Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mint Limoncello Champagne Cocktail

Ringing in the New Year with a new drink:

Mint Limoncello Campagne Cocktail

½ cup fresh mint leaves
¼ cup limoncello
2 T sugar, plus more for dipping
lemon peel strips from 1 lemon
4 tsp fresh lemon juice plus lemon wedge
1 cup champagne

Place mint, limoncello, 2 T sugar and lemon strips in blender. Blend until mint is finely chopped, about 10 seconds. Strain into a jar. Refrigerate until midnight.

Run lemon wedge around rim of champagne flutes. Dip into sugar. Divide limoncello mixture between flutes. Top with champagne.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Dove for Dinner

We come to the end of 2011 and enjoyed a dinner of dove that were shot over the course of the year by my father.

To prepare, wash dove very clean and sprinkle with Creole seasoning. Melt 1 stick of butter in 1 cup of water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil and toss in dove. Steam for thirty minutes. Remove dove from pan. Add to broth 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 lb of mushrooms, 1/2 cup of sherry. Serve as is or thicken with flour. We served the dove with a wild rice blend.

We had eight people to dinner, so we tripled the recipe. We also had to remind everyone to not bite down too hard--there is always the chance that there will be buckshot in the bird. At the end of the night, we just had over 30 dove carcasses to dispose of:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mama's Red Beans

When my Mama makes red beans and rice, she doesn't fool around!

Here is her recipe (the batch from the picture above was a doubling of this double recipe)

2 lb dried red kidney beans
8 quarts water
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
4 tsp minced garlic
4 bay leaves
4 tsp salt
4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried whole thyme
1 tsp ground red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried whole oregano
1 lb andouille sausage
1 lb bulk sausage (if you like hot red beans, use hot, otherwise use mild)
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Wash beans then place in a large pot. Cover with water 2 inches above beans and let soak overnight. Drain Beans and return to pot. Add 8 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion, celery, green bell pepper and garlic. Saute until tender. Stir sauted vegetables and spices into beans. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add additional water if necessary.

Bake sausages at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, drain well. stir sausages into bean mixture. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves and stir in chopped parsley. Serve over rice.

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

I'm not usually a fan of using box cake mixes; at least not for their intended purpose. Here is a recipe for Red Velvet Crinkle cookies that start with a box of Red Velvet Cake mix.

1 Box Red Velvet Cake Mix
6 T unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp corn starch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the melted butter, cake mix, eggs & vanilla until fluffy & smooth.

In a shallow bowl, sift together 1/2 cup powdered sugar & 1/2 tsp. corn starch. Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in the powdered sugar mixture. (If you run out of powdered sugar, sift together an additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar & 1/2 tsp. corn starch).

Place cookie dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, space them about 2 to 3 inches apart as the cookies spread out quite a bit.

Bake for 9 minutes exactly. The cookies will not look done, but they will set up more as they cool. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheets for 1 minute and then place cookies on a cookie sheet to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ancora Pizzeria and Salumeria

Ancora Pizzeria and Salumeria is part of the Freret Street resurgence. Located just a block or so off Napoleon, they serve authentic Neapolitan pizzas. What does that mean? These pizza's are cooked in a wood fired pizza oven imported from Naples that gets up to 850 degrees and cooks the pizza in 45 to 80 seconds. With that fast of a bake, the toppings have to be minimal and crust super thin. That also means that every item must be at the peak of flavor. What is so good about Ancora is that they are.

We started with drinks (Charlotte had an adult root beer float and I had an Italian sidecar) and a meat plate with a mix of house-made cured meats. While I'm not a fan of headcheese, everything else on the board was delicious and almost too rich. I could have used a piece of bread with the slices but, as the pizza was coming, I just enjoyed the meat.

We ordered the Margherita pizza with tomato, fior di latte and basil. The tomato was bright, the cheese was in slices, so it didn't cover quite enough but was perfectly melted and the basil added a terrific flavor. I really enjoyed the crust--lightly chewy and puffed on the edges. Because the pizza's are so thin and only about 11 inches, had there been any more of us at the table, we would have needed to order a second pizza.

We had glasses of Italian wine with the meal--Charlotte with a rose and me with a Feudi di San Gregorio red. The wine list is set up with pairs for each pizza and her choice was good and the waiter steered me well on his recommendation.

We missed out on the chocolate dessert and ended up just getting the cookie plate. All right but nothing particularly noteworthy (although I'll skip the anise flavored one next time).

There weren't that many other folks in the place but there was a bit of ambient noise. It would probably be pretty loud on a busier night. The bartender and both waiters swung by the table regularly to check in and refill the water. Everyone was friendly and quick with suggestions, especially when we told them that we hadn't ever been in before.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Salu - small plates and wine bar

I was among the ladies who lunch today or, more accurately, lesbians who lunch. We went to Salu, the newest restaurant to take over the corner at Magazine and Pleasant Street.

I started with a very delicious margarita and then moved on to applewood smoked bacon wrapped dates. Frankly, the sauce was a little much and nearly hid the bacon but the marscapone cheese was a lovely touch. My lunch came with a Cesar salad and it was pretty good--grilling half a head of romaine gave it a slightly nutty flavor and the roasted garlic-anchovy vinaigrette was pretty tasty without an overpowering fishy taste.

For the entre, I had BBQ pulled pork. The corn fritters they came with had no flavor, so I had them bring a second loaf of fresh bread and I made myself a sandwich. I also had the patatas americanas (fried potatoes) with garlic aioli that were a highlight of the meal.

As I was out with good friends, I also ate off of all their plates. The seared tuna with papaya salsa was decent, the smoked ham and manchego croquettes had a delicious smokiness, and, unfortunately, the duck and manchego flautas with salsa fesca, smahed avocado and cumin creme fraiche were just a few too many flavors at once.

