Category Archives: Cajun

Featured City Post: NOLA

I have many New York restaurants to catch up on here, but considering the overwhelming food experiences I had this weekend in New Orleans, I can’t help but update non-chronologically. This time, I was in this food-lovers city for my sister’s bachelorette party, and while most of the festivities revolved around embracing her last days as a “free woman,” we devoted a good portion of the weekend to visiting some of its best food stops (as should only be expected).

As luck would have it, I launched into the weekend with a horrible bout of what I thought to be food poisoning at the time, but am now diagnosing as a stomach virus. Whatever it was, it caused me to have an unthinkable urge to eat exclusively bread. But after the first major episode of violent illness, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and ate every meal like a champ (though every time I thought I was in the clear I proved myself wrong – still, it was worth it).

Justyn and Witty at Jacques-Imos

Our weekend debuted with Jacques-imos, a common NOLA favorite, more-so for its upbeat, eclectic setting than the quality of its food. Its menu is filled with a huge variety of specialty items that come with salad and two choices of sides – I chose mashed potatoes and red beans and rice to go with our waiter’s recommendation of blackened red fish and shared Jessie’s fried chicken. But after eating starters of fried cheese grits, alligator cheesecake, jambalaya, and fried green tomatoes, I hardly had room for the main. Still, the fried chicken was as tender and flavorful as it comes, producing only smiles at all ends of the table.

buttery, garlicky, fried corn muffins

yup - real alligator sausage cheesecake appetizer

fried chicken with pickles

Our waiter was gracious enough to round out all of the food with free shots to honor the bachelorette, but the best part about the experience was the communal atmosphere. With its ridiculously strong and inexpensive drinks, it’s difficult to find a sober person in the house, and large groups tend to intermingle – so get ready for some random experiences if you plan to visit.

waiting at the bar at Brennan's

Our next major food excursion took place during brunch at Brennan’s in the French Quarter, the supposed founder of bananas foster. Though we waited over 40 minutes for our 12pm reservation, once we were seated we had a flawless experience thanks to our friendly waiter Troy. Surprisingly, the best deal on the menu is to order a three course prix fixe, which at $36, comes with a first course, a main, and dessert. Of course, a variety of the options tack on a few extra dollars here and there, but I ordered “simply” and stuck to the originals. For my starter, I went for the strawberries and cream, the eggs benedict for my main, and the chocolate pecan pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. This was all after sharing a deliciously sweet Milk Punch – a concoction of brandy, half and half, vanilla, sugar, and nutmeg; what the bartender depicted as “Christmas morning in your mouth.”

bloody & milk punch

sweet, creamy strawberries

baked apple, just like grandpa used to make

eggs benedict

incredible pie

While the appetizer and dessert were definitely not necessary, they fit perfectly into the inescapable scene of gluttony in New Orleans. Strawberries and cream reminded me of my mother’s quick-fix dessert concoction growing up, and the pecan pie, with a drip-less vanilla ice cream, was one of the best I’ve ever had. Plus, the pure excitement of watching Troy flambe bananas in a pan table-side was definitely worth the order. Thankfully, he made enough for us all to taste, and honestly, it was indescribably good. Just imagine warm, brown-sugary, buttery bananas layered over ice cold vanilla ice cream. How on earth can that be bad?

Troy at work

frightening - but no one was actually harmed.

BAM!

After more snacking, ordering delivery for dinner that night, and getting Cafe Du Monde beignets and iced coffee to go this morning, we headed straight for Felix’s, a favorite of Justyn’s oyster-obsessed friend Mather. We waited in a short line and were seated at one of the many cafeteria style tables facing the oyster bar in the back. Don’t let the casual set-up and rushed service fool you – this place does not joke around about quality food. We sucked down 1.5 dozen oysters, fresh and charbroiled (so buttery and flavorful), as well as a crawfish po-boy, gumbo, and jambalaya. For $20 a piece, it was a steal, and just enough to satisfy my cajun-creole food needs for a good few months.

Jessie and Mather at Felix's - first round of oysters

buttery charbroiled oysters at Felix's

After being to New Orleans many times, I’ve nailed down the trend of my visits. Each time, I end up consuming something (whether it be food or drink) pretty much every hour of the day, and when I return, I feel like hell – no lie. Regardless, I never fail to take the feeling in stride and embrace the fact that the city is my backdrop for ultimate gluttony, and the painful bloat after consistent intake of fried, heavy food is completely worth the pure joy I get out of having these experiences. ‘Til the next time…

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Filed under Cajun, Featured U.S. City Posts

Bar Americain

Bar Americain

It’s not easy finding restaurants with character in midtown. You have your steakhouses, your power lunch spots, the hotel restaurants, and the chains. Today, I decided on Bar American, Bobby Flay’s Southwestern take on a typical French brasserie menu. With crab and coconut and mussels and fries with a green chile broth, Bar American is almost like a Tex Mix Balthazar, but without the young and scene-y atmosphere. Despite the flair, however, ambience is characteristic of the area – think business suits and Gen-X-ers.

