Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ode to Lost Sandwiches

The following list includes sandwiches dat ain't dere no more or ain't good no more:

  1. Ruth's on Broad Street - Steak Po-Boy: Garlic bread, slathered in bearnaise, layered with sliced filet mignon, and topped with a few onion rings. Came with a side of shoestring fries for like $18. The devilish delight of eating a sandwich in a place so clubby, elegant, and borderline important elevated this sandwich to the realm of decadence. We can't talk about it anymore though, because we start to get teary eyed.
  2. Parasol's - Roast Beef: Wow. Did we just say that? Yes. Here is why. On a recent visit $9 got me a barely 6 inch po-b0y dressed. Either I am getting bigger or those po-boys shrink every time I go there, both are strong possibilities. Look at the name of the sandwich again; its po-boy not rich-boy. A recent meal there caused Rene's arteries to swell up and his tongue to lose its ability to taste anything. The deer Rene had lunch with explained it best saying, "too f&cking salty." Maybe it is good on St. Patrick's Day, but what isn't?
  3. Domilise's -The Whole Damn Menu: Again the prices are way to high for a po-boy. If you are going to stand in line for 2 hours, then the po-boy should be amazing. Everything at Domilise's is "just OK" except the roast beef which is not OK. We realize this is a neighborhood place, a place "you have to now what to get," a place where they "have to know who you are," and a place that people not from the Sliver by the River don't understand. And guess what, we are ok with that. All we are saying is if the Manning brother's had been fans of Parkway or Liuzza's, they are looking at a decade of Super Bowl rings instead of just two.
  4. Jesuit High School - Chicken Sandwiches: On 10 minute break, a buck-fifty got you a plate of fries, a bag of milk, and a sometimes juicy, sometimes dry fried chicken sandwich. Sure, it's still there, but we arent.
  5. Dino's Pizza (next to the Boot) - Was this a sandwich? Not really, but after leaving the Boot on 50 Cent (the monetary unit, not the rapper) Night, nothing was better. Folding over that grease laden flap of bread sodden with canned tomato sauce and stringy cheese provided much delight to Peter. And at the end of the day, it was bread, cheese, and sauce, that sounds like a sandwich to me. Plus, the place sowed the seeds of late night pizza love that most of us (OK, really just Rene) perfected in college.
  6. Cafe Adelaide - $30 Po-Boy: We honestly can't remember exactly what made up this sandwich, but we think it went something like this: veal daube and a sunny side up quail egg with a truffle and foie gras emulsion. This po-boy first caught our attention on the Commander's Palace episode of After Hours when Ti Martin and Lally Brennan offered it to host Daniel Boulod as a challenge to his $30 hamburger. Peter tried to order it once over the summer, but alas it was no longer being offered because it clashed with the COOLinary menu. Maybe one day it will return.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Top 10 New Orleans Sandwiches

      Nothing like starting the week off with a little controversy.

      1. Roast Beef Po-Boy - Parkway Bakery: Words cannot describe the magic of Parkway's roast beef. The beef and gravy somehow become one with each other to make for a spectacular sandwich. The only possible way to improve on this po-boy would be to add fried shrimp .... Oh, right. I believe they call that the Surf & Turf, and it's now a permanent fixture on the menu. Then again, why mess with perfection?
      2. Muffuletta - Nor Joe's: Sure, Central Grocery may have started it all, but who wants to wait in line and deal with surly service? At Nor-Joe's you only have to tolerate surly service. This sandwich is not for anyone with an aversion to the finer things in life. Things like cheese, Italian deli meats, briney olives, and bread. Its about time someone around town made a Muffuletta Charcuterie Board. In fact, I just did.
      3. Roast Duck Po-Boy - Crabby Jack's: This thing is amazing, if only for the fact that you can't get it anywhere else. Succulent roasted duck in a brown au jus - it also wins the "high class" award.
      4. Mozzarella - St. James Cheese Company/Fernando - Stein's Deli: So similar, yet so different? Both start with foccacia, pesto, and fresh mozzarella. At St. James they use salami, while at Stein's they layer on the prosciutto. The St. James Girl (surprisingly) gives the edge to the Mozzarella because the cheese is slightly melted.
      5. Banh Mi - Pho Tau Bay: The bread might be the best specimen of classic New Orleans style french bread in the city. The fillings are straight from Vietnam. My favorite is the chef's special liver sausage and rolled ham, but you can't go wrong with the char grilled pork. By the way, the sandwiches are small (and cheap) enough so that you can order both.
      6. Oyster Loaf - Casamento's: Oysters - it's what they do, which is why Casamento's is closed during those dreaded summer months when oysters are not at their peak. Piled high on toasted and buttered "pan bread" with a few pickles and a couple of dashes of hot sauce. You can't get much better than that.
      7. Meatball Parmesan Po-Boy - Mahony's: The fresh mozzarella alone catapults this sandwich to the Top 10, but the handmade meatballs and red gravy are integral ingredients of the final product. The anise flavor in the meatballs provides a sweet overture to the final product.
      8. #4 - Bud's Broiler: Onions? Yes. Double Meat? Yes. Chili or Sauce? Yes. (Wait, I said "or" - I have always been a sauce man myself, but I don't judge the chili lovers out there.) And if that wasn't enough, you can get this sandwich late at night.
      9. Fat Kid Special - Liuzza's: Have you still not tried this yet? Panneed chicken breast topped with roast beef and gravy. How can that NOT be good? And if you wanted to be really fat, may we suggest putting fried pickles on top of all that. Dear God, my keyboard just went into cardiac arrest. Someone get me a bushwacker, STAT!
      10. Italian Special - R&O's: Slices of Italian sausage and meatball, covered in red gravy, and topped with mozzarella. The seedy Italian style bread is unconventional for a po-boy, but it works. Plus, ordering a po-boy called the Italian Special makes it seem like you just put a hit out on that jerk from third grade.

      Coming Tomorrow - the sandwiches we once loved, but now they are gone.

      Friday, September 26, 2008

      For Brunch This Weekend...

