Last week New Orleans hosted the American Library Association. I'm a librarian. So I went to the conference. It was New Orlean's first post-Katrina conference and, wow, they pulled out all the stops. When I wasn't in conference meetings, presentations and discussions, I did my best to get out and sample the local fare. Okay, maybe it was the other way around: When I wasn't out sampling the local fare, I attempted to attend meetings, presentations and discussions. Shhh...don't tell! I took lots of photos
Unlike many librarians
, I didn't get out of the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny or downtown. So, I didn't witness the hardest hit and poorest (i.e. getting no resources for rebuilding) areas. I spent my time in the parts of town that weren't flooded and that have the resources to rebuild quickly.
That said, the food was AMAZING! i easily ate my weight in foods deepfried and of-the-sea. And some deepfried seafood. We had one fancy dinner, thanks to Nick's mom. The Palace Cafe, on Canal Street, was quite lovely. The bananas foster was so good that it, ahem, totally
made up for the raw duck I was served. And, yes, I've had duck before and I know that it's supposed to be rare. Rare, not raw. But we sent it back and the Palace Cafe waitstaff was suitably horrified, apologetic and so forth. And, really, that bananas foster was mighty tasty.
Aside from that one big night out, my friends and I stuck to the kinds of places that don't take reservations since, well, with a sudden influx of 18,000 librarians, getting a reservation was no easy task.
We hit Mother's for lunch on day one. Line snaking out the door, I had the privilege of spending about fifteen minutes at the front of the outdoor line, directly under the nose of Elvis, Mother's host and character extraordinaire.
He sang for us, told us stores about Katrina and generally inched his way closer and closer to me until finally i was given the go ahead to enter the restaurant. What bliss! My pleasure at regaining full ownership of my personal space (I'm quite midwestern in how widely I cast my little bubble of space) was quadrupled when we sat down to a full table of po'boys, grits, etouffe and bread pudding. The bread pudding was SO good. SO SO good! Better than anything I'd ever had. That bread pudding smelled worlds better than most bread pudding taste. In fact, when I brought the bread pudding to the table, I forced all of my lunchmates, even the two people I'd just met, to smell it. And they thanked me. If they bottled the scent of Mother's Bread Pudding, I would buy it at any cost.
I mean, this bread pudding had canned fruit cocktail
in it and it still tasted like a trillion dollars. For real. It was absurd. Nothing should taste that good. I might kill a man for that bread pudding. I'm even posting a weird photo of me because, in it, I am sniffing the bread pudding. I look scary because I am totally overwhelmed by the smell of the bread pudding. I had three other bread puddings in New Orleans, and none of them came close the the genius of Mother's bread pudding.
Mother's got us off to a great start. From there, we hit the expected spots: beignets and iced coffee at Cafe Du Monde, Muffalettas at Frank's on Decatur, alcohol consumed outdoors, and so forth.
Laura and I had a particularly good dinner at Coop's, a little restaurant on the edge of the French Quarter. The menu is pictured at the top of this entry. We got crawfish beignets, a big pile of fried seafood, gumbo, jambalaya and fried chicken. Holy moly was it good! The crawfish beignets placed up near the bread pudding in terms of absolutely fantastic and amazing. Ooh, I'm just now noticing that there are stuffed jalapenos on the Coop's menu. Shoot! I didn't notice those before. I totally have to go back--they're my favorite!
I also enjoyed a fabulous feast at the Gumbo Shop with Bruce, of gnocchi-making fame. We enjoyed shrimp okra gumbo, crawfish etouffe, jambalaya, rice and beans, turnip greens, bread pudding and pecan pie. It was so austere. We skipped on the fried food entirely.
At any rate, overall, New Orleans remains the place to go for amazing and fantastic food. Next time I go back, I want to try some of those fancier reservation-required restaurants. We passed Stella on our daily walk to the conference and the menu posted on the door made me weepy. And there's Lola, out on Esplanade, and Arnaud's, and....
And, you know, it's a fascinating city. I'm glad that the American Library Association didn't change cities. It was nice to be spending my money in New Orleans and I think we librarians did ourselves proud.