Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I don't speak Cajun!

Recently, I sent some gifts with a distinctly local flair to my 5-year-old niece and laughed uproariously when my brother-in-law called back screaming "How am I supposed to read this to her? I don't speak Cajun!"

I'm sure he'll figure it out. If not, I'm positive my incredibly intelligent niece Arissa will teach him:

"I don' know fo' sure if dat story is true,
But down where de Cajuns live on de bayou,
When dey tell dem stories, dey shore like to talk
About dat boy Jacques and his magic beanstalk."
    ~Jacques and de Beanstalk by Mike Artell

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Do you think I made too much fudge?

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Season's Greetings!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I need more Cowbell!

No, I'm not talking about Blue Oyster Cult, Christopher Walken or Saturday Night Live...I'm talking about Cowbell, the newest restaurant to hit the ever-growing dining community on Oak Street. Yesterday, John and I joined our friend Lorin and her son Remy for lunch at Chef Brack May's latest creation in the old Station 8801 building lying smack up against the train tracks. Though I gained a pound (gotta love the holidays!), there was no way I was going to miss my 66th cheat at Cowbell.

At just about noon, John and I left our apartment and walked the four short blocks down Oak Street to the newest burger joint in town. Only a few days before, we'd been returning home on River Road from a trip to Harahan when we noticed that the 8801 place had re-opened and I couldn't wait to try it.

After greetings and hugs, we all walked inside to a brightly-lit, clean interior with accents of corrugated tin, whitewashed doors serving as the tops of long tables and old mixer attachments transformed into light fixtures.  We chose a table near the back next to a sun-filled window and sat down to browse the menu and place our order.

It wasn't long before dishes began to arrive, the first being Lolo's Chili Cheese Fries and a bowl of Quahog Clam Chowder. The hand-cut fries were wonderfully crispy and topped with a delicious combination of well-seasoned chili made from organic beef and gooey, melted cheese. We easily could have polished off two orders considering how quickly it disappeared!

When I first saw the clam chowder on the menu, I knew I had to have it, seeing as I'm a huge fan and haven't had a bowl since leaving the Bay Area. Though I am accustomed to chowders that are super thick and creamy, I have to admit I loved Cowbell's interpretation. The broth, while not as creamy, was still rich and buttery, heavy with the flavor of chopped clam meat and bacon. The chowder reminded me of home while still retaining that New Orleans flair and it still disappeared almost as quickly as the fries...almost.

While slurping up the last drops, our entrees arrived. Remy, John and I all selected burgers and Lorin chose the Fish Tacos. Remy and John both got the Zinfandel, bacon and onion compote topping and John added blue cheese. I couldn't resist having the Applewood Smoked bacon and farm egg on mine... drooling as I broke the yolk and watched it ooze down the side of my perfectly medium-cooked burger.

All three of us were oohhing and aahhing over these wonderfully perfect creations (moaning with our mouth's full might be more accurate), the grass-fed beef so lean and tasty on a firm potato bun that held up to the juiciness and extra "Agogo" sauce heavy with mayo and horseradish. Lorin said she enjoyed her tacos, which were light and fresh tasting, but I didn't have a bite myself being so enamored and involved with my burger.

While wondering if I should use my last remaining fries to soak up some yolk that escaped, we all decided to order both available desserts; Chocolate City and Apple Pie. The Chocolate City was basically a flourless chocolate cake that was incredibly dense, creamy and rich, topped with a bright dollop of fresh whipped cream. The pie was actually more like a country tart with cinnamon and sugar spiced apples wrapped and baked in a buttery crust. Now, I know I am usually all about chocolate, but I have to say this time the winner was definitely the apple pie. But don't get me wrong, both were fantastic!

After a fabulous, yet simple meal like that, I'd say the world needs more Cowbell, but I prefer it remain in my neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deference to the divine: Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church

On the corner of Canal and North Lopez Streets lies a gorgeous Catholic church that is, unfortunately, no longer being utilized in favor of a smaller, more "modern" building down the street.

This classic beauty is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The parish was founded in 1879 and the church was completed later in 1924.

There is so much intricate detail on the outside of this church that it makes me wonder how cool the inside might be...

and when the sun hits this wonderful stain glass, rosette medallion window - how the colors would flood the interior and make for a truly religious experience.

