Rhode Island and New Orleans

Annnd I'm back after a week and a half long trip to the U.S! Did you miss me?! I traveled back to the States for the New Orleans wedding of my cousin Dylan to his lovely fiancée Katie (more on that in a minute) stopping first in Rhode Island for a couple of days. 

Unlike my last trip to Rhode Island, this one was low key, with lots of sleeping, a little cooking, and a good dose of Netflix (Stranger Things season 2, anyone?) A few photos below to give you the general idea, and of note -- our beloved senior beagle Snoopy, baked shells with ragu' courtesy of my incredible 91 year old nonna (who remains one of the best cooks I know) super decadent, cheesy, buttery macaroni and cheese (recipe here) prepared by my mom, and more neighborhood dogs.
After a few days of rest and relaxation in Rhode Island (say that 10 times fast) we headed to New Orleans, where we were met by my brother Matt and sister-in-law Lakshmi who you may remember from this post here. Note the palm trees below- New Orleans was a nice break from chilly New England, and it was on average about 80 degrees out (26 degrees for the majority who use Celsius).
We were excited to be in the Big Easy for the wedding, of course, but all of us being ardent foodies, we were pretty excited to eat too. Long story short, I admit I've become a bit of a food snob since living in Italy, finding that a lot of the time, the food in American restaurants is not quite up to snuff after my taste buds have been pampered by Pecorino cheese and perfectly cooked pasta. NOLA, however, is the exception to the rule -- the city is packed with restaurants that serve exceptional food, especially Cajun food, from gumbo, to jambalaya to fried chicken. Number 1 on our restaurants-to-visit-list was Toups Meatery, run and owned by Isaac Toups, who came in third in season 13 of the cooking competition TV show Top Chef. Chef Isaac was not at the Friday lunch service (sob!) but out meal was so spectacular that this was quickly forgiven. 
There were seven of us, and we ordered, to start: a meatery board with house made fresh and cured meets, plus pickles and other condiments, served with a side of cracklings; braised artichokes served with fried cheese; and fried rabbit livers with mushrooms and caramelized onions. For mains, we ordered: a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with Parmesan-coppa mayo, a cornmeal crusted fried fish sandwich with chips and house made tartar sauce (yes, we went heavy on the frying,) a burger made with pork and beef, braised lamb neck with black eye peas and fennel, and crab claws with chili, tomato, and pineapple. For dessert, Toups's signature Doverge cake, a multilayer confection with peanut butter, bacon, and salted caramel buttercream (if that's not American, I don't know what is) plus my very favorite item of the whole meal, a Kaffir lime parfait with a pecan and ginger crumble. It was supremely citrus-y, tangy and just sweet enough, the creamy custard of the parfait striking a perfect balance with the crunchy crumble. Here's what it all looked like:
I absolutely 100% believe that one should not under any circumstances leave New Orleans without sampling beignets from Café du Monde, a fixture in the Big Easy since 1862 (!!!) I first sampled these beauties during my first trip to NOLA in 2013, and they have remained imprinted in my memory as one of The Best Things I Have Ever Eaten. If you could fry and serve up joy, the result would be a bag of Café du Monde beignets, hands down. They're served warm, dusted with powdered sugar, fluffy and pillow-y, downright dreamy served with a cup of New Orlean's chicory coffee. Just FYI, if you go to Café du Monde, don't be intimidated by the line. The café works like a well oiled machine, with a crazy turn around time, plus its opened 24 hours a day, so you can get your beignet fix whenever you'd like. 
But let's talk about that wedding! In case you were wondering, my cousin is also a Rhode Islander, born and raised, and his wife is Texan -- New Orleans however is where they met (law school) and have been living the past five years. Some of the wedding highlights, before I let the pictures do the talking: a peacock that made its appearance right before the ceremony started (apparently there are a few of them that live in the park); an outdoor ceremony at dusk under an enormous, ancient oak tree; a moving and absolutely perfect set of remarks from my dad, which were the heart of the ceremony; my sister and I having the honor of doing a reading during the ceremony, an excerpt from a Vonnegut book (see below); spending time with extended family I hadn't seen in ages; and seeing how downright happy my cousin and his new wife were. It was truly moving (we all shed a tear or two) and I couldn't be happier for them both. Congratulations, Dylan and Katie! Note: photo credit for the really nice photos (i.e not taken by a camera phone!) go to Kelsy Lynch.

And just like that, the trip was over! To finish off the post, a requisite airport selfie with my dad and sister, just before we boarded to head back to Rome. And very randomly, a photo I took of traditional Italian panettone I found in a New Orleans convenience store, right alongside gingerbread cookies and holiday trail mix -- who knew panettone was such a traveler?! I'll be back next week with some Thanksgiving-y recipes in time for November 23rd! Have a good week everyone!


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