Friday, March 30, 2012

House of the week: Victorian on Coliseum Street

How perfect is this house for me? Let me count the ways! First, it is a classic New Orleans Victorian built back in the early 1900's. Second, it has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a cute little shed in the back that would make a perfect workshop for John or myself. Third, there is a second floor balcony leading off from the master bedroom. Fourth, the house still has a lot of original features like it's hardwood floors, French doors, transoms, exposed brick fireplaces, and interior plantation shutters. Fifth, the house is located five blocks from Napoleon Avenue (read parade route), three blocks from Magazine Street and around the corner from Creole Creamery and St. James Cheese Company.

This beauty is listed at only $519,000, which is a mere drop in the bucket to the lucky winner of the Mega Millions Lottery who's going to cash in on $640,000,000 and who loves my blog so much that they will gladly buy me this house just so I'll stop whining about wanting a dream house. Right?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pigging out

Last week, I spent a ridiculous amount of time eating. A day and a half tasting dishes all over the city for the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience and a delicious media feast at Dijon Restaurant located in the old New Orleans firehouse on Annunciation were more than enough to do me in for a good while. I had planned a fast involving several gallons of water and only frozen blueberries to sustain me for the rest of the week just to recover. Then on Friday, I get a call from an employer asking if I would be interested in judging the biggest pig-out session of the season, Hogs for the Cause.

Naturally, I said yes.

How could I refuse! In only three years, Hogs for the Cause has become one of the biggest events in New Orleans. Chefs, smokers (hehe) and grill masters from all-over compete to see who's the "Sultan of Swine" and raise tons of money for families caring for children with brain cancer. Nobody loses!

The sun was shining on a very muddy City Park due to heavy rains right before the cook-off. Many folks thought ahead and trudged through the masses in rain boots while others just took off their shoes and let the mud squish between their toes. It certainly didn't slow down the crowds and I couldn't help but giggle because it was hilariously appropriate, after all. While I undertook my judging duties, John wandered around, grubbed on some Messin' with Texas soft tacos from Taceaux Loceaux and pulled pork nachos from a mystery team that he does not recall.

At the judges table under the Boss Hog tents, I sat next to Chef Chris DeBarr of one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Green Goddess. We drank NOLA beer and tasted several different, anonymous contestants who submitted for the Whole Hog category. We dove into Styrofoam boxes laden with meat filled with everything from the cheeks to the crispy, fatty skin. The table favorite was definitely #8 and we stashed that box aside to enjoy later. I also really liked the skin from #24 and I am sure I ate too much of it.

After gorging myself on what felt like a whole pig, John and I got a gelato from the bright Sucre truck and vegged out on the grass. We watched people dance to the the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon under the sun.

It's official, I have the best job in the best town in the whole world. You couldn't drag me away...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Caffeine clip: Bayona

"Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with." ~Drew Sirtors

A perfect cappuccino with truffles and raw sugar at Bayona...

Friday, March 23, 2012

House of the week: Camelback cottage on Delachaise

Although I love looking at huge houses with 5+ bedrooms, gargantuan dining rooms and mammoth kitchens, in truth I really don't need a whole lot of space. Naturally if I bought a house I would like at least one extra bedroom for guests, but otherwise I am perfectly happy with minimal furniture and a few bookshelves. I don't own a lot of of tchotchke, knickknacks, baubles or kitsch, so I don't require a ton of display space. A cozy little cottage with lots of charm and style and a little bit of outside space is fine by me...that's exactly what I found.

On Delachaise Street, less than half a block from Magazine, I found this adorable camelback cottage that seems to be just my size. It has two bedrooms (one of which is in a loft) and one bathroom, hardwood floors, high ceilings and a cute, built-in kitchen. It has a great backyard space with just enough room to entertain and a precious little porch with room for a couple of rocking chairs on which to lounge and watch the world walk by. You know what else is perfect? The location! As I said before, it is really close to Magazine Street with Mahony's Po-Boy Shop around the corner, it's only one block from Louisiana Avenue and only five blocks from St. Charles (a.k.a. parade route). The most amazing aspect is that this little gem is actually in my conceivable price range listed for only $219,000

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Glorious gluttony ensues...

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Never in my wildest imaginings would I believe that I could not only score tickets to the 2012 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, I got to be a judge. Oh yes...this simple glutton from the suburbs, this flyspeck on the global culinary radar, was actually fortunate enough to sample more than 17 dishes from some of the finest restaurants all over this wonderful city in a dizzying tour-bus adventure that lasted a day and a half.

