Monday, September 30, 2013

A question of need: Zyliss EasiCan Electric Can Opener

Remember how I said I don't do product reviews? Yeah, well. I needed a can opener.

Not to whine about what's lost, but I used to have strong hands. I had no difficulty opening jars or beer bottles, and I gave a righteous shoulder massage, just ask anyone in my family or my old bunch of friends back in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, typing excessively over the past twenty years has made my hands and wrists unusually weak. I have found workarounds for difficulties like opening jars (thank you rubber grip!), and beer bottles (thank you shirt!), but I still have trouble using a damn can opener.

Ever since the mid-70s, I have used a manual can opener. My mom had an old General Electric can opener for a brief period, but the only person in the house that had the patience to get it to work properly was my dad and we couldn't mount him under the cupboard. Suffice it to say, I have never used an electric can opener (correctly) until now.

When the representative from Zerliss emailed asking if I would review their EasiCan Electric Can Opener, I had just finished failing to open two cans of black beans. John opened them properly after much teasing of yours truly. Naturally, I said yes I would do the review, especially after realizing that I would get the can opener and another product of my choosing for free. As my buddy Shalom always says "If it's free, it's for me!"

I got both the EasiCan Electric Can Opener and "door prize" in the mail a couple of days ago and its arrival was timed so perfectly, that I have used the opener quite a few times since then. Since reviewing products really isn't my strong point, I thought it would be simpler to list likes and don't likes.

  1. The can pretty much opens by itself.
Don't likes
  1. I have to babysit the can opener while it's opening or the whole thing will flip off spraying contents on the can lid everywhere (picture red enchilada sauce in a white kitchen). You also have to stop it in time or it will leave sharp edges, unlike the infomercial's claims.
  2. If you don't rip off the label on the can, there are little shreds of label paper left on the counter.
  3. Draining becomes more difficult, and you can forget actions like squeezing water out of tuna. It's impossible because this can opener cuts off the whole lid, not just the inner circle.
  4. It's bit pricey at $20.00. We'll see how long it lasts.. 

So how would you grade it? It seems like it weighs out pretty evenly considering there is literally no effort expended on your part to actually open the can. If I graded it like a paper, I'd probably give it a B.

Although I'm a bit sad about the can opener, I'm sure I'll use it until it stops working or I do, whichever comes first. Plus, the door prize was totally awesome, I love my new Coated Santoku 7-inch Knife and not only because it's purple.

Friday, September 20, 2013

House of the week: Creole cottage on Burgundy Street

The first apartment I looked at when I was planning my move to New Orleans was on Burgundy Street in the French Quarter. Local realtor Maurice Guillot met my mother and I in front of the "garçonnière" we wanted to look at and took no time correcting our pronunciations. "Baby, if you're going to live down here, you've got to say 'bur-GUN-dee.'" Now, 10 years later, I've been saying it that way for so long, I forgot how I said it before. Anyhow, there's a new Creole cottage for sale on Burgundy (bur-GUN-dee) Street that I certainly can't afford now, nor could I afford it them...but I sure wish I could.

This gorgeous 1830's cottage may not look like much from the front, but it's a three bedroom, two and a half bath beauty with about 2700 square feet of living space. The house features a gourmet kitchen, 18th century chandeliers, high ceilings, hardwood floors and even has the original ceiling medallions and fireplace mantles intact. In the back, a spacious brick courtyard separates the main house from the slave quarters which have been remodeled into a two story guest house with its very own kitchen.

Other than being located in the historic French Quarter, this gorgeous house is less than a block from the Cabrini Playground, an officially unofficial dog park that Pippin (my sweet shih-tzu) absolutely loves. Only wish I could swing the asking price of $1,595,000.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lunch theater at Peche Seafood Grill

Ever since it opened a few months back, I'd been dying to go to Peche.  As you all know, I am a huge fan of anything connected to Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski because it seems that everything they touch turns to gold. And I'm not talking gold as in buckets of cash, although they are hugely successful. I am talking gold as in the perfect crust on a pan-fried eggplant round topped with a pile of sweet, jumbo lump crab meat, gilded Louisiana shrimp resting on a honey-colored bed of cream corn or crisply browned potato hash served with succulent pork cheeks, crumbled feta and fresh mint. You know...that kind of gold.

