Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guest Blogger: For a Good Cause

Blogger's Note: Today's "Guest Thursday" report is written by the Helvetia Homemaker, a close friend of my sister. She highlights an event this Sunday which by attending you can pay back the kindness that so many strangers extended to us almost 4 years ago.
At Southport Hall on Sunday from 4-8pm, a fundraiser will be held at Southport Hall to benefit the victims of the earthquake that hit L'Aquila, Italy on April 6th.

The strongest part of the earthquake actually occurred in the village of Paganica. My grandmother Luigia, who passed away last December at the age of 99, and her husband Ugo built the house that you see above in the town of Paganica (population of about 5000) which is on the outskirts of the capital of L'Aquila (population 10,000) in the region of Abruzzo. They had 5 children in the house, the youngest of whom is Alessandro, a/k/a Sandro of Sandro's Trattoria, a/k/a my Dad. My grandparents came to New Orleans in the 1950s in search of a better life, and their house was then rented out to either family members or others in the town. There are seven other cousins and their families who stayed in Paganica.

No one has been allowed back in town because of the ongoing tremors - they had three yesterday. Apparently the initial earthquake's fault didn't hit deep enough so that there is more gas that needs to escape. (I am sure there is a more scientific way to say that.) The government will not allow anyone back to their homes or to assess any damage until the town is tremor-free for one month.

My Dad and I went on WWOZ yesterday to talk about the fundraiser with Bradley Blanchard. Something interesting that came up was likening this experience to that of Katrina, especially in regard to government ineptitude. After Katrina there were various church groups and other organizations that came by the hundreds to help those in need. This event is similar in respect to communities coming together quickly to help those now - not later. There are still representatives from New Orleans that work hard not to let anyone in Washington forget what happened in N.O., which is exactly what we are trying to do for Paganica. There has been little international coverage since a week after the earthquake, so we would like everyone to know that these people are still in need. You can help not only by purchasing a ticket to the event but also by donating, which can be done long after the fundraiser.

We still have family in this region whose homes, businesses, and possessions have been destroyed. The earthquake caused about $16 billion in damages in addition to destroying some of Italy's oldest structures. There has been some funding going to L'Aquila, but almost none going to the village of Paganica. The money raised from the Paganica Earthquake Relief Fund will go directly to the Pieri and Iovenitti families (and, depending on how much we raise, to many more) to help them survive while they rebuild.

At Southport Hall this Sunday, May 31st the party is on! The venue, food, and drink for the fundraiser have been graciously donated by various merchants, many who have strong Italian roots. Because my Dad's cooking is reminiscent of what he grew up with - it only seemed right for him to prepare the food. Trust me, you will not be dissappointed. The menu is listed below. Please see the website for information on the fundraiser, ways to donate to the cause, and how to buy tickets to the event.

Antipasto Table
Caponata Bruschetta
Mozzarella, Mushroom and Spinach Bruschetta
Grilled Italian Sausage
Assorted Cheeses, Olives, Meats and Fruit

Insalata Table
Caesar Salad with Foccacia Croutons
Green Salad with Herbed Vinaigrette

Primo Piatto Table
Sautéed Shrimp Primavera with Garlic Butter Risotto
Vera’s Meatballs with Penne Pasta and Salsa Rosa
Pork and Beef Cacciatore with Assorted Mushrooms and Ziti Pasta

Dolci Table
Irish Tiramisu
Assorted Biscotti
Brocato’s Canoli
Italian Tres Latte

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shrimp and Cocktails

If you have not already purchased Susan Spicer's Crescent City Cooking, go get a copy now. The stories behind her cooking and recipes are intriguing and the end results so far have been exceptional. Recently we made Chef Spicer's "Pickled Shrimp" which is a mouth puckering, briny take on the everyday boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce. The directions are easy, just boil shrimp, toss while warm in vinegar sauce, and let the shrimps soak up that delicious flavor. Serve with crusty french bread.

Berries are in season, and there is little better use for fresh berries than in a Cocktail. That way you can feel good about eating fruits. Here is a basic recipe for a crushed berry cocktail.

