Sunday, February 27, 2011

Going back to school for Dunbar's Creole Cooking

It seems to me, the best way to discover a hidden gem in any city is through word-of-mouth and New Orleans is no exception. For example, one of Loyola University's cafeterias would be the last place I would've looked for some classic, home-style Creole food until my friend Casey told me about Dunbar's Creole Cooking. She told me how it used to be located on Freret Street before the federal flood of 2005 and she and her classmates would often head over to the restaurant for a delicious, yet affordable lunch...a perfect dining solution on a student's budget.

Curious, hungry and tight on cash, John and I decided to check it out last week. This was my 75th cheat and I gained 3 pounds since my last adventure. Could it have something to do with all the imbibing I did at the parade last weekend? Nahhh....

Our vehicle has been on the fritz, what with the engine leaking more oil than a BP rig, so we decided to take a ride on the streetcar. It was a beautiful day to ride the rails with the windows down, the huge oaks overhanging St. Charles Avenue making dappled light patterns on the ground. It was a short trip and before we knew it, our stop had come and gone, so we pulled the buzzer and got off to walk back a couple blocks.

A few years after the storm, Dunbar's owners decided to cut their losses and relocate from Freret Street to the cafeteria in the Broadway Activities Center building at 501 Pine Street on the Loyola campus where they have been rocking their plate lunches and po-boys ever since. When we stepped into the building (strangely reminiscent of a Hollywood movie studio), the smell of school hit me full in the face and brought back images of my own college days in California. I wonder, do all colleges smell the same? I am willing to bet that they do.

The cafeteria was half-full of students, reading while they ate, typing furiously at worn laptops or standing near the vending machines talking to friends. The "school smell" diminished as we got closer to our goal which was situated in the back. Checking out the menu, we both decided to do the plate lunch for the day which was Smothered Pork Chops with mustard greens and candied yams, all for only $7.95.

We found a booth in the corner and proceeded to gobble everything on our trays, digging into the feast with plastic forks and knives that heightened the school cafeteria experience. The pork chops were definitely the star of the show, nice and tender with a tasty onion gravy on top. Though John isn't really into them, I really enjoyed the bitter mustard greens with the salty flavor of ham hocks penetrating each mouthful. We also both enjoyed the thick hunk of cornbread, especially after it soaked up some of the gravy from our chops and the candied yams were so sweet that we didn't even need dessert.

I'd love to go back to school on Monday, so I can try their red beans with fried chicken!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Café Du Monde: A never-ending love affair...

After the Krewe du Vieux parade was over, John and I were trekking back through the Quarter down Decatur Street when I suddenly remembered something...I didn't have any dessert for my cheat! No matter, I knew the perfect place to go.

Since my first visit to New Orleans, I have been in love with Café Du Monde. I love the crowded cafe overflowing with lines of sticky topped tables. I love the waiters in white hats and aprons bearing over-laden trays while weaving through the masses. I love the mammoth, green awning shading visitors from the harsh sun, but allowing the river breezes. I love the creamy, rich café au laits made with their special blend of coffee and chicory and most of all, above everything else, I love their beignets.

Who could possibly resist these fluffy, crispy pillows of happiness brought out fresh from the deep fryer for every single order and blessed with towering heaps of powdered sugar? Most definitely not I.

When John and I arrived late that Saturday night, the cafe was packed with parade revelers, but we managed to score a table amidst the hullabaloo with little difficulty. We sat and people-watched until a waiter came and took our order of two café au laits and a plate of beignets.

Tourists were flashing fake boobs for pictures while we waited, causing a bit of a row, but soon our order arrived and we set to with a will. The coffee was perfect, requiring only a bit of sugar for my extra-sweet tooth and the beignets were as beautiful as they always are. Piping hot, we munched them down amid a flurry of powdered sugar and gooey grins.

As I washed the sweet remnants from my lips with a slurp of delicious coffee, I couldn't help feeling warm and wonderful inside. It was yet another reminder that I'm where I'm supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Angeli on Decatur: A tasty, last-minute decision

On the day of Krewe du Vieux, John and I had the notion of getting to the Quarter well before the parade to enjoy an early dinner, but we didn't count on several different factors. First, the streetcar had mobs of people at every stop from Burthe on Carrollton Avenue all the way to Canal Street. I am pretty sure the drivers are instructed to cram as many folks as possible onto each car because most of our hour-long ride was spent squished between eager tourists heading downtown and locals who were just trying to get to work on time.

