Monday, March 7, 2011

Hungry in New Orleans

Since we began talking about going to New Orleans, I could not decide if I was more excited to experience Mardi Gras or all of the wonderful food New Orleans has to offer.  I quickly came up with things I MUST have while exploring The Big Easy ranging from fresh seafood, gumbo, and alligator.  I always enjoyed cajun and creole style cooking, but to have it in N'awlins would be an experience in itself.  After reading this, you may want to start looking into hotels and flights.  Happy Mardi Gras from Hungry in Cleveland!!

Our trip kicked off as any trip to the French Quarter should, sipping hurricanes in the courtyard at Pat O'Briens.  Pat O's is credited with inventing the hurricane back in the 1940's, when bars had a surplus of rum and shortage of other liquors.  The drink itself is a mixture of 4 oz "hurricane mix" and 4oz good rum according to the cocktail napkins.  The does not come from the storm, but the shape of the glass, similar to that of a hurricane lamp.  However, you only need one of this sweet, fruity cocktail, or else you may feel like you were hit by a hurricane.

After walking around exploring, we worked up quite an appetite.  For our first night, we decided to go a little more low key for dinner and try one of the small cafes we passes along the way.  We also wanted to allow ourselves enough time to make it over to St. Charles Street uptown for the first of many parades we would see that weekend.  After consulting a few tour guides, we decided on Cafe Maspero.  Like many of the other bars and restaurants in the French Quarter, Cafe Maspero served local favorites in an open air atmosphere.  We first decided to share an order of jambalaya, which was made from shrimp, andouille sausage, and rice.  I was expecting it to be more of a soup/stew type dish and was pleasantly surprised to see there was no both or sauce.  It was a great start to what was awaiting our palates over the next few days.  The creole spices brought out the mild flavor of the shrimp and the andouille added a nice zest.  For our entrees,I decided on the catfish sandwich, while my boyfriend went with the muffaletta, which is a HUGE sandwich with ham, capicola, salami, pepperoni, olive salad, and cheese on a large round bun.  In his words, think Italian sub on a sesame seed hamburger bun.  My catfish also came on the muffaletta bun.  Overall, very good and very fresh tasting.  I was served a side of horseradish which I mixed in with the ketchup and a dash of Louisana hot sauce.  One thing I noticed about NOLA is they love their hot sauce, and I will not complain about that.        


Day two began with a nice work out (afterall, we are still trainingfor Cleveland Half-Marathon) which was followed by a trip to the infamous Cafe Du Monde, for beignets.  Originally, I was pla forthe nning to wear a black outfit that day, but at the last minute, changed my mind.  Boy was I lucky!  Our little fried delights were covered in mounds of powdered sugar.  As for the beignets themselves, they were a little piece of heaven along the Mighty Mississippi.  As with many meals to come, we decided on sharing one order.  That way, we would have room to try other foods New Orleans was famous for.  As if we did not have enough sugar with the beignets, we headed to Aunt Sally's Pralines which was right next door.  Hopefully tomorrow, there will be a box of pralines and a king cakewaiting on my doorstep.  A king cake is a traditional Mardi Gras pastry which is very similar to a cinnamon coffee cake.  The top is decorated in the Mardi Gras colors Gold, Green, and Purple which are symbolic of Catholic liturgical seasons.  The Mardi Gras season begins on the feast of the Epiphany (gold), continuing through Ordinary Time (green), and ends on Fat Tuesday, the Day before the holy season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (purple).  In the cake, there is a plastic baby, representative of the Baby Jesus.  Whoever gets the piece with the baby must buy or make the king cake for next year. Since we were all wired up, we continued along through theFrench Market.  Overall, I was disappointed.  I was expecting something similar to my beloved West Side Market.  The French Maket was more of a large flea market, having few local food stands and more souvenir and art tables.  At least we were able to get rid of most of the sugar high and headed to our next dining destination, The Gumbo Shop.  Here we shared two more New Orleans classics, the shrimp po boy and seafood gumbo.  This was my favorite food of the whole trip and I will be attempting to recreate the po boy.  The po boy is hollowed out  french bread and stuffed with seafood or meat.  Most have fried meat or seafood, but ours was cooked in a creole style sauce.  The gumbo was simply amazing!  Gumbo is a thicker soup, usually made with a seafood or meat and the New Orleans "holy Trinity" of celery, bell peppers, and onion.  The perfect thickness and a great compliment to the sandwich. 

