Friday, June 29, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Mississippi Debris

Although I was going to save this one for last, I just couldn't hold it in anymore. New Orleans Ice Cream Co.'s Mississippi Debris is my absolute favorite flavor and I had to share for all those chocolate lovers out there just like me. If you are the kind of fanatic who loves digging chunks of goodies, both salty and sweet, out of your pint, crunching on bits of chocolaty yum, then this is the flavor for you. It's a munchy paradise of rich chocolate ice cream packed with truffles, malt balls, hunks of chewy brownies, chocolate-covered almonds, cherry cups, marshmallows, chocolate flakes and a delicious fudge swirl...whew!

John and I literally fought over this particular flavor and it was the first one to disappear out of all the different flavors we had. If you live alone, you'll be safe with one pint. If not, be sure to buy enough Mississippi Debris for everyone or it just might get ugly up in the family freezer...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bon Appetit Grub Crawl reflections...

As you already know, I was invited by Belvedere Vodka to attend Saturday of the Bon Appetit Grub Crawl weekend. I was also invited to an event launch, media luncheon at Restaurant August the Friday before. People keep asking me "Well Kim, how was it?" and I am hesitant because, after all, for me this whole shindig was free. "If it's free it's for me!" my friend Shalom always quoted and I often mimicked, but's just not.

So, let's assume I paid $200 for the Grub Crawl on Saturday, $100 per person. John and I were placed in Group A that started at Domenica. We were met at the door by two flustered greeters in "Grub Crawl" t-shirts. They signed us in, slipped on our wristbands and then told us to "feel free to wander around" before an anxious restaurant employee led us through the kitchen to a room set aside for the crawl. I'd been in this little tasting room before when judging for the NOWFE Fleur de Lis Awards and while it was fine for a group of six, it was extremely crowded for 25-30 people. Folks were jockeying for prime standing space located at one of the four, small tables, trying to find room to put down heavy, rectangular plates filled with cured meats, pickled vegetables, aged cheeses, preserves and pizza. The food was utterly fantastic, but the experience...not so much. That is unless you'd enjoy standing around sweating in close proximity to other people standing around sweating, fighting your way to the food table, and getting bumped and snapped at by frustrated servers in a dark, noisy room? Yeah, I didn't think so.

We knew from the map that our next destination was the Napoleon House on Chartres, so when John and I had plainly had enough of being squashed, we decided to start walking over until one of the Grub Crawl guides stopped us and said we should wait for the shuttle. No problem! We were heading back into the dining room to take a break from the cluster when an extremely rude, short woman with long, dark brown hair hustled us back into the sweat pit and told us to start walking. Stunned by such obnoxious behavior, I told her that we were waiting for a shuttle and wanted to spend that time somewhere cooler. She literally barked in my face "There's no shuttle! Walk people! Get walking!" Now I realize I'm a fat sow who could care less about exercise, but there was no reason for her attitude. I'm pretty sure this woman is a host or Maitre 'd at Domenica and I swear to God, if I see her the next time I visit, I will turn around and walk back out. I adore Chef Alon Shaya and will greatly miss his excellent food, but that woman needs to learn some manners.


After being unceremoniously herded outside, we waited patiently for our shuttle while watching the backs of other locals making their way to the Napoleon House. We arrived at the Chartres Street restaurant in good time, sat down and relaxed while sipping on ice cold Pimm's Cups and munching mini-muffulettas. Unfortunately, the drinks were rather weak (I love me a good Pimm's Cup) tasting pretty much like 7-UP and the muffulettas tasted like frozen hors d'oeuervs re-heated for our pleasure. At least we had plenty of room to sit down.

Our next stop was Sylvain and since the two restaurants were so close together, the staff at Sylvain was scrambling to set up between groups. During that time, we lined up and waited in a hot hallway, looking inside through small-paned windows at a darkened restaurant that just oozed "cool." When we finally filed inside, we were treated to an array of pickled peppers, cucumbers and okra and a bitter beer cocktail that was interesting, just not for me. We were also served a fried cake of pulled pork shoulder served atop buttery grits and delicious turnip greens.