When we finally arrived, we stepped off of the streetcar only to see that the Quarter was overflowing with people! I don't know why I expected it to be any different, but needless to say the time it took to hike through the crowds to reach the other side was certainly not factored into our equation -- not to mention a little backtracking when we realized we had forgotten to pick up some cash from the bank. By the time we neared Aunt Tiki's Bar, every restaurant we had passed was chock-full except for one, Angeli on Decatur. This was my 74th cheat and I am still treading water at a loss of 80 pounds.

I'm not saying that Angeli was empty by any means. The only space available in this late-night eatery were a few stools at the bar, but since both John and I were getting a little bitchy from a lack of nourishment, we decided to cut our losses and grab a seat.

The servers were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying desperately to attend to a packed house, so it didn't bother me that it took a little while to get noticed. At last, we were offered menus and brought a couple of Abita go-cups, of course. It wasn't hard to choose dishes from the simple menu, ravenous hunger being our guide, though I was disappointed by the lack of a particular chicken appetizer (*Divine Portabella) I had once enjoyed there long ago.

While waiting for our food, we managed to snag a vacated table as my ass was far too big for the precarious stools at the bar. Angeli, in case you've never been, sits on the corner of Decatur and Governor Nichols with huge floor to ceiling, paned-glass windows offering a wide view of passersby. This aspect was especially interesting due to the impending parade, but when are there ever dull denizens roaming the Quarter? While admiring the art on their wall, especially a rather reverent image of Drew Brees, our pizza arrived.

We ordered a small Mystical Pizza (why does Julia Roberts pop into my head?) created with a garlic-herb sauce, mozzarella and feta cheeses, sun dried tomatoes, red onions, roasted red peppers and bacon. Overall, I thought the pizza was quite delicious with a crispy, cheesy crust and a healthy amount of ingredients. The only thing that bothered me was the presence of canned, stewed tomatoes that weren't listed in the menu description.

Since they were super-duper busy and people were coming in off the street in droves to either use the restroom or grab a drink at the bar, I wasn't too bothered when our server unexpectedly arrived with our check. Not only did she fail to ask if we desired anything else before ringing us up, she completely forgot the appetizer I ordered.

Eager to please, she apologized with a sincere smile and rushed off to the kitchen to put in the order. We still had at least a half-hour before the parade made it's way to that end of Decatur, so we relaxed and ordered a couple more beers.

When the appetizer arrived, I was a bit turned off by the appearance. They were Spinach & Feta Triangles, basically Spanikopita, which I have made myself hundreds of times. The flavor was quite good, but the folded, phyllo triangles didn't have enough time to cook, leaving us with partially browned, partially pasty-white dough.

Though it seems I am coming off too harsh for a quick bite at a late-night eatery that was literally slammed for the Krewe du Vieux parade, I am really not taking it that seriously. It was a convenient, tasty and highly affordable cheat that I do not regret indulging upon and I most definitely wouldn't hesitate to visit Angeli again...but perhaps next time I'll come on a less bustling occasion.

*Apparently, the Divine Portabella appetizer is taken off the menu during Mardi Gras parades. Thank goodness it's not gone! It's one of the best dishes they offer in my opinion...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Krewe du Vieux: a memorable date...minus my date

Krewe du Vieux was the first Mardi Gras parade I had ever experienced. A guy I had met online (and whose name I cannot recall) finally convinced me to go out with him and for our first date, he wanted to take me to see Krewe du Vieux. Still a little wary, I asked my friend Shalom to meet us down there for the parade. The fellow (let's call him "Joe") picked me up at my apartment on Harmony Street and drove excitedly, vibrating, eyes alight with what was in store. His sweaty hand would grip mine at stoplights to get my attention as he described yet another aspect of his favorite parade. Much to my dismay, he also had no qualms about telling me to "try and act like a local" or I wouldn't be taken seriously.

