Where This Meets That
The first thing nearly everyone talks about when discussing New Orleans is the food. Everyone who has been there seems to gush with restaurant recommendations, and with good reason. We enjoyed some truly fantastic dishes during our stay. Christy and I split our dinners along the way, so we could try as many different dishes as possible.
So, for today’s Friday Five, I cover the highest of culinary highlights from our “escape to New Orleans,” in chronological order.
1) Palace Cafe (palacecafe.com)
This was a beautiful spot to enjoy dinner in, and the food was great, as well. Here, we tried our first ever Turtle Soup au Sherry as an appetizer, and it was delicious! My favorite entrée was the Andouille Crusted Fish, a pan-roasted sheepshead fillet drizzled in Crystal beurre blanc and chive aïoli sauces and served with rissole potatoes.
I enjoyed it so much that our server actually printed off the recipe for us. Since returning home, I’ve tried to reproduce it with cod but with miserable results. Perhaps another time, with a few minor tweaks and actual sheepshead fillets, but most likely, it will only be a pale reminder of the delicious original we enjoyed on our first night in New Orleans.
2) Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop (gumbostop.com)
As we planned our trip, some people recommended “touristy” places to eat, while others referred us to “any old mom & pop hole in the wall” for the best creole cooking. Chef Ron’s was definitely a case of the latter. We were heading out of the city to visit Oak Alley Plantation and realized we hadn’t eaten lunch. Heaven forbid we should miss a meal opportunity in New Orleans! So we dropped into Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop. And wow!
I think we literally wanted to try everything on the menu. The Boudin Balls made a delicious appetizer. The Jambalaya was very tasty, as well, but it was the Chicken and Sausage Gumbo that made my toes curl. I haven’t had much gumbo in my life, but this was, hands down, the best!
3) Jacques Imo’s (jacques-imos.com)
Funny thing happened when we stopped into Jacques Imo’s. During our flight, while Christy snoozed, I had struck up a conversation with the guy on the other side of me. He was on his way to cheer on Alabama at the Sugar Bowl but said he frequents New Orleans for work and gave me several recommendations for restaurants and activities around town. Jacques Imo’s was one of his recommendations, saying it was a drive from where we were staying but was well worth it.
The next evening, as we returned to New Orleans from Oak Alley, we decided to give this place a go. Now, the funny part: as soon as we walked through the door, we found ourselves face to face with the guy from the plane! He gave us a warm welcome (despite still shaking off his team’s Sugar Bowl demolition) and treated us both to a glass of wine (thanks again, Ryan, if you happen to read this!).
As for the place itself? Honestly, the food was good. Really good. We particularly enjoyed the Blackened Redfish with Crab-Chili Hollandaise. What impressed me the most, however, was the eclectic atmosphere and impeccable service.
The place was a feast for the senses. The bar at the entrance was covered, wall and ceiling, with random, framed pictures. As we waited to be seated, I sipped my wine and let my eyes absorb the assortment. A patron at the bar gently griped that there weren’t any TV’s, to which the bartender responded, “Nah, the owner wouldn’t ever allow TV’s in here.” The multitude of images all around us had distracted me from even noticing the lack of TV’s, and hearing of the owner’s emphatic position highlighted a certain “coolness” to the place. You want to watch something? Just look around.
Once the hostess called us to be seated, she escorted us through the kitchen and seated us next to a window that overlooked a separate dining room below. Yes, I said “through the kitchen,” and no, I’m not sure what kind of health code Louisiana has that it would allow that, but it was certainly one more interesting feature. As Christy and I deliberated between appetizers, a server suddenly appeared in the window next to our table (not unlike a Muppet) to voice his recommendation before disappearing just as suddenly. Honestly, the place was so visually rich that I don’t even think either Christy or I had noticed the window until then. It was all quite Dr. Seuss-like and memorable.
I mentioned the impeccable service. The servers were all very friendly, and the chef himself mingled casually throughout the dining room. When the server from the window soon reappeared on our level, he noticed our table was a little wobbly and immediately corrected it, without being asked. Christy and I each drank a ton of water, and our glasses never reached half empty. They even plugged in my iPhone to recharge while we dined. Just a truly stellar experience all around!
4) Court of Two Sisters (courtoftwosisters.com)
Talk about ambience! We kicked off our final day by partaking in this beautiful restaurant’s famous jazz brunch. Here, we dined on Shrimp Creole omelets, delectable BBQ ribs, Shrimp Etouffee, and more Turtle Soup au Sherry, while sitting only feet away from a soft jazz trio.
5) K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (chefpaul.com/kpaul)
As fortune would have it, our last meal in New Orleans was our best. Though we didn’t know it before we walked in, K-Paul’s is the home of famous Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme. Upon entering, we were promptly led to a spacious dining room upstairs, where we salivated over our menus.
We shared an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Caper Dill Remoulade that was out of this world. Also notable was the best cornbread I’ve ever tasted. The entrées apparently change daily, save for two: the Blackened Twin Beef Tenders with Debris, and the Blackened Louisiana Drum, topped with crab meat and some kind of chipotle butter reduction. Those are the two dishes we selected, and both were outstanding. The drum particularly so. Neither of us had ever tasted drum before, and I must say, after I tasted it, I didn’t want to share it – even with my wife, who rolled her eyes when I declared, “You just can’t beat this drum!”
So, there you have it. Next time you find yourself in New Orleans, you’ll have Falcone’s recommendations firmly in hand.
Be sure to check back next week, as I show you the sites we hit on foot while try to burn off some of these rich, Creole calories!
Until then, have a great weekend!