Can you describe New Orleans in a word or two? It’s impossible. The city has more identities, more nicknames than any other place….The Big Easy, Crescent City, The City That Care Forgot. NOLA, N’Awlins. Say, “Throw me something, mister” or “Laissez les bons temps rouler” and we immediately know what you’re talking about.
The city’s not normal…statistically-speaking, I mean.
New Orleans gives us Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, jazz, beignets and riverboats. It’s voodoo, the Caribbean, France and Spain. But it’s also Southern hospitality, magnolias and Carnival balls. It’s the seediest and the most genteel. The smelliest and the sweetest.
A complicated, complex city, it offers a 4-D, 5 sense experience at both ends of the bell curve. The drinks start earlier and the bands play later. The porches are deeper, air softer, seafood fresher and the history richer than anywhere else. (Yeah, Boston, I’ll stand by that statement.) Even their hurricanes -both drinks and weather- are epic. It’s a city of extremes.
To me, the epicenter of New Orleans runs from the Garden District up to River Bend. It’s the rattle of the street car, white-columned mansions on St. Charles, and broken sidewalks. It’s live oaks, Rex flags and overgrown vines -mysterious and beautiful, the whole place a little old, rundown and in need of a coat of paint.
And it always comes back to the food. As Jessalyn says when we visit, “Let’s layer in more meals.” Which is the perfect reason to stop by Camellia Grill! Enjoy an old-fashioned grilled burger or omelette, maybe a chocolate freeze, but absolutely, definitely order a slice of warm pecan pie a la mode.
Wednesday evening we got the last three seats at the counter and sat down. “G’me some love,” the waiter grinned and put his hand over the counter for a fist bump.
We looked at each in surprise, realizing it was part performance, part schtick, part tradition and said with an undertone of fake-ness, But the waiter also welcomed us with genuine good humor, honesty… and he made us smile. Just like New Orleans.
Camellia Grill’s pecan pie has been our “go to” recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas since we found it in Southern Living decades ago. Here Lizzy updated the pie and added chocolate. Of course, it’s best served just like at Camellia Grill- warm with a scoop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla on top:
- 4 ounces bittersweet, dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup packed, dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup light corn syrup
- 1½ cups pecan pieces
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Roll out dough on floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1 inch; fold under and crimp decoratively. Set aside.
- Stir chocolate and butter in saucepan over low heat until melted. Cool slightly.
- Whisk brown sugar, eggs and salt in large bowl to blend. Whisk in corn syrup and chocolate mixture.
- Sprinkle pecans over unbaked crust. Pour filling over pecans. Bake until crust is golden and filling is puffed, about 55 minutes.
- Cool until just warm before serving.