Welcome to Nawlins, a.k.a. The Big Easy, a.k.a. NOLA!! Can I tell you how long I've wanted to visit this city? I've always been fascinated with the culture, the food, and the romance of this city...and I was not disappointed, my friends. Everything we did on this trip was right up my alley! I could've stayed another week to soak it all in, but I think Main Man was ready to get outta dodge after downing the amount of alcoholic bevvies and fried foods that we ingested. He gets a little excited :)
We made it to Bourbon Street, the French Market, Mother's Restaurant for some of their famous ham, a small bar on the bayou called Bonne Chance that was full of Cajun crawfisherman, The Bayou Beer Garden for a crawfish boil, Cafe Du Monde for their famous beignets, a bar with endless daquiris called Spunky Monkey Daquiris in Pierre Part (you may recognize the town from the tv show Swamp People if you're a Louisiana love like we are), and an awesome restaurant called Coop's Place for an authentic dinner.
The purpose of this trip was to celebrate my good friend Manda's 30th birthday party...and boy did we celebrate! We spent a couple nights at her fishing camp (which is right down the bayou from Troy Landry's fishing camp (a name you won't recognize unless you watch the show mentioned above) and then headed into the city for a big crawfish boil one day and a sightseeing, city wandering day to follow. We celebrated our little hearts out, you understand why we needed a few days to recoop when we got home. NOLA is seriously the city that doesn't sleep with no bar closings and the ability to walk around with a drink in hand whenever and wherever you want...it makes for a very good time, and a very harsh reality adjustment when heading home.
Manda's Main Man, Matt, cooked us up some authentic shrimp and grits the first morning we were there. Wow. That's all I have to say. Although the fully clothed shrimpies with their whiskers and eyeballs bugging out were a tad tough to get over at first (we clean our shrimp before cooking up here in Yankee territory), these buggers were HUGE and we were easily convinced to suck all the juice out of the shells once we tasted it. I had never had grits before this so I was super excited to give them a try, and I was not disappointed. This is not skinny kid food, folks...I don't know how people down there don't weigh 400 lbs!
He had to cook the shrimp and sauce in a crockpot on the stove because the oven wasn't working...it didn't hurt the flava flav a tiny bit that way. This was in my top 3 meals that we had on our trip! Thanks for taking care of us, Matt!
Mmmmm, the grits were so good! There was a little heat to the sauce, but the creaminess of the buttery grits was a perfect match. Heaven, I tell you. Pure heaven.
200 lbs of crawfish right there to start the party off right...they're alive too!
The setup for the boil. It was fascinating watching them prepare the crawfish...there's definitely some tricks to the trade.
This little guy was trying to escape!
Nice rolling boil with that awesome crab boil flavoring in it...
Flash boil and then remove from heat, they will cook perfectly...I'll have you know that my mouth is watering from this memory!
How perdy are those!!?? The brussel sprouts especially held the flavor of the spices used when boiling...we nibbled on piles like this all day long. Word of advice: if the tail of the crawfish isn't curled, it means it wasn't alive when it was cooked and won't be as good.
A debris poboy from Mother's Restaurant...one of their specialties. Debris is the leftover meat drippings in the bottom of the roast beef pan with all the juice. I love me some debris. There is a slaw underneath there that is to die for, and the bread soaked up just enough of that juice that it was soft but not soggy. Perfection.
Main Man added ham to his...they're famous for their ham, and I see why. He always wins at the ordering lottery. To be fair, Leslie and I had 2.1 seconds to decide because we were across the street grabbing daiquiris for all of us to wait in line...the line moved much faster than expected.
Had to stop at the Tropical Isle for a Grenade, which is apparent the strongest drink in the history of drinks. I had one and fully understood why it has earned that title!
This is the only thing I would recommend NOT trying if you hit up Nawlins. Cracklin. From what I can tell, it's literally fried pig fat. No bueno!
Gator on a stick at the French Market! Talk about my dream city...all kinds of food carts, spices, sauces, and recipes for sale as you walk around sipping on a toddie. I want to be back there!! This gator sausage was so perfectly spiced and yummy....I should've written this post when I got back and was still full. Lesson learned.
Before we had our own crawfish boil, we stumbled upon a restaurant with a patio for some drinks and realized they were serving crawfish. We figured a private lesson before the big party was in order, and in no time, we were sucking the heads off like Cajuns! Manda is a big proponent of sucking the heads to get all the flavor out before eating the tail meat, but I wasn't so sure that was going to be my approach. I saw inside there and knew what would be going in my mouth. I'm telling you, you have to suck the juice out of the heads! I can't believe I'm saying that...but it's the truth. So much flavor in there! Main Man liked it :)
Beignets at Cafe Du Monde. This is a must do in NOLA if you ever head there. These are funnel-cakeish, doughnutish, fried sugary treats from the Gods. You want one.
Walking through the French Market, I had to have the charbroiled oysters. These were ahhhhh-mazing, you guys! I would've gotten another basket of them if Main Man had let me :) He is good at holding me back knowing I wanted to try everything else under the sun too...
A crabcake to trump all crabcakes. A crabcake to murder all crabcakes. A crabcake to make all other crabcakes not even exist in this universe. That's what this is.
The last night there we had dinner at Coop's Place, but of course all my camera batteries were dead (you don't take 2 cameras on vacations?) so I didn't get shots of dinner there. It was all phenomenal but Main Man had a seriously amazing pasta that is right up there with the best of the best of New Orleans that we had. It was a crawfish and tasso pasta that was sort of like a cajun alfredo with ham and seafood. Ugh. I would also recommend the redfish that Matt had...it was similarly phenomenal!
All in all...what did we come back with besides an additional 5 lbs each? An exceptional love for this new to me city, a desire to head back in the very near future to experience even more it has to offer, and an addiction to crawfish that will not be easy to satiate living in land locked Iowa. I said it won't be easy, but it will be possible :) Since it's crawfish season right now, I've done some online searching and come up with 2 crawfish boils in Des Moines in the next couple weeks. You betta baleev we shall be in attendance! We're not quite official coon-asses, but I think we've proven that we're not full Yankees :) Happy birthday, Manda...glad we were able to celebrate with you!