Savor the Flavors of New Orleans

By: Jennifer Clark | Coffee Bar Director
On: January 23, 2016

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.

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, 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 9), 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.

Speaking of tradition—there’s no greater one than visiting Café du Monde. You must simply have a beignet, or two, or three … with the famous New Orleans chicory coffee, either enjoyed plain or in the form of the café au lait. Roasted chicory root tossed in with the coffee makes a smooth, less bitter cup. This welcomed addition was born out of survival for coffee lovers. New Orleans had become the second largest importer of coffee in America, and folks were addicted to the new and different taste of coffee vs. tea. When the Union cut off the port of New Orleans during the Civil War, people tried a number of ways to stretch out their much-loved beans. In desperation, they began adding things such as beets, even going so far as trying acorns! They found that roasting chicory root with the coffee beans was the one that hit the mark, and it has stuck ever since.

The people of New Orleans are proud of their history and celebrate it with great food traditions. We are excited to bring some of those to you leading up to Fat Tuesday, from a New Orleans Café au Lait complete with the flavors of chicory root, to the King Cake, which is just as delicious as it is festive. Pick up a little taste of the Big Easy right here in Ohio at DLM!