It’s true what they say about New Orleans. If a restaurant remains open in this city, it’s because it’s good. I got away for the weekend with seven girlfriends and an itinerary revolving around where to eat. We were not disappointed.
Cafe du Monde was at the top of the list for beignets, of course, and we were dusted in a thin cloud of powdered sugar as we dug in. It was delightful. Bowls of gumbo, too, with a kick. But on this weekend of donuts and sazeracs, two things truly stood out: the rigatoni at Domenica and the muffuletta at Cochon Butcher.
Maybe part of the magic of these two meals came from the unexpectedness. Rigatoni? It’s just a simple pasta we ordered for a vegetarian option. But a tangy sauce with what tasted like a ton of the freshest basil we’ve ever eaten kept everyone at the table going back for more. I emailed the restaurant for the recipe of the best pasta of our lives but haven’t heard back yet. Fingers crossed.
We snagged a table for lunch one day at Cochon Butcher, the hightop right next to the Christmas tree with a meat theme (sausage garland, Swiss cheese and salami ornaments) and soon a huge round sandwich was brought to me at the table. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was just a sandwich, after all. I’d save half of it for a late-night snack, I thought.
One bite in, and my eyes widened. No, it was not just any sandwich. The tender bread, the thinly sliced meat, the pickles — the combination of flavors was spot on. There were no leftovers.
Back home, I daydreamed about that sandwich. I headed to Mazzaro’s with a mission for muffuletta. I knew they’d have everything I needed for this sandwich with Sicilian roots: capicola, mortadella, salami. They offer a muffuletta mix, too, but I decided to get a jar of regular giardiniera (a mix of pickled vegetables) and add the olives myself so it’d be heavy on those really good ones from the olive bar.
The best souvenirs are the ones you can eat. And until I can get away for another weekend in the inimitable Big Easy, I have this muffuletta recipe to hold me over.
1 to 2 tablespoons giardiniera (pickled vegetable mix)
handful of olives, diced
1 (5-inch) round, soft loaf of bread (such as a muffuletta loaf with sesame seeds or focaccia)
2 ounces thinly sliced capicola or ham
2 ounces thinly sliced mortadella
1 ounce thinly sliced salami
1 ounce thinly sliced provolone
Mix together the giardiniera and olives in a small bowl. Go heavy on the olives. For better flavor, you can allow this olive mix to marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
Slice bread in half horizontally. Spread each half of bread with the giardiniera. Arrange the capicola, mortadella, salami, and provolone on the bottom bread half; top with remaining bread. Cut bread into quarters. Serve. Sandwich keeps very well for an hour or two.
To serve sandwich warm, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sandwich until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve the sandwich warm or at room temperature.
Makes 1 sandwich.
Here are some great places we discovered during my bachelorette weekend in New Orleans. It was one for the books.
Domenica // Italian restaurant in a beautiful hotel. It’s where we took the group shot you see above. The rigatoni surprised us because it was so simple and so perfect it became the favorite dish at the table. Domenica is known for its whole roasted cauliflower, a recipe I featured in a story for the Tampa Bay Times. Of course we ordered it!
Herbsaint // We ended up having more fun at Domenica. It was definitely the favorite. But! Everything at Herbsaint was wonderful. I do not know how they get so much flavor into their rice but I wish I did.
Cochon Butcher // A must. Loved the muffuletta, as you already know. They’re also known for their bacon melt. I had a spectacularly good ginger cocktail and we all shared a slice of peanut butter cream pie with what I’m pretty sure were pretzels in the crust. Their pickles are also excellent. And if I lived here, I’d be hitting up that holiday catering menu. Jambalaya-stuffed chicken? YES, PLEASE.
The Ruby Slipper Cafe // A very neighborhoody spot for brunch. Huge biscuits. Their specialty, the Eggs Cochon, is excellent. They also had a French toast stuffed with cookies and cream that day if you’re into sweets for breakfast! I’m all about the savory stuff lately.
Cane & Table // Oh man, the cocktails. So good. It’s also a less rowdy bar than some of the others in the area, so you can actually hear each other in here. It was nice to get a good drink here and not have the bartenders scoff at a girl wearing a pink bachelorette sash and tiara with a small army of girlfriends in tow. The bartenders were friendly and recommended their favorite cocktails.
Kitchen Witch // A perfect little cookbook store with a huge collection of new and old cookbooks. It’s quirky. It’s cute. I bought their spice mix and a family cookbook called, “Kissin’ don’t last… but Cookin’ do!” Both are excellent.
Bottom of the Cup Tea Room // This turned out to be a super fun thing to do on an afternoon! After we each had our readings (mostly, tarot), we headed to a bar down the street and debriefed.
Café Amelie // Really cute spot for brunch. Try and get a spot in the courtyard. They have a fire pit and a pretty garden. A little pricey for breakfast but good.