Wednesday, April 29, 2015

House of the week: Shotgun on Flood Street

Depression has set in and I can't avoid it. Unless I suddenly write a bestselling novel, win the lotto or have a rich relative die and leave me a fat inheritance, there is no way in hell I'll ever be able to afford a house in New Orleans.

Regardless of this fact, I still have this awful habit of continued self-flagellation, scanning the real estate listings only to watch another dream house go to someone who (I imagine) will appreciate it far less that I would. Jerks. During my latest bout of torment, I happened upon another awesome house that will likely be sold to some cretin who will use it as a vacation home or some such nonsense. Gee, do I sound bitter?

While the irony of fawning over a house on Flood Street in the Holy Cross (Lower 9th Ward) is not lost on me, it still fails to dampen my ardor (har-har). Here we have a two bedroom, two bathroom single shotgun house replete with original hardwood floors, towering bead board ceilings, transoms, fireplace mantles, claw foot tub and a nice front porch that faces the levee. Bye, bye beauty! You're bound to disappear within days of my post, especially since you're listed at the low, low price of only $200,000. Unfortunately, it's still not low enough for me.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lunch at The Munch Factory

Several months back when I was still entertaining the idea of actually purchasing a house in Gentilly, I met my realtor (and awesome new friend!) Zuheily for lunch at The Munch Factory. Cruising around the area, it seems to me that Gentilly still has a long way to go before it competes (in a culinary capacity) with other New Orleans neighborhoods, but there are certainly a few gems worth visiting.

Located on Elysian Fields Avenue, less than two blocks from the University of New Orleans campus, The Munch Factory is a fairly new eatery (opened in 2011) headed up by talented chef Jordan Ruiz. When Zuheily and I walked in for an early lunch that day back in November, I was expecting Creole comfort food with a twist and that's exactly what we got.

We started with Shrimp Remoulade served atop several slices of fried green tomato. The dish was as delicious as any "fine dining" plate of remoulade I've ever tasted. The shrimp popped and the tomatoes were crisp, tart and not the slightest bit greasy. I also had to sample a bowl of their soup of the day, which turned out to be a creamy potato leek topped with a little shredded cheddar and a few croutons.

For our entrees, Zuheily and I shared out an Ultimate Grilled Cheese and a Hot Sausage Patty Melt. Both sandwiches were pressed on Cuban bread, both were oozing cheese and both were served with their signature "Elysian Peels" which are essentially well-seasoned, baked potato skins. Though we gobbled as much as we could, we still ended up taking some home because the portions were incredibly generous.

Dessert is almost always a given on my lunch outings, so naturally, Zuheily and I shared a slice of Tres Leches cake. Though the flavor was nice, it was much drier than I expected which kind of bummed me out, but the rest of our lunch more than merited a return visit. Especially since I've heard so much about the herb chicken he serves at dinner ...

Munch Factory on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

House of the week: Condo on Napoleon Avenue

My boyfriend John won't even entertain the idea of buying a condo. When I find a cute half double or a cool apartment in an old home spilling over with character and history, John will completely write it off if there's a mere mention of the "c" word. But, I do believe that if this particular condo was anywhere near our price range, he'd swiftly change his mind.

Located inside a stunning building that long ago served as St. Elizabeth's, an orphanage in the 1860's (previously owned by famous author Anne Rice), this particular unit appears to be centered in what was, at one point, a chapel. We're talking 24-ft ceilings, awe-inspiring stained glass windows, 3 bedroom, 5 bathroom, 5,000 square feet of reverent wonder. I mean, just look at this place! There's a freaking theater upstairs! For the first time on this fantasy house-hunt of mine, I am at a loss for words. 

Who lives in places like this? Listed at a paltry $4,950,000, I'm sure it will never be me. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

25 Scrumptious Things to Eat In New Orleans That Aren't Po-Boys

I'm not on a mission to offend fellow writers or popular publications, but I have a problem with "listicles." Instead of well-crafted, thought-provoking articles, it seems theses days, most of what people read are just lists. No one cares how long it takes to construct the perfect sentence or pull together a piece that both educates and entertains. Very few people even take the time to read at all, let alone a full, 1000-word piece on the value of honey. There's just too much information out there, too much to absorb and too little time. Listicles tend to be what my boyfriend calls "click bait" whose sole purpose is to get more clicks, which in turn translates to more page views, which in turn translates to more advertising dollars.

Also, it seems to be what "readers" these days want and who am I to argue?

In an effort to pull my nose out of the clouds and get with the program, I've decided to try my own "listicle." Let me know what you think ...

