When I was warned about the hearty food that New Orleans cooked, I figured it would be mostly because they just loved using butter and lard instead of the healthier ingredients of their Yankee cousins. And while I’m sure this is still the case, I also discovered that by hearty, people actually do mean absolutely delicious and filling. From the White Beans & Rice at The Gumbo Shop to the French Fried Potato Po’ Boy at Liuzza’s, we never walked away hungry. But we also never walked away feeling like there was a weight sitting in our guts. It was just the right amount of too much food.
While we were down there, I discovered my absolutely favorite new breakfast dish. If Honey in Glen Ellyn added these to their menu, I’d be hopping a train down there every weekend. People to the north of the Mason-Dixon line, let me share with you the two greatest words I discovered while in New Orleans: Cala Cakes.
We didn’t do a lot of prep work going into this trip. We only knew that we needed to try Cafe Du Monde and The Gumbo Shop. So when Katie asked if I was interested in checking out The Coffee Pot on Sunday morning, it was hard to say no. And I’m glad I didn’t. Because, and let me repeat these two words, I discovered Cala Cakes.
When I first bit into them, the taste reminded me of Burger King’s French Toast Sticks from long ago. But the taste was more robust, and the cakes far more satisfying. Covered in powdered sugar and syrup only made the experience better. And adding a large side of grits to that made the experience mouth watering, even 4 days later.
While we were eating breakfast, another event took place that hammered home why people love New Orleans so much. A family who must have been visiting after moving out of the city years ago stopped in to visit one of the waitresses. The woman couldn’t believe her eyes. She hugged the child, and then in a moment that made the entire restaurant stop, she put the child on her knee and started singing a hymn with a voice that filled the restaurant. The place was silent save for her singing, and once she was done, everyone broke out into applause. Seldom do you get to see such a soulful, heartfelt act take place in today’s world.
It wasn’t until I was down there, eating the food, and seeing instances like that made me finally understand why people didn’t want to move away during Katrina. I now see why people moved back as soon as they could. It’s hard not to leave there without loving it just a little bit.
Even if the humidity and heat are actively trying to kill you.
Cala Cakes – Creole Deep Fried Rice Cakes (from RecipeZaar)
Serves 20 Cakes
1/2 cup rice, uncooked
3 cups water, boiling
1 tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp (1/2 package) yeast
1/2 cup water
3 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour, sifted
oil (for frying)
Cook the rice until very soft in the 3 cups of boiling water. Drain, mash, and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, beat and let rise overnight. In the morning, add remaining ingredients. Beat again and let rise about 20 minutes in a warm place. Preheat oil to 365°F. Drop batter by tablespoons into oil and fry until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve hot with powdered sugar and maple syrup.