Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

This year, as an alternative to French champagne, why not celebrate with a bottle of cava. This bottle of Poema can be found at Cork & Bottle for $10.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with getting a bunch of Mumms.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Performance Review

Last year I set out to do the impossible. My goal: Not to eat in the same restaurant more than once over the entire year. The outcome: Failure... sort of.

I did not repeat a restaurant until August 31, when I joined my co-workers at Tan Dinh for lunch during my first day on the job. That circumstance says a lot about my demise because most of my repeats in the last 4 months were weekday lunches. As you all know, time is of the essence when it comes to your work week midday meal. That's why it's called the "lunch hour." If I had an infinite amount of time and minimal responsibilities, I could have driven to different places and avoided breaking the streak. But I don't.

Regardless of my failure, I still ate at quite a few restaurants over the past 365 days, many more than I would have had The Challenge not been in effect. And even after I broke the streak, I continued to live up to the spirit of The Challenge by at least trying to avoid repeating restaurants for dinner. I stumbled on that goal too, but only twice (i.e., Galatoire's and La Boca for three meals each.) After compiling the list, I realized just how many eateries there are in this city. The sheer number of places that I didn't get to - Herbsaint, Iris, and Cochon to name a few - shows how deep our restaurant roster is. Thank God there's always next year.

I encourage everyone to break outside your comfort zone and eat everywhere you can next year. According to Fr. Tom, there are over 1000 restaurants in the New Orleans area. If we write about a place and it sounds good to you, try it. Same goes for a recommendation from a friend. What do you have to lose? And if you can beat this list over 2010, then my hat goes off to you.

Audubon Golf Club House, Back to the Garden, Baru Bistro, Between the Bread, Bistro at Maison de Ville, Bistro Daisy, Boucherie, Bud's Broiler (City Park Ave), Byblos (Metairie Road), Byblos (Magazine), Café Adelaide, Café Minh, Café Rani, Café Reconcile, Casamento's, Charlie's Seafood, Chateau du Lac, Chicken Sue's, Chinese Tea Garden, Ciro's Cote Sud, Cochon Butcher, Coquette, Coulis, Crabby Jack's, Delachaise, Dong Phuong, Doson's Noodle House, Dough Bowl, Eat, Elizabeth's, Fat Hen Grill, Felipe's, Felix's, Fellini's Café, Franky & Johnny's, Galatoire's, Galley Seafood, Gautreau's, Gordon Biersch, Gott Gourmet Café, Green Goddess, Hana, Hoa Hong 9 Roses, Hoshun, Huevos, Italian Barrel, Juan's Flying Burrito (Carrollton), Juan's Flying Burrito (Magazine), Kanno, Kim Anh's Noodle House, Kim Son, Korea House, Koz's (Lakeview), Kyoto, La Boca, La Cote Brasserie, La Guadalapeno, La Petite Grocery, Lakeview Harbor, Lebanon's Café, Liborio, Lil Dizzy's, Little Tokyo (Causeway), Little Tokyo (Mid-City), Liuzza's By The Track, Lucy's, Luke, Magazine Po-Boy Shop, Mandina's, Martin Wine Cellar, Mat & Nadie's, Maximo's, Middendorf's, MiLa, Mona's Café, Nirvana, Parkway Bakery, Patois, Phil's Grill, Pho Bang (Vets), Pho Orchid, Pho Tau Bay, Pontchartrain Point, Pupuseria La Macarena, R&O's, Rambla, Restaurant August, Rio Mar, Rocky's Pizza, Ruby Slipper Café, Santa Fe, Sara's, Satsuma Café, Semolina Bistro Italia, Shogun, Slice (St. Charles), Slim Goodies, St. James Cheese Company, Stanley!, Stein's Deli, Sukho Thai, Sun Ray Grill (Old Metairie), Sushi Bros., Taco San Miguel, Tan Dinh, Taqueria DF, Taqueria Corona, Taqueria Guerrero Mexico, Taqueria Sanchez, Thanh Thanh, The Court of Two Sisters, The Pelican Club, The Rib Room, The Rum House, The Store, Tommy's, Ugly Dog Saloon, Vega Tapas Café, Venezia (Mid-City), Walker's Southern Style BBQ, Wasabi (West End), Welty's Deli.

There might be a few others that I have forgotten.

2010 will be Rene's year for The Challenge, but the details have not been ironed out just yet. That's because we are waiting on recommendations from you readers on what exactly should be his goal. Suggestions so far have been strong to quite strong:
  1. Forgoing all animal byproducts except pork.
  2. A month-to-month rotation between the 30 day cleanse and the Atkins diet.
  3. Living in the kitchen at Stella! (which includes bathing in the dish sink).
  4. A prohibition on tweeting about anything other than food.

There are still 2 days left to send us your suggestions, so get them in by email or in the comments. We'll be back on Monday with the chosen parameters. Until then, have a happy New Year and remember: As long as you keep reading, we'll keep eating.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Year in Food

And now Ladies, Gentlemen, and Dread Pirate, the over-worked, under-paid scribes of Blackened Out Media L.L.C. present to you the Official 2009 Dining Awards. So everyone please grab a glass of champagne and settle in for the least inspiring half hour of your life. And here is your host, Carrot Top.

