I went on a trip to New Orleans for four days at the end of February.
Got into town on a Saturday afternoon and had some hot boudin and a beer from Cochon Butcher in the CBD. I make boudin sometimes at home, and have used the boudin recipe from Donald Link’s Cochon book a few times. I wanted to try it from the source, though I think for the full experience one might have to get the boudin from a gas station out in Cajun country. This was quite good, a savory mix of rice and soft chopped up pork and pork liver. Ate it by squeezing it in spurts out of the casing with dabs of the spicy mustard. Great with beer. It came with some good sweet pickles.
I had late dinner reservations at Brigtsen’s, a long standing (30+ years) restaurant in a converted shotgun house in Riverbend, a little bit of a trek from the city center.
I had the “Shell Beach Diet” mixed seafood platter, which had drum topped with crawfish in a jalapeño lime sauce, shrimp cornbread, baked oysters two ways, sea scallop with grits, and a jalapeño shrimp cole slaw. A plethora of seafood. Everything was good, though the cornbread was a touch salty. My favorites were the two oyster preps and the drum with crawfish. The drum was nicely cooked with a good sear and the crawfish was sauced in a tangy lime sauce.
I also had a slice of quite possibly the best pecan pie I’ve had, floating on a pool of buttery caramel sauce.
This was a very rich meal. I’m glad I didn’t get an appetizer.
Turkey and the Wolf
This casual sandwich and cocktails lunch spot won best new restaurant in America from Bon Appétit magazine last year. One of the most hipster-ish restaurant’s I’ve been to, it had:
plastic dinosaurs on sticks as order numbers
whimsical animal salt and pepper shakers
plate from McDonald’s, circa 1990’s
I had the collard green melt from here, which is a triple decker sandwich on a very good toasted rye bread, filled with collard greens and melted cheese on one section and coleslaw in the other section. Really good, especially for a vegetarian sandwich. Both the collards and the coleslaw were a little juicy but not juicy enough to make the bread soggy. The collards were very flavorful.
Big Fisherman Seafood
After lunch and a walk, I got a bag of crawfish from Big Fisherman Seafood on Magazine Street. Early March is supposed to be the beginning of peak crawfish season, but apparently a cold snap earlier in the year (cold enough that pipes froze!) may have stunted their growth a bit. Big Fisherman Seafood is a take-out only place. You order at the counter and get crawfish, shrimp, crabs, and other seafood by the pound. I bought 2 pounds of crawfish at $5.99 a pound.
Since Big Fisherman doesn’t have a counter nor tables, I asked the Reginelli’s Pizza place across the street if I could use one of their outside tables if I bought a beer, and they graciously said yes.
I don’t have much experience eating crawfish but I thought these were very good. You’re supposed to to twist off the head, suck out the juices, and then pull the tail meat out with your teeth while pinching the end of the tail for an easier release. The juices along with the cooking liquid were flavorful and slightly spicy. Not too spicy. Tail meat was nicely cooked and juicy. Not the largest crayfish I’ve had but were pretty tasty. Good with the beer.
Dinner was at Casamento’s, also on Magazine Street. They seem to be pretty popular - I got there a little before they opened at 5pm and there was already a line outside the door.
I was a little full from lunch and second lunch, so I just had a half portion of their oyster loaf, which is similar to an oyster po’ boy but is on thick slices of toasted white bread rather than a roll. I got it dressed with lettuce, tomato, and a good amount of mayonnaise for a little extra. Very good sandwich. The fried oysters were plump and hot with a nice crispy cornmeal crust.
Café du Monde
For dessert, a late night order of beignets and a café au lait from Café du Monde in the French Quarter, which is open 24/7. Beignets to me kind of taste like Chinese youtiao with powdered sugar on top.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Willie Mae’s Scotch House in Tremé is known for their fried chicken. I got here on a Monday afternoon at about 1pm, and there was a decently sized line. It took about a half an hour to get in.
I got the fried chicken entree, which is three pieces of chicken plus a side. The three pieces of chicken are random, with an extra charge for white meat/dark meat only. I ended up with a chicken breast and two wings so I kind of lost the chicken piece lottery. I should have probably went for all dark meat. The chicken was quite good. Very crispy skin and tender meat, even in the breast piece. Slightly spicy. I think the marinade for the chicken has some hot sauce or chilis in it as there was a thin reddish spicy layer between the crust and the meat.
