Wednesday, January 25, 2012

House of the week: Creole cottage on Bourbon Street

Remember last week's post, when I found the perfect, parade-friendly house? Well, this week I'm going to "kick it up a notch." Though I would love, love, love to live in the French Quarter, the last street in the city I would want to live on is Bourbon Street. I know all you visitors out there just can't seem to get enough of the blaring pop music, barkers, flashing lights, karaoke, go-cups, flashing and strip bars, but as much as I adore this wonderful city, I detest Bourbon Street in almost equal measure. I would rather live in suburbia out in Kenner then on Bourbon and if you know me, that is really saying a lot.

Keeping all of this in mind, if I had to buy a home on Bourbon Street, it would definitely be a place like this Creole cottage near the corner of St. Phillip. At the "quieter" end of the infamous street, this house was built in 1820 and (unlike a lot in the Quarter) is set back from the sidewalk and has a nice, big hedge offering a bit of privacy. It's a stunning property with all the good stuff; original wood floors and moldings, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and plantation shutters. Interestingly enough, the house is actually split into two separate apartments with a total of five bedrooms, five bathrooms, lush brick courtyards, breakfast nook and a rec room!

Though, as I mentioned before, the house isn't surrounded by strip bars and flashing lights, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is right next door. It is said to be the oldest continually occupied bar (since 1772) in the United States and possibly one of the hideouts of famed pirate Jean Lafitte, the scallywag that helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in 1815. Who knows? Maybe he hung out next door, too? Perhaps there's a hidden stash of Spanish galleons in some secret, underground cavern? I'd certainly need a great cache of gold to buy this beauty listed at $1,600,000.00.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fried feast at Charlie's Seafood

In the Greater New Orleans Area, you will never suffer from a lack of choices when it comes to places serving fried seafood. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not complaining, but with the multitudes of restaurants to choose from, sometimes it can be difficult to discover true quality among the masses. It seems that my search has ended...

Out on Jefferson Hwy in Harahan, just past the Colonial Golf Course, lies Charlie's Seafood. I remember the first time I saw the place years ago and read the sign (Charles Sea Foods), I laughed and thought, "I'll bet the seafood there is off the hook!"  I just love it when I'm right.

On Saturday, John, my friend Dani, her daughter Posie and I all went to Charlie's for lunch, hungry and anxious for some good, fried grub. We sat ourselves and before we had settled, a waitress rushed over with menus ready to take our drink order. Even though it was late in the lunch hour and the place was packed, we received  attentive service and before we knew it, our dishes came pouring out of the kitchen.

Though no one else ordered an appetizer, I couldn't help getting a cup of their Corn & Crab Soup. It was wonderfully creamy with tons of sweet crab and I passed it around the table so everyone could try a spoonful or two. John actually stole more than two bites and practically licked the bowl clean. Next time I will have to get him one of his own!

For our entrees, John, Dani and Posie all ordered fried catfish, but I had been craving shrimp. You should have seen the look of shock on every one's face (including mine) when we saw the size of my shrimp! They were huge, fresh, plump Louisiana shrimp dipped in a spicy cornmeal batter and fried to crispy perfection. I didn't want to share, but I did, if only to snag a couple of pieces of their equally delicious catfish. Our platters were served with a huge pile of French fries, toasted and buttered French bread, house made tartar sauce and coleslaw. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed their coleslaw that was not too sweet and included the tasty addition of golden raisins.

None of us could finish our lunch and while we waited for to-go boxes, I ordered a slice of pecan pie for all of us to share. The warm, made-in-house pecan pie came out served in a pool of caramel sauce that has us all moaning with pleasure as we devoured every last bite. It seems you can never be too full for a decadent dessert!

Charlie's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oodles of food

Since I went out to several places last week, all of which were equally delicious, I think it might be best if I just do a quick run-down. You see, none of these places were what I intended to be my usual, weekly pig out, but I figured I'd eaten out enough for one week and decided to offer this mini food medley.

First, I had lunch on Wednesday with my first New Orleans employer and friend Jay at Trū Burger. I scarfed down "The Charlie" burger with bacon, Swiss cheese, house made coleslaw on a butter toasted bun and we shared some onion rings, their latest side!

On Thursday, I was invited to have lunch with Lorin at the brand new Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar on the long-neglected corner of Napoleon and St. Charles. I realize it's a seafood joint, and their BBQ Shrimp did rock, but what I can't stop thinking about was the Beef Carpaccio with pickled okra, thick shavings of Parmesan and horseradish mayo...I could have eaten the whole plate.

