I’m sure you saw that we had quite the adventure in Louisiana a few weeks ago. We teamed up with Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and Louisiana Travel on a 3-day road trip to get a taste of the best Louisiana food and drink. Last week, we shared our recap of Baton Rouge and Lafayette and today we’re all hungry again reminiscing over our stop in New Orleans.
We kicked off the 3-day trip with a bang in NOLA, hurricane in-hand the second we stepped off the plane. First stop, NOLA Distillery. Opened just last month, we were lucky enough to get a little behind-the-scenes tour and tasting. We all loved the craft vodka made from only Louisiana-grown sweet potatoes (the state is known to be the home of the best sweet potatoes, FYI). We saw first-hand how NOLA’s vodka is distilled twice and filtered, giving it a hint of sweetness and a touch of earthy flavor. The vodka went perfectly in what the team joked as their “Kale-Gate” cocktail (more on that backstory here) and their take on a Cosmopolitan.
After we sipped a few cocktails and talked plans for the tasting room (opening soon) with the lovely NOLA team, we scooted over to St. James Cheese Company. This local shop would definitely become my go-to for an easy lunch with the girls; think cheeses on cheeses, wines and drool-worthy sandwiches. We were thrilled to have the queen of cheese herself, Liz Thorpe, with us to introduce us to some pretty fantastic pairings with our wine. Liz published The Cheese Chronicles back in 2009, and her immense knowledge about the many variations of cheese was downright inspirational. Her newest book, The Book of Cheese, breaks down cheese into nine “gateways” of flavor, rather than by country, milk type, etc. Her take on enjoying cheese, finding flavors and kinds you love, and understanding the wide varieties in this unique way is refreshing. It’s approachable. And with over 400 pages in The Book of Cheese, there’s something for everyone. Seriously cannot wait to get our hands on this “cheese bible”!
We could have stopped there; bellies and hearts SO full. But alas, we were in New Orleans, and there was more goodness to taste. Next up: Willa Jean. And oh, let me tell you: Willa Jean is an absolute MUST when you’re in NOLA. This contemporary bakery was opened by Chef John Besh, Chef Kelly Fields and Chef Lisa White in the Central Business District, and it celebrates the best of the best Southern comfort food with fresh, local ingredients. We loved chatting with Chef Kelly Fields; she was incredibly welcoming, hilarious and to say that she blew us away with her cornbread, frosé and homemade chocolate chip cookies (a recipe that includes 5 different kinds of chocolate and one she took two years perfecting!) is an understatement. COME HERE with your girlfriends for a boozy brunch on your next trip; you won’t regret it.
Next, (no we’re not done yet), we downed a quick dozen raw oysters with wine at Borgne, another gem by Chef John Besh and Chef Brian Landry. Borgne is known to be one of the best spots for fresh seafood in the area, and it did not disappoint. Its menu is a true celebration of Louisiana coastal fare, with everything from Oysters on the Half Shell to Pan Roasted Lemonfish with brown butter turnips and Shrimp Toast with pork belly and sweet chili sambal. Its ultra cool, modern vibe in the bottom of the Hyatt makes it a hotspot (and easy locale in the Central Business District) for visitors and locals alike.
It was a big day, but we (somehow?!?) left room for dinner at Balise. Balise, manned by 2016 James Beard winner Chef Justin Devillier (also with La Petit Grocery), was named after the first French settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi River. And the place is clearly steeped in its history; located in a 19th century Creole townhouse that’s expertly decorated, and irresistibly intimate in its ambiance. On our prix fixe menu, we enjoyed fare like Fried smoked oysters, chilled Roasted Beets with Lemon, Mint and Brown Butter, Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Pan Roasted Gulf Shrimp and Chicken & Ricotta Dumplings…I mean my mouth is watering just recounting it here now. And to top it all off, Walnut Cake, Apple Crisp and Sticky Toffee Pudding (the table’s favorite).
Lastly, we (somehow) made it to Cane & Table because who could say no to Hurricanes. Located in the heart of The French Quarter, Cane & Table is a gem of a restaurant and bar where Chef & Mixologist Nick Detrich mixes up the best hurricanes I’ve ever had. Truthfully, when I looked at our itinerary and hurricanes where on the menu I wasn’t impressed, but that’s because I was used to the cheesy spring break, overally sugared hurricanes in neon plastic cups. Chef Nick sticks to the original recipe; refreshing, crisp, and goes down like water Hurricane. Cane & Table deservedly tops the list for where to drink in town, being featured on Vogue and The New York Times. The vibe here was second-to-none (string lights out back, drippy candles and palms), and the company was even better. Nick was the warmest guy, welcoming us into his tiki-inspired world and teaching us a bit of history along the way.
After that whirlwind of the day I rolled myself into bed and woke up the next morning still full from one of the best days I’ve had in awhile. A big thank you to all of the chefs for welcoming us into their worlds, and make sure to check out the entire photo gallery below! Truly, MKR