Friday, December 14, 2012

Munching lunch at the Milk Bar

Dani, John and I were starving by the time we walked into The Milk Bar's brand new, second location on Carrollton Avenue, taking over the spot that used to be filled by the Saltwater Grill. We had all been running errands and simply had to eat something before we continued on our dreary way.

Luckily, we were standing in a short line to place our orders at the bar. The big lunch rush hadn't really begun yet, so we were also able to score a table. Before long, our orders came out, beginning with a few milkshakes. John chose a "Killer Vanilla," Dani a "Butterscotch Hop" and I opted for a "Caramel Caramba." They were all tasty, though I liked Dani's the best, but the straws were definitely too narrow to accommodate such thick, creamy shakes.

Each of us chose different sandwiches to sate our raging hunger. John chose "Shrimply the Best" with sauteed shrimp, pesto, roma tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella and lemon mayo. Dani got the "Speared Pig" with smoked ham, mozzarella, asparagus and hollandaise sauce and I chose "The Blue Heeler" with roast beef, gravy, sauteed mushrooms, tomato, red onion, blue cheese and mozzarella. All three sandwiches were served on The Milk Bar's signature, oven-fresh ciabatta bread and packed with a Chupa Chups lollipop.

Although I tasted and liked all three sandwiches, my favorite would have to be John's "Shrimply the Best," a moniker that obviously doesn't lie. The best part? We were stuffed full on these massive, delicious sandwiches that only set us back $8.50 a piece. Welcome to the 'hood!

Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

House of the week: The Centanni House

While searching through the realty listings, my eyes scanning photos for the telltale architectural features I so adore like floor-length windows, double galleries and heart pine, hardwood floors, I came across a very unusual house. As it's not anywhere near the typical style I long for, I almost skipped right over it until something about the unusual front entryway piqued my interest. Before I knew it, I was searching for other sources, looking up it's history and longing to wander its rooms in a very real way.

As it turns out, this unique home is a quite well-known bit of New Orleans history. Built in 1917 by architect H. Jordan MacKenzie, The Centanni House was home to Salvador "Sam" Centanni and his wife Myra. Sam and his father owned the Gold Seal Dairy from the 1920's to when it was sold in 1986. Many older locals remember the house because of the elaborate Christmas decorations the Centannis displayed every year between 1946 and 1966. As it turns out, these decorations not only inspired Al Copeland's holiday displays, but several of the handmade pieces from the Centanni House can still be seen every year at Christmas in the Oaks in New Orleans City Park.

Well, now this landmark historic property on the "cemetery end" of Canal Street is for sale and I must admit, I would definitely dig living there. It's a crazy combination of architectural styles like California Bungalow, Art Nouveau and more. If you gander at the photos, you'll see that most of the house still retains the original design like coffered ceilings, gorgeous stained-glass windows, mahogany walls and gorgeous marble tile work in the kitchen and bathrooms. There are four bedrooms, four bathrooms and an elevator contained in 5800 square feet of living space. It's amazing that one could purchase such a colorful piece of our city's history for the bargain basement price of only $750,000.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pleasure without porn: Killer Poboys

Quite often, I find myself genuinely frustrated that I cannot offer choice food porn from wonderful restaurants due to bad lighting, a mediocre camera or simply a lack of photographic skill. This is one of those times.

A little while back, John and I were in the French Quarter and decided to hit Killer Poboys, a hot new pop-up inside the Erin Rose Bar on Conti. It was just past 5 p.m. and the tiny bar was already full of devoted patrons, drinking and enjoying a football game on TV. We squished our way through to the back and placed our order at a small counter in a room eclectically decorated (like any great bar), replete with a colorful mural.

Sitting down at the only available bar stools, we sipped on Abita Ambers and waited for our food to appear.  Before long, our poboys were ready and they were most definitely "killer" dude. John ordered the Dark & Stormy Poboy with pork braised in Old New Orleans Rum, lime slaw and garlic aioli. I must acknowledge its sloppy, wonderful tastiness, but I sincerely like mine better. I chose the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp Poboy with marinated radish, carrot, cucumber and a "special sauce" that was spicy and mustardy. The only complaint is that there was not enough shrimp for a greedy little grubber like myself. Perhaps I should have ordered two?

We also got a side Green Bean Salad with pickled shiitake mushrooms and pumpkin vinaigrette that I thought was scrumptious. I gobbled it all down, sparing only a few bites for John who seemed far too busy with his poboy to bother.

*Again, I would like to apologize for my lack of proper food porn, but taking good pictures in the back of a darkened bar is pretty tough. Surprisingly, my iPhone took some fairly decent shots, though you'll have to go find out for yourself how killer Killer Poboys can be.

Killer Poboys (Erin Rose Bar) on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 3, 2012

Caffeine clip: La Divina Gelateria

La Divina Gelateria's custom espresso is roasted and blended locally by the Coffee Roasters of New Orleans (and a little help from La Divina's owner, Carmelo) and is widely believed to be the best espresso blend in town. One sip and you just might agree...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

House of the week: Victorian Centerhall on Chestnut Street

My search should end right here...and if I was a beautiful, busty billionaire (two out of three ain't bad? Ha!), it most definitely would. This is a dream house I would kill to die in.

