Friday, June 28, 2013

Tongue-searing satisfaction at SukhoThai

I love Thai food. There's just something about the rich curries and fried noodles accented with fiery peppers, peanuts and exotic fruits (like coconut, papaya and pineapple) that make me one happy camper. A kind of psychosis takes over and no matter how full I get, I can't stop eating until the dish is done. I'll be rolling out the door, smacking my lips and stuffed to the gills, yet I am tempted to order another dish to take home.

Not too long ago, my friend Anne and I decided to turn up the heat and try an oh-so-spicy lunch at SukhoThai on Magazine Street.  The cavernous, sparsely decorated restaurant was only partially full when we arrived around noon. We were quickly seated at a table near the front window and offered ice water to guzzle while we perused the menu. There was a large selection of items, so it took us a while to choose, but we finally came to a decision and sat back to wait.

Since there were so many tasty-sounding appetizers to choose from, we opted for the SukhoThai Sampler that included an Ahi Katsu Roll, Veggie Rolls and a couple Shrimp-in-a-Pouch. Although all of it was tasty, what really stood out was the pristinely pink Ahi Katsu Roll which was served with a mango tomato salsa and the most delicious yellow curry dip. The dip, while visually unappealing (green and orange blob anyone?) was so extremely divine that we dipped everything in it...including our forks and fingers.

Although the wait between our appetizer and entree was a tad long, especially considering the server to diner ratio, we still couldn't help smiling with pleasure as our dishes came out pipping hot and served with a large bowl of sticky rice to share. Anne ordered the Crispy Pork & Chinese Broccoli that featured fried pork belly served atop a stew of stir-fried broccoli, garlic and red bell pepper in an oyster sauce. You can specify the level of spiciness you can handle and Anne braved the extreme "Thai hot," which is as hot as you can go at SukhoThai. I scored a few bites and I enjoyed the dish, and though it was pretty spicy, it was not intolerable for a lover of heat like Anne. The pork belly seemed all too much like cracklins to me, but we both agreed that the flavor popped once it soaked in the sauce for a bit.

I wimped out with my dish of Grilled Mahi Green Curry, I took it down just a notch to simply "hot," though I didn't detect a huge difference in heat level between my dish and Anne's. My dish featured a huge filet of Mahi-Mahi served in a large bowl of green curry and coconut milk with zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper and basil. The aroma was delightful and the curry and vegetables were absolutely delicious, especially when spooned over a blob of their slightly sweet sticky rice. The fish was tasty too, but a little overcooked and without the green curry, it would have been rather dry.

In general, I am not a huge stickler on service. I figure if the food's good, I can put up with all manner of things. But I have to say, our server was woefully inattentive seeing as I had to actually get up and walk over to the servers chatting at the bar to finally get some chopsticks.

All in all, it was an enjoyable lunch, albeit pricey. Next time I'll probably order their lunch special that would only put me back $8.95 instead of $18.95. Oh well, live and learn!

Sukho Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 24, 2013

House of the week: Greek Revival on Prytania Street

When I first moved to New Orleans from the Bay Area, I lived in a one bedroom in-law behind a gorgeous old house (that was broken up into apartments) in the Garden District. After long days filled with trying to find my furniture (now THAT'S a story) and sending out resumes to different job prospects, my shih-tzu Pippin and I would spend long afternoons strolling around our neighborhood. We felt that we couldn't have been luckier, Pippin had tons of flora to mark and I got to live in a place where I could wander among overwhelmingly beautiful, massive, well-kept mansions, most of which had been around for over a century. It was not surprising that Pippin and I would stay out, walking around for several hours before thirst and hunger drove us back to our little refuge on Harmony Street.

Although I love my current 'hood a lot, I brag about it all the time, there are definitely days when I wish I could be back amidst all that history, wealth and splendor. I think to myself, "What if I could live there again?" Well, I am sure the old in-law is going for much more than $775 a month these days, so I'd have to buy a house...what about this one?

