Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ancora-ahhh!

Just had a lovely midweek meal at Ancora on Freret Street. We've been to Ancora a couple of times, so we knew the food was good, but the food, the atmosphere, and the service were just so seamlessly great, I felt it deserved mention. It's basically just photos of yumminess and me saying, "yum," but when you get right down to it, that's pretty much food blogging in a nutshell unless you're bitching about something.

So, I was starving when we got there so we ordered their arancini, 2 pizzas, and some adult beverages. I had an awesome cocktail with gin, ginger beer, something that made it pink, and lemongrass. Tom had a Bear Republic Rocket Red Ale. The arancini came- basically fried risotto balls with a delicious mozzarella cheese center. Hard to go wrong. Right?


As delicious as advertised. The chef recognized us from when we came in a month or so ago and gave huge props to his sandwiches. He said he was working on an appetizer, did we want to try it? WHY YES INDEED. He came back a few minutes later with a version of bruschetta that wasn't on the menu, and said that he thought we'd like it because we like his bread. Which we very much do. We also liked the big melty hunk of fontina cheese right next to it that needed to be scooped up and applied to the bread with spoons. SPOONS! No picture, but just imagine 3 toasted pieces of fresh bread drizzled with olive oil served with beautiful melty cheese and kalamata olives. Mmm.

Then, feeling significantly less famished than when ordering, the first pizza came. I can't remember what it was called, but it had cherry tomatoes, cheese, garlic, and basil, and it was goddamn delicious. Crust (for both pizzas) was just plain perfect.


Shortly thereafter, the second pizza arrived- it was the special of the day, with grana, arugula, garlic, ricotta, and an egg. (Tom's favorite pizza topping, btw.)


OK, so that was hella awesome too, and at this point, the intense flavors (as well as the yummy carbs) have sated us quite nicely, even having eaten only half of the pizza we ordered. But then. But then! The waiter described the dessert, which was a cherry and pistachio pane agrodolce, baked in house (oh, how I love their bread!) served with marscapone cheese and honey. Raspberry honey, I believe (was cultivated by bees pollinating raspberry plants, not, like, raspberry flavored honey.) Tom pretty much fell out of his chair in wonder when out server described it, and then was rapturous while eating it. It was really just so, so, so, so, so good.


SO GOOD.

When our waiter brought our check, he said that we did a very good job of ordering, which pleased me immensely for some reason. I agree with him. The food we ate was simple, fresh, and delicious- the ingredients were gorgeous and the technique in preparing them was skilled. I mean, it's the kind of simple but wonderful meal that had us saying to each other in wondrous disbelief as we left, "what just happened?" Man oh man, how lucky we are.

Ancora also just got well reviewed in Gambit, and I'm psyched for them! Need to get back for lunch soon, though- need my sandwich fix.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Indian food and the joy of eating in New Orleans

Tom and I went over the bridge to Gretna to check out an Indian place called Saffron NOLA, which is primarily a catering company which also serves dinner on Friday nights. They've begun doing a monthly brunch that focuses on specific regional cuisines of the country.  Today's brunch was inspired by the Kerala region, which they describe as a "Cuisine of the Syrian Christians of Kerala." Here's the menu:




Served A La Minute
From The Kitchen 

Puttu (Steamed Coarse Rice Cake) 
Paalappam (Lace Rimmed Pancakes)
Kallappam (Toddy Pancakes)
Parippu Vada (Lentil Fritters)
Parotta (Flaky Kerala Flat Bread) 

***


At The Buffet:

Kadala Karri (Curried Chickpeas) 
Kezangu Varthathu (Potato Sauté)
Avial (Mixed Vegetable) 
Dried Prawns and Cabbage 
Thakall Chertha Meen Karri (Tomato Fish Curry) 
Mooriyerachi Roast (Spicy Beef Pot Roast) 
Kozhi Ishtew (Chicken Stew) 
Mutta Roast (Egg Roast Curry) 
Steamed Rice


Tender Mango Pickle, Lime and Green Pepper Pickle 
Brinjal Pickle, Minced Shrimp Pickle, Bitter Gourd Pickle

Ah, the Indian pickle. Tom was in love with the pickle table. It's a condiment that's found much more frequently in the UK than in the US, and he misses it. So he was in high heaven. If you can read the signs, you can see they are very bold and interesting flavor combinations. The lime and green pepper pickle was a little too hardcore for me, but Tom loved it.