Although I was ecstatic about gorging myself on dishes like a Mayan Quinoa Salad from Chef Guillermo Peters at Canal Street Bistro...

...or these Crab & Avocado Shooters topped with tiny crab beignets shaped like donuts from Chef Randy Buck at the Hotel Monteleone...

...or even this decadent, Southern Style Louisiana Voodoo Shrimp with a sweet and spicy sauce, portabello mushroom, fried green tomato and cheese grits from Chef Duke LoCicero at Cafe Giovanni...

...the best part of the trip was that I was able to meet so many interesting people, all of whom possess a great passion for food, just like me!

On the first day, I got to hang out with fellow judge Dale Curry; former food editor of the Times Picayune, writer for New Orleans Magazine and author of New Orleans Home Cooking. Admittedly, I was a bit intimidated at first, but this incredible woman is very familiar with New Orleans cuisine including fads that have come and gone, the rise and fall of chefs and a discerning palate...thank goodness she is super-cool to boot!

I was also finally able to put faces with the names Robert Peyton, columnist for New Orleans Magazine (and bad-ass civil defense attorney) and Doug Brantley editor of Where New Orleans. The stunning shots by Photographer Romney Caruso both taught me about styling, equipment and light while effortlessly putting my food porn to shame. We were also lucky enough to have Executive Director of NOWFE Jamie Peckenpaugh and her texting, Tweeting, Instagram-wielding, on-the-ball, side-kick Chelsea from Georgia who came along with us to chronicle the tastings and to join in on the the fun.

As if this were not enough to make me giddy, I was able to experience things that would otherwise be denied to me because there is no way in hell I would be able to afford it! The most glaring example of this would be our short stint sitting at the chef's table in Commander's Palace. Two mountains of large, ripe, Louisiana strawberries set the scene as we watched Executive Chef Tory McPhail demonstrate his "super-strawberry" dessert.

Vacuum-packed strawberries are steeped in strawberry jam and sugar overnight, then dressed with more strawberry jam, strawberry whipped cream, strawberry Pixie Stick dust and strawberry Pop Rocks. Served alongside this childhood-candy-fantasy-come-true, Chef whipped up a delicious strawberry hurricane made with Old New Orleans Rum.

All of this was possible thanks to my friend Kendall Gensler who is editor and publisher of Culinary Concierge Magazine as well as an excellent food stylist...among many other accomplishments. Kendall, if you are reading this, know that I will definitely be available for this again next year...and thank you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Caffeine clip: Cool Brew

Did the weather get warmer, so that I could drink Cool Brew or did drinking Cool Brew bring on the warm weather? A shot of Toasted Almond Cool Brew, some cold water, an Equal packet or two and rich, chocolate milk over ice is the best...iced coffee drink...ever...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Craving comfort at Joey K's

Whenever I desire casual comfort, a relaxing atmosphere, good service and delicious, simple cuisine, there are two local restaurants that come to mind and one of them just happens to be Joey K's. I know I've said it before, but when I first moved here I was a complete stranger and finding this neighborhood restaurant was a great solace for me. With a friendly staff and home-cooked food, I was eased into the wonderful community I now call home and I often go back to Joey K's when I want to feel those warm fuzzies all over again...

A few days ago, John and I went back to the restaurant on the corner of Magazine and 7th for lunch. Since the last time I visited, the walls were even more heavily decorated in local artist Simon Hardeveld's work than I thought possible (been meaning to purchase "Shalom Y'all" sign for my friend Shalom for ages). We sat down, placed our order and pondered the origin of Joey K's many customers while we waited.

Our appetizer arrived and the aroma made it difficult not to dive in right away. The Eggplant Napoleon is a tall stack of battered and fried eggplant rounds smothered in a crawfish cream sauce and sprinkled with fried shrimp. With the level of fat and oil involved, the dish could possibly induce a coronary right there in the restaurant, but it is one of Joey K's signature dishes and it is a creamy, crispy, gooey pile of yum that is impossible to refuse. I get it every time I come here and, I promise you, I am not the only one.

After we inhaled the Napoleon and wiped up the excessive sauce with a slice of fresh French bread, our entrees appeared. John chose an oyster po-boy, fully dressed, with crunchy, plump, cornmeal battered oysters served with a side of sliced pickles. I picked the Roast Beef Po-Boy, also fully dressed, and wondered why Brett Anderson hadn't hit this spot up in his search for the best. The sandwich had thick chunks of moist roast beef smothered in a rich, flavorful, dark gravy that slopped out of the other end when I took my first bite...perfect behavior for a choice po-boy.

