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What foodstuffs should I buy to bring home?

Hi all:

I'll be visiting New Orleans this weekend, staying in the French Quarter (no car, but willing to cab and hoof it anywhere) from Thurs-Mon. We already have a long list of restaurants to try after reading the posts here. However, are there any supplies/ingredients that I should be shopping for when I'm in town?

Right now the only thing I can think of are pralines, file powder and maybe some local junior league type cookbooks. Bread for po boys probably won't freeze well, right? But other than that, I'm kind of lost. Any ideas?

A little bit of backstory: My bf's family is originally from the Louisiana area, but he claims they aren't very good cooks. It's fallen to me to learn how to make the standards since we live in Los Angeles. I don't know if his family is more cajun or creole, but I'm planning on learning how to cook both styles.

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  1. Camellia beans for red beans, Zapp's potato chips, various varieties but Spicy Creole Tomato is my favorite. If you have a way, I would suggest some tasso and andouille as well.

    3 Replies
    1. re: roro1831

      I'd add Crystal Hot Sauce--we like to support the Baumer family--maybe Louisiana Brand hot sauce ("One Drop Does It"), Zatarain's Crab Boil (and the fish fry with lemon) Zatarain's seasoning or, of you can find it, "Slap Ya Mama" which is from Ville Platte Ville Platte(no MSG).

      The NOLA Jr League Plantation Cookbook is quite good and there is always the BR League classic River Road. You'll have no shortage of choices. My rule of thumb is to judge by the turtle soup recipes: if it can be made in a hurry some claim to be ready in an hour) forget the book. Amateurs.

      What part of La is the boyfriend from? That can particularize things...

      1. re: hazelhurst

        Olive salad (You could buy that from Central Grocery)

        Coffe and Chickory (in the can) from Cafe du Monde

        A link to some stores and grocery types for New Orleans foods and seasonings etc in the French Quarter:
        http://frenchquarter.com/dining/direc...

        1. re: Suzy Wong

          Or the French Market brand Pure Coffee...

    2. Anything made by Zatarain's, Mam Papaul's, Zapp's, Tony's or Abita.

      1. The French Market brand coffee is a good suggestion. You can find Luzianne in many mainstream supermarkets around the country and Cafe Du Monde in asian supermarkets for some reason, but I have yet to see the French Market coffee anywhere outside NOLA. And that's the favored brand at Commander's Palace.

        Other's have already mentioned the Central Grocery olive salad but I would also consider Boscoli's. It's great. Olive salad around here (Maryland, even house-made at Italian groceries) is disgusting.

        We did once bring back so many cans of Blue Runner beans from Rouse's that it put our luggage over the limit and we ended up spending something like an extra $50 to check out bags! Stupid, but we were it too good a mood to worry about it.

        There are places where you can order many of your favorites, like cajungrocer.com

        3 Replies
        1. re: kukubura

          A bit late, and not entirely relevant -- I live in NYC and saw a big display of French Market coffee last year at the Key Food here in Brooklyn. It's not something they carry regularly, it's almost like they got a promotional case or something. (Key isn't even an especially good supermarket.)

          1. re: Mark Alberts

            The key question is: with chicory or without? I see the chicory occasionally elsewhere but the Pure Coffee is hard to find outside New Orleans...and I prefer the pure for day to day.

            1. re: Mark Alberts

              Vietnamese markets in Chinatown carry the chicory version. I haven't seen the non-chicory, though.

          2. Just a side note- doublecheck with the airlines if there is anything that they won't allow on carryons. I had to throw away a jar of mustard once when getting on a plane to go home.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jessicheese

              A friend almost couldn't bring back olive salad (a small jar!) for us a few months back. He sweet talked them, but it was touch and go and they ran it through the terrorscan. I'd imagine after the xmas near-disaster it'll only be worse.

              1. re: kukubura

                Perhaps you could send the local TSA people some bottles of what you described as "disgusting" efforts in MD. Then, maybe, they'd look with more charitable eyes on Olive Salad Mules

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  Yeah, maybe we need some sort of special dispensation for bringing back foods that apparently can't be replicated elsewhere. Special message to italian markets in Maryland: Simply grinding up cheap olives into a paste does not an olive salad make! And smearing said paste on to a stale sub roll with cold cuts is not a muffaletta!

                  1. re: kukubura

                    Ugh! I see your point.

                    And I always have such a nice time when in Annapolis....well, never had the olive salad...and don'tplan to. thanks for teh waraning.

