Monday, March 31, 2008

A Critique of a Restaurant Critic

We, the undersigned chefs of the greater New Orleans Area, have taken out this full page ad on Blackened Out to deride Tom Fitzmorris's Food Show on WSMB Radio. We find a list of grievances which we can no longer withhold from the public eye.

Issue #1: For over 20 years, Mr. Fitzmorris has assailed the eardrums of the local populace with his whiny voice. "It sounds like he is gargling frogs who have been smoking for over 50 years and have one of those voice box things. Yeah, voice boxed heavy smoking frogs being gargled, that is Tom's voice," said Chef John Besh.

"I have heard it said before that Mr. Fitzmorris has a 'face for radio' but I think a more apt description is that he has a voice for a typewriter," said Adolfo Garcia.

Be it resolved, Mr. Fitzmorris is required to take voice lessons from the ghost of Buddy D in order to make locals understand what he is saying.

Issue #2: Undercover research has revealed that Mr. Fitzmorris routinely chows down on plebian foodstuff such as Corndogs, Icees, and Krispy Kremes. How can a food critic in a city known for its diverse and unique foodstuffs deliver competent critiques of such food if his favorite meal is those rectangular sandwiches one picks up at Time-Saver?

For years, Mr. Fitzmorris has used his Dining Diary to cajole New Orleanians into trying foods he has never eaten. It is time to stop the lies, Tom. A Nation that holds dear the Freedom of the Press requires the Press to abide by its obligation to tell the truth.

"I tried to make a recipe from his 'New Orleans Cookbook' unfortunately Whole Foods did not stock Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, Vienna Sausages, and Saltines to make Fitz's Quick Sausage and Chicken Gumbo with Saltine croûtons. So instead I made a delicate poached side of Salmon," lambasted Donald Link.

Be it resolved, Mr. Fitzmorris's Daily Dining Diary on will require photo documentation of any meals eaten. No longer will Fitz be able to call his meal of Doritos and Circus Peanuts as a "delightful blend of caramel ice cream with a sea salt demi-glace."

Issue #3: Mr. Fitzmorris constantly uses his bully pulpit to deride, dismiss, and destroy diners who choose to eat sans tie and jacket. Yet, have you ever seen how this guy dresses? Tabasco ties, Madras blazers, and blue denim button downs may have been fashionable at one time, but that was also before we discovered Rayon was flammable.

"Those in glass houses should not throw stones, Tom," chided Kevin Vizard, "and your fashion choices reveal a man living in an incredibly fragile abode."

Be it resolved, Mr. Fitzmorris may no longer deride diners for their choice of attire during dinner unless he gets a guest judging spot on Project Runway.

We write this on behalf of the citizenry of New Orleans who are crying out to critique you.


The Chefs, Cooks, Waiters, Bussers, Managers, Sommeliers, and Diners of New Orleans

Galatoire's To Unveil New Service Initiative

In a stunning move yesterday, Melvin Rodrigue, general manager of Galatoire's, revealed the new direction the centuries old eatery will take.

"We recently returned from a convention of the National Association of Multi-Branch Restaurants held in Baton Rouge. While we were there we realized we had a lot to learn from some of the chain restaurants," Rodrigue stated.

"The chains do a good job of insuring top notch customer service and creating repeat clients. That is something Galatoire's has always hoped to be able to do," Rodrigue added before using a Power Point presentation to illustrate the changes to be made.

First, Galatoire's will invest $250,000 in installing and purchasing a state of the art paging system. "Many chains do not take reservations and they use these nifty little pagers to alert their clients when their table is ready. We have never taken reservations for downstairs, I really can't believe it took us this long to begin using these," said David Gooch.

The RestAlert 345-BVX will be roughly the size of a brick and will have a bead chain. This will allow the waiting person to wear the pager around the neck. Patrons will be alerted when their table is ready by a "colorful light show" and a "cheerful version of Tea for Two" blared out of the RestAlert's powerful marine speakers.

One great benefit of installing the paging system will be that it will allow patrons to sit at the Old Absinthe House or Rick's Cabaret while waiting for their table, instead of having to awkwardly stand in the anteroom or climb stairs to the upstairs bar.

