Where Y'Eat

New Orleans writer Ian McNulty hosts Where Y'Eat, a weekly exploration and celebration of food culture in the Crescent City and south Louisiana.

Ian gives listeners the low-down on the hottest new restaurants, old local favorites, and hidden hole-in-the-wall joints alike, and he profiles the new trends, the cherished traditions, and the people and personalities keeping America's most distinctive food scene cooking.

 

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3. Enter this URL: itpc://wwno.org/podcasts/6095/rss.xml

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Ways to Connect

The French 75 Bar recently brought new attention to the old line French Creole restaurant Arnaud's.
Ian McNulty

The pace of change for New Orleans restaurants feels rapid and constant. But we still look to one corner of the dining scene as a rock of stability. It's the old-line French Creole restaurant, steeped in history, bound by tradition and never changing. Right? 

Well, actually no. Change and even trends visit these restaurants too, though sometimes in ways that are subtle and gradual, but still fundamental. To see what I mean, let's go to the French Quarter.

Cheese oozes from a grilled sandwich at Melt, part of a cluster of new eateries to open near New Orleans' new hospital complexes.
Ian McNulty

If a restaurant can feel like it’s on the fringe and right in the thick of things at the same time, it's Fharmacy.

This is a bar and grill on Banks Street in Mid-City. It’s in a narrow shotgun house that looks like you could load the whole thing onto a flatbed and deliver it somewhere. It feels a bit like a clubhouse with a diner counter and it serves some international ideas for comfort food.

The name Creole tomato can turn heads in the market place this time of year.
Ian McNulty

When does summer start? Consult the calendar and you’ll see it’s still a month away. But in New Orleans the seasons aren’t necessarily tied to the conventions of solstice and equinox.

For me, the New Orleans summer always begins immediately after Jazz Fest, and it’s not the changing weather alone that marks the shift.

It’s the feeling that the long New Orleans train of one big celebration after the next has reached the station, and it’s time to hop off for a bit.

If you’re a vegetarian in New Orleans you’ve probably learned to ask questions before digging in and you know to never take the name of a dish at face value. 

This is a town, after all, where the key ingredient in traditional vegetable soup is beef. And it’s widely accepted here that when the cook tells you your beans were made with love, she means made with pork. 

Boiled seafood is a tradition in Louisiana with many of its own rituals.
Ian McNulty / WWNO

Making a good run at a crawfish boil is a two-fisted effort that might even require some juggling. There's the twisting, pinching and peeling, the sorting and rummaging for sides and the concurrent demands of beverage management. 

That also makes the crawfish boil one of the increasingly rare aspects of modern life that remains cell phone free.

The bakery counter at Breads on Oak, a modern New Orleans bakery on Oak Street.
Ian McNulty

From the most basic ingredients, bakers create wonders. It’s that pastry that makes up for getting up early, the cakes that become centerpieces of our celebrations, the anytime indulgences that get us through the day and, it’s even the unadorned loaves that are so tempting we have to tear off a piece before the bread ever makes it home. It all starts with age-old essentials, and the transformative potential of skill and craft.

In New Orleans these days, though, bakers are transforming more than just their ingredients.

Each year at Hogs for the Cause, cook-off teams compete and raise money. The teams have developed a culture that extends year round.
Photo courtesy of Hogs for the Cause

For one weekend, the charity cook-off Hogs for the Cause transforms a big outdoor spread in New Orleans into something like a Southern-style never-never land.

The fried seafood boat at Morton's Seafood in Madisonville.
Ian McNulty

The seafood boat is not a po-boy, and it’s different from a seafood platter. It belongs to its own niche. It flies brazenly in the face of modern low-carb diets, but survives at a handful of eateries. It can kindle cravings in those with a nostalgic bent, and maybe event those who enjoy a little spectacle with their supper.

Matassa's Market dates back to the 1920s in the French Quarter, and it has changed to adjust to an evolving marketplace.
Ian McNulty

Conjure the image of the small neighborhood grocery and I bet the picture in your mind looks pretty appealing – something hands on and small scale, with character and personality between the register and the grocery aisles.

As a business plan, though, maybe the classic neighborhood market these days looks like a flourish of old-fashioned retail romanticism.

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