As you know 2009 created significant hurdles for those of us in the food writing world. Where despite the claims from others that all food writers have "loads of disposable income", we gotta tell ya times were tough. But we pressed on, dedicated to giving you your daily read.

Meal of the Year

Peter: Lunch at Galatoire's - twice. First, on the day I passed the bar exam. Triple B's baby brother was gracious enough to wait in line for us starting at 6:30; there were already three people ahead of him when he got there. Second, for the annual post-Thanksgiving luncheon with Rene, Legend, The Pope, and the women folk who are so kind to put up with us. This year was my first after a three-time self imposed prohibition due to law school finals. My penalty? Waiting in line for the table.

Rene: A lunch at Andy's Hideaway in St. Barth's. It had everything a lazy, boozy lunch should have: good food, convivial spirit, and loads of wine. Followed by a nap in the sun, it was perfection.

Annoying Trend We Wish Would Disappear

Peter: Serving my steak/lamb/fish/protein-of-choice on top of my starch. I wish this was only a trend, but unfortunately it's been around for quite some time now and shows no sign of disappearing. I ordered steak and mashed potatoes, not steak with mashed potatoes. I take separate bites of my food. Why? Because I happen to enjoy different textures. If I want to smear a bit of grits on my pork tenderloin, then I am perfectly capable of performing such task on my own.

Rene: Every new cocktail having an either long and cryptic name (i.e. Ol Doc McGillicuddy's Fire Alarm) or ending in "-tini." For example, the Ritz-Carlton has a cocktail they created to go along with the stylish trumpeting of Jeremy Davenport. Cashing in on the evocative and longed for martini culture of the Rat Pack, they decided to name this drink the Davenportini. A horrible name for sure; especially when you consider the best name for this drink would have been The Davenport. Simple, direct, classic, sort of British sounding, and elegant. So please, bartenders stop naming drinks as if they belong on a TGI Friday's menu.

Blog Character of the Year

The Folk Singer had this award locked up for most of the year. However, in December things took a treasonous turn for her. If we were still giving out the most disappointing character of the year, she would be a shoe in. As it stands today, she is a shoe out. So by default the award goes to Donnie Boy Riguez. Donnie Boy, your intrepid, inspiring and amusing comments made no one laugh.

Chef of the Year

Peter: Anthony Bourdain. Why? Because I met him, and the man truly loves New Orleans.

Rene: Aaron Burgau of Patois. Burgau has taken the bounty of Louisiana foods and married them harmoniously with a stylish, comfortable neighborhood bistro without the frou frou preaching found elsewhere. Plus, he is a HUGE Saints fan and thus likely a Bud Man.

Best New Restaurant:
Peter: N/A. Everyone knows that you are not supposed to eat in a restaurant unless it has been open for at least 8 years or they purchase an ad on your website/radio show.

Rene: Domenica. For two reasons. First, it represents what we believe is a desire of New Orleans restaurants to be great across the board and not just for "New Orleans Creole cuisine". Regional focused Italian had not yet been done correctly in this town. Secondly, the opening of Domenica coincided with the relaunch of the Roosevelt Hotel. And the food ain't half bad either.

And finally the Jon Gosselin Award for "Failing to Finish What You Started" goes to...

Peter and his Challenge. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2009


After that game yesterday, we all need something sweet to offset the bitter taste of defeat. Instead of another slice of Aunt Gertrude's pecan pie (which I love by the way), why not turn to Louisiana's most delicious citrus fruit: the satsuma. We're at the end of the season for these delicious and easy to peel orbs of goodness, so grab a sack of 'em before they're gone.

And if you're ever out and about in the Bywater and looking for a light lunch, Satsuma Café on Dauphine might be the spot for you. Open Wednesday to Monday from 7am till 3pm, this coffee shop serves short list of sandwiches, salads, and freshly squezed organic juices. While the underlying theme of the menu is fresh produce, I found the sandwiches' soft ciabatta foundation as the most memorable part of the meal. The fillings in the above MTB (mozzarella, tomato, and basil) were top notch, but the bread was the reason I craved more.
Well, the bread and the fact the sandwiches are quite small, especially for $7. I realize that the ingredients are of the highest quality, but I would rather pay $10 for a bigger sandwich than leave hungry. I think one of my dining companions put it best after finishing his turkey with avocado mash, "Well, that was a nice appetizer."
Satsuma Cafe - Par

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Drinkable Holiday Cheer

You are going to be up early at some point during the next few days. We are told that children wake up and unwrap presents from some fat guy who snuck into your house the previous night. So not only do you have to wake up early, but it is likely you need to file a police report and fix a broken window.

If that is the case, you might as well poor yourself a drink. Now, if you have had a few too many the night before, let me caution you away from the Bloody Mary/Screwdriver route. Those cocktails, while restorative at times, have more acid in them than a Phish fan. Instead lets go for something soothing and cooling more in line with Mylanta than a Mimosa.