                    1. re: hazelhurst

                      Oh there's great food to be had around here. But not the cuisine of New Orleans. Although there are a few cajun and/or creole restaurants in the area that try their hardest.

                      1. re: kukubura

                        The mussels at the Tavern there by the Academy are right good.

                        You recall the story of the restaurant in NYC on Lex that in the 1970's was trying to do the local food. RB&R was something like $20, with sausage $22.95. Described as "a typical southwest Louisiana peasant dish."

            2. I second olive salad, Camellia red beans (red beans are never nearly as fresh anywhere else in the country--they don't have our turnover), the Plantation cookbook, and Andouille. If you can find a place to freeze your andouille, it can go straight into your checked bag (which you will need if you're taking back olive salad at this "terror level"), since it stays very cold in the cargo hold. If you really want to go all out, though, you might get an igloo and pack it with various sausages (boudin!), lump crabmeat, and some vacuum packed bags of crawfish tails, and lots of blue ice. I also always try to bring back a stock of Steen's cane syrup (cans travel best) and popcorn rice.

              2 Replies
              1. re: LostBread

                Steens is a good idea--I forget about it becuase I am not a big "sweets" fan. Crabmeat this time of year is problematic, though...shells and such. It might be fine. Just a thought, though

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  Ah, yes. Crab-timing didn't even occur to me... Also, it probably wouldn't ship that well anyway.

              2. Blue Plate Mayo, andouille, boudin,Gumbo crabs, mirlitons, creole tomatos, hubigs pies (VERY PERISHABLE), Crystal Hot Sauce, Camellia Beans, Crawfish Tails, Shrimp, Zapps chips, Abita or Dixie beer, etc. I would check out the Crescent City Farmer's Market for some wonderful local produce and seafood. I just picked up some Uncle Bill's File Powder, which was hand ground and sooo fresh. He is usually at the Saturday Market, up by Tulane. We were home for New Years, and bought all this and more. We drove in, but I usually cram a small cooler full of these items.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ScarlettNola

                  Scarlett, I was a Blue Plate mayo boy for years, until I discovered Duke's. Now that's my mayo that I buy and bring home with me since I can't get it here.

                2. Wow, you guys are AWESOME!! Thanks for all the suggestions and keep them coming!

                  I have no idea what part of LA the boyfriend's family is from, and will make an effort to find out.

                  Getting over here wasn't as bad as I expected with the new terrorist levels. However, I was asked to repack my carry-on bags or check one because I had, ahem, two bags and a netbook in my hands.

                  What does one use Steen's cane syrup for? Pecan pies? My boyfriend has a raging sweet tooth, so that will definitely be part of the mix. Y'all have given me such great ideas that I'm considering shipping back a box of olive salad, steens cane syrup, red beans, creole cream cheese, andouille, coffee....argh! The list is too long already! :)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: metaphora

                    Steen's was always our favorite on waffles. Or on biscuits with fig preserves.

                    For anyone who lives here in Houston or is passing through, we have all the big Louisiana brands in our stores, especially HEB. The hot sauces, all the Camellia beans, every Zapps flavor, even the limited edition creole tomato with tabasco and the voodoo spicy! We get French Market coffee too, except not the restaurant blend. That's better IMO than the regular and something I bring back from NOLA. One item I really wanted to find on our last trip (right before Christmas) was the Crystal with the 'official Saints hot sauce' label. I stopped in at Rouses to look and asked, the staff told me it might just be a food service label--we saw it on the table at both Mandina's and Liuzzas mid city.

                    Speaking of, looking forward to watching Saints in post season!

                    1. re: superk

                      Also, you don't really have to refrigerate or cooler andouille, tasso, jerkey, etc. It will be fine in your regular baggage for the length of your trip. But your clothes will smell like smoked pork.

                      1. re: superk

                        I'm in Austin, and our HEBs don't have a great LA selection. I order Camellia's from CajunGrocer.com. We do have Zapps, but only the smaller bags. Zatarains rice only at the small HEB, and no Community tea just coffee. No French Market coffee. Also, only spice packet Crab Boil, not liquid. Alas, life is rough. Fortunately, I'm resourceful enough to find these things around, but it's darned expensive.

                      2. re: metaphora

                        We use Steen's for pancakes and waffles, on buttered biscuits, in candy, cookies and other sweets, and I often put a tablespoon or so into curries and stir fries. It's very versatile, like a less heavy and milder molasses, or a liquid brown sugar, sort of.

