We asked our readers to submit some of their memories about New Orleans cuisine. Like a fine buffet, there are many selections. Sample as much as you like.
In December 1983, I honeymooned in New Orleans. It snowed while we were there and the pipes burst at the zoo. We saw the Pink Flamingo restaurant on St. Charles (Avenue) as we were coming back and went in. The heat was out and we were the only diners. We ordered their specialty, crêpes, in several forms and had one of the best meals ever. I remember having seafood crêpes for my entrée, and strawberry and chocolate crêpes for dessert. The staff was entertaining that day and we never minded the cold. On my next trip back they had closed and I once again mourned the passing of a great local restaurant.
One of my favorite memories was going to D.H. Holmes on Canal (Street) with my parents. My dad would head over to Felix’s for his oysters while Mom and I shopped. Then we would head upstairs to the Potpourri Restaurant. I just loved those orange muffins. I’ve never tasted them again anywhere else.
Then when I moved to Lafayette after college … yum, I got to enjoy those muffins for a few more years. I’ll treasure those memories of heading from Slidell to downtown with my folks, shopping (always at Easter) and then our fabulous lunch.
Deborah Terribile Stewart
HOLMES’ MASHED POTATOES
Hmm … I can still taste it even now 40 years later: those thick, fluffy mashed potatoes and rich, savory brown gravy from D.H. Holmes (Potpourri Restaurant) on Canal (Street). To this day I haven’t tasted mashed potatoes that can take the place of that great comfort food.
The Christmas holidays were particularly special. My mother would bundle my sister and I up for that greatly anticipated trip downtown to see Mr. Bingle at Maison Blanche and then on to lunch at D.H. Holmes. When we walked in, the waitresses (it was OK to say that back then) knew us by name and already knew what we wanted to eat.
The aroma has never left me, home cooked tender roast beef, mashed potatoes, brown gravy and corn bread prepared by dedicated cooks who had perfected their art over years and years.
Was there any thing better than that on a cold blustery day? Not to this day.
Brenda E. Reyes
Native New Orleanian living in Dallas, Texas
THAT FIRST CRABMEAT AU GRATIN
I will always remember the first seafood meal other than the standard boiled or fried I’d grown up eating.
I was in college and had a date take me to the Elmwood Plantation on River Road in Harahan. I had no idea what it was, but I decided to try something called Crabmeat au Gratin just to seem all grown-up and cosmopolitan. It was so delicious I secretly wished the guy would disappear so I could lick the plate.
I’ve had many a version of the dish since then, but like so many experiences, none will ever compare to the first.
My wife, Jane, and I lived in the French Quarter in the early 1970s. We return at least once a year, normally staying about a week at a time, staying at the Place d’Armes on St. Ann (Street). One of the restaurants we make certain to visit is Cafe Degas on Esplanade (Avenue). Seated in the main dining area for lunch one day, I was facing Esplanade with Jane across from me. It was a lovely day and they had the Esplanade sidewalk roll-downs open. As we were enjoying a glass of wine, I saw attorney Johnny Cochran walking by. I casually mentioned I had just seen Johnny Cochran, to which my wife replied “Yeah, right!” Since he was no longer in view, and I therefore could not prove my story, I let it drop. Less than one minute later, Johnny and a woman I assume was his wife entered the dining area in which we were seated and proceeded to the table of four young people seated at next to us. I didn’t say a word, but as Johnny started talking, his distinctive voice caused Jane to look up. She then leaned over and whispered “That’s Johnny Cochran!” I simply said “Yeah, right!” I’m lucky she didn’t have a cast iron skillet in her hand.
Oklahoma City, OKla.
BREAKFAST AT BRENNANS
Before my mother and father went to New Orleans, my mother made reservations three months ahead of time to eat breakfast at Brennan’s. When she returned, that was all she could talk about. My mother passed away several years ago. I made reservations to Brennan’s for our next trip to New Orleans. In her memory we had a $100 breakfast. It was wonderful – everything my mother said was true.
My mouth still waters when I speak about that breakfast. The food – I had the lump crab – the atmosphere – the waiters wear tuxedos – and the beautiful courtyard outside the window where we were seated, full of New Orleans antiquity. This experience made an amazing remembrance for my husband and me. (Thanks, Ma.)
