We decided to take a short trip to New Orleans this week, just a little getaway for food, music, and relaxation.  We were able to get a good rate on a nice room at the Marriott on Canal Street.  I asked about Internet and was told there was a daily charge, but when I presented my Marriott Rewards card they gave me free Internet for the entire stay!  Despite the cold and rainy weather we walked to Central Grocery for lunch. After a short wait in line we had our “half” muffuletta, with each quarter as big a regular sandwich.  I noticed the jars of olive salad and thought we could make our own version of the sandwich at home with the olive salad so Steve got us a jar.  We squeezed into the cramped seating area in the back of the store and enjoyed our muffulettas.  The bread is chewy, the olive salad is salty with the perfect texture and the meats and cheeses remind me of the antipasti I enjoyed in Italy.  I never eat sandwiches like this at home, so it makes it even more enjoyable!


Muffuletta:  Genoa Salami, Mortadella, Ham, Mozzarella Cheese, Provolone Cheese, Olive Salad on Sicilian Bread




After walking in the rain we needed something hot to drink.  What better place to stop than Café Beignet on Royal Street?  We usually go to Café Du Monde on Decatur Street but had decided on this trip we would try Café Beignet instead.  Our last visit to Café Du Monde left us with the impression that quantity was negatively impacting quality, that and the crowds!  Café Beignet is small and not crazy busy.  The beignets were freshly prepared, not greasy, and also not completely smothered in powdered sugar.  We really enjoyed Café Beignet and plan to return again on our final day here.

Our dinner plan was to try Jacques-Imo’s, a place we’d heard about from friends and seen on Anthony Bourdain’s show.  We had to take a cab ride over there so there was no turning back once we were there. 
There was an hour and fifteen minute wait so we got a couple margaritas from the bar and grabbed a seat.  I happened to glance up at the ceiling and was surprised to see it covered with paintings!  The décor in general was very strange and it appeared that the place had been very small at one time and expanded over time.  Although the prices were not cheap (dinner for two, $85.00) the food was served on plastic plates. 



I like the sign, Be Nice or Leave!.  It looks like something my daughter-in-law, Lauren, would have in her house.
 
 The meal started with some butter drenched cornbread muffins.  Hard to resist and very good!  Steve ordered pan fried drum with shrimp etouffee and I ordered the blackened redfish with crab-chili hollandaise.  Dinners came with two side dishes and a spinach salad topped with a fried oyster. We both chose corn maque choux and red beans and rice for our sides.  The salad was unremarkable and the sides were reminiscent of Luby’s cafeteria and not worthy of the delicious fish entrees.
 
 
Fresh chive-covered cornbread muffins.
 
Corn Maque Choux and Red Beans and Rice
 
 
Pan Fried Drum with Shrimp Etouffee
 
Blackened Redfish with Crab-Chili Hollandaise
 
 
Both fish entrees were outstanding, especially the redfish, in my opinion.  The other best taste of the evening was the dessert.  They offered two desserts, coconut bread pudding and crème brulee.  We chose the crème brulee and were not disappointed.  There was a fresh raspberry component, too thick to be called a sauce, and made with fresh raspberries which went very well with the crème brulee.  The little bites of feta cheesecake were just ok.  Would we go back to Jacques-Imo’s again?  I don’t think so.  The long cab ride, long wait (no reservation policy for parties of less than 5) and so-so dishes were not worth all the hassle.  I believe we could find redfish just as good at K Paul’s which is right down the street.                                                                                      
We relaxed a bit Sunday morning waiting for the weather to warm up.  The rain stopped so we were looking forward to walking around Royal Street.  There’s something fun about Royal Street–the variety of street performers playing music, the “frozen” people, dancers, you name it.
We passed beautifully decorated houses and hotels and balconies decorated for the Saints game.
 
 















We were sad to discover the George Rodrigue, the Blue Dog artist, died recently.  Their was a touching tribute to him of school children’s colored pages on the window to his gallery. 
 
 

 
getting training for their tours
 
 
 
 
We had quite a wait at Acme Oyster House but after about 45 minutes we got a table.  We each ordered a dozen chargrilled oysters!  What else!!  They were delicious, hot, spicy with the addition of tabasco, and made even better with a squeeze of fresh lemon.  The very fresh French bread dipped into the sauce made by the oysters was great.
 
 
We had to stop for a drink at the Hotel Monteleone famous Carousel Bar for the local specialty drinks, the Pimm’s Cup and the Sazerac.
 
 
 
   Dinner at NOLA, an Emeril restaurant, was eagerly anticipated.  We have been here before with our friends last year and really enjoyed it.  We reserved seats at the Chef’s Bar, where we could sit and watch the chef manning the wood fired pizza oven and also see the kitchen and watch all the food come out.  On a very cold night sitting by the fire was cozy and the smells were wonderful.  We took full advantage of the wood fired oven by having a duck confit and fried egg pizza and my entrée, the garlic cr usted drum with Brabant potatoes and bacon with wine sauce.  Steve had this last time and I remember liking his dinner much more than my shrimp and grits.  This time his mussels were good, but not as good as my dinner.  We both loved the Caesar salad, made the way it should be made with the right amount of dressing, not drenched. The chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo was not bad, although a little too salty for my tastes, it was well prepared and you could see lots of herbs and vegetables in it. The drum was perfectly prepared, crunchy crusted, hot and moist with pieces of smoky bacon, chunks of potato and crispy haricot vert.  The wine sauce had the right balance of acid to round out the dish.  It was impossible to stop eating it, although I did give Steve a couple bites.

