Friday, January 27, 2012

Taz (and me) on TV!

So, I already discussed Taz's photo shoot for his gig as 2012's King of Endymeow, and somehow, and for some reason, our vet Dr. Cousins got us on WWL TV's local morning show today.  Bananas!

Check it:

Is that not super awesome fantastic?

PS, that's my dad's old joke about cats having staff.  Shout out to Big Mike!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Boucherie Beer Dinner

My notes for the evening, getting weirder as the night progressed

So one thing I was seriously kicking myself about a while back was missing Boucherie's beer dinner with Brooklyn Brewing.  Many local beer geeks went and raved. I remember it was that kind of dedication to the craft beer community that brought us all together when Boucherie Chef Nathanial Zimet was shot and seriously wounded last summer.  The result of the beer community's appreciation was the event I co-organized, Beers Not Bullets.

I was super happy to see Chef Nathanial himself in his chef's whites at the helm of creating and executing this latest beer dinner, based on pairing 6 Swedish beers (from the Avenue Pub-led collaboration/extravaganza) that he had NEVER tasted before for this beer dinner that happened on Monday, January 23.

It was really something else.  There were a few nitpicks, but overall, I was awed by how spot on the flavor pairings were.  Let's break it down, shall we?

1st course:
Goat’s Cheese Au Poivre Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
paired with: Närke/ Tanngnjost och Tanngrisner ( T&T )

Boucherie jumped right into the thick of things with one of the more unusual beer offerings of the evening.  I was pretty impressed with what a ballsy move it was.  The Tanngnjost och Tanngrisner is an homage to a traditional Swedish beer-type beverage called Gotlandsdricka.  It's made with, like, twigs and juniper, and smoked barley and rye grain. It is a strong and very assertive beer. Looking at the ingredients of the first course, I was apprehensive.  Grapefruit, really? Big chunks of black pepper? Arugula? These are also very assertive ingredients. However, somehow all these big aggressive flavors sort of smashed around and into each other into... something really tasty. I don't know how it worked, but it worked.  I particularly enjoyed the way the salad elements actually toned down the extreme smokiness of the beer, allowing me to enjoy some of the underlying flavors in there, like the juniper (a difficult flavor profile for me to determine in this beer, actually.)

2nd course:
Roasted Cauliflower & Brie Gratin, with Warm Ciabatta
paired with: Närke/ InternationALE

The MidWinter beer on the left, and the InternationALE on the right

So, a funny thing happened with the second beer of the night. I was at the table that appeared to be the first table served, and they brought out these glasses of very dark beer.  Since the description of the InternationALE was an India Pale Ale, I was immediately suspicious that this was the incorrect beer.  I gave it a smell and a taste.  Yeah, that's not the InternationALE.  Even if I hadn't had it on Saturday (which I did) it seemed pretty clear it was the next one on the list. I asked the woman who was bringing the beers out if she was sure this was the InternationALE, she went and checked, and they figured it out lickety split, with the added bonus of that the next beer had a chance to warm to room temp during the second course, which I think greatly improved the flavors.  I helped! Gotta give Boucherie credit, once they figured out the issue, they fixed it quick and smooth.

On to the gratin.  OMG I WOULD EAT A BUCKET OF IT WITH A SPOON. Also, the house baked bread was amazing. The InternationALE itself was, after all the fuss, not one of my favorite beers of the night, it seemed to have more the profile of a red ale rather than an IPA. Tom and I had a difference of opinion on how sucessful the pairing was.  I thought that the sweet malt flavors and the tropical fruit I was getting from the hops was balanced nicely by the earthiness of the cauliflower and brie, and the hop bitterness cut the richness.  Tom thought that the beer and the gratin shared a rich buttery flavor so it didn't contrast as much as he'd like.  

