Friday, December 6, 2013
Over five years ago, John and I had planned a fun night out, dinner reservations at Cafe Atchafalaya and tickets to see Big Sam's Funky Nation at Tipitina's afterwards. Unfortunately, the night didn't progress as well as we planned. We ate dinner, strolled over to Tips and within minutes after Big Sam started his first number, I was in the bathroom sweating profusely and praying to God that I wouldn't need to ralph in the bar's well-used toilet. Thankfully, I managed to hold everything back till John drove me home, periodically pulling over to the sidewalk when my face turned a peculiar shade of green.
Now, I am not saying that I got sick from the food I ate at what was then called Cafe Atchafalaya. Who knows? I could have eaten something foul earlier that day, caught a stomach bug, or hell, accidentally ate a bug on the walk to Tips, but whatever happened, I have not been able to separate my experience with dining at the cafe and could never bring myself to return.
Emeril's Restaurant) and I had changed, as I was willing to give the restaurant, so tainted in my eyes, another try. John, on the other hand, was not willing to risk it and stayed home while Anne and I braved Atchafalaya for Sunday brunch. It was a whole new experience. I thought to myself, "What could go wrong?"
It seems quite a lot.
After we were seated, Anne and I asked the server for more time to peruse the menu before making a decision, but in the meantime, I ordered coffee and Anne made her own Bloody Mary from the DIY Bloody Mary bar. And then we waited...and waited a bit more until we finally were able to flag down the server and place our order. I also had to remind him that I had not yet received my coffee, to which he apologized profusely and ran off to procure. When I did get the coffee, it was poured out of a carafe lukewarm, but seeing as I just need some caffeine, I drank it. At least it was a good French Truck blend, the flavor was outstanding.
Corn Pops cereal. I chose the Duck Hash with duck confit, blackberries, mangoes, poached eggs, hollandaise and bacon vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the sweet, fruity flavor against the rich duck, but the whole dish (aside from the eggs and sauce) was rather greasy. I also ordered a side of their house made breakfast sausage patty, but after one bite, I noticed it was still rather pink inside. I have no aversion to pinkish, double thick pork chops, but pink ground pork is a different story.
Finally, we finished off breakfast with a sweet treat of Atchafalaya's Vanilla Chai Tea Crème Brûlée. The custard itself turned out to be delicious, that creamy, eggy goodness with a hint of earthy chai knocked my socks off. It's too bad the crust wasn't the same. Whomever prepared the custard just sprinkled on coarse sugar crystals and made a half-hearted attempt at "burning" the top. Instead of a perfect, caramelized shell, we just had some browned crystals.
As Anne and I were headed home, I started to feel rather warm and a nauseous feeling overwhelmed me. Was I getting sick or had I simply convinced myself I would? Fortunately, I will never know because I am certainly not brave enough to try again.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Unfortunately, and perhaps unwisely, we were hoping for the best when it came to parking and were naturally disappointed. We drove around relentlessly, trying to find a decent spot, or even a pay garage nearby the event, but all to no avail. By this time, we were very late for the event which was quite close to being completely over.
Frustrated, parched, hungry and dressed up with no where to go -we decided to make a night of it anyhow and headed through the Marigny and into the Bywater to try a restaurant/bar we'd been talking about visiting for some time...Booty's Street Food.
Since this was an unexpected visit, I didn't bring my camera and had to rely on my crappy iPhone for pics, but while the light lasted, they didn't turn out half bad. We started out with a couple of cocktails, a Cottontail for Anne with vodka, ginger, elderflower, smoked velvet cream soda and lemon, and I had a Joyride with aged rum, house orgeat, cherry bitters, cava and lemon. I enjoyed the flavor of both drinks, but Anne definitely liked her Cottontail better, so much so that she wanted another one, though I encouraged her to try something different later on.
Next, we traveled east to Puerto Rico for Yuca Mofongo. Although mofongo is traditionally made with plantains (something we are not short on here in New Orleans), Booty's yuca version was just as delicious. Essentially, it was a large, bell-shaped fritter, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and stuffed with roast pork. It was also served with their aji panca aioli (a dark red, mild pepper with an almost fruity taste) that our server really talked up for our next dish...
After that, we headed back just a little northwest for some Fish 'N' Chips in England. Booty's beer-battered and fried a local whitefish and served it with some more fries (we overloaded on fries), a house tartar sauce and curry ketchup. The fish was nice and crispy, but I wouldn't have minded a bit of malt vinegar.
