Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flu, etc.

Got the stomach bug and word of some sadness in the community. Will resurface in the new year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pub Crawl Flash Mob

So, today we got home from Columbus (flight out was at 6:20 EST and we got home at around 10am CST.) Some friends of ours are in town and we all wanted a good, soul satisfying lunch, so we went to J'Anita's at the Rendon Inn.

Tom ordered the Monday red beans & rice special, I ordered the tomato basil soup and the Duck Sammich with No Name (side: fries), Liza ordered the side salad and the Best Fish Sammich Ever (side: also fries), and Justin ordered the Crispy Hog Balls and the Swamp Ruben (side: cheese grits with bacon.) Tom, Liza, and I all enjoyed a variety of NOLA Brewing beers (Hopitoulous, Irish Channel Stout, and NOLA Blonde.)

So, we get our order in, and we are literally the only people in there eating. (was a bit on the late side for lunch.) A few minutes afterward, Craig comes out and tells us that we got our orders in just in time, there's a huge pub crawl crowd en route.

No lie! Within about a half an hour, there were 80+ VERY DRUNK and BOISTEROUS folks dressed up in assorted costumes (which were centered around Saints colors/T-shirts.) It was hilarious. Jello shots and liquid shots both were consumed with abandon. People were drinking out of pitchers. As we were leaving, people had started migrating outside to start literally dancing in the street.

And of course the food and beer were absolutely wonderful. Including the lagniappe that appeared in the form of Kimmie's crawfish etoufee andouille crab rangoons. DAMN GURL.

Ah, New Orleans. So glad to be home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ethnic Cuisine! In New Orleans!

And it was good!!! Went to Cafe Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant that recently opened on Magazine Street.

It's pretty low-key- it's set back from the street and it has only about 7 tables. Apparently there's only one cook in the kitchen so this is pretty much the maximum they can accommodate for the time being.

I ordered the vegetarian platter, which included all its vegetarian dishes: the Yemisr Wot (spicy lentils with onions); Kik Alicha (yellow split pea with ginger and garlic); Tikel Gomen (cabbage and carrots); Dinich Alicha (potatoes and carrots); and some sort of spinach dish. Served atop injera (a spongy, slightly sour flat bread made with a grain called teff) with plenty on the side. You use the injera to scoop up bites of the curry- no forks or knives, though it looked like they provided them upon request.

Tom ordered Awaze Tibs, a beef dish- really excellent with a spice that sort of snuck up on you. Very tasty.

Looks like all the vegetarian dishes are vegan, they specifically say that they are cooked in vegetable oil with no dairy products.

We ordered a pot of tea to go with our meal- spicy with cloves, it was a bit overwhelming when drinking it before our food was served, but went perfectly with the spices of the meat and vegetables.

Bill came- $33. Plus tip, it was a relaxing, delicious, comfortable, and soul satisfying meal that was absolutely a bargain in every way. I highly recommend.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

J'Anitas at the Rendon Inn

Made my way over to J'Anita's in their new digs at the Rendon Inn in Gert Town for lunch this week. They just started up last week at the Rendon Inn after parting ways with the Avenue Pub, which is where we first fell in love with their Duck With No Name Sandwich, Best Fish Sammich Ever, guacamole, cheese grits, burgers....mmmmm... wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah. J'Anita's was a bit of a victim of their own success over at the Avenue Pub and set out on a new adventure under the brand new management (like, less than 3 months I think) of the Rendon Inn.

I discovered that they started doing chicken fried steak (with garlic mashed potatoes and smothered green beans OMG OMG I KNOW RIGHT???) on Wednesdays so of course I had to go check it out- I missed the first week but I got it going on the second week, I tell you what.

It was So. Good. It was crazy good! For $7.50! They had this awesome white sauce and the steak had a panko crust so the texture was nice and light... bacon in those green beans... and you all know how I feel about mashed potatoes. I do admit I was perhaps less than at my full productive potential that afternoon at work though, what with the food coma and all.

Next time I will take a picture- it must be seen to be believed!

J'Anita's serves their menu for lunch and dinner and I believe any time in between. I highly recommend checking them out- they are still building a customer base out at the Rendon Inn so right now it's pretty quiet and quick. Get in at the ground floor- it'll be a while till they outgrow this kitchen. Good food, cheap, fast, and cooked with love.

Next time: Duck With No Name Sammich. Or the cheeseburger. Or, or, or....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving wrap up

So, my Thanksgiving feast did not feature any New Orleans-Southern-specific items like stuffed mirliton or oyster dressing, but it was awesome all the same! Thanks to Trey and Kara for hosting a wonderful Saintsgiving. Also, Saints won! By the skin of their teeth, but a win is a win is a win. WHO DAT!

Am currently rubbing my belly in the aftermath of Sunday dinner at Mandina's. I started with the oyster and artichoke chowder, which was not to my tastes. I think I actually do not care for artichokes as much as I thought I did. The oysters were fine, though, but the chowder was a bit on the thick and gloppy side. Tom had the seafood gumbo, which he liked, and our friends split a bowl of the turtle soup (served with a drizzle of sherry) which I'd had before and enjoyed greatly.

Tom and I switched up what we usually order. I got the trout muniere, and he got the spaghetti with chicken Parmesan. The trout was great- fried up nicely, fresh fish, brown butter sauce on top. It was, of course, enormous, as was Tom's chicken parm.

The entrees came with a salad to start, garlic french bread, and bread pudding to end. It was all well and good- nothing too fancy, but good ole comfort food. We tried the Abita Christmas Ale and actually enjoyed it. I'm not the biggest Abita fan, but I definitely have enjoyed the Fall Fest that came out a couple months ago as well as this Christmas Ale.

After dinner, we drove around the corner to Brocato's and had some lemon ice- Tom and I got cannolis to take home but I am afraid I cannot eat mine before going to bed due to still attempting to digest soup, salad, giant entree, and 2 desserts. But it seems that it is now on a plate in front of me, next to a glass of egg nog.

Let the holiday season begin!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh, by the by, y'all...

I've been working on a new blog that is All About Beer, and has a slightly sassier and spicier tone. May not be suitable for children and possibly grownups. You may well know about it through my Facebooking of links, but I actually was spamming a smaller number of people with that.

Anyway, here it is!

And Happy Thanksgiving (or shall I say, "Saintsgiving"!?!?!) I am very much looking forward to seeing and tasting the regional culinary differences of a Southern/Creole/Cajun Thanksgiving. Eat well and be safe!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crescent City Pie & Sausage drive-by

Went to lunch at CCP&S this afternoon and partook in 2 of their specials: a chicken and spicy sausage gumbo (really, anything that has their sausage in it is worth trying, as it is made and smoked in house.) Yum. Spicy and so comforting.

Also a pizza with duck confit, mushrooms, brie, and truffle oil. OMG. Fan-freaking-tastic. I love each and every one of those individual ingredients, and combined on top of a thin crispy crust was exponentially awesome.

Well done CCP&S! I brought home half the pie and heated it in my oven and it came out great for a pre-supper snack shared with Tom.

I highly recommend going for their specials if something calls to you- they are always so well executed and imaginative. It's actually been a while since I ordered off the menu.

Duck confit pizza with brie and truffle oil! And mushrooms! I swear, that guy's like a genius.

Shout out to Billy, whose lunchtime conversation while I eat and he works behind the bar is always part of the fun of going to lunch at CCP&S. He always leans in conspiratorially and says, "soooo, we've got a few specials going on today..."

And special they are!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pop Up

The Pop Up is a trendy trend in food service- a kitchen crew that pops up somewhere unexpected and serves food once a week (for example) until they run out. I'd heard of Pizza Delicious, which is an organization in the Marigny who serves pizza on Sunday, and on Sunday only. They work out a relatively limited/focused menu and post it on their blog/Facebook/Twitter a few days ahead of time, and put out pizza all evening/night.

For the last few weeks, we've been wanting to check out the pop-up burger joint that's been inhabiting Slim Goodies here in the Irish Channel on Sunday nights. Slim Goodies does breakfast and lunch daily, closing at 3pm. MVB (Most Valuable Burger) comes in at 5pm and flips burgers, fries fries, and mixes shakes until they run out of food or customers, whichever comes first. I believe they have tended to run out of food so far.

MVB is the brainchild of the folks behind Blackened Out and Joel Dondis (of Sucre and Grand Isle). I've been enjoying reading Blackened Out for some months now (I think I found them when I was trying to locate the taco truck on South Claiborne. Mmmm, tripe.) I signed up to get their FB updates and have been tempted every week since.

When we walked over from Kara's after the game (WHO DAT!) this evening (with our folding chairs slung over our backs, natch) there was a bit of a wait. I wasn't surprised, though. I have heard that Pizza Delicious is like near cult status and has the long wait times for pie turnaround to prove it. I think one of the reasons that the pop-up is so popular is that people love these kind of underground one-night-only things, they feel special if they're in the know. It's like the thrill of a legal speakeasy. Anyway, we put our name in and was told that there would be a 20 minute wait. We were actually seated in about 10-12 minutes at the counter, which was a lot of fun because I love watching food get made! I always prefer sitting at the bar.

