New Orleans’ Vibrant Food Scene

Irene's interior with our group 3648x2736

At Irene’s in the Quarter

Recently my husband and I were lucky enough to visit New Orleans for several days. No strangers to the Crescent City, we both spent our childhood visiting Louisiana’s most celebrated town and graduated from Tulane. However, we had not been back to NOLA since hurricane Katrina, and wondered how we would find the city after such devastation. We were thrilled to discover that New Orleans was thriving and vibrant once again. And nowhere was this more evident than in the city’s restaurant scene.

From the time our plane touched down at Louis Armstrong Airport, we began our food

Crispy soft shell crabs at Irene's

Crispy soft shell crabs at Irene’s

odyssey. Friends met us and whisked us to Irene’s, an Italian restaurant in the French Quarter favored by locals. My spouse raved about oysters baked in their shells with Parmesan and pimentons, and adored soft shell crabs with toasted almonds and lemon.

For lunch one day we went to Commander’s Palace in the gorgeous Garden District, and feasted on more fish. Lightly sautéed Black Drum (a moist, white fish) garnished with fried leeks and crème brûlées creatively topped with fleurs de lys (the city’s official logo) fashioned with powdered sugar were memorable.

Pêche's rustic interior

Pêche’s rustic interior

Our best meal though was at Pêche Seafood Grill, a bustling new restaurant in the city’s warehouse district. Owned by the same group that founded Cochon Restaurant near by, the eatery won two Beard awards this year (Best chef South and Best New Restaurant) and it’s easy to see why. The food prepared with local Continue reading

An Early Taste of Mardi Gras

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya 1When my son, Mike, called last Wednesday to say that he and his family were thinking of driving from Boston to Amherst for the weekend, I knew they were all angling for some home-cooked meals. Since Mike, his wife, and both kids all love seafood, I decided on a shrimp jambalaya for the first night. My husband and I both spent childhood vacations as well as our college years in New Orleans and so are longtime devotees of this dish.

Instead of a classic version in which the rice is cooked separately, then topped with a tomato-based sauce with shrimp, for this variation the rice and sauce are conveniently baked together in a casserole. The shrimp are arranged atop the spicy mélange during the last few minutes in the oven. I gilded the lily by buying mini-lobster tails on sale at Whole Foods last week. They were quickly steamed, their meat picked out and added as an extra garnish when the dish came out of the oven. Continue reading