Sunday, August 31, 2008

Please Pray for State of Louisiana and the Surroundings

I am sure that now, you are hearing on the news what we in New Orleans have been bracing for all week--the arrival of Hurricane Gustav. Right now, the primary sentiment of Gulf Coast residents is one of extraordinary trepidation. None of us want to relive the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, and based on the forecast of Hurricane Gustav and Mayor Nagin's proclamation that Hurricane Gustav is the "Storm of the Century," there is a very strong possibility that we will--almost three years to the date of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

To update you on the path of Hurricane Gustav, here is the latest real-time map (which is updated by the National Hurricane Center):



For those of you who know me, my close friends and family have evacuated safely (or are in the process of evacuating). I am reading your emails now this morning, and want to thank you for your concerns. Please think about the other people of New Orleans and Louisiana as well.

Please pray for the people living on the Gulf Coast, many of whom simply do not have the psychological or financial wherewithal to make it through another hurricane like Hurricane Katrina. Many have lost everything, and are in the process of potentially losing everything, again.

Please pray that the people of New Orleans will never lose their generous, abounding, and unparalleled spirit, even despite tragedy and hardship. Please pray for the people who are still evacuating, that they would not encounter car troubles, that they can make it through the bumper-to-bumper traffic relatively quickly, that they would be able to purchase enough food, water, and supplies, even despite the empty shelves, and that they can find rooms in which to stay. Please pray that the levees will hold. Please pray that by a miracle, the storm would weaken and that the Gulf Coast may be protected.

Also, please pray for those who have lost their family, friends, or homes during Hurricane Katrina, and who are still coming to terms with their losses. In a time of frenzy and fear, the blogger at Contraflow Maps reminded me to "remember" the losses from Hurricane Katrina with this image:



I hope you do the same.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mother's Day in August


I've posted about Mother's Restaurant before... On several occasions. But I'm sure that by now, you've noticed that I love repeating myself, especially when it gives me the opportunity to post more pictures. For instance, I love talking about Acme Oyster House, again and again. Furthermore, if you are a regular reader, you may have wondered why I can't stop talking about Zea.

Well, this last Saturday, my rumbling stomach just happened to have a yearning for some classic N'awlins food, so I swung by my regular lunch standby and perpetual favorite,
Mother's Restaurant. Here are my recommendations of what you should order when visit Mother's.


On Saturdays, be sure to order their special: an enriching bowl of Mae's filé gumbo, which is served with generous spoonfuls of fluffy long grain white rice and thick-cut rounds of smoky andouille sausage. Just a quick FYI: "filé powder" is a common gumbo ingredient and is a Native-American spice made from dried sassafras leaves, which has been ground to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Filé powder has thickening qualities similar to cornstarch, and may be used in gumbos, but only if okra is not an ingredient. (The gel in okra also acts as a thickening agent, so filé + okra tends to be overkill.)


You'll be prohibited from setting foot into Mother's (by me) if you don't order one of their famous po' boys, which are lightly buttered and dressed with pickles, shredded cabbage, and mayonnaise. Mother's po' boy bread is airy, and almost ethereal, and therefore acts as the perfect base for any po' boy filling. One delectable option is Mother's monstrous fried oyster po' boy, which is crammed with crunchy and golden-brown oysters that are perfectly creamy and slippery on the inside.


Another po' boy possibility is their signature invention: a roast beef "debris" po' boy which is drenched in a savory au jus and littered with stringy tendrils of slow cooked beef. The meat in a debris po' boy is not your typical sliced roast beef, but rather, the meat filling consists of the remnants in the roasting pan after a Sunday supper--thus, the "debris" name.


Finally, don't hesitate to reward yourself with a spongy slice of bread pudding. Mother's bread pudding is saturated with sweet liqueur and cream, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, and cooked with peaches and cherries. This pudd'n will most likely leave you loosening your pants for more.


If you are in the New Orleans area, I hope that these pictures inspire you to make your next lunch visit to Mother's in the near future. If you've never been to New Orleans, I hope this post has encouraged you to visit us!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Central Business District Lunchtime Staple

I am sure that you've noticed that I've been eating a lot of takeout lately--at my desk.

