Tuesday, May 31, 2011

House of the week: Chippewa's cute Creole Cottage

Located in the Irish Channel only a few blocks away from Magazine Street is this cute Creole Cottage double that's selling for $215,000. Like my other "dream houses," this cottage is a classic, built a century ago in 1911 and features gorgeous, dark hardwood floors, architectural details and high ceilings. It is a double, so I could rent out one side and live in the other, plus it has a humongous back yard. Each unit has it's own, separate back porch for privacy, or if we end up getting along, the rest of the yard would be perfect for crawfish boils, barbecues...you name it.

My only real issue with this particular property is that the listing states it has a total of three bedrooms. What does that mean? One and a half bedrooms per apartment? What actually constitutes a half of a bedroom? Plus, it also says there are three full bathrooms. So perhaps one side has two bedrooms with two baths and the other had one bedroom and one bath? It's all really quite odd. At any rate, it's a really cute house at a pretty decent price for the area. Perhaps I could deal with the halved bedroom just long enough to remodel the whole house into one unit? Sheesh, there I go again! Dream on girl!

Monday, May 30, 2011

A veritable feast! NOWFE Grand Tastings

Thanks our friend (and sometimes employer) Kendall, John and I were able to attend this year's Grand Tasting event at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. We left the house early on Friday, both hungry and anxious to get to the Morial Convention Center downtown. Believe it or not, we hopped onto a streetcar, got off at Lee Circle and trudged our way through the sticky heat to Convention Center Boulevard, only seven blocks away. Fortunately, we were able to enter the convention center lobby and cool off in the air conditioning before we reached the center of festivities in Hall J.

The darkened hall was already packed when we finally arrived at 6:30 PM and I had to harangue John a bit for not believing me when I said we should get there early. After some minor bickering (ain't love grand?), we headed for Lüke, the first offering in front of us. Besh's "Franco-German" brasserie was serving "Shrimp en Cocotte" with brandy and green peppercorns over grits. I looked up the word "cocotte" because I wanted a clearer definition of the cooking process and I didn't learn that one in French class. Apparently, it means either an individual serving-sized, fireproof dish OR a prostitute...I'm assuming they meant the former, but either way it was delicious! The shrimp were not overcooked (which is stunning in such a setting) and I watched them cook it in tons of creamy butter in a huge saucepan. It seems my next Besh outing now leans heavily towards Lüke.

Though I wanted to get back in line and go for another round, John urged me towards another table just across the way displaying a huge bucket full of crawfish.  We got in a short line for Palace Cafe's Creole Tomato & Louisiana Crawfish Poached Beef Tenderloin, say that ten times fast. The dish was actually quite good, though I am not a huge fan of any type of red sauce. Best of all, due to a half-hearted joke about wanting to eat the boiled crawfish display, the chef gave us one to try. The crawfish was delicious and seasoned so perfectly, though different from what we were used to. John even ate the claws and sucked the head!

Right next door was a table that was crowd-free and I'm really not sure why. Galvez Restaurant was serving Chef's Laura's Summer Gazpacho topped with fresh cucumber and it was perfect! The cool tomato soup was  so tasty, with just the right amount of spiciness and kick.

After slurping down our gulp of gazpacho, we turned to the Red Fish Grill's offering, a beef tenderloin-wrapped yellowfin tuna served with a squash puree. Talk about surf & turf! John and I quickly gobbled it down and headed for our next treat which turned out to be Arnaud's wonderful Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo. There was no line at the table when we arrived, but as we left carrying our bowls of gumbo and its rich, heady scent wafted into the crowds, people started to eye our food as we passed and a queue soon formed.

Our wanderings really had no rhyme or reason, except that we avoided lines that were way too long, the only exception being the St. James Cheese Company. I simply couldn't have been more pleased with the selection of cheeses we got to try, among them black truffle goat cheese, cranberry chipotle cheddar, brick cheddar and burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) which was served on a thin water cracker. The cheese was all fabulous. I even got to eat John's serving of burrata since he didn't quite dig the texture, which was fine by me!

