Thursday, April 30, 2009


They make a mean plate of nachos. This is usually my Hornets pre-game snack of choice. Unfortunately, there will be no Game 6. So I guess this picture will just have to do till November.

Here's to beelieving that there's always next season.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Looking for a not-so-crowded brunch spot on Easter Sunday is tough enough, but throw in "The Challenge" and it's downright near impossible in the case that you have already hit up your favorites. But after some research The Folk Singer and I thought that eat* might still be under the radar enough so that we would not need to wait. And we were right.

The space is a corner split-level with wood floors, vaulted ceilings, and lots of windows.  The crowd was an eclectic mix of families decked out in seersucker to French Quarter locals, yet no one seemed out of place.  The tables are draped in white table cloths and then covered with a protective layer of white butcher paper.  Minimalism at its finest.

We started with the Tomato Pesto and Feta Torte, which was big enough to share between 6 people. The pesto was very assertive in flavor, with the acidity causing me to believe that it was made with sundried tomatoes. I think that the layers of feta were mixed with a bit of cream cheese, but I could be wrong.

The flavors were strong, but in a good way. My only complaint was the torte was served straight out of the fridge. I think it would have been better closer to room temperature.

TFS had the Fried Green Tomato Breakfast complete with hollandaise, bacon, and poached eggs. These were probably the best fried green tomatoes I have ever had - thick-sliced with a flaky coating. The hollandaise was kind of a bust though as it was closer to broken than it was a thick and fluffy emulsion.

I had the special: homemade corned beef "hash" with poached eggs and hollandaise. The "hash" was incredible - a loose mixture of uniform cubes of potatoes and crisped chunks of corned beef with a few slices of red pepper thrown in for fun. The eggs were perfectly poached, and if the previously mentioned hollandaise had been better, this would make my all time top 5 breakfasts list.

I really enjoyed our brunch. The service and atmosphere at eat is very laid back and relaxed, but not to the point where we ever felt neglected. The freshly squeezed orange juice was phenomenal, and the best part: BYOB (just bring your own champagne).  Couple this experience with TFS' rave review of their roast beef po-boy at French Quarter Fest, and I can't wait to go back. (But not till next year, of course.)

eat - Birdie

* Per the website and sign on the door, "eat" is spelled in all lower case letters, which is why I followed suit. In reality, I HATE/DESPISE/LOATHE improperly capitalized names. But I deal with it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Photo Essay of a Weekend

Jazz Fest on Friday beget dinner at Cafe Degas which in turn birthed a round or three at Clever. The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning, cooking, and hoping the Saints would draft a punter!
The mascot for Hogs for the Cause 2K+10.
Some beautiful purchases from the Farmer's Market, carrots and Swiss Chard. The carrots turned into a chilled orange, ginger and carrot soup. To make saute diced carrots in a soup pan with some grated ginger, salt, pepper, and red pepper flake. After a few minutes, squeeze an orange in and cover with water. Cook until tender. Puree. Chill. Serve.
These are some peeled and blanched fava beans. I liked them better earlier in the season when they were small, bittersweet nuggets. Although these were not bad in a risotto. On Sunday, a pot roast simmered gently on the stove as we waited for the Saints to draft. Here it is after I seared the chuck roast.

Then into the pan went a combination of leeks, onion, garlic, celery and tomatoes. That mingles for a few minutes and then some red wine and stock gets added. Lid half on for 8 hours. And then...

Pot roast on top of sauteed Swiss Chard. Strain pan juices and reduce. The Swiss Chard could have been better.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Attention Readers

Last week's guest blogger drew critical praise from around the globe. "This is the best article you guys have never written," wrote anonymous from Falls Church.

"The quality of punctuation has never been higher," said Kevin from Kalamazoo.

"I used to hate blackened out, now I can't get enough," said Billy Mays.

Ok, here is the deal. Peter is going to be studying for the Louisiana State Bar Exam this summer. Kudos to Peter. Despite my warnings to him that this test is not to be taken seriously, he has decided to really get serious this time about a test. Peter is staying in Baton Rouge throughout the summer and will not return to New Orleans until August.

