The mercury’s well into the 90′s and stepping outside can be as inviting as a wrapping yourself in a warm, wet blanket – but don’t despair, COOLinary time is in the air!
An August tradition, COOLinary New Orleans is the way many of the city’s dining establishments give respite to an overheated public in the form of otherwise unheard of meal-deals: three-course lunches at $20 or less and three-course dinners at $35 or less at over 50 award winning restaurants.
What better way to beat the heat than tucking into New Orleans’ signature vittles at some of the region’s best eateries?
Finally! It is May – the first month of the year without an “R” in it. Down here, that means it is the beginning of oyster season! These delectable molluscs are a signature Southern Louisiana treat and not-to-be-missed during your New Orleans vacation! If you are already an oyster fan, like me, you can eat a cool dozen raw. These are best, in my opinion, with a couple hot, buttery rolls and an ice cold beer. Locally brewed Abita Amber seems to be a heavenly match for Gulf Coast oysters. But, if raw is a little slippery for you, try them charbroiled. Oh, the heavenly delight of a warm tray of oysters with a bit of gravy and some hot bread!
New Orleans Oyster Bars
Standing at the counter, watching the insanely fast skills of an oyster shucker as he works his way through hundreds of Gulf Coast Oysters and eating them straight off the bar, is just as much a New Orleans tradition as the Po’Boy sandwich. Here, according to BestofNewOrleans.com, are the top five oyster bars in New Orleans:
Pascal’s Manale (1838 Napoleon Ave., 895-4877)
The free-standing oyster bar in the old-school cocktail lounge is like an altar to slurping, shucking and jiving and is staffed by affable guys who turn the act of downing a dozen into high entertainment. The bartender doles out poker chips redeemable at the oyster bar for your dozen or half-dozen.
Drago’s Seafood Restaurant (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254 OR downtown at 2 Poydras St. on the first floor of the Hilton Hotel, 584-3911)
Sometimes out-shined by the bright, buttery spectacle of the restaurant’s famous charbroiled oysters, the raw oysters at Drago’s are superb on their own, thanks to strong relationships between management and oyster harvesters.
Fresh Oysters on the bar at Felix’s, on Iberville.
Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar (739 Iberville St., 522-4440)
There are three other oyster bars within a few paces of Felix’s are all spiffier, but none turn out oysters as fast and with as little fuss. Just off Bourbon Street, diners can usually walk right in and mix their own cocktail sauce as the shucker sends the oysters rattling across the bar one at a time.
Bozo’s (3117 21st St., Metairie, 831-8666)
A few turns off the main suburban drags is this family-run classic on a Metairie backstreet. The oyster bar feels like a neighborhood joint, even if the mall is just a few blocks away.
Cooter Brown’s Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104)
This Riverbend tavern puts the bar in oyster bar. Despite casual appearances, the oyster operation here is serious stuff, serving fresh-tasting and well-shucked beauties until 2 a.m. or later.
Summer Travels to New Orleans
Just reading about all those oysters, my mouth is watering and my heart is thumping! Obviously, I’m pretty obsessed with those bivalves.
When traveling in New Orleans, a great trip can be all about having insider information. Where are great oysters? Amazing music? Authentic creole food? A New Orleans innkeeper can guide you to the corners of this amazing city that the average tourist in the French Quarter will never see. Let us share New Orleans with you. We love this city and we’ll show you why.
When I came to Southern Louisiana from the West Coast for the first time, I was delighted but mystified by the King Cake. What is its origin? How does it relate to Mardi Gras and where did that baby come from?
Let the New Orleans innkeepers give you insight into this wonderful tradition – part of the buildup to the Mardi Gras season in Southern Louisiana.
A Brief History of the King Cake
The King Cake is a common sight in Southern Louisiana during Carnival Season
The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical story of the three kings who visited Mary and Joseph. The French Catholics of New Orleans celebrated the Solemnity of Epiphany (commemorated on January 6th), which is the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The Eve of Epiphany (the night of January 5th) is popularly known as Twelfth Night (the Twelve Days of Christmas are counted from Christmas Eve until this night – just in case you wondered what that popular holiday song references!) The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas up until Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday;” the day before the start of Lent.
The baby hides inside the cake for a lucky party-goer to discover!
New Orleans King Cake Traditions
Whether it’s a house party, tailgating or just a dinner with friends, if it’s Mardi Gras season, you’ll see a king cake on the table. Some organizations or groups of friends even have “king cake parties” every week through the Carnival season. Inside each king cake is a little trinket, usually a tiny baby. It is hidden inside the cake and if you are the lucky person to find the baby in your slice, it is your responsibility to bring the king cake to the next get-together!
