French Quarter Pounder: Eating in New Orleans

Mention New Orleans and most folks conjure up visions of Mardi Gras, jazz bands, Bourbon Street or maybe even the world champion Saints, but we think of food. Crazy good food.

An incredibly diverse, yet unique style cooking has developed through the combination of several cultures down here at the bottom of The Mississippi River. Elements of French, Spanish, Caribbean, Cajun, German and Italian cuisine are all represented in what has come to be known as Creole.

Several of Creole’s signature dishes are very similar to typical Cajun recipes and can share the same names and ingredients. Most start with “the holy trinity” of Louisiana cooking, bell pepper, onion, and celery. The names jambalaya…  CONTINUE READING >>

If I only had one day to eat in New Orleans, here's what I'd do

Mention New Orleans and most folks conjure up visions of Mardi Gras,
jazz bands, and Bourbon Street but we think of food. Crazy good food.

An incredibly
diverse, yet unique style cooking has developed through
the combination of several cultures down here at the bottom
of The Mississippi River. Elements of French, Spanish, Caribbean, Cajun, German and Italian cuisine
are all represented in what has come to be known as Creole.

Several
of Creole’s signature dishes are very similar to typical Cajun recipes and can share the same names and ingredients. Most start
with “the holy trinity” of Louisiana cooking, bell
pepper, onion, and celery. The names jambalaya, gumbo and étouffée
are found in both styles, but there are subtle differences between
the refined urban Creole versions and the more rustic Cajun.

Some folks
say that Creole cooking is more tomato-based. We have found
that to be generally, but not always, true. Another difference
can be the intensity of the seasoning or the darkness of the
roux — Cajun food tends to be spicier and darker than the Creole
counterpart. However, through the years the two have blended
and overlapped and they can be hard to differentiate.

Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana

We’ve found identifying them to be a little like Supreme Court
Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography — it’s hard to
describe but he knows it when he sees it.

Perhaps the best rule
of thumb is if you’re eating in New Orleans it’s probably Creole,
if you’re out in the bayou country, it’s Cajun.

We
most certainly have many favorite eateries when visiting
The Big Easy, but if we only had one day to eat our way
through The French Quarter it would go something like
this:

Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana

Neither
Cajun or Creole, world famous Café du Monde’s beignets
are our favorite way to start — or end — the day since it’s
open 24/7.

Almost
every culture has a version of sweetened deep fried dough
— donuts, sopaipillas, elephant ears, johnny cakes, spritzkuchen,
zeppole, youtiao, oliebollen,
chrusciki fat balls, and
beaver tails to name a few — beignets belong to the French. Café
du Monde utilizes heaping piles of powdered sugar as their sweetener
of choice.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, Louisiana

We
love them, but have learned to shake a good bit of the pulverized
crystals off before biting.

It is of utmost importance not
to inhale right as the beignets pass under the old schnozola
on their trip to the pie
hole.

Otherwise massive, sticky, sugary sneezing fits are sure
to result.

We washed
down our delectable dough balls with cups of café au
lait. The coffee, in typical New Orleans style, is blended with
chicory and mixed with warmed milk. Très magnifique!

Central Grocery in New Orleans, home of the muffuletta

For
us, lunch in New Orleans can only mean one thing, muffulettas.

The mere thought of a muffuletta, generally pronounced “muff-uh-let-uh,”
will get us doing a Fats Domino impression, we’ll be “Walking
to New Orleans”
from wherever we might be.

Legend has it that the sandwich was invented by Signor Lupo Salvadore
to feed the local Sicilian dock workers when he opened Central
Grocery on Decatur Street back in 1906.

We’re
not exaggerating — this truly is the best sandwich ever
in the entire history of the known universe, and the unknown
as well.

When God wants a sandwich, he goes to Central Grocery in New Orleans for a muffuletta

Two secrets make the original Central Grocery version
almost impossible to duplicate.

The bread, a round loaf of Italian, that somehow seems impossible
to bake outside the city limits of New Orleans, and the olive salad spread which no one has ever managed to match. Without these
a muffuletta is merely a salami, Italian ham and provolone cheese
sandwich.