Chocolate Milk Punch

1.5 ounces of Vodka or Rum
3 ounces of Half-n-Half
2 tablespoons of Powdered Sugar
A generous helping of either chocolate syrup or sweetened cocoa powder
A smidgen of vanilla extract

Combine the liquor, half-n-half, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chocolate of your choosing in a cocktail shaker of crushed ice. Now, I would never advocate hitting a cocktail, but I will shake the shit out of it. And you should as well. Strain into a Mason jar? Why a Mason jar? Because it is what the cool kids are doing.

Shave some chocolate over the top for added effect.

This ratio will also work for brandy or bourbon milk punch, just omit the chocolate and grate nutmeg over the top.

Have a very Merry Christmas, you heathens.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Pelican Club

Christmas connotes different traditions for everyone. For the last several years, the season has marked my annual visit to The Pelican Club for their Reveillon Dinner. There is just something about the stroll down Exchange Alley on a cold night, then ducking into this well hidden (but expansive) restaurant with walls adorned with paintings borrowed from Michalopoulos next door. When making reservations, I suggest you request the main dining room fronting Bienville, lest you get seated in the middle room at a banquette cramped between two tables of obnoxious law students who preface every comment with, "Well, in law school...."

But that's another post for another time.

The meal starts with a potage of your choice, and I am sad to say that my turtle soup was pitifully bland. Thankfully this was the only disappointing course of the night. The Folk Singer, who opted for a la carte service instead of the full blown Reveillon menu, began her dinner with crab and cauliflower ravioli in a mushroom and green peppercorn cream sauce. She defended her plate as if it were the Alamo, but the minuscule bite that I stole was still enough evidence for me to affirm her selfishness. My second course was the above pictured quail over stilton grits and ladled with a sautte of shitakes and foie gras in marsala wine. The flavor of the cheese was not prominent in the grits, but this misstep quickly faded into the background once I sampled the tender bird coupled with the slightly sweet and rich sauce.

A quick sidenote before we move on: I was borderline angry that the goat cheese salad was absent from the menu on our visit. The creamy olive oil dressing which coats those greens is downright addictive. I hope it makes a return appearance next year. Moving on.

For the main event, TFS had the seared tuna salad. Out of place? Perhaps. But unmistakably delicious, due in no small part to the sashimi grade tuna which was better than what I have eaten in any sushi bar over the past year. For me, the Trio of Duckling, which looking back now is a surprise because the online menu lists the Duck Two Ways. No matter. The trifecta de canard included a pan seared breast, confit of leg quarter, and BBQ duck in the style of Texas BBQ beef. In order of goodness I would rank the confit first, followed by the breast, and then the BBQ duck, whose flavor was lost in the overpowering tomato base of the sauce.

Dessert was an exquisite white and dark chocolate bread pudding with Makers Mark eggnog sauce.

The Pelican Club is probably the most forgotten restaurant in the French Quarter. You can conduct your own experiment by telling someone that you are going there for dinner, and I can almost guarantee that the response will be, "Oh, I love The Pelican Club. But I have not been there in years, and we never think to go there."

Here is your reminder.

The Pelican Club - Birdie.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kitchen Essentials

The Waiter's Key (also called Waiter's Corkscrew)

To some people the process of opening a bottle of wine causes anxiety that only Xanax can cure. They worry if the cork will fall in, if bits of the cork will become lodged in the neck, if the foil will cut them to shreds. So what do they do? Why they go out and buy all manner of openers and devices to make opening wine a cinch.

The device manufacturers know you will pay good money for almost anything, so they make useless crap for you to buy in hopes of solving your problems (see also, pharmaceutical companies). These devices sometimes resemble medieval gallows with a faux wrought iron neck holding a bottle clamp and a lever to pull out wine in one fell swoop. Or they use quick bursts of high-powered gas to dislodge, disarm, and debilitate the cork before the cork has a chance to fight back. Or they are named "The Rabbit" and come in a shiny silver and black finish. I believe there is another company that makes a product called "The Rabbit," and it is not used for opening wine.

I don't know about you, but none of those sound like an attractive option.

All you need is a Waiter's Key. The Waiter's Key does not cost a fortune. The Waiter's Key will not taunt or frustrate you. The Waiter's Key does not require you to borrow carbon credits or blast gaseous fumes into your beloved wines. Most importantly The Waiter's Key will not seduce your wife. It will just open wine perfectly every time. You can even use it to open beer.

Look it even has a knife on it. You can use this knife to cut the foil off to gain access to the cork or to stab marauding bands of would-be intruders. But sometimes the best way to get the foil off is just to grab it with your hand by the collar and pull it off the bottle. It should come right off.

Now what you do is place the screw in the center of the cork and begin turning. When the screw is about 90 percent in, stop. Now you see how there are two ledges on the silver lever. The one closest to the fulcrum (or better yet the ledge over the purple book in image below) is the one you want to use first. So place it on the bottle's edge. Pull up on the handle of the key. When you can't pull anymore, switch to the lower ledge, pull some more, and watch as the cork pops right out.

And hey while you are busy, check out Peter's 15 words of fame in the Times Pic today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gut Check

Yes, it's true. 14-0 is better than 13-1. But don't forget about where we came from and where we're still going. We're still #1 in the NFC, still in the lead for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and still in control of our own destiny to Miami. And thanks to a Vikings loss, we have not lost any ground. So instead of getting down on ourselves about Saturday, let's take a step back and remember how good it is to be a Saints fan right now.

