trip report! LONG
Thanks to everyone who helped plan my gastronomic survey of New Orleans. Just back from 3 days there and only missed one place I really had my heart set on -- Jacques Imos cafe...
We arrived late Thursday and stayed at a B&B I can HIGHLY recommend -- the Benachi House, a stunning pre-Civil War mansion on Esplanade in mid-city, conveniently located next to Indigo, a fine restaurant (more on that later). Mid-city is wonderful -- no tourists (except us) beautiful architecture, an integrated neighborhood, local great coffee joint and DONUTS. More on that later TOO.
Friday lunch we went to Uglesich on Baronne. Careful examination of all CHowhound messages on this storied restaurant allowed us to order quicvkly and well, to the satisfaction of the owner who complimented me halfway through on my choices. The highlight might have been the fried oysters, seemed to be rolled in corn meal with a blue cheese stuffing. Sounds weird, totally wonderful. The fried green tomatoes drizzled with shrimp remoulade were nearly as delicious (my boyfriend called them a tie) and definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. Hot, tart, spicy, creamy, crisp -- a complete taste experience. Good gumbo (with okra) Great Bloody Mary (I'm embarrassed to admit my first EVER. How did I get to be 33?...), Barq's root beer, unsweetened ice tea. For the entree we had Muddy River trout -- deep fried fillets in a brown mildly spicy chick-based gravy with, oddly enough, parmesan cheese as a thickener. It was good, but not as good as my Shrimp Uggie -- shrimp, potatoes and onions in a spicy, vinegary red sauce -- not a marinara, more of a thin North Carolina style barbeque sauce, no cloying sweetness. Black pepper played a starring role. The sauce is wonderful and makes you grateful for the potatoes. The small kitchen at Uggies is a wonder and a lesson for anyone planning a redesign of their home kitchen. A word to those who have never been to Uglesich (I, of course, now count myself a veteran): You wait on line at the door -- Don't Sit Down, For God's Sake! -- and they take your order at the counter (sneak to the front to grab a menu so you don't hold things up). They will give you a number, you pay for your meal. Stand around. When they call your number a waiter will seat you and the food begins... so good. Highly recommend it. Definitely the highlight of the trip.
We wandered around the garden district (whenever I go to NO I always stop in the REndez Vous coffee shop. Normal coffee shop fare but a wonderful old interior, and a good place to get the NY Times if you have to keep tabs on the News). Took the St Charles Street car back to Canal Street, then stumbled on a nice bar, perfect for watching the Masters (it became our afternoon gin and tonic stop for the next 3 days). It's called Desire and it is in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, on Bourbon Street.
That night, after a long, drunken nap, we went to Indigo. It is a lovely restuarant to look at. We sat at the bar, had great service and a good wine list. The meal itself wazs expensive and just so-so...well prepared, but I think the recipes lacked something. I had roasted chicken with a mission fig stuffing, my boyfriend had a veal shank, almost an osso buco. The sauces on both were heavy on the low notes -- nothing really sharp or acidic to balance out the richness, to spark things up. For appetizers we had a crafish boil green vichysoise (I'm having trouble with the spelling, sorry) and something else -- shrimp I think. I remember it was good, but clearly not good enough to remember in detail...or else I was more drunk than I know. We had a nice salad with frisee and pears and dried cranberries. We had a 1995 Pomerol, Chateua belle rice de beauregard. It was very good and they had a good list -- the pricier wines though expensive were bargains relative to what you'd pay in a liquor store or restaurant. It was nice variety -- a really strong white list as well (all this from my oenophile boyfriend). We started with a glass of champagne each, which might explain the fizziness of memory.The bill came to over $200, which seemed high for food that was just good.
Dessert was wonderful -- a chocolate cake with bitter chocolate molten center...very nice. We toddled home and slept the sleep of the dead, our french doors and shutters thrown open to the veranda and the night.
