NOLA Part II: How things have changed. « blogging for burgers

NOLA Part II: How things have changed.

It’s day 53 of the Gulf Coast oil spill, and the end doesn’t seem to be in sight.  I can’t help but think of Bayou Billy, our (fictional) tour guide in the bayou, who nonchalantly said, “we’re too far in for the spill to affect us.”

I guess things change about 40 days later.

But on to more upbeat topics.  The food scene in New Orleans proved to be quite an adventure, despite my brief foray into it.  After putting back beignets at Café du Monde and po’ boys at Domilise, we started to experience some of the finer dining experiences that NOLA has to offer.


Our second night, we descended upon Emeril’s as a group of ten dudes (no analogy needed since we were a group of ten dudes).  After much debate, we had settled on Emeril’s as a New Orleans “neo Classic,” and a more unique experience than could be offered at August, for example, which would be only marginally different than a high end restaurant here in New York.

For our starters, we basically had one of everything.  During the ordering phase, I expounded upon the benefits of ordering something “for the table,” which can only be done in certain settings, such as when cost is distributed among a group of diners and the per person cost approaches zero.  When we had an average of two appetizers per person, I realized that my hard-sell may have been a bit too aggressive.

While everything was pretty good, a couple of the dishes stood out: oysters served with a sweet granita in place of mignonette, and the rabbit remoulade with fried green tomatoes.  Because of aggressive ordering, my appetizer plate ended up being an amalgam of everything that was laid before us.  A true testament to American overeating.

For our main courses, we again had a fairly even distribution of the options.  Based on presentation, the double-cut Niman Ranch pork chop stole the show with its straight-up flashiness.  I mean, this thing was huge.  Covered in a mole sauce, it was somehow tender on the inside without being overdone on the outside.  I wonder if that mole sauce is hiding a grey cooked meat color that would be an unwanted consequence of using low enough grill heat to cook the thing through.

The redfish looked nice, but I understand that the flavor didn’t live up to the presentation.  The main complaint I heard was that it was under-seasoned, which seems like it would be hard to believe.  I only had a taste and it seemed good to me, but it seemed to disappoint my poisson-eating compatriots.

I personally had the quail “Milton,” which was a grilled quail stuffed with crabmeat and mushroom.  I enjoyed it tremendously.  The delicate quail was perfectly cooked, and the stuffing was a great counter-point to the light gameyness of the bird.  It was sweet from the crab, and the mushrooms added an almost nutty taste to the stuffing.  I thought it was great and I could have eaten the stuffing by itself by the spoonful.

Looking at that picture, it would appear that I really ate quite a bit, since I polished that whole plate off.  I’d like to think that I gave some away to my fellow diners to try…

A couple of other guys got steaks of some sort, which looked like steaks so I didn’t feel the need to photograph them.  We also got desserts, which again I did not feel the need to photograph.  Desserts don’t really excite me unless they are a) bread pudding or b) extremely unique.  In my next post I will surely take a picture of a molten chocolate cake and contradict myself, but that’s the position that I am taking for the purposes of this post.

Central Grocery

I’ll keep it brief about the Central Grocery, since my pictures are pretty lame.

We went to the Central Grocery and got muffuletas for our excursion into the swamps.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this New Orleans classic, it’s basically an italian sandwich with a bunch of coldcuts (salami, mortadella, etc), cheese, and jardinière (usually olive salad), served on a round italian-style bread.  If you go to the Central Grocery early in the morning, you can get one without waiting.  While it was much different than the muffuletta purchased by Brian at Cochon, it was equally as tasty and was an ideal choice when embarking on an airboat into the swamps in 90 degree heat and scorching sunlight.

Olive salad is really potent.  I’ll leave it at that.


One of the posse had heard incredible things about the burger at Lüke, John Besh’s casual bistro-like restaurant located in the financial district of the city.  We didn’t make a reservation, but popped in early on Saturday to see if we could get something going before the evening’s festivities.  Uberchef and I had to keep the party going through the night until our 6am flight, so full bellies were a must.

We popped into the place and were seated immediately.  Foursquare (I know, I know) alerted us to a happy hour special: half-priced drinks and $.25 P&J oysters.  This was back when the BP spill was still relatively “minor,” so the oyster supply was unaffected at that point.  We were sold.  Three dozen oysters (“for the table,” of course) and a round of drinks were fired off without blinking an eye.

As y’all can see in the photo, the oysters were ginormous.  These things were like cow tongues.  Despite their intimidating appearance, they were tender and delicious, and for a quarter apiece, how could we have gone wrong?

Since our eyes are way bigger than our stomachs, we also proceeded to order starters and mains.  I started off with boudin noir, since I love me some blood sausage.  Whenever I refer to it as a “meat brownie,” people don’t really think it sounds appetizing, but I think the comparison makes it even more appealing.  The boudin were good, although not as good as the boudin noir featured at DBGB.  What was phenomenal was the little copper pot of goodness that accompanied the sausage.  Bacon, butter, sage, rosemary, and apples, stewed together until they were a sweet, salty, fatty mess.  That was the highlight of the meal for me.

A couple of guys had the burger (I did not, shockingly), to rave reviews.  Since I only had a bite, I think it would be unfair for me to give a full review.  Although I will voice a couple of thoughts: it was too big and there wasn’t much of a char crust on the patty.  But that’s all I will say.

I had the chicken and waffles, which looked great when walking by people’s tables, but fell flat on flavor.  The fried chicken batter was bland and uninspired and the waffles were unmemorable.  Big disappointment.  Maybe Charles’ pan-fried ruined me forever, but I have not been impressed with fried chicken lately (except for in Charleston, SC), or maybe I’m just a snob.  Either way, I didn’t enjoy it.

That about wraps up the trip!  We did have a 3.30am visit to Yo Mama’s for peanut butter burgers, but the place was way too dark to take pictures, and my sobriety was highly in question.  But I remember it being a mushy mess of goodness.  And the crawfish sausage were good from what I recall.

Anyway, do yourselves a favor and check out New Orleans.  They can use the business and you’ll eat (and drink) well.

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