February 15th, 2011
01:00 PM ET
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Laissez les bons temps rouler! Eatocracy is in New Orleans this week getting ready for the second edition of our Secret Supper. We'll be sharing the people, purveyors and places that make this such a significant food town, and hope you'll join in with your questions, memories, restaurant suggestions and general bonhomie.

But first, how much do you really know about the distinctive eats of New Orleans? Consider this your crash course to the Big Easy's best bites.

Bananas Foster - Chef Paul Blangé created Bananas Foster at Brennan's Restaurant in 1951. Bananas are flambéed in a butter, sugar, cinnamon, banana liqueur and dark rum sauce before being served over vanilla ice cream. According to Brennan's, the dessert is named after Richard Foster, who was on the New Orleans Crime Commission alongside Owen Edward Brennan, the founder of the restaurant.

Beignets - Rectangular pieces of dough are deep-fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are typically served in orders of three alongside a blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory.

Boudin - A spicy Cajun sausage. Boudin blanc is a light-in-color variation typically made with rice and pork meat - seafood can also be used.  Boudin noir is a darker-colored pork sausage that is made using the pig's blood as well.

Cochon de lait - This translates from French to English as "pig in milk," but in actuality cochon de lait is basically pit-roasted whole suckling pig.

Couche couche - A traditional Cajun breakfast of fried cornmeal mush. It is typically served with hot milk and cane syrup.

Crawfish - Also known as crayfish or crawdads, crawfish are freshwater crustaceans that resemble a tiny, spiny lobster.

Étouffée - Derived from the French word "étouffer" meaning to "smother," this gravy-like dish is poured over crawfish and rice. Étouffée typically uses a lighter roux and one type of seafood, whereas gumbo uses a more cooked, darker roux and multiple proteins.

Filé powder - A powder of ground and dried sassafras leaves used to flavor and thicken gumbo. It's also sometimes called gumbo filé.

Fried alligator - Alligator meat is typically cut into bite-size nuggets before being seasoned, battered, fried and served with remoulade, mustard sauce or aïoli for dipping. Louisiana alligator is often also used in jambalayas and gumbos.

Gumbo - A spiced stew thickened with a roux, okra or filé and cooked with whatever meat (Andouille sausage, tasso, chicken, etc.), seafood (shrimp, crawfish, etc.) and vegetables the cook has on hand.

Gumbo z'herbes - A Cajun-spiced gumbo of mixed greens (turnips, collards, kale, etc.) typically served at Lent because it's typically made without meat (though, you can throw some ham hock into the mix if you wish.).

Hog's head cheese - First of all, this ain't your average Parmesan. Hog's head cheese, often called souse, is a pâté-like mixture of boiled pork parts, pigs’ feet and vinegar.

Jambalaya - A stew-like dish of meat (chicken and Andouille), vegetables (including the trinity: celery, peppers and onions) and rice - comparable to a zesty paella, if you will.

King Cake - This cinnamon dough confection is brightly iced in purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Whomever finds the plastic baby Jesus in their slice is supposed to have good luck, and is responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party.

Maque choux - Similar to succotash and often served as a side dish, maque choux combines corn, green and red peppers, tomatoes and onion. The traditional way sautés the ingredients in bacon grease, but butter and oil are often used.

Muffaletta - A sandwich made on round Italian bread and filled with cold cuts (salami, soppressata, ham, etc.) cheese and an olive salad spread. Whether it should be served cold or hot is a topic of hot debate.

Oysters Rockefeller - This baked oyster dish (oysters are baked in their shells with a mixture of finely chopped herbs, breadcrumbs and lots of butter) is traced back to 1899 at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans. It was such a rich dish, the restaurant's proprietor thought the dish could only be appropriately named after the nation's richest man at the time, John D. Rockefeller.

Po’ Boy - A French bread sandwich typically filled with fried seafood (oysters or shrimp) or roast beef and gravy. According to Michael Mizell-Nelson, a history professor at the University of New Orleans, the name comes from the Martin Brothers' Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market. In 1929, New Orleans transit workers went on strike and the Martin Brothers, in support, fed the protestors. They wrote in a letter, "We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, 'Here comes another poor boy.'"

Pralines - A sweet patty candy made of brown sugar, butter and pecans.

Sazerac - Back in 1838, Antoine Peychaud, used to mix brandy, absinthe and a dash of his secret family bitters recipe for guests at his pharmacy. The cocktail spread in popularity so much that the Sazerac cocktail turned into a bar that ultimately turned into a bottled liquor company, according to the Sazerac company. The official Sazerac cocktail today contains sugar, Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Herbsaint, Peychaud's Bitters and lemon peel.

Ramos gin fizz - According to the New Orleans Bar Association, this alcoholic beverage, also called the New Orleans Fizz, was created by Henry Ramos in 1888. The cocktail is made by vigorously shaking gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, simple syrup, cream, orange flower water, and soda water together.

Red beans and rice - This dish was traditionally supposed to be made on Mondays when people had a leftover hambone from Sunday supper. Monday was also wash day, and before the washer and dryer were invented, folks needed a dish that could slow simmer on the stove without needed too much tending to.

