Seems I took a mini summer break from blogging! Still been cooking up a storm, of course, but have totally been slacking on the posts. My apologies. At least I left you with a good summer fave (Avocado Feta Dip). Which I’ve actually made for about 5 different occasions since posting! Just can’t get enough.
Big news – I started a new j-o-b last week. You know what that means – more funding for grocery store runs, which, in turn, means recipes galore for you. Maybe Zach(o-meter) will take over some of the meal duties and will be featured…you never know!
Recently some of our new fun friends invited us to partake in one of the best outing ideas I’ve heard to date: New Orleans Culinary Bike Tour. WHAAAAT??! A-mazing.
Picture Z and I bouncing up and down, “pick me, pick me!” (Okay, maybe that was just me, but he was definitely pumped too…)
Here we are getting our welcome and safety info before the adventure begins.
We set out from the 2100 block of Royal to the heart of the French Quarter behind our guide, Cassidy (with Southern Living Magazine Featured Confederacy of Cruisers). Like little ducklings behind their mom, we closely followed Cassidy to each Creole haunt and admired the unique beauty of New Orleans architecture along the way.
1st Stop: Bennachin (for Doh Don)
New Orleans Creole cuisine originates from the melting pot of cultures that settled in the area and is a blend of French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Asian, Indian, Native American and African, as well as Southern influences.
The African and Indian influences on Louisiana fare came about because many of the servants were either African-American or Asian Indian American, as were many of the cooks in restaurants and cafes.
At Bennachin we got a taste of original African fare with a few bites of their signature fried plantains served with a marinara sauce (of sorts). Salty, sweet, chewy, savory, rich and oh-so-delicious. Something I never would have expected on a culinary tour of New Orleans.
To the next stop…
2nd Stop: Palace Café (for Crab Cheesecake and Banana’s Foster)
Owned by the Brennan’s family – restaurant gurus – the Palace Cafe is a New Orleans landmark…and should be.
We were served an upscale breadless-BLT amuse bouche to wake up the palate and next a hearty slice of crabmeat cheesecake – a Palace Café signature dish. Baked in a pecan crust with a wild mushroom sauté and Creole meunière sauce.
Now…it doesn’t get much better than that.
And to top it off (still at our second bike tour stop) – banana’s foster. Fresh bananas sautéed tableside in brown sugar and cinnamon, then flambéed with banana liqueur and rum, served over a cone of vanilla bean ice cream. Ha!
We rode by St. Augustine Catholic Church and Cassidy, our guide, gave us a little history lesson. Since it’s dedication in 1842, the church had a few pews exclusively reserved for slaves. This was a first in the history of slavery in the U.S., and resulted in one of the most integrated churches in the country. I’m dying to go to the jazz mass on Sundays at 10am. Apparently it’s quite a show!
3rd Stop: Liuzza’s By the Track (for Gumbo)
Liuzza’s By the Track is a cute little hole-in-the-wall neighborhood joint with quite possibly the best gumbo in town.
Chicken, andouille sausage AND shrimp in this baby. You get it ALL here.
Between the gumbo and our next stop we rode by a crazy Cajun cemetery. I’m from Texas…we don’t have the above ground mausoleum type graves like New Orleans. I freaked out when we rode by and our CRAZY COOL tour guide let us go check it out and shared some pretty cool history with us. Have you ever seen the movie Double Jeopardy? It’s just like that…
Excuse the afterlife talk amidst the food tour (not appetizing, I know, but you gotta be open minded in NOLA). Since the majority of New Orleans is below sea level…burying people in the ground didn’t really work out so well. So that’s why they have these above ground family tombs.
When someone dies, they are placed in their coffin inside this family-owned and shared crypt for 1 year and 1 day to “get out of purgatory”, go to heaven and also to slowly cremate. The tomb gets 100s of degrees in the summer and burns the body. 1 year and 1 day after the burial, the tomb is opened and the body/bones are mostly ashes and are ground up and placed at the bottom of the tomb with the other family ashes. At this time there is now room for the next coffin/family member to enter the tomb. Crazy, huh??
It was actually quite beautiful.
Then we rode by the NOLA Museum of Art and glanced at the sculpture garden…
…and stopped to cool off at…
4th Stop: A. Brocato (for Gelato)
Perfect way to break up the heavy meals and beat the summer heat. I chose a scoop of mocha and a scoop of mint chip. If you can’t decide, just get both I always say…
Zach dominated his espresso ice cream fancy float. He may or may not have a future in competitive eating…
5th (and final) Stop: Parkway Bakery and Tavern (for Po’Boy)
I haven’t been a believer of the fried shrimp Po’Boy until this day. Something about the fried food on bread hasn’t appealed to me. However, Parkway Bakery and Tavern knows how to do it!
This freshly fried Gulf shrimp, “dressed” with mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles on a fluffy and crispy French bread loaf just did it for me. So fresh, so juicy, so delicious. And I didn’t feel so bad since we had to bike back to the shop afterwards.
COMPLETE AND TOTAL FOOD COMA HAPPINESS. What a way to see New Orleans. I now have such an appreciation for the crepe myrtle lined, oak canopied streets. And the houses…like nowhere else. So charming.
Fun fact: New Orleans has over 40,000 houses named “Historical Landmarks”. Therefore, the façade of the buildings cannot be changed (says our culinary bike tour guide). Love it.
Overall an incredible day.