11/1/12 - 11/4/12
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Continuing the theme of meticulously planning every.single.second of our trip to New Orleans, I had scheduled a cooking class for us at Crescent City Cooks!. The class had been recommended by a co-worker of my dad and my dad and I both love Creole and Cajun food, so it sounded like a fun way to spend a few hours on Saturday. Of course, the class did not begin until 10 a.m. and we could not possibly waste hours of time Saturday morning doing something like sleeping or relaxing, so to make our trip to the Riverwalk Marketplace multipurpose, we enjoyed breakfast at the Café du Monde located in the mall.
That is if fluffy, fried dough covered in sugar can even be called a meal (says the girl who on occasion eats ice cream for dinner). Of course, some might argue that you have to go to the original French Quarter location for the authentic experience, but if the choice is between beignets at the mall or no beignets at all, I will choose the former every time.
After getting high on sugar and caffeine, we browsed the mall as we made our way to the cooking class.
Crescent City Cooks! is a cooking school that also has a store front and is well known for their pralines, which we would get to sample later (although the recipe is a carefully guarded secret). After a few minutes to peruse the store, each party was called by name to be seated. I am not entirely sure, but I think they called parties in the order that they registered for the class. The ones who were called earliest were seated closest to the front, so it is probably worthwhile to make reservations in advance, although there was availability for the couple of people who walked up to register just before the class began. As it was, we were on the second row, which offered a great view of the kitchen action.
The chef was engaging and funny, and also provided some great tips and pointers about the recipes, which were given to everyone at the beginning of the class. On Saturdays, the recipes made are jambalaya, gumbo, and bread pudding. Although the class was not hands on, I still learned a lot during the class and the chef was willing to answer any question about the recipes or even Cajun and Creole cooking more broadly.
Best of all, we got to try each of the recipes, plus the famous pralines. Every dish was delicious and the bread pudding was perhaps the best I have ever had. The jambalaya was smoky with a spiciness that gradually built.
The gumbo had delicate pieces of crab in every bite, which were perfectly balanced by a strong roux and acidic tomatoes (which were what made the gumbo a Creole recipe rather than a Cajun recipe).
And the bread pudding. I don’t think words are adequate to describe the wonderfulness of the creamy texture, broken up by plump golden raisins and a perfectly crispy crust. I could have eaten bowls of that stuff.
By the end, I was too full to do more than take a bite of my praline, which was enough to decide that I wanted to buy more of them before we left. We even got a bit of a discount in the store for attending the class. The class was $30 per person, which I thought was an incredible value considering the length of the class, that lunch was essentially included, and the in-store discount. I would definitely recommend it and would even enjoy doing the class again in the future, perhaps on a different day of the week to learn some different recipes. Crescent City Cooks! will also arrange private, hands-on classes, but of course those are considerably more expensive, although I am sure they are fantastic.
By the time the class was over, it was already early afternoon. After doing some shopping, we headed back to the hotel. The plan was to go to the World War II Museum for the rest of the afternoon, but between the football on TV and the coma-like nap I apparently fell into, we never actually made it. That evening, we enjoyed a fantastic Italian dinner (some of the restaurants we enjoyed will be covered in a later post) before Clay and I took the obligatory trip to Bourbon St. Not really my thing, but when in New Orleans… Despite my ridiculously long nap earlier in the day, I was still ready for a relatively early night before our last few hours in NOLA Sunday morning, which would of course involve more delicious food.