      Though he originally became famous for his voluminous selections of vino, Mr. Cedric Martin quickly became well known around town as one to put out a great sandwich. Now the Martin Wine Cellar in Metairie is quickly becoming a favorite spot to grab Sunday brunch.

      On my last visit I had the above pictured tournedos with sunny side up eggs, potato hash, and crispy ribbons of fried sweet potato. Grits and grillades is a mainstay on the menu, but the other selections change from week to week. There are always an eggs special, soup, quiche, and pancake or french toast to choose from. If the bananas nut foster pancakes are an option, your decision has been made for you.

      But the best part of dining at Martin's is browsing through the aisles while you wait for your food. Need some cheese, truffled sea salt, or an '82 Bourdeaux? You have come to the right place. Last week I watched some guy load up his cart with more wine than is served at all of the masses in the Archdiocese of New Orleans on a Sunday. As I heard the clerk tell the man, "Your total is $1431.45," I told The Folk Singer: "That is what The Pope will be like in 30 years."
      Then I thought to myself: "Wait. That can't be right. Why would The Pope pay when he can turn water into wine?"

      Thursday, September 25, 2008

      Hogging Wine

      Next Wednesday, October 1st Cochon will host a wine dinner in conjunction with Cork and Bottle and Justin Vineyards. I just called and got reservations. The cost is $50 a head so pretty affordable. But hurry, as this is limited to 20 people. All seated at one table so dont worry if you want to come alone.

      Call 483-6314 for reservations.

      Old Fashioned Pork Loin

      Last week McCall mentioned the pecan smoked tenderloin at Impastato's. I did not have beef tenderloin as times are tough, but I did have a big plump pork tenderloin sitting in the fridge. So here is what I did.

      Nothing brings as much flavor with as little work as a brine. I like molasses and citrus flavors on my pork. Lacking molasses, I decided to first make an Old Fashioned Cocktail. I combined a half cup of bourbon (in this case a purple and gold waxed Makers Mark), the zest of one orange, and 5 dashes of Peychaud bitters. Dissolve 1/2 cup of Kosher Salt and 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar in 2 cups water. Add 2 bay leafs, 6 black peppercorns, and the juice of one orange. Combine all wet ingredients. Put loin in this bath for at least 6 hours.

      Came home from work and fired up the Cameron Indoor Smoker with some pecan wood chips. Smoked the pork loin for an hour and half. Then, seared the loin (still whole) until the outside was crusty. Let the loin rest for 10 minutes.

      While the pig relaxes, drain excess grease from pan and add half a bottle of dark beer or bourbon and the juice of one orange. Reduce sauce by half.

      Slice pork into 2 inch medallions and spoon sauce over pork. What resulted was incredibly juicy with a crisp exterior. The smoke flavor did not penetrate as deep into the meat as I would have liked; but the flip side was that the smoke flavor did not overwhelm the dish. The bourbon hung in the background like a shifty character in a dark bar. Which is exactly what I had hoped it would do.

      I served this with a vinegary and herbaceous salad. But with fall here now, I would suggest a nice risotto or even grits. In fact, at Martin's Wine Cellar right now they have a jar of Truffled Sea Salt available. I would sprinkle this on top of either the risotto or grits and make whoever you serve this dish to a very happy human.

      This post doubles as your After Work Today. Go make an Old Fashioned or better yet have your grandmother make one for you, as I am sure her recipe is the definitive one in your family. Its Brown Likker Season.

      Wednesday, September 24, 2008

      After Work Today...

      A few weeks ago Lindsay and I attended a presentation at SOFAB by Brian Burkey of W.I.N.O. on the topic of location. Specifically how the different locations grapes are grown effects the taste of the wine. We sampled four wines: two verdelho wines (one from California, one from Australia); two pinot noirs (one from New Zealand and one from California). We particularly enjoyed the verdelhos.

      But even more interesting was the story of Mr. Burkey and how he ended up opening a wine shop in New Orleans. Hint: It involves show tunes. So today after work I would advise you, as your attorney, to head over to the Wine Institute of New Orleans and try some new wines. But Rene, you say "that would cost a fortune to try wines, plural."

      Well, not really. At W.I.N.O. you can sample wines in a variety of sizes from one ounce up to a bottle. Its a good way to see what you like, and more importantly what you dont like. They also have beer and light food. Plus, they offer educational classes to bone up on some ambigious terms to use the next time you are talking about wine. And I can vouch that Mr. Burkey's teaching style will make you feel comfortable and welcome.

      Tuesday, September 23, 2008

      Bon Crevette

      You might be hard pressed to find oysters around town right now - I know that Galatoire's ran out before dinner service on Sunday night. But have no fear: last Friday the first local oyster beds were given the green light for harvesting, so those pearls of the sea will hopefully be back in abundance in no time. On the other hand, crabmeat of all sorts is in short supply - Galatoire's had no soft shells whatsoever on Sunday.

      Now the for the good news: local white shrimp are looking mighty fine right now. These were fresh, wild caught Louisiana shrimp sold by Gage and Evin Shrimp from down in Cut Off.

      Is the Moon Made of Cheese?

      In a word, yes.

      But in other cheese related news, The St. James Cheese Company, a place this blog would marry if such things were in fact allowed (they aren't we checked) will host a wonderful dinner this Thursday night. Chef Ashbell McElveen (a name which sounds like an amazing 20 year old single malt Scotch) will offer up his take on the Southern focused, French influenced cooking of the Caribbean and Americas.

      The cost is $60 a person and reservations can be had by calling 899-4737. BYOB. A nice white Burgundy should work well with this menu. And speaking of menus, here it is:

      Grilled Louisiana Crevette w/ Ashbells Hand made Bacon aux sauce Rum Nouvelle Orleans w/ 3 Italian Cheeses Cornbread Croutons

      Matatu de Crabbe la Guadeloupe Aux Mirlitons Grilled Curried Crab w plantain dumplings from Guadeloupe

      Salad de Legumes Grille w Garlic, Virgin Olive Oil, & Herbs

      Seasonal Grilled vegetables Artisanal French Cheese Plate

      Gateaux de Pèche Tartan aux FormageDoux
      Caramelized Peach Cake Tartan

      Hand made Bacon? Is that even legal?

