My Northern-raised palate admittedly isn’t very familiar with New Orleans food and drink, so I was excited to check out The Cajun Experience when it opened recently on 18th Street NW. I made it there last week, on a blustery night when I felt a cold coming on, so I was in the perfect mood for warming comfort food.
I started with a traditional Hurricane cocktail (I found mine cloyingly sweet and couldn’t finish it). Next I shared the crawfish mac & cheese — which you can already tell is becoming their most popular dish — and hushpuppies with my friend. This was followed by an appetizer-sized portion of the red beans and andouille sausage as we wanted to save room for beignets for dessert.
As it turns out, the appetizer portions were a good call because portion sizes are HUGE and I ended up taking leftovers home. The food was very filling, though a bit under-seasoned: my red beans dish could have been more flavorful, and my friend noted that the shrimp in her seafood gumbo was overcooked and mushy. The much-hyped crawfish mac & cheese — a menu standout of creamy mac and cheese, flecked with large chunks of crawfish and covered in a layer of broiled cheese — came out unevenly warm.
We were in New Orleans the week before Mardi Gras for work, and Luis has some photos of the French Quarter at One Photograph A Day. There were many parades and parties in progress and I learned that Mardi Gras is really about a two-week progression up to the main event.
It was our first trip to New Orleans post-Katrina (we were there in May 2005) and the French Quarter, Warehouse District (next to the convention center) and Garden District looked fine. However, Luis was in a couple of other areas of the city, including the Lower Ninth Ward. Things are still not so good there–many abanonded houses and buildings, and a lot of rebuilding still going on. I looked up population estimates and the city supposedly has about 290,000 people compared to 490,000 pre-Katrina.
Some of my favorites photos of New Orleans on One Photograph A Day: New Orleans: Blue Dog… Canal Street: Mardi Gras Parade… Moon Walk on the Mississippi… Streets of New Orleans… and Eating Out in New Orleans.
A quick note on Commander’s Palace: If you go to New Orleans, you MUST eat at Commander’s Place in the Garden District; it’s worth the price. Commander’s Palace is Creole-French-New Orleans food, and one of the Brennan family restaurants (although there was a feud and the properties have apparently been split among family members). The proprietor of Commander’s Palace is Miss Dottie Brennan. The food? I wouldn’t even know how to begin to describe how good it was. I had oyster and chicken gumbo, pecan-encrusted gulf fish and a strawberry shortcake… and a few bites of my friend’s Creole Bread Pudding.