Tuesday, August 27, 2013

House of the week: Mansion on St. Charles Ave.

Sometimes it's fun to go to extremes, pushing yourself to very edge, whether it be scarfing down fifteen dozen raw oysters in under an hour or running an "ultra" marathon, Although house hunting (a.k.a. window shopping) is definitely a lot tamer than either of those endeavors, I was thinking about extremes in terms of how the last house I posted floated directly in my price range, whereas today's house is a far-off fantasy. I would have to win the Louisiana Powerball (now at $116, 000, 000), and even then, this house (and it's maintenance) would put a considerable dent in my winnings.

Feel free to start drooling over this four-story, seven bedroom and twelve bathroom mansion on St. Charles Avenue sporting over 14,000 square feet of living space. This monster house is beyond cool with a high ceilings, marble and hardwood flooring, ornate moulding and gorgeous ceiling medallions, stunning chandeliers, movie theater, wine cellar, elevator, ballroom, library, roof-top patio, a huge in-ground swimming pool and a cabana. Plus, the house features cool Smarthome technology with automated lighting, security, etc. Could you imagine the parties I could have at this house? (sigh).

This opulent mansion, this palace, so far out of my reach, it might as well be in Neverland, is listed at the bargain basement price of $6,185,000...as IF!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Luke: Vegans beware...

If you've ever enjoyed a hearty lunch at Lüke, you know that it's not exactly vegan-friendly, nor is it for the faint of heart. A few weeks ago, John and I braved the meaty wilds at 333 St. Charles Avenue and lived...just barely.

We decided to start our adventure with the Boudin Noir appetizer served with a saute of potatoes, apples and onions on the side. This foray into blood sausage turned out better than either John or I could anticipate, and while the texture took some getting used to, the flavor was wondrous, especially balanced with bites of the apple and onion mixture.

Although they served the appetizer with small, warm loaves of French bread, John and I restrained ourselves for the more than bountiful entrees. John decided to go "whole hog" and order the Choucroute Garnie Maison with smoked pork shank, Mangalitsa belly, bratwurst, and house-made sauerkraut. This huge pile of pig meat is utterly delicious and could easily feed two, but because we're both little piggies ourselves, I ordered my own entree instead of sharing John's and we ended up with a large, heavy bag of leftovers.

I chose the Plat Lyonnaise featuring three different handmade sausages served with pommes lyonnaise and house mustard. Yes...more pig meat and yes, it was delicious. Plus, the potatoes (a..k.a. pommes lyonnnaise) that were hiding underneath the sausage were buttery blobs of heaven and I couldn't really be sure which I gobbled more aggressively, the potatoes or the sausages. By the way, the server informed us about what kinds of sausage were served, but at the time, I was too busy drooling over the "pork-ucopia" in front of me to pay much attention. What can I say? I was hungry.

Although were were literally stuffed "up to here" (I lack a visual representation of my hand held level with my throat), I had to order dessert. Didn't I? I chose the Dark Chocolate Bavarois with Devil's Food Cake, rich cherries and coconut ice cream. Unfortunately, this was the sad point of our meal instead of the delectable send-off it should have been. The ice cream was delicious, as were the cherries, but the "baravois" or Bavarian Cream was the texture of dried paste and the cake was also rather moist-less, the only saving grace being that the ice cream topped it. I believe it was one of the very few desserts we've ever neglected to finish.

The dessert was a bummer...so what? We made up for it later that evening when we feasted on our pork-laden leftovers.

Lüke on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Mardi Gras Pie

To me, the combination of marshmallow. graham cracker and chocolate means S'mores. But, it seems that in the South, this magical combination also equals the ever-popular Moon Pie. Don't roll your eyes, but I have never had the pleasure of enjoying a Moon Pie, and even though there are Mardi Gras krewes that are known for throwing this treat out to avid parade-goers, I've never caught one either. 

Regardless of this lack of Moon Pie experience, it doesn't mean that I like this combination any less. In fact, I could easily devour S'mores (at home or in front of a campfire) until the proverbial cows finally make it back to the homestead. That is why when New Orleans Ice Cream Co's owner Adrian Simpson offered to drop off a couple of pints of his newest flavor for me to try, I jumped at the opportunity.   

Dubbed Mardi Gras Pie, this heaven-in-a-cardboard-pint consists of creamy marshmallow ice cream (yes, I said marshmallow ice cream) with an extra marshmallow swirl, thick dark chocolate flakes and soft bits of graham cracker. Could you imagine this throw at the next Mardi Gras parade? Better practice shouting "Throw me something, Mister!" because I'll definitely be your competition.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stuffing ourselves at Sainte Marie

When I met Kristen Essig at a wonderful ladies' luncheon at Kingfish, she had just accepted her new position as executive chef and asked me to wait about a month before coming to taste her revamped menu at Sainte Marie Brasserie. I did exactly as she requested and only six weeks later visited the restaurant at 930 Poydras, an intimidating, yet stunning structure Kristen fondly dubbed the "Death Star."