      EDIT: I have been informed by Danielle Sutton that tomorrow night's dinner has been cancelled due to an illness in Chef McElveen's family. We wish him and his family well during this tough time. Stay tuned for the rescheduled date.

      Monday, September 22, 2008

      Will Someone Lend Me $600?

      Over the weekend, I somehow scored a reservation at The French Laundry. Actually, I secured a reservation AND The Pope secured a reservation. After dialing TFL's reservation number approximately 100 times in less than 10 minutes, I finally got through and was told that there surprisingly were two available tables on that night for our party size. I chose the later time. A short while after I hungup the phone, The Pope - who himself was hitting the redial button trying to get us a table - managed to avoid the seemingly omnipresent busy signal and reserved the earlier table. We have decided to dine later, so if anyone is interested in a reservation at The French Laundry in November, please email us and we might be able to work something out.

      For those unfamiliar with The French Laundry, it's regarded as possibly the best restaurant in the country. It has been awarded three stars (the highest rating) by Michelin and is ranked #5 in Restaurant Magazine's 2008 World's Best Restaurants. Reservations can only be made starting two months to the calendar date, and the internet is filled with websites touting the best ways to secure the precious few reservations available every day. Basically, it's kind of a big deal.

      So on an undisclosed night this November, I will be one of the fortunate few seated at the altar of Chef Thomas Keller. I am still in shock that we were able to get a reservation, but I guess that November is the slow season for wine country. Dining with me will be: His Holiness, The Folk Singer, Battle House Honey, and The Deli King & Queen. Unfortunately (as of right now) Rene will not be in attendance, but he still has a little less than 2 months to change his mind.

      Now about that $600 loan ....

      Friday, September 19, 2008

      After Work Today...

      It's Friday. It's been a long week, and it's going to be an even longer weekend with the LSU-Auburn game tomorrow night and the Saints-Broncos game on Sunday. Still, it's Friday. Nothing like an after work cocktail to help you unwind from work and recharge for the weekend.

      When the weather is warm, wet, and humid like it is today, we like to take refuge indoors. How about the Bridge Lounge? Yeah, it's kind of pretentious, but it's a well known sanctuary for local food bloggers. Plus you can bring your dog, and there is free Wi-Fi....

      Why would you ever leave?

      Thursday, September 18, 2008

      And the loser is

      Thanks to all who attempted to be the 10,000th visitor to El Blog Diablo. After a careful and exhaustive auditing process by Anderson Consulting to determine who in fact won the race, the selection committee, chaired by Ed Hochuli, has determined that the winner of an all expenses paid lunch with Peter and Rene is Section 123 Saints Fan.

      Someone once said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation and nothing sums up our winner in more succinct terms than this quote. Upon learning of his privilege, Section 123 remarked, "I knew all those hours which could have been spent working were not for naught. This is truly the proudest day of my life. Im pumped. Kickass."

      He then asked if he could wear Jorts and a vintage Saints shirt (tied in a knot on the side). He also wanted to eat at Champions in Lakeside Mall. Mostly because he wants to kick field goals in between the soup course and the shellfish amuse. You won buddy you can wear anything you like.

      Congrats Section 123 Fan and let us remind you that fifteen minutes can sometimes feel like an eternity.

      We love our fan(s). No other blog can say that. We challenge any other blog to show the type of borderline stalking, Cape Fear, "that sure is a purty mouth boy" devotion to their fans as BlackenedOut devotes to its fans.

      Don't take my word for it...

      Either Southern Living is a huge fan BlackenedOut, or they are an equally big fan of MILA. Regardless, the accolades continue to pile up for this perfect Contemporary Southern Eatery. However, we disagree with their love for the lima bean puree.


      Thanks to the Bride Has Been for passing along this information.

      After Work Today...

      After the run away success of our last feature, For Lunch Today, Peter and I decided to continue the theme of giving you, the reader, ideas for specific things. Thus, for the next few months we will tell you where to go get a drink after work. Sometimes food will be available for you to nosh on, other times you should pick up some cheddar cheese and peanut butter crackers. But always, there will be booze, glorious booze.

      Remember kids: You booze, you loose.

      Thursday afternoons around 6 p.m. are the best time to grab drinks if you work a 9-5 Jay Ohhh Bee. Friday after work drinks require plans. Plans require planning and plans get shattered more than wine glasses at a Jewish wedding. This makes it less fun. Plus, Thursday combines the excitement and promise of the upcoming weekend with the satisfaction that the week is almost over. Thursdays, not just for Must See TV anymore. *

      The recent weather in New Orleans has been like a breath of fresh air, literally. The stagnant heat of summer left and the hint of fall summersaulted in. Recently, Herbsaint began serving throughout the afternoon. So here is what you should do.

      Go sit outside at Herbsaint. From there you can watch the streetcar roll away from the CBD and into the residential heart of New Orleans, much like the Daquiri you ordered will take you from work to relax. I would also order the fries with aioli, the charcuterie board, and perhaps some frog's legs. Then ask them to pour you a glass of their "staff reserve." Talks amongst yourselves for a few hours, then head home.

      What a fine way to spend an afternoon. For a second you might think you are the Pope.

      *Brought to you by the Campaign to make Thursday's the New Friday's.

      Wednesday, September 17, 2008

      A 2 Day Bourbon Smash

      Its Bourbon Time. Recently got this email from the New Orleans Bourbon Society (NOBS). Looks like some fun events. Those dinners look particularly damn fine. I can't make the dinners, but if you do we would love a full report. Extra Credit will be given.

