For now, I should start at the beginning of the journey. I got my acceptance letter into Tulane around 4pm at work. This could have been the best time I had at work the whole year I worked there. Maybe it didn't happen right away, but my mind was reeling trying to figure out how I was going to relocate my entire life to New Orleans, a city known for its partying and food, and a city that's still in recovery. Fast forward 4 or so months and I was signing my lease at my new apartment in a new city. Thankfully, my parents and Spencer flew in the very next day so we could begin our New Orleans adventures.
|St. Louis Cathedral|
Why would we not check out Cafe Du Monde? We were a little confused with the setup at first and weren't sure if we needed to be seated and handed menus 'til it became clear that we were to seat ourselves and have the many helpful Asian women hand us our coffee and beignets. My mom bought a boxed mix without knowing these doughnuts were fried. Never mind, though, I'm sure she will find a way to cook a batch despite her dislike of deep frying. The beignets were good. Not mind-blowing. Not life-changing. Still delicious. I'm sure these are just one of the things a tourist must do upon visiting New Orleans. The same goes for the coffee.
|Sugary puffs of fried dough: beignets, Cafe du Monde|
|Char-grilled oysters at Acme Oyster House|
|Our first street car ride|
Clockwise from top: vanilla pork belly and grits with chicory butter, turtle soup, and crabmeat cheesecake
My Shrimp Tchefuncte (left), a specialty dish of shrimp and mushroom in meunière sauce, was in their cookbook. Rightly so. This is definitely something I'd need to learn how to make. It was a Cajun-seasoned plate of shrimp with mushrooms and scallions. A scoop of popcorn rice was almost this little island in the sea of sauce. So good, but I couldn't finish it all. My dad, being the brave caveman he is, ordered the pork shank. This was cooked in root beer and drizzled with a strawberry glaze. This giant hunk of meat was served on a hot plate to my dad's shock and awe. Did I mention he finished it? The bone-in slab kept the meat moist and flavorful and the strawberry sauce cut through all the grease. The verdict? Well, other tables looked on with a mixture of envy, disgust, and confusion. But don't order this if you do not have the patience or stomach for it. To end this feast, we settled on some pecan pie and a white chocolate bread pudding. And although both delicious, there is something so special about pecan pie that it basically trumps anything else. This version was pretty gooey. It didn't hold together as much as a pie but the flavor was spot-on. It was sweet without that cavity-inducing flavor, and it was just the right amount of gooey that it didn't stick to your teeth.
|At Stanley for brunch|
Clockwise from upper left: muffaletta poor boy, bananas foster french toast, pancakes with vanilla ice cream & Louisiana cane syrup, and Creole breakfast potatoes
Our next stop was a steamboat cruise on the Natchez. We picked a daytime Jazz cruise that departed and docked right when it started to rain. Womp womp. We were welcomed aboard with a steamboat whistle calliope concert.
It was the first time I'd ever heard anything like that. I was definitely annoyed at first, and even alarmed at the high pitch of the whistles, but I learned to appreciate it about 20 minutes later when it was over. Ha! It was a great time to learn about the naval and trading history of New Orleans as the boat sailed along the Mississippi River.
Spencer got bibbed for his Barbecue Shrimp, served in a bowl of smokey and peppery barbecue sauce. Get your fingers dirty for this one 'cause it's well worth it. My shrimp and grits was turned up a notch with the bacon wrapped around all of the shrimp. The grits had some red-eye gravy poured over it and I could not stop eating. When has bacon been a bad addition to a meal, anyway? My mom's pork chop was a thick chunk of meat but it managed to stay juicy and moist all throughout. The sweet Asian-flavored sauce that crusted the chop was a unique flavor that we hadn't had this whole trip. My dad is pretty steadfast on not showing much emotion when it comes to the food he eats. He can enjoy a meal and think it's tasty, but he isn't going to go out of his way to praise it if it doesn't change his life. His garlic chicken was the exception. This juicy half chicken was roasted with tons of garlic and served with dried Roma tomatoes. It wasn't particularly spicy or fatty or New Orleans, but it was delicious, and his face (and plate) showed it.
After days of nonstop eating and walking around I've found some relaxation time. I'll be back on a routine (albeit a new routine) on Monday when classes start. I'm looking forward to being back in school, and yes, I did just say that. This city has plenty to offer me. I just need to know where to look. And soon enough, some friends and family will visit to make exploring the Big Easy all that more memorable.