Friday, December 30, 2011

House of the week: Victorian Camelback on Mazant

It's that time of the week again where I torture myself, my boyfriend, my friends, family and yes...even my dog...with yet another house I will never be able to afford. The irons are hot, the pincers are rusty and my checking account balance is stapled to my forehead.  Let the pain begin!

The house I found this week is in an up-and-coming neighborhood called the Bywater that lies just below the Marigny between Franklin Avenue and the canal. One of the many cabbies we've traveled with told us that "they" plan to relocate the port to the Army Reserve base near the end of Poland Avenue. Regardless of the truth, the Bywater is growing and already contains some killer local spots like The Joint BBQ, Jack Dempsey's, Bacchanal Wine Shop, Elizabeth's and last on my list, but certainly not least, Vaughan's.

The house, ah the house, is a 1900s Camel-back Victorian double that has been remodeled into a single, 3 bedroom - 3bath beauty. My usual list requirements are all accounted for; high ceilings, hardwood floors, pocket doors between the living and dining room and exposed-brick fireplaces. But, the bonus features include a whirlpool bath in the master bedroom, a stunning kitchen replete with a breakfast nook and a gorgeous courtyard with a huge, shaded deck.

I think the price is really not all that bad (regardless of whether or not I can afford it) at $359,000.

"He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." 
                                                                                       -Douglas Adams

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Coquette-ish Christmas

So it wasn't actually Christmas, it was the eve before Christmas was the afternoon before Christmas Eve. It was the 23rd of December, okay? Anyhow, John and I decided we were way past due for a visit to the fairly-new restaurant, Coquette, on the corner of Washington and Magazine.

It was just like me not to make reservations, but though the corner restaurant was packed (people were even dining at the bar), it didn't take more than 15-20 minutes before we scored a table. We ordered quickly after perusing the menu during our wait, and it wasn't long before our food came flooding out of the kitchen.

First and foremost, I have to talk about the bread. Anytime you go out to dinner, quite often a basket of bread will be brought to the table and though filling, it isn't always something you remember fondly about the meal. At Coquette, they serve a warm loaf of their own, house-made ciabatta that is so tasty, it will literally knock your socks off. This divine loaf is sliced and served with a sea-salt enhanced, creamy butter that John and I gobbled without reservation or concern about having enough room left over to eat what we had actually ordered.

Our appetizers arrived in soon thereafter. John chose the Market Vegetable Salad that was supposed to have included a cashew puree and navel oranges, but they served him the salad from the prix fixe lunch menu which was local greens, candied pecans, goat cheese and Dijon vinaigrette. We didn't actually realize their mistake until John had already scarfed down more than half of the salad. We chalked it up to a happy accident since John really enjoyed what he got anyhow.

I selected the Tempura Shrimp with a garnish of sambal (chili sauce), grapefruit, nicoise olives and cilantro. The large pieces of shrimp were fried perfectly with a crispy, tasty batter. Both of us commented on the odd combination of grapefruit slices and pitted olives, but I thought it was a nice shock of contrasting flavors.

For his entree, John picked the Steak Frites, sliced pieces of rare hangar steak piled high with French fries and drizzled with a shallot vinaigrette (for the steak) and malt aioli (for the fries). His dish was so tasty that I continuously poked my fork into his plate stealing flavor-drenched fries and, on occasion, a nice hunk of steak. But, in all fairness, John was doing the same thing to me.

I ordered the Cochon de Lait, which is slow-roasted suckling pig that has been injected with Cajun seasonings and butter. The dish I had was also served with sauteed Brussels sprouts, pureed sweet potato and topped with apple marmalade. Though the meat was a tad dry, the whole dish sang when each bite was carefully composed of everything on the plate and I devoured it in no time.

Finally, we had what was likely one of the most unusual desserts I have ever eaten, Butterscotch Pudding with broken snicker doodles, bourbon and bacon ice cream. I am a huge sucker for anything Butterscotch, so it was not difficult to make my choice, but I have to admit that the bacon ice cream really struck me as being particularly delicious. Rich with a smoky flavor, it is an ice cream that, though delicious, I would not be able to eat in large quantities. Only one thing would deter me from ordering it again and that was the foam garnish on top. Maybe I will never be one to appreciate the latest fads in haute cuisine, but I will never understand foam. It recalls to mind the wickedness of my youth when salting snails in my backyard could keep me entertained for hours on end. C'est la vie!

Coquette Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where? 3001 Tulane Avenue...Pizzicare

The Metry-Lady driving the cab screwed up her face and said "Where?" forcing me to tell her, for the second time, that we wanted to go to 3001 Tulane Avenue. She shook her head and turned back towards the steering wheel.

"It's a pizza joint on Tulane Avenue?" 
"Do they have good pizza?"
"We've heard good things, but this will be our first time."
"Pizza Care?"
"Okay, whatever you say!"

John and I arrived late in the lunch hour to the brand new, black & white tiled, very clean and even shiny Pizzicare. Only two other customers were dining in that day. We browsed the menu for extras, even though we knew exactly what we wanted due to a delicious-sounding Twitter post touting the Charcuterie Pie.