As the car inched ever closer to our destination, I couldn't help thinking I had made a gargantuan mistake. Joe was starting to freak me out with his crazy level of anxiety and demanding nature which was never previously evident through text. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when we got out of the car and rushed (he was almost speed-walking) to where we were going to meet Shalom and her husband Kevin -- in front of what was the Matador on the corner of Esplanade and Decatur. Joe was practically hopping from foot-to-foot and complaining that we would never "score a good spot" if we were late, even though (as I later discovered) we were only a block from our destination. I tried to encourage him to go ahead and that we would catch up with him later, but he was emphatic about how we might never find the spot without him.

To my great relief, Shalom and Kevin arrived in a few short minutes and we proceeded to the bar of Joe's choice, Aunt Tiki's (although it wasn't Aunt Tiki's then...does anyone recall it's former name?). From there my "date" went even further downhill as Joe not only proceeded to ignore me, he drank drinks we all bought for him and never offered up a round and never even offered to buy me a drink!

What saved this evening, you ask? The parade! Krewe du Vieux was so much fun with their sexually explicit costumes, flaunting mammoth phalli and politically incorrect quips. I later learned to appreciate the intimacy of the parade, where the Krewes walk behind the small, horse-drawn floats as opposed to riding superciliously on top. Hands reach out to grasp hands in the crowd, offer a high-five or perhaps a throw while some of the best brass bands in the city set a funky beat for the erratic marchers and watchers to dance in the streets and revel in the beginning of Carnival season.

Regardless of my terribly rude date, it was not difficult to have the time of my life sharing cocktails with my friends and offering up my best "WOOHOOO!" for the KdV.  I have only missed one Krewe du Vieux parade since that fateful day...

This year's theme celebrated the Krewe's anniversary with the theme "25 Years Wasted" with Don Marshall, Jazz & Heritage Festival Executive Director, as King. Though I took a ton of photos this year, here are a few of my favorites:

Don Marshall - King of Krewe du Vieux 2011

It wouldn't be KdV if they didn't poke fun at the spill...

I mentioned the huge phalli, right? WOOOOO!

I can't wait 'till next year!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Brown Improv: A hilarious excuse to visit the burbs...

After living the first 32 years of my life in the suburbs of San Francisco, the last thing I've wanted to do since moving here is to hang out in the burbs of New Orleans. So, when my friend Anne invited me to see Brown at City Bar in Metairie last Saturday night, I grumbled a bit and sighed a lot, but in the end gave in (who can resist a girls night out?).

Located on the fringes of "Fat City," I was actually surprised to see City Bar so very full on a Saturday night at eight o'clock, a too-early hour for the usual denizens who I've heard don't start appearing till well after ten. By the time the show began, it was a packed house with standing room only.

Apparently, Brown has been in existence since the mid-90's with basically the same cast of comedic genius working tirelessly to "raise the bar for nightlife in Metairie." I do believe they've succeeded...

Members Ken LaFrance, Kelli Rosher, Jonathan Kai, Gant Laborde and Bob Murrell get up on stage on Saturday nights and with prompts from the audience, create a completely original (not to mention hilarious) show every week. Comedic skits like Vacation Slides and the "ABC" game are designed to encourage on-the-spot creativity by the actors while incorporating interaction with the audience. On rare occasions the attempts fall flat, but most of the time everyone is laughing uproariously, clutching their sides and wiping tears from their eyes.

If you want to spend two glorious hours laughing your ass off on a Saturday night, I advise you take that trip to the suburbs. For only $10 at the door (2-for-1 if you score a Groupon!), you will spend an evening enjoying raw talent and non-stop laughs. Their next show this Saturday, February 19th at 8:30 p.m. will be their last till the Mardi Gras madness has subsided.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A voluptuous Valentine's dinner at Roux on Orleans

Knowing that even the tiniest romantic gesture will make me putty in his hands, John not only bought me a gorgeous bouquet of blushing peach roses, he reserved a table at Roux on Orleans on Friday night. We would be among the first to enjoy Chef Guy Sockrider's special Aphrodisiac Valentine's Menu.

Yes, I counted this as my 73rd cheat and I am holding fast at a loss of 80 pounds. Was I a terribly insensitive girlfriend to take advantage of this outing and write a blog about it? Maybe...but I made it up to John so well that I might have even built up stock for next time.

John made early reservations so that we could take advantage of the rest of our evening together after stuffing ourselves silly. We arrived at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel and were ecstatic that we didn't have to deal with finding a parking place in the Quarter because complimentary valet is offered to those dining at Roux.