The wait staff was friendly and quick with refills and extra Splenda and patient as we waited for all the people in our party to join us. As we left, the floor manager asked about our meal and experience. With that sort of care, I believe that this place might have a future at this location.

I want to thank again my friend, Mickie, who bought my lunch as a celebration of my winning the Rainbow Awards for Debut Lesbian Novel. You rock!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011 Rainbow Awards: Best Lesbian Debut Novel

Taking a breather to talk about my other writing. I won Best Lesbian Debut Novel Rainbow Award for my romance novel, Unbroken Circle.


Mary Griggs - Unbroken Circle
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bella Books; 1 edition (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1594932433
ISBN-13: 978-1594932434
Bella Books: Unbroken Circle
Amazon: Unbroken Circle

Sallie Lee Hybart doesn’t see many strangers at her diner counter. Pennington, Alabama, is a town the interstate passed by, so newcomers are rare. But this one looks familiar. Janet Bouton has nothing and no one. Her life has been stripped down to the clothing on her back. Counting out her meager change to pay for a stick-to-the-ribs meal, she is hoping to escape the diner unrecognized. She shouldn’t have come back...but no place else on earth was familiar. An act of kindness sets a chain of events in motion and pulls Sallie Lee and Janet together, but the past has the power to tear them apart. There are still people in Pennington who remember Janet too well. Small town memories have had a lot of years to simmer, and love may not be the recipe for happiness. Mary Griggs’ debut romance novel unites a lost soul and a determined survivor to create a passionate story that readers will remember long after the final page.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Breesy Cheesy Bambi Mac

As any self-respecting member of the Who Dat Nation knows, Drew Brees gets his super powers from eating macaroni and cheese before a game. I'm sure he was able to make this dive into the end zone on Monday Night because he followed his well known pre-game carb loading routine.

He led the Saints to a 49-24 win over the New York Giants, so there must be something to it!

While I won't directly compete with the Breesy Beefy Mac put out by the Ritz-Carlton's M Bistro's Emily Dillport, I do put my version of Breesy Cheesy Bambi Mac forward for your consideration. If you don't happen to have ground venison, substitute ground beef or turkey. Or, leave out the meat entirely!

Breesy Cheesy Bambi Mac

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni 

1 lb ground venison
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 

1/4 cup all-purpose flour 

1 yellow onion, finely chopped 

1/2 teaspoon dried mustard 

1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning 

2 1/2 cups milk 

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese 

1 cup shredded smoked Gouda
1/2 cup bread crumbs lightly buttered and toasted

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Brown venison; drain off fat and set aside

In a medium Dutch oven over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter and cook onion until softened, about four minutes. Add remaining butter. When melted, add flour forming a roux. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly, to remove the flour taste. Do not allow roux to darken. Stir in Cajun seasoning and mustard. Gradually stir in milk until blended. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened, about five minutes. Add cheese in handfuls and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Combine mixture with venison and macaroni in a large buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs over casserole and cook at 350° F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
 Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cranberries and the use thereof

The best use of leftover cranberry sauce is to make muffins out of it. I'm going to post here the recipe I use for cranberry sauce and my recipe for cranberry muffins.

Candied Satsumas with Cranberries

10 or so satsumas (can use mandarian oranges, tangerines, etc)
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
3 T Triple Sec
1 12-oz package fresh cranberries

Using a paring knife, slice tops and bottoms from satsumas. Cut off peel and white pith. If the pith is tough, consider segmenting the satsuma.

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the Triple Sec and satsumas. Remove from heat, cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Transfer satsumas to broiler pan. Broil oranges for 3 to 4 minutes or until brown spots of carmelization begin to form.

Bring reserved sauce to a boil. Put cranberries into saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until berries all burst, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the sauce cooks down a little.

Put oranges in a bowl and pour cranberries and sauce over. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry Sauce Muffins

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cranberry sauce (recipe above)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin or line the cups with paper liners.

In a mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add sugar and mix. Add the eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt and mix. Add the cranberry sauce to the batter and mix.

With the mixer running at low speed, add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the milk, and mix. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.

In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon.

Use a ladle to fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the muffins and bake until golden brown and risen, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan at least 30 minutes before turning out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shrimp Chipolte Scampi

We were in the mood for garlic and butter with our shrimp tonight and I wanted to try my recipe for Chipolte Scampi. I used the larger of Mom's cast iron skillets--as you can see from the above picture, she has quite a selection to choose from.

Cooks notes: I picked out most of the jalapeno seeds from the Chipolte in Adobo sauce to reduce the heat while keeping the depth of flavor. If you want more heat, leave in the seeds. I also doubled the sauce ingredients, as I like to dip my bread into it. Yeah, two sticks of butter seems like a lot but the mouth feel of the finished sauce is incredible.

Shrimp Chipolte Scampi

1-1/2 lbs peeled, deveined medium-size fresh shrimp
1-2 T chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (approx 1 large pepper)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvingon Blanc)
1 T prepared mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 lb angel hair pasta, cooked to tender (about 3-4 minutes)

Saute peppers and garlic in hot oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until thoroughly heated.

Add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes or just until shrimp turns pink. Remove shrimp and set aside.

Whisk in white wine, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in butter, salt, lemon juice, cook 10 minutes or until slightly reduced. Add shrimp back to the pan and cook through.

Place pasta in a large serving dish, toss with shrimp and sauce. Serve with french bread and a Cesar salad.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Biscuits and Gravy

There is something enormously satisfying about eating biscuits and gravy on a chilly Fall evening. My Mom says that that gravy is the mortar that holds the food pyramid together but all I know is that it is an essential comfort food.

