New Orleans: Food Heaven – Cafe Du Monde

We usually avoid the touristy places no matter where we are. You know the ones…the places that are listed in every guidebook as a MUST SEE or MUST DO and when you get there you are all to often sorely disappointed and grumpy that you wasted your time.

Happily, Cafe Du Monde is NOT that type of tourist place -perhaps it is because the locals love it too, and their presence has kept it from becoming just another formerly-interesting-but-now-soul-less place. The cafe is open 24/7 and each time we were there ( it is addictive ) a small gathering of musicians had perched themselves on some rickety, folding chairs on the sidewalk in front of the cafe. From this coveted spot, they entertained the crowd and filled the room with wonderful New Orleans jazz.

You must experience the original establishment in the French Quarter – the other two locations are sterile outposts in much less colorful places (believe me, we went to one and it felt like ANYWHERE USA).

The first thing that you have to know about Cafe Du Monde is that it is very busy, and can seat many, many people under the large covered patio. Which means the staff is a bit harried and gruff, but if you are patient you will be rewarded.

The second thing that you have to know is that the tables and chairs are all sticky from a combination of the powdered sugar that everything is covered with and the heat and humidity which reacts with the powdered sugar to make a sweet ‘glue’. Before you sit or put your purse down on the table ( like I did ) be sure to look, look, look. Even when the waiter wipes the table, it only removes some of the sticky residue.

However, the hot beignets and the coffee are both delicious and worth waiting for. If you have never had a beignet, they are a French pâte à choux pastry ( think of the pastry part of an eclair ), fried, with a crunchy outside and a soft, tender inside. If you are there on an exceptionally busy day, when waiters take 6, 8, 10 orders at a time before disappearing to the kitchen, you will see them return carrying large trays that practically groan under the weight of the cups of coffee and the plates of beignets that are stacked carefully but precariously on top of the cups. Everything is disassembled in logical fashion, passed out and a collective sigh of contentment goes up from that side of the room.

An order of hot beignets comes three to a plate ( get your own order, these are too delicious for sharing and only $1.65 an order ) and are served loaded with           powdered sugar – not a delicate sprinkle, but festooned with an impossibly high heap of the silky white stuff. There is not polite or gracious way to eat these pastries – but eveyone there is in the same sugar-coated boat, so no one will be looking at you. The best you can do is not wear dressy black ( as I did ), wipe you face a lot and resist the urge to blow powdered sugar on your sweetie-pie.

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