      Bourbon House & The New Orleans Bourbon Society host the second American Whiskey Festival Pairs Nation's Best Master Distillers with Distinctive New Orleans Cuisine and Supports the Southern Food and Beverage Museum Featuring the Nation's Top Master Distillers:September 24th & 25th

      Jimmy Russell - Wild Turkey
      Chris Morris - Woodford Reserve
      Jeff Arnett - Jack Daniel's
      Harlen Wheatley - Buffalo Trace

      Wednesday, September 24th Master Distiller Panel DiscussionSouthern Food & Beverage Museum/ Museum of the American Cocktail "Whiskey Nation": American Culture & Brown Liquor with Dr. David Beriss. $105:00-6:30 PM

      American Whiskey Dinners Join your favorite "Spirit Legend" for a night of innovative New Orleans cuisine paired with world famous whiskeys
      Bourbon House - Wild Turkey
      Palace Cafe - Jack Daniel's
      Mr. B's Bistro - Buffalo Trace
      Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse - Woodford Reserve
      Click the links to view the menu at each restaurant
      Cocktails and Hors D'Oeuvres at 6:30, Seated Dinner at 7:00 $85 inclusive of tax and tip
      For reservations, call Ali @ 504.274.1829

      Thursday, September 25th Meet the Masters at Bourbon House Meet, Mingle, and Sip with all Four Master Distillers Guests will participate in guided tastings from the award-winning portfolios of the world's best producers accompanied by extraordinary hors d'oeuvres created by Bourbon House Executive Chef Darin Nesbit. Proceeds from signed bottle sales will benefit the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.5:30-8:30 PM $45 inclusive of tax and tipFor Reservations call Ali @ 504.274.1829

      Hurricane Eats: Where Opportunity + Cash = Deliciousness

      Over the weekend one of my friends in Houston sent me this text message: "Quick: I need your best hurricane recipe."

      My response was: "Pat O'Brien's hurricane mix. Add lots of rum."

      But that got me to thinking about all of my meals during the aftermath of hurricanes. For the most part, we fire up our charcoal grills and throw on whatever frozen meats we have tucked away in the black hole of our freezer. But sometimes the food gods smile upon us by delivering an unexpected treat, and after Katrina I was fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of such an instance.

      While evacuated in the Red Stick in early September '05, my uncle procured one of those special passes which allowed him access into the city long before the general public would eventually return. Once he entered the French Quarter, he came upon Antoine's where a few workers were emptying the contents of the refrigerator. Countless crates of perishables were being tossed out, but the freezers had not defrosted so there was close to a half ton of meat left which had not yet spoiled (in fact, the workers were handing out ice to first responders). Always one to seize an opportunity, my uncle decided that even if we were going to be away from our homes for a while, we should still be eating as we would if we were still living in the Big Easy.

      For some unknown reason - I like to think it was divine intervention - my uncle was armed with a mammoth sized fishing ice chest. After prices were negotiated, he handed over an undetermined number of benjamins and then loaded up with a cooler full of individually vacuumed packed petit filets and double-cut lamb chops. And so we ate ... twice a day ... for the next three weeks, nothing but the finest meats. I just wish that we would have had a nice hollandaise to go along with them.

      Here's to hoping that our friends in southeast Texas come across a nice brisket to hold them over till all is well again in Houston.

      Tuesday, September 16, 2008

      For Lunch Today...

      Our last installment of this series. I think our next series will be Are you Hungover? Or perhaps I ate Chinese food 2 hours ago and now I am starving.

      But here you go. I had a discussion recently with a colleague about the ultimate Steakhouse experience in New Orleans. I think this question has two parts. The first is which place is a steakhouse and exudes that testosterone driven, abundance of meat, seared rare, in a tux with wood paneling, ready to rip a phone book feeling. The second is what steak dish is the best in town?

      First, a historical note about the ambiance in steakhouses (have to use my European History degree someway). Once Trans-Atlantic shipping became an effective, safe way to ship beef, the Europeans (and especially the Germans and British) sought a way to continue to control the cattle industry in Europe. One way in which they did that was to portray American Beef as cowboy, wild, and less refined than the Continental breeds. And if there is anything the Germans are known for it is asserting their superiority.

      What does this have to do with anything. Well, this legacy is apparent even today. Places like Outback, OK Corral, and Ryan's Steakhouse bring to mind cowboy imagery, frontier associations, and generally the feeling of cheap steak. Contrast that with a place like Smith and Wollensky: dark woods, greens and blues, paintings of red jacketed men on horses chasing hounds pursuing foxes on the wall, coat racks, waiters in tuxedos or butcher's coats and one immediately sees this marketing decision is still evident today. Luckily for us the people behind boy bands have had less long term success.

      Ok, back to the discussion at hand. Best steakhouse experience in New Orleans? Dickie Brennan's, Ruth's (old Ruths), Mr. John's, La Boca, Charlie's, Crescent City? An extremely persuasive argument for each has sufficient merit. I think personally I would lead towards La Boca, but Dickie Brennan's is 1B.

      But the best overall steak I have ever had in New Orleans is clear. It was a 14 ounce rib eye with maitre d'hotel butter. The steak had just the right amount of marbling to give it flavor without destroying the texture. Mr. Copland, strike up the band.

      So where did I have this steak? Emeril's. Now, many people have many thoughts on Emeril. Here is mine. I think NOLA is not very good, but I recognize it is likely a first stop in the Emeril Empire. I find Delmonico's classic, but too pricey for the food. I have never had anything less than stellar meals at Emeril's. Including the aforementioned steak, amazing frog's legs, a great pork chop, and, when they have it, the DESSERT: peanut butter pie.

      He built an empire, based it out of New Orleans, brought tons of attention to New Orleans, and makes damn good food. Is his show annoying to some, I could see that; but, did his show arguably bring hundreds of thousands of people to the Food Network? In turn did those Americans become more food conscious which gave a greater market for farmer's markets, speciality foods, and ultimately the desire for better food? I think so.

      And if you don't eat meat, I want you to know your brain is shrinking.

      Monday, September 15, 2008

      MREs or Chicken Fricasse?

      Our state produces some of the best raw food products and culinary talent in the world. In times of disaster you need speedy access to resources; and the further away you have to travel to find them, the longer people will likely have to wait for what they need. Furthermore, if you need a job done, it's always better to rely on yourself as opposed to someone else.

      So when it came to feeding residents who suffered damage and lost power as a result of Hurricane Gustav, the state decided follow the above principles of disaster response in deciding to rely on local restaurants to provide hot meals. It's a beautiful thing when supply meets demand: local restaurants with fast access to resources serve meals to hungry residents who are without power. Plus, this is one less instance in which we are either waiting on DC to take action or asking our neighboring states for assistance.

