09 January, 2008

Back from NOLA

So my blogging entries resume, after a week of vacationing in New Orleans, LA (NOLA). I have to say that in my mind I was hoping that I will populate these first posts after the trip with mouth-watering images of the famed Creole and Cajun cuisines. Having been disappointed myself, I have to disappoint anyone who reads the blog. (Also, I imagine, I will even anger those Southern-food devotees who find gumbo and jambalaya the most sublime of meals. I am really sorry to say, but 1) they totally imitate Spanish paella; 2) have too little of a difference between them to be worth long discussions; and 3) are simply not to my taste. Apologies in advance and don't take it personally.)

We did, however, find a number of fun restaurants, including the huge buffet-style jazz brunch place called "The Court of Two Sisters" and "The Palm Court", with a menu of limited but generally nicely done offerings and great traditional jazz accompanying dinner, both in the French Quarter (FQ). Probably the best place - judging it simply as a restaurant, which does not have music or any other entertainment to color its image - was a seafood place called "The Red Fish Grill", located at the border between FQ and the Business District.

What follows here is a quick bullet-point reminder of some more or less interesting food-related points from the trip:
-> alligator bites - definitely tasty; I wish they were served in some other form than deep-fried, so that I can really know how to describe their flavors;
-> turtle soup au sherry - wonderful, as prepared at "The Court of Two Sisters; would love to see it offered somewhere here in the North-East;
-> beignets - totally overrated in my book, first, since in my home country we make the same for breakfast (minus the emblematic square shape) and second because the places that offer them in NOLA are extremely touristy, rushed and the staff is downright rude (e.g, "Cafe du Monde");
-> you can find small non-traditional, but not nondescript places in areas such as The Faubourg Marigny, where we stayed. Case in point, a wonderful corner coffee shop called "Kahve" (which is the Turkish word for coffee and coffee house, although the staff and many of the pastry choices were East European) which is also the informal rehearsal place for a bohemian-looking klezmer band;
-> oysters - now, here is one kind of seafood with which you can hardly go wrong in NOLA. Normally you should make sure that the oysters you're ordering are super fresh since you eat/suck them out of their shells pretty raw, but at least according to what I saw, here they all come directly from the Mississippi and ARE very fresh;
-> king cake - a type of cake known in many countries in Europe, especially ones which have been influenced by Catholicism, that can be found in NOLA under this English name. It is served to mark Epiphany (Jan. 6), which is also the beginning of the Mardi Gras season. Normally in this blog I do not plan to talk about non-food aspects of my life, so it's unexpected to mention a bar we went to, but we were actually offered this yeast-based kind of sweet at a place called "Vaughn's Lounge" where we had gone to hear the local star Kermit Ruffins. We did not get the "baby" inside our pieces of cake, but it was in fact quite yummy, despite being store-bought.

By far the biggest gem we came upon during our whole vacation was a sweet shop in the Garden District called "Sucre". It is a gourmet dessert place where someone like me, who has no sweet tooth but enjoys sophisticated little treats, can go crazy just by looking at the beautiful displays of hand-made bonbons and gelatos and the intricately garnished plates of the other customers.
This is what we ultimately ordered - a citrus opera and a mousse of three flavors (coffee, maple and chocolate). The little pink "purse" in the background is how their take-away products are packaged. In mine are candied mango and raspberry fruit. Mmmm.

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