By this point, the journey begins to get a little blurry, not because we were drunk (it takes much more than two cocktails to floor me), but because the last three dishes were pretty disappointing. We went to Poland for a pierogi that was only so-so. That could be because this Polish dumpling stuffed with potatoes and cheese is rather bland compared to almost everything we ate before it. Perhaps if we tried it first next time? Anyhow, the follow up in South Korea, a kimchi pancake with pork belly hash would have been fabulous if not for the super-sweet, hoisin-like sauce that smothered everything beyond palatable recognition. To top it all off the dessert, the course I look forward to most, was a major letdown. We flew over to Vietnam for the Banana Sago Cream, a creamy custard with tapioca pearls. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it would have been wonderful if the pearls had thawed completely. Yep...they were still frozen.
Good thing I only want to remember the first half of the night, because I'd like to devour the other half of Booty's menu the next time I go. Wish me luck!
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I don't remember what anyone else ordered, but I got a 12 inch Fried Oyster Po' Boy fully dressed and a huge plate of French fries. I devoured almost all of it before I couldn't breathe anymore and went back to our hotel room to change for the night, but I passed out from a severe case of "food coma" because I had never eaten so much fried food in my entire life. For those of you who have never enjoyed the plethora of fried pleasures that can be had in our town, believe me when I tell you to take it slow your first time out. Not even a bucket of fried chicken from KFC will prepare you for the hurt you can experience from a ton of fried oysters on French bread with mayo...not that I'm complaining. I've had many a po' boy since.
Anyhow, all that reminiscing brings me to Todd Micheal St. Pierre's latest, The Southern Po' Boy Cookbook: Mouthwatering Sandwich Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. This cookbook is filled with a multitude of po' boy recipes, along with gorgeous photos, colorful artwork by local painter Dianne Parks, and of course, Todd's well-written stories and poems. I adore the creative chapter titles like "International Affairs," "The Unusual Boys" and "Boy Oh Boy: If It Swims, Cook It!". Even the fun names for individual po' boys are a hoot like "The Gert Town" which is a pork tenderloin po' boy with Remoulade sauce and "The Who Dat" (Geaux Saints!) which has New Orleans-style BBQ Shrimp. My favorite part, though, was that Todd starts the whole book off with the key ingredient of any po' boy worth its salt, a recipe for "Baby, I Knead You! Homemade Po' Boy Bread."
Considering I am a food writer, I've eaten a majority of the po' boys featured in this book, from "The Kenner," a ham and Swiss to "The Snug Harbor" with fried green tomatoes and shrimp remoulade. But there were a few I'd never seen before that set my mouth to watering as I read on. For example, I'd love to sink my teeth into "The Pacific Northwest" with baked salmon and wasabi mayo or "The French Canadian," a poutine po' boy with French fries and cheese curds.
I think The Southern Po' Boy Cookbook is easily the sexiest, most visually stunning of all Todd Micheal St. Pierre's cookbooks. But, there was just one thing about it that didn't make sense to me. For people who don't live in the Greater New Orleans Area, this cookbook is a valuable jewel, one that can transport you to my beloved city with some fresh, juicy shrimp and a ton of butter. But me? I am lucky enough to live here in this wonderfully unique town and if I want a po' boy, I can walk around the corner and get one anytime I want. Sorry Todd! You know I love ya, but you also know anyone who lives in this town is already spoiled rotten when it comes to po' boy access.
Speaking of around the corner, this Sunday, November 24th, Oak Street will be hosting its annual Po-Boy Festival where restaurants all over the city will offer some of the most unique, tongue-tingling, stomach-satisfying po' boys ever and I couldn't be more excited. Plus, Todd Micheal St. Pierre will be signing copies of The Southern Po' Boy Cookbook from 2-3pm in front of Blue Cypress Books at the fest! See ya there!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I don't plan on raising a family (kids and me just don't mix), so I don't have to worry about things like being in an "ultra-safe" neighborhood (whatever that means) or close proximity to a good school. What I would like is to be located closer to downtown where I can more thoroughly enjoy the oldest part of the city, the French Quarter. I also would like to have enough room to comfortably house guests who might want to visit.
Although the sale is pending and I'll likely miss out on the opportunity, this pretty cool and affordable house on Urquhart Street is quite close to what I'm seeking. Previous owners have made some ugly changes to this historic property, but I'm guessing a lot of elbow grease and some extra cash could restore this awesome "side porch" shotgun to it's former glory. I'm actually dying to see what's under those vinyl floors and how the house would look with a proper, wrought-iron gate. Plus, I would love to rip out the drywall that changed those transom doorways into octagonal arches from hell and see how the place looks without so much stuff. I'm something of a minimalist when it comes to furniture and the closest I come to knick knacks are lots and lots of books.
The only worry I have, at least from what little I can discern from the listing, is that the house is in a rather sketchy location. It's only 5 blocks from the Quarter and I know the neighborhood is changing, I've seen it transform drastically over the past ten years, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. That's probably why this three bedroom and two bathroom shotgun is listed for a mere $80,000. Oh well, though this 75-year old treasure would be a lot of fun to restore, I guess I'll have to keep looking.