Unfortunately, all three, huge copper doors are closed until further notice.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Exceeding the hype: The Joint...always smokin'

Usually when restaurants receive a whole lotta hype, when everyone and their brother's second cousin are talking about it, I am hesitant to succumb to the trend. Why? Because almost every time I do, I am disappointed. I get my hopes up for something fabulous and it turns out to be mediocre, if not downright awful.

Ever since it opened back in 2004, I've been hearing about The Joint, a colorfully quirky Bywater spot on Poland Avenue, right across the street from Jack Dempsey's. It has been written up by almost every publication in town - Times Picayune, The Gambit, Offbeat Magazine and Where Y'at - not to mention a few national props from folks like and Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

With hype like that, I surprised myself (and John) by selecting The Joint for my 65th cheat. I am still hovering around that 77 pound mark, but I expect it will take another couple of weeks before I break this stalemate and start dropping again.

When we strolled into The Joint today, it was a packed house with folks jammed onto the wooden benches both inside and out. We placed our order at the counter and sat down at the only available table left inside. Since it was so busy, I was shocked to see our order come out so quickly, a whole rack of St. Louis cut, pork spareribs accompanied by two sides, mac & cheese and baked beans.

This is where I wax poetic about how each rib was thick with juicy meat that was literally sliding off the bone and sauce was an afterthought because the smoky, rich crust had more flavor than I've ever tasted in BBQ. I was completely blown away. Although John and I shared the rack, I am pretty sure I could have eaten a whole one all to myself without feeling an ounce of guilt.

Reluctant to taste the sides after such a fabulous beginning, I scooped up a mouthful of their baked beans only to experience heaven all over again. A perfect measure of sweet and salty balanced on my tongue and I'm willing to bet the mouthwatering bacon was also lovingly smoked and crafted in house, just like everything else we ate...including the thick and creamy home style mac & cheese.

We gobbled everything up, gnawing every last bit of meat from the bones and practically licked the Styrofoam container which held the baked beans. The whole time we were munching away, my eyes strayed to a luscious looking pecan pie sitting under glass on the counter top, knowing that's what we were having for dessert.

I dumped out our trash and hurried to the counter to order a piece of pie, a treat that the cashier informed me was also house made and I almost clapped my hands in glee as he set the sticky, pecan-filled slice before us. Finally! A house made pecan pie that was thick with large pieces of pecans, plus sticky and gooey like it should be. Even John, who is not a big on desserts, fought me for every last bite.

At establishment that had met (and exceeded) the hype! I couldn't have been more pleased with my cheat and I can't wait to return and try their pulled pork and brisket. Thank you Pete and Jenny Breen for a BBQ dream come true...thank you...thank you...and thank you once again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Itching for a cocktail...

"Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake."  -W. C. Fields

Last night on the way to a Christmas party, I kept thinking how the first thing I wanted to order was a drink. Although, I've been known to party a little too heartily from time to time, I'm really not a big drinker, but something about the cold weather has me constantly craving a cocktail. Not only do I get to try yet another tasty liquid concoction, but after one or two (or even three), I'll feel warm and cozy inside and out, let the chill winds come as they please. So to keep away the cold and as a tribute to that favorite New Orleans pastime, here are a few of the delicious cocktails I've had this year.

Although I sipped this beauty at the Bridge Lounge in the springtime, I could still go for one during the winter months...

It's called a "Porch Swing" with muddled cucumber, Pims, lemonade, Hendrix Gin and ginger ale. I can just feel that spring heat now, sitting outside and watching the rain coming down.

This next drink is one of my all-time favorites, a classic Mojito from the Victorian Lounge at the Columns Hotel.

Who can resist the lure of rum mixed with muddled fresh mint and sugar? Certainly not I! A "nouveaux" classic cocktail at a truly classy bar.

I can almost feel the droplets of sweat running down my face when remembering the day I enjoyed this particular beauty during a hot August luncheon at The Green Goddess...

Called "Solidarity Sunshine",this is a cocktail the restaurant tagged as "an adult lemonade" with Sparkling Meyer Lemon Juice, Sobieski Vodka and fresh basil. Oh how I want the sunshine to return!

Since I can enjoy ice cream anytime of the year, it only seems appropriate to mention this next creamy, sweet deliciousness I acquired from Sucre on a very moody 39th birthday...

