Monday, January 28, 2013

O! Cochon

Cochon is a wonderful restaurant, we all know this to be true. It's almost a waste of time for me to write about it because, you all know and have heard over and over and over and over and over and over again about the fabulous Cochon Restaurant. You've heard it from local, national and even international media outlets and what is one more, puny, insignificant blog going to do?

It's going to say it AGAIN!

A few weeks ago, John and I heard the squealing siren song all the way Uptown and could not longer resist it's magnetic pull. It had been way too long since we'd been to Cochon.

We arrived a bit later in the afternoon and the restaurant was about half full. I had requested a table near the window when I made the reservations, but they were summarily ignored by the blasé hostess that seated us. Thankfully, she was not our server, though we remarked on her obliviousness and complete lack of enthusiasm or charisma during the course of our "gorge-fest" which made for entertaining lunchtime banter.

Instead of ordering any entrees, John and I just chose several small plates and sides. After a short wait, everything flooded out of the kitchen at once, the plates just kept coming. We had fried alligator with a spicy, chili-garlic aioli and a pork & black-eyed pea gumbo that was quickly inhaled and swabbed up with soft, buttery dinner rolls.

John had specifically requested a dish of grilled shrimp with white beans and tasso that he coveted in a corner of the table, but I made him share the pork cheeks with feta and fried sauerkraut cake. I know, I know, everyone raves about the pork cheek dishes at Cochon, but dammit...there's good reason! We also had a massive, twice-stuffed baked potato that was creamy and cheesy and delicious...oh my...and an eggplant & broccoli casserole, both of which we couldn't finish, despite how tasty, until we got home.

We finished off this fabulous meal with a huge slab of Malted-Milk Chocolate with a sour cream ganache created by Cochon's pastry maestro, Rhonda Ruckman. John realized too late that he didn't like malt so the whole wonderful slice was mine all mine. We really shouldn't wait so long between visits.

Cochon on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 21, 2013

Caffeine clip: Satsuma Cafe

Dreaming of another cappuccino from Satsuma Cafe on Maple Street. They use GTO Espresso Blend from Coffee Roasters of New Orleans. Not only do they have great coffee and food, but they are the nicest staff ever... an unfortunate rarity when surrounded by college students and snobs...or snobby college students!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cookbook: Taste of Tremé

A couple of months ago, author Todd-Michael St. Pierre sent me a copy of his brand new cookbook, Taste of Tremé. What with the holidays and work, I have been so busy, but I finally got a chance to check out the cookbook and try several of the recipes. This is the first cookbook by St. Pierre that is offered with a ton of gorgeous food images and lots of local art. I really enjoyed the little descriptions before each recipe, but you know what I enjoyed more? The food!

The first recipe I tried is called "Ernestine's Easy-Peasy Black-Eyed Peas & Rice." I'm always looking out for simple recipes to whip up on a busy evening and this one sounded perfect. It consists basically of ground beef, the Holy Trinity (chopped onion, bell pepper and celery), long-grained rice, Cajun seasoning (can you say Tony Chachere's?) and canned, black-eyed peas - Trappey's brand if you can find them. The dish turned out pretty tasty, but since I am not a huge fan of plain ol' ground beef, the next time I make this I might add 1/2 pound of ground pork or sausage just to jazz it up a bit.

Although I've played around with my own version of stuffed mirlitons since I discovered this amazingly delicious vegetable upon moving down here, but I have always been on the lookout for different recipes. In Taste of Tremé, St. Pierre has his version called "Pretty Boy Zane's Stuffed Mirlitons." The dish turned out perfectly. I invited my friend Dani over to try it and between the three of us, we almost demolished the whole pan. The mirliton were sweet and juicy, but I think the key to this dish is fresh Louisiana shrimp. My mouth is watering while I write this...time to make it again!

Now you just know I had to try one of the dessert recipes and I picked the "Devil's Halo Pie," which St. Pierre describes as "the epitome of the devil and angel on each shoulder." Basically, a graham cracker pie shell is filled with a mixture of brown sugar, cane syrup (I used Steen's, of course!), corn syrup, butter, eggs, pecans, semi-sweet chocolate chips and a healthy shot of Southern Comfort. Although the filling was a bit too much for the pie shell, the pie turned out perfectly! It serves up very gooey and sloppy, but what it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in flavor...absolutely fantastic!

I can't wait to try more recipes from the cookbook, I already have quite a few marked for future indulgence. Kudos to you Todd-Michael! You've done it again...

Monday, January 7, 2013

House of the week: Castle on St. Charles Avenue

When I was in high school, I used to joke with my friends that one day I would own a castle and they could all live there, performing different duties in exchange for room and board. Johnny was the chauffeur, Eva organized the parties, Charlene took care of the get the idea. Although the castle I had in mind back then was one of those classic, stone monuments in England replete with battlements, turrets and a moat, I think this pretty purple palace on St. Charles Avenue would do.

