shrimp and alligator cheesecake

 

Mardi Gras was last week. A friend of mine, who also happens to be a New Orleans native, invited a small group over to her apartment for some homemade jambalaya to celebrate the occasion. For her, one of the hardest things about living in DC has been the lack of New Orleans food options. She phrased it best when she exclaimed, “Do you know why people in New Orleans are fat? Because the food tastes good.”

A few friends and I actually went and visited her last year in the Big Easy. A day or so before our scheduled arrival, a storm ripped through the city and smashed a tree through her house. Fortunately, everyone was fine and her partner ended up with a cameo on local TV news programming.

In a true gesture of Southern hospitality, my friend’s partner’s family invited us into their home. We spent a week eating our way through New Orleans: gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, muffaletta, Boudin balls, beignets. I ate it all. I even had alligator and shrimp cheesecake from renowned Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. The Food Network went behind the scenes to find out how the dish is made, and all I have to say is that the video doesn’t even begin to capture how delicious and melt-in-your-mouth-good it is.

The food is the reason I fell in love with New Orleans, but the people are the reason I will keep going back. The group of us, strangers to the city and its natives, were welcomed into people’s homes (literally and figuratively speaking). In every establishment we visited and every person we met, there was an intense sense of pride in heritage, respect for culture, and everlasting faith in Nola. The food was so good because it was made to feed you, body and soul.

Part of our visit included a brief tour to some of the areas that had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Some communities were back on their feet, and others may never recover. This article tries to capture the relationship between New Orleans, food, and Katrina. It’s not wonder that some of the biggest tourism proponents post-Katrina were chefs like John Besh.

If you’ve never been, go. And if you have, go again.

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10 comments

  1. ninjapalooza

    I have a friend from New Orleans, too, and she puts cayenne pepper on everything! Like it’s regular pepper. It’s kind of amazing, much like that cheesecake looks.

  2. I completely relate to this – New Orleans is one my favorite cities… the food really is amazing (it’s where I tried fried alligator for the first time!) and I just love wandering around the French Quarter. D.C. has a few NOLA-inspired restaurants – Acadiana (pricey but delicious), Bayou Bakery (near Courthouse in Arlington), Tru Orleans (on H St, but I have never been…). Have you tried any of those?

  3. Oh my. I need that cheesecake in my life! I want to recreate that at home except minus the alligator.

  4. hk

    uh… im hungry and at gelman… i want this now!

  5. Da

    I’ve been to New Orleans last labor day. WHAT A PLACE!! I was even thinking about transferring to a university there. Oysters!! Cocktails!! and crazily fun people!! That is a place I definitely need to travel again.

  6. I’ve never been to New Orleans but my sister just got into Tulane and might go there for school next year. I’m hoping she does so I can go visit her! I’m not the most adventurous eater, but I will have to try some jambalaya!

  7. Allee

    I love love love New Orleans! I’ll be there for a wedding in April and can’t wait to get back. The food is fabulous and the people are, just like you said, so PROUD, and they have such a distinct culture (which DC definitely does not). There’s also the Cajun Experience and Hot n’ Juicy crawfish (which I’ve never tried but I have a groupon to it that expires soon–I’ll let you know how it is!)

  8. Wait, no, but seriously these posts HAVE to stop. I NEED this food now. And how am I supposed to get it when I live at LEAST… 50 miles…from NOLA?? I can only walk so far…

    Can we have a belated Mardi Gras celebration in class tonight? You bring the King’s Cake; I’ll bring the fork. (Singular.)

    One of my sorority sisters was from NOLA and she’d always get SUPER pumped for Mardi Gras (she and a few of our sisters flew down there from Philly JUST for that weekend/day). At first, I thought it was kind of crazy and over-the-top. I’ve come to learn, though, of the EXTREME pride Louisianans have for their culture and find it incredibly fascinating now.

    I even found the baby in the King’s Cake one year when her mom had it delivered to the sorority house!! (I think I kept it for like six years… always brought me luck) 🙂

    Anyway, now I’m SO hungry and need to find something even REMOTELY comparable to this delicious posting to calm me down before class.

    Thanks a lot.

    😉

    P.S. Did an ASB trip in Lynchburg, VA, and yes, southerns are SO much more hospitable. It’s incredible.

  9. Kate

    Alligator cheesecake? Crazy! NOLA is fantastic, I’ve only been there once but can’t wait to go back. I recommend trying Acadiana – they have a crawfish boil every Friday during the summer. It’s good times!

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