Ian McNulty

Producer

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat. 

Ian is also a staff writer for the daily newspaper the New Orleans Advocate, covering the culture, personality and trends behind the city’s famous dining scene.

He is the author of two books - “Louisiana Rambles: Exploring America’s Cajun and Creole Heartland,” a travel narrative about south Louisiana culture, and “A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina,” an account of the first months in the city after Hurricane Katrina.

He has been a contributor to WWNO since 2009.

The food culture of New Orleans includes famous dishes like gumbo, but it relies on something more personal than recipes.
Ian McNulty

My name is Ian McNulty and I write about restaurants for a living. It probably comes as no big surprise that a job description like this brings with it a great deal of pleasure.

It's true, of course. But the longer I pursue this line of work, especially here in New Orleans, the more clear it becomes that the real pleasure of the job extends beyond all the delicious food at the table.

Ian McNulty

There's an old adage that New Orleans food doesn't travel well. But it will take a lot more than an adage to keep people from trying, especially during the holidays.

A smoky oyster po-boy with smoked cheese and pastrami bacon from Bevi Seafood Co. in New Orleans and Metairie.
Ian McNulty

The stirrings of home and feelings of homecoming are strong this time of year. Anything can trigger it – that song playing in the background as you shop, those photos from the 80s that your clever aunt rebooted on Facebook, even what’s on your plate or the food cravings on your mind. Around here, no type of restaurant dials into that quite like the New Orleans neighborhood joint.

Deyan Georgiev / Shutterstock.com

True oyster lust does not stop -- not when you're full but there are still a few oysters on the tray and not in summer, despite that old adage you may have heard concerning months spelled without the “R.” The romance of the oyster cannot be so primly constrained.            

Still, though, as winter arrives  and as our Gulf oysters inch closer to their seasonal prime, the anticipation gets keener and the pleasure of oysters grows sharper. If you’re the sort of oyster eater whose interest perks up as the weather cools down, it's time to catch up on some changes around New Orleans since last season.

A sign points the way to Second Line Brewery in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

It's not hard to find a drink in New Orleans. But getting a beer direct from the source at one of the local breweries now proliferating around our city often means venturing to back streets, dead ends and once-forgotten corners of town.

Beer making is essentially light industrial work. It calls for an industrial setting. Beer drinking is often a social pursuit. And so, the taprooms where these new small brewers now sell pints of their product direct have created a different sort of social space -- luring beer lovers to niches of New Orleans neighborhoods that had not seen much life until lately.

Louisiana wild boar, served as a barbecue platter at the New Orleans restaurant Carmo.
Ian McNulty

Look around and you may see more wild boar on restaurant menus and even now in grocery stores. It’s no coincidence. In fact, it’s all part of a new response to the old problem of a rampant boar population in Louisiana.

A dark roux, country style chicken and andouille gumbo from Brocato's Catering in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

No dish in New Orleans is more Creole than gumbo. And, appropriately enough for that Creole identity, there’s no single answer to just how it should taste and what can go into the pot.

This has been on my mind because this weekend a veritable dream team of New Orleans Creole eateries will serve more than a dozen versions of gumbo at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival (see full details below).

Boudin from the New Orleans butcher shop Bourree at Boucherie.
Ian McNulty

The natural habitat for boudin is Louisiana Cajun country, and across its range you find the delicious pork and rice sausage everywhere from gas stations to bait shops. But for a long time, where you didn't find boudin was New Orleans.

Well praise the lard and pass me a link, those dark days are done. Boudin has found a second home in the Crescent City.

Ian McNulty

In New Orleans, there’s long been a natural order when it comes to enjoying a bit of natural beauty with your dinner and drinks. It was the courtyards of old French Quarter restaurants or a seat by the flaming fountain at Pat O’Brien’s. Watching streetcars rattle past from the porch at the Columns Hotel always qualified, and any balcony was fair game. 

But now the game has changed, and here’s the latest twist: more restaurants and bars are going the full monty, devoting most of their space and much of their business model to the al fresco appeal.

You can't really count on the calendar to tell you when seasons change in New Orleans. Balmy and temperate one day, you know we can still plunge right back into humidity the next. You’ve got to be on your guard. But there are other cues that let us know where we stand.

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