Friday, August 26, 2011

Visiting New Orleans for the International Food Blogger Conference

This is a trip I've been dreaming of for a long time now.  My grandparents were born in Louisiana before their families moved to California, one of the results of the move being me, a California-born granddaughter whose culinary upbringing included red beans and rice and Cajun food in equal proportions to avocados, guacamole, and local Mexican food.  Growing up with so many gastronomic options have left my taste buds and stomach grateful, but with a certain sense of identity confusion.  While my great-grandmother was known for whipping up a mean batch of okra, my mom's best known dish is her signature guacamole.  With the International Food Blogging Conference in town, I have found the perfect excuse to explore the city that is so near and dear to my heart, despite the fact that I am visiting for the first time.  My mom has made the trip along with me, and we're planning to eat as many meals as reasonably possible to re-connect with our food memories. 

I have known for awhile now that a trip to New Orleans would help me to make more sense of my family's food culture, and I have to say that I already feel at home in this city-- like I am meant to eat many more meals here if only geography, time, and finances will allow.  After all, a city that features recipes on a large percentage of its souvenir items is a city after my heart-- they are everywhere: on postcards, magnets, and keychains with recipes for gumbo, jambalaya, okra, red snapper, and the list goes on.  This is a city for cooks, for eaters, for music lovers, and for anyone who has enjoyed good food as a result of someone vigilantly stirring a roux with love and elbow grease. Luckily, I am a proud member of all of the aforementioned categories, so this city and I are going to get along.

The schedule of the conference will surely keep me busy this weekend, so instead of trying to complete a mega-recap at the end of this trip, I'm going to do my best at posting pictures & observations as we go along.  Here are a few highlights:

Arrival to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport: the statue of Louis Armstrong stands strong against the backdrop of a vibrant mural.

Our first dinner in New Orleans was at Galatoire's, an institution here in the city, known for maintaining traditions in their food preparations and service.  After reading Sara Roahen's description of her ideal meal at Galatoire's in her book Gumbo Tales, I knew we had to eat here.  Upon entering Galatoire's they ask you if you have a waiter preference in mind, as the standing tradition for locals is to request their favorite waiter.  Since this was our first time, we requested the server who "most loves food" and left it up to the host's good judgement.  We were rewarded with a friendly, entertaining, and most importantly, food-loving waiter named Peter.  We ordered Sazeracs immediately.


A big crusty loaf of french bread (perfect for dipping into sauces) and two butter patties came to our table, leading me to conclude: This is where I belong-- a city seemingly free from low-carb diets.

Lovely mom with a lovely dish

The Galatoire's Dining Room: we lingered for a long time here, and most tables had cleared out by the time we had finished.  We like to linger over good food-- each dish is a special event!

Here's the damage we did: Crabmeat maison and shrimp rémoulade to start.  For entries, we ordered the fried soft shell crab with meunière amandine and shrimp etouffée.  This was a great introduction to the city, my favorite part being the meunière amandine sauce.  As far as sauces go, this is one I would return to again and again, try to replicate, and probably crave until my next visit to Galatoire's.  For the record, if possible to design a piece of carry-on luggage to safely transport small supplies of this to California from New Orleans, this might also be something I would consider. 

A special thanks goes out to our waiter Peter, who was very kind in answering our many menu questions and walking us through the impossible decision of choosing among so many decadent dishes. 
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