Friday, September 18, 2015

It's ... it's ... an ice cream po-boy?

When it comes to ice cream sandwiches, nothing is finer (in this Bay Area girl's most humble opinion) than an It's It. These rather notorious cookie and ice cream sandwiches have been around since 1928 and, regrettably, I tend to judge all other similar confections by their standard.

Now admittedly, It's-It has gone somewhat downhill since I was a kid. The ice cream isn't as creamy and the cookies seemed to have shrunk, but I will never forget being a sweaty, hungry 10 year-old girl who was treated to pizza and It's-Its after a continuous stream of disappointing soft ball games. (*Our coach was flaky and cut out on the team right before our big game, taking all of the candy money we earned with her, but that's another story). Smooth, dense chocolate ice cream sandwiched by two, chewy oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate ... I can almost taste it.

Anyhow, recently I was cajoled into trying a new ice cream sandwich that New Orleans Ice Cream Co. just launched this June dubbed (as one might expect) the "Po'Boy." Similar in size to the It's It, the Po'Boys are made with the company's own Creole cream cheese or vanilla bean ice creams delicately squashed between two chocolate cookies and dipped in milk chocolate. The quality, flavor and texture of the ice cream was top notch, or "ultra-premium," as you might expect from New Orleans Ice Cream Co. and the cookies were chocolaty and crunchy, offering a pleasing juxtaposition to the creamy ice cream.

The Po'Boys were generally delicious and I look forward to possibly trying them in other flavors like the Coffee & Chicory or Ponchatoula Strawberry if they decide to expand the line. My only request would be to offer them with a dark chocolate coating too, because I just can't seem to shake the ache for an It's It. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tuning out

I want to be her again. Blissfully unaware, biding my time, plotting my escape to a place that finally understood and accepted me, exactly as I was. This moment was only one year before I made the move. This moment was three years before the levees broke.

My heart is wrenched recalling this moment because it took too damn long to find my home. My heart is wrenched recalling this moment because it was pulled from my grasp after only two short years of euphoria

My heart is wrenched because this place, while it still somewhat resembles the paradise I lost, is rapidly becoming the place I ran away from ... and there's nothing I can do to stop it.

Should I run again? Or should I stay and find whatever solace I can among the remnants? Where would I run to? 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Breaking my fast at Biscuits & Buns on Banks

*Warning - Today I will be venturing into the realm of "too much information." If you can't hang with a bit of over sharing, I suggest you ramble on.

In a vain attempt to make a long story short, I suffer from recurrent UTI (a.k.a. urinary tract infection). Over the past several years, it's gotten so bad that I have developed allergies to all of the typical antibiotics that "cure" UTI. That's right, I break out into hives (or worse) when ingesting Cipro, Macrodantin, Bactrim (or any of the sulfa drugs), Doxycycline etc. I've tried many different remedies or forms of prevention, everything from non-sweetened cranberry juice and herbal extracts to D-Mannose, which, for those of you wondering, doesn't work.

Anyhow, around two years ago I decided to cut out breads and pastas thinking perhaps my frequent infections were due to a gluten sensitivity and at first it seemed to work. A magical combination of herbal tinctures and eliminating gluten from my diet afforded me 8 glorious months without even one UTI.

Then one day, for no reason, they came back.

Frustrated, but determined, I became more vigilant in my gluten-free quest, increasing my intake of preventative herbals and diet options like cranberries, blueberries and yogurt, but to no avail. At minimum, I still get UTIs once every two months.

Throwing up my hands, I decided finally to fuck the gluten-free approach. Here I was denying myself one of the greatest pleasures on this gorgeous, green earth and for what? I didn't lose any weight and my UTIs were back with a vengeance. What was the point?

So, when I say I was breaking my fast that morning several months ago when I first visited Biscuits and Buns on Banks, I'm being quite literal. Not only was I having breakfast, I was breaking a year-long, oh-so torturous fast from bread and let me tell you, I couldn't wait to have a biscuit.

When I sat down in the small, but colorful dining room in the back, all I could think about were biscuits and I was pretty sure I was in the right place to score some. I was about to place an order for a side of biscuits, butter and jam when the waitress comes to the table with a complimentary plate of mini-biscuits with Steen's-laced butter! With my goal in reach, I narrowly managed to restrain myself just long enough to place an order, after all, I couldn't just gorge myself on free mini-biscuits, right?

As the server walked away, I pretended to be focused on creaming and sugaring my coffee when in reality, I couldn't keep my eyes off of the biscuits. By the time the waitress returned with my entree, all three buttery biscuits had been demolished with only a few crumbs remaining in the aftermath.

My entree was the fried andouille hash cakes served with country-style potatoes and topped with two sunny-side-up eggs and a Creole cheese sauce.  Now, I am generally not a fan of cheese sauce unless it's smothering a paper tray full of tortilla chips sprinkled with jalapeno peppers, but surprisingly, I did enjoy this particular dish in spite of the sauce, Perhaps I was still giddy from the biscuits...

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Swooning at Shaya

While I realize that everyone and their brother's mother are waxing poetic about Shaya, I just can't help jumping on the bandwagon. After all, Alon Shaya was awarded the 2015 James Beard for Best Chef: South and he is the undeniably creative force behind one of Downtown New Orleans' most popular restaurants Domenica. So I'm getting on the praise train, not only for the above reasons, but also because Shaya is next in line on my (pitifully delayed) blogging schedule and because the restaurant is, without a doubt, fabulous.

Right after Shaya first opened in February, I pushed John out of his comfort zone (read: desk chair absorbed in a video game) and dragged him out to have lunch with me on Magazine Street. We arrived fairly early, but the restaurant was already packed. Since it was still rather cool, we opted to sit out in the courtyard which was empty when we were seated, but filled quickly as the afternoon progressed.

Though we wanted to order almost everything on the menu, we finally narrowed it down. Lunch began with a plate of warm, just-out-of-the-wood-fired-oven pita bread that was so delicious, it literally altered my definition. It was served with a small dish of olive oil, vinegar and sesame seeds, and though it was tasty, we had other plans for our bread.

In the "For the Table" section of the menu, we selected three different items that (I believe) were meant to accompany the fresh pita. We chose roasted beets (with cardamom I think), Ikra or paddlefish caviar atop a thick dollop of labneh, and another dish of the labneh with peppers and radishes. We also chose the Curried Fried Cauliflower Hummus with caramelized onion and cilantro. These dishes with the pita bread turned our little table party for two into a veritable feast! It was more than enough food for lunch, but because our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, we had also ordered a couple entrees.  

So, while we were ready to push the table back and pat our stomachs in commiseration, John's order of lamb kebabs arrived along with my Matzo Ball Soup. The lamb was delicious! Even full, we had no difficulty inhaling the tender kebabs that were juicy, well-seasoned and served with tzatziki and pine nuts. The Matzo Ball Soup made with slow-cooked duck (normally made with chicken) knocked my socks off, but after everything else we simply couldn't finish, although I must say we made a good dent.

Yes, we had eaten enough for four and yes, we were groaning, but you know I couldn't leave without dessert and we didn't regret that decision ... not one bit. We ordered the "Milk & Honey" which turned out to be a labneh cheesecake served with burnt honey ice cream and granola. Cool, creamy, soothing and sweet, this dessert blew us away and even after I put down my spoon, John happily inhaled what was left. I can't wait to go back...

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