Right after I popped the last bit of cheese in my mouth, we turned around for the grand display by M Bistro. The Ritz Carlton Hotel restaurant was serving two items, a Peaches & Cream "shot" and Corn & Crawfish Crepes with creole tomato jam, goat cheese foam and ghost pepper caviar. Admittedly, I loved the dessert with a fan of cotton candy on top and buttery crumble on the bottom, but the star of the show - the whole show, mind you - was the Corn & Crawfish Crepes. The crepe was a light, airy affair filled with creamy corn and crawfish, John inhaled his serving and nodding in delight before I turned around after picking up the dessert. We both agreed that it was easily the best dish we tried at Friday's Grand Tasting, although I think the shrimp from Lüke ran a close second.

By this time, we were both getting pretty full and we hadn't even hit half the tables in the hall. We forced ourselves to move on and headed next for Martin Wine Cellar who was serving Smokey Abita BLT Shrimp. As I understand, they were supposed to be serving the shrimp on a sweet potato biscuit (which I think would've been awesome), but it was getting toward the end of the evening and they must have ran out. Anyhow, the shrimp was still very good with a both sweet and savory sauce with large bits of bacon.

We rounded the bend to see something we'd both been craving that day, New Orleans Coffee Company's CoolBrew. We got a shot of our favorite flavor, Toasted Almond, over ice with milk and finally found a place to sit down and enjoy some time off of our feet. While taking a much-needed breather, we noticed people walking away from the Wolfe's in the Warehouse table with an interesting dish, so I sent John over to investigate. He returned with a cute, black plastic ramekin filled with Vanilla Bean Braised Short Rib with goat cheese and green onion blue grits. It was oddly sweet, yet nonetheless delectable and as I took the last bite, I realized that this was indeed my last bite.

Okay, not quite my absolute last bite. As we were heading back around the room towards the exit, we passed the Cochon 555 seminar and while we listened for a bit, we sampled some of the remaining luscious charcuterie scraps left on the table. Filled to the brim, I knew it was time to head home.

You're probably asking yourself, "She said this was a food AND wine experience right? So where does the wine come in?"  Well, we did indeed drink wine, lots and lots of wine, but being the grape newbies that we are, I didn't know what to say about it. We tasted Chardonnays, Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, Shirazes, Pinot Noirs and Bordeauxs...all of them were good to us, but what do we know about wine?

Essentially, we were there for one thing and one thing only, the food! Thanks NOWFE!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's going to be grand...

Last year around this time, I whined to all of you about how I wouldn't be able to attend the magnificent Grand Tasting at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. Well, it seems my prayers have been answered because this year, this week in fact. John and I will be at Friday's Grand Tasting event in the New Orleans Convention Center! I'm so excited I can barely breathe!

For this week's cheat, I will be dining on food presented by 75 different chefs and tasting wine from 175 different wineries from all over the world. It's going to be a feast of Bacchanalian proportions! As if that wasn't enough, on Friday there will a preview of Cochon 555 (an event that'll be happening at the Foundry on Saturday) where Michael Sullivan, a Blackberry Farm charcutier, will be leading a discussion regarding the preservation of heritage breed pigs. We'll also get to sample cured meats paired with the perfect wines from guest vintners for the event!

I'll be bringing my camera and my appetite, so look out NOWFE because here I come!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

House of the week: Riverbend "beach cottage" style double

I've been watching this house while it's been renovated over the past couple of years. It's only a few blocks away from where I live now in the Riverbend area and every time I walk my dog, I can't help but gawk at homes in my 'hood I'd love to own. While this particular model is way out of my price range, it certainly is a beauty I'd love to own nonetheless.

Going for $299,000, this cute double on Dublin Street has been renovated to the point of looking nothing like the houses in the surrounding neighborhood. With Miami-bright colors and glassed-in front porches, this house has all that I could ask for and more with hardwood floors, gorgeous windows and fully updated kitchens with granite counter tops and recessed lighting.

Each unit has about 1200 square feet of living space with 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths per side. The listing states that one side is currently being rented for $1,450...yikes!

The biggest plus to this particular property is that I'd be able to remain in the Riverbend, a gorgeous neighborhood that I absolutely adore. Unfortunately, I'd never be able to afford this house...well, at least not until I win the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes that is sure to happen any day now!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why my friends are cooler than yours...

Back in November of last year, my friend Casey (being the football fan that she is) entered a contest for tickets to the Tostitos BCS Fiesta Bowl game and won. She and her boyfriend Brandon got an all-expense paid trip to Glendale, Arizona and watched as the Auburn Tigers beat the Oregon Ducks 22-19. Now if that wasn't cool enough, Casey was also entered for a chance to win a Ford F-150 Ultimate Tailgate Edition Truck and...she won!

