Rachael and I rallied after a brief disco nap, and got ready to go hit the town.
We were back on those crazy bikes. The cool night air whooshed past us, our dresses fluttered in the wind, and we bumped and banged over the cracked city streets down Esplanade, into the Vieux Carré.
First things first, we needed some real Creole cooking. We locked our bikes opposite Jackson Square and walked to the Gumbo Shop.
Out in their cobblestoned courtyard, we felt very European, sitting down to a meal outside at 9pm. It was closed in, so quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the street; just nice. Our neighbors on either side were very friendly and talked to us, espousing about how delicious the food was, and chatting about where they were from, what to order, etc. We didn’t mess around with the menu too much, we went straight for the Creole Dinner and ordered it to split- it was plenty enough food. We started with the Seafood Okra Gumbo: “okra, onion, bell peppers, celery, and a tiny bit of tomato sautéed and blended with shrimp and crabs into a thick brown Creole soup- served over rice.” Next came the Creole Combination Platter: Shrimp Creole (shrimp cooked in a spicy Creole tomato sauce), Jambalaya (smoked sausage, shrimp, and chicken in a seasoned sauce, and cooked with rice), Red Beans & Rice, and Macque Choux Corn (stewed corn with onions, peppers, and tomatoes). Finally we ended with Hot Bread Pudding in Whiskey Sauce. Unfortunately we were so hungry by 9, and it all looked so delicious, it was only by the dessert course that I had the presence of mind to restrain myself long enough to take a picture of our food before devouring it. So I will photo cred these to the randos of the Internet, but now you get an idea of what it looked like:
Gumbo served with rice.
Macque Choux Corn, Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya, Red Beans & Rice.
Hot Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.
I must also give a shout out to their warm, fresh out of the oven French bread. Perfect crisp crust, soft inside. And maybe this is weird, but it was really good when I buttered it and then put some of their Creole seasoning on it. This should be a new thing. Their condiments were actually great. I’ve never been a hot sauce kinda girl, but in New Orleans I learned to love it. It didn’t just give me a burning sensation to distract me from the flavors of my food, which is my usual opinion on the subject. Instead, it really complimented and enhanced the flavors. It was delicious on the shrimp Creole, jambalaya, and red beans & rice.
It’s hard for me to wax on about what it was like to eat it, because I find Creole food doesn’t have many easy comparisons to the food found elsewhere in the U.S. The flavors and textures are unique, and that’s a big part of the draw to New Orleans. The food you eat here just isn’t easy to find anywhere else. The gumbo was thick and a smooth spice, punctuated by the savor of the vegetables, and the acidity in the seafood. The red beans & rice is a bold, saucy dish- nothing like the Mexican version you might imagine. The jambalaya is a mix of well-seasoned rice with meat. Since I’m not much of a meat eater (although clearly I make exceptions for what I deem life experiences), this was the dish that I most appreciated the hot sauce on, to kick the flavors up a notch. The shrimp Creole was maybe similar in texture to a Thai curry sauce, with the tiny shrimp perfectly cooked within it. Since I’m having such a trouble relating exactly what the Creole flavor is like, I can at least tell you that the ingredients in Creole seasoning are salt, paprika, onion powder, granulated garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, thyme, basil, and oregano. Hopefully that helps your imagination. The bread pudding held up with everything else. It was warm, sweet; nice whiskey sauce, juicy raisins. A solid, but not overwhelming, end to a delicious, and perfectly satisfying, meal.
And now with bellies full of New Orleans, it was time to venture into the night and seek out some New Orleans for our ears and eyes. I’m talkin’ bout JAZZZZZ…