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!