“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
-Tennessee Williams, Author
It has only been a week, but after almost 2 full days in New Orleans, I can’t stop thinking about my delicious trip. Although short, my time there was a whirlwind of education, culture and of course, food. I arrived in the Crescent City at 10 am local time and headed straight to Catersource 2017, which is a fantastic show for catering and event professionals. Indeed a sensory overload, I was immersed in all things catering while my work family was out and about enjoying the NOLA culinary scene. We met up after the end of the show at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant for charbroiled oysters.
Located in the Warehouse District, Drago’s is a New Orleans classic and a must for anyone visiting the city. While this was not my first trip to New Orleans, it was, however, my first visit to Drago’s and it certainly left a lasting impression. Known for being the “home of the charbroiled oysters,” Drago’s is sure to leave you wanting more. Needless to say, my oysters were on point. With a total of three locations, (the original is in Metairie, La, the second in the Warehouse District and the third in Jackson, MS), Drago’s serves everything with a very special ingredient, love.
After Drago’s, we headed back to The Terrell House (the bed and breakfast where we were staying) for a quick stop before dinner. I absolutely fell in love with the charm and decor of this gorgeous place and can’t wait to return. I stayed in the Yellow Room which, for me, was just perfect.
Located in the Garden District, The Terrell House is a hidden gem that was built in 1857 for Richard Terrell. A wealthy cotton broker from Mississippi, Mr. Terrell had great taste in design and this house showcases beautiful porches and balconies surrounded by lush grounds. I can’t think of a better way to relax after an exhausting day eating and exploring the city.
The main dining room is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast before heading out for a day of exploration.
As we headed to out to dinner, I was captivated by the sounds of music in the French Quarter. As music and laughter filled the air, I wanted to escape and get lost in the crowds for while. Since I was only in NOLA for a brief work trip, time did not allow for me see more of the city. What I did see and experience, however, gave me a taste of New Orleans and its beautiful culture.
Dinner that night was at GW FINS and sadly my pictures are not that great. Dim lighting and a phone camera do not work well when trying to showcase beautiful food. We enjoyed a variety of items such as Crispy Pork Belly with compressed watermelon and ginger slaw, Red Snapper Crudo, Local Drum (chicken cracklin’ crust, white sweet potatoes, Shitakes, thin beans, pecans, sage brown butter), Florida Permit (wood grilled with Thai Mirliton Slaw, crawfish fritters, pepper jelly) and Scalibut (Halibut, Sea Scallops, lobster risotto, snow peas, pea shoot butter). Service was impeccable and I highly recommend dining at GW FINS if you are in the area.
Day two was very fast paced. After a 4 hour conference session, we walked over to Cochon for lunch. Located in the Warehouse District, Cochon dishes up authentic Cajun Southern Cooking and every bite created a “butterflies in my stomach” feeling. Thankfully there were four of us and I was able to sample something from everyone’s plate. Here is just a small selection of what we had……
Boy did I indulge. I could not help myself. Indeed my eyes were bigger than my stomach but hey, when in NOLA, the diet always starts tomorrow.
I have always felt that nothing compares to smokey ribs and these were finger lickin’ good. In fact, a very kind gentleman discreetly told me that I still had sauce on my face an hour after we left. I was just a tad embarrassed but then again, the ribs were worth it.
Do not get me started on their macaroni and cheese casserole. This dish was one of my favorites on the trip and trumps most mac n’ cheese dishes I have had. It is a close tie with Beecher’s in Seattle.
I ate more than my fair share of desserts during this trip and could not contain myself while at Cochon. Nothing is more Southern than banana pudding and boy did I enjoy their version. Almost to beautiful to eat, I managed to eat more of the pudding than my coworkers. I don’t think they wanted to mess with me and my fork. 😉
Have you ever had oatmeal pie? Surprisingly enough, this was my first time having it and their strawberry version hit the spot. Once again, I could not stop myself and had to release the top button on my jeans. All that was missing was a big comfy chair and I would have been in pure nirvana.
As if I was not full enough, we walked over to Cochon Butcher after lunch. With a line out the door most of the day, I knew this place had to be pretty darn special. This place is like Disneyland for carnivores. Not only is it a butcher shop, they sell sandwiches, desserts, wine, gourmet goodies, shirts and more. I found myself drooling over the cases of meats and sausages. Although I was stuffed more than a Thanksgiving turkey, I managed to save room for a slice of their Cochon Muffaletta with house meats and olive salad. Yeah, you could say that I was busting out at the seams at this point but it was worth every extra calorie.
If you are in the area…..go get some and thank me later.
With only a few hours left before it was time to head to the airport, we walked over to the French Quarter and had an hour to stroll the streets. By this time, I was in dire need of coffee and was lured by the scent of fresh beignets. I found myself stepping into Cafe Beignet on Royal Street. Since I have been to the famous Cafe Du Mond on prior trips to NOLA, it was nice to try a new place. I enjoyed coffee and a bag of three piping hot beignets. I was only able to eat one but it was just what I needed as an afternoon pick me up.
The clock was ticking and we had just enough time to grab dinner before heading back to Tampa. As they saying goes, we saved the best for last.
Dinner was at Upperline and I am still thinking about it a week later. Tired and still full from my day of eating, I was mesmerized by the decor which was filled with local art. We were greeted by the owner, JoAnn Clevenger, and her smile lit up the room. Truly passionate about her restaurant and city, I got a bit emotional as she was talking to us. It is rare to meet a restaurant owner that is so in love with their business. Those are truly special people and their passion is evident in everything from food to service. Once again, NOLA did me right and I managed to eat even more.
We shared several dishes including Crispy Oysters St. Claude (named one of the top new dishes in America by USA Today), Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade, Spicy Shrimp with Jalapeno Cornbread & Garlic Aioli and Lamb Shank Briased in Red Wine, Osso Buco Style.
Each bite had me falling even more in love with the beautiful city of New Orleans. As I enjoyed the last few bites of bread pudding while waiting for our Uber to the airport, I could not help but feel sad to leave this magical place. This trip was truly a blessing and I am beyond thankful I was given the opportunity to spend time in New Orleans.
When I arrived back home to Tampa that night, I felt incredibly inspired and ready to learn more about the city of New Orleans. My kitchen will soon be filled with the scent of fresh beignets dusted with powdered sugar and chicory coffee.