If there were ever a place worth visiting for its food alone, it has to be New Orleans.
Perhaps it is the broad range of influences that make up the creole of tastes – French, Spanish, African, Italian, Native American, Cuban and Chinese, or perhaps the people of Louisiana have a pantry full of magic they sprinkle over their food in large doses.
Either way, most people are too busy lip-smacking and devouring large plates of steaming Louisianan fare to give it too much thought.
New Orleans Cuisine
To get the full taste sensation, plan your meals – there’s a lot to get through. (Warning: don’t read this list when hungry, you may find yourself catching the next flight out).
Stew over rice doesn’t do anywhere near enough descriptive justice to the wonder that is gumbo. It is thought that the name of the dish came from the West African word for okra, kimgombo, which is an essential ingredient. Native Americans also had an influence with bay leaf and sassafras used for seasoning. Beyond that, the recipe is open to vast adaptation – chicken, seafood, sausage, ham, no two gumbos are alike, which is great news as it justifies trying more than one.
Credit: laura padgett
The fact that the signature of a Po Boy is its level of over-stuffedness should be an indication you’re onto a good thing. Roast beef doused in gravy, fried shrimps, soft shell crab and even oysters make up the ‘meat’ of the sandwich, but the bread isn’t just a necessity, it an integral part of a po boy. It must be French and the outer crisp and flaky. Meanwhile, the dough is as moist as the filling it absorbs, and let’s not forget the fixins’ – lettuce, mayo, hot sauce, pickles. If you can’t decide, or you want to do it like a local get your po boy ‘dressed’, i.e. with the lot. You’d be hard pushed to find a bad Po Boy in New Orleans so there’s no need to shop round looking for the perfect bite.
There’s a beautiful story behind the creation of jambalaya, which is said to have been ‘born’ late one evening when a hungry traveler arrived in New Orleans. The cook was asked to throw something together and the menus or New Orleans have been graced with the presence of jambalaya ever since. In keeping with dish’s origins, the rice and spice is stable, but otherwise anything goes. Chicken, seafood and sausage, or all three, are added to make a hearty meal that will threaten to stretch your appetite with its enticing flavors.
Red Beans and Rice
Mondays are special in New Orleans when red beans and rice are on the menu. Coming from a tradition of Monday being washday and a pot or red beans requiring little cooking attention, this dish came into being and has stuck. Ham bone was used to season the dish, from the previous day’s Sunday dinner and continues to add a depth of taste to the beans that will leave you hankering for this comfort food every day of the week.
Try muffuletta, a huge sandwich filled with Italian cold-cuts of meats. For sweet treats, tuck into a beignet, a fresh donut style revelation, ideal with café au lait or milk chocolate.
In America, I would say New York and New Orleans are the two most interesting food towns. In New Orleans, they don’t have a bad deli. There’s no mediocrity accepted. - Mario Batali
When To Go
The best time to visit New Orleans for crawfish is from March to June crab is from May to June, and shrimp is year round.
Whatever you do, try to avoid visiting New Orleans during the Summer when it’s almost unbearably humid.
Keep in mind Marti Gras can fall in February or March so plan accordingly.
From March to June, the average high temperatures range from 73 to 90°F (23 to 32°C), low temperatures range from 51 to 72°F (11 to 22°C), and precipitation ranges from 4.5 to 7.8 inches (113 to 198mm) each month.
Getting There & Around
New Orleans is located in the state of Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico.
The best way to get to New Orleans is to fly into Louis Armstrong International Airport located 12.5 miles (20km) east of the city center.
The best way to get around is on foot or taxi.
- Mid-range accommodations: $75-150
- Meals: $15-25
- Bottle of beer: $3.50
- Visit the The Tuesday Farmers Market from 9am to 1pm (northeast corner of the Tulane Square) for some great local eats.
- Eat at Tommy’s and Acme Oyster House restaurants.
- Drink a hurricane, hand-grenade, or absinth all popular drinks of New Orleans.
- Leave New Orleans without trying a Muffuletta sandwich made with an olive spread and cured meats like capicola, salami, pepperoni, and ham. It’s a salt lovers paradise.
- Stray off into side streets of the French Quarter or Bourbon Street, especially at night or if you’re intoxicated. It’s dangerous.
- Forget to try the famous beignets and chicory for breakfast.
- The cuisine of New Orleans combines French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese, and Cuban influences.
- The famous Louis Armstrong was known to have signed his letters “Red beans and ricely yours.”
- New Orleans is considered the birthplace of Jazz.
Feature Image Credit: cookipediachef