Take handful of berries, drop in glass or cocktail shaker. Add a healthy dose of sugar or simple syrup, and a few sprigs of herb (mint works well, so does basil), muddle together. Add crushed ice, spirit of choice (light rum, vodka, and gin would be the best bet), a squirt of lemon, and top with splash of club soda. Shake vigorously. Strain into highball glass. Sit back and enjoy.
The above cocktail is the Huatulco Tickler, which employed blackberries, a rosemary-lemon simple syrup, and Hendrix Gin (along with some mint). To make the rosemary-lemon simple syrup, place 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water on high heat, bring to a boil, turn off heat and add rosemary (one bundle) and the zest of one lemon. Allow to steep, strain, and store in fridge. Good jazz, especially with Vodka and lemonade.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Café Minh

The last time I visited Café Minh was during the summer for offBeat, so it was a long time a comin' when The Folk Singer and I stopped by for lunch last Saturday afternoon. We started with an order of Summer Rolls (foreground) bulging with shrimp, cucumber, and avocado. In the background are the handmade pork dumplings known as "Beggar's Purse."

The Folk Singer had the tempura chicken salad, but I would say that the chicken was more paneéd than tempura fried. Either way, there were two whole chicken breasts atop the salad, which consisted of mixed greens, cold vermicelli noodles, and julienned vegetables with a peanut sauce dressing. Cool, filling, and a steal at $12.

I had the chargrilled pork sandwich which (as you can see) was overflowing with delectable porcine goodness. "Sandwich" is an apt description as this is not the typical banh mi. The shredded carrot and cucumber are in there, but so are lettuce, tomato, and the tiniest drizzle of balsamic vinegar. With the accompanying side of cole slaw or fries, this lunch costs the grand total of $9.

Café Minh is an absolute steal of a deal. High quality raw ingredients and preparations executed consistently well in a clean and minimalist dining room at affordable prices. Weekday lunches are busy, but the Saturday afternoon crowd has yet to find their way to Canal Street. That's fine. More for me and you.

Café Minh - Eagle

Friday, May 22, 2009

Classic Combinations

Introducing our new summer Friday series: Classic Combinations. (Just like at Applebees!) Just a picture, perhaps a quick sentence, to describe an irresistibly simple, elegant, and timeless flavor combination. If you have an idea, email it to us.

Tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Affectionately called, Tomozzil, in our house. Think of how many different times tomato, mozz, and basil is united in harmony: pizza, Caprese salad, lasagna, the Italian flag, etc...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I blame the wine

Someone slipped something in my drink...all of them. Since we are still waiting on Donnie Boy's and Section 123's article on yellow cheese and Colt 45 respectively, today's issue of fun is lame. Someone find me a cheeseburger.

So I leave you with this

"My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus."
James Buffett

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Take the tipsy pleasure of Christmas, the atmosphere of Jazz Fest, the excitement of the Super Bowl, and the hooky vibe of Mardi Gras, throw it in a barrel and what do you get? The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. NOWFE is the single best event in New Orleans. Why? Well for one, a lot of the events have booze. Secondly, they are usually indoors. Thirdly, the munchies are beyond reproach. And finally, it has never once let us down unlike the "Boy Bands of the 80's, 90s, and Today" Box Set we ordered with our ad revenue.

Here is a run-down of some of the things we are looking forward to:

Tonight is the 2009 Blackened Out Official State Dinner at La Cote. It is going to be hot with multiple "t's" in the parlance of Paris Hilton. Other dinners which look awesome are Wolfe's, Melange, and MiLa. If you go to one, we would love to hear your report for a Guest Thursdays. This goes for you Baton Moulin Rougeans attending Juban's tonight as well.

Thursday is the Royal Street Stroll, which is always a good way to enjoy artful canvases and wine. If you ball like The Pope, the FEASTival will probably dominate your Thursday night and Friday morning.

Friday is seminar and Grand Tasting Day. "Eat like a Pig" with Donald Link will most certainly kick pork butt, while fellow foodie Lorin Gaudin pairs port and pastry.

The Grand Tastings, both on Friday night and Saturday morning, will fill your appetite for both wine and food.

