Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sunday Funday

Before my boyfriend and I made the big move to the Big Easy, I constructed a list of all the things I wanted to do during our first year living in NOLA. Things like "Take a walk in Audubon park", "Eat a po-boy", and "See at movie at Prytania Theater" were crossed off the list quickly, but there are some that we still haven't gotten around to doing. With May 31st quickly approaching, I look at every day off work as an opportunity to complete something on the list.

Sunday just so happened to be an absolutely gorgeous day, so we decided to grab an early breakfast and then spend the afternoon at the Riverwalk, which I hadn't been to since before Katrina. I knew I would want to reminisce about going to the Riverwalk with my family as a kid, so instead of going to my favorite childhood breakfast joint (written about here), I wanted to commemorate the day by eating somewhere different. And nothing is as fun and different as Surrey's on Magazine Street. Their menu is quite extensive, offering everything from Scrambled Eggs with Salmon and the Tofu Breakfast Platter to Bananas Foster French Toast, Corned Beef Hash, and Biscuits with Sausage Gravy. They also have fresh squeezed vegetable and fruit juices that you can mix to make your own delicious and healthy concoction.

I have been to Surrey's a few times and seem to be pretty fond of the Migas, which are scrambled eggs with red onion, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese folded into corn tortilla chips, then topped with pico de gallo. And while I tend to sway towards breakfast dishes with eggs and veggies, instead of those covered in syrup, I have tried Surrey's Pain Perdu (french toast) and it tastes just as good as my dad's, if not better.

After filling up on eggs, boudin, cheese grits, and biscuits we went for our promised walk along the muddy Mississippi and shopped in some of the stores. The Riverwalk certainly isn't as great as it used to be, but it's always fun going to the places you loved so much as a kid and reliving those moments.

Eggs benedict with creamed spinach

The Migas with chorizo and cheese grits

Monday, March 29, 2010

BBQ Shrimp Done Right

So I'm sure that most of you remember a not-so-nice piece I wrote about Slice a few weeks ago. Well, not too long after I had my terrible barbecue shrimp po-boy there, I made a point to go somewhere in the city and have the real thing. The "real thing" being authentic New Orleans style barbecue shrimp. After all, some classic New Orleans dishes just cannot be replicated. You either shell out the cash for the real deal or pay little money for big disappointment.

The good news is that there are many places in the city to get great barbecue shrimp. You can go to Pascal's Manale, located Uptown on Napoleon Avenue; or take a walk off Canal Street to Deanie's Seafood, located on the corner of Dauphine and Iberville in the French Quarter. Deanie's offers barbecue shrimp for a reasonable price (under $20) and they also have a barbecue shrimp pasta dish with peeled shrimp (for those of you who don't like working too hard for your food). But my personal favorite place to get these tasty critters would have to be Mr. B's Bistro, located on Royal Street in the French Quarter. At $24.50 (for eight shrimp), their shrimp dish is one of the more expensive ones, but worth every penny. Pascal's Manale's shrimp are also around $24, and while they are very good, I found that their sauce was a tad too oily for my liking. Mr. B's, however, has this recipe perfected. The shrimp are large, easy to peel, and perfectly cooked. Their sauce is a beautiful blend of butter, pepper, spices, and lemon that creates a tangy and savory combination you will never forget.

Barbecue shrimp is a quintessential New Orleans dish, so if you're visiting the city you definitely don't want to miss out on the opportunity to try it. Just please don't be tempted by hole-in-the-wall places claiming to have "the original" or "the best" in the city. My advice? Go to Mr. B's and grab a seat at the bar, order a drink and the barbecue shrimp, say "yes" to the bib, and then go to town on one of the best seafood dishes this city has to offer. In that order... and you can thank me later.

Baby spinach and goat cheese salad: Baby spinach tossed with a warm bacon vinaigrette and topped with a goat cheese medallion... and it's not served on a Styrofoam plate.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Do The Hokey Poke

I'm a huge dork when it comes to going out to eat. I love the entire process of choosing a time, getting ready, and reading the restaurant's online menu (if available) in order to pick out what I want ahead of time. But what makes me even happier is when I don't have to get into a car and drive to my destination. For me, there's something so much more appealing about walking to a restaurant rather than driving to it. That's what I love about my boyfriend's neighborhood. From his apartment we can walk to four or more great restaurants, including here and here, and well, I just love that.

