Some people may eat corned beef and cabbage with green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. My husband, Gordo, and I celebrated St. Patty’s Day in the New Orleans French Quarter, and revelers on the infamous Bourbon Street are hard-pressed to find cabbage on any menus. That said, the green beer shouldn’t be a problem! I didn’t mind the lack of cabbage. Traditional New Orleans food is a wonderful mix of influences from various cultures including French, Spanish, African, and Native American among others. Instead of eating Irish for the day, I vowed to eat all Nawlins-style.
If you’re going to spend an entire day exploring the French Quarter, you’re going to need a solid breakfast. Gordo went with the Jambalaya Omelette with grits. Jambalaya is considered a traditional Creole dish. In Louisiana, Creole refers to the people descended from the colonial settlers, particularly the French and Spanish. It’s a mix of meat, vegetables, and rice. The meat always includes sausage, typically Andouille which is a smoked sausage, and other meats like pork, chicken, crawfish and shrimp. Grits is made by boiling ground maize and originates in Native American culture.
I went with the Fried Oyster Sardou. Eggs Sardou is also a Louisiana Creole dish consisting of poached eggs, artichoke bottoms, spinach and Hollandaise sauce.
We split the Creole Hash Browns. You can’t go wrong with deep fried potato!
With bellies filled, it was time to commence the festivities. I knew where we had to go first – Pat O’Briens.
This well-known establishment has been around for some time. At the end of prohibition in 1933, Pat O’Brien converted his speakeasy to a legitimate pub. I couldn’t resist getting the daily special –the Fuzzy Leprechaun.
Pat O’Brien’s is best known for its Hurricane drink created in the mid-1940’s. At that time, there was a shortage of the usual liquors like whiskey, bourbon and scotch. There was, however, a surplus of rum coming up the river. Bar owners were forced to buy large quantities of rum, around 50 cases, in order to purchase the other desired liquors. (www.patobriens.com) Thus, O’Brien had to come up with a good strategy to use a lot of rum!
Soon, it was time for lunch. There are numerous oyster bars lining Bourbon Street, so we chose the one with the best decor.
Well, guess what we got as for our appetizer. Of the various oyster selections, we ordered the Bloody Mary Oysters. I have to admit I was not sure how to consume an oyster and even considered using a knife. Any local will tell you to simply use a fork to make sure the meat is detached from the shell. Then, pick up the shell with your hand and just slurp it all down!
Important side note: In case your dish isn’t spicy enough, you can find hot sauce on every table as if it were ketchup.
I also ordered the Shrimp Gumbo with rice which is not pictured, because my stomach beat me to it. Gumbo originated in Louisiana during the colonial period. It consists of a strongly flavored stock with either meat or shellfish and the Cajun “holy trinity” of vegetables – celery, bell peppers, and onions. Cajun refers to the French settlers who were kicked out of Acadia by the Canadians and migrated to Louisiana. Gordo ordered the Bayou Burger, which is not pictured because you know what a burger looks like!
We spent the afternoon further exploring the streets of the French Quarter which meant watching street performers, enjoying live music, checking out Voodoo shops, and drinking in the streets. As long as it’s in a plastic cup, you’re good to take it to go. This has to be the only place in America where the authorities don’t mind.
All that fun means it’s time for a snack. One local treat that I knew I had to try was a beignet, a deep-fried French pastry. Warm, buttery and sugary! Heavenly.
For dinner, I was determined to eat on one of the famous balconies.
Obviously, these are old buildings mostly, built in the 1830’s. We should not have been surprised that the balcony and thus, our table was at about a 25 degree tilt toward the street. Be sure to hold on to your drink, or you might surprise some pedestrians below! Notice the second railing at head height. This was likely added after the original to keep tipsy diners safe!
We started our meal with a very popular appetizer in these parts – Fried Alligator.
Another dish you’ll see offered at all French Quarter restaurants is the Po Boy. It’s Louisiana’s version of a sub sandwich, and you can get it with everything from beef to catfish.
I enjoyed the Crawfish Etouffée. Etouffée is both Cajun and Creole. It can be made with any shellfish, but mostly commonly with crawfish, served over rise. “Etouffée” translates to “smothered” in French. The crawfish and rice are in fact smothered in a sauce known as roux, which is a made with fat and flour.
After dinner, we scooted off to watch the parade. What a great day of honoring my favorite saint!