New Orleans is a one-of-a-kind city. Forget the beads, fanfare, and booze, and think of the sights, sounds, and taste. Oh, the taste. Colonized by the French, it’s full of rich, European roots mixed with Southern influences. If you have been there, you know what I mean. A green tomato pie that was out of this world comes instantly to mind. There was a time in history when they were short on apples, but that didn’t stop them. They used tomatoes instead; and wow, it’s delicious! That tenacity pervades the city, and it’s a feeling that draws you in. Then there’s the music. Just walking along Bourbon Street, you may find an acoustic guitar player for an open mic night in one dive, a full brass jazz band at the next, and a hip-hop group on down. The sights and sounds instantly envelope you, but it is the people and the culture that really reel you in, including the food, which is truly a reflection of New Orleans’ colorful history, such as the famed King Cake, which we’ll get to in a minute.
The city was first colonized by the French, then the Spanish, then back to the French, and finally to the U.S. through the Louisiana Purchase. Those influences and the fact that New Orleans was home to one of the largest ports on the continent, meld together for an incredibly diverse and distinct cuisine. The French, for instance, brought the Galette des Rois (or King Cake), which is a puff pastry and almond crème dessert in which a single bean is baked inside. Whichever guest gets the bean is the recipient of good luck for the following year. If you’d like to experience that cake (minus the bean baked inside), come to our Bakery and ask for Le Pithivier, which is named for a town near Paris where the recipe originated.
In New Orleans, what started out as the Galette des Rois from France developed into the New Orleans-style King Cake—the version that’s a yeast-risen, brightly colored cake, which you’ll also find at DLM. The King Cake is deep-rooted in New Orleans’ culture and is the star of any Mardi Gras party, celebrated on Fat Tuesday (February 13), the last day prior to the Lenten season’s start. Instead of a bean, it has become the custom to place a tiny plastic baby inside the cake. The person who grabs the piece that contains the baby will have good luck and the task of hosting the bash the following year. Even the colors of the sugar used to decorate the cake all have meaning. Purple represents justice; green stands for faith; and gold is a symbol of power.