By SLICK TRACY
Hotel Detective & Food Sleuth
Slick Tracy (whose alter ego is noted journalist Alan Gell) is an Experienced travel columnist,
judge, reviewer, commentator, and inspector of hotels, restaurants.
museums, & unusual tourist sites. Hard-hitting, fast-shooting, square-jawed, & intelligent,
Communicates via two-way wrist radio while wearing Tracy's signature yellow hat.
Always in relentless pursuit of the truth, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I love to visit New Orleans. There is so much to see and do, whether acting like a tourist family, a couple on a romantic weekend, or simply a few friends 'hanging out' together. However, a visit to New Orleans can not be complete without an attempt to ‘eat your way around town’ The New Orleans CVB offers up some suggestions and a list of ‘must-try’ items, with a few others added to this list.
Signature New Orleans food items that should be experienced include:
GUMBO: this is a strong soupy mixture, usually consisting of onions, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and/or okra with seafood (shrimp, oysters, crab, crawfish), chicken, or andouille sausage. Gumbo spread throughout the South to become the household 'soup of choice', and many times it was the only meal of the day.
BEIGNETS: These are sometimes referred to as a French doughnuts. They are actually square pieces of dough, deep fried, and covered with powdered sugar. They can be topped or filled with jellies as well as shrimp, crab, or crawfish, although most people enjoy them plain with extra powdered sugar.
ANDOUILLE: This is a smoke pork sausage that is heavily spiced. It’s unique taste adds special flavor to many of the main dishes at New Orleans’ leading restaurants.
RED BEANS & RICE: This is a classic Creole item usually found on any menu that claims to offer Creole cooking. It is also found throughout Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama at any restaurant claiming to offer Creole-style cooking.
BANANAS FOSTER: This specialty dessert was created and invented at the historic Brennan’s Restaurant. It is made with bananas, ice cream, dark rum, sugar, and spices.
CRAWFISH ETOUFFEE: This has been a favorite of locals for many years. The easiest way to describe it is to say it is a gumbo made from crawfish and not much else except pepper, garlic, and onions. It is normally served over a steaming bed of rice. The flavor is distinct yet extremely addictive.
PO-BOY: If you see this item spelled otherwise, the cook is not from New Orleans. The original Po-Boy was created out of necessity years ago. It generally indicates a sandwich of almost anything piled on French bread shaped in submarine style. Older and most common Po-Boy sandwiches are deli meat, mostly thin roast beef, with a tasty gravy sauce called ‘debris.’ (This is not a broth for the sandwich to be dipped. That is referred to as a 'French Dip Sandwich.) More modern-day versions offer a Po-Boy with shrimp, catfish, soft-shell crabs, or crawfish.
JAMBALAYA: This is another classic New Orleans dish. It is normally simple but highly flavorful. It usually consists of some sort of seafood or a mixture of seafood, sausage, and some vegetables. Long-grain rice is added to the mixture to add consistency as well as the unique flavors. Depending upon the spices added, jambalaya can sometimes add sweat beads across your forehead, but that is easily remedied by adding some type of crackers to the mix.
OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER: Betcha didn’t know that this specialty dish was created and invented at the historic Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. The exact recipe, created in 1988, is a combination of Parmesan cheese, parsley, capers, and oysters, topped off with a very rich white sauce. Restaurants throughout the United States offer their own variety, but for the original, visit Antoine’s.
PRALINE: Although the sugary, pecan dessert can be found throughout the South, New Orleans appears to have more than their share of 'factories' and other dispensaries of this delectable concoction. You can find pralines in various forms, such as lumpy, flat, chewy, or simply a glob of mixture wrapped in cellophane. Try one or all, but you will not be disappointed.
A bit of history of the praline generally attributes the origin to France, where it was made with sugar, caramel, almonds, and some cocoa. In the 1700's it was brought to the French Quarter, although by whom is still being debated. Because almonds were in short supply, the locals found that the native pecans worked well, especially if the cocoa was omitted from the recipe. Before the Civil War, local women of color and 'kept' women of wealthy gentlemen discovered that the making and selling of pralines on the streets was a special opportunity. It provided a source of independent (and often secret) income.
There is still arguments over the correct pronunciation. Some say PRAY-lene. Others say PRAW-lene. Either way, it is still a marvelous sweet dessert found throughout New Orleans. Just a few mentions would include the Praline Connection on Frenchman Street, Southern Candymakers on Decatur Street, and Aunt Sally's Original Creole Pralines on Decatur Street. Of course, almost every tourist shop in town sells some type praline.