Wednesday, August 31, 2011

House of the week: Shotgun double on Toledano Street

I'm gonna admit it right off the bat, I think this house is priced a bit high at $250,000, but it's sooo cute I couldn't help posting about it. It's a shotgun double at the Tchoupitoulas end of Toledano Street with two bedrooms and two bathrooms on each side and 1650 square feet of living space. The house was built in 1851 (a big selling point for me) and features hardwood floors, high ceilings, cool wainscoting in the front parlors, fairly modern appliances and a really cute backyard. I love the color it's been painted and it has central air & heat, plus a washer and dryer (at least on one side!).

Though it is on the river end, it is still a walk-able distance to Magazine, and even St. Charles (a.k.a. The Parade Route). Anyhow, I'd definitely love livin' in this house...maybe if the price was cut by $50,000 or so? Dream on!

*Note: I tried to link the listing, but Keller Williams is picky. If you are interested, the listing number is 885957.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lunch with locals at Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar

After my birthday blowout last week, we desperately needed to tone it down a bit financially. Thankfully, I was hankering for a relaxed, neighborhood vibe with home cooked meals and a very casual atmosphere and suddenly I remembered that I still hadn't tried Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar.

A long-standing, local favorite, Liuzza's, on the corner of N. Telemachus and Bienville Streets, has been a Mid-City go-to spot for over 60 years. My friend Dani, who accompanied us on this excursion, told how her father often brought her to Liuzza's when she was a little girl and treated her to big cups of soda and piles of fried pickles. It sounded like the perfect spot for lunch.

We cruised in late, a little after one, and easily found an available table. We were served sodas in huge, chilled, thick glass goblets, sans ice, while we made our selections from a very large menu offering everything from seafood po-boys to spaghetti and meatballs. It reminded me of many other neighborhood restaurants in New Orleans with a heavy mix of Creole, Cajun and most definitely Italian influences.

Our appetizers came out and, since we were all quite hungry, we set to with a will. The crispy, perfectly fried pickles were hot and delicious, just like Dani remembered. I also had to try a cup of their red beans which turned out to be very tasty indeed.

We were also served thick slices of toasted garlic bread, but I actually managed to lay off of it this time, in anticipation of what I knew was going to be a rather large entree.

Dani ordered their lunch special, 1/2 of a fully dressed, sauteed shrimp po-boy with a cup of cream of shrimp and artichoke soup. I only got a taste of her soup which was thick and creamy, quite heavy and rich with lots of cream and butter.

John opted for a veal Parmesan po-boy, fully dressed of course, with thin, breaded and fried strips of meat, rich red gravy and provolone cheese. It was a huge sandwich spilling out goodness every which way, but John managed to inhale half of it before he called it quits.

I chose another special sandwich, a fried green tomato po-boy with sauteed shrimp and lots of creamy, tangy Remoulade. The tomatoes were perfect, crisply fried and the sauce put me in fat girl heaven. I would have liked a bit more shrimp, but all in all, it was a decadently delicious sandwich. We all needed doggy bags at the end, even Posie who ordered off the kid's menu and got a burger as big as her head.

Though we were all having difficulty breathing, I had to order dessert. We all agreed on the peanut butter pie that, when it arrived, had a huge layer of whipped cream easily three times the thickness of the pie...not that I'm complaining! It was cool, tasty and a perfect end to our lunch.

I firmly believe that lunching at Liuzza's took me one more step away from "transplant" status and one step closer to living like a real-live local...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Still sexy at Herbsaint Restaurant

Maybe it was because leaving behind another decade of my life was a little unsettling...okay, a lot unsettling, but I could not choose where I wanted to eat for my birthday on Saturday. I asked folks on Facebook, put up a post on a local food forum and received numerous, excellent suggestions, but I simply couldn't choose the one that screamed "Yay! You're 40!" I mean, is there such a place?

Finally, John decided to take matters into his own hands. Sick of hearing me whine in indecision, rattling off various menu items, weighing tried and true over something new, he picked up the phone and made reservations at Herbsaint Restaurant and I felt as if a weight had been lifted.

He made reservations for an early dinner, knowing I would want to catch the afternoon light for photos and right after we sat down at a small two-top by the bar, we decided to kick it off with a drink. John went with an Old Fashioned and I got a Dark & Stormy...I just love rum and ginger beer. We had just taken a few sips when our first plates arrived.

John chose the beef short rib that was served with a sharp knife, much to our amusement, seeing as it fell apart at his touch. Yes, really. This frigging, fatty, fantastic fabulous piece of meat that burst into your mouth was topped by salsa verde and served with rösti, a fried potato dish that is very similar to thick hash browns. My dish was no less wonderful, a small mountain of Louisiana jumbo lump crab meat piled atop two thin, crisply fried eggplant medallions. The forks were flying across the table and after several bites of each, neither of us could decide which was better.

