Monday, April 30, 2012

Cocktails & Curds

Pairing cheese with wine may be the traditional match made in heaven, but our friends at St. James Cheese Company are on a mission to prove that cocktails are equally adept at complementing your favorite formage, and they have enlisted a few of the city's best bartenders to help out. Cocktails & Curds  is a competition combining the timeless art of making cocktails with the ancient art of making cheese.

The competition challenges bartenders to create an original cocktail and pair their drink with a cheese. The preliminary round for Cocktails & Curds was held on April 23rd, and I was fortunate enough to act as one of several judges. The contestants were divided into two separate heats, with the top 3 from each heat advancing to the finals. My cadre of judges included Anne Tuennerman (a/k/a "Mrs. Cocktail), local food and beverage writer (and St. James alumna) Gwendolyn Knapp, Chef Donald Link, and yours truly. Our crew tasted our way through 7 cocktail and cheese pairings inside the shop, while a different group of judges sipped and scored the creations of the other competitors in the courtyard.

In the end, 6 finalists were chosen. Pictured to the left are Richard Dunnington from Loa and Rhiannon Enlil from Cure, 2 of the 3 finalists chosen from my judging round, along with Jennifer Rogers from Lillette. All three of the cocktails were well executed, balanced in flavor, and expertly paired with their chosen cheeses. Both Richard and Jennifer chose blue cheeses for pairings, while Rhinannon chose Tome de Bordeaux, one of my all time favorite cheeses, to pair with "The Salt Bridge." I would have more thoughts about the pairings, but immediately after the finalists were chosen, cheesemonger Casey Foote confiscated my tasting notes as if we had just completed the first tasting of the newest DRC vintage.
The judges hard at work. Look at the intensity in Chef Link's face.
The final round of Cocktails & Curds will be held on Monday May 7th at La Thai Restaurant at 7:00pm, and St. James invites you to be a judge. Tickets are $25 and include entertainment by the Stooges Brass Band and participation in the cheese and cocktail judging competition. Additional food and beverage will also be available for purchase. Special guest judges in the finals include cheesemakers Mateo Keller from Jasper Hill Farms in VT, Tasia Malakasis from Belle Chevre in AL, James Rudder from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, in addition to cheese expert and importer Sarah Zaborowski from Columbia Cheese, and Blackened Out's own Rene A. Louapre, IV, Esq.

If you have ever attended cheese school at St. James, you know how informative and fun their events can be. And if the preliminary rounds are any indication, Cocktails & Curds will continue that tradition. If anything, it will be worth $25 just to hang out with Rene for a few hours (or so he says).

Cocktails & Curds
Sponsored by St. James Cheese Company
Monday May 7th at 7:00pm
La Thai Restaurant
4938 Prytania
Tickets: $25

All photos by The Folk Singer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jazz Fest Feast

Some people see Jazz Fest as this:
Image courtesy of Ian Hoch/NOLA Defender.
When I think of Jazz Fest, I envision this:
Cochon de Lait Po-Boy from Love at First Bite.
While most Jazz Festers will be parked 100 yards from the Acura Stage listening to the Beach Boys or dancing in front of Congo Square to Cee Lo Green this weekend, I will likely be engaging in an internal debate as to whether I should go for that second cochon de lait po-boy from Love at First Bite. (And I must say that I had a taste of this pork perfection two weeks ago at French Quarter Fest, and it was best that I have eaten in the last 5 years.)

But as discussed in our article on feasting your way through Jazz Fest, doubling up on your favorite Jazz Fest foods may prevent you from enjoying the bounty from the Fair Grounds. So much to eat, so little stomach space to spare. You can read up on our tips for a multi-course Jazz Fest meal by clicking on the above link or by picking up a copy of OffBeat Magazine's Jazz Fest Bible on your way into the festival.

The food at Jazz Fest has been written about ad nauseum, so we will spare you from another Top 10 list. Instead, we want to know what you think are the most underrated and the most overrated eats at the Fest.

I'll start:

Most Underrated - Fatty's Cracklins
Most Overrated - Crawfish Enchiladas

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Liuzza's By The Track Bloody Mary: Is It Worth It?