But that doesn't mean that I've been eating poorly. In fact, allow me to now segue to a quick shout-out to one of my favorite neighborhood lunchtime eateries in the Central Business District in New Orleans: Welty's Deli.

Because
Welty's is right next to the courthouse, Welty's will almost assuredly be chockful of Louisiana bar members in starched and pressed button-up shirts, at any given time. (Insert inappropriate lawyer joke here.) Irregardless of Welty's sometimes offputting clientele, don't be intimidated or frightened from entering. The food should speak for itself. Holla!

Welty's
serves bountiful salads and overflowing sandwiches. Their lavish portion sizes that will leave your mouth agape by their Southern largess. They also offer a mean sweet tea and allow you to "customize" your sandwich with standard items from their sandwich toppings bar--you may load your 'wich with all the crisp iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles that you so desire. Be sure to check out Welty's website for their gourmet daily specials, such as the picture featured in this post: their flour tortilla enchiladas, served with black beans and Spanish rice.


Okay, back to work for me! I apologize for the weak substance of these posts. However, to forewarn you: expect many more takeout pictures in the coming weeks! (It's crunch time.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spice Up Your Life (With a Free Mardi Gras Spice Package)


Being married to a Maryland man, I've learned one thing: After God, a Maryland man loves (1) the Redskins and (2) Old Bay Seasoning on his blue crab, though not necessarily in that order.

Based on my interactions with Louisiana men and women, I've learned another: After God, Louisiana folks love (1) the Saints and (2) their Zatarain's, equally. And they love Zatarain's on everything.

Between these spices, you will see a great schism in the United States which is based on the dueling, fervent, and almost-religious loyalties to Old Bay or Zatarain's. (But to tell you a secret, I think that my Old Bay-lovin' beau has become a Zatarain's convert after enjoying my brother's famous crab and crawfish boils down here in Louisiana. He is in denial though.)

Yes, I know that both spices are made by the mega-lo-normous spice corporation, McCormick, but they really do have distinct flavors. I would say that Old Bay is saltier and leaves more of a nasal-y celery aroma in your mouth and nose, and Zatarain's has a stronger emphasis on the spicy "oomph" that leaves your tongue and mouth blissfully tingling in a fiery pain.

You should judge for yourself, do you get overexcited for Old Bay or are you zealous for Zatarain's? If you would like a sample, [UPDATE: LINK DISABLED & TEXT REMOVED]email April, a McCormick representative, with your address at and she will send you a free Mardi Gras spice package! Also, don't forget to mention this post on Passionate Eater, and tell your friends! Hurry, before this offer expires! [SORRY, THE OFFER HAS NOW EXPIRED.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Becoming a Real New Orleans Food Blog

Well, I am not there yet... Especially if I keep "shizzie-postings" crap this up.

You all know that I love the City and the people of New Orleans and I love eating here. And I have posted about the restaurants and unique cuisine of New Orleans quite a bit already. But I still have a ways to go. I honestly have some crazy-delicious work-in-progress posts coming up about famous New Orleans dining institutions (including Commander's Palace, NOLA Restaurant, Jacques-Imo's Cafe, and Domilise's). I also have a few classic New Orleans recipes in the posting pipeline. However, to keep you waiting with bated breath, I am going to delay a bit and continue to put up some more images from Zea--the chain restaurant I discussed earlier.

In my own defense, I haven't sufficiently perfected the posts on those above restaurants, and since I already expounded at length about
Zea, I can cop-out and just post these images and say, "See? Enjoy! Bye-bye." No need to write a full-length post!

Here is a picture of
Zea's chewy slices of rotisserie beef (emphasis on "chewy") with green peppercorn gravy.


Above is their "Philly" beef panini sandwich, which consists of oily chopped beef and onions, which are sandwiched between in two grilled rounds of flatbread. The flatbread is slathered in a thick mayonnaise and oozing with melted jack cheese.

Enjoy, and bye-bye!