On the corner of Prytania and 7th, less than three blocks from where I used to live, lies this ravishing Greek Revival house that was built back in 1876 that we had passed in our walks a countless number of times. With over 7,000 square feet of living space, this house boasts seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a lovely front porch and gallery, tall ceilings, hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and an in-ground pool in the spacious backyard. This "quaint" abode lies only a block away from St. Charles Avenue (a.k.a. parade route) and only four blocks from Magazine Street. Too bad I don't have a cool $3,200,000 to drop on this beauty...I don't know, is seven bedrooms enough? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

It keeps getting better: Ba Chi Canteen

I've raved about how awesome my neighborhood is many times, but I can't stop heaping on the praise when new shops and restaurants keep opening within mere blocks of my apartment. For example, a few weeks ago, my friends Anne and Candy accompanied me for a late afternoon lunch/dinner at Ba Chi Canteen.

For a long time, good Vietnamese cuisine could only be found on the Westbank, but in the last few years, the East Bank has seen an explosion of Vietnamese restaurants, much to the delight of people like me who can't easily take a trip (no car) across the Crescent City Connection to indulge in a little pho therapy.

Just recently Ba Chi Canteen opened on Maple Street, a mere six blocks away from my apartment and I was dying to go try it out. The new restaurant opened in the building that housed Figaro's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, right across the street from another delightful newcomer Satsuma Cafe. The skies were dumping rain when Anne, Candy and I scrambled into the half-empty restaurant, but we were not deterred and ready to eat! We had a tough time narrowing our choices, so we let go and ordered a lot of food.

We started with two different rolls, an order of shrimp spring rolls and their crispy pork egg rolls. The spring rolls were fresh and hearty, stuffed with lots of herbs, vegetables, rice noodles and large, delicious shrimp. But, the star of the show had made itself known when we took our first bite of those incredible egg rolls. Now, folks who have been to Tan Dinh have experienced these mind-altering rolls before, but for me, Anne and Candy, this was a brand new experience. The rolls were crispy and browned on the outside and filled with incredibly well-seasoned pork on the inside and we simply couldn't get enough. They were the best egg rolls I'd ever eaten...hands down.

The rest of the dishes all came out in a flurry. We ordered three of their so-named "baco's," or Vietnamese tacos. There were three different flavors; ba chi or pork belly, honey ponzu shrimp and coconut curry shrimp. While all of the "bacos" were delicious, the price shocked me. It was $3.25 for ONE of the shrimp "tacos." I thought there would at least be two or that they would be larger than I imagined. Hopefully they'll consider changing that price in the future.

We all got different entrees. Anne and Candy both ordered pho, Anne the combination with rare flank, brisket and beef ball while Candy stuck with the rare flank only. Both soups smelled wonderful and I got a few tastes, but Anne complained that the broth didn't "hold up" well, as the flavor strangely diminished in complexity as she was closer to finishing, something she'd never experienced before. I'm going to have to go back for my own bowl of pho to find out for myself.

I chose to have a vermicelli salad bowl with egg rolls (I had to have MORE!) and charbroiled pork. I enjoyed it thoroughly and freely doused it in fish sauce and sriracha, something I always add to this type of dish. We also received the traditional plates of fresh vegetables and herbs (basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno, etc.) to add to our entrees at will. I was the only one who couldn't finish my food, but I brought it home to John (along with a pork belly bahn mi). We will definitely be back, especially since it's so close by. I love how my neighborhood just keep getting better!

Ba Chi Canteen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Example: New Orleans Soup Co.

On the whole, I tend to steer clear of writing product reviews. On occasion, there are local items that I just LOVE and have to shout about, things like Mississippi Debris from the New Orleans Ice Cream Co. (along with almost all their other flavors), Hubig's Pies and CoolBrew to name a few, but most of the time, I just don't like doing them. Period. And there are several reasons for that...

First, I get a ton of product review requests by email. I mean, if I agreed to all of the reviews I've been offered, I'd be a morbidly obese alcoholic with an disturbingly high energy level and a large desk chair stuck to my I wouldn't be interested in removing anytime soon. More often than not, these email are DBO or "Dumped Before Opening."