Roux - The French term for cooked flour and oil, it is usually used to thicken soups or other sauces. It is the foundation of many New Orleans dishes, including gumbo.

Tasso - Tasso ham is a Cajun-spiced (typically cayenne pepper and garlic) pork shoulder (Boston butt) that has been cured and then heavily smoked.

Turtle soup - Pretty self-explanatory. A soup flavored with the flesh of a turtle.

Did we happen to miss your favorite taste of New Orleans? Give us sometime for lagniappe in the comments section.

soundoff (166 Responses)

    Snowballs, people!!

    February 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  2. Don

    If your on I-10 headed west through New Orleans, next exit past the airport turnoff is Loyola go left to Vets, look for the Check-in/Check-Out Deli at the BP filling station, best Po-Boys I've ever had.

    February 20, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  3. Cait

    Snapper Ponchartrain is also a fantastic dish that I crave quite often.

    February 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  4. Cait

    Andoille sausage? Yumminess
    They mentioned Boudin sausage, but not all the awesome uses for it, such as cajun caviar and boudin sandwiches. Split open the sausage and add even more seasonings to it, then spread it on crackers or on french bread...delicious! Until you have had it in those ways, you haven't truly experienced the Boudin sausage.

    February 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  5. James

    Eating a plate full of Beignets and drinking a cup of coffee at the Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, as the Sun comes up is a pleasure beyond description. Life is good at that moment in time.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • RFM

      Thanks for making me smile – what you described is complete and absolute contentment. It's been too long since I was there.

      February 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  6. Tim

    I visited Meauxbar last June which was recommended by a French Qtr bartender named, Tim! The food, atmosphere and service was incredible. I highly recommend the Crawfish Crepes!!!! Divine!!! New Orleans is in my "Top 5" best cities for great food!!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  7. Ned Hémard

    The New Orleans Bar Association article on the Ramos Gin Fizz was written by me, Ned Hémard. You failed to mention the author. Thank you.

    February 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  8. LINDA

    Yes, You missed the Hurricane!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  9. Shannon

    Brennan's Bloody Mary – best one I've ever had...love the pickled greed beans.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Shannon

      make those "green" beans

      February 16, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  10. P

    What about Big A*s Beers to go!!!

    February 16, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  11. Worth every penny

    If you are planning a trip to to New Orleans, call ahead (3-6 months or more) and get a reservation for the Chef's Table at the Commander's Palace. Seats 4 (no more no less) and you will experience heaven. The chef will create a 7 course dining experience beyond your wildest expectations, with optional wine pairings. I should add that the Chef starts by asking you questions about your likes-dislikes which he blends into the most amazing creations. You will spend the entire evening there, and it is worth every penny.

    February 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  12. NOLArefugee

    I used to work downtown New Orleans and there is this small Deli called FredRick's (on the Ave.) that have the best batter for fried catfish and fried shrimp poboys.

    February 16, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  13. NOLArefugee

    loks like a couple of people mentioned this already...

    February 16, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  14. NOLArefugee

    How about Pascal Manale's BBQ SHRIMP???

    February 16, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  15. Elle

    Image #3 is boudin, not fried.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  16. Daph

    I noticed some of you are coming down for CARNIVAL this year, I thought I would give you all a great secret the local use.... Its seating on ST CHARLES AVE with Bathrooms and theres street food all around ... depending on the parade the seats can go from 8 bucks to 50 dollars Mardi Gras Day to see the big daddy parades REX AND ZULU ....

    so have fun and enjoy MARDI GRAS

    February 16, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  17. Daph

    I live in NEW ORLEANS, so I have a couple favs, GUMBO at the GUMBO SHOP on St Peter in the Quarter, POBOYS at MAHONYS on Magazine Street, Burgers at PORT OF CALL, VOODOO BAR B QUE on ST CHARLES AVE, and for overall New Orleans food MENAS PALACE on Charters in the Quarter, for great southern food LIL DIZZYS on Esplanade Ave fantastic and great prices... La Peniche in the Marigngy Triangle on Decatur, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen at the FRENCH MARKET ... I have to admit these arent the fancy nice hoity toity places people know New Orleans for, these are the great little places locals like me go to with friends to eat and have a nice time, where we dont need TUX's nor a thousand bucks for the check .... But its still good food at least to some of us here ...

    February 16, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • Daph

      La Peniche in the Marigngy Triangle is on DAUPHINE STREET ............sorry

      February 16, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  18. Amy

    Just got back from my first visit to NOLA - Meson 923 and GW Fins were superb, but Cochon served the best food I've ever had. Got to try nearly everything on the menu. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  19. AJ

    A foodie visit to the French Quarter should always include the "French Quarter Onion Soup" from Pierre Masperos.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  20. simon

    This looks so good I just s h i t my pants!

    February 16, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  21. snooks

    Most tourist areas are safe but in the FQ make sure you don't carry too much money & stay in well lit areas. Use common sense, don't go looking for drugs or get too drunk without a designated walker/driver with you & you'll be fine! Have fun!!!