Though the contest was held way back in early January, Casey and Brandon just received the truck this past Friday. So, without further ado and just in time to celebrate the approaching rapture, Casey and Brandon came and picked us up for an impromptu picnic in City Park.

We stopped over at Rouses for some quick supplies and then found a cool spot in City Park near "da bayou" and BA-BANG! Instant BBQ...

The cab of the truck is huge, with lots of space in both the front and back, but get this - all the REALLY cool stuff is in the bed.

A satellite-topped cover over the bed of the truck slowly rises up and the tailgate flips down to reveal a stainless steel, propane BBQ (with a side burner) that slides out of the back. There is also a sink and a large ice chest screaming the Ford logo...

Plus, there's a full, surround sound, Competition Audio System with a Kenwood CD player, four 13-inch LCD's and one huge plasma screen.

So, we listened to the Soul Rebels Brass Band through Pandora Radio that was hooked up from their Droid Smartphone, ate freshly grilled, Chicken-Jalapeno sausage and drank LA-31 Genade from Bayou Teche Brewing within mere minutes of backing into our spot.

Then, when the day started to wane and night began to fall, we flipped down the TVs and played Dead Rising from the Xbox 360 that was hooked up in back.

Does it get any better than this? I have visions of outdoor Treme BBQs, DDR parties at the Fly and, hey - they could even tailgate! Jealous much?

Well, now my cool friends can be your cool friends, too! Casey and Brandon are planning on sharing the love by offering to rent out this insta-party on wheels. If you're interested or just want to know more, email Casey at csmithnola@gmail.com.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Roast beef heaven at Mahoney's Po-Boy Shop

If you've never had a good roast beef po-boy, you'll never understand the tactile delight of rich, brown gravy covering your mouth and sliding slowly down your hands every time you take a bite of this uniquely New Orleans sandwich. Roast beef po-boys would always be my "go-to" choice for lunch as soon as I discovered them and I'd often risk staining good work outfits to have one. Yesterday, I figured too much time had passed since my last bounty of beefy goodness, so John, Anne and I headed over to Mahoney's Po-Boy Shop for my 86th cheat. I am down 81 pounds.

Located on Magazine Street a little more than a block away from Louisiana Avenue, Mahoney's is yet another of those cute "house-turned-restaurants" that are scattered all over the city. We arrived at around 2 PM in order to avoid the lunch rush and were lucky enough to get a parking spot right in front. We walked in, placed our order and walked back out to snake a table on the wide porch outside. Though the girl at the counter told us we'd be waiting 30 minutes for our food to come up, the time seemed to pass rather quickly as we lounged in the shade watching the traffic roll by on Magazine Street.

Our sides came out first -- a large order of super-thin onion rings and and "Dirty Fries" with gravy and melted cheddar cheese. Now, I've always thought I was in the thick-cut onion ring camp, but when I tasted these beauties and felt them practically melt in my mouth...let's just say I'm a changed woman. The Dirty Fries were fantastic and the rich, red wine gravy made me anxious for my main dish, my raison d'etre, the Certified Angus "Pot Roast" Beef po-boy.

I had actually tortured myself earlier in the day when I watched the video online of Chef Ben Wicks creating his version of this local favorite and it had me salivating on my keyboard. When my 12 inch po-boy arrived, I realized my eyes were far larger than what my stomach could accommodate, but I had no problem devouring at least half of that roast beef beauty. The juicy, beefy goodness was slathered on Leidenheimer French bread and dressed with plenty of mayo, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes and wrapped up into a huge sheet of white butcher paper. Though the flavor was different from others I've tried around town due to the addition of red wine, it was still fantastic and it's competing for "best in show" when it comes to my all-time favorite.

John's sandwich was just as amazing, though extremely pricey at $21.95. Dubbed "the Peacemaker," John's po-boy was a 12-inch wonder of large, fried oysters, bacon and cheddar cheese on the same delicious French bread as mine. Though our sandwiches and side fed us for two meals yesterday, I still can't avoid smacking my forehead in disbelief at paying over $50 plus tip for a couple of po-boys, two drinks and a side.

