Back in March I got a chance to take a business trip to New Orleans. Months before I had started making lists, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see, but mostly the lists contained things I wanted to eat. The original Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter was very high at the top of a mighty long list.
The first night in New Orleans I headed straight there. I had waited months to try a beignet and I wasn’t about to wait any longer. I had already endured months of anticipation – to build it up in my head to more than it could ever hope to be – months to ruin it with overly high expectations. Looking back it was like I was trying to ruin it before I even had the chance to experience it. How could it possibly live up to all that? Except it lived up to everything I could possibly anticipate and more. The fact that they had coffee was just an added side benefit.
Cafe Du Monde, even at 10 o’clock at night, did not disappoint. I take that back, especially at 10 o’clock at night, Cafe Du Monde did not disappoint. I was immediately charmed by the bustle, the covered outdoor seating, the striped green and white awnings, the cafe chairs, the heavy dusting of powered sugar over nearly every flat surface, the clink of the plates, the hustle of the servers, their diverse ages, and the the variety of the crowd taking it all in.
I ordered a plate of beignets to share and a water. The coffee would have to wait for another day since it was closing in on midnight and caffeine and I, that late at night, decidedly do not mix. But as soon as the beignets arrived I immediately regretted my choice to share. I wanted them all to myself. Airy fried dough covered in sweet powered sugar. I immediately turned to my companions and declared that I would be coming back every day until we left town, and that’s exactly what I did.
A couple days into my seven days in town, I ordered an iced coffee. It was bitter. That was to be expected. After all they add chicory to the coffee here. I added some sugar and it tasted fine. However no better than simply buying a can of Cafe Du Monde coffee and making it at home. But, for me, experiencing Cafe Du Monde wasn’t really about the coffee. It was about the place, the history, the sights and sounds.
My last day in New Orleans I made one last trip to Cafe Du Monde. I bought two orders of beignets to bring home with me, back to Seattle. In hindsight I realize how silly this was. Like trying to catch fireflies in a jar. You can’t box up the magic and simply bring it home with you, and passing along day old beignets to an innocent bystander would only take away from the authentic and delicious melt in your mouth delightfulness of experiencing Cafe Du Monde in person.
By the time I stepped off the plane the beignets has toughened and the powdered sugar had all but entirely fallen off. It’s not just that they didn’t taste as good. It’s that tasting them all chewy and unsweetened had in some small part taken away from the magical memory of Cafe Du Monde’s previous perfection. And that’s when I realized it’s better to simply enjoy it while you’re there, and vow to return someday soon. Which is exactly what I plan on doing. Soon. Very soon.