I worry about posting enough information and detail, then how to best share it all and then I never get it posted, so forgive me on this late one.  With much travel in the last couple years that needs to be shared and much on the horizon, I feel horrible for not having the most amazing food-city of my life on The Chow Chick yet.  

My very first visit to New Orleans started with me landing there on my birthday in 2015.  My friend, whose son was attending college there, told me that I had to pin money to my shirt, which would let everyone know it was my birthday, and then they would add more money to my pin. I was game, but felt silly, so I took it over the top by finding a birthday tiara to wear with it. Even if I didn’t have the tiara, it was clear that people would have known because many were coming up and pinning money to me. It was a fun icebreaker, especially since I was solo.

My arrival in New Orleans was a lil bummer because my bags were not there when I landed. I flew so early that I didn’t wear make-up and was really casual.

I wanted to get dolled up for my birthday and was assured by the airlines that they’d deliver my bag by noon. By 5 PM, I still did not have my bag and nothing to wear (or any make-up or hair products) for my birthday dinner, so they authorized me to go buy what I needed for $100 (haha, needed much more than that, but it was a start). Good luck finding clothes in the French Quarter at the last minute. I grabbed this festive Trina Turk dress to wear with my lil white leather flip flops (haha, yep made lemonade outta lemons), and made the best of it 🙂

For this trip, I had the longest list of places to experience in my mere 4 nights and I sure managed to get in a lot.  Never before have I experienced a city with so many consistently magical bites!  When I say magical, for me, it’s about the food wowing my mouth!  It’s when I take a bite and my head shakes in disbelief before I realize what is even happening.  I do appreciate great service and a pretty environment, but the wow needs to happen in my mouth. I search high and low, long and hard for those experiences, but it is an awfully tall order for my taste buds, but man oh man did New Orleans come through!  My profile picture was actually a selfie I took while sitting in the French Market (below I was just about to enter) enjoying a praline.  I would love to spend several hours there to taste my way through the wonderful variety of food vendors.  It was a bit overwhelming, especially because I didn’t have much time, certainly not enough to enjoy a meal.

What you won’t find me doing in here is sharing famous places just because they’re famous. If I’m not at least a bit impressed with their food, I’m not sharing it here.  I have no interest in using my platform to share negativity or hurt others, so I choose to omit rather than make those kinds of comments/posts. Following are a few gems I experienced in New Orleans.

As a gal who has had oysters plenty of times, but they have never done anything for me, I am always open to trying again. My friends told me, “whether or not you like oysters, you must eat the charbroiled oysters at Drago’s!” So, on National Red Nose Day (if you don’t know it, “The non-profit Comic Relief, which uses comedy to raise money for disadvantaged people, launched Red Nose Day in the United Kingdom in 1988. Since then, the day has raised more than $1 billion globally” and in the US, Walgreens  raised money to help end child poverty), me and my nose (would you believe they ran out of the official one, so I got this one in a toy store – works) headed over to Drago’s for a snack of the amazing oysters I’d heard about. While waiting for them, I thought I had to experience one of New Orleans’ traditions, this Hurricane (a sweet alcoholic drink made with rum, fruit juice and syrup or grenadine). OY!!! This is not what you drink when all you’ve had so far that day are sugary sweets, and you barely ever drink as it is! THIS DRINK IS STRONG!

Then came the star of the show!!! Look at these beauties!!!! OMG, the oysters are charbroiled with butter, garlic, herbs, and parmesan and romano cheese. There’s a nice pool of melted butter under them. They are served either as a half-dozen or dozen (I was alone, so went with a half-dozen) accompanied by a baguette of bread. You gotta soak that bread in the butter, THEN scrape the residue off the shell of the oyster that you just enjoyed, and you’ll be in double-heaven (from the oyster and now the bread)!!! Oh, in case you were wondering about the calories, there are no calories in New Orleans. OMG, may be the best thing you’ll ever taste!!! After I ate these and drank that hurricane, I had to take a nap (yep, like a lil baby or old lady, whatever floats your boat) because this lightweight couldn’t quite walk straight, but it was all well worth it!

While you might not think of Italian food when heading to New Orleans, trust me, you want to experience the funky atmosphere and wonderful food of Irene’s Cuisine. I had eaten escargot a couple times before, but was not a fan. My go-to when my server approaches me my first time at a new restaurant is, “tell me what I need to experience here.” I don’t want to know what the favorites are or what the server necessarily likes, but I want to know what is supposed to be their best, what is the chef known for, what is the chef most proud of. Sometimes you get a server who says, “Everything is good.” Ugh, nothing frustrates me more. Unless you only have a few things on the menu, that’s not likely and then the server loses all credibility with me. I often get lucky, as I did at Irene’s. My server told me that I had to have their escargot. He told me, “If you don’t love it, and I mean love, then I’m taking it away.” So, I agreed to take his advice and get the Escargot aux Champignons (herbed garlic butter, mushroom caps, Pinot Grigio, beurre blanc). DELICIOUS!!! A MUST IN NOLA!! YUM!! When my server checked on me, I told him, “don’t even think about touching my escargot!” I loved it!!!

