Sorry it's been a while since my last post. I'm going to go ahead and blame Zatarain's. You may know them as the authority on New-Orleans style foods, with their famous seafood boils, Jambalaya and Gumbo mixes, and of course that Creole mustard that doubles as currency in some parts of the country. I simply know them as the guys who lured me to New Orleans under the guise of immersing me in all things New Orleans, and then clobbered me over the head with one of the best culinary experiences of my life. Jerks. They've ruined all other food for me. As I sit here eating a leftover hot dog from last week, I'm chasing it with a squeeze bottle of Zatarain's Creole mustard, straight up. All it does is bring me back.
It all started with hairnets and safety glasses, like so many other worthwhile activities...
That's me with fellow Zatarain's Krewe Ambassadors Laura (Super Glue Mom), Kristen (Dine and Dish), Rachel (Southern Fairytale) and Steph (Lick My Spoon). Please note that most of my photos were pulled from our collective Zatarain's Flickr Pool because they can all take better pictures than I. We went through a rigorous selection process for this distinguished title that included an assessment of our aptitude for lining up like a bell curve and rocking the game show hands.
Next, Zatarain's gave us a factory tour to show us where all the magic happens. Kind of like MTV Cribs, minus the stripper pole bedroom, and with more cayenne pepper. So much cayenne. I was really disappointed in myself for sneezing so much. That's what we wussy California people get for eating so much avocado.
Then they fed us. It's not so much the fact that they forced us to shovel delicious cauldrons-full of Zatarain's Jambalaya and spicy sausage down our gullets that made this so agonizing, it's that they told us to pace ourselves for the restaurant tour to follow. Jerks!
Because clearly there are some things I'm not good at.
Have you heard of Chef John Besh? He's not only the big daddy of the New Orleans restaurant scene, he's also the Zatarain's spokeschef. I should trademark that term, since I obviously missed the boat on Linsanity. After we indulged in Jambalaya, we visited three of his restaurants. Each one uses Zatarain's products in their signature dishes. Each one contributed to my massive food coma. Each one killed us dead with amazing food. I submit the following as proof:
This was Borgne, our first stop. Chef Besh himself welcomed us with roasted oysters, artichoke stuffed with crabmeat, empanadas stuffed with dirty rice and etc. etc. etc. and beer and cocktails and my mind is fuzzy. All I can say is this man doesn't stand in front of his spread. He presides over it.
I ate two plates of these oysters because everybody was busy taking pictures. You snap, you lose.
I shot pictures of Rachel taking pictures because whatever she shoots will be better than mine anyway.
Then we all took the shot shots.
Then we moved onto Chef Besh's Domenica, an Italian-themed restaurant. To get to the private room we had to go through the kitchen. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time. YEAH BABY. I snapped a pic of them making fusilli along the way.
All I have to say is CRAB PIZZA and CARBONARA. This crab was cooked in Zatarain's crab boil. It was legit.
Here's some homemade Limoncello, which we all "sampled."
The rest of this post will be shorter, because somehow I can't remember much. I remember the King Cake with actual gold flake on it, though (which, by the way, recently took first place in the NOLA Eats King Cake Tasting Party).
And here's another picture of me taking a picture of Rachel taking a picture.
By the time we made our way over to August, I was barely able to eat. I didn't even bring my camera. I had tapped out by then. The food was incredible, which makes me sad. I took one bite out of the most amazing crabcake-stuffed shrimp and jambalaya stuffed quail and wept silently. I actually could not sleep later that night because all I could think about was how good it was, and how I could not coax another bite into my mouth. I worry about the important things at night. Of course, they had to bring out EVERY DESSERT ON THEIR MENU as a final course. We just passed them around the table on the left hand side, taking a bite out of each as they passed. Which proves the theory that there's always room for a dozen desserts.
The next morning, I was hungry again. We started the day with brunch at the legendary Brennan's. Then we took a tour of New Orleans. A food history tour. Of course.
The day ended with the entire Krewe hanging out with the Zatarain's GM and his family, watching one of the dozens of Mardi Gras parades that turn New Orleans into a massive celebration for two weeks each year. Unlike what we non-NOLA people percieve Mardi Gras to be, based upon pictures our single guy friends send us the media, Mardi Gras is all about simply being infectiously happy with friends, family, food and drink.
When all was said and done, I realized something. As a brand ambassador, I expected this initial immersion trip to be about Zatarain's product line. It wasn't. We sampled the sights, sounds and flavors of New Orleans. We spent time with the Zatarain's family, literally. We took in all New Orleans has to offer. And now we understand. Zatarain's is simply all that stuffed into a colorful little box.
All of those happy faces above are part of the Zatarain's 2012 Ambassador Program. We were compensated for our time, and all opinions are our own. None of the elation was faked.