In Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking, a production of Fine Cooking and WGBH-TV, host Pete Evans travels America, working with chefs and artisans to put together a feast. In New Orleans, he met up with Louisiana culinary historian Poppy Tooker.
Poppy Tooker knows a thing or two about New Orleans food. She grew up in this city and is the producer and host of Louisiana Eats!, a radio show about the state’s culinary traditions, so she’s the perfect guide. After taking Pete Evans and the Moveable Feast crew just outside New Orleans to Bartlett Farm, one of her favorite spots for fresh eggs and produce, she showed us some other must-sees in the city she loves so dearly.
Explore New Orleans with Poppy
A word of advice? Visit in the fall or winter. “While the rest of the country is cold and gray, it’s warm here, and the camellias are in bloom,” she says.
What to Eat
My favorite restaurant right now is Mopho. It’s a fusion of Vietnamese and Cajun cuisines. You can build your own pho from an amazing number of broths and add-ons.
If you’re in the mood for something casual, New Orleans is famous for poor boys (aka po’boys), which are like subs or hoagies. Made with our unique, light, airy French bread-known as a poor boy loaf-the sandwiches are stuffed to overflowing with good things like fried catfish and shrimp. The Parkway Bakery & Tavern makes a roast beef poor boy that’s tender and dripping with gravy-it’s a real four-napkin sandwich!
Tujague’s Restaurant is the second-oldest continuously operating restaurant in New Orleans. They serve classics, like shrimp rémoulade and brisket. It has America’s oldest stand-up bar and is a place where locals have gone for generations-a neighborhood treasure.
Occasionally, I like to duck into another New Orleans institution, the Napoleon House, for a muffuletta [a sandwich of Italian meats, cheeses, and olive salad on a dense, round, seeded Italian loaf]. They toast it, which isn’t traditional, but it gets the cheese melty.
Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton bordering the French Quarter is absolutely divine, with high-end finishes, fantastic service, and a spa. The International House, in the Central Business District, is always wonderful, too. It’s a cute boutique hotel with a great bar in the lobby.
Where to Shop
If you’re shopping for food, Cochon Butcher has incredible take-out: boudin, andouille, all that stuff.
A place that has great housewares is Fleurty Girl. They’ve got cute clothes that young women will want to wear, but also lots of New Orleans-themed tableware-linens and glasses and things.
Another one of my favorite places for home décor is Hazelnut. There’s a lovely New Orleans influence in their goods: trays with maps of the city, toile with prints of New Orleans. It’s as if they sucked up all the culture and they’re ready to gift wrap it for you.
Where to Play
A must-do is taking a ride on the carousel at the Carousel Bar & Lounge. You sit on the carousel, place your order, and by the time you get back around, your drink is ready!
If you’re an angler, the most fun can be had on a chartered fishing trip out of Venice Marina. You’ll catch speckled trout, redfish, bass, everything. You have access to the entire Gulf of Mexico.
There’s a historical museum called the Hermann-Grima House. They do open-hearth cooking in the courtyard in the style of when the house was built, in the 1830s. The streetcars are a good way to see the city. Take the Canal Street line for some good cemetery sightseeing. All of our tombs are above ground, and it’s just a really special sight for visitors.
If you’re down in the Bywater, make sure you cross over to the Crescent Park, because it’s a new way to access the river. It’s incredible. You can walk for a mile and a half along these old river wharves.
Learn to Cook Like a New Orleanian
I teach at a school called The New Orleans Cooking Experience. We do small classes, and you get to make a real New Orleans meal with a New Orleans chef.