Monday, December 10, 2012

December Weekend in New Orleans

Sometimes New Orleans is so beautiful it hurts. Saturday night, we had the pleasure of attending a party at Muriel's in Jackson Square, where we could sit on the balcony and look over Jackson Square- musicians, tourists, festive lights, wedding second line. Just enjoying the beauty and relative peacefulness in the middle of the city.

We also got to check out the famed and mysterious Seance Room, along with the table that's always set for... ghosts, I guess? But the party also served up Muriel's equally famous goat cheese crepes with creole shrimp sauce so it was ALL good. (I love those crepes)

So, Muriel's! Kind of creepy, but I guess that's how it goes with super old buildings owned by super crazy and/or rich folks. It was awesome, though. I had a wonderful time just enjoying New Orleans being New Orleans.

Got to experience another side of New Orleans being New Orleans the next day at the New Generations and Brothers of Change annual second line, which also featured TBC (To Be Continued) Brass Band and Hot 8 Brass Band. They were phenomenal! We camped out at the corner of Carondelet and Washington waiting for them and we could hear the music all they way up Carondelet.

Man, I love second lines. They are just so good for my soul and they fill my heart up with pure joy.

So from the French Quarter to Central City, the beauty of the city can be found every which way.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Great Eats

I've been neglecting this blog for the past couple weeks, as I've been doubling down on my beer blog, which has been renamed and rebranded - check it out! Nora's Beer Blog.

But while I've been drinking great beer and talking about that, I've been eating some terrific food, of course, because I live in New Orleans and that's how we do. A few experiences of note:

I am addicted to Cleaver & Co's sausages. They are SO GOOD. We have had the garlic pork, the toulouse, the cumin & cilantro, the andouille, and we have a few others in our freezer. We used the andouille along with their house made tasso and pickled pork to make fantastic red beans a couple nights ago. OMG, I swear. They were our turkey provider for Thanksgiving, as well, and when a harebrained scheme I had to butterfly the turkey well in advance of Thanksgiving Day ended up not working our too well, they were able to help us out with replacing it. And it was so delicious. Probably my best turkey to date. We just ordered a 2 rib roast for our Christmas dinner from them. They also sell bacon, duck pastrami, duck confit, lard, schmaltz, tallow, duck fat, various meat broths, meat pies, tons of offal, and meatballs, boudin, cracklins, and of course all the meat from nose to tail of beef, pork, chicken, duck and sometimes lamb and goat. We are pretty pleased that they are around.

Lamb meatball sammich at Ancora a couple weeks ago- wowza. Two Run farm lamb meats meatball sub on Chef Jeff Talbot's incredible bread. Ancora's sandwiches are definitely in my top 4 sandwiches of the city (that list tends to shift around... right now, I'd say 1) Ancora 2) Gracious 3) Cochon Butcher. Also Stein's Deli. (who am I kidding, I can't pick just 3)  (this list excludes specialty sandwiches like burgers, muffelettas, and bahn mi, each of which has their own top 3... or so)

Speaking of Gracious Bakery + Cafe... have y'all been? You have, right? Because... awesome sandwiches, pastries, dessert, coffee, soup, fresh baked baguettes, awesome staff, and general perfection. I love their chicken salad sandwich, their ham & cheese, roast beef, meatloaf, pork loin... pumpkin whoopie pies, cupcakes with the best buttercream frosting I've ever had, sticky toffee pudding cake, chocolate caramel almond tart, gingerbread, brioche (baked with or without brownie addition)... It's near my office and I'm there generally about twice a week.

NOLA Smokehouse is still doing its thing at various days and places. I caught them at The Bricks a week or so ago, and had a smoked shrimp chowder and lacquered meatballs to die for. Then we went back a couple days later at Toups and devoured a bowl of Rob's Brunswick stew along with brisket burnt ends served with Bentons ham lightly steamed greens, and BBQ baklava, which was insanely good.