We'd already decided to both order the cheeseburger, which was a good thing 'cause the special sold out shortly after we were seated. They had a combo special: burger, fries, and shake/malt for $13. I had chocolate and Tom had vanilla malt. That was the chocolaty-ist milkshake I have ever had- pure chocolate bliss. Tom was pleased with his vanilla malt.

One of our orders of fries had a sprinkling of rosemary on it- the expediter who was right next to us asked us if we'd like that and we were all, "HELLS YEAH!" I love rosemary fries. The fries were fresh cut, fried in small batches, well seasoned, and, most importantly were browned and crisped up nice. The burgers came out medium- that's the default temp, and that's how I like my burger cooked. Ah, beautiful synchronicity. (It's actually hard to get a burger cooked medium, in my experience.) And the cheeseburgers were delightful. Juicy, flavorful, on a really great grilled bun that was soft but didn't get soggy from the beef juices and condiments, with enough toppings but not too much.

It was a tad on the thick side from what I consider to be my Platonic ideal burger, but that's a pretty tiny nitpick. There was a slight service snafu, but nothing that wasn't acknowledged and remedied quickly, and really barely worth mentioning. I am actually only mentioning it to try to not have this be a total ass-kissy entry (FAIL) because OMG YOU GUYS I GOT RECOGNIZED BY RENE, THE EXPEDITER AT MVB AND CO-BLOGGER OF BLACKENED OUT! He asked how the food was on our way out, and then he said, "you're Nora, right, with the blog? I read it regularly!" I practically had a blogasm, guys.

DUDES I DID NOT EVEN HAVE MY FLOPPY HAT ON. I am New Orleans food blog internet famous! Kind of! OK, not really. But I don't even think my friends and family read my ramblings, let alone strangers, let alone recognize me. OMG, must stop plotzing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

So full, so sleepy.

After a sit down at The Village Community Center in the Lower 9th, Tom, Sarah, Brennan, and I drove down to St. Bernard Parish in Chalmette for some food at Rocky and Carlos (Ladies Invited!). Mack recommended the po'boys, so Tom had the fried oyster po'boy, Sarah and Brennan split the shrimp po'boy, and I (god help me) had the french fry po'boy. We also had (between the four of us) the famous macaroni (and cheese), eggplant dressing (Sarah: Oh my god, this eggplant is so meaty and delicious, like it has meat in it! Does it have meat in it? Waitress: Yep!) red beans & rice, cabbage, spumoni pie/cake, and a lemon-berry marscapone cheese cake.

Hot damn, that was a lot of tasty food. Rocky & Carlos is a family-owned New Orlean-style Italian joint with many delicious looking and smelling trays of food, an extensive po'boy menu, a full bar, italian desserts, and mains + three sides specials. Lots of families, the LSU game on the TV, The Claw-style prize games, video poker.

We sat at a table in the rays of the late afternoon and ate until we couldn't eat anymore, told stories, and laughed a lot. I look forward to returning for delicious homestyle cooking made with love, Creole Italian-style.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Awesome date night, ends in confusion

So, we went off to Le Citron Bistro for dinner and a show tonight. I'd heard that ReBirth Brass Band was gonna play the venue, which was serving "Louisiana plate dinner" along with a ticket to the show for $25. Awesome, sign me up!

So we get there and the guy who greets us says, "OK, New Birth Brass Band is gonna start at 9:45 and then after about an hour and a half, ReBirth will start."

We have our plate dinner- I have fried chicken (of course) which comes with sides of jambalaya, green beans, and sweet potato puree. Tom has fried catfish (of course) which comes with the same sides. It's all right- not the best food, but cooked from the heart. The chicken and catfish were actually really good, it was the sides we weren't crazy about. I liked the jambalaya, and Tom said he liked it at first, but then it did the opposite of "grow on him." It shrank on him, I guess.

There was a warm and bubbly birthday girl there turning 40- she had like 12-15 friends there and they were the life of the party. They even brought out cake, which they shared with us. It was from some place in Metarie, began with an "H"?

About 9:15 or so,the band started. There was some dancing, and then the band took a break. They started up again about a half hour later with some really great stuff. I danced and danced and danced... it was great. Enough people so that one could dance without looking weird or making a scene, but not too many people so that it was crowded or uncomfortable. The whole vibe of the night was like that- just totally chill, and people were nice but we didn't need to socialize, which was actually a huge relief. Sometimes you just feel like you have to be "on" all the time here.

And Tom and I had a wonderful time. We could relax and flirt with each other and laugh and have fun. It was just a great environment for that. There were NO jerks in the crowd that we overheard (and we would have, it was an intimate setting) and Tom was like, you know, if you can't pick out the douchebag in the crowd, THE DOUCHEBAG IS YOU. So we agreed we must have been the jerky d-bags of the whole building, because everyone else was super nice.

So, the confusion! Tom thought that both bands played, and I was pretty sure that New Birth just played 2 sets. By the end of the 2nd set, we decided to go home- leave the party while still having fun. So I get home and look around online and see that while some listings have ReBirth playing aat Le Citron Bistro tonight, their FB page says they are playing in Deleware! And things really did look like they were winding down when we left at 11:30 or so. So I dunno if we were mislead or if they did play the 2nd set (sans Kermit) or came and played after we left (after possibly coming back from freaking Wilmington), but it doesn't actually matter.

We had an awesome time, hung out in a beautiful old New Orleans landmark, spent some time together in a completely unexpected way. I got to dance! And Tom got to not feel bad about not dancing.

Really, the most weirdly perfect vibe for a night out for the two of us. I am SO glad we went. After today/this week, it was so tempting to just burrow in at home after a couple beers at the Avenue, which is what we do every Friday. Which is often/usually a lot of fun and I do love going there. But it was just glorious to get out of routine, and it really shook us up in a great way that caused us to connect and really have fun with each other.

So, YAY! (and the slightest of buh? about how ReBirth fit into all this.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New restaurant on the block - Dominique's

Tonight we took a friend from out of town to this new place on Magazine Street, Dominique's. Chef Dominique Macquet (who used to cook in a fancy eponymously named hotel restaurant in the Quarter till a couple years ago) just opened a place Uptown at 4729 Magazine Street (right next to Le Bon Temps Roule, pretty much) maybe about a month and a half ago?

From Yelp: "Chef Dominique Macquet has partnered with Mauricio Andrade to open an amazing new fine dining experience Uptown on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Featuring wonderful fresh, local ingredients the dishes show French, Creole, and Nouveau influences in a beautifully renovated cottage."

We called for a reservation on Tuesday, they were able to get us in easily, but the joint was hopping by the time we got there. Service was pretty good, they were balancing a couple large-ish parties deftly with the regular 2- and 3- tops.

Appetizers: my 2 dining companions had the young arugula and oven-dried tomato salad, I had the duck fat fried chicken with a macaroni and cheese, um, croquette. Well, more like a patty. A patty sized croquette. Anyway, it was pretty much the best fried chicken I've ever had and one of my favorite appetizers in the history of ever.

Entrees: Tom had the black drum with corn and mirliton risotto, I had the roasted and cured leg of lamb "farsi" with oven dried tomatoes, melted leeks, and olive oil whipped potatoes. Also some roasted carrots and the whole thing came covered in arugula with something savory and crunchy like... lardons? but ligter and crunchier. Lamb cracklings? I wasn't expecting that, but it was fine. Our friend from out of town had the Maple Leaf duck with parsnip puree. Damn, a good parsnip puree is just the essence of late autumn.

It was all super tasty- we definitely enjoyed our entrees- they were great ingredients, executed very very well.

For dessert, Tom had the lemongrass panna cotta with passionfruit coulis, I had the swiss chocolate volcano, and our dining companion had the goat cheese cake with "Honey from the Hood, by Dr. Brobson Lutz, Beekeeper." Also, they brought out a stick of cotton candy, which was so funny and random. And, well, unexpectedly delicious. Out of the desserts, which were all amazing, the panna cotta was by far the awesomest. It was served in a martini glass and the coulis was absolutely marvelous.

Had a couple cocktails- Tom had a Chimay beer, I had 2 of something called a "Le Jardin" which had gin, port, and Geneivieve liquor? It was on the rocks and really yummy. DC had an old fashioned, which was made with their fancy cane syrup.

It was nice- a great space, great food, not pretentious, and a fun, bustling vibe. The menu was exciting and approachable, and the prices reasonable. Also: cotton candy!

I'd definitely go again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival

Today was the long-awaited Po-Boy Festival on Oak Street in Carrollton (Uptown.) We headed over there early to get a decent parking spot- got there around 10:30 and sacrificed a tire while parking on Plum and S. Carrollton- there was a metal covered curb that was jutting out and it poked a giant hole in the tire. Since we were early, and had our parking spot, we just got down to business and changed the tire.

