In New Orleans, the Monday before Mardi Gras is Lundi Gras and I was intent on having another of the city’s famous dishes, a beignet from Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. Getting a late start was partly due to my kitchen mishap of the previous evening and the subsequent anesthetizing. So, I had a swollen face and a big head. Bright side…I didn’t need a mask. What I did need was coffee and a beignet.
A beignet is the French name for essentially what we denizens of the San Gennaro Feast call a zeppole, what the carny folks call funnel cake and what everyone else calls a doughnut; dough fried in seething oil…traumatic flashback to previous evening….ok focus….topped with powdered sugar. Cafe Du Monde is regarded as the place to go in New Orleans to get your fix.
It seems that everyone else in New Orleans with a hangover, which of course is everyone, was on line at Cafe Du Monde for a coffee and beignet. A 90 minute wait? In 90 minutes I would be a crumpled, withering mess in a fetal position on Bourbon Street if I didn’t have caffeine and fried goodness. I soldiered on, found coffee elsewhere and ended up in the French Market along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi.
I was cranky, hungry, tired, hungover, injured and annoyed at my failure to get a beignet. Now, I wanted a Bloody Mary. As I strolled through the French Market every manner of food and merchandise was available to me. I happened upon a stand that was selling crawfish eggrolls. They were fried. They would do. I was more than surprised at the subtle spicy flavors of the crawfish entombed in it’s perfectly crunchy shell. As I wolfed it down, it more than took the edge off, so I chased down my companion, several strides ahead of me and bummed a few bites more. Now, that Bloody Mary.
With food in my belly, I finally heard the music that filled the streets again. I noticed the characters all around me and the noise was less a mode of torture and more pleasant atmosphere. We found a little place that had come highly recommended at the end of the market area called the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. The Bloody Mary was like a meal in itself, stuffed with vegetables and tangy sweet with just the right amount of Tabasco and vodka. Things were looking up.
I started the meal with a selection of sausages bathed in a spicy remoulade. The dish had merguez, chorizo and alligator sausages all of which were well done and almost crispy. The alligator was my least favorite but was probably due to my undying love of chorizo and merguez. We then ordered three personal pizzas covered with jambalaya, shrimp etouffee and (I am still not sure why) teriyaki chicken. The jambalaya pizza was by far the best of the bunch and got most of my attention as I only dabbled in the others. Well, I actually took just one bite of the teriyaki, quickly dismissed it as un-New Orleans and positioned my body between the jambalaya and the rest of the table. With my mouth full I mumbled….research.
The rest of the day was filled with the great anticipation of the river boat arrival of the King and Queen of the 100th Annual Zulu Parade, hopes of meeting Mr. Big Stuff ( the honorary captain of the Zulu’s) and Kermit Ruffins wailing on his trumpet at the main bandstand. The excitement was growing to a fevered pitch as Mardi Gras was about to crescendo and I was at its epicenter. I was now well fed, happy again and ready to absorb the vibrations of this pulsing, living, breathing city at its finest. And then, of course, I will eat some more.