Jazz Fest is so close you can almost see the loud, Hawaiian shirts, straw hats, and dream catchers walking through the Faubourg St. John. For many, no trip to the hallowed Fairgrounds are complete without a stop at Liuzza's By The Track for a Bloody Mary. They then shuffle there as yet un-sunburned selves past the Mystery Street entrance and proceed to embarrass themselves with what they term dancing.

To be honest, I would rather not drink than have a Bloody Mary. Too often, some jackal with a fistful of celery salt, ruins the simplicity of the drink by stuffing it with all sorts of garden garnishments. If I wanted to be reminded of yard work, I would just drink in my backyard. The bartender then loads it up with hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and enough citrus to make lemon ice box pie jealous. What is worse is they simply layer the drink over ice, barely pausing to shake it, mix it, or otherwise craft the drink. The warmth of the drink melts the ice and soon you are holding a tepid, heartburn delivery system with fennel seeds stuck in your teeth.

Behold a well-made Bloody Mary. It is jet cold and pairs perfectly with three Advils. The garnishments are a bit much for me, but the snack of spicy green beans at the end at least allows you to tell your mom you are eating your veggies. The citrus component is well-deployed acting to provide a contrast to the tomato base without causing your lips to pucker. A slight undercurrent of spice helps to remind you that you are doing something you shouldn't be doing. Namely, playing hooky from work and paying $55 to see a band that plays for free on Tuesday nights at the bar down  the street from your house.

If you are going to Jazz Fest, and you should, start or end your day with a Bloody Mary from Liuzza's By The Track.

Liuzza's By The Track Bloody Mary: Is It Worth It? Definitely.
1518 N. Lopez Street

Like the photo? Obviously, it isn't my handiwork but that of Renee Bienvenu.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Date Night: LaPlace Edition

With a lazy Sunday afternoon stretching in front of us like an old man on the couch, Lindsay suggested a road trip. "Nowhere too far, just some place where we can look at the water and eat seafood with our hands," she said. Twenty minutes later we were on the road heading towards Exit 209 on I-10 West. Destination The Crab Trap II in Frenier, Louisiana.

Turning onto Peavine Road the roadway narrows. Swamp land surrounds the elevated pathway, but soon you reach a clearing as the lake comes into view. The Crab Trap is off to your right in what looks to be a converted two level camp. Downstairs banquet tables crowded with families peeling and eating tables sit between shelves lined with bric a brac for sale. The upstairs is where you want to set up camp with a railing, stools, a breeze, and a view of the lake. Everything in the building is for sale, from used Toby Keith CDs to a bucket of locks, Crab Trap has you covered. But really you want to focus on the seafood on offer.

You order at the counter, they start you a tab, and bring you platters of seafood until you ask them to stop. The choices, like at any great restaurant, are limited. Boiled crawfish, boiled shrimp, boiled crabs, bbq shrimp, bbq crab claws, accoutrements like potatoes, corn, sausage and garlic, soft drinks, cold beer. That is it. But what else could you possibly need with a view like this?

The large crawfish are purged overnight, resulting in a cleaner, plumper bite. Pumpkin colored fat drapes over and around the tail meat begging to be savored. This is special forces spices, sneaking in unnoticed up through the back of your throat and into your nose. You might want to order another beer. Go ahead and order another round of crawfish as well.

Meanwhile, tear into the juicy shrimp which are redolent with hard spice. Cinnamon and clove imbue the shrimp with the smells of Christmas. But the taste is pure summertime - sweet, briny shrimp layered in nothing more than sunshine on your back. This is elemental eating and this eating is delicious.

Most surprising was a paper bowl of bbq shrimp coated in black pepper and swimming in a slick broth. While the shrimps are no slouch, Judge Smails, the broth is the pro here. A dunk of peeled shrimp (either of the boiled or bbq variety) through the thick, spicy broth sends your tastebuds on a Tilt-a-Whirl of spice, lemon, and the flavor of reduced root beer. They will serve you a toe of French bread, you can figure out the rest.

The sun began to sink into the swamp behind us as the last shrimp dragged through the final bit of sauce. We retired to one of the many bench swings that dot the property, ordered another round of beers, and put off Monday morning for just a spell longer. All that was left was the detritus of a fantastic meal and plans to return the following Sunday.

Crab Trap - Eagle.
100 Peavine Rd.
Frenier, LA, 70068
Fri. - Sun. 11 am - 8 pm. Closed from November - February.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gabrielle: Is It Worth It?