Next, if I actually do consent to review a product (and sometimes even books!), I am quite frequently hassled until I do so. Not everyone is this annoying, but there are a few of those out there that will write you every few days, asking if you've tried the product, wondering when they'll see a blog or write up..blah, blah, blah. Even though I work from home and don't make a ton of cash, I am still a busy girl. I have a life, a dog, a boyfriend, all of which need and deserve my attention, not to mention other clients I work and write for. Please...if I like your product, I will definitely write about it. Just give me time.

Finally, and this one's the worst because I hate being mean (but I'm going to be honest!), what if I don't like your product? Do you still want me to write about it if I thought it sucked? No way? Yeah...that's what I thought you'd say. 100% of the product reviews I write on my blog are about things I've already tried before the manufacturer sent me a free sample. At the very least, as in the case with New Orleans Ice Cream, I'd tried several of their flavors before agreeing to review more "on the house."

So, in the future, if anyone wants me to review a product blindly must know I'm going to be honest. "It's my party," my blog. I'll cry if I want to.

Case in point: Gumbo Ya-Ya from New Orleans Soup Co.

A new company called Laugh, Eat Foods, LLC located on Bourbon Street has just begun marketing two "authentic" and "premium" soups, Gumbo Ya-Ya and Corn & Crab Bisque. The soups are made using locally sourced ingredients like duck fat roux from Chef John Folse, plus locally-made andouille and crab from Lake Pontchartrain. Each flavor comes in a  green, retortable carton that is easy to store and will last for up to two years.

But how does it taste?

I am not a huge fan of canned/boxed foods in general. I mean, should chicken last for two years? Anyhow, John was willing to eat what I wouldn't, so we opened a box of the Gumbo Ya-Ya (what they sent us) and heated it through in the microwave. Since this is the only version of canned gumbo that I'd ever eaten, all I could compare it to was real gumbo.

I liked the flavor of the roux, but we both agreed it tasted kind of burnt. The sausage was nice, but there wasn't a whole lot of it, nor did it have much chicken. The rest was like a brown vegetable goo. The suggested retail price is only $3.89, but I don't think I'd ever buy it. Not when there is good gumbo all around me. Perhaps if I was a tourist and I was a terrible cook? Maybe the bisque is better?

Now I feel like a heel...

Monday, June 17, 2013

House of the week: Camelback on Laurel Street

Location, location, location. The oft-used aphorism really means everything when seeking to acquire real estate. Sometimes it works in favor of the buyer, sometimes the seller, and sometimes (if you're lucky) both parties win. I think this is one of those times...

On the 6300 block of Laurel Street lies a 120-year-old Victorian camelback with all my most favorite features like hardwood floors, high ceilings, transom windows, free-standing brick fireplaces and an adorable front porch for swingin' and back yard for berlin'. There are 2-3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and almost 1800 square feet of living space.

Now, when you see that this little beauty is being listed for $539,000, one might think "Gee, Kim, that's a bit high." I sure as hell did. But when you consider the kind of makes sense. This abode is less than half a block away from Audubon Park. Look at these pictures and suddenly you'll say "Ooh! That's why!"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Apolline: Food of the Gods

Okay, well maybe I am exaggerating somewhat, but they sure do offer a brunch deserving of a little exaltation. Craving breakfast, as we often do, John and I visited Apolline a few weeks ago for the very first time and while we didn't start dancing naked in the street, wreathing onlookers with flowers, we certainly enjoyed ourselves.

We arrived at the beautiful Victorian house-turned-restaurant right on time for our reservation at noon. The simple, yet elegant, dining room was about half full with diners laughing over linen-covered tables and servers in long, white aprons crossing the hardwood floors. We were seated at a two-top next to closed French doors that let in soft, spring sunlight. After placing our order, we whiled away the time watching a group of laughing diners who were eating out front on the patio and admired the gorgeous peach roses in a vase on our table.