Although I was tempted to order my usual favorite, the Blackberry Cobbler, I opted for Miss Cathy's Brownie Pie a la mode. The warm, thick brownie was studded with walnuts and topped with a luscious chocolate frosting. We went home stuffed and satisfied from another wonderfully gratifying meal at Joey K's. It's places like these that reinforce the reason why I chose New Orleans as my home.

Joey K's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 12, 2012

Caffeine clip: Green Goddess

Ever since I had this thick, rich brew at the Green Goddess, I've been meaning to go out and buy several pounds of Union Coffee & Chicory, but I haven't seen it in the grocery store. Do I have to buy this stuff online?

Friday, March 9, 2012

House of the week: Creole cottage on Barracks Street

When you live in the Bay Area, finding enclosed dog parks is as easy as meeting blonde girls who say "hella" and dirty vagrants on Haight Street selling bunk acid from their left shoe. The suburbs are literally rife with pre-fab, astro-turfed dog "havens" where anal owners strictly patrol and enforce poop protocol and God forbid you bring your small-breed dog to the "big" dog side of the fence. As much as I hate these places, Pippin (my shih-tzu) loves them and since he is such a reckless, "will-run-into-traffic-regardless-of-how-much-his-owner-yells-at-him" kind of dog (read untrained), having that enclosed, safe environment is a balm to my frazzled nerves when letting him off the leash.

After my first few months in New Orleans, Pippin was yearning for another doggie safe haven and I had no idea where to take him. Searching online, I discovered that a lot of owners used Cabrini Playground in the French Quarter for this exact purpose. Well, we went and we both loved it! There was lots of grass and trees, places for humans to sit and laid-back owners. I found out later that technically, that park isn't supposed to be used for dogs, but as far as I could tell, no one else was using it...

Anyhow, to make a long story short (too late!), when I was looking for my house of the week, I found this incredible Creole cottage that just happens to be right across the street from Cabrini. This early 1800's home is complete with the original, two-story slave quarters in back, a gorgeous courtyard, original Cypress-wood  floors, lots of exposed brick, French doors, transom windows and high ceilings. There are six bedrooms, four bathrooms and 3800 square feet of living space. I really, really, really love this house, but at $1,150,000 -- it's just a tad out of my price range.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crunchin' rolls at Chiba

Since our unfortunate sushi experience a few weeks back, John and I have been aching for a few good rolls. Although we've frequented Ninja hundreds of times before, Chiba had just opened right around the corner and we thought we'd give the new guy on the block a try. Have I mentioned how much I love my neighborhood?

We arrived hungry when they opened at 4PM, hoping to catch what was left of daylight, essential for good food porn. With only a few other patrons in the clean, modern dining room, the servers were extra-attentive and ready to take our order almost as soon as we sat down. There were many items we wanted to try, but we narrowed down our selection (as much as we could stand), ordered and set ourselves to wait while sipping a couple of iced green teas. 

The first dish to arrive was the Crawfish Tempura served tossed with a pile of arugula, wasabi aioli and citrus mayonnaise. After gobbling a few bites, I began to realize that the combined flavor of the crispy fried crawfish and the orange/mandarin mayo reminded me of something very familiar and John and I looked at each other quizzically until he suddenly burst out "It's Fruit Loops!" It's strange what memories your taste buds can evoke...

We giggled like kids as our next plate arrived, the Pork Belly Steamed Buns with a Japanese slaw and pickled onions. The buns were sweet, fluffy pillows of yum filled with thick, delectable, fatty slices of pork belly that were just delightful, but I wouldn't necessarily call a few yellow leaves of head lettuce and some carrot threads a "Japanese slaw." Workin' out the kinks still? Probably. I enjoyed these much more than John claimed to, but I didn't see him slow down at all when he polished his off in two large bites. 

Next came what we had been pining for, our rolls. We got a Crunchy Spicy Salmon, Rock Shrimp Avocado and one of their specialties, the Gulf Coast Roll. The first two were our "safe" choices while the last was a risk and I am pleased to say, they were all delicious. In fact, I think I enjoyed the specialty one the most! Crispy fried snapper, spicy crab, jalapeno and cilantro were rolled up on the inside with layers of raw snapper on the outside dressed with lime, ponzu and bright, orange-red tobiko.