We took
our spot in the ever-present line at the back of the store to
await the delivery of our round mound of deliciousness. Muffulettas
are cut into quarters (a French Quarter Pounder!) and sold by
the whole or half loaf.

That’s it, no menu, no substitutions
(what are you crazy?), just paper wrapped, ready-to-chow heaven.
A handful of chairs line a counter, but most of the muffs leave
the store to be consumed elsewhere.

When God
wants a sandwich, Central Grocery is where he gets it.
Yes, there are copycat
muffulettas all over town — some of them pretty good — but
we have yet to find one that measures up to the original.

Wisteria in full bloom at The Court of Two Sisters restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana

When
suppertime rolls around, there are any number of extraordinary
restaurants to choose from.

But for old-style New Orleans
ambiance to go along with
some outstanding food, we had to hit the Court of Two Sisters in the heart of The French Quarter.

The outdoor seating is a phenomenal
setting for fine dining.

Wisteria in full bloom at The Court of Two Sisters restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana

On a lovely
spring evening, the in-full-bloom wisteria formed
a fragrant, flowery canopy overhead.

Add to that the original
gas lights and fountains decorating the largest courtyard in
The Quarter and, though it might sound trite, magical is the
only adjective to describe the surroundings.

The
restaurant is named for Creole sisters Emma and Bertha Camors,
who opened a notions shop at this location back in the late
1800s.

Wisteria in full bloom at The Court of Two Sisters restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana

The Camors girls provided many of the
city’s finest ladies with formal gowns, lace and perfumes imported
from Paris. Today, brothers Joseph and Jerry Fein carry on that
tradition of only the finest for their customers.

The
Table d’Hote offers plenty of choices from hors d’oeuvres,
salads, entrees and desserts, but there are à la
carte selections available as well.

We started
with the turtle soup au sherry. It may sound a bit daunting
to be consuming turtle, but rest assured, with a dollop of sherry
added tableside just before our spoons dug in, it’s a chance well
worth taking.

Next, the
Caesar salad, prepared tableside, is not to be missed.
Not only is it a good show, but the end result is quite tasty.

Another highlight was the shrimp and grits. Shrimp poached
with andouille sausage in a Creole meunière reduction
over a mound of melt-in-your-mouth grits really captures the
diversity of New Orleans. Creole meunière is a delectable
sauce made with fish stock, butter, Worcestershire sauce, lemon,
chopped parsley and a dash of cayenne pepper that blends perfectly
with the main ingredients of the dish.

Though
we hardly had room to stuff in another bite, we had to end our
meal with a New Orleans favorite, bananas foster. The waiter
brought a cart up to the table and began setting things aflame,
always one of our favorite pastimes. Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon
and bananas blazing in brandy, what’s not to like?

Once the
flaming booze had done its thing, vanilla ice cream got involved
and we nearly hurt ourselves.

A stomach can only hold so much.

So there
it is, our idea of a perfect day of eating across New Orleans.
Though all three of these places can be a tad touristy, many
locals frequent them too — a sign of a good place to strap
on the old feed bag.

David &
Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Louisiana!



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8 thoughts on “French Quarter Pounder: Eating in New Orleans”

  1. Awe New Orleans. That brings back a wonderful childhood memory. I have only been to New Orleans as a child of about 12 if I recollect correctly. My parents took me there to see the history. Apparently they had not been before and pre-thought taking a 12 year old down Bourbon street at night!
    The most memorable part was sitting in a restaurant and my father asking what the specialty was. The waitress responded ba-owl-ed shrimp! My father must of asked her 3 times to repeat this with the same response each time! Finally, a bit frustrated, he asked the waitress how the ba-owl-ed shrimp was prepared so then maybe he would understand what she was talking about!
    She looked at my father, frustrated herself, and said, "You put the shrimp in da water and ba-owl it."
    I never thought boiled shrimp would be so difficult to order! We laughed for days about that.
    After dinner we started strolling down Bourbon Street and all the doors were open and after seeing an eyeful my parents quickly rushed me away and that was the end of New Orleans at night!
    I would love to go back now as an adult and try all the wonderful cuisine and experience the culture there.

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