The Recipe for a King Cake?
The king cake of the New Orleans tradition comes in a number of styles. The most traditional is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche (a French-style bread with lots of egg and butter giving it a rich and tender crumb. It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust) topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold – the traditional Mardi Gras colors (which represent justice, faith and power, respectively). In 1972, a small bakery in Picayune, Mississippi called Paul’s Pastry started adding fillings to king cakes. The most common being cream cheese, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry. A so-called “Zulu King Cake” has chocolate icing with a coconut filing, because the Krewe of Zulu parade’s most celebrated throw is a coconut.
Will my New Orleans Bed and Breakfast Serve a King Cake?
Innkeepers usually love to participate in all the Mardi Gras traditions. If you come and visit us during carnival season, we will make sure you get a chance to taste a king cake!
If you like wine and food, you won’t want to miss the 2012 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. It is, quite simply, a feast for the senses. It’s a delightful, delicious, celebration of food and wine. Oenophiles, gourmets, gourmands and Epicureans, this is for you.
Don't miss The Big Gateaux Show, an international cake competition and tasting.
As of this writing, more than 34 wineries and 61 restaurants / caterers are scheduled to participate. The chefs come from New Orleans. The wine comes from around the globe. Together, they make magical combinations.
One of the best and worst aspects of a road trip is the road food. The annual Roadfood Festival in New Orleans focuses on the best. Come see for yourself, March 23-25, 2012.
Oysters at the 2010 New Orleans Roadfood Festival.
Tucked away in the far-flung corners of this country are innumerable road food finds. Just ask Jane and Michael Stern about it. They’ve been eating their way around the country for year, and they can tell you the best places to find a slice of pie, a reuben sandwich, and just about any other food you might fancy. Jane and Michael Stern will be at the Roadfood Festival. If you’re familiar with their work, you know they wouldn’t miss it.
The New Orleans Roadfood Festival brings plate after plate of fine food to the French Quarter. More than 30 restaurants will serve the dishes that brought them fame. What fun to eat New Jersey savory panzarotti and Tucson tamales in New Orleans.
Additional festivities include a Saturday night crawfish boil and Cajun fais-do-do, where you can dance to live music and feast on crawfish and whole hog barbecue. Also not to be missed is the Beignet Eating Contest on Sunday, March 25.
The Roadfood Festival is not about fancy, high-priced restaurants. It’s not about gourmet. It’s about everyday food, simple and tasty. It’s about roadside diners and small, independent restaurants from anywhere, U.S.A. What better place to get a taste of that than New Orleans?
Save your appetite for dinner, and share a Muffuletta for lunch.
We live to eat when in New Orleans, and so we don’t often think to eat on our feet. Indeed, most of us try to have as many superlative gustatory experiences as we can while here. Reservations are made months in advance. Dresses are purchased and suits pressed, for when in New Orleans, we dress for dinner. We spend hours at the table, indulging our appetites, savoring each bite. When eating in New Orleans, life is good.
Yet to truly experience in New Orleans, visitors should step out of the restaurants and onto the street. Eat on your feet once during your stay. There may not be many places to grab a quick bite in New Orleans, but a few are worthy of note.
Verti Marte is always open (literally), and you’ll always find over-stuffed po-boys with spicy mayo.
Some of the finest Muffulettas are found at Central Grocery on Decatur Street. Start with one and share it; you can always go back for seconds.
Instead of a second Muffuletta, try a creamy gelato from the Sucré Gelato Truck that is usually parked somewhere around Frenchman Street in the Marigny, or Audubon Park.
The standard cooling treat in New Orleans, of course, is a snobliz from Hansen’s. They’ve been in business for more than 70 years, and it’s still run by a Hansen. The sno-bliz is fluffy, it’s flavorful, it’s amazing. Hansen’s opens in March, just in time for the really warm weather. Is it too early to get in line?
Reveillon dinners make Christmas in New Orleans wonderfully unique.
“Un réveillon” is a meal that takes place late, during the night. The word can be used to describe such a meal at any time of year, although it is now primarily associated with the celebratory meal enjoyed late on Christmas Eve. Many people traditionally sit down to Reveillon after Christmas Eve mass.
It should be no surprise that Reveillon is so widely celebrated in New Orleans. The town is, after all, inclined towards nocturnal activity and gustatory excellence. Reveillon is a natural extension of both.
While Reveillon traditionally takes place late on Christmas Eve, many New Orleans restaurants serve it throughout the month of December, at more reasonable hours. It is served as a prix fixe meal, with prices ranging from under $40 to more than $90 per person. Some restaurants offer choices within the menu, while others do not. It is worth researching such details before reserving a table.