It's a Big Kid Shake called  "A Bunch of Nuts" starring Brown Putter Pecan Gelato, Frangelico and Praline Liquor.

Speaking of sweetness, this jazzed up martini from the Monkey Hill Bar was as fine as any dessert I've ever enjoyed.

This "Double Espresso Martini" features Van Gogh Espresso vodka, Starbucks espresso liqueur and dark Creme de Cacao garnished with crunchy espresso beans and Hershey's chocolate syrup.

Last, bust certainly not least, I have to give some love to a treat I had during Thanksgiving at Café Adelaide, it tasted like Christmas in a glass...

This excellent cocktail created by one of the Swizzle Stick's talented bartenders, Shawn Phipps and called the "Santeria," was lovingly made with Stoli Vanil Vodka, Nocello, Licor 43, allspice and a cinnamon-sugared rim.

*Note - Although I highly suggest trying all of these magnificent cocktails, it might not be wise to do it all at the same time...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maybe next time? Tomasito's Mexican Cuisine

The spicy lure of Mexican food had been swirling through my brain all week long, so it was no surprise when I decided to visit a new spot downtown in the Warehouse District, Tomasito's Mexican Cuisine. They have only been open a few months, but I was sure that would be plenty of time to work out any kinks with such a simple, straight-forward menu I'd already browsed online.

This is my 64th cheat and I am standing still at a loss of 77 pounds. In case you were wondering, I've been keeping up with my new pilates regime...but other than noticing a slightly flatter tummy along with increasing irritation at Mari Winsor's unshakable cheer, the pounds have stopped coming off.  Yes, I am frustrated and annoyed, but I have been through setbacks like this before and I am still determined to trudge on.

After fighting with a parking meter that wouldn't accept either of our cards, we salvaged enough change from the floor of the car to allow us a one hour lunch slot at Tomasito's, a new Mexican restaurant on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Julia Streets. We arrived at an off-hour (almost 2:00 p.m.), so it was not a shock to see only one other diner in the darkened restaurant. Dark, heavy wooden tables and chairs were nicely spaced around the terracotta-colored room accented with several sombreros on the wall among other "Mexican" decor.

You simply can't eat fresh, salted tortilla chips and salsa (which were immediately brought to the table) without a drink, so I ordered their "Senorita" special, a blended Pomegranate Margarita for only $2 while John opted for the regular concoction over ice. Both drinks were tasty, I loved the fresh lime juice in John's, but were sadly lacking in punch. Perhaps I have become too accustomed to the wicked bombs they serve at Superior Grill Uptown or Lucy's just down the street.

We began our fiesta lunch with two appetizers, the Spicy Queso Dip and Yucatan-Style Fried Seafood. Sadly, both were a disappointment. The queso was grainy in texture and despite the menu's description of "authentic Mexican cheeses," it tasted like smoked Gouda or cheddar was added to the mix. We barely touched it.

The fried seafood dish was to include "adobo-dusted" calamari, shrimp and fresh fish with a jalapeno-cilantro mayonnaise. Although I enjoyed the batter and the dipping sauce, the calamari came out chewy and overcooked, plus there were only two pieces of tiny salad shrimp. To add insult to injury, the catfish was awfully muddy and pretty much inedible.

Sipping our drinks, we grinned at one another and hoped for an improvement in our entrees. We shooed the other dishes from the table as they arrived, John's Steak Burrito and my "Huachinago a la Plancha," a seared redfish filet and shrimp served in a lemon-butter sauce. Both dishes also featured Mexican rice, although John's was located inside his burrito along with some refried beans. We both agreed that the steak was delicious, although there wasn't a whole lot to be found.

I really enjoyed my whole dish, the sauce was buttery and rich...just like New Orleanians like to do it and the redfish was perfectly cooked. I was also happy to see large, butterflied shrimp on my plate as I almost feared the "pinkies" from my appetizer. My dish also included a side salad of shredded lettuce and huge chunks of fresh avocado piled on top of thick slices of juicy tomato.

At last, it was time for my favorite part of the meal...dessert. On the server's recommendation, we chose the Tres Leches Cake, an opulent treat I've enjoyed at many Latin restaurants around town (Rio Mar's version being my favorite).