I can only write one good article and two or three pieces of junk of a week. We like to have a different article M-F. So, we are turning Thursdays over to you dear readers. Ever wondered what it would be like to write for a hobby? Well here is your chance.

It can be about anything tangentially related to food: restaurants, booze, recipes, experiences with food poisoning, gardening, or composting. It does not matter. Just send us your story (by email to blackenedout at gmail dot com), let us know if you want to be anonymous, get a cool nickname, or go by your Confirmation name.

Whichever post guest post gets the most hits, wins a free meal with Peter, Rene, and the bloglebrity of their choice.

Thanks for the help.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jazz Fest '09

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of Jazz Fest. Like you needed another reason to go? The weather outlook for this weekend is very optimistic, so take to the Fairgrounds and revel in the greatest celebration of our unique culture. Not sure which acts to see or what to eat? Pickup a free copy of the Jazz Fest Bible at the gates. This pocket sized guide is the handy dandy work of our editor over at offBeat, complete with the our rundown of the food vendors. There are too many to list here. But no worries because no matter what you decide to eat, for some reason it always tastes better at Jazz Fest.

Tomorrow Chef Donald Link will be in the Book Tent from 2:00-3:00 signing copies of his new book Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana. On a related note, Calcasieu, Chef Link's new private event facility, will be serving dinner this weekend and next. Checkout the menu on the right hand side of the page under the heading "Stay Current."

Besides Jazz Fest there is also the Zurich Classic over at TPC (where the food in the Champion's Tent has been pretty good in my past experiences), and also the Hornets come home for Game 3 tomorrow at noon.

I still beelieve.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Trip Report: French Quarter Fest '09

Editor's Note - Both Rene and I were out of town last weekend and thus had to miss out on all of the fun. But because she had volunteered at FQF all weekend, The Folk Singer offered to give us a full report on her experience. Below is her guest review. We thank her for picking up our slack. WARNING - This post is very looooooooong. Our guest bloggers sometimes get overexcited when making their debut.


My friend Tay and I had the pleasure of volunteering* at French Quarter Fest this past weekend, selling booze. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. Since neither of the BlackenedOut guys made it to the Fest, we decided to hijack the blog and tell you about what we ate.

On Saturday, we were assigned to the Abita Beer booth at the Old U.S. Mint. Live zydeco music and beer, what more do you need in life? We showed up an hour before our shift and picked up our food tickets. The volunteer coordinator was eating some SERIOUS spring rolls, which immediately grabbed our attention because we all know it's tough to find stellar Vietnamese “east" of Gretna. But we both knew there was a lot of beer drinking in our future, so we decided to start off with something a little more substantial.

Enter The Joint. After hearing Peter talk about the Joint so much, I have been dying to try it out, but haven’t made it over to the Bywater just yet. Thank God for festival food. I decided on the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw...and proceeded to smother it with The Joint’s slightly spicy red BBQ sauce. Perfection. The coleslaw provided a crisp and refreshing crunch to the sandwich, but the size left me wishing The Joint had offered up its mac & cheese or potato salad too.

Tay decided on the Roast Beef Debris po-boy from EAT. This was a winner in our book, not only because the beef was both incredibly flavorful and perfectly cooked to a tender texture, but also because the French bread added the perfect amount of crunchy exterior and soft interior to soak up the beef juices.

We then realized that we had arrived at French Quarter Fest just in time to catch Acme's Oyster-Eating Contest before our shift started (pictures and video of the contest coming soon). Some of the world's most accomplished oyster-eaters came from far and wide to see who could devour the most gelatinous raw oysters in 8 minutes. Nothing like some good ole beef and pork sandwiches to complement this seafood spectacle. While watching one woman putting a dozen oysters in her mouth at a time before swallowing and another man actually sweating and gagging his way through 15 dozen mollusks in the warm Louisiana sun might not SEEM appetizing, you should know-the beef debris po-boy would not be denied. With creole mustard and horseradish mayonnaise as the condiments of choice, Tay finished the soft French bread and juicy beef debris in an impressive time herself. And did we mention the HORSERADISH MAYO?? It doesn’t get much better than that.