... Okay, this post sucked, but there is a big work deadline that I am procrastinating from, so this is all you get for now--what I ate for dinner as take-out, two nights in a row. Sorry.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Zea Makes This Alice (Delight) in Chains


As a kid growing up in the parched and remote deserts of Arizona, I grew up on an all-American, completely processed, and preservative-laden diet. I survived on anything and everything in the (1) Lay's potato chip family and (2) Banquet frozen dinner family. I wholeheartedly count Shake-n-Bake pork chops and instant mashed potatoes as one of my all-time favorite dinners. Yes, you read that right: "instant." Finally, all of our fresh produce was transported in from trucks coming from California, so we eagerly took what we could get (mainly lettuce, potatoes, apples, and oranges). That should illustrate the kind of food I grew up with.

Therefore, when our family went out for dinner, we went "big time." Meaning, we hit up the chain restaurants that were the only restaurants available. My all-time favorite restaurant in the world was Sizzler, and
Jerry's was a close second. I am sure those of you who are familiar with rural Arizona will immediately guess where I lived, because Sizzler and Jerry's were the only two "big time" restaurants in my town.

However, when I moved to Los Angeles, and then to San Francisco, I developed an air of haughtiness--a sense of unrequited entitlement--to what I thought were the finer things in life. I eschewed chain restaurants because they were for the common, unrefined, and uninformed proletariat. Rather, I visited the ethnic mom-and-pop restaurants and patronized fine dining establishments recognized by food critics around the world.

And then I moved to New Orleans. And then I woke up from my ignorance. And then I happily went back to my roots. Yes, I still love the mom-and-pop and upscale restaurants, but I can't say that chains are all that bad.

Yes, admittedly, I surreptitiously visited California Pizza Kitchen on several occasions when living in California. But now, in New Orleans, I am a repeat offender. I am utterly infatuated with the
Zea restaurants on Saint Charles Avenue and in Clearview Mall, and don't care who catches me in the act!

Let me give you some recommendations on what you must order at
Zea. First, if you don't get their signature rotisserie chicken, I will have to disown you from my family. You absolutely must try Zea's immaculately juicy 1/2 rotisserie chicken, which is seasoned with the perfect blend of peppery and crimson colored Creole spices. NASA needs to find out what rotisserie machine that Zea uses, because their tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken retains more moisture than humanly possible. They need a patent on that process so it can be used on the next trip to Mars!

Oh, and "what are those twin peaks of deliciousness mounded next to the chicken," you ask? Those are their (1) much-talked-about roasted corn grits and (2) mashed and buttered sweet potatoes, my friend. Butter pervades throughout (or should I say, is the predominant ingredient in) both of those sides.

Another delicious selection is their premium rack of St. Louis Style spare ribs, that are allegedly wood fire roasted and grilled (don't ask me how to "roast" and "grill" at the same time, but they say that in their menu). The ribs are appropriately in drenched in a sweetened Thai sauce, just as good ribs should be. And in addition to the sweet potatoes, those are their Thai snap beans, as a side treat. (That is what we call vegetables where I come from, a "side treat.")

And though they laud themselves as a rotisserie restaurant, their pastas, sandwiches, and salads are my favorite lunchtime splurge. My favorite pasta on their menu has to be the shrimp breaux bridge penne pasta, which is saute-tossed in a spicy and garlicky cream sauce made with herbs and cheese. Heart attack-inducing? Yes.

Finally, since I mentioned their "sandwiches," here is a gratuitous picture of their wood fire hickory grilled chicken breast sandwich with jack cheese, chipotle aioli, and a side of dirty rice. But I would actually not recommend you to order this sandwich. Instead, I would direct your attention to their Sedona chicken panini. That sandwich is maddeningly mouthwatering. It is a panini-grilled sandwich stuffed with their rotisserie chicken, grilled onions, roasted garlic, roasted corn, chopped cilantro, and topped with a slice of jack cheese and a smearing of chipotle aioli. Okay, I just regurgitated what was on their menu with regards to that sandwich, but it was way worth it if I gave you an idea that the sandwich is heaven.

