I feel like I just got back from a whirlwind international vacation.
I saw palm trees, cobblestone streets, and gas lamps.
I ate turtle soup, goat curry, and fried rabbit.
I drank whiskey, wine, and numerous craft cocktail concoctions.
Somehow, I did all of this without ever leaving the country. I spent four days in a city which made me feel as if I were far abroad, yet at the same time never closer to home.
How did it take me so long to discover New Orleans? Spending a day in New Orleans is like waking up in the Caribbean, having lunch in Paris, then relaxing in the bayou all evening.
When the New Orleans CVB asked me to join five other bloggers for a hosted trip to New Orleans, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew basically nothing about The Big Easy, and I was eager to jump in with both feet. I got to meet Becky of The Cookie Rookie, Melody of Being Melody, Elise of WTFab, Erin of My Thirty Spot, and Camille of My Mommy Style. The six of us spent four glorious days together in New Orleans, and I had a wonderful experience spending time with other bloggers outside of my food-and-travel niche.
As a born-and-raised Portlander (Oregon, not Maine!), sometimes I forget that there are cities in our country which are older than the United States. New Orleans is nearly twice as old as Portland, yet has roughly 230,000 fewer people.
While Portland as a city places emphasis on progression, trends, and technology, New Orleaneans like to say that they are “so behind times, that they’re ahead.” I heard this description of the city from a handful of locals and it really stuck with me.
I can’t wait to tell you more about the music and culture of New Orleans, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to keep it all about the food for today. Oh yes, the food. It’s hard to find a place to begin, but breakfast seems as good of place as any.
First, the most important thing you need to know about my trip is that I had dessert with my breakfast nearly every morning. I need to admit to that and get it out of the way.
This brings me to the first of five restaurants that you simply can’t miss on your trip to New Orleans: Brennan’s.
Here’s the low-down on the above pictures, starting at the top left and moving clockwise: Basically the world’s best eggs benedict, a menu showing a three-course breakfast option (with dessert, of course), an important picture of my coffee cup before I spilled it everywhere (somehow this seemed to happen at every restaurant we visited!), the fried rabbit entree I devoured for breakfast, delectable roasted gulf oysters, and a baked apple with oatmeal pecan raisin crumble. We also had Bananas Foster flambéed table side for our viewing and eating pleasure. It was seriously incredible!
The next can’t-miss restaurant on my list is Upperline. We had dinner there our last night in town, and it was one of the best dining experience I’ve had.
The restaurant’s owner and matriarch, JoAnn, is inviting and attentive. Becky snagged this fabulous photo of our group enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation with the woman who started it all:
Learning some incredible life wisdom from Joanne at Upperline. I wish I had a tape recorder. Brilliance. #FollowYourNOLA A photo posted by Becky (Gall) Hardin (@thecookierookie) on
I had the braised lamb shank for dinner and I would have eaten two if I could have found room for it in my stomach. Make a reservation, wear whatever you like, and get yourself over to Upperline for dinner.
They only recently started serving breakfast, and I’m certainly glad that they did. Order the Bananas Foster Waffles. End of story. The fourth “restaurant” on my list isn’t really a restaurant at all. It’s Langlois Cooking School, and it better find its way onto your travel itinerary! We all had so much fun flipping crepes, drinking coffee, and wolfing down gumbo for breakfast. Trust me, once you get back from New Orleans you’re going to be so glad you know how to recreate your favorite dishes at home.
Alright, this brings me to the last restaurant on my list, which incidentally happened to by my favorite of the entire trip. Pêche Seafood Grill, located in the Warehouse District, recently won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, and it’s certainly easy to see why. Our group had to be practically rolled out of there when we were done eating!
The menu is full of fresh, bright, and fun takes on simple coastal seafood. Simply put, it will blow you away. You could plan an entire trip around coming to New Orleans just to eat here. When you get home, pick up a copy of Chef Donald Link’s Down South cookbook to help ease the food withdrawals.
New Orleans’ unique food scene is so much more than a list of excellent restaurants. Many of the restaurants have been in the same family (and building) for over a hundred years! If you ask nicely, you may have a chance to tour a few of the older restaurants (like Brennan’s and Arnaud’s); it’s like walking through a museum after dinner! For more recommendations, check out the New Orlean’s CVB Directory!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The opinions and text are all mine.