After serving (and drinking) ice cold delicious Abita for about 4 hours, we decided we might be hungry again and those spring rolls were still on our minds, so we checked out Amy's Vietnamese Cafe. The plan was to order two crawfish eggrolls and two spring rolls to split between us, but the crawfish eggrolls were long gone. Not being known for our ability to exercise moderation, we quickly recovered by ordering 4 spring rolls instead. They did not disappoint. The plump and delicious spring rolls were double the size of some of the "recession spring rolls" we've eaten lately and the fact that Amy and her crew were able to pump out spring rolls all day at an outdoor festival was downright impressive.

Standing in (the very very very long) line gave customers the opportunity to watch Amy and friends dip each piece of rice paper into a bowl of water, fill it with pork, shrimp, cabbage, vermicelli and fresh herbs. No premade rolls here and the line was certainly worth the wait. The warm peanut sauce was ladled into a cup and added to the plate as a finishing touch. And a damn good one at that, this was FRESH peanut sauce. It was served warm- not because they were working outdoors in Louisiana in April, but because the peanut sauce was being made fresh on site. You could eat this stuff straight up with a spoon. And of course, in honor of Peter, a glob of sriracha.

A quick conversation with the cashier (Amy’s son) revealed that Amy’s Vietnamese Café is not actually a café at all. Apparently Amy sets up in the French Market on the weekends, and doesn't actually have a restaurant. Which means, next time we are in the Quarter, we will be checking out Amy's Vietnamese “Café” - I still can't stop thinking about how good the crawfish eggrolls looked.


Sunday we were assigned to the wine/frozen Southern Comfort booth at Woldenberg Park. While we would love to entertain you with stories on the differences between festival beer drinkers and festival liquor drinkers, that is a topic for an entirely separate post. On our way to check in, we passed the Gelato Pazzo booth (which we all know is my new favorite) and decided Tay needed to be introduced to a little cup of heaven. One chocolate and one strawberry later (which were devoured too quickly for us to get a picture), we were probably the happiest volunteers at the Fest.

Once we arrived at the booth, we realized we didn't have to venture far...or even use our free food test out some delicious food. Frank's Restaurant was set up in the booth connected to ours and the minute we saw chocolate covered cannolis, we knew we were right where we needed to be. Luckily, the people from Frank's love Southern Comfort, and we were able to make some trades throughout the day.

Muffulettas (again, we ate the actual muffuletta too fast to get a picture, but the stacked up bread made for an interesting subject and you can see a few muffulettas in the background)...

... and cannoli covered in chocolate and oozing with deliciously creamy ricotta/chocolate chip filling. Taylor has already declared cannolis will be served at her next birthday. And you’re all invited.

We didn’t get a chance to check out their meatball subs because we were completely stuffed, but trust us when we say those things looked and smelled AMAZING. Next time you are in the Quarter and looking for a (very filling) snack, we highly recommend that you check Frank’s out. And tell them the SoCo girls from French Quarter Fest sent you….maybe they will give us free cannolis for life or something.

Last but not least, the gastronomic highlight of the day came when Frank's made a trade with Flour Power. Strawberry Creole Cream Cheese Cake. Imagine angel food cake, layered with creole cream cheesecake, more angel food cake, fresh halved strawberries, topped off with a thin layer of frosting. The level of sweetness was just enough to pique your interest, but never cloying and the sweet fruit really hit the spot. If Tay is getting her dream cannoli birthday cake, mine would be made of this stuff.

All in all, the weekend was a complete success. From now on, volunteering at festivals will be the way we go. Because there are few things we'd rather do on the weekends than drink great beer, eat great food, meet great people and help bring the city of New Orleans back.
*A well-deserved plug for the FQF Volunteering Crew. Volunteering might have been the best idea we've ever had--free food, free Abita, free t-shirts and free conversations with wildly entertaining with people who come to New Orleans from all over the country for FQF.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pistou Soup

Maybe we are homebodies, but we find the best thing about traveling is coming home. A weekend spent away makes you realize the small things about home you missed. Be it a an afternoon nap or just sitting in the backyard with the sun blistering the back of your neck and WWOZ cackling on your old intercom system, some things just can't be done on the road. So after we got home on Sunday, picked up the hounds, and ran some errands, a soup had us saying, "there is no place like home."