Anne bravely (in my opinion) ordered the Fried Chicken Liver & Creole Slaw po-boy and wisely chose to get a 6-inch. I'm not a huge fan of liver, but I found her sandwich quite tasty even though I'd probably never order that myself.

Finally, you know I had to have dessert, so I chose the Sweet Potato Crunch Pie thinking I'd have it all to myself since neither Anne nor John like sweet potatoes. Wrong! They brought the pie out with three spoons and before I could say "marshmallow," it was demolished. The sweet potatoes were surprisingly bright in flavor and color, and I adored the brown sugar, pecan crumble on top. I also liked the addition of the charred marshmallows, that is when I could get one...Anne slyly stole all but what fell onto the tabletop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

House of the week: Laurel Street Victorian Double

These posts are really starting to hurt. I didn't realize how much emotional and psychological torture I had committed myself to when I started these "dream house" posts. For instance, today's house happened to cause a shooting pain to manifest in my clicker (index) finger that shot up into my shoulder and brought tears to my eyes. The reason? Well, other than my more recent obsession with Sims 3 (RSS injury anyone?), this house is located mere blocks from my first New Orleans apartment on Harmony Street in the famed Garden District.

Located on Laurel Street only a half block away from Louisiana Avenue, this Victorian double shotgun house is all that I want, though priced a bit high at $224,900 (especially for a "fixer-upper"); high ceilings, hardwood floors, central air & heat, huge front & rear porches, 1000 sqare feet per side and over 150 years old. Plus, or should I say more importantly, this cute Victorian is located less than two blocks from Magazine Street and only six blocks from the parade route. Yep, only a hop skip and a jump away from every Mardi Gras parade that rolls down St. Charles Avenue.

Now, wouldn't you want to come visit? I know I would...

Monday, May 16, 2011

All I want...

...is a sweet ride in a Cadillac with fat rims and fuzzy dice.

And just to make sure everyone knows it's a Cadillac...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Losing the sun: 5 Fifty 5

*Warning: I am going to completely "dork-out" on y'all, so if things like hairy-footed Hobbits and the land of faerie make you nauseous, you may want to skip the first paragraph.

The Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan is an epic tale of heroism, magic and romance that I have read and re-read 'till my boyfriend thought I might be losing it. Probably one of the most overwhelming topics in the books is the strong magical ability that manifests in a small percentage of the "world's" population, the ability to wield the "One Power." When an individual is filled with this elusive magic, all of their senses are sharpened. They can see fine cracks in the walls, smell food from a vendor miles away and feel every rustle of clothing against their skin. Conversely, when they release this power, everything pales in comparison and the world fades to shades of gray. They call it "losing the sun."

You are probably asking yourself, "What does this has to do with food?" Well, I believe the past several cheats I've enjoyed at restaurants like MiLa, Domenica, Upperline, a Mano and Patois spoiled me. Dining at those establishments was almost like being on that magical high and unfortunately, I fell off of my cloud when I recently visited 5 Fifty 5 for my 85th cheat. I'm still down 80 pounds.

My friend Anne joined John and I for lunch at the Marriott Hotel restaurant on Canal Street. We took advantage of the hotel parking garage and though we were willing to pay, our ticket was validated inside the restaurant.  The dining room was enormous, but gorgeously decorated in retro orange and extremely comfortable. We were seated immediately and asked if we would like something to drink. Anne and I ordered iced tea, but when John asked for a Coke, the server said they didn't serve it. (Really?)  It seemed a bit pretentious for a hotel restaurant and we shook our heads at the strangeness of it all, but John just decided to settle for an iced tea.

We placed the rest of our order without any difficulty and before long, our server brought out our appetizers, Fried Calamari with Tabasco aioli and Louisiana Crab Cakes. The calamari was tender, but overly greasy and the aioli wasn't even slightly spicy, like I assumed it would be. I guess I should have known not to order crab cakes, but the "bacon apple reduction" piqued my interest. Unfortunately, they were loaded with bread crumbs and drowning in the almost cloyingly sweet reduction. There were two cakes and I don't think we finished one of them between the three of us.

Crossing our fingers for the next course, we munched on bread till our entrees arrived. Anne chose the "555" Lobster Mac & Cheese, a dish we were all excited to taste, and our eyes bulged when we saw her dish arrive. It was huge! Almost an entire family-sized casserole dish was overflowing with pasta. Anne kindly doled out scoops for John and I, but when I dug in to what I thought would be cheesy lobster heaven, I was again disappointed. The lobster was plentiful and tender, but the cheese flavor was totally muted and the inclusion of spinach in the dish seemed to water the whole thing down. Only a heavy dose of salt and pepper made the bites I had lose a bit of blandness.