Located on the corner of Chestnut and Foucher, this two-story, Victorian Center hall built in the the late 1800's boasts over 3,700 square feet of living space with five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, an inground swimming pool, hot tub and a "cabana" all wrapped inside a gorgeous, wrought-iron fence. All those Victorian features I cherish are present and accounted for; 14 foot ceilings, hardwood floors, transoms, floor-to-ceiling windows, beautiful fireplace mantles, wainscoting in the massive, modern kitchen (including more storage space than you could shake a stick at), stunning moulding and mill work, front and back porches replete with fans, a large, bricked patio around the pool and enough parking for up to five cars.

As if the house was not enough in and of itself, it is located in a prime, gargantuan corner lot that is only three blocks from St. Charles Avenue (a.k.a. the parade route) and two blocks from Magazine. It's only a skip or two away from Baru Bistro & Tapas, Lilette, Bouligny Tavern, Mahony's Po-Boys and a bunch of great shops, among them my favorite local jeweler Mignon Faget. This list is only a short, four block stretch of Magazine Street, which happens to be the route for the annual St. Patrick's Day parades as well!

This corner of bliss is listed at a mere $1,725,000...such a small price to put on a dream come true.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gobbling at MiLa

Through much family fussing and fuming, I have attempted to make Thanksgiving a day where John and I go out to enjoy a quiet Thursday dinner at a great restaurant with some friends. Considering we don't really celebrate anything (anniversaries, Christmas, Easter, name it), I am trying to establish at least one holiday we call our own. I have not always been successful in past years and have given into the familial pressure and celebrated Thanksgiving in over-crowded living rooms at the homes of John's relatives. But not this year...

Last week, my best friend Dani, her husband Saeed, their 2-year-old daughter Posie, John (of course) and I all enjoyed an incredibly delicious Thanksgiving feast at MiLa.

We arrived right on time for our reservations at the elegantly modern restaurant located downtown on Common Street. We were seated at a large round table and we sipped cocktails (Posie indulged in gallons of tomato juice) while perusing the simple menu.

It was easy for all of us to come to a decision and before we knew it, our appetizers arrived. We all ordered the Celery Root Soup, except for John who selected the Smoked Redfish Salad. The soup was creamy, slightly sweet and garnished with a small mound of roasted lobster, diced green apple and a drizzle of truffle oil. We inhaled it easily, swabbing up the leftover smears, inaccessible by spoon, with warm sweet potato rolls slathered with soft butter and sea salt. I got a few bites of John's salad which included smoky, cold hunks of redfish, crispy fingerling potato chips, frisée lettuce and a tangy mustard-dill dressing.

Posie, like most 2-year-olds, was having difficulty concentrating on the food, so while she was absorbed in playing behind the curtains and waving at people walking past the window, her parents devoured her leftover soup. After a short wait, our entrees arrived and we didn't hesitate to dig in. Surprisingly, I went the traditional route and chose the Roasted Turkey Breast that was smothered in a rich, sage gravy and served with cornbread dressing, grilled Brussels sprouts and a tart cranberry sauce. It was a huge plate and I was hard pressed to finish it all, but John saved me from stuffing myself silly and finished it off for me.

John, Dani and Posie ordered a Redfish à la Meunière with baby spinach, currants and quinoa in a white wine sauce. They all loved it, even Posie who gobbled more that half of her fish when she was finally lured away from the window. Saeed chose the Grilled Flat Iron Steak with a buttermilk potato puree, garlic green beans and a red wine sauce. He kindly shared a hunk of steak with me (I shared some turkey breast with him) only to find the steak tender, juicy and delicious. Unfortunately, he made quick work of the beans and potatoes and it disappeared before I could manage a taste.

Though we were all pretty full by this point, we still had one more course...dessert! Everyone ordered the Chocolate Ganache Tart with a satsuma confit and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream except for Dani and I. We opted for the Asian Pear Sorbet sprinkled with graham cracker cookie crumbles and drizzled with caramel. We all got to taste both desserts and declared them divine, especially Posie who devoured her very own Chocolate Tart which preceded that always-entertaining, crazy-kid-sugar-high. I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine!

MiLa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

House of the week: Raised Centerhall on Washington

As it gets closer and closer to Mardi Gras, my search for the perfect carnival house intensifies, but I think I just found it. Located on Washington Avenue, less than half a block from St. Charles, is this gorgeous Raised Centerhall Victorian "cottage" that would hold my whole family and then some.

Built in 1855 and restored in the early 90s, this house features all the right stuff; hardwood floors, high ceilings, marble fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, big front porch and balcony, library, a huge bricked yard and three stories, six bedrooms and almost 6,000 feet of living space. This stunner is listed at a mere $1,595,000 and the sale is pending, lucky ducks.

Oh the parties we could have...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sad at SoBou

When I was just a kid, I remember looking forward to getting this one particularly cool toy for Christmas. It was a doll house for these tiny, Strawberry Shortcake dolls in the shape of an Oreo Cookie. My dolls could sleep in the bedroom, hang out in the kitchen, plus I could close the lid and carry around my dolly palls in the house that was no larger than a child-sized clutch purse. On top of all that, it was supposed to smell like chocolate, much in the same way Strawberry Shortcake dolls smelled like...well...Strawberry Shortcake.

When I finally got it, I was so upset because it looked nothing like the commercial advertised and all the furnishings were only dumb stickers instead of a real bed and an actual table for the kitchen. To top it all off, the house smelled nothing like chocolate and a lot like a big hunk of plastic. Needless to say, it was the worst Christmas ever. Since that fateful day, I learned to avoid getting my hopes up and expect only average experiences, but it seems I'd forgotten that lesson when I got excited about SoBou.