Dessert was a lovely mango mousse:



The food was just excellent. The curries, the pickles, the bread...I was so excited to be there and try a version of this cuisine I'd never had before. The fish curry, the chicken stew, and the egg roast were all very delicately seasoned and incredibly delicious. I loved everything (except maybe that lime green pepper pickle).

After coming home and trying to decide what to do for dinner, I realized that we have an embarrassment of riches as far as dining options are concerned. Not just fancy pants places like Coquette or Root or August, but on Sunday night alone I had the option of getting food from amazing chefs from Hush Supper Club (Pete Vasquez), NOLA Smokehouse at the Avenue Pub (Rob Bechtold) and Pizza Delicious (Mike & Greg). They all pop up on Sunday and it is a painful decision on who to choose every week! This week we went with a few thing from Chef Pete (Cornish pasty, butter chicken, and cold sesame noodles) and a potato pizza from Pizza Delicious. But I was also sorely tempted by NOLA Smokehouse's gumbo ya-ya and shrimp ceviche. Decisions! 

And those were hardly the only options. Coquette's started doing family style Sunday dinners, Maurepas has begun a Sunday night prix fixe which includes dinner, dessert, a cocktail and a glass of wine for $50. There's Killer PoBoys in the Quarter (which actually closes at 5 on Sunday but is usually open till 10) and around the corner from that is St. Lawrence, a new place that I've heard nothing but raves about. There's Hoof & Cleaver, a porky popup, and Milkfish, which bills itself as a Taste of the Phillipines. 

There are three Vietnamese joints on Magazine, a Korean place on South Claiborne, La Divinia for panini and gelato, TSAI vegetarian food at the OCH Market every 2nd Saturday of the month, salted caramel popsicles downtown, "Coolinary" prix fixe at Sobou (and other places), Friday "Snoceaux Loceaux lunch" at Hansen's with the Taceaux Loceaux taco truck parked in front, Slavic soul food (chicken paprikash on Saturday nights only!) in Siberia... it's just mind-blowing the food that's coming out in this city right now. All the old standards are still great, and still important, but it's this increasing global influence that makes New Orleans a very special place to be. And eat.

Kind of fitting that so many of my food joys coincide with Sunday, because if eating is my religion, the New Orleans is the most worthy pilgrimage I can think of. It's a temple and cathedral to the joy of cooking and eating and drinking.

Mixing it up

So, earlier this week, I was interviewed by Amanda from Restaurant Business Magazine regarding my collaboration with the guys at Root on the beer dinner on the 27th of this month. We had a great conversation, and seemed to hit it off. So when she was in town for the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Restaurant Trade Show on Saturday, we made plans to meet up for a drink at the Avenue Pub. Well, one beer turned into 5, we ate burgers on the Balcony, and then headed out to a couple cocktail joints downtown.

3 beers

First up: loa in the International Hotel. Pretty swank, but actually also very comfy. I'd never been for some reason, so we enjoyed several cocktails, including: the Delilah (with London dry gin, st. germain, pineapple-balsamic– thai basil), the Park n' Fly (with anejo, sparkling rose, blood orange, and galangal) and something called a Haitian Sazerac made with rum and also of awesome? Great music and bar snacks as well. (very important!!)

3 cocktails

Next up: Belloq. We took advantage of the complimentary valet parking and sat at the bar. It was quiet so we had the opportunity to talk to the bartender, which is always fun. Tom had the rum cobbler, Amanda had the whiskey cobbler, and I had the "Bartender's choice" and he made up an awesome bitter cocktail with Fernet, Punt y Mas, and... other stuff. It was freaking delicious.

So it was a very chill but very New Orleans night of drinking, making friends, and having an awesome time. Can't wait to see what's in store next Saturday night!