Friday, December 26, 2014

House of the week: Victorian on N. Dupre Street

I can't think of a better time to dream, and dream big. Tis the season for me to wish on a star, cross my fingers and toes, and keep throwing spilled salt over my shoulder because who knows? Santa may still want to treat me to something truly fabulous.

So Santa, if you're still listening, I really, really want this eye-popping stunner located on N. Dupre Street. Over a century old, this unique Victorian will most definitely make me swoon, what with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, floor-to-ceiling windows, transoms, exposed brick fireplaces, French doors, crown moulding, clawfoot tub, and a two bedroom/one bathroom guest house to boot!

This Mid-City beauty is listed at a mere $649,000 ... oh please Santa! Pretty please? I know I've been a good girl this year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Toast: Breakfast will never be the same again ...

Everyone has heard me rave in many different mediums about the wonders to be had at Tartine run by chef/owner Cara Benson. Well, this magical, magnanimous, Mom and baker extraordinaire has done it again with Toast, a mouth-watering breakfast experience she opened about six months ago.

To be perfectly fair, I've already raved about Toast, too ... just not here on my lil old blog. Now seems the optimal time to rectify that. I've been to Toast on many occasions since the first, an experience I'm about to relate, but just know, there is nothing on this menu that won't make you swoon, and if it doesn't well ... more for me!

About a month after it opened in June 2014, John and I headed Uptown to Laurel Street to have a meal that was so delightful, Toast has become the stuff of dreams to us, a place we think of every time we think of breakfast.

Though it was still dreadfully hot, we opted to sit outside since it seemed the only way we'd be sure to get a table. We both ordered a cup of coffee (yes it was French Truck, thank you very much) and tried hard not to order everything on the menu.

John chose one of the "toasts," with cream cheese, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and capers atop a thick, toasted slice of Benson's brilliant, house-baked brioche. What can I say? It was astoundingly simple, yet exquisitely delicious. Everything was just right, from the amount of cream cheese to the fluffy scrambled eggs.

While I loved John's toast, we both couldn't help oohing and aahing over my dish, a huge slice of ham and Gruyere quiche. Cross my heart and hope to die, this was the best quiche I ever had the pleasure of inhaling. Easily three inches high, it had a gorgeous golden crust and the filling was so light and creamy, it was almost like delving into a delicate souffle. Don't doubt that I've enjoyed her daily quiches many times since.

John and I also shared a side of thick-sliced bacon and, something I never thought to see on a breakfast menu, a plate of ratatouille -- a mouth-watering, stewed vegetable dish that only added to the meal's overall wonder. I can't wait to go back again ... and again ... and again ...

Toast on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Product Review: iCoffee

In general, I am not a fan of the single-serve, Keurig-type coffee makers. I had a lot of experience using one when I used to schlep it out in a more corporate environment and I discovered that I would likely never purchase one for myself. 

That being said, when a representative at iCoffee contacted me, asking if I'd be willing to try out their version, I felt the need to give it a go. Usually, I buy concentrate from New Orleans Cool Brew, but from time to time, I will spoil myself with a fresh pound of French Truck. Only problem was that my French press shattered in a million pieces after a devastating drying incident (I so LOVED my French press!) and my last coffee maker recently kicked the bucket.  

To get on with it, I have to say that overall, iCoffee is pretty damn cool, especially in comparison to other Keurig-type coffee makers. Here is a list of pros and cons so that you can make your own decision about the iCoffee, starting with cons because everyone likes a happy ending! Don't you?


1. It's humongous! Living in a tiny, one bedroom apartment in New Orleans means I do NOT have a ton of counter space and this puppy is a foot deep and almost a foot wide. If you have a lot of space, then by all means, use it! But for me, the iCoffee's home is currently in my parlor because I have no room for it in the kitchen.

2. The cord is too short. I might have been able to fit this monster next to my microwave if the cord would have reached, but no go. It's approximately 28 inches long, but unfortunately, that was still not enough.


1. You can use your own coffee! With their reusable iCup, you can grind your own coffee for this machine, a feature I didn't see available on the first wave of Keurig machines several years ago.

2. You can select how big (or small) you want your cup of coffee to be. iCoffee has this "Dial-A-Brew" feature that allows you to choose from 4 to 12 ounces. Since I like to drink a big cup of cafe au lait (made with CDM, of course), I'll bust out my 12 ounce mug, fill half with hot, whole milk and set the iCoffee for 6.5 ounces and voila! This feature really impressed my boyfriend who deals with a not-so-versatile Keurig machine at work.

All in all, I think if I had a normal kitchen, I wouldn't have the above two "cons" to contend with. Plus, at anywhere from $20 to $60 less than a Keurig at Bed, Bath & Beyond, it seems well worth it. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MMMeat! McClure's Barbecue

This is not a blog where I describe several courses, going into great detail on each morsel that entered my mouth, well, at least not exactly. This is a blog where I tell you how you should go to McClure's Barbecue on the corner of Magazine Street and Bordeaux with a friend and order "All Meat & All Sides" and be sure you are hungry .... very hungry.

With your stomachs grumbling audibly, Owner Neil McClure, or one of his attentive employees, will set before you a virtual trough of goodies which will most likely include juicy pork ribs almost falling off the bone, a heavenly-smoked portion of chicken (breast and thigh), pulled pork, crispy brisket and a plump sausage. This carnivore's heaven isn't quite complete if you don't try one (or five) of over 15 different kinds of BBQ sauce that are lined up against the wall like spice-laden sentinels.

As if that were not enough, you'll also get Pork & Pork & Beans, a creamy scoop of Four-Cheese Mac, a pile of BBQ Jambalaya, Creole Potato Salad, Molasses-Stewed Collard Greens and a large hunk of Roasted Corn & Jalapeno Cornbread.

John and I enjoyed this feast with relish and, believe it or not, managed to polish off every single bite. We will most assuredly be back...