Next stop was right across Jackson Square at Stanley. As you probably know, I've been to Stanley many, many times before and have often dined on what we were served, Breaux Bridge Eggs Benedict. There was also a cooling cocktail concocted from Belvedere Lemon Tea vodka, lemonade and iced tea. Everything was delicious and the group was treated to a wedding second-line that started right out in front of the restaurant.

At last we strolled to our final destination, the one I had most anticipated, Stella! Restaurant. Unfortunately, it was the most disappointing.  What we got was a sad little sliver of bread smeared with a simple egg salad and sprinkled with local caviar and instead of "specialty cocktails" we received a sparkling rose spritzer, that while tasty, was not what we had hoped for. John and I were supposed to head to the Joy Theater from there for a concert featuring local singer Theresa Anderson, but we were done and all we wanted was to go home.

Now, had we paid $200 for the Grub Crawl, I would have been pretty irritated. I did hear that the concert was wonderful, and perhaps we would have been in a better mood about the whole adventure had we gone, but what we experienced was, in essence, not worth it. I'd rather take that $200 and have an wonderful dining experience at one of those restaurants, like Domenica or Sylvain, instead of being slogged through all five spots.

The best experience overall was the media luncheon at Restaurant August. Surrounded by heavy-handed mixologists and handsome chefs serving outstanding cocktails and delicacies a-go-go...that's what the crawl should've been like. I'd pay $100 for that kind of experience in a heartbeat.

*PS - Sorry about the pictures! The light just wasn't very good in most of the restaurants, except Stanley!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

House of the week: 21st Century Shotgun on Andry Street

History is one of the most prominent deciding factors when I dream about buying a home. I want a house that's felt the gamut of human experiences, absorbed it into its walls and soaked it into the hardwood floors. I want a house that's been loved, hated, mistreated and loved again. When I find it, that wonderful house will recognize me and love me for who I am because it's met me before.

That being said, there are occasions when new structures catch my eye and sometimes that draw isn't only the clean lines and the delight found in all things shiny and new. Just recently, the Urban Vision Properties built in the 9th Ward went up for sale and I have to admit, I think they're pretty darn cool. I'm pretty sure I could dig "living in the pink" with this 21st Century Shotgun house on Andry Street in the historic Holy Cross neighborhood.

Right across from the levee, this house looks like the Jetsons version of a shotgun with tall angled roof lines over the front porch and entryway, but it's futuristic feel doesnt stop with the design. Energy and space efficient, this new home features solar panels that produce 2.7 kW, Energy Star appliances and dual-paned windows, CFL lighting, tankless water heater, dual flush toilets and low flow faucets for water conservation, recycled-content tile and more!

The house looks cool as it feels with high ceilings, hardwood floors, ceiling fans, all new appliances including washer and dryer and a huge porch. Although it's a brand new home, it already has a bit of history to share. The whole 2005 levee failure, while horrifically tragic, brought forth a whole lot of humanity and good will towards the people and their troubles that followed the disaster. People from all over the world came to help our city and this memorable outpouring is why structures like this one stand where they do.

Plus listed at only $110,000, I doubt it'll be on the market for long.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Brandy Milk Punch

For those of you who have never been here, Brandy Milk Punch is a uniquely New Orleans cocktail traditionally served during the holiday season, but you can easily find it anytime of year. A fairly simple concoction, it consists of brandy (duh), milk (double duh) and powdered sugar that is shaken till frothy with ice, strained into a glass and sprinkled with nutmeg. It's tasty, easy to drink and, if poured by a local, heavy-hand, guaranteed to knock you on your butt. New Orleans Ice Cream Co. took this iconic, Crescent City cocktail and turned it into some seriously fabulous ice cream...

Incredibly creamy, rich and laced with brandy flavoring, the folks at New Orleans Ice Cream Co. have outdone themselves. I can easily say, with no hesitation, that this is one of my new favorites. My poor BF John was only able to score one small taste before I inhaled the rest of the pint. Go get your own!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Poor foodie perks: Belvedere Vodka and Grub Crawl

How cute is that bottle?!?
My friends from near and far exclaim "You have the best job in the world!" and while I agree that living life as a local food writer in New Orleans is certainly a whole ton of fun, I am barely scraping by. I can't afford a lot of things like a better apartment (500 sq. ft. gets really small for two after a while) or God forbid a house. People have seen me around town in the same outfit for at least the past two years, not to mention desperately needing a color, cut and pedicure. My finances do not allow a car or even decent health insurance.

