Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vaguely vegetarian and definitely delicious adventures

So, due to weather related delays up North, we had less time with my aunt Laurel and uncle Brock than we'd all hoped. Instead of arriving Thursday, they came in on Friday afternoon.

I'd taken Friday off already, so I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself- I dealt with some condo-related business (thank god for property managers) and actually took a pretty significant nap. I was definitely still feeling under the weather, I guess.

Around lunchtime I figured I'd try to get moving so that I could hit the NOLA Brewing brewery tour with bonus King Cake tasting (King Cake provided by Haydel's- the tasting part was really to see what NOLA beer paired best with it.) Went to Coquette, although my appetite wasn't so much there. Seriously, all I want to do when I'm sick is eat soup and burritos. But, I figured, if I was gonna drink some beer, I needed to start on a full stomach.

Coquette lunch report: had the three course lunch, because I loved the look of the gumbo in the apps. Greens and bacon, which I hadn't had before. Also had a nicely seasoned hardboiled egg yolk paste spread on a slice of bread floating in the center. My main course was a lamb neck braise with merguez sausage and barley. Tasty- hearty, earthy, but rich. My dessert ticket got lost, so I ended up getting my carrot cake to go - which was fine, because I was about to go eat a bunch of king cake. But the bartender was nice, he comped my cocktail, which was pretty much exactly what I needed. It was called "Good For What Ails You" and it had Earl Grey infused vodka, Fernet, honey, and mint, served warm in a teacup. Man, that definitely helped cure what ailed me. Temporarily, of course.

Onto NOLA Brewing! Drank a bunch of beer, including what Kirk calls "Brewer's Crack" which is a couple ounces of the Hopitoulous IPA and then filled with Irish Channel Stout. They also had a cask of the Blond dry-hopped with Centennial (???) and another kind of hops. ALSO, we were able to try the new seasonal, the Flambeaux Red, which was delicious. Malty, but dry with a balanced hop bitterness. Loved it. Met some homebrewers and beer drinkers and neighbors, actually. Very fun. Got slightly drunker than I'd intended. But I ate several slices of traditional king cake, so at least I got that done this week. The king cake was awesome as well. There may be video of me out there babbling about pairing it with the Brewer's Crack.

I should also add, it was a glorious day in New Orleans. Clear blue skies, sunny, temps in the high 60s-low 70s. Just made one be happy to be out and about in the city enjoying life.

Made a plan to meet Laurel and Brock at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, which I'd never been to, actually. I got there a little early and sat at the bar and ordered a Sazerac. The Sazerac's Sazerac had gained the Sazerac Seal of Approval given out by The New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society. I actually needed to get another shot of simple syrup for it. I also had one of their Manhattans, and a Hemingway dacqueri. Brock had a Southern Gentleman, which was pretty good looking- had raspberries and mint all muddled up with bourbon.

Onward! We had 7:30 reservations at Boucherie, one of the only places in the city that always has a vegetarian option. Brock had the moussaka, Laurel had the Caesar Salad and the Duck Confit small plate with candied kumquats and fried chickpeas. I had the blackened shrimp and grit cake and then a lamb phyllo concoction that was on special. Tom had the shrimp bisque and then the amberjack. We also had a couple bottles of lovely spanish white wine. (I later tried to balance the remains of the second bottle on the corner of the restaurant's front porch and it fell to the ground- so sad!) We also had dessert- I tried the Thai chili chocolate pie for the first time as well. The food, as well as the service, was amazing. We were possibly slightly rambunctious, and no one batted an eye. Thank you, James and Chef Nate!

The next day we picked Laurel and Brock up at their hotel and drove up to the Lower Garden District to have breakfast at Surrey's. Brock had the biscuits and mushroom gravy and I had the biscuits and sausage gravy, Tom had the corned beef hash and Laurel had the omelette with avocado and brie and crabmeat on top. Coffee was a flowing and the table we were at was decoupaged with calendar pinup girls from the 50s. Everyone was happy. We drove downtown and checked out the RiverWalk- just wandered around a bit. Took a drive uptown through the Irish Channel, up Magazine, through Audubon... ended up in Mid City and wandered down to Broadmoor to have lunch at J'Anita's at the Rendon Inn.

