So, my wife and I recently completed a trip to New Orleans. Below I will attach excerpts from a journal. On this trip, we intentionally tried to eat at nicer and/or notable restaurants. So, we really didn't experience any local dives. Long story short, we thought Bayona and Peristyle were very good. They are certainly restaurants that we would enjoy revisiting. We also ate at Commander's Palace, Brennan's, Emeril's Nola, and Galatoire's. While we enjoyed our meals at those restaurants and were also glad to experience them from a somehwat historical perspective, we would not return to any of them for another meal. None of the food was surprising at any of those restaurants, and, not surprisingly, they (except for Galatoire's) had a chain-like feel. Also, I personally find it hard to not factor cost into my overall perception of a restaurant, and, from that perspective, these four restaurants were seriously over-priced. I have to say that I was very surprised to not be able to find more restaurants in New Orleans like Bayona and Peristyle. Maybe we just missed them, but it was not for lack of serious research. In any event, it was a great trip, and I would recommend each restaurant for at least a one-time look-see. Here are the journal extracts (parts written by me, parts written by my wife): New Orleans Trip June 19-22, 2003 . . . There was never any question that this trip would be about the food. Then again, it seems most of our trips end up focusing heavily on food. We did the obligatory research and made reservations for lunch and dinner. Here are the results: Thursday, June 19, 2003 We arrived in New Orleans with just enough time to take a cab to our hotel, unpack, get our bearings and then head out for our first meal at Commander’s Palace. Commander’s Palace is a large house in the garden district that has served as a restaurant for 100 years. Many famous chefs in town started at this restaurant (including Emeril). We got to the restaurant (the only one to which we had to take a cab) early enough to stroll around the garden district and see some of the large houses and gardens in the area. Lafayette Cemetery, however, was closed, so Zeb was reduced to sticking his head through the metal gate. Dinner consisted of: Trio of Soups – Turtle Soup au Sherry, Country Gumbo and Truffled Bean Soup Grilled Veal Chop Tchoupitoulas - Veal with goat cheese, stone ground grits, and brandied wild mushroom demi-glace Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce Romaine Salad - Romaine lettuce, slivered red onion, crushed capers and aged Parmesan, tossed with creamy artichoke-black pepper dressing Jack Daniel’s Glazed Stuffed Quail - Blue crab-black pepper brioche stuffing with green apple braised cabbage and toasted pecan-molasses demi glâce Cheese plate Dinner here was good and the service was fine, if not a little ill-timed (our main courses came out on top of our appetizers and Zeb was almost finished with dinner before his wine arrived). Best part of the meal – Bread Pudding Soufflé. Worst part – the check – overpriced, but still worth one visit. Post-dinner—a leisurely stroll down Bourbon Street. Now that was a sight to see. It is almost like some kind of madness takes over when one walks down these 8-10 blocks. Every cheesy and tacky item you can think of is for sale. All vices are on display. Open beer is allowed (more accurately, it is encouraged). Grandparents and Great-grandparents who I bet have not ever had cheap keg beer in a plastic cup walk around with monster size beverages (I wanted to follow them to see if the cups of beer magically dropped from their hands when they exited Bourbon Street and came back to reality.) A handy A&P that stays open almost perpetually supplied some beer for the room. In most cities, I would have felt foolish carrying a newly-purchased Styrofoam cooler, filled with beer and ice, back to my room—but not here! I fit right in. We stayed at Soniat House, in the French Quarter, but a bit off the beaten path. It was a very nice place, furnished with antiques and offering good service. As with most hotels that come with charm, it also came with some inconveniences, such as poor plumbing, but we would definitely recommend the hotel. Friday, June 20, 2003 Lunch was at Bayona, one of Susan Spicer’s restaurants and a nice walk from our hotel. Only a few tables were occupied when we arrived, but the place soon filled. We had a long, leisurely lunch here with great food at reasonable prices – one of the best, if not the best meals we had. Zeb picked all the winners, although mine were all great, too. His sandwich was outrageous – like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with duck – you’d have to taste it to believe it. The soup he ordered was cold, spicy and sweet with cantaloupe. But his dessert – holy cow – one of the best things we ever put in our mouths. Fresh peaches on top, followed by a crunchy, cinnamony, almond meringue, creamy panna cotta and when you reached down to the very bottom, caramel. Yum. Here’s lunch: Spicy Thai Cucumber and Melon Soup Smoked Duck, Cashew Butter and Pepper Jelly Sandwich Parfait of Fresh Peaches, Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Cinnamon Meringue and Caramel Sauce Salad of Mixed