat people. Of course, doing the tourist thing, we stayed in the French Quarter, a two minute walk to the main streets ‘Royal’ and ‘Bourbon’, where after dark things can definitely get a little weird. Only having three days, we wanted to explore as much as we could in the short amount of time. Really my only pre-requisite for my visit, as in, cannot be missed or a crime will be committed, were Beignets pronounced (Ben-yay’s). I had heard rumblings about two places in particular, the New Orleans stalwart ‘Café Du Monde’ founded in 1862 and ‘Café Beignet’. After dumping our stuff in the hotel upon our arrival, we made a beeline for Café Du Monde. The Beignets (some consistencies with a traditional donut) arrived three to a plate, these square fried pastries covered in copious amounts of icing sugar would make a legion of Weight Watcher Ladies squirm in their seats. Practically melting in your mouth as you shove them (gracefully of course) into your gob, the gauntlet was thrown down. We were keen to try the offerings at Café Beignet. We went the following day for breakfast, where we also had a very disappointing omelette. Not why we were there really, we tried to trick ourselves into thinking eggs would offset the fact we were eating sugar and pastry for breakfast is okay. When we got right down to it, I preferred the beignets at ‘Café Beignet’ they were fluffier and had risen a little higher than ‘Café Du Monde’s which were much crispier. All in all very subjective and if I were being honest, if somebody gave me ten ‘Café Du Monde’ beignets I’d hardly have a cry about it.
Being the obsessive person I am, a reservation had been made before I left Sydney for dinner the first night at ‘Tableau’. Housed in the Le Petit Theatre and fronting Jackson Square, Tableau is a stunning restaurant, with a grand room below and a small area upstairs that looked more like a pub/sports bar, which was unfortunate because that’s where we were seated. Had it not been in the middle of winter, sitting on the balcony overlooking Jackson Square would have been a treat. This was my first real experience with Creole food, so to say I was excited would be an understatement. Wanting to try as much as I could without going overboard Alex and I shared an appetiser of ‘Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo’ – served with popcorn rice. It was an odd but enjoyable taste, I’m not too sure what the deal was with the rice. Tasted like plain old white rice. Also to share Alex and I ordered two mains. Alex opting for the ‘Paneed Veal’ – Panko crusted baby veal scaloppini drizzled with beurre noisette. Which was similar to a regular schnitzel really. I went with the ‘Chicken Tableau’ – Herb roasted chicken breast and thigh, served with potatoes tableau and topped with sauce Béarnaise and chicken demi-glace. Again a very enjoyable dish but not overly memorable. The servers however, were great. Running around the second day, we were tided over by the omelette and beignets from Café Beignet, so sadly did not make a stop for lunch. We spent the day exploring the Garden District – including the exterior house from the third season of American Horror Story (Nerd Alert) and one of the most famous above ground cemeteries in New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery no 1. Dinner that night was to be an early one, Alex rather fancied ‘Café Amelie’ when we spotted it earlier in the day. Café Amelie sits on the famous Royal Street and it’s quite simply one of the most charming restaurants we encountered on our holiday. With a large courtyard, that was sadly empty because it was so cold. We were ushered upstairs into a small room that very much felt like dining in somebody’s private house. Awkward and quaint all at the same time. To continue our mission of trying as much as possible, Alex and I shared our mains and a desert. Alex picked the ‘Roasted Natural Chicken Breast’ – with a citrus drizzle, asparagus and roasted fingerling potato. I went with a Meatloaf that is no longer on the menu. Another one of those cases were I certainly picked much better than Alex J . Unfortunately it was so long ago I don’t really remember much, only that it was delicious and hit the spot on the cold New Orleans evening. To end the meal, we were swayed by the lovely waitress with the desert menu. We were taken with the ‘New Orleans Lemon Doberge Cake’ – a 9 layer desert pudding. A delightfully pink creation, certainly something I had never seen before. Finished with a dashing of icing sugar. A lovely way to end the meal. We ended our last night in New Orleans on the famous Rue Bourbon. Having finally caught up with our tour group, almost 12 of us were on a mission, that mission was Po-boy’s. We excitedly headed over to Killer Po Boys but were unfortunately turned away because of all the underage ‘children’ in the group,all just shy of 21. We turned the corner and walked straight into ‘Oceana Grill’, the waiters were taken by our off beat Australian accents. Alex and I, surprisingly opted for our own po-boys, not wanting to share this time around. I went with the ‘Blackened Grilled Chicken Po-Boy’ – served with a side of fries. It sounded great in theory but didn’t exactly blow me away, the chicken was dry and the sauce was sparse. I ended up ditching the long bread roll halfway through because it was getting a little heavy. Our last night in New Orleans ended the way one should always end at least one night in the famous French Quarter, with a few drinks. The lot of us strolled up and down the famous strip, even scoring a couple of beverages for the miserable ‘unders’. We tried the lethal ‘Hand Grenade’ from the original Tropical Isle Original bar with only 5 licensed bars able to sell the cocktails in the French Quarter. I opted for the lower calorie ‘Skinny Hand Grenade’, Alex had the regular comprising of gin, grain alcohol, melon liqueur, rum and vodka. The last drink of the night was a ‘Hurricane’ – a sweet alcoholic drink with dark and light rum, passion fruit and orange juice.
New Orleans really is one of those particularly quirky off the beaten path places. It is what you make of it, if you want to get blind drunk and take your chances you can. But if food is your thing the world (well New Orleans) is positively your oyster.
Photos by Alex