Mardi Gras Food Heaven - A Week In Review
It’s Fat Tuesday and we have finally, maybe, recuperated from our week in NOLA. It was our first time going, and what a wonderful time to be there. We got to see Babylon, Chaos, and Muses and got lots and lots of loot (but no Muses shoe). I was impressed by the food – proven by the big change shown in my bathroom scales. I did have a problem with a few of the restaurants that I’ll describe below
Monday – Got in around 4:30, left the airport by taxi to the Hotel Monteleone. Our main plans for the night were to go to the Preservation Hall so we decided to go somewhere quick because we needed to get in line early (7:00 pm, starts at 8). So we made our way to Besh’s Domenica, across the street from a gorgeous church. I swear our waitress was high so it took forever to be served anything. The bread sucks! It was hard and tasteless and we did not finish even one piece. We ordered the cauliflower appetizer with goat cheese, because I love goat cheese, the cheese pizza, and a small plate of the Garganelli made with a pork ragu and penne. After another long wait, we got our food. The pizza and pasta were delicious. Pasta was hearty and I wished I had gotten the bigger plate. Pizza had thin crust but was loaded with lots of cheese, my husband devoured it. The appetizer was the WTF of the evening – literally a roasted head of cauliflower with goat cheese to dip it in. I had to work on disassembling the damn cauliflower which was just not user/table friendly to me. Cauliflower = no seasong, goat cheese = loads of weird seasoning that ruined the taste. Ugh, needless to say, I wouldn’t go back. Some of the food was good but the atmosphere (completely dead during happy hour) was not worth it, esp. while on vacation.
P.S. We waited an hour for the jazz performance at the Preservation Hall and they only played like 4 songs. Very disappointed but the music was good.
Tuesday (Valentine’s Day)
– Café du Monde for a wonderful breakfast that definitely helped with my hangover. The beignets were everything they were supposed to be: soft, warm and sugary Only down side, the whole place reeked of garbage. After getting some food in my belly, we walked to the French Market and got some great art from a local artist.
After shopping, we stopped at Central Grocery for their famous Muffuletta. It was huge! We both ate a quarter and saved it for later. Not a fancy meal but it was good.
- Le Foret – If it weren’t for Commander’s Palace this would have been our favorite meal of the trip. The dining room was gorgeous, dripping with chandeliers, and they had very romantic music playing. We started with quail and gnocchi. Never had gnocchi before but we are definitely fans now. We were then served a curried carrot soup that I am hellbent on trying to recreate. It was sweet, spicy, and perfectly creamy. I literally am craving this soup right now, drool. I had the wild mushroom and goat cheese ravioli, did I mention I love goat cheese? It was heaven. The sauce was thick and creamy and whole mushrooms (4 different kinds) were left whole and drowning in it. The creaminess of the cheese and the earthiness of the mushrooms was just amazing. My husband had the duck breast, with a pasta terrine, radishes, and beets. The skin was perfectly crispy and the duck itself was tender and juicy. I only had one bite but it was good…but not as good as my ravioli lol. I can’t remember the dessert – a chocolatey cake with blackberry sauce, it was rich and good, I just don’t remember exactly what else it was served with. When leaving they gave us a goodie bag with chocolates and cookies, just for Valentine’s Day. I collect menus from all the nice restaurants we go to and when I asked the manager went into the kitchen and got the three chefs to sign it. It was a good ending to a great meal.
We went on the Haunted History’s Ghost Tour – Our guide Andrew was hilarious and smart to boot. The ghost stories were over the top (half true, half probably exaggerated). But I did learn a lot about the history of New Orleans, like it became a city in 1718. He made us repeat that every so often during the trip and so now I will never forget. Fun tour overall.
Wednesday (Husbands Bday/Our 10 yr anniversary) –
- Café Beignet – Best breakfast hands down. I had the Cajun hashbrowns which were potatoes seasoned with Cajun seasoning, scrambled eggs, green peppers, onion, and andouille sausage. Full of flavor, I ended up going back before we left for the airport Saturday because I loved this breakfast so much.
- Stanley – Terrible service, waited 20 minutes just to order. I was really excited about Stanley so I tried to overlook the service. We split a crab poboy and sweet potato fries. The soft shell crab and slaw that made up the sandwich was really good. For dessert, I got a pomegranate Italian soda with two scoops of lemon and blueberry cheesecake ice cream. My husband got a PB and chocolate milkshake. I would definitely return just for the desserts alone. I might add I saw some people ordering their breakfast stuff and it definitely made me regret getting the poboy.
- August – I think I was most disappointed with this meal just because it was on our anniversary. Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious. We had a sweetbread appetizer that was really delicious. I had stuffed shrimp and my husband had lamb. All great, no problems. But the atmosphere was so overwhelmingly stuffy. I just couldn’t relax. The servers hovered non-stop. When I went to the bathroom, they took the napkin I had folded and put on the table and refolded it. I felt like I had done something wrong, like I left the table a mess. Excuse my French, but everybody looked like they had a stick up their ass. I felt like I just had to sit quietly with my hands in my lap. Totally different from Commanders or Galatoires, which I will get to next.
