Eating in New Orleans: Pistolettes & Beignets
February 29, 2016 § 7 Comments
I think I’m addicted to bread pudding.
We ate it every night on this trip. It was so good every time! And so different from the mushy nonsense I had in San Francisco. But I’ll start at the beginning.
(I apologize that most of these photos were taking with my phone in dim restaurant lighting, so image quality isn’t great.)
Due to major flight delays on my end, Kaiti and I got in around the same time, so we had a late dinner while waiting for Lucy. We needed somewhere close to the hotel that was open past 10 p.m., so we decided on the Original Pierre Maspero’s right around the corner.
The seafood pistolettes (stuffed bread rolls) were the standout. Hot and creamy and delicious! The Crescent City sampler, which came with small bowls of gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etouffée served as a proper introduction to Louisiana Creole cuisine. The latter in particular was my favorite: creamy and flavorful without being too salty.
Holding back on the entrees meant more room saved for dessert, and this bread pudding did not disappoint! That’s a large dinner plate holding a serious hunk of bread. It was tasty and very dense, like carrot cake that had been made into French toast, though it wasn’t soaked all the way through so I wouldn’t give it a perfect 10/10. Either way, we didn’t manage to finish all of it and left stuffed.
We started our day with arguably the most well-known of them all: Cafe du Monde.
It was already pretty crowded by the time we arrived at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, but we found seating pretty quickly. (The line was out the door when we left later.) We were quickly introduced to the seemingly main demographic of New Orleans (or just New Orleans tourists): middle-aged white people, as far as the eye could see.
I wasn’t expecting much from the beignets, considering I don’t like donuts and generally don’t like deep-fried foods. Still, we ordered two servings and got to eat two beignets each.
Well, after tapping off 90 percent of the powdered sugar piled on top, I was irrevocably converted to a beignet lover at Cafe du Monde, solely because of how dense and chewy they were on the inside. Mmmmmm perfection.
We didn’t think our little breakfast would be enough to last the whole afternoon at the swamp, so we made a beeline for Central Grocery, which claims to be the originator of the muffuletta sandwich.
It’s an actual grocery store, full of interesting — and some very vintage-looking — goods. I bought a tin of Spanish sea urchin roe out of curiosity, though I have yet to eat it. (I’m scared!)
There’s a nice little section in the back with stools and counters full of random graffiti. Too bad we forgot to leave our own marks! We ordered half a muffuletta for the three of us to share, and it was definitely enough on mostly full stomachs. The sandwich was good, though I wish we had the option to get it toasted.
After our swamp tour (post to come), we hopped on a streetcar and took a 40-minute ride over to Jacques-Imo’s Cafe for dinner. The green line took us through the Garden District, and even though we were famished, we enjoyed seeing the pretty houses along St. Charles Avenue. It was also fascinating to watch the streetcar conductor work the cranks to move the vehicle. He had no pedals or steering wheel, just two cranks.
We made it to Jacques-Imo’s right at the beginning of the dinner rush — it’s crazy thinking about anyone having to wait an hour for a table in New Orleans, but I guess it does happen! Our meal started with these complimentary cornbread muffins, which were delicious! I love cornbread, especially the sweet, cakey kind, and these were garlicky on the outside but corny and sweet on the inside.
Shrimp and alligator cheesecake doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but it’s their most mentioned dish on Yelp, so we had to try it. The taste and consistency was more akin to a cheesy quiche, soft and melty. I can see why every table ordered one of these. For our entrees, we got blackened redfish and Cajun bouillabaisse, which were tasty and came with two sides each.
Needless to say, we were quite full by the end of our meal but still couldn’t resist trying the coconut bread pudding.
It was DIVINE. Perfectly moist and chewy and not overly sweet. (The dried coconut flakes were more or less negligible.) We tore up those three slices in no time.