The weather has been perfect for restaurant walking the past couple of weeks, and we have taken full advantage of the opportunity to burn a few calories before and after meals, while breathing in some fresh springtime air. Kyoto Japanese restaurant on Prytania has been the choice this week because it's healthy and because they're the only place that has the famous Poke Salad. This salad (pictured above) is only $10 and it's basically a squid salad, seaweed salad, and cucumber salad all mixed together with fresh tuna, salmon, avocado, crabstick and asparagus in a spicy chili dressing. It is amazing, and because of the amount of food you get for the price, it's a favorite amongst many Kyoto regulars. I like to have mine as my whole meal, with just a miso or clear soup to start.

Soft-shell crab roll with Fresh Salmon sushi

Taco Salad: tuna, fresh salmon, whitefish, white tuna, shrimp, crabstick, sour cream, margarita sauce, and smelt roe served in a fried spring roll shell

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Evening with the Chefs

When I returned from Jackson on Sunday I was lucky enough to get a free ticket (thanks cousin!) to attend the Chefs for Louisiana Cookery: A Friends of James Beard Benefit at the Kingsley House in the Irish Channel. The tickets were valued at $100 and allowed you to sample the creations of some of New Orleans' most prestigious chefs, sip on wonderful wines, beer, and other spirits, and enjoy some live music from Alex McMurray and Papa Grows Funk. The weather was miserably overcast, windy, and chilly, but that didn't put a damper on anyone's fun. The chefs managed to keep the food hot, the drinks continued to flow, and the band had everyone tapping their feet.

Everything I ate was pretty much "the bomb-dot-com", but my favorite items are as follows: Herbsaint's Pig Roast with Louisiana Citrus; Best Chef Nominee Scott Boswell's P&J Oysters on the Half-Shell with Louisiana Mirliton, Citrus Granita & Bowfish Caviar; Dante's Kitchen's Louisiana Pork Roast with Perique Farms Root Vegetable Gratin & Gin au Jus; Crabby Jack's Slow-Roasted Duck Po-Boy; Emeril's Grilled Gulf Oysters; and last but never least, Susan Spicer's Rabbit Confit Cake with a Fried Quail Egg. The caviar was incredibly fresh and buttery, adding a lovely element when paired with the salty-sea taste of the oysters and the tang from the citrus granita. The slow-roasted duck po-boy has me wondering if fried shrimp could ever satisfy me again. And proof that heaven exists lies in the combination of quail egg and rabbit confit cake. It was butter, it was egg, it was savory rabbit meat, it was spices, it was all put together in a cute little presentation. It was a shame I only ate two of them...

The James Beard Foundation is dedicated to honoring all who are passionate about the food and beverage industry. From the design of a restaurant all the way to the food presentation on the plate, this foundation praises all who are dedicated to making each and every meal special. Please visit their website to read about how to become a member, scroll through the 2010 nominees, and search through some delicious recipes. But first check out all the awesome stuff I ate!

Caviar station display

Chefs Tory McPhail & Chris Lusk of Commander's Palace & Cafe Adelaide: Alligator grillades & grits and alligator sausage

Amazing hot boiled seafood with artichokes

Chef Scott Boswell's oysters on the half-shell with Bowfish caviar and citrus granita

Chef Eman Loubier's Louisiana Pork Roast with Perique Farms Root Vegetable Gratin & Gin au Jus...sorry there's not a plating picture, I devoured it...quickly

The coming together of my Herbsaint Pig Roast with Louisiana Citrus

Chef Susan Spicer handing off some deliciousness

The delectible rabbit confit cake with fried quail egg

Rice fritter, creme brulee, and Steen's cane syrup ice cream

Sucre's Ponchatoula Strawberry and Lemon Verbena Soda

Sucre's Citrus Creole Cream Cheese and Pecan Feuillette

Chef John Besh's white chocolate was for sale, so I didn't get to taste it :(

M Bistro's Rabbit and Andouille En Croute with Pickled Vegetable Salad & Creamy Tabasco Mustard Sauce

M Bistro's sweet potato tart

Monday, March 22, 2010

Look Out Jackson Town...

It's hard to believe that at the end of May it will mark the 1 year anniversary of my moving back to New Orleans. I must admit, however, that after living in Jackson for only four years, it still feels somewhat like home. We left Thursday evening and headed three hours North to spend the weekend catching up with college friends, eating at some of our favorite restaurants, and reflecting on our former life there. Here are some pictures from my weekend spent in Jackson, Mississippi... my other home.

