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 menu at Lahpet, a pop-up in Mid-City, is full of flavors from Burmese cooking.
Ian McNulty

A salad for lunch can be light and it can feel refreshing. Rarely does the dish actually deliver its own buzz. But that is one of the attributes of a salad called lahpet. It’s built around fermented tea leaves, which lend the kick behind the beguiling pungency of the dish.

Does charity start at home? For many in the New Orleans hospitality business, charity starts at the stove, and the bar. The food and drink they contribute are the lifeblood for countless charitable events and fundraisers, and they’re constantly answering the call to support community causes with their time and talent and product.

Veal sweetbreads at Doris Metropolitan, a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant in the French Quarter.
Ian McNulty

Go to enough modern restaurants and you can play a form of food trend bingo. Cauliflower and kale, short ribs and pork belly, a gourmet take on mac and cheese – they trace connected lines across plenty of menu. And why not? They’re all delicious when handled right and they’re all pretty accessible crowd pleasers too. It’s simple math. 

But then, look at a cross section of particular New Orleans menus, and you might spot a trend that doesn’t seem to add up.

Off bottom cultivation is bringing a different flavor to Gulf oysters.
Ian McNulty

Oysters make people happy. That’s a simple truth that resonates deep, and goes beyond satisfying an appetite or even a craving. It’s something as visceral as the raw oyster itself, bursting with the essence of the tides. It can instill a sense of well being bordering on euphoria.

In New Orleans today there are many more ways to chase this bliss. As the number of eateries serving oysters has increased, so have the variety of oyster bar types in which to partake, depending on your style, your mood or your budget.

The chicken parmesan po-boy at Sam's Po-Boys in Old Jefferson
Ian McNulty

Picture a po-boy filled with chicken fried steak, or another holding a clutch of New Orleans-style hot tamales, just gushing grease. Conjure the prospect of a chicken parmesan po-boy under a thick cap of chunky meat sauce. And how about a po-boy filled with sliced wieners all soaked with pepper gravy, or yet another encasing slices of hog headcheese fashioned in the form of gumbo?

Where to get such creations? A boundary-pushing pop-up, a modern food truck on the make?

Roux Carre, a new food court from a local nonprofit in Central City.
Ian McNulty

In its natural habitat of shopping malls and concourses, the food court is set up for convenience and speed, offering a spread of ready options.

Transport the idea of a food court to a particular New Orleans neighborhood in the midst of change, however, and put a nonprofit business development group in charge, and you have something different. In the case of Roux Carre, it’s a food court designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs take a step up in the burgeoning business of New Orleans dining.

Grilled shrimp with crunchy vegetables makes for a modern po-boy from Killer PoBoys in the French Quarter
Ian McNulty

To have great po-boys, you need someone who can make the bread just right. You need someone with a good line on affordable, high-quality seafood and someone with no fear about perhaps applying too much roast beef gravy. The other essential ingredient is the customer with a local palate, the customer who will disregard national ad campaigns and coupons and bypass a rogue's gallery of fast food brands to get to a respectable po-boy shop.

Ian McNulty

The banh mi has come a long way in New Orleans from the days when we had to call them “Vietnamese po-boys.”  Always a traditional favorite in Vietnamese communities, for food lovers elsewhere these delicious, multi-textured sandwiches have grown from something exotic, to a comfort food craving, to the launch pad for new ideas. 

Traditional German food at the Deutsches Haus Oktoberfest in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

There’s nothing strictly seasonal about weinerschnitzel or bratwurst. But dine around New Orleans during October and you might think we were witnessing just a brief window of availability to enjoy these traditional German dishes.

The reason isn’t the season, of course, but the theme, and that’s Oktoberfest, which is not any one event anymore but an entire month of eager encouragement to guzzle beer by the stein and tamp it all down under a mat of sauerkraut and sausage.

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

Travel around Cajun country and it seems that no town is too small to have its own a car wash, its own dance studio and its own butcher shop — one with tasso and andouille and a universe of smoked, trussed, seasoned, stuffed and double-stuffed meats, and hot links of boudin and paper sacks of cracklin’ to eat on the spot. 

Only recently have more of those Cajun meat markets been turning up in New Orleans, but now more New Orleans neighborhoods can claim their own.

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