                        1. re: metaphora

                          I love Steen's on my pancakes and waffles too, but it's also great in gingerbread, homemade pecan granola (instead of maple or honey), and even in drinks. A rum cocktail with cane syrup instead of simple? YUM.

                        2. Some good suggestions already, but here's my complete list:
                          King Cake babies
                          Zatarain's Creole Mustard
                          Camellias beans, more than just red beans, I'd also suggest getting some black eyed peas and butterbeans
                          Zatarain's Pro Boil Mix (msg free and has extra powdered lemon concentrate in it)
                          Olive Salad
                          Zapps
                          Tony Chachere's (salt free in the white shaker, not green)
                          Local file (you must visit george's on the West Bank--he's in an old brake tag station across from the mall (up a tiny bit) on terry parkway. he also has preserved figs, and all kinds of awesome stuff in bottles and jars.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kittee

                            A quick translation for metaphora.... "brake tag station" is just an inspection station, or possibly a gas station as they used to issue brake tags as well. In New Orleans the inspection sticker is called a brake tag.

                          2. I freeze NO french bread all the time. Of course I prefer fresh, but when I buy a fresh loaf, whatever I do not use that day, goes into a gallon ziplock bag, cut into po-boy size (6-8") lengths. I take out the frozen lengths between grocery trips, to use as needed. The quality is amazingly good for the first month or two.

                            1. OH also don't forget Scratchmo's creole mustard found here: Central Grocery, Matassas Grocery, Quarter Grocery and Deli, Toulouse Royale Gifts, Royal Praline, Creole Delicacies, Royal St. Deli & Whats New.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mrsfury

                                Good suggestion, that is some good mustard. But I hate the name - for me, for some reason, it evokes visions of chicken pox.

                                1. re: uptownlibrarian

                                  LOL yeah but the mustard is soooo good & the guy that makes it is a doll.

                              2. Macaroons from Sucre, Jack Miller's BBQ Sauce (so good on anything from chicken to baked potatoes), Tabasco Mayo (why not? after this, the other mayo is just a waste), Zapp's, Crab Boil (so good to add a teaspoon to your boiling potatoes)...the list could go on for days, but I doubt you have enough room in the suitcase!

                                1. Thanks, ya'll! I ended up getting only a few items because I wanted to carry my bags, it looked like I could get some items (i.e., Steen's) via the internet, and because of the unseasonal cold that hit this past weekend. I wasn't packed to deal with wind chill, which cut down on a lot of sightseeing and shopping.

                                  I passed on all of your wonderful wonderful suggestions to a law professor friend of mine who was VERY impressed with the range and variety of foodstuffs you had suggested. She was thrilled to have a list of NOLA-only items to shop for, got all her gift shopping done in one trip and left with a huge smile on her face.

                                  I picked up a TON of Camellia's beans (especially after having the black eyed pea cassoulet served with the smoked duck at Palace Cafe), file powder, and coffee. I didn't see any Zapp's Spicy Creole Tomato chips, sadly, even though I looked. And I'm kicking myself now for not picking up any Tony's; for some reason I swore I had seen some here in California and decided to pass, but now it appears I might have been wrong.

                                  I also looked for Scratchmo's Creole Mustard, but not that hard, because it probably would have meant checking my bags, and I didn't think any jar of mustard was worth the $25 bag check fee. I'm kind of on the fence about it now because so many recipes refer specifically to creole mustard and I wish I had it. However, I read about one brand that Williams Sonoma carries, so I guess I'll stick with that till I return to New Orleans.

                                  You guys are the BEST!!

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: metaphora

                                    metaphora, you can get Scratchmo's and Tony's over the internet. If you have any difficulty contact me here.

                                    1. re: mrsfury

                                      Hi mrsfury:

                                      I found Tony's at my local grocery store!! Which is great because it's raining up a storm right now and all I want is a giant pot of gumbo or jambalaya. And I will definitely be on the lookout for Scratchmo's. Ever since I got back, I've been buying New Orleans cookbooks and seems that creole mustard is a must-have ingredient. Thanks for the heads up!

                                      1. re: metaphora

                                        I only use Tony's in Bloody Marys. I prefer to make a large batch of seasoning mix using either Prudhomme's or Emeril's recipes (nearly the same). I reduce the salt so I can add more spice without over salting. Totally different flavor profile, which makes a world of difference in the final dish.