McClure's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 21, 2014

PoBoy Festival: Breaking the curse

Something, or someone, doesn't want me to go to the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival. It seems that over the past several years, fate has conspired to make me miss one of the most popular festivals of the year and it's literally, right around the corner. Severe illness, atrocious hangovers, unexpected family get-togethers, heinous women's issues and an overwhelming distaste for being packed in, teeth-by-jowl, like Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras Day, have come in between me and several hours of pure po-boy bliss. Not this year, I say (perhaps with too much confidence). This year, I have a plan.

After perusing the offerings at this year's fest, I have devised a strategy that will allow me to hit the highlights within a short period of time and make it back to my apartment to share my spoils with John who (surprise, surprise) has caught the flu. Now keep in mind, I love all of the vendors and music that will be rockin' Oak Street this year, but in the interest of sanity, I've had to keep the list short, avoiding experiences I could have any other day of the year. Additionally, I need to get back home to tend to John, after all, he would do it for me.

The Po-Boy Plan:

  • I figure I can start out closer to River Road and work my way back up. If I leave my house at 9:30 AM, I can easily make it to #31 on the map, Bratz Y'all, which is just a block short of Cowbell. Why am I trekking such lengths? Well, among their many offerings, Bratz Y'all is kicking down "The NOLA Schnitzel Po-Boy with breaded and fried pork loin topped with a crawfish remoulade slaw. Any more questions?
  • From there, I can make my way up and over to the corner of Leonidas and Plum Street at #26 for a Mexican Cheesesteak Po-Boy from VFW- NOLA Veterans of Foreign Wars. I don't know about you, but slow-braised beef and poblanos smothered in chihuahua cheese sauce sounds like a killer second course.
  • I'll just keep heading up Plum Street after VFW and make the block, coming around to Mahony's Po-Boy Shop vending at #19 on Joliet and Oak. Here, I'm either going to have to choose or simply buy both the Abita-Braised Short-Rib Po Boy with garlic mayo and fried onion rings; and the Grilled Shrimp & Avocado Po-Boy with a green-onion vinaigrette.
  • By this time, I'll only have to trudge through the rapidly-growing crowds a few steps to reach #16, where Wayfare is kicking down, among other items, some Boudin Meat Pies. As you know, I've already tried their meat pies before and the crust is to-die-for delicious. I'm curious to taste one loaded with pork shoulder, liver, local long-grain rice and Creole honey mustard.
  • Finally, I simply can't resist pushing my way through almost three blocks of insanity to reach #4 and what I think just might be the "pièce de résistance" this fest. One of the bend's best, Boucherie is offering a Corned Pork Belly Reuben Po-Boy with sesame sauerkraut, duck liver mousse and roasted red pepper dressing. Knowing me, I'll likely order some cracklins too. 
  • PBFPPS (Po-Boy Fest Plan Post Script) - IF I am not tearing my hair out and the crowds are lenient, I wouldn't mind heading back to #9 on the corner of Dante for a "Black & Gold" - Nutella & Banana Crepe - from Crepes a la Cart.    
Stuffed and loaded with spares for John, I'll likely find the quickest route back to Zimpel and head home. Will I make it this year? We shall certainly see ... that is, if I don't catch John's flu.

Monday, November 10, 2014

House of the week: Double shotgun on Royal Street

In my seemingly never-ending quest for a house, one specific consideration I have not mentioned a whole lot is a decent backyard. Not only do I want to plant herbs and vegetables in a small garden of my very own, I have a dog. He is an extremely cute and fuzzy dog named Pippin who is quite mischievous, playful and wholly deserving of an outside space where he can run around, bark at elusive kitties and sniff out all the wonders a proper backyard can contain.

While browsing this morning, I came across this cute double located in Bywater, right on the edge of the Marigny. The house itself offers two bedrooms and one bath on each side in the traditional shotgun layout, floor-to-ceiling windows, fireplace mantles, super-high ceilings and hardwood floors. It's located less than two blocks from the new and improved Crescent Park, nine blocks from Frenchmen Street, eleven blocks from the Quarter, two blocks from Pizza Delicious, and five blocks from Elizabeth's.

Yet with all of these fabulous features, what is most stunning about this particular house is the gargantuan back yard. I mean, the house is approximately 1,600 square feet and the lot is 2,300 square feet leaving about 700 square feet just for the backyard, which includes a sprawling oak tree. Though it's about $60,000 out of my price range, I wish I had the means to buy this awesome house listed for $249,900. I'm sure Pippin would love it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mission at Del Fuego Taqueria

I'm ecstatic that New Orleans has finally upped its game when it comes to Mexican cuisine. If anyone asked me what I missed most about living in California, other than the fact that my whole family lives there, I would have to say two things: 1) the Pacific Ocean and 2) Mission burritos. Thankfully, a man after my own stomach, owner David Wright, opened Del Fuego Taqueria early this summer bringing the Mission burrito to the Crescent City.

A few months back, John and I visited Del Fuego Taqueria for the first time and in case you were wondering, I've been back many times since.  Located on Magazine Street just a hop from Napoleon Avenue, Del Fuego offers both indoor and outdoor seating and, on this particular occasion, John and I opted to sit outside. We kicked off our dinner with a couple of perfectly delicious, house Margaritas made with Souza Blue Silver and house made triple sec and fresh "limonada" or lemonade decorated with a heavy, salt rim. 

First out was their "loaded" guacamole that was like a cornucopia of all the good stuff you can put in guac ... plus a little bit more. After feasting on crispy, fresh tostada pieces weighed down with fresh avocado, chicharrones (Spanish for "cracklins"), tomato, onion, cotija, roasted poblanos, pumpkin seeds, bacon and pomegranate seeds (yes, I said pomegranate seeds), we were actually quite full. Nonetheless, we were still determined to try at least a bite or two of our entrees before we asked them to box it all up.