      Increased self sufficiency. What a concept?

      Friday, September 12, 2008

      For Lunch Today ...

      It's a rainy, blustery day outside today, but it's always a raucous rebellion at the Bon Ton Cafe during lunch on a Friday afternoon. The Pierce family throws one hell of a party in the dining room, which is usually packed full with gleeful patrons. Usually if you arrive much later than noon, you will find yourself at the bar waiting for a table. But if the proprietors ever considered expanding into a larger space, all they would need to do is hire their daughters to work the front of the house and the lines would form all the way down Magazine Street.

      Eventhough it's still warm outside, you should start with a cup of the turtle soup. Actually, correction: you should start with a Rum Ramsey from the bar. The Bon Ton Cafe lays claim as creator of this potent concoction: 7 parts rum, 1 part bourbon, 1 part lime juice, and a little sugar (whether or not a dash Peychaud bitters are added is debated - I say the more the merrier). An order of fried catfish nuggets serves as a nice appetizer to share amongst the table.

      For the main course, you can't go wrong with the Redfish Bon Ton, which is a nice broiled piece of fish topped with crabmeat and a little butter. Simple and delicious. The Soft Shell Crabs Alvin combines two fried soft shells with a dark meuniere sauce and, yes, more crabmeat. If you are taking the afternoon off, go with the unbelievable rich crabmeat au gratin that comes covered with a generous helping of cheddar. I hear they make a good filet with burgundy sauce as well. The only disappointment on the menu is that the side dishes are pitifully minute - the "boiled potatoes" is one new potato split in half and swimming in melted butter.

      For dessert, you can either order another Rum Ramsey or have a slice of bread pudding with the most lethal whiskey sauce in the city. Either one contains enough alcohol to serve as a nice digestif.

      Thursday, September 11, 2008

      Pushing Envelopes

      Yesterday we posted to this argument inducing piece of news. Sure these polls are kind of anecdotal by their very nature and certainly are open to debate. But rather than bask in the glory of being first (like I got to do when following my senior year of college Washington and Lee was voted the number 2 party school in the country (credit Gin Buckets)), lets open a dialogue about how to make New Orleans dining even better.

      So here are a few things New Orleans and the surrounding area could do to better our culinary scene.

      1) Open a world class cooking school. Yes, Delgado and UNO have great programs and there is a cooking school on St. Charles, but we lack a world class training academy. Newly toqued CIA, Johnson and Wales, and other culinary school grads descend on the kitchens of New Orleans every year to stage and train in our world class restaurants. New Orleans needs a world class culinary training facility. In order to do this, we should examine ways to partner with the CIA (or other schools) to open a branch of their renowned universities right here. This branch would provide opportunities not only for students from around the world to learn how to cook in New Orleans, but conceivably could provide scholoarship opportunities for New Orleans residents.

      2) Cafe Reconcile does a hell of a job, let's expand programs like this to take at risk youths off the street and put them into the kitchens and dining rooms of New Orleans. Being a line cook is not glamorous, but it beats the alternatives. And this program works largely because it is not a government program and is run by private individuals.

      3) Work with the office of tourism and SOFAB to develop more festivals focusing on food, drink, and eating. One of the most talked about things guests talk about New Orleans is the food, even when talking about things like Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. Its time for a New Orleans Food Expo, World's Fair Style. I am thinking oysters by the truckload and some sort of parade where people throw rotten mirlitons at each other. Gluttony sells.

      4) More reliance on local farmers, fisherman, and cattlemen. The fact that someone from North Carolina can come to New Orleans and fish for speckled trout till his ice chest is full, and a New Orleanian has to eat Trout Amandine with trout from North Carolina is appalling. Lower regulations on commercial fisherman while promoting sustainability and environmental protection. You will have a hard time finding anyone who cares more about protecting environments than someone who relies on that environment for their family's welfare.

      Farmer's markets wont save the planet or stop Wal-Mart from knocking down blighted buildings, but it does keep more money in the local economy, does give the eater more options, and does taste better. Knowing where your food comes from can have at least a psychological effect on the end dish. And if the dish tastes better, we all win. End of story.

      5) Finally, the next time you meet someone from out of town, buy them a drink and tell em thanks for coming.

      Congrats New Orleans and all the bartenders, waiters, managers, cooks, chefs, delivery men, producers, suppliers, and most importantly, eaters. But we can get better.

      A Chef Shows How Resourceful He Can Be During Evacuation

      I think that it comes as no surprise to anyone when I say that Blackened Out is a huge fan of Galatoire's Executive Chef Brian Landry. We almost caused a riot during the Louisiana Foodservice Expo when Brian was robbed of first place by only one point in the Great American Seafood Cookoff. (The recount is still pending, and we expect the results to eventually be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court before the retirement of Chief Justice Pascal Calogero, who coincidentally has been known to enjoy a Grand Gouté from time to time).

      Sure, anyone can make a Shrimp Clemenceau when you have on staff a woman whose sole job is to peel shrimp. But let's see your culinary wherewithall when you are evacuated in Baton Rouge, staying in a hotel with no power, and armed with nothing but a wooden spoon and a portable butane cooktop. Furthermore, I happen to know that one of the windows in Brian's family's hotel was blown out by the "Staff of the Gods." But needless to say, Brian was up to the challenge. And don't worry, those are NOT Blue Runner red beans.

      Sidenote - For all of you readers out there still without power, just remember that the "little people" have not forgotten about you.

      Wednesday, September 10, 2008

      A Giant Middle Finger to Richman

      Thanks to Dona.



      A good friend from college has recently moved to New Orleans, lets call him the Social Chair. He is staying with Lindsay and I for a few days and graciously offered to take us to any restaurant we wanted. Lindsay chose Gautreau's.

      Gautreau's has always been a great Uptown, swanky joint. The lushness of the exterior is matched by the old world warmth of the interior. One feels like they are part of a secret club and with good reason. This spot will become one of your favorites; however, I suspect it already is.