Pistou soup is an ode to vegetables, springtime, and comfort. The intriguing thing about this delight is that you place a scoop of fresh pesto on top of the broth in the bowl. The pesto melts into the soup flavoring the potage. The rich green of the pesto melds with the heat of the soup releasing an aroma of vibrancy and fresh cut grass.

Serve with some hot, crusty bread, a 2007 Chehalem Inox Chardonnay, and the Rock of Love 3 Reunion and you are home.

Pistou Soup

In a pot suitable for souping, combine diced leek, onion, carrot, and celery with olive oil. Saute until translucent. Add garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, red chili flake. Add water or stock to cover. Bring to a simmer. Add green beans (which you have blanched*) and some hearty lettuce (I had some bib lettuce sitting around). Continue to simmer.

Meanwhile, make a pesto. I had parsley, a jalepeno, some walnuts, and some parmesan cheese laying around. So I used that. Just combine the above in a food processor or your mortar and pestle. You use whatever you want or have. Use more herb than you think you need. Work it out, then drizzle in olive oil, maybe some lemon juice. Taste, adjust seasonings.

Ladle soup into bowl, dollop pesto on top. Feel free to use whatever veggies you want, beans if you have them, or maybe even potatoes (for our buddies at Eating in Nola). You could also serve this soup at room temperature in the summer with equally good results.

The leftover pesto smeared inside an omelet studded with queso fresco did not suck for a Monday lunch. A baby basil plant is sprouting in my bed, along with some oregano, and hopefully some okra and cukes. Summer is sneaking a peek, so take advantage of Spring's offer now.

* Heavily salted water bring to a rolling boil. Toss beans in cook until tender. Remove immediately and place in ice bath to cool.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blackened Out Travelogue: Austin, Texas

"So far everything has gone pretty much perfect," Lindsay said as the car eased into a parking spot at MSY.

For the next 12 hours, things were far from perfect. When Lindsay uttered the kiss of death all we had done to that point was manage to shower, pack, drop the dogs off at the boarding spot, and drive to the airport. Somehow these small accomplishes deserved kudos. Then we spent the next half of a day in an airport watching it rain. Or in an airplane not being able to land due to rain. Then when we got to Austin, our luggage was sopping wet. Which translates into, damp clothing. Fun times.

We got to the hotel, lamented our wet clothes, and went in search for some grub which is when we found Casino El Camino. The Amarillo burger has a fresh ground, hand formed patty, pepper jack cheese and chili verde sauce. My major qualm with it is the bun is larger and spongier than it needs be. But the spice level makes you drink beer fast (Lone Star, Boddington's and Newcastle). This great burger was the perfect anti-venom to a crap day of air travel.
But the real tonic to our troubles was the chili verde french fries. Hands down, likely the best cheese fries I have ever had. The fries, queso, and vibrant green chilis were layered a la lasagna. This had two purposes. First, the fries stayed remarkably crisp throughout the grazing. Second, the last fry was just as delectable as the first. The chili verde provided a freshness which reminded me of chimichurri sauce.
The next morning, after a really well done rehearsal dinner, we awoke slightly hungover and starving. We went walking down Congress Ave. But with our luck we went the wrong way and ended up somewhere else than we intended. A taxi brought us to Guero's, where at 11:15 am we slammed down chips, salsas, pico de gallo, guacomole, margaritas, and some tacos. But the standout were these beans which were delightfully rich, tender, and hinted at the cumin scented broth they had simmered in.

Then some more perambulating led us to a trailer park of culinary carriages where Airstreams sold popcorn, things in a cone, and cupcakes. This is a Double Dose-chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing-from Hey Cupcake. The white stuff is whipped cream forced into the cupcake until it erupts out, they call this option the Whippersnapper. The cupcake had a dense level of chocolate and the interior was very moist.
A few more paces down South Congress and we ran into Home Slice. There was a line out the door which is always a good sign. Luckily for us, they have a window where you can order za by the slice.
Guess what type of za we got?
Then onto Doc's Motor Works for a few beers. This Widmer Ale was Lindsay's favorite. Fresh, and vibrant with a citrus flavor punching up the finish, this is the kind of beer you could drink all day.
We left Austin wanting more. I would love to get back, have a car, and really explore the food places with a local guide. But the wedding was great, especially the food. I have a theory about wedding food which goes like this, it usually sucks. But the food at this wedding was splendid and smartly chose items that could be made ahead of time without losing their punch. My favorite were probably the late night mini grilled cheeses and brandy Alexander shots. Tomorrow I will show you the best thing we ate all weekend...