John got the "Cochinita Pibil de Costenos" which translated to mean a half-rack of St. Louis ribs that were slow-cooked in banana leaves with an achiote-spice rub and served with a side of black beans and pickled onions. The ribs were wonderfully heavy with heady spice and practically falling off the bone. 

Seeing as I've raved about them in the past and missed them oh-so dearly, I simply had to have a Mission burrito. I chose the carnitas filling (slow-cooked and fried pork) that was also accompanied by the traditional Mission-style ingredients which include pinto beans, rice, queso, crema (or sour cream), salsa fresca, avocado, onions and cilantro. Let me tell you, it was like taking a bite of home. If my dish had a few whole, pickled jalapenos, sliced onions and carrots, all I would have had to do was close my eyes and I'd feel like I was sitting in front of La Cumbre. Thank you Mr. Wright, you have no idea how happy you've made me...  

Del Fuego Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 17, 2014

House of the week: Cottage on Chestnut Street

Throughout my torture sessions over the past few years, there's a trend I'm noticing that causes my heart to shudder. While I understand the desire for a new-built home, it makes me crazy when people buy an old house and renovate it so drastically, that they kill all its precious character. I mean, why live in a classic New Orleans house and then take all the New Orleans out of it?

For example, here is this incredibly expensive, one bedroom/one bath cottage on Chestnut Street. Notice the floor-to-ceiling windows and the lovely, columned porch that runs all the way to the front door. Well, that's where the character ends. Inside there's a sprawling kitchen and living room, replete with shining hardwood floors and glistening granite counters, but it looks nothing like a Nola abode anymore. No exposed brick, free-standing fireplace, intricate mouldings or ceiling medallions. The bathroom is shiny and new without a claw foot tub, wainscoting or intricate tiling that runs halfway up the walls.

It's Crescent City character has been almost completely wiped out, yet because of these modifications and it's excellent location Uptown, this 1,200 square foot house (with only one bedroom, mind!) is listed at $439,000! No way Mr. Man! Even if I did have the ducats, I ain't buyin' it!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sips and snacks at Ivy

While I have not yet acquired the funds needed to dine at Gautreau's, I did get the opportunity to taste Chef Sue Zemanick's highly capable cookery a few months ago at the recently-opened Ivy. One balmy afternoon, I met a new acquaintance for a few bites at the Magazine Street restaurant (gastropub?) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I only wish I could have afforded to try more...

We chose to lounge outside and immediately ordered a couple of drinks. My DC opted for a French 75 with gin, lemon juice and champagne, while I chose their version of a Dark & Stormy with dark rum and ginger beer. We sipped the cool drinks while the sun made its decent towards the horizon and talked about our love for a city that was not, technically, our home town.

About halfway through our cocktails, the small plates arrived one-by-one, the first being house made potato chips with a French onion dip. They were perfectly crisp and not even a tad bit greasy, but we devoured the small portion faster than you can blink, though we left a lone chip in the bowl, neither of us willing to deny the other another taste.

Next up was a Hamachi Crudo with fennel, grapefruit, and basil, a dish that light and refreshing, perfect for a mid-summer afternoon. For that dish, there was a scramble to devour every bite and neither of us "played the lady," leaving not a single morsel on the plate.

Our last dish was Pimento cheese-stuffed Boudin balls with Creole-cane syrup, of which there were three. Although we graciously split the last, so each of us enjoyed one and one half, I couldn't help but be reminded about my appetizer pet peeve. You see, I have this sinking suspicious that chefs serve dishes in odd numbers forcing you to order twice as much to have an even number of portions. The Boudin balls were delicious, but not enough to cause us to order more.

Overall, I though the food and drinks were quite wonderful, but everything was drastically over-priced. $10 for a plate of crudo that altogether wouldn't equal more than two mouthfuls? $7 for a small handful of potato chips? $11 for three Boudin balls smaller than ping pong balls? Frankly, I'll have to wait for someone with a lot more expendable income than I to take me here again, but I am glad I got to experience even this little bit just once.

Ivy on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vegan eats at Seed

As y'all probably have guessed, I'm a meat-eater. As a die-hard carnivore, I doubt I could ever subscribe to the vegan diet, there would be far too many foods I would miss too damn much. That being said, I'm certainly not opposed to eating vegan (or even raw) for a meal. That's probably why I suggested Seed when I met my good friend Jeanne for lunch a few months back.

Although Seed replaced one of my favorite lunch spots less than six months ago, I couldn't help but be intrigued by a menu where all of the dishes were either vegan or raw, and sometimes both! We arrived at the restaurant at around 1pm thinking we'd avoid the main rush, but the place was still jumpin' and we were lucky to score a two-top before a large queue formed at the front door.

Although it was difficult to decide, Jeanne and I finally placed an order and looked around while we waited ... and waited ... and waited ... till the usual jokes arose -- "guess the chef had to kill the cow first" -- but in this case we were baffled. Everything we ordered was raw ... meaning uncooked ... meaning what the heck was taking so long? As we glanced around, we realized that no one else was eating either. Everyone was just sitting around, sipping their drinks (we got a lovely iced mint tea, by the way) and conversing like there was absolutely nothing amiss.

Now, I was willing to give them a little leeway, seeing as they hadn't been open very long and were likely working out some kinks. But a 45 minute wait for raw food? That's a pretty big kink. Jeanne and I cheered when they finally brought out our appetizer, a Beet Carpaccio, that was visually stunning. Both red and gold beets were thinly sliced and served with red onions, capers and crushed pistachios all drizzled with grape seed oil. Although the flavors were fresh and bright, the tough texture of the raw beets sort of threw Jeanne and I for a loop. They were sliced pretty thin, but not thin enough to make this an appetizer that was easy to eat. Maybe if they cooked them a bit?

