'All Good in the Big Easy' by Chef Shane Zimmerman
Growing up surrounded by jazz music, New Orleans has always held a place in my heart. I had always wanted to see where the fathers of Jazz, Sydney Bechet, Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong once played. Now as a young research chef, who still is a big jazz buff, my trip to the annual Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Meeting in New Orleans, was a dream come true. Over the course of my trip, I got a sampling of some of the best that Nawlins’ has to offer.
One night in particular, we had reservations at the quirky and critically acclaimed Jacque-Imo’s, a Cajun-Creole restaurant in the historic Carrollton District. The restaurant has a funky and eclectic atmosphere, mishmash of odd paintings and local art and memorabilia. The layout of the restaurant was very unique as well, as the only way to access the dining room from the bar area is actually walking through the postage stamp-sized kitchen! But after being seated and drinks order, we greeted with appetizers of smoked boudin, fried rabbit tenderloin, and the much-lauded shrimp and alligator cheesecake. For my entrée I chose one of the signature dishes; blackened redfish with crab chili hollandaise. As for sides I chose some traditional red beans and rice and greens to along with my local Abita Restoration ale. By far this was one of my favorite meals of the entire trip. The fish was melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by the rich crab chili hollandaise. I was already full from the glut of appetizers, but I managed to clean my plate, that’s how great this redfish was. After rolling myself out of the restaurant, we went next door to the Maple Leaf Bar where the venerable Rebirth Brass Band was playing. The Maple Leaf has been their regular gig every Tuesday night for almost 20 years. They were absolutely amazing and have become of my favorite brass bands from New Orleans. There really is nothing like a bunch of locals jam-packed together, sweatin’, drinkin’ and swayin’ to the sweet sounds of New Orleans. Man, I love NOLA.