Tuesday, July 30, 2013

House of the week: Victorian on St. Charles Avenue

It was within the pages of books that my love affair with New Orleans (and the South in general) took root. Inhaling the scent of ink and bound paper, I would loose myself in stories like Kate Chopin's The Awakening, John Grisham's The Pelican Brief and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. But perhaps the most influential author of all would have to be Anne Rice. Her descriptions of New Orleans in Interview with a Vampire, Feast of All Saints and my favorite, The Witching Hour, painted a city that I didn't believe could exist in the real world, especially not in the U.S.

And then I came to see it for myself.

Although it took moving here to discover all the city has to offer (as a tourist I was stuck on Bourbon Street), it wasn't long before the depth and soul of New Orleans revealed herself to me in all of her splendor. Rice's descriptions came to life under my feet and before my eyes, and I thank her for sharing it with me. Everything she so thoroughly painted was actually real and I'm still not convinced her vampires and witches are fictional.

Well, enough of all that emotional blather. My whole point in telling you all this was that it seems that one of Rice's former abodes just happens to be for sale. Located on St. Charles Avenue on the corner of Amelia Street lies this awe-inspiring, 130-year-old Victorian mansion with six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and over 7500 square feet of living space. The house features a large porch and gallery, super-tall ceilings, hardwood floors, vintage stained glass windows, detailed mouldings and woodwork and stunning crystal chandeliers. The expansive, green and growing grounds are enclosed by a classic wrought-iron fence and includes several fountains surrounded by well-kept gardens. The house is smack on the parade route and right across the street from some of the strongest margarita's in the city. Only $2,650,000 could buy you one of the most luxurious, entertainment-centered abodes in town and who knows what celebrities might swoop in for a visit. Any takers?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Deep fried dreams at Bayou Hot Wings

Although I love fried chicken, I have never been a wing fan. Maybe it was the association with Super Bowl parties and rowdy, drunken men or perhaps because wings tend to be all skin and sauce with little actual meat. It could be that I had never actually enjoyed a really delicious wing in my entire life...until now.

Not too long ago, my good friend Anne and a new friend Shena headed over to Bayou Hot Wings for lunch. I had been meaning to try the restaurant for ages because I knew one of the owners/chefs Allen Nguyen was not only super-cool, but a super-hot chef. Torn between my appreciation of Chef Nguyen and my disenchantment with wings, it took years for me to haul my butt into the tiny shop on Claiborne Avenue. But I finally made it and I didn't regret it...not one decadently fried bit.

There are so many interesting items on the menu to try, and it seems like we tried to order them all. Even though there was standing-room only and the small eatery was packed, our dishes started pouring out of the kitchen and we could hardly keep up. First to arrive were two big baskets, one filled with perfectly fried pickles and the other a massive pile of sweet potato fries.

Before we could gobble more than half of these fried beauties, our entrees started piling up. Anne got an order of hot wings smothered in a Thai Chili Glaze and Shena chose to have her wings seasoned with Lemon Pepper. Since I couldn't decide between the two, I got a small order of Bayou Fried Frog Legs coated in Garlic Butter Parmesan AND another small order of Chipotle BBQ Wings. All the wings were passed around and we enjoyed all the different flavors, but I think my favorite would have to be the Lemon Pepper. But I also thoroughly enjoyed the frog legs and gobbled them all to myself, aside for one juicy leg that I reluctantly gave over to Anne.

There were all kinds of wonderful, house made dipping sauces going around like Bleu Cheese and Remoulade, but what really knocked all of our socks off was the Ranch. Now, I realize I sound like a palate-less, middle-American who puts Ranch Dressing on everything from pizza to French fries, but holy moly Batman, this was the best Ranch Dressing I have EVER tasted. As we were packing up boxes to take home, I hoarded all of the little dipping cups of Ranch and found myself eating it with my finger later on that night when I got home.

Is it too early to host a football party?

Bayou Hot Wings on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 22, 2013

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Coffee & Chicory

Coffee and me, we're buddies. We've been buddies for a long time. I can remember a love affair with coffee that stretches even before my mom obsessed over her first Bunn Coffee Maker, one that likely originated with my grandmother's love of Folgers and my mom's stock of coffee candy that lured me into it's sticky wrapper again and again after the very first piece. When I scored a job out of high school (that wasn't at my father's video store), I did grunt work for a friend who did interior design for the high and mighty rich folk in Hillsborough. Every morning, we had an iced coffee from a tiny coffee house on El Camino Real. This was my first taste of fresh-roasted coffee and I'll never forget the rich, complex flavor of our daily double espressos over ice.

Naturally, it's no surprise that one of the first things that drew me in about New Orleans culture just happened to be a cafe au lait made with that notorious coffee & chicory blend at Cafe du Monde. Coffee & Chicory from the New Orleans Ice Cream Company is just like that first delicious cup o' joy.

