Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Orleans, Louisiana (Feb. 2015)

I just returned from my second Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and I am happy to report that the city continues to be surprisingly vegetarian friendly.  While I revisited old favorites such as Carmo (cheery tropical cafe in the Warehouse District), Gumbo Shop (authentic New Orleans cuisine in the French Quarter), and Bennachin (home-cooked West African food in the French Quarter), I also discovered two new spots where vegetarians can dine in style (and without having to call ahead to warn the kitchen).  

For a true first-class experience, check out the vegetarian tasting menu at the very upscale August (in the Central Business District), a restaurant by chef John Besh.  I felt like a movie star sitting in the 19th century French-Creole building's gorgeous dining room, dressed in my formal wear along with other Mardi Gras ball-goers.  The impeccable service, beautifully presented dishes, and extensive wine list made for a perfect evening.  The tasting menu features five courses of farmers market vegetables, three of which are pictured below, along with a screen shot of the complete menu.

Salad of charred broccoli and romanesco

Parsley root ravioli

Smoked hen of the wood mushrooms

I had another lovely meal at Latitude 29 (near the river in the French Quarter), an elegant Polynesian-themed restaurant, which boasts its "beautifully composed, modern, playful Tiki Cuisine that includes options for our gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan guests" (not to mention an extensive selection of strong and tasty cocktails!).  I was pretty excited to see tofu bahn mi on the menu, but at my server's suggestion, I opted instead for the noodle bowl and an order of taro chips (served with two highly addictive spicy dips).   

Chilled rice noodles, grilled shitake mushrooms, young coconut, and basil
Taro "chips" seasoned with curry and served with sriracha mayo and kimchi ketchup

TIP:  As I've previously written, vegetarians need not worry about going hungry in New Orleans.  Most nice restaurants are extremely accommodating, even if their menus do not include meat-free options.

August on Urbanspoon

Latitude 29 on Urbanspoon