John's dish, the BBQ Alligator Baby Back Ribs, also came with mac & cheese, but his included bleu cheese and was baked with a nice, buttery breadcrumb topping. The ribs were surprising only because I was under the impression that the only part of the alligator people ate was the tail, but these were tender and meaty, falling straight from the bone. I didn't enjoy the BBQ sauce, which was too sweet and peppery, but I would definitely venture to try gator ribs again.

I had the Grilled Chicken Andouille Sausage BLT with with smoked Gouda and thick slices of bacon on focaccia bread. I actually enjoyed my dish the most, but the bread (what I thought would excite me the most) seemed a little undercooked and quickly got soggy from the mayo and tomato.

I think we all knew we were pressing our luck when we decided to order dessert, but hope kept us clinging to the dream. Anne and I chose two dishes, the “555” Award Winning Crème Brulee and Chef Q’s better than sex Chocolate Soufflé. Our server informed us we'd have to wait 20 minutes for the soufflé and after a little deliberation, we decided to tough it out.

At long last, the desserts arrived and we all dove first into the crème brulee. It passed my first concern with a crisp, browned crust of sugar, but the custard underneath was too thick, almost gooey in texture which made us all heave a chorus of sighs. On the other hand, the chocolate soufflé was hot, chocolaty and creamy...but by no means was it better than sex. Just sayin'...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The bread of (my) life...

"All sorrows are less with bread."  ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Easily the biggest obstacle to shedding pounds would have to be my severe addiction to bread...oh and don't forget butter (because I can't seem to have one without the other). I really love bread, all kinds of bread; French, sourdough, ciabatta, focaccia, wheat, white, raisin, corn, rye, potato, lavash, pita, soda, tortillas, brioche...don't even get me started on quick breads.

Strangely enough, bread is one of those dining items that seem like a "given." Dinner rolls tend not to be included when you tell your friends about your fantastic meal the next day, not unless they are unusual. Those perfect yeasty creations just sit at the corner of your table only to be absentmindedly used to swab up the sauces from your dish, but rarely are they raved about. Not today!  Here is my pictorial ode to some of the most delicious breads I've encountered on my many, many cheats...

If you've ever been to Babylon Cafe on Maple Street, not only would you know they make about the best falafels around, but they also have home made bread that is simply wonderful, always fresh and especially delicious. I find it perfect for dipping in their Baba Ganush or Hummus.

If I didn't mention the bread from Patois, you'd all be in shock, but I am sure I waxed just a little poetic about their bread when I first blogged about this incredible restaurant several months ago. Patois' rolls are light, airy, buttery and (to be perfectly frank) I wish they gave you more than two.

La Petite Grocery has wonderful rolls that have a tart, chewy crumb and a thick crust. But, what's even more fabulous is the sweet, house made (churned?) butter which arrives with your warm rolls in a nice, thick slab.

Just recently at MiLa, I got to enjoy two different breads in one basket! There was a nice, crumbly cornbread that was served with a tart lima bean puree and warm, sweet potato rolls that we slathered with sweet butter sprinkled with sea salt.

For our Valentine's dinner at Roux on Orleans, we enjoyed thick slices of sourdough and olive loaf that the restaurant acquired from La Louisiane Bakery. They were delicious, plentiful and perfect for soaking up the remnants of our Oyster Rockefeller soup.

At Domenica we were served large slices of chewy ciabatta with an herb-infused extra virgin olive oil that was  absolutely delectable. Good thing I got a shot of the bread before my camera died...

Finally, I would be totally remiss if I didn't mention something on the sweet side, our assorted breakfast bread selection from Dante's Kitchen. Blueberry muffin, cornbread madeleines, banana nut bread and fennel scones...oh my!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

House of the week: Frenchmen Street Victorian Sidehall

I think I'm in love. I want this house. I need this house. This is a 100-year-old Victorian Sidehall with gorgeous architectural features like ceiling medallions, sliding pocket doors, original fireplace mantels, hardwood floors and high ceilings. It has 2,200 square feet of living space and central air & heat which is more important than you can possibly imagine (for those not local). It's going for $199,900 and though that might seem a bit steep for a 2bdr/1ba home...it's all about the location. Situated on Frenchmen Street, not only is this beautiful house mere blocks away from the French Quarter, it's smack dab in the middle of one of the most musical neighborhoods in town.