John and I were immediately seated when we walked into the restaurant, even though I had neglected to make reservations. We started off lunch with a couple of cocktails, John opting to indulge in his usual Sazerac, while I selected a delectable drink called a "Sighting at the old iron yard" which featured Rougaroux Aged Rum, Licor 43 (a Spanish citrus-based liqueur) and Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur.

We were feeling a pleasant buzz by the time our appetizers arrived. John and I always share everything, but our preferences are our own, regardless of what he might say otherwise. I chose the Tuna Tartare that was perfectly molded together with some avocado mash and topped with pickled daikon and carrots. The dish was served with crisply fried won ton wrappers that we used to scoop each delicious bite into our ravenous maws. I ate almost half of it before I slid my plate over to share with John, but I was anxious to try his Fried Oyster Salad. It was simple, yet satisfying plate of julienned green apple, fresh watercress and more avocado mash hidden underneath.

Our entrees arrived just as we were finishing. We both chose the day's specials, John opting for a seared drum served in a lemony butter sauce atop risotto and I got the New Zealand Lamb Rib Chops, the bones crisscrossed atop a mound of purple hull peas, fresh corn and halved cherry tomatoes. Both dishes were so bright with the flavors of each ingredient showing strong on the palate. John and I had no difficulty gobbling it all down and I found myself gnawing on the bones, making sure every scrap of perfectly grilled lamb flesh would not go to waste.

We were incredibly full, but I couldn't leave without ordering dessert and chose to sample the Vanilla Crème Brûlée with honey, brown butter madeleines. The crème brûlée was absolutely perfect with a crisp, sugar crust that offered a satisfying crack when my spoon broke through to the light, creamy custard underneath. Much to our surprise, Kristen came out of the kitchen with a Pot de Creme with chantilly cream, claiming there was no way we could finish our lunch without some chocolate. Like everything else before it, the dish was scrumptious, rich and creamy and even though we were full, we managed to find a bit of extra room to polish off both desserts. We couldn't thank her enough...

Ste Marie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 15, 2013

House of the week: Cottage on Chippewa Street

The way I see it, almost any house you buy is a "fixer-upper," regardless of how new. You always have to add touches to any dwelling in order to make it your home, whether that means picking out new curtains for the kitchen or gutting the bathroom. But, purchasing a home that the realtor dubs a "fixer-upper" can make one rather nervous. After all, there's a big difference in cost between painting your bedroom that perfect shade of mustard yellow and house leveling.

Just recently I spotted this house on Chippewa Street in the Irish Channel. It's a cute two bedroom, one bath cottage with hardwood floors, high ceilings and about 1100 square feet of living space. One of the best things about this house is the lush little courtyard in the back with a little footpath leading to a small stone table hidden among the palm trees. It's also located in a prime area only five blocks from Magazine Street and the gorgeous Garden District, not to mention a bunch of great shops, bars and restaurants, including Coquette.

In the listing description, it says "With a little work, could be your perfect hide-away!" What does that mean exactly? Re-sanding the floors or a complete over-haul of the plumbing? If it was small stuff, this little cottage could definitely be worth the effort at only $195,000.

Would you buy this fixer-upper?

Friday, August 2, 2013

A slice of Slice

Several years ago when I worked downtown, my co-workers and I used to go out for lunch quite often. They certainly were not the most extravagant lunches, but they were almost always tasty and cheap to boot. There are quite a few spots I don't get to hit up as often anymore and it just so happens that Slice is one of them.  So, when I visited the new-ish Uptown location on Magazine Street not too long ago with Dani and her 3-year-old daughter Posie, I couldn't help but order the exact same thing I always did...with a few additions, of course.

Once Posie settled down with a chocolate soda, we were able to focus on the menu and order. We started with their BBQ Shrimp served on a split loaf of French bread. Although it wasn't quite how I remembered it, there were lots of shrimp and the warm, chewy bread was a perfect sop for the tangy, buttery, garlicky sauce.

For our entrees, Dani and I both ordered a slice of pizza with a half salad, one of the best lunch deals ever for under $10. We both opted for a slice of the Four Cheese Margherita pie with fresh and aged Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, diced tomatoes and basil, but Dani got a Caprese Salad while I chose my old Spinach fallback. The pizza was quite good with a crispy, thin crust and perfectly melted cheese...hot out of the oven. Dani liked the flavor of the Caprese with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato stacked and drizzled in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (it was her first ever!), but the tomato was sadly mealy.

I got a Spinach Salad that they serve with crumbled walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked bacon with a bleu cheese vinaigrette dressing. Now I realize the vinaigrette looks kind of gross, but it tastes kind of awesome. Trust me on this one. Plus, the salad is also served with a brie-smeared crostini.

Now I'm quite hungry, because I have not yet eaten lunch, and I'm having difficulty concentrating on writing...(stomach rumbles)...see you Monday!

Slice Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Chocolate City

What a delicious way to satirize former Mayor Ray Nagin's gaff during a speech on Martin Luther King Jr. Day after the horrific levee failures of 2005. New Orleans Ice Cream Co. created a scrumptious combination of their ultra-premium, dense, dark chocolate ice cream mixed with a hefty helping of creamy, white chocolate chips.

Too bad life can't be as simple as ice cream, because this tastes like harmony to me.