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Bistro

Galatoire's Bistro, that is. I know, I know. "If I can't go to the original, then I don't want to go at all." But neither The Folk Singer nor I had ever been before, so we decided to give it a shot. (Plus ever since the infamous "Deep Fried" episode, I'm not sure if Rene and I will ever be allowed back on Bourbon Street.) The food was good. Very good. The experience, nowhere near the same but not bad in anyway. However, when making reservations I would suggest requesting a table in the main dining room, as the auxiliary one has the feeling of Siberia, i.e. upstairs at the original.

Our meal consisted of the classics, but I wish that I would have tried some of the new dishes such as the Duck Crepe or Beef Tip Shepherd's Pie. Maybe next time. We started with the above basket of soufflé potatoes with bearnaise. (Actually, we had two orders. But who's counting, right?) The bearnaise was heavenly thick and delicious.
TFS started with the Gouté of luscious crabmeat maison and a sharp shrimp remoulade. Both of the seafoods tasted fresh - with neither cold appetizer having the stagnant flavor of which they sometimes suffer from.

Galatoire's Oysters Rockefeller have always been my favorite out of all the Grand Dames. There is just enough sauce on top to protect the oysters from overcooking under the intense heat but not overwhelm the flavor. You just know that hidden under that layer of green goodness is a plump oyster just waiting to be devoured.

For entrees I had Trout Yvonne and TFS had Filet Bearnaise (yes, more bearnaise). Unfortunately none of the pictures came out because the lighting was too low and I don't carry around a pocket-sized lighting rig like some people. However I did get a shot of the dessert special.

Profiteroles with vanilla and mint ice creams. I thought that the pastry was a little stale, but the ice creams were delicious.

Galatoire's Bistro - Birdie.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Weekend Loaded With Events

First there is French Quarter Fest. The locals' Jazz Fest, this festival combines many of your favorite things about New Orleans: food, booze, music, the French, and quarters - all at a price up to 100% less than Jazz Fest.

Although the price is free, Blackened Out is selling limited edition tickets to this year's French Quarter Fest. For $25 you get access to all stages and front of line skippage privileges at all food booths. For an extra $25, you can reserve your ticket to next year's Mardi Gras.

See? We love a deal here.

Also, there is the 6th Annual Bayou Basset Boogie at Audubon Park on Sunday. So if you like slow, lazy hound dogs waddling around a picturesque park, then this party is for you. I hear Donnie Boy Riguez will be there with his new hound, Ms. Daisy de la Hoya.

Alas, Lindsay and I will be unable to make either event as we are heading to Austin City Limits for the wedding of our PR Director and Social Chair. So Austin, a city I have never been to, prepare to be boarded. Peter has told me something about a mechanical bull, all-you-can-eat barbecue, and a gallon of margaritas. It sounds like fun. If you live in/lived in/frequently visit/ have visited/are named Austin and read this crap, leave a comment and tell me where to go.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Habemus Gelatum

Two weeks ago I lamented about my search for the ever fleeting "real" gelato. For me, neither Sucre nor La Divina makes the cut in terms of texture (which, in my opinion, is what separates gelato from ice cream). After being inspired both by our commenters' suggestions and finishing the Crescent City Classic, I once again embarked on my search for the city's best gelato. And I found it at...

Gelato Pazzo Caffe. Congratulations, Pigna family. You deliver the smoothest, softest, richest, creamiest gelato these taste buds have savored. Above is a half 'n half cup of chocolate and hazelnut. Mrs. Pigna also alerted us to the "Cicconut" flavor (hazelnut with nutella) that unfortunately was not part of that day's selections. The gelato base includes milk from Smith Creamery - as does the base at La Divina. Maybe it's the "imported Italian special mixing equipment" that makes the difference? I don't know they do it, but I'm glad they do.

