Southern Candymakers & Praline Charms

Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 1 arrNew Orleans is a city full of charm and tradition. And with gems to be found at pretty much every corner, Decatur Street is no different. Sighting one sweets boutique, in particular, I find ‘tortue’ central at none other than Southern Candymakers.Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 8 arr

Making pralines on the spot, this boutique candy shop is where I get my taste of the pecan classic, and some more! Between the left-side aisle of souvenir items and showcased individual treats to the right, I pick up an assortment of chocolate-covered caramel pecans – inclusive of milk, white and dark chocolate – a container red beans and rice, truly candy-coated sunflower seeds and peanuts, in addition to old-fashioned salt water taffy. Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 9 arr

Bonbons selected and collected for later enjoyment, now would be a good time to beat the heat with scoops of ice box refreshers – homemade vanilla, pralines ‘n’ cream, and banana pudding ice creams – also, allowing more time to peruse the delectable quarters. Glad to have done so, the atmosphere beckons little reminders of NOLA from Café Du Monde coffee and ‘beignet’ mix to alligator-fashioned oven mitts. Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 4 arrClearly appealing to all tourists at heart, the real treat – for me – was eyeing a batch of freshly made pralines being prepared and proportioned on a marble surface, and all done so right on-site. Watching candy being made in action plus the sweet aroma of caramelized sugar in the air, there’s just one thought that comes to mind: “Oh, how sweet it is!”

Southern Candymakers Praline Shop 2 arrLeaving content with an undeniable sugar rush, Southern Candymakers know how to appease to the senses. Likewise, and given the multitude of selection, a fun-filled discovery is to be anticipated. Among my handful of treats, here’s the ‘one’ I highly rate: chocolate-covered pecan ‘tortue’ that are – honest to goodness – divine. Evasive of hard candy bits, you can taste all three layers of this nutty yet sweet praline that is the culmination of crunchy pecans, melt-in-your-mouth buttery caramel, and chocolate coating. Authentic, to say the least, these little charmers are soft and chewy morsels of “must-indulge” temptation. A turtle in name, not inception, these delightful clusters are too good to savour slowly – C’est si bon!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Deliciously Repeating History: One Muffuletta at a Time

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 8 arrFor a foodie who encounters a ‘sign’ professing to be the ‘original’ – anything food related – there’s one motto to follow: “Veni, vidi, vici!” Caesar knew better and, in suit, so do those with a curious appetite.

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 12 arrSpotting such signage in New Orleans, I open the doors to Central Grocery, to experience the hype of their famous muffuletta. Self-proclaimed originators of this Italian sandwich, who wouldn’t want to sample a bread-encased ‘charcuterie’ spread, let alone a chance to step into the world of the “Home of the Original,” itself? Passing rows of jarred pickled veggies, dry pasta and sauces, I know I do! Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 3 arr

Making my way to the counter, I read the menu of options – only two – for either a half portion or full, and decisively order: “One whole muffuletta, please!” And, in a flash, I’m promptly handed a food gift – a freshly made, cut and wrapped whole sandwich – also lunch for the day. Luckily, given the generous size of this rounded fare, my midday snack is to be shared though it could easily feed two to four people, dependent on hunger levels.Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 7 arr

Ready to ‘mangia al fresco,’ I leave my side treat of Zapp’s “Kettle Style Voodoo” potato chips for later, and prepare for the main event. Quartered piece in hand, I take notice of the reveal: layers of mortadella, salami, provolone, ham, mozzarella, and a heavy topping of olive salad. As if that’s not enough, the buttery shavings of meat and savoury olive condiment are held together between a sliced round loaf of sesame crusted bread. Each component, however simple, balances one another for the making of a flavourful sandwich.

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 4 arrNever having tasted bad mortadella, there’s some debate to what makes a perfect sandwich. Without a doubt, the cuts of premium deli are fresh and tasty on their own. Similarly, you can’t go wrong with an untouched homemade recipe for success as seen in the marinated olive salad that’s heightened by aromatics such as celery, carrots, garlic, and oregano to name a few. All delicious, the aforementioned can easily be enjoyed together or alone. Still, to me, the bread takes the prize. Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 9 arrCovered with toasted nutty goodness, this bread is golden: it bears a crispy exterior all the while remaining soft and chewy to the bite. Light as air, this porous loaf is sponge-like to the touch and, although less dense than a focaccia, well made. So much so, in fact, it holds its shape despite the absorption of the olive oil dressing, and the weighted addition of meat and cheese slices. Carb-praising aside, the only crumbs you’ll find are none – a muffuletta so good you’ll wish you purchased another for the road.

