I just got back from a 4 day trip to New Orleans volunteering with Historic Green, an organization committed to rebuilding the Lower Ninth sustainably according to what the community wants. It was an unbelievably eye-opening experience and it only further cemented my love for this city and its people. (www.historicgreen.org)
So, by day I was in the Holy Cross and lower Ninth neighborhoods confronted with some of the most horrifying reality of the recovery over the last 5 years and the amazing strength of will and character of the residents fighting to rebuild and by night I went out to eat at fabulous pricey restaurants. Bit of a dichotomy, I know, but let's talk awesome food!
Arrived Sunday. Went to the Alpine House and ate some gumbo and BBQ shrimp and drank some Pimm's. Had a couple Sazeracs at the Absinthe House and went to the Carousel bar at the Monteleone and had a wonderful Negroni and Abita Double IPA. We went to the Bombay Club for dinner- I had a St. Germaine martini, the curried lamb skewers, the Duet of Duck, and some of their house made ice cream- Bourbon Vanilla and Toffee. My DC for the trip is also a lover of food with egg and mold cheese allergies, which made our dining experiences a little more interactive with the wait staff and kitchens, but everyone was absolutely lovely. My DC had moules frites and their lamb rack special. The ice cream was delicious and egg free.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel (New Orleans Courtyard Hotel on North Rampart) and lunch at the Village Community Center provided by the Salvation Army.
Monday night we went to Herbsaint. I took the Riverfront Street car- should have gotten off at Canal Street but went to the end and hauled down Julia Street passing a number of places in the Warehouse District. Herbsaint was wonderful. I had a Sazerac at the bar and a Derby once we were seated. It was so hard to choose! We ordered a lovely bottle of French pinot noir and I started with their gumbo of the day- duck and andouille. Then I had the chicken and mushroom ravioli with goat cheese & pancetta, and for my main, the pork belly with date agrodolce and sticky rice. I couldn't resist the goat beignets (w/ local honey and almonds) for dessert with a sauterne dessert wine. My DC had the shrimp and grits and the duck, followed by an strawberry panna cotta. The service was wonderful, the food even better. We left very happy and satisfied. The pork belly just melted in my mouth and the beignets were a revelation!
Tuesday night we hauled our exhausted butts uptown to Brigtsen's- it had been a really long hard day for us both and the temptation was great to pack it in at the end of it. But we persisted, and were well rewarded for it. The atmosphere of Brigtsen's was so homey and low key, it was easy to instantly relax and enjoy the warm southern hospitality of the staff. Again, I wanted to eat everything so I had to have 3 courses. I started with the Oyster Soup with Spinach and Brie- loaded with oysters, the brinyness complemented by the rich brie. Then I had the Crawfish Etoufee with the basil black pepper biscuit which was, again, wonderful, rich, bursting with delicious crawfish with one still in its shell as a garnish- I ripped that sucker open and sucked out the tail. Definitely meant to be eaten- it had a delicious spicy kick to it. That kind of attention to detail was delightful. My main course was the Seafood Platter, which that night included: grilled drumfish and crawfish with jalepeno lime sauce, shrimp cornbread with jalepeno smoked corn butter, Oyster LeRuth stuffed with shrimp and crabmeat, a traditional Oyster Rockefeller, a cold jalepeno shrimp over cole slaw, and a paneed sea scallop atop asparagus puree.
Oh. Mah. Gawd. That was just heaven on a plate. I sadly could not finish it, but I left happy- no dessert tonight though! My DC had their BBQ Shrimp and then their duck with honey pecan gravy. She was also most pleased. Oh- we shared a bottle of granache that our waitress recommended, which was delicious, I'd started with a glass of Va de Vi sparkling wine from Gloria Ferrer.
Wednesday afternoon I was finally able to get to the Napoleon House while it was open and I had a couple Pimms cups and a quarter muffuletta as a nice snack. That was tasty!
Wednesday night we went to a wine dinner sponsored by the French Quarter Wine Festival. It was held at le Meritage and the featured vinter was Viader. After a lovely reception in the courtyard, we had a delicious 4 course meal consisting of: 1) Gulf tuna a fois gras napoleon with syrah reduction, grilled pineapple, and herb salad 2) Crispy duck salad with sunny side egg and crispy pancetta bacon 3) grilled filet of beef with manchego potatoes dauphine and truffle demi glace, and 4) chocolate hazelnut creme brulee. Mmmm....yeah. That was really good, especially the first course.
Thursday we were flying home in the afternoon, but got up bright and early to get to the Central Grocery to buy a couple muffulettas to bring home, as well as some olive salad, Louisiana rice, and Camellia red beans. Visited Leah's for praline goodness, and then hit the Croissant d'Or on Ursalines for some much needed coffee and pastries. I got the ham & cheese croissant and a chocolate croissant- oh, MY that was tasty. My DC got a baguette which was simple and delicious.
Then we had to check out and head to the airport! We did end up killing some time at the Acme outpost there, and had some beer (Abita and the new microbrew Nola), sweet tea, and lunch- I had a half & half po'boy with catfish and fried oysters. Pretty good for airport food.
Now I am back in New England eating my muffulletta and my praline pecans! Thanks, New Orleans, for yet another wonderful experience.
Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
701 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130
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