Ever since it opened in July, I'd been bugging John about it. "Let's go to SoBou this week...what about next week? SoBou, SoBou, SoBou..." I am pretty sure he was close to strangling me when we finally worked out a good time to go a couple of weeks ago.

We walked into the swanky bar/restaurant on Chartres Street around noon on a Saturday. It wasn't very busy and there seemed to be several tables available. I asked if we could be seated near a window and the very nice hostess asked if we would mind waiting a little while so they could bus the requested table. This was not a problem at all considering I was anxious to try one of Abigail's fabulous cocktails.

Propped up on the stools, we received prompt service and a view of our promised table. We sipped our cocktails, John opted for a Sazerac (as usual), but I tried Abigail's version of a Ramos Fizz that included a hint of raspberry. They both were delicious, but we had finished our drinks and were considering another after waiting over a half hour for our empty, yet dirty table to be bussed. Not only that, we thought we were coming for lunch, but as it turns out they just started serving brunch that very day and that was the only menu we had to choose from.

We're a laid back couple and had no problems going with the flow. When they finally seated us, we had been staring at the menu for so long that we ordered right away, along with another pair of cocktails that we never actually received.

Things must have been quite confusing in the kitchen that day because we got our entrees and our appetizer at the same time, not that it bothered us too much...the more the merrier! John and I shared the appetizer which was described on the menu as Duck Debris & Butternut Beignets with foie gras fondue and chicory coffee ganache. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, I imagine it would have been if it tasted anything like the description. We got what seemed like four basic beignets drizzled with a creamy sauce that tasted like Hollandaise, a thin, brown sauce that was supposed to be the ganache and a light sprinkle of powdered sugar. The duck debris was nowhere to be found, not on the plate nor inside the beignets and I found myself humming that old Sesame Street song "One of these things are not like the other..." because we had three perfectly fried beignets and one that was obviously burned and was quite chewy.

Thankfully, our entrees were pretty tasty. John ordered the French Market Veal Sandwich with espresso-rubbed veal breast, Creole choucroute charred chilies, Camembert, crispy leeks and chicory coffee aioli. I only got one bite before John wolfed it down, but it tasted quite nice. I chose the SoBou Eggs Benedict with poached eggs atop black pepper buttermilk biscuits, tasso, boudin and charred chili hollandaise. Although the overall flavor was tasty, my eggs were over-cooked so there was no luscious yolk oozing out and there was only one, small bit of tasso among what was mostly boudin.

All in all, up to this point things were still acceptable. We knew it was their first brunch service and you can forgive a lot of little errors when you know they haven't had the opportunity to iron out the kinks. I ordered dessert in the hopes we'd end the meal with a bang, but all I could do is whimper. I ordered the Chocolate Coma Bar which included a flourless dark chocolate torte with white chocolate mousse, candied pecans and sea salt caramel covered in a hard, milk chocolate shell and served with a shot of chicory coffee shake.

All of the plates from our entrees and appetizer were still sitting empty before us when our server arrived with the dessert. In a futile attempt to clear the plates while juggling the dessert, he knocked over the shake shot and spilled it all over the table and me. Then, to add insult to injury, the waiter actually asked me if we wanted him to get a new dessert or if we would eat it "as is." Irritated, I said no...I want a new dessert. To go a step further, I cleaned the table with my napkin (that was never replaced) and when I requested a wet towel to clean the table further, because it was still sticky from the shake, he brought another dry napkin and then asked me to touch the table to see if it was okay.

When he brought out the "replacement" dessert, I could tell it was the exact same chocolate bar because it was still soaked in shake. Too tired to argue, we tried the dessert and found it very good except for the "shake" that had the consistency and flavor of frothy, non-fat milk. In apology, the server offered us another dessert, but at this point I just wanted to go home. I was also surprised to see that the dessert was not comped on the bill, considering the fact that this was a Commander's Family restaurant that so prides itself on service.

SoBou (W Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 2, 2012

House of the week: Creole cottage on Kerlerec Street

As it often goes, names can get stuck in one's memory and never quite leave. Many years ago when cruising around New Orleans, searching about for houses on sale, my friend Shalom and I happened upon an affordable listing on Kerlerec Street. We giggled while trying to form this unique name in our mouths and then proceeded to get lost trying to find this funkiest of funky streets. Unlike many of the streets nearby, Kerlerec is a 12 block stretch that begins at N. Galvez only to dead end at Dauphine Street. Apparently, this road has been around since the late 1700's and was named after Louis Belcourt, Chevalier de Kerlerec, who was the governor of Louisiana from 1753 to 1763.

Regardless, I have never forgotten this particular road and when I saw a listing for this gorgeous house at 1216 Kerlerec Street, I simply had to share. This little beauty is a Creole cottage built sometime in the 1830's, a preserved property that received a historic landmark commission award. The entire house was redone in 2006 to include modern upgrades, but it still includes a lot of original architectural features like French doors, hardwood floors, high ceilings and exposed brick fireplaces. There are four bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, fabulous claw foot tubs, an elegant kitchen and a cute little patio out back.