About a month ago, John and I visited the Warehouse District eatery, and when we walked in for a very late lunch that fateful day, Peche still had that new restaurant smell. Since it was so late in the afternoon, but not quite dinner, we had almost the whole restaurant to ourselves aside from a few folks at the bar. I absolutely loved the "distressed" decor which reminded me of seafood joints I've frequented all down the coast of California. You almost expect to look out of the window to see a stretch of the shoreline and pounding waves rather than a busy Magazine Street intersection.

Although it was hard to pick only two, John and I started out with the Crab & Artichoke Fritters and Royal Red Shrimp with garlic butter. When the plate of fritters was set before us, John and I glanced at each other with raised eyebrows. I mean, four rather small fritters with a mini-veggie salsa for $9? Really? I sighed and thought to myself, "These better be the best damn fritters I've ever eaten."

You know what? They were...

Instead of being overloaded with breadcrumb fillers, these little beauties were mostly lumps of creamy crab meat which spilled out onto your tongue after breaking through the thin, crispy crust. They were fritters like I've never had, but always wanted. After that, we just trusted that everything we would eat that afternoon would be splendid, no more doubts, despite uncontrollable cringes at the price. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, huge and juicy, and instead of fighting over shrimp #5, we shared the buttery goodness, happily sucking it from our fingertips.

When the server came over and saw us licking our fingers, he laughed a bit and came back with a small bowl of warm water, a couple of "towel pills" and some lemon wedges. Even though I'd never seen them in a restaurant before, I knew exactly what to do and John watched while I squeezed some lemon into the water, dropped in the "pill" and voila! I think we need to get out more often because this little intermission offered more entertainment I thought could possibly be had from simply cleaning our hands and faces.

The lights should have lowered and the drums rolled because we were ready for a round of applause when our main course arrived. John and I decided to share a whole grilled striped bass ($45...OUCH!) and share it we did. He dug into one end while I attacked the other and we cleaned that wondrous creature from head to tail. If I could have, I would have picked the whole thing up and devoured it myself, like a cartoon cat dipping it into my mouth and pulling out the bones with nothing left but a large grin on my face. I am sure John wanted his own, as well. Next time, perhaps, if we can scrape up enough dough.

After all that mouth-watering deliciousness, I insisted on dessert, especially knowing that one of my favorite pasty chefs, Rhonda Ruckman, created the menu. It's always difficult to choose just one of her amazing desserts, but we finally settled on a Pistachio-Crusted Blueberry Tart served with Atchafalaya Honey Chantilly (whipped cream) on top and drizzled with caramel sauce. What can I say? It was fabulous! Especially the crust which can only be described as a buttery, flaky world of endless wonder.

Peche on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Delicious repast at Rivista

A couple of months ago*, I was invited to a "diva luncheon" with several lovely ladies at Rivista, the new bakery/cafe on Magazine Street opened by a couple of chefs, or a chef couple, Lisa and Chris Barbato. Although I didn't indulge in any pastry that day (Lisa's gluten-free Chunky Monkey Muffins are the bomb!), I did enjoy a couple of items from their ever-changing lunch menu.

I kept it real simple with the soup and salad of the day seeing as I had a lot of eating to do later on in the week and I was trying to play it safe. There were other scrumptious items on the menu like a roasted pork loin panino with Breaux Bridge Fig Preserves and goat cheese or house made stracci pasta with local legumes, a poached farm egg and shaved Parmesan. I took a breath and stuck with my order while sipping on a creamy Illy latte.