On a related note, Oak Street (where Gelato Pazzo is located) is undergoing major construction right now. As you can see below, the street is completely torn up and impassable by car. However, all of the Oak St. Merchants are still open for business. So if you're in need of a new pair of white bucks, swing by Haase's and you can stop by Gelato Pazzo next door. Two birds. One stone.

Gelato Pazzo Caffe - Eagle

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Top Chef is in Town

Yesterday Richard Blais and Radhika Desai were at the Crescent City Farmer's Market. They put on a few cooking demos, chatted up the crowd, soaked in the nice weather, and took time out of their day to talk with Blackened Out.

Blackened Out (BO): First time to New Orleans?
Radhika Desai (RD): I have been here once before but I was too young to remember.
Richard Blais (RB): This is my third visit. First time I was in college and there may have been a few Hurricanes involved so I don't remember much. I was here for the finale of Top Chef 5 and I am here now.

BO: What are your connections, if any to New Orleans and Louisiana cooking?
RD: We ate at Commander's Palace last night and had an amazing meal with a lot of wine so I have a bit of a headache this morning.
RB: New Orleans, and I guess to a larger extent the South, but definitely New Orleans, has the only real, original food culture in the United States. I love being here, I am always inspired by the food of New Orleans. At my burger restaurant Flip we have a Shrimp Po Boyger which is ground shrimp with kind of a spicy remoulade, it screams New Orleans.

BO: The fans at the demo all seem to want to know "how do you think up those dishes on such short notice". Well, where does creativity come from?
RD: I think it is innate to be an artist. Some people are scientific, doctors, engineers, but being creative is something entirely different it has to come from the heart.
RB: Creativity is everywhere. I get inspired from just about everything from a leaf blowing down the street to a hot dog at a baseball game. For instance, I was at a Braves game and I had a Chicago Style hot dog. I had never had one of these before, it had hot peppers, tomato, celery salt-all these things right. Well I went back to my restaurant and had an idea to use those same condiments with octopus because octopus has a very similar texture and shape to a hot dog. Is this boring you?

: Absolutely not, I love this stuff. As a follow up though, isn't all creativity in some ways rooted in something you previously experienced.
RB: Absolutely.
RD: Yes, I use my past experiences, places I have been, chefs I have worked with to create my future dishes.

BO: As American consciousness about food has grown, many restaurants have begun serving a form of comfort food-meatloaf, roast chicken, etc...- almost as a reaction to the French formality of classic restaurants. Isn't part of the restaurant experience one of entertaining and doing something at a restaurant the diner can't do at home?
RB: Yes, listen I have no problem serving roast chicken and mashed potatoes and charging $24 to a diner, but my philosophy about restaurants has always been that there needs to be something entertaining and engaging about them. There is a new paradigm in the kitchen, the consumer wants something more than just being served, they want to be part of the process. They see shows like Top Chef and other food shows and the want more from dining out. And markets like this (Crescent City Farmer's Market) make it really easy for the home cook to do something great with simple ingredients. So yeah, I think a restaurant has a responsibility to do more.

BO: The "civilian" reaction to Top Chef has been overwhelmingly positive, what has been the reaction from the Chef community?
RD: Mixed. There are some that think it is bogus, fake, and just one giant product placement ad. There are others who are very supportive of it. But I think most chefs think that it gives a pretty accurate depiction of a genuine profession.
RB: I think the show reached a tipping point recently. Where it is now more widely accepted by the chef community as being very serious. There have been 75 people go through the show now, and in a business where everyone is sort of connected, people know the chefs on the show are tough, talented cooks.

BO: Radhika, are you dispelling the myth that chefs are "rockstars"?
RD: Chef's are not rockstars. We work very hard, 10-12 hour days in sweaty kitchens doing mundane tiresome work. There is very little rockstar in a kitchen. It is a hard life.

