Even if you don't hail from The Pelican State, there's no better excuse to party before the Lenten season than with Mardi Gras — after all, the purple, green, and gold only come out once a year! Live music and Krewe parades are but a few reasons why the debaucherous Carnival scene in New Orleans brings hundreds of thousands of visitors each early Spring, but undoubtedly, the biggest draw is the city's rich culinary history and unique perspective on food and drink. What do you know about the cuisine of New Orleans and Louisiana? To find out, keep clicking.Take the Quiz
This is Commander's Palace. If it looks like a fairytale building, that's because it is. It's a place where stories are told, surprises happen at any minute, and everyone works together to entertain you and take care of everything you could possibly want. Prepare to be a princess, in other words.
Any time you eat at Commander's, it's special; from brunch on any Sunday to lunch on Thursday to dinner on Saturday night. But the best times to eat there are on holidays, like Thanksgiving, or special occasions: the birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries that are the most important days in the story of your life. I had a big ol' birthday this month; I turned 40. All I wanted was to eat at the Chef's Table at Commander's, and Paul, my wonderful love, he made it happen.
The Chef's Table is the ultimate experience of what Commander's Palace really does, which is nothing short of magic. The table is in the kitchen, right behind the grill line; you're not sheltered away in a corner — you're right in the middle of it. And the Commander's kitchen is quiet, controlled, and all business. As the sous chef, Jason Wells, who prepared most of our dishes that night explained to us (above), you can easily have a conversation in the Commander's kitchen, because there's no yelling. It's not like any other restaurant kitchen I've ever seen or heard of, save The French Laundry or Daniel or other places in the top tier of restaurants in the world. And the theatre of the kitchen is part of the experience of sitting at the Chef's Table.
Anthropologie's July 2012 catalog draws on the rich cultural influence of one of America's most defining cities: New Orleans. The photos were set in environments from old cafés to saloons to courtyards, and the city's strong ties to jazz and Europe were referenced throughout the catalog. We're homing in on the winning design elements that capture the spirit of this celebrated city.
About two years ago, it seemed that every bistro and gastropub in San Francisco, CA, began offering some kind of fried dough on its dessert menu, and whether it was called a doughnut, beignet, fritter, or funnel cake, the formula was about the same: a few airy puffs deep-fried to perfection and served with the chef's choice of sweet accompaniments.
Turns out there's a reason for this dessert's popularity: it's incredibly simple, comforting, and delicious all at once. You may have memories of digging into funnel cakes at the county fair, munching doughnuts from the corner bodega, or plowing through beignets at Cafe du Monde, but a basic fried dough recipe speaks to our deeply rooted food nostalgia.
This recipe represents my first stab at beignets, but it certainly won't be my last. Despite the hour-and-a-half dough-rising wait time, the hands-on steps were easy and relatively low mess (for a fry project). And there's a topping for you, whether you're a traditionalist or out to try something new: sprinkle them with powdered sugar, smudge them with jam or apple butter, drizzle with chocolate or salted caramel sauce, or try something wholly different with a sprinkle of sugar and matcha green tea powder. Ready for the recipe? Just keep reading.
Making a king cake has never been one of my baking priorities, considering I've got little to no knowledge of Mardi Gras in general. But something came over me last week and I decided I wanted to take on this challenge. And a challenge it certainly was: I did a fair amount of research, finding an overwhelming number of different recipes and methods, then settled on a recipe from the king of New Orleans cooking himself.
King cake represents the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, and traditionally, whoever finds the dried bean or plastic baby in their piece of cake has to bring the next one or throw the next party. The three colors, purple, yellow, and green, are also significant. Purple signifies justice, while green represents faith and yellow, power.
Lots of yeast, colored sprinkles or frosting, and a dried bean or a plastic baby were all involved in Emeril's recipe, as was a serious hunt for candied citron (I imagine any kind of candied citrus would work well in its place). The recipe begins with forming the dough, then letting it rise for almost two hours, followed by kneading, shaping, and another rise.
