New Orleans

By Ben Adler

These are craw fish.

These are craw fish.

As readers of the IFA surely know, I am not one to praise the cuisine of mid-sized American cities lightly. So I went to New Orleans, which everyone has been telling me since I was about 10 years old is an amazing city with amazing food, ready to be underwhelmed. I was not. I was overwhelmed. New Orleans food is every bit as good as everyone says it is, and better.

Yes, I tried the wonderfully rich jambalaya, the spicy shrimp and crawfish etouffes, and a few different gumbos. And yes, they were good. But the amazing thing about New Orleans is that you don’t even need to be particularly enamored of Creole food to eat like a king there. The abundance of fresh, cheap shellfish and other swamp things is just extraordinary. I had fried oysters practically every day. Sometimes in Po Boy form, e.g. on a light french baguette. They were always superb. I can’t overstate the importance of seafood having never been frozen. The insides are so much softer, the flavors so much more complex. I had a fantastic, life-changing soft shell crab po boy. I didn’t even know I loved soft shell crab before!

I found alligator interesting — too rubbery when fried but so chewy and delectable when part of the cheesecake at Jacques-Imo’s wonderful restaurant. Bread pudding is a great specialty down there, rich in caramel flavor. I was amazed that even the food at Jazz Fest itself was uniformly excellent and not outrageously over-priced. I highly recommend the po boys, jambalaya and bread pudding at Mother’s in downtown.

A few caveats are in order. I don’t actually like craw daddies, at least not as they are served. Too much pepper, and too much work for too little meat. I think beignets are fine, but completely over-rated. It’s still just fried dough. And yes, I went to the famous place in the French Quarter. Finally, my meta-complaint would be that the food is incredibly heavy. Almost every meal involved something fried. I seriously gained weight in only four days there.

That said, we’re talking about a mecca of fantastic big band and brass band jazz, a friendly, warm culture, beautiful architecture, and good cheap alcohol. I recommend Abita, a local beer. And I definitely recommend going.

Crawfish stuffed with crab. Amazing.

Crawfish stuffed with crab. Amazing.

crawfish hotpocket

crawfish hotpocket


7 responses to “New Orleans

  1. what a lovely excursion.
    i got to see new orleans just a few years before katrina, and feel so fortunate to have had the experience.

    did you have bananas foster for dessert?
    they are wonderful!
    if you didnt, here is a recipe for them.
    perfect in the summertime!

    did you go to the voodoo shop?
    when you are spellcasting, and just have to have a mandrake root at four in the morning, that is your place!

  2. Ah, that’s where I’m from! I hope you had Abita Amber, which is definitely one of my favorite beers ever.

  3. marty gras

    also, it brought back memories of having “king cake!”
    it is a special cake and one slice has a little baby charm in it! whoever gets that slice, has good luck!
    it is a beautiful cake, and i had it at the court of the two sisters restaurant…a touristic place, but quite wonderful, nonetheless.
    here is a wonderful site about the origination of twelfth night festivities and the origin of the king cake, for anyone who might be interested.

  4. Midwest Product

    I highly recommend the po boys, jambalaya and bread pudding at Mother’s in downtown.

    I have to say, I think Mother’s is incredibly overrated. Gregory & Pete’s is much better, IMO.

    Also, you didn’t have a muffuletta?

  5. I’ve only been to New Orleans once, and I don’t think I was sober and awake at the same time all weekend – so I’m not really going to say anything about specific restaurants.

    But I’ve lived within the distribution area for Abita, and concur that Abita Amber is a great beer.

    Now, as for the common complaint that crawfish is too much work for too little meat – after gaining a certain amount of proficiency, it really is effortless. Besides, nothing beats the atmosphere of eating crawfish and drinking beer with friends in someone’s backyard on a Saturday.

  6. I kind of like Abita Purple Haze – notes of raspberry.

    Really don’t care for crawfish – I was just “invited” to a benefit function in which crawfish was $30 a plate. I think I got about $1 worth of crawfish and sore fingers. Never again.

    But New Orleans is fabulous!

  7. I’m all about the Abita Restoration. I hope you also got to try some New Orleans Rum.

    And since you mentioned the music… you must have heard WWOZ (

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