I guess one reason I keep going back to New Orleans on an ever more frequent basis, is that I never get to all the places I want to get to within my allotted travel time. So I return for the history, the architecture of the French Quarter, an indescribable atmosphere which is only New Orleans, and of course – the Food. (www.neworleanscvb.com)
A couple of years ago I discovered the John Besh Empire of quality dining. I have enjoyed his August, Luke’s, and his Steakhouse in Harrah’s Casino. (www.chefjohnbesh.com) I revisit them whenever I can. This most recent excuse to trip to New Orleans was to again take in the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, held each March. (www.tennesseewilliams.net) As a festival treat, John Besh hosted a culinary demonstration at his Steakhouse. Being from land locked Oklahoma I did not grow up with an affinity for seafood and certainly not crawfish. But with his skillful culinary talents, Besh whipped up a delightful and savory Fresh Pasta with Crawfish Ragout, bursting with a plethora of flavors. One of his secrets for the Shellfish sauce was cooking with Vermouth added to heavy cream, blending the flavors of tarragon, bay leaf and thyme to perfection.
Besh believes in buying locally and encourages us to eat ingredients that are in season, and thus the freshest, and packed with flavor. He even winced while preparing his crawfish pasta at the idea of putting in tomatoes – as this was March and not yet tomato season. His recent cook book “My New Orleans: The Cookbook,” stresses this philosophy along with a survey history of the eateries and places with which Besh grew up in his native New Orleans. Profits from his book go to “Café Reconcile” a non profit food program training young people at risk.
Domenica is a comfortable blend of fine dining without pretensions. Locate in the historic
Roosevelt Hotel with all its over the top European décor. Domenica is modern in atmosphere and energy. A great deal of its décor comes from http://www.DesignWithinReach.com, which offers stunning chandeliers. The water glasses are recycled wine bottle bottoms. Since I felt more in the mood for a martini with my meal than wine, they took care to craft a beverage that would not over power my veal entrée. They prepared a “Black Pearl” martini of lemon vodka over a black cherry garnish. Domenica is known as the place were the cooks eat, and I can understand why. My Paneed Louisiana Grass Fed Veal, coated in panko with an herb salt (sage, rosemary, thyme) accompanied by lemon and arugula was delightful. The full flavored white truffle and pancetta Risotto was a delicious addition.
Domenica is also know for its variety of house cured meats and cheeses. (www.domenicarestaurant.com) Here again a sampling of their gourmet offerings, gave my taste buds a gambit of flavors, including Lardo (cured pork fat), Prosciutto (from Langhirano Italy) and Verde Capra (a blue cheese made from Lombardia goats milk). Domenica has such a wide variety of tasty Salumi and Formaggi – too many for one sitting, making it mandatory to return again and again.
The America Sector, located next door to the World War II museum, is a trip back to simpler times, where white capped waitresses served you the popular beverage of the day: Coca Cola, of course. (http://nationalww2museum.org/american-sector) This post modern looking bar and grill, welcomes all ages, from the gourmet seeking a succulent dining experience, to a family with a child gleefully enjoying the surprise army man toy in his lunch box meal, even more than the comfort food before him.
Entrance to the 1940’s USO club styled Stage Door Canteen offers food and stage shows appropriate to the time period. As dinner show times are limited be sure and check out their schedule while planning your New Orleans stay. A new addition is the high tech Solomon Victory Theatre where a brief history of the war is told using three dimensional artifacts, and wide screen effects, along with arm chair movements appropriate for the action of explosions, making it a true 4-D experience.
And you can’t revisit New Orleans and the lazy Mississippi without a tour of one or two river road plantations, which I did with ease through Plantation Adventure, where you can be picked up and dropped off at your hotel. (www.plantationadventure.com) I can recommend the Westin Canal Place Hotel for comfort with a touch of luxury where your high rise room can face the Lazy Mississippi, with a daily affirmation that, “Yes, I really am in the Crescent City.” (www.westinneworleanscanalplace.com) Don’t forget to experience the view from the roof top swimming pool, and their delicious and efficient morning breakfasts.
I have yet another John Besh restaurant waiting for me to savor – La Provence. Across Lake Ponchartrain it is a unique establishment, raising their own produce and livestock for their dining guests. This proves to be the proof of Besh’s rule of eating locally and in season. I guess I’ll just have to return to New Orleans soon and experience La Provence. (www.laprovencerestaurant.com) It promises to be a real travel adventure!
Wherever you plan to go on your travel adventures, be sure to purchase
the right travel insurance If you plan to be away for a few months then you will need a backpacker travel insurance policy, most of which now include up to two weeks ski or winter sports cover.