Saturday, December 12, 2015

Louisiana, Via Her Food

"Food is memories."
-The Hundred-Foot Journey

My experiences in Louisiana could be sifted down to two words:

eat + laugh.

Of course we did other things like watch movies (fun), people-watch and pretend we belonged in the historic and deeply glamorous Roosevelt Hotel (more fun), attend a performance of Newsies at the Saenger Theater (even more fun) in New Orleans, and have Nerf gun wars in the dark at home (the most fun). My friend, Clara, works at a retirement community as the activities director which meant that the Monday I went to work with her as a volunteer was "makeover morning." I got to do a manicure and eye-makeup on a 99 year old woman (and a 93 year old woman) and then I was in charge of reading some of my fiction for the "book club." This turned into an hour and a half of discussing our favorites books and places we had traveled. One woman professed a fondness for any Nancy Drew mystery she could get her hands on, while another extracted promises from me to stay at a place with a good view whenever I make it to London after trying to recall the plot of Pride and Prejudice. I had a blast. Here, then, is a list of all the new yummy things I got to try in Louisiana, each accompanied by a particular memory of my time with these fantastic people:

looking like we belong at the roosevelt


cream cheese + pepper jelly - never one to pass up something that looks beautiful and is served with crackers, I spent a lot of time the first evening hovering over a stone dish that hosted a lump of cream cheese suspended in spicy golden jam.

seafood gumbo - Clara's sister, Anna, made this amazing, perfectly-flavored classic the first night. I could have eaten three bowls. I was polite and ate one.

european chocolate mousse cake - as a sort of celebration of our meeting, Clara's brother ordered a whole cake (chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, chocolate bars) with the trip's official hashtag (#thompington) written on a slab of white chocolate on the top. We grazed on this fantastic cake the entire week.

beignets from cafe du mond - this legendary little french cafe on one end of Jackson Square has long been on my "to visit" list, courtesy of my parents having visited years ago. I hadn't realized it was an outdoor cafe, which places always fulfill my childhood dream of eating at the outdoor bistro at the Norfolk Zoo which we could never afford. We stood in line for twenty minutes before being admitted to a tiny table. All six of us crowded around. It was no larger than a cocktail table and it was perfect. I choked by inhaling someone else's powdered sugar. The place is FOGGY with it. We got cafe au lait and three plates of hot, sugar-caked beignets. I got sugar all down the front of my best dress. It was delightful.

pumpkin ricotta pancakes + pecan syrup - I don't even like pancakes and I couldn't get enough of these. Wow. They were served with brown sugar + black pepper bacon which I will also need to feature on this blog, made with the bacon my dad has been slaving over.

red beans and rice - of course I'd had red beans and rice before, but this was the perfect recipe and reportedly features curry. I'm going to do some research and possibly recreate it at home because yum.

honey - again, I've had honey. Don't look at me like that. But the Thompson family raises bees and this was their honey. It was lovely.

raw oysters - on Sunday, Clara took me to Palmettos on the Bayou: a local gem with the best atmosphere imaginable. We meant to go to get creme brulee but it on Sunday mornings they only serve the brunch buffet. Usually "buffet" and "delicious" are not used in the same sentence by those with a scrutinizing palate. Thankfully, the food was delicious and set up more like a wedding reception than a buffet. There was not a single chafing dish and there was a charcuterie board, and a hollowed out wooden trough filled with ice on which I found raw oysters a'plenty. I had one. It tasted like a scoop of seashore sand. It made me happy. Also, two real Louisiana musicians were playing bluesy-jazzy tunes live in the covered outdoor dining area and they played "Fly Me To The Moon" just for me and Clara.

devonshire cream + lingonberry preserves - both of these were consumed with scones on my last morning. Okay, so maybe we broke into the preserves the night before and gobbled them with a spoon  had a taste. Devonshire cream, if you're new to it like I am, tastes like a cross between butter and whipped cream and seems designed expressly for the purpose of being eaten on scones. The lingonberry preserves taste a good bit like cranberry sauce, but better.

salted caramel apple eclair - it was Saturday. We had had nothing

creme brulee - again, this was the pet project of Ian Thompson, Clara's brother. We had abandoned the idea of making our own in favor of experiencing Palmettos, but when he heard that they weren't on-menu that day, he spent part of Monday making them homemade. He saved the torching process till we got home, knowing I was a bit of a pyro. It was harder to hold the clicker down than I'd thought...there's a funny video of that which will probably resurface at another date. But my word. Creme brulee. It's exactly what I had hoped and dreamed it would be. The molten sugar hardens into glass and you crack through it with the side of your spoon. The sweet, classy crunch is a perfect foil to the creamy beauty of the custard below. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. I have been dreaming about creme brulee and craving it ever since. I plan to get a torch and feature it on the blog because I'm now a sworn devotee.

food from belize - okay, so I didn't actually try food from Belize, but the Thompsons are foodies: the eating while traveling? well, they just get it. Anna and Ian spend an hour one evening describing to me. the food they ate while on holiday in Belize. By the end, I couldn't decide which seemed more like Paradise: the island or the food itself. The family also lived in Okinawa for several years, so I got some insight into the food options there as well. Currently craving: the freshly-squeezed lime juice from Belize, the pineapple from Okinawa



Traveling to a new place is always exciting. Traveling to a new place and being with people who get that a vibrant way to experience the place is to travel it through flavors....that's super exciting. Many, many thanks to the Thompson family for carting me around and being just as ready as I was to fan-girl over the culinary experience. I look forward to coming back and trying all the things I missed: the snow cones, the Trout Pontchartrain, the pots de creme made by Frank himself. And everything else we meant to do and didn't cover. Hail to the foodies: may we always have such good taste.

14 comments:

  1. Aww, you guys sound like you had such a great time! The food sounds delicious. Nothing is as good as creme-brulee.

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    1. I now agree! They don't really sell it often in restaurants in Virginia!

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  2. Oh, I love your foodie posts. I did not grow up in a foodie family nor do I consider myself one, but I am trying to work on my recipe collection and skills. Maybe I will be a foodie-in-training.

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  3. mmm everything sounds amazing, I tend to remember all my travels by the food I consume. Great food just makes them more memorable.

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  4. YOU SAW NEWSIES???? Rosie and I are going to see them todayyyyyyyyy!!!!!! I can't wait!!! (It's my favorite musical of all time, and music is my life, basically, so yeah :) )

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    1. We did!!!
      We wrote a very long and fangirly guest post about it here, actually:
      http://naomiblog15.blogspot.com/2015/12/tomorrow-they-may-wrap-fishes-in-itbut.html

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  5. Mm. I always love reading about food from different places (swoon!) but yours have an extra flair of Rachel that make them just so, and I love it. :)

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    1. Glad to be of service. I adore reading about food. <3

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