Our entrees arrived in a somewhat timely manner (the waitress forgot about mine), and these were the highlight of the meal. Jeanne opted for the Seed Club Sandwich which featured hummus, avocado, tomato, sprouts and garlic aioli on toasted, whole grain bread. She enjoyed it thoroughly, which was obvious through the groans of delight that she uttered while chewing, and it presented quite well. It was the kind of sandwich that is perfect for a healthy eating ad, "delicious AND good for you!"

I thought my entree was the star of the show, a vegetable spaghetti with spiralized veggie noodles, avocado pesto, puttanesca sauce and shaved coconut to garnish. The flavor was outstanding! I had difficulty believing that my meal was completely vegan, and the fact that it was completely raw to boot was staggering. The puttanesca was so bright and rich, with tomatoes, olive oil, capers and garlic, and the noodles were cool and light, completely absorbing the flavorful sauce. I was completely blown away and I assure you, I could devour that dish daily.

We finished off the meal with a little dessert, a raw mint ice cream composed mostly of frozen banana. It was not too sweet and super-minty which worked on a hot summer day, but it certainly failed to give regular ice cream a run for its money. All in all, if you're a vegan or vegetarian in New Orleans, Seed is your home away from home. If you're not, its still pretty darn good, but I suggest exploring the menu to find your favorite dish. Seed's biggest fault? I mean, aside from a deplorable wait (that I hope had been rectified since my visit)? I walked out still feeling hungry.

Time to seek out a steak...

Seed on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 22, 2014

House of the week: Shotgun single on Royal Street

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” -J.M. Barrie

If I could fly, you'd find me soaring into a home just like this. Do I think it's over-priced? Yes. Do I know the difficulties of living in the Faubourg Marigny? Yes I do. Would I still buy this house if I had the ducats? Yes, yes I would.

This awesome, historic single shotgun features transoms, pocket doors, gorgeous hardwood floors, exposed brick fireplaces, mantles and an adorable backyard, but the best thing about it is the location. It's only five blocks from the French Quarter, three blocks from Frenchmen Street and only one block from Cake Cafe & Bakery where I'd likely spend every morning if I lived there. This century-old house is listed for $335,000 ... come fly with me?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Westbank eats at Perino's Boiling Pot

Whenever I go over to the Westbank, there's a few places whose cuisine I tend to crave, places like Pho Tau Bay, Hong Kong Market, Tan Dinh and Perino's Boiling Pot. It's kind of like that Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn't belong." Usually, if I'm on the "Wank," I'm all for the Asian/Vietnamese joints because, well, there's a lot of them. But Perino's drew me in a long time ago, a recommendation from a local on where to get the cheapest oysters, which were at that time only 25 cents each.

A few months ago, John, Casey and I headed for lunch at Perino's only to find that not a whole lot has changed, except the oysters have jumped in price, but that's to be expected. We still ordered a half dozen as an appetizer just for the hell of it, even though they now cost $8, approximately $1.30 each. They were plump, briny and delicious, as usual, but they just served to rev us up for our entrees.

Instead of each getting a seafood basket, we decided to split two baskets between the three of us, crab claws and alligator, both of which came with curly fries. It was all crisply fried and just as tasty as I remember, especially the tender alligator, a local treat of which I can never really get enough. I need to get back to feast on boiled crawfish and crab (their specialty), but I'll wait till the season is right.

Perino's is super-casual with paper-towel rolls instead of napkin dispensers and huge sodas that come in durable, plastic cups, but that shouldn't discourage diners one jot. The only thing I found a bit difficult to adjust to is all the wildlife watching you eat. Don't worry, they won't steal your food...

Perino's Boiling Pot on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2014

House of the week: Arts & Crafts on Arts Street

Although I am taking a much-needed break from house hunting, I can't help falling into my familiar, old patterns, browsing realty sites and wishing on stars. It's an addiction ... I know.

Oddly enough, while searching the listings, fantasizing about being a millionaire, I discovered this beauty on Arts Street. "Is this further punishment from the Gods?" I ask myself. Whatever it is, it's a stunner. Less than eight blocks from the house-that-was-almost-mine, I found this drool-worthy Arts & Crafts-style house that, while it's WAY too much house for me, it's astoundingly affordable and jaw-dropping at the same time (too good to be true?).

Yes, the pictures for this listing suck, but what you can see is nothing less than juicy. All, original, natural hard-wood floors and architectural details like the cool, Craftsman staircase and arches with built-in shelving, woodwork on the ceiling and walls, gorgeous insets and mouldings, paneled doors ... can you hear me panting? It's a little over 2,600 square feet of living space with 5 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, huge attic space, and a largish backyard. I can see a big, extended family living in this house listed at a mere $229,000. Can't you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Family fiesta at Mizado Cocina

In quite a few articles and blogs, I've whined about the apparent lack of good Mexican restaurants in the GNO. With the recent proliferation of new cantinas, it seems that someone was listening. A few months ago, John's family came down from Ponchatoula to visit and we all decided to eat at Mizado Cocina and (thankfully) everyone loved it.

If you haven't been to Mizado yet (what's the holdup?), it's located in what was formerly a Semolina's on Pontchartrain Boulevard right on the edge between New Orleans and Metairie. Although we found it a tad awkward to get to, it was well worth the effort.

John, Ashley (his sister), Glenda (his Mom), Ava (his 5-year-old niece) and I decided to sit outside on the patio and split a bunch of dishes "family style." We started with an ooey gooey, Queso Fundido made with cotija, mozzarella and manchego cheeses which was a big hit, especially with Ava. In fact, she liked it so much, we should have ordered one just for her. It was a good thing we also got the Guacamole Tradicional, a fresh, bright green dip that seemed to be mostly an enticing, whole avocado roughly chopped and mixed with lime.