When I was a child in the 1950s, Commander’s Palace made the most divine dessert called a coconut snowball. I loved getting all dressed up and going to the restaurant on a Friday evening with my parents. We ate in the garden outside. I remember Oysters Bienville and Oysters Rockefeller for my main course, and then always having an ice cream concoction made with chocolate sauce and shredded coconut with a big cherry on top.
I still love going to Commander’s today. I often wonder if the coconut snowball would taste nearly as wonderful as it’s memory. I do know that the bread pudding soufflé is great!
Gretna (but a native New Orleanian)
FIVE- STAR EXPERIENCE
Our favorite food story is about lunch at Commander’s Palace. This was before (Hurricane) Katrina hit New Orleans. My husband and I were in New Orleans attending the National Secondary School’s Principal Conference because he was receiving an award for the state of Wisconsin. To celebrate, we made reservations for lunch at Commander’s. It was lovely! We had never been to a five-star restaurant and read reviews about it prior to going there.
This is what we loved: the turtle soup – out of this world. I only had turtle soup that my mom would make when my dad caught a snapping turtle. It tasted nothing like what I had at Commander’s. The attention to service was impeccable. It was the first time waiters would come and scrape breadcrumbs from our table. As our glasses became empty, a refill appeared.
The ambience of the room we were in was fun. Who would of ever thought eating in a bedroom could be so fun!
Our thanks to Commander’s and its staff for making our lunch such a great experience.
Ahhh, the love of food! What better place to be born and raised, but New Orleans, Louisiana. Smitty, my dad, always said that if you love to eat, then you should learn to cook. I took him up on that. As a child, food was not important to me and as I look back now, I realize that I missed out on many of his fantastic meals. Slowly my appetite increased and so did my waistline! I, too, had found the joy of cooking and eating. I had become a true New Orleanian. Smitty is no longer with us – the movement after Hurricane Katrina was too much for hin to bear. I know he is in heaven doing his thing – cooking. His legendary shrimp and eggplant casserole, one of his favorite Sunday after-church dishes, will live on in our family’s culinary history.
Leslie Smith Everage
MASHED POTATOES AND WEINERS
Fifty years ago my Grandmother Hoffer would cook mashed potatoes, red gravy and Bryan Red Weiners for me and my brother Richard. She would make a red gravy as though she was making meatballs and spaghetti. Then she would slice the Wieners fairly thin, cook them on low in the gravy and serve them on top of homemade mashed potatoes. Delicious.
After my dad died and we moved in with her, she knew we didn’t like onions. So every Monday when she made red beans and rice, she would cook the beans with a whole onion placed in a sock. If the onion fell apart, it would not get in the red beans.
My grandmother worked as a seamstress at Gus Mayer on Canal Street for almost 30 years.
Todd Hoffer Sr.
MEAL-A-MINIT’S HOT BISCUITS
My dad was a New Orleans policeman for almost 30 years. Up until I was about 10 years old, we lived at 1428 Urania St., just a couple of blocks off of St. Charles (Avenue). My dad and a few other policeman, a couple of attorneys and who knows else played cards on Friday nights, at some out of the way spot, until the wee hours of the morning. I can remember being in the living room early on Saturday morning, watching cartoons with my little brother, and Daddy would come in with the best, fresh, hot biscuits from the Meal-a-Minit on St. Charles.
We always knew when he’d won at poker when he brought home biscuits!
I will always remember the taste of those luscious biscuits, slathered in real butter and apple jelly…the best!
Sheila Scully Durel
(but always a Yat at heart!)
WHY THE SAUSAGE?
I fondly remember when crayfish boils did not include sausage! It is almost impossible now to find hot boiled crayfish that haven’t had pork sausage cooked with them.
It used to be just onions, garlic, corn, potatoes, lemon and “crab/crayfish/shrimp boil” seasoning.
Any comments or insights?
The now shuttered Pontchartrain Hotel, located on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District, was known for its elegant restaurant, The Caribbean Room. This was a popular destination for New Orleanians looking to enjoy an elegant dinner. My father always spoke of the restaurant’s famous “Trout Banana”. He “borrowed” the recipe to cook the dish at home and we have been hooked on it ever since. Now I love preparing Trout Banana for guests because very few have even heard of it and are delighted when they get the chance to enjoy such a unique dish! It is always very popular!