Thursday, August 16, 2012

House of the week: Double Gallery on Olivier Street

Mom. Dad. I have a proposal. Sell your 1970's, ranch-style track house in California and for half of what you gain from the sale, you could buy this house outright. Deal?

I realize it would mean selling the house I grew up in and moving to a new and vibrantly different community. Everyone else is back in the Bay Area, all of your grandchildren, nephews, nieces and cousins and you'd miss them, like I do, but what about the benefits?

First lets talk about this incredible house. Built around the mid-1800's, this stunning piece of work is a Greek Revival Double Gallery house located in Algiers Point, only a block away from the Mississippi River. Fourteen-foot ceilings, original hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows on the facade of the house, stunningly remodeled bathrooms, elegant crown molding...there's even a gorgeous garden Dad can putz around in and grow his green onions, tomatoes, strawberries and zucchini.

Best part? It's only a few blocks from the Algiers Ferry that will take you straight into the French Quarter, or better yet, Harrah's? I know how much Dad likes to gamble and Mom would adore the Shops at Canal Place, not to mention the rest of the French Quarter.    

Best of all, you could count on my visits on a very regular basis. In fact, how about I just move in again? Whaddaya

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcomed home at Brigtsen's

Less than a month ago, I got the opportunity to interview Chef Frank Brigtsen at his restaurant on Dante Street just a few blocks from my house. It was the first time I'd met the James Beard Award-winning chef, and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit nervous. Thankfully, there was absolutely no need for me to fret. Frank has the most welcoming presence, as soon as I walked in the door, I felt safe...comfortable. His deep, resonant voice exudes a certain sense of serenity and after the interview was over, I felt no qualms about giving him a great, big hug.

Well, not long after the interview, Frank contacted me and invited me to dine at Brigtsen's as his guest. How could I refuse? The only reason I hadn't been was one that applies to many restaurants I have not yet frequented, Brigtsen's only serves dinner. Not only was I afraid that subdued lighting would prevent me from getting good food shots to truly represent his cuisine, I honestly didn't think I could afford it! I'd already been to Frank's other eatery, Charlie's Seafood in Harahan and knew I'd just swoon at Brigtsen's, but I had decided to save the visit for an my birthday. I was ecstatic, I no longer had to wait!

John and I walked over to the restaurant in the early evening, hoping to catch enough late afternoon light for good pictures. Frank's sweet wife Marna greeted us at the door like old friends and was a constant, reassuring presence in the dining room all evening long. After perusing the menu, we decided to try Brigtsen's summer prix fixe menu, three dishes for $33. John took one half and I took the other.

While munching on a loaf of freshly baked French bread, our first course arrived. John opted for the Marinated Shrimp Salad with a pile of fresh, bright guacamole surrounded by BBQ Corn Tortilla Chips on a bed of mixed lettuce with some sliced red peppers. He inhaled most of it, but not before I could get a bite that proved quite cooling and tasty. I didn't want to share my dish, a large cup of Crab & Corn Soup, rich and creamy with a large dollop of sweet crab on top.

With only a short break in between, our entrees arrived not long after they cleared the appetizer plates. John had a huge Stuffed Redfish sitting in a shrimp & crab bechamel sauce and topped with roasted mushrooms and served with a side of "Farmers' Market Ratatouille." I chose the Smoked Muscovy Duck with andouille cornbread, mashed sweet potatoes and a pepper jelly glaze. Both dishes were wonderful and we attempted to devour almost everything on our plates, but we were getting pretty full and had no desire to spoil our dessert. Although, we did fight over what was left of the andouille cornbread...

For dessert, John got the Lemon Ice Box Crème Brûlée with raspberries and I opted for the Banana Bread Pudding with pecan praline sauce. Both desserts were delicious, but it was a hot, summer evening and I have to admit, I appreciated the cooling, citrus sweetness of the crème brûlée over the heavy bread pudding.

We were seen off by Marna with as much warmth as when we arrived. Instead of visiting a restaurant, dining at Brigtsen's felt like I was visiting my Mom's house where the food is always fabulous and there's plenty of love to go around. I look forward to our next visit (to what felt like) home...

