Years ago, my aunt introduced me to the food and liveliness that dances through the culture of New Orleans.
She’d traveled there on her honeymoon in 1960, and it remained one of her favorite places for the rest of her life. Each year for several Decembers in a row, she treated my sister, my cousin, and me to a long weekend of food indulgence. She made reservations months in advance and we’d saunter from one meal to the next, filled to the brim with good bread, inventive drinks, and rich desserts.
I know how lucky I am to have had that, and the memories from those trips will live forever in my heart. This visit to New Orleans was my first since my aunt passed away and so even though I was there for a conference, I made sure to enjoy the tastes of the city, too.
I was not disappointed. I ate standout meals at Pêche, Couchon, and Jewel of the South, a newcomer where veteran bartender Chris Hannah talked expertly through drinks and then presented them with sugared rims, with garnishes of flowers and fruit.
At Turkey and the Wolf, I had a sandwich so delicious – the Collard Green Melt – that I nearly laughed out loud after taking the first bite.
I made a customary visit to Mr. B’s, and toasted my aunt with a glass of champagne at the Polo Club Lounge, in the hotel where she liked to stay.
I had incredible vegan food at Seed, including a smoothie I can’t stop thinking about, and enjoyed my morning caffeine from French Truck Coffee, where I sat outside and enjoyed the gentle springtime humidity of the city I’ve grown to adore.
There’s no doubt that New Orleans holds a particular corner of my heart. Though it is a little bittersweet to be there without the person who taught me to love it, I’m always happy to make that journey, carrying on a treasured tradition even in between conference sessions, even only after a day’s work was done.