Monday, March 2, 2015

What the devil? Lunch at The Sammich

*Update - Since posting this blog a few hours ago, I received a note from the owner concerned that readers would believe this experience occurred recently. So, for those who skipped the first phrase, this happened several months ago in September of 2014.  

Several months ago, John and I decided to quit procrastinating and have lunch at The Sammich, one of the newest restaurants to open in the Riverbend. Previously, The Sammich had been a sort of permanent pop-up inside Chickie Wah Wah, a popular local music venue on Canal Street, and we were excited to see it land its own digs on Maple Street in our neighborhood.

After ordering at the bar, we chose a table outside to be less obtrusive with our picture-taking and to enjoy a rare day of sun (it was still winter, after all). Everything came out at once, but we started with an appetizer of deviled eggs stuffed with Louisiana crab, capers and cornichons (small French pickles). Now I realize, picking the meat out of Louisiana blue crab can be a tedious project and from time to time, shells will get into your final product no matter how fastidious you are. But, on this particular occasion, every single deviled egg had a minimum of two or three shells. It got to the point where we would take a bite out of one, find a couple of shells, and then try a bite of another ... only to find more! The wonderful flavor kept us interested, but not for long. We just hoped our "sammiches" would make up for it.

John ordered their "En Brochette" Sammich with fried oysters, bacon, brie and meunière. Though I am not a big fan of mixing cheese and seafood, I really enjoyed this sandwich, enough to dub it a "sammich" indeed. Unfortunately, my order was not. I chose the New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp cooked in Abita Turbodog with blackened avocado mayo. The shrimp were juicy and perfectly cooked, but the Turbodog gave the whole sandwich a bitter aftertaste that I simply couldn't get past and I ended up leaving the rest, stealing the other half of John's sammich because I was starving. 

Since I've heard fellow foodies rave about The Sammich, extolling everything from their flash-fried escargot to the tempura-fried lobster knuckle sandwich, I will definitely have to give it another go. Only, I don't think we'll ever order the deviled eggs again... 

The Sammich on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2015

House of the week: Mansion on Amelia Street

"Sing hey! for the bath at close of day that washes the weary mud away!" -J.R.R. Tolkien

Submerging most of one's body in a tub filled with water hot enough to to make you sigh audibly is easily one of the best things life has to offer. I know there are plenty of people out there who prefer a shower, but bathing is not just about cleanliness. Taking a long, luxurious bath can relieve both body and mind, making you feel like a woman of means even if you're a member of the working poor.

Sometimes, when I am browsing though house listings, certain features catch my eye and I can't get them out of my mind. That was the case with this particular house on Amelia Street. Indeed, this spectacular (and gargantuan), century plus, five bedroom, five and half bathroom house possesses many architectural features I love, from a wrap-around porch and floor-to-ceiling windows to transoms, French doors and a swimming pool; there was one particular image I can't seem to erase.

Although it's not overly grandiose like some bathrooms I've seen, this one image of a free-standing, modern tub in front of a blue-tiled fireplace literally makes me drool. I can picture myself lounging in that tub with a fire crackling, candles overwhelming the mantle and sudsy bubbles oozing over the side onto the hardwood floor.

I may as well continue fantasizing though, because at $1,600,000, a dream is all it will ever be. I think it's time to take a bath ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Half of the time at The Half Shell Oyster Bar & Grill

Other than food quality and service, one of the most important characteristics of a great restaurant is consistency. The reason I am comfortable recommending spots like Herbsaint, Patois, La Petite Grocery and Coquette, is because every time I've eaten at any of those restaurants, the food always rocks ... every single time. Consistency is obviously important and it always should be. After all, how can you talk up a place where the food is only good some of the time?

A few months back, I was really excited to try The Half Shell Oyster Bar & Grill. John and I made it on a Wednesday for an early dinner. The restaurant sports a completely casual environment with a short of strip-mall feel featuring a good-sized raw oyster bar and tables both outside and in. We perused the menu, placed our order and eyed the big-screen TVs while we waited.

To start, we tried The Half Shell's house special dubbed "Voodoo Bleu Oysters." Freshly-shucked oysters are wrapped in bacon, topped with bleu cheese and grilled. The oysters were plump, the bacon and bleu cheese was plentiful and we scarfed them down with a will, you would have too. It's almost $13 for only a half dozen of these beauties, but we thought them well worth it, especially since we happened to catch one of their oyster deals that day and got a dozen for the same price.

For our entrees, I got a fried shrimp platter with sweet potato fries and John ordered a fried catfish po-boy with onion rings. Though I thought my platter was a bit on on the small side, the shrimp were fat and crispy with a spicy batter, and my fries featured a bit of lagniappe with a sprinkling of sugar. John's po-boy was perfect and the onion rings were crisp rounds of red onion that had marinated in Crystal Hot Sauce before being battered and fried, adding a tangy edge to the sweet onion.

I had to try dessert (don't I always get dessert?), but the only item they offered was bread pudding. We got it anyhow, though it was really nothing special, not even one of the better bread puddings I've tasted. No matter, we enjoyed most of the dinner and wrote the dessert off as a minor loss.

Now my issue with the Half Shell is that I've returned several times since, and it's never the same as that first time. Once the Voodoo Bleu Oysters (yes, I HAD to order them again) were disappointingly weak on bacon and bleu cheese content, and another time the onion rings came out as a greasy, fried pile-o-mess that I was tempted to send back to the kitchen. What happened? All I can hope is that they get it together and put consistency higher on their list of priorities, otherwise why would anyone come back? Here's hoping!

The Half Shell Oyster Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

House of the week: Cottage on Cambronne Street

Talk about dangling the carrot ... right around the corner from my current residence, I've discovered a home, that I've admired on many occasion, that is up for sale. I can't tell you how many times I have walked past this house, dreaming it was mine all mine. Also, there's a large owl statue perched on the left column of the front porch (they have wiped it from the picture, but check it out on Google Maps) whose eyes seem to follow as you pass.

Over a century old, this craftsman-style shotgun features two bedrooms, two bathrooms and approximately 1500 square feet of living space. It offers all the details I love, from hardwood floors and high ceilings to exposed brick walls, fireplace mantles, transoms and a claw foot tub. Plus, it's in one of the coolest neighborhoods in New Orleans (my 'hood!) and it's within walking distance of Cowbell, The Maple Leaf, Blue Cypress Books, Dante's Kitchen, Brigtsen's, Truburger, Pho Bistreaux, Oak and so much more.

I was hesitant to post about this house because I just know, listed at $350,000, it'll be snatched up right under my nose. Doesn't matter really, I can't afford it anyhow. I'll just go cry quietly in the corner now ...