In an unabashed imitation of a Buzzfeed article I saw the other day, here are my "25 Scrumptious Things To Eat In New Orleans That Aren't Po-Boys."

1. Cake Donuts from Blue Dot Donuts

With shops in both Mid-City and Uptown, this retired-police-officer-owned donut shop doesn't mess around. Although some might be all about their specialty donuts (Boston Cream Pie, Red Velvet etc.) their blueberry glazed cake donuts rock my world.

2. All Meat & All Sides from McClure's Barbecue

New Orleans, for a long time, was not a great town for BBQ, but in the years since the levee failure, 'cue restaurants have been popping up all over town, including McClure's on Magazine Street where you  and a friend can feast on ribs, pulled pork, sausages, smoked chicken and delicious sides for $32.

3. Vermicelli Bowl from Ba Chi Canteen

Loaded with BBQ roast pork, egg rolls, fresh veggies and rice noodles, you could do a whole lot worse for lunch! Plus, Ba Chi's crispy pork egg rolls are second to none.

4. Steak Tartare from La Petite Grocery

I can almost hear people turning up their nose and scoffing at this particular dish. Hey, you know what? If you've never tried steak tartare, you don't know what you're missing. If you have, and enjoy it, you shouldn't miss this particular version.

5. Truffled Manchengo Cheese Grits from Green Goddess

Buttery, cheesy deliciousness for a mere $5. Need I say more/

6.  House Ramen Bowl from Noodle & Pie 

Shoyu chicken broth, slow cooked pork shoulder, soft egg, greens, mushrooms and shredded nori make up this big bowl of comfort, but don't forget ... there's also great pie.

7. Whole Grilled Fish from Peche

Although the type of fish and added ingredients vary from season to season, you can't go wrong with this whole grilled fish from Peche. Yes, it can be pricey, but believe you me, there'll be nothing left but bones because you'll want to inhale every last bit.

8. Mississippi Lamb Meat Pies from Oak

This swanky, Uptown wine bar offers a great wine list, creative cocktails, live music and some incredibly tasty vittles like these Mississippi Lamb Meat Pies that they serve with Crystal Hot Sauce yogurt for dipping.

9. Ham & Gruyere Quiche from Toast 

Never in my life have I experienced a creamier, fluffier or more flavorful quiche (and I have been known to make quite a few of my own). Chef Cara Benson is a freaking magician.

10. "Loaded" Guacamole from Del Fuego Taqueria

As if fresh, bright guacamole wasn't enough, the folks at Del Fuego have taken it upon themselves to stuff you silly with the addition of chicharrones (a.k.a. cracklins), tomatoes, pickled onion, queso cotija, roasted poblanos, pumpkin seeds, bacon (because the cracklins weren't enough pork) and pickled jalapeno.

11. Cheeseburger from trūburger

A Chef Aaron Burgau creation, trūburger on Oak Street offers 100% Creekstone Angus Beef burgers, ground in-house and grilled to order. They also make swoon-worthy, hand-dipped corn dogs using Zweigle's franks. 

12. Double-Cut Pork Chop from Toups' Meatery

Not only is this pork chop perfectly cooked and drizzled with a cane syrup gastrique, it's served with the best dirty rice in New Orleans. Chef Isaac Toups is the meat "master" and his super-sweet wife Amanda makes everyone feel like they're family.

13. Mechada from Mais Arepas

Although there's lots of great dishes on the menu at Mais Arepas, a Latin-American restaurant in Central City, I can't help but order the Mechada almost exclusively. Slow cooked skirt steak, sofrito, maduros (fried plantains) and melted mozzarella are stuffed into a thick arepas (corn tortilla) and served with crispy plantain chips. Every time I think about this dish, I have an irresistible urge to return.

14. Crispy Chicken Wings from MoPho

They're just wings, no big deal ... right? Wrong! It's all about the spicy/sweet sauce with accents of lemongrass and ginger. It's "mopho-ing" awesome.

15. Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake with Peanut Brittle Ice Cream from Herbsaint 

It's hard to pick just one dish from Donald Link's flagship restaurant Herbsaint, but this one never fails to impress, especially when the warm pudding oozes out after your first forkful. 

16. Shrimp BLT Wrap from GG's Dine-O-Rama

Whether the name is GG's Dine-O-Rama or Gott Gourmet, this particular eatery has an abundance of great food. One of my favorites is the Shrimp BLT Wrap with sauteed gulf shrimp, fresh mozzarella, Nueske’s apple smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, avocado, roasted tomatoes, chili mayo and chipotle cream cheese. 

