A painting in the shop reads, “It was an ordinary day until…I had coffee with Jesus at The Café de Monde.”
Every year my husband and I attend New Orleans Mardi Gras and the one place I absolutely must visit is Café du Monde. Then, my day becomes extraordinary, as I indulge on beignets and café au lait at the original French Market coffee stand.
A beignet, pronounced ben-YAY, is a square piece of dough, fried like a doughnut in cottonseed oil. Vast amounts of powdered sugar are then sprinkled on top. Bet you can’t eat one without becoming white-washed?
The official recipe was brought to
A small European size cup of French coffee, café au lait, is usually ordered along with beignets. The strong dark blend, similar to espresso, is laden with chicory and mixed half and half with hot milk. This drink makes a heavenly compliment to the sweetness of the pastry. A serving, black or with milk, is also priced at $2.00.
I was surprised to learn that chicory comes from the root of the endive plant, which is a colorless type of lettuce. The root is roasted and ground, then added to the brew. During the Civil War when coffee was scarce, the French found the addition of chicory boosted the drink’s flavor.
At Café du Monde, waiters and waitresses carry trays stacked precariously high. They pay the cashier for the order before bringing it to the table. Patrons must reimburse the staff, of course, adding a tip. Everything is strictly cash.
Cafe du Monde, established in 1942, was one of the first restaurants to re-open following Katrina and kept the Nawlins spirit alive during those hellish days. Today, thousands of tourists as well as celebrities and ordinary citizens occupy their stools. The no-frills hot spot is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Christmas day.
I’ve tried to duplicate beignets at home using the Café du Monde packaged mix, but they never seem as light. I haven’t used cottonseed oil, but when I do, I’ll post an update on this site.
Why not order a box and try them yourself? I’d love to know your results.