Vanessa is, to put it bluntly, a pig. Now in her defense, how can you not be a pig when you are in New Orleans? The cuisine is so amazing — there is no other place in the world where you can have such delicious food. Within walking distance in the French Quarter, there are thirteen combined restaurants by four nationally known, award-winning chefs: Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, Donald Link and Paul Prudhomme. There is a restaurant dynasty by the Brennan family and countless other fabulous, lesser known eateries. How food fortunate can one city below the sea be? Where does one start eating and when do you call it quits?
Well, if you are Vanessa, you don’t really break down the meals into breakfast, lunch and dinner…it is one continuous meal. She truly made me sick when I heard about all of her eating! Follow her journey and book your airline tickets today.
And so it begins like this:
The anticipation was peeking — the timing was perfect. We had an at dawn morning flight from Charlottesville and had just landed in New Orleans with enough time to drive to R&O’s Restaurant (old school – no website) to arrive just as it opened. Without hesitation, I began to order my favorites. I always begin with a crawfish pie appetizer (with lots of lemon squeezed all over it) and fried onion rings. Then since it’s crawfish season, I ate 2 lbs. of boiled crawfish followed by a WHOLE roast beef po-boy and a few glasses of Abita beer to wash it all down. And, since I was no longer hungry but still craving the taste of my po-boy, I ordered a mayonnaise and gravy sandwich. Yes, mayo and gravy on french bread! It sounds odd but tastes so good!
The next few days of visiting the family took me to the North Shore and back to the French Quarter. I couldn’t resist a stop at the Abita Brew Pub where shrimp, crawfish and real french bread seemed to be my theme. I had Crawfish Pasta at the Abita Restaurant and a fried shrimp po-boy in Slidell. There was one place that made a crawfish and cheese soup that was so good I had a second serving of it. Of course for dessert my mom and I shared the bread pudding. That would be the only dish I shared.
No meal in New Orleans would be complete without an evening at NOLA. It’s Emeril’s second restaurant and my favorite. Fred and I have eaten there so often I’ve grown to accept it as a sort of investment. I’m not really sure how it all happened that night but by the time we were finished being “fed” freelance style, I had eaten EIGHT courses and it took 2.5 hours! I started with Hogs Head Cheese and then Duck Cracklings and Duck Confit Pizza with a fried egg, arugula, and truffle oil. Next I ate Asparagus and Baby Carrot Top Salad, BBQ Shrimp and Rosemary Biscuits, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Petite Filet Mignon with Bordelaise Sauce and yes, dessert. Dessert is always a game of guessing the “sorbets du jour” flavors. I only got the strawberry part correct. It is after all, Ponchatoula strawberry season.
The next day Fred and I paid a visit to Josh Besh’s newest restaurant Domenica. I think by this point I had drunk and eaten myself into a state of delirium, so I decided to take a break from seafood and went for an Italian meal…Dominica is a favorite of the locals. Often overlooked, as New Orleans is known for seafood, but New Orleans has some of the finest Italian eateries in the world.
So, how does it all end? With a whimper and a pout. It has become my tradition to eat my final meal at the Gumbo Shop for Boudin and a Crawfish Remoulade Salad and to board the plane with a delicate Angel Food smoothie from the King of New Orleans smoothies, Smoothie King. I sipped slowly on my smoothie, taking in my last taste of New Orleans while peering out of the window and smiling, because I know I’ll be back…you can never really take a New Orleans girl out of New Orleans…it’s home!
Now that is what the Cajun Voodoo Mamas call being bad in The Big Easy!
Laura & Vanessa
Vanessa and I are planning to take a trip to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast and we are both mapping out what we will eat the minute we land. Vanessa and Fred plan to head straight to R&O’s (no website – they are old school – 216 Hammond Highway – Metairie – 504-831-1248) for a savory roast beef po-boy. Vanessa swears one day she is going to do a day trip to New Orleans for the sole purpose of eating one of their po-boys. They are that good!