Central Grocery Co. Muffaletta 6 arrEvidently worth imitating, I can see why Central Grocery prides itself in being the creators of the muffuletta. In consideration of its popularity, this grocer offers delivery service for those who can’t stop by 923 Decatur Street. But for those who can, the making of your own muffuletta is as easy as ordering some deli and picking up a jar of the signature olive salad. With the necessary ingredients available in-house, this grocer has those wanting to recreate the humble meat and cheese hand-held covered. Happy to have arrived, witnessed and tasted the ‘original’, the verdict’s in: the real-deal muffuletta is a new lunch box favourite.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

The Old Absinthe House

The Old Absinthe House NOLA 1 arrDo fairies exist? I couldn’t tell you, but I will say this: a belle of a drink – a glass of good ol’ Tinker – is to be seen, made, and encountered at Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House, in New Orleans.

Situated at 240 Bourbon Street – where else – this bar embodies a relaxed atmosphere, as one would expect. Just step in, find a seat, and you’ll immediately notice walls covered with a shameless stretch of self-promoting patron-inspired art – a.k.a. business cards. The Old Absinthe House NOLA 6 arrFinding no designated boards, here, the walls are the bulletin. Clearly atypical albeit clever, interesting, and a quick read in passing – the ambiance is to be appreciated.

Innovative wall paper aside, there’s absinthe to be found and it’s bar side. Pleasantries made, the friendly and informative bartender promptly presents a list of green possibilities. And, there’s plenty! So be prepared to throw indecision out the open door, and select an absinthe of choice. Doing just that, let the magic begin!

The Old Absinthe House NOLA 3 arrGoing for a classic, the bartender first sets up an absinthe spoon with a sugar cube atop a glass. Pouring some Butterfly Absinthe over the sugar, he then lights it on fire. Kindly explaining each step – for the absinthe novice that I am – he leaves the cube ‘en flamblé’ to allow the sugars to caramelize but prevents the alcohol from burning off via a splash of cold water. The Old Absinthe House NOLA 4 arrFor the final touch, he dilutes the anise-infused spirit with more water, and stirs-in the semi-dissolved sugar. A spectacle to behold, the once clear absinthe has distinctly changed to an opaque lime green, which the bartender details is a result of a chemical reaction known as ‘louche.’ Clearly a pro, the bartender ‘appropriately’ concocts a drink that leaves me with a cloudy absinthe and word for the day.The Old Absinthe House NOLA 5 arr

Enjoying the show, I leave this long-standing establishment deducing this: fans of licorice will enjoy the reminiscent taste profile that absinthe yields. Highly aromatic, its herbal notes are synonymous with fennel and anise flavours, and lend to an overall fragrant yet strong product. Keen on absinthe or not, the Old Absinthe House has been serving ‘tradition’ since 1807 and remains a historic fixture minus any old-world stuffiness. Lastly, please drink responsibly!

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All Day Beignets & Chicory Brew

Craving old-fashioned fried ‘beignets’? Well, if you’re ever in New Orleans, be sure to stop by the iconic Café Du Monde. Serving piping hot and fresh doughnuts and/or your choice of beverage, this NOLA fixture has been running since 1862. And, that’s not all. Keeping locals and visiting folk – like ‘moi’ – happy, this coffee house runs nonstop.Cafe Du Monde Beignets 8 arr

That’s right, open 24 hours/day, 800 Decatur Street is the place to be! Making my way to this very hotspot, midday service is – as expected – busy! But, with perseverance and patience on my end, coupled with the dutiful display on behalf of the staff, order’s up: a classic pairing of café au lait and beignets, as well as sweetened ice-blended coffee. Cafe Du Monde Beignets 1 arr

And, now, for the taste test. Starting with a sip of the cold ‘refresher,’ the frozen café au lait is sublime. A grown-up take on slush, if you will, this caffeinated drink hits all targets: it helps beat the heat, tastes satisfyingly sweet, and gives you that added pick-me-up for the day, to keep touring the Quarter. Preferring slush over iced-coffee, you definitely have the option to request the floating ice variety. Cafe Du Monde Beignets 9 arr