The salad was fresh with mixed greens, juicy peach slices, ripe avocado, red onion, crumbled feta, cucumbers, pecans and crispy bacon all tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Several of the ladies with me enjoyed the same salad and we all had no difficulty cleaning our plates.

The soup was Chicken Tortilla with lots of pulled chicken, chopped tomatoes, more avocado and a bunch of crunchy tortilla strips in a rich chicken stock. I slurped it all down and contemplated ordering another dish, but I didn't want to be a pig (Me? Never!). Next time for sure...

*You're thinking to yourself...a few months ago? Yes, Kim is playing major catch up, so look out for many more blogs coming your way.

Rivista on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 6, 2013

A light lunch in the burbs at Romano

If there's one thing you know about me, it's that I don't tend to eat healthy when I go out. Since I can't afford to dine out everyday, my weekly jaunts to the outside world are indulgences, mini-events where I can spoil myself rotten and, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, lean chicken or veggie-laden salads are not what I consider "living large." It's not that I think proper nutrition and diet are unimportant, it's just can be rather dull, especially when you try to eat right the rest of the week.

Another thing I don't do is travel out into Metairie often. Not only do I lack a vehicle, but I tend to avoid the suburbs. I spent the first 33 years of my life trapped in a suburb of San Francisco, never really letting myself experience the diversity and culture of the city and I missed out on so very much. Needless to say, all suburbs, whether they be in Southern Louisiana or Northern California, are the same. "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky..." Did you know that song was written about a city in the same county where I grew up? I digress...

So with both of these factors already working against it, when I went to lunch with Casey at Romano Italian Street Food, I wasn't expecting much, aside from the opportunity to hang out with a friend I rarely get to see. 

Located on Veterans Avenue, "Romano's" as its fondly been dubbed, is a cafeteria style restaurant, much like Felipe's that I just wrote about, except Italian-style. Also similar to Felipe's, Romano takes pride in keeping it fresh with salads, wraps, or "Piadinas," and pasta bowls made to your specifications from a long list of ingredients, some of which are sourced from local distributors, bakers and fishermen. For example, the shrimp are caught in the Bayou Segnette and brought in regularly from a Westwego fishery.

My friend Casey got one of their rather popular Piadinas which is essentially a wrap filled with (in her case) grilled steak, angel hair pasta, feta cheese, peppadew peppers, thin slices of pancetta, artichoke hearts and a spicy tomato cream sauce. It looked and smelled wonderful, and I found out, as Italian as this dish may sound, the wraps are actually tortillas (piadinas are quite similar, made with flour and lard) made locally at Hola Nola in Gonzales. I had no idea a tortillaria existed in Louisiana!

From all the different salad options, I ordered a one of their "Chef Selections," a Spicy Tuscan Shrimp Salad (only 320 calories!), letting the experts make it for me. Aside from fresh, boiled shrimp, the salad had mixed greens, eggplant caponata (a cooked-eggplant salad), peppers, onions, roasted garlic, artichoke and shaved Parmesan in a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette...and you know what? I liked it! Not only did I like was really filling. Romano does not skimp on the vegetable, cheese or shrimp and I still was struggling to finish at least half when Casey told me about their new dessert. 

My ears pricked up at the thought of something sinful and they didn't disappoint when I tasted their Gelato Panini. The chef took scoops of Angelo Brocato Vanilla Bean Gelato, topped it with a crunchy, chocolate topping (like a crumbled Nestle Crunch bar) and sandwiched it between a split King's Hawaiian Sweet Roll. It was an Italian, Hawaiian and American sweet fest in my mouth and seriously, I am drooling about it right now. Excuse me, I need a napkin...

Romano Italian Street Food on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 5, 2013

House of the week: Cottage on Harmony Street

You've probably seen articles and TV shows about the whole "Tiny Home" craze that's sweeping the nation and, believe me, it has not escaped my attention either. I totally dig the idea of not taking up a lot of space to preserve the environment, nature and wildlife. Not to mention that a lot of these little houses are mobile and how cool is that? You could just wander across the country and take your tiny house with you. My only problem is how tiny they are. I mean, could I really function in only 89 square feet of living space? I'm in a 400 square foot apartment right now and I ache for decent closets and a little more counter space in the kitchen would be a dream come true. 