We started with some Garlic Knots and a Pizzicare Salad made with baby spinach, pancetta, red onion, mushrooms and artichokes with blue cheese dressing. We really enjoyed the dough, nice and crusty, but the knots seemed decidedly un-garlicky and mostly Parmesan. I was disappointed with the salad mainly because instead of offering me some thick, house-made blue cheese dressing (that you can get in almost ANY other restaurant in New Orleans), I was handed a packet of Paul Newman's. Plus, there was no pancetta to be found, but there was a hefty addition of grated mozzarella.

Though we were both feeling a bit full by this time, we had no difficulty digging into the Charcuterie Pie with Genoa salami, pancetta, sopressata, fresh arugula, fresh mozzarella and garlic oil.  It was simply delicious and I made sure to include some of the peppery, bright arugula in every bite...which is no easy feat, let me tell you. By the time we left, there were only two slices left and half a salad. I guess you know now what I had for dinner!

Pizzicare on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 15, 2011

House of the week: Creole cottage on Dauphine Street

Living in the French Quarter was a dream I had when I first headed down to New Orleans. The historic aspect of this town was a huge attraction to me after all and the Vieux Carre IS history. You won't find an older neighborhood anywhere else in the United States. There are a ton of homes with iron-wrought wrapped balconies and gorgeous gingerbread-like trim, but there are also a few places that look like they just might collapse in the next big tropical storm.

I'm about to show you how deceiving those tumble-down facades actually are...

For example, check out this particular abode on Dauphine Street. It's an ancient-looking Creole cottage that was built way back in 1911. The shutters are old with rusty iron hinges, keeping the interior hidden from the general public walking by. The plaster looks worn, beaten by a century of adverse weather, disrespectful tourists and even a civil war. Now take a look inside. You tell me, is this house worth $675,000? It's like Mama always said, "You can never judge a book by its cover!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When atmosphere trumps food: Ralph's on the Park

It was one of those "wild hair" moments when John and I woke up Sunday morning hungry and decided to go have brunch at Ralph's on the Park. I'd frequently visited their website and driven past the restaurant, admired it's gorgeous location and fantasized about a romantic springtime lunch on the balcony overlooking the moss-laden oaks and calm lagoons of City Park.

With the temperatures hovering somewhere around the low 50's this past weekend, an alfresco meal was quite out of the question, but as we realized when we walked into the warm dining room, the inside was just as beautiful. We were led to a window-side table across gleaming hardwood floors and through iron-wrapped columns and as we sat down, we couldn't help but admire the gorgeous, Degas-like murals adorning the back wall. 

Excited and hungry, we placed our order, even choosing the special of the day as side and (strangely enough) it was the first dish to arrive. Though the idea of Goat Cheese and Herbs de Provence biscuits sounded delightful, the result was kind of dry and cold. We gobbled them because we were hungry, but we loaded it up with almost all of the butter provided. Let me tell you, that was a lot of butter...

Before we finished, our appetizer came out, Blue Crab Beignets with a pepper jelly cream sauce. In my mind's eye I saw large, fluffy beignets filled with the savory-sweet flavor of crab, so I felt a bit bemused at the result. They were basically small, crab cake-like balls that were deep fried and (sadly) quite greasy sitting in a small pool of the pepper jelly cream. We ended up eating them, though because the wait time between our appetizer and entree was inordinately long and, like I said, we were still quite ravenous.

The entrees finally arrived and we set our forks to dig in. I ordered the Tasso Eggs Benedict with fried P&J oysters, house-made tasso and jalapeno hollandaise atop buttermilk biscuits. The eggs were poached perfectly and the sauce and yolk softened the biscuit, but unfortunately the oysters were over-fried making them extra-tough and chewy. John chose their Louisiana Seafood Crepes with crab meat, shrimp and fish lying in a pool of smoked tomato sauce and garnished with fried shrimp curls. Both John and I only ate one bite before we declared the bland dish essentially inedible. We even opened up one up only to find a pile of mush with no discernible shrimp or fish, that is unless it had been thrown in a blender and pureed before slopping it into the delicate crepes. 

John had pretty much lost his appetite and sent the dish back with no interest in ordering something to replace it. Striving to be optimistic, I ordered dessert - the Egg Nog Crème Brûlée with chocolate rum candy. Also, our server felt bad about John's entree and gave us a free Banana Pudding. I was pleased with the crème brûlée as it had a perfectly crisp, burnt sugar top and a creamy custard beneath and the Banana Pudding was pretty good too until we tried the garnish of brûléed banana that tasted very green. 

Oh well, what can I say. At least it was pretty?

Ralph's on the Park on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tunnel vision...

I realize that there are lots of wonderful pastries, cookies, treats and even gelato at Angelo Brocato's, but if there are Napoleons in the pastry case staring out at me, I can't see anything else...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hissy fit at Crabby Jacks

Though I don't regret the evening of debauchery at the Hookah Bar, I did miss out on the Po-Boy Fest which left me with a hankering...and not for a hunk 'o' cheese. Well, maybe a couple of slices of Swiss on a fried oyster and bacon?

Yeah, I wanted a po-boy.

So without further ado, John, my friend Dani and her daughter Posie all hopped into her bright orange, taxi-turned-personal-van and sped off down to Crabby Jacks. I'd heard they served a awesome Cochon de Lait po-boy, among some other tasty specials, and it was high time I found out for myself.