I picked green beans for my side, and they were pretty unremarkable. The beans were cooked with chunks of potatoes and were kind of bland. The rice tasted like Uncle Ben’s and was topped with a little gravy. I think I should have picked the red beans or the butter beans, which looked good.
Good chicken - I’m glad I tried it but probably wouldn’t wait in a long line for it again.
I walked in to Clancy’s on a late weeknight without a reservation and was able to get a seat at their counter.
Started with the fried oysters with brie, which was fantastic. Fried oysters atop some sauteed spinach and then topped with melted brie. A weird combination but it worked really well. Each bite had the crunch of the oyster crust, plump briny oyster, gooey brie, and a little bit of spinach.
For my main course I had the Clancy’s smoked duck. The slices of duck breast were excellent. Lightly smoky and pink in the middle. The skin was a little crispy and with the smokiness of the duck tasted of bacon. Duck bacon. Delicious. The thigh and drumstick were good but not as good as the breast. They didn’t seem as well salted and maybe not as smoky. Tasted more like a duck confit leg. The meat was on top of a rich demi-glace-like sauce that I think had some fruit in it, maybe cherries? In contrast to the duck the accompaniments were just ok. The noodles on the side were a little past al dente. The squash and the greens underneath it (bok choy I think), were well cooked but kind of pedestrian next to the duck.
Didn’t have room for dessert.
Had some late night oysters at Seaworthy in the CBD. They serve food until 1 in the morning and I got there after midnight. I was still on Pacific time. Had a few Louisiana gulf oysters and a few murder point oysters from Alabama. They were good though I’m used to the more strongly flavored west coast oysters here in SF and needed some of the (strong) horseradish and cocktail sauce provided to kick them up a notch. Friendly service.
I had a breakfast at Brennan’s in the French Quarter. Walked in at around 11:30 without a reservation. It’s a beautiful space with a nice courtyard.
I started with the turtle soup, which had a drizzle of brandy poured on top. I thought this dish lacked flavor. It had pieces of spinach and grated hard boiled egg that looked nice but I don’t think added much except for a bit of a change in texture. The turtle was in small chunks and was quite tough and chewy. I’ve only had turtle soup before at Commander’s Palace (also owned by the same branch of the Brennan family) and liked the turtle soup I had there a lot more.
Main course was eggs a la turk, described on the menu as a Brennan’s classic. This was fine. The hen of the woods mushrooms lacked seasoning, and the acidic sauce that covered it tasted a bit of red wine or vinegar and not much else. It improved with a bit of salt. The microgreens in the middle were also fine but seemed a bit incongruous. The soft scrambled eggs and buttery brioche pieces were pretty good, and the piece of foie included was seared nicely and also good. Kind of expensive at $35.
This was the only meal this trip that was a bit disappointing. The drinks I had here, a Cajun bloody Mary and a brandy milk punch, were very good however, as was the service.
Acme Oyster House
Went to Acme in the French Quarter for some oysters as a snack. I’d visited Felix’s in my last trip and really enjoyed their chargrilled oysters, and wanted to see how Acme’s compared. Acme and Felix’s are across the street from each other on Iberville Street, but when walking by there always seemed to be a longer line at Acme.
I had a half dozen of the raw gulf oysters and a half dozen of the chargrilled. The raw oysters arrived quickly, they are constantly shucking and have a few ready at the counter. The chargrilled oysters were good but quite as good as I remember the ones from Felix’s being, though my memory of them is a little hazy. I should have popped over to Felix’s for a better comparison.
Had dinner at the bar at Sylvain in the French Quarter. I had originally tried to get in to Bayona without a reservation but they were completely booked. This surprisingly turned out to be probably the best “fancy” meal this trip.
Having missed out on Bayona’s famous sweetbreads dish, I started with the buffalo sweetbreads, which were fried sweetbreads and sliced apple and celery in a creamy spicy sauce reminiscent of buffalo wing sauce. Very good. The sweetbreads were not super crispy on the outside, but were very flavorful even in the spicy sauce.
I had braised beef cheeks for a main course. This was simply delicious. Pure comfort food. The beef cheeks were super tender, gelatinous, and a little fatty. Like a really good beef stew. They were served with a nice potato purée, some soft sweet onions, and a scattering of black eyed peas.
Peach ice cream sandwich for dessert.
Had some really good meals this trip. Already looking forward to the next trip back!