Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

"New Orleans Cookery"

While Marnina and I were in New Orleans this past week, we came to the conclusion that the people in New Orleans know how to produce incredibly unique and tasty food.  And no, we did not come to this conclusion while in a drunken stupor on Bourbon Street. Their food is world-renowned for its distinctive qualities, which include Creole, Cajun, French, and other cuisines’ influences.  We had some memorable meals at even more memorable locations – beignets at Café du Monde, redfish croquettes at one of the top-rated seafood restaurants in the French Quarter…..and eggs, grits, and homemade biscuits that tasted like it came straight out of my grandmother’s kitchen (the owner even called me ‘sweetheart’). 

New Orleans is mostly known for their seafood (mainly shrimp, oyster, catfish, crawfish, and alligator…yes, alligator.), as well as their Po’ Boys, gumbo, jambalaya, and other Creole dishes.  Unfortunately, Marnina and I were unable to experiment with 95% of the dishes because we keep Kosher, not to mention the fact that many of the dishes are not Crohn’s friendly.  Many dishes are battered and deeply fried, and high-fiber foods such as beans are prevalent in the New Orleans cuisine (beans and rice appeared on almost every menu).  The high-fat content of the fried foods are not suitable for those with Crohn’s, and the ample usage of sausage, ham, and other cured meats are laced with fat, preservatives, and other additives that are not conducive for a Crohn’s diet.  One of the worst offenders is the popular muffaleta, which is a submarine sandwich that has layers of capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham, and provolone cheese.

The Kosher issue was definitely the bigger problem because the only non-bottom feeder fish that could be found in a New Orleans restaurant was redfish or tuna.  We reluctantly watched people dine on delicious looking dishes that smelled divine.  We also often had to gawk at the different ways that they prepared their seafood – deeply fried, pan fried and thrown into a sandwich, stewed into a jambalaya, or even tossed with pasta….the possibilities seemed endless!

One of the most memorable meals was at Café Pontalba, a French Quarter open-air café that is part of the oldest apartment complex in the U.S.   For those interested in looking at a menu of a typical New Orleans restaurant, we included it below.  We ordered pretty much the only dishes that we could eat – blackened tuna with a side of green beans and Cajun-mashed potatoes (we picked out the potato skins because they are high fiber), and vegetarian pasta.  The stars of the show were the mashed potatoes, which were delicately mashed baby potatoes with a Cajun seasoning, and the vegetarian pasta, which came with a Cajun-spiced alfredo sauce.

While it may sound like all we did was tour and eat in New Orleans, we also fit in a 4.5 mile run around the city which we completed as part of our mission to SKEWER IBD and run a half marathon with Team Challenge.  The New Orleans humidity and pervasive cigarette smell on the streets was not so conducive to running, but we stuck to our running schedule and made it through.  We are going to run until we make it to the finish line on June 4! We have raised almost $5,000 and we are currently in second place on our team. Please support us to help us reach first place!!! Click here, to donate!

Despite our limitations, we feel like we were able to successfully sample New Orleans’ unique cuisine.  While we cannot say that we have tasted jambalaya or turtle soup, we soaked up the many flavors of the city and kept our guts happy and healthy while doing so! We even managed to mostly avoid fried food. Not many people can say that they did not finish their order of Beignets.  What can I say? We broke the norm!

If you are traveling to a city with a unique cuisine, here are some tips to consider if you have a limited diet.

  1. If you are at all unsure of a dish you are looking to order, ask questions! We found that the New Orleans natives (and waiters) are INCREDIBLY friendly. While their food may be full of IBD-unfriendly food, they will accommodate your needs. You never know what kinds of animals or seasonings or sauces may end up in your food if you don’t ask. Remember that restaurants are in the business to please their customers: they are often amenable to substituting Crohn’s-unfriendly foods for something more Crohn’s-friendly.
  2. Let the waiters know your dietary restrictions.  Marnina would just say she was allergic to certain foods (pork, beans, etc.) if she had any inkling that the food she ordered might come with something she does not eat.
  3. Identify some kind of grocery store of drug store that you know has food and medication options for you. For example, upon arriving Marnina and I identified a food mart and CVS pharmacy within walking distance where we knew we could find apples, bananas, cereal, yogurt and other medications if we needed them. Knowing that we had these stores as a backup in the event that we couldn’t find alternate eating options was comforting.
  4. Look at menus online instead of walking the entire city on a hunt to find a menu that suits you.  We suggest this technique – before heading out for a meal, look online for one or two restaurants that are close to you that have a dish you can eat, and then you will always have a fall back option in case you do not find a restaurant while walking through a city.  We identified 3-4 restaurants before even arriving in the city so that we had numerous options to fall back on.

Pictures and sample New Orleans menu below:

The closest we got to crawfish!

