New Orleans ~ A Fork on the Road

An adventure! An adventure to a new city! An adventure to a new city with great restaurants and great food!

This is Fork’s first on the road Adventure and I have decided to do the entire weekend of eating in one posting.

New Orleans was one of those places I had been itching to visit for years and years. I am a truly bad traveler. I have lists of places I’d like to go, but I hate to fly and constantly come up with excuses why I can’t go. Well, fate intervened here and New Orleans was my – I am going to use the B word again – birthday present.

This should have been written long ago, but there are a lot of … hmmmm … ‘feelings’ I have about this trip and needed to let some of those … hmmmm … ‘feelings’ subside before writing. You wouldn’t have liked it any other way. Trust me.  Here we go …

Our first stop was Cafe du Monde.

Spoon told me if I didn’t send a photo of a plateful of beignets as soon as I arrived there would be a melting of our cutlery bond. Very crowded.

The menu is on the side of the napkin holders. Not that there is much of one. I mean, really, what else do people go to Cafe du Monde for? Would you like beignet, beignet or beignet? Coffee or hot chocolate. Our waiter was new – in fact, his first day – 9 people, 1 or them a cranky person meant 9 drinks, 4 plates of beignets, and 6 hard boiled eggs (Marx Brothers humor totally lost on waiter). Life is at an easier pace in New Orleans. Not an easy concept for a box of cutlery from New York – especially that tarnished one in charge.  When asked for the check the poor befuddled waiter said ‘It comes to $25.00′. That was met with, ‘Well, can I see how you arrived at that number? Don’t you have it written down?’ Thank goodness for technology and cell phones with calculators, quick add it up, add it up. Crisis averted!

If you aren’t covered in powdered sugar after this, you haven’t done it right. The beignet are slightly crisp on the outside, tender and sweet on the inside. They’re covered in powdered sugar. Think zeppole, but not round. Think funnel cake, but not in a spider web shape. Just think any fried dough you have had and – voila – beignet!

Our first dinner was at John Besh’s Luke. Luke is located in the Hilton St. Charles in the Central Business District. When you pass through the revolving doors you are transported back in time to the type of Franco-German brassieres that once called New Orleans home. The ceiling fans are all connected by a belt and pulley system. Beautiful wood paneling, newspaper racks, specials written on the blackboard. We excitedly waited for our table, what a lovely place, this would be great.

The hostess came along and was ready to show us to our table. We walked through the wonderfully nostalgic restaurant, gazing at the piles of fresh seafood. Wait! Where are we going? We passed through this room. Down a little corridor, up a few steps, and into a room. An afterthought really. There were only 2 positives about this room – the floor was beautiful and you could see into part of the kitchen. Well, you could if your table wasn’t all the way  stuck in a corner next to a linen closet.

Our waiter, whose name escapes me, came over with menus. We ordered drinks – he called me babe (REALLY!?!) – and disappeared. When we finally were able to flag his attention long enough to order drinks, we then waited a ridiculous amount of time for the drinks. They seemed to arrive only after we managed to flag down a busboy to get our waiter who said – ready for this – ‘oh, you didn’t get them yet?’

Finally our drinks arrived and as our waiter – whose name I sure began with an O – began to leave without taking out order, we grabbed him. Who knows, he might have completely disappeared. I watched him be attentive to all the tables in the main part of the Siberia room, but we seemed to be treated like the wicked stepchildren.

Fortunately, the food saved the night. Although the service was abysmal, the food was amazing. I don’t have a lot of descriptions here. Fork’s writing and photographing food seems to be the source of a great deal of amusement to some of this cutlery drawer. This is amazing as these very people have never read a word of what I write – but I digress.

Each night has a special dish. This being a Thursday night, the special was Smoked Brisket with a horseradish sauce ravigote and bouillon potatoes. The brisket fell apart as you cut through it. It was tender and very tasty. The potatoes in the sauce ravigote were very good, a slight tang from the sauce and a nice flavor and texture from the potatoes.

The Moules et Frites were c’est magnifique. Prince Edward Island mussels swimming in a garlic, thyme and white wine bath, with a smattering of parsley. The mussels were tender and oh so flavorful. The black cast iron mussels pot they came in was too big to fit into a purse! The frites were spectacular. Crispy, tender, salty, perfect.

Shish Kebab Stick had the Cochon de Lait. Wonderful pressed roast pork sandwich served with cherry mustard and a cone of fries. The fries were fabulous. The sandwich was huge and fresh and delicious and filled with lots of yummy ingredients.

Fork ordered the Poulet Grand Mere. (‘Oh, sweetie, that’s a great dish. You will love it.’ Now I am sweetie?)  Roasted chicken, jus naturel, Allen Benton’s bacon and whipped potatoes.  All my favorite things in one dish. The chicken was melt in  your mouth fabulous. The bacon added a rich saltiness to the delicate, tender chicken. And whipped potatoes? Does it get better than that?