We all tromped into the small restaurant on Jefferson Highway around 2:30 pm in an attempt to miss the busy lunch hour. Posie was quite interested in the bright gumball machines in the front, especially after she scored a couple of stragglers in one of the chutes, though we were too busy selecting our lunch from the menu to notice 'till it was too late. We placed our order and found a place to sit at one of the communal benches, admiring the the work of local artist Dr. Bob that was plastered all over the walls.

It wasn't long before our orders arrived in a flurry, long packages wrapped in butcher paper dealt to the right person as soon as we deciphered the spidery scrawl in red ink on the outside. Dani's 8-inch, fully-dressed, fried shrimp po-boy was the most visually stunning of the three. Large, crispy, cornmeal-crusted shrimp tumbled out of the overstuffed loaf allowing me to snatch a few. John's large BBQ brisket po-boy was quite juicy and the brisket melted in your mouth, but the sauce was a bit sweet for my taste and I turned to my own.

I wanted to get the Cochon de Lait po-boy, but they had ran out by the time we arrived. Apparently coming later in the day not only helps you miss the crowds, you also miss the preferred specials.  I turned instead to my second choice, the slow roasted duck. Though I ate it and enjoyed the moist texture of the duck and the chewy French bread, I thought the gravy was fairly bland. Next time, I am getting there early...

We also got some fries, onion rings and a side of mac & cheese for Posie. We didn't realize that the mac was made with jalapenos and though Dani doesn't like them and picked a lot of them out, Posie seemed to dig it when she managed to finally get some into her mouth. I got a taste and I agree. It reminded me of nachos you get at theme parks or local carnivals.

It seems that Posie liked everything too much. What with free gum, jalapeno mac & cheese AND accessible jingle bells on the Christmas tree, who would want to leave? Certainly not Posie. She even sat down on the ground in the parking lot to (not so silently) protest our departure. We'll be back, Jack!

Crabby Jack's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving apologies...

I know, I know, I know...I suck. I hit a soporific, post-Thanksgiving slump and I haven't written a damn thing, nor have I gone out to eat. After the huge carbohydrate fill I enjoyed in Ponchatoula with John's family, I just haven't felt like doing very much at all. Hibernation mode seems to have set in and I just need to suck it up, plug in the crappy little electric space heater, don my fur-lined Crocs, crack my knuckles and put my nose to the grindstone. Please accept my apologies and I hope everyone had a very, Happy Thanksgiving.

Here's some food porn to tie you over...

Monday, November 21, 2011

When crawling out your front door isn't even an option...

On Saturday, I was invited to a sort of "un-birthday" party where my friends Casey and Brandon blew a $850 gift certificate at the Hookah Cafe on Decatur Street on all of their friends. While the evening started out civilized, some Grey Goose martini's, shots of Patron and vodka cranberries later degraded into an evening where we were kicked out of the All-Ways Lounge on St. Claude, though I don't even recall how we got there or when we left the Hookah. Even when we made it back to my apartment, I ended up drinking beer until I finally passed out at dawn.

When I woke at last around 4pm on Sunday, the last thing I wanted was a po-boy. I had planned on meeting up with friends and pigging out on delights like grits & veal grillades po-boys from Le Citron Bistro, Oyster Rockefeller po-boy from Palace Cafe and vanilla ice cream-filled donuts with bananas foster topping from Blue Dot, but wasn't meant to be. I could hear the music and even smell the food from bedroom (which, at the time, was NOT a good thing). Here's looking forward to Po- Boy Preservation Fest 2012?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

La Macarena Pupuseria & Latin Cafe: Way better than a 90's dance fad

John and I actually went out to eat at two different restaurants this past weekend, but since the first experience was a real disappointment, I thought it would be nice to write about a good experience instead. After all, the bad ones are such downers...aren't they?

So, in an effort to stay positive, we stayed in our own 'hood and walked over to La Macarena Pupuseria & Latin Cafe on Hampson Street only a few blocks away. We got there a bit early for dinner, but we were trying to catch the light for good pictures. Though we felt a bit like old-timers catching the early bird special, we tried to be nonchalant as we seated ourselves to a table by the window in the small, brightly painted restaurant. We placed an order with our friendly server and then crossed our fingers. We both had heard great things about La Macarena, but we were also afraid of yet another not-so-great experience.

We started the adventure with a "Salvadorean" shrimp ceviche and after our first bite, we both heaved a sigh of relief. It was fantastic! The shrimp was plentiful and the perfect consistency, not too rubbery or too soft and everything tasted so fresh and bright from the finely chopped tomatoes and onions to the leafy cilantro. It was served with four toasted rounds of French bread, but I think I would have preferred tortilla chips instead as the bread disappeared way too fast and we found ourselves scooping out bites straight from the spoon. It just wasn't the easiest way to share an appetizer. Thank goodness John and I aren't afraid of sharing each other's cooties!