Secondly, Galatoire's will begin "Bourbon Street Curb Service." "We loved that the guys from Chilis have this thing where a person can call in an order, pull up, and a team member runs out to deliver your food...How great is that?" glowed Rodrigue.

Galatoire's will also institute a 3 course, 15 minute time limited business lunch. "We lose too many customers because the oilmen, lawyers, and ladies on luncheon take 4 hours to eat and drink," said Gooch, "we have tables to turn."

The hope is that the move will triple their revenue stream by increasing the amount of people served daily. Not only that but the 15 minute time limit should contribute to greater efficiency in New Orleans's offices during the hours of 1-6 p.m.

Thirdly, Galatoire's will update the menu to include more pictures and less "stuffy French names." For example, Souffle Potatoes will now be called Fluffy Potato Poppers and will be filled with either zesty cheese sauce or Buffalo Wing Sauce. Pompano en Papillote is now called "Fish in Bag."

Galatoire's will also consult with world class celebrity chef, Sandra Lee, of Food Network's "Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee" to develop new menu items. "What is great about Mrs. Lee is she knows what people want. Canned Chili layered with cheese and sour cream in a parfait glass...I'll have two," added Executive Chef of Galatoire's Brian Landry.

Mrs. Lee, reached by phone in her home town of Malibu, said she is looking forward to working with the 103 year-old restaurant. "I hope to streamline the back of the house. Do you realize they have a woman whose sole job is to peel shrimp? We are going to replace that with convenient and easy frozen shrimp pre-breaded and par cooked in Abilene, Texas," said Mrs. Lee.

"I also can't wait to spruce up the interior with some brilliant tablescapes made of reclaimed football helmets. And those mirrored walls. The last time I saw that many mirrors I was on my back in a sleezy motel."

Finally, waiters at Galatoire's will have new uniforms designed by the tandem of Tommy Hilfiger and Lauren Conrad from MTV's "The Hills". "Tuxedos were so last millennium," said Bryant and Doris Sylvester, while modeling the new uniform.

The new uniform features a Nehru collared shirt and a colorful striped vest. The pants were updated to include a more modern style and comfort and will now be capris. Some waiters will wear roller skates in order to better serve the Bourbon Street Curb Service.

"I would promise if these changes are instituted, I will never go back to Galatoires," said Dr. Brobson Lutz. "But I make that promise every time they change anything and I have yet to keep it. I can't wait to see Richard in capri pants!"

Certainly some of these changes will take getting used to, but as with all great traditions they must start at some time. Indeed, the future for the centuries old eatery looks bright.

New Restaurant Opening

Nacho Mama's Authentic Mexican Cantina revealed plans for a family friendly eatery to open in the space that used to be Jackson on Magazine Avenue. The new venture will feature a kid's play land and a relaxed comfortable interior. The menu will focus on regional Mexican street food and homestyle Mexican Cuisine, the Mole will be the main attraction. The tentative name for the place is Nacho Baby's Mama.

Also in the works is a prenatal paternity testing site. The restaurant/clinic will offer clinical services and childhood paternity testing for neighborhood citizens, along with delicious Tex-Mex cuisine. The name of this service will be Nacho Baby's Daddy.

Donald Link: "Veganism is a Calling"

Donald Link a chef known for brilliant porkographic palate pleasing preparations, fried egg topped pasta, and delightful dairy infused desserts has become an avowed Vegan. "Some people have callings, to me Veganism is a calling. I can no longer hide my love for clean living and my hatred of all products which even look at animals," announced Chef Link yesterday.

Both Herbsaint and Cochon have been purged of all animal products. Chef Link removed all pork, beef, fish, eggs, butter, chicken, and even three waiters who have dogs from the premises. In fact the holistic healer and Vegan preacher Shiva Rabbi Maui Al-Hak Bar O'Flannery came in and performed a ritualized cleansing and purification of both restaurants.

Early experiments in Vegan cooking have uncovered a softer more refined food from both kitchens. In one preparation, mustard greens are cooked for up to 5 hours in little more than olive oil, salt, pepper, and wheat germ in Cochon's cavernous ovens. What results is a meltingly tender, full-flavored hearty vegan dish, with non of the guilt associated with non-Vegan eating.

"Do you realize for every animal raised to feed one person, seventeen acres of Mt. Everest disappears into the Indian Ocean? And the Polar Ice caps, don't get me started. Have you ever seen a fish swimming in the ocean, how gross is that?" ranted Link.