Knork ordered the Shrimp Farci. First stuffed with crabmeat, the shrimp are then fried. Knork said they were very good. They were served with green beans, carrots, and brussel sprouts, and new potatoes. All in all a satisfying dish.

Preservation Hall is an absolute must for any jazz lover. Get there early. Buy the advance seating. Stop in Pat O’Brien’s next door and get Hurricanes to occupy you while waiting.

Knork, Shish Kebab Stick and Fork had breakfast at Cafe Beignet on Royal Street. I had Cajun Hashbrowns – andouille sausage, potatoes, bell peppers, red onion, served with scrambled eggs and toasted french bread. Great way to start the day.

And of course, more beignet! Not terrible, but nowhere near as yummy as Cafe du Monde.

Knork, Shish Kabob Stick and Fork, spent the day walking around and listening to some amazing street musicians.

At some point we ended up on Bourbon Street and walked over to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Lafitte’s is said to be the oldest structure in the United States used  as a bar. We were told by an old friend, that Lafitte’s had the BEST Hurricanes in New Orleans. If you have never had a Hurricane, they are DEADLY. Light rum, dark rum, there’s grenadine syrup, passion fruit juice, orange juice, lemon juice. Yum. A little too yum. In New Orleans you can take your drinks out of the bar and walk around with them. You could, conceivably, drink this very quickly while walking around and then fall down. Well, we fell down back at Lafitte’s again for Voodoo Daquiris – supposedly grain alcohol and bourbon and what quite possibly was grape Kool-Aid, and frozen. We needed a nap after this second round.

But between the alcohol binge and getting ready for dinner, the troops decided they absolutely had to walk back to the other side of the French Quarter for margaritas at El Gato Negro.

Not quite sure why, in a town known for Pimm’s Cups and Hurricane’s people felt having a Margarita was so important, but here we were. Not terrible margaritas, but certainly not the best. Might have been by this time Fork was full of a lot of things not related to food or drink.

Dinner was at Emeril’s New Orleans. Again, difficult to go out with 9 people. Difficult to place a table for 9 people. Difficult to make all people happy which was seriously evidenced by the dour sour faces around the table. The food was very good. The service a little difficult. I really have difficulty with staff that (A) hover and (B) are too quick to be snatching glasses, bottles, dishes, etc off the table. Go away.

There was issue with the formal service, all entrees being placed in front of diners at the same time. Personally, I like that sort of dinner service in a linen restaurant. Would I expect the same at Johnny’s Po Boys? Nope.

Disgruntled company aside, the food was really good. Fork ordered the Sweet Barbeque Glazed Salmon. This was served over an andouille potato hash with crispy onions on top.  The salmon was fabulous. Needed a vegetable on the plate, something with a little color. I wish I could telly ou about everyone else’s meal, but I can’t.

Apparently, this group of cutlery has cajun cuisine and southern cuisine, as well as the mallet crab bashing of Maryland, confused. But I managed, with the help of the fabulous concierge at our hotel, to find a place for lunch the next day to satisfy everyone.

Enter Fiorella’s at the French Market. Very rustic and plain. Truthfully, the type of place that would be called a hole in the wall. But the food is fantastic! Inside there are large tables and bright colors.

We started off with Fried Pickle Chips. Not sure why. After tasting, not sure why I was hesitant. The cornmeal crust cut some of the tang from the pickle. The pickle chip stayed crisp inside, and the coating was crisp too. They served ranch dressing along side as a dipping sauce.

There had been a serous yearning for gumbo, and Fiorella’s hit the spot. Made with a thick roux that is long simmered and full of shrimp, crawfish and sausage. There’s a slight kick to the gumbo. Very filling and delicious.

Knork ordered the Muffuletta. Really a big thick Italian sandwich made on a round loaf od bread. The sandwich is filled with an olive spread, salami, capicola, pepperoni, ham emmantaler, and provolone. Big sandwich with big flavors.

Most of the group ordered the Fried Chicken. That could be ‘nuf said, but that’s really impossible for me to do. The crust was salty and shattering. The chicken inside was tender and juicy. It was absolutely perfect. Served on the side were red beans and rice. The first meal where everyone was actually happy – how’s that for a shocker.

Now, dinner this night was supposed to be at Cochon. Wonderful, delicious, beautiful Cochon. But this lot really was difficult to deal with and Cochon was not to be. Instead, we went to the ever tourist popular and saturated Napoleon House (can you tell how much this piece of Cutlery loves tourist places?)

Now, that aside, the Napoleon House is steeped in history, but not the history you would think given the name. Napoleon house was first occupied by Nicholas Girod, who was the mayor or New Orleans in the early 1800s. He apparently offered this home to Napoleon as a refuge during his exile. Napoleon never came, but the name stuck!