Shortly after we wolfed down the ceviche, our very similar entrees arrived. We both ordered their "traditional plates" of pupusas, but mine had the addition of three chicken flautas and John got the beef tostada. Anyhow, we both agreed that the pupusas were definitely the star of the whole show; tender, fluffy corn tortilla pillows layered on the inside with ground pork or chicharrón. Both of our dishes were also served with house-made, refried black beans and sweet, plump, fried plantains. I really enjoyed the beans and unsuccessfully tried to sneak a spoonful from John's plate after I had licked my own little bowl clean.

I simply couldn't resist when our server touted their house flan, even though both of us were stuffed full. John waved the idea of dessert away, patting his tummy and groaning with every move, but after I convinced him to take a bite, the competition was on. It had a dense, almost cheesecake-like feel and tasted of a heavenly, buttery toffee. It was awesome to find yet another great restaurant within walking distance of our apartment and you know what's even cooler than that? They deliver...

La Macarena Pupuseria & Latin Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Craving Cowbell...

Call it an urge, itch, ache or yen, but I had a serious craving for Cowbell. As any woman can tell you, it's best not to ignore these inner lusts too often or chaos will likely ensue and cause unnecessary events like incurable bouts of crying, flying breakables or the ever-dreaded hissy fit. Wisely, John offered to accompany me on the long, four-block walk to fill this desperate need last Saturday around noon.

The restaurant was hopping when we arrived, happy folks filled the benches outside on the patio, but we only had to wait about five minutes before there was an available table indoors. I already knew what I wanted to order (I avidly follow their "specials" tweeted daily from @CowbellNOLA), so it was just a matter of choosing an appetizer and sipping on sodas while we waited for our food to arrive.  

The dish we selected sounded like such a bizarre mix of flavors, we couldn't possibly pass it up. Dubbed "Figgy Toast," it consisted of a small bowl of braised andouille and sweet & sour figs with large, blue cheese croutons. It was such a strange amalgam of flavors and textures that turned out to be utterly delicious and incredibly fun to eat. The rich, reddish brown color of the sweet & sour sauce was so dark, that it was difficult to tell the figs from the sliced andouille until you popped it into your mouth.

As we gobbled the last sweet morsels, our entrees arrived. John went with the Cowbell natural beef burger with an added over-easy farm egg and thick sliced bacon on a toasted potato roll bun. He slathered on the irresistible, mayo based "Agogo" sauce as well as some of their house-made ketchup that features a distinctly cinnamon bite. Not surprisingly the burger was just as fantastic, juicy and flavorful, as it has been every time we've visited. 

I veered from the norm, however, when I opted for one of the day's specials, a most excellent grilled cheese sandwich and a small cup of the soup of the day. Now, this is not your mom's grilled cheese with the ubiquitous, orange slices of American on soft, white bread, oh no. This sandwich featured manchego cheese with thin slices of roasted organic squash (perhaps drizzled with lemon?) pressed between two, thick slices of perfectly buttery and crispy ciabatta. I had died and gone to grilled cheese heaven. Oh and let's not forget the soup, a delightful curry plantain with mango jerk chicken. Yep, I was in soup heaven, too. After all, they're right next door to each other.

With my craving totally satiated, it was just an added bonus when we polished off a slice of their "Chocolate City" or flourless chocolate cake with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, all made in house, naturally. We rolled out of the door, hefty and happy, John smiling and sighing in the knowledge that he narrowly avoided another craving catastrophe. Now, he just has to keep a sharp eye out for this week...

Cowbell on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 4, 2011

House of the week: Shotgun on Chartres Street

While looking for my first New Orleans apartment over 8 years ago, I found the cutest place in the Marigny. It was half of a double shotgun on Burgundy Street with hardwood floors, 12 ft. ceilings, transom windows, a nice front porch, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the parlor and was located right across the street from a corner bar. As if that wasn't enough to sell me, the landlord was asking only $495 per month! Unfortunately, another potential renter beat me to the punch and came up with the first and last mere hours before I could write the check. Plus, my mother was with me and she was reluctant to appreciate the beauty of that up & coming neighborhood. I often wonder how my first year in New Orleans would have been different had I lived that close to Frenchman Street and the Quarter...

Since then, I have often checked apartment and house listings in that area and boy have prices changed. Eight years ago, I could have bought a gorgeous double shotgun in the Marigny for $250,000 or less! Not anymore. Yesterday, while browsing homes for weekly post, I spotted this beauty located on Chartres Street right off of Frenchmen and less than two blocks to the French Quarter. Originally a double shotgun, this gorgeous Victorian has been remodeled into a single, four bedroom/three bath home replete with floor-to-ceiling & transom windows, a huge front porch, gorgeous hardwood floors, high ceilings, fireplace mantles and a cute, enclosed courtyard-type backyard. This Marigny beauty is listed for the low, low price of $499,999. Ahh, what ever happened to the good old days?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Café Degas left an impression...

In case you weren't aware, there is a gorgeous, yet quaint B&B on Esplanade Avenue called the Degas House. Apparently, back in 1872, the famous Impressionist painter Edgar Degas spent almost half a year in this very house visiting his American side of the family. Just a few blocks away lies a sweet little French-inspired restaurant called Café Degas, a spot I have been curious about for quite some time. Maybe it was the change in the weather or maybe it was because I had a hankering for French cuisine -- whatever the reason, John and I headed down to Esplanade Ridge to enjoy a leisurely lunch at Café Degas.

