La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded May 7, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, on land inhabited by the Chitimacha. It was named for Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of the Kingdom of France at the time.
I came down there for work and I had a chance to explore the city especially the French Quarter at night. Mardi Gras is Feb 28, but they were already setting up for the parades. Also, the city was going to host the NBA All Star game on Feb 19th. My meetings were in the Central Business District (CBD) which was about a mile from the start of the French Quarter. In summary, I saw a lot of oysters die in front of me and drank way too many beers and old fashions. Let the blog begin…
On a recommendation of a co-worker, I was told to skip the ACME oyster house and go to Felix Restaurant and Oyster House on the corner of Bourbon St and Iberville St in the French Quarter. I waited to sit on the counter and ordered a dozen raw oysters, blackened alligator, and a bloody mary. As you enter the restaurant, the raw bar is on the right and tables on the left. The interesting part is that they serve oysters right on the bar, on the bar, no joke. These gulf oysters were huge like a baby’s foot but so fresh. It’s not fancy but if you want to eat oysters this is as pure and real as it gets.
Willa Jean is a quick 5 min walk from the hotel so I took a couple of coworkers there for breakfast. A coworker ordered the biscuits and gravy (the chef’s grandmother’s recipe) and the other ordered the Willa Jean breakfast (2 over easy eggs, cheese grits, bacon, biscuit). Besides a coffee (very smooth and full bodied), I ordered the shrimp and grits (gulf shrimp, etouffee gravy, grits, slow poached eggs, cheddar biscuits). I wish I was born in the south because this was hearty and full of flavor. The shrimp was tender and the etouffee gravy and poached egg was a home run. Everyone loved their meal.
Borgne Restaurant a collaboration between James Beard award-winning Chef John Besh and his partner Chef Brian Landry. The restaurant is connected to the Hyatt Recency in the CBD. For lunch, I met up with a friend and ordered a Kentucky bourbon called Longbow as the base for my old fashion, shrimp and bacon toast points, 1/2 dozen gulf oysters, and catfish sliders. All were very tasty. I learned that locals typically eat oysters by putting cocktail sauce on a saltine cracker and eating it that way. Initially, I thought that was very red-neck but after trying it, I must admit, it was delicious. I would not do that for smaller more delicate oyster but for these gulf oysters, it helps address the HUGE size and give it some balance with a little salt from the cracker and a little sweet from the sauce. I am a fan now.
Trenasse Restaurant. The word trenasse means a trail in the marsh that will lead one to the best fishing. We had a company dinner there and I ordered the roasted lamb chops (creamed white beans, sautéed spinach, foie gras-tomato mint jam) which was fantastic. The two outstanding dishes was the Oyster Log where they put 36 cooked oysters on a cedar log and present it on the table. Everyone got to taste 6 different ways they prepare it (Smoked Gruyere & Pancetta, Rockefeller, Bienville, Garlic Butter and Gratin). For dessert, we ordered a mix which they charge $7 person presented on a cedar plank of which consisted of bread pudding, chocolate and peanut butter cake, beignets, macarooms, key lime pie, creme brulee and fresh fruits. People loved the presentation and loved the creativity of the food.
I was flying out around noon back home so I only had the morning before the meetings started to go out and take some pictures in the daytime. Walked down to the riverfront and managed to take some pictures. You can’t really see it but there was a foggy mist sitting over the Mississippi river that morning. One statue of interest was called “Monument to the Immigrant” dedicated on March 19, 1995. It reads” Dedicated to the courageous men and women who left their homeland seeing freedom, opportunity and a a better life in a new country.” Considering what President Trump did recently with his travel ban this is very timely. New Orleans was an amazing experience although it seemed like a blur, I can’t wait to come back again.