Napoleon House is famous for their Pimm’s Cups, one of Fork’s most favorite libations. Please keep them coming, this is going to be a bumpy ride. The interior is much the same as it’s been for the 97 years the Impastato family has owned it. Wooden tables, wooden benches, dark, abrupt service.

The menu was nothing special (and not Cochon). There were sandwiches, salad, gumbo and jambalaya (which they ran out of). Given little of a choice, and certainly nothing enticing, Fork ordered the Muffuletta. Fork was hungry. Fork got through it. It was not good. Another Pimm’s Cup, please!

This being our last night in NOLA, I thought a nightcap on Bourbon Street would be fun, but apparently I am too old, too boring, or too unimportant to invite along! I went back to the hotel with Knork and the old(er) folk and sat in the hotel bar and had a hurricane. Everyone else apparently hit Popeye’s for Jambalaya.

Last day. Brunch before heading to the airport. Fork had made reservation at Mr. B’s Bistro, a casual, intimate restaurant with a fabulous jazz brunch. Trumped again. Commander’s Palace.

Talk about your tourist spots! It gave me the same type of feeling as Tavern on the Green used to give me – mostly  tourists, good for a special occasion, but not as a regular place to go for dinner or brunch if you’re a native.

And if this group though the service at Emeril’s was fussy, this place made Emeril’s look like Mickey D’s. Very expensive. Over the top fussy service. Napkins were not simply folded when you got up from the table, they were replaced. Same with the water glasses. Waiters with white gloves.

That being said, the food was good. Great flavors. Great taste and texture combinations.

This meal definitely needed drinks. Bloody Marys seemed to be the house specialty, so let’s go with it! They were REALLY spicy and REALLY good (another please, quickly). The drinks are brought to the table, and the vodka poured in last from a bottle encased in ice. The rims of the glass are dipped in tabasco and a perry seasoned salt.

As an appetizer we had an Oyser and Absinthe Dome. Plump fresh osyters poached with bacon, artichokes, absinthe and cream, served under a flaky pastry dome. Lovely.

As a main dish Fork ordered the Eggs Couchon de Lait. Sitting in the bottom of the dish are pepper and rosemary biscuits. Over the top is smokey, slow cooked pork debris. On top of the pork were poached eggs with a bourbon-bacon fat (!?!) hollandaise. How could you NOT order this! It was sublime. Everything sits in a pool or deep, rich gravy. There were different taste combinations in every bite.

Shish Kebob Stick wasn’t thrilled with the menu, but did manage to find something suitable – Banana Pancakes. Big, fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Pieces of banana both inside and in between the pancakes. Toasted pecans sprinkled on the plate and a drizzling of maple syrup with bourbon. Yumm-o!

Another stellar dish was the spice encrusted, grilled pork chop served over black eyed peas that were cooked with bacon. Those are fried strings of sweet potato on top. Deep rich flavors. The bacon made the black eyed peas sing (get it? huh?)

The two shining desserts were the Strawberry Shortcake and Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. The strawberries were macerated in sugar and orange juice. Swimming in their own ruby red syrup. On top of the strawberries was a lightly sweet shortcake and whipped cream. This was gone in the blink of an eye! The bread pudding souffle was light and sweet. It arrived at the table puffed and golden. Our waitress came along and cracked the dome and poured in a warm whiskey cream sauce.

The other two, while still good, were not as spectacular. Knork had dulce de leche ice cream – which was really good – served inside a caramelly florentine tuile. The other was a Bailey’s icecream inside a dark chocolate tuile with toasted mini marshmallows.

This is a place that should be experienced for brunch – I understand other meals are a nightmare of waiting – at least once.

Next trip to NOLA will be with like minded foodies! Can’t wait!

Cafe du Monde ~ 813 Decatur Street ~ New Orleans, LA
Cafe Du Monde on Urbanspoon

Luke ~ 333 Saint Charles Ave. ~ New Orleans, LA
Lüke on Urbanspoon

Emeril’s New Orleans ~ 800 Tchoupitoulas St. ~ New Orleans, LA
Emeril's New Orleans on Urbanspoon

Fiorella’s Cafe ~ 1135 Decatur St. ~ New Orleans, LA
Fiorella's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Napoleon House ~ 500 Chartres St. ~ New Orleans, LA
Napoleon House Bar & Café on Urbanspoon

Commander’s Palace ~ 1403 Washington Ave. ~ New Orleans, LA
Commander's Palace on Urbanspoon

2 Responses

  1. “Next trip to NOLA will be with like minded foodies! Can’t wait!”

    Well, all I can say is that cutlery drawer didn’t seem very like-minded. Mr. B’s would have been fun. Think about March 2012. My DD#2 and I are tentatively planning to go then as we weren’t able to go last week. We LOVE N’Awlins.

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