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo


Caesar Salad

Duck Confit and Fried Egg Pizza


Garlic Crusted Drum
 
A little amuse bouche
 
The jalapeno corn muffins and focaccia bread
 
 
We couldn’t leave without a dessert and we couldn’t resist the crème brulee trio–vanilla, chocolate and coconut.  All were silky and cold, perfect custard with a crunchy sugar top.  I’ve never had better.
Crème Brulee trio
 
 
Bourbon Street
 
 
Good Night!
 
 
Our last day in New Orleans and we set off by street car to have brunch at Surrey’s Juice Bar and Café.  We have been here before on our last trip and enjoyed their many “house made” selections.We walked a few blocks to get to Magazine Street and signed up for a table.  After about 45 minutes we were seated.  I ordered the house made bagel with smoked salmon, also house made.  Steve had a bagel with egg, cheese, and bacon.  We both had the fresh juice, orange/pineapple/mango.  What a burst of flavor in that juice!  The food was excellent, fresh, and made me wish there was a Surrey’s in Fort Worth!  The closet thing is breakfast I make at home.



After breakfast we walked back to the French Quarter and to the hotel for a little break. Alexandra, our daughter sent us a photo of two of the boxers.  They are so sweet and we miss them so much.

 

We saw some interesting sights on Royal Street.  An old drugstore with the original soda fountain, a 56 Chevy, and the Supreme Court building, to name a few.  We also discovered a gift shop that sold Pandora charms. I have a little dangling fleur de lis now, along with a beautiful scarf with a fleur de lis pattern.  Thank you Steve!


56 Chevy
 
 Our dinner reservation for Cochon, which means “pig”, was at 5:30, the only time we could get. This place is wildly popular.  Description of Cochon, “At Cochon, Chef Link has reconnected with his culinary roots, serving the traditional Cajun Southern dishes he grew up with. Chef Link and Chef/Co-owner Stephen Stryjewski are working with locally sourced pork, fresh produce and seafood, focusing on traditional methods, creating authentic flavors of Cajun country.
The restaurant is set in a rustic, yet contemporary interior of a renovated New Orleans ware house.”
 
 
We wanted to order a variety of dishes so we started with some small plates–wood fired oysters with chili garlic butter, smoked ribs with watermelon pickle, and mixed green salad with fried bologna, hard boiled egg and mustard vinaigrette.  We also ordered oven roasted redfish, “fisherman’s style” and Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches and cracklins.  The oysters were awesome with bubbling hot, fresh oysters in a spicy, buttery sauce.  The fresh yeasty, salty rolls dipped in the spicy butter, what can I say?  My ribs were rubbed in a spicy seasoning and fall off the bone tender.  I overheard the waiter say the ribs were sold out at 6:45, so if you want these popular ribs, go early or you will be disappointed.  The strange sounding salad with fried bologna was surprisingly refreshing.  The tart vinaigrette was just what we needed with all the fatty meats.  The cochon was a braised pork served over some cabbage and as much as I wanted to love it, I found it to be rather stringy and bland compared to the ribs.  Steve’s redfish, which was really redfish on the half shell, looked lovely, however it was under seasoned and compared to the tasty drum at NOLA, not even close in texture or flavor.  I will admit the grits were great, creamy, seasoned just right.  Although we were stuffed we ordered dessert because I wanted to try the cream cheese chocolate chip frosting on the chocolate mousse cake.  Well, that was silly because the chocolate “chips” in this frosting were microscopic.  The cake itself was fairly standard chocolate cake, good, but nothing I haven’t had many other places.  I would recommend Cochon, but stick with the small plates and skip the big entrees.  Go early because it’s hard to imagine that a placed called “Cochon” would run out of pork ribs by 6:45.
Fried Bologna Salad with Hard Boil Eggs
I’m am about maxed out with eating New Orleans food by now, but we have had a great time and fantastic food.  The cold winter weather made walking around refreshing when compared with the hot humid weather we experienced in the summer of 2011.  We had planned to go on a tour of haunted houses tonight but due to the damp chill in the air, decided to cancel and instead went to the Harrah’s casino where I proceeded to lose some money fairly quickly, however Steve won and shared his winnings.
 Grits



Cochon




Chef Mochi 
 
Packing up to leave this morning and having one last meal in New Orleans.  We headed to Café Beignet for beignets and breakfast.  The beignets were wonderful with the strong Café au lait.  The egg dishes were fine, but the star was the beignet!
Goodbye New Orleans.  Back home to healthy salads and avoiding the scale for at least 3 days!

 
 
There is a glitch in blogger than is driving me crazy and won’t let me delete or move photos around, so please understand why the duplicate photos are here below. I am working on figuring out the blogger issue but instead of waiting until it’s fixed I’m publishing what I’ve written today.