If you've never been, the restaurant is a small affair with most of the seating located on a covered, outdoor patio surrounded by lush greenery that somewhat screens diners from the busy traffic going by on Esplanade Avenue. You'll even find a small tree whose trunk grows up in the front of the dining area and right through the wooden roof that only increases the alfresco experience to be had at Café Degas.

After being seated by our genteel hostess (who sported a strong French accent), we made our choices from the menu over a glass of white wine suggested by our server. I think it was a Pinot Gris that was a bit dry, but very crisp and floral. Luckily, we both thought it worked perfectly with our appetizers that appeared more quickly than we anticipated.

We shared a cheese plate that featured two delicious cheeses, one creamy like a brie and the other very dense. Both were buttery in flavor and we gobbled them down with fresh strawberries, grapes and a fresh, sliced baguette. There was also a lone date on the plate that John and I split in half. I practically grew up on dates, they are a delicacy common in Persian households, but John had never eaten one before.

Have I mentioned how much I appreciate John's adventurous nature? You'd think someone who grew up with a fairly limited choice of foods would be skeptical of trying something new (like his father), but not John. He will try anything once, even two or three times to give it a fair shot. It was as easy as pie to get him to try our next appetizer, a dish of escargot. Even I was wary the first time eating snails, but John had no difficulty scooping the dark meat into his mouth with a shrug and a smile, saying "It's just like garlic and butter!" after his first taste.

For my entree, I chose "L'Onglet de Boeuf" or a medium rare, juicy seared hanger steak with crispy, garlic pomme frites (french fries) and fresh broccoli in a wonderful garlic bordelaise. The sauce was so good that I swirled the fries and florets until they were quite sodden and gleefully delivered the tasty combination to my mouth via fork. John's dish, a pan seared lemon fish, was served with saffron pearl couscous, sun dried tomatoes and sauteed asparagus in a pool of brandy shellfish sauce. His filet was rather thick, but he had no difficulty gulping down his entire dish and coming back to polish off mine as well.

There were quite a few choices on the "dessert wipe board," most featuring cute, spooky names for Halloween, but John and I both settled on the Raspberry Chambord Cake with a nice, hot cup of café au lait. The cake was light and delicious with a thick layer of custard and a thin lining of raspberry between each layer of cake and frosting. I'm sure I could have easily enjoyed my own slice. After enjoying such a lovely lunch at Café Degas, I could easily see returning again for next week too soon?

Café Degas on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

House of the week: Majestic Place

This week's house is totally not my style. I have to admit it's kind of cute, has a ton of space (2300 sq. ft.), hardwood floors, two stories, four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a gorgeous yard with large pines in front. It's not in the greatest part of Algiers, but the neighborhood does look nice and it's located on a street called Majestic Place. You're probably wondering why I would even post about this particular house considering it is nothing like the abodes I commonly drool over. The reason is this...

How is it a house with this much space, size and character can be listed for only a mere $55,000? I wonder what they are not telling us?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An afternoon tryst at Lüke

I met someone and I think I'm in love. He's sweet, accommodating, relaxed yet stylish and extremely tasty as I was fortunate enough to discover last Friday afternoon. My friend Anne was there, too and we both enjoyed what he had to offer...I'm pretty sure anyone would.  His name is Lüke.

Now I could keep going with this and assuredly suffer from gales of mischievous and unabashed laughter while writing, not to mention possible castigation from my peers after publishing (suck the heads would take on a whole new meaning). So, instead I'm going to lace it up and talk about the food. I promise, if I start writing that kind of blog, y'all will be the first to know...

Nevertheless, it was still quite a sexy lunch. Anne and I got to the restaurant just after noon, luckily scoring a choice parking spot only a half block away. For those who don't know, Lüke is located on St. Charles Avenue only blocks from Poydras Street and right, smack downtown. Like any city, finding parking is nigh impossible and it seemed like fate when we slipped into a spot that opened up right in front of us. 

We were seated right away, without a reservation, and ordered a couple of cocktails while perusing the menu. Both of us ravenous, we got a little carried away with our order. Thankfully, our server steered us onto the right path, when he could have just as easily let us order way too much food like a couple of boobs. (really, I'm not even trying...) Anne had a "St. Charles Streetcar" with St. Germain, pear vodka and champagne, which was tasty, but I liked mine better and not only because of its name.  Dubbed "The Riverbend," my cocktail was of the refreshing, summery type with Ultimat vodka, lemon, basil syrup, blueberries, cucumbers and ginger ale

Almost right away our first dish arrived, a half dozen raw Gulf oysters on the half shell. When Anne saw them on the menu, she just couldn't resist and I don't blame her. They were large, ice cold, salty and perfect. I think both of us were a little sad when we slurped down the last one, but we didn't have time to consider ordering more because our next appetizer showed up just in time. Called "flamenküche," it was an onion tarte with thick hunks of fatty bacon and a creamy Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese. It was quite possibly the best thin-crust "pizza" I have ever eaten. 