3rd course:
Wild Duck Ragout Poutine with Blue Cheese & Fried Potato Gnocchi
paired with: Nunäshamn/ Mysingen Midvinterbrygd
This pairing was absolutely amazing. We finally were able to drink our (now slightly warmed) Mid Winter Beer, which had lots of spices and malts in it in conjunction with some of the finest duck I've tasted in a long time.  James Denio (managing partner of Boucherie) pointed out the guy who actually caught the duck, which is exactly the kind of farm to table action I'm talking about! It was described as a poutine, covering the fried gnocchi and it was just all beautiful and gamey and herbaceous and there ws the tang of the blue cheese to sharpen things up a little... and the strong spice and sweet malt notes of the beer paired beautifully with the dish. James had mentioned between courses that one of the ways he and Nate play with pairings is adding an element with the beer (or wine) that is missing on the plate.  I feel like this was an excellent example of this philosophy/technique.  I was sad that I left a bunch of the "gravy" in the bowl, but I didn't have a spoon or a piece of bread!  Oh well, considering how full I was at the end of the night, that was probably a blessing.

4th course:
Beer Battered Halibut with Smoked Black-Eyed Pea Purée & Crispy Kale Chips
paired with: Oppigårds/ Single Hop Ale

Fish & kale chips & "smushy" peas

This was probably one of the most successful pairings of the night, and one that beautifully represented the elevated pub food theme that was happening.  This was fish & chips: New Orleans meets London style. The beer battered flounder were served over a smoked black-eyed pea puree- when Tom saw that on the menu, he reckoned it was the "often overlooked mushy pea" portion of the fish & chips plate.  Mushy peas are... gross, so I'm pleased they aren't found too often over here, but the black-eyed pea puree was delicious.  Random adorable chef moment: Chef Nathanial came out and christened them "smushy peas" as a combination of smoked+mushy peas.  LOVE!  Also, the beer was excellent. It was a well executed British summer ale. Tom said that it tasted like freshly cut cricket fields.  He was really happy with the dish, the beer, and the pairing. We both were. Oh!  The "chips" were crispy pieces of what looked like purple dinosaur kale, with the natural scalloped/frilled edges.  They were salty and light and YUM.  Also, homemade tartar sauce ("Let the fools have their TAR-TAR sauce!"- Mr. Burns, The Simpsons) was awesome.  In short: YAY.  And I could have downed a big ole imperial pint of that single hope ale.

5th course:
Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly, Sticky Rice Noodles 
with Tempura Shiitakes & Pickled Jalapeños
paired with: Oppigårds/ Amarillo
OK, I have a confession to make.  I think that pork belly is kind of gross.  It's just TOO fatty, unless you get a good piece, I guess, with mostly meat and the fat is just sort of marbling the piece?  I dunno.  I love pork and pork fat in many forms, but pork belly... maybe not so much.  HERESY, I KNOW. So, this dish didn't really do it for me.  Pork was too fatty, the sticky rice noodles were in a pancake formation and were difficult to eat. I did like the tempura shiitakes and the few bites I did have of the belly meat, the pickled jalapenos cut the richness a I was down with them. The beer was awesome, but it's hard to assess the pairing, because I didn't really care for the dish. However, after 2 base hits and 2 homeruns, my disappointment was minor.  I was mostly trying to figure out what the matter with me was for not liking pork belly.

6th course:
Candied Fennel & Pine Nut Streudel with Sherry Syrup and Five-Spice Whipped Cream
paired with: Nils Oscar/ Julöl 2011

So the richness of the pork belly dish (along with the numerous other courses and beers) had filled me up to the point of near discomfort, so I was relieved when the streudel came out.  It was a small piece of streudel, and the fennel wasn't overly sweet, and it was a gentle, herbaceous, and crispy with an intriguing depth of sweetness from the sherry syrup and subtle spiciness from the 5-spice whipped cream. It was kind of an alternated universe mincemeat. The Julöl was the perfect beverage to end on.  There was no coffee service, of course, but the beer itself was as dark and complex as coffee, with those notes of aroma and flavor. Although malty and dark, it's dry and bitter on the finish and very, very drinkable. The perfect end to a wonderful meal.