All in all, I am pretty damn happy, regardless of my financial straits. I'm living in the best city in the world, I'm hopelessly in love, my dog is the cutest, most lovable shih-tzu in the universe, I eat fantastic food and sometimes I am lucky enough and recognized enough to get free stuff. Now I don't mean the usual "schwag" like free pens or tote bags (though I get that stuff, too), I mean some really incredible stuff...

For example, I was recently contacted by a cordial representative from Belvedere Vodka. They are sponsoring a national "Grub Crawl" along with Bon Appétit Magazine which has arrived in New Orleans. Not only do I get to attend a launch-event luncheon at Restaurant August, a place I could never afford otherwise, I also get two free tickets to one day of the crawl (I chose Saturday) and I was sent a free sample of Belvedere's new Lemon Tea vodka! It's like I hit the freaking lottery!

Last night, John and I decided to crack open the (super-cute) mini-bottle of vodka a try. It's funny, a few days ago I was talking to my friend Ryan about receiving the free Belvedere sampler and after raving about it, he told me that he loved that particular brand because it always tasted so fresh, that it's almost minty sensation made him feel like he just brushed his teeth. Laughing at the time, I couldn't imagine any alcohol making me feel minty fresh, but after taking a few straight sips of Belvedere Lemon Tea over ice, I realized he was right! Unlike many other lemon flavored vodkas I've tried, Belvedere didn't feel syrupy or sickly sweet. It was extremely clean with just a hint of lemon and, as we discovered later, perfect over freshly brewed iced tea.

I may be living on the edge of poverty, but I am enjoying every minute!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Breaking out for breakfast at Oak Street Café

After subsisting off oatmeal and frozen blueberries for breakfast over the past several weeks, I just couldn't take it anymore. It's not that I am slamming those particular food items really, it's just that breakfast is truly my favorite meal of the day, especially when it means dishes like French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar, sunny-side eggs with a hefty serving of bacon or flaky biscuits loaded with creamy butter and lots of honey. If I'm really indulging, it wouldn't be tough for me to polish off all of the above at once! Anyhow, it was time for a change, so I convinced John to get out of the apartment and go around the block for a real breakfast at the Oak Street Café.

This was far from our first venture to the corner cafe seeing as it's one of the few places in our neighborhood that serves donuts, not to mention egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches on huge, chewy bagels. We arrived around noon to find the restaurant fairly empty, placed our order at the counter and sat at one of the checkered cloth-covered tables to wait. While sipping a hot cup of Community Coffee, we listened to a young woman belt out classic R&B tunes like "Route 66" accompanied by one man playing a stand-up bass and another, an upright piano. Tons of framed photos, sketches and paintings adorned the walls, almost from ceiling to floor, several of which I recognized as the work of another Oak Street resident, Frenchy.

We were both pretty hungry when our plates arrived and I am surprised how well we held ourselves back in order to take pictures. John ordered the a boudin breakfast that came with one large, split link of boudin (naturally), as well as a side of "smothered" potatoes and a pile of wheat toast. After asking the owner I discovered the boudin came from Billy's in Opelousas, Louisiana, about 25 miles outside of Lafayette, and is said to be some of the best around. I took a few bites and found it spicy and delicious, with a strong aftertaste of anise.

I opted for the Eggs Beauregard, a Southern twist on Eggs Benedict that featured two fluffy biscuits topped with sausage patties and over-easy eggs all smothered in a creamy, white sausage gravy. Like John, I also got the potatoes, which were roughly chopped reds that must have been boiled and then sauteed with plenty of spicy-hot cayenne. Some of the potatoes were eaten, but I kept shoveling in the eggs and by the time I finished them, I simply couldn't eat another bite.

All in all, I find the food at Oak Street Café to be a little pricey (our tab came to $30!), but it certainly won't stop me from rounding the corner for breakfast (or donuts) from time to time...