I'm afraid that this next house I found is about as tiny as I could get. Over on Harmony Street in the Irish Channel there's this adorable little cottage for sale. Only a little less than 500 square feet, this house has one bedroom, one bathroom, hardwood floors and a precious, old-timey kitchen with a tiny oven. Other than how cute it is, the best part about this house is it's location. It's only three blocks from Magazine Street, the stretch that includes places like Sucre, La Divina Gelateria, Big Fisherman, Artz Bagelz, Gott Gourmet and much, much more. It's eight blocks from the parade route and so very close to one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city...the Garden District. This little cutie also happens to be in my price range listed at only $119,000. What do you think? Is it worth it? 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fishes and Felipe's

Although I've been living in New Orleans for over ten years, there are still a quite a few places I've never been. For example, I have yet to dine at Galatoire's for a Friday afternoon lunch, set foot inside the Superdome or seen a Saints' game, for that matter, and until a few weeks ago, I had never been to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

My friend Dani and her 3-year-old daughter Posie just happen to have an annual family membership to all of Audubon's attractions and one day they asked John and I to come along. We strolled through the cool, dark halls and gawked at jellyfish, garfish, turtles and sharks. We visited Parakeet Pointe and tried to feed sleepy, colorful birds $1.50 sticks clumped with what looked like honey and birdseed at one end. But, either the birds weren't hungry or simply sick of sticks, because none of them really wanted what we were offering.

We saw penguins and sea otters and stood inside the pre-fab jaws of a prehistoric shark to take pictures. We experienced what it's like in a subtropical climate (wait...don't we do that everyday?), climbed over a waterfall and saw river creatures like catfish and anacondas, though the snake was hiding in a hole. Shortly after sauntering through a glass tunnel built right through one of the main tanks (does anyone else remember Jaws 3?), we all started to feel hungry and decided that eating in the aquarium's small food court was not an option. As we were heading out to scrounge something for lunch, Posie was waylaid by all the glittering goodies in the gift shop. While she was picking out a souvenir, I hopped onto my trusty smart phone to see what restaurants were nearby and the first name to pop up was Felipe's Taqueria.

So that's where we went...

I'd been to the Uptown location many times and knew what to expect. While Felipe's is not exactly "authentic" Mexican cuisine, as they tout, they always use bright, fresh ingredients and there's some excellent bang for your buck. As we discovered, the French Quarter location was very much like Uptown, although larger with a huge bar area. It's basically like a cafeteria where you decide whether you want -- burrito, nachos, flautas etc.-- and then you choose what you want inside from a large list of ingredients and watch them while they pile it on.

This time, I wanted a taco salad which was a crispy, flour tortilla bowl filled with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, refried beans, black beans, fried Gulf shrimp, crumbled queso, creamy guacamole and a dollop of sour cream. John opted for a burrito filled with Al Pastor, or caramelized pork marinated in a pineapple sauce, with refried beans, crumbled queso, pico de gallo, rice and guacamole. Posie got a cheese quesadilla and Dani also got a taco salad but with char-grilled chicken. I must have been ordering with my eyes, because I also got nachos with lots of cheese, refried beans and guacamole for us all to share. It turned out to be way too much food. I was only able to eat my salad, not including the shell, and a few bites of nachos. Everything was delicious and we were all extremely satisfied, or so we thought...

As we were leaving the restaurant, Posie decided she wanted to go back to the aquarium, but since we had such a late lunch (almost dinner!), the aquarium was already closed. While she threw a hissy fit out on N. Peters Street, I seriously considered stepping back into Felipe's for a margarita...heavy on the tequila please!

Felipe's Taqueria on Urbanspoon