Since we were so early (the reservation was for 6:30 p.m.) we were the only diners in the restaurant. But, considering this was a romantic meal and John and I love to be silly together, we had no problem with being all alone. We felt a bit spoiled by our host and server, but it was all part and parcel of the restaurant's excellent service, so we tried to relax into being waited on hand and foot. Though odd at first, it is definitely something I could get used to and I certainly didn't hear any complaints from John.

Since we opted for the special menu, ordering was a snap and we were free to relax, sip our sparkling wine and munch on warm bread brought into the restaurant from La Louisiane; thick slices of sourdough and a lovely olive loaf.

Before we had two bites of bread, our server Rebecca brought out an amuse-bouche, a juicy Louisiana shrimp in a spicy-sweet, Thai chili sauce. I've often been told that these beginnings are intended to "awaken" the palate, but I say we should just call a tease a tease and be done with it. It's like that gentle first kiss before a full-blown make-out session!

Thankfully, we weren't taunted for very long because the courses began flowing out of the kitchen, one right after the other, with scarcely a bated breath to be had in between. Following on the heels of the shrimp, was a fresh, raw oyster on the half-shell garnished with choupique caviar that tasted like it had hopped straight out of the water onto our plates. We greedily forked the plump flesh into our mouths and slurped the delicious liquor remaining in the shell.

A steaming bowl of aromatic, Oyster Rockefeller soup arrived as soon as we could lift our spoons. We both enjoyed the creamy soup replete with spinach, scallions, plump oysters and anise-flavored Herbsaint so much that we wiped our bowls clean with the remaining hunks of sourdough bread.

Our eyes widened and our stomachs braced for impact when our main entrees arrived, a huge filet mignon served atop a pile of creamy mashed potatoes and slathered in a decadent, mushroom Madeira sauce. Plus, three huge fried oysters hovered around the edge of the plate, just in case the monstrous filet was not enough. Being diners not easily daunted by excess, John and I attacked our steaks with relish, which were cooked to a perfect medium-rare, just enough to allow a little blood to seep into the already luxurious sauce.

To our surprise (as well as our server's) John and I managed to gulp down the entire filet with only a little heavy breathing and a few drops of sweat. Since we were sated to the utmost degree, we worried just a little about how we would manage dessert, a Honeyed Baba spiked with Sailor Jerry Rum. The dessert turned out to be so airy and refreshing, there was no difficulty devouring every last bite. I had never enjoyed Baba before, but it reminded me of a Persian pastry that is an airy, fried dough bursting with the light, sweet flavor of honey.

Sighing with excessive pleasure, I commented to John how many natural aphrodisiacs were incorporated into our meal. Not only were there the obvious choices like oysters and champagne, there was also caviar, honey, raspberries, mushrooms and chilis. Though we were likely too full to feel any tingling effects from our dinner, we both still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Besides, it doesn't take much more than a heated glance or a lingering touch to get us "in the mood."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rue de la Course: Is it worth it?

On the corner of Oak and Carrollton sits one of New Orleans' most famed coffee shops, Rue de la Course. Since John and I are both self-employed, we often choose Rue as a convenient, public place to meet clients over a tasty cup of coffee and a nice snack. Both of us love the historic bank building that the coffee shop is housed in, with it's majestically high ceilings, gorgeous, iron chandeliers and architectural details. Also, due to it's prime location, there's tons of seating outside where you can enjoy your java alfresco. Essentially, it's a wonderful cafe, all except for one thing...obnoxious baristas.

Now don't get me wrong, I understand the difference between a good and bad barista and the skill involved with making the perfect espresso, but does that require acting like a jerk? Let me give you an example...

A few weeks ago, I went into the cafe to meet a client and friend to discuss some work he had planned for me. I arrived at Rue a few minutes early, so I went to the counter to order some coffee. I was the only person in line, yet the two baristas behind the counter completely ignored me for several minutes while they continued their conversation about some absent employee. Being the polite person I am, I waited patiently for them to finish their discussion, but, when it ended, both employees walked away from the counter to finish some menial task like wiping the counter or restocking straws. Really? Was I not standing there, cash in hand, quietly waiting to order a cup of overpriced coffee with a freaking smile on my face?