Oh, and I know this post title makes no sense, but I just wanted to say "Alice in Chains," since my sister was a fan of theirs in the 80s. Go heavy metal and rock!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Missing Generic Californianess


When you live in California, you typically don't pay attention to the ubiquitous corporate chain stores that pepper the landscape and fill up California's quintessential strip malls. Therefore, Californians usually don't realize the value of these stores until they move to another state and become "ex-Californians."

Taste Memory reminded me a few days ago that one of these invaluable stores was
Trader Joe's.

I reminded myself that another such store is
Panera Bread.

Oh how I lust for Panera Bread's blistered artisan cheese bread (kneaded with and decoratively sprinkled with Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese)! Also, I dream of their crisp, flaky, and golden brown pastries, as they grace my lips.

Therefore, I am posting this open (and genuine) plea to Trader Joe's and Panera Bread: Please help Louisiana rebuild and open a store right next to my home!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Going Back to the Basics


Acme Oyster House was the first restaurant that I ever tried in New Orleans. And I hope it will be my last.

Seriously. I will remain a devoted fan until the day I die. Even if I die of heart failure from eating too many po' boys from
Acme.


Although locals decry
Acme Oyster House as a touristy ripoff, I adore, adore, adore their rich, ultra-nutritious, and thick-like-gravy gumbos. After Acme, I can't stomach watered-down, soupy excuses for gumbo. For all of you traditionalists, I readily admit that they don't include full crabs (in the shell) in their gumbo, but that makes it easier to gulp it down, and therefore, their gumbo is even better to me, because there is no obstruction to its quick consumption!


Since my blog has converted into a quasi-shrine which repetitively lauds the wonders of
Acme, and now since I am posting "larger images," I am going to use this as an excuse to post a few more pictures of my all-time favorite restaurant of New Orleans.

Enjoy these pictures of
Acme's insanely cheap, freshly shucked oysters, crawfish etouffee, and gumbo. Oh, and note to potential Acme patrons: their crawfish etouffee and gumbo taste nearly identical to this untrained tongue, but with the etouffee, you get a bowl full of crunchy fried crawfish tails as a bonus addition!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting More Than Dizzy at Lil' Dizzy's

Lil' Dizzy's Cafe in the Central Business District of New Orleans is known for its unique ambiance--it is built in part of a historic bank (whose traffic has died down significantly since its early heyday). Therefore, you can actually admire the elaborate marble columns and banking-centric murals, visit the non-functional vault near the restrooms, and listen to the banking bustle as financial transactions are really taking place on the other side of the room divider.

During their Sunday jazz brunch, in addition to the live music,
Lil' Dizzy's serves free-flowing mimosas and champagne and offers a comforting selection of all-you-can eat Southern dishes. Therefore, one day after church, I decided to visit Lil' Dizzy's for their jazz champagne brunch, to enjoy a leisurely late morning meal with a live jazz band playing in the background.

We've all heard the time-honored adage, that if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. Therefore, I am not going to going to say much about these pictures from my most recent visit to
Lil' Dizzy's Cafe.

My experience at the restaurant was great, and I have been to
Lil' Dizzy's at least on five previous occasions with no problem. However, about an hour and a half after this meal, I became violently ill. I usually will not post at places where I fall seriously ill, but I am giving Lil' Dizzy's the benefit of the doubt, since my friend accompanied me during the brunch, loved it, and exhibited no gastrointestinal problems whatsoever. Plus, it takes a lot for me to dislike a New Orleans restaurant, though there are many San Francisco restaurants that are on my eternal blacklist.

At Lil' Dizzy's, my companion and I had the crispy and golden-brown fried chicken,


Macaroni and cheese, seasoned and cubed potatoes fried with their skins on, green beans, stewed chicken, and trout baquet,


Omelets-made-your-way (I ordered an egg white jambalaya omelet and my friend order the triple crab meat omelet, and we split them),


Brothy gumbo and a shrimp salad in a mayonnaisey dressing,


Mimosas,


Sticky pecan pie,


And a moist, egg nogg flavored bread pudding.