Here is a basic recipe for chicken gravy. As a hint when making gravy, always use tablespoons of butter/flour equal to the amount you want to end with--this recipe makes two cups, so we start with two tablespoons each. If you need to make turkey gravy for Thanksgiving, just substitute turkey broth for the chicken broth.

Chicken Gravy

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 to 5 minutes. Whisk in broth and seasoning. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 15 or 20 minutes or until mixture thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Bon appetit, y'all!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pierre Masperos

The National Orientation Directors Association (NODA) came to New Orleans for their annual conference this week. As Chair of the LGBT Community Center, I worked with the GLBTA Network Chair to make sure that they were made welcome in the city and provided them with information on things to do while here. Of course, it was Halloween weekend, so they had plenty of events to choose from.

On their last night in town, I met up with the GLBTA Network for dinner at Pierre Masperos there at Chartres and St. Louis in the heart of the French Quarter. The building is quite historic as it is where the pirate Jean Lafitte met with Andrew Jackson to strategize the defense for the Battle of New Orleans. It was a large group, so I only got to talk with the guys at my end of the table but we had an enjoyable conversation about advocacy and education and community engagement.

I started with a chocolate martini while I waited for the group to arrive and then had the Barbecued Shrimp PoBoy. While the shrimp were small, the sauce was tasty. It was served with Cajun French fries, basically fries with cheese and a light seasoning. I also tasted the fried alligator and found it remarkably tasty and tender.

The place is good for tourists located in and around the Vieux Carré. The prices are pretty decent and it is worth going for the casual dining of local fare.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Drinks

Happy Halloween!

I'm enjoying a Bee's Knees on my front porch while I wait for the Trick or Treaters to arrive.

Halloween candy is good and all but the holiday isn't complete without an adult beverage!

Candy Corn Martinis

For the infused vodka:
1/2 cup candy corn
1 1/2 cups vodka

Drink recipe
2 ounces orange liqueur like Triple Sec
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Candy corn, for garnish

Infuse the vodka: Combine the candy corn and vodka in an airtight container; set aside for at least 3 hours, then strain. Store in the refrigerator.

Make the Candy Corn Martinis: Add 4 ounces of the candy corn vodka, the orange liqueur and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into 2 chilled martini glasses and garnish with candy corn.

Bee's Knees

2 oz gin
1 oz honey syrup
1 oz fresh lemon juice

Make honey syrup by putting 1 cup of honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly stir in 1 cup of water. Let come to a boil, stirring regularly. Store in the refrigerator.

Make the Bee's Knees: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

If you're making a pitcher of drinks or filling a punch bowl, consider tossing in a few dismembered hands:

Ghostly Floating Hands

To make ghostly hands that float, fill surgical gloves (or rubber gloves) with plain or colored water and tie at the opening. Freeze. Cut off gloves from ghost hands and place in filled punch bowl.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Feelings Cafe

I went out for brunch today in honor of Terry O'Neill's (current president of the National Organization for Women) visit to New Orleans to speak on "Women Need Jobs, Not Cuts." We went out to Feelings Cafe, a lovely restaurant in the Bywater area.

Feelings Cafe does a lot of Clemenceau dishes--a Creole style of cooking that generally includes peas and potatoes. While I love brabant potatoes (typically boiled then fried in butter and garlic), I really can't stand peas. Therefore, I had the grillades and grits. The veal was tender but there was hardly any grits with the dish and hardly any cheese on what was supposed to be cheese grits.

I ended the meal with the French Silk pie. Rich but it had the mouth feel that the sugar hadn't been completed combined before setting. I also had a bite of the combo peanut butter/chocolate pie that was quite delicious.

The service was very good and I definitely can see why the courtyard dining area gets consistently listed as one of the most romantic places to eat in the city.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

cafe b

A friend of mine had her birthday dinner at cafe b, one of Ralph Brennan's restaurants.

I arrived a few minutes before the rest of the group and sat at the bar. Eric made me a very tasty margarita and we were able to chat at little about football and Halloween before I was joined by some other guests.

Once everyone arrived, we moved to our table and ordered a selection of starters. There were fried oysters, calamari (the sweet and spicy dipping sauce was very good) and crab dip (good enough but the toasted brioche was killer). Good flavor combinations but nothing really extraordinary.

I ordered the hanger steak with garlic fries. It came with a bearnaise sauce but the meat was so tender and delicious on its own that I only used a small amount. Not a fan of the brussel sprouts that it came with, I also ordered some roasted wild mushrooms. This was the only item on the menu that needed a pinch of extra seasoning.

I was able to taste the shrimp and lobster ravioli that several folks ordered and was completely blown away at how incredibly good it was. Smooth with a champagne beurre blanc that made every bite a taste of creamy heaven.

I ended the meal with some chocolate bliss--a brownie in a cup of ice cream and whipped cream. It had sufficient chocolately goodness to satisfy my cravings. The lemon ice box pie was passed near enough to me that I was able to grab a bite as it went by. It could have used a little meringue but had a nice lemon bite to it.

The service was excellent. Our server, Malyssa, was very attentive and quick to top off glasses and to make sure that we had everything we needed. As you can see from my wall of drinks (water, iced tea, two different glasses of Evening Land pinot noirs - one from California and the other from Oregon), I was keeping hydrated.

I have to confess that I was quite surprised to find such a great meal there on Metairie Road. I can definitely see a return trip to try the burger but only if I convince someone else to come with and share their ravioli with me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mr. Ed's

There is a family restaurant hidden in the residential Metairie neighborhood of Bucktown and they boast that they have the best fried chicken in the city. Not one to ignore such a claim or let it sit without challenge, I made special plans to go visit Mr. Ed's Restaurant.