Again, I'm just amazed how successful the majority of these pairings were.  The next dinner will be on Monday, February 6 - call and make your reservations now, they are already about half filled up (and that's just as of Monday night, who knows how many have signed up yesterday and today.) Apparently for this next dinner Chef Nathanial will be doing so "out there" types of stuff, playing around with technique and perhaps some molecular gastronomy.  This time, he will have a better idea of the flavor profiles and will have the experience of what worked and what didn't with this menu. He'll be pairing for the same lineup of beers as above.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Best Chinese Food in New Orleans

So, I've had a ton of Swedish beer this weekend, (as noted here and here) but I wrapped it all up while watching the Niners-Giants game (OMG, I am excited about the Patriots-Giants Superbowl rematch) and eating Chef Pete's excellent Chinese food. Had the authentic hot & sour soup, spicy and sour as advertised loaded with tons of mushrooms, tofu, banboo shoots, and pork. Next up was the shrimp fried rice, with delicately cooked tail-on shrimp and egg and fresh vegetables with occasional crunch of a spicy pepper along with a baked Char Siu Bao (pork bun) which was off the hook delicious. We were pretty full after that, so we still have some XO Braised Pork Cushion to eat.

Home run!  I feel so glamorous and international!

Tomorrow is the Boucherie Swedish beer dinner, and I'm psyched!

Hogs for the (Delicious) Cause

Was pleased to receive a press conference invitation for the annual local BBQ/pork-centric fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer, Hogs for the Cause. This is their fourth year putting this on, and it's getting bigger and bigger every year. So, this press conference was held at NOLA Brewing right after their brewery tour, so it was like the most festive press conference ever. Got myself a beer and wandered around to take a look at the pork party prep while waiting for the organizers, Rene Louapre and Becker Hall, to announce the entertainment lineup (and other info).

Then the press conference began. We got an overview of the history of Hogs, which you can read about here, but which perfectly encapsulates the way New Orleanians help each other- someone has an idea, usually involving food, drink, and music, and it just takes on a life of its own.  We hear about the 60 teams (spots filled up super fast) signed up to compete in the following categories: ribs, whole hog, butt, porkpourri, grand champion, best booth/presentation, fundraising champion, fan favorite, and best sauce. They've released an app that can be used to navigate the logistics as well as casting votes for fan favorite, which is very cool.

On to the music lineup!

  • Mississippi Rail Company
  • The Stooges Brass Band
  • The Gourds (out of Austin)
  • Marcia Ball
  • Voice of the Wetlands All Stars
  • Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
Then, the unveiling of the 2012 poster:

And the subsequent sampling of what was described to me (if I can recall correctly) as "pork belly upside down corn cake with preserved kumquat" (and awesome ham, see above). 

So go get your tickets ($10 before the event and a couple of VIP levels for $100 and $250)! The event's on March 24 in City Park. Also, patronize and thank Hogs for the Cause sponsors, including NOLA Brewing, Capital One Bank, People's Health, Entergy, Acoustic Web Design, Rare Cuts, Gardner Realtors, Renaissance Arts Hotel, kodeless, Thinka, and Champ's Collision Center.

I can't wait- I have made myself ridiculously hungry while typing this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In which I satisfy carnivorous needs. And decorate!

So, although it was a rough weekend football-wise, I did have some excellent carnivorous experiences.

Carnivorous Experience #1:
Saturday, before the game, Tom and I headed over to The Company Burger on Freret to give it a try (it's been closed or packed when we've tried before.) The Company Burger is the brainchild of Chef Adam Biderman, formerly of Herbsaint, who just wanted to create a space that focuses on high quality and delicious burgers.  They have lamb burgers, turkey burgers, and vegetarian options along with the single or double beef burger.  IT IS OFF THE HOOK DELICIOUS. I had the Company Burger (a double burger with American cheese, onions, and pickles) and Tom had the lamb burger, and he said that it was exactly as he imagined it would be.  The Company Burger was perfectly proportioned, and the bun was wonderful.  They have a condiment bar for all your various condimental needs. We had french fries and a serving of local greens with bacon.  It was all really, REALLY good.



