Tastes of New Orleans

First-time family trip to The Big Easy fills stomach, souls


In mid-April, my sisters, cousins and I literally ate our way through New Orleans.

For our second annual cousins’ trip, the six of us decided to visit New Orleans for a three-day get-together. We went to Las Vegas last year. Although I had briefly stopped in New Orleans in the past, I’d never experienced the city and all it has to offer.

We all flew in on a Thursday night. That gave us a little time before starting our food journey Friday morning with a mandatory New Orleans highlight: Café Du Monde.

We all intentionally skipped breakfast at home Friday morning, knowing the delightful French doughnuts and coffee would soon be ours to indulge in.

Suffice to say, the New Orleans hot spot is no longer a hidden treasure. To be fair, I don’t know that it ever was.

We arrived to the green and white striped establishment to join a long line of customers waiting to be seated to order their treats. We opted out of the long line and instead joined the shorter, to-go line around the corner. We all ordered a serving of beignets, which come in threes. I also ordered a cafe au lait, which is half coffee and half milk. You can get the coffee hot or iced. There also is regular black coffee.

Cafe Du Monde is steps away from Jackson Square. Instead of crowding around a table we found a great spot on the steps to eat our doughnuts and sip our coffee while enjoying the weather.

The powdered-sugar-soaked doughnuts did not disappoint. We enjoyed each bite, down to the final one. After you’ve finished them, a mound of powdery white sugar remains in the bag for the truly brave to spoon up and eat. The hot coffee also was delicious and helped kick start us for our explorations.

After our late breakfast, we had just enough energy to walk around Jackson Square and see the numerous art vendors and painters. We also stopped inside the majestic St. Louis Cathedral to see its beautiful interior. Before long, we were hungry again.

Luckily, we had a plan.

Our next stop was another New Orleans iconic establishment — Mother’s Restaurant.

Just a short walk from Jackson Square, Mother’s is best known for its fried po’boys.

Regular guests know that you have to wait in line and place your order first before attempting to save a table. Among the options are Jerry’s Jambalaya, seafood gumbo, an oyster and shrimp po’boy and red beans and rice.

Between the six of us, we tried a little bit of everything. I’m not a big seafood eater, so I got the fried chicken po’boy with fries. My sisters got a dinner-sized order complete with red beans and rice, shrimp and jambalaya. We also ordered a side of potato salad, which was amazing. Perfectly salty and sweet at the same time, it was great to balance out our other food.

The fried chicken sandwich I ordered was delicious. The chicken was flavorful and crisp and the sauce was a perfect accompaniment. The fries were perfectly thin and crispy. I sampled some of the sausage and it was packed with flavor, too.

The food was well-seasoned and spicy, but not too hot. Mother’s definitely deserves its place on the list of New Orleans top food venues.

Now that we had enjoyed breakfast and lunch nearly back to back, we were ready for a bit of walking to burn off that fine fried food.

Aside from the food, New Orleans is best known for its jazz music.

On Friday night, we made sure we were right at the front of the line for the 10 p.m show of the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

It was a good thing, too, because the tiny hall is more like a classroom and fills quickly. Guests stood in the back and also sat up front to hear the band.

The band is high-octane, filling the room with the sounds of their instruments and incredible voices. They have the whole crowd clapping and singing along with them. The performance was a great way to end our first full day.

We didn’t have long to recover before our next adventure on our eating extravaganza.

On Saturday at 11:30 a.m., we had reservations at Commander’s Palace for its jazz brunch. This beautiful restaurant is located in New Orleans’ Garden District.

We read in advance that the attire was business casual for brunch. So ladies were in dresses and men in nice pants and jackets. While dining, guests are treated to music by a live jazz band walking through the crowd. The band also takes requests from diners.

The food is truly a feast at Commander’s Palace.

Guests choose from an appetizer, main course and dessert. I selected a key lime and strawberry parfait as my appetizer, although it just as easily could have been considered a dessert. The fruit was perfectly sweet and the creamy parfait was delicious. For main courses, there was a choice between egg and meat dishes, seafood and — what I selected – carrot cake flapjacks.

The pancakes were incredible. The cakes were so soft and definitely the highlight. They were topped with a decadent whipped topping. The pancakes were light and airy although the topping and rum soaked honey accompanying them took them over the edge in sweetness.

As if we had any more room, there still was dessert waiting to be had. My cousins and I played a game of “dessert roulette” as my cousin Anjali put it.

We ordered our favorites from among the six options. Once they arrived, we each spent a little time with one dessert before passing it to the next person to try. My two favorites were the pecan pie and the praline parfait.

The pecan pie was stuffed with the biggest layer of filling I had ever seen in a pie. It was delightful and instantly took me back to the end of Thanksgiving meal. Did I mention the pie was topped with a scoop of ice cream?

The praline sundae was to die for, too. The ice cream was perfect and the whipped topping was just the right touch. The crunchy pecans made this one of the best sundaes I had ever had.

It was hours before we were hungry again.

Much later, for dinner, we stopped at an establishment that served more southern goodness.

My cousin got an order of alligator bites. I will admit I did try one. It definitely had some bite.

By the end of our weekend, we had thoroughly enjoyed a taste of what New Orleans has to offer.

The New Orleans food scene is a must visit indulgence for foodies and fried-foodies alike.

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