Even a life of professional eating did not prepare me for the extreme food marathon that is New Orleans. I woke up on this second day of my first trip to the Big Easy with a slight food hangover, but a steely determination to eat my way through the city’s iconic culinary classics. I headed to the Ruby Slipper Café, a retro-industrial dining room for fast, friendly service and filling breakfast.
I ambitiously ordered the Eggs Cochon, a hefty platter of buttermilk biscuits topped with crispy apple-braised pork “debris” — the New Orleans term for the meat that falls into its own gravy during cooking — poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. My dining companion wisely chose the oatmeal; though I cursed him for it, I was secretly jealous.
After breakfast, I embraced the peace and quiet of my hotel room (I am a mother of two, after all) and did a bit of work before lunch at the hotel’s Grill Room, presided over by chef Kristin Butterworth.
Lunch consisted of a lovely crab cake in delicate mustard sauce, a filling truffle-chicken-salad po’ boy and a perhaps overly fussy, yet tasty version of that artery-clogging New Orleans classic, barbecue shrimp. We finished with another ode to the city, the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding.
After a tour of the Historic New Orleans Collection, a French Quarter museum focusing on the city and the Gulf South region, we reconvened at the hotel’s Cocktail Bar, where we met mixologist Christine Jeanine Nielson.
From there, we moved through a dizzying number of Butterworth’s tasting courses, including a deviled quail egg topped with smoky pimentón and caviar; white bean and ham soup with truffle; and beef tenderloin with an egg yolk tucked inside ravioli. We ended with an impressive show, courtesy of Nielson, who brought out coffee siphons filled with my favorite New Orleans tradition to date: Café Brûlot, an intoxicating mix of coffee, brandy, herbs and spices that plays off a recipe reportedly developed in the 1890s at Antoine’s restaurant.
Though stuffed, we somehow rallied and made it over to Frenchmen Street, which is like Bourbon Street for grownups. Jazz streams out of every other doorway, interesting art for a just few dollars, aromatic street food, a cold Abita and some funk-spiked brassy jazz in a club: This all feels so much more authentic and organic than the theme-park vibe of the French Quarter.
Let’s just say I didn’t make it to the 8:30 breakfast the next morning. And now you see why I should have gotten the oatmeal.