Greens, Avocado, Vidalia Onions and Fried Crawfish Penne Pasta with Smoked Trout, Asparagus and a Lemon Cream Sauce Crème Caramel with Blackberries After lunch, we spent the day walking along the various streets and alleys in the Quarter. The weather was not as hot as had been expected (still plenty warm), and it was a very pleasant way to spend the day. After a beer at Pat O’Briens and a DVD back at the room, we were ready for dinner. Dinner was at Peristyle. Anne Kearney, chef, has won many awards. The restaurant is small and the tables intimate (read, close together). We had the misfortune of being seated next to a very young, very loud, very pretentious lawyer, who spoke loudly both on and off the phone during his entire dinner. Nonetheless, an enjoyable meal, making Friday our best food day. Dinner consisted of: Pissaladiere – a caramelized onion tart with goat cheese and black olives Pan roasted yellow fin tuna with Yukon potatoes and celeriac, hericot verts, and demi glace reduction with balsamic soaked sun dried tomatoes and pines nuts Cheese plate Coconut Tart Tomato, Pepper and Shrimp Soup Pan roasted chicken with toasted walnut acini de pepi "risotto", hericot verts, and carrots, sauced with reisling demi glace reduction of applewood smoked bacon and seedless grapes Fresh Peach Tart Tonight, after dinner, we took a stroll over to the Faubourg Marigny section, which borders the Quarter. The streets were jumping as music streamed out of the many bars and clubs. But, we are old and tired—so, we called it a night. Saturday, June 21, 2003 Only one meal today, since the wedding was tonight. So, we had to do it. We had to include at least one of Emeril’s restaurants. We chose Nola, Emeril’s most casual restaurant for lunch. It looked as if others had the same idea, as the place was packed and we watched a few groups without reservations get turned away. Lunch was good, but oh so overpriced. Maybe it wasn’t this way before Emeril hit it big, but lunch takes on a whole new meaning with $25 entrees. (The Chorizo was served medium rare, which, at least to us, was somewhat disconcerting—Zeb, of course, ate it anyway.) Anyway, here it is: Cornmeal-Crusted Plaquemines Parish Oysters with Baby Spinach, Warm Apple-Smoked Bacon Dressing, Goat Cheese, Calamata Olives, Hard-Boiled Eggs and Shiitake Mushroom Chips Mixed Grill of Herb-Marinated Filet Mignon Brochette, Homemade Chorizo and Gulf Shrimp with Slow-Cooked Greens, Roasted Garlic-Potato Cake and Creole Meuniere Sauce Absolut Lemon Drop Cake with Citron-Crème Anglaise, Blueberry Coulis and Fresh Berries Seafood chowder Cedar Plank-Roasted Redfish with Citrus-Horseradish Crust, Lemon-Butter Sauce and Vietnamese Seafood Salad (cooked in wood burning oven) NOLA Banana Pudding Layer Cake with a Graham Cracker Crust, Homemade Vanilla Wafers and a Warm Fudge Drizzle After lunch, we again ambled around the Quarter. We also went down to the river and checked out the Aquarium. Jelly-fish are truly strange. The wedding was on the upper deck of the Steamboat Natchez. We arrived just before 7:00 and watched a casual, very nice ceremony lasting only 15 or so minutes. Everyone then moved inside for drinks and appetizers as the ship headed down the river. Dinner was typical New Orleans fare – gumbo, jambalaya, etc. A zydeco band played, the groom “beat boxed,” your typical scene. . . . Sunday, June 22, 2003 Our last day in New Orleans. We slept late again and headed out for brunch at a restaurant known for breakfast – Brennan’s. Brunch was good, but (and we hate to harp on price), incredibly overpriced. Eggs Sardou - poached eggs on artichoke bottoms with hollandaise Grillades of veal in a tomato-pepper sauce with grits Crepes Fitzgerald - Crepes filled with cream cheese and sour cream served with a topping of strawberries flamed Creole Onion Soup Eggs Hussarde - Poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon, and Marchand de Vin sauce, and Topped with Hollandaise sauce. Bananas Foster We had a nice walk, looked through some galleries, ate 3 beignets at Cafe du Monde, and then saw a good German movie set mostly in Africa at a theatre by the water. Our last meal was at Galatoire’s, a New Orleans institution that has been run by the same family since 1905. Amazingly enough, the restaurant is right on Bourbon street, nestled between strip joints, bead shops, and a massive number of bars selling “Big Ass Beer” and “Grenades” (actually in big cheesy plastic grenades). The downstairs of the retaurant is reserved for “locals,” so we were seated upstairs with the rest of our kind. Our waiter was a nice ol’ guy – Zeb said he kept wanting to ask questions just so he could hear him speak (New Orleans style). Our meal was solid – everything we got was good, but it was still amazing to think that Gourmet had rated this restaurant as the 24th best in the country. On the plus side, the meal was not nearly as pricey as some hade been. Our meal: Oysters Rockefeller – an amazingly bright green Crabmeat Sardou – lump crab over artichoke bottoms with hollandaise Salad Maison Trout Meuniere Amandine Cup Custard Maison O.k. uncle. I told Zeb this latest binge is just what I needed to send me into maternity clothes once and for all. Anyway, a nice, relaxing trip and good food.