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Day 1 - A Phoenician's Tour of NOLA (Pat O'Brein's, Emeril's, Cafe du Monde)

Seth Chadwick | Oct 31, 2011 02:56 PM

Well, well, well.

After six years, one horrible hurricane and one BP oil spill, my husband and I finally made it to New Orleans. As I write, we are enjoying a beautiful Halloween day sitting in our suite, listening to music and getting ready to celebrate our third year wedding anniversary. Of course, we came to NOLA for the food and so, let's get to it.

After settling into the hotel, we headed to Pat O'Brien's. Yeah, yeah. Tourist central. But, you just have to have a Hurricane once because life is short and conformity is completely overrated. So, we had one Hurricane and one Mint Julep. We sat near the fire fountain had a great waiter who took great care of us. The Hurricane was a glowing red cheesy concoction of some mythical fruit juice and copious amounts of rum and we enjoyed ever last ounce. Yes, this isn't going to end up on the list of best cocktails, but for an intro into New Orleans, eh, we wanted some fun and the rum was letting the inhibitions flow. The Mint Julep was actually quite tasty and refreshing and lots of mint. Both were strong and a bit rough around the edges, but we were happy.

After stumblin... um... walking down St. Peters back to our hotel, we got all gussied up for a trip to Emeril's, the flagship dining establishment of his empire. We were seated at a very comfortable table overlooking the main dining room. The room was energetic and a bit loud, but not crushing. We had a slow start to our service due to a large party on either side of use, but once things got going, we were ready. We ordered two Sazeracs based on the recommendation of our waiter and we were not disappointed. It was like sunshine in a glass and was delicious. A great way to start our meal. We placed our orders. I had the Homemade Andouille and Boudin followed by the Emeril Salad and the Double Cut Pork Chop. My wonderful hubby J. had the BBQ Shrimp with a Rosemary Biscuit, the Turtle Soup, and the Shrimp Mac & Cheese.

After we placed our orders, we were treated to three mini breads: a multigrain roll, a cornbread muffin and some sort of cornmeal stick based with a honey butter. All were very good, but the muffin stole the show. Up next was my Homemade Andouille and Boudin. In a word: fantastic. The grain mustard, the braised onions, the toast point, the braised greens, and the housemade sauce were excellent. A lovely way to start the meal. J.'s BBQ Shrimp was delicious. The BBQ really complemented the flavor of the shrimp. The shrimp were meaty and well prepared.

Next up was my Emeril Salad. Nothing spectacular here, but just a good salad filled with pepper jack cheese, greens, croutons, and sun dried tomatoes in a light vinaigrette. J.'s Turtle Soup was quite good. It tasted like a stew to me, but J. said it reminded him of chili. J. described the soup as "very good."

Our entrees arrived and I was stunned with what was put in front of me. A massive 3" tall double cut pork chop was sitting on a bed of caramelized sweet potato cubes and covered in a green chile mole sauce that was accented with a tamarind glaze. The presentation was phenomenal. The glaze had been drawn through the mole and formed a gorgeous pattern. Stunning. The chop and sauces were fantastic. The spicy/savory mole and the sweet tamarind were a perfect match. A wonderful dish that was greatly enhanced by the sweet potatoes. A big winner in my book.

J.'s Shrimp Mac and Cheese was exceptionally rich, filled with plenty of plump shrimp and lots of cheese-filled goodness. I was really surprised at how rich the dish was and the addition of a bit of Vermouth was a nice complement to the dish. I don't think there was a molecule of sauce left in the bowl.

We debated about dessert and finally decided to try the signature Banana Cream Pie. We were not disappointed. In fact, I would say it was one of the finest desserts I have had in some time. It was decadent, bursting with banana flavor. I loved the thickness of the cream itself, a complete standout from the standard wobbly cream you get from a standard restaurant.

All in all, Emeril's was a glorious start to our dining adventures.

Following our feast, we walked Bourbon Street for the show, got some beads, watched the sea of humanity as we made our way to Lafittes in Exile for some Abita beers. We had an Amber and a Purple Haze. Both were very good. Service was quick and engaging and the costumes just made it all that much better. Oh, and the singing to Madonna videos was quite fun.

After the revelry, we had to have a nightcap, so we toddled our way over to Cafe du Monde for Beignets and Cafe au Lait. It was doing a mile business and we took a table toward the back of the patio and ordered Beignets, Cafe au Lait, and Diet Cokes. Service, as has always been the case, was fairly dismal, but we didn't care. Ultimately, we did get some fresh, hot, delicious beignets drowned in powdered sugar, which were proof of a loving deity. We loved them as well as the cafe au lait made with coffee with chicory. It was a great way to end the evening.

We made it back to the hotel and then collapsed in bed with dreams of the next day's culinary adventures.

Emeril's Restaurant
800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

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