Monday, December 30, 2013

House of the week: Creole cottage on Dauphine Street

While I've been biting the bullet and concentrating seriously on a potential future abode, sometimes I accidentally come across a property that I simply can't help getting randy over. I mean, some homes are just so sexy, so alluring, that they can seduce with seemingly-innocent words like "guest house" and "courtyard." This just happened to be one of those times...

Located smack in the middle of the French Quarter, this Creole cottage looks harmless enough from the street, but inside it's a whole other world. Built c. 1825, this house boasts high ceilings, hardwood floors, French doors, a huge courtyard and garden, an in-ground swimming pool, a three-bedroom guest house, an elevator, a kitchen featuring custom-built cypress-wood cabinets and working fireplaces (if you know the fiery history of the French Quarter, then you'll know how rare it is to have working fireplaces).

Although some of the decor is tacky, I've never been a fan of floral wallpaper and fabric shower curtains, the house is a stunning example of the gorgeous properties to be had right inside the Vieux Carre. Yes, I admit it's only a block from raucous Bourbon Street, but I bet you three million dollars, when you are inside that courtyard, it's like you're in another world.

Listed for only $2,995,000, this awesome house will probably be snapped up by some wealthy CEO or movie star. Still, I can't help wishing it was me....

Thursday, December 19, 2013

But, we practiced!

A couple of months ago, John and I were invited to a Speakeasy Dinner at Arnaud's. Neither of us were sure about going, I mean, would we have to learn a secret knock? Would we have to dress in 20's attire? Do we have to stay "in-character," like a prohibition-esque LARP game? Do I have to learn the Charleston? To our relief, the only requirement listed was knowing the, we practiced.

Instead of heading to the century-old restaurant on Bienville Street in the French Quarter, we were instructed to enter at few doors down at The Creole Cottage, a dining room I'd never been in before. Arnaud's took an early 19th century cottage and transformed it into an elegant, yet intimate dining room, perfect for parties...just like this one. We stepped out of the cab and approached the French doors, a doorman with a clipboard asked for my name and after checking us off of his list, opened the door. 

"Don't we have to knock?" I asked. "We practiced!" He chuckled and told us we could if we wanted to, but by that time we were being greeted by another server inside. We were drawn into the elegant room, smiling faces were reflected in gilded mirrors and elaborate patterns of light and shadow rained overhead from the gorgeous glass (or crystal?) chandeliers. Although it was a "speakeasy" dinner, the only cocktail we had that night was a deliciously strong concoction served in ceramic coffee cup and then wine pairings during the of the meal.

The dinner was five courses of classic Creole dishes, my absolute favorites were at the beginning and the very end.  I politely inhaled the first course, a creamy, Crabmeat Ravigote with fresh, local lump crabmeat tossed in a house Creole mustard, mayo and capers. After all the wine (they refilled our glasses if we drank faster than we ate), I am pretty sure I recall clapping my hands in glee when they set the dessert before us, a personal Baked Alaska with peppermint and French vanilla ice cream served with chocolate sauce and a golden, meringue butterfly on top. But, and no offense meant towards the chefs, this dinner really wasn't about the food...

Likely one of the most singular, most recognizable characteristics of this town is its ability to party. People in New Orleans really do love to "go all out" and they aren't the ones you see reeling in a stupor on Bourbon Street. Well, to be fair, most of the drunks on Bourbon aren't local. The really great parties in this city are the ones where folks spend hours and hours, lounging in a dining room, crossing tables to chat to friends, drinking and eating to your heart's content. A New Orleans party, a great one, always seem evoke a 20's-style feeling where people really talk and get to know one another and conversations have their own rhythms that float with the music and the cuisine and the wine, and time doesn't seem to be moving or standing still, it just is...that's what this night was about. Plus, the people at our table were so cool, everyone laughed and talked to everyone... all evening...all eight of us. It was a blast. My only complaint was that we all had to finally get up and go home...oh...and I didn't get to do the secret knock.

I practiced!

Arnaud's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 9, 2013

House of the week: Double shotgun on Annunciation Street

Ever since I moved here, I've dreamed of living in and/or owning a double shotgun house. Why a double? I knew that it could be a good investment, the tenant would be paying the majority of my mortgage and well, they just look cool. Plus, I've seen owners remodel their doubles into singles and the results are most often stunning. I am thinking in particular of one house my friend Shalom used to live in that the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans transformed in the Holy Cross. It was gorgeous! There were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge kitchen, laundry room and family room plus a massive backyard. I think they paid around $110,000 and even after Katrina, this lovely house is still standing. The new owners added wrought iron railing around the front porch and steps, too.

