New Orleans Little Black Book

New Orleans, 7 a.m, 77 degrees.

It was a full but easy-going weekend, a chance to catch up on sleep and spend some money to help boost the local economy.

After a week of intense physical labor in the kitchen, I treated myself to a massage at Balance Hair and Body Studio (536 Bienville St., 504-522-3318), where Mary worked out the kinks and restored my aching back. I'll definitely be returning.

We parked ourselves at the Dauphine Orleans, a reasonably-priced hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, with a swimming pool, complimentary breakfast and a neat old bar.

From there, we played tourists and ventured through the Quarter and as well into other neighborhoods. All breadcrumbs led me to the Kitchen Witch (631 Toulouse St., 504-528-8382), a cookbook shop unlike no other. An eye-candy feast of kitsch, old and rare cookbooks, tchotkes, amazing music and a few cats and dogs thrown in for good measure, Kitchen Witch is worth a look whether or not you cook.

Sunday night is a tough night to get dinner in New Orleans, as many restaurants are closed. We wanted something easy and within walking distance, so Coop's Place on Decatur Street seemed to fit the bill. In spite of its tourist-central address, Coop's is more of a local joint, a bar that happens to serve good home cookin'. We chowed down on top-shelf fried chicken, served up with either jambalaya or red beans and rice. Cheap and good.

Our big night out was Saturday, when we headed to Brigtsen's (pronounced BRITE-sens), the namesake restaurant of Frank Brigtsen, a protégé of Paul Prudhomme and James Beard award winner. Set in a cottage in an Uptown neighborhood, right by the river, Brigtsen's is an oasis of traditional Creole and Acadian cuisine, executed with integrity and care. It was by far the best meal I had during my entire 10-day stay in New Orleans. I had the seafood sampler plate, which included shrimp cornbread with smoked corn butter, two kinds of baked oysters on the half shell, grilled drumfish fillet with shrimp and pistachio lime sauce and a shrimp and crab ravigote.

Friday's lunch was a fried catfish po'boy at Parkway Bakery and Tavern (539 Hagan Ave., 504-482-3047), an irresistible beloved neighborhood joint dating to the early 1900s. A handful of years ago, the place was taken over by a loveable guy called Jay Nix, who's passionate about feeding the neighbors. In addition to a long list of po'boys (including the famous roast beef), there's outrageous rum cake and banana pudding to round out your belly.

We met a friend for lunch in Algier's Point, a neat old neighborhood on the other side of the Mississippi River and accessible by ferry. We hopped the free ferry down on Canal Street, for a five-minute ride and strolled through the quiet streets, taking in the romantic vibes of the Victorian homes and big old oak trees. It's worth a looksee, even if just for an hour or two.

I gotta run and pack my bags, which I'm filling with Zapp's potato chips, a one-pound brick of Community Coffee, God's Vineyard hot sauce that I picked up at Cresent City Farmer's Market and a couple of t-shirts, including one that says "Make Levees, Not War" (from local design group Storyville)

If we'd had more time, I would have gone to see Miss Leah Chase, who's still kickin' it at the age of 84 at her restaurant, Dooky Chase and the newly reopened Willie Mae Scotch House (2401 St. Ann St., 504-822-9503) for some of Wille Mae Seaton's famous fried chicken, but that's what next time is for.

And yes, there will be a next time.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 11, 2007; 9:49 AM ET New Orleans
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I shouldn't have read this post. I've recently started Weight Watchers and your weekend just made my mouth water. I am a glutton for punishment. I'm glad that you got some down time after a hard week of work. Thanks for keeping us posted on what's happening on the food front in New Orleans.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | June 11, 2007 10:37 AM

Sounds as if you had a marvelous week of hard work, compassionate listening and good ol' fun, all rounded out with good eats!

Any chance of getting you to tinker with a recipe for shrimp cornbread? Sounds like something DH would LOVE even more than he already loves my cornbread.

Posted by: Thanks for the update | June 11, 2007 11:02 AM

If you're still there...try Deanie's on the corner of Dauphine and either Iberville or Bienville. The BBQ shrimp is fabulous....see if you can find out how they make the red skin potatoes....

Posted by: Bowie, MD | June 11, 2007 5:14 PM

We saw Leah Chase while your flight was delayed...she's awesome! She's like a walking quote book. Very colorful.

Posted by: Jessica "Su Good Eats" | June 11, 2007 10:14 PM

I'm glad to see you made it to two of my favorite places in NOLA - Coop's Place and Brigtsen's. Coop's always makes me feel like a local and Brigtsen's was recommended by a chef at the New Orleans School of Cooking.

I'm very pleased to hear your meal at Brigtsen's was great. I've been three times, and during the post-Katrina trip the food was a bit off - not quite as good as it had been before. Hopefully things are back to normal and I can go back to dreaming of their butternut shrimp bisque. I also hope Brigtsen's is eventually able to again offer their great early bird special (three courses for $25).

Posted by: Dallas, TX | June 13, 2007 8:47 PM

Oh I love Zapp's! My friend from Mississippi introduced them to me and I am salivating over the thought of a bag of Cajun dill gator-tators!!!! I wish we could get them up here!

Posted by: Falls Church | June 14, 2007 11:52 AM

You can get Zapp's at Weggman's and Dean and Deluca's. Also, they have a website where you can have them shipped to you. Now, if only I could buy Trappey's black-eyed peas with jalepenos, Camellia beans, Steen's Cane Syrup, and Barq's Red Creme Soda, I wouldn't have to ask my family to ship them from home.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | June 21, 2007 1:09 PM

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