Side Dish: Cookbook highlights casual fare _lowres


Like many New Orleans natives, food writer Jyl Benson is passionate about her hometown’s cuisine. She has used her knowledge about the city’s favorite restaurants to produce a charming cookbook that both locals and tourists will want to add to their kitchen libraries.

The book’s title, “Fun, Funky and Fabulous: New Orleans’ Casual Restaurant Recipes,” is a perfect description for the cookbook. It is illustrated with colorful, whimsical art by Simon Hardeveld (Simon of New Orleans) and great food photographs by Sam Hanna, and offers plenty of fun facts about the featured restaurants.

Best of all, it has easy-to-make recipes from affordable neighborhood eateries in the greater New Orleans area. Its recipes are divided into four categories: Start; Land & Air; Sea; and Sweet. They open with Andouille Tots With Ranch Dipping Sauce from chef Michael Nirenberg of Fulton Alley and end with Molten Chocolate Cake With Chicory Coffee Sauce and Sweet Cashew Cream (Vegan) from chef Anne Churchill of Bhava. In between are such recipes as chicken fricassee with grits and braised collards from chefs Keith and Nealy Frentz of Lola in Covington, Miss Linda’s Original New Orleans Ya-Ka-Mein, and Bananas Foster French Toast from Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar.

Her cookbook makes a good guide to New Orleans’ current casual dining scene. Benson has written food stories for The Advocate/The New Orleans Advocate and a recipe in the book has appeared previously in the newspaper.

Benson and Hanna will be signing copies of the cookbook from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., New Orleans. They will be joined by Nirenberg who will prepare the andouille tots pictured on the book’s cover.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is