If you like food or wine or both, you really owe it to yourself to check out NOWFE. You will love it. Listen, I hate to lecture but take out your pen and paper. First off, we are approaching a three day weekend. So along with that new Affliction shirt your mom got you, it is the best present you will get this year. You have an extra day to recover and grill out. Which brings me to my next point.

Chances are you will see meat meet flame this weekend somewhere. Rather than show up with some watered down American lamer lager, go to NOWFE, try something different, and bring that to Uncle Al's. Believe it or not wine does go with barbecue, especially a rosé. Either he will run you out his backyard or you will be greeted as a liberator. No downside there.

And come on, it's not like you have anything better to do. You aren't studying for the same test given every year with an answer key.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fellini's Cafe

Fellini's is the second venture of the owners of Decatur Street eatery Angeli, so you will see quite a bit of menu overlap. I've always liked this place at the foot of Carrollton in Mid-City. It's casual and cheap, there is a patio with umbrella-covered seating for bigger groups, the sandwiches and salads are creative but simple, and the pizzas are pretty good too.

But there is really only one reason that I keep coming back to Fellini's. The tomato dip. It's sweet and spicy with a few walnuts mixed in for crunch and feta crumbled on top. I like to order the above appetizer sampler which also comes with hummus and a grilled portobello mushroom (that I always substitute out for an extra scoop of tomato dip).

Last time I had the roasted lamb salad with olives, roasted red peppers, and red onions over greens tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. The veggies were fine, but I did not think that the dressing worked well with the lamb.

The menu also includes sandwiches served on thick, fluffy pita bread or lavash rolls which are thin and then crisped on a sandwich press. The above sandwich is filled with spinach and artichoke hearts, but I much prefer the one stuffed with grilled chicken and portobello mushrooms. Sandwiches are served with a basic pasta salad, which is a healthy and welcome change of pace from french fries.

Fellini's Cafe - Par

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tan Dinh

The Westbank is the best bank when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. Last weekend The Folk Singer and I tried out Tan Dinh for the first time. Located on Lafayette Street just off the Expressway, Tan Dinh confirms the centuries old belief that only good things are found in strip malls.

We started with the requisite shrimp and pork springrolls, which were HUGE.

Then the offbeat grilled pork paté rolls with "crab sauce" in the background (an order inspired by the dread pirate). When these arrive at your table, you might think, "That paté looks a lot like SPAM." It's not. I did not think that grilled flavor came through, but I did like the little hidden strip of fried goodness which provided a nice contrast in texture. The crab sauce is different. It is sweet, but not in the same way as peanut sauce. Looking back, maybe the sweetness comes from the "crab" aspect.

I had the Korean style short ribs with sticky rice and kimchi. The ribs were slightly sweet and fatty and tender. The was my first experience with the sticky rice - mixed with coconut milk, pressed into patties, and then fried till crisp. "Vietnamese hashbrowns" as TFS likened them to. The kimchi was fine but nothing special.

TFS had pho with brisket and pork meatballs (which we could not really capture a decent picture of). The meats fished out of the large bowl were perfectly fine, but the broth was pitifully bland.

Tan Dinh - Birdie overall, but avoid the pho.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Green Goddess

Full Disclosure: Rene assisted Paul and Chris with the opening of Green Goddess. That should satisfy our journalistic integrity doctrine.

No, not the dressing nor the "medicinal" plant. The new restaurant is the brainchild creation of Chef Chris DeBarr, formerly of (most recently) The Delachaise, and Paul Artigues formerly of Surrey's. This new spot is in Exchange Alley across from the Pelican Club in the space which used to be occupied by Jazz Tacos. It's tiny, with just a handful of tables inside and out on the sidewalk. But the flavors coming forth from the open kitchen are monumental. Chris handles the afternoon-dinner shift, while Paul takes the reins for brunch and lunch. The restaurant should be open soon, but for now here is a sneak peek.

We started with Chris' version of crudités. Asparagus wrapped in serrano and then baked, cauliflower two ways, thinly sliced potatoes crisped in duck fat (wow), gridle-slapped radicchio, fresh radishes, and a "tortilla" of potatoes served with roasted garlic aioli and romesco.

