Wednesday, April 30, 2008
First, burgers taste really good. That alone gives validation to ordering a cheeseburger in a white table cloth establishment. Second, you can tell a lot about a cook in how they prepare a hamburger. Certainly any person with a black Weber Grill, a bag of Match-Light, and some store brought pre-pattied pucks of meat can cook a hamburger. But, when you get a juicy, blushing burger that is cooked perfectly, you can be certain that cook can cook.
Third and most important, each of us remembers getting dragged at some point to some fussy, white table cloth restaurant when you were like seven years old and had a nose full of boogers. You desperately wanted a cheeseburger and french fries, but alas they did not serve that. So, to compensate now as an adult, you can order that delicious cheeseburger with crisp fries. That devilish diversion from dining decorum makes up for those years of punishment.
Last night at the Hornets game I watched in amazement as Mike McKenzie destroyed Hot Dogs like Koboyashi. So today, why not grab a Lucky Dog, head to Jackson Square, and get dem palms read. It will summon your inner Ignatius J. Reilly.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
You remember the 90's? Grunge, irrational fears of catching STDs from shaking hands, men wearing vests and not going after their hot female neighbors that lived across the hall for about 6 years, and Barbecue Chicken Pizza? Well, the Smokin Chicken combines caramelized onions,, pancetta, chicken, and green onions with a spicy red sauce to produce a more refined version of the ubiquitous 90's staple.
The El Fresco and Parthenon are variations on a classic white pizza and worth a shot. The Uptowner Sandwich long a favorite of well people from all over offers a guaranteed good order, if you are into that sort of competitive eating. Appetizers, soups, baked pastas round out the selections. Simple, modern decor and good service means you wont waste a lot of time. So you can get back to the office to spend more time on the internet.
Yesterday, went back to La Provence for brunch. Very good way to prepare for a Sunday nap. The coffee they served caught my attention: a Nicaraguan coffee that is very dark, incredibly rich, and with a great touch of bitterness. This coffee is produced by Octavio Mantilla's family and only for the Besh restaurants. Luckily for you, you can buy it at those restaurants. Use a French Press and start starting your days better.
Friday, April 25, 2008
La Boca, the second restaurant of Nicolas Bazan and Adolpho Garcia, occupies a dark, intimate, brick walled wedge next door to the River entrance of The Red Eye on Fulton St. Very romantic, the perfect place for SNS and I to have an awkward man date (I should add that Lady planned on joining us, but duty called). We began with Pisco Sours. Pisco (a type of Peruvian Brandy), simple sugar, an egg white, and lime juice, mixed frothy like the waves of the sea and then topped with cinnamon. Tart and sweet; this is what margaritas hope to be when they grow up.
Our waiter, Victor, then presented us with bread and a variety of chimichurri sauces. First, one was traditional, herbaceous and garlic notes with a vinegar finish. Then, a horseradish based sauce and a roasted red pepper chimichurri; of all of these, my favorite was the last.
Next, an order of Provoleta. This dish shows up in different cuisines and is essentially a hard cheese cooked to soften it and topped with olive oil and herbs. You spoon it onto bread and try and hold back the sensation to order another one.
SNS picked a Malbec that he drank in his Gaucho days saying, "This is what you drink to get hammered." Lucky for us, Victor suggested something a bit better. Malbec's with their heavy tannin overload and tobacco notes would work for this steak dinner; but for me it has never risen to the level of a sipping wine.
We each ordered the Vacio. 14 ounces of tender, meltingly good flank steak. Cooked simply, sliced against the grain, and presented on a plate. No garnish, no mashed potatoes, no port reduction demi glace. Just beef; it was what was for dinner. Words fail me in describing how good this steak was. The meat melted away like one of those fresh breath tabs. All that was left was the flavor of beef. Which for many of us we have not tasted in a while, with all the gussying up steaks get at restaurants. The sauces provided an interesting flavor note to the meat without changing the overall flavor: meat.
We did order some french fries which were thin, house made, crunchy and lord were they good. A glass of Grand Marnier a piece and a delightful chat with the Maitre d' and we were out of there. By far the best value steak dinner in town and perhaps the best steak dinner bar none. Total bill was about $130. Not a bad price to pay to catch up with a friend and here him say, "If I lived here, this would be dangerous. Seriously, I'd come here everynight."