Other than the obvious charm, this house is located only a block from the French Quarter! So, if all of you "out-of-towners" help me buy it, I promise to offer you a place to crash when you come to visit! The house is listed at a mere $479,000...whaddaya say?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Feelin' shiny at Gracious Bakery

Yes, I am a dork. I'm obsessed with things like WoW (World of Warcraft for all you n00bs), LOTR (don't tell me you don't know), and WoT (just click the link). My favorite movies include The Last Unicorn and Neverending Story and I've seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, all 178, at least a dozen times. So when using the dork vernacular, fellow Firefly fans (Joss Wheadon's depressingly short-lived space-western series about the renegade crew of Serenity) know precisely what I mean when I say "shiny," and my experience at Gracious Bakery was exactly that.

A couple of weeks ago, John and I visited the bakery on South Jeff Davis, located on the ground floor of the Woodward Design Construction Company's stunning new office building. On the inside, Gracious Bakery features the same, clean lines and bright whites as the outside of the building, a simple counter top with an iPad register and sparkling glass display cases showing off delectable breads and pastries.

Two super-friendly and enthusiastic ladies took our sandwich orders at the counter and then we took our number and headed for a seat near the huge, front windows. John got a Coke that was offered in their latest, fashionable 8.5 fl.oz. bottles. At $2 each, the Coke seemed a steep indulgence and for the same price, I received a large "New Orleans-style" iced coffee.

It was not long before our sandwiches arrived, John ordered soppresata and coppa that was thinly sliced with provolone, arugula and green olive relish on freshly baked ciabatta that came with plain kettle chips. The bread was easily the star of the show, so thick and chewy. I got their roasted in house, rosemary-crusted roast beef sandwich with tomato and horseradish cream cheese, arugula and caramelized onion on a soft kaiser roll. John and I traded bites often and couldn't decide whose sandwich was better.

With all of the delicate pastries just staring at me during lunch, I returned to the counter and brought back not one, but two treats for John and I to share, the Tiramasu and a Black Forest Cake. We inhaled the light, creamy Tiramasu while there and saved the cake for later. While both were wonderful, I wish we would have tasted the Black Forest Cake before we left the shop, that way I could have purchased two more! The cake was so thick and rich, creamy all throughout with a perfect disc of cherry bliss inside...just outstanding, easily one of the best desserts I've had in a long time.

Everything's shiny for sure...

Gracious Bakery & Café  on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

House of the week: Shotgun on France Street

Even though the area is a tad sketchy and it's located WAY out in Bywater, almost to the canal, I can't help oohing and ahhing over this adorable little shotgun. It has original pine wood floors, high ceilings, exposed brick fireplace and a cute backyard perfect for barbecuing and boils.

Although it is rather close to St. Claude, it's also just a few blocks to The Joint, Vaughan's, Jack Dempsey's and Bacchanal. This precious little gem is listed at $220,000, which I think is a bit high considering it only has two bedrooms and is a tad over 1,100 square feet of living space.'s still a delightfully charming abode nonetheless!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smilin' at Satsuma

Last week, my friend Dani and I were about to embark upon a day filled with running some necessary-but-evil errands, but I thought it would be good to start out on a high note with breakfast at Satsuma Cafe. Ever since the Bywater eatery opened its second location on Maple Street, I'd been dying to give it a go, and thank goodness, there were no regrets.

We floated in around 10:30 am and the place was still bustling. The owners took full advantage of the high-ceilings and large floor space, creating a bright, cheery atmosphere, complete with an open kitchen in the back. We placed our order at the counter and chose a table near one of the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the world pass by.

The first to arrive were two frothy cappuccinos, brewed from a Coffee Roasters of New Orleans blend. Before we slurped up half the cup, our breakfast arrived.

Dani ordered the Satsuma Breakfast Plate that was a simple dish of scrambled eggs, three slices of thick bacon, wheat toast, fresh fruit (apple slices, grapes and blueberries) and a small cup of tasty black beans. I couldn't resist trying their Bagel Plate that came with an "everything" bagel, herbed shmear, house-cured lox, capers, thinly-sliced red onions, a thick slice of tomato, fresh sprouts and sliced cucumber. Light, satisfying and delicious, Dani and I had no difficulties scarfing every crumb.

I want to add here a little about the service. Although we ordered at the counter, the folks in Satsuma were so nice and so incredibly helpful, I just couldn't stop smiling. At one point, when Dani and I got up to check out the pastry, we thought we'd be polite and bring our plates up to the counter. All of a sudden, there were three people around us, taking our plates, insisting that busing our own table was out of the question! It was almost comical, but wonderful nonetheless.

We couldn't leave without a little something sweet, so we went back up to the counter and selected two, ginormous, vegan chocolate chip cookies. Dani got another cappuccino, but I was already bouncing off the walls, so I opted for a Watermelon Lemonade that turned out to be heavy with the flavor of cucumber. The cookies tasted strongly of peanut butter, which was used in place of butter to make it vegan, I imagine, but they were still quite moist and delectable.

Satsuma is a most welcome addition to my incredible neighborhood.

Satsuma Café on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ignatius' house

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”                                                                     
-John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

A few weeks ago, John and I were strolling around our neighborhood on Hampson Street when we came upon this house. Much to our surprise, this was the residence of John Kennedy Toole, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, possibly  one of the best works of modern literature ever published in the South.

Published eleven years after Toole committed suicide, the late recognition and appreciation of this most excellent novel is a sad, sad story. Toole suffered many of the same delusions and paranoid ravings that were so exquisitely colored into his main character, Ignatius J. Reilly. I believe it's a great pity that this incredibly brilliant author was not recognized for his genius while he still lived, or perhaps we would have many more extraordinary novels crafted by his hand.