For our entrees we ordered three different kinds of tacos that we all shared round.  There were "Carnitas" made with Michoacan-style Duroc, all-natural pork braised with orange, cinnamon, and garlic; "Camaron" or Gulf shrimp in toasted garlic lime, ancho adobo, sweet pepper and onion; and "Carne" which was slow-cooked, beer-braised, grass-fed beef. The tacos were served DIY-style with warm tortillas, salsas and sauces. I thought all three were fabulous, but we also had our favorites and the tacos disappeared more quickly than I imagined.

For Ava we ordered a side of Mizado's version of the classic macaroni & cheese dubbed "Mac & Chorizo" concocted with their own, house made Duroc (type of pig) chorizo, elbow macaroni, queso and Salvadorean crema. Everyone absolutely loved it and we all gobbled it up, all of us except Ava. She was still very focused on the queso and found the chorizo in the mac & cheese to be a bit too spicy. Live and learn!

Though stuffed, we were curious about the dessert, so we tried an order of their bread pudding which was an interesting, Caribbean-style version with big chunks of pineapple and topped by a chewy meringue. It was a hit! The best part was that not only did we get to spend quality time with John's family, they got to try (and really enjoy) flavors that were a bit out of their comfort zone. I love introducing folks to new cuisines! Perhaps that's why I'm sure I have the best job ever...

Mizado Cocina on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

House of the week: The disappointment on Arts Street

Last week, John and I were informed by our lender that the city of New Orleans had denied our application for the Soft Second Mortgage Program. We feel rubbed quite raw due to the reorganization of our financials, and similar to that sensation after losing your virginity, we're sort of exposed and vulnerable, not to mention extremely disappointed. Most troubling of all, I can't help feeling like that "flighty mistress" fate (or is it luck?) somehow had a hand in all of this.

Although I'm a dreamer and a fantasy buff through and through (you can't shake the Mallorn leaves out of my hair), I've never subscribed to the idea of faith, any faith, except that which I still believe can be found in people. Regardless, I still don't think I was meant to have this house.

For example, two days after John and I finished our home buying classes on June 23rd (which oddly reminded me of traffic school), we were told that the city wouldn't be accepting any more applications for the Soft Second Program after July 30th. All of a sudden we were frantic. Though we'd searched the real estate listings online constantly, we never went to go look at houses because until the classes were over and we were pre-approved by the lender, we couldn't make a bid. I don't know if y'all have been watching the New Orleans real estate market, but it's hot. Houses I adored online were disappearing overnight and there seemed no use in going to look if we couldn't act almost immediately.

In less two days, I had a real estate agent, received the pre-approval and was assured we could make it before the deadline "no problem." The only catch was, we had less than three days to pick a house. It all felt so damned rushed. We had a list of over 15 different properties and we quickly narrowed it down to 3.

Two of the houses were totally me, you know, what I blab about every single time I do one of these posts. They were both older homes, at least 80 or 90 years, one in the Lower Ninth Ward and one in the Carrollton/Hollygrove neighborhood. The Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans had restored the one in the Lower Ninth Ward, a shotgun-style, two bedroom/one bath, that still sported the high ceilings, transoms, gorgeous hardwood floors, a cute front porch and an awesome master bedroom.

The other house, over in the Carrollton/Hollygrove area, was once a small, one bedroom shotgun that had an addition built on in front. Though from the outside, the house shape seems quite odd, on the inside, it's a whole other story with a unique, octagonal (hexagonal?) front room/dining room that leads up a couple of steps to a nice, updated kitchen with an island/bar and there were awesome, dark hardwood floors throughout. Two bedrooms led off of the kitchen and were pretty much the same size and there was only one, albeit largish, bathroom. Aside from the unusual front room, the best feature of this house was the big backyard. Three gorgeous trees grew in the yard and the owner had salvaged bricks from somewhere (they were really old bricks!) and had begun a patio. As with the rest of the house's renovations, the fence was brand new and offered more privacy than I ever expected find in the city.

Finally, there is the third house, the house on Arts Street. This house is nothing like any of the houses I have been talking about. This house is brand new construction with hardy plank siding and windows made to withstand 120 m.p.h. winds. This house was built above the "base flood line," filled with Energy Star appliances, security system, washer & dryer, central air & hear and closed cell spray foam insulation. This house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and was built on a double-sized, corner lot. This was a Project Home Again house in Gentilly that had all the allure a new house brings.

We chose the Arts Street house. John wanted the Arts Street house, a majority of friends and family liked the Arts Street house, and part of me wanted that house, too. But there was a big part of me that did not want that house. A part that nagged all throughout the financial scrutiny, the inspections, the signing of purchase agreements and mortgage applications and the general jumping through hoops involved in the whole process. I'm embarassed to admit it, but I felt like I was selling out worse than when Metallica released the black album.

A good friend of mine argued that I was helping to reinvigorate a devastated community by moving to an area where others feared to tread. Her viewpoint made me more confident in my decision and an area that felt oh-so suburban (a.k.a. Gentilly) began to take on new life as I researched the history of the neighborhood and began plotting out driving routes to and from the gym, downtown, John's work, etc. Still, something just felt... off.

In the end, we lost the house on Arts Street due to an accounting snafu. Although I know it's not my fault, I partially blame myself for the blip that bounced us out of reach. We fell short $90 of being in the right bracket for the amount of grant money we'd been counting on, and though we still qualified for some money, it wasn't enough for the house we bid on and it was too late to restart the process. We were finished and the Soft Second money was completely out of our reach.

Was it fate? Should I have selected one of the other houses I liked so much instead of being "reasonable?" Instead of selling out? Is my house still yet to come or perhaps, was I never meant to have a house at all? Who knows? One thing's for sure, it hasn't stopped me from dreaming, but I think I might need to take a break for a little while.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stopped in at The Rivershack Tavern

For almost three years, my commute was a simple one. I'd hop on Oak Street (just around the corner) and drive down River Road all the way to Hickory Avenue. It was an easy-breezy, beautiful drive that only took 10-15 minutes, seeing as I was going against traffic both to and from work. Every day on my way home, I would pass the brightly-painted Rivershack Tavern and everyday I thought to myself  "I really need to stop and eat there sometime." Did I? Not till very recently...