I had spent the early morning protesting with Occupy NOLA and even made WDSU's slideshow (picture 1)! After walking from Tulane/Broad to Lafayette Square, we were ready for some good fried chicken.

Once we arrived, I was quickly served a very delicious Bloody Mary and a pretty tasteless salad composed of iceberg lettuce, a single cherry tomato and a single cucumber round. Good thing my drink contained two large olives, four pickled green beans and two cocktail onions or I wouldn't have gotten any veggies at all!

The fried chicken was three pieces that were cooked to order for us. It was piping hot and served on a bed of french fries. The coating was good and stayed with the chicken for every bite. It was not at all greasy. However, the chicken itself had very little flavor. I'd have to say that it was good but certainly not the best fried chicken I've had.

We shared a chocolate mousse cake that was a pretty good way to end the meal. Again, it was good but not spectacular.

Perhaps I'll head back and see if they do a better job on their Italian entrees.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bittersweet Blondies

I'm not actually sure what I was thinking but I ended up with blondies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl. With the mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold the pecans and chocolate chunks in with a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for no longer than 30 minutes. A toothpick may not come out clean. Cool completely in the pan and cut into bars.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pretzel Time

I experimented with pretzels today. I like my pretzels soft and chewy but with at least a little bit of crust. Unfortunately, I've only been able to achieve the perfect skin with a lye bath. While cooking with toxins takes kitchen wizardry to record heights, I'm just not a fan of using flesh-burning chemicals around my food. I also wanted to improve on the pretzel recipe I've been using that tastes a little doughy (sorry, Alton Brown, but you know its true).

Here is my new recipe. Based on the reviews, they are pretty good:

1 cup warm whole milk (the original recipe called for the milk to be scalded and cooled but I skipped this step)
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 F)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (I split the flour evenly between bread and all-purpose flour)

For the soda bath:
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda

For coating:
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
coarse sea salt

Proof the yeast in half a cup of lukewarm water and the sugar. In a bowl of a mixer, place the flour (start with 4 1/2 cups, you'll add the rest if necessary) and salt. Add the yeast, cooled butter and the milk. Mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is well kneaded and no longer sticky. Add more flour if necessary. Let the dough rise for about an hour in a warm place or until doubled in size. On a floured surface, roll the dough into long ropes, as thick or as thin as you want. I end up rolling them in my hands, like play-do snakes Shape the dough with the traditional pretzel shape (holding each end, cross them, twist and press down with a drop of water).

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Boil the pretzels in the soda bath for about 30 seconds each side. Place them on a baking sheet, brush them with either egg wash or melted butter and sprinkle them with salt. Bake the pretzels for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Leftover pretzels can be stored in the fridge and popped into the toaster for a nice warming before eating.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wendy's Natural Cut Fries

Since moving to New Orleans, I have lost the fast food habit. Not only are there a lot of other places to go to eat that are quick and cheap, there is a lot of better tasting food in this city. However, there are times when stopping somewhere with a drive thru to feed my hunger for fat is just what I need.

Today, I stopped at Wendy's for the first time in a long time. I was so disappointed that it is going to be a very long time before I go there again. The chicken sandwich was dry but the worst thing was the natural cut fries. A marketing gimick around the potato skin being left on and the use of sea salt that doesn't even begin to cover how unhealthy the darn things are (a medium serving of these fries contain 420 calories with 20 grams of fat and 500mg of sodium). If that wasn't bad enough, mine were almost inedible. The fries were either limp or over cooked and crunchy. The oil must have been old because they were a uniform brown, not golden. All in all, not what I go for in fries, no matter how naturally cut they are. The lemonade was pretty good.

For $7.34, I've got plenty of other options in this town.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wine Institute Of New Orleans

The Wine Institute of New Orleans (WINO) is a great place to pick up the perfect bottle of wine or champagne for any sort of dinner. They also offer wine tasting events of their own, including certificate classes in wine and spirits. The prices are competitive and the folks who work there are true oenophiles.

They also have a small deli in the back of the shop with a pretty decent selections of sandwiches. I went today and enjoyed a really wonderful roast beef sandwich with brie on ciabatta bread. The roast beef was excellent and they ran the sammy under a grill, so the cheese was all melty and delicious. The two of us each had sandwiches and drinks and the total ran right under $20, so its a pretty good deal for lunch there in the Warehouse District. Do be advised that there is only one guy working the deli, so it can take thirty minutes or more for your sandwich to arrive!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dat Dog

The Freret Street area between Jefferson and Napoleon is seeing a much needed resurgence of new businesses and renovated homes. The best news is that there is a food renaissance happening at the same time. I stopped off for a late lunch at one of them, Dat Dog.

They list a lot of different dogs and where they are from (Poland and Slovenia, Aligator dogs from the Swamp, and, my favorite, a Veggie Dog from Oxymoron). I went for the German pork wiener with just tomatoes and mustard. They have a ton of fixings, if you like dressing your dogs with cheddar cheese, relish, onions, guacamole, chili, sauerkraut, etc, etc, etc. The bread is a little large but not so long as to be longer than the dogs. The wieners had a crisp snap and excellent flavor. The guys working the place are good fun, too.

The place is small with no a/c but, as I usually get my order to go, it isn't much of a problem for me. There is plenty of outdoor seating, though, for those willing to brave the New Orleans heat and humidity.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Val's Burgers in Castro Valley

My good friend Brian turned me onto Val's Burgers several years ago and it was good to learn during this trip that nothing has changed. In fact, it is probably safe to say that nothing has changed on the decor or menu or service since the 50's!

Val's is an old style diner with wood instead of chrome but the burgers are thick, juicy and affordable. The burgers are so juicy that the bun nearly disintegrates by the time you get to the last bite. There isn't a lot of seasonings or fillers in this burger--it is pure meat, cooked to order. The three of us had an excellent meal for right around $20 bucks. I got the baby burger (that's 1/3 lb) with cheese and it was plenty good. I can't imagine eating a papa burger--1 lb of meat!

