Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Orleans Day 3 - Lunch at Napoleon House

Patty was really feeling under the weather, after getting the full force of the flu that the rest of her family had unfortunately given to her, so we were on our own today. We had gotten a tip from Corey to go down the street to Napoleon House for some po' boys, so we trekked there. The restaurant had a nice old timey feel to it - seats next to open windows that let you look out on the passerby, a bar area with a bartender that dressed up in a vest - those little touches are always nice. Food started rolling to the table as we leisurely started to draw in our sketchbooks...
A bit of Caesar salad as a started that Owen and I shared. This was a really tasty and simple salad! The dressing was spot on - pungent and flavorful, lots of cheese, croƻtons were leftover bread toasts scattered around the salad.
We ordered a half of a muffaletta sandwich to share. We didn't expect it to be SO big...but we were pleasantly surprised at how delicious this sandwich was! The bread was a bit toasty, which melted the cheese, the olive salad was good. I expected the sandwich to be too salty but it really wasn't - the olive salad offset all the saltiness. This was definitely FILLING.
The closeup, for all those interested for an inspection of the fillings.
We also ordered a po'boy - italian sausage. This was actually a good accompaniment to the muffaletta, as the tastes were so different. The bread was really good, the sausage had a good casing on it, and was covered in tomato sauce. A good hearty sandwich.

Here's a shot of the insides...looking at it again makes me want a po'boy!

It was getting a bit muggy out, but we started trekking around the french quarter....dinner to follow!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Orleans Day 2 - A great meal in a great town

A quick recap - we had just had a bit of a snack, which ended up being somewhat of a letdown - we took a quick nap (more like I took a nap, and Owen fiddled on the computer) and then we were ready to go to dinner, at a place that Patty absolutely loved....Irene's Cuisine.

(no, this place is not placed sideways...you know the drill, issues with Blogspot..) We got there, and the place had a fair amount of people waiting ahead of us. The nice part about the wait though, was that they seated us at waiting tables, and asked us what we wanted to drink, while we listened to a live piano player peel out some jazz riffs. The time passed quickly and we were soon sitting at our dinner table.

Service was very attentive, our waitress was very nice, as was the rest of the waitstaff -everyone in New Orleans just seemed glad to have the business, so it was especially satisfying. We made our choices - so difficult! But we managed, and our meal started rolling out from the kitchen...
A plate of three slices of bruschetta, a great mixture of cheese, basil and tomatoes - so simple but so great - was set on our table, completely complimentary. Owen had gone to the bathroom and our cheeky waitress hinted at me and Patty to "eat them quickly before he gets back, then he wouldn't ever know they were there" (with a wink). We were good - we left him a slice.
As I was the only one at the table with a love for oysters, I got another oyster dose from my Oyster's Rockefeller soup. Yes! Soup! This was extremely rich and creamy, abundant in oyster flavor and oysters themselves, which were a treat to find in the soup. I liked taking a slice of bread, dipping it in the soup and then taking another sip. Heavenly. Also, I would like to note, the way that they served this soup, to prevent that crust on the top that gets a bit unsightly, they had poured the soup in a mini pitcher, put that in the bowl, and took it to my seat at the table. Once placing the bowl in front of me, the server poured the soup from the mini pitcher into my bowl! That little extra touch really gave this soup that extra "flair".
Owen ordered some crab dip - I don't recall everything that was in this crab dip, but it was definitely made of real crab and not the imitation kind, every bit as rich as my soup, and also, went well with the bread from the bread basket. Owen scraped this plate clean (with a bit of help from Patty and me :)

Now to the main course. Patty ordered the fish almondine. I know I'm probably spelling that wrong, but that's what I remember it being called. It was some sort of fish (the special of the day?) with an almond and butter crust, with sweet potato mash and green beans on the side. The bit of fish that I had sampled was amazing.
The lamb that Owen ordered was definitely the best thing of the night. When it was placed in front of him, all of us had to do the collective, "ooooohhh". A generous portion of lamb chops, a savory sauce, clustered around mashed potatoes, and rosemary - Owen happens to hate rosemary, and surprisingly he didn't mind it at all...he bit those bones clean. I wish I got this dish.

I ended up getting the duck - when there's duck on a menu and I'm on vacation, I'll usually try the duck. The duck was roasty and delicious, but the sauce, I feel was wrong. It was too sweet! I like a savory duck. The sauce made this dish taste too...I dunno, candy like. The meat was still amazing, as most well cooked duck is, and the mashed sweet potato was great, but added to more of the sweet flavor. Those little berries were also coated in sugar - so this would be great for anyone with a sweet tooth - but was a bit off the mark for me.
Speaking about sweet teeth - all of our teeth were coated with sweet after this arrived at the table - a bread pudding, topped with an amazing housemade ice cream. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you what flavor that ice cream was - it was at least a form of vanilla, but it was very GRAINY. I liked the different texture though. The bread pudding itself was good, not the best one I've ever had but good. The banana evened out the sauce and the whipped cream was, like everything on the plate, homemade. It was a satisfying dessert.