For our entree, we both wanted the "Choucroute Garnie Maison" and thanks to our server, we wisely decided to split it. I had to look this up, but apparently this is a famous Alsacian dish of sauerkraut topped with salted meats, sausage and other charcuterie. Conveniently split in half, our dish at Lüke featured a smoked pork shank, a hunk of Mangalista pork belly and a huge link of bratwurst. Basically, it was a unadulterated pot of meat that while feasting upon it, made me feel a bit carnal...not that I'm complaining.  

While perusing mandatory desserts, Anne was quite adamant about not sharing (dessert can do that to people), so we each ordered our own. Anne chose a "Gateau Basque" or vanilla cake with crème fraîche and local satsuma marmalade and I got a "Belle Ecorce Chevre Tart" - basically a goat cheese "cheesecake" topped with braised celeste figs and honey. Since I shared some of mine, Anne was willing to give up a few tastes of hers and, all kidding aside, both were quite delicious.

In all honesty, I may not be in love with Lüke, but I am undoubtedly in lust.

Lüke on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

House of the week: Cottage on South Pierce Street

When I saw this cute little cottage right off Banks Street in Mid-City, I simply had to share. It kind of looks like a shotgun, but the owner has made it original with all kinds of custom built cabinetry, it's a bit hard to tell. It's a house built for two with two separate bedrooms and two bathrooms, two studio/work sheds and two outdoor spaces for sunbathing, barbecue or whatever you wish. It has all the elements I love like hardwood floors, high ceilings and a nice big kitchen. One thing that caught my eye, though, was the cool hexagonal shape of the archway in the kitchen and the studio/work sheds.

Believe it or not, this adorable house is actually in my price range listed for only $230,000.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dante's Kitchen: Again and again and again!

When I started writing this blog, I promised myself I would pick a new restaurant to feature every week, knowing that with over 800 eateries in the Greater New Orleans Area it would take me a very long time to run out of food blogging fodder. Unfortunately, I did not foresee one, essential flaw in my master plan. What if I liked the experience so much, that I simply had to return? Would my readers scoff and click over to another local blog covering new and interesting food topics? Was it unfair to all of the restaurants I had not yet visited? Would I be giving too much love to one place in particular?

Finally, I came to a simple, definitive and sound conclusion to my dilemma...I don't care!!!

No offense to y'all, but think about it. When you find a restaurant you really love, don't you keep going back again and again and again? This chosen restaurant becomes almost a family staple, a place for special occasions and celebrations...the place to go to on a Saturday night. Well, now after several years of writing about all these wonderful places to eat around town, I have formulated a few choice spots that I think of when I want a  fantastic meal...guaranteed. So, that's why John and I ended up at Dante's Kitchen for dinner on Saturday night. I just couldn't help myself!

We ambled the 3 1/2 blocks to the restaurant, arriving early in the evening and chose a table out on the front porch. After placing our dinner order, we got a couple of cocktails to enjoy while we waited. John's Sazerac was possibly one of the best I have ever tasted and my Sidecar was definitely not shabby either. Sitting there sipping away, we spun a little fantasy that we were sitting on our own front porch, watching the dusk settle over our peaceful neighborhood while listening to the train rattle by. One day, the dream house will be mine...oh yes, it will be mine.

We started out with some of the chef's house made charcuterie, Goat Prosciutto, Salame di Calabria and Coppa (pork shoulder). All of them were incredible, my favorite being the salty, fatty, delicious prosciutto, especially with the crisp, peppery crackers served alongside. A spicy jelly that accompanied our dish was so good, that John used his finger to wipe out every last drop. Thank goodness no one was watching.

I was on the verge of ordering some more cured meats (we were pretty hungry), when our server brought out Dante's famous spoon bread and everything was right with the world once more. If you have not tasted it, spoon bread is essentially a sweeter, more moist version of cornbread, that at Dante's is lovingly slathered with honey butter and always served before your entree. How could I have forgotten?

Shortly after the spoon bread was inhaled, our entrees arrived right on cue. John got a pan-fried Redfish on the Half Shell, which in New Orleans means "loaded with crab meat on top." The fish was perfectly cooked and the lump crab meat on top was tossed with herbs like fresh mint and basil. John wolfed it down in mere minutes. I chose a new item on the menu, Slow Roasted Duck Breast served with roasted and raw apples and surrounded in a brown butter and white balsamic vinegar reduction. The tender duck breast was sliced and served atop a small hill of butternut squash puree and sprinkled with shavings of their own duck prosciutto. It was marvelous!

Instead of us each selecting our own, John and I decided to share a side of Stuffed Eggplant and I know both of us regretted it the end. Thin strips of eggplant were rolled around the most delicious filling of chopped spiced pecans, fresh herbs and walnut oil. It was so yummy that I almost ate John's piece that he saved on purpose for his final mouthful, savoring every morsel.

Yes, we were both sated and stuffed, but there was no way I was walking home without dessert and I couldn't resist ordering the Peach Tartlet with a scoop of their own Buttermilk Gelato. It couldn't have been a better ending to a splendid meal and you know what? I'll definitely be back! Again and again and again and again and again...

Dante's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

House of the week: Victorian on Canal Street

When you are forced into the position of buying something "as is," it always seems to connote something negative. Like "the plumbing is shot, but the owner is selling the house 'as is'" or "they're selling the car 'as is' despite the leaky radiator." I'd like to put a positive spin on that particular idiom for a change.