I'm pleased I was able to save some of the warm, ciabatta bread on purpose for the spicy, bacon-laden sauce on my Sauteed Louisiana Jumbo Shrimp. The arancini or fried rice patty with nibbles of corn was able to soak up some of it, but not quite enough. While inhaling my shrimp, I managed a couple of bites of John's Muscovy Duck Leg Confit. The crisp skin and rich, moist meat with the citrus gastrique was like a melody in my mouth and I'm pretty sure the dirty rice was laden with some of their own, delectable sausage. We also shared a side of butter beans and their smoky, thick-cut bacon. Could the dinner get any better than this?

Well, yes...yes it can.

Pastry Chef Rhonda Ruckman might very well be a magician. I'd already become a die-hard fan from tasting that Banana Brown Butter Tart, but I was enchanted when I first put my lips around this spoonful. A Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake supporting a pool of salted caramel, accompanied by a smooth sphere of cashew ice cream and cocoa nib caramel corn. I never thought I'd spell this out, but OH-EM-GEE! A friend of mine used the word "mouth-gasm" and I feel it's appropriate in this situation.

So "40 is the new 30," huh? It's sure starting out that way!

Friday, August 19, 2011

House of the week: Shotgun Sidehall on Plum Street

Now, you know I love old homes and the buildings in New Orleans are truly a beauty to behold, but there is one gorgeous specimen that just went on the market -- in my 'hood no less -- that I'm jonesing for in a big way.  Only three short blocks away on Plum Street lies a beautifully restored Shotgun Sidehall featuring three bedrooms, two full baths, heart pine hardwood floors, high ceilings, fireplaces in the bedrooms, original light fixtures, claw foot tubs, a huge kitchen with brand new appliances and a walk-in closet in the master bedroom.

This lovely house has 1500 square feet of living space, is going for $259,000 and it qualifies for First Time Home Buyers financing with as little as 3.5% down. The  cool thing about this listing is the video walk-through that lets you really see what is being offered without moving your butt from your office chair.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Melting for Meltdown

You may have noticed the conspicuous lack of dessert in my last post. Well, that was on purpose. I thought the sweet cool treat we had deserved a post all their own. After lunch, I deliberately refused to order dessert because there was one spot in the French Quarter that I've been dying to try for quite some time now - Meltdown.

For at least a year I have heard foodies sing the praises of Meltdown. All natural ingredients and flavors like Chocolate Sea Salt Pistachio, Lemon Ginger, Pineapple Wheatgrass and Blood Orange are enough to pull anyone to the Quarter for a lick, but in all honesty...I am a popsicle junkie. Seriously. My name is Kim Ranjbar and I have a problem. 

If you don't believe me, ask my boyfriend who has made many a trip to Rite Aid or Walgreens to purchase Otter Pops or Flavor Ice only to satisfy my insatiable, daily summer cravings for popsicles. If Meltdown was on Oak Street, I would be their best customer!

Though the heat index was well above 100, there was a spring in my step and a smile on my face as we headed towards the ultimate Popsicle destination on Dumaine Street. By the time we reached the small shop, sweat was running into my eyes and my face was turning a lovely shade of violet, but my cure was only a few dollars away.

John got a Blueberry, Lavender and Coconut Milk popsicle that was absolutely amazing. Floral, fruity, sweet and creamy coolness all rolled into one. Anne couldn't resist getting a Ginger Pear that the owner said was just created from a cache of fresh pears she recently obtained from a family member and I, being a java lover, could not resist the Vietnamese Coffee replete with the flavor of condensed milk and rich, robust coffee.

On the way back to the car, it was a race to see if we could eat the delicious popsicles before they melted onto the sidewalks, but by the time we were waiting for the valet, we were all craving more. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

High hopes for The Bistro at Maison de Ville

Everyone knows by now that I am not one for fancy dress. I will make a sincere effort at not looking slovenly, but I do not own any high-heeled shoes and, since I have not worn it for over a decade, I am pretty sure I have completely forgotten how to put on make-up. It is for this reason that I choose to dine at the more casual lunch hour when I can don a pair of jeans and a slightly sexy blouse, and yet still be admitted to some of the nicest restaurants in town.

But this past Friday, I almost thought they were going to turn us away when we stepped inside The Bistro at Maison de Ville.