This dreaming is starting to hurt. I think I'm gonna go cry for a spell...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sense of place: Upperline Restaurant

There are many places around town that evoke a sense of art, comfort, beauty and local character -- a sense that this particular location could be found no where else on earth but New Orleans. Some are rather obvious like the historic French Quarter, Commander's Palace or Jax Brewery, while others are far more subtle, yet no less resonant. One such establishment that retains this strong sense of place is Upperline Restaurant.

Last week, our friend Lorin invited John and I to dinner at Upperline and we were both very excited, not only to taste the classic local cuisine crafted by Chef Anthony Spizale (who recently took over the helm), but to experience that wonderful meal in the gorgeous "shotgun-turned-restaurant" decorated by owner JoAnn Clevenger. This was my 84th cheat and I am now down 80 pounds.

Not only does she own Upperline, but Mrs. Clevenger also works as the restaurant's gracious hostess who seated us last week at one of the best tables in the house. At once, we were in awe of the ceiling-to-floor art displayed on every wall, most of which was created by Louisiana artists. When we could tear our eyes from the riot of color and creativity around us, we finally managed to select from a three course prix fixe menu.

Soon after adorning our table with a large loaf of warm French bread and a thick slab of butter, our appetizers arrived. I went with an Upperline original, Fried Green Tomatoes smothered in a shrimp remoulade sauce. Crispy, tart and absolutely delicious, I was reluctant to share my tomatoes, but knew it would be the only way I'd get a taste of John's dish, Oysters St. Claude. Beautifully plump fried oysters were balanced atop dollops of rich, garlicky sauce that neither of us could resist swabbing up with hunks of the soft, French bread.

As the empty plates were whisked away, our entrees were paraded out of the kitchen, several different servers bringing our dishes all at the same time. Although John would definitely argue with me, I thought my dish was the best, two large drumsticks of slow-cooked Roast Duck with Garlic Port sauce and candied sweet potatoes. The juicy duck was so flavorful it really didn't need the sumptuous sauce served on the side, but I used it to lovingly dip several hunks regardless. John inhaled his Cane River Country Shrimp with mushrooms and bacon over a crispy fried grit cake rather quickly, but not before I managed a few bites.

At last, there was dessert and I couldn't resist ordering the ubiquitous Bread Pudding, Upperline's version featuring honey and pecans in a thick toffee sauce. John, on the other hand, didn't blink an eye when he chose the Pecan Pie that arrived with a large dollop of freshly whipped cream. Both desserts were fabulous and while we ate, we were fortunate to be regaled with stories about the restaurant and its art from Mrs. Clevenger herself. One tale that stood out was how a devoted diner was dithering over what to name his racehorse and when JoAnn suggested he name it "Upperline," he did! Plus, after the horse was dubbed, it went on to win two successive races!

I was feeling so comfortable and welcome that even though we'd already been there for several hours, I felt like I could have easily hung out for several more. We reluctantly followed a couple of faithful diners out of the door and heard their promises to JoAnn that they'd return next week at the same time and I longed to repeat it. Upperline and Mrs. Clevenger distinctly possess the genuine "feeling" that is New Orleans and if you love this city like I do, you'll have a hard time ending your visit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My house of the week: Algiers Point Double

Quite a few of my dreams have come true since moving to New Orleans, the first of which was living here...check! Another dream involved pursuing a career in writing and though that is still in the works, it's finally begun...check! I also fantasized about meeting the man of my dreams, someone who wanted to ride this ridiculous roller-coaster called "life" with me at his side...check! Now what's left?

Since I was very little, I've dreamed of owning my own house. I even went so far as to draw out floor plans for my many dream homes that included several stories, an indoor pool, a library, wine cellar and a massive walk-in closet. Ah, the dreams of youth...

As I matured, my definitions of the "perfect" house changed quite drastically and not only for the obvious financial obstacles I'd have to overcome. History became an extremely important factor. I want a home that's been around for a while, over 100 years would be great. Also, older homes (especially in New Orleans) tend to have incredible architectural details and features like super-high ceilings and old, hardwood floors.