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Oh yeah, and I am sure that they talked about some other stuff other than the food...
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
St. James sells sandwiches, salads, charcuterie boards, and other arrangements of meat and cheese. The mozzarella sandwich combines mozzarella, pesto, and salami on ciabatta. The resulting sandwich comes off a hot griddle and oozes deliciousness. The taste is not unlike a great piece of pizza, with the pesto soaking into the bread, the cheese relaxing into an almost molten texture, and the salami providing the salty bite.
The Charcuterie Board offers a tempting option for those in the mood to graze. 3-4 meats, 1 or 2 cheeses, and a couple of pates are presented to the diner(s), along with peasant bread, cornichons, and whole grain mustard. This allows you into build multiple sandwiches and try things you normally would not. The pates are made from local chefs, including the crew from Cochon and Peter Vazquez.
Great outdoor seating in nice weather. French lemonades, designer teas, and some unique cheese related cooking gear round out the selections.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Next, an order of rabbit livers on toast with pepper jelly. I am not crazy about rabbit livers (totally a textual issue) but Lady loved them. Also, an order of Fried Boudin Balls with house cured jalepenos and stone ground mustard. The pig gets no higher than right here. Crunchy exterior gives way to a rice filled bonanza of spices. If Link and Stryjewski opened a movie theater, this dish would be their popcorn.
A Manhattan, a Screwdriver, an Absinthe Frappe (again with the Anise) and a Vieux Carre Cocktail grabbed our attention at various moments. Then, Lady stumbled across the Pretty Baby and immediately had a new cocktail. Similar to a White Russian, this cocktail combined vodka (Stilleto brand), Creme de Cacao, milk, and grenadine. The Pretty Baby looks like Pepto-Bismol and tastes like a strawberry milkshake. A grasshopper finished up the dessert course.
Finally we each grabbed a twist on the classic Mint Julep. This version muddled together fresh Ponchatoula strawberries, mint, and sugar. Then, topped the mixture with ice and a generous pour of New Orleans Dark Rum. I think I have a new drink for Derby Day.
While this drink was being poured, I grabbed a hold of Fr. Tom and asked him for a tour of Antoine's. Earlier in the day, I heard him say, "If you see me tonight, ask me for a tour...my favorite thing to do is give tours of Antoine's." What a great way to spend an evening. His stories, coupled with the restaurant's many varied rooms, created a memory for a lifetime. Fr. Tom should give this tour to tourists and charge $35 a head, easily worth it. Following the tour, we bid adieu. At around 9:15 Antoine's was still fairly crowded with laughter and good cheer spilling from the storied restaurant. Ohh yeah, and we supported a good cause. What did you do on Friday to help humanity?
Friday, April 18, 2008
This week two people contacted me about Cochon and what to eat. That got my mind turning about all the good food that awaited me. The exile ended last night around 11:30 and thus, Lady and I are heading to Cochon for lunch. Since we are going to the Cocktail Soiree at Antoine's tonight, I think we will just graze on a few small plates. Or I will eat 7/9ths of a Pig and wash it down with copious amounts of Abita and perhaps a Bayou Beer. You should do the same.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Winning headline for the above story gets a free trip to the Saints Game in London. *
*So long as the gang from Who Dat Say agrees.
Monday, April 14, 2008
One of the best segments of the show shows the interplay between Leah Chase and Mr. Wright. Chef Chase shows her bite, her passion, and her true desire to just feed people. Chef Chase is probably the strongest and most beautiful woman in the world.
The only thing to complain about is the ubiquitous (and they must be mandated) segment(s) on Voodoo. At first I wanted to change the channel, but then I remembered that Voodoo is essentially pervasive in whatever religion you choose to practice in New Orleans, okay maybe just Catholics. Making the sign of the cross when you see a hearse, praying to St. Anthony when you lose something, St. Joseph's altars, etc...In a way each of those rituals has some connection to the Voodoo we so easily deride.
Mr. Wright hits the high spots, as if you were taking your friend from college around town. You will immediately be struck with how much Mr. Wright is enjoying himself. This is not a Chamber of Commerce forced smile at a chili dog contest, Mr. Wright truly enjoys himself and you will enjoy watching this program. Program airs on the Travel Channel. I am sure it will be on replay at some point.