A feeling of fear and self-loathing began to permeate my usual confident facade when the maitre'd asked us, his nose in the air, if we had made a reservation while he proceeded to evaluate us head to toe. We barely passed muster, though, and were seated at a table right in front of the door. You'd think if we didn't look appropriate enough to dine there that they would have wanted to hide us in the back, but what do I know about hosting strategy?

We did our best to ignore the "better than thou" attitude, sat down and decided a drink was in order. John got a Sazerac, Anne tried their version of a Pomegranate Mimosa and I chose the Dreamsicle with orange-infused vodka and peach schnapps. Much tension was released after that first sip. We were relieved by the alcohol and the server was eased in the knowledge we were there to enjoy.

We started out with two appetizers to share and the first to arrive was their Flash Fried Calamari tossed in a spicy orange and Maytag blue cheese glaze. Unfortunately, the calamari was room temperature and a bit soggy. The glaze, though it sounding delicious in theory, didn't really mesh well on my tongue and the whole dish was bittersweet...pun intended.

Our second appetizer was really quite delicious, Fried Frog Legs in a bacon-leek cream with crispy gnocchi. How can anyone go wrong with bacon and cream in the same dish? My only wish was that there was more of it! Only three frog legs for $13? Oh well...

Between courses, we watched other diners file into the restaurant and it seemed that they were all well-known by the staff. Not only was almost everyone in there a "regular", but it seemed that we were the youngest table in the restaurant by at least 20 years. We were a little grossed out observing the maitre'd sweat right through his thick jacket in less than an hour, but thankfully he didn't come near us again until it was time to clear our plates from the table.

Our entrees came out of the kitchen all at once as we sat pondering whether the matire'd had a change of clothes ready behind the bar. Anne's Duck Breast "P.B.J." sandwich was probably the most interesting dish, wheat toast piled high with juicy duck, spicy peanut butter and melted Fontina, but they smeared a pepper jelly on top that made for sticky handling. John's dish of Smoked Salmon was sadly a complete disappointment for him (and for us tasters). Though we imagined the smoked salmon to be raw, like lox, it came out overcooked and dry. The "Creamy Tobikka Remoulade" and yolk from the poached eggs helped a bit, but the flavor was decidedly lacking. Not to mention, the dish was completely devoid of the crispy bacon mentioned in the menu description.

As it turns out, I was most pleased by my dish, the Pork Scaloppini. Three delicately thin slices of pork were swimming in a delicious sauce of white wine, lemon, butter and capers and served with gnocchi and still slightly crisp (just like I like em!) sugar snap peas. I even asked for extra bread so we could all soak up the lemony, buttery goodness that was left on my plate. Maybe I am becoming a bit of a food snob, but I was still a bit irked by the gnocchi, which was too chewy and obviously not house made.

Maybe it'll be better next time if I dress up in my best outfit and slap on a little lipstick?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

House of the week: Victorian on Louisiana Avenue

I know what you are going to say. I know! I know this house is way out of my price about $150,000 but hey, at this point, almost everything is out of my price range. This is a dream house though and I just couldn't help posting about it. My blog, my rules!

Over on Louisiana Avenue, a block from Magazine Street and only six blocks from St. Charles Avenue (i.e. Mardi Gras Parade Central), is a beautifully renovated Victorian house that I really, really, really would love to own. Built in 1865, this gorgeous house has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and over 2,000 square feet of living space. It also features my favorites; original hardwood floors, 12" ceilings, exposed brick fireplace, ceiling medallions, marble in the bathrooms, brand new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen....I'm panting...out of breath....I think I might be dizzy!

The worst part? It's going for $399,000. Excuse me while I adjourn to my bedroom for a good, long cry...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Squealing in disappointment...

Lack of a vehicle and sheer laziness drove me to choose a restaurant closer to home last week and, in our indecision and indifference, John and I ended up dining at Squeal. We shuffled over to the restaurant which is literally around the corner from us on the corner of Oak and Cambronne Streets for an early dinner on Thursday. There were several other diners there already, but we were seated immediately and brought drinks while we browsed the menu.

In a daring act of bravery, we decided to try their Black Eye Pea Egg Rolls as an appetizer. It seemed a strange concept indeed, but it did sound interesting with the addition of bacon and andouille sausage. Unfortunately, all I tasted was spicy, mashed black eyed peas (where's the squeal?) and our waitress erred by serving them with blue cheese dressing instead of what the menu called their "spicy ranch dipping sauce."

Shortly afterwards, our entrees arrived. John's "DBLT" Tacos were easily the highlight of the entire meal with juicy, Chipotle-glazed duck, crispy bacon, fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Unfortunately, his tacos were supposed to be served with a Wasabi mayo that was no where to be found. 