At any rate, here we were, rambling through the Carrollton neighborhood when we happened upon the last house John Kennedy Toole lived in. It's a beautiful "raised centerhall" with floor-to-ceiling windows and a gorgeous garden out front with a wrought-iron fence surrounding the property. Next to the front gate, there is a plaque that informs visitors that the house was built in 1885 by John Paul Hecker and is still owned by his descendants.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Outdoor adventures at Katie's Restaurant

When you work from home, it's real easy to become something of a recluse. You wake up, scratch yourself, roll out of bed, grab some coffee as you stumble through the kitchen, and then plant your ever-widening backside at your desk. After that point you rarely rise from your chair, aside from bathroom and replenishment breaks, until rather late at night when you stumble back into the bedroom and pass out.

Things that other people do everyday fall by the wayside because they are no longer required in your routine...things like getting dressed, brushing your hair and, as nasty as it sounds, taking a shower. What do I need to take a shower for? I have spent several days in the exact same, lazy-day outfit -- something an old co-worker of mine dubbed her "housecoat" -- and relished every minute I didn't have to "dress my best" for a thankless job requiring me to be "on the same page" and "brain dump" on demand at some ungodly hour in the morning.

But...I must admit that after a while, I desperately need to get out of the frigging house.

Last week I did just that. I showered, donned clean clothes and left the house with John to have lunch at Katie's Restaurant in Mid City. We decided it would be a good idea to sit outside and soak up some Vitamin D and breathe fresh air for a while. Our server quickly took our order and we sipped iced tea and tried to figure out what the graffiti on the side of the house facing us used to say before it was painted over.

We had ordered an appetizer of "Jenny's Garlic-Feta Fries," but our entrees arrived first. A bit confused, I queried our waiter.

"I was wondering, did you remember my order of Feta Fries?"
"Oh yeah! Didn't I tell you? We ran out."
"No. No you didn't tell me. If you had, I wouldn't be asking about it."
"I could have sworn I came and told you we ran out."
"Nope. You didn't."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'm positive."
"Well, can I get something else then...perhaps the Eggplant Sticks?"
"Sure, no problem. I'll be right back."

Then, out of the blue, he took off running down the block.

We didn't know if or when he'd be back, so we just started eating our entrees and hoped for the best. John chose Katherine's Cajun Cuban with smoked cochon de lait, grilled ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles pressed in between two thick slices of French bread. The cochon de lait was moist and the sandwich tasted pretty good, but it had been brushed in garlicky butter on the outside that made for messy handling.

I just wasn't in the mood for anything fried or greasy, so I ordered an "oven roasted" turkey sandwich fully dressed on French. From the name, I was hoping that this was a real turkey sandwich, you know, thick slices of juicy turkey from a house-cooked bird, but it wasn't like that at all. It was like a plain, old turkey sandwich from a grocery store deli...I'm guessing Boars Head? It wasn't a total loss, the potato salad I had on the side was almost perfect.

Anyhow, as we were munching away, our server pops up behind us magically (I guess he made the block?) and placed the eggplant fries on our table. They turned out to be just so, so. Sprinkled with canned Parmesan and kind of bitter, the only part about the eggplant I really enjoyed was the marinara dipping sauce. *Soapbox* Don't ever underestimate the value of "sweating" sliced eggplant before cooking! 

As we boxed up half our sandwiches to take home, the waiter popped up behind us once again and asked whether we'd like dessert. After being offered the usual bread pudding (is it mandatory that every restaurant in New Orleans serve bread pudding?), we opted for a slice of Thin Mint Doberge (dough-bash) Cake made by that fabulous baking beauty, Debbie Does Doberge. It tasted like a big, many-layered, creamy, decadent slice of an Andes Mint minus the metallic green wrapper.

After lunch, we went back home, I changed back into my housecoat and plopped down in front of the computer once again. Work, work, work...

Katie's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 17, 2012

House of the week: Freret House on Amelia Street

Surfing through the lengthy list of houses on the market that I wish (oh how I wish!) could be mine, I found this breathtaking Southern Belle and simply had to share.

On the corner of Carondelet and Amelia Streets, just a mere block from St. Charles Avenue i.e. parade route, lies this gorgeous, two-story, Corinthian-columned house all done up in white like a blushing bride. The house was built in 1868 by architect James Freret, the first locally-born architect who achieved national distinction. Although this flower seems small among the finest of Freret's accomplishments, it's not exactly a cottage...

With 7200 square feet of living space, this house boasts seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, 14-foot ceilings, a three-car garage and a guest house. This stunner is adorned with wide pine floors, gorgeous ceiling medallions, pocket doors, floor-to-ceiling windows -- with 14-foot high ceilings, can you see it? -- a lush courtyard, fountains, a porch swing...oh my!

If you were standing here now you'd hear me heave a great, big sigh. This dream house is listed at a mere $1,600,000.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”  -C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Red Velvet Cake

Although it might be considered sacrilege to say down here in the "Deep South," I'm just not a fan of red velvet cake.  I've tasted a ton of different incarnations, including my own, and the flavors or texture never really appealed to me. Well, except for the cream cheese frosting, let's be honest here. I could eat cream cheese frosting till the cows came home (oh will they ever come home?).

So when I opened up the pint of New Orleans Ice Cream Co's Red Velvet Cake, I was all ready to hate it. Thankfully, I was wrong...