BBQ Baklava

Brisket burnt ends

Brunswick stew

The Brunswick stew was like the best hangover helper ever. Chatting with Amanda Toups while eating delicious food is also a joy, and I need to get over there for dinner soon to do so over Chef Toups' delicious food. Also, check out NOLA Smokehouse back at The Bricks on December 12. The menu looks awesome, get there early because he sells out quick!

I was so excited when I heard that Chris deBarr was opening his new restaurant, Serendipity, in the American Can Company apartment/shopping area, because it's right near where I work in Mid City. He just started at the beginning of the month to serve lunch on Fridays, which I was able to investigate as soon as I heard about it (which was the second Friday they did it.) Holy smokes. I had some delicious cold brewed mint iced tea and Hawaiian "cochon de lei", pulled pork served slider style in between slabs of cornbread. Came with beautifully cooked greens and potato chips. Chef Chris came out to let me know that they'll be doing lunch on Fridays through December, and then in the new year they'll be opening up the lunch service up to more days during the week. This place I also have to get to for dinner. The food was amazing, the service was super friendly, and I could have hung out there all afternoon. But as that wasn't a possibility, I was able to get in and out within my lunch hour, so that was quite convenient.

Got out to Saffron NOLA last night for dinner. I wanted to eat everything on the menu. I settled for tomato soup, rum soaked curried lamb chops, garlic naan, and lychee-cherry ice cream (fig-praline ice cream was sold out SAD FACE but not really, since the ice cream I had was delicious.) Tom had a rainbow trout special which was phenomenal.

Lamb chops, rogan josh sauce, garlic naan

They are doing a brunch on January 13 focusing on Delhi street foods, which I am happy to share with you now that I have made my own reservation.

Went to Freret Street Market's "Frerestivus" earlier today and had some awesome food and drink. Grabbed some shrimp and beef ya-ka-mein from the Ya-Ka-Mein lady herself, Ms. Linda. Also had a couple empanadas from Sur Empanadas, iced coffee from The French Truck, mango iced tea from Creole Cupcakes, and bought some bread from Great Harvest Bread Company (OMG, the bread lady was so super nice!) We also wandered around and got our customary annual New Orleans ornament, some local art, and the soap from the Bayou Soap Company that Tom loves beyond reason.

Chef Pete with Hush Supper Club is still hitting it out of the park on a weekly basis- had his version of Tex-Mex last week (the chicken burrito was amazing) and his take on Indian food this week (including something called Bombay Mac & Cheese, which... I don't know what to expect, but I bet it's awesome.) He's got some Christmas specials he'll be announcing soon, so keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter for that.

I haven't been to Pizza Delicious since they opened up their permanent location! This is just no good whatsoever. OMG THEY HAVE THEIR POTATO PIZZA IN ROTATION, WHY SO MUCH GOOD FOOD TO CHOOSE FROM, IT'S KILLING ME.

So anyway, in case you were wondering if New Orleans was still the best place to eat in the world, I hope I set your mind at ease. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bits & Bobs

Excited about McClure's opening up on Magazine Street (4800 block, across from Le Bon Temps) by the new year!

La Petite Grocery is open for Sunday and Monday dinners...

Pizza Delicious is open at its permanent location for a couple weeks now! 617 Piety, with a new website and everything. Still doing special pizzas on a rotating menu, so check out the site to know what your delicious options will be.

Are you all getting sandwiches for lunch at Ancora every weekend? 'Cause you really, really should. Don't be disappointed that they don't serve pizza! I know, it's really good, but so are their sandwiches.

NOLA Smokehouse will be popping up at The Bricks Courtyard Bar & Grill, 735 St. Joseph St. in the CBD on November 28, 5:30-10pm (there is talk of stuffed chicken wings and smoked shrimp chowder) and at Toups Meatery (one of my favorite meateries!) on December 6, 11am-6pm.

Missed the Oak Street PoBoy Festival, but still loving on Killer PoBoys at the Erin Rose.

Holy shit, I had an amazing dinner at Coquette the other night- some sort of butternut squash filled pasta tossed with, like, fried chicken to start and a stunning veal chop. Dessert was a beautiful (and tasty) deconstructed apple fritter thing, and they are currently aging spirits for cocktails and sipping, which are DELICIOUS. (the martini made with the aged Genever is to die for.) Go get you some! Just another Tuesday night in New Orleans.