A couple of tips--one order of fries will feed two, maybe three people and the milkshake is enough to share as well. They only take cash and are closed Sundays/Mondays.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Luke's Grill in San Leandro

I met up with an author friend of mine for lunch in San Leandro. We went to Luke's Grill for Greek Food.

I started with a glass of retsina, a traditional white wine with the unique scent and taste of pine resin. Originally distributed in amphora sealed with resin, the wine now is either aged in pine barrels or has actually pieces of pine resin added during fermentation. I love the taste and the glass I had was quite delicious.

Our appetizers were the tsatziki with warm pita. I love this yogurt garlic dip and ate most of it myself. We also got the saganaki, a goat cheese that they flambe at the table. Very fun (what can beat cheese AND fire?) and incredibly tasty, too.

For the meal, I had the souvlaki in pita with chicken. Well seasoned meat with veggies and more of the tsatziki. It was served with french fries that were a little overcooked but tasted very good dipped in the leftover appetizer tsatziki. My dining companion had the spanakopita, a spinach and cheese filled pastry. She seemed to enjoy it but I'm not a fan of cooked spinach, so I didn't try any.

The wait staff is very friendly and quick to answer questions. We also arrived right after a large group and they snuck our orders in first so we didn't have to wait forever. Luke's Grill remains my go to place for Greek while visiting Northern California.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zut! in Berkeley

The Fourth Street area of Berkeley is a cool place to hang out. There are a lot of funky stores and eateries and the people on the sidewalks usually smell better than those on Telegraph Avenue! ツ

I went over there on Sunday for brunch with a friend and, while we had wanted to go to Bette's Oceanview Diner, we ended up at Zut! because of the long lines.

It was a little more upscale than we had originally anticipated but there were tables available, so we were able to be seated immediately. Despite the number of folks in the main room (with the mural), the place was well designed so it wasn't noisy at all. It was a working brunch, so the corner they put us in gave us quite a bit of privacy. It also led to the waiter forgetting we were there and had us scrounging on the other tables for salt and pepper and to the bar for refills on the water.

The orange juice was fresh squeezed but it came in a pretty small glass for $5. A couple of swallows later, I finished it before the waiter returned to take our order. I had the chicken fried steak with potatoes and a sunnyside egg. While the gravy was the blandest things I've every eaten, the chicken was good. My dining companion had the eggs but they were out of sausage at 11:30.

From what I understand from talking to others, the brunch menu is still fairly new and that the chef focuses mainly on showcasing his talents for dinner. Based on my experience, however, I won't be finding out that for myself.

Pier 15 in San Rafael

My business partner and I headed over to San Rafael for a breakfast meeting with a marketing guru for our consulting firm, Pacific Training and Resources. We went to Pier 15 Restaurant and Bar in San Rafael's historic wharf district. Being a Monday, we missed their Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar that is offered on Sunday's but we were there for business so I guess that was a good thing.

For the Bay Area in general and San Rafael in particular it offers super casual waterside eating. There is zero curb appeal and I thought we were at the wrong place at first with the decals on the windows for the sports leagues available on the bar's TV's. However, for a dive, it serves really good food.

They offer something called Swedish Cinnamon French Toast. I don't know what was Swedish about it (and neither did the waiter) but the pain perdu was delicious--a little crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I had the classic Benedict with Canadian bacon. The hollandaise was smooth and creamy and the egg was poached perfectly. The English muffin was a little on the small side but they include a side of potatoes that I was able to dredge in the leftover hollandaise and runny yolk so nothing was left on the plate.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bowzer's Pizza in Alameda

We took a little drive last night over to Alameda, a small island in the SF Bay adjacent to Oakland. We made the drive because all of us were craving pizza and Bowzer's Pizza is worth going out of your way for.

As you can see, there wasn't much left:

The crust was New York style thin and cooked to perfection and the toppings were plentiful and high quality from local vendors. The cheese was just gooey enough and the sauce wasn't too sweet. The slices totally hit the bullseye!

Despite all the TV's in the place turned to Disney Channel, there weren't that many children in the place and those that were present were accompanied by adults and pretty well behaved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe

After my book signing at Laurel Book Store, my friends took me to downtown Oakland for some late night eats. Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe serves American diner fare with sides of style and creativity to a wide variety of patrons. Some of our fellow diners looked like they had come from a show at the Fox Theatre, others might have stumbled in from the nearest bar or skateboard park but everyone was treated to great comfort food.

I had the hash browns covered in melted cheddar and topped with a sunny side egg. Perfect with my Bloody Rudy. My dinning companions had the three cheese (jack, cheddar and swiss) grilled cheese sandwich and the monster BLT--double the usual amounts of bacon, lettuce and tomato. Everything we had was very satisfying. The service was quick and with a smile (which can be a little disconcerting when the the wait person is covered in facial piercings and tattoos).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grand Lake Farmers Market

I think one of my favorite Farmers Markets (and voted Best by East Bay residents) is the one at Grand Lake in Oakland. Nestled right against the 580 overpass, it is between Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue near Lake Merritt.

Not only is there a huge selection, year round, but the vendors very helpful and willing to talk about preparation ideas for their produce. The colors are marvelous as are the rich smells of fruits and veggies that smell like they should--no gassed tomatoes here, instead find heirloom varieties that look almost tie dyed!

I took a few pictures of the vegetables and fruits as I shopped around. I was after fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and salad greens (I found a bag that included edible flowers) for the lamb dinner we were going to grill for dinner. I also added a couple of avocados, a pint of blackberries and some of the best balsamic vinegars on the planet (mission fig, pomegranite and a blackberry/vanilla) produced by Big Paw.

