Friday, January 30, 2015

Overdue lunch at Willie Mae's Scotch House

A few months back, I made my first visit (with my good friend Dani) to Willie Mae's Scotch House. I know, you're thinking "What the heck took you so long?" Well? I really don't have any excuse. Suffice it to say, I finally made it.

Dani and I got there a bit early in the lunch hour, so instead of waiting in a long line (which was wrapped around the block when we finished), we were able to walk right in. Both of us were starving, but we knew what we wanted and ordered right away.

Since everyone and their brother's uncle has been telling me to try "America's Best Fried Chicken" at Willie Mae's, my choice seemed rather obvious. After a short wait (which seemed like forever because we both were so hungry), our dishes arrived. I got three pieces of chicken, a breast, thigh and wing. I feel like the last person on Earth to eat at Willie Mae's, but if you've never been, you should go knowing that they serve a wet-batter fried chicken that is greasy, spicy and oh-so munchable in that to-hell-with-my-arteries kind of way. You will feel full, need to wash your hands and face afterwards, and likely swallow a few antacids just to survive the rest of the day. But, don't get me wrong, it's definitely worth the agony.

Dani went an alternate route and ordered fried catfish with a side of mac & cheese and cooked peas. The fish was quite good, fried in a spiced-cornmeal batter and not a bit greasy. The creamy, Velveeta-tasting macaroni seemed like the perfect side, while the peas, unfortunately, needed a lot of help. They were definitely canned peas, which is so very old-school New Orleans. We also had a couple of cornbread muffins that were edible. I only wish they were hot when they hit the table.

We also got a slice of Strawberry Cheesecake to share which was good, but likely not made in-house. Do I sound spoiled? Snobbish? Well, it's highly likely I've just gotten so used to restaurants emphasizing "house-made" and "farm-to-table" that I expect everyone to follow suit. Doesn't matter really, because the chicken is where it's at and since Willie Mae's just moved into a second location mere blocks from my apartment, I can guarantee I'll be back for more.

Willie Mae's Scotch House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

House of the week: Fixer-upper on Banks Street

I always feel a little forlorn when I see a classic New Orleans home in a sad state of repair. Peeling paint, trailing ivy tearing up the siding, rusting wrought-iron ... all signs that either the homeowner couldn't afford to maintain the property or just didn't care. Sometimes, like with this particular house, the environs are dotted with unfortunately-ugly retail establishments and empty lots. It's depressing.

Recently listed, this house on Banks Street is not located in the best area. It's really close to busy Broad Street in a neighborhood that has seen better days, but the house is quite beautiful no matter how dilapidated it has become. There's excellent architectural details around the door, floor-to-ceiling windows, and sweet front porch. I bet the ceiling is at least 12 feet high and (hopefully) there are original hardwood floors inside. I really hope someone finds the time and the money to fix up this old beauty. I also hope they don't renovate out all of it's charm. It's listed at $180,000 for almost 2,000 square feet. Here's hoping there's someone out there who will love it as much as it deserves...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wolfing Waffles on Maple

“You should eat a waffle! You can't be sad if you eat a waffle!”  -Lauren Myracle

I wasn't sad, but I wanted a waffle, specifically a waffle from the groovy (pun intended), Waffles on Maple located on Maple Street (duh) featuring a distinctive waffle facade. A new friend and I met at the small wafflery (is that a word?) for lunch a few months back and quickly got happy.

Due to my every-widening ass, I'm not a huge fan of the restaurant's interior. It's a tiny place taken up mostly by the kitchen/counter and the only seats require one to perch upon a small stool while wolfing your waffle. If you've got posterior problems like mine, I highly suggest waiting for a warm day and sitting at one of the tables outside on the sidewalk.

Zuheily (my friend) and I ordered at the counter and perched on a stool to await our simple, yet fabulous fare. I mean, how hard is it to make a waffle? I've made tons at home on a Williams Sonoma Waffle Iron I bought for a relative long, long ago (she didn't want it ... go figure?). I've whipped up everything from Belgian to Chocolate Chip and topped them with honey, whipped cream, maple syrup and ice cream, but these ... these were waffles of a different color.

I ordered one of their daily specials, a cornbread waffle topped with a jalapeno-grit cake and smothered in melted cheddar cheese and sour cream. Talk about a carb attack! It was intensely filling and pretty tasty, though I'm not positive I'd order it again. It's more likely I'd order on the sweet side next time, likely something similar to Zuheily's dish, a Strawberry Shortcake waffle covered in a hot, strawberry sauce with huge chunks of strawberries and whipped cream cheese. Next time...

Waffles on Maple on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 22, 2015

House of the week: Greek revival cottage on Moss Street

If you're going to dream, might as well dream big, right? Or perhaps in this case, dream small. Before I confuse myself, and you, let me explain. While browsing my weekly torture (read: real estate) sites, I discovered this reclusive, little cottage in Mid-City.

Currently owned by famous artist Mario Villa, this three bedroom, two bath Greek revival cottage is another one of those "Oh don't I wish" type of homes. Little more than 1800 square feet, this Greek revival home is over two centuries old and is located smack on the Bayou St. John. Here, take a glimpse on Google maps what the view is like from the front door. The cottage features high ceilings, marble mantles, a double parlor, elaborate mouldings, columned front porch, floor to ceiling windows, hardwood floors, transoms, French doors, surprisingly modern bathrooms, textured walls and an overgrown "secret garden" in the back.

