Friday, December 30, 2011

House of the week: Victorian Camelback on Mazant

It's that time of the week again where I torture myself, my boyfriend, my friends, family and yes...even my dog...with yet another house I will never be able to afford. The irons are hot, the pincers are rusty and my checking account balance is stapled to my forehead.  Let the pain begin!

The house I found this week is in an up-and-coming neighborhood called the Bywater that lies just below the Marigny between Franklin Avenue and the canal. One of the many cabbies we've traveled with told us that "they" plan to relocate the port to the Army Reserve base near the end of Poland Avenue. Regardless of the truth, the Bywater is growing and already contains some killer local spots like The Joint BBQ, Jack Dempsey's, Bacchanal Wine Shop, Elizabeth's and last on my list, but certainly not least, Vaughan's.

The house, ah the house, is a 1900s Camel-back Victorian double that has been remodeled into a single, 3 bedroom - 3bath beauty. My usual list requirements are all accounted for; high ceilings, hardwood floors, pocket doors between the living and dining room and exposed-brick fireplaces. But, the bonus features include a whirlpool bath in the master bedroom, a stunning kitchen replete with a breakfast nook and a gorgeous courtyard with a huge, shaded deck.

I think the price is really not all that bad (regardless of whether or not I can afford it) at $359,000.

"He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." 
                                                                                       -Douglas Adams

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Coquette-ish Christmas

So it wasn't actually Christmas, it was the eve before Christmas was the afternoon before Christmas Eve. It was the 23rd of December, okay? Anyhow, John and I decided we were way past due for a visit to the fairly-new restaurant, Coquette, on the corner of Washington and Magazine.

It was just like me not to make reservations, but though the corner restaurant was packed (people were even dining at the bar), it didn't take more than 15-20 minutes before we scored a table. We ordered quickly after perusing the menu during our wait, and it wasn't long before our food came flooding out of the kitchen.

First and foremost, I have to talk about the bread. Anytime you go out to dinner, quite often a basket of bread will be brought to the table and though filling, it isn't always something you remember fondly about the meal. At Coquette, they serve a warm loaf of their own, house-made ciabatta that is so tasty, it will literally knock your socks off. This divine loaf is sliced and served with a sea-salt enhanced, creamy butter that John and I gobbled without reservation or concern about having enough room left over to eat what we had actually ordered.

Our appetizers arrived in soon thereafter. John chose the Market Vegetable Salad that was supposed to have included a cashew puree and navel oranges, but they served him the salad from the prix fixe lunch menu which was local greens, candied pecans, goat cheese and Dijon vinaigrette. We didn't actually realize their mistake until John had already scarfed down more than half of the salad. We chalked it up to a happy accident since John really enjoyed what he got anyhow.

I selected the Tempura Shrimp with a garnish of sambal (chili sauce), grapefruit, nicoise olives and cilantro. The large pieces of shrimp were fried perfectly with a crispy, tasty batter. Both of us commented on the odd combination of grapefruit slices and pitted olives, but I thought it was a nice shock of contrasting flavors.

For his entree, John picked the Steak Frites, sliced pieces of rare hangar steak piled high with French fries and drizzled with a shallot vinaigrette (for the steak) and malt aioli (for the fries). His dish was so tasty that I continuously poked my fork into his plate stealing flavor-drenched fries and, on occasion, a nice hunk of steak. But, in all fairness, John was doing the same thing to me.

I ordered the Cochon de Lait, which is slow-roasted suckling pig that has been injected with Cajun seasonings and butter. The dish I had was also served with sauteed Brussels sprouts, pureed sweet potato and topped with apple marmalade. Though the meat was a tad dry, the whole dish sang when each bite was carefully composed of everything on the plate and I devoured it in no time.

Finally, we had what was likely one of the most unusual desserts I have ever eaten, Butterscotch Pudding with broken snicker doodles, bourbon and bacon ice cream. I am a huge sucker for anything Butterscotch, so it was not difficult to make my choice, but I have to admit that the bacon ice cream really struck me as being particularly delicious. Rich with a smoky flavor, it is an ice cream that, though delicious, I would not be able to eat in large quantities. Only one thing would deter me from ordering it again and that was the foam garnish on top. Maybe I will never be one to appreciate the latest fads in haute cuisine, but I will never understand foam. It recalls to mind the wickedness of my youth when salting snails in my backyard could keep me entertained for hours on end. C'est la vie!

