Thursday, October 27, 2011

House of the week: Majestic Place

This week's house is totally not my style. I have to admit it's kind of cute, has a ton of space (2300 sq. ft.), hardwood floors, two stories, four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a gorgeous yard with large pines in front. It's not in the greatest part of Algiers, but the neighborhood does look nice and it's located on a street called Majestic Place. You're probably wondering why I would even post about this particular house considering it is nothing like the abodes I commonly drool over. The reason is this...

How is it a house with this much space, size and character can be listed for only a mere $55,000? I wonder what they are not telling us?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An afternoon tryst at Lüke

I met someone and I think I'm in love. He's sweet, accommodating, relaxed yet stylish and extremely tasty as I was fortunate enough to discover last Friday afternoon. My friend Anne was there, too and we both enjoyed what he had to offer...I'm pretty sure anyone would.  His name is Lüke.

Now I could keep going with this and assuredly suffer from gales of mischievous and unabashed laughter while writing, not to mention possible castigation from my peers after publishing (suck the heads would take on a whole new meaning). So, instead I'm going to lace it up and talk about the food. I promise, if I start writing that kind of blog, y'all will be the first to know...

Nevertheless, it was still quite a sexy lunch. Anne and I got to the restaurant just after noon, luckily scoring a choice parking spot only a half block away. For those who don't know, Lüke is located on St. Charles Avenue only blocks from Poydras Street and right, smack downtown. Like any city, finding parking is nigh impossible and it seemed like fate when we slipped into a spot that opened up right in front of us. 

We were seated right away, without a reservation, and ordered a couple of cocktails while perusing the menu. Both of us ravenous, we got a little carried away with our order. Thankfully, our server steered us onto the right path, when he could have just as easily let us order way too much food like a couple of boobs. (really, I'm not even trying...) Anne had a "St. Charles Streetcar" with St. Germain, pear vodka and champagne, which was tasty, but I liked mine better and not only because of its name.  Dubbed "The Riverbend," my cocktail was of the refreshing, summery type with Ultimat vodka, lemon, basil syrup, blueberries, cucumbers and ginger ale

Almost right away our first dish arrived, a half dozen raw Gulf oysters on the half shell. When Anne saw them on the menu, she just couldn't resist and I don't blame her. They were large, ice cold, salty and perfect. I think both of us were a little sad when we slurped down the last one, but we didn't have time to consider ordering more because our next appetizer showed up just in time. Called "flamenküche," it was an onion tarte with thick hunks of fatty bacon and a creamy Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese. It was quite possibly the best thin-crust "pizza" I have ever eaten. 

For our entree, we both wanted the "Choucroute Garnie Maison" and thanks to our server, we wisely decided to split it. I had to look this up, but apparently this is a famous Alsacian dish of sauerkraut topped with salted meats, sausage and other charcuterie. Conveniently split in half, our dish at Lüke featured a smoked pork shank, a hunk of Mangalista pork belly and a huge link of bratwurst. Basically, it was a unadulterated pot of meat that while feasting upon it, made me feel a bit carnal...not that I'm complaining.  

While perusing mandatory desserts, Anne was quite adamant about not sharing (dessert can do that to people), so we each ordered our own. Anne chose a "Gateau Basque" or vanilla cake with crème fraîche and local satsuma marmalade and I got a "Belle Ecorce Chevre Tart" - basically a goat cheese "cheesecake" topped with braised celeste figs and honey. Since I shared some of mine, Anne was willing to give up a few tastes of hers and, all kidding aside, both were quite delicious.

In all honesty, I may not be in love with Lüke, but I am undoubtedly in lust.