Photo of R&O’s Roast Beef Po-Boy from nola.com photos
I will arrive in Gulfport, Mississippi and will drive straight to Pirate’s Cove (116 Market Street – 228-452-4741) in Pass Christian for a roast beef po-boy — it is a favorite of Robin Roberts. We have both concluded that there is not enough time to eat all of the things that we have been craving since our last trip “home”.
My next stop will be to the famous, newly reopened Trapani’s Eatery (116 North Beach Boulevard – 228-467-8570). Their beachfront restaurant in Bay St. Louis was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and they just reopened six and a half years later on their beachfront location. They have the most amazing balcony with the best food in town. I cannot wait to sit on the balcony and feel the warmth of the Gulf breeze with my sister Liz and our best friend Hayden. For me, the reopening of Trapani’s is just the beginning of the recovery for the Gulf Coast, the harbinger of the New Gulf Coast lifestyle.
My mother has a sign in her home above her door that reads “never look back.” I think this is a great way to live life. Regardless of experiencing the hardships that Katrina brought…if it weren’t for Katrina, I might have never met Vanessa or become a Cajun Voodoo Mama!
Follow us on our journey to the Deep South…
P.S. Have we mentioned it’s gins and tonic season? Here is my husband Wyck’s famous concoction called The Wingo:
2 oz gin (Hendrick’s)
5 oz tonic water
1 lime wedge
1 lemon wedge
muddled mint (generous amount)
splash of simple syrup
The Cajun Voodoo Mamas are cajunizing Charlottesville! We cooked up a batch of deliciousness for The Southern Cafe and Music Hall Mardi Gras concert last month.
Trent Thurston, Owner of Eljo’s Clothing Store (Eljos.com) Enjoys Cajun Voodoo Mama’s famous Red Beans and Rice
Thurston enjoys Cajun Voodoo Mama’s famous Red Beans and Rice served in a Martini Glass
My 3-year old daughter, Jane Wingo and I just walked into our home in Charlottesville, Virginia and she declared with enthusiasm, “something smells yummy and delicious.” It made me smile. That was my exact reaction when I would walk into the home that I grew-up in in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. We were more than blessed with the best cook on the Gulf Coast, Eloise Thomas. Weezie, as we lovingly called her, was like a second Mother to my siblings and me and she was always cooking something spectacular in the kitchen.
Our dear friend Trent Thurston, is having some friends over to our home this afternoon to watch basketball. It is so Gulf Coast of me to open our home to Trent and his friends — what is more defining is that I have Vanessa, whom I call Cajun Voodoo Mama cooking up a pot of her famous Red Beans & Rice. It is the dish that my Mother swears she would serve the Pope if he came for supper.
The smell is driving me crazy, but Cajun Voodoo Mama will not let anyone have a taste of it until the spices have settled…she has a reputation around town as the best Cajun Chef and she refuses to ruin it by my impatience.
It is the perfect dish to serve during Lent on Fridays, as this version has no meat. If it weren’t Lent, we would have added 1 pound of sliced andouille or smoked sausage.
Here is Cajun Voodoo Mama’s secret recipe:
1 pound dried red kidney beans soaked over night
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons quality balsamic vinegar
chopped flat leaf parsley
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
- Place red beans in a heavy pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch.
- Add next five ingredients to the pot and simmer on medium-high heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chopped vegetables, cover pot and continue cooking on a low simmer for 2 hours. Stir the pot every 15 – 20 minutes to make sure the beans are not sticking. Adjust the temperature as needed.
- Add balsamic vinegar, stir pot and test beans for creaminess. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes if necessary to achieve creaminess. Stir in chopped parsley, Tabasco and seasoning to taste.
- Season to taste with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
- Serve with long grain white rice and Tabasco on the side.
Laura and Vanessa
Thurston enjoys Cajun Voodoo Mama’s Famous Red Beans and Rice