Friday, February 21, 2014

It's Carnival Time!

King cake!
I have been busy, busy, busy this Carnival season. I'm riding in Nyx this year, and I'm super excited about being part of a krewe! I was able to meet my float-mates during/after the general Nyx meeting on January 6, and they are awesome women. I've gotten great parade day advice and hung out with them over drinks and crafting over the past couple weeks.

We ride on Wednesday (2/26). I'm on float #21, on the top level, neutral ground side, position #5.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Walking a few blocks on Magazine

Today is a reprieve from the cool/cold and wet weather we've been having. And it's going to get cold over the next couple of days again, so Tom and I thought we'd go out and enjoy the day.

First of all, everyone has on their Saints jerseys and shirts, because of the wildcard playoff game against Philadelphia tonight. That's always fun.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Twas the Friday Before Christmas...

I love the holiday season in New Orleans. Ever since before I moved here, when I came here for Christmas to visit, it was just the best. It's celebratory, yet chill. Folks around here really attack the countdown to the darkest day of the year with festive fervor.

Some of my favorite things about the holidays:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Festivals!

I was pretty down for the count for most of October. I got terribly sick after travelling to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival (check this out to get my take on that as a newbie) and missed all the Halloween stuff.

But November is here, and that means fall and Thanksgiving. It's cooler here (not as cool as some may like, but definitely in the realm of the comfortable) and that means it's fall festival time!

There are two festivals happening this weekend in New Orleans, two of my favorites, actually.

The Bywater's Mirliton Festival is happening on Saturday, November 9. This is a weird and uniquely New Orleans festival. It celebrates the mirliton, or chayote squash, a vegetable that finds its way into local Thanksgiving dishes as well as the many food and cocktail recipes on display at the festival. It's $5 to get in, there's tons of food (mirliton and non-mirliton) and of course music all day long, like Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns, Kristin Diable, Gal Holiday, and The Goodchildren Marching Band.



It's happening from 11am-7pm at The Brickyard, 3036 Chartres Street in the Bywater. Check out the festival website for more info.

Another one of my favorite festivals in town is the Gumbo Festival put on the the Jazz & Heritage Foundation. This year, it will be at Louis Armstrong Park on both Friday and Saturday, with music and gumbo, gumbo, gumbo. Also music. And a vegan gumbo competition! It also starts at 11am and runs through the last band ending at 7:15. Looks like they stop letting people in after 6:30 though. I'm really looking forward to going.  Check out the festival page for the musical lineup and more details. 

I also like to do a bit of Christmas shopping while at festivals like this - it supports local artists and craftspeople.

Oh, I'm also going to the infamous Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer fundraiser for the first time this year. I've heard great (and slightly debauched) stuff about it and am pretty excited to check it out for myself. It looks to be absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Salú Pig Roast



I've been hanging out at Salú with the chefs and owner a fair bit over the past several months, and I can say that they are passionate about bringing the best food to their customers and generous with their time, energy, and sharing that food. I've really enjoyed getting to know Chefs Dustin Brien and Michael Ruoss and talking food, New Orleans food culture, and beer with them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Permanent homes and consistent updates

Oh, my. I am so sorry. It's been three months since I updated you, my firstborn blog. It's not you, it's me. I've found myself concentrating exclusively on my beer blog since I've been writing about beer professionally and full-time. I have to "build my brand" dontcha know.

But! I'm going to try to be better, and update here more frequently. At least more than once a quarter, jeez.