BO: Richard, you once wrote that some cheftestants look at Top Chef as an opportunity to get a golden egg, but the smart ones realize that Top Chef is a chance to get a hen that lays eggs. Can you talk about what you have done post-Top Chef?
RB: There have been literally tons and tons of opportunities. I had already had a little bit of exposure before Top Chef on Iron Chef and other FoodTV things, but I really owe a lot to Top Chef. I am doing product development with Quaker and McCormack, I do demos all over the country for corporations, foodies, and the like. I opened Flip (a burger shop) in Atlanta and we plan to open 20 more locations throughout the Southeast. We will be in New Orleans soon. Nashville and Birmingham are opening next. I have a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles I am opening that is more fine dining. So really at this point I am just focusing on keeping this incredible momentum going and going.
Richard Blais.
Radhika Desai and her dish, seared halibut with lentils, corn, and salad. Very good and a nice use of ginger in the lentils.

The back of the Top Chef demo kitchen and tour bus. Coming to a city near you soon. And I heard a little gossip of a Top Chef Master's Series which has just wrapped filming.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

St. James Beer Dinner

A few weeks ago, St. James proprietors Danielle and Richard Sutton, Stein's Deli's Dan Stein, and Chef Daniel Esses teamed up to put on a wonderful pairing of beer and food. The good folks from NOLA Brewing Co. also joined in and served some of their delicious brown ale all night long a la Lionel Richie.

NOLA Brewing Co. Brown Ale. I almost drank one thousand of these.

An amuse bouche of smoked redfish pate on a mushroom pinwheel with an essence of beet puree. Very gorgeous flavor in your mouth with the beet juice cleaning up the palate.

Braised pork belly with beer laden sauerkraut. The fattiness of the pork belly mingled quite comfortably with the acidic twang of the tender sauerkraut. I would have liked a touch more crunch on the pork belly but this is really just splitting hairs.

Loved the above. Beef cheek ravioli with sauteed kale. Just a wonderful example of pasta and simplicity.
Cheeses and quince paste.
Chocolate cake with an Ayinger ice cream and raspberry puree (the kind you buy from a secondhand store).

Each course was paired with a beer. Some standouts include a Fuller's ESB and a blonde Bruxelles. There was also an espresso stout paired with the final dish, which was very interesting. There were some beers we were not fond of, but that is a good thing. Disappointment would have reigned supreme had we been served Miller High Life and Blue Moon. So it was very enjoyable to get out of our comfort zone and try different beers. And for that, and the food, it gets a Birdie.

This Wednesday from 5-7 pm St. James will host Jeff Roberts, author of The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese for a meet and greet. Bart Bell from Huevos and soon to open Crescent Pie and Sausage Co. will be on hand passing out small plate creations. Huevos, if you haven't yet been, is worth the trip. Cost is free!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sushi in West End

Wasabi recently opened a 2nd location across from Russel's Marina Grill (in the former temporary location of the Steak Knife). This is the second time Wasabi has decided to give-it-a-go in 70124, with their first try on Canal Boulevard closing for good due to Katrina. (Warning: I have not been to the original Wasabi on Frenchman in quite a while, so I can't really compare the two locales.)

Our order (from right to left) was: Phoenix Roll, Super Crunchy Roll, and the LSU Roll. Here is my overall assessment: the sushi is good but not good enough or in big enough portions to justify the prices. For example, the LSU Roll (shrimp tempura and cream cheese inside with fresh tuna on top) was considerably smaller than its counterparts at other local sushi joints but still had a hefty price tag of $14. The Phoenix Roll of snow crab, avocado, and lettuce wrapped in rice paper and topped with salmon was not worth $10.50. (Seriously, since when does adding lettuce to a roll warrant a $5 bump in price?)

On the other hand, the Special Crunchy Roll - which is made "Special" by being topped with fresh salmon - is a much better deal at $6.50. Similarly, the Crunchy Dynamite Roll (above) is a great bargain at $5.50. As you can tell from the picture, Wasabi's Dynamite Roll consists of freshly cut fish as opposed to the finely chopped trimmings that most sushi restaurants serve. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Also, Wasabi adds yellowtail to the normal mix of tuna and salmon.

So I guess your best strategy at Wasabi is to stick to the simple rolls to get the most bang for your buck. While Little Tokyo on Carrolton is still my preferred sushi spot in the neighborhood, Wasabi is a welcomed addition to the lakefront dining scene.

Wasabi in West End - Par.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hell Hath Frozen Over

Camellia Grill is opening in Destin. Not sure if this is better or worse than the planned opening of a branch in Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge. But let's be honest - there will always be one and only one Camellia Grill. As is usually the case, this guy says it best.