Oak Street Café on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012

House of the week: Victorian on Broadway

It seems like every time I turn around in this town, I fall in love. Yep, I found another dream house. Located Uptown on Broadway Street, this colorfully painted Victorian is not only an eye-catcher with great "sidewalk appeal," it's practically a steal. Over 1,300 square feet of living space, this little beauty was built in 1912 and has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, new hardwood floors, high ceilings and a sweet front porch. There is a ton of built-in storage, especially in one of the bedrooms, an updated kitchen with a range set into the center island and marble-tiled bathrooms. As added bonuses, the house features a lush backyard with a large, shaded deck and gated, off-street parking for two cars! In any city, parking is a valuable commodity and New Orleans is no different.

What's extra cool about this particular house, you ask? Well, it's only two short blocks away from Audubon Park, two and a half blocks from the levee, little more than a block from Tartine and right across the street from the Crescent City Farmers Market that pops up every Tuesday! Do you think this gem is worth $385,000? I do!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Café au Lait & Beignets

A rule of thumb I have about ice cream is that my flavor of choice must have staying power. Call me a pig, fattie, glutton...whatever, I don't care. But, if I can't snarf down an entire pint in one sitting, something is amiss. Each and every bite has to be just as good as the last, all the way down to the final scrapings at the bottom of the carton. Surprisingly, this was not the case with my pint of New Orleans Ice Cream Co.'s Café au Lait & Beignets.

Don't get me wrong, I adore the rich, sweet flavor of Coffee & Chicory from Cool Brew (you know I'm addicted to Cool Brew) and the "toasty" accents of steamed milk. Digging into the creamy batch and hefting another chunk of deep-fried beignet (made by Blue Dot Donuts, by the way) tickled me too, but I just couldn't handle the ribbons of powdered sugar. I know, I know! What's a beignet without powdered sugar? Well, don't crucify me, but I usually brush the mountain of sugar off when I go to Cafe du Monde. It's just way too sweet for me.

That being said, I still ate at least half of it...

Cabbie confessions: Neyow's Creole Cafe

A couple of weeks back, John and I were cabbing it back home and while gabbing with the driver, we got into a conversation about food. Our driver was an elderly black man who was born and raised in the city and, although I know where I love to dine, I always like to ask, "What's your favorite restaurant?" As if suddenly exhilarated, the cabbie got quite excited and said, "I'm gonna tell you the best spot in town and if you don't like it, you can call me and I'll pay for your lunch" Laughing, I teasingly told him to be careful because I might just take him up on his offer. He just smiled and said "I ain't worried. Just you go to Neyow's and see for yourself."

Located on the corner of Bienville and N. Jeff Davis, Neyow's Creole Cafe shares territory with two other popular neighborhood restaurants (Liuzza's and Katie's), yet it was still packed to the rafters when I visited last week. It was a girls' day this time, so while John stayed at home, my friends Anne and Candy joined me  for a particularly gluttonous lunch.

At first we thought we wouldn't be able to find a place to park, but then we saw that Neyow's conveniently has their own parking lot across the street. As we walked towards the door, a big guy coming out, cleaning his teeth with a toothpick, glanced at us and smiled, "Oh don't you ladies worry," he said. "I saved some for you!"

Rather than waiting inside, we decided relax at a table in the shade outside and enjoy the pleasant day. After quite a bit of hemming and a little hawing, we decided what we wanted and placed our order. First up were the Crawfish Balls which were simply crab cake wrapped around a crawfish tail, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. They turned out to be pretty tasty and had a decent crab-to-crumb ratio that actually surprised me.

Before we chomped down the last ball, our entrees arrived. Both Anne and Candy ordered the red beans which came out as a platter-sized pool with a small pile of rice along the side, but Anne chose the Southern fried chicken while Candy opted for the breaded pork chops. Although the red beans were plentiful, they were a bit bland, but a little doctoring with the help of Crystal Hot Sauce and S&P, it was all good. I got to taste a bit of Anne's delicious fried chicken, too. The meat was juicy and the skin was wonderfully crispy. Candy also got a side of cornbread that came out in a huge slab that we all shared. It was sweet, dense, buttery, crumbly and reminded me of home.

