Antoine’s in the French Quarter

Café Du Monde is a classic because they make good food. Antoine’s is a classic because of longevity.

Antoine’s first opened in 1840 and they’re America’s oldest family run restaurant. They have a bunch of dining rooms (we ate at their Hermes bar) tons of Mardi Gras memorabilia and bragging rights to a long list of celebrity clientele.

However, a restaurant is only as good as its food and I thought the food was ok but it didn’t bowl me over. They say they invented Oysters Rockefeller so we ordered them.

New Orleans, LA

Nice old school picture, don’t you think?

I’ve had Oysters Rockefeller before and liked them better elsewhere. This thick bready topping overwhelmed the oysters. It didn’t have much flavor and I don’t love the piping because it reminds me of a twice-baked potato in the grocery store frozen food section.

I also got the Oyster po boy, which was also ok but under seasoned with an unbalanced ratio of bread to oysters to sauce. Too much bread, not enough sauce.

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The boys got sandwiches that were ok but nothing to write about.

Overall, I shrug and say “Meh. It’s ok.”

I know that we were at their bar instead of the white tablecloth shi-shi restaurant next door, but the food quality shouldn’t suffer because we’re drinking from beer bottles.

Antoine’s might be a long-standing restaurant with a glorious history but there’s much better food in the French Quarter.

Go elsewhere.

EAT New Orleans for Breakfast

Let’s say you’re in New Orleans, you want a giant breakfast in a charming French Quarter setting and a chance of getting something healthy. Might I suggest EAT?

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Ryan and I came here on a Saturday morning for “breakfast” around noon-ish (don’t judge…) and stayed long enough to watch them close their doors at 2. The waitstaff was relaxed, the food spectacular; we got a table by the window; really, it was perfect.

It’s also that ever popular localorganicfarmtotable but I’ll let you go to the website to look for chicken headshots. I’m here for the food.

EAT New Orleans

Fried green tomatoes with grits and bacon. Spicy remoulade, perfect grits, delectable everywhere.

New Orleans, LA

Cornmeal pancakes with pecan maple butter and blackstrap molasses, eggs and  fruit. C’mon, it’s Ryan. He has to.

Go to EAT for a great breakfast. Besides being finger lickin’ good, it’s a command in CAPITAL LETTERS.

EAT.

So you should.

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.

Ready?

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?

New Orleans, LA

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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in FLAMES!

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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….

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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.

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.

New Orleans, LA

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.

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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

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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.

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

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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

New Orleans, LA

With a classic combination

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The oysters were big and accompanied by traditional condiments

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Slurp!

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.

Cheers!

New Orleans, LA

Tomorrow: Course 2