Once the donut was on the car, we wandered to Oak Street pretty much at the dot of 11am to start eating po-boys and drinking beer. Mmm, New Orleans breakfast. A couple places that I really wanted to try- Dante's Confit Pork Cuban or Boucherie's BBQ Shrimp - weren't up and running yet, so we wandered a little further down to Barcelona Tapas and tried their Spanish-style pork loin medallions and gouda po'boy. Delicious!

Next, we tried a sesame shrimp po-boy from some place I don't remember. Also delicious- freshly fried and hot and sesame-y. We also acquired a couple LA-31 beers to wash our po-boys down.

Stopped at Hubig's- Tom got a pineapple and I got a peach. Ooh, that's still in my purse, be right back.

OK, that's tasty! Hubig's is a local pie company that is based in the Marigny. You can find their pies everywhere around here- supermarkets, gas stations, Walgreens, etc. And also at the Po-boy Festival, happily enough.

Anyway, we stopped at the Leidenheimer booth for some swag, and then I came across Le Citron Bistro's tent and got myself a spicy french fry po-boy, given my love for the Parkway french fry po-boy.

It was OK. The fries were cold and I did not detect any spiciness.

Next up was Emeril's Delmonico and their "Confit pork cheek po-boy with dirty rice aioli and southern-style cole slaw" which was pretty freaking tasty.

I dribbled my T-shirt up good with that aioli. I acquired a new T-shirt, the official Po-boy festival shirt:

I didn't change into it because I figured there was a good chance I'd dribble something on that too.

Tom found his po-boy nirvana- a smoked fish po-boy from Grand Isle with fresh veggies, pickled onions, and herbs. It pleased him greatly.

I got in line at the Palace Cafe tent for the smoked duck po-boy with citrus jalapeƱo marmalade. After I bought it, I realized that I was super full to bursting with po-boys so I just carried it home. I ate it up right before I ate my Hubig pie while writing this entry. Man, that was some good eatin' today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mid-City BrewHaHa

Worked off my weekly Saturday morning hangover with a visit to the non-profit fundraiser, the 2nd Annual BrewHaHa for some beer, coffee, hot sausage po'boy, and craft fair/flea market shopping. I also ran into some of NPN's partner organizations like HandsOn New Orleans which was fun, keeping tabs on what was going on in that sphere of New Orleans.

We were sadly impatient and left before the Crescent City Pie & Sausage tent had their jambalaya ready, but we did enjoy several beers from NOLA Brewing, Bayou Teche, and Abita.

It was a lovely day, and we ran into several people we knew, which was nice. I like that we are starting to make friends, have a social circle.

A note: 6 months ago today, we arrived in New Orleans with our two cats to an empty house in the Irish Channel. We bought an air mattress at WalMart and slept our first night as residents of this crazy awesome city.

It's been a hell of a six months, and I'm so glad to be here! The weather's been glorious, and life is good. Really good.

Tomorrow: Stay tuned for the 4th Annual New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

back to basics?

I know I've been kind of meandering off my original mission to report on the eating and drinking here in New Orleans, but I've been discovering that the food and drinking is tied to a way of life that is often really difficult to articulate. And my attempts to do so have probably been coming off as long winded pontificating.

I've still been getting out and trying new places: we ate out at Rambla the other night to celebrate Tom's promotion (tapas- pretty good, would like to try more); went to Le Bon Temps Roule for the official NOLA Brewing Irish Channel Stout premiere/unveiling; tried the Tuesday night Pub Quiz at The Avenue; checked out Mat & Naddie's (Uptown) a couple times for their "It's All Good" lunch buffet (good food, and excellent housemade raspberry iced tea); cautiously attempted another Chinese delivery place, Red Star (meh); found a Indian buffet close to work in Metarie (also meh); WENT TO METARIE! (heh.)

OK, we need to get out more.

Have returned to some favorites: I did have an amazing lunch at August a few weeks ago- they served this amazing celery root and apple soup with lardons which was earthy, sweet, salty. Also their take on grits and grillades and a chocolate pudding. Man, so awesome. I've also been going to Crescent City Pie and Sausage on Wednesdays for their soup-salad-sandwich special. Last week it was pumpkin soup with a spicy black bean mole and today it was a red bean soup with mustard greens and kale. Comes with a grilled cheese, can't go wrong with that. Circled back to Boucherie for lunch - boudin balls, duck confit po'boy, and mocha ice cream. Also got back to Willie Mae's one day for fried chicken again- still so good! (Just get there early.) Tried the homemade spaghetti with guanciale and a fried poached egg at Herbsaint- the egg was a-mazing (literally, poached then breaded and fried) but the pasta/bacon was a little over-seasoned. (and I love salt!) Tried the enchiladas at Juan's for the first time- thumbs up. Got hammered in a sophisticated style one night after the Avenue - walked over to Coquette, had a couple of delicious cocktails (the current incarnation of the Coquette Collins for me, the 12 Mile High for Tom) and nibbled on some appetizers. I continue to be psyched that Coquette is so close to us and is practically perfect in every way.

Mostly, work has got me (both of us, really) so beat that it's been hard for us to be adventurous. I need to change that. We have some Groupons/Living Social deals for some cool places: the Eiffel Society, Le Meritage, Dick & Jenny's, Little Vic's Gelateria (warning: Flash), the Bridge Lounge, and The Grocery on St. Charles Avenue. I want to check out Chickie Wah Wah's (warning: music) and the Citron Bistro. The Citron Bistro is having a Rebirth Brass Band concert with food - Louisiana "plate special" - just made our reservations for that today. Crescent City Pie and Sausage have started up beer dinners, it seems- next week will be NOLA Brewing, and the week after that will be Stone.

We need to make sure we don't get into a rut- a New Orleans rut is likely more fun than any rut I've ever experienced before, but still a rut. And, obviously, I need to make sure that I keep up the reports here!


Halloween Weekend

Now, I'm no stranger to Halloween shenanigans, having lived for five years in Salem, MA (the self-proclaimed Halloween Capital of the World-slash-Universe). But New Orleans is all about the partying and dressing up for any old reason, so Halloween is cranked up to ELEVENTY!!!1!!!1!! here too. Add the Voodoo Music Festival and a night Saints game, and shenanigans are a-plenty.

Friday night came not a moment too soon after a tough week at work and we went to The Avenue Pub for Firkin Friday. NOLA Brewing had provided a cask of their Brown Ale brewed with Cajun Rum-soaked oak chips. It is also The Avenue's Belgian Beer month so there were many tasty (and high alcohol) beers to enjoy. Some of our non-Beer Advocate friends (Kara and Trey) also showed up which upped the awesomeness exponentially. Also present: the president of NOLA, the always freaking hilarious Kirk Coco. That made for some easy drinking. We also somehow scored an invitation to a NOLA Brewing sponsored tailgate/pig roast on Sunday. All in all, an awesome night.

Saturday we hauled our hungover butts out of bed and crossed the Industrial Canal to provide some computer help to the Lower Ninth Ward Village Community Center. Mack greeted us with some kinda crappy news - their main staff person had quit - but discussed at length about how it's all gonna be OK. We were finally able to get out of him some concrete tasks that we could do to help and we got to work on it. We were trying to figure out why one of the computers was running so slow- turned out it only had 500 MB of memory. After attempting to cannibalize some other CPUs we just ended up ordering 2 gigs of RAM and it will be a donation.

Issues in the Computer Lab: the kids keep disconnecting cables! Damn kids. (heh.)

There was a group of high schoolers there doing some volunteer work outside, I think clearing out the park that the Village "adopted." It's very cool to see kids that age busting ass to help out. I don't know where they hailed from originally, but I was telling Mack I remember being politically active at that age- old enough to know that things needed to change in the world but still not jaded enough to realize that the world actually won't change. It's a magical time!

After a much needed lunch at The Joint (ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, sweet tea, oh my!) we headed home. The rest of the day was sort of a wash- napping, lounging, sleeping. I can't bounce back from a hangover and go out the next night. However, we did get a couple groups of trick or treaters, which kind of cracked me up. Good hustle, kids! There was a whole controversy about moving trick or treating to Saturday night because of the Saints game that started at 7:30 on Halloween night for the last couple weeks, but it didn't really seem to gain much traction as an organized effort from my perspective.

Anyway, the big Halloween Day finally arrived. Sunday we woke up and get ready to go tailgating by the Superdome. Didn't know what the parking situation would be, but figured it was worth a try to go park in Tom's work garage considering it was eight hours before kickoff. It was hot and sunny on Halloween- standing out in the tailgating parking lot, Tom got super burned even with the umbrellas I fetched from the car to use as parasols. Ah well. The beer (including a sneak peek of NOLA Brewing's Irish Channel Stout) and food (WHOLE ROASTED/SMOKED PIG ZOMG) were totally worth it. After a couple hours of standing in the sun drinking beer with a stomach full of pork, I... well, I needed a nap. So we left the party while we were still having fun. And it was a lot of fun! I met some really cool people and enjoyed talking to Jim and Kirk and everyone else. Thanks for the invite, guys!

