two days in New Orleans naturally meant two days of beignets. our second tasting took us to Cafe Beignet in Royal Street. our guide book claimed there’s a heated debate as to which tourist cafe has the better beignets — this one or the Cafe du Monde we’d visited the day earlier.
it sits deeper into the French Quarter, rather than plopped next to the Mississippi River across from Lafayette Square, and benefits from it. the cafe has a bright but subterranean feel, which contrasted interestingly with the open-air, wall-less atmosphere of the previous day. we opted to take our beignets in the courtyard, shared by the police station next door. (in truth, while the courtyard was clearly designed for use by the cafe customers I wasn’t convinced we weren’t, technically, on city property.) we arrived in the mid-afternoon, meeting up for a cemetery tour schedule to depart from the sidewalk out side the cafe, but opted to work up an appetite on our walking tour before enjoying the slightly-less-powder-covered fried treat. while I can’t speak to the quality of the coffee, the iced tea was quite tasty — and a welcome option. the workers at this establishment seemed much less world-weary and notably more competent; perhaps a question of scale but certainly welcome. leaving this place, I was nigh-tempted to buy a box of their beignet mix; not so at the other place or when I saw offerings in gift shops along Royal Street. I may not have any kitchen appliance designed for frying, but I’m adventurous enough to try it out on my own, so long as I can find a good recipe when inspired.
while many cultures have variations of fried fritters, beignets came to New Orleans from France in the 18th century. (some believe the Ursuline nuns may have brought the recipe, though there isn’t evidence to substantiate the claim.) they became a staple of Creole cuisine, generally sweet though sometimes savory, and in 1986 were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana.