Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Action Alert

I will likely be attending both the fundraising planning meeting, as I (sadly) already have experience with fundraising to help victims of random gun violence in New Orleans and I think I can help.  I'll also definitely be at the vigil tomorrow night.  Please let me know if you are planning on coming or if you have any questions.  You can leave me a comment here or you can email me.

From Puentes and LatiNOLA:

Dear LatiNoleans,

As some of you may have heard, our dear friend and colleague Rafael Delgadillo, was shot in the head early Sunday morning. Rafael is stable, conscious, talking, and has full motor control; however, he currently has lost vision and we are unsure whether this will be temporary or permanent. I would ask that your thoughts be with him, his family, and the unknown youth who shot him at a stop sign in Mid City. Please also be with Lakshmi, who was a passenger in the car. Both of them struck a parked car while trying to escape; Lakshmi is physically ok. Rafael is expected to move out of ICU today into his private room. The visiting hours will change once he is moved. I invite you to send me an email afrachou@puentesno.org or call me (504) 495-1588 if you have any questions.

Puentes is coordinating a planning meeting on Tuesday at 6pm at 1050 S. Jeff Davis Pkwy, 3rd floor lunch room, to plan for a fundraiser for Rafael and for a larger effort to address the systemic causes of youth violence in our city. This latter effort is only beginning to take shape but the aim is to channel people's anger and grief into a movement. A separate meeting will take place to discuss this in full, date TBD. Tuesday's meeting will include some of our partner organizations, but also volunteers from the community and personal friends of Rafael who are interested in assisting with the planning of an event. For those of you who are unable to join our planning committee we will keep you posted with more information as this event is planned.

On Wednesday, Puentes will hold a vigil on Cabrini Bridge over Bayou St. John at 6pm. Please join us as we come together to reflect and pray for a full recovery. We will have a recorder on hand so Rafael can hear uplifting stories and comments from those who are present. Feel free to bring a poem, quote, song, or just a few words to encourage him during his recovery.

His family is forever grateful for all the love and support they have received thus far which has been reflected in the number of friends, colleagues and family who have visited him and also the messages he has received on facebook. They know he is blessed given the circumstances and recognize the power of prayer and support he is receiving from our community.

In peace and solidarity,

The Puentes Family

Monday, September 26, 2011

On a lighter note...

Back to eating in New Orleans, always a pretty good time, yes?  Better than talking about innocent people getting shot in the head. (pretty much everything is, in my opinion.)

Anyway, I wanted to report that Tom and I checked out a new pop-up in our general vicinity- Streats McGee - Streats' Mobile Global Deli, serving at Cafe Rani on Magazine. Found out about it through New Orleans Needs More Food Trucks on FB. It was really good!  The menu:

We both desired and therefore ordered the Curry Chicken Salad Panini, which was excellent, although maybe not technically a panini.  It was on very nice flatbread, had sweet and heat and crunch and spice and herbs. Really delicious. We also shared an order of the pierogi, which are always delightful. I mean, potato stuffed pasta!  What's not to love?  with fried/sauteed onions and a very generous dollop of sour cream, I was almost able to carbo-load my way out of a pretty crappy mood. Washed it all down with an Abita Fall Harvest Ale, sat outside under the giant oak tree in the Cafe Rani courtyard.

Ran into Karen from Tsai along with one of the new folks on board, who will be bringing some Thai flava to the mix.  Looking forward to their thing on Saturday.  Check it out!

Oh! We finished up our meal at La Divinia where I had the "Classy" chocolate gelato and Tom had the honey-ginger sorbetto, which practically had a sign on it that said "HI TOM, PLEASE EAT ME I AM YOUR PERFECT ONE TRUE SORBETTO FLAVOR."

Then we walked home, counting cats and tiny salamanders that crossed our paths.  Because we're dorks like that.

Random Violence is... Random

I try to talk about the culture of New Orleans here on this blog as I experience it.  Most of the time it's about food, music, festivals, cocktails, parades, second lines, recovery, neighborhoods...but a big part of New Orleans culture is, regrettably enough, street violence.  It's part of the narrative of this city.  Before Katrina, during Katrina, after Katrina, Uptown, Downtown, Central City, Bywater, Mid-City, Treme... it fills our newspapers and crime blotters.  It is invariably mentioned in the same breath as any of the many wonderful things about the city. I try not to think about it too much, otherwise I'd be living my whole life in fear.

Early in the wee hours of Sunday, September 25 (around 1:30-2:00am) a colleague who is on the staff of one of our non-profit partners was driving an NPN co-worker home in her car from her birthday party.  They dropped off an NPN intern in Mid-City and approached a stop sign at North Olympia and Toulouse streets. Random violence followed.  From what I can gather, Rafael tried to escape the carjacking attempt by driving away.  The carjackers shot at the car from behind and shot him in the back of the head.  He lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a nearby house. 

He's in ICU after brain surgery, recovering more or less ok.  However, he hasn't regained his sight yet.  The doctors are hoping that as the swelling in the brain subsides, his vision will return.  But no one knows for sure.

There's a tendency, when crime or tragedy occurs, to blame the victim.  (feel free to read the comments on this story to prove my point) In the past, I've attributed this to racism, classism, sexism, and people being general assholes.  And while those things may still be the case, I wonder if blaming the victim is just a way of trying to feel safe.  If it's their fault, I don't have to worry about it.  I don't do illegal drugs, I don't hang out alone at night, I don't dress provocatively, I'm not oblivious to my surroundings by talking on my cell phone while out and about.  I'm a good person. I'm kind and fair and always try to do the right thing.  I put positive energy out in the universe.  THIS KEEPS BAD THINGS FROM HAPPENING TO ME.  

Only, you know, not so much.  

I know it sounds totally obvious, and certainly on a conscious level, I understand that to be true.  Random violence (or other tragedy) is random.  It can touch anyone at any time.  But my sickened reaction to Rafael's shooting made me realize that on a subconscious level, I still believed that.  I am horrified at what happened to Rafael, and hate like hell that he did absolutely nothing to deserve this kind of ugliness.  He is kind, sweet, engaged in the community and with every person he spoke to.  He is passionate about rebuilding New Orleans and making it a better place.  He works for social justice and to help the voiceless find a way to speak to the powers that be.  He didn't deserve this.

But it happened just the same.

Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  And stay safe out there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Meschiya Lake,

Please be my best friend forever. You're kickass and adorable and can sing like no one's business. Further proof: here.


Note: I knew posting this from my phone would hasten my phone battery's (temporary) death. BUT I DIDN'T CARE. That is how awesome she is.

I would also like to note that we had a lovely time this evening, with tacos, music, beer, and each other. Love this town.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nine Lives - The Musical!

No, seriously. Hanging our at Kajun's Pub (the owner is one of the nine people who were profiled for the book) waiting for the musical version of the book to be performed. Well, partially.

This should be interesting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Irish House disappointment

I wanted to note this because we've had so many good meals at the Irish House for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I've raved about them.  However, we went in after the kitchen switched from the brunch/lunch menu (at 3pm) and before the dinner menu (at 5pm). I ordered the bangers and mash and Tom ordered the fish & chips.  Both of these dishes were absolutely excellent when we ordered them our first visit, when Chef Murphy was actually in the kitchen.  Today, however, both Tom's fish AND chips were underdone (ugh) and my onion gravy and mashed potatoes were bland and the potatoes tasted like instant mashed potatoes.

My advice: don't order food between lunch and dinner.

This was a big disappointment- we really like the food there.  In fact, we had breakfast there earlier in the day and it was great! Sigh.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Birthday dining- Green Goddess and Stella!

When I think "birthday" I think "celebration," and when I think "celebration" I think "food."  (as you probably could have guessed.)  This year I celebrated by lunch at Green Goddess and dinner at Stella! (the exclamation point is part of the name.)

Green Goddess: been wanting to bring Tom here for ages. We got there a bit before noon- wanted to make sure we could get a seat, and that place is TINY.  We ended up sitting outside which was a little humid but mostly quite pleasant.  I've missed eating outside!  

I had a couple cocktails: the Roberto Clemente, which is described as: Ron del Barrilito Rum hits a solid line drive for the gamewinning RBI with Bonal,  Falernum, Mango juice, and other Tiki flourishes on the bases, including a float of Guyana “Lemon Hart 151” Rum to keep the party movin.’"  Delicious!  
The Roberto Clemente

Cocktail drinking action shot

I also had a D-Day Rum Sazerac, which somewhat darkly describes the inspiration as "We invented this to imagine New Orleans captured by German U-boats, leaving us without any Rye whisky to make our home town Sazeracs. “Navy Strength” Smith & Cross rum, Steen’s Cane Syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters and Absinthe rinse."  Which, oooooookaaaaay, but it was in fact an excellent Sazerac.

I had their pork belly special, with a roasted egg, greens, and grits.  There was supposed to be a red-eye gravy on it, but I didn't discern it.  It was all very good though.  The grits were AMAZING. Tom had their Cuban Luau Sandwich, which was "Artisanal salame, pulled pork, manchego, pickled banana peppers, roasted pineapple & garlic aioli on pressed ciabatta."  He freaking LOVED it.
pork belly and accompanying deliciousness

Luau Cuban
That night we went to Stella! for dinner.  We got gussied up (which was annoying considering how many people were in like jeans and conference shirts- does dressing up for a nice restaurant mean that we're rubes?) and departed directly from the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association General Meeting, and got to Stella! a little bit before 8:30, which is when our reservations were for. We were directed to the bar, as our table wasn't ready yet.  After much dithering over their excellent looking cocktail menu (and getting called out by the bartender as being cocktail nerds) I settled on a Bijou, since I'd never had it before.  It had gin, chartreuse, and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.  Since  I love Carpano Antica, I was pleased to find that the Bijou really highlighted the vermouth flavor - it was a very enjoyable cocktail.

After about 15 minutes, the hostess came in and told us that there was a table available, but it wasn't one that people "tend to... want." and that another table would be opening up in about 15 minutes.  We chose to wait for the "better" table, since we were comfortably ensconced at the bar, me with my cocktail and Tom with his Flemish beer.  It was a little sour, and tasty, and low ABV, perfect for Tom the Designated Driver.  (he later had their non-alcoholic drink with cucumber, mint, pineapple, and lime.  Very refreshing and tasty.)

By the time we sat down, it was around 9pm.  We considered the tasting menu and decided to go for the a la carte menu, since I really wanted a couple things that were not on the tasting menu.

We started with an amuse of summer vegetable/fruit salad.

From left to right: cherry tomato with scallion & olive oil; red pepper and cucumber with sesame oil; radish and cucumber with some sort of vinaigrette, and a watermelon "kimchee."
For appetizers, Tom had the "Roasted Potato and Parmesan Gnocchi with Fennel Fronds, Grilled Corn, Asparagus, Scallions,  Lemon Zest and Tomato Confit" which I didn't get a picture of, but he liked it. According to him, it was good, but not mind-blowing.  (when you come to a place like Stella! there's an expectation of mind-blowing.)  I had the "Foie Gras ”BLT” with Duck Paté, Truffle Mayo, Plaquemines Figs and Australian Black Winter Truffles" which was, as our waiter said, LIFE CHANGING.  HOLY CRAP.

It may not look pretty, because I attacked and inhaled it before I remembered to photograph it.
I decided to have a salad course, although Tom declined.  But how could one resist a salad course described thusly: "Soup, Salad and Sandwich ~ Iberico Bellota Ham Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Truffle Potato Puree, Arugula Salad with Baby Beets and Balsamic Reduction"?

So cute!
 The grilled cheese sandwich was divine,the soup and the beets were really delicious, and the arugula salad was... oversalted to the point of inedibility.  I didn't make a fuss, because everything else was so good, though I did mention it (in an understated fashion) to the waiter when he cleared our plates, but it was really the thing that Tom remembered the most from the entire meal, which is really, really unfortunate. Because in a town like New Orleans, where there are so many wonderful choices, something like that will impact our dining decisions in the future.

Onward to the main course!

I had the Duck Five Ways: "Duck Five Ways ~ Szechwan Seared Breast, Lacquered Leg and Thigh, Moo Shoo Pancake Stir-Fry, Duck Miso Broth, Crisp Foie Gras Won Tons and  Currant Cassis Reduction "

The currant-cassis reduction was on the breast.  The laquered leg and thigh was excellent- my favorite of the five.  The soup, breast, and wontons were also really good.  I didn't love the Moo Shoo pancake thing though. It was awkward to eat and didn't really add anything flavor-wise to the overall dish.

Tom had the "Tandoori Roasted Tasmanian King Salmon and Coconut Shrimp Basmati Fried Rice with Crisp Vegetable Spring Rolls, Indian Flatbread and  Spicy Mango Cashew Butter" which sounded Indian in flavor profile but was actually more Chinese in execution.

He did not love the salmon.  I had a bite, and the texture was off-putting to me (very... wet.), but then again, I'm not a huge salmon fan.  Tom finished his, and he really liked the fried rice and spring rolls, though.  Also the bok choi. The flavor profile definitely differed from what he was expecting from the menu description which, again, unfortunate, because while I loved my food, it's not looking good that I'll be able to tempt Tom into coming back to try again and drop another $250-$300 in doing so.

For dessert, we had the Plaquemines Parish peaches with lemon verbana semifreddo, raspberry "caviar," local honey, and some sort of almond "paper."  They brought out the dish with a birthday sparkler which was sweet.

The peaches were divine.  I loved this dessert.  After dessert, I sipped on a cappuccino and enjoyed the lagniappe mignardise:

Left to right: strawberry marshmallow, ginger chocolate truffle, meyer lemon mousse in dark chocolate cup,
pistachio puff , and a salted caramel/nut/toffee thing.
YUM.  They also brought me a little plastic chinese takeout container adorned with ribbon with a little homemade fortune cookie in it, for my birthday.  I haven't had a chance to eat it yet, due to practically exploding with all the delicious food eaten, but when I do I am sure it will still be yummy.

In conclusion: help me talk Tom into giving Stella! another try so I can go and try their tasting menu.  Also, I love living in New Orleans.  Green Goddess and Stella! in one day makes for a happy Nora.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview with TSAI co-creators

In a city not known for catering to vegetarians (and sometimes seeming downright hostile to the notion), the new vegetarian “pop-up” TSAI has been working and playing hard to give vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike an exciting and fresh option for delicious dining.

TSAI co-creators Aron Chang and Karen Wang both were born in Taiwan but grew up in the United States- Aron in California and Karen in Connecticut. They both come down to New Orleans in pursuit of architecture careers. They met each other through the Salvation Army’s EnviRenew, an affordable and sustainable New Orleans housing initiative where, along with several other interns and fellows, they started getting together to cook and share meals together for weekly dinner parties at Karen’s house. It was then, fueled by the frustrations that a food-centric city like New Orleans had such a dearth of vegetarian options, that they bonded over their love of food and cooking to start dreaming about what their vegetarian restaurant might look like.

The result was TSAI, a Chinese word that means “vegetables” and also “dishes” or “cuisine.” According to Karen, “I thought about something that reflected our past, our love for the food culture in Taiwan, and the way we grew up eating. Growing up in our house, meat had a presence, but the majority of dishes were always vegetarian. And that’s reflective of how we use the Chinese language to describe this way of eating...a meal is made up of a few tsai.” 

Aron and Karen were kind enough to answer a few questions about themselves and their blossoming restaurant concept. Since their soft opening on July 16, they’ve cooked and served in the Dragon’s Den on Frenchmen Street, the Bridge Lounge in the Lower Garden District, burritos on the streets of Southern Decadence, and Bring Your Own Bowl rice bowl event in a friend’s Uptown home. Below, a few questions to shed some light what make these creative culinary entrepreneurs tick.

Noodle bowl with buckwheat soba, black bean-mushroom sauce,
bok choi, salted radish, oyster mushrooms, carrots, and Thai basil
(with a tea egg on top)
What inspires your cooking and passion for food?

Aron: I worked on a vegetable farm in New England well before I became a passionate cook, and learned to really love vegetables and to value quality produce there. I also come from a family where we take the time to dine together every day (when I was growing up, and whenever my sisters and I are at home now), and so cooking and wanting to cook for others as a means of being together comes directly from that.

Karen: Growing up in Taiwan, every Saturday my grandmother would cook a lunch with 20 or more dishes. At the time, Saturday was a half work day, so after our half day, all my aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends would come by and eat together. I would wake up Saturday morning, and my grandmother would ask me what I wanted to eat for lunch. Then she would walk me to school, and go to the market. I would come home after school and watch her finish cooking my favorite dishes. It was my favorite part of the week as a child, and my most precious memory of my grandmother and of my family in Taiwan.

What is your favorite restaurant (beside TSAI)?

A: I used to work a couple blocks from The Joint, in the Bywater, and would go there for lunch twice a week. Yes, it's a barbeque place, but I love the sides and the pies there. Coquette at Magazine and Washington is fantastic, as are the Milk BarStein's, and the Cake Cafe.

K: Oh, where to begin. I will begin with Elizabeth’s in the Bywater. I love the dinner there almost as much as I love the brunch. I love Lil’s Dizzy’s on Esplanade, with amazing fried chicken. Adolfo’s, hidden above the Apple Barrel bar on Frenchmen is also really fantastic, with Creole Italian fare. Lillette and Coquette are my favorite fine dining establishments. And, Pho Hoa for noodles and of course, Nine Roses for the other classic Vietnamese dishes.

What 3 things can always be found in your fridge/pantry?

A: Rice, garlic, mushrooms, onions, more mushrooms, broccoli, leafy greens, dried legumes of all sorts, yogurt, peanut butter, strawberry preserves, and eggs.

K: Noodles, eggs, tomatoes...Garlic, onions, lemons, and seasonal produce. So right now it’s summer squash and zucchini.

Inspiration in ingredients and the New Orleans culinary culture leads to Aron’s menu planning: “We start by looking at what's in my pantry, but also at what's available at the farmer's market. Then I work with Karen to build a menu with flavors that are complementary, and even taking into consideration how the different dishes will look next to each other on a plate or in a bowl. We've created a brand new menu every single week, which is a bit crazy, but we want to continue to experiment and bring new dishes to each event while offering some of the more popular dishes again so that there's some continuity to what people can expect from TSAI.”

According to Aron, “It's been exciting and challenging to try to figure out what it takes to draw people to a brand new business in a scene crowded with other pop-ups and restaurants, but we think it is possible, that we can provide something that's truly different, and that the positive feedback from people like you makes us want to do an even better job.” Karen adds, “it’s also been very telling about how, when, and what people like to eat. How they like to order food, if they like dessert, which locations attract which customers are all things we’ve learned in the past few weeks.”

With two months of experimentation in a variety of locations under their belts, the big question is what’s next for TSAI? In the long term, they’d love to open up in a permanent space of their own, but in the meantime they are planning on continuing to create occasions for people to come together and share food, music, and conversation.

People gathering to enjoy TSAI's food, music, and each other's conversation

“We recognize that the people here have a multitude of culinary options to pick from every single day of the week, and so we're trying to identify what it is that we do well, what we provide that is different, and how we might provide a fantastic experience and value for our customers with the resources that we have available to us. After Decadence in the Quarter, we're going to shift our operation to focus more on hosting events that happen less frequently -- perhaps once or twice a month instead of every weekend -- but which allows us to put together a more engaging experience with music and other entertainment, as well as a carefully composed menu that is still creative and built on seasonal and local produce.”

Aron’s favorite dish he’s cooked is the fried tofu dish that was served for their August 6 dinner (sadly, right before Tom and I discovered them.) He would love for everyone to try it, because “the combinations of flavors, colors, and textures in that dish is something I'd like to shoot for with every TSAI menu.” Karen is partial to the Seared Cabbage with Goji Berries and Shiitake Mushrooms, from the same night’s dinner menu. When asked if there was anything they loved to eat that they’d never serve on Tsai’s menu, Aron recalled a pig's blood/intestines/sour cabbage soup that he loved back when he ate meat and Karen thought that stinky tofu would not be a crowd-pleaser either.

It’s when I ask them to describe their perfect meals that their passion for what they are trying to do with TSAI really shines. Aron loves the “unexpected ones that are humble yet completely confident in their simplicity and in their ingredients. I could tell you about the first time I had freshly picked sugar snap peas cooked in butter with a sprinkling of kosher salt, but it just makes me sad that I can't make the same for you right now.” Karen goes on to say, “a perfect meal should be satisfying in many ways, not just for your taste buds. It is made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. It should stimulate multiple senses, be with good company, and filling while leaving you wanting just a little bit more.”

As one of TSAI’s customers, I would say that they succeed in every way.

Join TSAI at one of their upcoming events. They will be hosting food + music events on the first Saturday of every month, starting in October, and will have smaller gatherings in between at diverse locations around the city. More details forthcoming, but here’s what’s happening:

  • 10/1 Saturday Evening: Food + Music at an Uptown Location 
  • 10/16 Sunday Brunch on the Bayou: Taiwanese-inspired menu, on the Cabrini Bridge (max. 30 spots) 
  • 11/5 Saturday Evening: Food + Music at an Esplanade Ridge Location 

You can “like” their Facebook page or keep an eye on their blog for more details.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Takeout Tale

Man, I love Cochon Butcher's sandwiches and bar food.  But to be honest, the real reason I want to get takeout from there is to get my hands on their cookies.  Damn, they are something special.  Mmm!

I also enjoyed their pork belly sandwich served with mint and cucumber on white bread.  Served with their housemade potato chips and pickles.

But I am flat out addicted to their mocha chip cookies. So much.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Charlie's in Harahan

The sign says "Charles" but it's actually "Charlie's," I'm pretty sure

I've been wanting to check out Charlie's Seafood since I heard that it was bought and run by Frank and Mama Brigtsen of Brigtsen's Restaurant uptown, where we have had many excellent meals. It's a bit outside of New Orleans on Jefferson Highway- we got there via River Road which was a nice drive on a sunny day.

Charlie's is your basic seafood casual restaurant with top notch ingredients cooked expertly. Coming from the Brigtsens, I expected nothing less, and they did not disappoint. It was hard to decide- I mean, look at this menu! I was very tempted by the fried seafood plate, but my doctor's warning about avoiding fried food because of my high blood pressure was in my head so I ordered the seafood gumbo (chock full of oysters, shrimp, and andouille) and the UN-fried seafood plate which had: Grilled Fish with Shrimp and Crabmeat Bordelaise, Charlie's Baked Oysters, and Shrimp Cornbread. It was freaking awesome.


Platter o' awesome seafood
Tom got the Shrimp Calas, which are Creole Rice Fritters and also delicious. He also got the Fried Catfish and Grits, but was quite full after the first course of fried food.

Calas- that's a Creole rice fritter, doncha know.

Catfish-check, cheese grits- check, creole tomato sauce- check.
I have got to go back and try the actually fried seafood platter on a day that does not follow my eating several pieces of Leah Chase's delicious fried chicken. And also, like, all of the daily specials. And all the appetizers, like the "Dirty Boy" and the Meat Pies and Seafood Gratin and the Shrimp Remoulade and the Italian Salad. Po-Boys look good too...

Dooky Chase (finally!)

So anyway, I finally put two and two together to figure out that Dooky Chase was about a 5 minute drive from my office, and that it was unacceptable that I've lived here for over a year without partaking of this legendary Creole/soul food establishment presided over by Ms. Leah Chase, chef, New Orleans ambassador, and national treasure.

Wearing crocs and chef pants. COME ON! She's MADE OF AWESOME. And, well, so is her food.

You open the door that says "Dining Room Entrance Only" and immediately see pictures of the POTUS Obama eating her food and posing with her.

You enter the richly appointed dining room filled with beautiful local art and see all the movers and shakers in suits eating Ms. Chase's gumbo and peach cobbler. I sat by myself in the corner and watched everything- tourists, older neighborhood folks obviously celebrating something, a birthday or anniversary, folks in suits and ties talking business and politics.

The guy behind me was on his cell phone bitching that he wanted to come here for lunch because he hadn't been for a while and he didn't want to see no one he knew. Which is, of course, practically impossible in New Orleans, so I don't know what he was thinking. But of course he ran into several people- a priest who gave him the business about not going to church and a young turk politician who was taken aback when this curmudgeonly fellow asked why people say that they are "doing good" when there is injustice, corruption, ignorance, and evil in the world. No wonder he didn't want to run into anyone he knew.

Well, all that local color aside, let's discuss the food. Which was sublime.

Lemonade- delicious and obviously homemade. Seafood-okra gumbo and french bread. Buffet with salad, pasta/olive salad, potato salad, sausage, rice and shrimp & lima bean stew, greens, oyster pasta, fried eggplant casserole, fried whole fish (still on the bone) and glorious, glorious fried chicken. Everything was delicious, fresh, made from scratch, and soul satisfying.

And peach cobbler for dessert.

Ms. Leah came out to do the rounds early on during my visit - I hadn't seen my waiter yet even. She came out and talked to a couple tables, posed for pictures with the celebrating party, and came over to me. "What are you doing here by yourself?" she asked. Fair question. Folks around here share their meals with the friends and family. My being alone ran counter to that philosophy. I told her that my office was nearby and there wasn't really anyone around to go out with, and seeing that it was a beautiful Friday afternoon... "You DESERVE this!" Ms. Chase said. "You deserve a little something special, to take care of yourself." I told her I couldn't wait to try her food and she said she'd make sure I was taken care of. Soon after, Randall came round to take care of me.

I ate my gumbo, and then went up and filled my plate and ate it all up. Although starting to feel a little full, I still wanted another piece of fried chicken and some potato salad. And... some sausage. Randall came by while I was eating that fried chicken and warned me not to fill up, I still had peach cobbler coming.

He brought me my cobbler and another lemonade, and I ate up that heavenly cobbler and washed it down with that cool delicious lemonade and felt like I could never be hungry or thirsty again in this lifetime.

To the gentleman I eavesdropped upon: there may not be much good in the world. But there is sure a lot of good right here at Dooky Chase.

The weekend ballad of Tom and Lee

Tom is my husband, and Lee is Tropical Storm Lee who decided to join in on all the birthday celebrating although he was not invited (though, to be fair, he may have been crashing Southern Decadence instead.)

Our friends Paul and Emma from the UK were looking forward very much to some hot and humid New Orleans weather. And they got it... for a day. They arrived on Tuesday, we picked them up from the airport (an airport run where we amusingly discovered that you can get to go cups from the Acme airport bar as long as you aren't going through security), and we went to Juan's Flying Burrito for burritos and mojitos. They also bestowed upon us much Cadbury Dairy Milk and Fruit & Nut as well as some local Bristol brewery beers, which will be sampled and reviewed in my beer blog in the (hopefully) near future. They went out and about on their one hot day on Wednesday and met up with us for dinner at Dante's Kitchen that night. Oh, that was super nice. I hadn't been there for dinner before, and it was great. Really fun cocktails (the Plum Luck "Plum-infused brandy, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, thyme black tea, lemon, Peychaud’s bitters, cinnamon garnish" and the Gentry Fizz "House infused peach bourbon, Dubonnet Rouge, lime, honey, Peach bitters" were especially enjoyed) and excellent food.

Our starters (after the complimentary spoon bread with molasses butter came out) were excellent- Tom had the corn and crab soup (one of his favorites this time of year), I had the watermelon salad which seemed so interesting with the following ingredients: "griddled halloumi cheese, kalamata olives, mint & parsley, huckleberry balsamic vinegar & oil" that I had to try it. I mean, watermelon and olives? With FRIED CHEESE? All righty.

It was a good call thankfully, because it was excellent. VERY ambitious and inspirational flavor pairings. Emma got the (head-on) shrimp and grits which she loved, loved, loved. After we explained what grits were. She would go on to try several restaurant's interpretations. Paul, our vegetarian, had the roasted sweet pepper salad, which he quietly enjoyed.

As is the case in many places, we enjoyed the entrees too, but not to the extent of the appetizers. Tom and Paul both had the local farm vegetable plate which had many veggies along with a quite large and tasty goat cheese and onion croquette, I had the chicken under the brick, which I'd heard amazing things about (I don't normally order chicken at restaurants), which was tasty, and Emma, after much indecision (everything looked so good!!) got the Confit Pork Steak and Spare Ribs plate. We were intrigued by dessert, but quite full, so we ordered a dessert cocktail which I can't find on the website, but it was called Goodnight Moon and it was OMG DELICIOUS.

The next day, Tom, Emma, and Paul went on a swamp tour by Pearl River Eco-Tours, which they enjoyed- Tom said that he wanted to bring me back there soon so I could experience it myself. They picked me up for lunch and we went to Surrey's (our vegetarian guest go-to) where Emma had more shrimp and grits, Paul had a spicy vegetarian poboy (or maybe it was a normally spiced poboy kicked up with hot sauce at the table) which gave him the hiccups, and Tom and I spit the crab melt sandwich and their cuban sandwich.

Later that evening, we went back to the airport to pick up our friends from the North Shore of Boston, Michael and Law. We scooted around the worst of the Saints (preseason!!) football traffic and got them to their hotel, the Roosevelt. The Roosevelt happened to have one of the swankiest bars in the city in it, the Sazerac Bar, so we hung out there over some sophisticated cocktails and whatnot till it was time to eat. We tried MiLa but it was closed (at like 8:15... so, wtf?) and we hightailed it over to Herbsaint, where everything was awesome, but I was pretty tired and had had a lot of cocktails and wine (they had a delicious rose wine flight tasting I indulged in), so I can't recall the specifics. I remember Tom ordering a side of dirty rice and proclaiming it the best he's had, perhaps with some geographic or chronological qualifier, I cannot recall. However: Herbsaint: GOOD.

The next day we met up with Michael and Law for lunch at MiLa, and we very much enjoyed their 3 course prix fixe- corn and crab soup or salad, flounder or veal cheeks, rice pudding or banana ice cream. It was all excellent, as usual. Since Law can't eat eggs, desserts are usually off limits to her, but they had this chocolate sorbet that was SO good. Without the dairy that often coats the tongue, the chocolate flavor was incredibly intense and pure. Well done!

After that we went to the NOLA Brewing tour, which was lots of fun as always. Now I know I haven't mentioned it since the start of this blog entry, but Thursday it started raining, and by Friday, it was just flat our miserable pissing and pouring down raining. Friday may have been the roughest, rain wise. Saturday and Sunday at least had breaks in the rain. But we were able to introduce Michael and Law to Paul, and all three of them to NOLA's beers. Local friends Kara and Trey showed up as well, and I was able to congratulate NOLA Brewing VP Dylan on his engagement and brewer Melanie kindly sent me home with a birthday sneak peek bottle of their new smoked malt beer, Smoky Mary. Which we brought back to our apartment and tried immediately. Verdict- Tom LOVED it, so it was a great early birthday present indeed. Hm, at some point Michael, Law, Tom, and I went to the Avenue Pub for a pint and to try the Franconian lagers on cask that were being offered.

That night we all went to Domenica for dinner. Our friends Dom and Joe and their daughter Erin were meeting us there after having arrived from Northern CA the night before, so it was great to see them. Domenica was great- it accommodated our party of nine including an 8 year old and a vegetarian beautifully. We all chatted and had a nice time, ordering pasta and pizzas and the like. We got the chef's choice antipasti/salumi platter which was pretty enormous and delicious. It included pickled fruits and marinated vegetables, as well as cheese, meats, and savory beignets. Recommended.

Afterward, Dom was keen to try a Sazerac in the Sazerac Bar, so he, Tom, Paul, Emma, and myself, headed over there (Domenica and the Sazerac Bar are both in the Roosevelt Hotel) and had a round of Sazeracs to close out the evening.

Saturday, again, was a rainy day, and we met up with Law, Michael, Dom, Joe, and Erin at the Audubon Aquarium, which was pretty fun times. I especially liked the giant turtle, otters, and frogs. And the penguins of course!

After that, Law, Michael, Tom and myself met up with Paul and Emma at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, where they'd made some friends already (of course!).

We had a cocktail and then skedaddled off to find something to eat. We tried Mr. B's, but since it was between lunch and dinner, they didn't have room for the 6 of us, so we hustled down to the Alpine to indulge Law's and Emma's cravings for BBQ shrimp.

