Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Eating in NOLA

As much as I wish I could have tried more local cuisine, I was pleased with my first taste bud go-around in New Orleans.
Those of you who have read my posts know that Hard Rock t-shirts are collectable items for me. Everywhere I go, I have to buy one. Naturally, I visited HRC and found my debit card drifting out of my hands and into the hands of the cashier, purchasing a beautifully designed t-shirt. Complete with a photo of the French Quarter, it donned painted Mardi Gras masks and the words “New Orleans” scrawled along the picture’s edge.
Satisfied with my new item, I went back to the table to savor the deliciously good, and may I remind you, calorie-loaded pulled pork sandwich. As crazy as it sounds to some, I hate coleslaw; so naturally, it was not finding itself piled on top of the dripping pulled pork. Now, I know that some of you will probably say…”What?! You went and ate at the Hard Rock in New Orleans? Don’t you know that there are some amazing local restaurants down there??!”  Yes, I am fully aware of that, but unfortunately, the person I was with was not too keen on trying the true, authentic delicacies.
However, we did visit The Pearl Oyster House for lunch and had a delightful sandwich and later graced the ever-so-popular Pat O’Brien’s.  And before you ask, yes…I did get myself a Hurricane! That savory, red concoction was just what I needed. All 26 ounces were consumed and by the time I was finished, I understood why most people only drink one. Aside from my lovely liquid cocktail, I opted for the Shrimp Creole and let me tell you, I was in Heaven. Full of shrimp, white rice, and a creamy creole tomato sauce…it was like nothing I’d ever had before. Oh, and to top it off, the shrimp was mixed with garlic and herbs!
I’m truly convinced that to experience a place, one must experience its food. Now, as I said earlier, I realize HRC and Pat O’Brien’s are not “authentic” New Orleans dining; however, one place, that although it may be a tourist trap, it is a must for anyone traveling to New Orleans, is Café Du Monde.
Oh my word…when my mom went, she brought me back some beignets; unfortunately, they were just “okay” by the time I heated them up in the microwave. Sitting down at a table that had seen years and years of powdered sugar wear and tear, I readied myself for New Orleans finest. Before I knew it, a bowl full of white powder sat before me. I thought maybe I might have to search for my beignets due to the enormous amount of sugar; however, a small corner peeked out and I was instantly satisfied.
The fluffy fried dough was more than I could take. Although they tell you to “shake off the excess” I did not. That powdery goodness stay piled atop and after my bite, it looked as if I had just…well white nose, you get the picture. Laughing at my new look, I quickly brushed it off and continued to partake in the now 2 lovely beignets sitting in front of me.
All in all, the few selected restaurants we hit were pleasing to the palate. One thing I know for sure though is that the next time I visit New Orleans; my meals will consist of true, local eateries. As I said before, to experience a place is to experience its food. Most places do not have the joy of having specific foods for which they known, but New Orleans does.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

First Impressions of the Big Easy

Last week, I spent several days in New Orleans. Seeing as it was my first time visiting this historical city, I was anxious to delve into the chaos of Bourbon Street, the delicacies of Café Du Monde, and the history of a city that holds so many stories.
As some of you may know, it was the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament last week as well, so naturally, everywhere I looked, I ran into a blue-faced, super fan who was cheering constantly for their Kentucky Wildcats. Not so much a Kentucky Wildcat fan, I turned away and went about my business.
Leaving on Tuesday, the nine hour drive was enough to make my lower back ache and my poor behind numb. The headrest pushed my head forward and our car was so packed that there was no hope of reclining so I could partake in a nice nap. Needless to say, I was awake all nine hours and with each stop we made for gas, my butt was out of the car stretching and sighing in relief.

Arriving in NOLA around five o’clock, we checked into the hotel and enjoyed the fantastic view from our room. Staying at the New Orleans Marriott, having a corner room on the 29th floor, it provided us with two large windows – one overlooking Lake Ponchatoula and the other overlooking the French Quarter…not too shabby.
Seeing the Big Easy on the way in, I was a bit underwhelmed to be honest. Driving on Poydras Street, I saw the gambler’s haven, Harrah’s, but it wasn’t until Canal that I finally cracked a smile. Reminding me much of New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico wrapped up in one, I was quickly coming to like New Orleans.

Judging by the sound of my stomach, we agreed it was time to go grab some grub. For those of you who read my previous post about my fascination with Hard Rock Café t-shirt, we opted to eat dinner there.  Grabbing my collectible t-shirt, designed with Mardi Gras masks and a drawing of the French Quarter, I was satisfied with my purchase. The pulled pork sandwich tasted delicious after a day of eating out of a snack bag and making a pit stop at Sonic for a quick lunch.
Before leaving for New Orleans, I had heard from many that it was best to always be on guard when walking the streets; however, I never for one single second felt paranoid or fearful. Granted, as with anywhere, there are certain places I wouldn’t want to be after dark, but I figure as long as I walk with a purpose and don’t pull a map out every five seconds, I’ll be fine.

Walking back to the hotel after dinner, I found myself taking in the shops around me and bobbing my head to the music that wafted into the streets from certain stores. That is one thing that I absolutely love and cannot get enough of…the music of New Orleans. Give me horns, the accordion, and the sounds of a washboard and I can be entertained for hours! I later bought a Zydeco cd which I must admit, has been played constantly in my car since my arrival back home.
Slipping into bed that night, I was excited to experience the days ahead in New Orleans. There was still much for me to see and do and I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.