Went to Chicago, ate delicious donuts, at Frontera Grill (Rick Bayless's flagship), Girl & The Goat, and all sorts of other delicousness. Man, they know how to do donuts out there. We went to Do-Rite Donuts and Glazed & Infused. I may discuss Girl & the Goat and/or Frontera in another blog post, we shall see.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! We are headed to Austin (by car) and are looking forward to it quite a lot.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cleaver & Co.

My dream store has opened... and it's a butcher shop.

I first met the folks behind Cleaver & Co., Simone Reggie and and Seth Hamstead, during the Eat Local event at the Zeitgeist Center back in June. They had all sorts of pork cuts and we talked a while about what they were planning to do- find and build relationship with local, small meat farmers, get whole cows and pigs, and break them down inhouse and sell everything, nose to tail. I can't remember if they already had their location on Baronne Street finalized (right around the corner from Brewstock) at that time, but I was already in love with this idea and hoped like hell it wouldn't be derailed from lack of capital or bureaucracy or whatever roadblocks exist to stomp the dreams of budding entrepreneurs these days.

Five months later, their shop opened, and we were there! There were long strips of butcher's paper hung on the wall with masking tape, listing the cuts available, with a strikethrough when sold out. Simone recognized us from our conversation at the Zeitgeist and Seth was friendly and incredibly helpful, traits that have continued every single time we see him.

We bought some chicken thighs and a pork shoulder, to be roasted and braised in the slow cooker, respectively. They weren't cheap, but it's good to have the opportunity to pay the true cost of the meat, not factory farmed meat subsidized by the government and wreaking havoc on the environment. It means we cook and eat less meat at home, but I think it's worth it.

They started making sausage, boudin, meatballs, meat pies, and bacon. Plus a bunch of other stuff. We went back a second time and got some hangar steak, duck legs, and garlic sausage. We used the duck legs and sausage to make cassoulet. We also put a deposit down on a heritage turkey for a Thanksgiving, which we just picked up the other day (along with more chicken thighs, more garlic sausage, meatballs, meat pies, and a gorgeous NY strip steak.) We asked if they could butterfly the turkey, and they said, "well, let's find out!" It took some doing with poultry shears and a cleaver, but the butcher got it done with good humor and professionalism (I don't know if you've ever tried to butterfly a turkey in a home kitchen, but I can assure you it is Not Fun.)

Our NY strip, right off the grill.

What I like about Cleaver & Co is not just the high quality of their locally raised meats and friendly service. It's also the fact that you can go in there and just talk about meat and food and all the stuff that makes the world an awesome place. It's not quick; everything's cut to order. But you stop your rushing around and watch the butchers ply their highly skilled trade and think about the various cuts of the various animals, and talk to Seth and Simone about their hopes and dreams, what they want to do with their shop, in their community. Somehow it all adds up to amazing meat that I'm proud to eat. Hey, that rhymes!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eater's Digest

Since I've got a couple of quick bullet points (with some photos), I figured I'd consolidate for easy reading.

Thing #1: We Spent a Saturday In The Bywater and I Didn't Even Get A Lousy T-Shirt.
Although, I did get a new purse. a mirliton potholder, some kickin' New Orleans blank cards, cookies, rum punch, an empanada, a chocolate curry popsicle, and chicken paprikash. Hail Mirliton Festival and Siberia's early opening to enjoy Matt's paprikash before metal shenanigans occur and frighten out middle aged mentalities!


Thing #3: It is amazing when people you know are heralded by city leaders for making a difference.

Thing #4: I am on the waiting list to join Nyx and I enjoyed a lovely brunch last week with my fellow Sisters In Waiting, then made some new friends and hung out in the Marigny. Hooray!

Thing #5: This picture and philosophy (from the menu at the High Hat)

Followup, actual pie:

Thing #6: There are so many cats that need forever homes! Please help.  Contact the LASPCA, SpayMart, The Cat Practice, or any other shelter and find a cat who needs you.

Thing #7: Voting! America! Whoo!