17. Mazorca from Baru Bistro & Tapas

An excellent spot to dine al fresco, Baru offers an array of Latin and Caribbean cuisine. One of the local favorites (and a dish they simply can't erase from the menu) is the Mazorca with roasted corn, salao cheese, "pink sauce," and crispy potato sticks. It's hard not to shovel this in your mouth at one go.

18. Gulf Fish Almondine from Patois

Every dish is wondrous at Patois, one of my all-time favorite restaurants, but this one certainly stands out and seeing it hasn't changed a whole lot since it first appeared on the menu years ago, it seems I'm not the only one who's in love. Using whatever is fresh (and appropriate) from the Gulf, this fish is breaded, pan-fried and served with roasted potato gallettes, buttered green beans and drizzled with a citrus meuniere. 

19. Raisin Cinnamon Bun from Gracious Bakery

Baker and co-owner Megan Foreman will blow you away with her amazing pastries and breads, made from only the finest ingredients. Anyone would be the envy of the workplace if they walked in one morning munching on this gorgeous cinnamon bun and sipping on French Truck Coffee

20. Bacon-Wrapped Prawns from Salu

Mammoth Gulf shrimp wrapped in bacon and served in a garlic beurre monté (emulsified butter) ... there's just something wrong with you if the mere idea of this dish doesn't make you salivate. Go see a doctor or just go to Salu.

21. Kurobuta Pork Belly from Three Muses 

Since it's inception, Three Muses (and Chef Daniel Esses) have been serving this dish and it is still one of their most popular items. Sit back, enjoy the music and dive into beer-braised pork belly served on scallion pancakes and topped with apple chutney. 

22. Crispy Hen from Mint Modern Bistro & Bar

Spicy, sweet and just downright delicious, the crispy hen at Mint is worthy of a return visit. Not to mention that you get the hen (and everything else pictured) for a mere $8.50. It's lunchtime!

23. Blackened Shrimp & Grit Cake from Boucherie

In a twist on the traditional Southern dish of shrimp and grits, Chef Nathaniel Zimet offers this stunning dish of blackened shrimp and blackened grit cakes in a warm, house-cured bacon vinaigrette.

24.  Tacos Al Pastor from Cowbell 

Chef Brack May not only offers a fabulous, grass-fed beef burger at Cowbell, he never fails to show off his native-Californian love for Mexican cuisine. Case in point, his sinful Tacos Al Pastor with achiote-rubbed pork, queso fresco, arroz verde, black beans, charred pineapple salsa and corn tortillas.

25. Blueberry Muffin from Maple Street Patisserie

Pastry chef and co-owner Ziggy Cichowski never fails to dazzle, showing off his extensive skill in bread-making and pastry crafting at Maple Street Patisserie. I mean, just look at this blueberry muffin! It's almost as big as my head, but certainly not bigger than my stomach!

*P.S. This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible food to be had in our beloved Crescent City.

*P.S.S. I was going to do 35 dishes (like the Buzzfeed article), but I got lazy.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Alfresco lunch at Pho Cam Ly

A few months back, my buddy Anne and I enjoyed lunch at Pho Cam Ly on Magazine Street. Over the years, I've eaten a lot of pho at a lot of different Vietnamese restaurants but there are always a few that can't help but stand out. Pho Cam Ly is on that list.


So many reasons! First, Anne and I arrived right after the lunch rush at noon and were able to score a seat on the porch of their gorgeous sidehall-turned-restaurant. After perusing the menu, Anne and I ordered a veritable Vietnamese feast, and settled to sipping sodas and gabbing till our lunch arrived.  

We started with an appetizer of steamed buns (banh gap) stuffed with grilled pork, fresh cilantro and pickled carrots that was flavorful and plentiful, seeing as you got three large buns for only $5.50.  We also ordered the fried egg rolls that were crispy, meaty and pretty much gone about as quickly as you can say "cha gio." 

In short order, our soups arrived. I chose the pho tai with raw eye of round which was huge, even though it was a regular-sized order. The broth had that wondrously delicious depth present in any great pho, the beef and noodles were tender and plentiful, and the price was happy dance-worthy at only $6.75. I can't recall if Anne got the pho chin with brisket or the pho bo vien with beef meatballs, but I do recall her devouring it almost as quickly as I did. 

Overall, it was a satisfying, traditional Vietnamese lunch savored at a surprisingly stellar price, and who could say no to that? Certainly not I...

Pho Cam Ly on Urbanspoon