King Cake, Pralines and the last of Louisiana

It all started here

New Orleans, LA

With its inexplicable rules

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and improvised confessionals

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A shout out to the bar we visited several times during Mardi Gras because they have a “taco truck” serving late night food in the back

New Orleans, LA

It’s a uniquely NOLA experience to wade through the massive dancing throng in a reggae bar and order yourself a quesadilla and a beer to go.

Another uniquely NOLA experience? Pralines

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Don’t get them packaged in plastic. Order them sweet, crunchy, warm and fresh from a counter. So delicious it makes your teeth hurt!

I chased down this King Cake, because Mardi Gras requires King Cake

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Even though this one had no baby. Gypped!

A salute to road beer silos

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And the boys who joined me


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New Orleans, LA


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And to an amazing trip.

Au revoir, N’awlins! We’ll be back, don’t you worry. And until then

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Peace out.

New Orleans, LA

Slim Goodies Diner for Breakfast

New Orleans, LA

Who is Slim Goodie? Why does that egg have wings? Would we have loved this breakfast half as much if we hadn’t been starving AND traveled over an hour and a half from one end of New Orleans to the other AND utilized both the bus and the streetcar to get here?

So many questions.

I do know this, I’ve taken a lot of breakfast pictures that make me happy but this one’s my new favorite.

New Orleans, LA

A table crossword puzzle done in ink and showing many differences of opinion, one single pancake to share as a breakfast appetizer, my coffee cup on its 5th fill, a g i a n t plate of delicious food and (unseen) a locked front door because we were the last customers served that day.

That’s shrimp etouffee on top of eggs on top of spinach on top of potato pancakes with the ohsoclever name “Jewish Coonass.” Yep. Howzabout it?

And this pancake?

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Sweet potato. And just about the best pancake I’ve ever put in my mouth. Most of the Slim Goodie reviews online mention this pancake, so here’s another one:  It’s light, fluffy and just sweet and nutty enough.  It’s bonkers delicious. Order it.

I don’t know why the Slim Goodie egg has wings but I recommend you follow it. And then eat it.

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PS: There were men in lucha libre masks staring down at me from the bathroom wall. I found that… curious.

Cafe Du Monde for Beignets

Let’s talk about beignets and Café Du Monde.

New Orleans, LA

Now, I’ve heard tell of another café in New Orleans that sells beignets. I planned to visit (purely for research) and compare beignets from the two places (solely so I could write about it here) but the boys wearied of my food death march through New Orleans and Café Beignet landed on the chopping block. So, given that I have nothing to compare it to, let me tell you why you should go to Café du Monde instead of Café Beignet.


Ok. Here it is: Café Beignet has a full food menu and also sells beignets. Café Du Monde sells beignets and coffee. That’s it.

To put it another way, if Café Du Monde sells bad beignets, they’re out of business. If Café Beignet sells bad beignets, they just sell more sandwiches. And you know what? Café Du Monde has absolutely nothing going for it except for beignets so they have to be good.

Here’s the Café Du Monde experience. You arrive and get in line. The cafe is vast and open air and full of people.

You wait.

You inch forward in the line and scan the place for an empty table. You wait longer.

You see tourists hauling themselves up, brushing off errant sprinkles of powder, grabbing their dozen shopping bags and searching for an exit. You pounce! You sit down at their small sticky table piled with wads of used napkins, styrofoam cups and plates heaped with abandoned drifts of powdered sugar.

And you wait. You’d like to get agitated and look around for a waiter but I recommend settling in. Remember that you’re on vacation and you don’t have anywhere to be and if this takes forever, it matters not. Bring reading material.

Probably at some point a waiter will wander by, clean off your table and ask you how many coffees and how many beignets. Most (all?) coffee in New Orleans has chicory in it. It’s bitter and dark and better drunk with milk. Café du Monde serves a really good café au lait but don’t bother to buy their signature ground coffee to take home. It’s terrible.