Chefs go all out for the Reveillon. They serve such delights as Foie Gras Crème Brûlée, Turtle Soup, and Brouillade aux Truffles. They serve Sautéed Frog Legs and Pan Roasted Quail. They serve Smoked Duck Salad, Bouillabaisse, and Braised Rabbit. If you like to stretch the limits of your palate, you’ll like Reveillon.
Good food draws people to New Orleans. Thanksgiving is the penultimate harvest festival. It therefore stands to reason that Thanksgiving dinner in New Orleans is an experience worth having.
Guests of New Orleans Bed and Breakfasts should have no problem finding restaurants that serve some version of a Thanksgiving dinner. The problem will be deciding where to eat. While you probably can’t go wrong, what follows is a list of places that will certainly get the Thanksgiving feast right.
The Bombay Club. Start with Fried Oysters Rockefeller or Crawfish & Mirliton Chowder. Continue with Roasted Turkey with oyster & tasso cornbread stuffing or try something less traditional, like Broiled Pompano with sunchoke and crabmeat gratin. The atmosphere is elegant, and the martinis sublime.
Arnaud’s will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with a Creole twist. Start with Butternut Squash Soup or Shrimp Arnaud. Continue with Roasted Turkey with cornbread or oyster stuffing, Braised Pork Short Ribs, or Gulf Fish Amandine. Then comes the difficult choice between Old Fashioned Pecan Pie or Praline Pot de Creme.
Broussard’s is serving Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 3p.m. and from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Begue’s Restaurant. Those who know it, cherish it. Dine in the lush courtyard or the elegant dining room.
Commander’s Palace. A Grande Dame of New Orleans. Dress elegantly for dinner in this Victorian home in the Garden District.
Many New Orleans restaurants are already accepting reservations for Thanksgiving dinner. Book your room at a New Orleans Bed and Breakfast and start looking ahead to what may be the most enjoyable Thanksgiving meal you’ll ever have.
Seafood Gumbo - one of the best aspects of New Orleans.
The 5th Annual New Orleans Seafood Festival was held this past weekend at Lafayette Square. Many New Orleans restaurants participated in this event, including Saltwater Grill, Mr. B’s Bistro, and Remoulade. Everyone was invited to kick back and enjoy free live music while noshing their way from one food booth to the next. Folks are already anticipating next year’s festival.
It’s important to remember that outstanding seafood is available twelve months a year in New Orleans, not only during the New Orleans Seafood Festival. Once here, visitors may dine in some of the best restaurants in the country. If your mouth has started to water as you read this, book a room in one of our member New Orleans Bed and Breakfasts, and get ready to eat.
A few favorite New Orleans restaurants:
Cafe Minh. The best of Vietnamese and Creole cuisines. Try the bouillabaisse with Vietnamese vermicelli.
Galatoire’s. You can’t call ahead for a reservation, but it’s worth standing in line to taste Crabmeat Sardou.
Vizard’s. Eat here while you can, for executive chef Kevin Vizard has a tendency to open and close restaurants the way most of us open and close doors. Try the Oysters Mancuso – fried oysters, toast, claw crabmeat, green onion, and oyster deem. Mmmm.
Commander’s Palace. A Garden District treasure, this restaurant has been a New Orleans favorite since 1880. These days, 90% of the ingredients come from within 100 miles of the restaurants. Try the Soft Shell Crab Bisque or Turtle Soup (technically not a seafood, but turtles do swim).
Mr. B’s Bistro. Try the dark, flavorful gumbo and the famous barbecued shrimp. The menu changes with the seasons.
This is far from an exhaustive list, and guests should not hesitate to ask innkeepers of their New Orleans Bed and Breakfast for dining suggestions. Bon appetit!
Most everyone is thinking about household budgets this year, but that doesn’t mean that travel has to stop. It does mean that travelers are looking for more deals than ever before: lower airfare, discounted lodging, and other specials. That’s why August is such a good time to travel to New Orleans.
Try the grilled flank steak and special cocktail-du-jour at Mesón 923. Photo from Mesón 923.
There’s another good reason to travel to New Orleans this month: Coolinary New Orleans. Throughout the month of August, many of the city’s most famous and well-regarded restaurants offer deep discounts for lunch and dinner (perfect for guests of New Orleans Bed and Breakfasts, who enjoy the first meal of the day at their lodging). Participating restaurants offer two-course luncheons for $20 or less, and three-course dinners for 35$ or less.
This is a great time for experienced and novice foodies to visit New Orleans. It’s the ideal time to break old habits and try a new type of cuisine or a new dish. Bring your appetite and plan to eat your way through New Orleans this August!