travel: laissez les bons temps rouler…

Gas lamps
New Orleans, Louisiana

The Saints beat the Cardinals.

Bourbon Street was as colourful as I remembered it.

We were spared a full day of forecasted rain.

The po’boys were delicious.

I finally got out for a few nice, long runs.

And there was enough pork fat and coffee (and for some, alcohol) to keep even the grumpiest traveler happy.

Overall, my recent, extended weekend in The Big Easy was a good one.

My friends (this time, traveling with four others: Iggy and her husband The Drummer; Houston, whom you all have met before on this blog; and The Hair) left the dining itinerary up to me.

Greenfall interrupted.
New Orleans, Louisiana

Not having been to New Orleans since Katrina, I scheduled a mix of old and new eateries.

Of course, there were dozens of places that I didn’t have time for, including Drago’s (for their char-grilled oysters), Central Grocery (and a handful of other places, for muffalettas, including the warm ones at The Napoleon House), Brennan’s (or any one of its family of restaurants for their famed banana’s Foster), or Antoine’s (for the original oysters Rockefeller), or Arnaud’s (for their reputable baked Alaska), or any of Besh’s restaurants, or Lagasse’s empire.

However, I did make it to the following restaurants.  Click on the restaurant below to read the review:

Brigtsen’s
Butcher

Cafe du Monde
Cochon
Commander’s Palace

Galatoire’s

Mahoney’s Po’Boy Shop

Parkway Bakery & Tavern

Stanley

Stella!

Cafe du Monde
Cafe du Monde Coffee
New Orleans, Louisiana

The trip started off on a bad foot under wet skies.  Our first couple of meals were plagued by unusually poor (and slow) service.

Thankfully, things improved quickly thereafter.

The sun came out.  The Saints won (well, that was happy for the locals). We found the Southern hospitality we had hoped for at a number of restaurants – on our last night, we were pulled into conversation with tables around us, table-hopping and making acquaintances out of complete strangers. And we even did a little celebrity spotting.

Staying right in the French Quarter, just blocks away from Jackson Square, couldn’t have been a more pleasant experience.

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street
New Orleans

Immersed in the Old World charm of it all, I enjoyed weaving my way in and out of the narrow streets of the vieux carré, happening upon great little bookstores like Faulkner’s (located in William Faulkner’s former residence around from Pirate Alley), and antique stores where bibelot and knick-knacks abound.

It was a four-minute walk from my hotel to the original Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street, where I got a cup of chicory coffee and hot beignets buried in an avalanche of powder sugar.

I went at 6:30 a.m. and there was no line (well, at that hour, there was hardly anybody anywhere).  Wait until after noon, and there will be a line around the corner regardless of what day of the week you’re there.  They only accept cash.

Cafe du Monde
Cafe du Monde
New Orleans, Louisiana

As famous and storied as these beignets are, I didn’t care for them.  I’ll admit that I’m not the first person in line in the fried dough aisle.  But I don’t mind a nicely powdered beignet or fritter right out of the fryer if they’re airy and light.

The ones at Cafe du Monde were disappointingly tough, dense, and doughy – chewy.

The chicory coffee here, though praised universally, isn’t my kind of coffee either.  I like my coffee dark, strong, and bitter.  Chicory gives coffee a sourness that I don’t like.  Admittedly, I’ve heard that chicory coffee is best taken as cafe au lait.  I failed you on this front – I took it black, as I normally do.

But don’t despair (I didn’t).  I found lots of wonderful food and laughs, which I will share with you in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned for more reports and updates from my trip to New Orleans.

~ by ulterior epicure on January 21, 2010.

8 Responses to “travel: laissez les bons temps rouler…”

  1. Ironically, the Cafe du Monde is one place that is best when very busy. The beignets need to be eaten right out of the fryer, something only certain when the place is hopping. Otherwise, they simply are not nearly as good. This from someone, who is generally not a big fan of donuts or other fried dough items. I do love the fresh beignets though.

  2. @ Doc: That’s just it – these were straight out of the fryer. Since there was no one else in line, there apparently hadn’t been anyone at the window for a while. It took a long time for my order to come out. The woman at the window apologized for the wait, claiming that they had to fry me up a batch. Indeed, they came out piping hot. But dense, chewy, and heavy nonetheless. My friend happened to have had the beignets here before me (on a different day) and she met the same results.

  3. Good notes – just looked through the photos.

    Was Brigtsen’s worth the experience, in your opinion?

  4. @ Michael: Thanks friend. As for Brigtsen’s, you’ll have to wait. *wink* I’ll try to hurry.

  5. Cafe du Monde has really declined over the last few years. It’s a waste of calories at this point. Oddly enough, the best beignets I am aware of are now in Houston. Huge Vietnamese community ensures of that.

    I hope you had a good experience at Stella! Scott Boswell is a very talented chef; my dinner there late last year was great. Stella!, Cochon and Cochon Butcher are my top 3 picks for New Orleans currently.

  6. Cheers – the pictures look good and I love the fact that his wife answered the phone when I called to make reservations. As of now I don’t have Stella on my list but I await those reviews as well.

  7. Love your site BTW..
    Can’t wait to hear about Stella!
    Last time I was in Nola was a year after Katrina and the city was very alive with energy. I had the most amazing meal at Cochon (chicken livers!!), and
    I spent way too much time at Napoleon House drinking endless Pimm’s cup (best I’ve ever had) and the most incredible smothered Roast beef Po-boy with the works, and red beans and rice…
    Have heard good things about Iris, Le petite grocery, Sucre, Lilette, and ofcourse Jacques Imo’s
    this city still haunts me..

  8. I’m surprised you didn’t like your meal at Cochon! I absolutely loved it. But I agree with your assessment about Cafe du Monde. Next time, try the beignets at Cafe Beignet across the street. They were infinitely better and stuff of which dreams are made.

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