Thank You New Orleans (Long)
For still existing after Katrina. My wife and I went there with our two daughters (9 & 6) and another family; it was our 3rd visit and everyone else's first, and our first after Katrina.
We were inspired to go and help rebuild and I hope our two days of volunteer work gave a little something back to the city for all it has given us in the times we've spent there. I don't think I've enjoyed throwing money around like we did in New Orleans this time -- everyone was so great and the food and festive atmosphere is still fantastic no matter where we went.
First evening: Acme Oyster house for a bunch of fresh and grilled oysters, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, po'boys and red beans and rice. The kids' first taste of real N'Awlins food. The place is still great as far as I'm concerned.
First morning: beignets and au lait at Cafe du Monde -- wonderful as usual, and while the girls were at first prickly and finicky about the cramped outdoor seating and the very limited menu, they couldn't stop talking about the beignets for the rest of the trip. Their first taste of a city where music is heard all day long.
Lunch at the gumbo shop where my crawfish etouffee was a bit sweeter than I'm used to, but good nonetheless.
A wonderful dinner in a great setting awaited us at Cafe Irene, where the bread pudding was fantastic, and the kids got a bit of their more standard fare, pasta with butter and cheese. Irene's has such a great atmosphere; intimate and convivial at the same time, and while there was a wait of about 30 minutes for a table for 7, good wine service and a piano player kept us entertained.
We had fantastic roast beef po'boys from the Lakeview Deli the next day -- we volunteered 2 days in the area and this was a great recommendation from the locals. They do plate lunches as well.
Jacques-Imo's for dinner was the only brief disappointment, compared to an earlier visit. The semi-attached room had a definite "off" odor to it; an animal smell of some kind really. Service was so friendly and hospitable (our server brought us tastes of all the desserts since we couldn't decide between them all), but the food was just not that great. Even the highly touted alligator cheesecake was nothing special. Desserts were excellent, though.
The four grownups went to Stella! the next night -- our first time there in 2004 had left a profoundly good taste in our mouths and this time was no letdown at all. The place is very pricey (tasting menu with wine is $170!), the service a bit obsequious (though he did point me in the direction of a very nice Graves to go with our dishes), but the food is easily on par with and better than some of the better places we eat at in our hometown, LA. I would compare it to Spago. Every dish was sublime -- after an amuse of salmon ceviche --
I had two appetizers -- mussels in a lime-chili broth and mushroom risotto. Fellow diners had the scallops and salmon as mains and goat cheese/pistachio salad and corn/lobster puree to start. The wine choice paired wonderfully. Dessert at Stella! is a novel experience. Our server hastened to inform us that the pastry chef was voted best in the city but that still didn't convince us that the sweet/savory pairings (salt and pepper ice cream in one dish; an avocado shake in another) weren't going to be too over the top. We tried two of them: the grilled cheese and chocolate sandwiches and the melon soup. Both were superb executions of very imaginative combinations (we could only imagine what the rejected dishes tasted like) but not really what we were searching for in the way of a sweet ending. That came at the very end with a plate of homemade cookies. I think we needed to reorient our attitude toward dessert at Stella! and see it as more of a cheese course, and not a sweets course, since the very tasty and sweet cookies did come as a nice surprise at the end. Considering the incredibly high quality of the food and service, $400 for four people was really very reasonable.
Next day after a tour of the yet to be completed restoration of the Whitney Plantation into a slavery museum, we were directed to a local spot called B & C Seafood. This was great food -- excellent crawfish stew, steaming catfish poboys and great bread pudding. I wanted the boiled crawfish, but the boat hadn't come in by noon yet, so I missed out on what I'm sure would have been the highlight of the day. B & C is a definite stop for anyone doing plantation tours outside the city.
We had a few extraneous meals at the Old Coffee Pot, and the staff is so accomodating there, I wish I could say the food was more than mediocre. The only standout was the fried shrimp, which was excellent.
The best payoff of this trip for me was that my oldest daughter commented to her school principal on the first day back to school that "after being in New Orleans, macaroni and cheese tastes so plain now." Mission accomplished.
We hope to go back soon. Thanks, NOLA
Thanks so much for coming down, not only to help, but also to enjoy in all things that are New Orleans (namely our food).
Replace Jacquesimo's with Dick and Jenny's next time....and throw in Cochon. Cameilia Grill will finally be open the next time you are here.
Now, you just have to convince one of your kids to go to college in New Orleans...then you have an excuse to come down a couple times a year.
re: chris in illinois
Okay Chris, I don't know you, you don't know me- those are details we can work out later. I have 3, you'll have 4. We could work out a god parent thing here where we can get all 7 of them to Tulane or LSU. I figure that's at least 2 trips per year per child. That's 14 trips to NOLA per year Man!
OK, that's it!!! One of you will HAVE to send one of the kids to ULL in Lafayette. You're going to need a little cajun in the mix too ya know. So if you plan it right, you hit Tulane and head west, then I-10, then Baton Rouge, then I-10, then Lafayette. Turn around when you hit the Sabine. LOL