Mea culpas aside, I've got great news (which at this point, is kind of old) about one of my favorite topics of this blog, the popup culture.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Nora's Food and Wine Experience

Last weekend I headed to the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) with a friend of mine and fellow freelance food/booze writer, Amanda Westbrooks. She had a media pass to attend the two Grand Tastings that happened over the weekend: Friday night and Saturday afternoon. There was a lot going on, and my brain doesn't hang on to wine memories as much as beer, but let's take a look see at my pictures and see what we have.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

BBQ & Pie

I am lying here on my couch completely satisfied by my dinner that I ate in the back courtyard of PJ's Coffee on Magazine (at Octavia.) Rob and Amy from NOLA Smokehouse were out and about again offering BBQ plates of either brisket burnt ends or pulled pork, which came with corn spoonbread (quite possibly my favorite thing they make) and remoulade potato salad. And homemade pickles. Oh! Those pickles.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wayfare on Freret

Checked out Wayfare on Freret earlier this week for lunch. It's been open for a couple months now, and I've heard good things and have been meaning to give it a try, but every time I am in the area I get distracted by Ancora, High Hat, or the Company Burger. But this past Tuesday, it was time.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Post beer crawl lunch at Grand Isle

Not too long ago, I got a press release from one of the local PR firms that I've worked with about the new cocktail guru and list at Grand Isle.

Direct from San Francisco’s “Best Neighborhood Bar,” mixologist Eric Dahm has over 10 years’ experience in custom cocktail making and has created a line of craft cocktails that follow the long legacy of New Orleans libations. Eric’s new bar menu blends his California bar philosophy with a more visible marriage between the bar and kitchen programs. Just like Chef Mark Falgoust of Grand Isle, Eric focuses on in-house production and local sourcing: using fresh ingredients and in-house touches that are changing up the way the restaurant approaches drink making! All of the new specialty cocktails range between $9 - $12, however during happy hour on Thursday’s, all of the “specialty cocktails” are ½ off from 4-7 p.m.
After our FESTIVales beer crawl in the Warehouse District, I got a chance to meet Eric when dining at Grand Isle and sample one of his cocktails, the Spa Collins, which is a collins cocktail (served over ice with club soda) with Hendrick’s Gin over ice with fresh lemon and lime juice, ginger, mint, and cucumber. It was damn good and refreshing.


2 Abitas and 2 NOLA Brewing beers.
 Then we proceeded to order and eat all the oysters! We ordered the "Isle Sampler" which included three of their baked/stuffed oysters: Grand Oysters – Tasso, Havarti, Jalapeno, Oysters Fulton – House Made Bacon, White Cheddar and Caramelized Onions, and Oysters Fourchon – Olive Oil, Bread Crumbs, Parmesan, Lemon, Garlic. We also ordered a half dozen of their smoked then fried oysters. OMG, all the oysters were amazing.

smoked/fried oysters in the foreground, baked/stuffed oysters in the background
Tom got one of the poboys that had gotten a win at the PoBoy Festival, the Shrimp Caminada poboy with Spicy Citrus Butter with Asian Herb Slaw. I stuck with the oyster theme and got their linguini with parmesan cream sauce and oysters. I thought that Tom's poboy was amazing. My pasta was pretty good, but paled in comparison to our starters and the poboy.

Since I rarely get downtown for eating and drinking, I was happy to have to opportunity to sample a little bit of Grand Isle's menu. FYI, in addition to the Spa Collins, their new cocktail list includes:

Apéritini
Opening palates with Beefeater Gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice.

Miss Azalea
Sparkling wine and St. Germain in a lavender-laced flute, this Miss is floral, refreshing, and downright bubbly.

GI Martini
Ice-cold Grey Goose Vodka makes a most civilized bed for a just-shucked raw oyster. With a gentle touch of dry vermouth.

Visit to Peche

Donald Link's Link Restaurant Group has recently opened a new seafood-focused restaurant called Peche. Tom and I went there a couple weekends ago for a very late lunch/early dinner and had some amazing food.



First of all, the beer list is actually quite nice. I got a NOLA Brewing Flambeau Red to accompany some of the sweetest raw Apalachicola oysters.



Then I ordered their grilled mussels and their crawfish gratin, both of which were amazing:



The dessert menu was incredibly tempting, but I was in the mood for chocolate so I got the flourless chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream. Tom got this amazing pineapple rum cake with dulce de leche ice cream:



Damn, that was some excellent, excellent food. I left very happy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pie & Stuff

First of all, did everyone know that one of my favorite popups, Noodles and Pie, will be opening up a permanent location in the old, original Reginelli's building on Magazine? I can't wait.

Second, did everyone know that one of my other favorite popups, Pete Vasquez's Hush Supper Club, will be doing sitdown service in Coulis at night? Details still coming in on that, but it's all very exciting. A reasonably priced prix fixe, one menu.

Third, for pie & stuff that can be enjoyed IMMEDIATELY, please to go immediately to the newly opened P's and Q's (stands for pies and quiches) and order everything, I'm sure it's all amazing. So far I have only tried their classic ham, swiss, and caramelized onion quiche and their sweet key lime and strawberry pies, but  I'm pretty impressed. Check out their Facebook page.

BUT LEAVE PIE FOR ME, OKAY?!?!


Friday, April 19, 2013

A few words about this week from a Boston expat in New Orleans

The bombing on Marathon Day, - April 15, 2013
(Photo credit: Boston.com)
When I read about the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, even 1500 miles away, I felt the aftershocks all the way in New Orleans. I was glued to my computer, checking Facebook, Twitter, and Boston.com, hanging on to every scrap of news. Was the fire at the JFK Library related? Were there other devices found? How many? How many people were hurt? And most importantly, who the hell could have done this? Why?

Patriot’s Day is the ultimate hooky day - no one else in the country had the day off, and it was even a crapshoot if you’d have it off too. But if you did, it was often a wonderful day of celebration. It was the unofficial start of spring, with the sun in our faces, a beer in hand, and general contentment. My alma mater, Emerson College, threaded throughout the city and my friends lived all through the Back Bay, Fenway, and Beacon Hill. There was always someone who had a driveway or front porch to host a hot dog and burger dinner near the finish line on Marathon Monday. You’d see people that you hadn't seen all winter, all of us coming out of hibernation.

Emerson immediately declared lockdown after the bombs went off; with all the confusion and terror in the immediate wake of the explosion, the urban campus wasn't taking any chances. Boston is full of students and on a random free day, they could be anywhere. One student from Boston University (originally from China) who was at the scene was killed. There were two other deaths; a young woman, resident of Medford and Arlington and close to her family; and an 8 year old boy from Dorchester. Boston residents, suburban professionals, and foreign graduate students, all large populations in Boston, were all tragically represented in the death toll.

Every news update (both true and false) that came through the afternoon delivered another gut punch; frantically contacting friends and family on Facebook and through texts helped a little, but watching the community that I’d lived and worked in for twenty years be violated by fear and terror and death and blood. There were those who tried to look on the bright side; expressing well deserved gratitude for first responders and others who helped the victims; the New England fortitude of strength and character; the acts of kindness shown by individuals and businesses. I couldn't. I felt helpless from here, guilty that I wasn't there, and even more guilty knowing when anyone asked me what I missed about Boston, I’d say “nothing.” I love my new city so much that I forgot how I fell in love with Boston at the age of 17. And how much it shaped who I am now.

Looking back, I think it was reading the tweet “BREAKING: MIT reporting there is a shooter on campus. ” that broke me. When I clicked the link to the emergency.mit.edu web page, this is what greeted me: “At 10:48 PM today gunshots were reported near Building 32 (Stata) which is currently surrounded by responding agencies. The area is cordoned off. Please stay clear of area until further notice. Unknown if injuries have occurred. Although the situation is considered active and extremely dangerous, an investigation is underway. Updates will be provided at this site when more information becomes available.”

When I started working at MIT in the Conference Services Office, the Stata building was finishing up construction. It opened on March 14, 2004, two months after I started working in the neighboring Building 12. I was there almost every day - to get money from the MIT Federal Credit Union ATM, pick up my monthly MBTA pass, get a cup of coffee, swim laps during my lunch break, and staff many, many events and conferences. I moved to the other end of campus in mid-2006 to work overlooking the Charles River and the Longfellow Bridge, but in both of my jobs I had frequent occasion to spend time with MIT campus police, who spent their days and nights protecting the campus, and its students, faculty, and staff.

Officer Sean Collier, the MIT police officer murdered outside the Stata building during the shooting on campus, had only been on the campus force since January 2012, but had worked with the Somerville Police Department previous to that. I moved to Somerville shortly after graduating Emerson in 1995. I lived there (with a quick foray back across the river to live in Brighton on the Watertown town line) until I moved to Salem with my husband in 2005.

As I write this, the final showdown between the second terrorist is counting down... and has resulted in the nineteen-year-old suspect being arrested alive and intact, after his older brother died in one of last night’s shootouts in Watertown. The two brothers lived on the same block in Cambridge between Inman and Union Squares as my high school friend and his husband, They were evacuated this morning, not allowed back home until the second man was apprehended.

Living here in New Orleans following this madness, seeing old friends be profoundly affected, reading about places close to my heart as crime scenes has been horrible. I've been angry, aggravated, easily frustrated, sick in my stomach, iron bands around my head and chest, and so sad for my city that it takes my breath away. After running on all those emotions, I am exhausted. I've been cycling between all of these things constantly since Monday afternoon. Hearing that the suspects are dead and captured has given some relief, but it doesn't bring back the people who have died, the arms and legs of those who have had them ripped off in the vicious explosion, or life before this ugliness. I still grieve for my city.

After this week, I have a long list of what I miss about Boston. And for the first time in almost three years, I think of it as “my city.”

Marathon Day, April 1993. A beautiful day with wonderful friends
(Photo credit: Cinema Wood)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Irish Channel Dish Crawl

A fellow member of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association forwarded me an email from someone named Kenniece who was organizing an Irish Channel "dish crawl" on and around Magazine Street in the neighborhood. Dishcrawl New Orleans is the local chapter of an national (and in Canada too) organization that puts together local food events that involve going to several restaurants in a group and being served small bites to get an idea of the cuisine served. It promotes the restaurants, it's a fun way to meet people, and a nice way to get the feel of a community. So I got in touch with Kenniece and made arrangements to attend the crawl.

I went without husband or other friends, and the first stop at Atchafalaya was a little rough for me at first. I was in the bar, was sitting next to a couple who were in deep discussion, the food wasn't really being passed around in that area... I was cranky, hungry, and felt like a loser. I decided to at least try to get into the area where I saw the food being circulated, and I was invited to join a table with a couple visiting from Vermont. They have spent years coming down here, and now that they're retired they come here down to avoid Vermont's mud season. They are thinking about moving down here full time, and wanted to pick my brain about transplanting from New England to New Orleans.

Atchafalaya served fried green tomatoes topped with crab, grilled oysters, gumbo, and some excellent fruity bread pudding (I want to say... blueberry?)


fried green tomato with crabmeat

They set the grill up on the sidewalk for the oysters
We chatted and strolled to the next stop, Dat Dog (Deux.) They've just opened the Magazine Street location and was celebrating their official grand opening that night. The three of us sat with two women who had actually seen my post on the ICNA facebook page about the dishcrawl. The five of us had a great conversation about New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and other fun stuff. Honestly, I can hardly remember, but I know it was a ton of fun. We were served a couple sample sizes of hot dogs - I only had the duck one, which was freaking awesome. Also white trash fries and nacho fries. They have an awesome beer selection, both on tap and the bottle selection. I'll be revisiting that awesomeness in a future blog post on my beer blog.

beers!

signage

wiener menu


Duck sausage
There's me with my new friends!
Photo credit: Ronnie King, Jr.
(he was the official event photographer)
The lovely Kenniece, the dishcrawl organizer, with the bar manager Chris.
(Chris and I had a great - though brief - conversation about beer)
Photo credit: Ronnie King, Jr.
After Dat Dog, we wandered down a block to Byblos. Our Dat Dog crew got split up in the seating arrangements but the ladies and I sat with another pair of women, and talked mostly about Isaac. But in a fun way! We were served a plate of appetizers.

Hummus, falafel, and that awesome fried cheese thing they do.
Kenniece and I going into Byblos
Photo credit: Ronnie King, Jr.
By the time I finished half of my plate, I was so full of good food and skipped out on the last stop at Sucre. But I went to a new place I'd never been before (Dat Dog) met a whole lot of new people, and ate some delicious food! They're doing another one on Oak Street on April 23. They keep the locations secret, and it's a fun time. I'd recommend checking it out if you are intrigued by one of their neighborhoods.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hogs- Tasting and Judgement



WHOSE CUISINE WILL REIGN SUPREME?

Last year I had a terrific time attending Hogs For the Cause as a member of the media. When I emailed about getting a media pass this year, I got an application to be a judge! Very super awesome and cool, and I hope that I can be one again next year.



Judges were requested to check in to the judges' tent at noon (it was the same tent that held the gala, so I knew where to go.) Upon arriving, I saw one of my favorite bbq purveyors, Neil McClure. I guess he had planned to be out of town this weekend, so he didn't enter to compete, but asked to judge when his plans changed. I also saw Max Ortiz and Chef Phillip Lopez from Root. The judging coordinator, Melzie, called us to attention and let us know the scale we'd be judging on (from 5-10, ranging from no sample provided at 5 to wanna have seconds 10), let us know that each table would have a certified judging expert, and sent us out to the holding tent to get ready.

While waiting, I introduced myself to Chef Adolfo Garcia and Poppy Tooker. The editor of Louisina Cookin' magazine stuck up a conversation. For the first round, I sat with Chef Lopez and Judy Walker (from the Times-Picayune) and we did BBQ sauce. It's tricky, really, judging sauce without any other context. We figured out the intricacies of comparative scoring and started to get the hang of it.



After that, we moved to Whole Hog, which was challenging because it involved several cuts of the pig.

"Pecan wood smoked whole hog"




Our expert was really helpful at sharing ways to judge criteria and how you can tell if something was overcooked or cooked improperly. Or the opposite, if it was cooked well with a good technique.

Between judging rounds, I spoke to Chef Garcia about craft beer in restaurants - very interesting!

Next up was the pork shoulder, most commonly used for pulled pork. For this round I was with the same BBQ judging expert from the previous round and Chef Tariq Hanna, owner of Sucre. There was one pulled pork that was just head and shoulders (uh, so to speak) above the others. I dearly hope they placed.

That one! There in the center with the smoke ring and delicious bark OH MAMA.
OK, I may have had too much sampling because going into the 4th round, I was getting full, and a bit apprehensive about the category - Porkpourri. It didn't help that one of my fellow judges (local food writer Robert Peyton) had done that category last year (in a different format, so he had a lot more than 6 samples to try) and said that while some entries were great, many were... not so much. But! I was sitting with a couple other local writers/bloggers, Mary Ehret (Local Palate) and the He Said (aka Steve Smith) from He Said She Said blog, in addition to Robert, veteran blogger and Porkpourri judge. So we chatted about writing and eating while we awaited all the various porkpourri to be delivered to our table. We ended up with: a cast iron seared pork meatball poboy with a pork belly sauce, a sticky pig tail, fried and coated with sauce, a pickled pork tongue and crispy pig ear bao, a red curry ground pork taco, and a pork belly yakatori with crispy kale.

Poboys

Pigtails

Bao

tacos

Yakatori (I think?)

We actually enjoyed all our items, but my personal favorite was the bao. It was amaaaazing. The poboy was right behind it.  On a related tangent, some competitors were serious about presentation - this box was delivered to the table next to us:



I don't know what the verdict on its taste was, but we were all gathered around taking pictures and listening to the elaborate accompanying story.

I am ashamed to say, I couldn't hang for the last round of judging ribs. I was just so full and uncomfortable I had to leave. I was punished for my weakness as well, since the Grand Champion of the competition came from the ribs category and had chefs I knew! (including Nathanial Zimet and Bart Bell.) Ah, well. Next year, I'll be better at pacing myself, if I'm lucky enough to be asked to return.

You can check out the Hogs For The Cause website for the winning results. Also, Judy Walker, my co-judge for the first round of judging - BBQ sauce - did a great overview of the event and recipes and judges' quotes and everything. The one about geometry I was present for - Joe was judging with both of us during that category.

