Several people who've read my books (including the new one due out in November) have been intrigued by the restaurants I mention. I've had to travel quite a bit with my job (no, it's neither glamorous nor fun!) and I keep a diary of hotels I've stayed at, restaurants I've tried (good and bad), meals I've had, and, of course, wines I drank. So I thought I'd give out a little of my personal travel guide tonight. Because the city and its people have really taken it in the ear the last three years, tonight I'm going to talk about New Orleans. It's one of my favorite places to visit and has some of the greatest restaurants in the U.S. Let me note that reservations are a must at each of these restaurants and you usually have to make them a week in advance. I usually make the reservation on line the week before I go if I think I'll have trouble getting in, but you can always call.
Two of my favorites are the Commanders Palace and Brennens. Commanders has been the training ground for many of New Orleans most famous chefs, including Emeril Lagasse. I'm not going to recommend anything in particular but I will say you'd better be prepared to spend over $100.00 per person without drinks at these two. Food is incredible. Dress code requires a coat and tie for the gentlemen. Hey, it's high class at its best! Personally, I think Commanders is probably the top restaurant in the U.S. That's just my opinion.
K-Paul's is where the Cajun food craze began. Chef Paul Prudhomme is responsible for making Cajun food, including blackened everything, popular. His restaurant used to be a pain to visit as they didn't take reservations. But now it's changed, thank goodness! The restaurant looks like a cheesey storefront on Chartes street, but entering, you're faced with a warm, cozy atmosphere. Exposed brick walls, tall windows, and gleaming hardwood floors. Dress is business casual. For an appetizer, try the turtle soup. Don't make that face! It's like a New York clam chowder only with sherry. My favorite entrée is his Shrimp Etoufee. If you've never had it, this is the place to try it. It is to die for. If you'd rather have fish, try the blackened Louisiana Drum. It's a white meaty fish, blackened and succulent. If he has it, try his swordfish. It too, is outstanding. If you'd rather have meat, definitely go for the veal chop with crabmeat, wild mushrooms, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes. It's divine. Dinner is served with an assortment of homemade rolls, my favorite of which are the black strap molasses buns. For dessert, try the bread pudding with lemon sauce & Chantilly cream or the sweet potato pecan pie. If you're a crème brulee fan, he makes a good one.
Redfish Grille is, in my humble opinion, the best place for fish in town. It's just off Canal street on Bourbon street. As soon as you sit down, before you even open the menu, order dessert. That's right, I said order dessert. Double chocolate bread pudding! You have to order it ahead because it takes 20 minutes to make. For starters, coconut crusted shrimp or their crab cakes are good choices. I always feel I need to have something green so I usually get their shrimp remoulade salad. It consists of Cajun boiled shrimp over a bed of romaine hearts tossed with a remoulade (think thousand island with a bit of spice) dressing, hard boiled eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, and tomatoes. They top it with a fried potato puff. Now, I know some people barf at the mention of this fish, but put your prejudices aside…and order the catfish. They make it a number of ways and all are fantastic. Catfish is a white, flaky fish, no bones, just great meat. My favorite was stuffed with crabmeat and had a creamy tomato-sherry based sauce. Ah, now for dessert. The double chocolate bread pudding comes in a soufflé dish with two hunks of white and dark chocolate stuck in the middle. The hot bread pudding causes the chocolate to melt slowly. But that isn't all. They drizzle a mixture of melted white and dark chocolate over the top. I'm dying here just writing this. Once you've had it, you can die and go to heaven. It don't get no better than that.
Just a note about Bourbon Street. In spite of mythology, it's a dump. The smell of stale beer, urine, rotting trash, and vomit permeates the air as you walk further in so stay near Canal. While some of the music may be interesting, it's mostly strip joints and sheisters trying to take your money. My recommendation, if you want music, is to head down to the Hilton Hotel (where I usually stay) at the end of Canal Street on the river and hit Pete Fountain's jazz club. Classy, comfortable, and good music.
In the next few blogs I'll hit San Francisco, Boston, Naples (FL), New York, Chicago, Kansas City and more.