Thursday, April 1, 2010

No Reservations: New Orleans

Prior to arriving at Willie Mae's, my cab driver suggested that I take a cab back to the French Quarter. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy but it's walkable during the day. I decided to walk with the Boston diners since it was only a mile away.

After I paid my adeus with my dining partners, I headed toward my next destination, Cafe du Monde. Ok, I LOVE beignets. Every time I see it on the menu, I have to order it. No it's ands and buts. A few blocks down from Bourbon Street on the corner of Decatur and St. Ann is the world-famous Cafe du Monde.

I arrived in the afternoon so I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn't a long line. There's a large sitting area so basically you just walk up, find an open seat and a waiter/waitress will come by to take your order.

The menu is simple: beignets and cafe au lait.

Beignets topped with powdered sugar - $2.14
Served in threes, this beignet is deep-fried and topped with powered sugar. Personally, I prefer mine puffy and light. This one is a little doughy. It's hit or miss depending on where you get them from. I actually like the ones made from the Metairie cafe stand.

Cafe au Lait - $2.14
Traditionally, Au Lait is mixed half and half with hot milk. I'm not a coffee drinker because it gives me the shakes but for some reason the chirory in this version is addicting without the caffeine high. It gives a sort of chocolate flavor to the coffee. Chicory is the root of an endive plant (you know, the fancy lettuce).

Afterthoughts: The cafe au lait was a winner but the beignets were hit and miss. I recommend going to other outposts to make sure you receive the beignets fresh from the fryer. When they are cold and flat, it's doughier. Would I come back? Yes, definitely. Remember to bring cash!

Down the street from Cafe du Monde is another famous outpost, Central Grocery. My second favorite sandwich in the world behind the grilled cheese sandwich is the muffuletta. A muffu-what? Muffuletta is a type of Silician bread as well as a New Orleans sandwich. It is traditionally made with a flat round loaf, marinated olive salad with layers of capicola, salami, mortadella, emmentaler and provolone cheese.

Muffuletta - $14.95
I'm on the fence with this one. I definitely think the olive salad was altered in the last few years. It's more saltier than usual. After dumping the olive salad, the sandwich was fine. I've had a lot of muffulettas and the differences I found in all were the bread loaf and olive salad. I love the olive salad at the San Diego cafe that we go to but I didn't like the bread because it was too thick. Better luck next time.

My last stop before having dinner was finding a candy shop to try out another local favorite, pralines. To be honest, I always thought pralines was a nut of some sort. Little did I know its a confection of nuts and sugar syrup (duh!).

During my walk around the French Quarter, I saw several shops designated, 'Original New Orleans Pralines', 'World-Famous Pralines', etc. The one shop that caught my eye was Southern Candymakers since it had a sign that stated, 'Best Candy, Atlanta Gourmet Show' as well as a Gourmet Magazine endorsement.

Well, well, well. If Gourmet Magazine likes it, I better give it a try and I'm glad I did.

Creamy Pralines - $19.95 a lbs (Yes, you saw that right. For one pound!)
Made with cream, butter, sugar and premium Louisiana jumbo pecan halves. It has a rich, luscious taste without being too sweet.

Afterthoughts: According to their website, they claim to be the best and invite comparisons from any praline, anywhere. Now that's a bold statement! I like it. Marc loves it as well as my coworkers. This is a slam dunk.

Things to know

Cafe du Monde:
  • Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter is open 24 hours. Other outposts have varying times.
  • Price: $, cash only.
  • The beignet mix is $2.39. If you buy it from other stores it costs more. The airport shops will charge you $4.50.
  • Make sure before you eat your beignets to put two layers of napkins on your lap to avoid having spots of powdered sugar all over you.
  • Cafe du Monde has eight cafe stands all over New Orleans located at the French Market, Esplanade Mall, Riverwalk Mall, Lakeside Mall, Oakwood Mall, Mandeville, Covington and 4600 Veterans Boulevard.
  • Website:

Central Grocery:

  • No official website.
  • Price Range: $ - A full Muffuletta is $14.95. You can also order a half muffuletta.
  • Address: 923 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116.
  • There is a special line just to order the muffuletta. The ordering process seemed like a scene from Seinfield's Soup Nazi episode.

Southern Candymakers:

  • What to order: Creamy pralines. Per lbs, regular size gives you 12 pieces while Mini size is 20 pieces. If you order online, each piece is individually wrapped.
  • Price Range: $$$ - $19.95 for Creamy Pralines; $21.95 for Mini Creamy Pralines.
  • When you are at the shop, ask for a free sample of...everything :)
  • Address: 1010 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116 (next to The Market Cafe)
  • Website:


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