Around 5:30 we started preparing for trick or treating, but other than a few random folks that passed by while we were sitting outside, we hardly gave out candy at all. We did meet one of our neighbors for the first time, though, and that's always a plus. He had his 6 month old son with him and was mildly freaking out because somehow the baby had gotten a hold of a Starburst and apparently that was his introduction to solid food. This dude was convinced his wife would kill him for that. Though... did he eat the wrapper as well as the candy?

7:15 we gave up and headed over to Kara and Trey's to watch the game. They'd set up a projection screen outside and it was amazing- an excellent way to watch a nailbiter or a game. Sitting in the courtyard with friends in costume, drinking beer and eating pumpkin soup and updating groups of trick or treaters passing by on the score made for a really fun and mellow Halloween.

Did not make it to Hansen's before it closed for the season, though. Woe!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I just looked at my blog stats and was like, wow, I really hit my peak in July! And then I remembered that all I was doing that month was eating, drinking, napping, and blogging.

Good times, man. Good times.

(btw, will probably have one last Hansen's post before the season ends on Saturday. What shall I have for my last sno-bliz of the season??? satsuma/cream of nectar? coffee/chocolate/cardamom? limeade/ginger? pineapple/cherry? OMG.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Long live the Deutsches Haus!

After some shenanigans last night involving Red Seal on cask at the Avenue Pub and then cocktails and snacks at Coquette, today we woke up and went on over to the Deutsches Haus in Mid City for the final day of their final Oktoberfest.

Got some beers! First I had the Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel and Tom had the Paulaner Oktoberfest. Then Kostrirzer Schwarzbier for me and Spaten Oktoberfest for Tom. Next round was my turn for the Paulaner Oktoberfest and Tom had a Warsteiner Pilsner. Then Tom tried the Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel.

Can't forget about that fine German Oktoberfest cuisine- stood in line and got me a plate with pork schnitzel, bratwurst, german potato salad, mashed potatoes and rye bread with butter. And, of course, strudel! Both cherry and apple.

We purchased an entirely silly plastic 22 oz. glass with the Deutsches Haus logo which lights up! Heh. Also purchased a bottle opener and beer cozy.

The oompah band was fun- very energetic with covers of "Beat It," "Come Together" that weird oompa-loompa song from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which was... weird and made me laugh out loud. Several enthusiastic renditions of the Chicken Dance, of course. I would be lying if I said there wasn't a guy dressed head to toe as a giant chicken wearing leiderhosen.

The Deutsches Haus is closing tonight at midnight to make way for the new LSU VA teaching hospital/health center that will be built in this area of Mid-City. The plans for the new hospital complex have been mired in controversy for several reasons. First of all, it's going in an area of town that is residential, so there are hundreds of people getting their land bought up by the state. Some of the historic homes are being moved into other areas of the city, but most properties are being razed. The new hospital will also fill the void that the closing of Charity Hospital created in 2005. Some think that it would make more sense for the state to renovate the existing structure instead of demolishing an entire neighborhood to make way for the footprint of the new hospital. Others think that the lower area of Mid-City it affects is a craphole and the hospital is much needed progress.

I don't know. If there was state land nearby that could ave been used, and even the site (if not the building) of Charity Hospital, I think it's unfortunate that the state is choosing to "reenergize" or "reform" or "rebuid" a Better New Orleans by razing properties where people live, where personal history resides, where people came together at places like the Deutsches Haus. That place has been around and served its community for almost 82 years. God knows I haven't been here long enough to know the many perspectives about New Orleans and Louisiana politics, but I do know that demolishing something that was standing and rebuilding something that wasn't there before costs a lot of money and in my experience with politics, when that much money is floating around, it's not the community that the politicians are thinking about.

I was glad to have been able to raise a glass to the Deutsches Haus today and the many people it has served over the years. Prost!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frenchmen Street and the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival

The weather's been just glorious since late September. Clear, dry, sunny, nice breeze, in the 80s. Friday night was a wonderful night to go out and play. A friend from out of town was here and ready to party and my friend's son's band was playing (I'd previously seen them at Tipitina's and enjoyed them a lot.)

I met up with Tom and his co-workers at the Bridge Lounge, one of my favorite local places. Tom had a mojito and I had a mint julep. After chatting with his colleagues (including some seriously disturbing talk about someone's acquaintance's Craigslist personal ads) we wandered over to the Avenue Pub, where we enjoyed the last German Franconian farmhouse lager on cask. I also had a Unibroue Chambly Noir and an experiment that Tom suggested to the owner, Polly- she's been on a kick where she washes a glass out with bourbon and then serves Russian Imperial Stout in it, so Tom suggested that she serve the Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale in a glass with a Cointreau wash. He was mostly joking, but Polly gave it a try. The verdict was that it wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite right.

My out of town friend met us at the Avenue, and off we went to Frenchmen Street, which was already hopping at 8pm. We wandered down Frenchmen and Decatur, stopping at Three Muses to see if we could get a bite to eat- it was mobbed, though, so we ended up going to Thirteen (aka 13 Monaghan, it seems) for some sandwiches, beer, and tater tot nachos. Then, cocktails at Pravda on Decatur. They have an extensive absinthe selection but I stuck to a Sazerac.

Then, time to hit Maison to see the Big Easy Brawlers. My friend K (also the guitarist's aunt) brought several friends and we all danced to the brass/band/rock/funk music till I just about fell down (my knee was killing me yesterday, adding on to the general hangover.)

Yesterday was pretty much a lost day, due to recovering from the night before. I did make it out to get a burrito at Felipe's though. Also made some chicken noodle soup and watched a lot of Law & Order and Futurama.

This morning, got up, got dressed, and got going to the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival. We parked at Tom's work garage and walked to Lafayette Square (there was plenty of parking closer, but we were in the mood for a little walk.) When we got there, Mem Shannon was playing, then we heard Shannon McNally & Hot Sauce, and then a little bit of The Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Russel Batiste. We ate pork and shrimp spring rolls from Ba Mien Vietnamese Restaurant, pork taco and lamb ribs from Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar, jerk chicken plate (came with greens, rice & beans, and plantains) from Boswell’s Jamaican Grill, and pralines and sweet potato pie from Loretta’s Authentic Pralines.

While enjoying a couple Abita Fall Fest beers, we wandered around checking out the various craft vendors- lots of art, jewelry, some beautiful handcrafted furniture, instruments, and gorgeous feather masks.

Good food, good music, good weather, good company- is what New Orleans is all about. Also, Saints won!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bahn Mi and Boucherie

A friend from out of town, who's spent a good amount of time in New Orleans, came to visit and I thought the best place to go would be Boucherie up in Carrollton. It's such a cozy, intimate space with great seasonal food with a Southern/New Orleans twist, it's a fun place to take someone who has mostly hung out in the Quarter and Faubourg Marigny. Plus, it's super reasonable for such high quality and thoughtful food! As is their wine by the glass and beer.

Tom and I started with the Mai Tai, made with New Orleans Cajun Rum, Macambo 20 year old barrel aged rum, Trader Tiki's orgeat (the secret to any great mai tai), fresh lime juice, and muddled brandied cherries and orange. Our out of town visitor enjoyed a delicious caipirinha, made with leblon cachaca, fresh lime, and sugar on the rocks. I ended up having two mai tais. And a glass of pinot gris. Well, we had a bit of a wait for our food- apparently our ticket fell so we had both an embarrassed server and shamefaced front of house manager explaining this to us. But we got free dessert out of it! It didn't matter much, we weren't in a rush and we were enjoying our conversation.

When our food did arrive, it was freaking delicious. I was drawn to the small plates and ended up getting two of them: I started with the Farmers Market Pumpkin Stew with rashers and creme fraiche and then had the Dopplebock Braised Pork Belly with Pumpernickel Crouton and Juniper Berry Pickled Radishes. It was all really, really awesome. One of the best pork belly preparations I've had, and I know I've gushed about Boucherie's in house pickles before. Lawd. The pumpkin stew was excellent as well, and the rashers were beautifully meaty, a great contrast to the velvety mouthfeel of the stew which was replete with soft lumps of pumpkin.

Tom had the Collard Greens and Grit Fries, which was excellent, and the large plate of Apple Smoked Scallops with Roaster Beet Salad and Dill Sour Cream. Tom thought the scallops were perhaps a bit aggressively seasoned, but enjoyed the Beet Salad and really was impressed by the Collard Greens and Grit Fries. Our friend (a vegetarian) had the baby greens salad with creole tomatoes and then the Potato Pierogi with Local Greens and a Caramelized Onion and Caraway Dressing. She was quite pleased with it!

For dessert we shared an order of the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding which is just made of awesome. And donuts. So, you know, there is no bad here. Their decaf coffee was also pretty decent, which is always a nice surprise.

