Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cocktail Buzz Guide to New Orleans

Ribs at Cochon, finger-lickin’ awesome. Don’t forget to wash it down with a bourbon cocktail.

New Orleans. It’s one of those cities that you can instantly fall for, and we have.

Amazing food and cocktails beckon throughout its wards. There are so many choices to ponder and old favorites to revisit. This year we are yearning for some more Cochon, a Warehouse District favorite that made us believers in the power of pigs ears, fried crispy like pommes frites and perfectly paired with any one of their great bourbon cocktails. We first happened upon Cochon in 2008 during Tales of the Cocktail and have been happily coming back since. Authentic cajun cuisine from James Beard–award-winning chefs Stephen Stryjewski and Donald Link in a open kitchen setting, comfortable, casual, and excellent food.

A favorite chef of ours is John Besh. Having visited his restaurant Luke, a Franco-German brasserie that’s delicious and bustling, and Restaurant August his flagship that elegantly executes his farm-to-table food in a room of exposed brick walls and crystal chandeliers, we are eager to try La Provence, outside the city over Lake Pontchartrain, that has an actual working farm outside its door. Another stop on the Besh tour is the new soda fountain, Soda Shop, in the National WWII Museum on Magazine Street. Those breakfast biscuits with a hand-crafted pineapple soda sound good before another day of imbibing in the city that loves its cocktails.

We’re visiting another of the great chefs at Emeril’s New Orleans where friends have commanded us to “get the fried oysters!” And we’re intrigued by whats listed simply as “Mac n’ Cheese” on the menu, this version with gulf shrimp, vermouth cream, and guanciale. Hey, you’re in New Orleans, you’re eating rich. Just remember to follow each visit to the city with a week of big salads to counterbalance these outings.

Another good place to soak up those cocktails is Mother’s Restaurant. Since 1938, Mother’s has been serving up New Orleans home cooking featuring Po’Boys and breakfast all day. Authentic to say the least.

The French Quarter, at night.

GW Fins in the French Quarter is famous for its seafood, and we are scheduled to sample it during the Spirited Dinner series offering, where a cocktail will be paired with each course.

We heard some chatter about Coquette, a little bistro and wine bar, and we’re intrigued. It looks like a hidden gem in the Garden District, with a menu that changes daily, and fine crafted cocktails.

Interested in New Orleans fare inspired by a hometown chefs five years spent in Hawaii soaking up Polynesian culture? Sounds good to us, so Mike’s on the Avenue made our list. The flash-fried oyster salad with a sesame guacamole and tomato ginger salsa is also on that list.

Don’t pass up a chance to dine at Stella!, a fine-dining experience not too be missed. On a quiet street in the French Quarter, this intimate space is an outstanding dining option. When we were last there, Chef Scott Boswell had brought in fresh herbs for that nights meal from his own garden.

When we were last at Stella!, we met Neal Bodenheimer, the man behind Cure, a fancy watering hole that hearkens back to the day when cocktails, and the small plates and bar snacks served with them, were an enjoyable and social way to while away the pre-dinner hours.

And do not forget Cafe du Monde. Touristy and packed, but oh so good! A perfect way to greet the early morning hours with warm fried beignets generously dusted with powder sugar, and a cup of chicory coffee to wash it down.

But there are other places to try still, so many in fact. Don’t despair, as New Orleans always merits another visit. Like a siren’s call, it’s one of those places that keeps calling you back.

Cheers, and Bon Appétit.


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