Brigtsen's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's time to meet Margaret

Over a year ago, I posted about a statue we found between Camp & Prytania when John and I made an unsuccessful attempt to buy a used car. The statue depicts Margaret Haughery, a great New Orleans philanthropist who dedicated her life to helping the poor, especially the lives of orphans. This sculpture, created by artist Alexander Doyle in 1884, was the first dedicated to a woman in the U.S.

Well, it seems that a local organization called The Monumental Task Committee is hosting a Margaret Haughery Meet & Greet fundraiser at the Margaret Gardens Inn on Sunday, August 19th where all proceeds go directly into the cleaning and restoration of the "Margaret" monument. The Irish House, Vega Tapas Cafe, and Rouses are among the many supporters who will be offering delicious food and drink for the event. Most importantly, attendees will get the opportunity to learn more about amazing Miss Margaret, "The Bread Woman of New Orleans," and how an Irish immigrant whose own familial loss inspired her to adopt a city.

Monday, August 6, 2012

House of the week: Cottage on Telemachus

Being a fan of Greek mythology, I love that a lot of the street names in New Orleans are gods, muses, heroes and titans. For example, this week's house is on Telemachus Street. Telemachus is the character we follow in the first four chapters of Homer's Odyssey. Telemachus is searching for his father Odysseus who's been gone since he left for Troy when Telemachus was just an infant. Searching...isn't that exactly what I'm doing?

Although I didn't find any Greek gods along the way, I did find this adorable, renovated cottage in Mid City.  The facade of the house doesn't give any clue to how awesome it is on the inside. There are bamboo floors, cool Craftsman-like architectural details, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a huge deck with a lushly landscaped backyard. Plus, the house is located right between two very cool bars, 12 Mile Limit and Finn McCool's Irish Pub, not to mention only a couple blocks from Mona's on Banks and only three blocks from Canal Street (streetcar & parade route).  Heck, it's even in walking distance of my chiropractor!

Seems like a steal listed at only $199,000...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Belated tale from Tales

Due to throwing my back out and some feminine issues you definitely don't want to hear about, I was not able to attend almost all of Tales of the Cocktail this year.  Strangely enough, it was going to be my very first year because I finally scored the media credentials to attend. Typical, right?

All whining aside, I was fortunate enough to spend one fabulous evening "living high on the hog" at my very first Spirited Dinner inside Coquette that was appropriately titled "Swigs & Pigs."

The masters of these ceremonies included Chef Michael Stoltzfus who created the snout-to-hoof menu, his pastry chef Zak Miller, 12 Mile Limit's owner and mixologist T. Cole Newton and Avenue Pub's owner and beer virtuoso Polly Watts...not to mention the rest of the excellent, attentive staff at Coquette.

Six delightfully pork-a-licious courses were perfectly paired wholly unique beer cocktails created specially for this memorable dinner that stretched a little over four hours. If the lighting was better that night, I would have regaled you with some serious porn and would have inflicted mouth-watering torture course by delirious course, but as it is, with my grainy cell phone pics, I'm just going to highlight my favorites.

From crispy pig ear to cracklins, I wasn't much worried about testing my offal limits until I read "pied au cochon" on the menu. I don't know about you, but pigs feet never appealed to me, especially when the only way I've seen them is packed into huge pickling jars...cloven hooves and all. As it turns out, my worries were completely unfounded and turned upside down. Chef Stoltzfus' interpretation was a decadent, yet delicate fried patty containing all the edible tastiness on a pig's foot, minus the hoof. Plus, to make you swoon a bit more, he served it with creamy medallions of foie gras torchon, pickled radish and a sweet slice of fig. It was easily my favorite course of the evening, although keep in mind, this was still only the best of the best.

As far as cocktails go, the one that delighted me the most was served with a different course. A plump sea scallop, blood sausage and Chanterelle mushrooms in a sweet corn sauce was accompanied by what I could easily dub my new "poison." Dewar's 12 Whiskey, Cocchi Vermouth, bitters and sherry vinegar were combined with a simple syrup made with an incredible ale that possibly has the longest name for beer I have ever heard. Created by Evil Twin Brewing in Denmark, Monk Suffers Serious Sugar Rush On Barbados certainly is a mouthful. I would drink this sweet, malty dark ale on it's own, but the cocktail that Newton created from it, dubbed "Rob Base," was spectacular.

Maybe Murphy will cut me a break for Tales 2013.