For example, I would totally buy this Victorian house on the cemetery end of Canal Street "as is" - and I'd leave it that way, too. Even down to the bright Caribbean paint job inside and out. It's loaded with architectural details you all know I love; ceiling medallions, 11 foot ceilings, hardwood floors balconies, porches, claw foot tubs, wainscoting, transom and floor-to-ceiling windows, gingerbread detailing, stain glass windows and a lovely backyard. It even has a guest cottage out back! This place is just stunning and I want it really, really, really, really, really, really bad. Really bad.

I'm sure I saw $480,000 lying around here somewhere...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

International adventures at the Hush Supper Club

I missed out on Marisol, was ill when he made Persian food at Bacchanal and just never seemed to make it down to Mimi's of River Ridge, but I was determined to finally get a taste of Chef Pete Vazquez's culinary magic when I heard about his new pop-up in Stein's Deli called the Hush Supper Club. I missed the first Sunday when Chef Pete was offering an enticing and extremely affordable menu consisting of various Burmese dishes, but John and I made it this past weekend for an array of Latin American cuisine.

This time, our cab ride was surprisingly sedate and we made it to Stein's Deli only 15 minutes into the dinner service. Dan Stein was working the counter with his usual charm ("Talk to me...") and we could see Chef Pete behind him, working hard to kick out some really fantastic food. We ordered five dishes, including a dessert, and were infinitely pleased to see the tab tally up to no more than $30.

It wasn't long before they were calling my name and our order arrived intensifying the heady, spicy aroma that had hit us in the face when we walked through the door. My mouth started to water as we unwrapped each dish from its paper container, beginning with a half-pint cup of Peruvian Shrimp Chowder. Several large pieces of tail-on shrimp were floating around in a rich, spicy broth with peas, corn and small chunks of potato. The soup was so tasty that it was not long before I was slurping down the last drops, much to John's disappointment.

I also ordered the Chimayo Spiced Duck Confit with Posole Chile Verde. Thick chunks of dark, richly spiced duck were hiding under a heavy layer of chile verde laden with tart tomatillos. Served alongside was a generous helping of black beans and rice. There was quite a bit of food between the two dishes and John gladly helped me finish of the last bite of duck.

John's choices were just as delicious, the Three-Meat Empanada and a Chicken Tamale. The large empanada had a wonderfully flaky crust and stuffed full of what I believe was moist duck, chicken and pork with finely chopped chiles and peppers. Unfortunately, I only was able to get in one bite before it disappeared. The chicken tamale was much more mild in flavor, with the shredded, seasoned chicken surrounded by a corn or hominy dough and wrapped in the traditional corn husk.

As we were about to start on dessert, I saw other friends who are fans of Chef Pete come into the deli and step in line including wine enthusiast Tim McNally and his wife Brenda, plus Food & Libations writer Anne Berry who works with me at Where Y'at Magazine. They all eyed our practically empty containers and seemed just as excited for their Latin American food adventure as we were. By the way, the dessert was an Ibarra Chocolate and Dulce De Leche Pot de Crème. It seems that John isn't a huge fan of cinnamon and I was forced to eat the whole, creamy pudding all by myself. Poor me...

Next Sunday, I believe Chef Pete will be serving Indian food with dire promises to burn our collective faces off...I can't wait!

*P.S. Stein's Deli is easily one of the most authentic and incredible delis in New Orleans and is worth a blog report in an of itself. Coming soon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

House of the week: Victorian cottage on Webster Street

When I first started posting these homes, I compromised my dreams and tried to limit my search parameters to something affordable. But I got to thinking, why should I limit my dreams? Why shouldn't I dream big? I figure that maybe if I strive for something absolutely spectacular, I won't be so disappointed when I end up with something nice. On that note...

I found yet another perfect house that has so many incredible pluses, I'm not sure where to start. Located on Webster Street Uptown is this stunning, renovated Victorian cottage built circa 1910 featuring three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 11 foot ceilings and gorgeous hardwood floors. It also sports a "gourmet" kitchen replete with stainless steel appliances, 6-range oven and a center island with granite counter tops. There are transom windows above all the doors and windows, French doors leading from the master bedroom to the back deck, a claw foot tub, custom walk-in his & her closets and a really, cute backyard.

Two huge bonus features are all about location. First, this elegant, wonderful house is only three blocks from Audubon Park & Zoo which would make Pippin (my adorable shih-tzu) one very happy puppy.  Second, and possibly my "raison d'etre", the house is located mere steps from Restaurant Patois...and y'all know how much I adore Mr. Burgau.

This dream abode is listed at only $499,000...but who's counting?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Buns of bliss at Company Burger

No, this post has nothing to do with working out or how to go about making your backside look more appealing. Actually, it is quite the opposite. It's about how last week I took my butt to The Company Burger on Freret Street, placed it next to John's butt and across from Lorin's butt at a table and proceeded to inhale a delicious burger served on what I believe is the best bun in town.

But, for now I'll dispense with the butt analogies considering the combination of backsides and burger buns won't make for an appetizing read.

