Monday, April 7, 2008

Two Chicks in The Big Easy, Day 7: "Beignet…done that"

On our final morning in New Orleans, the beignets we ordered were flat…like our spirits. It was sad to be leaving.

We had time only for breakfast before we had to pack up and make our way to the airport. And so we savored our time at Café Beignet, taking in our last moments in this sweet, funky, vibrant city. Despite their uncharacteristic flatness, the beignets were still delicious; when we pulled apart their hot, crisp exteriors, powdered sugar puffed out onto our laps and tendrils of steam curled up from their fluffy and tender insides. Soon after we licked the last bits of sugar from our fingertips, it was time for us to go.
I brought back a half pound of these super-sweet pralines from Southern Candymakers to share with my coworkers (I broke them into pieces since a whole praline was pretty huge). Of all that I sampled, these were the creamiest I could find, and the only ones made with whole pecans. Pralines in general are much too sweet for my tastes, but the box did disappear by the early afternoon, so I suppose they were well received.

Last thoughts.

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I know seven days isn't enough to take a true sampling, but much of the Cajun and Creole food we tried was really, really heavy and really, really salty. I came to NOLA expecting to be all into it—and I was—but I was less into it than I thought I'd be. There were some good meals, but you could probably tell we were also dying for some lighter grub.

As I mentioned in this entry, the Louisiana wetlands are in trouble. Aside from housing a rich ecosystem, the wetlands also serve as a natural buffer against hurricanes, absorbing much of the storms' impact before they hit land. But because of their decay over the last century, Louisiana's coast has lost much of its natural protection. I didn't know much about this before visiting.

More info:
"The Threatening Storm," TIME magazine
"Wetlands erosion raises hurricane risks,"
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana

New Orleans is definitely still a city in recovery. Most of what we explored was lively and thriving, but there was also evidence of its struggle in big and small ways, from the washed-out, abandoned houses we saw on the way to the swamps to the restaurants that now only stay open for half the number of meals as they used to.

Volunteer opportunities:
Hands On New Orleans
Habitat for Humanity, New Orleans Area

When Hurricane Katrina hit I remember feeling profoundly sad that an area so steeped in culture, history, and personality had been essentially washed away, or so I thought. New Orleans has managed to survive, and for the opportunity to still experience its rich character and hospitality, I am grateful.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled New York noshing…!

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"

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