If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realise by now that we’re not really ones to rush… so we decided to break up the Houston-New Orleans drive by making a stop in Lafayette LA, the heart of the cajun country. If we had come in summer we would have probably stopped into the Acadian Village for a glimpse of bayou life, definitely sampled the crawfish in various delicious forms, and strolled through the Cypress Island Reserve to check out the birds and crocodiles. But it was winter and all that went out the window- on the agenda was dinner at Pamplona Tapas Bar, and a trip to the Tabasco Factory.
Pamplona was super busy, but for us it was more misses than hits. Greasy empanadas, shrimp ceviche swimming in a tomatoey sauce which was odd though tasty, fries were ok, let’s not talk about the sausage stew… only highlight was the quail eggs on boudin, a local sausage which is very much like black pudding.
The Tabasco Factory wasn’t particularly hot stuff (couldn’t help myself) either- best part were the samples in the store- I love condiments and who knew raspberry chipotle ice cream would be edible, let alone enjoyable!
But let’s move right along to New Orleans! Driving into the Big Easy, you’d almost forget that it was struck by Hurricane Katrina 5, or was it 6… no, more like 8 years ago. There are still reminders of the submerged neighbourhoods and lives lost in the abandoned remnants of homes dotted around, but I think most would agree, the city has got its groove back… especially when the Saints are in town! Everyone had their Saints gear on, every house seemed to have a flag outside, and you couldn’t go too far without hearing someone yell ‘who dat?!’.
We wandered through the French Quarter; admiring buildings with intricate facades, and balconies overflowing with all sorts of greenery. We avoided the debauchery of Bourbon Street. We strolled through the Garden District; ‘oohing and aahing’ over the mansions- some owned by famous people, some just infamous. And of course, we indulged in some southern fare…
On our first night we went to Sylvain; named after the first opera ever performed in New Orleans and housed in old carriage houses in the French Quarter, it was so dark and mysterious, we didn’t think it was open until we peered through the window… once through the side door, any doubts of its openness and popularity diminished. We managed to get a couple of seats at the bar and wolfed down braised beef cheeks, and quail stuffed with cornbread. Just take my word for it that they were delicious as it was way to dark for photos.
Next we went to Kingfish where we got to enjoy the Saints game and some creative cocktail making while munching on ‘crackling delight’- combo of jumbo pork, duck, and chicken cracklings, and confit alligator wings… will you judge me if I say they tasted a little like chicken? A certain someone couldn’t resist the cochon pot pie- though the pastry was far from the flakey goodness we are fans of… and I enjoyed the cedar plank gulf fish- basically their fish of the day, paired with a refreshing strawberry salad. All washed down with a couple of local beers and cocktails- blueberry hill and a chocolate martini because I was too full for a proper dessert. Then we stopped into the Palm Court for some good old fashioned jazz and a nightcap!
The final feast was at the much talked about Cochon; the always full restaurant and butcher doing contemporary Louisiana-style food. To start there were giant shrimps with peanuts and pickled jalapeños, and an oyster and meat pie which I am told was up there in the pie rankings. To finish there was a rabbit and dumpling stew, and of course, pork- how could you come here and not order the Louisiana cochon (pulled pork confit) with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches and cracklings! I usually like my meals to be from more than one colour palette but when it tastes this good, I’ll get over it… and hey, we got some collard greens too.
As you can see, there is great food, even better music, and a wonderful character… there was nothing I didn’t love about N’Orlins, even shrouded in fog it was beautiful. Next time we’re back we’ll do more of everything and maybe even pay a visit to Emeril’s for that extra- BAM!