Sticking to tradition, let’s move on to the long-awaited beignets. Prepared two-ways – with or without a thick dusting of confectioner’s sugar – these powdered pillow squares are always plated or paper bag packed in threes. Going for the snow-capped option, my trio of beignets smell sweet, are soft to the touch and are revealing of a chewy consistency upon first bite. Cafe Du Monde Beignets 2 arrIn a dough-nut shell, they’re plain-Jane – ‘au naturel’ – bundles of fried up comfort, no frills required. And, as with all fried foods, be sure to enjoy these goods while they’re hot.

Clearly, having enjoyed the venue and blast of air circulating from the ceiling fans, sitting ‘à la table’ with a chicory-blended brew of java is my kind of shady afternoon. So, for all those wanting to take a Parisian-esque break in the south, just find a seat at this corner coffee stand and prepare to watch the world go by – one sip, slurp, and beignet at a time.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Cray Cray for Deanie’s!

Deanie's NOLA 1 arrCrazy for NOLA! Truly, who wouldn’t be? Infatuated with brass tones, French culture, rich food and good company, New Orleans is a city I’ve long yearned to visit. And, finally, venturing to the birthplace of jazz music and legends alike has come to fruition – Oui, oui!!!

Offering plenty to feed all your senses, the list of food events and street sightings is too long to name. With the promise of more posts to come, there’s just one thing to do: “Laissez le bon temps rouler!”

Deanie's NOLA 5 arrGetting down to business, I make Deanie’s Seafood my first dining stop. Conveniently situated right in “Quarter” – the French Quarter, that is – this local favourite easily gets packed during peak times. Fortunately, making an entrance at the ‘right time,’ my party is soon seated and served with spiced “hot potatoes.” You heard right! Talking about a “good change,” find no pre-meal dinner rolls, here. As the server helpfully explains, patrons are presented with a plate of boiled red-skinned spuds and butter in ‘lieu’ of bread, and as a side note: these potatoes evoke a distinct element of heat given they are extracted from an authentic ‘seafood boil,’ and consequently have absorbed all the good piquant seasoning.

Deanie's NOLA 3 arrAlready kicking things off in the right direction, this prelude starter is sign of more delicious food to come. Clearly dishing the fish, seafood is fresh, made to order and prepared your way – fried or broiled – and, as if that’s not enough, it comes with a plateful of fries. Bearing all the markings for an evening feast to share and remember, here’s a quick rundown of what ‘was’ enjoyed: a half seafood platter in addition to an order of stuffed shrimp, and a broiled crab quartet consistent with stuffed crab, soft shell crab, crab legs, and crab gratin. Yes, I know it’s a lot but, “The ocean called…” and, I’m running out of time in NOLA, so I must-indulge.Deanie's NOLA 4 arr

Nothing short of ‘magnifique,’ I can attest to the quality of the aforementioned dishes. Between the battered and fried shrimp, fish, oysters and soft shell crab, these ‘fruits de mer’ were divine. Sweet, succulent and tender, I enjoyed the seafood at Deanie’s. Deanie's NOLA 2 arrAs a standout, the crab gratin dish was ‘dat good!’ It was decadent, creamy, loaded with lump crab meat and it paired well with the side plate of fries. Perhaps, not the intended method of consumption, but it makes perfect sense. After all, why not top off fries with a cheesy crabby topping? Just think: upscale seafood poutine – you’re welcome!

Deanie's NOLA 6 arrWorth repeat visits, letting the good times roll is made easy at Deanie’s. Back again for a taste of authentic crawfish, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to leave NOLA without getting my hands a little messy. Learning the tricks of the eating trade, I efficiently learn how to ‘work for’ a morsel of crawfish. Far from the simplicity of peel-and-eat shrimp, crawfish is similar in texture though differs in taste and, above all, requires more effort for less reward. Still, I’m happy for the real deal experience in yours truly, and can appreciate why these mudbugs are so loved. From ‘bon voyage’ to ‘bon appétit,’ good eats are undoubtedly found at Deanie’s Seafood.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2018. All Rights Reserved.