The Company Burger team working hard

French fries, an assortment of the mayos available and the greens in the corner there

Carnivorous Experience #2:
I took Tom to McClure's BBQ which was amazing again.  This time I was able to try the cornbread which was so good- had jalepenos and sorgham molasses - and Neil's red beans and rice. Still addicted to that mac & cheese.  I enjoyed the brisket especially, although the ribs were a close second.

In non-food news, I also wanted to announce that I put many of our beads from last year's parades to good use and decorated our gate!

Beads... and bonus cat!

Oooooh, aaaaaah.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Fool For 'Que

Drool... BBQ beans, chicken, pork ribs, brisket, pulled pork,
cole slaw, mac 'n cheese, potato salad
So, I've been hearing about the new BBQ Joint - McClure's Barbecue - that opened up in Dante's restaurant for lunch during the week.  Neil McClure was (is?) the general manager at Dante and has started working toward his dream of opening a BBQ restaurant. You can read more about Neil here. I was finally able to get over there yesterday for lunch and HOLY MOLY that is probably the best barbecue I've had in my life.  Now, granted, I haven't been to many of the holy lands of BBQ like the Carolinas, Kansas City, or Alabama, but seriously, this meat is so good you don't need to compare it.  It's just some really, really, happy-making, good food.

The sides are also wonderful, especially the mac 'n cheese and the beans.  OMG THE BEANS. Another delicious joy is the vast array of barbecue sauces that represent the different BBQ regions:

Left-right: Kansas City Sweet, West N, Carolina, New Orleans East,
South Carolina, Alabama, East N. Carolina, and Memphis
The New Orleans East sauce is a nod to the Vietnamese community there, with those flavor profiles. South Carolina is a mustard sauce (really great with the pulled pork), Alabama is a white BBQ sauce (I first tried that at J'Anita's, actually), and East NC is a vinegar.  I loved the West NC and Memphis the most I think.  Also the Kansas City.  And the New Orleans East.  And the South Carolina.  And... Well, you get the idea.  The fellow sitting next to me was very impressed by the authenticity (and awesomeness) of the sauces.

The food is served family style and from what I gathered, they'll keep filling up those bowls and plates until you're full.  All for $14.  Bliss for under twenty bucks, whoda think it?

I'm bringing Tom over there on Monday- we both have the day off and I checked, Neil will be open and slinging the 'cue.  Join us!  We'll probably get there between noon and 12:30.

It is going to be hard not to eat here every day for lunch.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Puppies and Kittens!

In light of my super depressing post of last night, today I bring you KITTENS AND A PUPPY!.

To quote the post: "This dog, you guys. THIS DOG. He is all, “The kittens are everywhere. I give up.” And the kittens are all, “OMG SHINY THING!”"


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh, New Orleans.

I've had a random thought about seasons in New Orleans.  There are five.  They are (from Jan-Dec): Mardi Gras season, Festival (Jazz Fest, FQF, others) season, Summer, Football season, and Holiday season.  There is my deep thought about how New Orleans seems to move through the year. You're welcome.

What has been more on my mind has been the unbelievable uptick in violence since the beginning of 2012.  A little background- when Ronald Serpas became Chief of the NOPD, he promised a 5% reduction in the murder rate in 2011. Although originally ridiculed as a not very aggressive or high reaching goal, it turns out that the murder rate in 2011 surpassed 2010's. BY FOURTEEN FRICKIN' PERCENT.

And 2012 is tracking to be even worse. Just in the sphere of my own world and vision, over the last couple of days:

  • A double shooting yesterday afternoon with one fatality at Tchoupitoulas and Jackson. This is about 5 blocks from our house.
  • A rapist who attacked 2 women uptown in the University area. At least they survived, I guess?
  • A local elementary school (where we held several of our Capacity College classes last spring) was evacuated after a man ran in there with a gun after shooting at a police officer. Everyone was OK though.
  • Just before I left work to go home, news of a shooting at the very busy intersection of South Claiborne and South Carrollton hit the wire.
  • When I got home I heard about a shooting in the Seventh Ward (where we are holding our Trumpet Release Party next week) and a GODDAMN QUADRUPLE shooting on Elysian Fields Ave., including a 12 year old girl. The girl was just sitting on her damn porch with 2 of the other victims.
  • While I was writing this blog post, two people got shot in New Orleans East.
I mean, seriously.  W. T. F. This is just insanity. This problem is so huge, I don't think anyone has any clue how to solve it.  Not the NOPD- people are still terrified of them, and for good reason. I'm sure if the Mayor could will a solution into existence he would - he started up the Saving Our Sons initiative, which hasn't shown any progress yet.  Even identifying the underlying systemic reasons for this orgy of violence seems to be beyond hope. We obsess on the criminal backgrounds of the victims, even when the victims have no criminal backgrounds, it's assumed they were up to something illegal if it brought that kind of violence upon themselves. Especially if the victim have black or brown skin.  I understand the basically racist need to think that all these victims brought it on themselves. After all, if we lead good and legal lives and make our good choices that white skin and a bit of money or political connection help exponentially with, then we won't be targets.  It's just something these criminals are doing to each other.

I'm sorry.  That's not true. Bad things happen to innocent people Hell, I helped organize fundraisers for two of them last year!  And you know what?  Even if the victims of these crimes may have found themselves in these grim situations because of choices they made for whatever reason, they are still victims of violent crime and deserve our compassion.

But I think that granting compassion is something that these God-fearing, morally righteous citizens reject because it involves treating these people like human beings, and not criminals or problems or subhuman scum. And that's all part of the cycle of violence.

New Orleans, I love you so much, but you break my heart.  And I know I'm not alone in that. Not by a long shot.  

Going to bed now- everyone stay safe and take care of each other tonight.

UPDATE: Carjacking in the Irish Channel last night.  Shootout in New Orleans East this morning, killing 2, and police killed 1 suspect. Can I go back to bed?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Been keeping track of the various restaurants and bars opening on Freret Street between Napoleon and Jefferson - Freret St. Po-boy & Donut Shop, Dat Dog, and Cure led the way over the past couple of years, and over the past year, Midway (deep dish pizza), Ancora (Neapolitan pizza), and The Company Burger have all sprung up.

We've been trying to get to the Company Burger, but we keep going when it's closed. Last week, it was a fortunate circumstance, as our burger craving (ultimately denied) brought us to the only bike shop open on January 2, called appropriately enough, The Bike Shop. Bought me a one speed cruiser so I will be ready to zip around town during Mardi Gras. (regret: should have taken a ride today.)

After the bike purchase, we went to Midway Pizza, which was pretty much right next door. Deep dish pizza deliciousness and many local and craft beer, hard to go wrong.

The Kingpin - housemade meatballs, caramelized onion, shaved parm, and green onion
The FD2 - chorizo, green chile, red onion, cojita cheese, green onion
We also visited Crescent City Comics, and ordered the final Buffy Season Eight comic book, which came in on Friday- happily necessitating a visit back to Freret today to pick it up! Tried Company Burger again- but it was mobbed, so we moseyed down to the High Hat for a more sedate dining experience.

Special board at the High Hat bar

High Hat beer taps

Satsuma mojito

Stewed chicken with mustard greens and spoonbread
Tom had buttermilk cornmeal pancakes. which were really, really good. In conclusion, High Hat is an excellent lunch/brunch spot. Nice space, good food, friendly service.  One slight nit to pick: the special mojito was listed on the special boards as $7, I was charged $8. But otherwise, a great choice. Man, that spoonbread was awesome.

I WILL get to the Company Burger someday, dammit.  And I am also craving a shrimp po-boy at Freret St. Po-Boy & Donut.  And need to get to Ancora.  And, um, some cocktails at Cure.  Dammit, Freret Street, stop with your temptation!

Crazy times here in Crescent City

Carnival has begun!  January 6 was this past Friday.  King cake: consumed.

January 7: Saints v. Lions wild card playoff at the Superdome. (which was won handily- next week, San Francisco!)

Tomorrow is the BCS Championship game, also at the Dome. LSU v. Alabama, an entrenched rivalry down here.

The whole city is vibrating with excitement and celebration... it's going to be an amazing month or so coming up.