Ultimately, I hope these pictures speak for themselves, and redeem any perceived shortcomings by
Lil' Dizzy's. Plus, I should qualify my illness, by saying that I ultimately meandered into Lil' Dizzy's towards the end of the brunch hour (when the jazz band had already departed), so if you visit earlier, you might not have any of my complications.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gellin' Like a Felon at Gelato Pazzo Caffe

School is just ready to start and the sweltering New Orleans summer is winding down to a muggy end. Therefore, now is the time--more than ever--to languish at home, and enjoy a few more seconds of this summer. Pull up a lawn chair, and a tall and refreshing glass of brewed sweet tea, and turn up the Olympics swimming competition on television.

One of my favorite summer time treats here in New Orleans, is homemade gelato from Gelato Pazzo Caffe on Carrollton. It is a casual, university-friendly, breezily air conditioned place, where you can bring your school work (or newspaper) to relax while enjoying a frosty cup of their lip-smackingly delicious Italian gelato. They have a nice variety of romantic gelato flavors, including an intense, deeply-flavorful chocolate-cherry and limoncello.


My personal favorite, is their limetta gelato, which is thick, creamy, and drizzled with a sticky syrup that resonates with the tartness of fresh lime zest. If you are in the mood for a tall glass of ice cold limeade, the limetta gelato is your answer.


At
Gelato Pazzo, they don't just cater to your sweet tooth. Check out their panini sandwiches, where you can choose from their nice selection of cured lunch meats, imported straight from Italy.


Also, you can purchase other imported specialty Italian goods there, such as canned Italian tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, semolina pasta, jarred capers, and other pickled vegetables.



What are you doing still at your computer? Go out and make the most of summer, while it is here!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Adopting Obama's Platform of Change

You are going to see some changes around here, starting today.

First, I am going to be doing more cooking posts. In fact, that is the reason that I started my blog in October 2005, though it hasn't been apparent from all the restaurant posts.

Second, I am going to start using larger images.


I hope you enjoy the changes! Oh, and the killer sushi spread is from Miyabi Sushi in SF.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Liberating My Waistband at Liborio's

Of the large "melting pot" cities of America, it is commonly known that New Orleans is one of the most diverse and unique when it comes to cuisine. One of the restaurants that I would like to highlight as being demonstrative of this diversity, is Liborio's, a Cuban restaurant located right in the middle of the City's Central Business District.

Perhaps their most famous dish, is "old clothes," or ropa vieja. The taste of the meat in the dish is reminiscent of the slow-cooked pot roast that Grandma started cooking before church and would serve for Sunday supper. Every tangled string of beef is richly saturated with flavors of fine red wine, hearty tomato sauce, minced garlic, and red bell peppers. Think of a delectable and amazingly tender beef brisket, in pulled pork form.

Although I have never tried the dish myself, I have heard only positive things about their moist baked chicken breast, which is stuffed with peaches and cooked in a peach and rosemary seasoned broth.

All of
Liborio's dishes are rounded out with a serving of (1) steamed long-grain white rice, (2) a cup full of spice-infused black beans, and (3) sticky plantains, sugared and fried until pillowy soft, slightly gummy, and yet cloyingly delicious.

Finally, my personal favorite, is the ubiquitous Cuban sandwich, which consists of two crusty halves of French bread which are coated with a slick spread of mayonnaise and interlayered with tart pickle slices, and thin cuts of alternating ham and roasted pork. The sandwich is adhered together with melted Swiss cheese and warmed in a heated sandwich press.

I hope this brief post inspired you to out there and enjoy some Cuban food, or at least to take advantage of your local (and diverse) lunch time offerings!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Café Tiramisu at Belden Place

Disclaimer, preface (or whatever you would like to call it): This is the absolute last of my pre-NOLA San Francisco posts. It will be New Orleans restaurants from now on. Promise. Like cross-your-heart-hope-to-die-or-stick-a-needle-in-your-eye promise.