What the hell took me so long? Well, I'm not quite sure. I don't really have an excuse other than I just never got around to it. Better late than never?

John and I decided to go on a Thursday night about a month ago and, much to our surprise, The Rivershack just happens to have phenomenal specials on Thursday nights and we gladly took advantage. We sat in the corner, placed our order, and watched all of these families and friends greet and gather together in a place that seemed like their home away from home. 

We started out with a big basket of Fried Pickles, sliced dills that had been dredged in a cornmeal batter and deep fried into crispy, tart discs of heaven. We dipped them freely into ranch dressing, blue cheese and ketchup...mmm. 

Before we could make a big dent in the pickles, our entrees came out. John got the steak special which was a grilled, 8 ounce "Bourbon-Whiskey" steak served with both fries and a side salad, while I got the Seafood Platter. Both dishes were only $10.75 each! Talk about a bargain! Not to mention the quality (and quantity!) of each dish. 

John's steak was juicy and flavorful, though a little over-done. He asked for medium rare and got a bit more than medium. His salad was like a big wedge with fresh, plump tomato and thickly-sliced cucumber. My seafood platter had a huge catfish fillet, lots of shrimp, oysters, a big hunk of andouille sausage and a pile of French fries.    

Everything was quite good and we both had leftovers to take home. Now I need to go back and try Chef Mike Baskind's other specials like Crawfish & Corn Soup or Tuna Steak au Poivre. This time I won't wait so long...
Rivershack Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Superior to Superior: Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar

Other than wickedly potent margaritas, I'm not a huge fan of Superior Grill. The service can be quite sloppy and the so-so cuisine can be phenomenally expensive (ever been during Mardi Gras?). That being said, I do have some great memories of that restaurant, one which particularly stands out because I met one of my best friends there for the first time after she answered my platonic ad on An innocent, meet & greet lunch turned into a full day and night of drunken debauchery and it all started with a few pitchers of Superior's notorious margaritas.

Considering my attitude towards the "Grill," it should come as no surprise that I was a bit leery of the fairly new Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar that opened up a couple of years ago. But, much to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that Superior Seafood is ... well ... pretty damn good. Sure, their price to portion size ratio is a little skewed and sometimes it can get so loud in there, it's hard to hear someone talking right next to you, but all in all ... my visits have been quite enjoyable.

For example, a few months back I met my friend Jeanne there for lunch. This wasn't one of my usual feasts, just a casual meal where hanging out was far more important to me than pigging-out ... but I couldn't help but take pictures. Once a foodie...

Jeanne and I started out with a little bit of booze, I had a crisp Mojito and she chose a glass of white wine. We also couldn't resist ordering a dozen raw oysters which turned out to be these huge, plump and briny beauties that I easily could have slurped on for the rest of the day.

For our entrees, Jeanne ordered the Mussels in Meunière which were steamed and served with a cone of crispy French fries, that she couldn't resist dragging through the sauce. They also brought a loaf of warm French bread to the table that was much more effective at sopping up all that rich, buttery goodness.

For many reasons (which I won't go into right now), Superior Seafood reminded me of a California restaurant I used to frequent with my mother where I would always order a Shrimp Louie Salad. So, when I saw their Maison Seafood Salad, I couldn't resist. It turned out to be just what I hoped for with a dollop of boiled shrimp and crab meat mixed with a "Maison" sauce which closely resembled a remoulade. The salad also featured artichoke hearts, fresh avocado, heart of palm and bright tomatoes. I was a bit disappointed because it seemed a bit light on the seafood side, but the salad was crisp and creamy, exactly what I was hoping for.

Although it's rare if I can convince Jeanne to indulge in a dessert, we couldn't resist a simple Crème Brûlée, especially when our server informed us that it would only cost $1! Who can say no to that? Not to mention the fact that it came out perfect, with a crisp, burnt sugar top that my spoon cracked oh-so pleasingly and a light, slightly sweet custard underneath.

To end on a cheesy note, like I always seem to do, Superior is seriously superior to Superior. HA!

Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 26, 2014

House of the week: Victorian on Second Street

As John and I began to narrow our home choices last night, eliminating options based on things like slab foundations (a possible plumbing nightmare), asbestos roofs and shoddy restorations, we came across this house on Second Street.

Yes, I realize that it's smack dab in Central City. But it IS an area going through much revitalization and worthy of consideration. After all, when I first moved here 11 years ago, there were houses in the Marigny selling for under $100,000 and now, you'd be lucky to find a house in the same area (and Bywater for that matter) for under $300,000.

Normally, a house like this wouldn't even be a blip on my radar, because the renovation destroyed every last architectural quality that literally says "New Orleans." Features I so lovingly cherish like exposed brick, ceiling medallions and thick mouldings are nowhere to be found. Admittedly, they left a few transoms intact but, what the builders did do is an excellent job replacing the layout with an incredibly sleek and modern design that I simply could not ignore. I mean look at this place! It's gorgeous!

So, as we were trying to decide whether or not to entertain the idea of taking such a big risk and moving to Central City, we took a little virtual trip to the house on Google Earth and guess what we found? Right across the street is a dive dubbed "Teddy's Hole in the Wall."  Would you buy (and live in) this house listed for only $144,000?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More Vietnamese!? Mint Modern Bistro & Bar

You're thinking to yourself, "Another Vietnamese restaurant?" just like I am. Don't get me wrong, I love Vietnamese food, but the explosion of this particular cuisine in New Orleans is going a bit overboard. Fortunately, my experience at Mint was quite good ... it's a keeper. And I'm not only saying that because their iced coffee knocked my socks off.