 

 

Even the complimentary bruschetta they serve is wonderful, look at it!

 

Yes, I had a wonderful steak (yes, steak) at this Italian restaurant. It was a filet mignon with saffron, spinach and parmesan risotto. The filet was cooked to perfection (medium rare, of course) and the risotto was creamy , cheesy goodness! Just truly delicious! One of the best filets I’ve ever had.

 

Dessert was this delicious Bananas Fosters Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream and had Irene’s famous cheesecake. WOW!! This was soooo creamy and light and wonderful! Simply delicious!!!

No trip to NOLA is complete without dining at the famous Commander’s Palace.

  • “Commander’s Palace, nestled in the middle of the tree-lined Garden District, has been a New Orleans landmark since 1893. Known for the award-winning quality of its food and its convivial atmosphere, the history of this famous restaurant offers a glimpse into New Orleans’ storied past and has been the go-to destination for Haute Creole cuisine and whimsical Louisiana charm. The winner of six James Beard Foundation Awards, Commander’s Palace has evolved into a culinary legend.
  • When Ella, Dottie, Dick and John Brennan took over personal supervision of the restaurant in 1974, they began to give the splendid old landmark a new look both inside and out including painting the outside the iconic “Commander’s Blue.”
  • Now under the watchful eye of co-proprietors Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, the Brennan family’s dedication to perfection has never wavered. A steady parade of renowned chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and now Tory McPhail have made Commander’s Palace the world-class restaurant what it is today and its leading-edge Haute Creole cuisine reflects the best of the city.”

I was a bit apprehensive because, in my experience, often old, legendary restaurants don’t live up to their history or hype, but THIS IS A MUST!!! Not only will you experience the most exceptional service you may ever encounter (I tell you, I took a few sips of water from my tall glass and without even noticing, they had replaced, not refilled, it with a full new one). It’s a pretty atmosphere and I love it for brunch with the musicians floating about the room, playing that great New Orleans jazz while you dine. The food is exceptional! It was suggested to me that I dine here for lunch or brunch (maybe not quite as pricey, but also fun for jazz brunch), so I did.

Look at this beautiful complimentary garlic bread they serve, right after you’re seated! One bite and you feel the butter splash up against your teeth (heaven). It was so delicious. DO NOT LET THEM REMOVE IT! Before I realized it, they had collected the rest of mine and I would have easily finished it, so SPEAK UP!

I had to have another New Orleans brunch tradition with this Bourbon Milk Punch. Nice and creamy with a subtle kick.

Another MUST here is the Shrimp & Tasso Henican (wild Louisiana white shrimp stuffed with spicy Cajun ham tossed in Crystal hot sauce with pickled okra and 5 pepper jelly) appetizer!! I absolutely love this dish, with its sweet and spicy flavors.

My main dish was this delicious and creamy, Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish (A Commander’s Palace Favorite -crushed sweet corn sauce, spiced New Roads pecans, petite herbs and Prosecco poached Louisiana blue crab).

For dessert it was their famous Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé. It’s just fluffy, heavenly goodness! YUM!

It’s such a fun and lively city! I decided I needed to take a ride around the city. Here’s Izzy taking me for a spin. How fun was this?!

Be sure you stop at Southern Candymakers for the best pralines!  If there’s anything I inspire you to do, I hope it’s to be open-minded about food. Please always try it if people tell you it is amazing, give food a second and third and… chance.  Just because you don’t like an ingredient most of the time does not mean you won’t like it when paired with something else. Just because you have a bad experience with one dish or a type of cuisine may mean you had the wrong experience, so try again at another restaurant, with another recipe, and keep trying, especially if you can share it with others.  I don’t like coconut, but I love coconut flavored things (um, Malibu Rum, YUM!). I am so glad I tried the coconut pralines because I loved them, and I can’t imagine them made better anywhere else!

New Orleans is famous for so many things, including: food, jazz, Bourbon Street, and its artistic/creative scene. It’s impossible to really get enough of New Orleans in one, or even two, trips. I tried so darn hard to try every recommended restaurant and snack, but I really didn’t have the time, even with 4 nights there! You are not seeing everything I ate, you are only seeing the food that really wowed me, the food I definitely want again. New Orleans is an amazing, alive city with so much to offer, you have got to get there! I can’t wait to go again!

Thank you NOLA for being your magical self.

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