Next came the South Indian Savory Lentil Pancake known as utthappam with tamarind chutney and dal relish. The ingredients may have been beyond my repertoire, but the taste and texture were just plain good.

"Spooky" Blue Corn Crepes with huitlacoche (a corn fungus which Rene has had some experience with before), porcini mushrooms, and brandy ragout. This was spectacular, with a meaty taste without cholesterol.

Crispy baked angel hair with jumbo lump crabmeat, fried shallots, and "confit" of lotus root in a green tea vegetable broth. Great dish overall but the lotus root was not for me as I thought the texture is very fibrous.

Bison meatloaf wrapped in bacon, the best twice baked potato I have ever eaten, and an encore appearance by those serrano wrapped asparagus.

Onto the desserts.

"Saturn Calling" - Chris' favorite dish of black rice pudding floating in a mango sauce.

"Il Budino Giandujo" - Italian for chocolate and hazelnut bread pudding.

Finally, the pièce de résistance: strawberry creme brulee with balsalmic sugar. This was flat out amazing.

As I am sure you can tell, these dishes are chock full of flavors and ingredients which until now were absent from the New Orleans dining. The menu also includes off beat juices such as cashew fruit, lychee, and sugarcane juice.

Green Goddess is something different for the Quarter. A restaurant which doesn't feel any impetus to put red beans and rice, trout meuniere, or cafe brulot on its menu. It is a welcome diversion. Check it out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Guest Blogger: The Parisian Princess

Blogger's Note - The Parisian Princess, a/k/a Peter's sister, is a world renown gastronome, having lived in Paris for a year and traveled extensively throughout Europe. In this guest blog appearance, she recounts a tale from her latest jump across the pond. Don't hate the player, hate the game. To get your article up for consideration, send via email to blackenedout.

On a recent trip to Germany for my graduate school survey of international art markets,* I decided to do some gastronomy research. Being a natural FBA, aka foodie by association, due to my shared genetics with the culinary co-master of Blackened Out, Peter, I sought the expertise of a higher power. In this case that power was no other than the man himself, Anthony Bourdain.

In his travel series "No Reservations," Bourdain circles the globe in search of food, culture, and adventure. In order to pick the best of Berlin, I consulted Bourdain's homepage and printed out his culinary "to do" list. I selected one restaurant in particular, Konnopke's, which Tony visited to enjoy the German speciality, currywurst. Currywurst is a regional dish of Berlin originating from the 1930s that consists of chopped sausage topped with ketchup and curry powder and served with a side of fries. It can be found almost anywhere in the city, but according to Bourdain, Konnopke's is the original and best currywurst spot in the city.

The scene outside Konnopke's

So on a nice, sunny day in Berlin, I set out in search of currywurst. What seemed like a short pleasant trip turned into a meandering journey through the broken, back streets of the city. After getting lost several times and walking for over an hour, I finally arrived at my location. To my horror and dismay, Konnopke's, the temple of currywurst was closed for a local holiday. Tired, hungry, and extremely agitated, I made the decision to forget Bourdain and his closed "elitist" currywurst stand for the next best thing. I located another little restaurant next to Konnopke's that was open and offered currywurst on the menu. Sure, I was settling for second tier grub, but what harm could there be? The currywurst looked okay and other people were eating it. So I took the plunge and ordered the currywurst with fries and side of ketchup and headed for the nearest subway.
The food looked good and it tasted fine. But later, I would realize just how wrong my rash decision was. Within four hours, my stomach felt like it was being twisted into a German pretzel. The whole experience culminated in World War III of food poisoning in which I had to get up every 20 minutes to run to the bathroom. I spent 20 hours in Berlin laying in bed, sick as a dog and missed a whole day of traveling. All because I thought I could cheat the system. So lesson learned: Do as Bourdain does and don't accept culinary imitations. The best is there for a reason, all others need not apply. Thanks to my German experience, I will never look at sausage the same way again. Well, except for maybe some boudin when I go back home. I am from New Orleans after all, aren't I???