Walking back into the night after this meal, enjoying the ambiance of the french quarter - I can think of no better way to top off the night. Great food and great company!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Orleans, Day 2 - the good, the bad...

After a bit of a restless night for me (strange to sleep in unfamiliar places...Owen slept like a rock), we got ourselves ready for the day. David, Corey and Patty's mom were headed back to Texas that day, so we wanted to grab a bite before they hit the road. We went to a usual breakfast spot for them - The Coffee Pot.

As we walked in, we got a hearty welcome from the waitresses, who all knew David and Corey and now Patty as well. A quick glance at the menu and we were set to go - Owen's appetite had surprisingly come back even though we had an amazing meal the night before, thanks to Corey's culinary skills. Anyways, we ordered and amazing things started arriving at the table....
Orange juice was the choice of beverage for me - I wanted to avoid the flu that everyone seemed to have. This was an ok juice - no pulp, which I prefer.
Banana pancakes, for the table. I liked how you could really see the banana slices embedded into each pancake. I'm not much of a fan of pancakes but these were great - moist, fluffy, melt in your mouth.
Some "lost bread" for the table - sliced up pieces of leftover bread, fried, covered in powdered sugar, and if you notice, a stream of syrup pouring down covering each piece. I managed to try one of these pieces - decadent. The south seems to have fried food perfected to a T - this is only the beginning of our fried food adventures here.
This omelet is not on the menu - David and Patty ordered it, and was especially made for them. It's an egg white omelet, with jambalaya folded on the inside - reminiscent of japanese style omurice. On the side is a generous helping of grits.
Here's a close up of the rice - coated with all kinds of seasonings, with slices of Louisiana sausage. Not too shabby.
Owen got a full order of the lost bread, with a side of bacon to round out his salty and sweet needs. He rocked this whole plate. It was that good.
I got the Oysters Rockefeller omelet, with the side of grits. Now, about the grits - I know this is a southern thing, but I don't think I like grits very much. The consistency is like grainy porridge, you can salt and pepper it and butter it but in the end, I wish this plate had a side of potatoes instead. Well, you have to try everything once. The omelet was good - the spinach topping was especially flavorful, and there were at least 3-4 good sized oysters in the omelet. I had to get my seafood fix, after all... Cory got a fried catfish plate with a side of jambalaya. A solid looking meal.

David, Corey and Patty's mom had to hit the road, so after some woeful goodbyes on Patty's part, and thanking them again for their generosity, we hit the road to go sightseeing in the Garden District, where many old houses were. We tried to visit the cemetery but they closed extraordinarily early - 2pm on a weekday! We looked in from the outside - creepy enough, as the above ground crypts were eerie and old. We took a self guided walking tour, saw some awesome stuff, and walked back ready to snack on something. It was a bit early to go to the restaurant Patty had in mind for us, so we decided on a snack.

We started walking down Bourbon street, which was full of scandalous bars and clubs (topless AND bottomless bar?) and I saw a Krystal Burger, which Corey had pointed out to us the night before. Having never have tried a mini burger (Harold and Kumar go to White Castle peaked my interest - I had never gone to a White castle before), I decided that there was no better time than now to give it a shot. On hindsight, it was one of the worst decisions of the trip.

First off, horrible mean people were taking our order. When they had forgotten to give Patty her drink cup, the server snapped back at her and practically rolled her eyes out of her head. Not to say that I expect stellar service from fast food joints, but man, doesn't hurt to be a little courteous.

But regardless, the food....what was the food like?
Well, here's the nasty bag that was set upon our table after we got back. I forgot what number combo this was, but it came with 4 mini sliders and 1 cup of fries. Notice the sweat that has gathered in the bag, basically making its' own ecosystem of steamy processed food hell.
Here's a peek inside the biodome - fries, burgers...wait a second, is that burger really made of meat?! It looks like processed gray cardboard! The fries looked and tasted ok, aside from the sogginess from being inside the bag.
Now, the focus is on the sliders. Ok...they're packaged in their own little boxes...that makes them kind of cute...

