On the November 11th I landed in New Orleans for American Heart Association’s largest conference, Scientific Sessions. Once our taxi dropped us off in the city, I was overwhelmed by the architecture, art, restaurants, and a strong sense of culture. After the conference was over, I stayed in New Orleans and my boyfriend flew down to meet me there for a mini fall vacation (which was great because I didn’t have to pay anything for my plane ticket). But this post isn’t about my time spent at the conference, or about having a little too much fun on bourbon street (maybe a little), but it is about the AMAZING food I had when I was there.
I have always loved Cajun flavors. Red beans and rice is something that I order (from Popeye’s) pretty often, but have never taken a minute to think of trying to make the dish on my own; not too sure why that is. But I made it a point when I was there, especially for business when I wasn’t paying for my meals, to try the staple dishes that are offered in New Orleans.
I guess first would be Seafood:
I lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for 23 years of my life, then moved to Dallas, and although I’ve been to the shore in New Jersey more times than I can ever remember, I didn’t try oysters (or learn I didn’t like them) until I was 23. The texture of raw oysters just throws me off, but, since I was in New Orleans, where oysters are everywhere, I thought I’d give them another chance and I’m so glad I did. The first night I was in New Orleans, we ate at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar. I took a leap of faith and split the chargrilled oysters with a coworker. As soon as I ate one, I immediately knew what I was going to eat for the rest of the trip. They weren’t like raw oysters: they were buttery and cheesy and so delicious. I ended up getting chargrilled oysters almost every day for the remainder of the trip, and when my boyfriend arrived, we found a local bar, Samuel’s Blind Pelican, that had the most amazing oyster happy hour for both raw and chargrilled.
At a dinner with my co-workers, we decided On Muriel’s Jackson Square because of the food. We didn’t know that there was an amazing history of the ghost of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan AKA Antoine who still resides there. Not only did we enjoy amazing wine, but we also had a three-course meal, and also ordered oysters. I ordered the soup du jour which was amazing, then came the bouillabaisse which was so delicious, but I had to save room for my flour-less chocolate cake.
After the dinner, the manager showed us around the restaurant and told us a little more about the spirit of Antoine. Story has it, after the house was turned into a restaurant, he got angry and started breaking dishes and moving tables. When a medium asked him why, his answer was because there is a party every night with fine food and wine in his house, and he isn’t invited. Ever since then, there has been a table set for Antoine and a guest at the bottom of the stairs so he knows that he is always invited. If you go there, I also recommend going upstairs to the seance room after dinner. It is a lovely room with plush red seating and exotic decorations.
Cheers at Antoine’s table
Another dish I knew I had to have while in New Orleans was the seafood gumbo. This meal was ordered in the Sheraton on the room service menu after a few very, very (very) long work days at Scientific Sessions. On their menu, it does say that it is an award-winning gumbo, so I went ahead and ordered it. I also got the bacon Brussels sprouts to go with it and oh my gosh, they both were fantastic. The gumbo was thick and delicious, with a hint of spice to it. I could have eaten at least three more big bowls of both the gumbo and the Brussels sprouts.
When my boyfriend arrived, we tried to have a few meals that were not oysters from the oyster happy hour, so we made dinner reservation at Irene’s Fine Cuisine after our French Quarter Phantoms walking vampire and ghost tour. The ghost tour was amazing. I knew there would be a lot of ghost stories since it is such an old city, but I didn’t realize the long history of vampires! We worked up an appetite walking around the city, but still had to wait for our reserved time at Irene’s, so we stopped in a swanky little jazz bar called Bourbon O and enjoyed listening to some great New Orleans jazz.
When we arrived at Irene’s, I was instantly in love with the ambiance. It’s an Italian restaurant tucked away on a corner. Although it looked pretty small from the outside, it was quite spacious inside. We started off with the Oysters Irene (I think it’s a rule that you need oysters at every meal?) and a bottle of Merlot. I ordered the crevette which was offered with a white fish that evening, and my boyfriend got the soft shell crab. Both of our dishes were phenomenal. If I ever make it back to New Orleans, I will be sure to go there again.
The first day I was in New Orleans, I needed lunch badly, so a co-worker and I went to a local sandwich shop called Cochon Butcher. I ordered the muffaletta, which I didn’t realize was a very popular sandwich in NOLA, and also their mac and cheese. The sandwich was huge, and the mac and cheese was bubbling hot when it was delivered. I knew as soon as I walked into Cochon butcher I would have to bring my boyfriend. I would highly recommend eating here.
One morning I was feeling particularly zealous and woke up early enough to get a breakfast that wasn’t Starbucks before I had to go into the convention center. A co-worker and I decided on The Ruby Slipper Cafe on Canal Street which was eggs Benedict heaven and an iced coffee. It was an amazing way to start the day.
And of course, a trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without beignets and chicory coffee, iced for me, from Café Du Monde.
I could go on and on about the great time we had going on a vampire and ghost tour in the French Quarter, or all the great jazz clubs on Frenchmen Street, but maybe I’ll leave that for another post.