In conclusion: YAY BOUCHERIE! (again)

The following day I figured out that the Mid-City branch of our local bank was right next to the Eat Well Food Mart, which I'd been intrigued by for some time. My predecessor at my job had recommended it, and I'd heard it was a good place to get a bahn mi without going to New Orleans East. I got one (affirmed that I wanted it spicy when asked by the order taker) as well as a "homemade" egg roll. It's funny, the list of egg rolls is as follows: pork, shrimp, and homemade. The homemade one is pretty obviously made in house (lacks the uniformity of the mass produced type) and has pork AND shrimp AND is delicious.

I paid my $4.99 for my bahn mi (which included a can of soda) and left the store. I wasn't sure where to eat it, but figured that I could drive back to my office and eat by the Katrina Memorial or in one of the nearby cemeteries. Once I got back and parked my car, I realized that eating in my car would actually be a nice option. I was in the shade, next to a cemetery and it was very peaceful and a beautiful day. On to the bahn mi! It appeared to be comprised of pork, more pork, pickles, cilantro, and spicy pork. OH YEAH. The bread/roll/bun was AWESOME- I think it must have come from the famous Dong Phuong bakery. (Man, I gotta get there) The rich pork and the crispy cool pickles and the NOM NOM NOM. So, yeah, that was some good stuff.

Made dinner last night and tonight. Last night was Chicken Fricassee from the new issue of Cooks Illustrated, which was delicious and overly complicated as all CI recipes tend to be. (PS, their definition of "quick" is very different than mine.) Tonight was a *much* simpler but equally delicious Fettucini Carbonara. I was actually originally double booked for tonight- a work event and a neighborhood association meeting - and then when those fell through I though I might have a night on the town with our out of town visitor in the French Quarter, but in the end, I put on my pajamas and made pasta with bacon & eggs. Then finished up the apple crumble Tom made the other night. Then a Tunnock's bar (which was found at the World Market in Harvey, which was just about the best discovery this week besides my bahn mi.)

Tomorrow: Frenchmen Street? Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday in New Orleans...

it involved Saints football, a second line parade by the Prince of Wales Social Aid and Pleasure Club, beer, friends, and general awesomeness.

The Saints lost, but it was still a beautiful day and I followed the second line for like 6 blocks before I realized that I had left Tom and all my friends back at Sixth Street. Whee!

Really, just an absolutely beautiful day.

Not just lazy... cat-level lazy

This weekend we are trying to take a cue from our cats and just chilling out. It's been a rather tough week at work, so after quitting time on Friday, we drove straight over to The Avenue Pub with our Mug Club mugs and immediately ordered the Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop Harvest Ale downstairs. We wandered up to the balcony, settled into a couple bar seats, and enjoyed a couple cask German/Franconian beers- a lager and a marzen. They just got a dedicated Unibroue draft tower put in, and I ordered a Maudite and also had a sample of the Trois Pistoles in a bourbon washed glass. Man, those Canadians can brew some beer!

Of course, we needed a little something to sop up all this delicious beer, so I had the cheeseburger (as I usually do) and Tom had one of the Oktoberfest food specials - Hassenpfeffer, which was braised rabbit in a red wine/brandy sauce. Came with German potato salad. We also caught up with a few folks we hadn't seen for a while. An excellent Friday night.

Yesterday, we went to the Marigny Brasserie to use our Living Social coupon for breakfast there. Eh. This was the second time we'd been there together on the weekend, and the second time it was pretty average/mediocre. Probably won't make an effort to go back. They had some sort of big wedding brunch going on as well, which certainly impacted the service, and our food came out cold.

Did some chores and cooked dinner in (flatiron steak from Rare Cuts cooked with Crystal hot sauce, lime juice, and Tony Chachere's seasoning- yum!) yesterday.

Today so far has been pretty great. We got up early (we went to bed crazy early last night) and went to Surrey's for breakfast, which was very nice, and a far cry from our disappointing breakfast yesterday. We got there right before the rush, and we were able to get seated right away. Tom had the Bananas Foster Stuffed French Toast, and I had the Migas with chorizo and their juice specialty, orange-pineapple-mango. Yum! My migas (basically a tex-mex style scramble) came with grits and one of their awesome fresh baked biscuits.

After breakfast, I thought it would be fun to stop by the Avenue Pub at 9:15 in the morning. I mean, why not? It's open 24 hours, may as well take advantage, right? Specifically, I wanted to try the newly tapped (at 12:01AM that morning) Stone Vertical Epic. Every year, they release a special beer- they started in 2002 with a 02-02-2002 release, and have done a similar thing every year. Obviously, this year is 10-10-10. So we stopped in to the surprise of the usual morning patrons, and enjoyed a glass of it. Then back home to lounge with the cats.

Later today: Saints game and perhaps a neighborhood second line encounter? Enjoy the rest of your weekends, everyone!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


So, today is Tom's and my wedding anniversary. We eloped 6 years ago in Chester, Vermont, married by an octogenarian retired academic economist with our innkeepers and photographer as our witnesses. It was an awesome day, starting with a day at the spa, then marrying my best friend and favorite person on the planet, and then having a giggling, tipsy, so-happy-it-was-practically-nauseating dinner at the hotel next door to our inn. I remember walking back to our room in my stocking feet that night, with my too-high heels in my hand, arm in arm with my new husband.

Last year, for our fifth anniversary, we went on vacation to San Francisco and Northern CA (Napa Valley, Anderson Valley, Mendocino). On the 5th last year, we ate dinner at super swanky Gary Danko which was really amazing, but kinda over the top (not as OTT as some of our meals would be later in that trip, though.)

This year, we LIVE in NEW ORLEANS, which is so awesome that I just can't stand it. Especially now, when the weather is just straight up gorgeous and clear and crisp but still sunny and gently warm. But I digress. For dinner this year, we went to Cuvee, and had a really great meal and a wonderful time. I'd been curious about the place for a while now, and when Groupon offered a deal a few weeks ago, I snapped it up.

We drove in and miraculously found a place to park on the same block of Magazine as the restaurant (between Poydras and Girod). We each started with a Sazerac- it had been a while, actually, since I'd had one, and this one was EXCELLENT- very smooth but flavorful. Dangerously delicious!

We had an amuse bouche of duck liver and goat cheese on a toast point with a sour orange marmalade. The marmalade was such a decisive counterpoint to the unctuousness of the duck liver, which had been already lightened up by the tangy goat cheese. It was subtle, but appreciated.

I had the diver scallops appetizer special- it was served over a golden beet puree with thin slices of red beet on top, accompanied by fennel. Really excellent- the textures were very complimentary to each other, and the different types of sweetness of the scallops, the beets, and even the fennel was really a joy to experience. Tom started with their soup special, a duck and sausage gumbo. Amazing roux and hits of spice, as well as quality meat ingredients.
Our two entrees were polar opposites of each other. Tom had the "lemon fish" with grapefruit as the accompanying acid as well as a complex but simply flavored pilaf with various vergetables. I had the duck. Rare smoked breast slices, an entire confit leg, butternut squash risotto, and a small piece of beautifully seared fois gras. It couldn't have been richer or more different than the clean, bright flavors of Tom's fish. It was no joke of a dish, and I enjoyed it a LOT. (though I did think at one point it was trying to kill me with a coronary or the gout.)

Cuvee also had a pretty reasonable list of wines by the glass; I cannot even pretend like I can remember the names of the wines, but I had a French Sauvignon Blanc with my scallops and a French Pinot Noir with my duck. I thought I chose pretty well, but what the hell do I know? I did enjoy my pairings though.

For dessert we shared the special they had- roasted pineapple sorbet with a bruleed pineapple ring (which was just so genius I can't believe this is the first time I've ever come across it) and some shortbread. Very simple but incredibly flavorful- the perfect way to end a delicious meal by not overdoing it or by being disappointed at the last course. One thing that I wasn't wild about: we ordered a decaf cappuccino, but they were out of decaf espresso coffee, so we accepted our server's suggestion for a cafe au lait made with decaf coffee. Eh... there's a reason I don't tend to drink brewed decaf coffee- wasn't very good. But other than that, a really great experience.

Service was excellent, attentive without hovering. We sat between two large-ish (5 or 6) parties of dudes. One party was a younger group, ordering Jack & Cokes, and enjoying the food and some good conversation. The other party was like a business dinner and they were real annoying. First of all, one guy kept taking calls on his cell and they just didn't seem to be having much fun or enjoying the food, which I hate to see. But not obnoxious, really, except for the cell phone shenanigans.

Yay, Cuvee! Yay, Tom! Yay, October 5! Yay.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

100th post!

Bananas! How on earth have I found so much to babble about?

Really, I blame New Orleans for BEING SO AWESOME!