"I can no longer continue to leave a ginormous carbon footprint. From now on I will only fly in vegetables, oats, and wheat germ if it is out of season in New Orleans," Link announced.

As for Chef Link's plans to open a salumi and wine bar, those plans are still on. "You'd be amazed at what a person can accomplish with Xanthum Gum, Mung Beans, MSG, and Chervil," remarked Link.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lunch Today....

It being a Monday the obvious choice is Red Beans and Rice with Hot Sausage. There are numerous places to go for that and every person has their favorite. But for my money the best Red Beans and Rice lunch was at Jesuit High School. The "Super" was $2.50 which gave you an double order of Red Beans and Rice, a big hunk of cornbread, a salad, and a silicone breast implant of chocolate milk. Plus, when you were ready to leave you could harass the Dumpster Gnome.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Official Blackened Out State Dinner

As has been discussed before the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) will require our utmost attention. One of the key events of NOWFE, the Winery Dinners, will offer the opportunity for all of us to get together, enjoy each other's company, eat, and drink wine. That and get incredibly hammered, spill food on ourselves, and make regrettable decisions.

This is super advanced warning but on May 21st, at 7 p.m. the Official First Ever Biennial Blackened Out State Dinner will be held. Location to be determined; everyone is invited. A selection committee will be formed to choose the venue. Should you wish to lobby for a particular location, please let us know by emailing us at The selection committee will operate in much the same fashion as the Super Delegates. That is if the majority of readers want to go to one restaurant, and the Selection Committee wants to go elsewhere, the Selection Committee may use it's supreme powers to choose another place.

A incomplete list of participating restaurants and wineries (and 2 menus) is available at

Hope you can join us.

Lunch Today....

Chances are you are going somewhere after work today. The Hornets are in town and there is a whole slate of college basketball games on today. Plus, weather wise New Orleans has no equal this time of year. So walk down to the Quarter. For lunch today, Mr. B's Bistro would hit the spot. Since it is a Friday, the $1.50 cocktail specials (Bloody Mary, Martini, and Mother's Ruin Punch) would operate the leadoff position. As you glance over the menu, I am positive you will eat roughly 3-4 loaves of hot, crusty French Bread.

Mr. B's has some great appetizers; however, no trip to this comfortable Gentleman's Club-esque bistro, would be complete without a bowl of Gumbo Ya-Ya. Plus the nice weather right now means the heat is coming. And you can't very well eat a bowl of hot, hearty gumbo in 95 degree heat, can you?

If Chicken Pontalba is on the menu get it. That is chicken breast with its crispy skin intact, over brabant potatoes and ham topped with hollandaise. If not, pick something else: Barbecue shrimp, pasta specialties, a really good looking burger.

This way you can eat enough at lunch today, so that you can skip dinner tonight and not feel too bad about it. For late night eats, if you are down in the Warehouse District, I'd swing by Cochon. Anywhere else, good luck; the Dough Bowl near The Boot is open late.

Note: If you would like to impress someone today. Let them know that the word Bistro is actually a Russian word meaning "quick". At one point, and let's be honest it happens a lot, Paris was overrun with Russian troops. After drinking the troops would want quick, fast food and would run through the streets shouting, "Bistro, Bistro." Sound familiar? You learn something new everyday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reflection on Al Copeland

Enough has been said about Mr. Copeland's lifestyle, career, personal life, and such. This piece has little sufficient to add to that discussion. What does intrigue the author is how the death of Mr. Copeland reveals two wonderful traits unique to New Orleans.

New Orleans is a city that lives vicariously in many respects through its famous sons and daughters. To many people in New Orleans, Mr. Copeland served as a perfect model for how they would choose to live if they "won the lottery" or "made it big." And that is a beautiful thing. Living large, racing fast cars, catching speed boats on fire, spending money on Christmas Lights, front row seats to Hornets games, and always staying here in New Orleans.

Too often we lose to many of our best and brightest citizens to the hip, trendy, cosmopolitan cities of Dallas and Atlanta. Mr. Copeland was a local boy who stayed put and kept spending his money here. Contrast this with some of the pecuniary habits of New Orleans finest citizens. You know the ones. Ask them to invest $100,000 in a new business enterprise and they will look down upon you with disdain; yet, they will gladly spend that much to let their daughter play debutante for a year.