Until tomorrow (or some other unspecified amount of time...)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A quite delicious day

So, around 11:30 or so, the following pops up on my Twitter feed from Cowbell:
#COWBELLSPECIAL Rabbit Pate, Local Pickled Fig Mustard & Brie Grilled Cheese w/ Cup-O-Soup or Salad
I think to myself, I could get there! It's just down Claiborne to Oak, and would put me in easy position for doing my work and lunchtime errands. It's a gorgeous day, perfect for doing something a little different. So off I went to Cowbell. Sat at the counter, enjoyed the ambiance, ordered an Arnold Palmer and my rabbit pate and brie grilled cheese sandwich. The cup-o-soup I ordered was a sweet potato, corn, and shrimp chowder which was pretty awesome, as was the sandwich. Could have been too rich, but it wasn't. It just made me so happy! Cowbell's an awesome place, where I ought to go more frequently. Used to get my burger fix there before I found perfection at the Company Burger. The also have the only clam chowder in the state (probably.) It's great- food is fantastic, vibe is chill, service is super friendly.

My view from the counter

The regular menu

The specials

Heaven on a plate
So that put me in a most excellent mood. I declined dessert, having learned my lesson the previous day at Crescent Pie & Sausage, where after I ordered their soup (turkey & andouille gumbo) sandwich (house smoked turkey club) and salad, I ordered their chocolate pumpkin bread which was so good (came with ginger ice cream!) but TOO TOO MUCH.

Gluttonous, yes, but can you blame me?

Don't think I wasn't tempted, though- I've had Cowbell's apple pie before and it is fantastic.

So after that I had a lovely drive uptown, from the River Road to the Riverbend, down St. Charles, and over to Magazine. It was a gorgeous October afternoon, I had my windows down and was listening to the streetcars go on their way. Passing Tulane, Loyola, Audubon Park. It's the New Orleans that the Tourist Board dreams of. And, wow, the weather is so beautiful in October.

That got me back to the office with a spring in my step, and after working through the afternoon, met up with Tom downtown and he'd heard of this empanada-serving food truck called Empanada Intifada that was supposed to be pretty good. (was also recommended by a Venezuelan friend, so.) It was supposed to be parked outside of 45 Tchoup by 6pm and there it was after we battled traffic for a half hour to get there from downtown.

Yep, this is the place

Where the magic happens

kinds of empanadas

Prices- cheap!

So we both got 2 empanadas- both of us got the Mestizo Meat Pie, described as "Our fusion of the traditional empanada with the traditional meat pie: Argentine Mendoza empanada (Angus beef, onions, eggs, potatoes, and olives) meets the celery, green peppers and green onions of Louisiana's Natchitoches Meat Pie." Tom got the black bean empanada (Cuban-style black beans cooked in citrus with fried plantain and coconut Jazzmen rice) for his second and I got the Hobo Pollo Adobo (Filipino-style pulled chicken marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar, with tomatoes, green onion, Jazzmen rice and potatoes.) I also ordered the red beans and rice, because, why not?

It was all excellent. The meat pie had a bit more texture than the bean and the chicken empanadas, but all were incredibly flavorful and wrapped up in delicious dough. It don't get much better than that. Also, our meal combined, with tip, was $20. It REALLY don't get much better than that. The purple stuff was Curtido Cabbage Salad, described on their website as the ultimate Salvadoran palate cleanser, fresh chopped cabbage and carrots rubbed down with citrus, vinegars, whole cumin seeds and oregano. Went GREAT with the red beans too. I really liked all the food. Comforting, delicious, well made, great ingredients, just really happy making.

We got our food, went inside the bar and sat and ate and drank beers. They had NOLA Brewing's Hopitoulas and Blonde Ale, as well as LA 31, Canebrake, and Tin Roof. The bartender was very sweet and friendly, and we watched the Yankees lose the ALCS. Oh, funny thing- 45 Tchoup is New Orleans' Red Sox home away from home, so folks there were THRILLED to see Detroit win the series. Yankees suck! (just kidding, I really don't care, it's just something I'm very used to.)