Friday, January 31, 2014

Mais Arepas: Awesome regardless how you say it...

In the midst of heaping praise upon my latest obsession, a good friend of mine teased me (mercilessly) on my non-existent Spanish accent. "Did you just verbally mangle Maurepas or are you talking about Mais Arepas? (mays AH rape AH ... don't forget the tongue roll on the "R")" I realize I grew up in California, but I studied sue me?

Once I got past my pronunciation faux pas, I went on and on about what many already know to be the most delicious Colombian restaurant in the Crescent City. Actually, I am pretty sure that Mais Arepas is the ONLY Colombian restaurant in the city, but if another happens to pop up, it'll have to work pretty hard to beat what I tasted (ahem), inhaled at Mais Arepas.

My good buddy Anne ventured into Central City with me that fateful day for lunch. Located in an aqua, two-story building on the corner of Carondelet and Clio Streets, Mais Arepas was rather quiet when we wandered in at around noon, with only one other table occupied. While Anne and I sat down and went over our options, we couldn't help admiring the clean, open space with lots of light coming in through huge windows and rich, dark colors on the walls and drum lighting fixtures dropping from the ceiling.

We started out with a house-made papaya juice, kicking off our heels a bit with a shot of dark rum. With a flavor that made us feel like we were on vacation, we were only two sips in before our appetizer arrived. After much deliberation, Anne and I agreed to share the Ceviche de Camaron Valluno, essentially shrimp "cooked" in fresh lemon and lime juice with tomato, red onion, cilantro and avocado. It was wonderful, the shrimp was tender and we gobbled it up using the crispy, fried plantain chips they served alongside as scoops.

We both thought it would be a travesty if we came to a restaurant dubbed Mais Arepas and neglected to eat the arepas, so that's what we ordered for our entrees. Anne got the "Cerda" or Colombian-style pulled pork with butter-sauteed, ripe plantains, pickled onions and crumbled cotija cheese stuffed into a thick, hand-made, cornmeal cake a.k.a. an arepas. I chose the the "Mechada" with slow-cooked, headily-spiced beef, ripe plantains, sofrito (a garlic, onion, pepper and tomato sauce) and mozzarella cheese. Both were fabulous, though to be honest, I enjoyed mine a lot more than Anne's. It probably had something to do with the massive amounts of mozzarella cheese oozing all over the tender, spicy beef and sweet plantains. I liked it so much, in fact, that I have not been able to stop thinking about it since and it's become sheer torture to talk about it, share photos of it and write about it without wanting to eat it every single day.

Not only were the arepas magically delicious, but they were intensely filling to boot. So, when we ordered dessert (you know I had to order dessert), Anne and I were already groaning in agony, but we were unwilling to save the rest of our arepas for later. When the slice of tres leches cake arrived, it was almost a relief that it wasn't quite what we expected, being rather dry for a cake that should be oozing milk. But it doesn't really matter because it isn't the cake that's been haunting my dreams, its the arepas and damnit...I will be back to devour another one soon. You can bet on it.

Maïs Arepas on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 24, 2014

House of the week: Villa on Three Rivers Road

Just for fun, I widened my search for homes into the Northshore (across Lake Pontchartrain for those not familiar) and lo and behold, I found this massive Italian villa. I had no idea that properties like this even existed in the whole of Louisiana! To me, a mansion of this stature is something you'd see featured in Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous located in a far off place like Monte Carlo or Milan. But no. This incredible property is located right across the lake in Covington.

Sitting pretty on over 18 acres of "flawlessly maintained grounds" is this 5 bedroom, 7 bathroom home with over 7,500 square feet of living space, wine cellar, a butler's pantry, workshop and a walk-in closet that's larger than my entire apartment. The grounds include a huge swimming pool, fountains, cabana, guest house, tennis court, greenhouse and a "picturesque tree house on small island." By the way, the property is located in view of the Tchefuncte, Abita and Bogue Falaya Rivers so naturally it also includes a boat launch. All you need to own this beauty is a trifling $7, 500, 000, so save your ducats. Until then...champagne wishes and caviar dreams!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A novel lunch at the Superfood Bar

You must know by now that I do not follow a healthful diet. Sure, I try to buy organic vegetables and I rarely eat boxed or canned goods, aside from tuna. John will scarf frozen meals for lunch that I swear smell like hot cat food, while I shake my head in wonder and munch on roasted almonds, hard boiled eggs and cheese. When I dine out, I rarely indulge in fast food and perhaps once every two months or so, I get a yen for some Raising Cane's Chicken  or a Nachos Bell Grande from Taco Bell, but that's really about it.

