Beignets at Café du Monde | Credit: Matt Kettmann

This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on January 20, 2023. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at

As my son pondered whether the Nova Scotian oysters were more briny than those from Alabama, my daughter tucked into a creamy bowl of crab-fat agnolotti, and my wife slurped up the Basque cider-spiked broth of the mussels Normande, I took a moment to lean back in my seat and enjoy a bit of pride in the scene. It was our first night out in New Orleans, where we’d taken the kids for their spring break, and it finally dawned on me that this was really my family’s first food-focused vacation, in which eating out topped our to-do list.

Kettmann family photo shoot at Cochon (left) and jazz brunch at Broussard’s | Credit: Matt Kettmann

In an era where pickiness reigns supreme in so many households, we had somehow employed the right parenting strategies — and no doubt benefited from ample dumb luck — to guide our kids into lives of culinary curiosity. This was just the first meal of our trip, at Le Chat Noir in the Warehouse District, just a few blocks from our room in the Higgins Hotel. But the days that followed would be consumed by consumption, whose caloric impacts we mostly offset, thankfully, by miles and miles of walking each day through the city’s culture-soaked neighborhoods.

I’ll be writing a travel feature that covers the blow-by-blow of our mission, including non-food things like Vue Orleans, a ghost tour, and Audubon Park. But I’ll keep this newsletter focused on a cheat sheet of edible highlights, in order of how we found them:

  • The oyster sampler at Le Chat Noir, which may have the widest array of oysters anywhere in the country. Also a killer soundtrack of ’90s hip-hop, Wu Tang to De La Soul to The Roots, which matches well to the happy flow of the open, fiery kitchen.  
  • Beignets at Café du Monde (of course). Pro tip: Take a seat and be served by the hustling waiters rather than wait in line. It took the same amount of time, and you can scope the scene that way.
  • You can’t really go wrong with anything on the Pêche Seafood Grill menu. We ordered two servings of crawfish noodles in kimchi butter, though most unique was the catfish swimming in a pickled greens broth. The grapefruit cocktail matched my shirt.
  • The backyard vibe at Marjie’s Grill would lure me in on a weekly basis. Their lemongrass crab Caesar, spring som tam salad, and fried catfish with “zippy” ranch went great with the casual yet complex cocktails.
  • The one place atop my list that we failed to hit was retro sandwich superstar Turkey and the Wolf, but we may have done one better by prioritizing its sister breakfast restaurant, Molly’s Rise & Shine. The ’80s decor is memory-stoking extensive, and the fast food–esque sandwiches satisfy on all fronts. Throw in a Southeast Asian–leaning puffed rice salad and a celery soda and start your day off right.
  • A long day of walking finished at Boil Seafood House, but we were two hours early. Instead, we took in some nearby nourishment at The Rum House Caribbean Taqueria, and then made the executive decision to hit up pork specialist Cochon for our second lunch of the day. I got the kids to crunch down some cracklings, and I checked the gumbo box with a savory rendition, but the winners were the chili butter oysters. Oh, and that my daughter’s seat had previously been occupied just minutes before by Nicholas Cage.    
  • Our most classic NOLA dining experience was the jazz brunch at Broussard’s, where I washed down a Ramos gin fizz with bottomless mimosas and Calvados. We started on deviled eggs, oysters Broussard, and turtle soup before my wife crushed her blackened redfish, then ate most of the gruyère-covered bread atop my cochon de lait–stuffed croque monsieur.  
  • Our final dinner was at Compère Lapin, though we were all starting to overdose a bit on rich food at that point. We stayed on the small menu, running through more oysters and ceviche and pork belly before throwing in the towel. I could barely eat anything on our last morning in town.
Kimchi crawfish noodles (left) and Matt with matching cocktail at Pêche | Credit: Matt Kettmann

What would I advise to parents looking to instill a similar fondness for all sorts of foods in their children? I don’t really know what exactly worked for us, as kids are unpredictable little monsters. But using all sorts of fresh ingredients at home, eating out at various places from a young age, and just being excited in general about what and how we eat are strategies that seemed to benefit us.

You can check out the Instagram highlights of our trip here, and stay tuned for a story that includes visits to numerous museums and other tourism highlights.  

NOLA Crawfish in Carpinteria

Little Dom’s Crawfish Boil | Credit: Courtesy

You needn’t copy my itinerary or even hop on a plane to experience New Orleans this month.

Instead, head to Little Dom’s Seafood in Carpinteria, where Chef Brandon Boudet — a NOLA native — is hosting two Crawfish Boil Saturdays on April 15 and 22, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. He’s celebrating “mudbug season” by selling crawfish by the pound and a range of other classics, like po’ boys, gumbo, and snowballs, and serving them atop newspaper-lined picnic tables.

Little Dom’s is located at 686 Linden Avenue in downtown Carp. Call (805) 749-7400 or see for more info.

Wine Week Is Coming

Credit: Courtesy

Following in the footsteps of multiple years of successful Burger Week and Burrito Week promotions, the Independent is hosting our inaugural Wine Week from April 27 to May 3, when participating tasting rooms, restaurants, and bars will be pouring selected glasses of wine for just $10.

More than 20 establishments are participating in the week, which is being sponsored by Visit Santa Ynez Valley, and we’ll be unveiling the entire lineup as the cover story of our April 27 issue.

To add an educational angle to the affair, we’ve partnered with the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance to host a couple of panels during the group’s Saunters & Sips event at the Presidio on April 29, 2:30-5:30 p.m. I’ll be moderating casual chats with a handful of vintners inside the chapel that afternoon to discuss chardonnay and sparkling wine, while everyone else gorges on pinot noir in the sunshine outside. The panels are a free bonus for attendees.

Click here for info and the $129 tickets.

From Our Table

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

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