hursday (Garden district/Magazine St Day)
– Commander’s Palace – Best meal EVER, literally. I have never had a dining experience quite like this. We went for the lunch and were lucky enough to get the garden room, YAY! This was the same day as the Muses parade and many of the ladies were eating there that day which was pretty cool. There .25 drinks are stiff and good, I think I preferred the Commander’s the most (the one with the Blue Curacao). We had the lunch special, Turtle Soup, Redfish with couscous, and the Bread Pudding Souffle. We also ordered the Absinthe dome based on all you Chowhounds recommendations. First, let me say that they did a wonderful job of taking care of us while not being to invasive. The whole lunch took 2 hours and I never had to ask for anything yet they did not hover. Everything was delivered with a certain pomp and circumstance which I found to be really interesting. A group of servers would come out and kind of reveal the next course. The absinthe dome may have been my favorite thing to eat there. My husband was refusing to have anything oyster related so I ordered it for myself. But he could not resist and after he took his first bite we were fighting over who could finish it lol. The creamy broth that was under the puffed pastry was lightly flavored with tarragon and anise flavors, which was delightful. And the oysters were wonderful, good enough to change my husband’s mind about oysters. The turtle soup was hearty and the added sherry really helped bring all the flavors together. Our red fish was perfect. We aren’t big seafood waters but we can definitely appreciate a perfectly cooked fish. I loved the dessert. We eat a lot of bread pudding here in TX but this was a wonderful spin on our version. Instead of being dense, it was light and airy and full of all the spice and nuttiness that’s wonderful in bread pudding.
We ended up walking down Magazine to Jefferson or Napoleon, can’t remember which one. We staked out our spot right in the front of the median and waited for the parades to start, they were Babylon, Chaos, and Muses. The wait itself was so much fun. The people around were all talking and getting to know each other. There were local families with their kids up on those ladder seats. And the houses were all playing DJ and music was to be heard everywhere. The parades were chaos. We were there on the day of the shooting, some kid shot off into the crowd and 2 people were wounded in the legs. It stopped up the parade and the ambulances had to come through. The parades really couldn’t find a good tempo to move at after that so there were a lot of down times were the floats just stopped. If they stopped by your part of the crowd, you would get a lot of loot, but once they started moving again they didn’t throw as much out. We left near the end of the third parade, Muses.
Friday (Lafayette Cemetery Tour)
- Red Gravy – We went here based on some Chowhound recommendations. Little place, talked to the owner, she was really sweet. My husband ordered the Debra, which is like a fancy egg mcmuffin lol. He said he liked it but there was too much bread, not enough egg. I ordered the Alba omelet with goat cheese, pancetta, and mushrooms. It was really good; I loved the combo of smoky pancetta with the creamy goat cheese. The fried potatoes that came with the meal were also seasoned really well. I finished the whole thing and ate half of my husband’s potatoes. I’m not much of a coffee drinker so I ordered their hot chocolate. Best hot chocolate of the trip, she adds cinnamon sugar to it. Most people just make the powdered kind and it’s usually gross and watered down. I like that she put in the extra effort to make it delicious
I highly recommend taking a Save Our Cemeteries tour. We had a licensed tour guide but they work for Save Our Cemeteries on a volunteer basis. Our guide was so informative. I learned a lot about the history of New Orleans, the cemeteries, how the actual tombs work/burial process, and he also explained what happens when the tombs are left to nature and are not taken care of. Your tour fee goes to preserving the tombs that are falling apart. I support what they are doing and feel like they are helping to preserve history rather than just taking tourists around and collecting high fees.
Galatoires – I’ll be honest, last minute I wanted to change and go to Mr B’s but since it was Mardi Gras they were booked. We already had a reservation here that I made before the trip so we had to go here. I will say that I did enjoy it. It was a Friday night and utter chaos. People were sword fighting with their forks, and wearing napkins on their heads, and I am really surprised a few people made it out of the dining room without having to crawl. I think people watching as my favorite part about Galatoires. I had a Sazerac and then followed up with some Cosmo’s. If everybody else was so drunk, I might as well join them, right? We had two appetizers: escargot (my favorite) and oysters Rockefeller. Both were awesome, actually they were probably better than my dinner to be honest. I used the bread they serve to soak up all the buttery-garlicky goodness that came with the escargot. My husband, now apparently an oyster groupie, only gave me one oyster out of the whole thing but what I had was delicious. He ordered the chicken bonne femme (sp?) which was chicken with onions and bacon. He loved it but couldn’t eat it all because the bacon was heavy and kind of greasy. I ordered the shrimp creole which was good but I feel like I could have cooked it at home, nothing special to it. The atmosphere was insane, the food was alright, but it will definitely give me some lasting memories of my last night in New Orleans.
New Orleans was beautiful and so much fun. It was a lot more enjoyable earlier in the week when the Mardi Gras crowds hadn’t come in yet. It was so relaxing to walk around the city and visit all the little shops. Now, back to the real world, and I am off to exercise and lose all the weight I gained there.
Here are my trip pics (with food!): http://www.flickr.com/photos/calyptra4/
I'm pretty sure we saw a few of your Galatoire's dining-room companions making their way out of the restaurant and down Bienville. It was... I just don't even know how to describe it. LOL But yes, they'd have been better off trying to crawl! (My husband and I almost followed them just to make sure they were ok.)
All in all sounds like a grand trip! Sorry the Pres Hall set was so short. They usually play for a set time and however many songs they fit in is what it is, but there are different bands on different nights too so who knows. Once upon a time it was all the old timers and the notion of different bands was forieng. Narvin Kimball... John Brunius, Willie Humphries... All gone...
Glad you had a blast at Commander's and at Galatoire's. Sounds like you had a good representation of those places!