Enough with these museums about the history of New Orleans, interesting though it may be, you may be saying. What about the food? And the booze? Your cries have been heard. Local restaurateur Dickie Brennan, Liz Williams, and a host of other committed NOLA foodies have opened the South's first food-and-beverage museum. It's an impressive assemblage of Southern food and drink history, from farmers to cooks and all between, represented by all kinds of goodies. The location in the Riverwalk Marketplace (at the far west end -- be prepared for a potentially long walk to get there) offers stunning panoramic views of the Mississippi River -- a most fitting backdrop given the river's role in the evolution of Southern food.
The main hall houses a comprehensive collection of artifacts illustrating how different ethnic groups (it's not just the usual French, Spanish, and African suspects, but also Germans, Italians, and Irish), geography, and time have contributed to the local cuisine. Exhibits will rotate, but SOFAB opened with one that explored the various aspects of White House culinaria through photos, menus, and tableware. White House customs were exposed for all to see, even offering a sneak peek into the refrigerator of the official capital kitchens. Another room housed the provocative photography of noted Cuban-American artist Jorge Otero. In addition to the expected museum fare, free samples of local chicory-roasted coffee and sweet tea were available to patrons expected to cast a vote for "people's choice." As if your appetite wasn't whetted enough, get a load of those delicious smells from the food court -- a little l'eau de red beans 'n' rice and crawfish étouffée adds to the atmosphere.
Included in your admission fee is a museum within the food museum -- the Museum of the American Cocktail. It's a fascinating walk through 200 years of cocktail history and New Orleans's own vital role in same. (So the Sazerac may not have been the first cocktail after all. It was one of the first!) Curator Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh is passionate about his impressive collection and offers an original and lively glimpse into the colorful history of our favorite "poison." Historical artifacts include bottles from defunct products, menus, and photos with displays on subjects such as Prohibition and what it did to the cocktail. (We love the bottles of commercially sold gin, rye, and bourbon flavoring that one would put into whatever rot gut you produced at home to make it palatable.) Like with the main SOFAB, not only will exhibits rotate, but there will be regular seminars, demonstrations, and tastings.
Further, SOFAB has collaborated with existing institutions like Tulane University to collect and archive various items that are available for research purposes, while a cookbook library is in the works. If that weren't enough, Chef Emeril Lagasse offers a culinary camp for children during the summer months. And do hit the gift shop on your way out; it contains an impressive number of cookbooks and cutting-edge kitchen and beverage ware.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010