Finally, on Friday I went and had won ton soup and fried egg rolls with my good friend Anne at Pho Tau Bay. It had been a while since I'd seen Anne (or the soup!) and we had such a fabulous time...

...that we stopped off at the Hong Kong Food Market on Behrman Highway and got a ton of sweets like steamed cheesecake, butter buns and even Cream Collon.

Believe me, they taste a hell of a lot better than they sound.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

House of the week: Victorian on Constance Street

As of Twelfth Night (January 6th), carnival season has begun and I find myself longing to live closer to the parade route. I dream of having festive parties at a house where guests can easily walk out to St. Charles and enjoy the krewes rolling by and return to a comfortable place where they can not only use the restroom (an invaluable commodity during Mardi Gras), but can kick back and unload their heavy cache of beads before heading back out for the next parade.

With those specifications in mind, I think I may have found the perfect house! Over on Constance Street in the Irish Channel is a Victorian double (converted into a single) that is only one block from Magazine and only six blocks from St. Charles. It is a stunning renovation that kept all the qualities I desire in a New Orleans home including the original hardwood floors, pocket doors, exposed brick walls, ceiling medallions and transoms. It also has a gorgeous kitchen with black & white tiled floors, built-in bookcases, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a cute little courtyard out back. If only I could afford this beauty which is listed for $310,999.00. At least it doesn't cost me anything to dream...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chewing the fat at Uncle Hank's Table: Bayona

When going out to eat in New Orleans, there is one topic that never fails to come up, as a matter of fact, it usually dominates the conversation. That topic is food. Yes, while forking a decadent dinner into our maws, we'll be gabbing about another meal we are planning to eat in the future or raving about what we ate for breakfast that morning. Now John endures my endless chatter about food all of the time, but last Friday at Bayona, we met a sweet couple from Monroe who might as well have been sitting at the same table.

Thanks to our reservations, we were seated straight away and it was John who noticed the little plaque on the window sill stating that we were sitting at "Uncle Hank's Table." As we discovered it, an older gentleman at the next table said "Yeah, and did you know they say he's never used it?" Laughing, we struck up a conversation about food, restaurants and cooking that lasted almost the whole meal! Well, except while we were eating, then it got real quiet...

While selecting our appetizers, I took a huge leap of faith and ordered Pan-Fried Sweetbreads. If you recall, the first time I ate sweetbreads, I was pretty nervous and though I said I would eat it again, I have never ordered it since, even though I have had plenty of opportunities to do so. But as I perused the menu, I heard the waiter talking about the dish, saying it was an immensely popular, signature Susan Spicer recipe and I just couldn't resist. The crispy, pan-sauteed sweetbreads with tiny cubes of potato and juicy mushrooms were drizzled in a sherry-mustard butter sauce and topped by even smaller cubes of beet. As it turns out, the sweetbreads were likely the highlight of our entire lunch!

John greedily eyed my dish while trying to appreciate his own, a Grilled Kobe Beef Brisket. The moist and tender, hoisin-soy glazed beef was sliced and served with peanut noodle salad and a few sauteed veggies. Though I appreciate the attempt, the dish tasted kind of amateur, like the person who cooked it had never prepared Asian cuisine before. C'est la vie! The dish was by no means terrible, just kind of sloppy for an environment like Bayona.

Waiting for our entrees, we eyed our neighbor's plates that had just arrived and one of them looked so good, I almost changed my order. It was a mixed grill with half a stuffed quail, andouille sausage and crusted lamb loin. It made me drool a bit and I covered by taking a big swig of my ginger beer before anyone noticed. At least our entrees arrived in good time to distract me.

I chose Fried Eggs with Pheasant Rillette Cakes that came with smothered collard greens and black-eyed peas. There were also thick, crispy, smoky hunks of pheasant sprinkled on top that were so good, it was like pheasant-bacon. What can I say? It was wonderful and I had no difficulty gobbling it all down. John enjoyed a few well-composed bites smeared into the gooey yolk and declared it good, but he thought it was a bit salty. Though, I didn't see that stopping him when I offered another bite. John opted for the Grilled Wild Salmon with a sundried tomato orzo, wilted escarole and sweet pea sauce. The perfectly-cooked salmon tasted bright and fresh, emphasized by the green taste of the pea sauce and this dish, too, quickly disappeared.

