Monday, February 20, 2012

In Honor of Mardi Gras, A Little Slice of New Orleans

In just a few hours, Mardi Gras will get underway in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in all the world. Over Christmas break, with the Sugar Bowl, a Saints game and New Year's parties all happening around that time, the city was buzzing with excitement and energy.

But what's a good party without food, eh? Each meal was an event in itself, as we tried to get our fill of the delicious Creole cuisine. And one memory that will stick around for a long time is that of biting into a piping hot, sugary beignet.

Not really knowing what to expect, we ordered one plate for the table, for two adults and two kids. One bite in, the consensus was to order two more plates. The chicory-rich coffee made for a heavenly accompaniment. We peppered our 20 year-old waiter with questions about the restaurant and the hugely popular dish (the lines went out the door for at least a block on all the days we were there). He invited us to take a peek into the part of the kitchen where the beignets were being made.

They must get the request a lot. Through huge glass windows that looked out onto a walkway at the back of the restaurant, we saw two men working silently and continuously, feeding the dough into a machine that sliced it and took it along a belt.

Starting from one end of the belt, the men would pick up the individual pieces, prime them in their hands and fling them across the air into the huge vats of boiling oil.

Each plate came with three or four beignets. Snowy mountains of powdered sugar rose precariously on top. Towards the end of the meal, that we had paid a visit to Cafe du Monde for the express purpose of devouring beignets was obvious. Our clothes, bags, and even parts of our hair bore the tell tale evidence.

And as always in New Orleans, music was never far away. Just outside the railing the separated the eating area from the sidewalk, this young man played the trumpet.