The resulting cake was dense and chewy, much like the texture of a doughnut with a hint of lemon in the background. The sweetness comes from the icing and the sugar crystals, which I found to be a nice way to balance out the cake.
For more king cake photos and the recipe, keep reading.
Is there any better excuse for debauchery than Mardi Gras?! Get in the purple, green, and gold spirit with provisions shaped by and inspired from the city's rich history and culture. Start off your day with a Ramos gin fizz, and end it on a sweet note with a decadent ice cream bombe topped with flambéed bananas Foster! Here are a few of our Nola favorites; for more, check out all of our Mardi Gras recipes.
Ramos Gin Fizz
Bananas Foster Bombe
I've been cleaning out my iPhone photo roll and came across some great shots that made me swoon, laugh, and shake my head at how good this stuff was. This year I got to go to my first LSU game in Baton Rouge, and although I probably lost a small percentage of my hearing, I had a great time. And the jambalaya was great! We're also enjoying some shucking-good oysters these days. Come visit!
Creole Creamery: knock your flip-flops off good!
a fried-potato omelette from Camellia Grill (Riverbend). I think this should be on everyone's to-eat list.
For more, keep reading.
If you've never had or heard of grillades and grits, then I apologize for not mentioning them earlier. They're one of the two most wonderful things to eat for brunch in New Orleans (shrimp and grits being the other). I've never been to anyplace in town for brunch that didn't offer one or both of these goodies. Grillades (gree'-awds) are made of beef, veal, or pork; I haven't encountered a rabbit version yet, but I won't be surprised when I do. The beef is a thin, flat cut of top round or chuck — something that can withstand a long, slow cooking. It simmers in a pot with the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), garlic, and a little jalapeno — not traditional, but I really like it — until the rich broth thickens and intensifies, so what you get is a powerfully flavored beef "stew" that is perfect over creamy cheese grits. This is a great Louisiana recipe to try if you're hankering for some thick, rich goodness but you don't feel up to stirring a roux, because you don't have to. The small amount of flour used in the browning of the beef will produce all the roux you need.
Read ahead for the grillades and grits recipe.
In New Orleans, there is no shortage of beautifully restored homes. With such charming, unique architecture, it's not a city where people make a habit of tearing things down and putting McMansions in their place. That said, it's rare to see a historic restoration that incorporates contemporary design — moreover successfully so. I was lucky to tour one of these rarities firsthand during my last trip to the Crescent City.
I learned after graduating from Tulane University that my graphic design professor, Robert Gassiot, and his partner Michael Clement had purchased a 19th century New Orleans shotgun and were in the process of restoring it and giving it a modern addition. It took three architectural drawings until the plans were finalized; the scope of the project included removing an existing enclosed porch, which was added in the '20s, gutting and restoring the kitchen and laundry/bathroom, and building a modified "camelback" tower in the rear with a modern architectural style.
When I visited in February, the project was essentially finished, and I was invited to spend a day with Robert and Michael, touring the space and learning about the project. The duo have tackled five previous renovations and have a strong interest in interior design, as well as in collecting local art. Michael, a landscape designer, made use of his skills by turning the backyard into an oasis for entertaining, dining al fresco, and relaxing. Michael is also an artist and sculptor, and many of his exquisite sculptures and lighting designs can be seen throughout the house.
Come take a look. Prepare to feel a pang of envy; you are in for a treat!
Target recently took a trip to New Orleans, one of my all-time favorite cities, to transform three beautiful French Quarter courtyards for a progressive supper with pieces from its Smith & Hawken collection of outdoor furniture and décor.
Among other things, New Orleans is known for its architecture, and many historical French Quarter homes tend to be a little rough around the edges; it's part of the charm. That said, lead designer Stephanie Grotta managed to celebrate the unique architecture of the homes, while bringing some polish and color to the courtyards of three very lucky homeowners. I was eager to hear about the process, and Grotta gladly obliged to offer some details about how she and event designer Valorie Hart transformed each space. Come along to see all of the before-and-after photographs and hear about the project!