On Friday morning I had to take a trip to Cups, the local coffeehouse, and order a skinny vanilla latte

Cool painted tables at Cups

Breakfast in the sun: a egg, bacon, and cheese burrito with a side of cheese grits at Broad Street

After an afternoon full of shopping, we worked up an appetite and had dinner here

BBQ Oysters with Warm Brie and Apple Slaw at Walker's

Kermit the Frog at the St. Patrick's Day Parade

A fried chicken sandwich from Rooster's after the parade

Friday, March 19, 2010

Say Cheese!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to grab lunch with a friend that I don't get to see very often. So I wanted to make sure we went somewhere with great food and an atmosphere that catered to conversation. St. James Cheese Co., located on Prytania Street is one of my favorite Uptown sandwich and salad places (in addition to here). Their impressive selection of artisan cheeses, cured meats, pates, and pantry items such as crackers, compotes and jams make this Uptown fromagerie a local favorite. They even have cheese boards, cutlery, and anything else you might need for your party or picnic.

We grabbed a table for two by the window and enjoyed tea, sandwiches, salad, and chips while catching up on each others' lives. I loved sharing good news and good food with a great friend.

PS: I am in Jackson, Mississippi for the weekend to visit old friends, attend the St. Patrick's Day parade, and patron some of my favorite Jackson restaurants. Stay tuned next week to read about my weekend festivities.

Check out the St. James Cheese Co. website to read their full menu and about their weekly classes

Mozzarella, Fra Mani salami, and basil pesto grilled on ciabatta.

Beecher's Cheddar: Smoked turkey, fresh basil, avocado, and tomato on ciabatta.

Beautiful cheese selection

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Slice Pizzeria

Contrary to popular belief, there actually is something worse than bad food; and nothing puts a worse taste in your mouth than over-priced bad food. I have fallen victim to over-priced bad food many times in my life and rarely ever give the culprits second chances to prove themselves. Disappoint me once, shame on you, disappoint me twice, shame on me.

Well, it pains my heart (and my wallet) to say that I have been disappointed twice. While Slice pizzeria on Magazine claims to have excellent pizza, subs, salads and more, I found them to be pretty lacking in every category. Their food isn't exactly over-priced, but when you're shelling out 40 bucks on a dinner for two that wasn't the least bit enjoyable, it's a bit upsetting.

My boyfriend and I went to Slice for the first time during the Saints football season and the place was packed, which we took as a good sign. I ordered a small spinach salad which came with raw spinach, mushrooms, red onion, pine nuts, tomatoes, pepperoni bacon, and a Gorgonzola crostini. Forget the fact that the crostini was burned, forget that there wasn't enough dressing on the salad so the spinach was dry, and let's concentrate on the fact that my salad was served to me on a Styrofoam plate. Ever stabbed at raw spinach on a Styrofoam plate with a metal fork? Like nails on a chalkboard...

We couldn't agree on which whole pizza to get, so we decided to order individual slices. I ordered a slice of the "Fresh", which is basically their version of margherita, and a slice of the "Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, and Arugula". Both slices of pizza seemed very dry, as if they had been sitting out long enough for the cheese to harden, then re-heated and served. Tough and chewy are not the words I often look for when describing my pizza.

A few weeks ago we went back hoping to prove to ourselves that first impressions aren't everything. And after hearing someone rave about their barbecue shrimp poboy, I decided to give it a shot. My boyfriend followed suit and ordered the meatball sub. How do I say this nicely? The barbecue shrimp poboy boasted 7 shrimp and a sauce that was so salty I'm pretty sure the Dead Sea would have been jealous. Maybe it was the combination of the garlic butter on the bread and the already salty sauce from the shrimp... either way, it wasn't working for me. In my opinion, a great BBQ shrimp poboy shouldn't need buttered garlic bread to make it noteworthy. My boyfriend's meatball sub may have been worse than the poboy... The "homemade" meatballs were mushy and I honestly couldn't even tell what kind of meat they were made from. I'm going to be way harsh and compare them to canned dog food. Yeah, I went there.

While It's certainly not my goal to be this mean when reviewing restaurants, Slice leaves me with no other choice. I can only hope that their whole pizzas are made fresh to order and are better than anything we had during our two visits. But it's going to take a lot of convincing and someone else footing the bill in order to get me to go back to this pizzeria.