Coquette Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where? 3001 Tulane Avenue...Pizzicare

The Metry-Lady driving the cab screwed up her face and said "Where?" forcing me to tell her, for the second time, that we wanted to go to 3001 Tulane Avenue. She shook her head and turned back towards the steering wheel.

"It's a pizza joint on Tulane Avenue?" 
"Do they have good pizza?"
"We've heard good things, but this will be our first time."
"Pizza Care?"
"Okay, whatever you say!"

John and I arrived late in the lunch hour to the brand new, black & white tiled, very clean and even shiny Pizzicare. Only two other customers were dining in that day. We browsed the menu for extras, even though we knew exactly what we wanted due to a delicious-sounding Twitter post touting the Charcuterie Pie.

We started with some Garlic Knots and a Pizzicare Salad made with baby spinach, pancetta, red onion, mushrooms and artichokes with blue cheese dressing. We really enjoyed the dough, nice and crusty, but the knots seemed decidedly un-garlicky and mostly Parmesan. I was disappointed with the salad mainly because instead of offering me some thick, house-made blue cheese dressing (that you can get in almost ANY other restaurant in New Orleans), I was handed a packet of Paul Newman's. Plus, there was no pancetta to be found, but there was a hefty addition of grated mozzarella.

Though we were both feeling a bit full by this time, we had no difficulty digging into the Charcuterie Pie with Genoa salami, pancetta, sopressata, fresh arugula, fresh mozzarella and garlic oil.  It was simply delicious and I made sure to include some of the peppery, bright arugula in every bite...which is no easy feat, let me tell you. By the time we left, there were only two slices left and half a salad. I guess you know now what I had for dinner!

Pizzicare on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 15, 2011

House of the week: Creole cottage on Dauphine Street

Living in the French Quarter was a dream I had when I first headed down to New Orleans. The historic aspect of this town was a huge attraction to me after all and the Vieux Carre IS history. You won't find an older neighborhood anywhere else in the United States. There are a ton of homes with iron-wrought wrapped balconies and gorgeous gingerbread-like trim, but there are also a few places that look like they just might collapse in the next big tropical storm.

I'm about to show you how deceiving those tumble-down facades actually are...

For example, check out this particular abode on Dauphine Street. It's an ancient-looking Creole cottage that was built way back in 1911. The shutters are old with rusty iron hinges, keeping the interior hidden from the general public walking by. The plaster looks worn, beaten by a century of adverse weather, disrespectful tourists and even a civil war. Now take a look inside. You tell me, is this house worth $675,000? It's like Mama always said, "You can never judge a book by its cover!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When atmosphere trumps food: Ralph's on the Park

It was one of those "wild hair" moments when John and I woke up Sunday morning hungry and decided to go have brunch at Ralph's on the Park. I'd frequently visited their website and driven past the restaurant, admired it's gorgeous location and fantasized about a romantic springtime lunch on the balcony overlooking the moss-laden oaks and calm lagoons of City Park.

With the temperatures hovering somewhere around the low 50's this past weekend, an alfresco meal was quite out of the question, but as we realized when we walked into the warm dining room, the inside was just as beautiful. We were led to a window-side table across gleaming hardwood floors and through iron-wrapped columns and as we sat down, we couldn't help but admire the gorgeous, Degas-like murals adorning the back wall. 

Excited and hungry, we placed our order, even choosing the special of the day as side and (strangely enough) it was the first dish to arrive. Though the idea of Goat Cheese and Herbs de Provence biscuits sounded delightful, the result was kind of dry and cold. We gobbled them because we were hungry, but we loaded it up with almost all of the butter provided. Let me tell you, that was a lot of butter...

Before we finished, our appetizer came out, Blue Crab Beignets with a pepper jelly cream sauce. In my mind's eye I saw large, fluffy beignets filled with the savory-sweet flavor of crab, so I felt a bit bemused at the result. They were basically small, crab cake-like balls that were deep fried and (sadly) quite greasy sitting in a small pool of the pepper jelly cream. We ended up eating them, though because the wait time between our appetizer and entree was inordinately long and, like I said, we were still quite ravenous.

