Ode to New Orleans

August 17, 2008

We were lucky enough to travel to New Orleans for the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in April where we experienced some unique local foods that I’d like to showcase in this post.

Our first dining experience took place at the world-famous Acme Oyster House. After standing outside in line for about 15 minutes, we were ushered into the casual restaurant and snagged one of the front tables. Here are a few of the dishes we had, none of which was particularly inspired. Founded in 1910, perhaps Acme is resting on its laurels and catering to tourists more than locals?

Here’s the gumbo. We like Chef Kevin Davis’s version at Steelhead Diner in the Pike Place Market better.

A cuppa gumbo at world-famous Acme Oyster House.

And here’s a honkin’ huge heap o’ seafood and fries. In the background, note the Chargrilled Oysters, which were more burned than carefully broiled. 

A heap o\' fried seafood at world-famous Acme Oyster House in New Orleans.

Interestingly, we had a much better experience with Charbroiled Oysters at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, which was in the host hotel, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. I ate at Drago’s three times; Spencer twice, it was so good. Here are the Fried Crab Claws, which I’d never tasted before. You put the mini crab claw between your teeth and pull the meat (and delicious fried crust) into your mouth. Yum! The huge Crab Salad with a winning Greek vinaigrette was also a winner. 

Mini crab claws expertly fried fill the bill at Drago\'s in New Orleans.

Our best meal took place when five of us maneuvered out way to Frank Brigtsen’s long-running restaurant, Brigtsen’s Restaurant, in the University District, about 30 minutes outside of the tourist district/French Quarter. Here’s the Seafood Combo plate, a.k.a. “the Shell Beach Diet,” that bowled all of us over, not to mention the homemade breads and wonderful appetizers.

Fried, sauced, and battered, the Seafood Platter at Brigtsen\'s was a standout.

But not all the news is good. Since Katrina, the wild shrimp fishers have really struggled to maintain their fishery, according to a workshop I attended hosted by Southern cooking expert Nathalie Dupree. Here is a photo of the wild shrimp species we sampled. Don’t forget to buy Wild American Shrimp as a sustainable seafood source. 

A plate of wild shrimp we sampled during a workshop at IACP in New Orleans.


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