Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Orleans and the Family

New Orleans is a favorite haunt for members of my family. My Dad became friends with members of the McIlhenny Tobasco clan and spent a weekend at the plantation enjoying a wenderful weekend with the family. It is one of his fond memories that I love to hear. He and my Mom have been there to enjoy good food and music and happy times. My parents gave me and my husband a honeymoon trip to New Orleans that was so fun. We ate at Court of the Two Sisters and had Breakfast at Brennans. We listened to jazz and had Hurricane's at Pat O'Brien's. We had beignet at Morning Call and toured the Jax brewery and the Pontalba mansion on Jackson Square. We even had informal portraits in chalk done by a sidewalk artist - one of many who had booths around the square. The St. Louis church at the top of the square across from the water is amazing. I could spend days Jackson Square and the shops on surrounding blocks. We had an evening at Pete Fountain's bar that was just too fun. Years later I returned for business trips that included jazz, muffalettas and alligator sausage at Chez Paul.

As a young bride and fledgling cook I subscribed to the Time Life Cookbook series. It was a wonderful set of books. One would arrive each month. The book would be dedicated to a specific cuisine and was accompanied by a spiral cookbook. The books were wonderful education about culture and cuisine. I made many of the recipes and would return often to reread the books and the writing. That series really informed me about the diversity of American and world cultures, food, cooking and started me on a relentless journey. One of my aboslute favorites in the series was the cookbook devoted to Acadian and New Orleans culture and cuisine. I cooked many times from the recipes. Not a bad one in the bunch! One of the stories recounted was an evening at Corinne Dunbar's.

On one of Mom and Dad's trips to New Orleans they had dinner at Corinne Dunbar's in the Garden District. Corinne Dunbar was a Creole woman and much loved hostess who opened her home for a unique dining experience that was a beloved tradition for New Orleans residents and tourists who were fortunate enough to Know about Corinne Dunbar's. You either knew or did not know. It was pretty exclusive to New Orleans culture and if you were a tourist you were not likely to know about this tradition. Corinne Dunbar's home was a beautiful traditional 1840'2 New Orleans home and the exprience was like being a guest in a home for a dinner party. Her home was furnished with period antiques and you dined using china and silver pieces from the home's collection. You would make a reservation and arrive at the appointed time. The home was originally on St. Charles street and you only knew it as Corinne Dunbar's because there was a small brass plate on the wall near the entrance. A butler would answer the door and seat you in the parlor for drinks and hors d'oeuvres with the other guests - no more than 12 total. After this course you were invited to come to the table in the dining room. A wonderful New Orleans meal was served. There was no menu. You enjoyed the preset menu created for the evening. It was a meal of many courses of wonderful southern foods. One of the signature dishes most loved was a dish called Oysters Dunbar that included oysters and artichokes. After dinner, the guests were invited back to the parlor for coffee and a goute'. A goute' is what is referred to as a sweet taste. Just a little something served with coffee. I remember my father's amazement as he described this. We expect dessert after such a wonderful meal. It would be a dessert as cake or pie or some elegant creation. It would fit with the home wouldn't it. He recounted his surprise as he was served coffee and small squares of peanut butter fudge! Now it was peanut butter fudge but it was creamy, delicious peanut butter fudge. So New Orleans where confections are an integral part of the cuisine and culture. Corinne Dunbar's was sold in 1956 and was moved from St. Charles street to another location where it continued for a time until it was sold again and the business closed. Those who loved Corinne Dunbar's said it was never the same after it was sold for the second time. Thank fully the happy times live on in memories that still are cherished and taste wonderful though the place is gone.


  1. Oddly, the cookbook I use for my peanut butter cookies is the first cookbook I ever an elementary school girl! Easy and good. I will admit I never knew of all this culinery talent in your family when we were at the Berg. With each blog, I am impressed.

  2. I AGREE. this are impressive stories. i can almost taste everything to describe.

    what happened to the recipe this time? did we forget?