Mr. Copeland used his money for what money is made for: his enjoyment and to make more money. We could all learn from him.

Mr. Copeland's death also reveals a uniquely New Orleans phenomenon. People like Buddy D, Chris Owens, and Al Copeland are our celebrities. Sure, the lifestyles of those in Hollywood and New York are interesting, but they are not nearly as intriguing as the daily activities, peccadilloes, and actions of our celebrities. Only in New Orleans, and thankfully, does a fight between a Chicken King and a Casino Dealer draw front page news or the firing of a waiter at Galatoire's becomes a subject for a roundtable discussion.

Lady and I ran into Chris Owens at Saks the other day, and that was incredibly exciting. Think about that. We live in a city where seeing a woman who takes off her clothes nightly (at an age above retirement) elicits a "Ohhh wow, it really is her."

Now I am not saying other cities do not have similar traits; but I have never seen it.

The outpouring of grief for Buddy D when he passed highlights our love affair with our own. Buddy D was a radio man for his whole life. Few listeners understood Buddy, but that never stopped him. There was a certain mystery to trying to figure out what he was talking about.

"Hey man did you listen to Buddy after the game?"

"Ohh yeah when he was talking about Mora being an ostrich with his head in the sand, I thought I was going to piss myself."

"Mora, I thought he was talking about Big Shot Soda then."

Buddy D was so beloved by the people of New Orleans that he could never be taken off the air. His death touched all of us, especially Saints fans. When the Saints win the Super Bowl you can be sure the front page of the paper will reference Buddy D.

And by the way Bobby Hebert does a really good job of mispronouncing and mangling words himself. My favorite Bobby-ism was this fall when talking about the Saints running game which had been successful, Bobby said, "Hey how bout that running game? You know the running game was real affected today." Yes, it was Bobby.

Thank God we live here. A place where a Chicken King worth millions got envelopes of cash mailed to him by welders and school teachers when it was reported that he was going to lose Popeye's. A place where the King's English means how you yell at Rex for a Doubloon. Where exotic dancers own every room they enter. And a place where every time we loose one of them, another character steps up. Aint no place, I'd rather be.

Lunch Today, Wednesday March 27th

Get on Interstate headed towards the airport. Get off at N. Carrollton. Take North Carrollton to Bienville and turn right on Bienville. Stop at Liuzza's. If you gave up drinking during office hours for Lent, this would be a good time to pick up the habit again. Liuzza's serves beer ice-cold in frosted schooner mugs. Start with one of those.

You would do yourself a disservice if you did not order either the fried pickles or fried onion rings for an appetizer. The pickles are great but the show stopper is the fried onion rings. Home-made with a thin flaky exterior these onion rings are best with a little salt and a mixture of 50% ketchup and 50% hot sauce.

Prior to Katrina, the only thing I had ever ordered from Liuzza's was the Roast Beef Po-Boy, dressed. Following the glorious re-opening of Liuzza's they were unable to make Roast Beef for a long while. Since everyone had to sacrifice something following the storm, I began eating the Panee Chicken Po-Boy. That sandwich is so good, when the roast beef returned for a while I would go half Roast Beef and Half Panee Chicken. Finally in a Eureka moment the two were combined (WARNING: IF YOU GET NAUSEOUS EASILY, LOOK AWAY). When you go today ask them to bring you a Panee Chicken Po-Boy topped with roast beef and gravy, dressed of course. If that last sentence made you recoil in horror,, I apologize; if however, it made you go that sounds awesome, welcome to the Fat Kid Special.

Other great meals there include any of their fried seafood, plate lunches, or Italian specialities. Also, they have an original po-boy (French Fries, gravy, mayo, and cheese) and delicious fried green tomatoes with a tangy remoulade. The only drawback is that Liuzza's only takes cash. However, there is an ATM in the jernt. Which is really what Liuzza's is a perfect model of, the neighborhood jernt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For Lunch Today...