Sometimes when you're flying so high, that bump in the road seems more like a Lakeview-sized pothole. You're just cruising along, and then all of a sudden you feel the crash and wonder if the wheels have come off entirely. After a sub-par (or "bogey" in Blackened Out lingo) meal, I often feel the same way. Just one bad meal can somehow instantly wash away the recent memories of all the good ones. But here's the thing: If it were not for a few failures along the way, the win(ner)s would not mean as much.

So today, let's get back to the basics. French bread, hot sausage, a light smear of mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. All it takes is a trip to Magazine Street Po-Boy Shop, 6 George Washingtons, and one big bite to make you feel better. It's not the best in the world; it's not the worst in the world. But I think it's just we need right now.

Magazine Street Po-Boy Shop - Par

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide

You already knew this but sometimes we take the easy way out on Fridays. But you can't spell cliche without Blackened Out.

The holidays have arrived and we know your shopping is as far behind as Rickey Jackson's child support payments. But that shouldn't stop you from being in the Gift Giving Hall of Fame this year. So as always, just follow our instructions. (Yes, Peter I know no one reads us, ok?)

Nothing says I heart you quite like a huge package of meat. In Roman times, men would propose to women by delivering them a freshly dressed steer. During the Renaissance this tradition flourished as courtiers would name calves after their daughters. They would then give the calf to the king in hopes that the king would return the favor with an effeminate son for the courtier's daughter. This year give the gift of meat to your loved ones with a gift box from LoneStar Foodservice. I have given the meat from LoneStar a thorough grilling (pun intended) and have had nothing but positive results.

In Victorian Scotland, during the holiday time, reading was encouraged. In fact, if a person did not have a book in hand at all times, they would be punished three sous. For true. Face it, you have a few days off from work, it is a little bit cold outside, curling up with a good book sounds like a terrific idea. Follow the rules.

This past year, three excellent cookbooks came out, all with ties to New Orleans. They share a similar story. That is the chefs who wrote them, have a deep history and understanding that good food comes from a specific place. Be it an uncle's boudin, granny's gumbo, or a neighbor's bread pudding, the connection between food, place, and memories is a strong one explored in each book.

The first is Donald Link's Real Cajun. You can order it here, or find it just about anywhere in the city. But your best bet, may be to head to Cochon Butcher and pick up an autographed copy. Or just ask the friendly gurus of sausage to have Chef Link autograph a copy to the object of your gratitude. While there you could also pick up one of their holiday gift baskets for your non-vegan, cool friends. As for your vegan friends, well they have mustards and stuff too.

Another good book would be John Besh's My New Orleans. This cookbook, while not as daunting as The French Laundry, would be better suited for your more ambitious home cooking friends. But even if you give it to someone who has never boiled water, the cheerful tone of the book and its brilliant story telling would be at home on anyone's nightstand or coffee table. You can also pick up a copy in town at any Besh Restaurant.

David Gaus, a relative of the Dread Pirate, recently released DamGood Sweet. DamGood Sweet is a collection of confectionery love letters to New Orleans from the native who now lives in DC. His book shows how snowball filled summers and pecan pies provide him with constant inspiration. I would encourage you to buy all these books in your local bookshop.

St. James has a pretty kick ass selection of cheese, charcuterie, and wine baskets. In fact, I wish someone would give me one of these instead of that bag of coal. I see it as the perfect Christmas present because it forces the recipient(s) to sit down, pour themselves a glass of wine, eat, talk, and spoil themselves for a few minutes during the busy holiday season.

If your foodie friend has all the above, let me give you another great idea. Go to a cookware store and buy a bunch of wooden spoons, some metal tongs, a soup ladle, a few metal serving spoons, and a metal spatula. Put a bow on them and call it the best gift of the year. A cook can always use more of those.

Have a happy holidays and a great lunch.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jersey Shore Supper Club Part II

No one is sad to see the wet blanket leave. So in honor of her departure, the team at Blackened Out has created a special pasta in her honor. Drum roll please.

Angelina Hair Pasta

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Add Angel Hair pasta and cook to al dente. While water is coming to boil, begin sauce.

Heat your largest frying pan slowly. Add a 4 second glug of olive oil. When the oil shimmers like JWOWW in the sun, add a good pinch of red pepper flakes, some diced onion. Add salt and pepper. Let the onion cook down for about 5 minutes. Then add a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (juice and all) and some crushed garlic. Let this simmer, all the while breaking up the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon. Taste, adjust seasoning. In tomato sauces add something with sweetness to tone down the acidity. My favorite thing to add is a teeny, tiny bit of vanilla extract.

When pasta is done, drain, and place in pan with sauce. Cook for another 2 minutes. Make sure pasta is well coated in sauce. Plate. Top with grated Romano.

As always, chase with a Michelob Ultra.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Wednesday

And you know what that means. No? You don't?

