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 ...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Overdue lunch at Willie Mae's Scotch House

A few months back, I made my first visit (with my good friend Dani) to Willie Mae's Scotch House. I know, you're thinking "What the heck took you so long?" Well? I really don't have any excuse. Suffice it to say, I finally made it.

Dani and I got there a bit early in the lunch hour, so instead of waiting in a long line (which was wrapped around the block when we finished), we were able to walk right in. Both of us were starving, but we knew what we wanted and ordered right away.

Since everyone and their brother's uncle has been telling me to try "America's Best Fried Chicken" at Willie Mae's, my choice seemed rather obvious. After a short wait (which seemed like forever because we both were so hungry), our dishes arrived. I got three pieces of chicken, a breast, thigh and wing. I feel like the last person on Earth to eat at Willie Mae's, but if you've never been, you should go knowing that they serve a wet-batter fried chicken that is greasy, spicy and oh-so munchable in that to-hell-with-my-arteries kind of way. You will feel full, need to wash your hands and face afterwards, and likely swallow a few antacids just to survive the rest of the day. But, don't get me wrong, it's definitely worth the agony.

Dani went an alternate route and ordered fried catfish with a side of mac & cheese and cooked peas. The fish was quite good, fried in a spiced-cornmeal batter and not a bit greasy. The creamy, Velveeta-tasting macaroni seemed like the perfect side, while the peas, unfortunately, needed a lot of help. They were definitely canned peas, which is so very old-school New Orleans. We also had a couple of cornbread muffins that were edible. I only wish they were hot when they hit the table.

We also got a slice of Strawberry Cheesecake to share which was good, but likely not made in-house. Do I sound spoiled? Snobbish? Well, it's highly likely I've just gotten so used to restaurants emphasizing "house-made" and "farm-to-table" that I expect everyone to follow suit. Doesn't matter really, because the chicken is where it's at and since Willie Mae's just moved into a second location mere blocks from my apartment, I can guarantee I'll be back for more.

Willie Mae's Scotch House on Urbanspoon