We noticed people love reading the blog, or at least visiting the blog, right around lunchtime. Blackened Out is pleased to introduce a new feature. Every few days, or more likely, whenever we remember, we will choose a place for workers in the CBD/New Orleans area to go for lunch. So be on the lookout for lunch ideas. Here are the criteria. If restaurant is outside of the general CBD/French Quarter/Warehouse District, it must be less than a 8 and a half minute drive from the Train Station. And Lunch must be served. We have strict standards at Blackened Out.

Also, if you have a recommendation for lunch we would love to hear about it. If so email us at

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Restaurant August and Everything After

"Please I can't eat anymore. Seriously I am hurting and I want it to stop, just put me out of my misery," Lady said after course number 4. Unfortunately 5 courses remained. The glorious torture would continue.

Lady and I attended a James Beard Dinner at August in September with Donald Link and John Besh trading courses. Save that visit, we had never dined at August. That changed last night and not a moment to soon.

Having never indulged in the decadence and bacchanalian explosion that is August we summoned our hubristic tendencies and ordered the Degustation Menu. The waiter described it as a lot of food, if that description was accurate than George Washington was just a soldier.

9 courses, it ended up being more, each paired with a wine, we had our work cut out for us. Let's begin.

An amuse arrived. A delicate egg missing its top filled with a Seafood Sabayon and topped with a truffle foam. Sticking out of the egg cup (literally) was a brioche crouton. Delightful way to begin anything.

Then a Crab and Citrus Salad with a smattering of truffle oil. Segments of grapefruit burst in one's mouth cutting through the fattiness of the crab. Little globes of golden beats provided an earthiness to the dish.

Next up a plate of housemade pates. A wild boar pate with mushroom marmalade, a daube glace of rabbit, and a Berkshire pork rillette. All served with toasted brioche. We are beginning to pace ourselves. So it pained us to have to leave some food on the plate so to speak. All the pates were perfect, melting across one's palate and subtly reminding one of the taste of the animal which it came from.

Next a bowl, and I do mean bowl, of white asparagus soup with crabmeat and a meyer lemon foam. The stark white dish belied the woodsy taste of the white asparagus which played very well with the crabmeat. Then the meyer lemon foam cleared the palate for the next spoonful.

Now would be a good time to discuss portion sizes. We believed each portion would be minuscule and one or two bites at the most. We were sorely mistaken. The portions were gigantic. "Chef went to New York City last year and he said after every tasting menu he left hungry, so he doesnt want the same fate to befall his customers," our waiter Brendan said. How considerate.

Crawfish agnolotti ("priest hats" in Italian, well it is Lent) with bacon, peas and a jus. Each course keeps getting better and better. This one displayed the kitchen's ability to make and cook perfect little envelopes of pasta. I ate all of it especially the big fat lardon.

Sea bass with trumpet mushrooms and crab meat with fennel frond. Fish was cooked perfectly. I am not a huge fish person so I tasted and moved on; but Lady loved it.

Scallops over an herb risotto with a tarragon foam. This dish defies description. The risotto was quite simply amazing. Lady thought one of her scallops was a tad overcooked, but I did not have that problem.

Now the only glitch of the evening. A duck with foie gras and grits. Foie and grits were amazing, the duck neither of us cared for very much. The duck was rolled in a seasoning blend which tasted like one had bit into a Christmas Tree. Ohh, well one misstep is expected in a nine course tasting. I would rather have had just the Foie Gras and Grits. Foie grits could be the name of it.

Lamb three ways. A brilliant lamb loin wrapped in prosciutto to give it a crispy shell and succulent interior. Then a lamb chop with a mustard and herb glaze. And finally braised lamb shoulder. Each lamb preparation was thoughtful and well executed. My favorite course of the evening. I just wish I was not starting to wonder if I would make it out alive.

Cheese course. The name translated to Holy Cow in French. A creamy lightly caramelized wedge of cheese served with a balsamic reduction and a generous pile of Alan Benton's house made ham. Sorry to get scientific and food nerdy here, but Wow.

Finally, the dessert arrived. The server described it as a candy bar with a chocolate tuile. Only imagine the greatest chocolate candy bar you can, and that was this dessert, served with a generous glass of Frangelico.

Coffee and finally some mignardise. Two mini chocolate chip cookies and two almond cookies. Because we needed that.

The wines were superb. A sparkling Alsatian, a Riesling, and an Acaccia Pinot Noir were the high points, but each wine alternated between standing out and pairing nicely.

