I just returned from a quick trip to New Orleans, a city I'd never visited before. Although I was disappointed that I didn't have time to try every southern dish I'd ever heard of, I did try a couple of new things.

First, I went to a presentation by Elizabeth Pearce, a culinary historian (why didn't I go into that field!) who consulted on the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Yes, you read that right--a museum devoted to FOOD! I want to work there. Or open a museum devoted to California cuisine. Anyway, Elizabeth told us about a number of quintessential New Orleans dishes: the sazerac (click here to read about how this drink recounts the story of New Orleans with its ingredients), chicken and sausage gumbo, and pralines. She also prepared this food for us, as you can see by these pictures. Elizabeth was a fun presenter, full of enthusiasm for her subject and a master of all southern food. I was happy to have the chance to try a number of typical southern dishes . . . and to see how easy they were to make.

I also, of course, tried beignets. First, I ate beignets at a charming cafe, Cafe Beignet, down the street from my hotel. Unfortunately, I was totally underwhelmed by their cardboard taste and texture. That night after a big banquet, Kate, John, and I wandered around the city. John was leaving the next day, so it was his only chance to experience New Orleans. We happened upon Cafe du Monde, a place known for its beignets and decided to stop. While I was chatting with someone at the next table, Kate and John ordered beignets, and Kate graciously allowed me to eat one of her three. These beignets were quite tasty, although I still think that beignets are just okay. My apologies to all you beignet lovers.

Most of my food was catered by the hotel/conference, so I only ate one dinner out. Saturday night, the Fresno teachers (Karla, Kate, Malisa, Cathy, and I) and my friend Debbie ate at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. The "Paul" of the title is famous chef, Paul Prudhomme, owner but not head chef of the restaurant. I'd like to say that I loved this meal, but I can't.

We started with several appetizers: fried green tomatoes smothered in shrimp remoulade, two kinds of salads, and there were even frogs legs on the table. The tomatoes were overwhelmed by the sauce, which also made the dish a little soggy. The salads were fine: spring greens with a pesto vinaigrette and a pear salad. All in all, the appetizers didn't set a very high standard, however.

Several at the table ordered the flounder and were really happy with their meal. They reported that they liked the shrimp and the grits that were part of the meal and that the fish was cooked perfectly.

Malisa and I both ordered the stuffed pork chop. Several kinds of cheese oozed out of the meat, the broccoli was sprinkled (I think) with brown sugar, and the potatoes were buried in a cream and bacon sauce. I didn't like the sweet broccoli at all. The meat was good--but the portion was huge and too rich. The potatoes reminded me of funeral potatoes or some kind of homemade-casserole-with-cream. All in all, I'd have to say that this plate had no subtlety whatsoever. It was a total disappointment.

Several people ordered dessert--I quite enjoyed the peanut butter cream pie and the bread pudding was good, too.

So, there's my story of food in New Orleans. As you can tell, I didn't feel like I was able to experience the best that New Orleans has to offer. I guess I'll have to do more research next time I visit in order to find food that I adore.

Cafe Beignet
334B Royal Street
New Orleans, LA

Cafe du Monde
1039 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
416 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA


Recently, I went to Guadalajara and Oaxaca and discovered dishes I'd never seen in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. Who decided that a taco was worthy of an American diner but entomatadas weren't????? Mexican cuisine is so varied, so interesting, so delicious. It really is a shame that restaurants here in the U.S. reduce Mexican food to tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.

While I was in Mexico, I tried the following:

Chilaquiles (tortilla chips cooked in tomato sauce served as breakfast):

Tlayuda (a crisp tortilla--think tostada--covered with beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado and topped with cecina, cured pork):

Sopa Xochitl (soup with squash, sweet corn, and squash flowers):

Sopa de guia con chochoyotes (soup made with chayote squash leaves):

Entomatadas (think enchiladas prepared with a tomato sauce rather than a sauce with chile):

Sopa de nopal (soup made with prickly pear cactus):

Chile en nogada (this dish at Azucena Zapoteca in San Martin Tilcajete was a stand out: poblano chile stuffed with picadillo and raisins, topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds):

Sopa de Azteca: (thick broth with tortilla chips and chunks of cheese and avocado):

Guajolote con Mole Manchamanteles (turkey served with a mole sauce made of chile and fruit, banana stuffed dumplings and corn fritters eaten at the wonderful Los Danzantes):

I loved each one of these dishes and wish that I could find them here in Fresno. Yes, I bought a cookbook. Yes, I already own a cookbook by Rick Bayless. Yes, I know about Susanna Trilling. I guess I'm going to have to start cooking . . . as soon as I lose the pounds I gained eating this delicious food in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Restaurante Azucena Zapoteca
Highway 175 to Puerto Angel (Km 23.5)
San Martin Tilcajete
Oaxaca, Mexico
(951) 510 7844

Los Danzantes
Macedonio Alcalá 403-4
Centro Historico, C.P. 68000
Oaxaca, Mexico
(951) 501-1184