Fenton's Creamery - Piedmont

I'm an ice cream fan, especially when the ice cream is house churned like at Fenton's Creamery in Piedmont, CA. While the place is usually packed and raucous with kids of all ages, all of the noise seems to fade away when you've got a delicious sundae in front of you.

We started with lunch and I had the BLT with avocado. It had very thick bacon but as it is done club sandwich style, there is a lot of bread in proportion to other ingredients. My dining companion had the crab sandwich. Not much to this sandwich but it had a very good crab flavor. We split a basket of half onion rings and fries and were a little underwhelmed with the onion rings. They tasted like that came from a freezer bag.

But we were there for dessert, so the rest of the meal was more to help us feel not too guilty when we overindulged. I made my dining companion get the black and tan while I got the Fudgeianna (hot fudge with a banana).

Heaven--the caramel and chocolate sauce on the black and tan was so plentiful it spilled over the edges of the dish. I love banana's and chocolate and the combination on mine was absolutely fabulous.

While I might skip the meal, I will never skip or skimp on Fenton's sundaes!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Ranch - Hayward

Hayward is not on anyone's list as the place for haute cuisine but they can rustle up some darn good grub.

The Ranch is on Mission Street and serves absolutely excellent steaks. I had the Rib Eye and my dining companions had the NY Steak. Mine came out perfectly medium rare and melted like butter in the mouth. Unfortunately, the corn they served with it came straight out of the can and the center of the baked potato wasn't cooked. We also ordered the fried zuchini appetizer and the spears were large and pretty darn tasty. As I was mainly focused on the meat, I'm willing to overlook the veggie issues.

When we were there, the parking lot was full as it was the Oakland Raiders first preseason game. The bar was packed with rednecks and Raider's fans who got a little noisy. The dining room wasn't too full, though, and we got our food very quickly from the attentive servers.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Little Griddle in SF

Who knew? A donut bar (with square donuts!), hotspot for bagels and one of the best burger joints I've been in can now be found on Market Street in San Francisco near the Civic Center BART/MUNI station. Little Griddle serves Neiman Ranch beef on the burgers and the choice of premier cheeses. I didn't get the Lucifer which combines two of their donuts to make the bun for their burger this time and just went for the traditional burger. Well cooked and with a nice sauce to perk it up. As there is only seating for a few folks, plan on going early and you might catch a table when one of the breakfast patrons are done. Oh, and the lemonade is made fresh with lots of pulp!

They have on their menu fried pickles but the guy at the counter said they they couldn't get the batter right and would be taking it off the menu. I've offered them my recipe:

Fried Dill Pickles

8 dill pickles
1/2 cup flour
1/4-1/3 cup beer
1 1/4 T paprika
1 1/4 T cayenne pepper
1 1/4 T black pepper
1/2 t salt
2 t garlic salt
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
Oil for deep frying

Cut the dill pickles in slices as thick as a silver dollar or into four spears. Mix together the remaining ingredients to form the batter. Dip the pickles in the batter and quickly fry in the hot oil (375F/190C) until pickles float to the top, about 4 minutes.

Depending on how you measure out the flour you may need more than 1/4 cup. You want the batter fairly thick!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Columns Hotel

I got together with a few friends for drinks last night and we decided to visit the Columns Hotel. Sitting right on St. Charles Avenue between Napoleon and Louisiana, it is fun going to enjoy the stately ambiance, sit on the porch or go inside to the Victoria Lounge to watch the streetcars rumble past. I went to their Sunday Jazz Brunch a couple of years ago and I understand that it is still outstanding. They are known for their sazarac but their bartenders will pretty much work their magic on any alcohol. I left it up to the bartender and he served up a refreshing rum drink with limoncello. Very worth it for an intimate, romantic meet up or for our fiery political discussions as the tables are widely spaced and the waitstaff discreet.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Capdeville New Orleans

I had a lovely lunch at Capdeville today. Located near Lafayette Square, it was convenient for the protest against ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) that was held in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building.

As today was hot and humid, it was nice to start with a Pimm's Cup. I ended up getting the Mayor Burger (gouda, carmelized onions and chili ketchup) with Poutine fries (Mozzarella Cheese Curd & Au Poivre sauce). My lunch partner had the duck confit club sandwich (with duck cracklings). Very large portions, well flavored, and quick service from the staff. Definitely a go to place for lunch!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Okay, I guess I should get it out there that I'm a Harry Potter fan (although the books should have been named Hermione Granger as Harry, Ron and the entire wizarding world would have been goners with out her). While I didn't see the midnight showing, I did watch the Deathly Hallows 7B at noon on Friday in 3D. I definitely recommend the film--who wouldn't want to see a film about a valiant fight between good and evil, set in a fantastical world populated by ghoulish monsters who want to drag the world into terrible darkness, with the only hope for salvation a group of brave young rebels?

In preparation for the screening, I made some Butterbeer Cupcakes:

For the cupcakes:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cream soda (do not use diet)

For the ganache:
1 11-oz. package butterscotch chips
1 cup heavy cream

For the buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 16-oz. package powdered sugar
Splash of milk or cream (as needed)

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream your butter until light and fluffy. Add your sugars and beat until well-combined. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then beat in your vanilla and butter flavoring.

Alternate adding your buttermilk, cream soda, and dry ingredients in batches until all are well incorporated. Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full, then bake for 15 to 17 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and cake springs back to the touch. Cool completely on wire racks.

For the butterscotch filling: In a double boiler (heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove), combine butterscotch chips and heavy cream and stir until completely combined and smooth. Cool to room temperature. Fill a squeeze bottle with ganache and insert into the center of each cupcake, squeezing until filling begins to overflow.

