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New Orleans

January 06 2009 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Vacation » 30 comments

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What I knew about New Orleans before last weekend was gleaned from the pages of a paperback Grisham novel, the tragic Katrina newsreels, scenes of Benjamin Button’s life-in-reverse, stories of Kevin’s mother’s early college days (in which beignets featured prominently) and a segment of the Martha Stewart Show during which Martha and her guest shook up a couple Sazeracs.  In short, not much.  Which I think is one explanation for how hard, how fast I fell for the city.  Really, I’m still just catching my breath.

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We chose New Orleans as our destination for this trip for a couple reasons.  First, it’s one of the few great American cities where neither Kevin nor I had stuck a pin in the map.  Second, the food.  Mention New Orleans to someone’s who’s been and he or she is sure to rattle off a list of can’t-miss meals.  Third, we hoped it might be a wee bit warmer than this tundra of a town we’re living in this winter.

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In the end, reason #2 featured most prominently.  We landed late Thursday morning and left late Sunday morning, which gave us nine meals—and I had to wield a very sharp scalpal to whittle our list of restaurants down to that number.  So I’m sure we missed some of your favorites (we didn’t even try a poboy!  I know, I know!), but it just gives us a reason to go back soon.

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Unlike most dining destination-type cities, the eats in New Orleans do not emphasize the white-table clothed type restaurants, with their thick wine lists and maître d’s.  Instead, the restaurants we wanted to visit traded the amuse bouche for a Solo cup brimming with a spicy Bloody Mary sucked through a straw while waiting for a table to open up (Mother’s) and swapped prim wait staffs for fist-pounding, wisecracking waiters-slash-short order cooks (Camellia Grill).  Almost everywhere worth going required that you wait in a very long line on the sidewalk out front (both restaurants already mentioned and the granddaddy of them all, Cafe Du Monde).  And, without fail, the meal was worth the wait.

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But these restaurants co-exist with a healthy number of first class restaurants (we loved Bayona) and famous chefs (did someone say Bam?).  Maybe that’s what struck me most about New Orleans—the co-existence of so many contradictions: an iconic diner next to a Cold Stone Creamery; an enchanting wrought iron front porch aglow under twinkly gas lanterns only a block away from the debauchery on Bourbon Street; the manic party unfolding around the clock in a town that was so recently ravaged; the enticing southern charm that can almost make you forget decidedly less charming chapters of the town’s history.

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When you mix all of this together, like that Sazerac mixed up on Martha, you get an utterly unique, totally beguiling city—chalk full of action, patina, curious little details, and one excellent meal after another.

Flickr Photo Set: Click here for these photos, in full size, and others.

Restaurants:
Mother’s (I recommend the gumbo, the biscuits and the Bloody Mary; I wish I’d tried the Debris Poboy)
Luke (a fun French bistro; don’t miss the onion tart if it’s still on the menu)
Cafe Du Monde (I recommend the beignets and coffee, which is a good thing because that’s all that’s on the menu)
Camellia Grill (don’t forget to order a freeze—an icy shake—for your streetcar ride back to the Quarter)
Bayona (everything, everything was spectacular, especially when eaten al fresco, in the back garden, where you can spy on chef Susan Spicer through a tiny window into the kitchen)
Eat (great biscuits here too)
NOLA (the fried chicken stopped time, just for a moment, and the gumbo was unreal)

But Where’s the Recipe? No recipe today.  But, the upshot is that you’re likely to see a lot of New Orleans-inspired recipes on this site very soon: gumbo, biscuits, fried chicken and beignets are all high on the list.  So y’all come back soon, now, ya hear?

30 comments so far. »
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  1. Gretchen Noelle says on January 06 2009 at 10:49 pm:

    It all looks like tons of fun!

  2. Amanda says on January 06 2009 at 10:50 pm:

    I am so loving your pictures. I have always wanted to go to New Orleans, and have been waiting since Katrina to go. It’s one of those historical cities that is filled with life and culture. It’s nice to walk through a town and feel it’s energy coming from the trees and buildings. Plus, like you said, the food is AWESOME! Down home and refined at the same time.

  3. Polly says on January 07 2009 at 12:38 am:

    Glad to hear you made it to Mother’s! Such an awesome city, and if you’re a music buff, Jazzfest in the spring is a total blast.

  4. Monica h says on January 07 2009 at 1:05 am:

    Your trip looks amaing. I’m so jealous.

  5. Amy at Minimally Invasive says on January 07 2009 at 4:18 am:

    Glad to hear you had such a great time! We were just in New Orleans for about a week at Christmas, visiting family and doing a LOT of eating, but your gorgeous pictures make me want to go back already. Looking forward to your recipes.

  6. sue bette says on January 07 2009 at 6:01 am:

    I am totally jealous – I went down to nola post-katrina for clean-up and even then the city was amazing (but not too much was open) – after seeing your pictures I am desperate to get back.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the upcoming recipes!!

  7. radish says on January 07 2009 at 7:47 am:

    Wow, these pictures look lovely and beautiful. They kind of remind me of Charleston a bit… Would love to go to New Orleans at some point and experience the food. I also heard Cochon was not to be missed — were you able to eat there?

  8. Andrea [bella eats] says on January 07 2009 at 7:51 am:

    Oh Kristin, fabulous review of your trip. You’ve touched on all the things I love about the city, Mother’s being very near the top of the list. My husband and I were married in nola, in the courtyard of Broussard’s, and it will always, always hold a very dear place in my heart. Thank you for sharing your photos with us, i can’t wait to check out your flickr album and to schedule my next trip south!

  9. eggsonsunday says on January 07 2009 at 7:56 am:

    Wow, Kristin, sounds like it was such a fun and delicious trip! Wonderful pictures. I love the wrought iron and the gas lamps…thanks for sharing your experiences! Btw, that cup of coffee looks deliciously dark and super strong…mmmm! -Amy

  10. pricklypearbloom says on January 07 2009 at 7:59 am:

    I love New Orleans. So much. I haven’t been there since college, aka 10 years, but I dream of going back. And I will. I’m glad you had a good time, and lots of good things to eat. It truly is a gift for the tummy.

  11. Jacqui says on January 07 2009 at 9:43 am:

    what a fun trip! i was planning on going to san francisco for spring break, but gumbo, a crawfish poboy, and bloody marys on bourbon street sound very, very tempting…

    lovely pictures!

  12. JayhawkGirl says on January 07 2009 at 10:00 am:

    I’ll have to try the fried chicken at NOLA the next time we’re in New Orleans. If you get a chance to go back, we found what we thought was the best fried chicken in the world at Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Get there early though because it can be a long wait. It was amazing and it was the only place that we visited twice while we were in New Orleans last year. It’s well worth it!!! Looks like you had a great time!

  13. sweetandnatural says on January 07 2009 at 11:23 am:

    I just found your blog through another and I love it! Cafe Du Monde is amazing. I’ve only been there once in person, and I think I was 12, but my dad used to make beignets from the boxed mix they sell. We’d order them to be delivered to our house!

  14. Beth says on January 07 2009 at 1:44 pm:

    I spent a month in NOLA this past summer and ate at so many wonderful restaurants. Herbsaint is by far my favorite (sister restaurant of Cochon, which is mentioned above) and when I returned for a few days in December, I had to go back and order the same thing. If only the weather was better during the summer . . .

  15. Kelle says on January 07 2009 at 2:43 pm:

    I spend every day of my life in this city! Born and raised! If you go back, you must go to a few of my favorites. Parasol’s for poboys… and, I must chastise. Why no brunch at Commander’s Palace? It has a reputation of being pricey, but if you go for brunch (you need reservations) you won’t break the bank. Plus, $.25 martinis!

  16. Pat says on January 07 2009 at 4:23 pm:

    I live here, I love it, and thank you for coming to visit. We love visitors. I had a visitor of my own for New Year’s weekend, and we did many of the same restaurants, plus Commander’s and Mandina’s. So y’all come. We’ll be proud to have you!

  17. Elizabeth says on January 07 2009 at 4:56 pm:

    My first trip here was when my sister got married on the North Shore. We spent her bachelorette in New Orleans which included eating beignets and cafe au lait on the banks of the Mississippi. What a great town – love the feel of the place.

