While snow isn't something we normally expect in New Orleans, it can still get a bit chilly down here in the Deep South during wintertime. Anyone who’s shivered through several layers of clothing while reaching out numb hands for cold plastic beads during the Krewe du Vieux parade can certainly empathize. The natural response to lower temperatures across the animal kingdom is to fatten up. Why should we be any different?
In preparation for the biting days ahead, why not give in to your animal instincts and pack on a few pounds in preparation? Don’t panic: it’s likely you’ll shed those extra pounds tromping around the city next spring during festival season.
Other than craving the obvious steaming hot soups and stews, the onset of winter tends to ignite the inner carnivore in all of us. After all, what could be more satisfying than a large, juicy piece of meat with lots of starchy sides to make one feel content in the face of wind-chill?
Climb into a booth at Brown Butter Southern Kitchen & Bar in Mid-City and you’re bound to discover a whole menu of comfort foods perfect for a blustery day. You could lean toward their Toasted Pimento Cheese sandwich, an open-faced Hot Brown or even a Paneed Pork Chop with bean ragout, but may I suggest a sinful signature dish? You won’t regret your choice for a solitary moment when you dig into the decadently fatty Vinegar Braised Beef Short Ribs with a seductively sweet glaze served over a hefty helping of creamy stone-ground grits. This dish will not only melt in your mouth, but it’ll stick to your ribs—and priced at only $16.50, your wallet will retain its padding as well.
For something on the bloodier side, something that just screams indulgence and satiety, cruise down Esplanade and stop for a wine-laden lunch at Café Degas. Before you ask, the answer is yes … you most definitely should huddle in the outdoor dining room under the warmth of strategically placed space heaters and enjoy a French-style “déjeuner” with rich red wine and l’onglet de boeuf, or as it’s more commonly referred to, hangar steak. Many other restaurants in New Orleans serve this particular dish, but Café Degas excels with perfectly seared, juicy slices of beef resting in a shallot and garlic bordelaise and topped with a giant pile of thin, crispy pomme frites (a.k.a. French fries).
Although beef is the typical choice we turn to when seeking a fortifying cut of meat, certain fowl are equal to the task, especially the blissfully fatty and rich flesh of duck. Resting on the border between the Marigny and Bywater is Bao & Noodle, one of the few authentic Chinese eateries in the city. While absolutely nothing is wrong with stuffing yourself silly on plate after plate of their Fried Steamed Pork Bao (you could inhale eight for $20), it would be wrong if your lips never hit one of the most incredible items on their menu: the Tea-Smoked Duck Breast. Both sweet and savory, this incredible dish is tender, juicy and fatty in a most heavenly way. Plus, it’ll set you back only about $16.
Finally, there’s nothing quite like a huge hunk of well-seasoned pork to fatten you up for the winter. Cruise over to the Broadmoor neighborhood for a taste of bliss at El Pavo Real. While their empanadas are glorious Mexican meat pies and the mole is a must, you can gleefully overindulge in a plate of carnitas. Instead of breaking up the braised pork shoulder in typical carnitas style (carnitas means “little meats”), El Pavo Real serves theirs as one large steak atop a pile of red rice and pinto beans. If this particular dish doesn’t add a few pounds, it will definitely keep you full for an entire day.