NOLA Love: Part 3
This is the last entry of my eating series: NOLA Love, where I take you on an eating journey through the wonderful city of New Orleans. If you missed parts 1 and 2...find them here and here. Let’s get to eating!
It’s Monday. I wake up and find myself thinking of all deliciousness that this city has to offer. Lindy has already gotten up and gone off to work. I feel a little guilty for sleeping in. Just a little. I may have a bit of a food hangover. And probably, a GOT hangover. It’s my last full day in the city for all things food and that makes me a sad panda. I’d better get to putting things in my mouth.
For breakfast I decided to dig into my balls. Of cake. (From Bakery Bar).The ones I neglected to eat last night as we were watching The North battle the Night King at Winterfell. I make some hotel room coffee and open my box of cake. Lindy commented last night that the baked goods were pretty “soft.” As I investigated what was left of our cake balls, I tried some red velvet, some chocolate, and some tres leche. Lindy was right, they were all a little...soft. Not just soft in a moist, well-baked kind of way. It actually felt a little too soft. Oddly moist, as Lindy would say afterwards. Even though we bought a wide array of flavors... (red velvet, chocolate and peanut butter, cookies and cream and tres leche) there was no distinctiveness. The soft, oddly moist texture actually overpowered any flavor there might have been. The cake also leaned toward the sweet side, which didn’t help define any flavors, but instead, it just was a sweet and soft ball. Definitely would have passed the test for design and finesse by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (of The Great British Bake Off fame), but I think would have scored low marks for the flavors being “a bit muddled.”
Today there was no working out, not even pretending to do the minimum. I am going out on the “Garden Tour.” It’s a walking tour, so that counts for exercise right? Last time I was in NOLA, I did a carriage tour around the French Quarter that also went into some history of Marie Laveau (a voodoo practitioner from the 1800s, who is renowned in Nola) and the importance of the cemeteries in the city. I had wanted to do the Garden Tour but didn’t have time to fit it in. I promised Lindy and a couple of her coworkers that I would deliver po-boys during the day. So basically I was on a mission. Take in more of the city and bring back bomb ass food. My husband was flying into NOLA for work that evening and we were all going to go out for dinner. I would finally meet his boss and wife and Lindy would finally meet my husband. She had never met him in the few years that we have been friends, and she is convinced that he is made up. Tonight was the night to prove that he does exist.
Before I leave the hotel room, I note that there is still a bottle of rose in the hotel mini fridge that is in need of finishing. Must make sure I do that. I travel to the Garden District, which is just West of the French Quarter. Remember, I still have no 2019 mobile technology, so I am off exploring on a whim and a paper map. On my way out of the hotel I visit Lindy who is hard at work. She’s being very important as a stage manager for a conference in the hotel. She takes pity on me and lends me her phone for the afternoon. We devise a plan for her to know that I am not dead as I am out on my walking tour. I will periodically email her from her email. Yeah, you read that right.
Plan in place, I jump into a van taxi. I arrive at the meetup point for the tour at the Garden District Book Shop. One of those locally owned bookstores that just make you feel good. I have a few minutes before my tour starts, so I peruse the books. I see that they have the newest book from George R.R. Martin (Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones). I purchase it for my husband (and me) and take off on my tour.
The only photos that I snapped during the walking tour. Cemeteries and Architecture.
Besides the food culture in NOLA, I love that there is always something new to do or see as a tourist every time you visit. NOLA, for me, will be one of those places that I will visit many times in my life and always have something on my to-do list for the next time. Case in point: during the tour, I found my next thing for me to do in between eating adventures: visiting historic slave plantations. Maybe doesn’t sound like a great time to some, but I love learning about the historic and regional culture that makes up a place. That includes all points of history, the pretty AND ugly.
The tour was informative, fun and interesting. It was led by a die hard, born and raised local and she seemed to know EVERYTHING. I felt proud that I was able to answer some trivia questions thanks to our surprise private tour at Antoine’s (Read Part 1, shout out to our back waiter). Having only really explored the French Quarter, like many who visit NOLA, it was fascinating to learn about the gritty past of the entire city and the resiliency of its inhabitants. It is one of the biggest port cities in US and has weathered storms and disease, The Garden District was settled by people coming from farms and The Plains, so the architecture differs from what you find in the French Quarter.
