"What? We're only going to New Orleans for one day??"
That's exactly what I said when my parents told me about our spring break plans. I mean we have a whole week and we're only going to spend 1 day of it in New Orleans? We usually only go for 2-3 days, which is perfect, but I was extremely pessimistic about going for less than 24 hours.
I was sure that there was absolutely no way we would have time to do anything besides eat and sleep (which is almost good enough for me), but what about the music, and the shopping, and the praline tasting, the beignets, and watching the street performers?
Turns out, you can do NOLA in one day. And if I'm being 100% honest, it was by far the best New Orleans trip I have ever gone on. Here's what went down:
My mom, dad, one of my brothers, and cousin piled in our car around 9:00 AM Wednesday morning. I got pushed to the very back, as always... We stopped to get my parents coffee from McDonalds.
It was the lightest any of us had ever packed. Ever. And it still looked like we were going for a week.
We got to New Orleans around 1:00 PM. Stopped by the W in the French Quarter to drop off our car and check in, and then walked down a couple of streets to find a casual lunch place. My mom wanted try something different instead of our usual Felix's oyster and po-boy lunch we do every time we first get to New Orleans.
We eventually found a little place on a corner of a very lively street-- I forgot the name, but it was just a down-to-earth cajun & creole restaurant. I got the biggest plate of red beans & rice and loved every bit of it. Definitely the best I've ever had.
|Red Beans & Rice + Smoked Sausage|
Then we walked around for another hour or two, popped into a few stores, bought some earrings... We watched a couple of different bands and street performers, and witnessed a group of college kids doing the electric slide to a jazz band.
After a while my dad, cousin, and brother went back to the hotel, and my mom and I looked at a few more stores on the street across from the hotel. We went into a chocolate shop and sampled pralines and fudge and toffee. We found the best coconut praline ever. It was divine.
|Latte from Spitfire Coffee|
We headed back to the hotel to refresh and get ready for dinner, which I was more than excited for! The past three times I've been to New Orleans, we have gone to the same dang restaurant, Irene's Cusisine, which is amazing... but my mom and I were begging to try something different.
After getting ready we went down to the bar at our hotel, I got an insanely good mojito (virgin of course), and we sat out in the lounge area of the hotel courtyard.
|Courtyard at the W|
We sit down at our table, I already know what I wanted... The $72 dollar 5 course tasting menu of farmer's market vegetables. I contemplated on whether I should splurge or not, and decided it was worth it. I offered to pay for $50 dollars of it with my own money.
|Tasting of Farmer's Market Vegetables|
You know it's going to be an amazing restaurant when they bring you free food... just saying...
The waiter brought out a complementary treat from the chef for dining there. The perks of extremely expensive restaurants: FREE Parmesan Quail Egg Custard. It was divine.
|Parmesan Quail Egg Custard + Garlic Crisps|
It was a win-win for me.
|Blue Crab Gnocchi + Parmesan + Truffle|
My first and second course came out with the gnocchi (they brought it out to me 2 courses at a time followed by dessert so it would go by quicker, since I was the only one at our table who ordered a 5 course meal). Both were absolutely amazing, but the soup was my favorite. The garlic was so sweet and caramelized in it, and the creaminess of the soup really helped settle the bitter/strong flavor garlic naturally has. The brioche & quail egg was genious. Everything was amazing so far.
|Sun Choke & Roasted Garlic Soup + Quail Egg Brioche|
|Charred Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad + Whipped Ricotta + Citrus + Horseradish|
My third and fourth course came out with everyone's main course. The cappellacci was incredible. The sauce had this deep, rich sweetness to it that lingered long after each bite. None of us could tell what it was, except for the fact that it was delicious. The fennel was just as good. I was and am still amazed at the crazy yet perfectly compatible flavor combinations at this restaurant.
|Field Green Cappellacci + Pot Liquor Emulsion|
|Grilled Fennel + Truffle + Black Trumpet Mushroom|
No one ordered a dessert (I still took a picture of the menu because everything sounded SO good), but I did get one for my last course. By far the best part of my entire meal. Let me just say, I am in love with typically savory ingredients in ice cream. Example: my sweet corn and basil ice cream.
