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New Orleans, Louisiana


New Orleans was somewhere that J had been to and I had been to but never together.  As culinary travelers, it’s always been a food destination for us but in the past years, between traveling through Europe and the Caribbean, domestic travel just kept falling lower on our list.  When we were given the opportunity to judge the World Food Championships last week, we took it as a sign and booked travel dates to explore New Orleans before and after our stay in Orange Beach, Alabama where the competition was being held.

We arrived to New Orleans around 10 pm on a Saturday.  After we checked into our hotel and unpacked, I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of battling the Saturday night party-goers but my rumbling belly had other plans.  We weren’t set to pick up our rental car until the next morning so on foot, we sought the comfort of a hot bowl of beans and rice.  Somehow, we found ourselves on bourbon street.  A few folks recommended Bourbon House for its crab fingers but as it wasn’t open, an ancient door man who exclaimed he’d lived in New Orleans all his life coaxed us to go to Oceana which by its close proximity alone was certain to provide some respite.


It was about midnight before I was tucking into a combo plate of étouffée, jambalaya and my coveted beans and rice.  Being entranced by all the buskers and flashing lights will do that.


Living in St. Croix has really thrown a monkey wrench into sleeping in.  It gets so bright so early at home that despite my best vacation-mode efforts, I found myself waking up super early.  J often gets up even earlier…and goes on a 4 mile hike which makes me sweat just thinking about it but I digress.  We woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed as the previous nights warm amalgamation of spices and heat seriously gave me life.  Oh, and that lofty crusty bread that accompanies every meal to sop of every drop of your sauce?  Excuse me while I salivate just thinking about it.  The first morning was dedicated to seeking out the famous Cafe Du Monde, which if I’m being honest was not write sonnets-slap-yo-mamma-scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs amazing.  It’s pretty straightforward.  Fried dough with mounds of powdered sugar.  However, I did quite enjoy the chicory laced coffee.



The next morning we went to Cafe Beignet after reading reviews about their much shorter wait time and larger beignets.  I’ll say that though the line at Cafe Du Monde looked insane, we weren’t in it for longer than 10 minutes.  What Cafe Beignet has it going for it is that we literally walked right in and received our order within that same time frame.  As for their beignets, they are a bit larger and I found them to be fluffier.


Dotted between restaurants were some local breweries and spots for famous libations.



The Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House was light and refreshing and the establishment itself was so charming that I felt a twinge of regret for filling my belly with so many beignets as I watched order upon order of muffulettas come out.  Next time.

We also visited Hotel Monteleone, for sazeracs, which has a carousel bar, the Nola Brewing Tap Room, the Courtyard Brewery, which features a rotating food truck list and Lafittes Blacksmith Shop which is said to be the oldest bar in the U.S.

Naturally, I was drawn to New Orleans for the food but I was pleasantly delighted with just how much genuine talent there was on the streets.


The Rossi Gang who played their heart out as I sat on the curb enjoying my 5th bag of pralines.


We went to the Bourbon House for those crab fingers everyone kept telling me about and boy am I glad I did.  My regrets in life?  Not ordering more and not soaking up every last bit of sauce with every last crumb of bread.

For supper, we had enjoyed the oyster happy hour at Pascale Manale which was great.  Their famed BBQ shrimp however, was not.  I don’t know if we just went on a bad day but I found both shrimp and sauce to be flat, under-seasoned and greasy.


We spent several nights just wandering the streets and absorbing the spirit of the city.  I’ve seriously been contemplating spending half the year in New Orleans and the other half in St. Croix.  That’s saying a lot considering how much I adore our little rock with its inconveniences and all.


Out of pure convenience, we popped into Drago’s for their charbroiled oysters.  They’re said to have been invented there and they did not disappoint.


Smoky, sweet and salty, these succulent little bites were tasty and satisfying.  I urge you to try oysters in every different way if you don’t think you’re a fan.  It’s incredible how unique each take on oyster preparation transforms them from one way to another.  My love of oysters has been further solidified as we spent a large portion of our trip in Orange Beach learning all about cultivating oysters.  More on that in a couple blog posts.


There was so much more left on my list that we didn’t get to do as our judging obligations had to prioritized.  Fancy multi-course lunches, $.25 cent martinis, po-boys, crawfish boils {wasn’t the right season anyways} and alligator to name a few.  I suppose that just means that I have to return sooner rather than later.  I’m ok with that.

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