I am back home in Toronto and I had an amazing time in New Orleans Louisiana! I went to New Orleans for the International Food Bloggers Conference put on by Foodista. I went to the IFBC last year when it was in Seattle and I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to this years! When I heard that it was in New Orleans, I immediately signed up as I have long been fascinated by Southern/Creole/Cajun cuisine and I had been wanting to head down there for a while.
I left for the conference a few days early to ensure that I would have plenty of time to explore and eat at a lot of different restaurants. When I got to New Orleans on the Wednesday it was just in time for lunch and given my recent obsession with po-boys I quickly went out to try a fried shrimp po-boy at Jonny's Po-boys. After the very filling lunch that I wandered around the French Quarter until the heat got to me and I headed back to the Monteleone to relax in the air conditioned Carousel Bar with with a pint of Abita, a local beer. For dinner I went to the Red Fish Grill to have their signature dish, the hickory smoked red fish along with a cup of their seafood gumbo.
On Thursday morning I went on a swap tour with Cajun Encounters and had a great time traveling through the swamp. Along the way we encountered several alligators, some turtles, birds and a family of raccoons. Of course we got to see the alligators up close as the tour guide lured them in with marshmallows. The tour guide even had a baby alligator that had been sick. They were waiting for it to fully recover before releasing it back into the swamp. By the time the tour was over I was pretty hungry and I headed over to Drago's to try the char grilled oysters along with a bowl of their seafood gumbo. For dinner I met up with Stephanie of Copy Kat Recipes and Brook of Learn to Preserve who were also in town for the IFBC and we headed out to Pascal's Manale where I had some drum fish topped with BBQ shrimp.
On Friday morning instead of going for the hotels continental breakfast I headed out to Something Else Cafe to try their crab cake topped with sunny side up egg with corn machoux after hearing Brook talk about it the night before. For the rest of the morning I wandered around the French Quarter and stopped by a few art shops before heading to Mr B's Bistro for lunch where I had the blackened red fish. And with that my free time was up and it was time to head to the conference. There were two sessions on Friday afternoon and they were on the morality of food blogging and a food styling and photography talk by Andrew Scivani which was really good. Up next was the food which was provided by several local restaurants and I got to try the following:
- Fried pork cheek balls by Le Petite Grocery
- Spicy tuna tartare with avocado mousse, coriander, grilled country bread and rabbit ragu with house-made pappardelle, parmesan by Ste. Marie
- Shaved brussels sprouts with apples, pecorino, hazelnuts and chicken liver crostini with Maras Farm’s sprouts, dandelion gastrique by Sylvain
- Crawfish etouffee by Langenstein's
- Black truffle hazelnut macaroon ‘PoPs’ by Sucre
After consuming far too much tasty food it was time to head out on the Cocktail Crawl put on by Nosh by Firespotter Labs which included stops at three bars on the edge of Bourbon Street with the final one having some live music. Although I was having a fun time on the crawl, I made sure to head back to the hotel in time to get a good night sleep for the big day in the IFBC.
One recommendation that came up a lot when I ask you my readers about where to eat in NOLA was beignets and chicory coffee de lait at Cafe du Monde and I was quickly running out of time. To make sure that I got there I decided to get up a bit early on Saturday morning and do it then and there. I am not really a big coffee drinker but I have to say that I am glad that I got the chance to try out Cafe de Monde! After enjoying a leisurely breakfast I ran back to the conference for the session that I was most looking forward to, the session on marketing and branding and it did not disappoint. Up next was a really interesting session on food and culture and then it was time for the IFBC meal that I was looking forward to the most. I had seen the menu ahead of time and it was filled with tasty sounding food and I ended up getting to try the following:
- Oyster po-boy with spinach, artichokes and lemon thai aioli by Pierre Maspero's
- Grilled gulf shrimp and blackened avocado po-boy and crab bisque by Red Fish Grill
- Shrimp and jambalaya grits by Riverfront Restaurant
- Stewed turkey and alligator sausage gumbo by Parkway Bakery
- Shrimp remoulade by Royal House Restaurant
There were some more dishes but unfortunately I was completely stuffed and could not eat another bite. After lunch we continued with a talk about food sustainability by Poppy Tooker, a very entertaining local from New Orleans and a cooking demonstration by John Folse.
Next up was a small break before the final meal of the conference and I took the opportunity to walk around a bit. While I was out I passed by a Bourbon Street wedding procession which I certainly had not been expecting. Dinner was really nice and it consisted of a dariole of crab ravigote topped with shrimp, a tournedo of beef perigourdine topped with foie gras an black truffles and a white chocolate creme brule topped with fresh berries. Dinner ended with an entertaining talk by Chef John Besh about food in New Orleans and his restaurants.
On Sunday morning I went back to Something Else Cafe as I had seen another dish on their menu that I had to try, the Crawdaddy Omelette which was an omelette filled with crawfish etouffe and melted jack cheese topped with more crawfish etouffe. For the final sessions of the IFBC I attended the session on time management and the one on food science and they were both very interesting. With the end of the final session there was a wrap up talk by Foodista and then it was time to say goodbye to friends both new and old.
While I was at the IFBC I met a few old friends and I got the chance to meet many new friends! It was really amazing having the opportunity to talk to some fellow food bloggers and friends about food, blogging and this and that! I am definitely looking forward to the chance to attend next years IFBC!
I took the opportunity to do all of my souvenir shopping on Sunday afternoon after enjoying a fried oyster po-boy with blue cheese and hot sauce mayo at Pierre Maspero's. After an afternoon of walking around in the sunny New Orleans heat I went down to the carousel Bar to meet up with some friends who were still in town; Jamie of Life's a Feast, Jennifer of Merry Gourmet, Chef John of Food Wishes and Deb of Smitten Kitchen. After enjoying a Sazerac Jamie, Jennifer, Chef John and I headed over to GW Fins to enjoy a really excellent seafood meal.
On Monday I finally got the chance to hop onto the St Charles street car and I headed out to the Garden District where I took a tour of the Lafayette Cemetery before crossing the street to Commanders Palace. Commanders Palace came highly recommended and I have to say that the meal was one of my favourites! The food was really good and the service was amazing! I even got to try their Creole cream cheese cheesecake. After lunch I walked around the garden district and looked at all of the fantastically expensive houses before hopping back on the street car to ride to the end of the line stopping off at Audubon Park to take a look. For my final meal in New Orleans I headed back to Mr B's Bistro as I just had to have the BBQ shrimp! When you order the BBQ shrimp they bring you a bib so you know that it is going to be messy but it turns out that it is really worth it! The shrimp are so nice an moist and tender and succulent and good and the sauce is so addictive that you will use every last piece of that complimentary bread to sop up every drop of it that you can.
Overall I had an amazing time in New Orleans! My trip was just packed full of tasty food and that is thanks to all of your suggestions! Thank you so much for all of your great suggestions!
I think that this just might be my longest post to date. If you have made it this far, I promise to get back into the kitchen and get back to posting about food wand recipes tomorrow! :)
If you are interested in seeing more photos from my vacation you can see them in my Flickr gallery: New Orleans 2011