There was no need for me to try Candy's entree because I ordered the Pork Chop Plate that came with three breaded and fried chops and two sides; sweet potato tots and mac & cheese. Thin, juicy and addictive, I finished a chop and a half before I even tasted anything else on my plate. The tots were perfectly crunchy on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside, but after eating quite a few I barely put a dent in the mountainous pile. I also really enjoyed the buttery, creamy mac & cheese made from what looked like broken spaghetti noodles.

Finally, after eating as much as we could without bursting right there at the table, we requested to-go boxes for our plentiful left-overs and proceeded to order dessert. Because we couldn't decide between two particular items, we got both and didn't regret it one bit. Their Beignet Sticks turned out to be just that, a pile of crisply-fried, stick-shaped beignets covered in powdered sugar and served with a cinnamon sugar dipping sauce. The second dessert was my personal favorite though, a Pecan "Cobbler" that seemed to be a really sloppy slice of Pecan Pie without a whole lot of crust. Sloppiness aside, it was the most delicious Pecan Pie I have tasted in quite a long time and that includes my own creations as comparison. To top it all off, the entire gut-busting lunch for the three of us came to a grand total of $50! Great food at great prices? No wonder this place is so popular.

I think I should track down that cab driver and take him to lunch!

Neyow's Creole Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 11, 2012

House of the week: Victorian double on Annunciation

Location, location, is one of the key stipulations when it comes to buying a house. While most of the homes I have posted have been in what I believe are wonderful locales, there are occasions when I wish I could pick the house up and plop it down in my preferred neighborhood. This is one of those times.

On Annunciation Street in the Lower Garden District lies this gorgeous Victorian double. Built in the late 1800's, the house features stunning architectural detail both inside and out with floor-to-ceiling windows, original hardwood floors, pocket doors, high coved ceilings, fireplace mantles, claw foot tubs, a huge front porch and a cute garden out back replete with fountains. Since it's a double shotgun, I could live in one side and rent out the other which would help pay the mortgage.

 The only problem is that the house faces a huge apartment complex that is, in my opinion, an eyesore. Not to mention, the driving habits of folks on this part of Annunciation is atrocious! I can't tell you how many times I have seen vehicles seriously flout the speed limit in this area. Now, if I could pick it up and move it to the other side of Annunciation Square, I might be willing to buy it for $424,000.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Lemon Doberge Cake

Almost two years ago, New Orleans Ice Cream Co. owner Adrian Simpson graciously donated seven pints of his delicious ice cream for what resulted in a massive pig-out session where my friends and I tasted the different flavors and voted on our top three. Well, he's done it to me again...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know that New Orleans Ice Cream has released a ton of new flavors and since he liked my last review so much, Adrian sent over nine pints this time, asking for my honest opinion. Nine. Nine pints of ice cream again sat in my freezer for a few days while I formulated an idea of how to approach a review. But this time, my planning was foiled when I caught John standing in front of the freezer with a large spoon in hand and a guilty look on his face.

"I just couldn't resist!" he cried, pointing to the double-row of creamy, cool goodness on a day that had already sweltered well above 90 degrees.

So, in honor of the long summer months ahead of us, I will be reviewing one flavor of New Orleans Ice Cream a week in the hopes that you'll find this a delicious way to stay cool.

First up is Lemon Doberge Cake. Although I am a huge fan of Doberge, I have never been one to dig tart desserts. All of my life I had no difficulty passing on lemon bars, orange sherbet (Dad's obsession) and key lime pie...until now.

The Lemon Doberge Cake ice cream is mostly a wonderfully creamy and bright flavored lemon base with hidden chunks of crumbly, moist cake and ribbons of tangy lemon sauce. If you are a fan of citrus desserts, this ice cream will certainly make you swoon and if you're not? Well, you just might become a convert like me...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tourist trap on Oak: Jacques-Imo's Cafe

Realizing I'll draw a lot of flak from avid fans, I have to stand my ground and claim (without fear) that Jacques-Imo's Cafe is a bonafide tourist trap. Chef/owner Jack Leonardi deserves unmitigated props for the buzz about the unique eatery he's established on Oak Street, a restaurant that attracts a ridiculous amount of patrons who come in from the burbs, as well as all over the country. Living around the corner, I can attest to the literal swarm that forms out in front of Jacques-Imo's as soon as the doors open...if not well before. I've even publicly (and vociferously) complained about the city's cabbies who hover like greedy vultures, waiting to pick up anyone who's leaving and thereby causing serious traffic issues on Oak Street from 5pm till the restaurant closes at around 10:30pm. What's all the fuss?