We finished the whole lovely dinner off with a light dessert of Green Tea Mochi sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. In all honesty, I think if they lowered their specialty roll prices just a tad, Chiba might just give Ninja a run for their money...

Welcome to my 'hood!

Chiba on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deference to the divine: Carrollton United Methodist Church

In the 900 block of S. Carrollton Avenue, among some of the finer mansions on the street, sits the Carrollton United Methodist Church. It's a gorgeous brick and stucco structure with a round, stained glass window hovering above a pillared entryway, and to be perfectly honest, I would have never known it was a church if not for the sign out front. It reminds me of Spanish-style missions that are so very commonplace in California and I wondered, was this originally a house or has it always been a church?

Minimal online research on the history afforded me nothing aside from the fact that the reverend is named Jon Lord who had previously worked at missions in South Africa and the church is open to all believers regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, etc. I also discovered that the church used to house a Tellers-Sommerhof Opus 93 organ , which is (apparently) pretty darn cool.

Friday, March 2, 2012

House of the week: Double on Annunciation Street

When you don't have a car, proximity to certain things like grocery stores and laundromats (because you don't have a washer & dryer either) become quite important, not to mention having a few good restaurants and bars nearby. Well, I just found this super-cute double on Annunciation Street that has all those things going for it...and a bag of chips!

Though the year the house was built is not listed, I'm going to approximate and say somewhere around the 1920's. Each unit has two bedrooms (about 900 square feet of living space per unit) with hardwood floors, updated kitchens with new appliances, a cute little shared backyard and washer & dryers inside both. Located near the corner of Annunciation and Soniat, this double is only two blocks from a huge Rouses grocery store, two blocks from Domilise's Po-Boy shop, only about three blocks from Hansen's Sno-Blitz (mmm, sno-balls) and only seven blocks away from Napoleon Avenue -- a.k.a. the beginning of the parade route -- and Tipitina's!

The house is listed at $275,900 which I think is a tad high for the area, but there is owner financing available.    Too bad I can't even afford that...but I can still dream!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Making a comeback at Redemption

Choosing Redemption: Orleans Revival Cuisine last weekend for Sunday Jazz Brunch was kind of what you'd call a risky "do-over" considering our experience at Chef Picolo's last restaurant, the recently shuttered Bistro at the Maison de Ville. But, I had hopes that in a new environment with a larger kitchen and fresh staff, his love of cooking might just blossom anew...I believe I was right.

Found on the corner of N. Scott and Iberville Streets in Mid-City, the church (originally build in 1917) that houses Redemption was once the neighborhood favorite Christian's Restaurant. Though slow-going after it's grand re-opening almost a year ago, Redemption's recent addition of Chef Greg Picolo has revved up it's image and drawn in quite a lot of fans since his arrival.

We arrived for brunch at around noon and were seated immediately. There were plenty of tables available in the large dining room and the voice of lone jazz pianist RuthAnn "BabyRuth" Kerr carried proudly up into the tall, wood-beamed rafters adorned with hanging greenery. We browsed through the menu, crossed out fingers and placed an order. As it turns out, we had nothing to fret about...

I started with the day's special soup, a tasty, broth of Crawfish, Corn & Pumpkin that I devoured rather quickly. John chose the Prawns del Lago which arrived as three huge pieces of shrimp that were golden battered, stuffed with Blue Crab and drizzled with a creamy Remoulade. I was lucky to get a bite!

For my entree, I chose a classic New Orleans brunch item, Grits & Grillades. Medallions of baby veal were pounded thin, breaded and pan fried with a sauce of braised peppers, caramelized onion and a rich demi-glace reduction. All of this lusciousness was balanced atop a small mound of creamy, buttery grits that absorbed the wonderful sauce. John stole several bites between my oohs and aahs, but I managed to score a few forkfuls from his plate as well.

John ordered the Crab Cake Benedict. A perfectly poached egg was balanced atop a fried tomato slice centered on a thick, moist crab cake sitting in a pool of sautéed spinach and the whole ensemble was draped with a tangy, truffle Hollandaise. Both of us had leftover sauce that we sopped up with warm, French baguettes. The bread basket also provided me with a sweet potato biscuit while John munched on a poppy seed muffin.

Finally, I simply had to get dessert along with a foamy, rich cappuccino. I chose something on the lighter side this time, Strawberry Crepes filled with creamy mascarpone cheese and honey. They were sweet, but not too sweet, light and refreshing after a decidedly heavy breakfast.

It seems I've been converted! Hallelujah!

Redemption on Urbanspoon