I have met my food fear – What’s that you say, Jen, the great adventurer, has a food fear? Yes kids, I’m not sure if I’d like raw oysters. I know I wanted to try them. I like fried oysters. In fact I like most sea food critters. But oysters? Raw oysters? In all their slimy, slippery, slurpy grossness?
My concern was the texture. I have had mussels that were underdone. *** If you are squeamish please skip down a paragraph*** Underdone mussels are a lot like what is in your mouth when you are at the end of a bad cold and your lungs like to toss-up wads of green snot/phlegm/mucus. When you have a cold you have to make the decision to find a discreet way to spit this chunk of lung butter out or (shudder) swallow it. I am a spitter. If that’s an underdone mussel what the hell is a raw oyster like?
So you can see why I was nervous about raw oysters. But if you’re going to do it, do it right.
Acme Oyster House www.acmeoyster.com – Home of the “15 dozen” challenge conquered by Adam on Man vs. Food
It’s our first night in Nawlins. I’ve been in the city before but it’s Matt’s first time. A quick refresher in the hotel and we hit the town on foot. We’re staying just outside the French Quarter and with the night cooling off the evening events were just starting.
I have found my way back to Acme. It’s been an unscratchable itch since last March when I first stumbled across this world-famous hole in the wall. At the bar we are greeted by Pam, a cheerful woman who clearly enjoys her job. Abita is the beer for the region and Matt went with the Restoration Pale Ale while I chose the brown ale. Both beers are simple and refreshing. Nothing unique but tasty. These are our beverages for the week wherever we go.
After dropping off the beers we tell Pam that I want to try oysters. I don’t want to commit to 12 to find out I don’t like them so she throws out two options.
1. She can just bring me one to try
2. She can bring me an “Oyster Shooter”
Moments later there is shot glass with an opaque pink liquid containing Vodka, Cocktail Sauce and, One. Raw. Oyster!!!! I ask Pam if you should swallow everything all at once or if she chews. She says it’s acceptable either way but she swallows it whole. I tried – but that thing was Huge. The vodka was much like guacamole. Either one will make anything 50% more edible. The cocktail sauce was spicy but both were swallowed long before that oyster. I chewed that thing for a while. If I were to do it again – which is not out of the question, I would toss back the oyster first and chase it with the cocktail shot. Ok, I can say I did it – on to dinner!
We started with a mountain of fried crab claws. The claw meat was pulled out of the claw with just one of the pincers remaining in tact making a crab lollipop! The crumb breading had plenty of classic crab seasonings and was perfectly crisp. More of that spicy cocktail sauce was never far.
We were off to a great start when Matt figured out what he wanted for dinner. Continuing with the crab theme Matt went with a soft shell crab po-boy served with fries. I chose the New Orleans Medley which was a little of everything.
Matt’s Po-boy was awesome to look at. Much like a traditional Po-boy made with a good chewy french bread, lettuce, tomatoes and spicy mayo, this one had a whole, fried softshell crab with all its legs and pincers.
I stole a little leg before he could protest and with the same breading that was on the claws I could tell he would be happy. I lost him for about 10 minutes in all the crunchy, chewy joy he was in. Every now and then he would offer me a fry in some of his spicy mayo then return to his crabby, munchy goodness. He declared the sandwich the perfect vehicle for tabasco sauce and doused it between bites.
My plate was like a tour of all things classic creole. I had a scoop of Jambalaya (you know how I feel about Jambalaya), red beans and rice, a grilled smoked andouille sausage and a cup of gumbo. When asked if I wanted chicken or seafood gumbo, do I have to tell you which one I chose? (Seafood for those of you who are new).
While 3 of the 4 dishes can be described as spicy stuff served over rice, there is so much more to it than that. The red beans had the perfect amount of mashed texture to make a creamy sauce for the rice. Warm and comforting red beans and rice are something I have never been able to recreate at home and always love when done right. I truly appreciate the magic this takes. The gumbo had big chunks of crawfish tails and a great spicy flavor. I have no idea what makes gumbo so amazing. It’s one of those synergy things where the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. The thick soup over a mound of rice never disappoints with its spicy broth and plenty of treasures. Speaking of treasures – that ice cream scoop of Jambalaya was worth the plane ride. Sweet peppers and tomatoes stewed into the rice and occasionally tossed out spicy sausage or chicken as a teaser. Once I got to the grilled smoked sausage I was already pretty happy, but I love andouille. The smoky flavor was a great balance to the rich meat. Creole cooking is like a hug from that large, loud mouthed aunt you love to visit but know that if you stayed too long you, too, would be large and loud mouthed.
All 4 dishes were similar enough to play well on the same plate but distinctive enough that they didn’t blend together to make one flavor. This is what keeps you excited as you bounce between them. I never like my plate to be one color or one flavor – you get too bored.
Between Matt and I trying to steal food from each other’s plates, Pam’s fantastic hospitality and conversations with the other couples at the bar with us, it was one of the best days I’ve had in a while.
Day one in the Big Easy reminded me that even I have new things to try.
Until we eat again,