Creole Alfredo Pasta

Blackened tuna, cajun-spiced potatoes, and green beans

Picturesque scenery

Dining in the Garden District - a historic collection of well-preserved mansions

Redfish Po' Boy

Appetizers

Barbeque Shrimp
$8.95
Crab Cake
$7.95
Blackened Ribs
$7.95
Alligator
fried – $8.95 | blackened – $9.95
Spicy Boiled Shrimp in the shell (1/2 lb.)
$9.95
Calamari
$7.95
Cajun Popcorn Shrimp
$7.95
Crabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms
$7.95
Crawfish Pie
$7.95

Soups

Creole Gumbo
cup $5.95 | bowl $7.50

Salads

All Caesar salads are served with pecans.

Caesar Salad
$7.95
Fried Crawfish Caesar
$10.95
Chicken Caesar Salad (Grilled or Fried)
$10.95
Fried Oyster Caesar
$11.95
Fried Shrimp Caesar
$10.95
Blackened Tuna Caesar
$14.95
Blackened Alligator Caesar
$14.95

House Specials

Cajun Combination
Red beans and rice with smoked sausage, jambalaya and a cup of gumbo
$13.95
Creole Red Beans And Rice
A New Orleans tradition. With just the right amount of seasoning, served with rice and smoked sausage.
$9.95
Jambalaya
$10.95
Shrimp Creole
$10.95
Shrimp Etouffee
$11.95
Crawfish Etouffee
$12.95
Crawfish Combination
Crawfish Pie, Crawfish Caesar Salad, and Crawfish Etouffee
$18.95

Fried Seafood

Served with golden brown french fries

Oyster Platter
dipped in our special batter and served with tartar sauce
$14.95
Fish Platter
corn four breaded – served with tartar sauce
$13.95
Shrimp Platter
a crisp golden catch served with a cocktail sauce
$14.95
Shrimp & Oyster Platter
a mound of crisp Louisiana shrimp and oysters, served with cocktail and tartar sauce
$16.95
Seafood Platter
a selection of friend fish, shrimp, oysters, and crab cake
$19.95

Po-Boys

Our seafood sandwiches are fried with a seasoned batter and served on heated french bread; brushed with melted butter and golden brown french fries.

Fish
$9.95
Oyster
$10.95
Shrimp
$10.95
Crawfish
$10.95
Ham
Deli-sliced ham stacked on French Bread
$7.95
Combination Ham & Swiss
A robust portion of ham topped with Swiss cheese
$8.95
Hot Roast Beef
Sliced thin with a lot of gravy
$9.95
Crawfish Smoked Sausage
$8.95

Burgers

Served on a Bun with lettuce, tomato and kosher pickle with golden brown french fries.

Hamburger (1/2 lb.)
$7.95
Cheddar Burger (1/2 lb.)
$8.95
Grilled Chicken Breast (grilled or fried)
$7.95

Child’s Menu

Served with fries.

Fried Chicken Fingers
$7.95
Fried Popcorn Shrimp
$7.95
Fried Fish Nuggets
$7.95

Butcher Block

New York Strip 14oz.
Served with french fries, vegetable.
$20.95
Blackened New York Strip 14oz. 
Served with french fries, vegetable.
$21.95
Blackened Chicken Breast 
Served with french fries, vegetable.
$12.95
Blackened Ribs 
Slow cooked with blackened seasoning, served w/french fries
$17.95

From The Grill

served with garlic mashed potatoes or golded brown french fries, vegetable

Grilled Chicken Breast
$11.95
Blackened Grilled Shrimp 
$16.95
Grilled Fish Of The Day
$16.95
Blackened Tuna 
$16.95

New Orleans Specialties

served with garlic mashed potatoes or french fries, vegetable

Blackened Fish Napoleon
Fish of the day, blackened & topped with a crawfish sauce
$19.95
Catfish Pecan
Sauteed filet of catfish topped with roasted pecan and tangy lemon butter sauce
$18.95
Fish Pontalba
Grilled fish of the day topped with artichokes and mushrooms with a tangy lemon butter sauce.
$19.95
Barbeque Shrimp
Jumbo Gulf Shrimp cooked in our own secret peppery sauce.
$16.95
Crab Cakes 
Louisiana crabmeat with onion, peppers & creole seasoning topped with a homemade remoulade.
$15.95

Pasta

Ragin Cajun Pasta
Gulf Shrimp, andouille sausage, and crawfish tails simmered in a spicy cream sauce; taused with fettucine.
$15.95
Pasta Jambalaya
Country smoked Andouille sausage and Gulf Shrimp stewed with ripe tomatoes and Creole spices, tossed with fettucine.
$15.95
Shrimp Or Crawfish Fetticuni 
Gulf Shrimp or Crawfish Tails sauteed with garlic, mushrooms, and green onions blended with creole spices and alfredo sauce, tossed with fettucine.
$15.95
Vegetarian Pasta
Garden fresh vegetables sauteed in your choice creole, alfredo, or bordelaise sauce; tossed with fetticine.
$14.95

Desserts

Homemade Bread Pudding
$5.50
Key Lime Pie
$5.50
Pecan Pie
$5.50

Source: http://www.neworleansrestaurants.com/cafe_pontalba/

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