Today was a quietly excellent day. I finally started feeling like I was getting some traction at work- like things were starting to click. I brought my lunch to work (leftover chicken tikka + roasted carrots with cumin seeds + locally grown brown rice + a kickass raita) and decided to go to one of the several cemeteries that surround my office building in Mid-City. There weren't any benches at the first couple cemeteries I went to, so I walked to the Katrina Memorial located in the Charity Hospital Cemetery- the only cemetery in New Orleans in which the dead are actually buried beneath the earth. Also buried there: the ashes of those who donated their bodies to medical science. Also there: 4 benches. I sat on one and ate my lunch and looked at the mausoleum/memorial.

Then, once I was finished, I went across the street and did a little wandering in the Jewish cemetery (Dispersed of Judah). New Orleans cemeteries are really, really cool. Very unique and endlessly interesting. I will try to bring a camera with me for the next time I am there. Except for the previously mentioned Charity Hospital Cemetery, everyone is entombed above ground.

Also, have I mentioned that the weather now is truly gorgeous? Makes exploring a lot more fun and pleasant.

After work, I headed out to the Lower 9th Ward Village Community Center for their Open Mic Night. I was misinformed of the time, and showed up an hour early. It was all good though, 'cause I hung out and talked to Mack and other community members outside while watching the sun set on a beautiful day. We sat out in the evening air for a spell, talking and laughing, and then we went inside to commence the Open Mic-itude. It was a small gathering (usually they get at least 30, and I think we maxed out at a dozen) but I heard some poetry in many types and forms, and a startlingly good guitarist/singer. It was really nice to be a part of it, listen to what inspired others and what it was they were inspired to do.

Afterward, I drove Bobbi home. When I arrived at the Village, Bobbi was taking a nap on the library floor. She was an enthusiastic listener and supporter, her knowledge of the people and places in New Orleans was wide and deep. She calls herself "housing challenged" because she doesn't have a home of her own. She couch surfs some of the time, and I don't know what she does the rest of the time. I was kind of afraid to ask, you know? But we had a great talk on the way from the Lower 9th to the Columns Hotel Uptown- she wanted to hear Fredy Omar play. "Riccardo Crespo on Wednesday, and Fredy Omar Thursdays," she said several times. She invited me to join her but I was ready to go home after a long day of working hard, wandering cemeteries, hanging out on the stoop of the Village, and listening to New Orleans' young poets.

I am glad this place is my home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

lunch special=special lunch

So, it's been about a month and a half of working in Mid-City, and I think my go to spots are shaping up to be: Crescent City Pie and Sausage and Cafe Minh. Whenever I go there, the atmosphere's pleasant, the waitstaff are more or less on the ball, and the food is GOOD. They are also the closest places to my office, which means a more leisurely lunch because travel time is minimal.

At Cafe Minh, I have had their chargrilled pork pho and one of their specialty sandwiches, which were both great.

Today I was at Crescent City Pie and Sausage and instead of their Cuban Calzone (which is sooooo good, I dream of it at night) I got their Wednesday lunch special, which is soup, sandwich, salad, and a drink. The soup this week was this amazing parmesan chicken broth with both roasted and sundried tomatoes and an egg gently and beautifully poached in the middle of it. It was so delicate and complex but deceptively simple. Often there's a "more is more" approach to soup with more stuff, and more hearty ingredients, but I was amazed at how soul satisfying this beautiful and delicious soup was.

The sandwich was a grilled cheese with munster and paremsan, and I don't think I need to tell you how awesomely comforting a good grilled cheese sandwich can be. I also dipped the sandwich into the broth, which made it even better. The salad was a standard baby greens situation, lightly but nicely dressed with a tasty vinaigrette.

I also discovered today that they will make sweet tea for you if you request it, but stirring in simple syrup before bringing it to your table.

CCP&S is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places in New Orleans. And the weather here now is just gorgeous! All in all, an excellent afternoon. Till I bring my car into the mechanic to check out why it's making terrible noises. But, that's not for a while yet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dick & Jenny's

To celebrate my return home from New England, we went to Dick & Jenny's on Tchoupitoulas. It's one of the few places that doesn't have a lunch service, and we don't have a Groupon/Living Social deal for it, so we haven't been till tonight. We wanted to go for Tom's birthday, but it was closed on Labor Day.

We were ushered through an empty waiting area and small dining room to the main dining room, which was warmly decorated and comfortable. There was a bar and a healthy number of tables occupied for a Monday night. Our server was really friendly and helpful.

We started with cocktails: Tom had a "Hemingway," which was basically a very well made classic daiquiri. I had something that I think was called a Porch Swing, which was Pimms and St. Genevieve muddled with cucumber, served in a Mason jar. (I actually had 2 of these.)

For our first course, Tom had the gumbo du jour- andouille and smoked chicken. Had a bit of a kick to it! I had the pain perdu with duck confit. It was pretty light but excellent flavors- a perfect first course. Came with sliced apple and a peach chutney, and the confit and brie were melted between 2 slices of baguette.

For the entree course, Tom had the "Vegetarian Dagwood Panini" which had roasted red pepper, grilled turnip & eggplant, sauteed spinach, and smoked sundried tomato spread on herb foccacia. I had the BBQ Buffalo Short ribs, although they were actually elk short ribs, served with a lovely mac & cheese as well as smothered greens. It was great- the elk is leaner than, say beef or even buffalo. The ribs were still cooked to tenderness, but the reduced fattiness gave it a cleaner and lighter taste- not as rich as I've sometimes found beef shortribs to be.

After that, we had no room for dessert (though I was tempted by the chocolate malt creme brulee!) so we paid the tab and left. On our way out, we stopped to chat with one of the owners? managers? and she told us that they were going to start doing weekly lunches Tues-Fri.. YAY!

Man, I am so glad to be home. My trip up north was somewhat fraught with emotional pitfalls, but all were skillfully navigated, I think. Just plum wore me out. I did see a bunch of folks, went to Gargoyle's Disco Brunch (thanks, Ellen!) dealt with condo stuff, visited my grandma in the nursing home, went to a wedding, and couch surfed and drove all over the place, not staying in one place for very long. I did stay in a crazy new Starwood Property in Lexington (MA) though- "Aloft" by W. It was pretty nice, though it tries WAY too hard. However, that's a quality I don't mind so much in a hotel (better than the opposite, I suppose.)

A couple pictures from the wedding I went to:

Where they held the ceremony:

The happy couple, from the back to protect their privacy!

I would like to stay in one place- home in New Orleans - for a while now that my travel schedule has played out. Here's hoping! Coming back to a beautiful day like today- sunny, clear, breezy, with highs in the low 80s - made that wish even stronger.

Back to the office tomorrow- I am SO not ready. Ah well!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh when the Saints...

It's funny to think that when Tom and I were here over Christmas, we would look at the T-shirt shops in the quarter and wonder what the hell "Who Dat!?" meant.

Now I know that "Who Dat" is something that is yelled between friends, neighbors, strangers, and co-workers to convey excitement about the game of football when the local sports team- I think they are called the Saints - is playing! It's sort of the New Orleans version of "Yankees Suck" but much more prevalent. And nicer. It's everywhere and everyone and it's hollered with incredible, lusty, chest-thumping pride.

It's the WHOLE CITY. The WHOLE CITY full of people who LOVE TO CELEBRATE. It's pretty awe inspiring.

For the season opener on Thursday the 9th, the whole city practically shut down. The Saints were playing at home, and there was a parade and concert and the ENTIRE CITY ground to a halt. Kids left school early, the city government had the day off, both of our offices closed early as well. Hilarious.

Last night for Monday Night Football (tm) our friend and devoted season ticket holder Kara set up her TV outside in her courtyard and we sat outside and drank beer and watched the game. Folks were passing by asking the score and yelling Who Dat! All you gotta do is yell that and you'll have about 25 people yelling it back at you.

It's crazy, man. But totally contagious.

birthday festivities and other NOLA eatin'.

Ah, for the days that I could write 3-4 blog posts a day. Now I can't even keep up once a week.

My birthday was last week, and we went to have my birthday dinner at Bayona the night before my birthday, because I was working late on my actual birthday. Bayona was nice- it's practically an institution, or would be if there weren't several 100+ year old restaurants in town too. Anyway, I had an appetizer and entree off the "classic" side of the menu (smoked quail salad and the lamb loin) and Tom got his courses off the specials side (baby beet salad and rabbit roulade.) Tom was suspicious of our waiter, who had many suggestions. I didn't mind the solicitousness so much though. I got a pinot noir to go with the quail- the quail salad was wonderful, by the way - and a spanish red wine to go with the lamb. The lamb was cooked perfectly and had a goat cheese mixture on top of it. The sides were kind of boring, but that was fine.

We shared a lemon-lavender semifreddo for dessert, I had some sort of fancy pants dessert wine with it, as well as a cappuccino that had a chocolate covered almond on the side.

Tom loved his rabbit as well as the beet salad, so yay.

On my actual birthday, we had a release party for The Trumpet, which is a magazine/newspaper that my nonprofit puts out every other month. When that happens, we have a release party, usually in the same neighborhood that's been spotlighted in that particular issue.