I've dined at Jacques Imo's on several occasions and have found the experience just "OK," but the number of devoted diners who flock to the restaurant every weekend haven't slacked in the eight years I've lived here, it's only gotten worse! Seeing as it had been over five years since the last time I tried Jacques Imo's, I considered the possibility that perhaps the food has improved and I was missing out on something really spectacular. Last week, John and I decided to try it again. 

We chose to play it safe and show up right around 5pm like an elderly couple trying to catch the "early bird" special. It was either that or stand around for an hour or two waiting impatiently for a table. Even though we arrived early, there were still a number of diners waiting, but luckily got seated right away since we were only a party of two. We chose to sit outside and scored a table next to the front window. Thankfully, the other waiting patrons gave us room and did their best not to linger over us while we ate.

After ordering, we were immediately served a complimentary plate of cornbread muffins whose depressed tops supported a small pool of melted butter sprinkled with parsley. They were sweet and tasty, and we munched them down while watching the crowd swell around us. For our appetizer, I was tempted to order the Deep Fried Roast Beef Po-Boy which made John's nose squinch up in opposition, so we opted for Crab Meat Stuffed Shrimp with Magnolia Sauce instead. The stuffed shrimp were fried to perfection, but after sitting in the "Magnolia" sauce (which was just a thin, tomato-basil cream sauce) everything got goopy fast. Additionally, there was a negligible amount of crab in the stuffing, so John and I were left with soggy breadcrumb glop that we scraped off and just ate the shrimp by itself. Regretting our choice of appetizers, we chalked it up to bad luck and kept our hopes up for the rest.

Our quick and highly efficient waitress soon arrived with our entrees. John decided to get the Mushroom Stuffed Salmon with black beans and a (watery) ginger cream sauce which was actually quite delicious despite the super-sloppy presentation and odd lack of mushrooms. He also got two sides, some lackluster red beans and smothered cabbage that he didn't touch again after the first bite. I chose the Pan Fried Drum with pecan meunière sauce, which is made from brown butter, parsley, lemon and toasted pecans. There wasn't much sauce on the plate and what was there was not very flavorful. The fish had a thick, flour-based crust (that was also rather bland) and it was topped with, oddly enough, sugared pecans. My sides of choice were corn maque choux and "country greens" meaning collard, mustard or turnip greens, depending on what was in season. The greens were tasty, but I'd definitely enjoyed better maque choux elsewhere. 

With a choice between bread pudding and crème brûlée for dessert, we opted for the latter, but were a little put off by the presentation when it arrived in a kidney shaped plate that reminded me of an emesis basin. A friend told me later that in antique china sets, that particular dish was referred to as the "bone dish" used for (surprise, surprise) discarded chicken/beef/pork bones. Despite the strange container, the crème brûlée was easily the highlight of our whole meal with a crisp, burnt sugar top and a perfectly creamy custard interior. 

Why do I think Jacques-Imo's a tourist trap? Well, for starters, they charge fine dining prices for a plastic plate and tablecloth atmosphere. In fact, you can get trout meunière at Galatoire's for almost $1.50 less than Jacques Imo's! Naturally, Galatoire's offers their fish à la carte, but the whole dining experience is completely different where servers are at your beck and call, you dine on fine china and you're surrounded by awe-inspiring elegance in a restaurant that has been around for over a the heart of the French Quarter no less. Finally, it seems to me that folks who visit Jacques Imo's are paying for the "New Orleans experience" which is, in this case, interpreted through tacky wall murals depicting the Louisiana swamp, gators and all, and an abused, brightly painted pick-up truck that also serves as a dining space.

*Tip: If you stroll only a few blocks in almost any direction from Jacques-Imo's, you'll find remarkable restaurants that will cost the same (or less) and you'll enjoy fantastic cuisine and excellent service in a relaxed atmosphere for an unforgettable dining experience (*cough* Dante's *cough* Boucherie *cough* Cowbell *cough*). 

