Perhaps the only child in Louisiana history to be born to a mother with absolutely no culinary skills at all, Jyl Benson began cooking in self-defense at the age of six. She is 13 years younger than her closest sibling so her parents were tired and paid little attention as she use the household kitchen as per personal laboratory, sometimes with disastrous outcomes. Her skills have improved greatly over the years and kitchen fires are a thing of the past.
She began her editorial career in 1990 with The Times Picayune and served as a regional reporter covering the southeastern United States for both The New York Times and Time magazine. She wrote "Galatoire's Cookbook: Recipes & Family History from the Time-Honored New Orleans Restaurant" (Random House 2005), as well as several cultural, historical and architectural guides to New Orleans. She served as editor-in-chief of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine from 2009 to 2011 and founded Louisiana Kitchen & Culture magazine in 2012. Sheis a dining columnist for St. Charles Avenue, Acadiana Profile and Louisiana Life magazines, a frequent contributor to New Orleans Magazine, and the author of "Fun Funky, Fabulous: New Orleans Casual Restaurant Recipes" (2015, Pelican Publishing) and "Louisiana's Tables" (2017, Savory House Press).
We have all been ground down by the long haul of COVID-19. Some of us have suffered the incomparable grief of having lost loved ones to the disease, while others have, themselves, suffered from it. Most of us have found the drawn out national political battle excruciating and sometimes terrifying. Some are even saddened or angered by yesterday’s inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.
But today is a new day and a beautiful weekend is forecast ahead. There is talk of an early Spring. And now New Orleans, quite possibly more than any other place, has beauty and celebration cropping up in every neighborhood as people decorate their homes and businesses for our altered version of Mardi Gras. Taking in the creativity is free and enlightening so grab a mask and take a walk or a drive.
King cake daiquiris will be available at Gris Gris (1800 Magazine St., 504-272-0241) through Mardi Gras Day. The sweet, boozy, frozen concoction merges Deep Eddy Vodka, Evangeline Praline Liquor, dairy-free vanilla soft serve, cinnamon and seasonal spices. You can grab a 16-ounce beverage to be enjoyed on site, to go, or through pre-order for pick-up. For those who are super thirsty there is the Mardi Gras Flight Krewe: One of each color daiquiri – purple, green, and gold, available in 16-oz or half-gallon servings. Chef Eric Cook’s chic but comfortable hot-spot restaurant and bar in the triangular-shaped building at Magazine and Felicity has the tantalizing bonus of outdoor seating on the deep, graceful second floor balcony ad well as on the sidewalk. If people watching and a long hang with friends on a beautiful day is your jam, then this is your spot. Towering gas heaters keep things cozy when there is a chill out.
Broussard’s (819 Conti St., 504-581-3866) just rolled out two unique, spirit-lifting king cake confections: a Meyer Lemon Carnival Cake (Meyer lemon curd, buttercream icing, candied ginger) and King Cake Pecan Cinnamon Rolls (Louisiana pecans, Kinloch Pecan oil, cream cheese icing.)
As you plan out the rest of your Carnival season keep in mind that Copeland’s (multiple locations) is offering a special package for families: The “Feed Your Krewe” feeds 6 – 8 for $49. In addition, for each Mardi Gras king cake cheesecake purchased throughout Carnival season, the guest will receive a doubloon good for a 2-for-1 Crash & Burn daiquiri. The “Feed Your Krewe” package includes a choice of 16 pieces of spicy herb fried chicken or 25 fried chicken tenders, 12 biscuits and a choice of two (2) two-quart sides: beer-battered French fries, red beans, and rice, loaded baked potato, broccoli florets, Southern cheese grits, and mashed sweet potatoes. Each package includes a dozen beads to share. Guests may add half of a Mardi Gras king cake cheesecake or craft cheesecake and a gallon of new original frozen Crash & Burn daiquiris for an additional price (pick-up only).
Spread some joy this weekend, share some kindness, and embrace the beauty and the spirit of this place we call home.