If this was only the first time it had happened, I would let it go and not rant about it on my blog, but this (and similar rude behavior) has happened to me almost every single time I walk in there. I mean, the nerve of me expecting to get a barista to serve me when I walk up to the counter! And I even tip exceedingly well for a single cup of coffee, so that a trip to Rue costs me almost $10. It has gotten to the point where it's just not worth it to me...especially when Zotz is right down the block.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sweet, sexy Valentine's Day...

In my strange little brain, I tend to equate Valentine's Day (and romance in general) with dessert. I mean, as I was growing up, every year for Valentine's Day my father would always buy all the girls in the family a large, heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates from See's Candy and the boys in my life followed suit as I got older. One time I was gifted by a huge, solid Hershey's Kiss and another time, a bouquet of lollipops. Isn't that the way to a woman's heart? Through chocolate? So I was thinking about a kind of "ode to desserts" or "all the desserts I've loved before" kind of post to celebrate Valentine's Day this week.

Let me start this sweet seduction with a most memorable Bacon Chocolate Brownie from Boucherie topped with freshly whipped cream. With rich, flavorful bursts of salty and sweet...this dessert was definitely one to remember.

The brownie's sweet/salty combination reminds me of the wonderful Blueberry Biscuit I enjoyed at Blue Plate Cafe....the sugary crust and the cornbread crumb with huge, juicy blueberries is making my mouth water right now!

I lusted after this particular dessert so much, it's now the backdrop to my blog, a S'More Tart from La Petite Grocery. A delicate shortbread crust filled with chocolate and topped with house made marshmallow is enough to drive any woman mad with desire! Especially me!

Though it "ain't dere no more," I won't soon forget my Sour Cherry Creme Brulee from Cuvee, possibly the best brulee I have ever eaten.

I realize I'm being a terrible tease and you want this succulent torture to end, but there's no way I'm that nice! Feast your eyes on this drool-inducing, tower of heavenly delights, the "Sultan's Nest" from the Green Goddess, pistachio gelato and whipped cream piled atop a literal nest of shaved phyllo dough laced with ambrosial, saffron-infused honey and orange blossom water. 

Do you hate me yet? Have you walked away from your computer with clenched fists, swearing lasciviously at nothing? Just come and check out one more dessert, I promise it'll be the last...for now.

This was one of my most recent favorites, a delicious Country Apple Tart from Cowbell baked in a buttery crust and served with a rich caramel sauce.

Okay. I lied. One more? I have to leave you with a little more chocolate! How about this Chocolate Hazelnut Gateau from Patois served with chilled, rich chocolate pudding and Frangelico ice cream, all house made of course.

I don't know about you, but all of these sweet images have got me a little excited, maybe even a bit warm. I might have to go lie down for a spell. Be sure your lover reads a post like this soon, because no one should have any excuse when it comes to knowing what to get his significant other for Valentine's Day, it only takes 7 little letters to send them through the roof with unabated pleasure and delight....D-E-S-S-E-R-T!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Adventurous dining: Café Abyssinia

Unusual ethnic cuisines aside, dining in a new restaurant every week is always an adventure. Even if you are just going out for burgers, you never can be sure what kind of experience you may encounter. This week, in an effort to try something completely different, John and I decided to dine at the only Ethiopian restaurant in town, Café Abyssinia. This is my 72nd cheat and I am down 80 pounds.

Located Uptown on Magazine Street between Foucher and Aline, you could easily pass Café Abyssinia by if it were not for the huge sign out in front. "Unassuming" might be an understatement at this small cafe where the walls are decorated in hand-painted, simplistic murals and the water glasses feature your mama's square paper napkins, but it's all about the food, right?

We were both curious about the beverages, so John opted for the Ethiopian tea, while I tried the coffee. The tea, as it turns out, is simply a black tea spiced with such earthiness as cloves, cardamom, rose hips and cinnamon and was quite delicious. I was hoping for something similar to Turkish coffee heavy with grounds, my coffee was just, though brewed quite strong and served in a tiny cup.

It was when our server (an obvious student with a Tulane tee showing through his billowy white tunic/uniform) finally started bringing out the food, that I started to get excited. First, we shared a beet salad with fresh sliced tomatoes, onions, green peppers and (of course) cooked beets with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice that was a light, refreshing start.