In conclusion: even though I felt like I would explode at the end of it, the important thing is that I didn't. But I DID meet lots of awesome food people, learned a lot, had fun, and ate delicious pork all day. One of my best days ever!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Salu

As I mentioned in my previous post about Byblos, I'd been convinced by a determined (and super nice, it turns out) PR lady named Emily to come out and check out Byblos and Salu. Emily and I had lunch at Byblos one afternoon, and she spoke about her "passion project," which was the rebranding and communication of Salu. She really believes in the owner's vision and the chef's talent, and the potential for the restaurant to be a great neighborhood place where good food is celebrated with family and friends.

So I was quite intrigued for my dinner with Emily and the one of the owners, Tarek Tay, the following night. Tom and I strolled up on a lovely spring evening and met Emily, Tarek, and Gaby Saliba, one of Tarek's partners at the bar. (Tarek, Gaby, and one more partner make up the 3 of a Kind Restaurant Group.) Happy hour was in full swing and we saw bowls of (half price) mussels and pitchers of mojitos being served and enjoyed. Now, their mussels were a huge draw for me getting Tom out to have dinner with two people he didn't know. He loves him some mussels and having potential bivalve proximity was very intriguing for him.

Tarek is very warm and engaging, proud of his restaurants, and loves to eat, laugh and share stories and food with friends (both new and old). We were welcomed and the food started coming. First some hot puffy pocket bread, and then several orders of mussels - we got the classic, parmesan, chorizo, and dijon. Also frites, of course. Followed by a prosciutto and fig flatbread.

Puffy pocket bread with salt, olive oil, herbs.

OK, obviously I was too excited to start eating the mussels to take a picture of them all pretty

Prosciutto! Figs! Goat cheese! Arugula.
After that, the food just kept coming out. Bacon wrapped medjool dates. Mushroom risotto. Fried oysters. House made mozzarella. Stuffed chicken. Crab ravioli.

Wild mushroom risotto with white truffle oil, pecorino, thyme in the foreground,
fried Gulf oysters with housemade bacon, chive, lobster essence in the background 

Housemade mozzarella infused with cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar

Stuffed chicken with boursin, mascarpone, basil, sun dried tomatoes, sherry cream, crispy spinach
Homemade crab ravioli with green onion gremolata and lemon cream
They have fewer beers on tap, but three of them are NOLA taps - Brown, Blonde, and Seventh Street Wheat. Also they have all sorts of flavors of mojitos, caipirinhas, sangrias, and margaritas. Get your girl drink drunk on!

A very cool part of the night was meeting some of the talent in the kitchen. First, the Culinary Director Chef Michael Ruoss came and enjoyed a couple of beers before leaving to receive his whole hog from North (or South?) Carolina for Hogs For the Cause. His team, Mazant National Golf Club, took third in the Whole Hog category a few days later. We talked about beer and Hogs before he had to obey the sweet siren song of his team's whole hog delivery.

A little later, Executive Chef Dustin Brien came out to say hello, bring us housemade cheese, and chat about how he found himself moving from Boston to New Orleans (fell in love with a displaced New Orleans native and they returned together.) He's been streamlining the menu, keeping what worked, replacing what didn't.

After eating what seemed like all the food and chatting with the chefs, several desserts came out to really put things over the top. We had a classic tiramisu, creme brulee, and their dessert flatbread which involves nutella and bananas. I couldn't eat more than a bite or 2 of each, but they were pretty good. Nice crisp sugar top on the creme brulee.

Really, a great night with people who are passionate about food and want everyone to know that. We'll definitely be back for the happy hour mussels (because they were delicious and during happy hour, half price) and I am also intrigued by their monthly (starting on May 25) pig roasts. They do wine dinners as well, but I'm trying to convince them to do a beer dinner one month too!

FYI, they will be doing a fundraising day on April 16, where they will be donating 20% of all proceeds to St. Michael Special School. It's a cause close to many New Orleanians' hearts, so think about checking out Salu, some mussels, a cocktail, and support the kids at St. Michael!