      Walking in we spotted in the corner Le Bucket and The Zanimal, who were celebrating the latter's birthday. Chef Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's recently became the latest New Orleans Chef to be on the cover of Food and Wine Magazine as a F&W Best New Chef. Congratulations to her, and kudos to Gautreau's for bringing in and cultivating such great young talent.

      A few drinks and a toast to New Orleans gaining another young, professional couple (as the Social Chair's fiancee will move soon) later the appetizers arrived. Gazpacho with crabmeat and shrimp pleased the Social Chair, who leaving landlocked Nashville longed for seafood.

      Scallops with truffled fettucine for Lindsay. A word about those scallops. One side was seared perfectly, the other side not at all. This was on purpose and provided an amazing contrast as one moved from the crunchy exterior to an almost molten interior. The truffled fettucine brought the familiar pungency of truffle oil in a complimentary fashion, rather than an overwhleming one. Lindsay did want me to mention one of the scallops was a little gritty.

      I, being wise beyond my years, ordered the Pork Belly with soft polenta, peaches, and veal jus. The scoring on the pork belly let the fat crisp up nicely. The peaches, jus, and polenta completed what was overwhelmingly the best appetizer. The Duck Confit would also be a great choice.

      Two salads arrived. The first a Bibb Lettuce salad with walnuts and strawberries. The other a salad of baby romaine and olives. Both were good and after eating mine, I thought "Why don't I eat more salads when I am out to eat?"

      All of the above and all of the below was enhanced by a beautifully fragrant Sancerre Rose. Social Chair continued his quest for a seafood fixed with a crispy snapper. Lindsay got a roast chicken on mashed potatoes. Cause let's face it, roast chicken done properly is about as good as it gets. I got the duck over spinach with squash and potatoes. Plates were quickly and quietly cleaned.

      If there is one thing I think Gautreau's does perfectly, it is crisping the fatty skin of animals. Sure they do other things very well, but the mastery of that skill makes Gautreau's very special. At the end of the day, a crispy duck confit, cracklin pork belly, or crunchy roast chicken all the while perserving a flavorful, moist interior would be good enough on its own to make this spot great.

      The Social Chair had a terrific idea. We grabbed three flourless chocolate cakes with Grand Marnier sauce, sat on the couch, and watched the Raiders get beat.


      Tuesday, September 9, 2008

      Stella! Tasting

      The weekend got off to a great start. After work on Friday, headed over to Le Bucket's to sample his latest homebrew. A Lemongrass wheat ale. Awesome beer. Unfortunately Le Bucket stayed behind during Gustav and survived solely on this beer, so there was only enough for a glass. Would love to try this beer with Indian/Thai food.

      Saturday night Lindsay and I tackled the tasting menu at Stella! This meal turned out to be an absolute stunner. Both of us remarked that at least culinarily, and lets face it that is why we eat, this was the best meal we had eaten in New Orleans.

      Amuse Bouche: A fried wanton filled with goat cheese and jalepeno surrounded by a coconut curry emulsion. A very elegant and very delicious take on the jalepeno popper. This was a prelude of things to come. One focused flavor ( heat) and a delightful blend of textures (crunchy and creamy). There was a wine as well, but I forget to remember it. Fault me.

      1st Course: Crab, Gulf Shrimp, and Avocado Salad with grilled corn and roasted red pepper salsa, 100 year old balsamic, and sweet corn emulsion. In this dish the kitchen relied on the sweetness and almost butter flavor of the crab and avocado. Many restaurants that do a similar dish, attempt to overburden the components with acid to cut the fattiness. The flavors blendedd together and spread throughout one's mouth in a brilliant way. The wine was a 2006 Salomon Undhof Gruner Veltliner "Von Stein Reserve." The sommelier did an excellent job of not only explaining each dish but also why he chose each wine for each dish. And he did it all without lecturing us.

      2nd Course: Summer Kabocha Squash Puree with Applewood Smoked Bacon and Valrhona Xocopili. I have made pureed soups before, but no matter how many times I strain it they never come out this smooth. This soup was almost like squash water, yet the soup wtill had an amazing body. The bacon added saltiness which contradicted and enhanced the sweetness of the chocolate. Yes, you read that correctly; chocolate soup. It worked. Lindsay's favorite dish of the evening. Wine was a 2005 Lieser Riesling Auslese.

      3rd Course: Louisiana Gulf Shrimp and Lobster Mushroom Risotto with English Peas, Local Scallions and Virgin Olive Oil. Creamy, briney, with a hint of parmesan this risotto was cooked perfectly, dressed simply, and presented beautifully. The sommelier warned us that the wine would be rather minerally (to me on its own it had more of a rust flavor), but that with the risotto it would work very well. And again he was right. The 1997 Kalin Cellars Semillon, Livermore Valley had a copper tint but did a great job of cutting through the creaminess of the risotto. Maybe not a great sipping wine, but a great wine to pair with this dish.

      4th Course: Fish and Chips. Did not love this dish. Tempura beer battered redfish with sweet potato puree, taro root chips, and spicy red chili caramel. This dish was too sweet for both of our tooths. But then again that may be because we were thinking main course not dessert. wine was a 2007 Clos Ste. Magdeleine Cassis Rose. Personally I find roses to be a great wine, and I really liked this one.

      5th Course: Porcini Crusted Rack of Australian Lamb with Potato Galette, Sweet Red Onion Confit, Caramelized Baby Shittake Mushrooms and Micro Heirloom Root Vegetables. This dish knocked me out of the chair. The lamb had just the right amount of tooth to give it an explosion of flavor. The crunchiness and saltiness of the galette got the saliva working which in turn helped to draw out more and more of the lamb flavor. "These are more like fetus root vegetables," Lindsay said.

      If you read this blog, you already know of my affinity for wines in the style of the summer house of the pope. Not our Pope, the Catholic one. The sommelier paired this dish with a 2005 Tablas Creek Vineyard, "Espirit du Beaucastel" which is an American wine made in the style of the Papal French Red.