You have to look past all of the artistic "clutter" in this creative abode. It might not seem like it's worth $1,300,000, but if I had the money, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Insight at Asuka Sushi & Hibachi

A lot of folk claim there is one type of food that they know they could eat every day for the rest of their life. For me, that food was sushi. Since my first taste of salmon nigiri in a tiny, Japanese restaurant off 19th Avenue in San Francisco almost 20 years ago, I was hooked. My friends and I used to hit up Fuji Sukiyaki in San Mateo where we would literally gorge ourselves on the special rolls -- from a simple Crunchy Roll to a Dragon Roll and everything in between. (*Note: Remind me to tell you about the time my friend Wilson was dared into eating a huge wad of wasabi.)

When I came to New Orleans and met John, I took him out for his first taste of sushi and he loved it as much, if not more, than I did. It got to the point where if we ever went out for lunch or dinner, more often than not, we'd end up at a sushi joint.

A few months back, John and I realized that it had been months since we indulged in our favorite food, so we went out to try one of the newest Japanese restaurants in our area, Asuka Sushi & Hibachi.  You know that weird triangle between Short Street and Fern on Earhart Blvd., the one with a jeep that looks like it crash-landed into a fake palm tree? That's where you'll find Asuka, right in front of the Daiquiri Island Sports Bar. 

When we arrived, the restaurant was empty and kind of dark, but a server quickly came out from the kitchen and offered us a seat at one of the booths. We browsed the menu, ordered several items and sipped iced green tea while we waited.

Since we only ordered rolls and nigiri, everything came out at once. We got a Crazy Roll with tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado and masago (roe) in a soybean wrap and topped with eel sauce, and a Louisiana Roll (the whole thing was battered and fried) with tempura shrimp, snow crab, crawfish, avocado, masago and cream cheese topped with their own "special sauce." We also got a Crunchy Roll, a Tuna Avocado Roll and Tuna Tataki Nigiri.

Now don't get me wrong, all of the rolls were delicious and for people who love the big, extravagant, Westernized rolls, they were perfect. But, when it came down to it, John and I enjoyed the Tuna Tataki the most, just simple, seared tuna with green onion and ponzu sauce. Perhaps it was because our palates had developed since our last sushi extravaganza, but the big showy rolls no longer held any fascination for us. In fact, they all started to taste the same. 

In our subsequent sushi adventures, we've stuck to simple rolls (like tuna and avocado), nigiri and sashimi, enjoying them as much as we did the elaborate rolls. Why mess with a good thing? We have Asuka to thank for that revelation.

Asuka Sushi & Hibachi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 15, 2015

House of the week: Victorian on Congress Street

Because I simply can't help myself, I was browsing available real estate listings again. Regardless of my apparent lack of income, I still can't rip the hope from my heart that one day, before I die, I will enjoy a gorgeous, New Orleans home of my own.

This week's bout of self-flagellation let me to discover a drool-worthy property in Bywater. This 120-year-old Victorian Italianate was once a double, which I certainly wouldn't have objected to, but has been converted to a single. Luckily, quite a few of the classic details are intact like wainscoting, old fireplace mantles, floor-to-ceiling windows, pocket doors, heart pine hardwood floors and transoms. Not to mention some note-worthy details like a couple clawfoot tubs and a screened-in back porch.

As if all that were not enough, the house is less than three blocks from places like Elizabeth's, Pizza Delicious, Satsuma Cafe, Oxalis, Markey Park and the new Crescent Park. Wouldn't you buy this three bedroom, two bath, 1900 square foot dream listed for $389,000? I would ...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Feasting at the Fountain Lounge

Without a doubt, one of the greatest perks of being a food writer is getting invited to media dinners (or lunches, as the case may be). Granted, I tend to not take advantage of this particular perk very often and there are several reasons why. First, I don't feel it's fair to report on a meal where I was quite literally treated like royalty, something the average Joe is not likely to experience. Second, the whole encounter doesn't really feel like my own if I didn't pay for it. That being said, every once in a while on a whim, I will attend a lunch or dinner that will completely blow my socks off and my luncheon at the Fountain Lounge in the Roosevelt Hotel was exactly that.

Several months ago, my friend Lorin and I were invited to taste the creations of Chef Mark Marjorie at the Fountain Lounge and neither of us had the will to resist. After being seated in oh-so comfortable club chairs, we sat back and let the parade of good tastes begin. 

They started us off with a charcuterie plate, all made in-house of course, featuring thinly-sliced guanciale, citrus-cured strips of salmon and our favorite, foie gras torchon. We gobbled everything on toasted slices of French bread and gluten-free rice crisps. 

Next, we were served two Gulf oysters, one raw and the other char grilled, but both perfect in presentation and flavor. Then came the tuna tartare with grilled avocados, red pepper aioli and toasted nori (edible seaweed). 

Then, almost before we could take a breath, out comes something I had never tried before, a roasted marrow bone split in half, glistening and waiting patiently for me to discover the new-found pleasures contained therein. I was nervous at first, if you've ever seen roasted bone marrow, you'd understand. It looks like a slab of fat resting inside a bone when, in fact, it's likely one of the most decadent and delicious meat products I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was like a rich, delicious meat-butter that you can smear on bread, crackers or simply scarf by the spoonful. 

We also were treated to a pan-roasted sea scallop with fresh peas and pearl barley and a braised beef short rib with Jefferson Stout glace and fried oysters, Lorin and I enjoyed everything that passed through our lips, even the beautiful, hand-made truffles they offered us for dessert. This little media lunch that I wasn't even sure I'd attend turned out to be, hands down, one of the best meals I had in 2014. Sure hope 2015 is ready to top it!

Fountain Lounge on Urbanspoon