In reality, the event is to celebrate the cocktails and appetizers of Antoine's and to raise money for a good cause. You can find the information here. $45 for a night of food and drinks, kind of a steal according to the Exchequer. For those of us who were left out in the cold for the Cocktail themed movie nights a few weeks ago, this would be a great opportunity to make up for that. Hope you can join us.
Also, you may want to check Fr. Tom's site for more information.
Think about it. Ask 10 people you know to name their ten favorite restaurants and five favorite dishes. Chances are you will get about 60-70 different restaurants and 40-50 different dishes. I leave the description of this problem to Martha Stewart, "its a good thing."
Nationally, New Orleans cuisine has the at times the ball and chain distinction of being labeled as "Creole or Cajun." Thus, visitors to New Orleans arrive with the expectation of having a culinary experiences which will cause their taste buds to explode and cause capsaicin induced hallucinations. Then they arrive and go to Antoine's. And what is this, simple trout with crabmeat and brown butter? This menu is in French. My travel agent and the Food Network lied to me, again.
Sure, the old line French-Creole spots typify what many New Orleanians think of as representative cuisine. But what about the Vietnamese Shrimper from Arabi? The Italian welder from Kenner? Or the Polish physician? Bayona's website says it all, "Our restaurant gives you New Orleans, our menu gives you the world."
Each person and family in New Orleans has their spots. A spot to celebrate, a spot when Mom does not feel like cooking, a spot for after funerals, a spot to take out of town guests, a spot to take out of town family, a spot that reminds Dad of his Dad.
New Orleans has the blessed curse of being a destination spot for food lovers around the globe. They come expecting something different and they get it, but not exactly what they thought they were going to get. A roast beef po' boy may be the best example of this. Debris, scraps, crusty french bread, arterial ailing gravy, and dressing; yet, that simple sandwich is just as representative of New Orleans as the Bread Pudding Souffle from Commander's Palace.
What a fabulous burden. When those taste seeking travelers from Tampa come to visit, they learn about Cafe Minh, Nor-Joe's, and Upperline. Tulane students and alums single handedly keep Jacque-Imo's open.
This blessed curse of ours comes with a duty to keep supporting the variety of restaurants we call our own. Think about this. According to Fr. Tom, there are 909 restaurants in the greater New Orleans area. That means you could eat out every night for almost 3 years without ever going to the same restaurant twice. Go eat out, its your civic duty.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Or stay on the streetcar ride it to Napoleon, walk down to Casamento's, get the fried oyster sandwich, and then go into Ms. Mae's. If Casamento's is slammed, head into Ignatius Grocery. I recommend the Gumbo and an Abita Strawberry Ale.
Either way you are guaranteed a great lunch.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Friday, April 18, Noon
144 Bourbon Street
$45 all inclusive
504.274.1831 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Passed Hors d'oeuvres
Cornmeal Crusted Fried Squash Blossom
stuffed with Creole cream cheese "boursin"
served with Bourbon tartar sauce
Smoked Bourbon Molasses Shrimp
on a pecan cracker with orange marmalade
Complemented by the following cocktails:
The classic Sazerac & Eagle Rare Blue Grass Sunset
Sweet Potato Soup
with duck confit-goat cheese cake, maple crème fraiche
& toasted pumpkin seeds
-with Buffalo Trace-
Pecan "Planked" Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon
Salmon tournedos served with roasted corn succotash & shallot confit
-with George T. Stagg-
Chocolate Pecan Tart
with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce
-with Pappy Van Winkle 20yr-
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The General Tso's chicken is the best bet, but others have lauded the praises of Mongolian Beef or Pork in Hot Garlic Sauce. Along with this comes an order of shrimp fried lice and a fried wanton. Many people choose to trade out the wanton for an egg loll and that certainly should gain your attention. And at the end a fortune cookie.
Many people have suggested a beer to me in the last few months and tonight I finally tried it. Estrella de Galicia is a remarkable beer from Spain. A smooth, easy drinking beer with a great bitter finish. I highly recommend it for crawfish boils or just spring time sipping. I hear it is available at Martins and Dorignacs. And please if this was your "special" microbrew you used to impress your friends and I just ruined your cool and tough image, go cry to the kid from college who was first to wear New Balances and a Kavu Visor and listened to a "small, unknown band from Athens, Ga."