Though the old-school Madison Avenue atmosphere isn’t my favorite, the food at Bobby’s restaurant is actually quite good. Lunch comes with a basket of hot and crispy cornbread (it’s got to be fried), and the menu has a wide range of interesting options. Just don’t expect to eat too lightly here.

Cornbread

"hot" chips with dip

We started with the tuna tartare andhot potato chip with blue cheese dipping sauce. The tuna was basic and well prepared with finely chopped garnishes, and the hot chips were incredibly thin, light, and delicious. With the oozing chunky blue cheese dip, they were highly addictive.

tuna tartare

I attempted to order healthily and had the Southwestern Cobb Salad for my main course, but with bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado, I felt like I had eaten a burger by the end of my meal. That said, it was a solid salad and definitely classically prepared.

cobb salad

Dessert was the major show-stopper. I could have made a meal out of the red velvet brownie with homemade cream cheese soft ice cream and the profiteroles with vanilla soft serve and pralines. David Chang, move over – Bobby would definitely win the contest of best chef-created soft serve. The red velvet brownie somehow incorporated the classic flavors of a perfect red velvet cake, but had the density and chocolate richness of a delicious brownie. Just as I had imagined, my two favorite desserts combined transformed into something out of this world.

red velvet brownie

profiteroles

I left much fuller than I should be after lunch, but I was actually quite pleased with my overall meal at Bar Americain. I wouldn’t come back from an intimate or particularly unique dining experience, but it’s a perfect fit for client or older-crowd entertaining.

Grade: A-

Location: 152 West 52nd Street between 6th and 7th Ave

Website: http://www.baramericain.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Cajun, Latin American, Midtown West, New American, Parents in Town, Southern

Eating My Way Through NOLA

NOLA

After various impressive meals in my hometown last week, I shamefully suspected that New Orlean’s food would fail to wow me during my visit there this weekend. But sure enough, as I sit here remedying three-days worth of southern food and beautiful weather with green tea and my heater full-blast, I can confidently profess that the city has outdone itself again. With its utter decadence, loud and distinctive flavors, and bold depictions of excess, authentic New Orleans’ cuisine will never cease to blow me away.

Though my schedule this weekend revolved around wedding festivities, I made every effort to squeeze in a foodie experience when time allowed. My first occurred with brunch at Stanley just off of Jackson Square, recommended by the bride and groom. At only 10:30am the area was popping with live jazz and boozing tourists, which made quite the people watching-scene during our hour-long table wait. Stanley, like most restaurants downtown, is fairly casual – a sophisticated diner with an open kitchen and black and white floors. My friend Sara (most notable for being a food partner in Atlantic City) definitely won the contest for best (and most expensive) order with the Eggs Stella, which came with cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crab, poached eggs, canadian bacon and creole hollandaise. Who knew soft-shell crab could be so massive?

Thankfully, her generosity helped remedy my order envy. Regardless, I definitely enjoyed the Stanley Classic, which was a well rounded breakfast plate of classics: bacon, hollandaise, poached eggs, toast, and potatoes.

Eggs Stanley

Although filling, breakfast was light enough to merit a stop in the Southern Candymaker’s for a fresh praline – if you’re not button-popping full in New Orleans, you can consider yourself hungry. As you enter this seemingly hole-in-the wall candy shop, warm butter and sugar instantaneously seeps into your sensors like pheromones, enticing you to lust after every beautifully hand dipped candy stacked in the displays. If you arrive uninterested, you’ll soon find yourself forking over $50 to ship the candy home. Buttery, admittedly overly sweet, and creamy, their pralines are the best I’ve ever had, and made fresh each hour. Make sure you get the pronunciation right before asking for a taste – the locals call them “Praw-lines” and will giggle upon hearing “Pray-lines.”

Southern Candymakers

Fresh N'awlins Pralines!

Pralines led into the evening, and after a little sugar shock, a wedding ceremony, and a night of dancing, my friend Jillian and I decided to do our weekend’s worth of exercise and walk to the famous Cafe Du Monde downtown for beignets and coffee. This goes without saying, but unlike other tourist obsessions (ie Magnolia Bakery), this line is absolutely worth the wait. The fried dough tasted just as I had remembered, crisp, dense, chewy, and drowned in powdered sugar. They’re literally un-replicable. Their coffee is also widely known in the area, and though my frozen iced coffee could have eased up on the sugar, it was the perfect thing to wash down the hot doughy goodness.

