Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Swank Life (kind of)

So yesterday we made it our mission to use up some of our Living Social Deals (we have a tendency to forget about them.) So we went to Gordon Biersch for lunch and then Tamarind by Dominique at the Hotel Modern for dinner.

Gordon Biersch was fine. Beer and burger kind of thing. But when we went to Tamarind, it was definitely WAY more swanky/trendy than we are used to. We showed up for our reservation at 8:30, but the tables were backed up and it would be like a half and hour till ours was ready. No problem, we were able to go across the courtyard to Belloq, which I have been dying to try! Definite silver lining there.

So Belloq is super super dark inside. So dark that I promised Tom I'd only use my flash once. And I got this picture of my cobbler:

Note the silver cup and mounds of ice. What was also in my rum cobbler was: El Dorado 5yr, Black Tea Syrup, Orange Bitters, Citrus. Was tasty. Tom had a rum punch that was in a punch bowl that was shaped like an octopus. That was honestly why he decided to get it. Also, it did sound delicious. And proved to be so.

We were taken back to Tamerind and seated by the window, overlooking Lee Circle. There were many fabulous and beautiful people there, and I felt a little out of place!

You know what helps with feelings of insecurity? Alcohol.

So what this is, is a "Southern Xi Muoi" with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, orange/chili syrup, preserved salted plums, lemon, soda. It was pretty weird. The salty-sweet-spicy thing took some getting used to (especially the salty- I usually order my margaritas without the salt rim) but I ended up enjoying it. (Note: no beer selections at all on the menu.)

On to the food! Looking at the menu, I decide to start with the Crispy Colorado Lamb Confit and Vietnamese Crepe, which was delicious but huge and the lamb was very intense. I loved the flavors, though.

Tom had the "Crispy, Cured Maple Leaf Duck Confit" that came with a house made steam bun and spiced ginger aioli. While my app was tasty, this one won the course.

Haha, the sandwich looks like it's sticking its tongue out!

The bun - the Asian style bun - was shaped like a a French baguette, which was a very playful way to emphasize the French-Vietnamese fusion style of the menu.

By the time my main course, the Maple Leaf Duck 3 Ways (Seared Duck Breast, Leg Confit with Rutabaga hash, Pomegranate Foie Gras and Duck Jus came out, I was pretty sated. But it was awesome. I took a lot of the confit home with me as well as the rutabaga and a couple slices of the breast, and am planning to make a lovely hash for dinner tomorrow night.

Tom had the Seared Local Black Drum On Quinoa, with Roasted Corn Beurre-Rouge. He loved everything but the quinoa. Had an off flavor to him which I didn't detect, so I think it's one of those palate specific issues. Whatever, everything else was awesome, including the garnish of roasted tomato.

We finished our meal by sharing the trio of housemade sorbets, which that night were: Mint-Lychee, Coconut, and Blood Orange. I didn't get a picture, but they were all SO delicious, I wanted to order a pint of each to take home. We couldn't even pick a favorite, they were all excellent and all so different!

Funny thing, after we showed our Living Social certificate to our server, when he came back with the dessert menus, our service... slowed down to a crawl right after that. The time lapse between getting our dessert ordered, our dessert served, and especially waiting for the check (it was about a 15 minute wait for that)  was strikingly different than it was during the early part of the meal, when things were actually busy. Always tip on the original amount of the check, Living Social customers! Making the rest of us look bad to the service industry.

But the food was fantastic, and looking at their lunch menu, I'd like to get back there to try that meal too. And I'd definitely come back to dinner. Maybe just not on Saturday night?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beer geekin'

So, although I maintain my other blog for beer related business and put everything else here, it's getting harder to keep the 2 blogs from overlapping. I do a lot of discussion of food and cocktails here (as well as other New Orleans stuff), and recently I've been doing more exploration of beer in the fine dining world and I honestly don't know where to put it, either here or there. I guess I'll keep all beer related stuff over on the beer blog and occasionally post links here for anyone who may be interested. But I recommend checking out the NOLA Beer Bitch blog from time to time (or regularly) if you're not doing so already! Beer stuff is starting to take up a majority of my time and energy, so.

That said, I recently attended a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Dinner at Coquette, called Swigs & Pigs. Every course had a different pig/pork element, and the cocktails were made with various beers as well as spirits. You can read my liveblogging of the dinner here. It will show up most recent first, so unless you skip ahead to the first entry and go backwards, you'll be reading it in reverse order of the courses (I blogged course by course.)

In other high falutin' beer bizness, you may recall my being quoted by the Times-Pic by Todd Price regarding fine dining and beer. The other main entity in that article was one of the managers of Root, talking about Root's beer program. Following the publication of the article, the guys from Root - Nick and Max - and I sat down and talked about their beer program and how to expand/improve it and how to get the word out about it (they also have an excellent cocktail menu and wine selection which tends to overshadow the beer, an issue also faced by Coquette.) Several weeks later, Nick contacted me about Root's plans to host 2 beer dinners in August - August 13 and 27 - and they invited me to choose the beers to accompany the food! So that was super exciting. Tom and I went over there on Monday evening and went through the menu and tried various beers that were on their list, and came up with some pretty good pairings, I think. I learned A LOT just in that dinner about beer pairing. I am so grateful for the folks at Root to give us that opportunity, as well as a free pass to access all the amazing beers that we thought would work! Also, the staff was incredible.