Saturday, April 5, 2008
I mean, you have to love The Pope. His Holiness was able to secure an additional two free tickets, so we invited our lifelong friend Blondie to join us. But while most of you are thinking, "Oh, that is so nice of them to ask their old friend to come along," we really just knew that we would need a babysitter for the night. And let's face it: she has put up with us since we were like 7, so who better to (at least try to) keep us in line.
Due to the prospect of rain, the event had to be moved to the parking garage of East Jefferson General Hospital. No big deal to me, but there were a lot of people in attendance and not much airflow. So needless to say, it was a tad humid and warm. OK, really I was sweating like a whore in church, but so was everyone else.
Now, when you attend one of these functions with The Pope, you have to play by his rules for at least the first hour or until a member of the group drinks enough so that playing by said rules is no longer feasible. One of the Pope's cardinal rules of grazing is start at one end or the other and work your way around - none of this jumping from side to side, people. There is a proper method to his madness. Unfortunately, I was too busy holding my drink in one hand and eating with the other, so notes from the event are, shall we say, nonexistent. But the between the 3 of us we came up with a rather complete recollection of the night's delicacies.
- Ruth's Chris - Ravioli filled with what I think was minced duck meat and mushrooms. I would have preferred the filet sandwiches that they serve at some of the other large events.
- Arnaud's, Galatoire's, La Petite Grocery - Shrimp remoulade. Yes, all of them. Don't get me wrong, I love shrimp remoulade, but come on. Blondie spoke with one of the higher ups from the back of the house at Galatoire's and asked why they did not serve crabmeat maison. His simple answers: "It is out of season right now, and we could not afford to serve that anyway." Can't say that I blame him.
- Muriel's - Voted the best dish of the night by my triumvirate. Goat cheese crepes topped with crawfish cream sauce. Absolutely incredible.
- Wolfe's in the Warehouse - Voted winner for best presentation. Duck breast over asian slaw on top of a crostini. Inside sources tell me that the duck breast had been brined and pastrami cured, then smoked, and then either deep fried or seared. Very tasty.
- Zea - Crispy Asian oysters - deep fried oysters topped with a sweet and spicy sauce.
- Acme - Huge (and I mean huge) raw oysters on the half shell. Oysters this time of year are not as salty, and hence not as tasty, but that fact made these oysters easier to eat. The Pope knocked out a dozen (on 2 separate stops) in about 4 minutes.
- Drago's - We spent a lot of time camped out in front of their booth in the corner just waiting for new batches of charbroiled oysters to come out. Once again, these bivalves were gigantic, liberally covered in garlic butter and Parmesan cheese, and served with a piece of french bread for sopping up the delicious sauce.
- Besh Steakhouse - BBQ Shrimp. These shrimp had to be U-12 (that would be an average of 12 shrimp per pound), but they were overcooked - an unavoidable problem of preparing and serving upwards of 1500 people in such a short period of time. The sauce was as good as it always is though.
- Vincent's - Extremely rich veal and cheese cannelloni. One was more than enough, so I of course had two.
- Chops Bistro - Grilled skewers of beef, cherry tomatoes, and oysters. The inclusion of the oyster kind of through me off, but the beef was tender and succulent.
- Sucre - Tri-layer of banana custard, vanilla custard, and a lemon gelee of some sort. Refreshing and delicious.
- Lagniappe Luncheonette - Bite-sized peanut butter pies. It was a chocolate cookie topped with peanut butter whipped with condensed milk and powdered sugar and then a dollop of whipped cream. Best dessert of the night.
The following stations I decided to skip for the reasons in "quotes."
- Court of Two Sisters - Seafood Louise - "I need another mojito."
- Mr. B's - Gumbo - "Too freaking hot."
- NOLA - Ribs - "How am I supposed to eat this thing while still holding onto my Gentleman Jack & 7?"
- Brennan's - Bananas Foster - "I want to try that new plum vodka that we saw."
- Antoine's - Baked Alaska - "Did you know that they are serving Jagerbombs?"