This ice cream had a wonderfully creamy consistency and with each spoonful, the rich flavor of coffee, chicory, cream and sugar spreads across your tongue. It's not difficult to luxuriate over each bite, lost in a world of coffee bliss, until your spoon hits the bottom of the carton and you've finished an entire pint. It's easily the finest coffee ice cream I have ever had the pleasure of devouring in one sitting.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Geaux Pho Bistreaux!

Let me begin by saying that I never understood nor appreciated the Louisiana fascination with transforming words containing a long "o" into "eaux." I assume it comes from Cajun names like Boudreaux and Thibodeaux, and I have to admit that I see this phenomenon far more frequently in Baton Rouge (LSU) than anywhere else, but it still appears in New Orleans from time to time and when it does, it itches at me like a fleabite on my ankle. It's kind of like saying "ax" when you mean "ask" or using "there" when you really mean "they're" or "their." I realize it's a fun way of adding a Louisiana accent to common words or phrases and I really should get over myself already, but what can I say? It bugs me.

So, when I first saw Pho Bistreaux opening up on the corner of Oak and Carrollton, the name immediately turned me off. I thought to myself "Eaux neax!" (Okay, I'm lying. I didn't think that but I thought that line would be funny.) The name was only the tip of the iceberg, though, considering that corner restaurant has changed from being an Indian food buffet, to a terrible "New York-style" deli (that would have appalled any New Yorker) and a steamed burger joint that was open for all of a few weeks...if that...due to some horrific neon signage that practically defaced the historic building in which the restaurant was housed. It was becoming one of those cursed locations where businesses never last and I was afraid Pho Bistreaux would soon become the latest victim.

Boy howdy, was I wrong!

Let me say that since my first time there a month or so ago, I have returned an obscene number of times because at long last, Oak Street has a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant and if I can keep them in business by my patronage alone, I will. But I don't think I have anything to worry about. Since my first trip, this corner restaurant has been busy from the time they open their doors to the second they close. It's that good.

Since I have been to Pho Bistreaux so many times, with camera in hand, it is hard to pinpoint one trip over another, so let me just tell you about some of the tasty dishes I've enjoyed thus far. And no, I have still not had everything on the menu, but that day will soon arrive.

I should probably start with the pho. I've only enjoyed the filet mignon, but John enjoyed the meatiest oxtail pho he's ever experienced and Anne (my pho buddy) delighted in their wonderful meatball pho. The broth is rich with sharp, earthy spices and served with huge plates filled with fresh herbs and veggies to add (or not) to your soup. The prices are only a tad higher than I am used to, but the bowls are big, delicious and filling, so no complaints here.

For appetizers, we've tried their grilled pork sliders, deliciously seasoned and only $5 for two, and crispy egg rolls, both regular and "Bistreaux" style which is wrapped with a different type of rice paper that makes for an extra crisp and bubbly shell.  We have also enjoyed the New Orleans Roll which combines the best of both worlds, stuffing a crispy egg roll into a spring roll wrapper alongside fresh herbs, vegetables and vermicelli noodles, and served with a super-thick peanut sauce for dipping.

Other entrees we've inhaled include a grilled pork "bun" or vermicelli bowl, grilled shrimp "com" or rice plate and a combination banh mi with grilled pork and pate. I think they might put crack in their grilled shrimp because it is quickly becoming one of my favorites and I find it very difficult to order anything else as of late. They also make a delightful flan, believe it or not, and almost every time I am in there, I see at least two other tables order it for dessert, aside from our table of course. Everything has been so delicious and priced so right, that it's a wonder we don't eat there everyday. All I can say is "Please don't ever geaux, Pho Bistreaux!"

Pho Bistreaux on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

House of the week: Cottage on Pearl Street

Before I started doing these house-of-my-dreams posts, I would spend hours searching real estate websites and endlessly harassing my boyfriend John. "Hey baby, check out this house. It's only two blocks from the streetcar!" or "Oh my God, you have to look at this house, it's less than a block from the parade route and it has a claw foot tub!" It got so bad that if he noticed I was searching real estate online, he would put on his headphones and crank the music, ignore me, shoot me crusty looks, plug his ears and chant "lalalalalalalala!" or simply leave the apartment.

Now, I can turn to you dear readers (and non-readers a.k.a. cyberspace) and exclaim "Check out this gem of a cottage on Pearl Street!" Located in the Riverbend, quite close to where I live now, this cute three bedroom and two bathroom home sports over 1,600 square feet of living space with qualities I look for like floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors, transoms, fireplace mantles, Craftsman-style arches and shelving, stain glass windows, a cute little backyard and a wonderful, shaded front porch complete with swing.

This sweet little home is only one block from the streetcar and only three blocks from some of my favorite spots on Maple Street like Satsuma Cafe, Maple Street Patisserie, Ba Chi Canteen, Maple Street Bookshop and more. This little dream house is actually reasonably affordable listed at a paltry $329, 900. What do you think? Would you live there?

By the way, thanks so much for listening to my house raves (and rants). John certainly thanks you, too!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Every woman a king at Kingfish

Yeah. I've been lagging in the posting department, but I certainly haven't been lagging in the eating department, so I have a lot of catching up to do. So many restaurants, so little time! Anyhow, almost two months ago (don't hurt me!), I went to a media lunch of sorts at Kingfish with my good friend Lorin Gaudin and two new friends (if I didn't scare them away), Mary Sonnier and Kristen Essig.

