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A Chef's Road Trip: Overnight In New Orleans (PHOTOS)

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Craig Deihl
Craig Deihl

Wednesday, October 31
After a 5.5 hour drive (during which I ate the remaining slice of chorizo pizza from Bottega -- it didn't stand a chance), I arrived in New Orleans around 6:30 p.m. I checked in at the hotel, parked my car and rested for an hour or so before I set out on the 10-minute walk to Herbsaint. I sat at a table at the bar and asked the server what I had to order.

I started with the butter poached Gulf tuna with pickled chilies and mint and then had the housemade spaghetti with guanciale and fried-poached farm egg before finishing with the warm chocolate pudding cake with salted caramel, cashew ice cream and cocoa nib caramel corn. I washed it all down with their signature rye old fashioned with pickled cherries. It was a fantastic meal, and the server definitely did not lead me astray.

I left Herbsaint and headed off to Bourbon Street to experience the sheer craziness and crowds of Halloween in New Orleans. The costume highlight was Homer Simpson sitting on a trash can in nothing but his tighty whities, holding a giant brown plastic beer bottle. After a long day of driving, a lot of food and the Halloween madness, I turned in around midnight.

Thursday, November 1
I woke up and caught up on some emails, then headed straight to Commander's Palace to unload my ingredients and check in there. Next stop was to see Rick Tramonto over at R'evolution. I was planning to serve some of my charcuterie at Boudin & Beer, and he had very nicely offered up his hand-cranked Berkel slicer -- the Ferrari of slicers -- so I brought over some Milanese, lardo and saucisson. I toured the impressive kitchen then sat at the bar for lunch. Started with a Boulevard to drink and then the food began to arrive from the kitchen...

The charcuterie plate had smoked ham, coppa, calabrese and salami and was served with strawberry-balsamic jam, Creole mustard and jarred pickles. The crab beignets were perfect -- super light and airy and each was served on a different type of remoulade. The "Bird in a Cage" -- poulet rouge, coq au vin style with black truffles -- was one of the most beautiful presentations I've ever seen. No lunch is complete without dessert, and I had the white chocolate bread pudding crème brûlée with lemon-scented apricots and salted bourbon caramel sauce which was the perfect savory note to end on. I also had a few sips of root liquor which I hadn't tried before and really enjoyed.

I left R'evolution to have a drink with some friends at Bar Tonique for an old fashioned and a sazerac before an afternoon rest. Newly refreshed, I headed out to meet up with some other chefs at Domenica for the most gluttonous evening of my trip (which says a lot). Our party included fellow Charlestonian Mike Lata of FIG, Ryan Prewitt from Link Restaurant Group, Carey Bringle aka Peg Leg Porker, Chris Hastings along with his wife and his sous chef Martine, Kelly English and his wife, and Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis.

I was drinking negronis, and I honestly think we had every single item on the menu -- including about 10 different pastas and 17 different pizzas. Some highlights included: a charcuterie and cheese plate, roasted cauliflower with sea salt and whipped goat feta, ox tail arancini with porcini mushroom sauce, spaghetti with liver and onion ragu and squid ink tagliolini with blue crab and herbs. Everything was delicious, but my favorites were the Bolzano pizza -- roast pork shoulder, fennel, bacon and sweet onions -- and the Gulf shrimp ravioli in brodo with scallions and orange.

I woke up around 6 a.m. with the food sweats. I've had the meat sweats before, but never the food sweats quite like this. I thankfully fell back asleep and got some rest before a big Friday and Boudin & Beer, which I'll save for the next entry. Until then...

A Chef's Tour of New Orleans
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