Lüke on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

House of the week: Cottage on South Pierce Street

When I saw this cute little cottage right off Banks Street in Mid-City, I simply had to share. It kind of looks like a shotgun, but the owner has made it original with all kinds of custom built cabinetry, it's a bit hard to tell. It's a house built for two with two separate bedrooms and two bathrooms, two studio/work sheds and two outdoor spaces for sunbathing, barbecue or whatever you wish. It has all the elements I love like hardwood floors, high ceilings and a nice big kitchen. One thing that caught my eye, though, was the cool hexagonal shape of the archway in the kitchen and the studio/work sheds.

Believe it or not, this adorable house is actually in my price range listed for only $230,000.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dante's Kitchen: Again and again and again!

When I started writing this blog, I promised myself I would pick a new restaurant to feature every week, knowing that with over 800 eateries in the Greater New Orleans Area it would take me a very long time to run out of food blogging fodder. Unfortunately, I did not foresee one, essential flaw in my master plan. What if I liked the experience so much, that I simply had to return? Would my readers scoff and click over to another local blog covering new and interesting food topics? Was it unfair to all of the restaurants I had not yet visited? Would I be giving too much love to one place in particular?

Finally, I came to a simple, definitive and sound conclusion to my dilemma...I don't care!!!

No offense to y'all, but think about it. When you find a restaurant you really love, don't you keep going back again and again and again? This chosen restaurant becomes almost a family staple, a place for special occasions and celebrations...the place to go to on a Saturday night. Well, now after several years of writing about all these wonderful places to eat around town, I have formulated a few choice spots that I think of when I want a  fantastic meal...guaranteed. So, that's why John and I ended up at Dante's Kitchen for dinner on Saturday night. I just couldn't help myself!

We ambled the 3 1/2 blocks to the restaurant, arriving early in the evening and chose a table out on the front porch. After placing our dinner order, we got a couple of cocktails to enjoy while we waited. John's Sazerac was possibly one of the best I have ever tasted and my Sidecar was definitely not shabby either. Sitting there sipping away, we spun a little fantasy that we were sitting on our own front porch, watching the dusk settle over our peaceful neighborhood while listening to the train rattle by. One day, the dream house will be mine...oh yes, it will be mine.

We started out with some of the chef's house made charcuterie, Goat Prosciutto, Salame di Calabria and Coppa (pork shoulder). All of them were incredible, my favorite being the salty, fatty, delicious prosciutto, especially with the crisp, peppery crackers served alongside. A spicy jelly that accompanied our dish was so good, that John used his finger to wipe out every last drop. Thank goodness no one was watching.

I was on the verge of ordering some more cured meats (we were pretty hungry), when our server brought out Dante's famous spoon bread and everything was right with the world once more. If you have not tasted it, spoon bread is essentially a sweeter, more moist version of cornbread, that at Dante's is lovingly slathered with honey butter and always served before your entree. How could I have forgotten?

Shortly after the spoon bread was inhaled, our entrees arrived right on cue. John got a pan-fried Redfish on the Half Shell, which in New Orleans means "loaded with crab meat on top." The fish was perfectly cooked and the lump crab meat on top was tossed with herbs like fresh mint and basil. John wolfed it down in mere minutes. I chose a new item on the menu, Slow Roasted Duck Breast served with roasted and raw apples and surrounded in a brown butter and white balsamic vinegar reduction. The tender duck breast was sliced and served atop a small hill of butternut squash puree and sprinkled with shavings of their own duck prosciutto. It was marvelous!

Instead of us each selecting our own, John and I decided to share a side of Stuffed Eggplant and I know both of us regretted it the end. Thin strips of eggplant were rolled around the most delicious filling of chopped spiced pecans, fresh herbs and walnut oil. It was so yummy that I almost ate John's piece that he saved on purpose for his final mouthful, savoring every morsel.

Yes, we were both sated and stuffed, but there was no way I was walking home without dessert and I couldn't resist ordering the Peach Tartlet with a scoop of their own Buttermilk Gelato. It couldn't have been a better ending to a splendid meal and you know what? I'll definitely be back! Again and again and again and again and again...