This month, we were in Carrollton, so our party was at the Adams Street Cultural Development Center, with excellent catering (fried chicken, smothered chicken, casserole, peas, garlic bread, and AWESOME bread pudding,) and the appearance by the Baby Boyz Brass Band. That was loud in a small space but pretty awesome

After that, Tom took me to Cure for some cocktails. Tom had the "Trouble & Desire," which had El Dorado 5YR Rum, Smith & Cross Navy Strength Rum, Licor 43, Carpano Antica Vermouth, and Orange Peel.

I had several cocktails. First off I had the "Cease & Desist," which had Carpano Punt e Mes, Rittenhouse Bonded Rye, Fernet Branca, and Orange Peel. Then the "William Wisecracker" with Evan Williams Single Barrel, Cynar, Demerara Sugar, Lemon, Maraschino Liqueur, and Mint. Then the bartender made me one of his specialties, a "Branca Libre," a play on a Cuba Libre with Fernet and demerara syrup, the juice of half a lime, topped off with soda water. Delicious!

So that was some fancy food and drink... today I had some more low key New Orleans food. For lunch I had my first red gravy at Liuzza's on Bienville- red gravy over spaghetti with veal parmesan. This was after a cup of Oyster Rockefeller bisque, which was awesome- came with 2 freshly fried oysters perched on top. Nothing like a hot fried oyster, it just explodes in your mouth all crispy and briny and delicious.

After I picked Tom up from work today, we celebrated the last day of summer by going to Hansen's for a special Saints victory sno-bliz- cream of ice cream in the middle and cream of chocolate anise around it. It was to evoke the look of the Superdome, according to the Hansen's lady. We sat outside on a beautiful breeze September evening under blue skies and contemplated the end of our first summer in New Orleans.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Birthday dinner and Living Social

I hate to bump the plea for The Village down the page, but we have had some very nice meals recently.

On Tom's birthday, we got up at 4:15am and flew from Boston to New Orleans via Miami. That part wasn't so fun (though god knows it could have been worse) but then after we got home at around noon, greeted the cats, and napped, we decided to go to Coquette for dinner. It was close, we knew we liked it, and even though it's in the neighborhood, it's nice enough to be a "special occasion" kind of place.

We started with a couple cocktails: I had the Coquette Collins and Tom had the Twelve-Mile Limit, a prohibition-era cocktail whose name comes from being able to sail out to international waters and get loaded and marry a cow, if you so desired. The cocktails were awesome, as usual.

We decided to get the 4 course chef's tasting menu and to share a wine pairing. The first course was a rabbit rillette that came with toast points and a sour cherry marmalade, coarse mustard, cornichons, and an eggplant tapanade type of thing. The rabbit and the condiments were all amazing. It was served with a sparkling rose, which I enjoyed.

Second course was a scallop course served with a French Chardonnay and the third course was a simple but delicious flatiron steak with grits and some sort of awesome sauce. That came with a Spanish Tempernillo, which was right up Tom's alley. For dessert, the tasting menu had one of my favorites that they do, a chocolate pot de creme with freshly made beneigts to accompany it. YUM.

Today, for lunch, we went to Crescent Pie and Sausage to use a Living Social deal that we'd gotten a while back. It's in Mid-City, so I was able to point out my new office location to Tom and impress him with my knowledge of the Mid-City streets. Tom had the merguez lamb sausage, of course; he's crazy about merguez and is compelled to order it wherever he sees it. It was pretty damn delicious, especially with the accompanying harissa. I had their "Cuban Calzone" which was their crispy pizza dough wrapped around meltingly tender pork shoulder, house cured coppa, house made mozzerella, pickles, and topped with a mojo sauce. OMG YUM.

Apparently our server lost our order ticket, and pleased me to no end by choosing to announce this with a round of complimentary beers. Service win, for sure.

Now it's pouring outside, and dark. We are thinking about returning to The Avenue Pub this evening after our night out there last night. We got into the mug club there and were able to get our special mugs! So exciting.

Here it is, filled with Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous on cask:

Oh, and I didn't take any pictures of our food at Coquette, because it was Tom's birthday and he kind of hates it when I do that, but here's a picture of a stunning lunch I had a couple weeks ago at the Parkway Bakery & Tavern- a french fry poboy dressed with gravy. GENIUS!

Also, bonus pictures of Tom and I at the Avenue Pub for the Gulf Coast Fundraiser/Silent Auction a couple weeks ago- check out Tom actually smiling!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Lower 9th Ward Village Community Center

So, I volunteered to make some fundraising cold calls for The Village, and I'm dreading it. It's phone fear and telemarketing fear and stuff. I currently have Taz sitting on my left arm and am using that as an excuse for waiting till after lunch to start. I typed up the script and sorted the business cards that Joe gave me and I'm ready to go... just need to do it.

But in the meantime, here's the deal for my legions of blog readers!

The Lower 9th Ward Village is a non-profit that stands as a safe place for residents to acquire skills, knowledge, and resources that will allow them to live economically, physically, and emotionally stable lives. However, at the moment, we at the Village, like many of the Lower 9th Ward’s residents, are struggling to meet our basic needs.

Since we have not yet received any federal money or private grants, our unpaid, all-volunteer team must focus every month on just paying the rent and utility bills. This is unfortunate for many reasons, but mostly because our focus needs to be on serving the community to our greatest capacity, not on struggling to pay the bills.

This month brings the threat of our utility services being stopped due to a severe lack of funds.

So we are reaching out to all those who have come to or heard about the Village- who believe in it, who share our vision or a vibrant and fully serviced Lower 9th Ward community.

Our goal is to reach $50,000 this month, and every little bit brings us closer to that amount.

You can PayPal or send a check made out to The Lower 9th Ward Village and mail it to The Lower 9th Ward Village, c/o Joe McClendon, 1001 Charbonnet Street, New Orleans, LA 70117.

If you do make a donation, let me know so I can make sure that the payment is received and acknowledged properly.

Thanks for listening and thinking about it! It's a real tangible way to help folks who still need lots of help. It's a way to make a systemic change in the community.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

thinking about New Orleans

When I was back in Massachusetts this past weekend, I was asked by my uncle, "what's REALLY going on in New Orleans?" I guess my musings on eating, drinking, napping, my cats, and cable TV watching is not the scintillating reading that I thought it was.

Talking about The Real New Orleans is tough. First of all, I still feel like an observer here- like I don't have the right to make sweeping pronouncements about the state of New Orleans yet. I'm still learning about it. There are so many New Orleans universes contained in Orleans Parish- I feel like I've only experienced a fraction of them.

1) The "foodie" New Orleans. (I do hate that word, but chose it deliberately.) I have eaten some amazing food at some amazing restaurants. August, Cochon, MiLa, Boucherie, Coquette, Herbsaint, Brightsens, Emeril's, Mandina's... lemon ice at Brocatos, sno-balls at Hansen's, fried chicken at Willie Mae's... BBQ Shrimp Poboy at Liuzza's by the Track, french fry poboy at Parkway, roast beef poboy at Parasol's, Cochon du lait poboy at Mahoney's... tacos on South Claiborne, burritos at Juan's, lots of pizza at Reginelli's....

Been cooking too- really trying to honor the ingredients of the region. The beautiful Gulf shrimp, like nothing I've had before. Red beans & rice with 4 kinds of pork, smothered greens, shrimp and corn stew... grits, grits, and more grits.

People here LOVE food. You don't hear the guilt about enjoying food, and the self-flagellation for over-indulging. Food is love. You talk about what you had for lunch, what you cooked for dinner, what you found at the farmers market, and everyone has an opinion about where the Best of anything is found. I love it. It's like the spirit of indulgence and hospitality and sharing is directed through the food, in all its form. I mean, I bought pralines from some random lady on the street in front of my house! Can I get a HELL YEAH???

2) the drinkin' New Orleans. People like to have fun here, celebrate days that end in "y", absolutely. People also have some hard fucking lives to escape. But whatever your reason for drinking, tourist or local, you can always find the gamut sitting along any bar in the city. Tales of the Cocktail was almost the most decadent of the decadent. Liquor professionals plying their trades and wares in New Orleans.

Tom and I have developed a taste for Miller Lite since moving down here. It's refreshing, it's drinkable, and pleasant on a hot summer day. It's a surprise to us as much as anyone else. On the other end of the beer drinking equation, we've been finding some kindred spirits over at the Avenue Pub- we try to get there fairly frequently and love their love of beer. We recently found ourselves spending 8 hours there for a fundraiser//auction and had a great time, and also walked away having spent an embarrassing amount of money on rare beers.

Another surprise has been the Bridge Lounge- the dog friendly dark bar looks like a hole in the wall but is actually a sleek neighborhood bar that specializes in mojitos. I am also a Sazerac fan, which I need to get back to. We've been expanding our home cocktail mixology here as well- more booze in our collection, we've added a vintage ice crusher to our kitchen. We keep citrus on hand for delicious fresh juice cocktails.