I thought I would play it safe and get a half rack of Memphis-style pork IS a BBQ joint after all. Though the meat was juicy and slid off the bone, it was so heavily charred on the outside and slathered in a super-spicy sauce, it was difficult to enjoy the wonderful, perfectly smoked pork underneath. 

My ribs also came with two sides and I chose the Bacon & Jalapeno Mac n' Cheese and Coleslaw. Though the mac n' cheese was tasty, it came to the table almost cold and the coleslaw was really dry. I don't know about you, but I prefer a sloppier, wetter slaw, but maybe by this point everything seemed to be in the negative. Even the Jalapeno & Cheddar hush puppies were like chewy, rubber balls.

Finally, with high hopes for an easy comeback, I ordered dessert. I started by selecting their home made chocolate brownie topped with crispy bacon, but our sever said they had run out and offered the bread pudding. The menu described it as "Moist custard based bread pudding with fresh fruit and/or cream cheese, topped with a signature, house made ice cream." What I was served didn't even come close. The bread pudding, if I can even call it that, was a thick slab of dry dough smeared with butter and topped with cinnamon ice cream (replete with large thumbprint) that my oh-so inept server told me was chocolate. I could barely finish one bite.

With much regret and heavy sighs, we walked back home let down from such an awful experience. Can't have the good without the bad, I suppose...

Friday, August 5, 2011

House of the week: Cottage on Adams Street

Every one had heard the old saying "you can't judge a book by its cover" and I think for this week's house, that saying is oh-so apropos. When I first saw the ad, I looked at the front shot of the house and thought "yucko." I mean, just look at it! It's a blocky, baby blue blob with no personality, no front porch, nada. Then I scrolled down and got a glimpse of what's inside...

This deceiving, block-like cottage features beautiful hardwood floors, wood-beamed ceilings and brand new kitchen cabinets and granite counter tops. There are two bedrooms, one bath and (if you can believe it) two stories! It's also loaded with all the appliances I'd ever need, including a washer and dryer, plus off-street parking and a good-sized back yard. To top it all off, this unbelievably cute property is located in my current neighborhood (how I love the Riverbend)'re not going to believe's selling for $163,000!

Click this link and check out the interior shots and tell you think they made it that ugly on the outside on purpose?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Elizabeth's: Worth the ride

On Saturday John and I got into our car, hungry and ready to head to Elizabeth's for brunch, when I turned the ignition only to hear a nasty grinding noise of metal against metal.  It seemed that our sickly car finally taken its last breath. What were we to do? I was determined not to let the death of our car prevent us from having a delicious brunch, so I called up United Cab.

$25 and an interesting, history lesson later (our aged cabbie was extremely knowledgeable), we arrived at Elizabeth's which is located in the Bywater on the corner of Gallier and Chartres Streets. The summer slow-down hadn't seemed to affect their business at all. The restaurant was packed and the hostess directed us upstairs to wait at the bar.  As we were about to order a cocktail, a table opened up. We ordered a couple of Pimm's Cups from our server, along with our breakfast, since we had already browsed the menu at the bar.

Our first dish came out in good time as we sipped our refreshing cocktails, an order of Biscuits & Gravy. The biscuits were perfect, crumbly and buttery, swimming in a thick pool of spicy, white gravy dotted with sausage and peppers. I would return to Elizabeth's for this dish alone.

Our entrees arrived just as we were ready to order another drink. John got the Duck Waffle with sweet potato duck hash mounded on top of a cornbread waffle. The hash was piled high and in the center was a small reservoir of pepper jelly. It was such an interesting mix of flavors -- the sweetness of the potatoes laced with rich, fatty duck and the heat from the Jalapeno pepper jelly -- it was almost too much to handle! John only managed to get halfway through it before he finally threw up his hands in defeat.

I was too busy working on my own dish to help John with his, a Pulled Pork Hash topped with two poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. According to our server, the pulled pork was smoked there on the premises and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it was just a bit too salty for me to do any real damage, which is actually pretty damn salty. You see, I am a fiend for salt and John often reprimands my excessive use, as does my doctor who finally convinced me to start taking blood pressure medication. Maybe Chef Peck is a salt-lover like me...

Though I think I was literally ready to burst, I had to order dessert, a highly-recommended dish from our helpful server, Ooey Gooey Cheesecake. Unlike most cheesecakes I've eaten, this dish was warmed until it resembled a bowl  But it didn't detract from the sweet, buttery flavor (reminding me of toffee) that stuck to the roof of your mouth and the crumbly crust that tasted like crushed Nilla Wafers.

Although the round trip cab fare cost almost as much as our breakfast, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Elizabeth's was definitely worth the ride.