It’s really true what they say about New Orleans. It is the ultimate foodie town. Francesco and I got in around midnight on a Thursday night. Our French Quarter historic hotel, Hotel Monteleone, was impeccable—exuberant crystal chandeliers welcomed us into the lobby and the charm of old luxury traveled with us to the seventh floor, to our room.
Sleep didn’t come too easy…I was too excited; I kept waking up expecting it to be morning—time for my first beignets. The alarm went off at 7:30am (I am a morning person and I am sure Francesco resents that), I jumped in the shower and was ready in 4.3 minutes. Our good friends Farah and Lee recommended we head to Cafe du Monde for the best beignets in town. We walked to the Decatur Street location, in the French Market, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people waiting to get their order. I would have waited for eternity. The beignets were out of this world—warm, soft, fried pockets of delicious dough covered in confectioners sugar.
We shared an order and sat in the crowded cafe´and enjoyed the noise. We watched as petite waitresses carried overly loaded trays from the busy kitchen to the even busier dining room. In the midst of a chaotic Friday morning, we were completely at ease with stuffed bellies and happy souls. It’s funny how good food influences your mood.
Of course, as soon as breakfast was over, I began contemplating my lunch options. Francesco and I decided to go all out and chose NOLA, Emeril’s restaurant in the French Quarter.
A sparely lit space, the restaurant had a surprisingly accessible feel—it had a modern warehouse look with metal and brick—and was filled with tourists. The menu was a bit daunting. As appetizer, we picked the Wood Oven Roasted Pocket Bread with Garlic Oil, Fresh Basil and Grated Parmesan, a delicious beginning to an outstanding meal.
For the entree round, we hit a major roadblock. Francesco doesn’t eat seafood. I know, how can you go to New Orleans and not eat fish? Luckily, a brisket dish saved the day. The Hickory Roasted Beef Brisket with Orecchiette Pasta-Brie Cream “Mac & Cheese” and Bacon Smothered White Beans was an impressive feast. Crispy, fried bacon covered the delicious Mac & Cheese, but the star was, of course, the slowly roasted brisket smothered with sweet bbq sauce. Such a simple dish, yet elevated to such culinary heights.
Then, it was my turn. I am an avid seafood eater. My Seared Rare Yellowfin Tuna with Avocado, Wonton Crisps, Cucumber, Wasabi Aioli and Ponzu Vinaigrette was everything I wanted it to be and more. The best Yellowfin Tuna I have ever had in my life. It was rare, fresh and just perfectly sprinkled with Ponzu vinaigrette.
The cucumber was cut into think slices as to resemble soft angel hair pasta noodles. The wonton crisps served as the perfect resting place for the delicate tuna. I still dream about this meal at night.
Our culinary journey was punctuated by moments of pure ecstasy. We walked around the French Quarter and beyond for an entire day and we came across The New Orleans School of Cooking, complete with cooking class (that I wish I had taken) and a vast assortment of various uber spicy—and humorously named— sauces and seasonings.