Grilled drum with Rockefeller dressing, fried oysters, and lemon beurre blanc at Gabrielle.


If Ned Stark were to glance through an ancestral book detailing a particular branch of cooking in New Orleans, it might sound something like this: "Paul Prudhomme, familiar ingredients, well-developed techniques, bold flavors, sensible combinations that evoke a sense of place...Frank Brigtsen, familiar ingredients, well-developed techniques, bold flavors, sensible combinations that evoke a sense of place...Greg Sonnier, familiar ingredients, well-developed techniques, bold flavors, sensible combinations that evoke a sense of place."

Greg and Mary Sonnier both came up working for Paul Prudhomme in the Hall and Oates visited kitchen at K-Pau's. Greg went on to help open Brigtsen's, before the husband and wife teamed up to open Gabrielle. For years, Gabrielle was a successful, well-lauded restaurant on Esplanade Ave. just a few steps from the Fair Grounds. The food at Gabrielle always displayed some of the hallmarks of both Paul and Frank's cooking, but with a distinctly French twist. Gabrielle racked up awards, honors, and pedigrees. Cue the federal flood and the Sonniers purchase of the Uptowner on Henry Clay. What has followed is a continuous dispute about just what the Sonniers bought. It has been a dispute the Lannisters and Starks would find absurd.

But no worries, Gabrielle is back at the Uptowner. Just follow this simple rule. The only rule of Gabrielle is it is not a restaurant. Got that? You are going to eat a reception hall so reservations must be made prior to sitting down. You will need to contract with the Uptowner to rent a table for your party. Be it a table for one or one hundred. When in doubt, remember the rule of Gabrielle.

Once all that is done, you can get down to eating. First to arrive at our table was a bowl of gumbo which is belongs more to the barbecue world than Acadiana. A smoky chicken carcass, and often a smoked stock, create a broth with the viscosity and complexity of a barbecue sauce. Close your eyes as you take a bite of the rich potion and you might just find yourself dreaming of outdoor cookouts and platters piled high with juicy BBQ chicken and crispy links of sausage. 

The boudandouille is a play on sausage en croute with the two most popular sausages of Southwest Louisiana stuffed into a pastry shell. Served with a lavender laced mustard and caramelized onions, the dish failed to assert any one true identity. A much better use of your appetite is with an order of the Oysters Gabie. Traditional baked oysters get a welcome upgrade from a lemony artichoke base. A crispy topping of bread crumbs creates a succulent cocoon for the oysters just to warm up to the idea of being eaten. 

Imagine yourself at a duck camp. It is late at night, perhaps the second bottle of bourbon has been breached. People are getting hungry, stories being swamped. Wandering into the kitchen you may find the detritus of some leftover roasted duck, some duck skin, and gravy. In the freezer are some fries. You put two and two together and end up with take on debris fries. Gabrielle elevates that idea with rich duck, crispy duck skin, shoestring, hand cut fries, mushrooms and an orange jolted jus with incredible results.

Or you could go with the plank of drum lightly blackened and served atop an Herbsaint laced spinach dressing. Riding shotgun is a plate of fried oysters. It will become hard to tell where Oysters Rockefeller ends and Blackened Redfish begins. There in all its glorious history is reference to two of the iconic dishes of New Orleans's restaurants. Dishes that went all the way around the world, and yet settle here, harmoniously. But eat the oysters tout suite lest they wilt. 

Polish all of this off with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and a heaping dessert of berries and tender shortcake gilded with a creamy, vanilla topping. On the way out, popping your had into the kitchen will reveal Greg working as expediter, saute, grill, and fry cook. He will be moving furiously but smiling at the opportunity to once again cook his food for people. That sight alone is worth the trip.

Gabrielle: Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
438 Henry Clay Avenue
Dinner is served Thursday - Saturday. Call 899-6500 for a reservation.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chef Week

Two events on the calendar this week are set to honor the city's chefs, those culinary captains who toiled away for so many years in the obscurity of the kitchen but are now garnering the attention that so many rightfully deserve. It's a nice gesture to recognize the accomplishments of the restaurant professionals who over the years have brought so much joy to so many diners.