On the other hand, I never skimp on butter, whole milk, full fat yogurt or cheese. I love a thick juicy steak with a mammoth baked potato overflowing with butter and sour cream. So you won't think I am a complete heathen, know that I also truly enjoy all kinds of vegetables like steamed Brussels sprouts, green beans sauteed with garlic, asparagus laden with Bearnaise sauce and roasted cauliflower. In fact, I don't think there are any vegetables (or fruits for that matter) that I don't like.

But I don't adhere to any "diet" philosophy like low-fat, Paleo, vegan/vegetarian, raw foods, Atkins, South Beach, Mediterranean, low-carb, high protein, etc., because I don't want to ever limit what I can and can't eat. I grew up with a mother who thought I was getting fat (but I wasn't at that time) and she would watch every single morsel that passed my lips.

"That's enough butter, Kim" or "Don't you think that's enough salt Kim?" or "Do you really need that much food Kim?" was accompanied by "You better clean your plate!" making for disturbing and highly confusing eating habits. I would get chastised for serving myself another helping of salad, but if I didn't eat all the eggplant or liver on my plate, I would be forced to sit and stare at it for hours until I was sent to bed. Even better, I would wake the next morning with that same liver or eggplant or whatever mushy and unpalatable item I couldn't eat the night before, starting me down for breakfast. None of my siblings went through this because a) my sister wouldn't fight, she'd just choke it down and be done with it and b) my brothers were, well...boys.

It got to the point where I would sneak into the kitchen late at night and eat half a loaf of sourdough bread with as much butter as I could scarf down slathered upon it as a sort of "F**k you!" to my parents' incessant nagging. I would seek out their stashes of "specialty" items like Ho-Ho's or Twinkies and eat the entire box. Even though I was making myself sick (and truly fat), I didn't care because I wanted to lash out. I can't even express the odd satisfaction I would feel when my parents would discover an entire box of Valentine chocolates that they were saving was gone.

Needless to say, I have issues with food. But, one thing I promised myself as I came into adulthood is that I would never limit what I could and couldn't eat. Sure, that's led to a weight issue, but I know my problems stem from the quantity of food I eat, not the quality. Plus, I need to step away from my computer and move once in a while.

Wow! But all that ranting is beside the point. The point is that I visited the Superfood Bar on Magazine with my good friend Lorin, not because I was starting a new diet or because I thought vegan was the "answer," but because I was really curious as to what prepared, raw foods taste like. And I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

Superfood Bar is pretty much like its name, a lunch counter with a few tables available for eating in. After perusing the menu, Lorin and I ordered a few things to share and it turned out to be just enough. I started with a Green Lemonade made with celery, cucumber, apple, kale and lemon that turned out to be refreshing, not too sweet and quite "clean." For my entree, I ordered a Beets & Apple Quinoa Salad with arugula, kale, apples, beet, raisins, mint and sprouts. The quinoa was the only item that wasn't "raw" and it was tossed with a cashew cream sauce that shocked me by being utterly delicious.

Lorin ordered their Raw Tacos which consisted of raw taco shells (made from beet, carrot, flax meal, peppers, garlic and coconut oil) filled with romaine lettuce, sliced avocado sprouts and more of that cashew sour cream. I tried one of the tacos and was delighted by the crisp textures and rich flavors, a dish I would definitely eat again.

Because I am me, I couldn't leave without trying a dessert-like item so I also ordered an "Avocolada." It's a smoothie made with avocado (obviously), coconut, dates, pineapple, banana, mango and coconut oil and topped with coconut flakes. Although I liked the smoothie, I was surprised it wasn't sweeter and if I was making it myself, I probably would up the banana and date content just to satiate my nagging sweet tooth. All in all, it made for a filling and nutritious lunch that I would gladly enjoy again. Would I change my diet to eat raw/vegan all the time? Definitely not...

