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New Orleans: Small Bites, Big Easy

On the Road with Flavor Forays: An Insider’s Tour of Four of America’s Hottest Food Cities… Austin, Charleston, Portland, and New Orleans — takes readers along on memorable culinary immersions. Stir the pots. Meet the characters. Listen to the stories. And if you get hungry, whip up one of the recipes provided by the chefs and producers on these tours.

Authors Hamptons Real Estate Showcase contributor Beverly Stephen and Barbara Mathias spent over two decades covering chefs and food trends at Food Arts magazine. After the magazine closed, they started a travel company, Flavor Forays, to bring chefs and food and beverage kingpins on culinary journeys to food meccas.

When they tell people what they do for a living, the typical response? Can I come? In their book, you can be an armchair traveler on their insider culinary journeys.

The following excerpt will give you a taste …

 From early morning beignets and chicory coffee at the Café du Monde to a late-night jazz crawl along Frenchman’s Street, we’ll take a bite out of the Big Easy. Gumbo. Oysters Rockefeller. Barbecued Shrimp. Po’boys. Crawfish. Catfish Court Bouillon. And we’ll sip some cocktails too. Brandy Milk Punch or a smooth Sazerac. We’ll visit the classics, defining restaurants from the legendary Brennan family, and the newcomers who are moving the culinary scene forward. We’ll explore the old worldly charms of the French Quarter and the Garden District. We can even take a history lesson at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB). New Orleans is unlike any other city. Where else would you find a streetcar named Desire?

“Free Fall” one of Nathan Myhrvold’s fantastical food photographs on exhibit at the Modernist Cuisine Gallery on Royal Street. Myhrvold was chief creative officer of Microsoft before he turned his talents to revolutionizing food photography

Day One

We’ll head over to the French Quarter, a neighborhood that doesn’t even feel like it’s in the United States. With its wrought iron balconies and gas lamps, it closely resembles an island in the Caribbean. The French came first in 1718 but Louis XV handed it to his Spanish cousin Charles III in 1762. So, the Spanish actually built what we know as the French Quarter.

Stuffed mirlitons with Miss Brenda’s creole sauce at Tujague’s

We’ll begin with lunch at Tujague’s (two-jacks), the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. Local New Orleans authority and radio personality Poppy Tooker will delight us with the colorful history of Tujague’s which takes many twists and turns involving butchers, kitchen madams, even ghosts. To this day Poppy Tooker firmly believes that a ghost saves her parking place outside the restaurant.

     After lunch, Tooker will lead us on a walking tour of the French Quarter’s iconic restaurants:  Napoleon House, Arnaud’s (home of the famed French 75 Bar), and Antoine’s, the oldest family owned restaurant in the country.

     Over on Royal Street, we’ll check out the revolving Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. If you’ve been in New Orleans long enough to wonder if your head or the bar is spinning, it really is the bar here.

Bananas Foster, made with bananas, brown sugar, and butter and flambeed with both banana liqueur and rum, is the best-selling dessert at Brennan’s in New Orleans

     Also, on Royal Street, we can’t miss Brennan’s, a New Orleans institution where Bananas Foster was invented to offset a glut of bananas. Owner Ralph Brennan’s son Patrick, fourth generation of the legendary New Orleans restaurant family, will whip up this delicious treat on a portable gueridon with all the flair and flambé it deserves. Thirty-five thousand pounds of bananas a year are flambeed with butter, brown sugar, and rum to make this best-selling dessert topped with vanilla ice cream. Don’t even ask how many calories are in this!

Restaurateur Dickie Brennan making his signature smokey andouille sausage Gumbo Ya Ya

     Then it’s onto an intimate demo by Dickie Brennan (owner of Tableau, Palace Café and others) of his famous andouille sausage gumbo Yaya.

          Its name is said to come from women who would cook the gumbo all day long while talking, or “ya-ya-ing.” Everybody talks at once.

     He’ll serve the gumbo with some popcorn rice.  He also just happens to have some corn bread ready to pull out of the oven. Lord have mercy!

     There’s barely time to recover from this late afternoon snack before heading to dinner at Chef Nina Compton’s (winner of James Beard award Best Chef, South) Compere Lapin.

    The next two days will include an excursion out to the oyster beds in St. Bernard’s Parish, snacking on cracklins and po’boys and more meals at Dickie Brennan’s Tableau, Alon Shaya’s Israeli Saba and the iconic Commander’s Palace where there’s always plenty of eating, drinking, and carrying on – fueled at lunchtime by their 25 cent Martini. “But you can only have two!” cautions ebullient co-proprietor Ti Martin. To read more, click here to order