Tonight at Generations Hall, the New Orleans chapter of the American Culinary Federation presents the 2nd Annual Best Chefs of Louisiana, where 30 of our area’s best chefs will tantalize guests with their signature dishes. Attendees will be able to meet and greet with Best Chef nominees while grazing through the prepared dishes and indulging in custom beverages. There will also be a silent auction and live entertainment by the renowned Louisiana Spice Band.

The event runs from 7:00-10:00pm. Tickets are priced at $75 per person. Proceeds help local charities, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, the International School of Louisiana and the ACF-NO Scholarship Fund.

Then on Thursday Star Chefs magazines hosts their Rising Stars gala at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Rising Stars honors "up-and-coming chefs and culinary professionals who represent the vanguard of the contemporary American dining scene."

The awards ceremony begins at 6:30pm with the tasting gala to follow. General admission tickets are $85. For those who have the taste for champagne and Petrossian caviar and are willing to spend an extra $40, a VIP reception in Cafe NOMA begins at 5:45. All proceeds benefit Cafe Reconcile.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

French Quarter Fest is Here

Today marks the beginning of French Quarter Fest, the largest free music festival in the South. With more than 65 local restaurants participating this year, French Quarter Fest will be the hottest meal ticket in the city over the next 4 days.
Photo by renee b. photography.
A new addition to this year's list of French Quarter Fest food vendors is Blue Dot Donuts, who we profiled in this month's issue of OffBeat Magazine. Blue Dot will be offering it’s signature donut: the maple bacon long john. Think of it as a better version of dragging your breakfast sausage links through the pool of syrup leftover from your short stack of pancakes. And they will also be serving up the Dough Boy - a regular long john donut filled with your choice of Thai pulled pork or grilled shrimp.

Breakfast: it's what's for lunch and dinner.

Blue Dot Donuts
4301 Canal Street
(504) 218-4866
Mon-Fri: 6:00am - 4:00pm; Sat-Sun 6:00am - 3:00pm

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sazerac Bar: Is It Worth It?

It is often said the Roosevelt Bar is soaked in history. And while it has likely seen its share of celebutantes and debrities, one figure looms above all others in the bar's history: Huey P. Long. Admittedly, I am not the hugest fan of Louisiana's most loved politician. Long is to blame for roughly 90% of the huckster, shyster politicians who predominate this fair state. Of course, when balanced against Tiger Stadium, Long seems less blameworthy for Aaron Broussard and his ilk.

If the Roosevelt Hotel was Long's home away from Baton Rouge, the Sazerac Bar was his home office. And his drink of choice was the Ramos Gin Fizz, a refreshing blend of gin, egg whites, lemon juice, orange blossom water, and soda. Some recipes call for cream and/or simple syrup, but the basic flavor of the drink is a bright floral, citrusy quaff. If you haven't had one, wait for the next really hot day and see why it was so beloved in the days before central air.

The white jacketed bartenders in the Sazerac make a more than acceptable version. The bartender pours the drink with a fair amount of flair, holding the mixing glass on high as the frothy, blend tumbles into the glass. The drink develops in the glass with a top layer of nearly whipped cream followed by the fragrance of a light gin cocktail.

Wrapped in the dark woods and murals, the comfortable seats are perfect for hiding from the onslaught of a Friday afternoon. But those same seats are where my one problem with the Sazerac Bar develops. Often and expectantly, the Sazerac Bar is crowded with the seats and bar stools taken. No problem, you will stand in line and wait for a drink. But lo and behold, a table has opened up just as your drink is being served. You give the bartender your card and tell him to keep it open. If you sit down, finish your drink and attempt to order another one, be prepared for the following reactions from a cocktail server.

1) "I am sorry if you opened your tab at the bar, you need to order from the bar."

2) "Did you open a tab at the bar? (Sigh). I'll see if I can get a drink for you."

3) "I'll be right back to take your order. (Does not return)"

4) "Yes, I'll take care of that for you."

Hopefully you get the fourth response.

Sazerac Bar- Is It Worth It? Likely.
123 Baronne Street

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Date Night: Fat City Edition

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys said it best, Fat City is "the concrete jungle where dreams are made of." Fat City may have gotten a regulatory scrubbing in the form of Cynthia Lee Sheng's ordinances, but it still has an certain je nais se quoi. The intriguing thing about Fat City, and I am being serious here, is you can see an idea that just didn't pan out like its developers thought. The hordes from Bourbon Street never materialized, the swanky hotels didn't follow, and now it sits like a time capsule that has been opened before it is time.

