48 sweet hours in New Orleans

Have you ever experienced one of those hangovers where you’re ravenously hungry for…hmmm…you just can’t figure out what? You know when you find it you’ll feel A-OK ( is A-OK a thing? Do people say this anymore?) so you keep eating food in an attempt to find THE food.

Yes? You’ve been there? Well, you’ll probably identify with this story then. I’d spent a week in Charleston, South Carolina for a workshop and I’d been going to bed (relatively) early after a very sensible single glass of wine to maximize the learning. That all went out the window on the last night when I stayed out far too late with all of my new friends and drank waaaay too many cocktails.

I woke fully dressed in last night’s clothes, lights ablazing with my eyes glued shut because I’d slept in my contact lenses. Gingerly turning my throbbing head to see the alarm clock I realized I should have left for the airport 15 minutes ago…and I hadn’t packed yet. I reached for the glass of water on the side table and took a huge gulp only to realize it was gin. I boarded the plane to New Orleans with seconds to spare and sat very still and quiet through the flight as any sudden movement brought with it the fear of needing to use one of those little paper bags in the seat pocket.

On arrival in New Orleans I was ravenous and started the mission to find the magical food item that would fix me – a soft pretzel whilst waiting for my luggage, a fruit smoothie sucked down in the taxi, a crisp green apple at check-in, a bowl of Pinkberry frozen yoghurt, truffled French-fries from room service, culminating in dinner for one at August where I made light work of a market vegetable chop salad, foie gras three ways, field pea agnolotti and petite fours (no photos as my head was too sore to lift the camera).

The next morning, my husband flew in and I was perfectly bloated recovered just in time to meet up with our good friends Kathy and Mark.

Saturday afternoon was all about the tourist spots – after fried chicken at Mothers, we headed to the French Quarter. Our first stop was the Hotel Monteleone for a cocktail at the revolving Carousel Bar and Lounge and this started my current obsession with the delightful French 75 (Gin, Champagne and Lemon juice – two of my favorite things!)

Next up was the ubiquitous Pat O’Briens where Kathy and Mark insisted on hurricanes. Imagine dumping alcohol – lots of it – into a glass of tooth-achingly sweet Kool-Aid. Voila! The hurricane! The nemesis of dentists. The dueling piano players provide amazing entertainment and will play requests for a small tip.

New Orleans Top Tip #1 (thanks Mark!) – hand a crisp $20 to the guy who seats you and you’ll miraculously get a table at the front. If no tables are available at the front, you’ll likely be moved as soon as one frees up. 

Pralines are the thing to eat in New Orleans and we watched them being made and sampled a couple. Kathy insisted we wait to try Bayou Country pralines on the way out of New Orleans as they’re the best.
New Orleans Top Tip #2 – keep your pralines fresh in the freezer, just take a couple out to defrost for a few minutes when you’re in the mood for something sweet.

We walked down Bourbon Street which provided for most amusing tourist/people watching.

Obviously we hadn’t consumed enough sugar at this point so our next location was Café Du Monde. This French market coffee stand at 800 Decatur St in the French Quarter near the Jackson Square gardens is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, only closing on Christmas Day. Beignets are fried dough, covered (and I mean covered) in powdered sugar, which can be tipped into your coffee or blown over your children. The line usually snakes around the building which brings me to…
New Orleans Top Tip #3 – don’t stand in the to-go line for hours to get your beignet fix, just follow the sign to “seating” and you should be able to grab a table fairly quickly (they serve and flip super fast). Also remember that it’s cash only but with coffee at $2.73 and three beignets for just $2.73 it’s hardly going to break the bank.

I had a major sugar buzz going on right about now and we hopped on the St Charles Avenue Streetcar Line and rode all the way to Stop #21 just to enjoy one of The Superior Grill’s superior margaritas. Tart, sweet and super strong – these were pretty fabulous margaritas and well-worth the scenic streetcar ride. After two of these each, a poor decision was made to head to the casino and the rest of the night descended into chaos that should probably not be reported on the blog 😉

Luckily, Sunday brunch at Mr B’s Bistro more than made up for it! Located at 201 Royal Street in the heart of the French Quarter and serving brunch with jazz from 10:30am – 2pm, Mr. B’s Bistro is a New Orleans restaurant famous for its Creole cuisine with a focus on fresh regional products and serves the best brunch in New Orleans.

