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3 days eating in New Orleans and thanks (long)

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3 days eating in New Orleans and thanks (long)

jon oropeza | Jun 23, 2006 12:23 AM

I got my first taste of New Orleans a few weeks ago thanks to a two-day conference at the Sheraton, and thanks in big part to the posters on this board I ate richly and fantabulously. As partially payback I offer my review of three and a half days of gluttony in your wonderful city -

Café du Monde

First thing I did on my first morning in New Orleans? Walk up Decatur to Jackson Square and the café! Now this says South in my vernacular – the veranda, the fans, the swelter, the chill pace. Sure the place is full of tourists, but behind my newspaper with my café au lait and a plate of beignets, trumpetman blowing on his trumpet, a cool gulf breeze and the buzz of Jackson Square, life couldn’t get better. One hell of a space. I went there every morning and actually grew to enjoy the messiness as part of the ambience, in fact the more powdered sugar all over the floor and the more spilled coffee on the table the better! Let the tourists get pissed about the slop, I’m a happy boy with my caffeine and sugar, buzz and breeze.

Herbsaint

Had lunch at Herbsaint, 11:30 but already there’s a bit of a crowd moving. Everyone is having gumbo and so am I – oh wow this is good! Andoullie sausage, a bit of crab, nice roux-thickened stew – really nice. Had a glass of Loire Sauv Blanc with it, very mellow compared to CA and especially Kiwi Sauvs. For my main I had spaghetti carbonara on recommendation from my server – with a deep fried egg on top that oozed yolk when cracked into, Herbsaint’s got a stellar twist to this dish. Yum!

Bayona

Room for 1? Sure enough, though no bar as I’d been hoping for. I love sitting at the bar. You get to interact with the servers, you get to observe the process, you often get comped something if you’re nice and smile pretty. There’s no bar here though, so I’m riding solo at a table in back, somewhat awkwardly between a pair of lovey-doves.

I’ve been fiending for their cream of garlic soup since preparing a take at the recipe a month ago, and as a first course it doesn’t disappoint. Much smoother than I made it, this is a super soup, way too much for the South African Pinot Noir that I chose to lead off with.

For my second I did their grilled shrimp. Not bad, but I was looking forward to some fresh local shrimp and these were, well, plain old shrimp. Good shrimp, mind you, nicely grilled with a simple sauce, but nothing like what I think when I hear “New Orleans Shrimp”.

Every once in a while you have a dish that blows you away and changes what you expect in a category, right? Round three did it for me. Crispy smoked quail salad with pears and bourbon molasses dressing. Wow! What a combination of tastes and textures. The quail was perfectly done and the bourbon molasses dressing was heaven over fresh greens.

My waitress was friendly and very enthusiastic about Bayona and the New Orleans food scene – I really dig that.

Central Grocey

I’ve really come to appreciate specialization lately, and these guys have it down – would you like a half mouffaletta or a full one? I’ll take a half, thank you. Thought about grubbing it there but on second thought put it under my arm and found a seat under a tree along the Mississippi. Now here was a special moment – in the shade with that gulf breeze in my face, olive oil dripping down my face, chewing up that sweet lunch meat, having a read through the NOLA weekly indie rag. This southern gentleman in a tophat spots me and casually says “Now you’ve got yourself a nice spot there.” As he walks past I nod and say “Sure did!” and he sure is right.

Taqueros y Coyoacan

Wow. Now this is bad food. Went out for an evening walk after the conference and ended up seeing most of St. Charles Ave. On the way back I suddenly realized I’d walked up a big hunger and like that I was sucked in to the first place I saw that looked halfway decent.

Tried to order a glass of wine at the bar – everything that looked good was by the bottle only – did I want a bottle? – Not really at this point so I settle on a bland glass of California Cabernet for nine bucks, ouch – Ordered a guacamole appetizer and a shrimp dish – guacamole was insipid, like it came out of a can. Shrimp dish was worse – frozen shrimp, bagged spinach, sweet sauce out of a jar – blech. McDonalds food, big time prices.

Not my kind of place, and as the only bad food experience I had in New Orleans, I’ll take this place as the exception that proves the rule.

Coop’s

After the disappointment at Coyoacan I had to have a nightcap feast, and Coop’s was just the thing. A big plate of rabbit jumbalaya and some fried chicken washed down with a pint of Abita – wow, now we’re talking! Really good stuff, and an excellent late night, after hours spot in the Quarter.

Muriel’s

Stopped in here around 10PM after spending the day checking out the Katrina aftermath on the way out to Mobile. Ordered quick, duck confit and seafood gumbo. Gumbo was a bit off though maybe I was expecting a lot after Herbsaint. Duck confit on the other hand was excellent – juicy duck in a puff pastry shell, wow. They were out of bread pudding so I got crème brulet for dessert – it wasn’t bad, but it’s tough to mess up crème brulet, isn’t it? Not a bad dinner, but nothing mind-blowing like Herbsaint or Bayona.

Dante’s Kitchen

What a great little place! And it wasn’t just my three mimosa wakeup call talking – this is serious food. My only regret was that I had a six o’clock flight, otherwise I’d have been back for dinner. The dirty mess was biscuits and pork smothered with gravy, topped with poached eggs and served next to a side of the creamiest grits imaginable – wow, what a feast! I didn’t eat for a day after this one – seriously. A fabulous cap on my first trip to New Orleans, for sure it won’t be my last!

Thanks all,

Jon

Link: http://www.oropeza.net

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