#1 - Crawfish
Naturally, I had to have crawfish, since it's the season and my own Yankee-style attempts to have crawfish have been a bit unsatisfying. Karen promised me a traditional crawfish boil, and that's what I got. On Sunday morning, Miss Linda lugged in a 25-pound box filled with steaming crawdads, corn on the cob, bits of sausage and red potatoes. When I lifted the lid, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. They were hot and spicy and delicious. We peeled long after we had our fill, and the result was that I had enough to freeze and take home!!! Hooray!!! I happened to have crawfish several other times over my few days in New Orleans, including fried crawfish tails, crawfish pasta, and even eggs covered in crawfish etouffee, but these were the best, most of all because they were shared with old friends.
#2 - Barbecued Shrimp from Pascal's Manale
"The truth is the shrimp aren't really barbequed and I'm not sure where the name came from but who cares? It works and they will make your mouth water and make you come back over and over and wait for hours to sit down and peel. Peel? Yes, peel your own (it's all part of the fun... The shrimp come out and you see shrimp heads, you see shrimp tails, you see shrimp legs and you see them stewing in a bowl of garlic, butter and pepper with an aroma that makes your mouth water like no other. You pop the heads off then remove the shell, then you dip the shrimp into that special sauce and then into your mouth. Ohooooo. Then with the other hand, you break off some french bread and again, you dip it in. Ohhhooooo. Heaven!"
Heaven indeed, Don. Heaven indeed.
#3 - Crab Fingers from Mandina's
Mandina's is a mid-city neighborhood joint that I used to go to all the time when I lived in NOLA, and everytime I went, I ordered this amazing appetizer that 1) I've never been able to recreate, and 2) I've never seen or heard of anywhere else. Dozens of tender little crab fingers are sitting in a luscious garlic, butter, white wine and breadcrumb mix and as you dig down to get them, you are forced to lick every bit of it off your dripping fingers. Then you break off some french bread and again, you dip it in...sound familiar???? Thank GOD they reopened after Katrina.
#4 - Dinner at Cochon
Cochon is the place to be these days in New Orleans and everyone knows it. Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, the New York Times, they've all been buzzing about this place and Chef Donald Link for years now, so I knew we'd have to pay a visit. Karen and I were excited about the food while Joe was excited for the moonshine, and yes, they do have that on the menu, along with other typically Cajun dishes. And I do mean CAJUN. We were hungry and feeling adventurous, and everything we tried was delicious. The buzz is most definitely well-deserved. For appetizers we sampled fried alligator with chili garlic aioli (tasted a bit like chicken!), fried boudin with pickled peppers, and some great grilled andouille sausage served over grits with lima beans. I ordered the house specialty, Louisiana cochon (deliciously seared pulled pork - see photo) with turnips, cabbage and cracklins, and I loved every bite. Karen very much enjoyed the perfectly smoked beef brisket that was served with a horseradish potato salad. Joe dug into the oyster and bacon sandwich (the number one Louisiana "must-eat" according to Food and Wine) with gusto. We shared two casserole-style sides: macaroni and cheese, and crawfish with green tomatoes, both of which paired well with our meals and did not disappoint. We couldn't do dessert for being too full, but Joe and I toasted each other with a shot of "Catdaddy" moonshine that burned on the way down but had the surprising aftertaste of nutmeg. Next door, the newly opened Cochon Butcher offered specialty housemade cured meats and sausages with Cajun flair and of course, some of these goodies like tasso and andouille, found their way into my luggage. Next time you're in New Orleans, go to Cochon. It's a MUST.
A candy shop on the best shopping street in the Big Easy, Magazine Street, Sucre is new to me and I'm excited to say it lived up to its reputation. Their French macaroons (one of Oprah's favorite things, apparently!) are sweet and delicate and filled with velvety cream. Their handmade chocolates are almost too pretty to eat, but with flavors like thyme, passion fruit, Sicilian pistachio, and chai and Earl Grey teas, you must indulge. A bonus for me is their use of Harney's Teas, which are originally from Connecticut! We stopped by here while shopping one afternoon, then again for a late dessert (see photo) after Cochon. Fabulous!