Sipping on mimosas, we started with an order of fried oysters on the half shell with bacon horseradish hollandaise sauce. Conversation stopped as we all silently marveled at the genius pairing of a crisp fried oyster with the rich bacon-y hollandaise. Our waiter was immediately summoned to request two more orders for the table and it took a lot of willpower to stop there. If you’re in New Orleans and you don’t eat at least one of these oysters then you’ve really had a wasted trip. Other brunch standouts were the crab cake and barbequed shrimp served in their shells with a peppery butter sauce.
Best brunch in New Orleans, with jazz. Fried oysters, crab cake and barbequed shrimp.

Dinner that night was at Peche and what a dinner it was! This James Beard Foundation award winning restaurant at 800 Magazine Street in the Warehouse District was the kind of restaurant that would seriously make you consider becoming a pescatarian. We feasted on briny oysters, plump gulf shrimp, crisp hushpuppies and left just the picked-over spine of the most tender and flavorful seabass.

Bonus, as I stopped by our hotel room to grab a sweater, I looked out to see a second line walking by!

On Monday we dined at the old-school Bon Ton cafe (401 Magazine St in downtown New Orleans) where I was bullied into tasting a sip of turtle soup, something I won’t be repeating (because I am somewhat fond of turtles). After getting over the disturbing turtle encounter I thoroughly enjoyed my first deep-fried Louisiana soft shell crab and Paul made short work of the Shrimp Étouffée, shrimp literally smothered in a buttery garlic sauce, rendering the diner impervious to vampire attack for the rest of the day. 

Our fabulous friends invited us to their home for our last night and thoroughly spoiled us with boating on the lake, a steak cookout, champagne galore and our first experience with King Cake. Not going to lie, at this point I was starting to worry about developing type II diabetes so I ate just a small piece of this Danish-style dough covered in colored sugar and filled with cinnamon and cream cheese. Luckily, we found the teeny tiny plastic baby without anyone choking so that means we’ll have to host Kathy and Mark at our home next time! Hoorah!
If you’d like to make your own King Cake, you can try this King Cake recipe

On the way back to the airport we got drive-thru margaritas (does it get any better!??!?!) and I’ll leave you with this image of Hide-a-way lake in Slidell, LA.

If you’d like to try your hand at cooking some New Orleans food then check out these great books (affiliate links):

Have you been to New Orleans? Did you love it? Where are your favorite places to eat? What did we miss? Where should we go next time?

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit – the best biscuits in Charleston, SC

Last week I found myself in Charleston, South Caroline for a workshop. Prior to flying out I spent a few days doing my research and came up with a short-list of must-visit restaurants whilst in Charleston:
The Ordinary
167 Raw
Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar

Once at the workshop it became very obvious that we’d be working late into the night and there wouldn’t really be the opportunity to indulge in my food escapades. Regardless, I had to try at least one of the places on my list and so I skipped the complimentary breakfast provided by our hotel (the recently opened Hyatt Hotel on King St) and made my way to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.Callie's Hot Little Biscuit in Charleston, South Carolina with country ham

This tiny little space with a long marble counter to perch at, can be found at 476 1/2 King Street. Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit is open 8am – 2pm every day (with late night hours of 10pm – 2am on Friday and Saturday) and in addition to the biscuits they also have the best 80’s music playlist.  Walk in, wait in the usually speedy line, give your name and your biscuit order and just a few minutes later you’ll be the recipient of a perfect little brown paper box holding biscuit nirvana.

Classic buttermilk, cheese & chive or shortcake biscuits are just $3, filled biscuits with country ham, black pepper bacon, blackberry or cinnamon are just $4. But wait….for $5 you can get three biscuits. Make sure to check out the daily specials written out on a large piece of brown paper.

On the first day I chose a country ham biscuit. The warm biscuit managed to be both light and dense at the same time and had the perfect filling of savory, hearty, country ham. It was hours before I could even thing about eating again. On subsequent days the thought of instant oatmeal or a granola bar couldn’t hold a candle to these tempting little morsels so this became my go-to breakfast spot. I had great plans to try a different biscuit but found myself unable to resist the temptation of the heavenly country ham! If you’re in Charleston you must, must, must visit and try a biscuit!

The rest of the week flew by in a blur of hastily grabbed meals after class let out at 8 or 9pm but I have to also mention Jenni’s ice cream also on King Street. What I’m about to say might not make me very popular but I’m not a big ice cream fan. I know – sacrilege! However a friend dragged me in and I figured I might as well try something. I chose a chocolate hazelnut ice cream sandwich and was frankly blown away. The dark rich chocolate dipped in hazelnuts was sandwiched between the lightest hazelnut macaroons for a crazy good ice cream experience! 

I guess I’ll just have to go back to Charleston to hit up my original list! What’s your favorite restaurant in Charleston? What else should I add to the list?