Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bayou Eats 2009

by Erin

As some of you might know, right after the New Year I went down to New Orleans and Thibodaux (pronounced: tih-boh-doh), Louisiana to participate in the Maryland Law Katrina Project, just like last year. We worked with the Bayou Habitat for Humanity to build a few houses for individuals who were displaced by Katrina.

A couple friends and I went down to NOLA a day early to do some eating and drinking before heading to the middle of nowhere for a week. After checking into our hotels, we hit up my favorite place in the Big Easy: Café du Monde! We enjoyed some beignets and amazing café au laits, and I taught my friends how to eat the donuts without inhaling all of the powdered sugar – a skill required if you’re going to enjoy many a beignet.

Next we wandered over to another famous spot in NOLA: Pat O’Brien’s, home of the Hurricane, a cocktail that tastes like fruit punch and got me drunk after about two sips. We were enjoying our cocktails on the outdoor patio and admiring this AMAZING fountain which had both fire AND water (“but they’re mortal enemies!”), when the skies opened up and we were caught in a downpour.

Amazing fountain at Pat O's

This downpour continued for the remainder of the evening and we had the “drowned rat” look going for us all night long. BUT, we had many more stops to make in the French Quarter, so we moved on to: the Acme Oyster House!

The gang after a run through the rain

Last time I went to this NOLA seafood staple (and, admittedly, probably a tourist trap like Phillips…), Xani and I had to wait in line for quite a while, but this time, we waited about 10 minutes (thankfully under an awning out of the rain) and were seated.

One of Acme’s specialties is oysters (duh) so we got some raw oysters and some fried oysters to share. Of the four of us in our party, I happened to be the only one who had ever had oysters, so it took some coaxing to get my buddies to try them. We started with the fried oysters: they had a great crunch from the not-too-thick coating, and a bit of that oyster flavor came through. They were served with a spicy remoulade sauce which was a great compliment.

Next up were the raw boys. I was excited to dig in, especially after my very positive oyster experience at the Oyster Riot. However, some of the others required some encouragement. I was so proud that everyone tried them, although some liked them a lot more than others. Aaron was very excited to try the oysters and even called his dad to tell him the news! Sounds like something I’d do…

Kevin vs. his first oyster

Aaron enjoying his first raw oyster! At the time this picture was taken, I was on the phone with his Dad giving him a play by play

For our mains we got some classics: fried crawfish po’ boys, etouffee, red beans and rice, etc. etc. Everything was great and the atmosphere was fun and lively.

Fried crawfish po' boy

Etouffee and red beans and rice

We left Acme and wandered through the French Quarter (well, ran through the rain and got completely soaked) going from bar to bar, listening to great jazz and halfway-decent cover bands.

The next day the others flew in from Baltimore and we spent a few hours in NOLA before heading out to Thibodaux, about an hour outside of NOLA. We spent the week working on houses, hauling dirt, building a sub-floor, and painting, measuring, and installing floor molding. The H4H folks were wonderful to work with, and we got to meet and work with the people for whom we were building the houses.

On our last night in Thibodaux, we went to a local joint called Bubba’s II for some serious bayou cuisine. I was so excited to try the local fare since we stayed in our Habitat homes for dinner on all the other nights.

A few friends and I ordered a few things to share (you know I love sharing!) and we ordered a fried seafood platter with catfish and oysters, a platter with shrimp etouffee, fried shrimp, and potato salad, and a crazy “hamburger steak” filled with jalapenos, onions, and cheese, with more onions and gravy on top, all on top of fries. Ouch – my heart!

Catfish and oysters

Fried shrimp, shrimp etouffee, and kickass potato salad

Hamburger steak with onions, jalapenos, gravy, etc. etc.

The best thing of the night was definitely, without fail, the etouffee – it was creamy and rich and shrimpy and absolutely delicious. The potato salad was some of the best of my life, and we had had similarly outstanding potato salad several other times during the week – it must be a thing down in the bayou. Potato salad is the new fries, I guess?

The burger was very flavorful and spicy, and the caramelized onions and gravy were a great and different addition. It was a pretty sinful dish, but I had hauled dirt all day, so I didn’t feel so bad.

The food and the company at Bubba's II was great, as we got to chat and reflect on our week together. After dinner we headed into the bar area where most of the gentlemen were watching some football game, and I joined several ladies for a rousing game of DOMINOES! We played all week and it was so fun! I can't wait to get a set for us to play with at Blackacre...

Team Dominoes!

It was a great trip down south to do some mitzvot (good deeds), make great friends, and have a few good meals. Thanks to Habitat and everyone for making it such a successful and fun-filled trip, and special thanks to friends Jenny and Veronica for being our fearless leaders!

The whole building crew!

Happy building,

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