The dish that came out looked dreamy and when I took a bite, the warm flavors of cinnamon and sweet milk were all present and accounted for, but the mushy texture of the cake brought my overall enjoyment down several pegs. Since I was expecting the springy feel of sponge cake, all its lovely pores filled with three kinds of milk, the dense cake we actually received was not my preferred conduit for all that creamy goodness.

Perhaps I should give them more time and come back again in a few months?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Crazy cool house on Canal Street

Feel free to throw tomatoes, Creole or otherwise, as I realize I haven't been posting a lot lately. Well, that is going to change...starting now!

Since I am still out of work, aside from odd jobs and writing gigs here and there, I have basically become my boyfriend's "bitch" as he has taken on the role of "sugar daddy," being the only one with a proper job. I make all the meals, clean the apartment, do laundry, grocery shopping and drive him to work each evening (as opposed to paying outrageous parking prices we can not afford).

Every night as we cruise down Canal towards the Quarter, we pass this one particular house that I can't help commenting on regularly, much to John's annoyance. Sitting on the corner of S. Derbigny, right across the street from the now defunct Grand Palace Hotel, is a gorgeous, gingerbread-like Victorian beauty...and it's for sale!

Being located far too close to the Interstate and the abandoned hotel makes for a depressing view and a dingy neighborhood, but I can't help admiring this gem hidden in the dust of speedy highway travelers. I know I could never afford to buy a home like this, regardless of its environs and likely structural faults, but I am positive I would sure love living in it!

Drive-by photography by Kim

***Thanks to Frolic, a very cool, local food writer who honors me by reading my blog, I have discovered that this house is actually a New Orleans landmark - The Charles Orleans House.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Delicious comfort at Café Freret

As a fat girl, I have a tendency to seek clothing and environments that make me comfortable. Although dining at a fine restaurant is always a flavor-rich thrill and pleasure beyond measurement, most of the time I enjoy eateries that are low-key with an easy-going staff and modest menu. Considering the upcoming holiday parties and dinners, it was a relief to go to one of my favorite nearby spots, Café Freret.

This is my 63rd cheat and I am down 77 pounds.

As you all might have noticed, my weight seems to be bouncing up and down a lot lately, but not making any definite progress. It seems I have either A) hit a plateau or B) need to get off my ass and start exercising. I hate to admit it, but I am pretty sure answer B is correct. I've decided to begin a 20 minute Pilates workout three times a week. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but considering I was doing absolutely nothing up until this point, I think it'll be a great start. I most certainly am not going to give up my cheats...

Located on the corner of Lowerline and Freret Streets (surprise, surprise), this Uptown, service station turned cafe is a great, inexpensive place to get your grub-on as many frequenting Tulane students will tell you. On a nice day, you can sit outside on the generous patio along with your favorite, four-legged friend to enjoy a leisurely meal, or cram session, while watching the "Freret-Jet" traffic roll by. By the way, you can order special treats for your canine companion, too!

John and I selected a spot as far away from a table filled with budding lawyers as possible and before long, placed our order with a friendly waitress that has been serving at Café Freret for at least five years now. Sipping our sodas, it wasn't long before our dishes arrived and we fell to without hesitation.

John's Cuban Po-Boy with thinly sliced roast pork and ham with sautéed mushrooms pressed together on Leidenheimer's French bread was indisputably delicious, but I think we agreed that mine was even better.

Since I had been craving steak all week long, the New Orleans Steakbomb totally hit the spot with tender flank steak shaved nice and thin draped in melted Swiss cheese and topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. I easily gobbled this Crescent City version of a Philly Cheesesteak, which was also served on toasted French bread, in no time flat. Both sandwiches were served with potato chips, but I had to have some of their crispy, greasy onion rings on the side. We got a large plate of rings, but had no difficulty devouring the entire order.

As expected, I couldn't leave without some dessert and opted for a heated slice of Pecan Pie. Although I have had nothing but tasty dishes as Café Freret, this dish was my first disappointment. Even though the filling was tasty and sweet, there were hardly any pecans and I suspected a pre-fab culprit. Our waitress admitted that the pie came from'd think a big food corporation could get something like pecan pie down right! I highly suggest that instead of the pie, you order one of their house-made desserts that change on a weekly basis, or perhaps their bread pudding. Either way, I'm positive it'll be wonderful and totally satisfying.