      6th Course: L'Amuse Fromagerie Signature Gouda with Dried Bing Cherry Compote and Candied Pistachio. Lindsay loves cheese almost as much our 5,000th fan. And she really liked this one. I did too, but I liked the wine more. A 2000 Chateau Camplazens Premium La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc. A very cherry intense front with a tobacco finish. That made me happy.

      7th course: Bananas Foster French Toast with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Spicy Candied Walnuts and Crisp Plaintains. If you like sweet things, this dessert will challenge you. That being said, what a great concept. Toast, the French, and New Orleans all coming together. Sommelier chose to pair this dessert with the best overall pairing wine: champagne. Hubert Clavelin et Fils Brut-Comte was dry enough to let you go back for more dessert.

      Finally, some mignardaise. A vanilla marshmallow and a mint meringue. A glass of vintage port at the bar and a disussion with Chef Boswell and we were on our way.

      The entire experience was wonderful. We left full and content but not stuffed. Each dish was so well thought out and focused that one really felt as if the kitchen was having a conversation with you. I know that sounds weird, but it made us feel very special.

      It was very expensive. So save this for a special occasion. However, read back over each of those dishes. Look how many elements each dish has; yet, each dish tastes very focused. That is an amazing trick to pull off. Service is engaging and educating without being snooty.

      Numerous components, perfectly executed, and artfully presented; perfection, or the pursuit of it, comes with a price. To sum it up, a hell of a f*cking meal.


      Monday, September 8, 2008

      Two Great Events, One Cool Spot

      This week SOFAB, a place we have implored you to visit, will host two great events. The first is tomorrow night and combines Restaurant August, the Jazz Vipers, and Wine. Cash wine bar with complimentary food from John Besh's flagship. The event begins at 5 and will end at around 7 pm. Admission is $10. Sounds like a great way to wind down after a stressful Tuesday. And you know how stressful Tuesdays are. http://southernfood.org/content/index.php?id=472

      On Saturday, SOFAB will host a wine seminar with Brian Burkey of W.I.N.O. who will talk about the importance of location in wine production. In lieu of a Power Point, fermented grape juice will be served. Again admission is $10 and to reserve your spot email Stephanie at stephanie@southernfood.org.

      Also, you may want to register as a member of SOFAB. The cost is $50 a year and it gets you free admission to the museum and to the Saturday learning series.

      A New Orleans Tradition Renewed

      After a week long of minimal air conditioning, excessive amounts of family bonding time, and subsisting on whatever foods were next-in-line to be discarded from the rapidly defrosting refrigerator, I made the 70 mile sojourn back to NOLA for some much needed refueling. after all, man can only live on peanut butter and boudin for so long.

      My first meal back was on Friday night at Charlie's Steak House - a place where I had not dined since long before Katrina, much less since it's recent reopening. My foursome included The Folk Singer, The Pope, and His Holiness' lady friend, Battle House Honey. Even though we did not arrive till almost 9:00, we still had a short wait at the bar before being seated, which gave me an opportunity to survey the remodeling. Although Charlie's was always well known for its unpolished decor, pre-restoration patrons will likely be taken aback by the new bar and computerized wait stations. This ain't your grandpa's Charlie's. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

      Just as in pre-K times, Charlie's does not have a menu (or at least we did not request nor were offered one). You start with the onion rings, which are second to none other in the city. Somehow Charlie's manages to serve thin rings which include both soft flesh of onion with a crispy coating of just a simple dust of flour. It's the yin and yang of onion rings, and not many achieve this pinnacle like Charlie's. Note, one order of rings is big enough to split among a table of four.

      After the rings, you must get the wedge of iceberg covered with the homemade blue cheese dressing. As with the onion rings, one wedge can (and should) be split between two diners.

      Then the beef. Your options are limited: T-bone (small, medium, and large) or the filet. For the life of me, I don't think Charlie's even offered a filet before, but maybe I just never heard of anyone ordering one. La Papa and I each got the large (24oz.), while the ladies ordered filets. Each steak came out still sizzling on its on broiler pan. I thought the T-bones were great, but the filets were not cooked to the ladies medium-rare specifications. They were more "Pittsburgh" (or "black and blue"). Maybe this was because the filets (which were twice as thick) were cooked under the same broiler as T-bones.

      We ordered one each of the potatoes au gratin, mushrooms bordelaise, and melba toast; but we decided to pass on the wedge fries because we still had half of our second order of onion rings left to finish. The au gratin were chunks (as opposed to mandolin slices) of potato suspended in cream and covered in cheese - great side. The mushrooms were a nice addition to my steak sandwich on melba toast.

      They were out of spumoni, so dessert was a slice of casatta from Brocato's. Oh, and of course a Grand Marnier for The Pope. The meal overall was good, but I must say that the highlight was an off the menu item. La Papa was kind enough to bring along a bottle of Caymus 2001 Special Selection Cabernet. The waiter was curious as to what we needed uncorked, and La Papa offered him a taste. Minutes later, the manager (who I think was, in fact, owner Gene Dwyer) came over for a look. He was in awe, and after his first sip all he could muster was, "Wow." I think The Pope put it best: "Drinking this wine is like eating grapes."

      Charlie's Steak House - Par.

      Friday, September 5, 2008

      Is there anything longer than a Friday afternoon?

      Loads going on this weekend. Besides the relief of New Orleans being "spared," Lindsay and I will attempt to tackle the tasting menu at Stella! on Saturday! So what if I once made bold claims that tasting menus were "overrated" and "worthy to be put in quotation marks to indicate their clicheness." Bold times call for bold men. Bold men need to express themselves through challenges. Hercules, grant me strength.

      Our hearts, sympathy, and homes go out to those in Baton Rouge and other areas, that were not as lucky as New Orleans. Allow us to return the hospitality you showed us following Katrina. Come to New Orleans; eat, drink, and be merry. Then go home and use power tools.

      Saints open up at home in the Dome. The freezers of New Orleans should be emptied onto Weber grills, crawfish pots, and generator powered deep fryers. Tailgating food, and the tailgate experience itself, never ceases to amaze me. Blenders powered by weed eaters produce daquiris that would make any Camaro owner swoon. Turkeys are brined, smoked, battered and fried, slathered in hot sauce and butter, and served with blue cheese flavored ranch dressing. And who can forget the televisions, lawn chairs, inflatable Bobble Heads, and epithets to be hurled.

