Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bienvenue and Bon Appetit

A new list of world's top dining cities from Travelocity includes my hometown, New Orleans--one darned hard city to diet in, by the way. Here's what they say:

"Many first time visitors head to New Orleans to experience events such as Mardi Gras or JazzFest, but they return time and time again for its food. NOLA's most famous restaurants include Emeril's, Commander's Palace and Antoine's, but local favorites such as Jacques-Imos and Port of Call deserve a spot on the map of culinary treasures as well. Cajun and Creole dishes throughout the city tempt the taste buds, and no visit to Crescent City is complete without indulging in a beignet dusted with powdered sugar and a cup of café au lait laced with chicory at Café Du Monde."

Ah, Jacques-Imo's and Commander's Palace. My two favorite restaurants--the yin and yang of favorites, if you will. Commander's is elegant and refined and I've never had a bad meal there--and it's surprisingly affordable.

Jacques-Imo's is kinda loud and funky and they have a savory appetizer I dare you to not like. It's one of those things that makes your eyes roll back in your head with delight when you take the first bite. What is it? Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake (shown in photo above). Cooked in a nut crust and brimming with sausage and cream and cream cheese--baked slowly in a water bath and then topped with shrimp and a delicious sauce. Best of all? It's LOW CARB. Sigh. For your meal, order the Carpetbagger Steak, a nicely seasoned steak topped with grilled onions and bleu cheese. Can you tell I've eaten a few low-carb meals there? The chef, Jacques Leonardi, also has more recently opened a location in New York City, but I can't vouch for that one.

Port of Call is a hole-in-the-wall joint that looks like a place you should be afraid to go, but it has, bar none, the best burgers in town. Toss away the bun and pile on the grilled mushrooms and you have a feast. Of course you have to avoid the loaded baked potatoes.

Then there's beignets from the Cafe du Monde. Decidedly NOT low carb but they will be staring me in the face this weekend as I head down to the French Quarter for the French Quarter Festival art show. Guess I'd better find the gator on a stick instead.

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