I fell in love with New Orleans in April of 2005…approximately 4 months before Hurricane Katrina. I went for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, with my friends Debbie and Megan upon the recommendation of my friend and then boss Ramsey.
It was love at first sight.
There is so much to love about New Orleans. The people. The food. The music. The soul.The fact that you can walk around w/ an open container. I just love it.
I have been back several times since Katrina, including the first jazz fest after it, in 2006. Each year a little bit more of the city comes back but there is so much to be done there. It still breaks my heart to think about the people who have been, and continue to be, affected by that storm and it’s aftermath. It’s pathetic that we let that happen to one of our best American cities and it’s amazing people.
Ok off my soap box now and to the food!
I recently went back for a conference and here are some of my food tales. I’ll also share some of my favorite things, that I just didn’t get a chance to eat this time.
One of my favorite restaurants in Nola, is Stella. I had tried and tried to get in there during a few jazz fests and finally got in last spring with my friend Kristine. We had the best dinner that night, alongside Mario Cantone (from Sex and the City) and the legendary Tom Jones. It was also the night that President Obama announced Osama bin Laden was dead. A momentous evening indeed! I vaguely recall taking a few photos, but I wasn’t food blogging then and the camera on my blackberry was not so good. I did take this photo of my dessert from that night (and I had it again recently) of the bananas foster bread pudding.
I know I know, that is a terrible photo. But the banana chips on top looked like Princess Eugenie’s hat at the Royal Wedding and I remember it making me laugh. It was FANTASTIC by the way. A great way to cap off a memorable night. I don’t remember anything else I ate last night. I just remember Kristine and I ordered a $300 bottle of Groth that we thought was the $80 bottle. A memorable night all around!
So when I went back to Stella recently on a business trip I tried to take better photos for you.
The first one, was the amuse bouche. If you don’t know what an amuse bouche is, it is typically a one bite teaser from the chef to show you what is in store for your dining delight! Here is the wikipedia definition:
An amuse-bouche [amyzbuʃ] or amuse-gueule [amyzɡœl] is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre. Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are done so for free and according to the chef’s selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.
Right wikipedia…that’s what I said. 🙂 So this evening’s amuse bouche was a red pepper, goat cheese and crispy rice noodle delight.
YUM! I am a firm believe that you should always try the amuse bouche.
I ordered a halibut that was phenomenal. It had some edamame and some asparagus and a lobster hollandaise. The food at Stella is impeccable and looks like art.
Additionally, what is so fantastic about Stella is the story. And for that…you need to go to their website and click on video. You won’t get why the restaurant and the city of New Orleans is so fantastic until you do. It’s because of the PEOPLE!
Another one of my favorite people in New Orleans, although I have never met him, is Chef John Besh. I’ve been to two of his restaurants, Restaurant August and Domenica. I had hoped to get to another Besh place, Luke, this trip but didn’t make it.
John Besh, was also one of the first chefs to re-open his place in New Orleans after the storm. A James Beard award winner and one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1999, Besh has become a philanthropist, giving loans to local farmers to stay afloat. For more here is a NY Times article. He also has a show on PBS. Check it out.
Domenica is for now my favorite of his places because it’s casual, hip and the food is amazing. I took a group of folks here on a Friday night and the place was packed. The pizza chef welcomed us personally, it’s just a great fun casual spot.
I split a pizza with a colleague to start and so sorry…but we didn’t take a photo until um…
We had the basil pesto pizza…and she added mushrooms to her half. SO good.
I also had a small plate (they have large and small on some dishes…love that) of the White Truffle risotto with pancetta crutons. Jealous? You should be!
Last, we ordered some crispy baby artichokes for the table that were so delicious. I’m going to try this at home.
Also, how do you know you are at a great spot…when you see your media friends from The Grio and the president of MSNBC when you walk in. 🙂
Here is the link for Domenica. I highly recommend it. http://domenicarestaurant.com/restaurant-bar.html
Now for some equally delicious but more traditional Nola spots.
Everyone should go to Mother’s for a Po’ Boy at least once. There’s nothing like it.
Also, you have to have some beignets at Cafe Du Monde.
And make it over to Oak Street in Uptown. It’s a cab ride but it’s a great street with two of my favorite spots on it.
The first is Jacques-Imo’s. A recommendation from Ramsey, this place has alligator pie, fantastic fried chicken, and many other southern delights. Jacques, the chef/owner is almost always there, in shorts and clogs, with a cocktail in his hand. However, be prepared to wait, especially when it’s festival time. Those who know me, know that I will not wait an hour to eat at a chain restaurant, but I’ve waited here over two hours, sweaty in my Jazz Fest clothes, with my backpack and chair, for this fried chicken. It’s that good.
And when you are done with dinner, sans chair, head on over to the Maple Leaf bar next door. Regulars there that perform are Papa Grows Funk, The Iguanas, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and the Rebirth Brass Band to name a few. It’s a great bar.
So that’s enough to get you started in my hands down favorite city in the US…says the girl who grew up near the amazing city of San Francisco. 🙂