OK, I realize that I skipped a lot of the booths, but it was sensory overload in that place. I remember that there was a BBQ Tasso Sandwich (Corky's, possibly) that was better in concept than it actually tasted. Besides that, Blondie and I watched The Pope talk shop with other restaurant big wigs such as Tom Wolfe, Melvin Rodrigue, and LRA CEO Jim Funk. Other highlights include numerous cougar sightings and The Pope complaining to one of his liquor reps for not bringing the 150 year old Grand Marnier that he oh so loves.
Overall, the night was undoubtedly a success. I was glad to see the Commodore Couple in attendance. We all did what we came to do, which was to eat and drink till we could eat and drink no more. Well...actually...The Pope and I must have had some room left in our tanks because we met up with a group of friends and ended up making it to both The Goldmine and The Red Eye later on in the night. But that is another story for another time.
NOLA has gone from Chocolate City, to Sandwich City.
Also, stay tuned for Peter's run down from Taste of the Town. Ohh yeah, we cover big time events now, bras and dahlins.
Friday, April 4, 2008
If you started with either the Charbroiled Oysters or the French Onion Soup good luck will follow you around the rest of the day. For a main course, Chicken Paillard would work on this early spring day. Tender chicken breast pounded incredibly thin, topped with a tangy salad and caramelized onions. Of course you can't go wrong with an order of mussels served with a convenient dip stick order of pommes frites.
The walk to and fro should encourage you to order dessert. Profiteroles would be classic, but the Root Beer float would probably remind you of childhood and get you ready for summer. Ohh yeah, you work you don't get summers off.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
1) Last night once again proved the sneakiness of the Top Chef producers. And by that I mean, where the hell did that Lisa girl come from? Every season around episode 4 or 5, all of a sudden its like a new contestant appears from thin air.
2) Has anyone noticed how amazing this Dale cat is? That headband he wears with his Chef's jacket makes him look like the really jacked up Asian dude at the gym. You know the one. The guy, who is always offering to help spot you or in pick-up basketball games is constantly trying to set picks. Then, in his interview sessions he wears that Old School Grey Members Only Jacket (zipped up completely) which makes him look like every police sketch of a Chinatown thief. That being said he certainly appears to have the technical and culinary skills to make it pretty far.
3) Richard's use of that bong like smoking device is slowly reminding me of Marcel and his foams; and that is not a good thing. And his voice is beginning to remind me of Jim Breuer, which coupled with his bong, is making me really hungry.
4) Jennifer keep up the good work especially homering for Zoi; but if you could please stop looking eerily similar to Richard. Last night, I spent a good 15 minutes trying to determine if it was you or Richard on screen. Work it out amongst yourselves. And tell Zoi to stop crying, America is rooting against her.
5) Manuel you really appeared to be the Vegas favorite, your resume was incredibly impressive, and you seemed level headed (in the style of Harold). However, deer in headlights have a better of idea of what they are going to do than you did last night.
6) Great choice for the elimination challenge. However, the chefs (save Lisa) missed a key principle (which maybe they had no clue of). You were cooking for Aisha Tyler who is a comedian, so use a funny movie and prepare a classical dish properly and there is no way you go home. No need to reinvent the wheel every challenge. That being said here are some ideas I couldn't help but develop.
When Harry Met Sally---Dessert so amazing and sinful it makes the person next to you say, "I'll have what she is having." Of course sets you up for a monumental disappointment if the dish falls flaccid.
Blazing Saddles--The Fireside Baked Beans Scene steals the show in that movie so make a Cassoulet (although time wise probably difficult) or any dish with beans.
Deliverance--Squeal Like a Pig Pork Chop. See this is not hard.
Now dear readers, what would you have done? Legend, the floor is yours.
P.S. Daniel Boulud is always great on TV. In fact, possibly one of the top culinary shows on TV is After Hours with Daniel. It shows on Mojo, but it should replace Don't Forget the Lyrics.
Edit, from the Dona (who is to shy to post): Dirty Dancing-- Nobody puts baby in the Corn Pudding.
The Pope will be in attendance for what he calls "work." But we all know that he will spend most of his time handing out business cards, big leaguing those of us who were friends with him before his cholesterol was 270, and taking down charbroiled oysters as if they were M&Ms. If you happen to see The Pope, say hello. But do not make any sudden movements around him and do not touch him unless he touches you first.
Done and Dine.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
On a side note, Dumpstaphunk's guitarist Ian Neville is a fellow Blue Jay from the class of 2000. He loved Red Beans and Rice.