a taste of new orleans

As Part II of our honeymoon (Part I was a few nights in the gorgeous city of Charleston), Will & I road tripped from South Carolina to Texas, stopping to spend one lovely day in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been there, and I had been sufficiently enchanted by the likes of the Princess & the Frog to be very much excited about our little adventure. We were ready to learn what all the talk surrounding the city was about. And, of course, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to cross another item off my bucket list24) Go on a food tour in a major city.

New Orleans is well-known for both its incredible cuisine and unique culture… and we were lucky enough to find a tour that blended elements from both. We settled on a walking tour (Tastebud Tours) lead by a former middle school principal, and followed him as he meandered around the city, painting a fascinating picture of the historical, architectural, and cultural landscape of New Orleans. All in all, we stopped at six local food spots. And let me tell you… we had an incredible experience at every single one.

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We began at the local deli Mike Serio’s, where Will & I both had our first muffulettas. Think bread + salami + mortadella + ham + mozzarella + provolone + olive salad= the biggest (and possibly the tastiest) sandwich you have ever seen in your life. The pictures below show quarter portions. This sandwich originated in New Orleans and is one of the city’s signature items… our tour guide reported that it was created in 1906, in response to the needs of the city’s Sicilian farmers who were attempting to get a lunch that would last all day in the hot sun. Obviously, it stuck around.

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Our next stop was Cafe Beignet, an adorable little hidden garden with live jazz and greenery all around. We were served the hottest, softest, most delicious beignets ever, and covered ourselves in powdered sugar as we tried to eat them gracefully. It beat our Cafe du Monde experience by far. And, of course, what would beignets be without cafe ole? (p.s. since we had been at Cafe du Monde earlier in the day, I didn’t take any photos at this stop. The ones below are from that morning instead.)

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After the cafe, we popped into a little spice shop: The Spice & Tea Exchange. This place was packed with every type of dried herb, spice, tea, and sugar and salt and pepper blend. Our time there was full of peeking into jars and inhaling deeply and saying, “One day, we’ll buy stuff like this”.

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We then strolled on over The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, which was established in 1894, and were greeted by the chef himself… a rotund, jolly man who wore the white hat and had an Yat accent fit for the movies. We listened to him passionately outline the difference between Cajun and Creole histories/ cuisines and quietly sampled both gumbo and jumbalaya. Cajuns, apparently, came from Acadia (Nova Scotia), displaced by the British to eventually settle in Louisiana. Creoles, on the other hand, are descendants of the French and Spanish immigrants who settled in Louisiana while those countries enjoyed control over the area (along with a sizable population of Africans and African Americans). Cajun cooking, therefore, is more “country,” as the Acadians learned to live off the land, while Creole cooking was more “urban” and was generally done by chefs hired by the wealthy, who blended their European cooking styles with local ingredients. As for us, we thought both dishes were incredible.

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We next went to Johnny’s Po Boys, for a famous roast beef po boy. These were served wrapped in paper in the back room of the shop, and we watched as people walked in and out of the kitchen. Po boys are famous for a reason, and Johnny’s is (disputably) the best in the city.

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And the final piece: Laura’s Candies, the oldest candy store in New Orleans. Here, our tour guide gave us a warm goodbye and left us to peruse the shop, where we were privy to free samples of everything from mississippi mud to peanut butter meltaways. And then, of course, we were sent home with a bag of famous NOLA pralines in hand. The perfect end, in my opinion, to a perfect tour.

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And what do you do when you finish an extravagantly delicious food tour? Go and eat more, obviously. Our one day in New Orleans was finished at The Three Muses, a little bar that served exotic foods tapas-style… our meal included (but was not limited to) Tempura Shrimp, Goat-Cheese Stuffed (and Bacon-Wrapped) Dates, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, & Smoked Duck Breast Enchilada Pizza, topped with a Sunny Side Up Duck Egg. We finished with a Banana Empanada and homemade Nutella Ice Cream, listening to the live musicians as they sang about the wonders of New Orleans.

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The wonders of New Orleans, indeed.

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