A lot has happened in the past week. If you’ve been following along on Instagram you’ll know we bought a tractor, got a new farm logo, presented to a group of Soil Sisters about the effectiveness of Instagram in storytelling, and created a whole meal inspired by my lunch with my momma at Shaya in New Orleans. So spring has sprung I suppose. We’re in it. There’s no turning back now.
But I don’t want to get into all that just yet because I really need to spend some time telling you about my trip to New Orleans because it was easily one of the most delicious places I have ever been and also nears the top of the list for most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. New Orleans is, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. There aren’t a lot of places that transform me to another world anymore: where I can easily slip out of my own life and imagine one where I’m strolling from one historic neighborhood to another, sipping on chicory coffee in search of the next great brass jazz band. I don’t know what it is about this place (the history, the architecture, the flavors, the music, the people, the accents?!) but it’s pure magic here and everyone should go (but not all at one time because I’m sure that would ruin some of the magic).
Below are my recommendations, but considering the fact that every single thing we did was perfect and deserves a recommendation (and I don’t believe we’re actually that good at impromptu trip planning), I bet you could go just about anywhere and be seriously happy in this flavorful town.
Keep on scrolling beyond the reviews for a dynamite recipe suitable to impress many a dinner guest: hummus with curried cauliflower. I’ll share my other favorite (hummus with lamb ragu) next week!
With love always,
Willa Jean // For starters, let me just say that we went here on International Women’s Day by pure coincidence and they gave us 21% off our meal because that’s the rate of the gender income gap so even if the food was terrible I’d tell you to go here, but guess what the food was not terrible. It was one of our best meals. So go here, get the pimento cheese board and definitely something with a biscuit and know you are supporting a place doing little things to be a part of the conversation on big issues.
Strolling Magazine Street // Major shout out to my friend Andrew at Foxwell Digital for telling me to explore any part of this awesome six-mile-long street with beautiful storefronts, amazing eateries and beautiful residential homes all thrown right into the mix. We spent most of our first New Orleans day on this street and loved every single step. The highlights were definitely Shaya and No Fleas Market which have more details below.
Shaya // I heard this restaurant mentioned briefly on a Conde Nast travel podcast a while ago. It was referred to casually as a hummus restaurant doing cool things with vegetables and for some reason or another that was enough to peak my interest. I did no more research and booked it straight there pretty much as soon as the plane landed: something about this place was literally calling out to me. What I found out later was that it won a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant in 2016 and that the chef Alon Shaya is kind of a huge deal (and just published a cookbook by the same name). I guess it’s pretty hard to get a table here but I had my notoriously lucky mother with me and we got a table within minutes. We happily hung out on the patio for hours. We ate curried cauliflower hummus, brussels sprouts with black harissa, pickled veggies, tabuloui, a chicken schnitzel sandwich with a cabbage salad, and ridiculous amounts of wood-fired pitas, and I sipped many cocktails. I somehow missed the lamb ragu hummus on the menu, but immediately found a recipe online when I returned home and began tweaking it with the veggies in my fridge. Recipes for my version of the hummus with curried cauliflower hummus can be found below! The lamb ragu over hummus is coming soon!
New Orleans Museum of Art Sculpture Garden // It’s free, at the edge of the expansive City Park, filled with classic artists (and some you’ve never heard of) and giant trees: this is somewhere to spend twenty minutes or half a day depending on your mood and interest. Either way, it’s worth a visit.
Turkey & the Wolf // This place is perfect: silly, mismatched, upcycled, non-threatening, absolutely delicious and all without an ounce of pretension. Get the bologna sandwich even if that’s not your thing. And don’t try to share three dishes between two people. It will absolutely be too much food. But beware, this restaurant has been getting a lot of hype lately (it was named Bon Appetit’s best new restaurant of 2017 among other accolades). They don’t take reservations and may be lines so plan accordingly (or go an hour before close like we did for a late lunch).
Strolling the Garden District // When I die and come back as Southern royalty, this is where I’ll be living. No question. Take an hour or two to just meander through these beautiful streets of gorgeous historic mansions. If you get hungry, grab a bit at the legendary Commander’s Palace and if you feel like shopping stop into the adorable, tiny Rink Shopping Center where I no surprise to anyone found a book to purchase (a memoir about a woman who bought a Garden District mansion!).