Dante's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

House of the week: Victorian on Canal Street

When you are forced into the position of buying something "as is," it always seems to connote something negative. Like "the plumbing is shot, but the owner is selling the house 'as is'" or "they're selling the car 'as is' despite the leaky radiator." I'd like to put a positive spin on that particular idiom for a change.

For example, I would totally buy this Victorian house on the cemetery end of Canal Street "as is" - and I'd leave it that way, too. Even down to the bright Caribbean paint job inside and out. It's loaded with architectural details you all know I love; ceiling medallions, 11 foot ceilings, hardwood floors balconies, porches, claw foot tubs, wainscoting, transom and floor-to-ceiling windows, gingerbread detailing, stain glass windows and a lovely backyard. It even has a guest cottage out back! This place is just stunning and I want it really, really, really, really, really, really bad. Really bad.

I'm sure I saw $480,000 lying around here somewhere...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

International adventures at the Hush Supper Club

I missed out on Marisol, was ill when he made Persian food at Bacchanal and just never seemed to make it down to Mimi's of River Ridge, but I was determined to finally get a taste of Chef Pete Vazquez's culinary magic when I heard about his new pop-up in Stein's Deli called the Hush Supper Club. I missed the first Sunday when Chef Pete was offering an enticing and extremely affordable menu consisting of various Burmese dishes, but John and I made it this past weekend for an array of Latin American cuisine.

This time, our cab ride was surprisingly sedate and we made it to Stein's Deli only 15 minutes into the dinner service. Dan Stein was working the counter with his usual charm ("Talk to me...") and we could see Chef Pete behind him, working hard to kick out some really fantastic food. We ordered five dishes, including a dessert, and were infinitely pleased to see the tab tally up to no more than $30.

It wasn't long before they were calling my name and our order arrived intensifying the heady, spicy aroma that had hit us in the face when we walked through the door. My mouth started to water as we unwrapped each dish from its paper container, beginning with a half-pint cup of Peruvian Shrimp Chowder. Several large pieces of tail-on shrimp were floating around in a rich, spicy broth with peas, corn and small chunks of potato. The soup was so tasty that it was not long before I was slurping down the last drops, much to John's disappointment.

I also ordered the Chimayo Spiced Duck Confit with Posole Chile Verde. Thick chunks of dark, richly spiced duck were hiding under a heavy layer of chile verde laden with tart tomatillos. Served alongside was a generous helping of black beans and rice. There was quite a bit of food between the two dishes and John gladly helped me finish of the last bite of duck.

John's choices were just as delicious, the Three-Meat Empanada and a Chicken Tamale. The large empanada had a wonderfully flaky crust and stuffed full of what I believe was moist duck, chicken and pork with finely chopped chiles and peppers. Unfortunately, I only was able to get in one bite before it disappeared. The chicken tamale was much more mild in flavor, with the shredded, seasoned chicken surrounded by a corn or hominy dough and wrapped in the traditional corn husk.

As we were about to start on dessert, I saw other friends who are fans of Chef Pete come into the deli and step in line including wine enthusiast Tim McNally and his wife Brenda, plus Food & Libations writer Anne Berry who works with me at Where Y'at Magazine. They all eyed our practically empty containers and seemed just as excited for their Latin American food adventure as we were. By the way, the dessert was an Ibarra Chocolate and Dulce De Leche Pot de Crème. It seems that John isn't a huge fan of cinnamon and I was forced to eat the whole, creamy pudding all by myself. Poor me...

Next Sunday, I believe Chef Pete will be serving Indian food with dire promises to burn our collective faces off...I can't wait!

*P.S. Stein's Deli is easily one of the most authentic and incredible delis in New Orleans and is worth a blog report in an of itself. Coming soon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

House of the week: Victorian cottage on Webster Street

When I first started posting these homes, I compromised my dreams and tried to limit my search parameters to something affordable. But I got to thinking, why should I limit my dreams? Why shouldn't I dream big? I figure that maybe if I strive for something absolutely spectacular, I won't be so disappointed when I end up with something nice. On that note...

