Food: Glorious Southern Food

How can one visit the Deep South and not talk about food? Well, they can’t really. So here we go, the obligatory food post, in which we celebrate everything that is right with the world of Southern cuisine…

Goat Cheese and Fried Green Tomato(goats cheese, chicken, bacon, some kind of hash brown thing and fried green tomato. I’m not ashamed to say, I ate this very meal at least five times on my last visit to New Orleans)

As you may remember, I took the Amtrak California Zephyr from Emeryville to Chicago, en route to New Orleans. It was a harrowing experience. By the time I got to O’Hare Airport I was well over travelling and certainly beyond the joys of being a (solo) stranger in a strange land. All I wanted to do was get to New Orleans, so I could hunker down in the French Quarter and eat my sorrows and disappointments away. When I finally did arrive (the flight was delayed 2 hours), it was hot, steamy and nearly 10pm. Luckily the French Quarter doesn’t keep normal hours and so, after checking into my hotel (Inn on St. Peter, which is excellent btw), I was assured that getting a meal would be no issue. It wasn’t.

I can’t remember the name of the restaurant where I found this delicacy (which is shameful because I went back there so many times) but it was on the corner of Bourbon and St Peter. The gent behind the bar was really very kind and very nice to me (I was well wearied by this point) and he suggested the ‘blackened chicken sandwich,’ which changed my life a little bit. When it first came out of the kitchen on the grease proof paper I thought I might have made a terrible error, but one bite in, I knew I was in love (both with the burger and the gent that suggested it). I can’t describe the taste exactly, except to say that it tastes like everything that is right with the world. Tabasco sauce adds to the flavour, so maybe give it a splash if it’s on the table. If not, meh, it’s delicious anyway.
(I don’t know what America calls them sandwiches sometimes and burgers other time… that’s always confused me).

Yo Mammas(the Texas BBQ burger, with potato salad on the side)

I’d heard about Yo Mama’s in every single French Quarter travel guide I had ever glanced through. Normally, I am quite shy and the thought of entering a dark bar on my own is more than I can stand, but on this day I decided that enough was enough. I was tired of hearing the rumours, I had to experience the ‘best burgers in the French Quarter’ for myself. In retrospect, I have no regrets.
What I loved most about this burger was the fact that the chef was clearly a man after my own heart, who understood the importance of condiments – lots of condiments. Good Lord, I made a mess of myself eating this, but, as someone who has a rich and varied history of eating burgers, I can honestly say this may very well have been one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. If you’re not a fan of multiple sauces running all down your arms though, you might want to select something else or ask for no dressing… seriously, don’t ask for no dressing, that would be sad.

Pecan Volouvant(pecan pie vol-au-vent with brown butter ice cream)

I’m crying on the inside as I write this, because I don’t know if or when I am ever going to be able to eat it again and it really did change my life. If I didn’t live on the other side of the world, I would take all of my vacations in the French Quarter, just for Dickie Brennan’s Tableau dessert menu and specifically for this gem. Of all the places I ate, Tableau was the most expensive. Straight up, you’re not getting out of there for less than $50 USD plus tips. That said, their food was amazing and their wait staff was probably the best that I encountered during my entire trip. I ate here on two occasions and on each, the ladies that served me were beyond wonderful, the atmosphere was second to none and the air-conditioning was a God-send. On my first visit I had Filet Mignon served on fries, which I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of, but it smelled so damn delicious that I started eating before the whole photograph idea came to me.

Pulled Pork(pulled chicken or pork with coleslaw, beans and fries
@ the Hard Rock on Bourbon Street)

I don’t often get the option of eating at the Hard Rock, so it’s still a novelty to me when the opportunity does arise. I’ve eaten here many times in New Orleans, but on my last visits the location was up near the Jackson Brewery, so this was my first experience battling the lunch time crowds down on Bourbon Street. I also rarely get offered beans as a side with any meal, so that too was a novelty and really played a large role in making this particular meal so delicious. This burger was a distant third to Yo Mama’s and the first burger that I ate, but it was still amazing – a fact that I attribute almost entirely to whatever kind of sauce they put on it.

Cobbler
(apple cobbler and vanilla bean ice cream
@ the Hard Rock Cafe on Bourbon Street)

Much like Hard Rock Cafe’s, cobbler is a rarity in Australia. I’ve never quite understood why. I suppose we’re all so busy scoffing down Pavalova that we’ve never really taken the time to consider the genius that is cobbler. Whenever I am in America I seek it out. I don’t care if it’s peach, apple or any kind of other cobbler. I’ll eat them all. This was delicious.  Not as good as the Pecan Pie vol-au-vent though, not by half.

The Fudge Cabinet
(fudge cabinet at the fudgery)

I’ll say this for the staff of the fudgery, if the smell of delicious fudge doesn’t lure you in, they surely will and they’re damn good at convincing you that buying fudge by the pound is an excellent idea… and that multiple pounds are good for you also. I got burnt here. I won’t say I regret it, but buying 4 pounds worth of fudge and paying nearly $50 AUD for it was certainly my lowest ebb. It was delicious. I’d recommend the chocolate and peanut butter or the chocolate pecan (depending on your individual taste), let’s be real though, they’re all amazing in that heart stoppingly, sugar filled way.

Bengiets
(take away beignets from Cafe Du Monde)

Question: If you eat take away beignets every night in the privacy of your hotel room, but no one sees you eat them and there’s no evidence that you ate them, did you really eat them? I’ve spoken about my love of beignets before. I suggest you check out that post if you’ve not cast an eye over it yet. This too, was a romance that I’d put off for far too long.

This leaves us with one last meal, and it’s the meal that beat me…

Nacho man(chicken nachos, with sour cream, cheese and peppers)

I though hard before I selected this from the menu at the sports bar near the Fudgery. ‘I’ve had too many burgers,’ I told myself, ‘I’ll try something different.’ You know what they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Suffice to say, I wasn’t a nach-nacho man this day. There’s something about the consistency of this particular American cheese that I’m not accustomed to. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese. A lot. But this, this felt like a bonafide stroke running through my arteries. The chicken was delicious, but too soon it had drowned in this ever multiplying, mutating cheese. The corn chips didn’t help, they were too bland and uncaring and the sour cream was lost without guacamole. I can’t blame the food though. It was ultimately my own short-comings that prevented me from finishing. If you’re right into this particular cheese, then by all means, give this one a go… if not… buyer beware.

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