So, since I am now more seriously considering buying a home, I can't help but eye the doubles even though the price might be twice what I can afford. For example, I found this awesome Victorian shotgun double on Annunciation Street and simply fell in love. Each side is decorated a bit differently (especially the kitchens), but each unit had two bedrooms and one bathroom, original hardwood floors, high ceilings, exposed brick fireplaces, transoms, claw foot tubs, floor-to-ceiling windows and even a nice, big backyard with a pagoda in the corner. This house is so damn cute and so perfect for me, it hurts! It's only three blocks from Magazine Street and restaurants like Lilette and Baru Bistro & Tapas, and only 7 blocks from the parade route and Tipitina's! It's listed at a mere $320,000 and with a 5% down payment, it would set us back about $1600 per month and more than half of that would be covered by a tenant. What do you think? Would you take the risk?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Atchafalaya: Self-fulfilling prophecy?

“Dare to believe in the reality of your assumption and watch the world play its part relative to to its fulfillment.”  -Neville Goddard

Over five years ago, John and I had planned a fun night out, dinner reservations at Cafe Atchafalaya and tickets to see Big Sam's Funky Nation at Tipitina's afterwards. Unfortunately, the night didn't progress as well as we planned. We ate dinner, strolled over to Tips and within minutes after Big Sam started his first number, I was in the bathroom sweating profusely and praying to God that I wouldn't need to ralph in the bar's well-used toilet. Thankfully, I managed to hold everything back till John drove me home, periodically pulling over to the sidewalk when my face turned a peculiar shade of green.

Now, I am not saying that I got sick from the food I ate at what was then called Cafe Atchafalaya. Who knows? I could have eaten something foul earlier that day, caught a stomach bug, or hell, accidentally ate a bug on the walk to Tips, but whatever happened, I have not been able to separate my experience with dining at the cafe and could never bring myself to return.

Well, "never say never" right? Here it is, more than five years after the fact and everything has changed. Cafe Atchafalaya was now simply Atchafalaya, the chef had changed several times and now it was Christopher Lynch (former chef de cuisine at Emeril's Restaurant) and I had changed, as I was willing to give the restaurant, so tainted in my eyes, another try. John, on the other hand, was not willing to risk it and stayed home while Anne and I braved Atchafalaya for Sunday brunch. It was a whole new experience. I thought to myself, "What could go wrong?"

It seems quite a lot.

After we were seated, Anne and I asked the server for more time to peruse the menu before making a decision, but in the meantime, I ordered coffee and Anne made her own Bloody Mary from the DIY Bloody Mary bar. And then we waited...and waited a bit more until we finally were able to flag down the server and place our order. I also had to remind him that I had not yet received my coffee, to which he apologized profusely and ran off to procure. When I did get the coffee, it was poured out of a carafe lukewarm, but seeing as I just need some caffeine, I drank it. At least it was a good French Truck blend, the flavor was outstanding.

To my surprise, our entrees came out in a flash. Anne ordered Eggs Treme which consisted of poached eggs sitting atop boudin "cakes" and smothered in hollandaise and popcorn crawfish. The flavor was wonderful and the sauce was creamy, although I thought the fried crawfish kind of tasted like Corn Pops cereal. I chose the Duck Hash with duck confit, blackberries, mangoes, poached eggs, hollandaise and bacon vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the sweet, fruity flavor against the rich duck, but the whole dish (aside from the eggs and sauce) was rather greasy. I also ordered a side of their house made breakfast sausage patty, but after one bite, I noticed it was still rather pink inside. I have no aversion to pinkish, double thick pork chops, but pink ground pork is a different story.

Finally, we finished off breakfast with a sweet treat of Atchafalaya's Vanilla Chai Tea Crème Brûlée. The custard itself turned out to be delicious, that creamy, eggy goodness with a hint of earthy chai knocked my socks off. It's too bad the crust wasn't the same. Whomever prepared the custard just sprinkled on coarse sugar crystals and made a half-hearted attempt at "burning" the top. Instead of a perfect, caramelized shell, we just had some browned crystals.

As Anne and I were headed home, I started to feel rather warm and a nauseous feeling overwhelmed me. Was I getting sick or had I simply convinced myself I would? Fortunately, I will never know because I am certainly not brave enough to try again.

Atchafalaya on Urbanspoon