New Orleans. There isn’t anyplace else quite like it. Its history, architecture, natural reserves and cultural vibrance are just a few of many reasons to visit this incredible city. But none of these reasons compare to the one thing that New Orleans is most known for – its food. The cuisine of New Orleans has been influenced by French, Spanish, Cajun, Creole, South African, South American and Native American dishes. The amalgamation of all these different cuisines has produced unique dishes such as a muffaletta, poboys, beignets, boudin and jambalaya, among many others.
Our visit to NOLA started with a hearty breakfast at Slim Goodies Diner in the Garden District. This cash-only local favourite quickly became busy after we were seated. Slim’s motto: “Cooking with Love”. Our choices for that morning were definitely cooked with love – and plenty of it – the portions were bigger than my head :). Above is The Little Goat: Two fresh scrambled eggs with roasted red and yellow peppers marinated in pesto and dash of goat cheese, served over black bean and avocado slices. And of course a biscuit!
Second choice – Roma: Fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic, feta cheese. The food was hearty – perfect to start off a long day of walking around and sightseeing.
After Slim’s we decided to check out the local gelateria, just up the street. Sucré is a very cute little place with gelato flavours like coconut basil (to die for!), banana foster and cinammon roll (pictured above). Their cappuccino is also delicious. “Thanks baby, y’all come again, al’right” the girl yelled after me as we were heading out 🙂
New Orleans is famous for original dishes and food items, one of them being the Muffaletta Sandwich (above). The name Muffaletta stems from the Sicilian word for panini. The Italian immigrants to New Orleans had originated the muffalleta sandwich in 1906 and the Central Grocery store in the French Quarter was the first to sell it. The Muffaletta is usually pretty enormous (1/4 of the sandwich is more than enough – as you can see above) – it’s made on one big round of bread with salami, capicolla, pepperoni, ham, provolone and swiss cheese and olive salad. Olive salad is a signature dish consisting of olives diced with the celery, cauliflower and carrot found in a jar of giardiniera, seasoned wih oregano and garlic, covered in olive oil, and allowed to combine for at least 24 hours. The Muffaletta was a popular work food and the salad was (and still is) a popular condiment as it’s the only one that won’t go bad or rancid in the hot Louisiana weather.
Another New Orleans favourite (and original) is the flaky fried dough called beignet. Beignets are hand made fritters, deep fried and served with powered sugar. The famous Cafe Du Monde has been serving beignets by the 1000s since the early 1800s. However, we opted for a more authentic experience at Cafe Beignet. The beignets at Cafe Beignet are hand made to perfection and served hot along with another New Orleans favourite – coffee with chicory. There are several Cafe Beignet locations around New Orleans, my favourite being inside the Musical Legends Park – where you can enjoy some afternoon jazz while eating your beignets.
One of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans – The Old Coffee Pot serves authentic, made from scratch seafood gumbo and jambalaya.
Anoter New Orleans original are cheap and hearty sandwiches named “Po’boys” (below). These sandwiches are usually made on french loaf type bread, with meat or seafood. The story behind po’boys is that they originated in 1929 during a four month strike of the conductors of the New Orleans street car company. Two former conductors had established a restaurant and decided to give free sandwiches to their former coworkers during the strike. The restaurants’ workers often referred to the workers as ‘poor boys’ and eventually the sandwiches took the same name. In Louisiana dialect, this got shortened to po’boys.
Pralines: another one of many New Orleans favourites is made with caramelized sugar, butter, cream or buttermilk and pecans. Pralines had originated in 17th century France but more readily available almonds and hazelnuts were used in the French versions. Once the praline was brought over to the Americas by the settlers, the recipe was adapted to use cane sugar and pecans that were plentiful in Louisiana.
New Orleans enjoys a steady supply of quality seafood which allows its restaurants to change their menus daily in accordance with what’s fresh on the market that day. One such restaurant is the highly recommended GW Fins. The dish below is one of the delicious appetizers on offer: Wood Grilled Gulf Shrimp with smoked pepper salsa and chipotle butter. The shrimp had a very distinct smoky flavour and a slight kick from the chipotle butter.
The special for that evening was the Parmesan Crusted Black Drum with Lump crab, Meyer lemon, asparagus, crispy capers and brown butter. The drum was perfectly flaky and the parmesan crust was a nice complement in the texture. Presentation was slightly lacking though – I would have preferred plain white plates.
The second special of the evening was the Sautéed American Red Snapper with shrimp etouffée, jasmine rice and lobster butter.
Pièce the résistance (and one of the main reasons for coming to GW Fins) was the deep dish apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery – the apples with a hint of cinnamon – ultimate indulgence 🙂
Of course, no dinner is complete without someone kissing at the table – this time it was the salt and pepper shakers 🙂
My favourite restaurant that we visited is a local favourite for authentic cajun cuisine – Cochon. Cochon Butcher is right next door to this popular spot in New Orleans’ business district and the restaurant gets all its meat from here. The meat is sourced locally as is all the seafood and produce. The restaurant is super busy and reservations are a must. It is located in a converted warehouse, and the atmosphere is lively and unpretentious. The kitchen is open so you are able to see all the chef’s creations being made. It’s also possible to sit right at the ‘kitchen bar’ to get a better view of the food preparation.
Our first choice of the meal was the Paneed Pork Cheeks with roasted corn grits & tomato salad. I wasn’t going to leave New Orleans and not try their famous grits – so I thought this was the perfect opportunity. The pork cheek (a first for me btw!) was deliciously tender – it simply fell off the fork. The grits were creamy and delicious as expected. Presentation was immpecable. I just love the contrast of the red pepper against the pork cheek and the white plate – it’s so vibrant!
Next up, another local original – Boudin – this time with pickled peppers. While Boudin is a catch-all name for many kinds of sausages, the Cajun-style Boudin is made from a pork rice dressing (much like dirty rice) which is stuffed into pork casings. Rice is always used in Cajun-style Boudin as opposed to milk in the French/Belgian version. Boudin is usually grilled, simmered or braised.
The outside of boudin is crispy and the inside is soft and full of flavour.
Veg of the day: Cucumbers and herbs in vinegar – nice and refreshing complement to all the meat.
Last but not least, we could not skip the famous collard greens. Collard greens are a staple side dish in Southern cuisine, typically prepared with other leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and turnip leaves.