New Orleans

The culinary couple visits New Orleans, Louisiana to try delicious local fare.

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It’s still disheartening, even three years after Hurricane Katrina, to approach New Orleans from the east. We left the interstate near Biloxi to drive along the Mississippi coast, where everything except the major casinos remains devastated. Even the palm trees clinging to life on the beach arch awkwardly northward from the fury of the hurricane wind.

The first neighborhoods visible in New Orleans show some of the same damage, but also more signs of revival. A majority of the homes along the highway appear repaired and some large apartment buildings look new. The closer we got to the center of the city—including the French Quarter, the Arts and Warehouse District, and the Garden District—the better everything seemed. Finally out of the car and walking the streets, we felt life was as vibrant and carefree as ever. If you’ve been waiting for normalcy to visit again, your day has arrived.

Our main interest, as you might guess, was eating around. We wanted to return to favorite places from past trips—Commander’s Palace, Upperline and Central Grocery (for the best muffuletta sandwiches on the planet)—and to try some new restaurants, particularly Cochon, MiLa, Lüke and Herbsaint. A few dishes disappointed us, but on the whole the food was magnificent, as good as (and maybe better than) we’ve had any time before.

Perhaps our most memorable meal was way off the beaten path, at La Provence on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in the small town of Lacombe. It’s both old and new, a lovely, long-established restaurant recently purchased by John Besh, a rising star of New Orleans cuisine.

Our appetizers were an egg tartine with asparagus and chanterelles and a salad of several kinds of beets with lump blue crab and wedges of pickled eggs. In both cases the eggs came fresh from hens roaming and roosting just outside. For main courses, Executive Chef Randy Lewis prepared a brilliant seared redfish with a crab brandade and artichoke and an equally satisfying plate of slow-cooked chevon (goat), enriched with Creole tomatoes and set on a bed of white grits. Stuffed, we hardly made it through dessert, a great bread pudding with a buttered pecan whiskey sauce.

After four days of lunches and dinners like this, we left New Orleans full of good cheer, sad only about the need to move on.

Cheryl and Bill Jamison write about food and travel, always with mouthwatering results. Among their best-selling books are Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking and The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. They are also frequent contributors to Cooking Light and Bon Appétit. Married 22 years, they live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Jamisons’ newest book,
Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, regales readers with a tasty account of their global travels in search of great local fare—from Bali to Brazil.

Learn more about Cheryl and Bill at You can sign up to join them on a future trip by clicking on “culinary adventures.”

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