-The Parisian Princess-

* Editor's note: International Art's Market's Studies? Where the hell was this booth at Career Day? This doesn't even sound real.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cuvee Lunch

Last Friday, I received a most urgent phone call from Lindsay, "Rene, do you want to go to lunch at Cuvee?"

"No I have work to do," I said.

"Dread Pirate Robert is going to be there?"

"Hell no, last time I spent a Friday with him, I ended up hiding behind a box of comic books at the cruise ship terminal."

"There are .20 cent Martinis."


And thus I found myself sitting in one of the most strikingly serene dining rooms in the city on an early summer day. The interior of Cuvee makes one feel as if they are sitting inside a sumptuous wine cellar. Exposed brick, wood beams, and wine bottle chandeliers evoke a sense of privilege and the food lives up to the environs.

A Hendrix martini with a twist of lemon really makes a Friday lunch feel like a real treat, but at .20 cents its a downright miracle. Because we were dining with Piroyalty, we received an amuse bouche, hand delivered by Chef Bob Iacovone himself. Piquillo peppers, wrapped in Serano ham exploded in your mouth, its interior of molten goat cheese providing a creamy contrast.

Cuvee has an amazing lunch special. For $25 you can get any three items on the menu. Not wanting to waste a course on dessert (and knowing that someone at every table orders dessert despite being full), I forged ahead by ordering three savory dishes.

My first was fried oysters on toast with blue cheese. Very good and reminscent of an oyster po-boy.

Next was "fresh bacon" on top of a fiery cole slaw. The flavors and textures in this dish ran the gamut from tender to crispy, salty to sweet, and spicy to cooling.

Finally, I had the tournedos with a potato and gruyere lasagna. Lindsay committed a grand theft felony by stealing most of my lasagna. The cops did not seem to understand.

Lindsay did order dessert a banana and chocolate ice cream. Wisdom has its benefits, as she did not eat most of it.

And the reason there are no photos is because Dread Pirate Robert stepped on my camera and then dropped it in his martini.

Cuvee - A solid birdie on a par 5.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hey, what are you doing Friday night?

If you are cool, I bet you are going to Sippin in Seersucker, the premier seersucker ensembled, museum related fundraiser in all of Canal Place. If you aren't cool, I guess its another night of quilting on Nyquil.

A fair price of $35 ($25 if you are a museum member) gets you admission to Canal Place from 6-9 pm this Friday and Mint Juleps and other adult beverages from Republic Beverage Company. So its pretty much a cocktail party. But there will be food as well. So think of it as a cocktail/dinner party.

Ohh, and I forgot to mention there will be music from Los Po Boy Citos. So now it is like a cocktail/dinner /basement band party. But wait there is more. There is even a costume contest for most creative seersucker outfit. So now it is like a costume/dinner/basement/costume party. I am thinking of wearing a seersucker toga, while Peter is dressing as a Napoleon.

The proceeds benefit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. So, in reality this is a cocktail/dinner/basement/costume/benefit party.

Seriously, its not like you have anything better to do. Here is the info. I'll see you there.

Call 539-9618 for tickets and info

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cafe Rani

I think it's funny how certain restaurants fit their areas of the city so well. Can you imagine Mandina's or Liuzza's anywhere else but Mid-City? How about R&O's up and moving out of Bucktown? Restaurants not only adapt to their local (and I'm talking neighborhood) clientele, but also eventually define the area.

I think that Cafe Rani fits perfectly on Magazine Street and nowhere else. Picture this: a well-shaded courtyard where a table of Uptown ladies sit down for a relaxing and nutritious lunch of salads after a morning spa treatment at Belladonna. It's easy to imagine because I swear that this exact scenario plays out right in front of me every time I eat at Cafe Rani. I can't say that I blame the frequent patrons because this might be one of the top 5 al fresco dining venues in the city. The food, on the other hand, does not live up to the surroundings. That's not to say that Cafe Rani should be avoided - I think that this is a great place for a group lunch when the weather permits outdoor dining.

The Mediterranean Appetizer Medley is perfect to be shared among a table of 4 (which is a good thing because the service often tends to the slow side). Hummus, black olive tapenade, crumbled feta, and chopped tomato Provencal. Each individual spread is average in regard to taste, but on the whole at $9 this is a bargain.

