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

Monday, July 23, 2012

House of the week: Cottage on Joliet

There's another house for sale in my neighborhood, one that's not nearly as expensive, yet cool nonetheless. This cute, bright blue cottage on Joliet Street is not in what I'd call a "prime location," but it's certainly not terrible. It's three blocks to Palmer Park and less than 1/2 a block to Claiborne.

Realtors are dubbing it a Victorian and while I am not quite sure on that count, it still has some mighty cool architectural details; hardwood floors, transom front & back doors, bead board wainscoting in the living room, dining room and kitchen, high ceilings and exposed brick fireplaces. There's two bedrooms, two bathrooms and about 1200 square feet of living space, not to mention a nice sized, fenced backyard complete with hammock! This little beauty is actually in my price range, listed at only $179,000. Now to scrounge up a down payment...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hedging my bets at La Petite Grocery

I've whined about this before, but sometimes it's a real pain in the ass taking a risk and trying a new restaurant. Sure, it could easily be fabulous and I could find a new favorite, but it could also just as easily be awful and sometimes, just once in a while, I like to play it safe.

There are those select restaurants in town that I'm positive will be delicious, regardless of what I order or what time I come, and La Petite Grocery is definitely one of them. John and I headed over there for lunch a few days ago and, as always, we were not disappointed. We ordered a bunch of different dishes to share and sat chatting and watching the traffic ooze by on Magazine Street while we waited.

The first to arrive was a salad of sorts where thinly sliced discs of chilled, roasted beets were topped with a healthy portion of blue crab in a horseradish "emulsion" (think mayonnaise) and pickled red onions. It was so cooling and creamy, I gobbled half of it and then traded plates with John. I looked longingly at the remaining crab salad as he started to dig in, but then was distracted by the plate he slid in front of me.

The second appetizer featured thick slices of grilled peaches along with a nice slab of pork belly garnished with a sprig of fresh basil. Not only was it gorgeous -- thick lines of char striping the sweet, orange peaches and a glossy, reddish glaze on the pork belly -- it tasted wonderful. The peaches were ripe and sweet, bursting with juiciness and the rich, fatty pork belly was a delightful contrast. 

We also ordered a side of Baked Blue Crab that arrived before our entree. I suppose it seemed an odd accompaniment to the po-boy we decided to share, so the server brought it out beforehand. He offered to bring some more rolls, considering the ones we were served at the outset had magically disappeared, but we managed quite well without them. Normally, I am not the type of person to enjoy hot seafood and cheese concoctions, but this knocked my socks off. Served like a gratin with crispy breadcrumb top, this dish of blue crab and brie was good enough to lick off the plate. Who needs bread when you possess no etiquette?

Just as we were sluicing out the last creamy bits with our fingers, they brought our our Pork Cheek Po-Boy dressed with pickled red onion and purple cabbage slaw. Tender and juicy, the meat was perfectly complimented by the slaw, but the bread was another issue. I took one bite and the bread was so toasted and crusty all the way through, that I thought I might cut my mouth to ribbons if I kept trying to eat it. It wasn't that much of a problem, though. I just ate around it, including the huge pile of hand-cut fries served on the side.

Once again, John fruitlessly tried to fight me on ordering dessert, but I would not be intimidated. I ordered the Toffee Chocolate Tart and, as always, John matched my ardor to the very last bite. The tart was mostly dense, dark chocolate with a crumbly, buttery, shortbread crust topped by a large dollop of coconut whipped cream and sprinkles and smears of toffee decorating the rest of the plate.

What can I say? Hedging your bets almost always pans out!

La Petite Grocery on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 16, 2012

Screaming for New Orleans Ice Cream: Hubig's Apple Pie

I thought I'd brighten this Monday, add a little sunshine after several days of rain (and more to come) with ice cream! Monday is as good a day as any to eat ice cream, perhaps even better than most because for me, it's a day that always can do with an extra dose of oomph.