Before long, our appetizer arrived, a couple of fluffy buttermilk biscuits smothered in a rich, white gravy with crumbled sausage. Since we were both hungry and both big fans of biscuits and gravy, we devoured the dish in no time, carefully scraping up the last morsels with our forks and (when we thought people weren't looking) our fingers.

Our server whisked away our plate before bringing out our entrees in a flash. John ordered a juicy, Double-Thick Pork Chop with creamy mashed potatoes and crispy, fried onions and though it was moist, rich and decadent, he had difficulty finishing since he also ordered a side of Andouille & Potato Hash. Perhaps his eyes were a bit bigger than his stomach? Thankfully I, and my bottomless-pit of a belly, was there!

I chose the Eggs Apolline which featured a cornbread Belgian waffle, Jacob’s andouille sausage, peeled crawfish and two poached eggs smothered in a decadent hollandaise. I inhaled this oh-so-Cajun and delicious version of Eggs Benedict, scarfed a side of Beeler's thick-cut bacon AND I helped John finish his breakfast. Yes, I was in heaven...well, I would have been if there were no calories in that feast...but we can't have everything!

Apolline Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Scarfing lunch at Wayfare

A few weeks ago, Anne and I were seeking a restaurant, both of us hungry enough to eat a bear. Instead, we opted to lunch at Wayfare. Stomachs rumbling, we headed over to the city's most recent addition in sandwich shops on Freret Street.

Standing at the counter, we drooled over the paper menus until we had decided, placed our orders and then sought out a table where we could try and relax till our food was ready. It was tough not to gape at the food coming out for other tables, but we managed to stay civilized and wipe the ravenous, envious look from our faces.

What seemed like hours later, though it was only mere minutes, our appetizer arrived. Anne and I agreed on the Jamaican Beef Meat Pies that were served with a bowl of mango salsa. The crusts were flaky and the interior was juicy and delicious with flavors minding me of earthy Indian curries. We literally inhaled them along with the salsa that added a bright, fresh flavor to the heady spices. Naturally, there were only three meat pies, more proof of my theory about the evil plot of restaurant owners and chefs to induce diners to order more than just one appetizer...there is NEVER an even number.

Feeling a bit more human and less animal, Anne and I were finally able to carry on a coherent conversation without our bellies gnawing out our backs. We felt quite a bit calmer when our sandwiches and sides arrived only a short time later. Anne chose the "BL(fg)T" with Kurobuta bacon, fried green tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, spicy mayonnaise and the restaurants own sweet potato hot sauce on toasted 7 grain bread. Although I was excited about the sandwich, I was kind of disappointed when I finally took a bite. Don't get me wrong, it was still tasty, but I think the spiciness detracted from the balance of flavor a proper BLT can offer. Additionally, adding a fresh tomato instead of fried took away the magic found when an acidic tomato meets salty bacon and creamy mayo. Perhaps I am just a purist at heart...

I chose the "Knuckle" which featured cold roast beef and pickled red onion thoroughly mixed with horseradish aioli, topped with shoe-string potato crisps and fresh arugula, and served on a pretzel bun. I do usually prefer my roast beef to be rare, but I still found this sandwich quite delicious. Anne and I agreed heartily that it was the better of the two and would gladly order it again. Both of our sandwiches came with a large pile of house made potato chips that were thick and crispy, not to mention gobbled heartily.

Because we were starving when we placed the order, our eyes might have been a bit larger than our stomachs, but there were no regrets on our additional sides. Anne got the Wayfare Oyster Dressing that came out like a dark, savory muffin. I only had a bite or two, but I found the dressing quite good even though I didn't get an oyster in any bite. I chose the Kurobuta Mac & Cheese and found it creamy, indulgent and decadent, though I wouldn't have minded tasting a bit more bacon.

Yes, we were full but the dessert menu was calling. It was a toss up, but in the end the Bread Pudding Beignets with rum crème anglaise and blueberries won out. Instead of the custard gooeyness of your average bread pudding, these were uniform rectangles of bread that were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and I found the dessert to be rather fresh tasting and not as heavy as we anticipated, which was probably for the best.

Wayfare on Urbanspoon