A couple months ago, Lorin and I had lunch at Mint, which is not only one of the latest Vietnamese restaurants in town to pop up, it's also one of the newest eateries on Freret Street, a corridor whose growth seems to know no limit. We arrived fairly early in the lunch hour and there were only a couple of other occupied tables.

We ordered drinks from our attentive and polite server and proceeded to peruse the menu. While I greedily slurped down my cafe sua da (a.k.a. Vietnamese iced coffee) we placed our order, starting with a shared appetizer of fresh, grilled pork summer rolls. The rolls were light and tasty, but (like many other Vietnamese restaurants) I couldn't help thinking the rolls were light in the meat department. Thankfully Mint charges a modest price of only $4 for two rolls, so in this case I really shouldn't complain.

After ordering another cafe sua da (yep, I'm addicted), our entrees arrived. Lorin opted for a "Pho Mint Combo" with NY strip, brisket and meatball while I chose their Crispy Hen. I didn't try Lorin's pho, but it sure smelled delightful and she said as much when I asked her how it was. My Crispy Hen was absolutely fabulous, a half of a small hen deep fried and seasoned with a house honey-mustard-type sauce that completely blew me away.

What surprised me the most is that I rarely order chicken when I go out to eat (unless I'm going to a fried chicken or wing joint), because I always have chicken at home. All I can say is that I am glad I didn't skip the chicken dish this time, because it was wonderful and by the end of lunch, I was practically gnawing on the bones. The Crispy Chicken was served with a small, fresh salad drizzled with a simple vinaigrette and a mound of sticky rice topped with a fried, over-easy egg. There was nothing left on my plate but a few chicken bones. I can't wait to get back over there and try the pho...

Mint Modern Vietnamese on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My beef with Beard

I realize I am a little late to the party with this blog, like a month late, but I've been considering it for some time. So, here's my little rant about the 2014 James Beard Awards, with regards in particular to the chefs of New Orleans who won.

When the winners were announced a month ago, the first thing to come to mind was "What the f**k?" Why did I utter profanities? Why did my forehead wrinkle in confusion? Well, I'll tell you. Why did the talented, seasoned and prodigious chef Sue Zemanick have to share the Best Chef: South award with Ryan Prewitt?

Now don't get me wrong, as you all know I absolutely adore the Link Restaurant Group. My birthday lunch every year is at Herbsaint, I simply can't get enough of the BLTs at Cochon Butcher and Peche is a fabulously delicious new addition to the group and Chef Ryan Prewitt is young, talented and deserving of recognition.

But ... and this is a very big but ... it seemed to me that Prewitt won the award as a sort of "gimme." Meaning, that since Peche Seafood Grill won Best New Restaurant in the country, it seemed that the judges decided it wouldn't make sense that Prewitt didn't win Best Chef: South. But, it seems, they had already selected Chef Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's and Ivy for the award (she's been nominated for an award for the past 5 years now) and decided to throw up their hands and let them both win. Now tell me, how is that fair?

If it was indeed their decision to give Prewitt the award because his restaurant won, shouldn't that also work in reverse? Shouldn't Gautreau's and/or Ivy be up for an award? Wouldn't this rationale skew the whole awards system? And not to sound like a total bitch, but hasn't the Link Restaurant Group seen enough accolades? Like I said, I love them to death, but certainly not to the exclusion of every other talented chef in the city.

Also, though I hate to get all feminist on y'all, but doesn't forcing Zemanick and Prewitt to share the honor seem like a typical, "good ol' boys" solution? In an industry that is dominated by men, Zemanick is, like other women before her (Susan Spicer, Anne Kearney, Leah Chase) a bright star in the culinary universe. Doesn't she deserve recognition without having to share it with a man?

What was your first thought when you heard the announcement? Was I the only one to feel this way? Am I overreacting? All I can do is hope for a brighter 2015...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Was wrong about you, Salú!

First impressions can be a bitch. For example, the first time I walked into Salú on Magazine Street, I was pretty disappointed. I only stayed for a couple of beers and some French fries, but the whole restaurant and menu left a chain-restaurant taste in my mouth. There was this unmistakable aura of Chili's or Applebee's hanging over the place and I just couldn't shake it ... at least not enough for a return visit.

A few months ago, I was working on a fun little piece about ceviche and saw that Salú offered a bay scallop version on their menu. So, I dragged my buddy Anne with me to go and check it out. When we got there late in the lunch hour, the restaurant was mostly empty. We were seated right away and had a terrific server who was attentive from the get-go. Anne and I chose a bunch of different plates to share, perhaps a bunch too many, but no one was complaining.

The first dish to arrive was their "Ceviche de Salú" with small, bay scallops, pieces of shrimp, tomatoes and cilantro all marinating in a cool lemon/lime mixture and served with warm tortilla crisps. The ceviche looked divine, but had an overwhelming fishy taste that took us aback. We ended up sending it away, but we were still determined to go on with our meal. It was so odd that the dish I went to Salú to try turned out to be the worst item on our list, but, as they say, it can only go up from here ... and it most certainly did.

Completely counteracting the disappointment from our first dish, the second came out and wowed us right down to our bellies. We inhaled a bowl of perfectly steamed mussels draped in shaved Parmesan and resting in a pesto broth that was so addictive, we squeaked when the server tried to take the bowl, explaining that we simply had to soak our French fries in the leftover sauce. 

The next dish had us drooling before it reached the table, Broiled Gulf Oysters topped with crispy, house made bacon and swimming in herb butter. These amazing mollusks were so incredibly delicious, we had no choice but to order another round, even though we already had more plates coming out. We did indeed order that second round and no, our eyes were not too big for our stomachs ... we gobbled the whole shebang.

Our next two items came out together, a plate of Lamp Lollipops, two small, tender lamb chops that were seared to rare done-ness and drizzled with a mint chimichurri, competed with bacon-wrapped prawns. Both dishes were excellent, the lamb flavorful and juicy and the huge shrimp laden with smoky bacon ... I mean, can you go wrong with bacon? I started to feel like I could sit there and keep eating all day.