On Saturday, after a great breakfast at the inn (pancakes, sausage, fried apples...the day before it was french toast with fried bananas and sausage) we went to a farmer's market in the warehouse district on Girod, down the street from the D-Day museum. Great pie, great cookies, nice fresh produce and the total highlight of our trip. It is in a very tiny parking lot but definitely vibrant and patronized by locals. Wonderful flowers...
The best part was meeting a Creole man (named Lionel...last name esacapes) who made us fresh file powder in a 2 foot tall century-old cypress mortar with a 3-foot pecan wood pestle, polished by 100 years of being held. File is a necessary ingredient in gumbo, a thickener (never used when okra is present, apparently) -- it is just pulverized and powdered sassafrass leaves, pushed through a sieve. Lionel has been written up in Saveur and Cooking Light (he had copies) and it was great good luck that he was in this tiny market at all.
A chef at the next stall was cooking up scallops and large grain couscous but it was a little pungent for so early in the morning.
We wandered across the street to a glassblowing/printmaking shop and workshop, and then to the D-Day museum -- do not miss it. Much of it comes from historian Stephen Ambrose's private collection.
Lunch was delayed (after a trip to an architectural salvage place WAY out in the real warehouse district). We couldnt get a cab, so a man named Gustavo whose wife owned an antiques place next door offered to drive us in. Turns out he's an artisit whos paintings we had admired in a gallery the day before. He dropped us at a restaurant near his house in the French Quarter, supposedly frequented by Tennessee Williams, called QSR or QRS. Great gumbo, good fried oyster po boy, really good red beans and rice. Then we got beignets and blew powdered sugar all over ourselves.
Then gin and tonic and tiger woods...nap, followed by a 10 pm dinner (the only reservation I could get!) at Bayona.
Bayona is a beautiful little restaurant with great service and a better value than Indigo.
We began with fried sweetbreads (I was a bit nervous but know this to be the specialty. Our waitress was hilariously matter of fact about the whole thing: "It's just a thyroid gland." Mmm mmm!) They were good, but rich -- little white morsels of thyroid (!) deep fried and served with a honey and mustard sauce. An A but something I'm unlikely to order again. Can't get by the glandular issue. We also had seared shrimp with a black bean cake and chipotle cream -- a B+.
DInner for me was grilled lemonfish with a light sauce. My boyfriend had duck with a black pepper and jelly (currant? plum?) glaze. Both good but at this point way too much food. We ordered a "light" dessert -- sorbet -- strawberry and rhubarb, if I recall. I really need to be taking notes.
SUnday morning bfast at the inn, then we went up Esplanade, stopping at the Tastee DEli (N. Broad and Esplanade) for a fresh, hot glazed donut that puts Krispy Kreme "hot donuts now" almost to shame...these were a little thicker and heavier...more to chew on. I had to stop my boyfriend from getting an entire bag. We also had a plain cake donut, almost as good as the glazed.
GO TO TASTEE DELI next time you are in NO! Homemade donuts must be encouraged!
We walked up esplande to the city park wehere a garden show was going on...we ate lunch there -- Jambalaya, Hamburgers dipped in barbeque sauce and beer...and then sadly it was time to leave, but only after iced coffees and gingersnaps at Community Coffee, a great neighborhood coffee place under a stand of live oaks on Esplanade.
Wish I'd hit Cafe Degas, Jacques Imos, Casemento, Riomar but overall fairly satisfied. Thanks for the help everyone!
Great report! Wish I had caught a few of the places you had hit. Too bad about not getting to Jacques-Imo, it was the highlight of our trip.
Just a little correction, mostly for your waitress. Sweetbreads are either the thymus gland or the pancreas, not thyroid. Just an FYI....
We stay every year at the Benachi House for JazzFest - great location as it's within walking distance of the Festival... but I digress... you mentioned that the BB&B is next to Indigo? Is this a new restaurant - there used to be a questionable bar/music club next door (at least until last May)?