Their oh-so-decadent Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream had been transformed with thick, chewy chunks of red velvet cake and a thin ribbon of chocolate swirl running throughout. I had no difficulties gobbling this pint down all by myself. Maybe I should try Red Velvet Cake again?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Herbsaint: A blossoming birthday ritual

This past Saturday, the power was still out and John and I sat sweating, dreading another evening of darkness and sticky hands of Gin Rummy. I was irritable, stinky and facing a dinner of tuna-in-a-can when I suddenly realized I'd completely missed out on a birthday celebration. The week previous, when my birthday actually occurred, I was overloaded with work and struggling to meet far too many deadlines and had put off my birthday dinner to be enjoyed "sometime soon." Well, it was about damn time...

Before my phone battery petered out, I found out on Facebook that Herbsaint was open, so we made reservations, took long, cold showers and caught a cab downtown to finally celebrate my 41st birthday in a sweet, air-conditioned dining room on St. Charles Avenue where the hostess kindly agreed to charge our phones while we dined.

Eating at Herbsaint is always a pleasure, but it was hard not to take joy in the little things on this particular occasion...things like tall, glistening glasses of ice water that were refilled as soon as they were emptied, the sounds of laughter and conversation from tables around us and a cool, stone floor that I simply couldn't resist touching with my bare feet. So, I slipped off my sandals at what?!

Narrowing down the menu to only a few choices was tough, but we muddled through. John started out with a cool, mouthwatering Watermelon Gazpacho with a creamy, sweet hill of Louisiana jumbo lump crab piled in the center and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. I chose the Seared Shrimp with summer squash and chili oil and we both lovingly soaked up the remaining sauce on my plate with thick slices of warm ciabatta. Take that Chicken of the Sea!

For my entree I chose to replenish my iron with a Top Cut Ribeye seasoned with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. My tender and juicy, sliced steak was served with a large pile of their addictive French fries and pimenton aioli for dipping. Yes, I dipped some steak bites in there as well! John ordered Curried Jumbo Shrimp with creamed corn. The spicy, earthy flavor of the shrimp went perfectly with the sweet creamed corn for such a delicious combination, let me tell you, I was a wee bit jealous.

We finished off this most perfect dinner with an utterly decadent dessert created by one of my favorite pastry chefs, Rhonda Ruckman. This time, the magic consisted of a delicate Apple Galette topped with caramelized frozen custard and drizzled with a thick caramel sauce. We had died and gone to heaven.

This was the second birthday I'd celebrated at Herbsaint and I believe it is fast becoming a tradition. Do you see me complaining? Well, to be perfectly honest, I did complain a bit that night, but it was only because I had going home.

Herbsaint Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

House of the week: Priorities...

As you all must know, last week we experienced another hurricane. Isaac came through and with high winds, managed to do some serious damage to homes and businesses, caused flooding in a few parishes and generally wreaked havoc all over Florida and Louisiana.

Comparatively, we got off easy. The only loss we suffered was that of power for approximately five days and four, very long nights. Unfortunately, we planned poorly for Isaac's arrival, but from this lesson, I have learned a few things:
  1. Buy and/or make LOTS of ice. Aside from putting the rocks in your drinks, ice will turn your fridge into an old-fashioned ice box that will last a surprisingly long time.
  2. For those readers out there like me who cannot get to sleep at night without putting away a few chapters, a battery operated lamp of some sort is practically mandatory. Candles do NOT cut it.
  3. Buy board games. After John beat me an embarrassing number of times at Gin Rummy and Poker, I would have paid good money for a little Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit.
  4. Own a barbecue. I would have loved to hang outside and do some grilling, even on my front porch, rather than being subjected to the sweaty heat-fest we endured while using our gas stove. For that matter, try to own a gas stove as well. We would have been completely screwed without it.
What does all this have to do with buying a house? Well, when I finally buy my dream house in New Orleans, it will definitely be accoutred with something like this...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

House of the week: Double Gallery on Olivier Street

Mom. Dad. I have a proposal. Sell your 1970's, ranch-style track house in California and for half of what you gain from the sale, you could buy this house outright. Deal?

I realize it would mean selling the house I grew up in and moving to a new and vibrantly different community. Everyone else is back in the Bay Area, all of your grandchildren, nephews, nieces and cousins and you'd miss them, like I do, but what about the benefits?

First lets talk about this incredible house. Built around the mid-1800's, this stunning piece of work is a Greek Revival Double Gallery house located in Algiers Point, only a block away from the Mississippi River. Fourteen-foot ceilings, original hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows on the facade of the house, stunningly remodeled bathrooms, elegant crown molding...there's even a gorgeous garden Dad can putz around in and grow his green onions, tomatoes, strawberries and zucchini.

Best part? It's only a few blocks from the Algiers Ferry that will take you straight into the French Quarter, or better yet, Harrah's? I know how much Dad likes to gamble and Mom would adore the Shops at Canal Place, not to mention the rest of the French Quarter.    

Best of all, you could count on my visits on a very regular basis. In fact, how about I just move in again? Whaddaya

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcomed home at Brigtsen's

Less than a month ago, I got the opportunity to interview Chef Frank Brigtsen at his restaurant on Dante Street just a few blocks from my house. It was the first time I'd met the James Beard Award-winning chef, and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit nervous. Thankfully, there was absolutely no need for me to fret. Frank has the most welcoming presence, as soon as I walked in the door, I felt safe...comfortable. His deep, resonant voice exudes a certain sense of serenity and after the interview was over, I felt no qualms about giving him a great, big hug.

