Installment 2, New Orleans

August 15, 2010

Another of those things you come to New Orleans for.

Ahhh, the smell of the French Quarter on Sunday morning! Alcohol and likely less savory things lazily trickling along the gutters; garbage spilling out of the bins on the sidewalk. The reek of the street bums asleep in doorways.

Don’t get me wrong. I like New Orleans. But in August, well, there’s no way to fancy it up. It stinks. Even if it’s not as hot here as it is in Arkansas, it’s a lot more humid, a lot more paved, and a lot more humanity in a small space.

All of which pales beside the breakfast you hike a dozen blocks or so down Decatur to get at Cafe DuMonde. Now, you can go to the newer Cafe DuMonde in the Riverwalk, some three blocks from the hotel Not me. I want the real thing, atmosphere and all, and that means dodging garbage and questionable rivulets on the sidewalk and street bums and hiking it down Decatur, sticking to the shady side of the street, to Jackson Square. Across from which is the high-ceilinged, open-air, full-of-big-ceiling-fans pavilion that is Cafe DuMonde.

The cafe au lait is an espresso-blend Louisiana coffee, brewed strong enough to peel paint off the walls and then served half-and-half with steamed milk. It is also approximately as hot as molten lava. I had eaten my beignets and walked halfway back to the hotel before it got cool enough to drink. Part of this may be due to the fact the outside air is only slightly cooler than molten lava.

The beignets are little dough pillows, about 1 1/2 inch wide by maybe 2 1/2 inches long. They’re fried up crispy-chewy on the outside, light as air on the inside, three of them plunked on a saucer, and about a half-cup of powdered sugar dumped on top.

They’re divine. Even if there’s enough sugar for three times that many.

Great place to people watch. There was a guitar player, with a stainless steel stock pot for a tip jar, playing standards from the 30s all the way to the 90s; in one 10-minute span he segued from the Pink Panthern theme to Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head to You Are My Sunshine to When I’m 64.

And you had to love the signs posted prominently throughout: Be Careful Of Your Valuables. One wonders how many purses have been absconded with, whilst their owners swooned over beignets.

Last night was a swoon-worthy meal, too. We went to Mr. B’s, where the two specialties are barbecued shrimp and shrimp and grits.

The barbecued shrimp were whole shrimps, BIG whole shrimps, swimming in a soup bowl of a thin barbecue sauce in which they’d been poached. Messy as all hell; they bring you a bib. And definitely worth the mess. Spicy, faintly smoky barbecue sauce that has a vinegar tang to it; just enough of it permeates the shrimp to offset their natural sweetness. And they’re big, plump, three-bite shrimp, too; don’t know where they came from, but I tasted no petroleum taste.

The shrimp and grits were those same shrimp, minus heads and shells, wrapped in bacon and grilled, and then served over a mound of astondingly smooth, creamy, cheesy grits and with a healthy ladlefull of red-eye gravy poured over all. I was particularly entranced by the red-eye gravy, which had the taste of the smoked bacon but was not nearly as greasy as red-eye gravy often is.  The grits had enough butter and cream in them to have been offensively rich, had the redeye gravy not cut through that richness. All in all, a wonderful dinner.

Tonight: Tipitinas and K-Paul’s!

You and y’mama ‘n ’em stay tuned.


2 Responses to “Installment 2, New Orleans”

  1. Kate Says:

    I’m jealous. Wish I was there – for the food, and few degrees of cooler weather!

  2. littleclove Says:

    Oh my goodness. I have never been there, but I really need to go now!!!!!!!!!

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