Alexandra Willingham is a CNN video journalist. She previously introduced us to the culinary delights of Key West.
For all Paris has to offer – history, scenery, romance – food is still a main claim to fame. While it would be impossible to list all of the delicious and varied French dishes you may come across, this a good starter for those lucky enough to visit the City of Lights.
1. French Onion Soup
Flight attendant on a plane home from SXSW:
It should be noted that Team Eatocracy managed to get their paws on two (2) notable plates of 'cue during their trek home from Austin to New York yesterday: a brisket sandwich from Salt Lick Bar-B-Que in the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and a chopped pork shoulder sandwich (with slaw - they ask you, and you shouldn't say no) at Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Que at the Memphis International Airport.
"Do the right thing and have a breakfast cocktail," advised Poppy Tooker as we were arranging our inaugural summit last week. I'd never met her, but I already dug her style - and was ever so slightly taken aback. Drinking? During the DAY? A weekday? While the SUN IS OUT and I'm not on a beach?!? Heaven forfend!
Upon meeting, Poppy decreed that a brandy milk punch be plopped alongside my muffuletta on the palm shaded table in the corner of the Napoleon House courtyard. I took a hesitant sip of the frothy beverage - a mixture of milk, brandy, sugar, vanilla, ice and a dusting of nutmeg. Then I took another...and another. Then I ordered another - bourbon this time, so as to form a sufficiently educated opinion, which is that a relaxed attitude toward daytime drinking is the mark of a civilized society.
This, my friends, is a muffuletta. I suppose you could eat one somewhere else in the United States - there's probably not a law against it - but why would you? You could be chowing down on this meat and cheese and olive salad slathered sandwich in the elegantly dessicated, palm tree shaded court of the Napoleon House. That way you'd have a Pimms Cup or a brandy or bourbon milk punch to sip (I was told to "do the right thing and have a breakfast cocktail," and who am I to cross Poppy Tooker?), and you'd also BE IN NEW ORLEANS.
Then again, your friends who are TOTALLY JEALOUS of your RIGHTEOUS SANDWICH would be all yelling at you that you're doing it wrong - that a muffuletta should never be served warm, and should only rightly be purchased at Central Grocery and you'd feel all dumb and stuff. But then again, to heck with them. You're in the Big Easy with a muffuletta and they're not. Nyah.
Let's say for the sake of argument that you've been drinking. For a day or two. Possibly three. It's the holidays (which you loathe), you've been hanging out with family (who loooove themselves some holiday cheer), and your home borough (hundreds of miles away and to the North) has suffered a snowpocalypse that has inspired every national newscaster to tell you, with no small measure of glee that all your worldly possessions, neighbors and colleagues have likely been consumed by yeti. (So sorry.)
You probably would not mind a biscuit. Oh, who are we kidding? In order to survive the next hour of your life, you're going to require the ingestion of a biscuit roughly the size of a hassock, ideally with some manner of viciously salty pork nestled within its floury depths.
Why yes. Yes in fact we are intimating that the sight of a gorgeously browned Tofurky might actually activate your salivary glands. It might have something to do with our being on the verge of shrieking aloud if we see one more picture of a turkey, but it's also that when CNN tech whiz Andrew Bergmann sent us this photo on Thanksgiving, we actually put down our pie forks and gasped aloud.
Did you tofu over T-Day or was it strictly carnivore city, baby?
Alexandra Willingham is a CNN video journalist. She's based in Atlanta, but Key West has been her lifelong destination of choice. She's had a lot of practice chowing down while living it up on the island.
Forget what you learned from Jimmy Buffett - Key West eats go far beyond cheeseburgers and margaritas. Here are some of the best foods to try while visiting in paradise.
Don't-miss dishes from the southernmost city
1. Conch Fritters
Some of the best are found north of Key West, at Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo. These golden cakes combine the pefect amount of conch with a lightly sweet corn batter. If you’re not a fan of fried foods, try your conch in a hearty red chowder.
These are Gulf Coast oysters from Acme Oyster House in New Orleans. CNN editor Sam Meyer snapped a picture of them while he was there covering Tales of the Cocktail. Then he ate them. You should go right ahead and do that, too, if you have the chance.
If it's Caprese - at least Caprese like this, all burstingly fresh and assembled and eaten just yards away from where it was picked - it's gotta be summer. More specifically, this is what summer is like at CNN photographer Jeremy Harlan's house, where he grows a glorious array of herbs and vegetables, chronicled at his blog Two Left Thumbs.