The dining room looks like it has been there forever: exposed brick, chandeliers, and woodwork. The service at Restaurant August knows no equal in New Orleans. Everyone from the hostess to the runners is knowledgeable, helpful, and courteous. Most noticeably absent is any hint of pretension. They are there to make your experience as comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasurable as possible. Despite a celebrity chef in the kitchen, at Restaurant August the focus is on the diner's ego. And that feels really good. The experience lasted over 3 hours and despite the pain of overindulging I could have stayed all night.

This is an expensive outing, but it is well worth it. The amount of food, wine, and attention one receives is well worth the price of admission. In fact it is a downright bargain. Restaurant August is the standard bearer of New Orleans food and service as far as I am concerned.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Taste of the Town - Friday April 4th

Taste of the Town may be the best eating event in the city. Yes, I have been to a Grand Tasting during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, and if you disregard the obvious advantage of serving 1000 vintages at the Grand Tasting, I am telling you that the food is probably a little bit better at Taste of the Town.

Sidenote: Another excellent dining and drinking event is the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Expo in early August. Unfortunately for most of you, this event is only open to restaurateurs and food vendors. Fortunately for me, The Pope has graciously included his dear old friend when deciding whom to give his limited number of tickets to. I have been for the last 7 or 8 years, and each time I consume probably 3 pounds of smoked salmon and 2 dozen raw oysters while washing it down with whatever booze that Glazer or Republic is doling out. One infamous year, The Pope decided that we "needed" to go eat at Restaurant August after the event. This dinner resulted in 3 consecutive orders of the foie gras trio (after each time we finished the delectable appetizer, The Pope or I would exclaim to the waiter, "Uh, yeah, we are going to need another one of those") followed by The Pope's sister having to be picked up by her fiance before the entrees arrived because she was too inebriated to make it through the rest of the meal. But that is another story for another time...

Anyway, back to Taste of the Town. Just by scanning which restaurants are serving food (Arnaud's, Galatoire's, and Wolfe's in the Warehouse to name a few), you will soon realize that the $75 ticket pre-paid ticket price for the event is well worth it. The weather should be beautiful on that early April evening, and if past years are any indication, the food and drink will be phenomenal as well.

The Phoenix begins its ascent...

I had noble and carefree plans for Saturday night. Lady had a bachelorette party at the Embassy Suites in the Warehouse District. So the plan was to try out La Boca, drop her off, and wander around before picking her up. I vastly underestimated the ease of accomplishing that task; and such failure made me incredibly optimistic about New Orleans and living here. I love this city and here is why.

First, the warehouse district looked like a parade had just gotten out. 8:15 pm and bodies filed in and out of restaurants and bars. La Boca was slammed. We sat the bar for what was promised as a twenty minute wait. While waiting we each had a pisco sour, which was incredibly smooth and delicious. The clock struck 8:45 and Lady was already 30 minutes late to the party. So we had to take a pass. Which was not a bad thing as neither of us were hungry and I want to go to La Boca and eat, not nibble.

I dropped her off and decided to swing by Wolfe's in the Warehouse to see if the Pope was in (he was not). I had a sezerac then decided to walk around. La Boca still had every table in the place booked. Rock and Sake bulged with bodies and techno music. Rio Mar was standing room only. Emeril's packed as always, but 3-4 deep in the bar area. I walked by Cochon partly to see the circus and partly because I was craving fried boudin. No chance at Cochon. People were multiplying like rabbits. It was now 9:30 at night.

I had Chef Link's food on my mind so I trekked over to Herbsaint. Slammed as La Chat Noir was letting out. I grabbed a spot at the bar, narrowly missing a chair to a lady who claimed hse had been eyeing the last two seats for her and her husband. In the words of the Special Man, I "Let her have it."

Another Sezerac, a menu. "It has been crazy, things are booking up at Cochon and here faster than we can answer the phone," responded the bartender and manager in unison when I asked what it has been like since the article. An amuse bouche arrived. A deep fried ball of Duck Rillette set on top of a house made creole mustard topped with a pickled jalepeno. Yes, it was good and it satisfied my craving for deep fried boudin. Following the amuse was a salad of iceberg, bacon, radishes, and blue cheese. So completely ordinary and plebian of an order. Yet, everytime I get it I am glad I did. Crisp, tart, salty, and I am sure not fattening at all.