The rosemary ice cream was the best ice cream I've ever had (and I've had a lot). All of the flavors were so insanely amazing together. I'm a huge savory and sweet combo person, and this restaurant definitely satisfied that craving. The menu was truly an inspiration for my cooking!
|Dessert Menu at Restaurant August|
|Grapefruit Pavlova + Pistachio Meringues + Rosemary Ice Cream + Local Honey|
Finally, the waiter brought out another treat for us-- white chocolate truffles and pralines. It had been a very satisfying meal, to say the least. And to top it off, our waiter told the chef about my blog (which my dad told our waiter about first, as I blushed, embarressed), and then he invited me back into the kitchen! It was a super cool experience.
|White Chocolate Truffles + Jasmine & Black Currant Filling|
|Me, My Mom, and the Executive Chef at Restaurant August|
Least Favorite: Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad
Oh, but the night wasn't over yet... With full stomachs we went down to Bourbon Street. My parents attempted to sneak me into an 18 & up bar to listen to music, and failed miserably. We walked around a little more and then decided it was time for the best part about being in New Orleans...
Beignets! Yes, we always get beignets after dinner, despite how full we might be. Honestly, late night beignets are 1000x better than morning beignets. And morning beignets are pretty amazing. Actually, beignets are pretty amazing at any hour of the day.
My mom tried to make us settle for sharing an order or two instead of each getting our own.
My dad and I laughed. There's no such thing as sharing beignets. Sorry.
|Beignets at Café du Monde|
Our piping hot, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle pillows of perfectly fried dough drenched in powdered sugar came out shortly after ordering them, which was a first. I usually get a café au lait with my beignets, but I was more in the mood for black coffee at the moment.
How to eat beignets the pro way: Shake off a little powdered sugar. Dunk in coffee for 3 seconds (you have to count). Re-dip in powdered sugar. Eat. Don't be afraid to get covered in powdered sugar. There are no manners when it comes to eating beignets. You'll thank me.
We made our way back to the hotel. It was a little past midnight when we got in. My parents fell straight asleep. I stayed up a little while. We had an early morning.
We woke up at 7:00 AM Thursday to get ready for the day. I was going to Loyola's new culinary program to tour it and the campus, and my cousin-in-law who works there helped us get in touch with the professor in charge of it. He offered for me to sit in his class at 9:30. I was nervous and embarressed, but I accepted.
We grabbed our luggage and checked out of the hotel, searching for coffee near the campus. Finally, we found a little café and went to go get coffees, thinking we had plenty of time. We didn't. I ended up being late to my first fake day of college. Great.
The professor was really nice, though, and it was actually an extremely interesting class. He's apart of the English department at Loyola and was teaching a writing/literature class based on books about food and their relation to the culture around them. The book they were focusing on is called "My Year of Meats" by Ruth Ozeki.
The culinary program at Loyola is in it's first year and is hoping to grow into a food culture program, which I think is really cool. Hopefully, in the next 2 years it will grow into something that would suit me because my dream has always been to go to school in New Orleans.
After the class ended at 10:45 AM, we went to lunch at a restaurant called Superior Seafood to eat and watch the first round of March Madness. Awesome menu. And awesome food. We ordered a dozen and a half of oysters, thinking they were going to be normal sized. Nope. They were humungous, but probably the best raw oysters I've ever had. The bread was beyond good. I think I ate half of a loaf...
|Raw Oysters at Superior Seafood|
Already full off of oysters and bread, I ended up ordering a grilled salmon salad-- not New Orleans-y at all, but super good.
My mom got an amazing salad along with her crab and crawfish bisque, with melon, proscuitto, parmesan, onion, and a champagne vinaigrette.
|French 75 Salad at Superior Seafood|
|Grilled Salmon Salad w/ Roasted Vegetables, Charred Corn, & Sundried Tomatoes|
We piled back in the car around 1:00 PM and hit the road home to Mississippi. I was driving. Everyone was yelling at me. We didn't know how to get out of town. You can't even begin to imagine the stress.
In the end it had been the best trip to New Orleans I had ever been on. NOLA proved me wrong. It is possible to do and see it all in 24 hours.