Cooking Classes/Fishing Part-2
I was planning a trip to New Orleans and posted an inquiry last month about Cooking Classes & Fishing while there. I have returned and have lots of good stuff to report.
My wife had a conference to attend so I was lucky enough to be able to tag along. The conference was at the Marriott New Orleans (just on the corner of the French Quarter). So this was our epicenter for 5 days.
We arrived Friday early afternoon, dropped the bags and headed out for a bite to eat. We walked up Iberville Street to the Acme Oyster House. There was a small line and we were told it would be about a 20-minute wait. It looked funky enough so we decided to wait. Within a few minutes they announced that there were two seats available at the bar. We jumped on it. I ordered a dozen oysters on the half shell and my first "po-boy". My wife ordered Gumbo & one of her favorites "red beans & rice". Washed down with a Dixie beer & Turbodog beer respectively. My wife really surprised me by scarffing down several of my oysters (something that I've never seen her do in 18 years - you go girl!!). It was a tasty introduction to New Orleans. We wandered around doing some window-shopping and ultimately headed back to the hotel to relax. I had previously made a dinner reservation at BAYONA so that where we headed to. Charming, wonderful, classy and comfortable in all respects. Sautéed Sweetbreads and Garlic Soup for appetizers. Crusted Redfish & the famous Grilled Duck Breast with Pepper Jelly Glaze. We shared a piece of white chocolate, hazelnut persimmon cake. Just a great experience, great food and great staff. I commented to the waitress about the duck and a few minutes later she returned to the table with the recipe. Wow!!!
We were up early Saturday morning looking for a little breakfast place outside the hotel but nearby enough to be able to make it efficient for my wife to get back to work. We found Tally Ho (3 blocks down Chartres Street #400 I think). Good hole in the wall for basic breakfast and we returned here each morning. After breakfast my wife went off to work and I headed over to my first of two cooking classes. This one was really a hands on cooking class at Mardis Gras World (http://www.gumbos.net/). You have to take the free ferry at the foot of Canal Street across the River to Algiers Point. A van picks you up and within a few minutes we are at Mardis Gras World. It's a series of warehouse buildings and it's one of the places where they make the floats for the parades. Worthwhile seeing even if you don't take the class. We meet the chef Richard Bond and seven of us chat with him over coffee and King Cake. Then we are issued aprons and get ready to work. There were different skill levels amongst the students, but after some basic knife skills and other techniques (under our belts) we start prepping veggies for our dishes. We are additionally taught how to make several types of roux's. We start cooking and the final menu is Gumbo, Crawfish Etoufee and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce. It turns out to be a lot of fun and the food is really good. I'm proud of us. Later I return to the hotel reconnoiter with my wife. We relax a bit and then head out to dinner at Upperline where I also had made a previous reservation.
It was a bit of a taxi ride but without a doubt worth it. We were given a quiet table in one of the small rooms. As we were perusing the menu for a while, the owner (JoAnn) stopped by to introduce herself and chat. She truly is the "hostess with the mostest". We chatted about 10 or 15 minutes talking about the menu, food, and life experience. She drifts away and our waiter comes by and takes our order. I order A Taste Of New Orleans (a tasting sampler of 7 dishes) and my wife orders Cane River Shrimp. Within a few minutes JoAnn re-appears and she is carrying a pair of complimentary appetizers for us (shrimp remoulade on fried green tomatoes). Outstanding. The food just keeps getting better and better. Everything is great and we top it off by sharing a Crème Brulee with pralines. Outside while waiting for our cab, it's a pleasure to see and hear the people emerging from the restaurant. It's all oohs and ahhs with lots of smiling faces (like watching people come out of a great movie).
Sunday morning sees us off to Tally Ho again. After breakfast I'm off to my second cooking class. It's at The New Orleans School of Cooking (http://www.thelouisianageneralstore.c...), which is located on St. Louis Street, right next to NOLA. This turns out to be a lot of fun even though it's a demonstration class. I believe that there are several instructors, but if you attend you absolutely, positively must take the class given by "Big Kevin" (no explanations here, just trust me on this one .). "Big Kevin" prepares Gumbo, Jambalaya, Pralines and more Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce. It's a great way to spend a few hours and Kevin is engaging and informative. I retreat to the hotel for a little R&R, then it's off on the St Charles Street Streetcar for a round trip. It's a worthwhile experience as well. It costs $1.25 each way and the trip is 45 minutes each way. You get to see a lot more of New Orleans besides the French Quarter. For dinner we head over to Olivier's. It's another great restaurant on Decatur Street across from the House of Blues. I think this one is still slightly under the radar screen, as I've not seen much mention of it on this message board. It's basically upscale Creole food with most of the dishes based on family recipes. I had a fabulous eggplant appetizer (thinly sliced eggplant, flash fried and topped with a very tasty and unique Creole sauce). I had Creole Rabbit for the first time and was impressed. My wife had their version of Shrimp Scampi and said it was the best scampi she has ever eaten (better then mine???, I'd better practice some more). Anyway, really good food & service.
Monday saw me up early. I was picked up by Captain George Ricks (http://www.rodnreel.com/getaway/). Fishing Guide extraordinaire. Most of the charter fishing in New Orleans is in saltwater & brackish water for speckled trout and Redfish. I enjoy this type of fishing, but one of my other passions is bass fishing. I knew that Capt. Ricks previously fished on the Bassmasters pro tour. So I convinced him to take me freshwater fishing. Because of the storm that passed through and the ensuing front (bass are very finicky about this) we could not fish in the river close to New Orleans. So he took me to a lake about an hour away. We caught 35 bass with a few over 3-1/2 lbs. For tough weather conditions this was outstanding. I've never caught as many fish as this even in ideal conditions. Back to the hotel with a permanent grin on my face. After some R&R we head out to our final dinner. I didn't really have a game plan, so we just stopped by Mr. B's Bistro, and with a five-minute wait were given a table. Skillet shrimp & seasonal salad as starters. Pecan crusted Redfish and Barbecued glazed pork chops for mains. Just perfect. Coffee and Bread Pudding sent us away happy campers.
Tuesday was a busy day, so we had a quick breakfast in the hotel (OK food, about what you'd expect from a hotel). My wife had some more business to handle then we quickly packed, left the bags with the bellmen and headed out for a final meal at Acme.
More oysters and boiled crawfish. All in all a wonderful experience and someplace we will go back to. Thanks for the previous postings, as that is where I was able to get some valuable leads.