                                        I suggest Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. The" introduction" and "notes from the test kitchen" are worth the price alone. The New Orleans Cookbook (Rima and Richard Collin) is one (if not THE) best books on NOLA cooking. Also good: Susan Spicer's Crescent City Cookbook, Donald Link's Real Cajun, Emeril's Real and Rustic. Try Amazon for cheap copies.

                                        Most rest. websites have some recipes. Emeril's has a ton.

                                        1. re: metaphora

                                          Try cajun grocer for ordering mustard, chips etc I have used them many times for gifts for out of town friends and have been very pleased:
                                          http://www.cajungrocer.com/

                                        2. re: mrsfury

                                          You really should try the Slap Ya Mama stuff from Ville Platte...no MSG (not as rare a plus as it used to be) and they have a nifty white pepper variety. Are also making a hot pepper sauce but I don;t know how widespread that is.

                                          1. re: hazelhurst

                                            Another vote for Slap Ya Mama. I have to bring it back every time for co-workers & friends & the list just keeps getting longer ("my father just loves it, can you bring me two?" etc.). But anything not immediately perishable like coffee, any seasoning mixes, sauces, Steen's -- just wrap it up with lots of padding in a box (or, if you've got breakables, a box-within-a-box, both cushioned) & mail it to yourself. I never did get the Crystal hot sauce fumes out of my suitcase lining (& my clothes had to go through the wash more than once) the time the airlines stomped on it. The post office may have its moments, but baggage handlers are the champions at stompage.

                                            1. re: mshenna

                                              I have Slap Ya Mama and think it's way too salty....

                                              1. re: Suzy Wong

                                                It is that, but I am a salt fiend. Benoit's makes a salt-free, I believe, so you could add your own -- haven't tried it, though.

                                                1. re: mshenna

                                                  But without MSG there needs to be salt..and that is all these things are, really..just seasoned salt. every "chef" who hits the Big Time markets a seasoning---Emeril, Paul Prudhomme etc. etc. etc.---sells these things for $5.00 and the cost (with insurance, packaging, shipping) is probably a total of $1.08, give or take a penny..even a quarter. Used to be we made this stuff at home but the commercial versions are much easier. If Slap Ya Mamma to _too_ salty, adjust seasoning elsewhere. If using it on a hamburger, well, use sparingly. I am not a salt fiend myself but I think the stuff works great in gumbos and jambalaya and I used it to great effect in a sour cream dip. I used the white pepper variety in a hollandaise awhile back and that was so good that I am inclined to experiment some more.

                                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                                    Just brought back the white pepper SYM -- first time -- & hollandaise sounds like a fabulous start. Thanks! (Sorry, co-workers, you aren't getting this one. Next time.)

                                        3. re: metaphora

                                          Hey metaphora, I live in LA too, and Cost Plus currently has the Zapp's Spicy Creole Tomato chips (they have the Tabasco logo as background on the bag), along with several other flavors. Zapp's are my favorite chips--I spent so much energy bringing bags of Zapp's back from my trip to NOLA last year, making sure they weren't crushed en route, that I just had to laugh when I saw them at Cost Plus.

                                          FYI, they also have Abita root beer at the moment, which is deeelicious. If only they had Hubigs and Camellia's. I'm trying to figure out how to get back to NOLA asap.

                                        4. I was thinking about you guys yesterday. I was shopping at our nearest Fresh Market, which has stores in most states east of the Mississippi, and for some reason they had a relatively robust selection of NOLA ingredients: Tony Chachere, Paul Prudhomme, Zatarains, Trappey's, maybe some others. None of those are TOO rare, but I was shocked that they had Boscoli's pickled spicy green beans... and nothing else! I asked the manager as long as they're getting one item from Boscoli's if they could stock the olive salad too. He said he's inquire... They did have a muffaletta mix from the Sonoma brand that looked strange (tomatoes?) but looked better than the Giuliana's brand that you usually see at supermarkets and better than the kind they make in house at the Italian grocery near here. I picked it up, so we'll see how it is. Could be tasty!

                                          1. I know this is going to sound weird/lazy, but we always bring home Tony Chachere's 'Instant Roux'.
                                            It's great for making gravy as well as gumbo.

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: CEfromLA

                                              You're right, that's weird and lazy, just kidding.
                                              I will be returning with the following after my visit this weekend:
                                              Duke's mayo, Zatarain's liquid crab boil, hopefully some creole tomato Zapp's, Camelia beans and maybe some tasso, and I would say a hangover, but as my flight is 6am Monday morning, post Superbowl, I will more than likely still be drunk.