Luckily, Fat City is a time capsule filled with some of the best ethnic eats in the city. The idea of the Fat City Marathon has percolated in the craw for a few years now. With such an abundance of good food in the area and us traveling out there so infrequently, it only made sense to one time eat multiple meals in the same trip. Hence the Fat City Marathon, which we unknowingly accomplished last Saturday night.

We brought along some friends with us and I began dropping subtle hints in the car. "We really need to come out here one time and eat at Kanno and Korea House."

Cue Laughter.

First stop was Kanno. Where we shared thin ribbons of salmon, their white streaks of fat melting on the tongue rapidly. Bowls of the soft shell miso ("Japanese Gumbo") with its spicy stock killed time before crispy and juicy gyoza. Then nigiri sushi topped with grapefruit red colored orbs of tuna, lightly seared albacore, and giant clam. A plate of squid grilled and served with asparagus and portabello mushrooms could stand in for red meat any Friday in Lent. Bottles of Sapporo consumed, I pressed again, "Hey anyone want to go to Korea House for a nightcap?"

Cue nervous laughter.

Out came the Kanno chocolates and a discussion on mochi ensued. We paid the bill and leaving Kanno the dim lights of Korea House beckoned like the daughters of Achelus. By now the die was cast; we were 13.1 miles into a marathon, no point in stopping now. 

Bottles of Hite and Soju arrived first. Platters of condiments, kimchi, fermented black beans, and potatoes next. Then a glowing cauldron of rice, vegetables, and egg. A healthy dose of gochujang and rapid stirring sent the bibimibap sizzling. Marinated and grilled short ribs, their exteriors crusty, nestled in cups of lettuce with white rice and kimchi was the perfect finishing sprint.

Marathon complete, I couldn't tempt them into a triathlon. "Hey how about dessert, I think Sucre is still open?"

Cue shouting.

Monday, April 9, 2012

You Know What They Say About...

If I had to choose my favorite dish, it would be raw oysters on the half shell. Something about that cool rush of salty goodness which hits the spot every time. On Good Friday - a day of fasting and abstention from meat for Roman Catholics - if you are going to eat only one meal, you better make it a good one. So when The Pope rang my phone this past Friday to extend an offer of lunch, we both had one thing on our minds.

We considered making the drive to Casamento's, but as we were both already downtown we decided on Grand Isle. After a quick stroll over from the office and passing by several acquaintances in the midst of the Nine Churches Walk, I found The Pope already posted up at the bar at Grand Isle with a glass of wine. (Lots of irony in that sentence.) Two dozen raw hit the table shortly thereafter. These oysters were medium in size, salty and had a rich, creamy texture. Only a dab of horseradish and a squeeze of lemon are needed to adorn the world's greatest food. Cocktail sauce need not apply.

Smoked Fried Oysters.
We continued our oyster repast with an order of the smoked fried oysters ($10.50 for a half dozen), which we have seen before. While these were plump and expertly fried, I couldn't help but miss the grilled vegetable salad and salsa verde in the original dish. And although this was a meatless feast, my ears perked up when I overheard the waitress rattle off all of the charcuterie that Chef Mark Falgoust is curing in house, including the ham in the cheddar melt. That guy takes "nose to tail" to a whole new level.

As you can see from the top picture, I chose to wash down my dozen with an ice cold Abita Strawberry, which would probably earn an "F" if this were a sommelier exam, but hey - that's what I felt like drinking at that moment in time. If I were pairing raw oysters with a purpose (which Rene and I have experience with), I would probably go with a lighter ale or lager for a beer and one of 3 different wines: (1) an albariño, the Spanish white wine from Galicia which has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years (this is actually what The Pope drank with his dozen); (2) a nice Sancerre from the Loire Valley (don't get distracted by the name - it's only the French way of saying "sauvignon blanc"); or (3) a glass of champagne, because... well, why the hell not?

Lent may be over but our local oysters are still worth eating for a short while longer. Get 'em while they're cold.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Photo by renee b. photography.
Last week Rene and I were involved in an email discussion with a PR person about recent restaurant openings around town and why certain spots are touted more than others in the national and local media.

"I want to know why people think Sylvain is the best thing since sliced bread," he said. "I've been there - dig the atmosphere, the food's solid, but not something I'd write home about."