**P.S. I must apologize about the rant earlier, but obviously I needed to get that out of my system...whew!

Superfood Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

House of the week: Victorian double on Green Street

I'm not good with money. I see something I want and I buy it, regardless of whether or not it's the best deal, it's right for me or if it's even worth it. Because of my impulsiveness, I have often been disappointed and I really don't want that to happen when I finally buy a house. So, when I come across fixer-uppers like this one, I have a difficult time deciding on whether I want to spend the money and time to put in the work or go the easy route and buy a home that needs nothing but interior paint, furniture and new curtains.

But, I am not afraid of extra work and I have to admit, this house intrigues me...

Located mere blocks from where I currently reside is this Victorian double with two bedrooms and one bathroom on each side with a total of 1,624 square feet of living space. From the images (and the description), the original hardwood floors are still intact, as are the transoms, fireplace mantles and floor-to-ceiling windows. There are no appliances, so I would have to purchase stoves and refrigerators for both units and there's no information about the bathrooms at all or if there's any washer and dryer hookups, what the yard looks like, etc., but I have a feeling about this place. It's like an itch that won't go away. I've made an appointment to go check in out in person and get more details from the realtor, but I'm crossing my fingers on this one. This little dream is listed for only $230,000. Should I grab it?

Is it my obnoxious "Buy! Buy! Buy!" impulse that's tickling at my brain or have I found a winner? I'll just have to wait and see...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Dining bucket list for 2014

Instead of posting a reminiscent blog about the year that just passed, I thought that I would post about what I want from the future. While it can be fun, nostalgic and even sometimes educational to revisit the past, I find that I spend far too much time considering what could have been. In an effort to step away from that mindset for a change, let's look at what delicious experiences I would like to have in the coming year.

Believe it or not, although I have been living, and eating, in this wondrous town for over ten years now, there are still quite a few restaurants I have not experienced. Some are brand new, so I kind of have an excuse, but some have been around for ages and I have yet to poke my head in the door. So, here is my "bucket list," for lack of a better descriptor, of ten restaurants (off the top of my head) that I would love to visit (and why) before 2015 rears it's mewling, newborn head.

#1. Galatoire's - I know, I know. Don't start throwing rotten garbage at me, but it's true, I've yet to dine at one of the city's oldest and most venerated restaurants. Yes, I have sampled some of the cuisine Galatoire's offers at festivals and foodie events, but I have never experienced a meal inside the restaurant itself. Unfortunately, I have grand expectations of this place and I am afraid to dine there for three main reasons; I have nothing suitable to wear, I might not like the food and I can't afford a true "Galatoire's experience." I'll just have to get over myself, bite the bullet, hock some jewelry and go.

#2. Gautreau's - To be honest, I have been literally dying to dine at Gautreau's. Sue Zemanick is easily one of the top chefs in the city and to miss out on experiencing her cuisine is simply bonkers, especially for a food hound like myself. But, there are two drawbacks to dining at Gautreau's. Like other eateries on this list, money is a huge issue and this place is definitely expensive. I usually solve that problem (and the issue of natural light for proper food porn) by going for lunch. Unfortunately, Gautreau's only offers dinner. I'll find a way to make it work...

#3. Mariza - Why? I love great Italian cuisine and this brand new Bywater restaurant has been rumored to fit the bill. Plus, I was fortunate enough to interview the chef, Ian Schnoebelen, and he is one cool guy who loves his work. Plus, have you seen the menu? If Fried Polenta or Quail & Pancetta don't excite you, I'm not sure what will.

#4. Dooky Chase's Restaurant - My two reasons for wanting to try Dooky Chase's place may be silly, but at least I'm being honest. A - I need to try her Gumbo Z'herbes and B. - well, everyone else has been there...why can't I?

#5. Willie Mae's Scotch House - Two words: Fried Chicken.

#6. La Boca - Reputedly among one of the best steakhouses in the city, La Boca is one of Chef Adolfo Garcia's first restaurants and it has been recommended to me time and time again. One fellow foodie, let's call her JAG, has suggested I visit La Boca so many times, that I am beginning to think it might be her favorite restaurant. Regardless, I really should go, even if for no other reason than to get over my fear of menus that don't list prices.