My tour guide was impressed by my eating itinerary and said I was definitely hitting all the right places. I told her that I had initially wanted to go to Domilise’s for po-boys, but felt that it might be a little too far for my limited time, and was going to settle on delivering po-boys from Mother’s to Lindy. My guide said that I absolutely had to go to Domilise’s. Can’t argue with that. Thus, the decision was made. I could walk my happy, food-loving butt down Magazine street to Domilise’s and get delicious po-boys. Which is exactly what I did.
I pop in and out of some artist boutiques and resist the urge to buy treats at every cafe I pass. I keep my mind focused on the po-boys from Domilise’s. I do get Lindy a little present and mentally take note of a NOLA tank top, with the hope that Lindy and I can be annoying and buy matching ones.
I send Lindy an email so that she knows that I have not been Taken (which is good, since I don’t know Liam Neeson). After a few more blocks with substantial thigh rubbing, I arrive at Domilise’s. Tucked off of Magazine St., in a neighborhood, Domilise’s stands on a corner. The only thing that that demarcates that it’s a business is the hand-painted sign.
I see a few people standing around outside and I assume that they have ordered and are waiting for their prized po-boys. Inside this institution was a mix of dive bar and small town diner. It had a lived-in feel...definitely felt historic. And busy! A clump of people were nestled to the side and I noticed they were holding laminated cards with numbers on them. I picked up on the system and searched for the numbered cards. Apparently, I looked like an out-of-towner because after a few moments I was pointed in the direction of the counter (it was literally within one foot of me) where the numbers were being held.
Number 11. Shouldn’t be too bad, I thought. Seems like everyone was waiting for food so I figured that I should be called up in a MacDonald’s minute to order. There were three people bustling about the kitchen and they were working the counter as well. Old school operation with a finely honed system that had been put in place for years. There is no loud speaker or some perky host that comes out to yell your number to tell you that it’s your turn. You have to remain vigilant and pay attention.
Turns out people were waiting not for food but to order. And they were only on number 4. I went back outside since there was no room to wait in the doorway. I watched people walk in and out of the door. Seemed like a mix of locals and tourists. Everyone seemed to know the drill. Grab a number and wait. I eventually started telling people where to grab a number. I felt like I was part of the system.
Some people left after seeing the line. Some people patiently waited for their food before going off to the airport to fly back home. The numbers slowly ticked by and I was happy to stand in the shade, people watch, and wonder if my thighs were going to stop being sweaty and chafing. I made friends with No. 8 so I was able to know when my turn was coming close. No. 8’s wife was from the area and when they are in town they ALWAYS stop at Domilise’s. I was happy that I was going to try a place that was such an icon in the community.
Ok, so after No. 8 left, it seemed like the No. 9 and 10 came around quickly and then it was MY TURN! I am pretty sure I skipped to the counter and I happily handed them No. 11. I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t getting no small size. Mine were all large. Obviously.
Fun fact: I love oysters! And my mind had been set on getting an oyster po-boy in my stomach. I order my oyster and couple of shrimp po-boys to bring back to Lindy and I wait a few minutes longer. The ladies in the kitchen moved around almost hypnotically as they threw breaded seafood into the fryer, sliced, and built the sandwiches. She told me that they have been using the same bread for over a 100 years. It gets delivered fresh every morning. Sacks of bread were piled up against a wall all waiting to be turned into delicious sammies.
She rolled and bundled me up. I asked for directions to the streetcar, got pointed in the right direction and off I went. I clutched the bag of po-boys like my life depended on it. No one was taking these from me! I walked my chafed thighs to the streetcar stop and checked my paper map to make sure I was going in the right direction.
Even though I was hungry and tempted, I waited until I got back to the hotel to eat my po-boy. I am very nice eating friend. I went straight to the conference room to deliver the sandwiches (I kind of felt like an awesome Santa) and sat down to finally eat my treasure! These sandwiches had taken a few hours to procure and I was ready to eat.