On our last visit, The Folk Singer had the Curried Chicken Salad (foreground) and I had the Odyssey Chicken Sandwich (background). The salad was enormous in size with raisins, grapes, apples, and walnuts, but she and I both agreed that the curry dressing was far too sweet.

I fared much better with my sandwich of grilled chicken, tomatoes, spinach, roasted red peppers, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, feta, swiss, and a pesto yogurt sauce. Paired alongside a small scoop of potato salad, this meal was quite satisfying without weighing me down.

But that's about all I get from Cafe Rani - "satisfying." There is nothing wrong with simple satisfaction, and our meal was very healthy (something that often can't be said of the dining experiences we write about). But it's not a meal which entices me to return. I would put Cafe Rani on the same level as Semolina's Bistro Italia, which comes as no surprise because I am fairly certain that the Taste Buds also own and operate Cafe Rani.

Cafe Rani - Eagle for atmosphere; Par for food.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day

Is on Sunday. But don't worry there is still time to get your mom a years subscription to Blackened Out. We have gotten a lot of emails from peeps asking for a guide to places to take momma. So I think it is time we have a talk.

There are two days you should absolutely positively stay away from restaurants. The first is Valentine's Day. The second is Mother's Day. Industry insiders hate hate hate these days, they refer to them derisively as "Amateur night." The reason? People who never eat out, eat out on those days.

So what can you expect? Either rushed, lazy, or just straight up poor service. Restaurants will often overbook on these days/nights because amateurs like to make reservations at multiple places and then choose one. Of course they often neglect to tell the restaurant this. To compensate restaurants overbook working the jerk factor into the day. Lucky you, the place you chose did not have any cancellations and had a party of 15 walk-in. But if you like you can stand in the atrium or sit in the bar as your table will be ready shortly. "Son, I thought you got a reservation. I knew I should have called," Mom will say.

Then it is likely you are getting a set menu. Which is fine except for your Cousin Sue who decided last week that she can only eat "Fair-trade Tofu." Unfortunately your harried waiter when queried by Cousin Sue said, "Nothing here is fair." Now Sue is sulking, carving a hammer and sickle into the table, and chugging sugar packets. Fun.

Now, also take into consideration this fact: restaurant people are people too. Cooks have moms, and it is rumored families. Waiters probably even kids. You think they want to be in a restaurant on a Sunday morning (after hopefully a busy service on Saturday night), serving grillades and grits to Aunt Edna? Chances are the restaurant will not see 10% of their Mother's Day patrons ever again. That does not bode well for a good meal.*

Now certainly there are exceptions. Commander's, Galatoire's, Antoine's, etc... those places are used to huge crowds. So if you go stick to them. Otherwise invite mom over, make some stiff cocktails, and fire up the barbecue. Just don't forget the Fair Trade Tofu.

*This is pretty much a reason to stay away from brunches places also. The good waiters, cooks, and management don't work Sunday shifts. They battle hangovers.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: The Xainey

Our first entry into the 2009 Blackened Out Guest Blogging Thursdays Cause Peter is Busy Taking the Bar Exam Seriously Competition (BOGBTCPIBTTBESC) comes from Dr. Xainey. Here, Dr. Xainey submits his recipe for his take on Tommy's Fish Capri. Remember whichever article gets the most hits wins, so if you like it get others to visit.

Inspiration for Mother's Day

One of the things that makes or breaks many of the restaurants in New Orleans is what they are able to do with the fresh local seafood. In such a great area, we have access to some of the freshest and tastiest fish in the world. One of the most common things restaurants do is a pan sautéed fish which is then served with various sauces (beurre blanc, Meuniere etc), fresh veggies, lump crabmeat, etc.

Tommy’s is one of my mom’s favorite places to eat as she is a huge fan of the Fish Capri. The fish is pan sautéed then topped with crabmeat, crawfish, capers, artichokes in a beurre blanc sauce. Since I am unable to cook for the family on mother’s day this year (on call in Houma – thanks Chabert), I had the family over for dinner and used this recipe as my inspiration for the evening.

