Borrowing from the French who “faire le marché,” in New Orleans, we “make” groceries. Most people here go to several stores to complete their shopping list, loving something particular from one store or another — it’s just the way things are done. As a place with its own unique flavor and cuisine, Louisiana has beaucoup (said: “boo-coo”) products to help everyone cook, eat, and drink like a native.
Grab a basket, re-usable grocery bag, or just pile your arms full with foodstuffs from local grocers like Breaux Mart, Langenstein’s, Zappardo’s, and Rouses, et. al; corner stores (think Verti Mart); gourmet markets (St. Roch Market, St. James Cheese Co.); farmers markets like Hollygrove and Crescent City Farmers Market; or hybrid market-grocery (Dryades Public Market, Poeyfarre Market, etc.), for all that’s deliciously Louisiana.
MakinG Groceries: Beloved NOLA Foodstuffs (and where to find them)
So many brands, so many choices – from Dirty Rice to Jambalaya, Red Beans, Chili, Gumbo, Beignets and King cake.
- Look for Zatarain’s, Camellia, Tony Chachere’s, Mam Papaul’s, or really, anything “made in Louisiana.” They’re all fun and worth trying.
- Cafe du Monde offers beignet mix at local grocers for your own confectioner’s sugar-coated facsimile.
Flour and fat defines roux, but it’s all in the cooking – low fire and constant stirring — for blonde, peanut butter or dark, chocolate-colored roux and all have different applications. Or, skip the tutorials and go right to the roux.
- Buy it pre-made in jars to give stews, gumbos, or even peas-in-a-gravy that certain “je ne sais quoi.”
Pralines and Candies
Is it dessert or just a snack? Decide by trying them all.
- Pick up Aunt Sally’s pralines at grocery stores throughout the city — or order them online for a taste of New Orleans no matter where you live. Choose the original Creole pralines or opt for creamy, chewy, chocolate, Bananas Foster, and café au lait varieties.
- Satisfy a sweet tooth with packaged pralines from Southern Candymakers (note: they’re one of the few who make their pralines without corn syrup for those with food allergies).
- Try the silky goat milk “cajeta” (caramel sauce) from WesMar Farms.
- Don’t miss the big-as-your-head chocolate and caramel-covered apples by Lolli’s Chocolates. Lolli’s caramels are also creamy dreamy.
We got hot sauce in our bag. Swag.
- Always start with the classics like Crystal, Tabasco, and Louisiana hot sauces.
- Work your way toward the wild, sweet, fiery, and inappropriately named: there is a hot sauce to spice up any dish or cocktail.
- For those of you who like to mix it up when it comes to your sauces, try the Cochon Sweet Potato Habanero Sauce.
From powdered mixes for famous drinks to local spirits and bitters, chic cocktail components that also have culinary applications are weighing down store shelves.
- Recreate Pat O’ Brien’s famous Hurricane with a foolhardy mix.
- Seek out local spirits like Sazerac Rye, Bayou Rum, and Orzya Vodka.
- Bitters like locally beloved Peychaud’s is joined by a stunning selection of modern bitters, tonics, and shrubs. Look for Cocktail & Sons, Bittermen’s, or El Guapo bitters.
Beans and Rice
Recreating scratch-made red beans and rice anyplace outside Louisiana is a Herculean task. Some suggest the magic is in the water. Fear not, making any day Monday in New Orleans can be done with the right ingredients.
- You can’t go wrong with Camellia Brand or Blue Runner dry beans.
- Heat a can of creamy, perfectly seasoned Blue Runner beans (red or white).
- Subtly popcorn-scented or floral, everyone has a favorite. Look for Cajun Country, Jazzmen, Ellis Stansel, and Supreme, to name a few.
While the current trend for single origin, light-roasted coffee can be found here, the flavor profile for Louisiana coffee is hot, strong, super-dark, and yes, with chicory.
- Cans and bags of Café du Monde, Mello Joy, Community, French Market, Orleans Coffee, etc., pack store shelves – both with and without chicory.
- Joining the coffee grande dames is a new crop of local roasters making quite a splash. Look for Congregation, Mojo, River Road, Reve, French Truck… the cup runneth over.
Spices and Seasonings
Yet another category that is jam-packed with options to spice up life — and a dish.
- River Road seasoning bags hang from racks, and Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasonings cover store shelves.
- You’ll also find a broad range of spices and seasonings that includes options from Tony Chachere’s, Emeril’s, Slap Ya Mama, and Zatarain’s seafood boil seasoning — it’s available in both dry and liquid forms.
Chips and Snacks
Without bias (*wink) Louisiana excels in this category.
- Elmer’s Chee Wees are the cheese curl addict mothership.
- Zapp’s potato chips are dark-fried, curled, kettle-style chips of dreams. In flavors that span from the norm (regular) to the wild (Drago’s Charbroiled Oyster-inspired) with splashes of Creole (Tomato) and Cajun (Crawtators), the bonus is that Zapp’s are gluten free.
- Hola Nola corn chips and tortillas are great.
- Love, Cookie (from the Baker Maid folks) have big fans – one local editor/writer (ahem, Sara Watson) can’t be trusted around a bag of the Dark Chocolate Orange flavor.
New Orleans is known also for breads: this, too, is a category filled with options.
- Of course, poor boy/po-boy (not getting into that argument, thank you) bread, the local French bread, is a must. Easy finds include loaves of Leidenheimer, Alois J Binder, John Gendusa, and Reising’s.
- Many stores also stash round, sesame seed-topped muffuletta loaves.
- Other bakeries of note with some representation at the grocery stores are WildFlour (from chef Susan Spicer), Gracious Bakery, and Bellegarde Bakery.
- Unfortunately, those thin-crusted, Vietnamese-style French bread pistolettes have not yet found their way to easy-to-get-to stores.
Finishing on a sweet note.
- To make “gateau de sirop” requires “sirop” — rich, delicious cane syrup from Steen’s, Poirier’s, or Three Brothers Farm.
- As for honey, it’s a sticky matter: there are a huge number of local honeys and all have their devoted hive. Some to keep eyes out for include Bocage, Bernard’s Acadiana, Pontchatoula’s Best, and Hummer and Son.