For the buttercream frosting: Cream butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt and mix until well combined. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until reaching desired consistency. Add milk or cream by the Tablespoon as needed. Frost cupcakes and top with a drizzle of butterscotch ganache.

For the real fans, divide the frosting and use food coloring to make them in your preferred House colors.

Adapted from Amy Bites.

Use any leftover ganache to make butterbeer:

8oz cream soda
2-3 tablespoons of butterscotch ganache

Mix in a tall glass and serve over ice. Add a shot of butterscotch schnapps for an adult version.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Olivier's Restaurant

Olivier's Restaurant serves old school Creole on the edge of the French Quarter. For Dining Out For Life (a benefit for the NO/AIDS Task Force a local HIV/AIDS service organization), I went with a couple of friends.

I started with a rasberry sweet tea vodka--it was made there in house and very refreshing. The Olivier's vinegrette was quite delicious on the mixed green salad. My entree was their Creole rabbit. The sauce was very good and the meat was very flavorful although it was a little dry. The veggies on the side were fairly bland but the pickled okra was a nice touch. One of my dining companions let me taste her pork medallions with honey glaze and a really unique habanero pepper-pineapple-plum-mint sauce. Another had Shrimp Scampi in a sauce that was more creamy than the typical wine and lemon-butter but also pretty delicious.

We ended the meal with the house made peach cobbler. The crumble was incredible and it was the perfect end to the meal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Surrey's Uptown

Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar has opened another shop past Napoleon in Uptown. There is seating outside to watch the passing cars on Magazine but, frankly, it is a little warm to eat outside in New Orleans.

Going in will find you eating with students, off call medics from Touro and Oschner and a few of those ladies who lunch. Surrey's serves all sorts of great breakfast foods from omelette's to fritattas to shrimp and grits but they also serve one of my favorite things--fried chicken and waffles. The fried boneless breast of chicken has a bit of cayenne in the seasoning to give it a little bite and they serve both maple syrup and Steen's cane syrup with the thick but light waffles. The plate also comes with two eggs and so you leave very, very full.

My dining companion got lost and arrived almost 45 minutes late, so I got to watch plenty of what other people were eating. I might have to try the BLT (bacon just hanging out of the bread) or the Ponchatula French Toast (stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese) next time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 235th Birthday, America!

July 4th is a great day to fire up the grill and bring together family and friends to enjoy the bounty of this great nation. As Vince Staten said, "The story of barbecue is the story of America: Settlers arrive on great unspoiled continent, discover wondrous riches, set them on fire and eat them."

My family will be grilling some corn on the cob, smoking ribs and serving it with homemade peach ice cream. Here is the recipe for the ice cream:

2 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 T peach schnapps

Put everything in a blender or food processor and combine. Set in refrigerator overnight. Chill Donvier ice cream insert in freezer overnight. Pulse the mixture the next morning and pour into insert. Make 2 revolutions every one to two minutes for about 20 minutes or until mixture pulls away from sides. Put into container to harden in the freezer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Maya's Restaurant

I was at Maya's recently for the Annual Meeting of the Forum For Equality, an organization of which I'm the Deputy Political Director. The owners are supportive of our work and let us use their upstairs room for our meetings.

I really like their white sangria but they weren't serving it that night, so I went for the margarita instead. Nice and tasty and it sure took the edge off the meeting! I tasted a friend's mojito and it was as good as I make at home with the addition of a piece of sugar cane. The food they serve is Latin fusion--primarily Honduran and Cuban, with a little Caribbean thrown in for good measure. I was off to another meeting after this one, so I just enjoyed the appetizers. The house sauce is good and the empanadas were nice and spicy.

It is a little high end for my usual budget but when you want more than just a burrito or taco, give Maya's a try.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Outback Restaurant at Buena Vista Palace Hotel

I'm in Orlando, Florida at the Golden Crown Literary Society 7th Annual Conference. My first novel, Unbroken Circle, is to be released on Monday and I am here to connect with old friends and promote my book.

It was very cool to see a box of my book for sale:

My publisher, Bella Books, held a dinner for their authors at the Outback Restaurant at the conference hotel. Not to be confused with the Aussie chain, this place supposedly had an Australian theme. However, I never tasted or saw anything at all related to Down Under.

I had the four course prix fixe meal that included a fairly bland French onion soup, an equally banal Caesar salad, and tasteless strawberry cheesecake. The prime rib, however, was cooked beautifully and well marbled. It was quite good and the roasted garlic bulb on top was a very delicious touch.

Despite my quibbles with the soup, salad and dessert, the steak and the company were great--being among such great writers is very inspiring and I hope to spend more time with them in the future.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

When I was just out of college, my great-grandmother passed away. I was working retail and could only take a short time off. I drove to Asheville for the funeral and then grabbed a dozen, piping fresh original glazed doughnuts for the trip back to Washington, DC. In the course of the drive, I ate the whole box and arrived to work with the shakes. I thought it was grief until someone pointed out the sugar content of a single Krispy Kreme. Live and learn, eh?

I say this all to preface how glad I am that there is a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop near my parent's home in Foley, AL. I was never a fan of cakey doughnuts so, the original glazed is a perfect food--light, airy and sugary! As a bonus, today was National Doughnut day, so I got one free! How cool is that?

I do a killer bread pudding with the leftover stale Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding

2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts (best is slightly stale)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur (I sometimes use Amaretto or Bailey's Irish Cream here instead).
2 eggs, beaten
1 pinch salt
1 or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Butter Rum Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cube donuts into a large bowl. Combine milks, creams and liqueur. Wisk in the eggs. Add salt and cinnamon. Pour liquid on top of donuts and let soak for a few minutes. Stir together until the donuts have soaked up the liquid as much as possible.
Bake for about 1 hour until center has jelled. Top with Butter Rum Sauce.

