Tuesday, May 24, 2011

N'awlins!

Bryan and I just got back from a really wonderful trip to New Orleans, where we ate, talked with family, ate, met some new-to-me family members, ate, ate, ate...you get the picture. The reason for the trip was a family reunion/crawfish boil at my uncle Dean's house on Saturday. My aunts Casey and Linda drove down from Champaign, Illinois, and joined the rest of the NOLA-branch of the family in meeting my fiancee! It's pretty neat - in one fell swoop he has now met everyone on the Sutherland side of the family save for my uncle Bud, who didn't make it out. I'd imagine it would have been more overwhelming had amazing crawfish not been involved.

I wanted to ease him into the scene, so the first night when we arrived we spent the evening just the two of us with a shrimp po' boy from DiMartinos as soon as we pulled into Algiers, followed by a quick trip to see my grandparents' old house, and then we checked in at our B&B. We stayed at the House of the Rising Sun B&B (http://www.risingsunbnb.com/), which turned out to be the perfect choice! Kevin, the owner, knew my grandmother, and we were barely in the door before I was learning about my family history and finding out that my 3rd cousin on one side and 2nd cousin on the other (hmmm...) was going to be in Algiers on Saturday - what fun! If you want a nice B&B with really wonderful hosts, check them out!

We had planned our trip around food, naturally, and decided to start our vacation with a stop at Commander's Palace. It was truly a dinner that I will remember! We decided that all of the appetizers sounded so amazing that we ended up splitting 4 appetizers, including a crawfish and dumplings dish that I wish I could have a vat of, as well as "shrimp and tasso henican" - described on the menu as "Louisiana wild white shrimp, Crystal hot sauce, pickled okra and five pepper jelly" but described by me as "yummo!". We each had a soup course - crawfish bisque and turtle soup for me, followed by an amazing heirloom tomato salad. We split shrimp and grits for an entree, and we were so full by that point that we didn't have room for the famed desert - Bananas Foster, so we instead split a Bananas Foster ice cream, which, while amazing, was definitely missing the flaming presentation! I want to go back there right now and do it all over again!

On Thursday, after a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, and granola, we stopped in for a quick order of beignets and cafe au lait before heading an hour outside of New Orleans to meet my aunts at Middendorfs for some thin fried catfish strips. We had a nice meal, and more importantly, Bryan had a chance to meet the Sutherlands who I am the closest to - I love spending time with my aunts, and I'm so happy that we've reconnected and become so close in the last few years. Mom and I went up to Champaign last August during Casey's week off and had the greatest time making homemade pizza, eating, and just visiting...not unlike this trip!

After lunch, we followed my aunts back to town to my uncle's house, where Bryan got to meet 3 more relatives! We had dinner on Thursday at a restaurant called Bayona, which was quite lovely. If I had to choose between the two, I'd pick Commander's hands-down, but that said...Bayona's cookbook will probably be gracing my shelves along with the 2 that Commander's sells! Bryan had a lamb dish that was to-die-for, while I had a hanger steak that, while not New Orleansy, completely hit the spot, with its lovely Bernaise sauce, asparagus, and roasted potatoes. We tried to head to Brennan's for another shot at Bananas Foster, but no luck, so we walked down to the original Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for the ultimate beignet experience - hot from the grease with a big glass of cold milk! What could be better!

I'll have to continue the saga later (and post some pics), as I need to get dinner on the table, but suffice it to say, we had a lovely time!