Let us also not forget the only microbrewery in New Orleans - NOLA Brewing right in the 'hood!

Somewhat related to both food and drink in New Orleans was the drama that surrounded the Parasol's-->Tracy's drama. This was another time when I didn't feel like I had the right to be disappointed, which I was, but I was still so new that I didn't have the emotional attachment. The neighborhood has taken it more or less in stride though, so I'm following their lead.

On that note:

3) The Irish Channel New Orleans. I had the fortune of having my sole local contact as the President of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association. She's fiercely passionate about the neighborhood, and has brought me into the community. I like the Channel- it's not overrun with hipsters and yuppies, it's close to Magazine Street, and the people are nice. It's not perfect- there are shootings and crack dealers and muggings and blight- but I love it.

I was lucky enough to be a part of a volunteer effort to bring a playground to the Irish Channel, and rally the community around it. I met so many people, went to businesses, and really got to understand the pride that people have in this community and how willing they are to fight for it against crime and drugs.

I'm now able to parlay that joy into my new job, working for Neighborhoods Partnership Network, an organization that is in place to unite, educate, provide resources, and advocate for neighborhoods and communities throughout New Orleans.

4) The musical New Orleans. We've been to a couple clubs, seen Kermit at Vaughn's, etc. I'd like to do more of that. We are still, you know, *us*. We are homebodies and we like to stay in and read and watch TV and hang out with each other and the cats. (We DO go out and about a lot more often than we used to, though.) I'd say the most amazing experience I've had was the second-line during Satchmo Fest. I absolutely cannot wait for more second-lines. The unfettered joy, dancing, interaction, music... it's just a party in the streets and something that strikes me as quintessential New Orleans, and something that actual New Orleanians do.

Like food and booze, music is yet another vehicle for expressing a lust for life that is truly inspirational.

5) The New Orleans in the Lower Ninth Ward. This is one area of discussion that I'm very cautious about, as my privilege, it is staggering. I have done and will continue doing volunteer work with an amazing organization called the Lower Ninth Ward Village - the brainchild of Mack McClendon. His goal is simple: he wants to bring people back to their homes in the Lower Ninth and to unite the community. I am hoping to help Mack and his brother Joe with the organizational type skills that I have in order to help their vision succeed. I figure as long as I'm not an asshole, people can laugh at my liberal white guilt or whatever as long as I'm actually providing something positive for Mack and his community.

I've seen some shit in the Lower Ninth that continues to be heartbreaking. Went to Mack's house, which is still under construction and may soon be foreclosed on. Seen the houses that still stand with holes in the roof, from people clawing their way out of the rapidly rising water to hope for rescue. Vacant lots. Overgrown lots. Lots with only a cement foundation left, after the surge waters knocked the rest of the house clean off of it and carried it for blocks. It's simply not OK that protection these people deserved was completely subpar and it's not OK that it's such a struggle for people to get back and rebuild.

Even after 5 years, people need help. People needed help before Katrina, and the oppressive and parasitic infrastructure here is hopefully starting to change. Tom hates it when I dismiss something that hasn't been done, or has been done late, slowly, or poorly, as "well, that's New Orleans." And he's right. Every citizen here deserves better than that. I think there will always be a prevailing attitude of laissez faire, but the potential to change is there- people are fired up after Katrina, fired up after the media dismissed the poor city dwellers who remained as savage, criminal animals, fired up even in the face of horrible federal, state, and city red tape to rebuild, fired up during and after the Saints' championship season.

And you just can't help but fall in love with that spirit, with the city, with the food, and the booze, and the music, and the people. I knew I belonged here from the first time I visited.

I hope to learn more about these New Orleans, as my exploration of them is hardly exhaustive. And I have so much more to learn and see and experience.

Tonight, the "real" New Orleans is contained in the Superdome and in the streets around it and in the streets of the French Quarter where they just had a parade and concert. Everyone here is PUMPED UP, I tell you what. City offices closed, companies and schools and post offices let out early, the local papers and websites were full of discussion of the Saints. It's one of the best reasons to celebrate and EVERYONE is. I've never seen anything like it except maybe for championship series of Red Sox. And this is just the first game of the season!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

KaBOOM, houseguest, K+5, beer auction and more

So, it's been a busy week. I was at work Monday and Tuesday, and then had off the rest of the week. On Wednesday, I attended the KaBOOM Prep Day- I ended up drawing Build Captain signs, priming wood (which... now that I think about it, I have no idea where those pieces ended up) and organizing bolts, screws, and nuts. It was fun, and it was a beautiful day. There was a crazy neighbor lady that wanted us to stop what we were doing to "her" park, but other than that, things seemed to go quite smoothly.

Thursday, after a breakfast at Surrey's, I cleaned the house, did laundry, went to the store, and picked up the lovely Sarah for her week long visit in New Orleans. She's staying with us- our first houseguest here! She reports that the air mattress is actually quite comfortable, BTW. We met up with another friend and had dinner at Byblos and drinks at the Rendezvous and Parasol's. Then, early to bed, because the next day was an early wake-up call for BUILD DAY! Finally, the day that I'd been working towards for months. Got there early to set up, and discovered that the Marriott folks had taken care of that. So, I worked the registration table, and then once that was done, I kind of drifted around to see how things were going. Helped out as needed. A lot of volunteers came out so there wasn't much that needed doing!

Unfortunately, the weather turned ugly in the afternoon, after lunch- thunder and lightning. However, we'd been so well ahead of schedule in the morning that still, almost everything got completed! Pictures to follow soon...

Friday night we ended up going to dinner at Cafe Atchafalaya that's right in the neighborhood. Tom and I had gumbo, Sarah had the soup du jour, then I had the Pasta Atchafalaya, Sarah had the fried green tomatoes with crab and remoulade, and Tom had the Beet Carpaccio. We finished up with the cheese plate and a chocolate dessert that was kind of like a pot au creme, but different. It was nice! Also, several cocktails in the game there.

Saturday: Rain and beer!

I dropped Sarah off at Elizabeth's in the Bywater and went to the Saturday's farmers market for the first time in ages- it was inside because of the downpour, but still quite manageable. Apparently I missed out on ALL the eggs. But I got some shrimp and fish and muscatels and delicious bread and other stuff.

Then it was off to The Avenue Pub to partake in the Gulf Foundation fundraiser! It was a ticketed affair, which included several beers and the opportunity to bid on rare beers in a silent auction format. We drank a lot of beers, and bought a lot of beers. Ah well, it's for a good cause, right? We were there for like 8 hours, but had so much fun.

Sunday was pretty mellow, but we did go to Maya on Magazine for brunch. We had tostones, tamales, pork, and sangria. Very nice! Then, naps and I cooked dinner- shrimp and grits. Sarah headed out to a pub crawl out in the Marigny/Bywater, but all I wanted to do was nest and chill out before heading back to work after a 5 day weekend of craziness...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weekend meat preparations

Hit Rare Cuts Meat, which just opened Uptown on Magazine and Nashville. They just opened last week, and they are still waiting on one of their refrigeration units to come on line, so it was a relatively limited selection of awesomeness.

Also, I was handed a bloody mary upon entering, so I was predisposed to like the place.

We bought a giant ribeye steak, which I pan fried up using this recipe. It was great, because it didn't smoke up the entire apartment. Opened a bottle of Breggo 2007 Syrah from our California trip, drank the bottle with Tom, using a little bit to make a pan sauce with mushrooms.

Also purchased: 2 thick cut pork chops, which I cooked up with white wine, chicken stock, and asian pears from the farmers market. Served it with a baby arugula and cherry tomato salad. We drank Full Sail LTD 3, a lager style beer which seemed appropriate for the meal.

We also got pepper crusted thick slab bacon, which was eaten for breakfast this morning, and a crafish-green onion smoked sausage, which Tom may fashion in a jambalaya-esque fashion.

Ooh, need to take my red beans and rice out of the freezer for tomorrow, I wore this shirt today to remind myself.

This week will be a busy one- I'll be working at NPN for 3 days and working on the KaBOOM build on Wednesday and Friday! You can read about KaBOOM here and a little bit about our specific project this week here.

And we'll have our first guest here at the end of the week! We spent a lot of time configuring the office today to get the air mattress in there comfortably. That was the big project of the day. Yesterday was cruising Magazine Street to go to various stores, including a barber for Tom and a gift card donation for Build Day for me. A quiet weekend, but a good one.

Oh! We used our Living Social coupon for Cafe Atchafalaya for breakfast/brunch on Saturday. I had the steak and eggs and Tom had the Bananas Foster french toast. The steak and eggs were good, and the home fries that came with them were *excellent*. Best I've had for a long, long time. Tom loved his french toast, it came with a boozy syrup/sauce and was made with french bread. They also had a make your own bloody mary bar (mmmm, pickled okra) and the coffee was very tasty. It was our one meal out all weekend!