An order of gnocchi seared in olive oil topped with tomato and shaved Parmesan cheese. One should be able to buy those divine pillows like one buys potato chips.

Drank a new wine. A Luxembourg white, very basic with a few hints of fruit. Not acidic, perfect for sipping and pairing. Finished it off with a glass of Grand Marnier and a conversation with Chef Link. As always his humble demeanor hid the enthusiasm he has for his terrific accomplishment. We talked about the new venture. "Housemade Charcuterie, wine bar, sandwiches and small plates....simple stuff," he said. I cant wait.

11:15 now, Cochon still slammed, Emeril's still packed. Stopped into the Red Eye stayed longer than I thought. People, people everywhere. Lady called ready to be picked up at Pat O's. Quarter even more crowded. Locals smiling, tourists wide eyed, each person full of opportunity. Great night for the soul.

Friday, March 14, 2008

1179 and Vega Tapas

Went to lunch yesterday at 1179. Started off really promising. The building is a brick and beam structure which is rumored (and no reason to believe otherwise) to be the oldest building outside of the French Quarter in New Orleans. 1179 is extermely convenient to downtown New Orleans, so while Lady had an hour for lunch it would do nicely. Now, previous to this I needed a haircut, only problem is I was shedding the whole lunch which really ruined an appetite, and caused more than a few confused stares from the waiter and busboy as they wondered "I hope the customer didn not notice all the hair on the plate". Lesson learned. We split a Minestrone soup with Italian Sausage. Very fresh tomato based soup that worked well with the fennel flavor which dominated the sausage. So far, so good.

Then with the entrees things went a little south. My lasagna was heaped onto a plate and run under the salamander. No probem with that but it came out sloppy and looked more like cafeteria lasagna. The taste was ok, but just that, ok. Lady got the Veal Milanese with Pasta Afredo; except they forgot the Pasta Alfredo. That omission pretty much sent the lunch into a tailspin. Eventually pasta was brought out with the remark of, "that is how we serve it at dinner not at lunch." Well, then maybe you should have a different menu for lunch. Not ready to give up on 1179 because overall I think it is a great place, just not a great first impression.

For dinner neither of us were very hungry. For about 15 years, it seems, I have been wanting to try Vega Tapas on Metairie Road. Tonight that noble goal became fulfilled. Great spot. In fact the entire row of restaurants in the Metairie Road Shopping area (Oscar's, Great Wall, Mark Twain's, Chateau Du Lac, and Vega) had decent crowds and Du Lac was almost overflowing with people. We started with a Carpaccio and a Tortilla (Spanish for Omelet). The carpaccio was topped with a mixture of onions and big fat wild mushrooms in a light vinagrette and shaved manchego cheese. This was then topped with a light touch of truffle oil. Amazing flavors on that plate and we both marveled at how thinly the bef was sliced. The tortilla was layered with wild mushrooms as well. Lady has a thing for them. A nice Verdejo went well with everything.

Next, Patatas Bravas with a Garlic Aioli. Spicy, garlicy, and earthy. I remarked that I could eat three thousand of those things. That is a lie, if pressed I could eat many more. Gambas al Pil Pil. Firey, paprika flavored shrimp which provided two courses really. One the shrimp, the second as an oily, spicy dip for the pita bread they serve with each course. Arterial blockage be damned. Then an empadanilla de cochnilla. This missed the mark just a little for me. Perfectly cooked pork shoulder (menu describes it as a Cochon de Lait) set on top of Puff Pastry. What I didnt really love was the over abundance of shredded red cabbage. Taste just did not seem to mesh well, but I am not positive as to why. As succulent pork, crispy butter (come on thats all puff pastry is) and a vinegary cole slaw should work.

Dessert was a light affair. One scoop each of Pistachio and Saffron Ice Cream. An Osborne's port for me and some coffee and liquor concoction for Lady (the Nutty Vega was the name of the drink). Really comfortable place with comfortable booths, pillows, and a feeling of being in a Harem's tent. All in all a pretty nice Thursday evening, no time for Home Depot though.

P.S. I decided to drive in from St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon, thereby being in the car for Top Chef. I still have not seen it. In case you were wondering. I am just as disappointed in myself as you are in me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cochon is #3

Cochon ranked #3 Best New Restaurant

Chef Donald Link proves once again that the pig conquers all others in the food world.