Hey, Sleepy. Throw some cheese on those fries.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Need a Place for Easter Brunch?

Wolfe's, a place both Peter and I are quite fond of, is having a $35 three course Easter Lunch. The dining room at Wolfe's with its airy ceilings would be a fantastic place for a Sunday Brunch. And what is more, you can let your annoying relatives play in the traffic on Rampart St.

Here is the menu:

Sunday Brunch
Prix Fixe Menu $35

Fried Louisiana Oysters
In a crabmeat brie cream with a touch of pastis and shaved chives
Wolfe’s Chop Greek-Style Salad
With Kalamata olives, red onions, tomatoes and feta cheese, tossed with fresh herb vinaigrette
Fresh Fruit Plate
With pineapple, berries and melon, finished with Chambord crème chantilly
Pan Perdu (French toast)
Topped with Vermont maple syrup butter
Shrimp Bisque au Sherry
With shaved green onions and Creole boiled shrimp and corn relish

Eggs Pontchartrain
Poached eggs on top of Creole crab cakes with lemon chive hollandaise
Petite Filet
With pommes frites, grilled asparagus and sauce béarnaise
Grits and Grillades
Tender veal braised in a rich veal gravy with stone ground grits
Shrimp and Polenta
Creole spiced shrimp atop creamy pepper jack cheese polenta and
spicy barbeque butter sauce
Today’s Fresh Catch
Ask your server for Chef’s daily preparations
Ellie’s White Chocolate Butter Bars
Sorbet Fruit Plate

Side Dishes

Corned Beef Hash
Sliced Appledwood Smoked Bacon
Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes
Homemade Biscuits

Please call 504.593.9535 for reservations

1041 Rue Dumaine
New Orleans, LA 70116

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Highway Robbery

Occurred last Saturday at the New Orleans Bar & Grille. I was told by more knowledgeable and sage men not to participate in this sham operation "You will make a great dish and lose to a crawfish boil and some dude pouring Miller Lite down an Ice Luge." Well, as the jackass in the briar patch says, "Look before you leap."

First course: Grilled halloumi cheese on toasted pita bread with a strawberry, mint, and balsamic salsa. This simple explosion of the flavors of spring was no match for the awesome power of Mrs. Paul's fish sticks.

Second course: "Red Beans and Rice" as savory rice calas over a red bean puree with a horseradish brown mustard emulsion. Here is a pic.

We entered the above in the category of Most Creative. Now be honest dear readers, you have never seen red beans and rice served like this have you? That's creative or my name is Conformity. Well, it lost to crab beignets. Wow. Crab beignets have only been around for about 15 years. Who wins Most Creative next year, blackened redfish?

I'm so sorry to blow your fu%king mind judges, with such innovative twists on local cuisine, but I thought you could handle it. I guess I should have used my hands to make quotation marks when I described the dish. You know like how your companions do when they describe you as a friend to other people. Don't you fools know that quotation marks is restaurant code for watch out for the originality train?

Dessert was homemade peanut butter ice cream with a bacon praline chip and a bruleed banana, a/k/a "The Elvis." We lost to bread pudding, sponge cake, and white chocolate mousse. Injustice at a bar association function? That is like modesty at a strip club. No wonder people hate lawyers. I do too.

Section123SaintsFan and his cohorts won best overall. This stirring endorsement of their offerings by 123Fan shows they deserved to win, "Yeah we totally mailed it in this year. Some pecan bites or crap like that and Firefly Ice Tea Vodka. We do not stand a chance. Your food though is awesome."

I'm bitter, yes. But I have learned from my lesson. Next year, I am playing to the judges. Sliced Vienna Sausages on Saltines with French's mustard and a pickle, Circus Peanuts, and water from Cancun's municipal water supply. Say hello to my little friend, dysentery.

Photos courtesy of She La. Bah Humbug, plebes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Who's ready for lunch?

In case you didn't know already, I love me some Bulldog. Great burgers (this one happens to be mushroom jack), and better cheese fries than F&Ms. If you're Uptown, you can bring over crawfish from Big Fisherman across the street and eat on the patio.

Forecast for today is sunny and 60. What other reason do you need?