                                              1. re: roro1831

                                                You've got to get some olive salad of some sort!

                                                1. re: kukubura

                                                  I make my own, did some for the NFC championship game and made my own muffs.

                                                  1. re: roro1831

                                                    This is the sort of thing that makes me pine for Gendusa's mini-muffs.

                                              2. re: CEfromLA

                                                I have been making roux in the microwave for about 20 years now. You can't imagine the hours it has saved me in the kitchen. It's a bit tricky but I can make a roux for my 20 qt gumbo pot in about 10 minutes or less. You'd never know the difference either. I'm very picky about my dishes with roux so I would be the first to stick my nose up at it if it weren't just right.

                                                We have a full line of Zatarain's here in the Houston area, thank the stars!!! I think the best thing is the lemon flavored fish fry breading mix. I use a drop or two of the Z's liquid crab boil in so many things, red beans and rice, shrimp creole, seafood gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish cornbread and many other things.

                                                1. re: texasredtop

                                                  Can you give me some quick microwave roux lessons?

                                                  1. re: CEfromLA

                                                    I'd be happy to. What time can you be here? LOL

                                                    In a glass measuring container, about 3 times larger than the amount of roux you're making (it will bubble up at first), mix equal cooking oil and flour. I haven't tried this with other fats, only the cooking oil. Stir it well until the lumps are dissolved. Have your wooden spoon handy and a trivet or somewhere to put the hot glass container for stirring.

                                                    Place the mixture in the microwave for about 3 minutes (for a roux to make gravy). If you're making a larger roux for gumbo, you can bump the time up to about 4.5 minutes. Take it out, stir, put it back in and cook for less time - 2.5 minutes or so. The roux will burn from the inside and you won't see it so if you're uncertain, cook it for smaller amounts of time. When you stir, you'll see the center browning faster. I sometimes have to add more oil towards the end. It takes me about 4-5 times in the microwave, decreasing the cooking time each time I stir it and put it back in, to get it right. As it gets darker, you might just want to put it in for 30 seconds at a time.

                                                    It's something you have to play with and get a feel for. I've burned some and had to start over. No biggie. It's much easier than spending 2 hours making a gumbo roux and have it burn and have to throw it out and start over.

                                                      1. re: CEfromLA

                                                        Let me know how it comes out. It took a few tries for me to get it just right. Someone told me how to do it and I REFUSED to try as I am of the old school and did not believe a roux could be made in a short time. I wasted a couple of years before I got frustrated once after stirring for two hours for a huge gumbo and burnt it in the end and decided to give the microwave method a whirl. I'm so glad I did.

                                                        1. re: texasredtop

                                                          I went old school for my Super Bowl gumbo and stirred for an hour and a half, but NEXT time, I'll try the microwave method! It may mean that we have gumbo more often!

                                                          1. re: CEfromLA

                                                            That's exactly what it meant for me, gravy and/or gumbo more often. Try it first with a small roux for gravy to get the hang of it. I can make my roux early and sit it aside to add to pan drippings later when the meat is done.

                                                            I not only hated all the time it took to make a roux but sometimes the blisters from being tired and not paying attention to what I was doing and getting some on me.

                                                            1. re: texasredtop

                                                              Been there, did that (bandaged as I type!).

                                                      2. re: texasredtop

                                                        Can't wait to try this. Even a few practice runs will take way less time than the usual 90 minutes tethered to the pot. Thanks!

                                                        1. re: mshenna

                                                          Please let me know your experience. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this method over the old one. I'm not one for changing something that's good but I'm very glad I tried this.

                                                  1. Olive Salad from Central Grocery- you can get acceptable bread and cold cuts at Costco for making mufuletttas but the olive salad is crucial
                                                    Peychaud's bitters (for making Sazeracs)
                                                    Andouille, tasso, and whatever else looks good at Cochon Butcher
                                                    chicory coffee (if you're in to it)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: PeterB

                                                      Ooh, Peychaud's... good call. It's tough to find elsewhere. There's a liquor store in Baltimore that carries it but that's only because the owner went to Tulane.

                                                    2. I have always tried to bring home New Orleans French bread and creole cream cheese. Can't get those anywhere else. These days creole mustard, Central Grocery and Boscoli olive salad and such can be ordered online so I don't try to carry those anymore.

                                                      My niece was there a few weeks ago and I got her to bring me some Herbsaint (in December they started selling the original version again) and Peychaud's bitters.