I found yet another perfect house that has so many incredible pluses, I'm not sure where to start. Located on Webster Street Uptown is this stunning, renovated Victorian cottage built circa 1910 featuring three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 11 foot ceilings and gorgeous hardwood floors. It also sports a "gourmet" kitchen replete with stainless steel appliances, 6-range oven and a center island with granite counter tops. There are transom windows above all the doors and windows, French doors leading from the master bedroom to the back deck, a claw foot tub, custom walk-in his & her closets and a really, cute backyard.

Two huge bonus features are all about location. First, this elegant, wonderful house is only three blocks from Audubon Park & Zoo which would make Pippin (my adorable shih-tzu) one very happy puppy.  Second, and possibly my "raison d'etre", the house is located mere steps from Restaurant Patois...and y'all know how much I adore Mr. Burgau.

This dream abode is listed at only $499,000...but who's counting?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Buns of bliss at Company Burger

No, this post has nothing to do with working out or how to go about making your backside look more appealing. Actually, it is quite the opposite. It's about how last week I took my butt to The Company Burger on Freret Street, placed it next to John's butt and across from Lorin's butt at a table and proceeded to inhale a delicious burger served on what I believe is the best bun in town.

But, for now I'll dispense with the butt analogies considering the combination of backsides and burger buns won't make for an appetizing read.

We were transported via crazy Middle Eastern cab driver who drove at Mach One speed down Freret Street, narrowly missing errant Tulane students, to arrive during a busy lunch hour at the newly opened restaurant. Breathless, I stepped from the cab and nearly kissed the pavement, delighted to have made it for lunch in one piece. But, it seemed that my brush with death worked wonders for my appetite...

We ordered at the counter and sat down to share a large bench with a couple of other diners already digging in. I really love the sparse decor of Company Burger, though what little accent there was (wood benches and detailing, heavy iron table legs, metal food trays) tasted a bit like a country & western theme. Keep those doggies rollin'!

Our order came up quickly and before digging in, I moseyed over to the condiment station only to feel a combination of utter delight at my choices and dismay at having to actually make a choice. The Company Burger offers a dizzying array of mayonnaise like (be still my heart) "baconnaise," chipotle mayo, basil mayo and roasted garlic mayo...not to mention some house made mustard and pickles. Naturally, instead of selecting only one, I got a little scoop of each. After all, I had to have a variety for my extra crispy tater tots.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me get back to my burger. I ordered "The" Company Burger which is built with two patties, American cheese, bread & butter pickles (house made, of course) sliced red onions and I added some Nueske's bacon. Before taking a bite, I kicked it up by slathering the bun with some Chipotle mayo.  Oh yes, the bun. Not only did it hold up admirably under the pressure of beef patties, juicy pickles and fixin's, the texture and flavor was simply perfection. The bread reminded me of those Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, with all the sturdy, yet fluffy layers, but instead of sweetness, it was buttery bun bliss!

John decided to taste the Lamb Burger which was surprisingly juicy and combined with some local feta cheese, basil mayo, red onions and a chili-mint glaze, the flavor was simply wonderful. Though he gobbled a few of my crispy tater tots, John ordered his own side of crispy, house made onion rings made from red onions which I thought was an interesting, sweet twist to your average ring.

We had a couple of soft drinks with our burgers, but if we desired, we could have opted for draft beer, wine or even a cocktail. Instead of blowing those extra calories on booze, I chose to have a slice of Mom's Carrot Cake with a fat dollop of cream cheese frosting. "Mom" is specifically chef and owner Adam Biderman's mother who was kindly willing to contribute her killer cake (and brownies) to the restaurant. The Carrot Cake was moist, delicious and all mine. Thanks Mom!

You know this burger binge likely did nothing good for my butt, but I'm not complaining!

The Company Burger on Urbanspoon