Includes: Luke and Cafe Beignet, New Orleans, LA; Andy’s Deli, Columbia, SC; and a recipe for cauliflower soup
Nola (nickname for New Orleans)
I’ll finish my Big Easy blogging with highlights from our final two meals.
On Christmas night, we had a late supper at Luke, a Franco-German brasserie and one of New Orleans native and celebrity chef John Besh’s nine restaurants. The meal was a bit of a disappointment in several ways, which I won’t dwell upon (tryin’ to keep it positive on this blog).
There were a few standouts, pictured here, including fantastic frites and a lush, intense baked chocolate souffle. The dessert was so powerfully chocolatey that I took little bites of the accompanying milder cookies and my brother’s creme brulee for relief. It was pretty great, and I appreciated how it was served (and probably baked) in an old-fashioned jar.
We ate our final Nola meal — breakfast — at Cafe Beignet. We had beignets twice at longtime tradition Cafe du Monde, and twice at Cafe Beignet, whose superiority some folks had proclaimed on the internet.
They were right.
My mom, brother and I agreed that Cafe du Monde is one of those “must-dos” when in New Orleans. Great people watching and good eats in a cool spot just off Jackson square. On the other hand, it’s usually chock-full of tourists and often targeted by buskers, and the beignets are topped with a ridiculous amount of powdered sugar.
At breakfast-time, the Cafe Beignet location on Bourbon street is nice and quiet. The beignets are produced piping hot and fresh, with a more manageable amount of sugar. They’re also larger and more consistently formed than the competition’s. The rectangular pillow-shaped delights are cooked more evenly and are less dense, and there’s a lot more opportunity for slightly crunchy surfaces. Nice.
It was a perfect farewell breakfast.
On the way back home we stopped in Columbia, SC, so I could wander down Memory Lane a bit and do some sentimental eating.
Andy’s Deli is located just a couple of blocks off the part of the University of South Carolina campus I called home, and it was a mainstay of my college dining experience.
I never knew Lebanese owner Andy’s last name (Shlon) during my four years at Carolina (UNC isn’t the only college with that moniker you know …) And I didn’t even realize that he opened the deli my freshman year.
The world is a very different place and I’m a very different eater than I was way back then. I’m a huge advocate for delicious, inventive, creative chefs and food. But I’m thrilled that in the 33 years since I first ate at Andy’s virtually nothing has changed.
Andy wears glasses now and there might be a little less hair peeking out from under his cap, but other than that he doesn’t seem to have aged. I couldn’t contain my smile when he delivered his standard “Hello my dear” greeting. (All females are “my dear” and males are “my friend.” There are even dishes bearing the pet names.)
As far as I could tell, the deli’s menu — with the exception of prices (still incredibly reasonable) — is identical to the 1978 version.
I ordered my regular: an Andy’s Special with chips, a pickle and a fountain cola poured over perfectly textured crushed ice that you can hardly find anyplace these days.
Let me tell you, it was and remains one delicious sandwich. A soft hoagie roll holds a pile of deli roast beef and turkey, topped with melted swiss and bacon bits (the real kind). For the ultimate bite, you have to dip the warm sandwich into the “special sauce” (a variation of Thousand Island dressing).
I enjoyed my deliciously familiar Andy’s Special sitting on one of the same chairs I’m certain I sat in before, and at one of the same tables, surrounded by familiar collegiate photos. And I breathed a sigh of relief that in an increasingly crazy world amid a sometimes frightening pace of change, some things — truly good things — remain steadfast.
Do you feel the need for something pure and whole and healthy after your holiday culinary indulgences?
Have I got just the soup for you to start off the new year.
This stuff is a piece of cake to whip up, nearly guilt-free and easy on the wallet. It’s got only six ingredients: onion, cauliflower, water, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Here’s the link for Paul Bertolli’s delicious and delicate cauliflower soup. You won’t regret giving it a try. I’m pretty sure it’s going to become one of my go-to recipes.
The only change I made was not adding the final half cup of water — my pot of soup didn’t need thinning.