Friday, May 6, 2011

A Vegetarian on the Road

The Grilled Vegetable Plate at Muriel's Jackson Square

I spent this past week in New Orleans, aka, one of the major culinary destinations of the world.  When you think of New Orleans, you think of things like crawfish etoufee, shrimp gumbo, oyster po-boys, red beans and rice with sausage, muffaletta, etc.  None of these dishes are vegetarian, of course.  But, vegetarians aren't limited to salads and side dishes in New Orleans by any means!

Some of my highlights included:

Drago's: Our first stop for lunch off the plane.  Drago's is known for its grilled oysters, but I delighted in a portabello mushroom and spinach po'boy with sweet potato fries.  Whatever the restaurant marinated the mushrooms in is addictive.

Commander's Palace: I was here for a group dinner.  While most of my dining companions feasted on steak and seafood, I had a delightful grilled vegetable platter with portabello mushrooms, white and green asparagus, eggplant and tomatoes.

Oceana Grill: My colleagues and I grabbed dinner here after a long day of events.  Mainly known for its seafood platters, I was able to enjoy an appetizer of fried eggplant, and then a delicious cajun vegetable stir fry with one of the best red sauces I've ever tasted.

Muriel's Jackson Square: I was here for another group dinner.  My colleagues had the choice of shrimp, pork chops or filet.  When the waiter delivered my grilled vegetable platter, the entire table gasped.  It was literally a work of art.  The chef took a portabello mushroom and layered it with grilled vegetables, arugula and goat cheese.  Scattered around it were chunks of grilled beets, eggplant and squash.

In conclusion, here are some tips for vegetarians traveling for business or pleasure:

Plan Ahead: When you're traveling for business, you may not always be able to select the menu or where you're eating.  Check in with event organizers in advance to see if a vegetarian option will be available.  If you give organizers enough notice, they are bound to be able to help you out.  This goes for folks with any special diets as well.  And make sure to say thank you!

Use the Web: If you are going to be able to pick where you eat, do some googling before you go.  You're bound to turn up a few places with vegetarian options that you might not have otherwise found.  Zagat's online database allows you to search cities for various types of cuisines.

Get Advice from Experts: If you're staying in a hotel with a concierge, ask for their help.  Not only will they know the restaurants in the area, but they can help you get reservations at popular destinations.

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