At last it was time for dessert and instead of waving the thought away, John quickly agreed with my choice of the Chocolate Caramel Hazelnut Tart with Earl Gray ice cream and fresh strawberries. I felt like a stuffed hobbit, "filling in the corners" while we slowly dug into our decadent dessert that was thick with rich chocolate and caramel and all I could think about was "Where am I going to eat next?"

Bayona on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pho at Boucherie?

We're barely into 2012 and I am already lagging on posts, but I promise I won't make it a habit! I don't usually make resolutions as it only provides me the opportunity to break them, but I intend on making a sincere effort to post more this year. That being said...

For the past several weeks, I've nursed a serious yen for some pho, but since I simply can't condone a a $30 cab ride for a $8 bowl of soup from Pho Tau Bay (as fabulous as it might be), I've shoved my cravings into a corner. Last week, in an effort to save money, stay closer to home and still have a fantastic meal, John and I decided to walk over to Boucherie and have lunch. Though the pho itch was still floating in the back of my mind, it was the last thing I expected to see on the menu in the cute, lilac house on Jeannette Street.

It may come as a shock, but I actually made reservations this time and I must admit, it felt incredibly good when the waitress pushed past the crowd of snooty patrons at the door (this one woman wouldn't even deign to look at me after I held the door open for her) and ask "Are you Miss Kim? Your table is right this way..." That pretentious lady looked at me then, oh yes indeed.

We sat down and were looking over the menu noticing all the little changes when lo and behold, I spotted pho as a "small plate" and I had no choice but to give it a try. We placed our order and watched while the pompous woman ogled our spot with obvious jealousy and irritation...much to our pleasure.

To start, John chose the Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad that came topped with thick shavings of Parmesan and bright green, basil croutons. It's been on the menu at Boucherie for a while and I had tasted it before, simple and delicious. My dish was, of course, the Pho with Smoked Lap Chong (dried pork sausage) meatballs and rice noodles. Along with the bowl of steaming soup, they served a plate with fresh basil, mint, sliced jalapeno, bean sprouts and a couple of squirts of what was unmistakably Sriracha and hoisin. While I loved the presentation, the ever-present aromatics like cinnamon and star anise, and what I am sure was a very trying recipe (making the broth for pho is more than arduous), the flavor fell a bit short of what I was hoping for, lacking the many-layered, meaty depth that is so often found in a typical Vietnamese pho. I certainly applaud the chef on his effort.

The dining room was packed, with more people waiting at the door, but our dishes kept coming out in a very timely fashion. Before we knew it, our server was swooping in to pick up our empty plates and bringing us new ones. For his entree, John selected the Pulled Pork Cake with Potato Confit and topped off with a bright, Purple Cabbage Cole Slaw. Like any of the "BBQ" items at Boucherie, this was wonderfully juicy pile of smoky pulled pork that practically melted in your mouth with each bite. Strangely enough, I chose something similar, the Cuban Sandwich. Thick, saucy hunks of roasted pork dressed with red wine mustard, pickled roasted poblano peppers, ancho aioli and house made, fresh mozzarella were pressed between two, cripsy slices of buttered and toasted bread. The cheese was slowly oozing out of the sides and as one man passed by my table, he pointed and said "I'm getting that next time!"

At last, it was time for dessert and since John had never tasted it before, we chose the Thai Chili Chocolate Chess Pie. I guess our server was getting a bit frazzled by the crowds though, because what came to our table was their Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. Laughing, I informed her of the mistake and she said, "No worries, I'll bring you a slice of that too..." Needless to say, we ate the bread pudding, which is sinfully decadent, moist and lighter in texture than you'd imagine, and then took the chocolate pie home. Later that night we devoured that chocolaty, spicy sweetness resting in a buttery, flaky crust and it was just as fabulous as we thought it would be.

Boucherie on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 2, 2012

Do you remember...

...this house?

It was the mystery on my street with Katrina-born messages scrawled on the wobbly, leaning fence and so overgrown with flora you could barely see the house.

Last week as John and I set out on foot to our next dining destination, I stopped in my tracks and literally goggled. For weeks they had been clearing away plants from behind the crooked fence, but at last the final barrier had been removed.

I am ecstatic that "they" - whomever they are - have seen their way through to improving this property and I am anxious and excited for what may come of this great, old house. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high because they may just demolish it and start over, but I have seen men working on it, getting rid of ruined flooring and general debris.

On the other hand, it's kind of sad-looking. All naked and exposed, shivering on the corner with nothing left to hide behind, its mystery somehow defiled by stripping away its wild facade.

Here's to the raw, new beginning in 2012...