If you've ever been to New Orleans, you know it is a city made for food-lovers. As such, there is no shortage of food-related souvenirs to take home — or vendors happy to sell cheesy, food-related souvenirs to tourists.
My advice? Skip the crawfish-shaped bottle openers and support the city's vibrant network of small businesses and food producers by picking up one of these five locally produced items instead. Some of them are delicious, some of them are heirloom-worthy, and all of them are a special way to bring a little bit of New Orleans home with you.
In the early days of the city, New Orleans was an important hub for coffee distribution in America and developed a coffee culture all its own, which included the French habit of drinking big bowls of café au lait at breakfast as well as the Acadian taste for a blend of coffee and ground chicory, a type of root that was often used as an inexpensive coffee substitute.
Even after coffee became widely available and affordable, the love for a milky café au lait made with strong chicory coffee persisted and the drink can be found at cafes and coffee houses around the city. French Truck Coffee roasts their own chicory coffee blend in small batches, which you can take home and drink hot or iced, with or without a side of beignets.
Where to find it: French Truck Coffee locations (open daily, 1200 Magazine Street & 4536 Dryades Street) and Whole Foods locations (open daily, 5600 Magazine Street & 300 N. Broad Street).
2. Poirier's Cane Syrup, $17 to $34
Every autumn in a small town outside of Lafayette, LA, Charles Poirier harvests sugar cane from his fields, puts it through a century-old mill, and boils small batches of amber-hued cane syrup in a cast iron kettle using his great-great-grandfather's recipe. With its clean, caramel-like flavor and artisanal production process, it's not difficult to see why New Orleans chefs are in love with the stuff, drizzling it over buttery biscuits, shaking it up with bourbon in cocktails, and mixing it into marinades — anywhere you might use maple syrup or honey. Pack a bottle in your suitcase and see what you can come up with at home.
Where to find it: Coutelier NOLA (Monday to Saturday, 8239 Oak Street).
3. Dirty Coast apron, $30
Skip the cheesy T-shirt shops in the French Quarter and instead browse the locally designed and printed apparel at Dirty Coast, home of "cool designs for die-hard New Orleanians." (Are you a die-hard New Orleanian? This shirt will answer that question for you.) In addition to a number of food-themed T-shirts, you'll find aprons instructing you on the four-step oyster shuck, how to make a roux, and — my personal favorite — the kelly-green "Believe in the Trinity" apron, an everyday homage to the powerhouse flavor trio of green bell peppers, onions, and celery.
Where to find it: Dirty Coast locations (open daily, 713 Royal Street & 5631 Magazine Street).
4. Camellia Red Kidney Beans, $2
Produced by a family owned company that has been selling beans in New Orleans since 1923, Camellia Brand beans are a local favorite. Take your red beans and rice to the next — and most authentic — level by picking up of pound of them while you're in town.
Where to find it: Most major grocery store chains in the greater New Orleans area, including Rouse's, Breaux Mart, and Winn Dixie.
5. NOLA BOARDS cutting board, $30 to $255
Handcrafted by a husband and wife team in New Orleans, these one-of-a-kind kitchen boards sport fun, locally themed names like "The Marigny Triangle" and "The Vieux Carré." For a particularly regional souvenir, take home a Sazerac bar board ($70) or the hefty Flag Boy chopping block ($220) made with Louisiana sinker cypress wood. (They can arrange shipping in-store, if your luggage can't take the extra weight.) Bonus: As handcrafted items, these boards are subject to a special tax exemption, so you'll only pay 3 percent sales tax instead of the usual 10 percent.