Wednesday is veal neck raviolo day at Lüke. "Raviolo" is a deceptive name for this pile of succulent shreds of veal overflowing between two sheets of freshly made pasta. The dish is much more substantial than the name implies. The sauce is a melange of textures and flavors: acidity from the tomatoes, sweetness from the currants, and crunch from the slivers of almonds. Throw in the rich and salty shavings of parmigiano, and you have a complex dish still reminiscent of home cooking.
You can order the veal neck raviolo as part of Luke's Express Lunch, which is the best $15 that you will spend on food this week. This two course menu starts with a cup of your choice of soup. I prefer the above pictured matzo ball with roasted chicken, but seafood gumbo and corn and crab bisque are also available. Also, it must be noted that the Express Dinner is the same as the lunch, plus a dessert for only $23.

I have tried three of the daily specials at Luke, and not one of them left me disappointed. But which one is the best? Is it the cassoulet? (Rene's choice. It's tough to beat a dish which combines duck confit, bacon, and garlic sausage.) How about the brisket? Or the blanquette of veal cheeks? This sounds like a debate worthy of a daily poll, so look to the left and choose your favorite daily special at Luke.

Of course, if you choose "none of the above," there's always the buster crab "BLT" to fall back on.

Luke - Birdie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kitchen Essentials


As a friend of the blog noted recently, "Saturday night's Saints game is going to be is the only game where people do not have to go to work the next day. People are going to be real drunk."

If you are going to cook, you might as well learn how to do it outside of the confines of your kitchen. Cooking in an outdoor environment presents a unique set of challenges. Why if you want to win Top Chef, it is almost a guarantee you will need to cook Alaskan Halibut in Times Square using a Fry Daddy.

You are going to need a grill. Any model will do, but it is probably easier to use a gas grill for tailgate applications. You want a metal spatula and a few rags. A cooler filled with water so you can clean up your gear and paws wouldn't hurt either.

For food-you could grill sausages, burgers, and tube steak and have a perfectly fine time. But for tailgates, I like to keep it simple and do as much work ahead of time. Plus, giving people something unexpected is as nice as a 13-0 start. So here is what I recommend.

Make a meatloaf the night before, use ya momma's recipe. After it cooks, let it cool and then cut it into individual portions. Bring those out to the tailgate. You can serve them cold, or sear them off just like you would if it was a burger. Let's be honest this is a burger that requires less cooking on site. Get some nice grill marks on each flat side, place in between two slices of bread, slathered with Blue Plate mayo, you will have people nodding dey heads like whoa. If you add some ketchup and hot sauce to that mayo, more power to you.

Or another crowd pleasing option is wings. Wings are cheap and can be eaten with God's utensils. To give the wings added flavor, toss them in a coating of Crystal and salt, let them sit in the fridge overnight. Grill them and serve as is. If you have blue cheese dressing that would be good for the wings or any vegetarians who may co-habitat with you.

Saturday night is going to be a wonderful night for the City of New Orleans. What are you cooking? Maybe we should have a Blackened Out and Gold Tailgate Cook-off this weekend? Winning team gets a cookbook?

Tell us where you are tailgating, and we will pay you a visit. Who Dat!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chicken Wings

I have a secret that I am going to share, but you must promise not to tell anyone. The best chicken wings in the New Orleans area can be found at Tan Dinh. Just look at these beauties. Here's how they do it. First, the wings are dusted in flour and fried golden brown, which produces a thin but crispy coating. Then as soon as the wings come out of the fryer, they are sprinkled with minced garlic. Lastly, you choose your dipping sauce: a thin lemongrass syrup or (our favorite) a tart mixture of melted butter, salt, lime, and crushed black pepper.

If I were Buffalo, I would be very scared.

You can order the wings either as an appetizer or your main course, but I strongly suggest sharing a plate of them to start the meal. That way you still have room to sample the remainder of Tan Dinh's extensive menu. For a superb version of a classic, try out the extra thick egg rolls, which are the antithesis of the frozen ones found elsewhere. For something new, how about the shrimp paste wrapped around sticks of sugar cane. Get both on top of a bowl of vermicelli, add fish sauce and sambal, and thank me later.
Tan Dinh - Birdie

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Rant (Mostly Directed at Myself)

Let's get one thing straight: Talking about things like food, wine, and restaurants is by nature a very opinionated and biased subject. The things you like are not going to be the same as the things I like. And that is a really good thing. We don't judge, unlike Legend who judges everyone. Not only that, but it is an area of discussion which can make anyone look pompous. But sometimes the pompous judge in us (me really, Peter is a sweetheart like Sammi) rears its ugly head. It happened last night.

While at Cork & Bottle's 7th Birthday Blowout, I had the opportunity to taste several Italian wines from the Palm Bay Portfolio. All of the wines were from Tuscanny, but they ran the price gamut. After the first Sangiovesse, the rep grabs a bottle and says, "This is a wine that the Olive Garden folks had made solely for their stores."

My first reaction was a sneer, others at the table refused to even try it. But I did and the wine was delicious. Sassy is a blend of sangiovesse and syrah. The wine will likely sell at $12 a bottle and is an absolute pleasure to drink. It would go perfect with short ribs and polenta or a meaty lasagna.

But what bothered me was not only my initial reaction, but the refusal of others to even try it. And solely because of the stigma attached to Olive Garden. I hate food snobbery, but yet there I was apprehensive to drink something that was designed to appeal to everyone.

Thinking about it more, it makes perfect sense that Olive Garden would know what goes into a great wine. Christ, they have that cooking school in Tuscany (doing it again). Olive Garden has almost four MILLION visitors daily. The food is not expensive, so I imagine a large percentage of their business plan must rely on wine and alcohol sales. Selling good wine is in the company's best interest.

Now let's say you are a higher up at Olive Garden. Further this by assuming you like wine. Would you not convince the company, "Hey you should send me to Tuscany, and while I am there, I'll work with some winemakers to make a special Olive Garden red wine"? And if the scheme paid off, wouldn't you be stoked? Then you get to Italy, meet some dedicated wine makers who relish the opportunity to sell to a huge American company, and the two of you decide to make a very good simple red wine secretly knowing there is so much more to the wine than a sassy name.

Thank you Olive Garden.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Jersey Shore Supper Club

Blogger's Note - Today is Part 1 of our new supper club series in honor of everyone's favorite reality TV show, Jersey Shore. Those of you unfamiliar with this stroke of television genius should check out the Top 10 Catchphrases from Episodes 1 & 2, and then (if you're "feeling it") proceed to generate your own Jersey Shore nickname. Because the newest episodes premiere every Thursday at 8:00 on MTV, which is prime dinner and drinks time for the civilized world, your friends here at Blackened Out have taken the initiative to start the Official Jersey Shore Supper Club. This week, we'll unveil a list of toddies inspired/created by our favorite characters.

The Situation - Don't be shy. You know you love The Situation.
  • 2 parts Amaretto
  • 2 parts Cuervo Silver
  • 2 parts Malibu
  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • Splash of Diet Sprite

Pour liquors and pineapple juice over ice and shake to combine. Strain into martini glass and add splash of Diet Sprite. Chase with a Michelob Ultra.

The JWOWWza - This shot is inspired by JWOWW's hair: brunette with blonde streaks. Whether the shot looks that way going down or coming up is dependent on your individual tolerance.

  • 2 parts Goldschlager
  • 1 part Jagermeister

Pour the Goldschlager in a tall shot glass and then add the Jagermeister, creating a faux black and gold mix. Chase with a Michelob Ultra.

Ron Ron Juice - We can't take credit for this Jersey Shore original. This is Ronnie's go to pre-game beverage before a night on the town.

  • 1/2 cup Watermelon Slices
  • 1/4 cup Maraschino cherries
  • 1 cup Cranberry Juice
  • 1 cup Vodka (in NOLA we use Taaka)
  • 2 cups ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and let 'r rip. Pour in glass and chase with a ... you guessed it... Michelob Ultra.

Don't forget to check back next Thursday when we talk about food. We had planned on giving you a few ideas as to what to nibble on, but after Domino's pulled their commercials from the show we had to rethink everything. But don't worry - Deli Fresh Ham WILL be on the menu.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kitchen Essentials


Flavor does not appear out of thin air. It must be developed. One of the easiest ways to develop deep flavors is to caramelize the sugars that are in most foods. Due to a complex chemical reaction (called a Maillard reaction) the heat of cooking and the sugars of food can turn into flavor with a little bit of coaxing from you.

About the only thing you can not caramelize is water. But if you haven't tried this essential of the kitchen before, let's start with something simple and practical: caramelized onions. Caramelized onions are a boon to a cook. Top hamburgers with them, use them in soups, or as a sprinkle over a bed of cold Asian style noodles, they are an easy, cheap way to boost your cooking chops.

Start with the onion. It has to ends that I refer to as the neck and the butt. This is what I call the neck.
This is the butt.
We are going to slice half moons of this onion because we want larger pieces of onion for the finished product. Ohhh, this post will double as a recipe for French Onion Soup. So cut off the neck and butt end. Your onion now resembles a rough approximation of the earth. With the butt and root end representing the poles. Place it with the pole side down (either north or south you pick) and cut it along a line of longitude. I like the prime meridian.

Now peel off the outer skin of each half and place cut end down on cutting board. Slice onion into thin strips along the lines of latitude starting at one pole and working through the equator to the opposite pole. Do this for both the Eastern and Western Hemisphere.

Dont worry, you will get better, but for now anything thinner than a two quarters thickness will do. Repeat on 5 other onions. Try not to cry, Tebow.

Now heat a thick pot or your dutch oven on medium heat. When pan is hot add a knob of butter and a two second glug of olive oil. Place onions in pan and stir. Add some salt and pepper. The salt will draw out moisture from the onions which helps caramelize them.

The goal here is to cook slowly like making a roux. Keep vigilante make sure the onions do not burn or cook to fast. Stir every few minutes; it will take a good amount of time, just be patient. When the onions are good and brown you are finished. They will keep in a container in the fridge for a week or so. They hardly ever last that long in my house though.

To finish making soup, add a few cloves of chopped garlic, some thyme, cayenne (to help combat the sweetness), a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce, a bay leaf, a cup of red wine, and 6 cups of beef, chicken, or veal stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat, let simmer for thirty minutes. Top with cheesy croutons if so desired.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

$20. 3 Courses. 1 Great Meal

According to numerous reputable sources, December is "National Office Luncheon Month." * Whether the occasion be Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, these end of the year lunches often signify both celebration and appreciation. In short, it's a big deal, especially for those minions of the microwave who often enough take their lunches in the office. In choosing the locale for such an event, the #1 guiding principle should be "know your audience." Pick a place not for you but for your guest(s). For some, fine dining fits the bill; for others, frosty mugs of beer and po-boys at Liuzza's are all they want.

If you are searching for a restaurant in the former category, might I suggest Restaurant August, whose $20.09 3 Course Prix Fixe Lunch comes under budget no matter if the market is bull or bear. Back in early October, Rene scribbled out a few reasons why he thinks lunch at August is the best deal in town. I tested his theory a while back, and even though I had a different menu than Rene (and the menu likely has changed again since my visit), I have to agree with him.

Two more things you should know:
  1. This is not a 60 minute lunch. Each course is prepared to order, and prolonged periods between courses are common (and sometimes frustrating). Realize this going in.
  2. As you probably already expect, portion sizes are small. Big eaters will likely still be hungry when they stand up from the table, while others will appreciate finishing their dessert and not feeling uncomfortably full. (See my above notation about knowing your audience.)
While the lunch special is advertised as three courses, your meal will likely include an amuse. On my visit, we were presented a rich truffle custard served inside a hollow egg shell and accented with caviar. This "surprise course" is a subtle touch which both whets the appetite and reinforces that this is no ordinary lunch.

For my lunch, there were 4 appetizer choices, though I see that the online menu has now 6. The list will likely include a salad, soup, and a slab of pâté de campagne large enough to share among a table of four. If you're lucky you can order the "Salmon Crunchy Roll" - lightly fried lobster tail draped in house cured salmon and placed atop homemade tartar and beet sauces.
The list of main courses has been equally expanded. Fish. Fowl. Beef. Each is usually available, as is the above acorn squash "mezze luna," a relative of the tasting menu's yard egg raviolo. The lacquered duck and goat cheese dumplings with matsutake mushroom broth will warm your heart and soul.

Dessert selections are constantly evolving. One example is the trio of chocolate stuffed beignets, each placed atop different fruit sauce (apple butter, lemon, and satsuma).

The point is this: No matter what is on the menu, you should expect expertly prepared cuisine at an affordable price point. I can't think of a better way to please both the guests and the host.
* Actually, I made this up.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Colonel Dickie

Is that:

a) Dickie Brennan's official Kentucky Colonel appellation?

b) Dread Pirate Robert's "screen" name?

c) A great name for a cocktail?

Last Thursday I was invited to attend a ceremony proclaiming Dickie Brennan an official Kentucky Colonel. Legend has it that the Kentucky Colonel was established to honor a group of Kentuckians who had served valiantly in the War of 1812. Some of the perks of being a Colonel include access to a Colonel's Box at the Kentucky Derby and free dry cleaning on all white suits.

In all seriousness, it is a very big deal. Other members of the club include Bill Clinton, Pope John Paul II, and Muhammed Ali. Mr. Brennan has spent a lifetime highlighting and selling Kentucky's finest commodity: bourbon. In recognition of his work, they made him a Colonel. Which means Donnie Boy Riguez has a shot to become an honorary Mayor of Metairie in light of his tireless devotion to daiquiris.

The event was held upstairs at Bourbon House in a wood paneled room that seems tailor made for secret rituals. To begin, there were a few cocktails: a Meyer Lemon Sidecar and a Sazerac. Then a five course meal with a different bourbons accompanying each dish.

My favorite was the spicy butternut squash puree with toasted pumpkin seeds and cayenne maple oil and jumbo lump crabmeat. This soup had a wonderful texture, intense heat, and nice sweetness from the crab. In fact it almost reminded me of Indian cuisine. This was paired with Eagle Rare Single Barrel, a delicious and peppery bourbon. Of course, all the bourbons were pretty incredible. Shoot, bourbon is America's greatest invention.

Sorry I don't have any pictures because it was darker than an angsty teenager in there. So congrats again to Dickie Brennan and thank you to his staff and the lovely people of Kentucky.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Maitre'd Walks Into Lakeview Harbor

It is Friday. You are reading ESPN and People who are both incidentally talking about the same person. We don't waste good articles on Friday. So prepare ye for the snow by reading below.

Check out our review of Lakeview Harbor. The Lakeview area has been largely neglected by the press, city, and others; but one thing is for certain the resilient, tough Lakevillians need a good place to have a cold beer and a delicious meal. And Lakeview Harbor does that very well. Lakeview Harbor has that dark, dimly lit, this "would be a great place to drink all day while watching the game" vibe going for it. The burgers aint bad either.

But the real star are these dry wings. Fried to order, then rolled in a spicy dry rub. Be careful not to inhale the heat. Lorin Gaudin recommends the salads at Lakeview Harbor; I recommend that you not listen to such poppycock.
While you have your copy of offBEAT, read about Patrick Van Hoorebeck. The addition of Patreeck at August has greatly improved an already impressive dining experience. Plus, who wouldn't want to begin their day at eleven a.m. with a glass of Champagne?

See you next week with a recap of Dickie Brennan's Kentucky Colonel Coronation (a Colonation-or is that a medical procedure recommended once a year for men over 30?) and likely some more recaps of Asian food we are eating.

Pho Dat?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Over the River...

... and through the Wank, to The Shrimp Lot we go.

No, seriously. It's called simply "The Shrimp Lot," and it even has a website. I feel as if I am possibly disclosing some well kept secret among the city's restaurateurs. I had never even heard of this place before two weeks ago when The Folk Singer and I rode out there with our friend, The Wedding Planner. We crossed the CCC and just kept on driving. And driving. And driving. Until we reached Louisiana Street, pulled into the gravel parking lot, and entered a world I had yet to encounter before.

The setup is similar to what I imagine a Turkish to bazaar looks like. There must be 7 or 8 stalls lined up one after the other along each side of the parking lot. How do you choose which one to buy from? I have no idea. I honestly cannot even remember which purveyor we ended up buying from. What I do know is this:
  1. Most of the prices are negotiable if you buy in bulk. We purchased 25lbs of U-10 shrimp, and the per pound price was cut from $4.15 to $3.85 per pound.
  2. This is hands down, no question, the cheapest price for fresh seafood that you will find anywhere in the area.
  3. The vendors sell anything and everything that comes out of the water.
They have crabs: boiling, gumbo, and picked crabmeat.

They have fish: speckled trout, mackerel, drum, and a quite a few other species.
They have oysters. They have frog legs. They have turtle meat. They even had crawfish.

But by far the most bountiful catch was shrimp. Not surprising, right? You dance with the one that brought you. There were every size imaginable, ranging from $2.00 per pound for the smallest to $5.00 for the largest. The Shrimp Lot even has a list of recipes for you to try. They got shrimp fettuccini, shrimp scampi, shrimp ono nui, mexican shrimp, deviled shrimp.
Or, for us purists out there, fried shrimp.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frosty's Caffe (Not a Typo)

Feeding a hangover is tricky business. When you are younger and more resilient, you use greasy food, french fries, and another beer to get over the malaise. But recently this just hasn't done the trick. That kind of meal sits in your stomach. Plus, when hungover you always are starving and then by the time you have three bites you aren't really hungry anymore. Luckily there is a genre of cuisine perfect for this: Asian.

What I crave when hungover is simple, fresh, delicious flavors. I want to eat, but not fill myself up. Last Saturday after our annual post-Thanksgiving lunch at Galatoire's, Lindsay and I sought out the Vietnamese on the other bank, Frosty's.

Frosty's is on Cleary, near Johnny Bright Playground. It is really a smoothie/bubble tea bar that happens to serve food. All the standards are on the menu. We went with a barbecue pork banh mi, an order of bun, and a rice dish with pork and shrimp.

All in all, the food was pretty disappointing. The bread on the banh mi was stale and the pork filling was minuscule. However, the mouth-searing heat of the thin sliced jalapenos got the endorphins flowing.

The bun lacked chargrilled pork, despite the menu's insistence on it being there. The egg rolls filled with ground pork were very good though. The noodles were fatter than normal and the dish was dry, despite dumping the container of nuoc all over the noodles.

The rice dish was OK. Although the rice was a little greasy, it had a very good dispersal of those crunchy bits of rice which make fried rice so great. Again, more of the very good pork filled egg rolls, but how many of those can one person eat at a time. Five is apparently my answer.
But my real problem was being hungover. You see, every few minutes some tanning salon regular fresh from Pilates class would run inside and order a smoothie or a bubble tea with extra "tappy oca". Then the small room would rattle with the cacophony of a three hundred horsepower blender. It sounded as if a boat engine was cavitating inside your head. Plus, they were blaring Vietnamese New Age Muzak on a radio. It was sensory overload which left us unsatisfied and craving Nine Roses or Pho Tau Bay.

Sometimes when you are hungover, you need to just stick with Camelia Grill.

Frosty's Cafe - Bogey.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Last week should probably be coined as "the fattest week of the year" (especially after the week started with Po-Boy Fest). I always try to eat light during the days after Thanksgiving, both in the interest of detoxification from the week before and of preparation for the Christmas season which lies ahead.

Chicken and beef kabobs lathered with thick yogurt sauce probably does not qualify as "light" per se, but that's what I love about Middle Eastern food: it's an easy way to fool myself into thinking that I am eating healthy. Still, my guess is that a chicken shawarma salad will run you far fewer Weight Watcher points than a Big Mac or 6" meatball from Subway. And it tastes better.

Lebanon's on Carrollton puts out a pretty good plate of hummus, and the prices are in line with most other Middle Eastern restaurants in the city. But that's about it. The food is good, but not necessarily better than what I have eaten around town. Come to think of it, I'd have to say that my most recent Middle Eastern meals have been average over all. Again, the food has not been the problem. Perhaps my ambivalence is due to the disappearance of the bargain prices on most menus. ($14 for the above combination kabob plate?) Or maybe I am just eating at the wrong places?

What do y'all think? I am going to need another salad after this weekend, and I want to know where to go.

Lebanon's - Par