Day three began with a soggy cemetery tour through St. Louis Cemetary No. 1 and the jazz brunch at The Court of Two Sisters.  It was here where we filled up on more jambalaya, crawfish maison, and eggs benedict.  It was here, I learned how to eat the little guys pictured to your right.  Pinch the head, gently pull off the shell, and eat the tail.  So delicious too!  There was a jazz band playing setting the perfect atmosphere for more N'awlins favorites.  Since it was set up buffet style, we managed to eat our fill and still have room for pecan pie and bananas foster for dessert.  If you are ever in New Orleans, I would HIGHTLY recommend The Court of the Two Sisters Jazz Brunch.  I just hope the weather is nicer for you so you can enjoy the lovely courtyard.

 Nearing the end of the trip, I realized there were two more food related things we must do before we left, that being eat alligator and go to one of Emeril's restaurants.  It would have been very lucky if one of Emeril's three restaurants served gator, however that was the case.  By the time most of our brunch was digested, we set out to find gator somewhere in the French Quarter.  Our search lead us to the Riverfront Cafe, which served multiple options for enjoying this vicious reptile, including an alligator po-boy.  We opted for the blackened alligator appetizer since we just wanted a taste, and it was the right call.  Our waiter explained the meat comes from the gator's tail and is either cooked or made into sausage.  The blackened alligator bites tasted a little like chicken, only a little more chewy.  The seasonings used to blacken the gator brought out the taste of the gator which may have not been so prominent if we had it fried.  Would I east alligator again, you bet!!  Finally, our night started by going to NOLA, Emeril's French Quarter restaurant.  Since we did not make any reservations, we decided to go right when it opened at sit at the bar.  The idea worked perfectly and we enjoyed cocktails along with crab cakes and more gumbo.  As much as I would have enjoyed a full meal here, the cocktail/appetizer idea was a great experience.  We had a chance to chat with the bartenders about New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and Emeril.  We also met some great people also dining at the bar too.  The only thing that can be said for the food was BAM!  Everything one would expect from from Emeril.  The tomato bacon jam on the crab cakes really kicked this dish up a notch.  I also loved the corn coulis with the crab.  The gumbo had chunks of  ham and andouille sausage  I will admit though, the gumbo from Gumbo Shop was slightly better, but only by thismuch.  Maybe since I more of a seafood person?
Emeril's Crab cake
Emeril's gumbo

 Our last meal was breakfast before our flight at The Royal House of Oysters.  I wish I could say I had oysters for breakfast, but I went the more traditional route of poached eggs, bacon, cajun potatoes, and a biscuit.  Oysters were one thing I wanted to eat but never got around to.  The other being red beans and rice.  I guess I will just have to get that on my next trip!  New Orleans food did not disappoint by any means.  My best suggestion is to do a little background research, but just let your guidebooks and local references take you to places unplanned.  Also, asking the locals for their references always works too.  

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger!      


  1. Sounds like an amazing trip! So glad you got to Court of the Two Sister for the jazz brunch...that was one of my favorites down there!

    And of course, glad to have you back in CLE!

  2. OMG this post got me SOOOOOO EXCITED! Mike and I are going there in June and I've literally been googling restaurants DAILY! Cafe du Monde and Pat O'Brien's are on my list. Any other 'MUST STOPS" based on your trip - I'd love to hear them! (I'm drooling over that shrim po boy right now!)

  3. Sounds like so much fun! I haven't been to New Orleans since college but it was a great time. I definitely need to go back!

  4. I'm dying to go to Cafe Du Monde!!! Jay and I ALMOST went to New Orleans on vaca last year and changed our minds last minute. It's still on my "must visit" list!

  5. I heart Cafe Du Monde. I was in NOLA for 3 days and every day for breakfast I went there...and I think I went there for lunch one day too. I cannot wait to go back.

  6. Oh're on a foodies dream trip! Enjoy!