The entrees finally arrived and we set our forks to dig in. I ordered the Tasso Eggs Benedict with fried P&J oysters, house-made tasso and jalapeno hollandaise atop buttermilk biscuits. The eggs were poached perfectly and the sauce and yolk softened the biscuit, but unfortunately the oysters were over-fried making them extra-tough and chewy. John chose their Louisiana Seafood Crepes with crab meat, shrimp and fish lying in a pool of smoked tomato sauce and garnished with fried shrimp curls. Both John and I only ate one bite before we declared the bland dish essentially inedible. We even opened up one up only to find a pile of mush with no discernible shrimp or fish, that is unless it had been thrown in a blender and pureed before slopping it into the delicate crepes. 

John had pretty much lost his appetite and sent the dish back with no interest in ordering something to replace it. Striving to be optimistic, I ordered dessert - the Egg Nog Crème Brûlée with chocolate rum candy. Also, our server felt bad about John's entree and gave us a free Banana Pudding. I was pleased with the crème brûlée as it had a perfectly crisp, burnt sugar top and a creamy custard beneath and the Banana Pudding was pretty good too until we tried the garnish of brûléed banana that tasted very green. 

Oh well, what can I say. At least it was pretty?

Ralph's on the Park on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tunnel vision...

I realize that there are lots of wonderful pastries, cookies, treats and even gelato at Angelo Brocato's, but if there are Napoleons in the pastry case staring out at me, I can't see anything else...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hissy fit at Crabby Jacks

Though I don't regret the evening of debauchery at the Hookah Bar, I did miss out on the Po-Boy Fest which left me with a hankering...and not for a hunk 'o' cheese. Well, maybe a couple of slices of Swiss on a fried oyster and bacon?

Yeah, I wanted a po-boy.

So without further ado, John, my friend Dani and her daughter Posie all hopped into her bright orange, taxi-turned-personal-van and sped off down to Crabby Jacks. I'd heard they served a awesome Cochon de Lait po-boy, among some other tasty specials, and it was high time I found out for myself.

We all tromped into the small restaurant on Jefferson Highway around 2:30 pm in an attempt to miss the busy lunch hour. Posie was quite interested in the bright gumball machines in the front, especially after she scored a couple of stragglers in one of the chutes, though we were too busy selecting our lunch from the menu to notice 'till it was too late. We placed our order and found a place to sit at one of the communal benches, admiring the the work of local artist Dr. Bob that was plastered all over the walls.

It wasn't long before our orders arrived in a flurry, long packages wrapped in butcher paper dealt to the right person as soon as we deciphered the spidery scrawl in red ink on the outside. Dani's 8-inch, fully-dressed, fried shrimp po-boy was the most visually stunning of the three. Large, crispy, cornmeal-crusted shrimp tumbled out of the overstuffed loaf allowing me to snatch a few. John's large BBQ brisket po-boy was quite juicy and the brisket melted in your mouth, but the sauce was a bit sweet for my taste and I turned to my own.

I wanted to get the Cochon de Lait po-boy, but they had ran out by the time we arrived. Apparently coming later in the day not only helps you miss the crowds, you also miss the preferred specials.  I turned instead to my second choice, the slow roasted duck. Though I ate it and enjoyed the moist texture of the duck and the chewy French bread, I thought the gravy was fairly bland. Next time, I am getting there early...

We also got some fries, onion rings and a side of mac & cheese for Posie. We didn't realize that the mac was made with jalapenos and though Dani doesn't like them and picked a lot of them out, Posie seemed to dig it when she managed to finally get some into her mouth. I got a taste and I agree. It reminded me of nachos you get at theme parks or local carnivals.

It seems that Posie liked everything too much. What with free gum, jalapeno mac & cheese AND accessible jingle bells on the Christmas tree, who would want to leave? Certainly not Posie. She even sat down on the ground in the parking lot to (not so silently) protest our departure. We'll be back, Jack!

Crabby Jack's on Urbanspoon