      Party sandwiches are for the weak; platters from Wal Mart are not much better. Fry something for Christs sake! Stretch the limits of bad cholesterol. Remember the idea that the lifestyle choices of New Orleanians (and Southerners in a broader sense) contributes to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes is only a theory. Which means it must be given no greater weight (pun intended) then Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

      Did I mention Fall is my favorite food season? Chilis, stews, Thanksgiving (the greatest holiday, no arguments accepted), drinking bourbon out of a plastic cup, and dips. Fall is a season embodied by dips: French Onion, 7 layer, Salsa and suspect shrimp dip. What a great way to eat for non-committal people. All it requires is one bite and you have tons of options.

      Fall is coming. Time to headbutt someone/something. Full report coming on Stella!

      Evacuees Eat no Veggies

      Last night, safe and sound in our home, Lindsay remarked over a plate of spaghetti and meatsauce, "I haven't, nor have I seen you, eat a veggie in about a week."

      Wow. She was absolutely correct. One day in Jackson we went to a quick service deli and had salads, but that has been about it for the leafy, stuff since before the Palin announcement. Let's be honest evacuation requires one to live on things like pretzels, fast food, and beer. Lots of beer. So how can one remedy this situation?

      Well, the grocery stores are working with limited resources but are coming back on line. However, you could and should go to the Crescent City Farmers Market this Saturday. Creole Tomatoes, squash, zucchinis, and okra for the veggies, maybe some peaches or pears for some fruit, Smith for Dairy, and hopefully some of Mr. Justin Pitts meat. Meat should not be discarded in favor of vegetables, just supplemented.

      The market is on the corner of Girod and Magazine in the CBD. I like to go around 9 am. This Saturday, the market producers will give out free coffee. And dont worry this market has no traces of the self-important farmers markets that litter the nation (for good or bad). It is fresh produce, nice people, and a chance to keep money in the local economy. And fear not exclusive users of the Debit system, the Market has this amazing magic trick where they turn plastic into wooden nickels.

      And why not?

      Thursday, September 4, 2008

      For Lunch Today...

      Foreword: I wrote this blog entry a while back, but Rene and I thought it best to delay posting anything on Mahony's until after our article in OffBeat was published. We made this decision in the interest of our newly found journalistic integrity. Whatever that means.

      The Pope absolutely loves onion rings. I don't think that I have ever known him to pass up an opportunity to start a lunch with mile-high pile of those golden rings of goodness. But I never knew where his hankering for fried onions came from until a recent lunch date with La Papa's Mama, Mary Magdalene ("MM").

      MM was kind enough to procure us a few extra tickets to the LRA Food Service Expo, and I offered to buy her lunch as a sign of gratitude. We decided to try Mahony's Po-Boy Shop on Magazine just off Louisiana. The place is run by former Rio Mar Sous Chef Ben Wicks, who obviously has had some great training under Adolfo Garcia.

      The po-boys are solid, and you have a few unconventional options for fillings. The richness of fried chicken livers is offset well by the acid and crunch of shredded coleslaw. The meatballs are covered in fresh buffalo mozzarella (where else is that possible?), and the cochon de lait is porcine perfection on french bread.

      But the onion rings alone are worth a visit - thinly shaved onions, lightly coated, and then fried crisp to order. MM proclaimed these rings as the best in the city, and she would know. The french fries are also fresh cut and fried to order. If I wasn't such a carnivore, I would get the french fry po-boy (with cheese and brown gravy, of course), and then ADD onion rings to the sandwich.

      Wednesday, September 3, 2008

      Greetings from the Red Stick

      As Rene said, I have been riding out Gustav up here in Baton Rouge.  While I am thrilled that NOLA was spared severe damage, our neighbors here to the northwest bore the brunt of the storm.  You can't walk or drive 50 feet without seeing an uprooted tree or a downed power line.  Though such damage is thought to be minimal relative to what New Orleans suffered from Katrina, the destruction here in BR should not be trivialized just because there were no levees breached.  Baton Rouge served as a place of refuge for many of us during and after Katrina, and we hope that the city's recovery is rapid and complete.

      That being said, I could really use some good eats.  Chargrilled pork from Nine Roses, a Fat Kid Special, and a FEMA Roll (how appropriate) from Sushi Bros have all crossed my mind as cravings.  I read that Luke was open.  That would work too.

      The Pope safely rode out the storm with his mobile wine cellar.  Throughout the past four days, I have received such text messages as "Strip Steak with J Pinot" and "PB&J with a 2001 Cakebread Cabernet."  Oh, and the best was: "I am almost out of Grand Marnier.  I may have to make a trip back to my house."  La Papa sure does know how to throw a hurricane party.

      Monday, September 1, 2008

      Dispatches from Afar

      So far so good, knock on wood. That has generally been the feeling of all affected by the staff of the Gods. It seems that New Orleans has not suffered to greatly. Lets hope that stays the same.

      Lindsay and I are safe in Jackson and are hoping to return to New Orleans tomorrow. How? Well, we are officially "press" now. There are stories to cover.

      The food in jackson has been good. We went to the Bulldog and drank way to many pitchers of Lazy Magnolia brew. Damn fine stuff. Today, Dr. Egon took us to Broad Street Bakery for some sandwiches. Then a long nap.

      Peter is hunkered down in Baton Rouge. He is currently surviving on Corn Nuts, stale Natural Light, and the thought of bernaise.

      The Pope is holed up in a wine cellar in New Orleans. And I wish that wasn't so amazingly true.

      In related news, Peter and I proudly announce that this month's issue of Offbeat magazine features a review by your faithful bloggers. We hope you enjoy it and can't wait to continue writing for such a dank mag. Sorry, that was college coming out. Check it out here. And with that Blackened Out is now totally, halfway legit, in a way. Kinda.

      Best to all, hope everyone is safe.

      See you at Galatoire's. Friday at noon.