We were transported via crazy Middle Eastern cab driver who drove at Mach One speed down Freret Street, narrowly missing errant Tulane students, to arrive during a busy lunch hour at the newly opened restaurant. Breathless, I stepped from the cab and nearly kissed the pavement, delighted to have made it for lunch in one piece. But, it seemed that my brush with death worked wonders for my appetite...

We ordered at the counter and sat down to share a large bench with a couple of other diners already digging in. I really love the sparse decor of Company Burger, though what little accent there was (wood benches and detailing, heavy iron table legs, metal food trays) tasted a bit like a country & western theme. Keep those doggies rollin'!

Our order came up quickly and before digging in, I moseyed over to the condiment station only to feel a combination of utter delight at my choices and dismay at having to actually make a choice. The Company Burger offers a dizzying array of mayonnaise like (be still my heart) "baconnaise," chipotle mayo, basil mayo and roasted garlic mayo...not to mention some house made mustard and pickles. Naturally, instead of selecting only one, I got a little scoop of each. After all, I had to have a variety for my extra crispy tater tots.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me get back to my burger. I ordered "The" Company Burger which is built with two patties, American cheese, bread & butter pickles (house made, of course) sliced red onions and I added some Nueske's bacon. Before taking a bite, I kicked it up by slathering the bun with some Chipotle mayo.  Oh yes, the bun. Not only did it hold up admirably under the pressure of beef patties, juicy pickles and fixin's, the texture and flavor was simply perfection. The bread reminded me of those Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, with all the sturdy, yet fluffy layers, but instead of sweetness, it was buttery bun bliss!

John decided to taste the Lamb Burger which was surprisingly juicy and combined with some local feta cheese, basil mayo, red onions and a chili-mint glaze, the flavor was simply wonderful. Though he gobbled a few of my crispy tater tots, John ordered his own side of crispy, house made onion rings made from red onions which I thought was an interesting, sweet twist to your average ring.

We had a couple of soft drinks with our burgers, but if we desired, we could have opted for draft beer, wine or even a cocktail. Instead of blowing those extra calories on booze, I chose to have a slice of Mom's Carrot Cake with a fat dollop of cream cheese frosting. "Mom" is specifically chef and owner Adam Biderman's mother who was kindly willing to contribute her killer cake (and brownies) to the restaurant. The Carrot Cake was moist, delicious and all mine. Thanks Mom!

You know this burger binge likely did nothing good for my butt, but I'm not complaining!

The Company Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Girl's lunch at The Irish House

Last week, I ditched John (working, working) and had a girl's day out with Anne. For several weeks we had attempted to have lunch at Chef Matt Murphy's brand new restaurant, The Irish House, and Friday was finally the day.

We arrived at the corner of Melpomene and St. Charles a bit late in the lunch hour, so we were not surprised to see the restaurant rather empty. We decided to make the most of it and get a couple of beers, I chose Rogue Chocolate Stout and Anne, who is not really a fan of beer, picked Strongbow cider. We placed an order with our very friendly waitress and proceeded to get a little buzzed, as we both were pretty hungry and had minimal breakfasts.

Our appetizers arrived in the nick of time, as the table was starting to look tasty. Anne ordered the Grilled Ginger and Whiskey Shrimp served atop a potato, broccoli and cheddar cake with tomato remoulade. Though this dish was super tasty (especially the broccoli and cheddar cake), it was not visually appealing at all. Thankfully, our hunger overpowered our hesitancy or we might have never taken a bite of what looked like a slimy, sloppy pile of fleshy green colored goo on a plate topped with shrimp.

I couldn't resist the Crispy Boudin, seeing as I can never get enough. It was served with colcannon which is a traditional Irish dish consisting basically of cabbage and mashed potatoes. We both enjoyed the dish and agreed the smoked tomato sauce was light and tasty, though I wouldn't mind if the boudin had a bit more kick.

Anne just had to get the day's special as her entree, Fish & Chips, since the Brit in her just couldn't see anything else. She was rather shocked though, that the dish was automatically served with tartar sauce (heaven forbid!) and she was forced to ask for the traditional malt vinegar. Pushing the offending sauce aside, she drizzled the dish with vinegar and dug in. The cod tasted fantastic and the batter was delicious too, but the strips of fried fish had the very odd characteristic of being crispy on the ends and soggy in the middle.

I chose the Corned Beef & Provolone Sandwich which was grilled "pub style" and topped with a fried egg. "Pub style" seemed awfully similar to panini or a pressed Cuban-style sandwich. The corned beef was delicious, salty and rich, but I wished there was more of it considering I only got one fairly thin slice. I suppose I was hoping for thick hunks of meat with ribbons of delicious fat like the corned beef ma used to make. My sandwich was served with a small mound of coleslaw that looked yummy, but when I took a bite, it tasted like straight mayonnaise. Don't get me wrong, I love mayo, just not by the spoonful.

Feeling bad for John, I ordered him the Murphinator Po-Boy to go. It was actually quite delicious (I tasted a bite when I got home), stuffed with lots of roast beef, French fries and Crystal onion rings dressed with Boursin aioli and served with a thick, brown gravy dipping sauce.

After lunch, we headed into the back to check out the shop. Anne was practically jumping for joy when she saw all the goodies they had for sale like Lion Bars, Hula Hoops Potato Crisps and Ribena. Now I know exactly what to get her for Christmas...