Anyhow, since I have this blog at my disposal, I thought I would do a weekly post on homes in New Orleans that I want...homes that are reasonably priced, yet still possess all the gorgeous qualities and details I desire in a house. So, without further ado, here is my first pick:

Located in historic Algiers Point (which is just across the river for those not in the know), this gorgeous double is a total of 2000 square feet, 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with hardwood floors, 12 foot ceilings and (extra bonus) claw foot tubs.  Not to mention, this particular house has a nice, huge porch where I can watch the world go by. It's going for $149,000, but the beauty of a double is that I can live in one half and rent out the other...essentially my tenant would be paying my mortgage!

Until I have enough saved for a down payment, it certainly can't hurt to dream...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Applauding a Mano

A long time ago in a land way out West, a friend of mine took me to a "hole-in-the-wall" Italian restaurant dubbed "John's" where I was served, quite possibly, the best Linguine & Clams I have ever eaten. I distinctly recall devouring a gargantuan pile of hand-made linguine lovingly enveloped in a light, buttery, mollusk-rich sauce carrying chopped clam meat that clung delicately to each strand of pasta. It is to this memory that I hold up to every Italian-food experience...a standard which I hope each restaurant will meet, if not exceed. To be perfectly honest, most of the Italian restaurants I have tried in New Orleans simply do not measure up, at least they didn't until I visited a Mano.

Located on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and St. Joseph, a Mano is another one of those wonderful restaurant creations masterminded by Chef Adolfo Garcia, along with Rio Mar and La Boca. I've enjoyed the wonderful tapas at Rio Mar and was duly excited to try a Mano for my 83rd cheat. I am still down a total of 79 pounds.

*Side note:  I am still struggling with my weight loss...obviously. It's been standing still for too long (in my opinion) and I've become frustrated and irritable about it, so much so that I have done (and eaten) stupid things that don't really help my situation. I wanted to let you all know that I have begun a routine of pilates three days a week and walking my dog every evening. I'm crossing my fingers the weight will start going down again...wish me luck!

John and I arrived at a Mano for lunch on Friday and noticed there were only three other tables filled with diners. We were seated at a corner table next to a window and immediately offered menus and drinks. After listening to the specials, John and I made our choices and, with gracious help from our server, selected a couple of glasses of wine to enjoy with our meal. John got a red wine, an '07 Ciro Reserva Duca San Felice (my wine newbishness must be showing) and I had a white, an '09 Greco di Tufo Devon. So, I don't know squat about wine, but I know that I preferred John's to my own, it had a wonderful flavor that reminded me of cherries and chocolate.

In the blink of an eye, our antipasti choices arrived. First we had the "Affettati Misti," a charcuterie plate of house-cured meats like mortadella, prosciutto, salami and duck which we gobbled down promptly. Second, we opted for the day's special, "Coppa di Testa" or a fried slice of hogshead cheese (made in-house, of course) topped with a sunny side-up egg and garnished with pickled peppers. With every wedge we cut, the yolk oozed over the meat and only made the dish more decadent...as if fried hogshead wasn't enough.

For my entree, I selected the Squid-ink Cavatelli with crawfish, calamari and octopus in a light sauce of lemon, scallions and garlic. For the first time while eating pasta in New Orleans, I felt transported back to that fateful moment when I thought seafood pasta couldn't get any better. The cavatelli was perfectly cooked, though shaped into corkscrews, but the dense, hearty consistency was still present and accounted for. Also, I thought the dish was visually stunning with the white and rose colored seafood standing sharply against the black, squid-ink color of the pasta.

John chose the "Buccatini all' Amatriciana" with house-cured guanciale (bacon made from pig's jowl or cheeks), pecorino cheese in a tomato sauce. We both loved the buccatini (my favorite type of spaghetti pasta, thick strands with a hole down the center) and the tomato sauce was so fresh and bright tasting, it was like garden tomatoes had gone straight from the vine into the sauce.

We finished off the meal with some cappuccinos and a slice of "Torta di Giandiua" -- a fantastic flourless chocolate cake accented with hazelnuts, olive oil and sea salt. This a Mano experience exceeded my expectations and sent me reeling back into memories of other great Italian restaurants I've been privileged enough to visit in the past, a feat deserving of a standing ovation. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together in a rousing round of applause for a Mano...