Butter Rum Sauce:
1 stick butter
1 pound box confectioners' sugar
Rum, to taste (start with a generous Tablespoon)
Melt butter and slowly stir in confectioners' sugar. Add rum and heat until bubbly. Pour over each serving of Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Second Birthday at Mr. John's

I so enjoyed my first visit to Mr. John's Steak House that when a friend asked me where she and her husband could take me to dinner, I told them I wanted to go back for another meal. Being used to spoiling me on my birthday, they agreed.

This visit was just as good. The cocktails we started with (sidecar and sazerac) were perfectly blended. My friends enjoyed some French Onion Soup which was rich and hearty and no-one choked on the cheese (my paternal grandmother was forever warning anyone who ordered such a soup as to the dire consequences awaiting you). I had the ribeye again and they went for the filet mignon and the petite filet. The filet was just a little dry for my taste but that could have been because the marbling on my piece of meat made mine extra juicey! The sides of potato au gratin were super hot but filled with creamy, cheesey goodness. I only had a bite of the spinach au gratin to reaffirm how much I hate cooked spinach.

As they had told them when making the reservation that it was my birthday, we enjoyed another complimentary bread pudding with our tawny cinnamon port. Not a bad ending to any meal.

I've also got to give kudos for the service--the waitstaff is attentive without being obtrusive, water and iced tea is filled before the level drops below the half way line, all the plates are delivered to the table at the same time. We got there at 7:30 and were the second to last table to clear at 10pm and they never made us feel rushed or that we should take our conversation elsewhere.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Central Grocery

A definite must stop on any trip to the French Quarter is Central Grocery. I usually pick up some spices, cans of lentils, olive oil and hot sauces. When I have friends in town and we're looking to picnic or a quick bite, we also grab a muffuletta (a sandwich which consists of a loaf of Sicilian bread, split horizontally and is then covered with a marinated olive salad, layers of capicola, salami, pepperoni, emmentaler, Ham and provolone).

Central Grocery claims to have either created or perfected the muff and I have to admit that theirs is very, very good. While not layered as thick as it used to be, it is still a good combination of flavors on good bread that pairs well with a bag of Zapp's chips and a root beer. I also have to admire how quickly they move the line that can fill the small space at lunch time. What I don't like is how utterly rude they are. They won't answer questions, they won't explain what's on it, they won't make special orders, etc, etc. Now, I've worked counters before and I know how aggravating it can be to be asked the same question a million times but they are in a customer service business and a little bone thrown to clueless tourists must surely take several years off your scheduled stint in purgatory.

And there is a difference between brusque and rude--they come down solidly on the rude side!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cafe Pontalba

Situated on the corner of Jackson Square, Cafe Pontalba has one of the best locations in the city for foot traffic. Perhaps that is why it serves pretty darn bland southern and soul food. Very much a tourist trap, don't go into it expecting great food. I was with some folks who were exhausted from walking the French Quarter and were fine with the people watching. The fried shrimp po-boy was served on stale bread, the brown gravy on the roast beef sandwich tasted canned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pascale's Manale

I've spoken before about my neighborhood Creole Italian restaurant. It is within walking distance of my house, which is a good thing when you need to work off a bit of over indulgence. Pascale's Manale is upscale and is best known for their Barbecue Shrimp.

This last visit we all decided to branch out and try something new. Helen had pasta with meatballs. The two meatballs were huge and quite flavorful. Butch had the veal gambero that came with a couple of peeled bbq shrimp. The veal was paneed and very flavorful. I kept reaching across to dip my bread into his bbq shrimp sauce. I had the crabmeat alfredo--lots of lump crab meat and two spicy crab cakes. Because the crab cakes were so well seasoned, the alfredo sauce came across a little bland.

As usual, we had a very friendly server who occassionally got distracted by his conversation to the detriment of getting menus and the order taken but, we weren't in a rush, so it wasn't such a bad thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

American Sector

Next to the theater/stage area of the National World War II museum is John Besh's American Sector cafe. The menu is pretty eclectic with a mix of New Orleans' staples and fusion inspired takes on comfort food.

I had the spicy garlic glazed fried chicken--a very nice heat to the coating made them finger licking good. The mix of pickles that came with it (watermelon rind, squash and daikon) were a cooling touch. My friends got the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade--the coating was a little thin but they had a good flavor--and the shrimp po-boy that came with homemade potato chips. The fish fry batter was nice and crisp on the shrimp.

This is a good place to take a break between D-day exhibits, the film and the other sites. Plenty of folks who work in the Warehouse District also go there for lunch.

I'm a fan of Chef Besh's red velvet cupcake, so make sure you leave room for at least one!

Monday, May 16, 2011

12 Mile Limit

Not so much a restaurant as a dive bar, 12 Mile Limit is located in Mid-City. They serve barbecue, cocktails and cupcakes, so that is why I included them here. The cocktails are pretty fancy but without the fancy price. The cupcakes come regular size and as a DoBite which usually comes paired with a cocktail or a shot. The BBQ comes in cow and pig and is fork tender. The mashed potatoes were out of this world--creamy with cheese, green onions and a bit of potato skin left in.

All in all a perfect neighborhood bar to relax after a day of work. They even have some board games in addition to the video of poker for folks to make a night of it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Orleans Coffee and Beignet Company

Attached to the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company is the New Orleans Coffee and Beignet Company. Frankly, I think their beignet's beat out Cafe du Monde's. Add that to the cleanliness, the ease of parking and it being within walking distance from my house, makes this my new favorite place to get my fried dough fix. The hot chocolate is delicious but the frozen creme caramel is extraordinarily good.