Possibly one of the best combinations since Captain & Tennille or Kermit & Miss Piggy, New Orleans Ice Cream Company & Hubig's Pies have teamed up to offer us Hubig's Apple Pie ice cream. It is a truly harmonious marriage of decadent, creamy vanilla bean ice cream and chunks of sweet, fried apple pie. After gobbling my pint, I was only disappointed by the quantity of Hubig's Pies in the mix...I wanted more! New Orleans Ice Cream Company owner Adrian Simpson agrees and plans kick it up for future batches. Happy Monday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Stayin' dry at Juicy Lucy's

Gimmicks don't appeal to me at all...well...most of the time. I mean, we've all fallen for the con at least once in our lives. Hell, in my naivete I bought a set of tile cleaning products "as seen on TV" that claimed almost miraculous restoration to 50-year-old grout. The only cleaning occurred when a few of my brain cells were erased from the toxic fumes. I've never seen a gimmick work like it claimed...not once, but I still fall for them from time to time.

Last week I convinced John to try Juicy Lucy's, the fairly new hamburger joint on N. Carrollton Ave. I'd tried a stuffed hamburger (that was also deep fried) before at the now-shuttered McGuire's Sports Bar in the Warehouse District, but it was only a fair experience. Yet here was a shop that was wholly devoted to the stuffed-burger phenomenon, a place that had likely perfected the technique. Plus, they had already opened a second location in Metairie, so they must be doing something right...right?

We chose to sit out front and watched the traffic roll by on Canal Street while we sipped on LA-31 Bière Pâle's poured into chilled, thick glass goblets. It threatened to rain, but the overcast sky was perfect for picture-taking, so we decided to risk it. Our appetizer of fried mushrooms came out before we finished half of our beers. They were hot, crispy and quite juicy, only slightly cooled by the spicy, signature "Juicy" sauce. Simple but tasty, we gobbled them down just as our burgers arrived.

John ordered the "Juicy Mid City" stuffed with sharp cheddar cheese and applewood smoked bacon and a large serving of French fries on the side. I opted for the "Juicy of the Day" which turned out to be a "True Brees" stuffed with mac & cheese and applewood bacon. Instead of fries, I opted for the onion rings. Truth be told, both burgers were rather dry (I prefer mine medium) and the bacon in both of ours was not cooked all the way and kind of rubbery. The onion rings were beautifully thick and crisply fried, but whomever seasoned the batter got a bit slap-happy with the salt. I love salt, but those rings were just too much for me.

We were going to attempt dessert, but our server (who I thought might be an owner), said all they offered was a brownie that wasn't very good, "I ain't gonna serve you that" he stated resolutely. Well, I'd go back for the mushrooms and might chance the onion rings again, but there are too many other great burger joints in this town to settle for one that's just so-so. If only Lucy was Juicier...

Juicy Lucy's on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 9, 2012

The littlest library...

During the hottest part of the day, I found myself strolling carefully through my neighborhood on an errand that couldn't wait. It seemed like I was the only person alive wandering about outside. Everything was very still, even the birds were too hot to sing, and the only sign of life were buzzing insects hovering over wilting flowers and the constant chug of air-conditioning units battling against the oppressive heat.

Busy watching my feet while traversing a tricky patch of old, cobble stone sidewalk on Dante Street, I was slow to see this small, wooden cabinet rear up till I was almost upon it. Surrounded by ivy, this Little Free Library urged me to "take a book and return a book" and when my eyes ran over some cherished Edward Eager titles, I was tempted to accept the offer.

Standing there in the sweltering sun staring at the small, simple hutch, it came to me why I struggle with the digital revolution, especially when it comes to books. I already recognized I would miss the musty smell and the feel of the pages between my fingertips. But what I realized is that with Kindles and Nooks, we may be able to store thousands of works for oh-so-much convenience to those who could afford such devices, but we will no longer be able to share them...and wouldn't that be a pity? The words would no longer be free.

Monday, July 2, 2012

House of the week: Victorian on Zimpel

"So near, but yet so far." It's a perfect analogy for this week's house...not to mention my whole housing dilemma. Hundreds of gorgeous homes all around me, yet they are all out of my reach.


Anyhow, just a skip away down Zimpel, I found this beautiful Victorian for sale and snapped a picture with my phone, so I could do a bit of research before I shared it with all of you. Built over a century ago, this house features a free-standing fireplace that separates the two front parlors, high ceilings, crown moulding, cypress doors, and pine floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and (of course) transoms. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a brick courtyard with a cute fountain in the backyard and it's in my neighborhood, one I rave about on a regular basis.  Best part? The house is listed at only $310,000...