The fact that he brought up Sylvain was quite coincidental, considering that the Quarter gastropub/restaurant was the subject of our Dining Out column in this month's issue of OffBeat Magazine, which had just hit the presses a few days before.

The reasons that we chose to review Sylvain for this particular month are indicative of its popularity, in my opinion. April, as we all know, is the time of year when the Vieux Carre swells to capacity with tourists and locals packing the streets for the long Easter weekend, French Quarter Fest, multiple conventions, and Jazz Fest evening celebrations. Anticipating these crowds, our editor always encourages us to choose a restaurant in the Quarter to review for April issue. And considering the state of mind (sunburn and inebriated) and dress (shorts and sandals) of most potential restaurant patrons during this time of year, we seek out more casual spots in the Quarter befitting of the typical reader.

The problem is: How many casual restaurants in the Quarter offer food worth writing about? When you are too dressed down to dine at Bayona or Galatoire's but not drunk enough to consider eating at the River's Edge or Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company, what are your choices?

In recent years several restaurants have stepped up to fill in this gap in the French Quarter dining scene - Green Goddess, El Gato Negro, and Sylvain, to name a few. The fact that all of the above examples offer menus which do not include gumbo, jambalaya, or shrimp remoulade is further justification that not every diner is in search of typical creole fare. But they all serve solid (or in Green Goddess' case, borderline excellent) food at reasonable prices in a unique and interesting atmosphere.

Not exactly a shocking recipe for success.

625 Chartres Street
(504) 265-8123
Mon-Thur: 5:30pm-11:00pm
Fri-Sat: 11:30am-2:30pm; 5:30pm-12:00pm
Sun: 10:30am-2:30pm (Brunch); 5:30pm-10:00pm

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tony Angello's: Is It Worth It?

Nostalgia swings both ways. The warm, fuzzy feelings of yesteryear can smooth over any wrinkles in the tablecloth or salve an overcooked piece of fish. But on the flip side, a longing for the experience of days gone past can color any experience as deficient and not up to par. My previous run ins with Tony Angello's  consisted of the following.

I went to kindergarten around the corner from the restaurant. Every now and then, when the weather was nice and we hadn't been monsters, we would walk over to Mr. Tony's and eat ice cream outside his kitchen. The other memory of Tony Angello's (which it is always called by everyone) was at a family dinner when my sisters, cousins and I ran around outside while the adults ate and drank. So needless to say, nostalgia would not tug one way or the other for this visit.

First things first, the setting of the restaurant cloaks your dining experience in comfort. The bar is off to the right as you enter, a dining room anchored by columns and a fire place off to the left. The carpet and flickering candles create softness and warmth. The menu comes in time, but not before a pre-dinner cocktail. The young waitstaff is comfortable with fastballs, but occasionally struggle with a curve. Witness a request for a Negroni, "No, we don't have that the only import we have is Peroni."

The Negroni, however, arrived shortly thereafter and the meal was off. First came a huge tangle of crispy calamari, which were better on their own rather than dunked in the watery marinara. Next, an appetizer plate with angel hair pasta bathed in a crabby, red sauce. The chunks of crab bring fatty sweetness and salinity to the party, acting much like a shaving of parmesan. The Lobster Cup has been much lauded over, but it was too one dimensional. Just a ramekin of rich, buttery topping devoid of any lobster flavor, it needed a counterpart. 

Two salads were noticeable because they were well done. Crisp, cold greens tossed in a minimal amount of dressing and served quickly before the leaves have a chance to wilt. If it is the simple things, than Tony Angello's was already proving they do them well. The broth in the minestrone soup united the disparate elements of brisket and vegetables. 

Cannelloni came draped in more of that red sauce, the pasta fitting around ricotta and spinach like a bespoke suit. A cube of eggplant Tina sat next to it, but as largely ignored. On a separate plate was a perfect slice of crispy veal glazed with garlic, peppers, and mushrooms, a delicious combination for the ages. 

Lindsay settled into the tough task of tackling a brick of eggplant parmigiana. She got halfway through it before passing it over to me. The crispy layers of eggplant were separated with oozing layers of cheese and yet again, red sauce. We ended things with a small plate of tart and creamy lemon ice box pie that was nearly the best thing we ate all night. 