The bread was crusty and soft. Not quite a baguette or ciabatta but a bread that was made to be a vehicle for shredded lettuce, mayo, tomato and choice of protein with a little hot sauce. I am not sure if I even breathed while I DE-VOUR-ED my po-boy but I do know it was damn good. I could tell that had it been fresh, it would have amped up the awesomeness of it… it was a little soggy by the time I got around to eating...but hey, No. 11 ain’t complaining.
I ate my po-boy quickly enough to get back to my hotel room to wait for my hubby to call since he was landing any minute in NOLA. On the eating itinerary, I had initially planned for Jacque-Imo’s but the only reservations I could get were for people who were their 20s (9pm) or people in their 80s (5pm) and with a five person party we didn’t want to risk standing in line forever. My hubby’s boss and wife (who are locals) helped navigate eating anxiety and suggested Meril. This is the 11th restaurant by Chef Emeril Lagasse but the 4th in NOLA and named for his daughter. I was excited to compare and contrast two of Chef Emeril’s restaurants.
Note: Due to my neverending technology complications, I don’t have all my usual food photos for this section. I used my husband’s phone for ease and after he shared the photos with me he erased them, but I didn’t get them imported...so, alas, no photos.
My husband and I get there early. We are hungry. Naturally. We decided to order something at the bar while we wait for everyone and to quell our appetites. The ambience was very chic and had a youthful and sophisticated vibe to it. They have classy hand crafted cocktails and a good variety of beer and wine. The menu is set up as sharing plates. Great! One of everything please. Okay, we didn’t order one of everything but there were many plates on the table. There was a mix of proteins, veggies (which my husband doesn’t touch), carbs, and cheese engulfing our table.
This is where you can berate me for being a bad food blogger (hey! I am still getting the hang of it). Since, I don’t have any photos to reference, I am not sure of all of what we ordered. I know, I know. Trust me, I know that I am the worst right now. But let me tell you in an overview how I felt about Meril. I think it was creative and clever. There was a definite distinction between the vibe and food crafted between Emeril’s and Meril. I am not a chef restaurateur, but I can imagine how hard it is to craft a vibe that is authentic while cooking up great food at a multitude of restaurants. I would definitely go back and check out Meril again. While the menu offered fare that was more “southern” or “New Orleans,” they definitely took more liberties to play with the flavors and offered more of a global variety of flavors too. It seems like the menu gets updated pretty often because looking at the menu now (Meril menu), there are about 20 things that jump out at me that I must eat...that I know that I didn’t eat when I was there.
But not all is lost… here is one pic at Meril.
Now it is time for THE LAST LUNCH. It is Tuesday and I am flying out today. But first I get to have one last meal with my friend, Lindy. The place is Cochon. The day is sunny and I am wearing pants so my thighs don’t chafe. I am already winning.
We both agree that lunch was good. Across the board good. It hit all the satisfying foodie checkboxes. Well cooked, well seasoned, comforting, and creative.
Lindy wept tears when I had to leave. Ok, she didn’t say she did, but I know that she was crying in her heart. She actually had the afternoon off to go explore NOLA after I left. Like a good student, she took my advice on the eating itinerary and dutifully chose a place that we couldn’t get to.
She went to Port-of-Call. I went there on my first trip to NOLA in 2011 and I was not disappointed. I was told to get a burger with everything and a baked potato. I told Lindy to do the same. She did (minus the sour cream because she’s a heathen). Still, I was proud of her. Lindy also had an amazing po-boy that was pretty close to our hotel. She is still raving about that sandwich. Now, I will have to go back and hunt it down.
I hope you have enjoyed all the LOVE I have for the food of NOLA. I will definitely be back. To eat. To talk with locals. To eat some more. My husband already has two work trips planned to the Crescent City and I am trying to figure out a way to go ...to eat. As far as more eating food trips with Lindy, we are currently trying to figure out where to eat next. Comment below with your suggestions from your travels or must-eat places in your hometown!
Some photos from around Nola. Including me helping Lindy work and her fabulous po-boy and cheese biscuit.
Thanks so much for reading! What are your favorite things to eat in NOLA? Leave a comment! Connect with me on IG @dana.does.things - would love to hear from you! Next week, we got my first Bread Showstopper - a filled loaf! And then it’s on to Dessert Week and some other (smaller) eating adventures.