Well, not long after the interview, Frank contacted me and invited me to dine at Brigtsen's as his guest. How could I refuse? The only reason I hadn't been was one that applies to many restaurants I have not yet frequented, Brigtsen's only serves dinner. Not only was I afraid that subdued lighting would prevent me from getting good food shots to truly represent his cuisine, I honestly didn't think I could afford it! I'd already been to Frank's other eatery, Charlie's Seafood in Harahan and knew I'd just swoon at Brigtsen's, but I had decided to save the visit for an my birthday. I was ecstatic, I no longer had to wait!

John and I walked over to the restaurant in the early evening, hoping to catch enough late afternoon light for good pictures. Frank's sweet wife Marna greeted us at the door like old friends and was a constant, reassuring presence in the dining room all evening long. After perusing the menu, we decided to try Brigtsen's summer prix fixe menu, three dishes for $33. John took one half and I took the other.

While munching on a loaf of freshly baked French bread, our first course arrived. John opted for the Marinated Shrimp Salad with a pile of fresh, bright guacamole surrounded by BBQ Corn Tortilla Chips on a bed of mixed lettuce with some sliced red peppers. He inhaled most of it, but not before I could get a bite that proved quite cooling and tasty. I didn't want to share my dish, a large cup of Crab & Corn Soup, rich and creamy with a large dollop of sweet crab on top.

With only a short break in between, our entrees arrived not long after they cleared the appetizer plates. John had a huge Stuffed Redfish sitting in a shrimp & crab bechamel sauce and topped with roasted mushrooms and served with a side of "Farmers' Market Ratatouille." I chose the Smoked Muscovy Duck with andouille cornbread, mashed sweet potatoes and a pepper jelly glaze. Both dishes were wonderful and we attempted to devour almost everything on our plates, but we were getting pretty full and had no desire to spoil our dessert. Although, we did fight over what was left of the andouille cornbread...

For dessert, John got the Lemon Ice Box Crème Brûlée with raspberries and I opted for the Banana Bread Pudding with pecan praline sauce. Both desserts were delicious, but it was a hot, summer evening and I have to admit, I appreciated the cooling, citrus sweetness of the crème brûlée over the heavy bread pudding.

We were seen off by Marna with as much warmth as when we arrived. Instead of visiting a restaurant, dining at Brigtsen's felt like I was visiting my Mom's house where the food is always fabulous and there's plenty of love to go around. I look forward to our next visit (to what felt like) home...

Brigtsen's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's time to meet Margaret

Over a year ago, I posted about a statue we found between Camp & Prytania when John and I made an unsuccessful attempt to buy a used car. The statue depicts Margaret Haughery, a great New Orleans philanthropist who dedicated her life to helping the poor, especially the lives of orphans. This sculpture, created by artist Alexander Doyle in 1884, was the first dedicated to a woman in the U.S.

Well, it seems that a local organization called The Monumental Task Committee is hosting a Margaret Haughery Meet & Greet fundraiser at the Margaret Gardens Inn on Sunday, August 19th where all proceeds go directly into the cleaning and restoration of the "Margaret" monument. The Irish House, Vega Tapas Cafe, and Rouses are among the many supporters who will be offering delicious food and drink for the event. Most importantly, attendees will get the opportunity to learn more about amazing Miss Margaret, "The Bread Woman of New Orleans," and how an Irish immigrant whose own familial loss inspired her to adopt a city.

Monday, August 6, 2012

House of the week: Cottage on Telemachus

Being a fan of Greek mythology, I love that a lot of the street names in New Orleans are gods, muses, heroes and titans. For example, this week's house is on Telemachus Street. Telemachus is the character we follow in the first four chapters of Homer's Odyssey. Telemachus is searching for his father Odysseus who's been gone since he left for Troy when Telemachus was just an infant. Searching...isn't that exactly what I'm doing?

Although I didn't find any Greek gods along the way, I did find this adorable, renovated cottage in Mid City.  The facade of the house doesn't give any clue to how awesome it is on the inside. There are bamboo floors, cool Craftsman-like architectural details, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a huge deck with a lushly landscaped backyard. Plus, the house is located right between two very cool bars, 12 Mile Limit and Finn McCool's Irish Pub, not to mention only a couple blocks from Mona's on Banks and only three blocks from Canal Street (streetcar & parade route).  Heck, it's even in walking distance of my chiropractor!

Seems like a steal listed at only $199,000...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Belated tale from Tales

Due to throwing my back out and some feminine issues you definitely don't want to hear about, I was not able to attend almost all of Tales of the Cocktail this year.  Strangely enough, it was going to be my very first year because I finally scored the media credentials to attend. Typical, right?

All whining aside, I was fortunate enough to spend one fabulous evening "living high on the hog" at my very first Spirited Dinner inside Coquette that was appropriately titled "Swigs & Pigs."

The masters of these ceremonies included Chef Michael Stoltzfus who created the snout-to-hoof menu, his pastry chef Zak Miller, 12 Mile Limit's owner and mixologist T. Cole Newton and Avenue Pub's owner and beer virtuoso Polly Watts...not to mention the rest of the excellent, attentive staff at Coquette.

Six delightfully pork-a-licious courses were perfectly paired wholly unique beer cocktails created specially for this memorable dinner that stretched a little over four hours. If the lighting was better that night, I would have regaled you with some serious porn and would have inflicted mouth-watering torture course by delirious course, but as it is, with my grainy cell phone pics, I'm just going to highlight my favorites.

