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AAA/Brooke Holt

Regional Fare “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” Mark Twain penned these words in 1884. And if you have ever had the pleasure of relaxing in the one of the French Quarter's many local restaurants sipping café au lait while savoring scrumptious golden-fried beignets blanketed in powdered sugar—a signature New Orleans pastry—you will know this is true. Upon biting into the square and hollow confections, the sugar puffs and floats like a cloud before releasing its sweet flavor. In that moment, it’s clear why the people of New Orleans possess joie de vivre, or “joy of living.” With fare so outstanding, it’s easy being happy. But before we chat about traditional south Louisiana food, let’s explore the history that set the scene of Cajun and Creole cuisines as we know them today.

To dispel any confusion, let me clarify and say that Cajun and Creole cultures and cuisines are quite different. Though they incorporate some similar ingredients for many of their dishes—such as filé powder—Creole is haute cuisine that reflects the African, Caribbean, French, German, Italian and Spanish influences apparent around New Orleans in the late 1600s. Cajun is country-style cooking characterized by one-pot meals using wild game, fish, shellfish, corn, rice or vegetables. Both cuisines exhibit culinary finesse.

The Creoles, descendants of the European elite, arrived in the 1690s by invitation of the Spanish to establish New Orleans. They brought with them their wealth, education, chefs and cooks as well as culinary techniques. In sharp contrast are the French refugees who were exiled by the Brits from Acadia, Nova Scotia, in 1755. Later called Cajuns, they retreated to the bayous and swamps of Louisiana, befriending the Native Americans and learning from them about new ingredients, herbs and cooking techniques. Maque-chou, a stewed concoction comprising sweet peppers, onions and tomatoes as well as coush-coush made from dried ground corn are examples of the Native American influence.

Contrary to general belief, Cajun cuisine typically is not spicy-hot. Though Cajun dishes are spicier than their Creole counterparts, seasonings are incorporated to enhance, not dominate, the flavor of ingredients. The dark brown roux and complementary amalgam of chopped celery, bell peppers and onions (called the “holy trinity” and also used in Creole dishes) are key in adding richness and flavor to many foods. Vegetables feature conspicuously and the Cajuns are experts at preparing them in a variety of ways such as in sauces, sautéed and stuffed. Alternatively, butter and cream along with generous amounts of tomatoes punctuate Creole cuisine.

Most Americans, even if they have never visited Louisiana, associate gumbo, étouffée and jambalaya with classic Louisiana fare, and like most global cuisines, these dishes evolved through an integration of overlapping cultures. An eye on future trends shows new chefs putting a contemporary spin on preparing and combining ingredients while still honoring traditional south Louisiana cuisine. Mark Twain would approve. But no matter what the trends, New Orleans embodies and will always embody a sense of joy and an appreciation of good food and good times.

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler! Let the good times roll!

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New Orleans, LA

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

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614 Canal St. New Orleans, LA 70130

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2 Poydras St. New Orleans, LA 70130

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Travel Information

City Population

343,829

Elevation

11 ft.

Sales Tax

Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 5 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 14 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(504) 821-2222

Fire (non-emergency)

(504) 658-4700

Time and Temperature

(318) 324-8808

Hospitals

Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263; University Medical Center New Orleans, (504) 702-3000.

Visitor Information

1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 New Orleans, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474

Air Travel

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.

Rental Cars

New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.

Taxis

Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and $2.40 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Carriage/Yellow/Checker, (504) 207-7777; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab & For Hire Bureau at (504) 658-7176.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.

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