...but upon closer inspection, this burger really scared the hell out of us. Seriously, meat should never look that pale and gray, not even back in grade school when we would have hot lunches with grade F meat was it ever this bad. We did NOT eat any of the sliders. I think that was a good choice on our part.
Here's Patty's meal - the coke and fries look good...yep, check that horrible cheesy packaging containing her chicken sandwich - "I'm super fly!" Dear god why.
Here's Patty's hand, modeling the chicken sandwich. She was so disgusted by her treatment from Krystal that she didn't even eat it.
And here's the dissection - what are those things sprinkled on top of the mayo? We will never know...
Luckily, our snack wasn't completely ruined, as on our walk back, there was a hot dog vendor (Lucky Dogs!), who was extremely happy for our business, made this concoction of a dog loaded up with all the fixin's. Thank goodness for hot dogs.

Stay tuned for the rest of Day 2 - an amazing meal coming up!

Friday, May 09, 2008

New Orleans - Day 1

Owen and I went to New Orleans not too long ago (Our dear friend's brother has a house out in the French Quarter and GRACIOUSLY let us stay there! THANK YOU again!), and had a BLAST. Yes, it's taken me a bit of time to get back to writing about it, as usual. The food, the atmosphere...well it's New Orleans, how could we go wrong? Our flight was achingly long. A short stopover in Las Vegas didn't help, either. Plane food nowadays is just terrible, (handi snacks cheese and breadsticks were the highlight...yes, sad when a highlight is processed cheese and sickeningly sweet crumbly enriched processed flour sticks.) and we were really hungry by the time we touched down.

About a half an hour later we were surrounded by iron welded windows, old houses, and southern hospitality. Patty's brother's boyfriend was cookin' up a storm (wow!), so Patty led us upstairs, to relax a bit, unpack a few things that would get wrinkly and then took us to Cafe du Monde!

The charm of this place seems to have been well thought out, right from the beginning....seating outdoors, waiters and waitresses with paper hats, floor covered in powdered sugar. The menu is simple - beignets, and coffee of all temperatures. Since an order of beignets came in a set of 3, we did one order of that, plus cafe au lait all around. A quick moment later, our waitress came back with this...
I think Owen snatched his beignet before I could snap this picture. Freshly fried, coated with powered sugar, these were pillows of deliciousness. Thing is, I'm not really a donut person - but these were heavenly. Maybe it was all the powdered sugar, of which there was a bounty of. I would take a few extra spoonfuls to throw into...
...my mug of cafe au lait. I had never had this kind of coffee before - a coffee and chickory blend. It was rich and flavorful, and with the powdered sugar assisting the taste...
as you can see, it's a powerhouse combination. The ultimate New Orleans afternoon break.

By the way, the servers at Cafe du Monde serve you, and expect to be paid right there and then. A little different than what I'm used to, but for fast service and delicious fresh beignets...I think I can manage to jump a few hoops. Just looking at these pictures again makes me wish I was within walking distance!

Once we got back to the house, it was definitely time for a bit of a nap. We awoke to a light knocking on the door - it was Patty with her brother's adorable dog, Louie. He was so excited to see us, he peed all over the bed comforter and the floor!! Luckily, no harm was done...and how could we stay mad at such a cute dog?? Corey was still cooking up a storm in the kitchen...and making the finishing touches. Owen and I were really excited to eat - our first real meal in New Orleans!!
Can you imagine this plate of delicious food being set in front of you? Clockwise, from top - beans, delicious delicious beans, cooked in a way where they were plump and succulent with each bite. Rice, with meaty juices from the cooked meat on top. The meat - briskety, fall apart meat, with sausage hunks - more mild to accommodate Patty and Owen's non spicy loving tastes. Beefsteak tomatoes, with salt and pepper, and a bit of olive oil - simple, fresh, and a great compliment to the meat. Lastly, cole slaw - I don't usually like coleslaw but this was GREAT! This is what coleslaw was meant to taste like! This was the greatest meal to experience on our first trip there!

After dinner, we decided to walk around a bit before settling in for the night. Even though we were probably a bit too full, we decided to have a sweet treat to tide us over. We stopped at the Chartres House restaurant for a bit of a sit down and pie...PECAN pie. I was severely full, and had a few bites - there was no doubt that this was an amazing piece of pecan. Look upon it in all its' glory....
I think one of the things I liked most about the bites I had of this pie was the crust. Not too dry, not too doughy, a good flakiness, sweet but not toothache sweet. The ice cream was just great, melting over the slice.
At the end of the evning, we moved to another bar...but not just any bar, it was THE oldest running bar in the US - Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, named for that infamous pirate. It was a pretty fun scene in there, everyone was friendly, and it was really dark in there. The candles on the tables were the lighting to our conversation. I had my usual non alcoholic drink - a cranberry soda.

As it was fairly late, we stumbled back to the house and so started our first day in New Orleans! Stay tuned for more!