Friday, September 17, 2010

Battle of the Beignets, scratched

All the New Orleans guidebooks tout a "can't-miss" delicacy called the beignet, a deep-fried pastry made from dough and sprinkled with powdered sugar, so we looked forward to doing a "Battle of the Beignets" comparison during our brief stay in the Crescent City.

In the blue corner, the heavyweight champion - Cafe du Monde, the New Orleans institution that popularized the beignet. Established in 1862, Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours a day, and serves only the beignets and coffee. No soup for you!

In the red corner, the upstart challenger, Cafe Beignet, which has already won its share of fans who claim its namesake beignets are superior. Cafe Beignet has several locations in the French Quarter and serves sandwiches and other baked goods as well.

Since Cafe Beignet was a shorter walk from the hotel, we decided to have breakfast there the next day. It was jam-packed with tourists waiting for fresh, hot beignets to be delivered to their table. Each order came with three beignets, and I could hardly contain my excitement for ours to arrive.

Finally, our beignets arrived, and I took a bite. It was hot, tasted like dough, and a bit of let down. So this was the much ballyhooed beignet?! Don't get me wrong, it was all right but certainly nothing spectacular. An order was quite filling though, but we didn't like them that much to polish off all three.

The next couple of days, I thought of trying out the beignets at Cafe du Monde, but my heart and stomach just weren't into it. The lengthy queues (as pictured) at seemingly all hours was the final nail in the coffin, so sadly the "Battle of the Beignets" was a giant non-event. Give me a doughnut or French macaron anytime.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Louisiana Bistro, NOLA

Seeking to escape the rowdy crowds, trash and smell of puke on Bourbon St., we ambled one block north along Dauphine St. and stumbled upon the somewhat simply-named Louisiana Bistro. I was initially surprised to see the BP logo imposed on the restaurant menu displayed inside the glass window case.

Intrigued, I read the menu a bit more closely and was quite amused by the descriptions that captured the locals' frustration with another disaster that threatened their livelihood. Check out the verbiage for the "Dirty Bird" in the picture, as well as the small letters underneath the huge "BP" heading. If that's not putting a humorous spin on the dire situation, I don't know what is.

On the spot, we decided to have our dinner at Louisiana Bistro and managed to procure a reservation. Despite warnings about the safety of Gulf seafood (a misconception anyone in New Orleans is eager to dispel), I threw caution to the wind and ordered the bpq shrimp in black pepper sauce.

They were a tad too spicy for my taste, but that didn't deter me from devouring all four of them. I offered one to M., but I could sense some reluctance due to the oil spill situation, so didn't push it. I happily explained my bravado by saying that "if President Obama can serve Gulf seafood for his birthday, then I too can safely consume them."

An intriguing dinner option at Louisiana Bistro was their "Feed Me" tasting menu. This multi- course offering showcases the chef's latest ideas and freshest ingredients, and costs $39 (3 courses), $49 (4 courses), or $59 (5 courses).

I inquired with the waiter about how "Feed Me" works, and he replied that basically the chef comes out for a brief chat with each diner on his/her food preferences, and then creates the dishes based on that. Thus, unlike a set menu, the dishes can vary for each patron at the table.

Unfortunately, M. wasn't up for it, so I wound up just getting the "drum meuniere" for my main course, described as "pan fried puppy drum on bourbon-mashed potatoes and creole meuniere sauce". I had never heard of a fish called drum before but chalked it up to general ignorance about Gulf Coast seafood. The dish was quite tasty, and both M. and I liked it. No (B)itching (P)lease!

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