We finished off the feast with a flourless chocolate cake that was topped with freshly-whipped cream and served with a rich, chocolate sauce. Anne and I both couldn't breathe too well afterwards and I'm pretty sure the waitstaff was prepared to roll us out on dollys if need be, but we squeezed back into Anne's car and headed home. All I can say is Salú! Salú! I am sorry I misjudged you!

Salú Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

House of the week: Double Gallery on Governor Nicholls

In an effort to prevent a complete mental and emotional breakdown, I've lately searched for homes utterly out of my financial reach during my weekly, online forays into New Orleans' available real estate. Even with these preventative measures in place, I can't help but feel a twinge of pain when I stumble upon a listing like this.

Located in the historic Treme, right near the I-10, is this gorgeous old mansion called The Louis Chalon House. Built circa 1860 by Louis Chalon (son of Joseph Chalon, one of the wealthy "gens de couleur libres" or free people of color), this is a classic double gallery home featuring Corinthian columns and cast iron railings. This huge house sports eleven bedrooms, eight bathrooms and over 7000 square feet of living space.

Although it is in disrepair, this Grand Dame should not go by the wayside. It still has stunning architectural details like pocket doors, ceiling medallions, Victorian mantles and original hardwood floors. If you're into restoring beautiful old homes, I would encourage you to snap up this lady listed at only $399,000 and make her dance again. I certainly wish I could!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Taj of blah, meh and totally so, so

Writing about restaurant visits that are really not worth writing about is very taxing. It's depressing to make an effort discussing a place that couldn't care less what quality of food they put out and it's heart-wrenching, not to mention seriously agonizing, to bust out the cash to pay for it. So now I have to talk about it?


A month or so ago, my friend Lorin and I visited the recently re-opened, reincarnation (not) of Sarah's Bistro on Dublin Street called Taj of India. When I stepped inside, I noticed that the restaurant looked almost exactly the same as the last time I'd been there, several years ago, only they squashed the already-squashed tables together even further to allow for three large buffet tables in the back. There were a few more patrons than in previous visits, but the restaurant was largely empty.

After selecting a table, we headed straight for the buffet where I scored a plate and loaded it up with rice, veggie pakora, and chana masala (a chick pea curry). I also got a couple pieces of yellowish tandoori chicken and a few spoonfuls of raita. When we got back to the table, they served us a basket of warm naan and the server/owner encouraged us to eat up.

Here's the depressing part: While nothing we ate was "bad" per se, nothing was actually "good" either. Bland, a word I've never employed to describe any Indian cuisine I'd ever eaten in my entire life (California has some amazing Indian restaurants), was completely and utterly appropriate. Other words come to mind like "lukewarm," "dry," and "flavorless," but now I'm just repeating myself.

Will the best Indian food I ever eat again in this town come from a jar? Needless to say, I won't be back to try dinner...

Taj of India Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 18, 2014

MoPho-ing tasty...

Anne, John and I visited MoPho a while ago, right in the first week of its opening and yes... it's taken me this long to write about it. Am I lazy? Am I a slacker? Perhaps, but I only seem to sacrifice my own blog when I'm feeling in the mood to do absolutely nothing.

But this week, this week I am on a mission and I really hope this drive carries on into the following weeks because let's face it, there's a lot of stuff I'd really like to get done. So, without further ado...

MoPho is located on that weird corner of City Park Avenue, right behind the Burger King. When visiting MoPho, be warned that parking in the Burger King parking lot will indeed get you towed, so park wisely. But I am sure y'all have been there by now... at least you better have! 

We sat outside because the restaurant was packed full even though it was a tad late in the lunch hour. It was a bit chilly, but we suffered on, determined to enjoy ourselves regardless of the weather. We started out with a couple of appetizers that arrived at the same time. The Crispy Chicken Wings with lemongrass and ginger were incredibly wonderful (and I really am not a fan of wings), the sauce they wallowed in at the bottom of the bowl was so good in fact, I wrote about it's possible use as a body sauce in another article. We also had a plate of Crispy P&J Oysters with "Mopho mayo" that was equally fabulous, the oysters being rather plump and juicy. We gobbled them both down just in time for our entrees.

Anne and I both had pho. I got beef broth with duck, pork belly and mushroom. I don't recall what Anne ordered exactly, but I am pretty sure she also chose the beef broth with pork belly. Two things disappointed me about the pho. First, there was barely any meat. I got one bite of duck, one of pork belly and the rest was mushroom. I suppose I could have loaded it up (double that belly!), but made me sad. Second, the broth was lacking the beefy depth and richness I've experienced at my favorite Vietnamese spots and Anne agreed with me. BUT! You must keep in mind (and I did) that this was their first week of opening and it's entirely possible that the chefs still hadn't quite got the hang of making a great pho broth. Foodie friends of mine thought the pho was perfect, so I will have to return a few more times before my judgement of the pho is definitive. 

John ordered a "sloppy" roast duck banh mi and although it was juicy and overflowing with fresh veggies, the quantity of meat was seriously lacking and it was in no way sloppy. Certainly not like a sloppy roast beef po-boy where you need to wash up afterwards. I'd be surprised if John used more than one napkin on the whole sandwich.

We finished out the meal with dessert, a condensed milk cake with condensed milk caramel served with Vietnamese coffee ice cream. Although it didn't look very pretty, it was quite delectable, especially the ice cream. We also ordered a couple of hot Vietnamese coffees in the hopes of warming up. 

All in all, though there were some disappointments, almost everything tasted quite good. Not to mention, while we were waiting for our table, we saw all kinds of dishes coming out for other diners that looked and smelled quite stunning, so we will definitely be back to try again. 

MoPho on Urbanspoon