When I first sat down to write about our recent trip to New Orleans, initially my plan was to condense it into a concise top five list of food and drink that we enjoyed…and then I realized that was basically an impossible task. I then realized that I could break out my favorite drinks and dishes by theme, and so here’s hoping I actually get around to writing all of them. But first, I must speak of The Napkin.
I’ve written about my love of Arnaud’s French 75 Bar and my great admiration for the talent and graciousness of its head mixologist Chris Hannah in this blog before, and every time we go to NOLA a trip to French 75 is always in order, if not two. We ended up only making it there once this time around, but it was for a good reason: we ended up simply having too many other places to try out, in part thanks to Hannah himself. He graciously offered some suggestions on the back of a French 75 napkin, akin to what his former colleague would do as part of his excellent NOLA blog Napkin Local, so this felt special.
Mai Tais and sambal shrimp and grits at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29
On our second night in the city we had to help figure out some dinner plans for what would be a group of seven of us: two of Michael’s colleagues, their spouses, and one recently-turned-21 grandson. Group work-related dinners can either be an easy or a fraught thing to plan—especially if your reputation as a food enthusiast feels like it’s on the line—but this came together remarkably well. I called the restaurant and made reservations for us while finishing up a leisurely lunch-slash-work session, and when we walked in later that evening I was feeling pretty confident that I had made the right call.
The décor is decidedly kitschy, with lots of classic Tiki cocktails on the extensive drink menu; of the ones I sampled, the Mai Tais ended up being my favorite of the bunch. I attribute this to their use of fresh ingredients as opposed to sugary mixes, and everything was very, very easy to drink.
We also had some pretty stellar sambal shrimp and grits that I really want to try to recreate myself, or at least do an homage to the dish I enjoyed so much. By the time we got to this dish the
Basically everything we had at Longway Tavern.
What’s so cool about New Orleans is that it has this wonderful history of old restaurants that have withstood the test of time and tribulation to exist today, often despite the heavy odds against them. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the new and the interesting, and Longway Tavern, a relatively young newcomer to the French Quarter, feels like it could be an amazing fit for this neighborhood and especially its locals.
We came here after having some beers and raw oysters at the stalwart Royal House oyster bar, mainly because Michael wanted dinner, and I didn’t want to eat a ton of food. The small plates on offer there were just what we both wanted, featuring ingredients that we adore: white anchovies, lardo butter, and. One of the bartenders ended up ordering us their peas with cauliflower cream as well, which was a delightful surprise—Denzel had been our bartender at Comprere Lapin (more on that later) and it was really nice to be able to be in a space that allowed for more intimate conversation.
Our cocktails were also top-notch: the Sazerac was incredibly well-balanced, and prior to a convivial shot with our bartenders before we went out again we asked them do a bartender’s choice of a cocktail in a quasi head-to-head competition. Mine was a really cool spin on a Paloma that had both mezcal and tequila while Michael had a twist on a mule, and in this particular battle we all came out as winners.
More to come on this trip–there is the matter of celebrating our favorite places in the city, as well as visiting restaurants by not one, but two Top Chef finalists.