From crispy pig ear to cracklins, I wasn't much worried about testing my offal limits until I read "pied au cochon" on the menu. I don't know about you, but pigs feet never appealed to me, especially when the only way I've seen them is packed into huge pickling jars...cloven hooves and all. As it turns out, my worries were completely unfounded and turned upside down. Chef Stoltzfus' interpretation was a decadent, yet delicate fried patty containing all the edible tastiness on a pig's foot, minus the hoof. Plus, to make you swoon a bit more, he served it with creamy medallions of foie gras torchon, pickled radish and a sweet slice of fig. It was easily my favorite course of the evening, although keep in mind, this was still only the best of the best.

As far as cocktails go, the one that delighted me the most was served with a different course. A plump sea scallop, blood sausage and Chanterelle mushrooms in a sweet corn sauce was accompanied by what I could easily dub my new "poison." Dewar's 12 Whiskey, Cocchi Vermouth, bitters and sherry vinegar were combined with a simple syrup made with an incredible ale that possibly has the longest name for beer I have ever heard. Created by Evil Twin Brewing in Denmark, Monk Suffers Serious Sugar Rush On Barbados certainly is a mouthful. I would drink this sweet, malty dark ale on it's own, but the cocktail that Newton created from it, dubbed "Rob Base," was spectacular.

Maybe Murphy will cut me a break for Tales 2013.

Monday, July 30, 2012

House of the week: Magnolia Mansion

Some dreams are so out of reach one might as well wish for the moon. This is one of those dreams. Likely one of the most stunning buildings on Prytania Street, the Magnolia Mansion has long been a popular B&B and a perfect setting for a romantic wedding. Well, now it's for sale!

This columned fantasy features a wrap-around porch, gorgeous bricked patio and stunning architectural details both inside and out. Originally known as the Harris-Maginnis House, this beauty was build in 1858 and designed by architect James H. Calrow (who also designed Anne Rice's former home on 1st Street). There are 13 bedrooms, 18 bathrooms and over 13,000 square feet of living space. You can get the low-down, including a large photo gallery, on this incredible property from the Magnolia Mansion website.

This vision is offered at the bargain basement price of only $2,850,000. I'm going to need a seriously wealthy sugar daddy to realize this dream...any takers?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Satsuma Dreamsicle

Everyone knows what a Dreamsicle tastes like...right? Just think back to when you were a snot-nosed kid, chasing down the ice cream truck (Hello!), loose change bouncing in your pocket, anxious and even a little nervous to place your order with the man in the truck window. You've only enough coins for one, but you know what your inevitable choice will be...a Dreamsicle.

You peel back the sticky paper revealing a frosty, orange popsicle and take that first deceiving bite through the cool orange crust, only to reveal more sherbet! It's the next bite that sends you into creamy vanilla bliss that soothes the sour citrus and at once, gives you the best of both worlds.

Well, New Orleans Ice Cream Co. has brought back those memories of youth tenfold with Satsuma Dreamsicle, a tangy combination of local satsumas with creamy vanilla bean ice cream. Well done, I say. Well done.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Humble lunch at HuckleBerry's Restaurant

More than Twain's well-beloved urchin, whenever I think of the word "Huckleberry" I can't help but be reminded of the movie Tombstone. Val Kilmer played the sexiest, gun-slinging "lunger" I'd ever seen and it's hard to erase something like that from a young woman's memory. All fantasies aside, I just couldn't get Doc Holiday out of my head as my friend Dani and I headed for HuckleBerry's Restaurant in Harahan.

We were running errands together, enjoying a girl's day out, and we happened to be in the area when I suggested we try the new Hickory Avenue restaurant recently opened by Henry Guste (the Guste family has owned/managed Antoine's since 1924). HuckleBerry's was intended to be a more casual eatery featuring classic New Orleans dishes at an affordable price. I believe they have succeeded...

Dani, who is an avid artichoke lover, implored that we start with the Artichoke Aioli appetizer, which turned out to be pretty much what it sounds like. A simple steamed artichoke was split, grilled and served with a garlicky aioli. It was tasty and between the two of us, we had no difficulty gobbling it up.

We had a rough time trying to decide on which entrees to try, but we finally settled on a choice and without too long a wait, they arrived. Dani chose the Hot Roast Beef French Fry Po-Boy, a super-sloppy 9 inches of beefy bliss on a soft Leidenheimer roll. I often find roast beef po-boys to be somewhat bland (except for a few choice favorites), but this was definitely not one of them. The meat was juicy, slathered in a rich, dark brown gravy and so tasty that I have to admit, I was a little jealous. 

I ordered what is touted on their site as a signature dish, the Oyster Burger. Plump oysters battered in cornmeal and deep fried topped a ground beef patty smothered in melted Swiss, all of which was sandwiched between a delightfully glossy brioche bun (Leidenheimer again, of course).  My sole, minor complaint is that the burger was too well-done for my taste, though I asked for it medium, making the beef a bit dry. Otherwise, a very tasty burger.

We both were stuffed, but I couldn't leave without trying dessert. We agreed to share a slice of Huck's Chilled Choco Cake and were not disappointed. Dense, moist and decadently rich, the cake was everything we hoped for drizzled with raspberry sauce. If anyone decides to lunch here soon and needs a sidekick, don't fret...I'll be your Huckleberry.

HuckleBerry's Restaurant on Urbanspoon