We were welcomed with open arms by Kimmie and Craig, as always. Brock had the Adult Grilled Cheese (no bacon), Laurel had the Swamp Reuben, Tom had the Sirloin Bites, and I had a bacon cheeseburger. The Hopitoulous wasn't pouring, so Tom and I had the Bear Republic Racer 5, and Brock enjoyed a NOLA Blond. Funnily enough, Peter Caddoo, the NOLA Brewing brewmaster was also at the Rendon Inn. Craig sent out a little lagniappe - a bite of his take on a roast beef po'boy. SO GOOD- he smokes the beef AND smokes the gravy- dressed with mayo, lettuce, sundried tomatoes and capers. I recommend everyone keep an eye out for this special!

After lunch, we drove out through the Bywater and into the Lower Ninth- we went over to the Village and Laurel and Brock got to meet Mack and Joe and even Smitty! I thought that we'd be giving Laurel and Brock a tour of the place, but it turned out we all got a tour of the amazing renovations that a a contracting company called Archer Western working in the Lower Ninth on the levee and other projects. Apparently one of the folks working with Archer Western/the Walsh Group came to Mack to rent out their function space and saw all the improvements that were needed and just started working! Absolutely incredible.

They've replaced the flooring, and put in lights. They donated a washer and dryer and built an area to house them. They've regraded the front of the building so that mud and puddles don't prevent people from parking and entering. They're making a new stage for the large space in back and re-painting the walls. They partitioned off the garden area and are surrounding it with a proper fence, and are repaving the back lot. I couldn't believe my eyes. They've been working day and night- I guess the company is having a meeting there next week and they're donating the time and labor to get the place in ship shape before then.

I think Laurel and Brock were mighty impressed at the Village and the work that everyone was doing to help it succeed. After our visit we drove around the Lower Ninth- looked at the Make It Right houses and drove to the Bayou and through the eerily quiet neighborhoods still in disarray and disrepair. It makes an impression. We made our way back to their hotel via Decatur Street in the Quarter- very slowly- there was a lot of foot and car traffic.

After a bit of an afternoon nap, we met up at Le Meritage for a lovely dinner with tasty cocktails, nice wine, good food, and great service. There was a Texas wedding happening out in the courtyard- the groomsmen had formal black Stetsons and the wedding dress was poofy beyond belief! (and the flower girl's was a miniature version of the bridal dress, heh.) We had a great time. Le Meritage had a great and relaxed atmosphere and we had a lot of fun. I had the duck confit and fried egg salad and then the port tenderloin plate (it came with a johnnycake and pickled vegetables.) Tom had the pork tenderloin and then the lamb. Brock had the mushroom risotto, and Laurel had shrimp & grits and then the scallop. Laurel had the trio of housemade ice creams- strawberry, caramel thyme, and toffee. The rest of us had the sticky toffee pudding.

We drove our visitors back to their hotel on Canal Street (down Toulouse and crossed over Bourbon Street, that was exciting.) We dropped them off and I think they had a great time, unless they lied a whole lot.

Come visit, I swear I will show you a good time!


  1. I just found your blog a week ago but I am really enjoying it. I travel to New Orleans around once a year for work and have found some favorite places in the little free time I get, BUT I will be honeymooning there at the end of March with my chef husband who hasn't been there since he was 13.

    Glad to hear the NOLA Brewing Co. was fun — I'm not a beer drinker — more into ciders and good cocktails (another reason to read your blog) but my future husband might enjoy visiting the brewery, and I was wondering about it.

    Looking forward to reading more leading up to the trip! Cheers! LL

  2. Louise, they do tours every Friday at 2pm- totally free and pretty much all the free samples you can handle. The folks there are terrific, I highly recommend the tour. I know you know your way around NO, but feel free to ask any specific questions!

    Ooh, the end of March will be nice down here. Between Mardi Gras and JazzFest madness and the weather should be pretty decent.