Started off with some bruschetta. Quick, simple, and just about always impresses. Start with some crostini, top with a slice of pepperoni, mozzarella, roma tomato, olive oil; 400° for 10 minutes. Try not to fill up on it.
While you’re prepping those tiny pieces of bread, stick some asparagus in that oven and roast them. When done, cool, wrap the bundles in prosciutto, add a green onion knot for stability. Pop back in for a bit before serving.

I had a tough decision on which seafood to throw on top the fish, but I decided on some local shrimp. Onion, celery, and bell pepper into pan; garlic, then the shrimp. White wine and butter until you have the consistency you want. Toss in the capers.
Under the fish, stick some vegetables. Mushrooms, artichokes, and baby spinach into a pan – 5 minutes and you’ve got the base.
I had some trouble finding the right fish to be the center of this dish. Between the feds and intern year, its damn near impossible to get any snapper. Also my year hasn’t been amenable to dropping everything and going fishing (my freezer is suffering), so I had to hit the store. After too much shopping around - found some nice drum fillets, giggity. Little flour, sauté.

Plate it up – veggies, fish, shrimp sauce on top. Asparagus on the side.
Served it with a 2007 Valley of the Moon Chardonnay; or since parts of my fam only drink red, they brought a 2007 Cakebread Cabernet – I didn’t complain.

Result – Family impressed

Total kitchen time – 1.5 hrs

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NOLA Foodie Time Warp (Part 2): McKenzie's

Blogger's Note - This is Part 2 of our series on the recent return of two iconoclastic New Orleans eateries. For Part 1 on the reopening of the original Bud's Broiler click here.

I have a confession to make. I grew up exactly one block from the McKenzie's Ice Cream and Donut Shoppe in the 900 block of Harrison Avenue in Lakeview. From time to time, unbeknownst to my parents, in the mid-afternoon I would slyly walk down the garbage alley to McKenzie's, trade three quarters for two buttermilk drops, and eat them on the walk back home.

Phew. I have been holding that one in for a long time. I feel much better now.

I swear. The rumor of the reopening of the McKenzie's on Harrison has been part of Lakeview folklore since the store closed in 2001. Yes, I know that there are several Tastee locations in the GNO area that serve the McKenzie's specialties. But the closing of the McKenzie's on Harrison was a huge blow to Lakeview. And the reopening was an even much more needed pick-me-up - especially post-K. Last week, that day finally came.

As I waited in a long line (just like I did at Bud's), the above sign taunted me so much that I almost knocked over the dozen or so St. Dominic girls standing in front of me. I stopped just short of telling myself, "OK, I think I can take on all of them at once in the case that they get the last of the turtles." (if Buttermilkdrop Norris wants turtles, he gets turtles.) Finally I made it to the counter, placed my order, and hurried home like a crack addict that wanted to hide his latest score from his fellow junkies. And there it was:

Behold in all it's glory: the buttermilk drop. The Folk Singer - a newbie to these treats - described it as "a donut stick on steroids." Works for me.

Marve at the turtle. I don't know what evil genius figured out how to fit so much chocolate on top of such a tiny cookie, but I would like to thank him.

The new Tastee/McKenzie's also serves basic grits and eggs breakfasts and "Krystal" (or "White Castle") style burgers at lunch. I hope they stay around for a long, long time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NOLA Foodie Time Warp (Part 1): Bud's Broiler

Blogger's Note - This is Part 1 of a two part series highlighting the recent return of two of my favorite "only in New Orleans" eateries. Sometimes the simple meals are the ones we miss the most after they are gone.

Sauce. Just cover me in sauce.

Sure, other Bud's Broiler locations have been up and running since shortly after Katrina, but this month's reopening of the original on City Park Avenue has been greatly anticipated. (Hell, even my dog* was excited.) I could not wait to get my hands on the above #4 with sauce, grated cheddar. and onions.

A note about the hickory smoked sauce: I think one of the most underrated touches at Bud's is how they keep a pot of sauce warming on a burner at all times. A small but crucial step in the euphoria that is a #4.