I’ve expounded at length about how I absolutely adore the little alleyway hidden near San Francisco’s Financial District endearingly named, Belden Place. (See my previous posts regarding the Spanish restaurant, B44 and the French restaurant, Café Bastille.) As I’ve said before, Belden Place offers San Francisco locals a taste of Europe, and now, with today’s exchange rate, it does so at a much more affordable price.

Just to give you a flavor of how Belden Place really is a bit of Euro-utopia in a crazed U.S. city, according to its website, the investors and proprietors of Belden Place converted an ubiquitous urban alleyway in San Francisco (once chockfull of dumpsters, litter, and probably, the smell of urine) into a successful and fledging real estate enterprise consisting of multiple Italian, French, and Spanish-themed restaurants.

Any visitor to Belden Place will be enraptured with the restaurant storefronts, the glowing metallic heat lambs, the dangling web of outdoor string lights, the summery outdoor umbrellas, and the overall European flair unique to Belden Place. Sitting on the outside terrace at any of their restaurants, you could easily get lost in your imagination, and envision yourself sitting in an outdoor bistro and gazing wistfully at impressive and intricate architectural details unique to Europe. Unfortunately, if you crane your neck, open your eyes and direct them upwards, you will inevitably be greeted with a cold, harsh reminder you are still in San Francisco. Cold concrete skyscrapers tower overhead and smoky billows of fog obscure and blanket the skies.

Knowing how I love the pleasant Euro-vibe at Belden Place, my beau decided to take me to celebrate my last birthday in San Francisco at Café Tiramisu, an Italian restaurant at Belden Place.

For our starting course at Cafe Tiramisu, my beau and I shared two hearty appetizers, the first being steamed black mussels marinating in a shimmering saffron-fennel broth. The soup was liquid heaven, for it was both light and free from impurities, but also laced with invigorating and powerful licorice and turmeric-like flavors. The mussels were stripped of their tangled beards and sat in open shells in a shallow bowl, alongside jutting slices of bread, artfully drizzled with sharp scribbles of herb-infused olive oil. The entire entrée made for a beautiful presentation.

Next, we also shared chewy Monterey calamari. The rubbery squid bodies were stuffed taut like swollen balloons with a simple mashed potato and crab mixture, and served over a crusty slice of potent garlic bread. The bruschetta-like bread had been moistened with herbed olive oil and what tasted like a rich tomato or roasted sweet red bell pepper sauce.

For our entrees, the beau ordered ahi tuna encrusted with fresh black pepper, and served over a spicy shrimp risotto. While the tuna was well-prepared and executed, the gluey risotto was saturated in an overly concentrated sauce, which, I daresay, had an overpowering shrimp essence. The excessively shrimpy taste redirected the entire focus of the entrée from the subtle tuna flavors and the elegant simplicity of crushed peppercorn crust, to the almost putrid shrimp flavor.

Unlike the tuna and risotto dish, my entrée was a resounding success. I ordered thick and chewy sheets of gummy gnocchi, which were served with a chorus line of diminutive pork meatballs, and a jellied, custard-like goat cheese zabaglione. The density of the potato pasta squares were so hearty and substantial, I originally thought that our server accidentally served us ravioli instead.

Finally, the server brought out one last treat to end our evening: a lone slice of tiramisu with a flickering candle on the top. The chocolate, the coffee, and the dense ladyfinger cookies all came together as one deliciously moist cake, which made my birthday ever the sweeter.

Thank you for the birthday wishes, beau. Here’s to many more birthdays together (hopefully at the restaurants in Belden Place)!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Goals for Life

#1 Get back into blogging.

#2 Blog much more about the amazing city that is New Orleans.

#3 Eat a lot of cheese bread now that the (quasi) diet is over. The goal is just geared towards cheese bread. Not wholegrain wheat, not rye, not pumpernickel, and even not potato bread. Just cheese bread, so astounding and simple. (I'm married now, I don't have to keep my body up anymore!)

#4 Make sure that the cheese bread has tremendous caverns (or at least, substantial pockets) filled with melty cheese. And note the distinction between "melted" and "melty." There is a huge difference.

#5 Put cheese on inappropriate items at each meal, like on clams cooked in wine sauce.

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