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New Orleans trip report

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I went to New Orleans this past weekend for Jazz Fest and had a great time. How have I not been down here sooner?? We came up with a restaurant itinerary and not much else :) Here it is...
- Jazz Fest: not fair food that I've ever seen. No funnel cakes or crappy burgers in sight! We gobbled up shrimp and grits, shrimp sausage with pickled okra, shrimp tacos...I like shrimp, can you tell? The shrimp and grits were particularly delicious- a nice, flavorful heat. We hit the mandarin orange tent several times- great iced tea.
- Mellow Mushroom: we had planned on going to Jacques-Imos for dinner based on a friend's recommendation but weren't up for the 90 minute wait so we wandered around and found this place. Yes, it's a chain and no, I don't really care. Never heard of it before but it was clean and bright. We had the meatball trio and red skin potato pizza. The meatballs were moist and just a little spicy. The pizza sounds odd but ended up tasting great. I'd go back.
- Cafe du Monde: what can I say? It's fried dough with powdered sugar on top. We hit the take-out counter and had our beignets and OJ on a bench and people watched.
- Cochon Butcher: it just got real. We shared a Cubano and pulled pork sandwiches. My brother got a Rockin Rebel cocktail. He liked it; I thought it tasted like red hots but I rarely drink. The sandwiches were great quality. His pulled pork was top notch. There was a bottle of sweet potato habanero sauce on the table and we had a taste. I bought a bottle online when I got home :) The highlight of this place were the bread and butter pickles. They were everything a pickle should be- bright, crisp, spicy, oh my! They were wonderful. I ate mine, my brother's, and cursed myself that the jar was over 3 ounces. Damn you, TSA!
- La Divina Gelateria: I love gelato (my favorite place is a little hole in the wall in St. Augustine, FL oddly enough) and was looking forward to giving this a shot. We had the Cocco Thai and Abita Root Beer flavors. Tasty but left me with an odd coating in my mouth. A bit over priced, too. $4 for 2 scoops? Meh. The shady courtyard was nice for people watching, though.
- Commander's Palace: how could we not? We showed up early for our reservation and the staff was was able to accommodate us. I was very impressed by everyone I interacted with- very warm and friendly. We had...
- sazerac- my brother liked it, I thought it tasted like gasoline. Oh, well.
- shrimp and tasso hennican appetizer with pickled okra- absolutely on point. Shrimp cooked perfectly, okra was crisp and light, and the sauce it arrived in was spicy but not overwhelming. It had a great summer flavor.
- chicken gumbo (the gumbo du jour)- wow! the gravy made me understand the concept of "depth of flavor". If you ever go to Commander's Palace, have the gumbo. Trust me.
- strawberry/feta/pickled fennel salad- this feta just worked. It was somehow creamy and mild and a great counterpoint to the bright berries. The fennel was just kind of there. It didn't stand out either way.
- quail entree- utterly delicious. The skin was almost lacquered and the meat was juicy and full of barbequed flavor.
- shrimp and grits- Again, the shrimp were perfection. These people know their shrimp. Can I say the grits were too gritty? I'm no grit connoisseur but these were disappointingly thick and had an steel cut oatmealish consistency.
- souffle with whiskey cream sauce- lovely souffle but the sauce was more whiskey than cream...my brother liked it though. Lush.
- strawberry shortcake- lots and lots of fresh berries and fresh whipped cream. Came with a sweet, light biscuit which was a neat touch.
- La Petite Grocery: again, accommodated when we showed up early. We shared the blue crab beignets which were nice- lots of crabby flavor. The brother had a pisco sour- nice citrus flavor. We shared the BELA (sandwich) and LPG burger. I wasn't wild about either. They were both fine but not terribly special and I felt weighed down when I left, like I'd eaten too much. A feeling I didn't get at Commander's Palace, interestingly enough.

Well, there ya have it! I finally hauled myself out of the Blue Ridge Mountains to get down to NOLA and absolutely loved it. What a great vibe- everyone was very chill and friendly and food seems like such an important thing, which I love. I'll be back!

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  1. Everyone was friendly as you may have been the first people during the entire history of Jazz Fest to show up for a restaurant reservation early!! :-)

    Glad you had a great time.

    1. Could you elaborate on the grits?
      I usually find grits in a restaurant [of any caliber] to be too fine/ thin and soupy on top of that.
      Sounds like the may have been a touch undercooked?

      7 Replies
      1. re: Kris in Beijing

        I've only had grits a handful of times and I've found them to be pretty thin and even in texture. If you put a spoonful on a plate, it would spread quickly. These had a slower spread (is that a thing?) and an uneven texture. Definitely had to chew them more than usual. I assume there are different types of grits, though, so I'm not sure if they were improperly cooked or just a type I'd never had. Judging by the rest of our meal, I tend to lean toward the latter.

        1. re: Hobbert

          Grits varies widely . In my opinion..and that's all it is...grits is best when thick but it should allow for the gravy to adhere. One of the delights of my childhood and youth were golf vacations in North Carolina where breakfast was always eggs, ham, grits and red-eye gravy. The grits looked like a volcano and had a ladel-made caldera in which the gravy sat. I'd cut it down the side and watch the lava flow. Lots of fun.

          1. re: hazelhurst

            Interesting! I'd never thought about grits as a breakfast food but it would be great with ham and eggs. I'll pass on the red eye gravy, though. Sadly, I'm not such a fan of coffee.

            1. re: Hobbert

              Grits with a few over easy eggs on top all smashed together is a great breakfast. Until the whole shrimp and grits for dinner explosion I only knew grits for breakfast

        2. re: Kris in Beijing

          The coarser "stone-ground" grits are all the rage and considered by the foodie set to be superior to the pedestrian fine/thin grits that have long filled Southern bellies. Personally, as a Yankee transplant to the South, I never have warmed to the idea of grits in any form. Just not my thing.

          1. re: LorenzoGA

            And as a southern transplant to the north I miss me some grits. Lol

            1. re: LorenzoGA

              As a native Bostonian, I had my grits and scrambled eggs (with Tabasco) epiphany 40+ years ago at midnight chow at Sheppard AFB. Not exactly elegant preparations, but I’ve been a grits lover ever since. I like ‘em with body, but not too dry. Our daughter and her family live outside Raleigh, NC, so I get my fix every time we visit.

          2. What's the name of the gelato place in St Augustine?

            3 Replies
            1. re: dmg5447

              Cafe de Hidalgo on Hypolita Street.

              1. re: Hobbert

                Cool I will check it out this summer!

                1. re: dmg5447

                  You'll love it! St. Augustine is such a cool little town. We always stop there on our way from DC to central FL.