When I think back on my trip to New Orleans, the one dish I won’t forget is Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona Restaurant’s Oyster Rockefeller with ramps. There are no pictures, because I chose to experience the moment of savoring the flavor of sweet oysters cooked with mild garlicky, fresh ramps. It was truly divine. As mentioned here, I flew to New Orleans for a two day-trip to learn how the gulf states are moving forward after an oil spill and hurricanes courtesy of The Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition. It was a trip to learn about one of the world’s most competitive and regulated seafood industries, a bit about marine wildlife and mostly about eating abundant fresh seafood.
The idea of going to New Orleans to learn about the seafood industry is unusual, because of the oil spill, storms and recent flooding has tarnished the industry’s reputation. I still recall a cursory tweet sent out from a friend who ate a dish with shrimp from the Gulf a few months after the oil spill, thanking [fill in irresponsible oil company we don’t want to mention here] for a seafood dish tasting of oil. Even returning from New Orleans, the cab driver had plenty of unkind words for what [oil company at fault’s name here] did to the marine life in the gulf. I even worried if my trip to New Orleans was actually paid by [again, oil company’s name goes here] under the name of “The Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition,” but we would later learn the coalition receives funding from the government.
Not only am I tasting a unique Southern cuisine with influences from Africa, Haiti, Native American, French and German cultures, I’m learning about the seafood industry in the Gulf of Mexico. We stayed in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, an oasis in the middle of French Quarter, and our room was arranged to overlook the pool area instead of Bourbon Street (if you value your sleep, ask for it). We dropped our bags in the room, the boyfriend asked the hotel staff where to find the best gumbo, and an hour later we were served freshly made strawberry daiquiris at The Gumbo Shop. Knowing a large dinner was being served later, I ordered a Shrimp salad with Pecan Vinaigrette. The boyfriend ordered Creole Combination Platter of Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya and Red Beans and Rice. The sight of my shrimp salad reminded me that I’m not in New York right now. The salad was a dinner size proportion of a pound of fresh steamed fresh shrimp (so happy to have run three miles the day before). The boyfriend’s creole combination platter doesn’t disappoint with two different meals on the plate. Afterwards, we walked around the French Quarter hearing a street band play classic jazz, tasting pralines and sampling beignets. Then, we returned to the hotel for a tasting tour of Bayona, Restaurant Revolution and the GW Fin Restaurant.
Just like New York never sleeps, New Orleans also has a reputation for making sure their jazz bands play until the wee hours in the morning. Since, the schedule for the second day was full, I figured it was better to sleep than party the night away.
Stay tuned for part two of “How New Orleans Marches On,” a three-part series.
Have you been to New Orleans before? What’s your favorite restaurant and/or dish? Share your answer in the comment section below.