Nearly as soon as I returned home from Europe, I quickly hopped on another plane headed for Mississippi. Yes, it does seem rather strange but I was ready to experience a different side of food, and life and visit a very dear friend. I learned many things from this trip; that eating fried foods kills your palate, and your stomach, that there are hardly any fresh produce in the south, and that I probably will never return.
One of the things I truly appreciated about the South was the hospitality. You don’t realize how cold people are in California until you go to a place where everyone treats you with such kindness and warmth.
On a day trip to Louisiana I was eager to try some alligator. Now, let me begin with saying that I am not a meat eater. I do not enjoy the thought or taste of meat, or the way it feels in my stomach. However, I do eat it on occasion because as an aspiring food critic I need to know how everything tastes and feels even if I do not enjoy it. But this meat was completely different. It was the most delicious protein I had ever tasted. So buttery it literally melted in my mouth. I have now dubbed alligator as my favorite, and the only meat I will gladly eat.
On the same day trip I stopped into the famous Cafe du Monde, and had the pleasure of trying some beignets. The Cafe was outside and it was most delighting to see the whole floor covered in a thick coat of powdered sugar.
Blue Bell Ice Cream was another favorite I encountered. For some reason their ice cream tastes more fresh and whole (though not as amazing as the ice cream in Dingle).
Bon Appétit magazine declared this praline shop to have the best in the United States. So naturally I popped in and tried some. Pralines are a staple in Louisiana but I did not find them to be of any great flavor or importance.
I have declared this Aunt Sally’s Creamy Sugar and Spice Praline to be the best in the south. Unlike the ordinary ones it has a very complex flavor profile, including a bit of spicy Tabasco sauce. One night my best friend and I decided to go to a small restaurant she had been dying to go to called Two Sisters. As soon as I walked in I knew what to expect, there were gruesome stains on the ceiling and I felt like there was a thick layer of dust on the floor. Nonetheless she insisted we ate there, and I very unwillingly agreed. I could not bring myself to order anything, but tried bites of hers in an attempt to immerse myself in the ‘culture’. I have always had a hatred for the thought of fried green tomatoes because of the movie. These were as expected; greasy, and sour.
Gumbo is a traditional dish of Louisiana and I did enjoy it more than I had anticipated. I have made Gumbo myself in Culinary School but this was thinner and richer than mine. While in Louisiana I also fell in love with Catfish. This Gumbo is accompanied with fried Catfish which is always good no matter how it is cooked (it seems).
My first experience with a po boy had to be documented. On my way along the roads of Mississippi I stopped at a stand called Fro Stop. Though it was unimpressive, there were many things I noticed that were very different from anything I had experienced before. With po boys (unlike where I am from) the bread is always hard, and stale. You can choose to have your po boy “dressed” or “undressed” which ultimately means with or without condiments and vegetables. This particular po boy is dressed, and the meat inside is crab, of course it was very fried.
On my way to the airport I decided it was time for a sweet treat. I happen to be quite afraid of flying and think it necessary to sooth oneself with goodies once in a while. I popped into a bakery called Paul’s Pastry Shop and was elated. I got an assortment of different goods and all of them were absolutely fantastic. The baker said their most famous were their smallest cookies. They looked like sugar cookies to me, coated with a thick colorful icing. The flavor was far from sugar cookie, it was complex and even gourmet. I was instantly taken back to the pastries of Europe and all their grandeur. The cookie itself was sweet, rich and a bit salty, the icing that topped it was wonderful and hardly sweet. If you are anywhere near the boarder of Mississippi and Louisiana I encourage you to drive the long ride just for a tiny cookie at Paul’s Pastry Shop!
Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur Street, New Orleans 70116
Paul’s Pastry Shop
1 Sycamore Road Picayune, MS 39466