Visiting Cemeteries // New Orleans is packed full of history around of every corner but one of the quirkiest and coolest ways to experience the centuries is by visiting the cemeteries all across the city. Because of the cities’ low elevation all graves have to be above crowd leading to small cities of towering gravestones. Each cemetery has a unique and interesting feel and story of why it came to be. Many of the older cemeteries have ties to the Civil War or yellow fever epidemics. Plus visiting a handful of cemeteries will get you out into new and different neighborhoods beside the classic French Quarter. New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods so take some time strolling.
City Park // This 1300-acre expanse of land is a true community space worth visiting to get a real feel for the people who live here and the things they are passionate about. From a golf course to botanical gardens, a children’s museum and urban farm to a disc golf course, art museum, lake and several cafes, there is something for everyone in this beautiful sprawling green space.
Bacchannal // Wine bar meets music venue meets backyard patio with small plates in the Bywater neighborhood just east of downtown. The food was fine (though not as good as other spots) but the ambiance gets a 10/10. Grab a bottle of wine and a cheese board and spend your whole evening here. You won’t regret it. Also, if you happen to be an angel investor reading my blog, shoot me a message and let’s get to opening a space just like this in Wisconsin.
Frenchman Street // The only place to be once it hits 9 p.m. This is the spot for all kinds of great music. It’s busy and packed with drunk young people but the sounds are pure New Orleans nonetheless.
Music Box Village // A sound art installation where you can make music with all the art in the Bywater neighborhood. There is also a bar and they have amazing happy hour deals. Grab a beer and play in the musical jungle gym for a couple hours. It’s impossible not to bring out your inner kid. Plus it doubles as a performance venue where professional musicians engage with the installations. I’ll definitely be back for a show.
Cafe du Monde // Beignets and cafe au lait: the only things on the menu, but so iconic that I’ll absolutely wait in line for an hour anyway.
No Fleas Market // A little thrift store on Magazine Street that is like Goodwill turned designer. All the clothes are donated and all the proceeds go to local animal rescues and shelters. Not only is it feel good shopping, it was some of the cheapest and nicest labels I have ever seen from a thrift store. Bring an extra suitcase and definitely give this place a visit!
New Orleans School of Cooking // We didn’t spend a lot of time in the French Quarter, but when we did, we dined on classics and learned how to cook cajun and creole food. This place is definitely touristy and kitschy as hell but I made friends and learned tons of history from a local while eating my way through four recipes that were prepared in front of me (with unlimited coffee) for just $30. That’s well worth it in my book!
HUMMUS WITH CURRIED CAULIFLOWER
Inspired by Shaya
Serves 2-3 as a meal or 8-10 as a party snack
Takes 3 hours start to finish (even if you decide to make the pitas from scratch) but it will only take about an hour of active time
29-ounce can garbanzo beans or chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large head or 2 small heads cauliflower, just the florets (about 6 cups)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon curry powder (hot curry if you’ve got it)
3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup tahini
5 teaspoons lemon juice, preferably fresh
1/4 cup cold water
One patch very perfect pitas from Molly on the Range (preferably grilled over high heat if you’ve got one)
- If you are making the pita from scratch, get those started and your dough rising (it takes about 3 hours start to finish to make the pitas though the vast majority of this time is inactive).
- Next get your chickpeas cooking. I began by taking my rinsed chickpeas and removing the skins because it was Saturday and I find weird things like this therapeutic. I know that it does make the hummus taste a little better but you could skip it if you don’t have the time. It won’t effect things too much. Whatever you choose to do, place your chickpeas in a medium saucepan with baking soda. Cover with water by an inch or so. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce to low, cover and cook for two hours.
- About thirty minutes before the chickpeas are done cooking, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and get cutting those florets off the head of cauliflower. Place them in a large bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, curry powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, garam masala, cumin and paprika. Stir until cauliflower is well coated with spices.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add cauliflower in a single layer. Roast for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven until tender and slightly browned.
- Meanwhile, slice your onion reserving about 1/4 to dice and keep raw. Combine butter and remaining tablespoon olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add sliced onion with 1/2 teaspoon salt and saute for 10-15 minutes over medium heat until golden brown. Add sugar and continue cooking over low heat until gently caramelized.
- While the cauliflower and onions cook down you can make your hummus. Drain the chickpeas and place in a food processor. Add the tahini, lemon juice and remaining teaspoon salt. Process until very smooth. Slowly drizzle in cold water. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
- Serve in a wide bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, cauliflower, caramelized onion, raw onion and a bit of cilantro. Eat with warm, grilled pitas.
- If you don’t eat it all, store hummus (with a layer of olive oil on top) and cauliflower in the fridge separately.