This abode fit for a princess was built in 1877 and is far bigger than I imagined from seeing its facade many, many times while cruising down the Avenue. The house features close to 6,000 square feet of living space, five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a separate cabana, in-ground pool and a whirlpool hot tub. This fantasy property has all the features I want in my New Orleans dream house including hardwood floors, sliding pocket doors, high ceilings, stained glass windows, ceiling medallions and (as you can tell from the picture) a turret! It's not surprising that this palace is listed at a whopping $2,995,000...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Deliciously delicious pizza

"The big bubbles of crust that expand right up through the sauce, glistening pools of oil as still and inviting as a mountain lake, the ropey knots of cheese that gather in the center as the slices are pulled apart." - The Sure Thing

I know, I know, my 80's is showing again, but for some reason almost every time I eat pizza, this scene comes to mind. It just happens to eloquently and succinctly describe my love/hate relationship with pizza. Unfortunately, your average American pie ordered from certain fast food chains that will remain nameless are pleasing in the way a Totino's Pizza Roll can be after a night of heavy drinking, but they are always, always regretted later...mainly in the form of heartburn and other gaseous entities that really shouldn't be discussed in any food blog, let alone mine.

Since my "Westernized" experience of pizza has ever jaded my my views on one of our country's favorite pastime, it really stands out to me when a along comes a pizza that oh-so obviously prides itself on fresh, quality ingredients and excellent craft. My first such eye-opening experience was ages ago at a hole-in-the-wall in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. The second was as Pizza Delicious.

Dani, Posie, John and I made a pilgrimage to Bywater a few weeks ago to try the pop-up, pizza sensation that finally got its own digs. I had heard the rave reviews about Pizza Delicious, but was all the way across town and I never failed to miss out on their previous, Sunday special appearances.

We placed our order at the counter and sat down. Everyone was smiling and friendly, from the other patrons in the clean, modern dining area to the guy tossing dough in front of the ovens. Before long, our first orders were up, two different types of pizza rolls - broccoli and spinach- that we decided to try in addition to our pie. Both were flaky, cheesy and just down right "gobbable" which we proved by scarfing them down in nano-seconds. I especially enjoyed the spinach version because it reminded me of one of my absolute favorite Mediterranean dishes, spanakopita (something I have been known to whip up on special occasions) only with pizza dough instead of phyllo.  

Before we could take a breath, our Margherita pizza arrived hot and fresh out of the oven. All I can say is when a restaurant is using quality ingredients like their creamy, slightly salty and fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce that tastes like a burst of summer on your tongue and basil that could have been picked right before they put it on the pie, you just know they care. Not to mention the perfect, crispy thin crust that wasn't soggy in the slightest. Fresh ingredients, people who care, attention to detail and seriously delicious pizza. That is Pizza Delicious.

Pizza Delicious on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012: Yet another year in review article...

Yeah, this is one of those blogs, so if you've had enough of retrospective, "year-in-review" hullabaloo, I won't be dismayed if you decide to move on. But, for those of you sticking around...

2012 was a pretty stellar year for me. I got to dine at some incredible places in New Orleans and managed to acquire a few more writing gigs. Who knew it was actually possible to write for a living? Not a spectacularly secure living, but I get I by and I'm happy and that's what really counts, after all. A lot of folks like to list their top ten, but I'm not really a "best of" kind of gal. Instead, here are a few culinary experiences in the past year that really blew my (taste) buds away.

First up are the Pan-fried Sweetbreads I enjoyed at Bayona. If you would have told me that I would become an avid eater of organ meat a couple of years ago, I would have scoffed and snorted in total disbelief, but dishes like this have altered my perception of food...thank you Susan Spicer.

Next up, could I not mention Root? Chef Lopez has brought a whole new, creative culinary dimension to New Orleans that simply did not exist before and everyone, locals and tourists alike, are literally eating it up.  One of the most popular dishes on the menu are Louisiana Pickled Shrimp with shrimp stuffed deviled eggs, and that's just the beginning.

Although this next restaurant is, sadly, no longer in existence, I will never forget my trip to Sweet Olive. Thankfully, Coquette is still around and some of the dishes from Sweet Olive can still be found there, like this bread basket extraordinaire - a trio of mini biscuits, two cream cheese, two cornbread and two pimento cheese pinwheels - that I unfortunately had to share.

Last year was the first year where I was actually considered real "press" and because of that, I was invited to all kinds of fabulous events. I was a judge for the annual NOWFE fleur de lis awards, Hogs for the Cause recruited me to judge in their "Whole Hog" category, I enjoyed my first ever, Tales of the Cocktail spirited dinner at Coquette and got to experience the brand new Grub Crawl where I reaffirmed my admiration of the great works of Chef Alon Shaya at Domenica. Out of all of these fantastic adventures, one stands out in my mind because of this next dish. At the Star Chefs "Rising Stars" event inside the the New Orleans Museum of Art, I was finally able to sample the delicious creations of pastry chef Rebecca Cohen at Stella! Will I ever again be able to afford to sample anything like this Frozen Chevre Parfait with poached pears, financier and caramel croquant? Maybe someday...

The carnivore in me still has dreams about Toups' Meatery. Chef Isaac Toups blew me away with Boudin Balls and Cracklin's, but the "piece de resistance" was this Double Cut Pork Chop that had a small drizzle of Steen's Cane Syrup gastrique and was served atop a the most delectable pile of dirty rice I have ever eaten. Seriously, Toups' dirty rice is, as my boyfriend would say, "amazeballs."

Although I devoured a lot of fabulous food last year, those were the experiences that really stood out for me, ones I will likely not forget. I can't wait to dive into 2013 and devour some more memorable moments.