Jacques-Imo's Café on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 1, 2012

Carnivorous bliss at Toups' Meatery

No offense to all those rabbit-food lovers out there, but I could never be a vegetarian. To be perfectly honest, I don't quite understand the appeal of that type of diet. Humans have eaten meat for a very long time. If we are indeed all natural herbivores, as a lot of vegetarians and vegans claim in a strange blind-to-scientific-facts kind of way (i.e. using data to suit their vegetarian agenda), wouldn't we be naturally opposed to it? Wouldn't the texture, taste and smell be utterly unpalatable? We're omnivores people! Whatever. I won't apologize for my mini-rant, in fact, I deleted several paragraphs after reading some of the crazed online vegetarian "literature" out there, but I will step down from the soap box...for now.

Me? I most definitely eat meat. I love meat. I love fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains as well, but meat does something primal to me, satiating my hunger in a way no plant could ever accomplish. I crave meat and I certainly had a yen for some serious animal flesh last week when my friend Casey, John and I lunched at Toups' Meatery

We stepped inside the spanking new restaurant on the corner of N. Carrollton and Dumaine in Mid-City and immediately admired the clean, simple decor with an abundance of light wood and white walls. But, it was a gorgeous day, not scorching hot and the restaurant offered plenty of shady tables outside that we just couldn't resist. It took us a while to finally place an order because everything on the menu looked so damned good. Unlike most first-timers to Toups', we didn't order the foie gras or Meatery Board (we hemmed and hawed about it plenty), but you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be going back again soon. At long last, we opted to not order everything on the menu, but we did made a fairly good dent.

Our three appetizers arrived in good time, served up by the effervescent and witty co-owner Amanda Toups, whom I thought was super cool and reminded me, quite a lot, of my good friend Lorin Gaudin. But let's get back to the meat of the matter (tee-hee). Sharing every dish that came out, we started by diving into a cup full of cracklins -- Cajun seasoned bits of crispy, fatty pork heaven replete with chewy edges of meat still attached. A plate of fried boudin balls disappeared just as quickly, each of us lavishly smearing our bites in Creole mustard before gobbling while sighing appreciatively. We also inhaled a plate of meatballs that featured a fabulous, ginger-lemongrass BBQ sauce, melted shavings of Gruyere cheese and a few leaves of wilted arugula that sopped up the tastiness left on the plate after the meatballs vanished into our greedy bellies.

Our appetites whetted, we eagerly awaited our entrees and were not disappointed when they arrived. John got the Braised Spare Ribs that were blackened with a cafe brulot glaze and served on top of some delicious root vegetables. The beef was moist, flavorful, fell off the bone and was quickly and efficiently inhaled, leaving nothing but bones behind. 

Casey chose the Slider Trio featuring a thick crab cake, chipotle pulled pork topped with pineapple chunks and lamb belly with fresh mint. We tasted all three and had differing opinions of what was our favorite, but we agreed that all three were wonderful without hesitation. The crab cake was loaded with crab (not soggy breadcrumbs) and the pork was incredibly tender and flavorful, but my choice was definitely the lamb belly...WOW! 

My unavoidable dish of choice was the Double Cut Pork Chop that had a small drizzle of Steen's Cane Syrup gastrique and was served atop a huge pile of dirty rice. Although the thick chop wasn't as sweet as I expected, it was still utterly moist and delicious, not to mention that it rested upon a large pile of what was easily the best dirty rice I have ever eaten in my life, a fact we all heartily agreed upon. It was so freaking good that my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

As you well know, we couldn't leave without dessert and ordered a slice of Doberge cake, lovingly baked by Debbie Does Doberge. Shortly after Casey instructed me on the correct pronunciation (it's not "doe-bearj," it's "doe-bash!"), a huge slab of Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter and Bacon Doberge cake arrived. If you've never enjoyed this distinctly New Orleans dessert, know that it is a multi-layered cake (this one had eight) with alternating layers of pudding or custard, iced with butter cream frosting and covered with a fondant shell. Although we were all quite full, we still had no difficulty finishing the whole, scrumptious slice. 

I can't wait to go back!

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