    February 16, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  22. demogal

    Camelia Grill on Carrolton.....used to do a cannibal sandwich; probably can't anymore for safety reasons. Ate quite a few while in college and never died from it.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  23. heather

    Crawfish Sacks from Pattons! Catch them at jazz fest!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  24. Pauly

    Use to work at major hotels in NOLA. Rarely suggested guests to go to known places (Commander's, Emeril's, etc.). Usually suggested "local" joints where the locals eat. Much better food and much better prices. I suggest: Dooky Chase, Petunia's, Maximo, Franky and Johnny's. Ask the concierge where the locals eat to assure you get the true taste of NOLA. FYI, jambalaya is not like a stew, it is similar to a paella. This reporter does what all non-locals do, eat places that locals don't. You can do better than that CNN.

    February 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Jamba Laya

      Might want to read a little better - maybe that's why they wrote next to jambalaya "comparable to a zesty paella, if you will."

      February 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
      • hphamno@msn.com

        The article also said "stew-like dish" IDIOT! The author got it half right.

        February 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Daph

      if the JAMBALAYA he ate was like stew it was nasty ................

      February 16, 2011 at 1:47 am |
      • Daph

        i meant paella........... heck or stew ewwww........... jambalaya is just jambalaya

        February 16, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  25. Dizzyd

    I'm getting hungry just reading this-and I just ate late lunch! ; )

    February 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  26. NOLA

    Dick And Jenny's, everything there is fantastic
    Frankie and Johnny's, crawfish and po' boys

    February 15, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  27. sm

    what about bbq shrimp from pascal's manale??

    February 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  28. demogal

    Please don't forget Dookie Chase's! REAL soul food.

    February 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  29. Carol

    Shrimp and grits from La Petite Grocery, anything at Commander's, beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde, crawfish etouffe at Jacques-Imos, your favorite comfort food from Mother's, and Cafe Amelie for a night out in a beautiful courtyard setting.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  30. Dallas

    Y'all forgot about Tujagues on Decatur, DiMartinos on the West Bank, and the College Inn Pub on Carrollton. ;p

    Man, this article and the comments above make me miss home. :( Vive la NOLA!

    February 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  31. Chris

    Red beans and rice is the best. That with some Brother's Fried Chicken and I'm set.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  32. frippy

    Commander's Palace, Cooter Brown's and Mark Twain's Pizza Landing (though that one is in Metairie). I miss my hometown!

    February 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  33. Troy from Wayne, PA

    Escargot at Irene's. Top five all time dish!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Pelican

      Thats not NOLA food, thats like saying go get a burger or a steak.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  34. The Frugal Hostess

    Cold. (to settle the muffaletta question once and for all.)

    February 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • adifferentkindofnormal

      Helz no! Hot and melty – with the olive salad added later.

      February 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Pelican


      February 16, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  35. avsg69

    This article has brought tears to my eyes...my Grandmother would make me Hogs Head Cheese sandwiches all the time... I miss her dearly....:(

    February 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  36. Tommytips

    Been in search of the best Shrimp Po Boy in the world since growing up in New Orleans. Best in N.O.L.A: Zimmer's Seafood in Gentilly, which is a Fish Market, but get one and head down to the Lakefront to enjoy! Also, R&O in Bucktown has a great Shrimp Po Boy. Agree with Middendorfs for best fried catfish and they also have the best oysters on the half shell. Jacques-Imo's has great fried chicken, but I go there for the Cajun Bouillibaisse.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  37. Patty Swanson

    Living in NO area, but on the West Bank, in 90-91, we soon found our favorite seafood meals at Elmo's on Belle Chase Hwy. Friendly staff, quiet and relaxed atmosphere, and good food. It don't get much better than that. Is there still an Elmo's in business????anyone know??

    February 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  38. NOLA DL

    Poboys = Parkway Bakery

    And it is Boudin Noir OR Boudin Rouge in LA depending on the locality and chef when using pigs blood.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  39. burton

    just a shameless plug for muriel's and cochon.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Amy

      I just ate at Cochon on Saturday, and it was the best dinner I've ever had. I'd say the "shameless plug" is well-deserved.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  40. eric

    cafee Demond in new orleans has the best sandwiches and po boys. Its a staple of New Orleans

    February 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  41. Moopy

    Missing HushPuppies...

    February 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  42. NOLA9


    February 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  43. Chicken

    Willie Mae's Scotch house FTW!

    February 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  44. lancon454

    Yummy, I will have one of each for lunch please! I was in the Big Easy a few days before Christmas and I think I ate until I was sick and then ate more!

    February 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  45. Michael Meche

    It is not Boudin noir (black) it's Red (Rouge) Boudin using pig's blood

    February 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  46. sonnyday

    A pastrami Po'Boy, several dozen raw oysters and a cold Abita from Cooter Browns...eggs Sardou at the Roosevelt...baked ham at Mother's...a Bloody Mary and more oysters at the Desire...Gumbo z'Herbes from Dooky Chase...potatoes Lyonnaise at Galatoire's...a Pimm's at the Napolean House...Yum! I just left last week and I am making myself hungry!

    February 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
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