Until then...happy baking, happy eating, happy repeating.
P.S. Lindy did get us those matching tank tops...
P.P.S The cross stitch that I got for Lindy as a present (she stitched it herself)
P.P.P.S (Last one, I swear) My hubby does exist.
Showstopper or a Dana stopper
I feel so accomplished in FINALLY finishing my first biscuit showstopper. I am not going to lie, I was feeling a lot of resistance to doing this bake… even though I practiced this biscuit bake, which is not always the case.
The reason I was feeling a lot of resistance to this, is that I am just not that kind of baker. You’ve heard me write about it before but I am not that strong at decorating in detail. And I think contributed to the anxiety of this showstopper.
But the good news (!) is that I feel like I learned a lot by doing this bake. And I learned a lot about myself as a baker.
Things I learned:
I knew that my constructing skills were going to be pretty rudimentary, so I decided to take some pressure off of myself and do A SECTION of Hogwarts, instead of trying to do a whole silhouette. I even thought at one point I would do the same section on the front and back so you would see it either way… but I realized that I wouldn’t have enough biscuit dough to do that. And honestly, I didn’t want to make more (and I didn't have the time).
I decided that I would fake some relief work and cut out windows and such and paste them on the sides of the sculpture so it would add a little extra somethin-somethin to it. Confused by the syntax of "relief work?" This is what I mean: Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term relief is from the Latin verb relevo, to raise. To create asculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. (Brought to you by: Wikipedia). Can I just tell you how cool meringue powder is?! Totally awesome to use as a edible and delicious (and highly sugared) glue. Helping my “relief work” to stay in place.
You can find the recipe I used for the royal icing below as well. I opted for a recipe that did NOT use corn syrup because... gross. And I did not have any corn syrup in my pantry (I definitely did not have time for another Pantry Caper). As I was doing research about royal icing, because that is what one does when embarking on making a 3D sculpture scene, I learned a trick to keep royal icing from drying out: place a damp paper towel on top of the icing when not in use and (!) add coloring before thinning out to decorate so that you don’t over-thin the icing. Love learning #bakehacks. I kept my royal icing pretty thick as I was using it to paste together biscuits. I had enough left over for any decorating that I would need to do. In theory I would have then added a tablespoon of water at a time to thin the royal icing out, but... I didn’t need it for further decorating (keep reading). But I stored the rest of the icing in a mason jar so I can use it on some cookies (that I WILL NOT be making a sculpture out of) later.
Not only did I get to learn some #bakehacks but I also got to use my new baking toys: my rolling spacers! These are the ones that I got and I think they worked great! I felt that my biscuit thickness came out really even… I am super excited to use it while rolling pastry. More excuses to bake. #bakerproblems
You can see in my video documenting my construction, the moments when I was trying to figure it out on the fly. There are a lot of those moments. Also, see if you can pinpoint the actual moment when I just decided to say "good enough" to figuring out what to do with the inside of the structure. If you don't blink you can see when I pop a little biscuit in my mouth too. :)
Confession time. By the time I was done with constructing it… I honestly was like, “I’m good” and I didn’t even bother with making cream cheese frosting to do some decorations. I had a notion to make it Hogwarts in winter because who doesn’t love Hogwarts in winter?! Instead, the end product is a little more like a vague representation of a castle made out of edible things. To paraphrase a classic movie: "It's a little like a Monet...looks good from afar, but up close it's a bit of a mess. #clueless.
BUT I AM STILL PROUD. Remember all the anxiety I had about doing this bake. Well, I did it! Do I wish that I had the follow through to make it as pretty as it could be? A little. Do I feel bad about it? Not really. I know that I have grown as a baker and I know that I don’t ever want to do a 3D biscuit anything again… but I am excited to have the holidays roll around again so I can make awesome gingerbread cookies with treacle and the cream cheese frosting...mmmmm.
In case you are wondering...the biscuit structure is STILL standing 24+ hours later. It didn’t collapse! No, I am still not going to eat it. But I do feel like making more shortbread biscuits (perhaps, blueberry shortbread?!) and those I WILL eat.
Bread Week is next. Until then, Happy Baking. Happy Eating. Happy Repeating.
All the juicy facts will be right here.