The prices are low, the room comfortable, the food solidly executed. This is just an honest restaurant. I came in without any expectation and left ready to return. 

Tony Angello's: Worth It? Definitely.
6262 Fleur de Lis Dr.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting

Nephew #1 keeping his work space clean, as per instructions. 

About a month ago, my nephews came to visit. For one overnight stay, they brought with them each two suitcase filled with clothes, movies, toys, trucks, and books. I should have charged my sister an overweight baggage fee. In one bag, there were bathing suits, goggles, and diving rings. For mid-February and staying at a house without a pool, one couldn't help but applaud their wishful thinking. 

After about fifteen minutes in a "boring house", they were hungry and the hounds were hiding under the table. Luckily, we had spent the last few days preparing for just such an emergency. It began two days prior, when Lindsay spent the better part of a week making a pizza sauce from scratch. My protestations to just puree a can of tomatoes with some garlic and olive oil only got me The Look. Apparently the nephews would need serious proof to revoke their fried shrimp and white rice diet. 

The day before they arrived, I began making a pizza dough. This dough recipe came from Tariq Hanna of Sucre and if you read this in a slight British accent you will get the same results: "2 cups water, 3 cups of flour or so, a package of yeast. Combine it, park it in the fridge overnight. Next day, add another 3 cups of flour and let rise in a bowl covered with a towel for a few hours. Now, quit bothering me."

After making the dough and since it was only eleven p.m. the night before we were having company over, it made perfect sense to start in on some ice cream. While in New York, we made the pilgrimage to Momofuku Milk Bar for the world renowned cereal milk ice cream. At some point after this, the idea of Oreo cookie milk ice cream entered my brain. Into a pan went about a row of Oreos with some cream. These steeped for about 10 minutes before I strained the cream, added milk, and sugar. Then proceed with ice cream base. After churning, I added in a cup of chopped Oreos and then parked in the freezer. Cookies and Cream ice cream, in case you needed me to finish the obvious for you. 

We rolled out pizzas, throwing dough in the air, and putting flour in crevices all over the kitchen. Sitting in front of the oven, the nephews and hounds delighted as pizzas crusted and turned bubbly and brown. They added whatever toppings they liked, but I drew the line at adding anything from their suitcases. After the pizzas were devoured and the ice cream polished off, Nephew #2 headed upstairs. "Where you going," I asked.

"I'm tired," he said. 

He had a point.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"A Tradition Unlike Any Other"

It's the official song of Spring. When you can't go more than 7 minutes on CBS without hearing Jim Nantz say those magical words, you know that (1) Easter is right around the corner, so break out the Elmer's Gold Brick Eggs, and (2) the temperature will be steadily rising for the next 6 months, so enjoy the beautiful weather while you can.

Also, please reserve Dad's place on the couch for Saturday and Sunday. Yes, he realizes that it's Holy Week, which is why he will be spending plenty of time praying at Amen Corner.

A tradition unlike any other. Last night as I prepared to welcome a pair of Rock Chalk, Jayhawk fans into my home for tonight's big game, Jim Nantz's voice came from the TV just as I began to answer an email about what "can't miss" New Orleans foods that they should be sure to try while they are in town. It's nice when blog post ideas materialize from thin air, especially on a Monday.

New Orleans has many culinary traditions and dishes which are unlike any other. Many of these traditions have evolved from our ancestral cultures, and others have current approximate impostors in lands near and far. But no one does our indigenous foods quite like we do.

Beans and rice is a simple dish served from India to the Caribbean and Mexico, but no versions come close to resembling the pickled pork, ham hock, or tasso laden plates served around New Orleans every Monday. For centuries Italians have been feasting on antipasti courses of olives, salumi, and cheese, but nowhere else do they pile those ingredients onto a 10 inch round sesame seeded loaf and call it lunch. You can get a hero or a grinder or a hoagie or a submarine sandwich almost anywhere in the U.S., but it's tough to find a decent po-boy in any other city than the Big Easy. When other people are picking up their morning coffee and donuts from Dunkin, we are sipping cafe au lait and eating beignets. And despite what others may claim, a snowball is far superior to a snow cone or Hawaiian shaved ice or whatever else those poor children are relegated to during hot summers in other parts of the world.

One city with many traditions unlike any other. Which ones am I forgetting about? Let's hear about them in the comments.