There’s something uniquely special about good food and great friends. As a mom, wife, and entrepreneur, it is rare that I get to enjoy both at the same time, but when I do, I am truly happy. Friends can make you laugh and cry, and food can make you scream and melt. I am blessed to have experienced all four emotions at once on a trip to New Orleans last fall when I connected with my bestie and she took me on grand tour of the finest new digs the city has to offer.
Yes, I said New Orleans where, if you have not been, may be the best food city outside of New York. The succulent seafood, the scrumptiously sweet pastries and the down-home-feel where everything tastes homemade, makes me a regular for jumping in my car and driving the eight hours from Atlanta to indulge in the cuisines. Thankfully, traveling to New Orleans is also an opportunity for me to spend quality time with my friend, Shannon, who is not only a native of the NO, but mom, wife and foodie like me.
When I told her I was coming to drop my oldest off at Xavier University for year two, she immediately took the reins and said “trust me.” She hinted that she would arrange a “spa and tasting” day to celebrate Leo season since we are both ravenous lionesses. In terms of eating, of course. I was so excited to drive to NO and see my big girl start her second year at school and see my bestie. Fine dining would be the cherry on top, and yes, I was going to devour that cherry!
Not to forget the spa piece — lemon water and good massage helped me to de-stress after the long drive and chaos of life . I was ready mentally and physically (don’t rub downs and lemon water make you hungry?) to try new dishes and unload all of my joys and pains to my friend. We decided once we got into the car that we would only talk husbands and children while in the car, and once we were sitting at each of the four restaurants for which we had reservations — drinks, appetizers, entree, dessert — we could only discuss what we were putting into our bodies.
Now let me say this for the record – this blog isn’t about the usual suspects. I don’t go to the mainstream eateries. I want a true authentic look at the food of New Orleans.
I arrived in New Orleans around 7pm after driving straight through. And by 8:30pm, I was enjoying Deanie’s. The soft shell crab po-boy will make you speechless. Now I will say this when you get there don’t fill up on the bread that they bring out cause you’re appetite will be ruined and you cant take a po-boy to go. It just wont reheat the same. Shannon enjoyed the Barbeque Shrimp which by name is a little deceiving. These are the biggest and prettiest shrimp ever and they’re not really in BBQ sauce. They’re cooked the New Orleans way and served head on after being sauteed in a blend of top secret seasonings. This is not a meal for you if you’re prissy as you’re going to get messy. Don’t worry just peel, dip and dive right in to enjoy!
First we drove to several brunch spots and read the menu before settling on Cafe Atchafalaya. …As mommies who are typically concerned about what everyone else is eating, we threw that notion to the curb and ordered EVERYTHING we wanted off of the menu. We kicked things off with the bellinis. Cream cheese grits. Jalapeno corn bread, Eggs Louisiane which the waitress politely changed the poached eggs to fried eggs served over crab cakes and dressed with creole hollandaise. Shannon enjoyed the savory pulled pork bread pudding.
We arrived at Balance Spa at the Loews Hotel and quickly realized that they were trying to rain on our parade. But you can’t stop 2 Leo women who are on a missions. We weren’t given a lot of details about our upcoming experiences so when we wanted to order food and drinks no one had answers. So what do you do when they say they don’t deliver to the Spa area – you throw on a spa robe and go sit at the bar of course. Yes we got some looks but most of the women gave us a thumbs up for having the guts to do it. We ordered a bottle of Elio Perrone Moscato d’Asti and proceeded to crack jokes at the bar. Ultimately the masseuses that we had did a great job and we were totally relaxed and ready for a night on the town.
Now Bacchanal Wines is not your typical restaurant. There’s no signage. It’s on a corner of a block that at night looks a little um..yeah, exactly. But time you walk in you feel like you’re in a wine cellar and you realize you’ve found heaven. And it’s so extensive you could be there for hours but you hear the music and smell the food that pulls you through the rest of the experience.
First you pay at a window that’s very reminiscent of a drive thru. We were still very suspect as we were told to grab a table, utensils, order your own drinks and wait for your food. Not definitely fine dining…or so we thought!
Dinner was divine as Shannon took the lead on ordering. So we dined on sweet peppers stuffed with a fresh crab salad drizzled with creme fraiche ordered and yes there’s two of the same pictures because we ordered it twice. Then we shared a grilled flank steak with fries. Nothing mind blowing but cooked and seasoned to perfection. We also noticed everyone ordering the mozzarella appetizer so I ran back downstairs and ordered one too. Wondering how come everyone has the same thing on their tables except us. This dish was beautifully balanced. The cheese had a whipped ricotta feel on the inside while starting like a traditional ball of mozzarella on the outside.
Now I would be totally remiss if I didn’t tell you about this butter plate that you can order. It’s basically an appetizer here. I’ts bread, butter, radish, parmigiano reggiano butter, and truffle oil.
If you’re like me you’re thinking her and her BFF eat everything that this place has to offer and she’s stuck on the butter plate. YES! I’ve never experienced something so simple and so complex at the same damn time.Who does this? Who can make butter perfectly creamy. Perfectly salty. Who can offer different types of butter and convince you to order a plate of it. Bacchanal’s Executive Chef, Chef Rodas and Chef de cuisine, Chef Rich can – that’s who!
No trip would be complete without a stop at Cafe Du Monde for beignets. These things are sinful. Butter. Sugary. Tangy. And piping HOT! There’s no pretty way to eat a beignet as you’re going to look like Tony Montana sitting behind his desk (you know that scene). But it’s totally worth the mess.
Life is too short NOT to combine food and friends. She and I connect on so many levels (Leos rock!) but this time it was the food that made our time together perfect and I cannot wait to recreate this with another fellow Leo, Lisa this summer as we plan to do this on a whole other level…stay tuned!