#7. Mizado Cocina - Growing up in the Bay Area taught me to appreciate all different types of cuisine, especially Latin American. That's why when Mizado opened just recently in Metairie, going out to try this restaurant has continually been on my mind. What with three types of guacamole, seven different salsas and five ceviches, I'm surprised it's taken me this long. Lunch date anyone? Tomorrow? Day after? C'mon!

#8. Restaurant August - I know, just slap me. There is no excuse for why I have not yet been to August and numerous reasons for why I should. I liked Luke and and love Domenica, it's way past time for me to visit the Beshist Besh restaurant in the city. It'll happen.

#9. Kermit's Treme Speakeasy Restaurant & Bar - All I can say is Kermit is a very cool cat and he loves to BBQ almost as much as he loves playing his trumpet. Although I am unsure about the hours at his restaurant, the Facebook page is always reporting dishes like Southern Fried Catfish, Mustard Greens and Butter Beans & Rice, and it all sounds fantastic. Plus, I've heard that on occasion he'll serve stranger fare like squirrel and nutria. I'm willing to take that risk!

#10. Grill Room at the Windsor Court - Easily one of the highest of the high end restaurants in the city, it's obvious as to why I haven't yet graced the Grill Room with my presence, but I have had opportunities to sample the cuisine and I would still love to try. Not to mention the fact that the restaurant itself is absolutely gorgeous and I worry that my shabby self would definitely stand out.

Granted, money might be the biggest reason I will miss out on these restaurants again in 2014, but I will do my best not to let those nasty dollars stand in my way of experiencing another stellar, New Orleans meal.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Post-gym binge at Maurepas Foods

Other than swimming, exercise and I really don't get along. My knees and lower back are a complete mess, making any strenuous activity an effort in sheer masochism. Like Buddha, I must embrace the pain simply to tolerate a walk to the bookstore around the corner. I do adore swimming, though. It is great exercise with an absolutely no pain involved, unless you count the warm, tingling soreness I experience after an hour or so in the pool. The only problem is that unlike sweating on the elliptical, doing a weight-lifting routine or even 90 minutes of yoga, swimming makes me ravenous. Seriously...I could eat the whole gym.

Instead of crunching down on stationary bikes, Anne and I decided to have lunch at Maurepas Foods. Keep in mind, this luncheon occurred a few months ago seeing as Maurepas has recently changed their hours to include brunch and dinner and lunch no longer exists. No big deal really, it's not like they closed (heaven forbid).

We arrived at an odd hour (around 2 pm) and the restaurant was pretty empty, but as we sat next to the window overlooking Burgundy Street, people gradually filed in for afternoon drinks, snacks and early dinners. Anne and I decided to share a couple of appetizers and the first to arrive was the Crab meat Calas with papaya and Hoisin syrup and a pile of crisp, grilled snap beans. Although the calas were savory, delicious fried balls of happiness, the snap beans really blew me away with their "fresh-from-the-garden" look and bright green flavor.

The other appetizer arrived as we were still scarfing down the first, Crowder Pea Pupusas with crowder tapenade and crowder hull syrup. This dish was so cool in that it displayed three different ways to use crowder peas, not to mention it was awfully tasty and incredibly filling. Anne and I were both a bit worried about managing our entrees after wolfing down the pupusas.

For my main dish, I chose the ever-popular Goat Tacos with pickled green tomatoes and cilantro harissa. Three piles of shredded and well-seasoned goat meat were heaped inside of house made corn tortillas and I enjoyed the rich flavor both with and without the garnishes. Anne, who was new to goat, decided to play it safe with a Roasted Pork Shoulder served with pickled squid, romesco and a mustard green vinaigrette. It seemed so strange to pair squid and pork together, but Anne thoroughly enjoyed the dish and I certainly wasn't complaining after sampling a few bites.

In an effort to completely negate our earlier workout, we also ordered dessert. Anne desperately wanted the Pumpkin Pot de Creme with caramel, creme fraiche and popcorn ball pieces, and I wanted the Cookie Sandwiches with mint chocolate ice cream, ranger bites and chocolate syrup so instead of coming to a compromise, we each had our own dessert. I have to say, neither of us regretted our decision because both desserts were fabulous (we shared anyhow), but we probably should have headed straight back to the gym after lunch.

Maurepas Foods on Urbanspoon