New Orleans Nostalgia: My Favorite Restaurants
Food and Spice
Have you ever wondered why the meals served in most restaurants are so bland? The main reason is the lack of proper spices. The food is cooked with salt and pepper, and onions if you are lucky, with fat thrown in for flavor. Add gobs of tomato sauce or gravy and there you have it. I suppose the reason you see hot sauce bottles on restaurant tables is to cater to those epicureans who either want some kick to their meal, or the spice that is missing to add real flavor. If there were a rack of various dry condiments included, you might be able to tweak the flavor up with substantial improvements, to say the least.
My theory is that the majority of meals prepared by uninspired chefs are designed for geriatric taste buds. That is why you will see the chile, or “hot” symbol next to certain entrees. Since the popular method of creating flavor is spicy heat, most people have to settle for meals they have to ‘doctor up’ themselves.
In New Orleans, I believe most of the senior citizens that have lived there for a lifetime, grew up with, and became accustomed to eating, spice-flavored foods. So they are more adept to handle the intense flavor of Cajun, or Creole dishes. Even if the heat exceeds the tolerance level of the majority of senior citizens.
A Typical New Orleans Restaurant
I suppose most tourists hit town looking for the type of meal they will never find back home. Gumbo, Po-Boys, Crawfish Etoufee, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, and other popular culinary delights take the spotlight.
My wife loves the local favorite called the Mufaletta sandwich. It is made from a loaf of bread about 8 to 10 inches in diameter filled with ham and cheese and lots of special olive dressing. It is so big, she can only eat 1/4 of the meal at a sitting. So for her, it is 4 meals in one. My favorite Po-Boys are either the fried oyster with Remoulade Sauce, or the roast beef with that delectable gravy infused into the meat. The trouble is, if you don’t eat it right away, the delicate texture of the famous French bread gets soggy. Still tastes delicious, but gooey just the same.
Our favorite restaurant for these sandwiches is Ponchartrain Po-Boys in Mandeville (across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans). They always seem to make their meals perfect and it is a very crowded place at lunch hour. We love to stop there before we make our return trips back to Florida and eat half our meal there and the other half on the way home. Yumm!
The Best Meals I Ever Ate
My favorite restaurant in the French Quarter is Antoines‘. We only went there once with my sister and her husband, but the meal I had there was delectable. I ordered the Chateaux Briand steak and the meat was so full of flavor, I think my taste buds were in hog- heaven. I followed the main course with dessert. That choice happened to be Baked Alaska (Omelette Alaska Antoine), and it was scrumptious. I never went back, because the meal for 4 of us topped the $350. price tab, which was a little heady for my pocket book at the time. Nevertheless, I plan to return some day. My next favorite place to eat is a restaurant called K Paul’s. It was started by the local famous chef, Paul Prudehomme. I took my wife there for our anniversary one year, and it was a delightful experience. When we arrived at our seating, the table cloth was covered with little red and gold hearts prepared special for us and our special day of celebration. Our delicious meal was followed by a Dixieland band that came marching through and played a number at our table. Perfect!
The two local favorites for brunch are Brennan’s and The Court Of Two Sisters. Their main claim to fame is the creation of massive buffet-style breakfast dishes that encompass all the best of local fare. The Court’s masterpiece is their Classic Eggs Benedict prepared right before your eyes. Their Hollandaise sauce is to die for. Sitting in the courtyard among the trees with the sunlight peaking through makes for romantic overtones to fill the senses. There are other choices to fill your plate, but I tend to focus on the specific meals that center on the desires of my palate. Fruit salads, grits, peel-and-eat shrimp are other attractions, but they are secondary.
Iconic Cajun Seafood Dish
One of my all time favorite Cajun dishes is Crawfish Bisque. It is prepared by stuffing the Crawfish heads with a mixture of the tail meat and seasonings and cooked in a roux type bisque which is the thick soup-like sauce that the stuffed heads are made with. It is served over rice and is a very messy meal to eat. But man, is it delicious!
My mother made it once with one of her sisters. She said it was so much work, they never did it again. So I was consigned to either find it made fresh at a New Orleans restaurant or buy it frozen in one of the old time local grocery stores.
The store that I favored was called Langenstein’s. It is the oldest full-service grocery store in the area and they make most of their prepared meals onsite. Crawfish Bisque was one of their most popular favorites, and I loved getting the dish there. But they quit making it after Hurricane Katrina because most of their preparations staff left and never came back.
So I now get it at a restaurant called Mike Anderson’s. I can find it at their court-style outlet at the food-court in the Riverwalk alongside the Mississippi River down a bit from the French Quarter. Their version is not as good as I would like, but it is still delicious.
I realize there are other good restaurants with delicious food. But the ones I mentioned here are my favorites. If someone else wrote this article, they would have their own choices. It’s a matter of taste.
One dish I left out is Red Beans and Rice. My mom made the perfect example of that Southern Dish, but I have not found a restaurant in the area that matches the taste of hers. They have contests every year for the one with the best flavor, but I have not tasted the results prepared by any of the winners.
So my wife has learned how to make it using an old recipe and it is perfect. That means I don’t have to go searching anymore. She won’t tell me her secrets, but I allude to some of the clues in my blog entitled Red Beans Et Du Rizi.
So that’s it! Another Country Cooking Tale. Hope you found this blog interesting and where to look if you visit the Crescent City.