So, we have the pairings for August 13 all set AND it's gonna be awesome AND here's the menu and pairings and info!!  

In news that is more on the geek side of beer geek, we attended the Krewe of Chewbacchus' annual kickoff event/fundraiser, Alien Beach Party at Tipitina's. It was pretty fun- lots of great costumes, geeks kicking back and having geek fun, the Local Skank, a trivia contest that we kicked ass at, and a feud between the strict sci-fi fans and the fantasy fans. (read here for a better explanation of the silliness) It turned out that it was time to unite, though. Some of the signs from the The Mystic Krewe of People for the inclusion of Unicorns, Elves and Whinebots in Chewbacchus (PUEWC - pronounced like “puke”) protest:

And here's K-9 from Dr. Who:

And here's a couple live action shots of the Local Skank, the headlining performers, and how I talked Tom into going- dressed as Princess Leia, Leela from Futurama (with brain slug!!), and I think a Sailor Moon type character?

Aaaand, here's a picture of a Stormtrooper playing bass. Just because:

That's about it for now- it's been pretty rainy and wild weather, and hot as hell in between storms, so as we enter the dog days of summer, things are pretty quiet. But! White Linen Night, Dirty Linen, and Satchmo Fest are all coming up in August, as well as the Root Beer dinners.

And of course, the best summertime activity: Hansen's Sno-Bliz for dinner. (which we totally did last week.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012


While on vacation last week on the relatively quiet and sleepy shores of Florida's "Forgotten Coast," the majority of our shopping had to do with sandwiches. Cold cuts and condiments. PB & J. Grilled cheese. Fried egg. Sandwiches bring me back to my own childhood vacations- meals are much less formal than at home, you make a sandwich when you're hungry, maybe while reading a book or after taking a nap. You bring sandwiches down to the beach with you so you don't have to leave the sound of the tide coming in to go get lunch.

I LOVE sandwiches, to the point that I made Tom giggle at my undisguised glee about sandwiches for dinner on vacation. In "real life" I have vegetables from the local farm to use up, recipes I want to try, and an enormous variety of amazing food to go out and eat. (all usually in non-sandwich formats!) New Orleans also loves its sandwiches- the poboy, the muffeletta - so I know how to fill those cravings when they hit. In addition to the traditional places, we often enjoy a nice deli classic from Stein's as well. Sandwiches are well represented here- huzzah!

Today, we went to lunch at a place not even known for its sandwiches- it's the Neapolitan pizza restaurant on Freret Street, Ancora. Due to their very specific process with the pizza dough preparation, they can't serve pizza during their Friday and Saturday lunch service (the only days they are open for lunch.) However, they serve a small menu of amazing sandwiches with their house cured meats, amazing cheeses, and fresh baked bread. Their menu when we were there consisted of a BLT (with house made bacon, arugula, and heirloom tomatoes), a muffeletta with coppa and kalamata olive salad, a croque monsieur with prosciutto, provolone, and bechamel sauce, and a ricotta cheese and strawberry jam sandwich. Also offered: a peach and culatello arugula salad.

We decided to start with and share the peach salad. It was as delicately delicious as it was beautiful.

I chose the kalamats muffeletta and Tom decided on the Croque Monsieur.

Both excellent- the intense flavors sated us with a mere half a sandwich each, and we just had the other halves for breakfast (paired with an imperial IPA to cut the richness of the meat and cheese with some bitterness, and to stand up to the bold flavors.)

Speaking of, and I know this isn't my beer blog, but Ancora has a nice selection of beers on draft in addition to its cocktails and wine.

As we left, I saw this bowl of tomatoes that made me wish it had been possible to also order the BLT:

Note pizza oven in background.
While we were enjoying our sandwiches, at least 4 parties walked in and walked out when told that they weren't serving pizza. I hope that Ancora can put the word out framed more postively about their Friday and Saturday lunches and bring people in who are craving their sandwiches, with house cured salumi, high quality cheese and vegetables, and amazing bread. The chef came out while we were eating our sandwiches to see how we were enjoying them, and confided that although pizza was of course the main game at Ancora, nothing made him happier than baking bread. He was right to take pride in that work- his bread was excellent- solid enough to stand up to sandwich filling, while still having a fine and tender chew. Also, great tasting.

Prices were reasonable, the sandwiches were $10 for a very large portion of obviously excellent ingredients. Beer is expensive- $7 a pint! But all I know is that Ancora lunch service has definitely made my list of craveable sandwiches in this city where the sandwich is king.