I think Homer Simpson said it best:

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

All hail the pig.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ruth's Scoop, Into the Fire, and Cocktails and Movies

From the Palm Room Hostess, thanks. The Lease between Ruth's Chris and Harrah's New Orleans has been signed. Following minor renovations, Ruth's will open in the space that was formerly Todd English's Riche, and then just Riche. Slated to open in April, be on the lookout for more insider info.

Some other random connections/thoughts here.
Tiffani Fallon, the runner-up on Top Chef I, worked as the opening chef of Todd English's Riche.
The Riche interior was very unique. Marble-topped tables, large mirrors, drapes, almost burlesque. Lady and I ate there one time for an Eat Club Dinner and really enjoyed it, but I can see why it did not last. Riche lacked a real identity and did not hit the ground running. It became an also ran in the New Orleans dining scene. One can not imagine that happening with a Ruth's Chris in that location.

Last night on the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain returned to the kitchen at Les Halles. If you have not watched this episode, please do. Quite simply this episode captured what the people who cook your food go through on a nightly basis. Not only does he explain some of the intricacies of behind the house and front of the house lingo, tradition, and practice, he also gives you a good look into the hard work required by a largely immigrant population to produce first rate food.

I worked in three various kitchens during the summers in college. This in no way makes me an expert on restaurant life. It sucked. For example, one summer my friend from college, Pikachu, and I lived at the beach and both worked at this incredibly amazingly bad tourist turn and burn. He worked front of the house and had to wear a Hawaiian shirt and nametag that could have doubled as a license plate. I worked in the kitchen on the fry station. By far the worst experience was when it would be late at night, and Pikachu would get one last table (and it was always a 10 or 12 top, that is a rule for the last table of the night). The anticipation in the kitchen would build as we watched that little rodent type the order into the computer system.

However I knew what was coming. Every single time without fail the order would come in for 12 Captain's Platters, which was just all fried food. There were numerous reasons why he did this. First, he knew it was one of the most expensive things on the menu thereby increasing his tip, which would already be large based on the fact the touristas usually felt sorry for walking in so late. Second, he loved fucking with me. Third, it allowed him to sit at the bar and drink about 6 beers while I cleaned my station thus making me drive home. But despite his best efforts to make me punch him in the face, at the end of the night the relief and excitement of finishing a service, checking the numbers, and wiping down one's station always made me pull into the Flora-Bama for just one drink.

Last nights episode made me want to go back into the kitchen. Almost. As for Pikachu, he is almost a Doctor, scary.

Finally, on the weekend of March 21st, the Tales of the Cocktail will host a 3 different movie cocktail cinema events at the W. Casablanca, The 7 year Itch, and Guys and Dolls will be screened with food and cocktails to match the theme of the movie. $25 a movie, not bad. Or a weekend package (all 3 movies) is $65. Information available here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

No Reservations and Cocktails

Tonight on the Travel Channel, Tony returns to work a double shift at Les Halles. Should be a bit more Kitchen Confidential, and less Cook's Tour.

And an interesting story about Ti Martin and Lally Brennan and their devotion to the cocktail.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Top Chef Reminder

Season 4 of Top Chef begins this Wednesday on Bravo. One wonders if in the next few seasons, the producers will pick New Orleans (or a chef from New Orleans) as the background city. It would be great for the city and great for the show. Here is an interview with Padma Lakshmi and Chef Colicchio.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bruni Update

The Dining Out Section of the New York Times came out today, and Cochon still has not been listed. Which means, the worst it will finish in Mr. Bruni's countdown of the top 10 New Restaurants that matter is 5th. Not bad for a city that Alan Richman decried as a horrible place to eat.

P.S. Any one in favor from changing the term Uni Brow, to a Bruni ? Check out the Bruni on that guy...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Franco Phone-aThon

Of sorts. Information here. An afternoon of French food and Frere Jacque, sounds pretty good to me.

Also, on March 6th Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House will hold a competition between different Bourbons and cocktails. I am very competitive and wish I could make it but I will be in St. Louis. The cost is $30 per person and includes loads of booze and nibbles. 504-274-1831. Thanks for the tip, you know who you are.