My first trip to New Orleans was for Mardi Gras during my senior year of college, so you can imagine my most recent trip down South was a very different experience! The Today’s Dietitian conference was the perfect excuse to reacquaint myself with this historic town, and to eat and drink my way through the Big Easy.
I was traveling with some friends (and our SOs) from my Masters program and dietetic internship, and if you know anything about dietitians you might have suspected that we had a Google doc 2 pages long of restaurants, bakeries, and bars to try. We may have only had 4.5 days in town, with 2.5 of those being conferene days where breakfast and lunch were provided, but we were going to try like heck to hit as many of them as possible! To help us out, we made sure to “star” our desired destinations on Google Maps ahead of time, so that wherever we were in NOLA we could see what delicious eats were nearby. This was a tip introduced to us by fellow RD Figs in My Belly, and I highly recommend it!
Ok, ya’ll, here’s a rough guide to some of the “stars” we did make it to.
“Hopped off the place in New Orleans and headed towards those beignets” Our hands and faces were covered with powdered sugar within our first hour in town, and Mr. Club Nutritious and I were not complaining. Cafe Du Monde is iconic New Orleans and you would be remiss to not stop in for these doughy sweets and some chicory coffee.
We walked off our breakfast/dessert in the French Quarter until it was time for meal #2 of the day. Let’s be real, vacation is really all about breakfast, lunch, and dinner- you’re just killing time “sight seeing” in the meantime. For lunch, we had reservations at Cochon, a pork-centric restaurant not too far from Lafayette Square. Danny had been here before, and so this time we had an agenda- the fried aligator and wood-fired oysters. You heard me right, and both were delicious! While the rest of the menu looked tempting, our noses were leading us around the corner to Cochon’s sister restaurant, Cochon Butcher, for a Cubano sandwich piled high with their locally sourced smoked ham and house-pickled veggies.
The only logical follow-up to classic Cajun cooking, is classic Cajun cocktails. We headed down to the French Quarter to meet up with friends and share a Sazerac at Kingfish and Pimm’s Cups and Margaritas-In Exile to-go from the famous Napoleon House. If you’re looking for a bite, the muffuletta from Napoleon is not to be missed.
After checking in to our swanky hotel, we freshened up for a night out with the group. First stop was live music, bottles of wine, and a cheese board at the Brooklyn-esque Bacchanal Wine. Our outdoor hangout was cut short by a torrential downpour, but luckily we had planned to explore the St. Roch Market for more substantial eats. Everyone could select food from a stall of their liking- Danny and I split the coconut curry gulf shrimp bowl from Elysian Seafood- spicy perfection!
After a day of traveling and eating, Danny and I didn’t last long listening to jazz at d.b.a. Sunday promised another excellent day of eating.
While NOLA is certainly known for it’s nightlife, the food and drinks served during the morning hours are just as memorable. Brunch at Willa Jean was unstoppable. For me, a boudin and collards breakfast sandwich, and for him, the bbq shrimp toast. The smell and sight of Willa’s baked goods greet you as you walk in the restaurant, and I would highly recommend grabbing the griddled banana bread and some cookies to take back to your hotel for late-night eats or as sweet memories to bring home.
Now, what to do for the rest of the afternoon? We spent it walking around the Garden District; admiring Southern homes of celebrities and historic figures; journeying through Lafayette Cemetery; salivating over but ultimately passing up District Donuts; and sipping a beet juice cocktail while learning swing dance moves to the tune of Tuba Skinny playing live in a hotel lobby. There’s always something to do in this city!
Commander’s has made the careers of chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and currently Tory McPhail, and their reputation for outstanding service certainly exceeded our expectations. I could have eaten a dozen more soup tasting trios, which included their signature gumbo, turtle soup, and white bean daily special. Their entree selections rotate, but not getting a local seafood dish would be a crime. For dessert, no questions asked, you get the bread pudding. But I like choc–NO, you get the bread pudding! Apologies for the lack of pictures- we were focused on the food!
Monday marked the first day of the Today’s Dietitian conference. I plan to do a separate post recapping all the knowledge gained from the more than half dozen talks I attended given by various experts in the field of nutrition, so stay tuned! Breakfast was generously provided by California Strawberries and a product-sampling and boxed lunch was courtesy of the symposium and its sponsors.
After a day of learning, dinner was in order. My NOLA travel buddy and I had reservations at GW Fins off Bourbon Street, where they say “nature writes the menu”. Never ending biscuits, lobster wontons, and local seafood specialities with fresh and in-season vegetables made for another unforgettable dining experience.
By Tuesday, most of the dietitian-loving men had departed and us RD’s were left to attend the next day of the conference and explore the town on our own. The coffee at the symposium was not cutting it for some of us, so we stopped in to Spitfire Coffee for some stronger brews. An iced coffee for me (with some of my leftover banana bread with WJ) and a Cuban cortado for my friend. The coffee culture here is definitely something to experience.
For our last night in NOLA us girls pulled out all the stops, hitting up (once again) our favorite, Willa Jean, for some frose (frozen rose wine), a watermelon vodka slushie, a Pimm’s cup slushie, and a veggie flatbread. These were merely appetizers before our much anticipated meal at Shaya, a modern Israeli restaurant making big waves in the culinary world.
From top left, our frozen slushies, crispy halloumi and wood roasted cabbage with muhammara, milk and honey cheesecake, shakshouka with sunchokes, and curried cauliflower hummus with small plates of asparagus, baba ganoush, and endless servings of pillowy pita. Although this meal was by far the least “New Orleans” it was the top choice and favorite all around. Go here!!
One more conference day means one last chance to eat up! The final conference presentation was diabetes bootcamp, but we were not shy about skipping out early to grab a few carb-y sandwiches from neighboring Killer Po Boys. These are defintiely not your average fried po boy sandwiches, but rather a vegetarian and vegan friendly establishment that happens to serve up a few traditional seafood and meat options. For me, the seared gulf shrimp bahn-mi style roll, the roasted cauliflower sammie for my dining companions, and a sweet potato vegan side to share.
Collectively, we left New Orleans with more knowledge, a few extra pounds, a higher alcohol tolerance, and souvinier bottles of hot sauce. I know we’ll be back again soon and so should you!