Now, I don't often go to media lunches/dinners because I think it's important for me to be treated like the average "gal on the street" when I am reporting back to y'all on this fine blog of mine. BUT! Sometimes, it can be a whole big barrel of fun to get royally spoiled and this happened to be one of those times.

Let me preface this a little by saying I am one of those unfortunates who never had the opportunity to visit the famed Gabrielle Restaurant before it was damaged, never-to-return, during the levee failures in 2005. But, now that Chef Greg Sonnier is at the brand new Kingfish in the French Quarter, I finally was about to sample some of his most excellent cuisine and I couldn't be more excited. Plus, I was hanging out with two other chefs, Greg's wife Mary and Kristen, who was recently named Executive Chef at Sainte Marie Brasserie. I swear to you, mine is the coolest job EVER!

So, as soon as we were all together, drinks in hand, the food started rolling out from the kitchen and I didn't think it was ever going to stop. Unfortunately, my pictures weren't a awesome as I like them to be because there wasn't a lot of natural light where we were sitting. Plus, we were all anxious to dig in! Anyhow, here is the run down on all the delicious dishes I got to try, pic by pic. Next time I go to Kingfish (which should be quite soon), I promise to procure some porn. In the meantime...

First, we got to share a couple cups of Smoked Rabbit Gumbo with French Sorrel sausage and topped with dirty, brown basmati rice. It was thick, rich and utterly devoured in mere moments.

While we were finishing off the gumbo, our server slapped down this huge plate of Sweet Potato Waffle Fries with guava-garlic butter...yes, I said guava-garlic butter. Oh...My...GAWD! I can't even explain the awesome mouth-joy I experienced with these magnificent fries. DO NOT leave Kingfish without trying them. You've been warned...

Next, they brought out a bunch of plates to share, starting with this fresh, bright Roasted Gold Beet Salad with Sartori cheese, tasty pea-shoot greens and roasted pistachios tossed in a sherry vinaigrette.

We reluctantly shared an order of #Duck (insert Twitter joke here) served with hollandaise, sassafras catsup and topped with a cage-free egg. This dish was gobbled more voraciously and more speedily than the waffle fries...what does that tell you? I only wish my photo could do it justice...

We also shared an order of the Shrimp Prima - Jumbo Gulf shrimp stuffed with blue lump crab meat and wrapped in prosciutto served atop a candied pecan slaw. I enjoyed this dish so much that I ordered it for my entree, which (as my stomach later told me) was entirely gluttonous and unnecessary, but I was glad I did it anyway!

As if that wasn't enough, we also were brought out a plate of Eunice Stew, which was stewed pork and grits with roasted corn, fresh herbs, jalapeno sour cream and manchego cheese. Though this dish was really quite wonderful and homey, it was a hot summer day and seemed way too heavy for the season. Now, would I inhale this stew during a cold, stormy day in midwinter? You betcha.

For their entrees, Lorin and Kristen ordered the Pescado Borracho or mojo-marinated fish tacos topped with a Napa cabbage slaw...

...and Mary chose the Stuffed Quail with pickled mirliton and cornbread dressing, wilted greens and mayhew gastrique...

...and then we had dessert. We did! We shared a delightful slice of Bourbon Pecan Pie...

...and a creamy, cool Chocolate Pot de Creme.

Phew! So, I am full just writing about all this food. Can you imagine how stuffed I was that day? Not that I'm complaining! It was a wonderful lunch with three fabulously talented ladies and I could not have asked for more. Keep in mind, the menu has changed at Kingfish since this awesome lunch, but I highly doubt you'll be disappointed, not to mention those miraculous fries are still there...so HURRY!

Kingfish on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 8, 2013

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Praline Crunch

Although I've lived in New Orleans for over a decade, I am still corrected for mispronouncing certain words. Some pronunciations are waved over, but so-help-you-God if you call our city "New OrlEEns," mistake a "streetcar" for a "trolley" or pronounce praline "PRAY-leen."

The latter happened to me just the other day while I was gobbling a pint of New Orleans Ice Cream Co.'s Praline Crunch. My friend Dani gave me the evil eye and enunciated, very clearly, "PRAH-leen, Kim. It's PRAH-leen." Oops! Regardless of my bad habits and mispronunciations, PRAH-leen ice cream has always been one of my favorites. My mother also had a thing for PRAH-leens & Cream (though she called it "PRAY-leens & Cream") and it would be her scoop of choice when we visited the local ice cream parlor.

New Orleans Ice Cream Co's Praline Crunch (mispronounced or not) is one mighty delicious version with creamy PRAH-leen ice cream, rich with the flavor of brown sugar and butter, and ridden with just enough PRAH-leen coated pecans to make crunching into each one feel like the very first time. Perhaps with enough of this ice cream, I can correct my pronunciation, moaning "PRAH-line" bite after mouthwatering bite...