Local, NOLA-style

Posted by Anita on 07.27.08 10:08 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**One of the hardest things about traveling is coming home to an empty fridge. Even back when we mostly shopped at the supermarket, this was one of the worst parts of any vacation. But now that we buy nearly all of our food at the farmers’ market, we’ve added a level of complexity to the mix.

Luckily, we have a really nice Tuesday lunchtime farmers market at the Ferry Plaza; it’s much smaller than the Saturday showplace, but there’s just enough diversity to re-stock for a few midweek meals, especially if you hit up the indoor shops for meat and bread. So, our 100% local meal this week for One Local Summer included a Range Brothers pork chop dusted in Eatwell rosemary salt, Eduardo’s fusilli with Spring Hill butter, and some Iacopi Farms romano beans… a simple slice of summer.

But honestly, the foods we really wanted to be eating were back in New Orleans, where we spent the last week. Perhaps the feast of the week was our Spirited Dinner at Restaurant August, where chef John Besh created a mostly local, entirely seasonal menu with cocktail pairings by Charlotte Voisey, brand ambassador for Hendricks Gin.

Here’s the menu (and links to photos):

  1. Chilled melon “soup and salad” local charentais, watermelon, and Vietnamese herbs
  2. Belle River crawfish agnolotti with Allen Benton’s bacon, Honey Island chanterelles, and sweet fava beans
  3. Seafood-stuffed breast of local veal Silver Queen corn and crab risotto
  4. Heirloom tomato tarte tatin with creme fraiche ice cream

It was all quite lovely (well, perhaps excepting the dessert, which was much more interesting in concept than in execution) and it was fun to experience locavore life in another part of the country, where asparagus and favas are still in season, and crayfish — not crab — are fresh and plentiful. But honestly, as delicious as the high-falutin’ food was, it wasn’t very novel. Other than those crayfish, there wasn’t much that couldn’t have made an appearance at a Bay Area restaurant of August’s caliber. No, the true treasures of New Orleans’ local food scene were neither organic or sustainable.

One Local Summer 2008The Crescent City’s culinary delights are the stuff of legend. Even if you’ve never been to New Orleans, you’ve probably read of the glories of beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. I’m sure you’ve heard of Central Grocery‘s legendary muffulettas, and the po-boys at places like Mother’s or Johnny’s. You might even have seen photos of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, the world’s most perfect frozen delights, the kind of snow cones they might serve in heaven.

But as lovely as these made-to-order treats are, even the local stuff that comes in bottles and boxes tastes better in N’awlins than whatever it is you have at home. And nobody ever tells you about them! So let me be the first to suggest — nay, insist — that when you visit New Orleans, don’t miss out on some local treasures that can actually make the trip home with you.

Closest to my heart are Zapp’s — a brand of locally made potato chips that taste like a cross between Kettle Chips and manna from heaven. (And I bet you can’t find flavors like Spicy Cajun Craw-Tater, Dill Gator-Tater, or Spicy Creole Tomato back home.) Wash your chips down with a bottle of Abita amber beer, or a Barq’s root beer in the painted-label bottle… both of which taste much better in Louisiana than they do when you happen to run across them elsewhere.

Later, when your appetite comes back, make sure to find a Hubig’s pie or two. The closest analog is those Hostess ‘fruit pies’ you might have eaten as a kid, but they’re so much better that the comparison is entirely inadequate. No high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil here, just beef fat and pure southern sugar. Their fruit fillings are made from actual fruit and sugar, not chemicals and essences. Tuck one in your carry-on bag for the flight home, and you’ll be the envy of your seat mates for sure.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

More New Orleans photos and notes on Flickr…

Spirited Dinner: At restaurant August, with cocktail pairings
Central Grocery
: Muffulettas, Abita amber, and Zapp’s chps
Cafe du Monde: Beignets and chicory coffee
Mother’s: Ferdi po-boy (ham and ‘debris’)
Johnny’s Po-Boys: Crawfish po’boys, Cajun sausage po’boys, Barq’s root beer
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz: The best snow-cone treats in the cutest little shack
More New Orleans photos: Emeril’s, Tales sessions, Quarter scenery, and more

locavore, New Orleans, One Local Summer, restaurants



Comment by cookiecrumb

Cranky and I drove across country with a caged bird in the car. We planned so that we’d be in NOLA at dinnertime. The bird stayed in the car. We ate *everywhere.* The bird ate millet seed.
Did you bring home a jar of olive salad from Central Grocery?
It’s 9:15 a.m. and I’m starving now. Thanks.

Posted on 07.28.08 at 9:15AM

Comment by murray stenson

Amy and I checked our luggage, brought NOLA purchased carryons stuffed with Zapp’s and Hubig’s. Good flight home to Seattle.

Posted on 07.29.08 at 10:29AM

Comment by Dave

I am jealous — I’ve STILL never been to Mother’s! Must rectify that next time.

You can have Zapp’s shipped to you (via zapps.com). But dig that the same company makes “Dirty Chips”, which you can find here and there in SF. There are unfortunately no Cajun Crawtator, Jalapeno or Creole Tomato Dirty Chips, but their more pedestrian flavors (salt & vinegar, mesquite bbq, sour cream & onion, etc.) still kick butt and will satisfy your Zapp’s jones.

Posted on 07.29.08 at 10:21PM

Comment by Anita

Cookie: We’re dopes… we had no idea they sold jars of the stuff. We did see it in the deli case, but it was all refrigerated and we didn’t think it would make the trip. Gives us (another) excuse to return soon.

Murray: I always figured Amy had to be a smart woman to snare you. Now I know exactly how smart! :)

Dave: Honestly, Mother’s was not so hot. People who had been there regularly before said it’s slid badly since pre-K days. The signage is a hoot, and the ladies who work there are super sweet (I love being called ‘child’). But… it wasn’t even worth the short wait we had. By the time we left, the line was through the restaurant, out the door, down the ramp, and down the block — definitely not worth that. Johnny’s was MUCH better. Gotta get out to Parkway next time…

Apparently there’s some place in Hayes Valley that sells the actual Zapp’s. And yeah, you can get Hubig’s shipped, too… but that just seems wrong.

Posted on 07.29.08 at 10:51PM

Comment by Tartelette

I can’t believe you came so close to Charleston and yet so far away, we at least you were on the same coast! I hope that one day you guys decide to have your own personal chef and historical guide (that would be us!) and make another visit down South!

Posted on 08.11.08 at 6:08AM

Comment by jennconspiracy

I *heart* Zapp’s — Cost Plus often sells them and they have the craw-tater and dill gator tater varieties, quite often. yum.

Posted on 08.11.08 at 10:35AM

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