Thursday, October 17, 2013

Caffeine clip: It's everywhere...

Not that I'm complaining, but French Truck Coffee is popping up all over the place! This creamy cup of coffee goodness was had at Atchafalaya. Just looking at it reminds me of its wondrous aroma and flavor. Waiter?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oodles of food at Noodle & Pie

I always miss the good stuff. For example, I used to frequent the Circle Bar almost daily and every time I would come in, the bartender would inevitably announce that I just missed some celebrity. "You just missed James Gandolfini!" or "Sean Penn was here less than an hour ago!" or my favorite "Where the hell were you? You will not believe this but Hunter S. Thompson was sitting at the bar." I can't tell you the number of times I have caught people oohing and ahhing over something that just happens to disappear as soon as I look. "Oh! You just missed it!" Being a day late and a dollar short, as they say, should be my motto. The same thing happened when Noodle & Pie was popping up at Coulis on Prytania. Just when I was able to get down there and experience the grub, it disappeared.

Luckily for me, Noodle & Pie found permanent digs and shortly after it opened, John and I headed over to try out the fabled deliciousness that I had heard so much about. We showed up on the corner of State and Magazine Street shortly after the restaurant opened, only to find that several other folks were as anxious as I to get a taste. There were already four tables filled when we walked in, but we were still able to score a two-top near a window, so we could shoot some decent food porn.

I admit, my anxiousness (and hunger) caused me to order at least a fourth of the menu, starting with a slew of small plates and a couple of house-made "shrub" sodas. I chose the Thai-Chili Watermelon and John opted for the Beet special. Shrubs are basically fruit and herb-infused drinking vinegars and soda. Although I liked both, I enjoyed John's more as it wasn't quite as tart. 

The appetizers started pouring out of the open kitchen, starting with King Oyster Mushrooms with pink peppercorn and garlic. As delicious as each skewered morsel may have been, we were kind of shocked to pay a whopping $5 for what couldn't have been more than half of one mushroom. The following dish was equally shocking, a Chilled Duck Breast with basil, shiso leaf (almost like parsley or mint), peach jam and mizuna (mustard green). It was a wonderful dish and we ate every bite, even down to getting all the jam with our fingers, but there was hardly anything there...three or four bites tops. Maybe I am a fat American who expects larger portion sizes or maybe, just maybe, that was not $7 worth of duck. Or it could be a little bit of both? 

Still rather ravenous, we were pleased to see that the next dish was a large plate filled with Shrimp Cracker Fries and a Sriracha aioli dipping sauce. We dove into it with abandon. The fries were crisp, salty and neither of us could get enough of the aioli. We munched on these throughout the course of the evening and it seemed the plate would never empty. 

The next dish was a Thai Spicy Green Papaya Salad that was far spicier than we anticipated, but we both love the heat, so that's okay. It was loaded with crab claw meat piled atop green beans, peanuts, crunchy sticks of papaya, fresh tomato and drizzled with fish sauce. As we were gobbling the salad, the finest dish of the evening (both John and I agree) arrived, a Claypot Pork Belly with rice and salt-cured duck egg yolk. So mouthwatering, so scrumptious and decadent was this dish that I recommended it to the couple who sat down next to us mid-meal, much to John's embarrassment. 

At last the ramen arrived.  John got the special of the day, a Crab Noodle Bowl with a seafood broth, a ton of crab claw meat, mushrooms, nori, fish cake, green onions, a soft boiled egg and hand-rolled, wheat ramen noodles. I chose the "House Bowl" with smoked hen broth, slow-cooked pork shoulder, soft boiled egg, shredded nori, mushroom, fish cake and noodles. Both were quite tasty, but I think John preferred my bowl because his chopsticks kept creeping over and stealing pieces of pork. 

You can't go to Noodle & Pie without ordering pie, and you know I can't go out to eat without ordering dessert, so we selected  a slice of S'More Pie with graham cracker crust, chocolate chunks and marshmallow whipped cream on top. It was a fabulous pie, even though I really wanted to try the mythical Honey & Pine Nut Pie so many folks had told me about. Oh well, I guess I have to go back! 