Order a maximum of 2 beignets per person and even if you usually drink your coffee black, order it with milk. Your food will arrive quickly.

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After that, it’s all over except the eating.

Pick up a beignet; knock off a pound of powdered sugar and bite. Brush away the sugar that falls on you and swig your café au lait. Repeat. Relax. You’re on vacation.

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The beignets are good. The coffee is good. Life is good.

Breakfast at Brennan’s

I know it’s hard to believe that we would wake up from a 5 (7?) course progressive dinner and be hungry for breakfast but it happened. And Brennan’s gets a lot of press for their breakfasts so we thought, why not? Why not follow a 5/7 course meal with a 3 course breakfast less than 12 hours later? We’re on vacation in New Orleans! Do it up!

Well, it turns out that we did it so that you don’t have to, because while we handled everything the Quarter and the Marigny threw at us the previous night, breakfast really put us over the edge.

Let’s start with the starter, shall we?

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That’s a baked apple in double cream. I’m not even sure if there’s a technical distinction between heavy cream and double cream but I will give it extra points (double even!) for thick creaminess. A whole apple in a cup of cream. That’s the starter.

Breakfast? Glad you asked. I got the Eggs Shannon

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Fried trout and poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce over creamed spinach. Catching a theme here?

And then there’s breakfast dessert, because who doesn’t need something sweet to chase down the remnants of the baked apple coated in double cream on top of creamed spinach?

How about bananas, butter and brown sugar?

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New Orleans, LA

This cute little guy was the definite highlight of the whole meal. He Loved his job.

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Seriously. Have you ever seen anyone look so pleased? I hope they coat their paintings in fire retardant, but other than that: Awesome.

Since it’s bananas foster, there’s one missing ingredient and that would be…

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Yep. Ice Cream.

Is this the part where I mention that I also got a breakfast cocktail? Rum Punch, which they say has milk….

New Orleans, LA

But I’m pretty sure it was cream. It was delicious too. Had an egg-nog kinda thing going on.

So here’s the bottom line on Brennan’s: It’s a lot. Of everything. We got the three course meal but even the one course meal is a lot. It’s also expensive and decadent, the service is great and the food is ok. They do have a lovely porch but they don’t have the best breakfast in the Quarter by a long shot. I’ve got a much better candidate for that award later in the week.

However, if you have a cream deficit, go to Brennan’s.

Brennan’s: we have more cream.


Green Goddess for a Bacon Sundae

Corey sent me a link about this bacon sundae when we first planned our New Orleans trip, so there was no question that Green Goddess would be our dessert destination. I mean, come on! Look at this deliciousness!

The Green Goddess

Don’t you want to catch that drip of caramel and lick it off your finger?

My only criticism is that it needed more bacon. Admittedly, that’s my one criticism of life (needs more bacon!); but in this case, the savory sweet balance leaned heavily on sweet and I wanted a tich more of the smoky crunchiness. I loved the praline ice cream and caramel though.

For variety, and Ryan McAlpine, we also got the Sultan’s Nest, which featured absinthe ice cream and some crunchy stuff.

The Green Goddess

I wasn’t in love with the dish but the texture mix was fantastic. Little creamy, spiky, fluffy bites of goodness.

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I have to give the Green Goddess staff high marks for attentiveness, in a very New Orleans kinda way.

When we arrived, the hostess sat us and after we’d been there a minute or two, a guy sitting at the table next to us came over and started chatting us up about our Mardi Gras experience (spectacular, thanks) and then asked if he could take our order. Turns out he’s the chef who was having a little sit down with some customers.

We had questions about the drink menu so the chef said he’d send the bartender out to talk to us. When the bartender arrived, he answered questions, promised a specialty custom drink for Matt, took our drink order and vanished.

One of the servers brought out our food and drinks, the bartender came back by to ask if we were happy with our drinks and then 20 minutes later, a different waitress delivered the bill and announced that they were closing but we could stay as long as we wanted. She just needed to make sure we didn’t need anything because “we’re all getting our shift drink and we have a tendency to forget about our tables.”

After a bit, Matt went in to use the bathroom and when he didn’t come back out, I peeked in the restaurant and saw him sitting at the bar with the servers. He was eating boudin with them and telling them all about our progressive dinner. I went in to retrieve him, tried the boudin (better than Gumbo Shop) and joined in the discussion, wherein they gave us directions to a local bar for a nightcap.

Super casual, friendly and laid back. Very Louisiana.

We took them up on the nightcap (because why let the night end when it’s going so well?) and went to the Chart Room, officially the darkest bar I’ve ever stepped into.

New Orleans, LA

So dark I couldn’t see the bottles behind the bar. Or the bartender. Or my money.

We had one drink there and then hit Bourbon Street for our final course of the night.

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, LA

I had a “hurricane flavored” daiquiri so I fulfilled my mandatory hurricane quota in NOLA.

And after 7 restaurants, 7 courses (? does each nightcap count as a course?) and 6 hours we wandered through the French Quarter and caught a cab home.

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Thanks New Orleans for an epic evening! At some point we’ll be back for progressive dinner #2!

Don’t worry, that was just one night. I’ve got a lot more food coming at ya next week.

Have a good weekend. See you then.

Gumbo Shop for Mediocre Gumbo

New Orleans, LA

After so much spectacular food and the generally good reviews at Gumbo Shop we didn’t think we could go wrong. We were wrong about that.

The Gumbo Shop gumbo is blandly seasoned mush. I’m not even going to apologize for this blurry picture because it’s better than the food.

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Harsh, right? Would I have been less disappointed had I not eaten great food at 3 other restaurants in the past 3 hours? Perhaps. Would I have been less disappointed if I hadn’t had incredible gumbo made by my aunt less than a week ago?

New Orleans, LA


I dunno. It was disappointing. And nothing about the rest of our experience served to balance out my disappointment. The boudin was decent but nothing to write home (or here) about:

The Gumbo Pot

The wine was ok:

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Overall, the atmosphere and food were casual, bland and touristy. Gumbo for people who are afraid of food.

Cajun food isn’t for the weak or the hesitant. Cajun food is firey, spicy, in your face and full of meat and seafood. It’s deep, rich and full of flavor. It makes your eyes water and your tongue burn and you taste it in your mouth for hours afterwards. Gumbo Shop, on the vastly other hand, has none of those qualities and is easily forgotten. My best advice is to avoid it.

I’d love to recommend better gumbo in New Orleans, but unless you know my aunt I have no suggestions.


But, the evening got better in a hurry once we got to dessert. And that’s my post for tomorrow.

Mimi’s in the Marigny for Tapas

New Orleans, LA

Mimi’s is a tiny little tapas restaurant above a bar with spectacular food and super dim lighting, as you can see from the pictures. We’d tried to eat here our first night in New Orleans but it was too crowded. Fortunately, most of the Mardi Gras tourist crowds had  thinned out by the night of our Progressive Dinner.

We started with a bottle of Chilean sauvignon blanc

New Orleans, LA

Ryan was pretty stoked when he saw the bicycle on the label and thought that boded well, which it did. And then came the question of what to order. Matt was along for the ride and said he’d try anything (which is true since he ate an oyster even though he hated it…), Corey wanted a little adventure and pushed for the mystery tapas entry called “Trust Me”, I wanted to order something interesting and Ryan doesn’t eat meat and doesn’t care for seafood.

Goat cheese croquetas with caramelized onions and honey were an easy choice for everyone

Mimi's in the Marigny

And they were as delicious as they sound. It’s hard to go wrong with fried cheese.

But our next entree was killer (though the picture is much less so): Escargot in a white wine reduction with cream

Mimi's in the Marigny

Normally escargot are tough and chewy like little pencil erasers but I order them anyway because even pencil erasers taste amazing with enough garlic, butter and cream. But these escargot were pillowy and tender, much like portobello mushrooms and the sauce was to die for.

