Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two Chicks in The Big Easy, Day 1: All fried, all the time

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MH and I have been wanting to take a trip together for years, but our schedules have never matched up. When she was on break from law school, I had to work; when she was going to Taiwan, I had just gone the year before; when her classes were over in the summer, I was stuck studying for the GREs. The most we could ever manage were weekend road trips to neighboring states. But miraculously, this year when she announced that she was free during her spring break, I was also.

We looked into a trip to Japan, which we calculated would be too costly. As we turned our travel plans domestic, I floated out the suggestion of New Orleans without much hope, having been turned down by various friends many times before. But to my amazement MH was into the idea. It was decided—we would head to the Big Easy!
Our flight landed in New Orleans around 1 pm. On the long bus ride to our hotel, we befriended the bus driver, who turned around to chat so many times, we switched our seats to a closer position so that he wouldn't drive us off the road. When our conversation turned to food, he told us about the oyster festival that had taken place just days before, whose feature item was a "block-long oyster po'boy." I was extremely sad that we had missed it.

We arrived safely to the French Quarter, but couldn't yet check into our hotel. So we headed over to Acme Oyster House for lunch, a cheap, touristy spot full of gaudy neon. On the way in one of the servers took a liking to MH after getting over his disbelief that she spoke English; immediately after he recovered he asked if they could hang out sometime. My, my, was the South living up to its friendly reputation.

Once we had ordered, we quieted the growl in our stomachs with a few packets of saltines from the basket sitting on the table. Our starter of a dozen chargrilled oysters arrived soon after. They had been basted with some kind of buttery garlic sauce and topped with romano cheese before being tossed onto the flames; the salty, crusty cheese melded beautifully with each juicy oyster. And our emptied shells held a delicious amalgam of buttery garlic sauce, oyster juice, spicy seasoning, and crusty cheese, perfect for sopping up with the thin rounds of bread scattered amongst our dozen.
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We got the "Ten-Napkin" roast beef po'boy, served "debris-style," meaning the beef had been cooked until it had fallen apart into its own drippings and soaked them up. True to its description, the po'boy overflowed with gravy. However, it was extremely salty, and both MH and I stopped eating after we finished our respective thirds, leaving the last behind.
We also got the"Peace Maker" po'boy: half shrimp and half oyster. To my surprise it really did come as two halves, the shrimp on one side and the oysters on the other, not a mix as I had expected. I was disappointed after my first bite—I thought the po'boy would equal more than the sum of its parts, but this version didn't seem like anything other than plain, heavily breaded fried seafood with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on soft French bread. Its description mentioned a Tabasco-infused mayo, but I detected no heat.
Still, it was fried, and fried things are good. Especially when they arrive in sandwich form.
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That night, after an afternoon strolling around and getting our bearings, we ended up at the famous Café du Monde, whose presence I saw everywhere in the city. CDM-brand coffee and beignet mix were sold in almost every shop and grocery we popped our heads into, and there were entire gift stores devoted to souvenirs with the coffee stand's imprint. Granted, we were in the super-touristy French Quarter, but I found the café's ubiquitousness kind of amazing.
Its popularity is for good reason, however. Their beignets were delicious, as was their café au lait. Our pillows of fried dough arrived under a thick drift of powdered sugar and were practically greaseless. We later heard that CDM's beignets are prepared in lard—I haven't tried to verify this, I think I'd rather not know—but that could certainly account for why they were so dang tasty.

The beignets and coffee ended up being our dinner, as neither of us felt like eating anything else after consuming so much fried-ness in one day. We would both hit a definite limit to how much salt and oil we could consume comfortably—although there was one exception we always made.

To be continued….

Two Chicks in The Big Easy:
Day 1: All fried, all the time
Day 2: Too much buffet, and bad fried chicken
Day 3: Our beignet addiction takes hold
Day 4: Still fried, but deliciousness at last
Day 5: Food court and dive bar surprises
Day 6: Giant salads, muffalattas, and no beignets
Day 7: "Beignet...done that"


  1. Dang, I really want a beignet!

  2. "Still, it was fried, and fried things are good. Especially when they arrive in sandwich form."

    so true.