When the minced meat Sambussa arrived, they looked much liked I expected, deep fried, triangle-shaped packages of a thin dough (like phyllo) filled with spiced meat and vegetables, but the flavor was a different story. The finely chopped, green vegetables mingling with the beef turned out to be raw peppers that, at first, were completely innocuous, but gradually built our mouth up to a boil.  Though they were quite delicious, the heat had both John and I sniffling and tearing up in no time!

The food surprised us once again when our entrees arrived, served all together on one huge, silver platter with no silverware in sight. Three, neat pools of food and one ramekin of meaty lamb bones swimming in a thin, aromatic sauce were served directly on top of a huge piece of flat bread called injera, that looked suspiciously like a large, wheat pancake and had a similar, fluffy texture. The server plopped down a basket filled with more of the injera alongside the huge platter as he pointed out and described each "pile."

One of the piles was my order, Kifto Begomen or finely ground beef seasoned with butter, chili pepper and other earthy spices like cinnamon and cardamom. It was supposed to be mixed with collard greens, but I think my server forgot and I ignored the lack until we had already eaten more than half. The other two mounds were Tikel Gomen (cabbage and carrots in a mild curry) and Yemisr Wot (red lentils and onions in a spicy, house-made sauce). The bone-in lamb chunks resting in the ramekin (Yebeg Alicha) were simmering in a mild curry, ginger and garlic sauce.

Thankful that we had recently washed our hands, John and I only hesitated a moment before ripping off a piece of bread and scooping up whatever was nearest. It was wonderful! Not only was the food warming, spicy and just delicious, we couldn't help having fun eating everything with our hands. We grinned mischievously at each other while gnawing the tender, headily spiced lamb from the bones and sucking the delectable juices from our fingertips. How many restaurants do you know of in New Orleans where it's expected to eat stews with your fingers? One! Café Abyssinia...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On Oak on Oak

When the new wine bar Oak opened back in August, I have to admit I was intrigued. First and foremost, the menu was created by Chef Aaron Burgau of Patois...and you all know how much I loved Patois. Second, I had seen all the construction being done to the building and I wanted to see how it turned out.

The only problem was that I just don't drink wine very often, though it is certainly not for lack of enjoyment...quite the opposite. Unfortunately, the tannins (especially in my favorite reds) are particularly trying on my allergies and asthma. But, as I was about to discover, Oak is certainly not limited to wine. Craving a change from our usual evening pace (WoW anyone?), John and I decided to take a stroll around the corner and see what the new bar in our neighborhood had to offer.

With an unfinished cement floor, a huge marble-topped bar and towering ceilings, it was obvious how “cool” Oak will be in the summertime. Plopping ourselves up at the bar, it didn't take long for us to choose a few drinks and a couple of tapas-style dishes to sample.

The white-cushioned stools were high, but comfortable as I sipped my first concoction, “Stormy Weather,” featuring rum, ginger beer and fresh lime. Despite the name, I could easily imagine enjoying this simple cocktail on a sweltering hot, New Orleans summer day. I had easily sucked down half of it before our first dish arrived, a nice pile of deliciously crispy, fresh cut French fries adorned with curled, wispy shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and roasted garlic butter. Naturally, John ate most of them because this wasn't one of my “cheats,” but I couldn't resist munching on a few before they were all gone.

I ordered a "Jean Lafitte," made with New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum, apple cider and Peychaud bitters before the next dish came out and enjoyed it almost as much as the first drink. It was light, crisp and not too strong thanks to a light-handed pour by our bartender.

John was still hungry after the fries and his eyes lit up when he saw our next dish arrive, a beautifully rare hanger steak bruschetta with hunks of blue cheese and a tangy, sweet red onion marmalade. The meat was juicy and delicious and I enjoyed my bite immensely, although I thought the dish was priced too high.

Instead of selecting one of their tantalizing desserts (this wasn't a cheat, after all), I opted for sweet cocktail dubbed a “Josephine Baker.” Made with Van Gogh banana and chocolate flavored vodkas, this sinful treat offered quite a bang for the end of the evening. I'm a sucker for the banana-chocolate combination in anything and with much reluctance, I let John take a few sips.

Buzzing and warm from the cocktails, John and I strolled home under the stars and felt lucky to live in our neighborhood. We also noticed the sign in the empty gelato shop across the street touting the imminent opening of another Oak Street  burger spot created by none other than Aaron Burgau himself. Does it get any better than this?