BBQ Shrimp Poboy - I must admit that my Abita Strawberry beer was delicious :)

Meatball sub

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fish Tacos

I think most people would agree with me when I say that there is a point in everyone's week/month/year when nothing else will satisfy their taste buds except for some good ole Mexican food. It's quick, easy to order, fills you up, and best of all, it's usually pretty cheap. Blame my love for Mexican food on the use of ripe tomatoes, smoky cumin, fresh cilantro, colorful peppers, and, of course, gooey melted cheeses.

But it's not the popular menu items, such as enchiladas, burritos, flautas, or even nachos, that keep bringing me back for more. For me, fish tacos are the most appealing menu item. I had my first one about a year ago, and have been hooked ever since. Who wouldn't want a piece of lightly fried (or grilled) fish, topped with fresh herbs, salsas and veggies, wrapped in a flour or corn tortilla? Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Since moving back to New Orleans last year, I have endeavored to find the city's best fish taco. It's a little too soon to completely call off the search; but in the meantime, Taqueria Corona on Magazine Street has been doing an excellent job of curing my taco cravings. Taqueria's fish taco is a great example of simple ingredients done right. It comes with lightly fried fish, shredded red cabbage, fresh cilantro, and a house-made spicy tartar sauce. Wrap it all up in a warm flour tortilla, sell it for about 3 bucks, and you've got a mid-week dinner that satisfies without breaking the bank.

Gazpacho: A cold veggie soup made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and fresh herbs.

Grab a seat at the bar and be part of the action in the kitchen.

Queso fundido: Melted white cheeses, jalapeƱo peppers, chipotle, and chopped scallions.

Taco salad with chicken.

The Best of New Orleans rewards don't lie.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Top of the Tapas

So I have a secret... I am in love with a restaurant. Yes, a restaurant. My boyfriend knows this and is okay with it, so don't worry. We met about 7 months ago and I have yet to be disappointed. My restaurant is comforting, friendly, accommodating, and most importantly, delivers exceptional tasting food. Baru is its name, and Latin/Caribbean tapas is its game. Located on the corner of Magazine and Amelia Street, Baru Bistro is one of Uptown New Orleans' most precious gems. The waitstaff is the friendliest you will ever meet, the food is consistently delicious, and the ambiance is inexplicably romantic. I am in love with this restaurant.

Baru's specialty is their tapas, which is basically a fancy name for appetizers. But that's not all their menu consists of. They also have soups, salads, entrees and desserts and I have tried just about everything they have to offer. My advice on what to get? Everything. Honestly, there's nothing bad at Baru, but my personal favorites are as follows: For the tapas, I love the Ostras Fritas (fried oysters), Tuna Tartare, Pimenton Asado (roasted red peppers) and the Ceviche. As for entrees I am partial to the Lechon Cubano (pulled pork), which is slow cooked for many hours and literally melts in your mouth. And as a lighter option, I really enjoy the Camarones salad, which is grilled shrimp, avocado, mango, red onion, cherry tomatoes and mixed greens drizzled with a citrus vinaigrette. Eating healthy has never looked or tasted this good.

Like all great restaurants, Baru changes its menu based on what's in season and what fresh ingredients are available to them at the time. I love seeing what tasty creations the chef, Edgar, will come up with next. The bistro is also BYOB, so they do charge an $8 corking fee per wine bottle, but no charge for beer or liquor brought to the restaurant. The restaurant is small but not too crowded and when the weather is nice, outside seating is available. In addition, they do not take reservations but if you call them while you are en route, they will often put your name on the list to help cut down on your wait time. Like I said, accommodating and friendly.

Baru currently holds first place as my favorite romantic dining spot (in addition to here), but it's also a great place to go with a group of friends. By sharing the tapas and entrees and paying a moderately priced corking fee, you can save a lot of money. So if you've never had Latin/Caribbean food before, or you're in the mood for something fresh and flavorful that won't weigh you down, I highly recommend giving Baru the chance to make your lunch or dinner very special.

Black drum ceviche with avocado, habanero peppers, pickled red onion and cilantro.

Lechon Cubano: Pulled pork, black beans, fried plantains and pickled red onions.

Ostras Fritas: Cornmeal fried oysters with cilantro aioli and caramelized onions.

Pimenton Asado: Roasted red peppers with grilled bread.