Ryan and Matt both ate and loved them and we scraped every bit of that creamy sauce out of the pan and licked our fingers. Decadent.

At Corey’s request, we ordered the “Trust Me” mystery tapas, which turned out to be fried frog’s legs tossed in buffalo wing sauce.

Mimi's in the Marigny

And the worst blurry picture ever. Sorry bout that…

They were good. Again, I’ve had frog’s legs before and they can be really tough and chewy but these ones were well cooked. The meat has the texture of stringy chicken but actually tastes somewhat like fish, which is a weird contrast to wrap your mind around. In this case the crunchy buffalo wing coating obliterated any hint of that delicate flavor, but it wasn’t a great loss. I liked them. I don’t know that I’d order them again, but it was fun to be surprised.

There were a bunch of other things on that menu I’d have loved to try but we had more restaurants waiting for us. So, after an hour or so, we headed to our next destination. By this point it was about 8:30 and we’d reached the 3 hour mark.

Tomorrow: Course 4 and the only failure

El Gato Negro for Chips and Salsa

New Orleans, LA

Little El Gato Negro is a cute Mexican restaurant with outdoor island-table-seating across from the French Market. It’s also a good 20 block hike from the Bourbon House, which was ideal. We could have used a 20 block hike between each course! That might be a future rule. We’ve even talked about a future progressive dinner with biking from place to place. Let’s call that situation: pending.

But back to the food. When comparing food/drink combinations, I’m not sure they come around more perfectly paired than chips and salsa with margaritas. Sweet, salty, crunchy and fizzy. Delish

In this case, the chips could have been warmer but the salsa was garlicky and incredible. We ordered an additional salsa trio of Habanero, Serrano and roasted tomatillo, which were all good but I thought the house salsa was best.

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The tableside guacamole was fresh and full of jalapenos

New Orleans, LA

My margarita was fresh pineapple, cilantro and lime and if I ever try to make margaritas at home, I’m going to recreate this combination.

New Orleans, LA

Pineapple, Cilantro and Lime Margarita

And the boys got a free shot of tequila when they checked in on Yelp. Bonus!

I would come back to El Gato to try their food because I loved everything we had there. But after too many chips and with several more restaurants waiting for us, we heaved ourselves up and onward.

Tomorrow: Course 3

Bourbon House for Oysters and Champagne

New city + impossible list of food recommendations = progressive dinner

For people who always have more restaurant recommendations than they have time, progressive dinners are the perfect solution. Why eat three courses in one restaurant when you can eat in three courses in three different restaurants? You have better plans for an evening? Please.

Ryan’s and my previous progressive dinners have come in conservative trios of threes (3 courses, 3 restaurants and 3 hours) but NOLA called for something bigger and grander so Ryan said he’d do some research and figure out an extravagant plan for Progressive Dinner NOLA 2012. The rules, such as they were, required that every course have a drink option, that each course be held at a different restaurant and that there be no repeated food or drinks.

We spent a lot of time figuring out how many courses we wanted, which led to conversations about whether two appetizer courses would be too many (no), if chips and salsa could be a course (yes) and if post-dinner Hurricanes on Bourbon Street were mandatory (when in New Orleans…).

But once we had our menu set with 2 appetizers, dinner, dessert and a New Orleans nightcap, Corey said “It’s New Orleans, shouldn’t we add an oyster course? Maybe with champagne?”

I heart my friends.

And we all know the answers to those questions.

Without further ado, here’s course #1 of our Progressive Dinner NOLA 2012, starting  at

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With a classic combination

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The oysters were big and accompanied by traditional condiments

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Bourbon House, New Orleans

I like raw oysters but I prefer them smoked so I can’t speak to whether Bourbon House is your best bet for raw oysters in the Quarter. But I do know they have a $1 oyster special during happy hour so even if you don’t love them, they’re cheap.

For us, the restaurant was lovely, the service expedient and it was the perfect start to the evening.


New Orleans, LA

Tomorrow: Course 2