    Your photos are great! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Jared says on January 07 2009 at 6:29 pm:

    New Orleans is the greatest city in America, and perhaps the world. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  19. Amanda says on January 08 2009 at 4:44 am:

    I’m almost 5000 miles away from home on Maui. And I can think of nothing better than beignets, bloody mary’s, and smell of New Orleans. Thanks for the pictures of home. You MUST go back and eat a po’boy!!!!!!

  20. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on January 08 2009 at 9:39 am:

    Gretchen: It was!

    Amanda: Do it!

    Polly: There was always a group who went for Jazzfest during college and I wish I would’ve tagged along.

    Monica: It was!

    Amy (MI): You’re lucky to have family there. What a fun place to be for Christmas.

    Sue: I bet it was would be particularly meaningful for you to go back — and see the city with a spring in it’s step.

    radish: I haven’t been to Charleston, but would love to go someday. We didn’t get to Cochon. Next time! Next time!

    Andrea: Yes, Mother’s! Mmm. What a lovely place to get married!

    Amy (EoS): If I’m being honest, I didn’t love the chicory coffee, but I really really wanted to. It was good for the first couple sips but then just too much. Sigh.

    pricklypearbloom: A gift for the tummy! Yes!

    Jacqui: Oh, SF vs NOLA, that’s a tough one. We’re talking about SF for our next trip — and maybe Napa too.

    Jayhawk Girl: Do try the NOLA fried chicken — succulent and perfectly breaded and seasoned. Incredible. And thanks for the tip!

    sweetandnatural: Welcome!

    Beth: A MONTH! Swoon. I think that’s what it would take to hit them all. Cochon and Herbsaint will be on the list next time.

    Kelle: I saw lots of reviews for CP that were great. Next time!

    Pat: Thanks for having us! : )

    Elizabeth: I just recommended it to someone for a bachelorette party! I think it’d be perfect.

    Jared: I did!

    Amanda: I will, I promise!

  21. Dawn in CA says on January 08 2009 at 2:24 pm:

    I would fly to New Orleans just for the beignets, no kidding. My mom sent me a box of the CDM beignet mix years ago, and I’ve been wanting to visit ever since! Still have not been, but one of these days… Thanks for letting me be an armchair traveler today.

  22. Andie says on January 08 2009 at 2:46 pm:

    WOW! you were here! and in the quarter, to boot! I was in the French Quarter on Sunday! I even posted on my blog about my visit down there! WOW. So close, but so far!

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself here! I’m born and raised here my whole life and I am so in love with my city and my heritage. I’m looking forward to your take on some of our famous dishes. If you ever need advice or suggestions on how to get those dishes *just right* please give me a call. I’ve learned from seasoned Cajuns on how to cook all of our most popular items. :)

    And next time you’re here- you MUST go to Commander’s for brunch. and try Restaurant Cuvee. or Herbsaint. Or Cochon. all amazing.

    I hope you’ll come back soon!

  23. diane (mom) says on January 08 2009 at 8:09 pm:

    The pictures are amazing and I can’t wait to visit the city for the first time.Between you and Ren I always think I can smell the smells and taste the fabulous choices. MOM

  24. Ali says on January 08 2009 at 9:25 pm:

    Agreed with Mom! With that being said… Family Vacay? You could be our tour guide! Love the pictures!

  25. Tiffany @ The Garden Apartment says on January 10 2009 at 7:27 am:

    Perfect timing! I am heading to New Orleans in a another week and am so excited for all the food. Thanks for all the recommendations.

  26. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on January 11 2009 at 4:17 pm:

    Tiffany: Have a wonderful time!

  27. duodishes says on January 13 2009 at 6:41 pm:

    We tried to make ‘healthy’ beignets and learned one thing. Never make healthy beignets! Yours looked much better. :)

  28. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on January 14 2009 at 3:17 pm:

    duodishes: Noted! And I highly doubt Cafe du Monde’s beignets are remotely healthy, so perhaps that’s why they look better. : )

  29. Jen says on January 19 2009 at 5:40 am:

    Your pictures are SO beautiful!!!! I live an hour from NO, and agree it is such an amazing place to visit!! :)

  30. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on January 21 2009 at 9:54 pm:

    Jen: Thanks!

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