Beignets

After our little snack, we ventured to the Roosevelt Hotel for a Jazz Brunch with the bride and groom. Normally, I’m turned off by hotel dining establishments, but when I was greeted with a platter of mimosas and a buffet the size of my foodie imagination, I knew I’d come to the right place. We immediately started at the buffet which consisted of an unlimited supply of Southern fare. Food ranged from the traditional to the sophisticated: king crab legs, fresh oysters, crawfish, gumbo, rice, caviar bellinis, jambalaya empanadas, vegetable quiches, lobster bisque in puff pastry, and fresh fruit were just a few of the items that caught my eye. And the most amazing part of the buffet? Everything was incredible. The most surprising? It was just the beginning. After the buffet course, we were then given menus to order our entrees. How quintessentially Southern of this place?

The seafood table

so much to choose from!

Mike scooping up some gumbo

I of course couldn’t resist and ordered something unique – the eggs sardou: poached eggs on top of artichoke, creamy spinach, and vinegary heirloom tomatoes. Delish! My friend Jillian ordered the smoked salmon flat bread with pickled okra, capers, and cucumbers, which was refreshing and texturally unique. Mike’s crab omelette was the most decadent of them all – eggs filled with creole sauce, fresh crab, and cheese aside oven roasted potatoes.

Eggs Sardou

Smoked Salmon Flatbread

Crab Remoulade Omlette

Jillian with caviar

After 2 hours of noshing, I couldn’t believe that I still had stomach space for dessert.

The dessert bar was over the top. In addition to the mini creme brulees, the brownies, the petite fours, the cookies, the pralines, and the cream puffs, and the fruit tarts, a chef awaited orders to cook banana’s foster. Having had this New Orleans-born classic only once before, I had to order it just on principle. Though it ended up as an excruciatingly sweet, melted vanilla concoction, I couldn’t help but feel like an old Southern Belle in the gorgeous surroundings amidst live jazz music and friends.

petites fours

endless towers of sweets

 

Banana's Foster Chef

Bananas Foster

After three hours of gluttony, I was convinced that I had just participated in my most over-the-top brunch experience thus far. Las Vegas, you’ve got nothing on a New Orleans’s jazz brunch at the Roosevelt. The key to the delicious food here is that it’s made in small batches – buffet plates are constantly rotated, and all breakfast is made to order.

Unfortunately, my short trip wouldn’t allow for much more experimentation on the restaurant front, but with brunches and all the sweets in mind, I left New Orleans thoroughly dazzled by my foodie experience and ready for a detox. New Orleans, after a year of digesting this food, I’ll be back for you!

Locations Mentioned:

Stanley: Grade: B+, 4 Jackson Square, http://www.stanleyrestaurant.com

Southern Candymakers: Grade: A, 334 Decatur St, http://www.southerncandymakers.com

Cafe Du Monde: Grade: A, 1039 Decatur St, http://www.cafedumonde.com

The Roosevelt Hotel: Grade: A+, 123 Baronne Street, http://www.therooseveltneworleans.com


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Filed under Brunch, Cajun, Featured U.S. City Posts, Southern

SF – The Elite Cafe

Last weekend my parents and I strolled down Fillmore street in search of a pastry when the unexpected site of a crowd-free zone outside of the Elite Cafe suddenly changed our plans. Whatever the reason for the short wait for a table, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat at the best New Orleans-style restaurant outside of the city proper.

At 10:30am after a late night out, I couldn’t manage to order hearty food, so I despicably ordered granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, and biscuits, and shared the Huevos Rancheros with my mom. The “Meeting House” biscuits, miniature versions of the massive NOLA bricks, were deliciously flakey, buttery, and hot – a perfect combination of my favorite Pillsbury Grands and KFC’s buttermilk. Served with strawberry butter, these biscuits were irresistible. In fact, they’re so irresistible that they are sold frozen by the dozen for those who cannot survive until morning without eating them again.

Buttery Meetinghouse Biscuit

fresh fruit: a sore thumb on the menu

Of course, seeing the various options side by side, I ended up focusing my attention the Mexican masterpiece of crispy corn tortilla and jack cheese quesadillas piled high with beans, fried eggs, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. The best part was the most subtle: the cheesy-grit like mashed potatoes soaked with tomatillo salsa. A breakfast fit for a (really hung over) king.

One of the best Huevos Rancheros in SF

My dad’s Alabama Scramble just screamed soul food at its finest:  scrambled eggs, minced bacon, mashed potatoes, and biscuits with gravy. Though the description conjures up images of heart failure, the dish’s incredibly robust flavors and fresh ingredients were an incessant reminder that this was New Orleans’ grease created in one of America’s healthiest cities.

YUM

Though the experience at the Elite Cafe is somewhat dependent on seating location, which can range from an isolated, closed off booth to a table smack dab in the middle of the bar, the brunch is inarguably one of the best this city has to offer. Though Elite specializes in Cajun and Creole cuisine, I would recommend The Elite to any visitor looking for a classic depiction of inventive San Franciscan cuisine.

Grade: A

Location: 2049 Fillmore Street btwn California St and Pine St

Website: http://www.theelitecafe.com

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Filed under American, Brunch, Cajun, Featured U.S. City Posts, Southern