It's been a few weeks since I got back from New Orleans where I was celebrating Chef Josh and LadyKate's wedding, and I'm STILL FULL. Only just days ago have my pores ceased to emit the perfume of Abita, have the callouses on my fingers from tearing the tails off of crawfish been pumiced away by an unfortunate manicurist, has every airline official at JFK been satisfied that the suspicious white powder found in the luggage compartment was not anthrax but powdered sugar and beignet crumbs.
Lemme tell you, I did some serious damage down south. And by south I mean of course, my lower intestines. HO!
But seriously, folks. It was a magical time. Not only because of all the gloriously warm feelings one experiences watching two very special people declare their love and join their lives together (for the second time, really) in the presence of the people who adore them most and all that hullaballoo, but also because New Orleans has some seriously delicious food.
Our first night in town, the boys had scheduled a bachelor party, so us ladies got together to wrastle up a little trouble of our own. Acme Oyster House was the destination...for half the city of New Orleans, apparently. Here's the thing: waiting in line is something I hate to do, probably in part because in NYC we have to do it All. The. Time. Solution? A pitcher of beer, drunk out on the sidewalk in the balmy weather, while friendly folks stationed on the balcony above drop free jewelry on you! In no time, we were seated inside in front of an obscene and voluptuous platter of local Louisiana oysters. Briny, smooth, slippery, and like the city itself, larger than life, they were seriously the best I've ever had.
Until these arrived. Char-grilled oysters which from what I could gather, are smothered in butter, seasoning, romano cheese, and southern hospitality, and stuck under the broiler until crisp, white hot, and terrifyingly good.
For my main course (as if I needed one), the shrimp etouffee. Creamy, salty, rich with seafood and that unmistakable cajun kick, it was so. so. so. good.
The bride's plate of fried shrimp with a side of crawfish hush puppies. I may have sneaked a few fried morsels.
All photographs from the rest of this evening have been confiscated and I have been sworn to secrecy. Suffice it to say, we did not go hungry. Or thirsty.
I woke up the next morning with Muffuletta on the brain. We headed to the Central Grocery, the original home of the sandwich. Since everything in New Orleans seems to be portable: food, alcohol, live music, we took our football-sized sandwiches to M.R.B bar where we drank some seriously delicious bloody marys and watched the three-legged bulldog hang out by the pool table.
Between the drink, the sandwich, and the dill gator chips I grabbed at the cash register like a fool, I nearly shriveled up and fell off my barstool. It was like spending the day with my face stuck to a salt lick. A tremendously enjoyable salt lick.
That night was the rehearsal dinner. Or more aptly put, the let's all get together at this amazing old bar in the beautiful warm sun-dappled evening light where everyone looks radiant and happy and we can chow down on, oh, 170 POUNDS of boiled crawfish. Plus some assorted po'boys, red beans and rice, and a healthy dose of beer to wash it down.
Crate after crate appears, and we do rotating duty sitting at the table, twisting tails, sucking the heads, and eating the meat, one after another, like corn nuts. When we get full, we stand and stretch and complain about our distended bellies, get another beer, crack a few jokes, and then get back down to business, hunkering down over another mound of shells. In the end, all that's left is 20 uneaten pounds, mountains of tiny carcasses, and a blister on my thumb, evidence of a battle well fought.Just look at that destruction.
Naturally, the next morning I woke up hungry. What else to do but get a po'boy? And where else to go but Johnny's Po'Boys, with a line out the front only a hard-core sandwich shop can produce.
I opted for the crabcake po'boy (because I can never resist a crabcake) foolishly thinking I was being virtuous by not ordering something deep fried, and forgetting of course, that this is New Orleans, and what can be fried, will be. It was delicious. Duh.
The Boyfriend got the catfish. Cause that's how we roll.
To cool our bellies after lunch, we went to Meltdown Popsicles, an amazing little shop with homemade, all natural ice pops made from fresh fruit and herbs combined in the most creative, refreshing and charming (can a popsicle be charming?) flavors. I went for the pineapple cilantro, and the Boyfriend had some combination of honey, lavendar, and canteloupe. I grabbed a taste of strawberry basil (to die for), vietnamese coffee (dying), and coconut lemongrass (dead). We inquired about franchise opportunities in NYC and the lovely proprietor laughed us off. We walked away scheming.
Of course last week in the Times, I spotted this piece on all of the folks who got the jump on us bringing this treat to the tri-state area. How much you wanna bet there's a popsicle truck in our future?
And then, the wedding. What else to say, but beautiful, joyous, raucous, spunky, romantic, and utterly and perfectly like the couple themselves.
I don't have too many pics to offer since I was too busy cutting a rug on the dancefloor, but I did manage to grab a bite or two of shrimp and grits, crab dip, etouffee, seafood gumbo, sausage, boudin, pork rillettes, and a few oysters. Oh, and of course the krispy kreme bread pudding, though I missed the root beer floats, I'm afraid.
I did, however, get a shot of the pig bar.
Yes, you heard me. None of this namby-pamby sundae bar ridiculousness.
The Boyfriend and I were cursed with a 7am flight out the morning after the wedding, and naturally the ONLY thing that could soothe the sting was a bagful of beignets bought in advance from the famed Cafe Du Monde. Of course I couldn't help but sneak a bite when they were hot and fresh, greasy, crispy, and airy, dusted in a snowdrift of powdered sugar.
As someone who is increasingly and alarmingly becoming challenged at just relaxing and being and doing nothing (even and especially on vacations), I thank you, New Orleans, for asking nothing more of me than that I have a good time. I sure wish you could catch a break, Big Easy. Between hurricanes and oil spills, the proverbial neighbor sure is determined to call the cops on your party. But still we say, Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler. And roll, and roll and roll.
P.S. If you want to help the greater New Orleans area affected by the oil spill, go here. And if you want to speed up the reconstruction of homes in the ninth ward, join Brad Pitt's org here.
P.P.S. Thanks also to Josh and Kate for including us in such a beautiful celebration, and for introducing me to the food I've been missing out on all this time.