Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Culinary Trip to New Orleans

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that what I love most is food, travel and good bottle of wine: I imagine I’m not unique in that sentiment. And there is no greater place to enjoy such activities than the city of New Orleans. In my opinion it may very well be the greatest restaurant city we have in the United States. I’m certain I’m not unique in that opinion.

For those retired and living at or near England Oaks (Front Porch's adult living retirement community in Alexandria, Louisiana) a trip to New Orleans would make a great day/overnight trip. For those living further away, a culinary trip to New Orleans is something everyone should undertake.

It’s often said in New Orleans that while eating one meal, people will be talking about where they are going to be eating their next two. In other words, food and restaurants are on everyone’s mind when in The Big Easy.

Giving a list of one’s favorite restaurants in New Orleans is an interesting task. Everyone (and I mean everyone) who has ever visited New Orleans has their list and their opinions. In other words, it’s a restaurant city filled with favorites on top of favorites. There is no consensus, only culinary debate when it comes to New Orleans. After numerous trips to New Orleans, my list has been an exercise in evolution. Each time I go a revision to the list is made. Among those making my list would have to be:

• Cochon - for its rabbit and dumplings
• Domilise - for its po’boys
• Brigtsens - for just about everything, but mostly its sauces
• Mr. B’s - for its bbq shrimp and their quintessential gumbo
• Restaurant August - for its refined take on Creole cuisine
• Bayona - for its veal sweetbreads, its rabbit entrée, and a perfect courtyard
• Butcher - for its pork belly sandwich
• Arnaud - for its foie gras stuffed quail
• Galatoire’s - for its history
• Commander’s Palace - for its brunch

Most of these places are well known to seasoned travellers of New Orleans and many are familiar names to even the first time traveller (as they each have a strong reputation and great reviews precede them). But tops on my list would have to be a little known neighborhood restaurant called Clancy’s.

Far from the madding crowd of the French quarter and tucked in a fairly quiet Uptown area (near Audubon Park), Clancy’s offers a warm and inviting environment and a taste of what quintessential Creole cooking is all about. Items such as their soft-shelled crab entrée (which is first smoked, then fried, then topped with lump crab meat and served with a German potato salad) truly exemplify what is great and unique about New Orleans cooking. Couple that with a couple bottles of Abita beer and you have the recipe for a great time.

The saying in New Orleans is laissez les bon temps rouler. Let the good times roll. In a certain way, it’s not that different than Front Porch’s philosophy, “Live life your way.” Enjoy and embrace life. Maybe take time for a trip to New Orleans, and when you return, email and tell me about it. Or maybe just email me and tell me what your favorite restaurant city is, or simply what your favorite dish at your community is. By the time you read this, I will have just returned from my yearly NOLA trip, so maybe I’ll have something new to add to the list. In any case, I’d love to hear more about what you like.

Live life your way, et Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— Rob Klose