In the instance of fairness, I decided to skip the french fries in favor of trying another one of Bud's specialties: #7 - a butterflied and charcoal grilled hot dog with chili, cheese, and onions. This is why life in New Orleans is worth living.

It was a divine experience, which called for much patience considering that there were 10 people ahead of me in line when I got there and 15 people in line when I left. As I ate in the upstairs dining room (which thankfully has a much improved A/C window unit), I overheard a woman talking on her cell phone while she waited for her number to be called: "Girl, you are never going to believe where I am. Bud's Broiler on City Park. I swear yo Gawd they have the same dirt on the floor. You got to come here for lunch this week." She took a bit of poetic license in her description. The joint is actually cleaner than it has ever been before, even though they somehow preserved the old wooden tables with names carved in the them. There are even a few outdoor tables for seating.

As much as I love Bud's, my feelings pale in comparison to those of The Pope. His first question upon hearing of the reopening: "24 hours?" Unfortunately such is not the case, so La Papa will have to continue making his late night sojourns to the one on Clearview. In any case, during "normal" business hours, The Pope Mobile need only make that short drive to City Park Ave to accomplish a long journey down memory lane.

* This link is safe for work. Sound is not necessary but preferential. You can fast forward to 1:30 if you would like.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The 2009 Blackened Out State Dinner

Once or twice a year, the loyal denizens of this cyber dark alley gather at a predetermined spot to drink and nibble on victuals. These events are timed with the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and Tales of the Cocktail.

Last year's First State Dinner was replete with delicious food, biodynamic wine (it means you get hungover), and a cougar! You can read about last year's juvenile delinquency here and there.

We also dominated the Tales of the Cocktail at Stella!. No embarassment was spared.

This year the 2009 Official Blackened Out State Dinner will take place at La Cote Brasserie on May 20, 2009. Here is the menu. We chose this location based on a variety of factors including but not limited to: GPS proximity to the Red Eye, the passed apps, Peter's ideal restaurant concept, and the ability of most of us to skateboard there from work.

Scheduled to appear are Peter, The Pope, Lindsay, BB Gunner, Palm Room Hostess, Donnie Boy Riguez (with Catfish Erin on the Accordion), and a host of other characters. But most importantly, you. If you would like to join us, just call over to La Cote at (504) 613-2350 and reserve your spot now. Put together your own table or just lurk from the corner, we don't care. Nor do we judge.

This is a really fun night. Plus, there is always the chance for it to turn into an early morning. And it is Peter's last trip to New Orleans until August 1. So catch him while you can.

Limos by A Confidential.


LATE BREAKING NEWS: In a stunning announcement some have heralded as "quite dangerous" Legend will be in attendance at this year's State Dinner. Participants are encouraged to gird thy loins.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Man has begun to tame nature

Inspired by She La and Jamie at Home, I have begun taming nature by growing my own crops and raising livestock. Well, maybe not the latter just quite yet. This cookbook comes highly recommend by the Blackened Out Book Club. Even if you don't have an immense garden like Mr. Oliver or some pots like myself, this book will help you learn how to think about cooking with seasonal ingredients. So the next time you go to a Farmer's Market that enormous squash won't be so much a challenge as an opportunity.

Here are some photos of how easily nature bends to the will of a human.

Oregano, culled from Mt. Olympus and made palatable by the Ancient Sumerians, it is now prized for its noble qualities: honesty, wisdom, and formality.
Domestic basil, which is actually rarer than wild basil, grows here in an illegal, uber-organic bed of damp soil. This strain of basil is mostly found in the wake of lava floes, eons after the floe stops. Somehow I was able to smuggle in some seeds via an Air Nepal flight 2 years ago.

Cucumberus magnus. Seen here in its infant stage. These stalks, just a week after this photo was taken, are now fifteen feet tall. The zoning board of Broadmoor is not happy with my command of nature.

Okra. The leaves are fuzzy. This attracts a special bee which in turns produces the slime which makes okra famous. These bees live on average to be 34 years young.

These are two doves which have followed me my entire life. That is Mort on the left, and Sharon on the right. They have made a nest on the front porch. They seem content right now. Such contentment late in April usually means we are due for a mild summer, but I would buy an extra umbrella.