After that, we all parted ways, planning to see each other next at Tom's party the following evening.

We were happy to spend a little quality time with Dom and Joe and Erin in our neighborhood- we went to the Rum House for dinner, which was a big hit (that duck duck goose taco and the lamb vindaloo taco were amazing!)

Then to Sucre for dessert (La Divinia was closed, sadly. However, it is nice to have multiple options for gelato in the neighborhood!) Erin and Joe especially enjoyed looking at the beautiful confections that Sucre had on display. They also enjoyed running and splashing about in the rain, which was a good thing because by the time we came out of the Rum House, it was POURING. Heh. Dropped them off at their hotel and thus ended another excellent New Orleans day.

Sunday was PARTY DAY! We didn't do much of anything all day except lounge about the house and then we went to the Avenue Pub Balcony to have our (what ended up being) private event. (there had been renovations the previous couple of weeks and it wasn't quite open to the public yet.) The Avenue house chef, Chef Bull/Joel White prepared a wonderful array of food for us. I can't emphasize enough how great he was to work with- he really wanted to make food that Tom loved and went the extra mile to make sure he did. Example: house smoked bluefish. Chef Bull tracked down the fish and smoked it even though we were in the middle of a tropical storm. Amazing. He also served up duck pastrami sandwiches, potato salad, and hummus. Everything was awesome. We also had a non-traditional red velvet doberge cake from Debbie Does Doberge, which everyone raved about. The beers that Polly put up there for us were excellent as well: Mikkeller's Drink in the Sun, Sierra Nevada Tumbler brown ale, Brooklyn Brewing's Concoction, Moylan's Moylander Imperial IPA, and Unibroue's Blanc de Chambly. Jaye the bartender was wonderful, and we thank Polly and the Avenue Pub staff for letting us use the space. We couldn't think of anyplace we'd rather celebrate Tom's big 4-0.

Afterward, we went to Pete's which involved singing along to the jukebox and Tom drinking Johnny Walker Black. Good times!

Monday was a chill out day. Tom and I stayed at home while our friends did their own things. I started some red beans (and made a separate vegetarian batch for Paul) and we entertained at our house. It was very relaxing, just what I needed. After dinner was done, we took Paul and Emma to Frenchmen Street, where we went to the Spotted Cat and listened to some music- Dominic Grillo & The Frenchman St. All Stars.

Still very low key. Very, very nice.

Tuesday was Tom's Actual Birthday! We got gussied up and went to Commander's Palace for lunch with Michael and Law on their way our of town. Tuesday was absolutely beautiful, weather-wise - sadly, everyone was leaving. Commander's Palace was a blast, as always. Food was great, service was top notch, and we had some great wines they had discounted- they were doing their annual cellar purge. Company was fantastic and it was just a wonderful time. Commander's never disappoints.

Although very full from lunch and sleepy from the long mid-day nap we took, we had one more visitor to meet and dine with- we met up with Shana and local friend Sarah at Rue 127. We all had 2 courses of appetizers and desserts. It was yummy and laid back. (Note my descriptions are shorter and shorter as each day passes, I am sure you readers must be grateful.)

After dinner, we got home and tucked into bed, our long weekend behind us. We spent some time with people so dear to us in the city we love. We'd eaten, drunk, laughed, ducked the rain, talked, and relaxed. Thank you to everyone who made this weekend what it was. Fantastic.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Still behind!

Also coming up: an interview with the creators of the new vegetarian pop-up, Tsai!

Soon, I promise! (OK, this weekend- hopefully that is soon enough.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Place holder

So much happening, so little time to write about it! My awesome husband Tom's 40th birthday is today and I threw a party for him and several people from far off lands (Northern CA, England, Boston) came to town to celebrate with him. Right when Tropical Storm Lee arrived, of course.

I cannot even begin to analyze the meals and activities right now, but will hopefully do so in the near future, perhaps over the weekend. But here is an outline of what fun times were had:

Acme airport bar
Juan's Flying Burrito in the Lower Garden District

Dante's Kitchen

Surrey's Cafe
Sazerac Bar

NOLA Brewing tour
Sazerac Bar

Audubon Aquarium
Carousel Bar
The Alpine House
The Rum House

Party! at Avenue Pub, catering by Chef Joel White, and cake by Debbie Does Doberge
After party- Pete's

homemade red beans & rice (with an experimental vegetarian version in addition to the classic)
Frenchmen St/The Spotted Cat

Commander's Palace
Rue 127

Until I return to fill this out with exciting and delicious detail, feel free to take a look at my beer/cocktail/food/etc walking tours of Mid-City and Magazine Street. These are hosted on my other blog, NOLA Beer Bitch.