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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Ralph said Let’s go to New Orleans and my brain heard Go to beignets?

There are a couple of things you can count on when you visit this city. One is a good Sazerac. The other is real beignets.

I have, on rare occasions, had beignet substitutes in other locations. Not with any frequency. Probably no more than I can count on one hand, because even though you can technically order a thing that someone calls a beignet, there is really only one place you can get them, and it’s here.

That’s exactly what a real beignet should look like.

You don’t go to Wyoming for fresh caught lobster. I mean… technically, could you get lobster? But it would be a pretty weird thing to order and I imagine it would only be good if you’ve never actually had one from, say, a seafood restaurant in Boston.

This is the same for beignets. You can get them sometimes, but unless you have no idea what a beignet is or is supposed to taste like, you are not going to want to do that.

Hot, fresh, pillows of goodness. Do not get between me and my bag of beignets.

Any beignet-like substance that I have ordered anywhere else has been, at best, fine. Fine in the way that anything sufficiently drenched in sugar and grease is fine.

Seems like any rock of friend dough with sugar gets called a beignet by heathens who have never been to New Orleans.

But a beignet is not merely fried dough. It is a pillowy balloon of fried dough drenched in a layer of powdered sugar enough to choke the population of a small country if it ever became airborne. You don’t inhale while you’re eating beignets.

You can walk around with all manner of cocktails in open cups but people here draw the line at powdered sugar in their stores.

The more powdered sugar mounded at the bottom of the plate or bag, the better. This is no dusting we’re talking about. I think every order of beignets comes with an entire box of powdered sugar dumped on it. Because you have to scoop up the sugar with every bite you wear.

I wear a lot of sugar.

In fact, wearing sugar is sort of a badge of honor. If you and your pants and the floor in front of you and all of the table and the end of your nose are not covered in sugar then you’re doing it wrong.

Ralph and I have a New Orleans tradition. We go to Café du Monde and order a plate of beignets, and he picks up the first one with the most sugar and feeds it to me. And by “feeds it to me,” I mean “shoves it into my face so it takes a week for me to get the powdered sugar out of my bra.”

Beignet-suspicious. Wait for it…..

The grand event.

The aftermath. The poor woman serving our table came running over with a wet washcloth to help.

There are two establishments that are a must-visit. Café du Monde is one of them. It’s outdoors under a big tent awning and they literally serve nothing but beignets. No crepes. No omelets. Not even an iced tea. You can get coffee, and you can get beignets. Usually there is a band playing outside with their giant tubas and saxophones and buckets for tips. It’s an experience, and it is the only place Ralph is allowed to feed-cover me in beignet.

Beignets and jazz go together like… well, beignets and jazz.

The second place is Café Beignet. It’s more of a café-café with lots of delicious looking pastries, hot and cold drinks and all sorts of breakfast items New Orleans style, with plenty of andouille sausage and Cajun seasoning.

They both make their beignets fresh on premise. This is not a thing you can fake.

A satisfied customer.

We usually like to go to each of these places multiple times, for science. You have to eat at one and then compare it to the other, but before you can really make up your mind about which one is better you have to make sure.

We are marginally convinced this time that Café du Monde is better. They are ever so slightly more pillowy and light, ever so slightly more blanketed in sugar. But we have a few more days here so we can test it again, to be sure.

Even the birds know where the eating’s good. An entire flock will periodically swoop in and make short work of anything on the floor. This is an excellent way to do housekeeping.

The thing about beignets here is that they only ever come in a serving of three. Which means there is no way you’re sharing them. So you have to order one plate each, plus one to go. Six beignets in a day is really the bare minimum.

Between the heat and the sugar coma it’s no wonder everyone here is so chill. And when you’re covered in powdered sugar, which it is impossible not to be, nothing else really matters. You have just achieved nirvana, and can die happy.

Photo: a cute corner of Café Beignet. They have a lovely outdoor courtyard, too, if it wasn’t 106 degrees.