Noodle & Pie on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 7, 2013

House of the week: Shotgun on Coliseum Street

"If only I could have bought a house ten years ago." This thought keeps running through my brain, especially when I see houses like this one. Located near the corner of Dufossat and Coliseum, this single, shotgun "cottage" is so beautiful and so quaint (only a bit more than 1300 square feet), yet it's listed at staggering California prices. The house features hardwood floors, high ceilings, exposed brick walls, a claw foot tub, antique bead board wainscoting in the hall, plus a cute little porch and bricked courtyard out back. Another great feature of this home is the location, only two blocks from some of the best spots on Prytania Street including St. James Cheese Co., Creole Creamery, Manhattan Jack, La Crepe Nanou and Upperline.

I love, love, love this house but for $470,000, I'll have to look elsewhere...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The answer at Herbsaint

A little over a month ago, I celebrated my birthday again at Herbsaint. As dorky as it may sound, I was looking forward to my 42nd because for a whole year, I would be the "Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything." You see, I had this little pipe dream wherein during this auspicious year, I would find the answer. Perhaps not the answer to everyone's "Life, Universe and Everything"...but maybe, at least mine? A positive self-fulfilling prophecy? We'll shall see...

To be perfectly honest, I've been feeling a little lost lately, like I've been settling into yet another predictable pattern and I need something to shake it up, something to shake me up. But very recently, over the past month, I feel like I am glimpsing bits of possible futures, paths to embark upon if only I'll just take that next step forward and I was reminded of one of those possibilities during my birthday lunch at Herbsaint.  

Instead of our usual table near the bar, John and I chose to sit outside. We ordered a couple of drinks and tried to narrow down our choices to a reasonably-sized lunch, but we still ended up with our own appetizer. John chose the Louisiana shrimp and fish ceviche with cucumbers, fresh tomatoes and crunchy pepitas (pumpkin seeds). It was served in a clay-colored ceramic dish and the morsels were tart, light and far too easy to scoop into your mouth. I picked something equally wonderful (like that's difficult at Herbsaint), smoked salmon with crisp green beans in a creamy sauce gribiche.

For his entree, John really wanted the grilled tuna sandwich on olive bread and he sighed audibly when our server said they were all out. He settled for the cold roast beef on foccacia with horseradish aioli. The roast beef was rare and his sandwich was scrumptious, but I could tell he was still yearning for the grilled tuna. I ordered the crispy goat with curried lentils, cucumber and tomatoes. I was expecting an Indian-flavored dish but from the first bite, I felt like I was tasting home. It was like the chef had raided my childhood memories of Persian and Turkish food and combined it into this dish. Instead of having each ingredient separate like they do with Persian kebab (rice, grilled meat, onion & cucumber yogurt salad), everything was mixed together in perfect proportions.

The reason this dish touched my soul was two-fold. Not only did it remind me of home, but it triggered in me an increased desire to tell my story ... a story I've been tossing about in my brain for sometime. A story about growing up with an odd mix of Southern values, Persian mysteries and American ideologies, and how food played such a major role good and not-so-good ways. I think it would be highly therapeutic, if nothing else, and I finally feel ready to try. Letting the flavors of my youth roll over my tongue at Herbsaint felt like a beginning....and an end.

Well, there was certainly an end to our lunch, and a typically divine one at that. A sudden thunderstorm broke and we endured a few sprinkles while devouring dessert (thank you Rhonda!), a Duck Egg Crème Brulee with Pecan Lace cookies. The sugar crust was perfect, a hard tap of my spoon breaking through to a thick, smooth custard. We enjoyed dipping the crunchy pecan cookies into cups of freshly brewed French Truck coffee while watching the streetcars rumble by.

I realize that neither Douglas Adams nor lunch at Herbsaint Restaurant necessarily hold the secrets of life, but they both make my life feel more fabulous and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Herbsaint Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon