Thursday, March 29, 2012

vacation pt 2: what was DEVOURED in Nola

you know i didn't go to Nola without Yelping every single place that is worth trying foodwise. here is my vacation in food porn form. 

without a doubt every single tourist is encouraged to try Cafe du Monde for the original beignets. personally i thought they were horrible. they were dense and doughy even fresh out of the fryer. and the batter tasted kinda salty. i had two bites and walked away from that experience. oh, and the place is chaotic. it took twenty  minutes for someone to come and clear off the table i'd been sitting at that held the prior customers dishes. then an additional five for someone to come back and take my order. never again. i wouldn't even recommend it, but "when in Rome..." 


at Wednesdays at the Square i got a couple of things from the food stands. who knows where they were from

truffle mac n cheese with pancetta. effing YUM!

crawfish queso. this was alright. nothing special. i don't typically love the neon cheese deal. 

dessert at Sucre. this is a sundae made of pistachio and lemon ice cream, a pound cake, i forgot what the sauce was, and a macaroon. i'm not sure what was going on with me but this isn't something i'd typically order. though it wasn't bad, i should have stuck with something chocolate. or just ate a scoop of their coconut basil ice cream.

breakfast at Stanley. bananas foster french toast. this was great. the french toast was cooked perfectly and wasn't overly soaked. the ice cream was a nice touch. i can eat ice cream any time of the day. 

this is the Breaux bridge benedict. boudin with american cheese over thick slices of french toast, benedict style. pretty damn good and i'm not even a fan of boudin. 

pralines from a place i can't remember. i do NOT like pralines. they make me feel like i can contract diabetes from one single bite. and if you didn't have a toothache before eating one, you absolutely will immediately following. 

i had a monster lunch at Herbsaint. while vacationing, go big or go home, right? so i took it upon myself to have a three course lunch. in retrospect that was pretty ridiculous after having a two course breakfast at Stanley. 
housemade spaghetti with Guanciale and fried poached egg. the pasta was cooked perfectly and tossed with a lemony cream sauce. the poached egg was still running a bit and the bacon added some more texture to the dish. mMmmm.

seared ahi tuna sandwich with lemon pickle aioli on olive bread. good sandwich but nothing amazing. i only really ate half bc i knew dessert would be the winner. 

warm chocolate pudding cake with cashew ice cream and cocoa caramel popcorn. oh my heavens! thank the universe for creating this dish! 

yep. so good it has two pics. i contemplated going back for a second round the last day i was in Nola but i was so stuffed from days of eating, i just couldn't. 

Ciara and i went to a restaurant called Jacques-Imo's Cafe where you can find their famous alligator cheesecake. the place was packed but the atmosphere was super chill and very New Orleans. our server was sort of amazing. he gave us the alligator cheesecake, my ice tea and dessert for free just because it was our first time there. orrrr maybe it was because we were two young women and he was an older dude. who knows. 

cornbread muffin served with garlic. never had it this way but i liked it.

alligator cheesecake. much more like quiche. light and creamy, this was my favorite dish of the night. 

salad with a fried oyster. i do not like oysters so i did not partake. 

shrimp etouffe. i suppose this was flavorful but i didn't like the rice one bit. it's sort of Uncle Ben's-esque, but i think that's just how rice is there. Asians know what's up in the rice department so i could never enjoy their rice.

fried chicken! really good and flavorful.

doesn't look like much but this coconut bread pudding was effing yum. and because it was free, it was even tastier. 

if you go to New Orleans you have to try the original muffaletta at Central Grocery. oddly enough Safeway makes something really similar to a muffaletta and it's my favorite sandwich of all time. so i have to give props to the origin of Safeway's Primo Italiano.
you can buy half of a giant sandwich or a whole giant sandwich. no other options. 1/4 of a sandwich is the size of my hand spread as wide as it can be so come hungry. 
always a line

salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, and their olive spread (that curiously contains cauliflower as well)

before i went on vacation i was told i had to go to Muriel's for their crawfish and goat cheese crepe.
creepy but delicious. i did not crack open that lil' guy. fun (not really) fact: i don't like to eat with my hands unless its something dry like chips. 

gorgonzola and bacon tart. served with blackberries, a pecan and date mix, apples, bacon and sage. a very rich dish. it was almost like a cheese course. 

there's a huge Vietnamese population near New Orleans in a city called Gretna. i became tired of Nawlins typie food and wanted to try some of their vietnamese food. so we went to Tan Dinh and ordered way too much, naturally.

served with pillowy buns much like peking duck. 

chicken wings in their house sauce. with some fried sticky rice cake concoction. this was the winner for the night. 

hot and sour soup, which was not delicious. 

the next morning we went to Dante's Kitchen for brunch. the restaurant is situated in an old home, which i think is sort of awesome. the food here was really good!
biscuits with homemade jams. biscuits are a hit or miss with me. they are more often misses than hits but this one was creamy and moist. all sorts of good.

flounder and bacon sandwich. holy hell i did not expect this to be as amazingly flavorful as it was. fantastic! 

pork belly and fried egg sandwich. messy, but good.

that evening we went to Nola because you are obligated to go to an Emeril Lagasse restaurant when you're in town. it's just a known fact.
duck confit and fried egg pizza. this was super flavorful and only $11!!

duck, again! the smoked pecans were the best! 

shrimp and cheesy grits with bbq sauce. if you're gonna get shrimp n grits in Nola, get them at Nola. 

warm chocolate cake with coffee ice cream, marshmallow cream and coconut. 

banana pudding cake. very light and moist. 

maybe one of my favorite meals was at Cochon Butcher. Chef Donald Link of Cochon is a James Beard Winner and that type of recognition means that i'm automatically drawn to the restaurant. unfortunately i didn't have time to eat at Cochon, but i made it a mission to go to Butcher.
the Gambino. deliciously cured meats with a nice salad with vinaigrette. SO SO good! 

pancetta mac n cheese. just the right cheesiness with little chunks of pancetta. i love mac n cheese but find it hard to find great versions of it. 

brussel sprouts. i thought these would come out roasted and charred but to my surprise they were more like kimchi. i want more!

pizzette with lamb, pecans and butternut squash. mMmmm

peanut butter and jelly cookie. who knew a pb&j cookie could be so good! it was super moist inside and just perfection.

at this point i was pretty tired of New Orleans type food and opted for some Italian. acclaimed Chef John Besh has a ton of restaurants in the area so it was easy to find one i wanted to try. we went to Domenica for my last meal for this portion of my vacation and i'm so very glad we did.
clam pizza. saucy and delicious.

ricotta with date and pecan pesto. so very fresh.

fried kale with guanciale. this dish had lots of texture to it. there were nuts and tomatoes throughout.

squid ink pasta with crab!! easily my favorite dish of the night! the pasta was the perfect texture and it the flavor wasn't overpowering. i looooved this. 

banana cake with butterscotch mousse and peanut brittle. fan-friggin-tastic! plus, i love anything that comes in a jar like that. so cute!

and that's that. i ate my way through New Orleans and came home with a happy tummy. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

vacation pt. 2: what was SEEN AND DONE in New Orleans

the second part of my vacation was in New Orleans. after an unexpected delayed flight extended my layover time in Atlana, i finally made it and couldn't wait to walk the streets. the friend that i was visiting, Ciara, was at work still so i roamed the streets solo for a bit. she lives a few blocks away from the French Quarter where it's sort of hella [i really should work on slowly letting this word exit my daily vocabulary]) ghetto. the first thing i noticed as i walked towards the more touristy area was "wow, how come everybody looks like they're on meth or drunk?" then as i walked through the French Quarter all i could think was "this place reminds me of a more grungy looking Fisherman's Wharf." needless to say, my initial reaction to Nola wasn't exactly what i expected. i was told i'd fall in love with the place but i couldn't see that happening. 

one of the first things i saw was remnants of a Mardi Gras past. little did i know i'd see something similar every few steps after that for the rest of my vacation. these New Orleaners sure love their beads!

art lines the streets surrounding Jackson Square

Jackson Square

magic in the streets!

tree lined streets. in the nicer areas of town it adds a very nice southern touch to the ambiance of the streets. 

after Ciara got off work, we went to Wednesday at the Square, where live bands play, beer is served and food stands line the streets. the music is exactly what would you expect coming from New Orleans. think banjos. think bluegrass. you could tell the crowd was excited. the New Orleans natives love their music and their festivals. older couples danced while the youngsters hit up the beer stands. everybody just enjoying the music.

the humidity in New Orleans is ridiculous. even my super thin, super straight hair was doing some weird stuff while i was there. 

the next day Ciara had work yet again, so i roamed the streets some more. i stumbled upon the Audubon Aquarium and ventured inside. i wasn't expecting much but it actually was a pretty great aquarium. they had a white alligator (which i've seen in SF before, but it's still pretty cool)!! alongside the aquarium was an insectarium but uhhh...never in my life would i ever pay money to be surrounded by bugs sooo i skipped that. 

they're smiling at you!

with not much to do, i walked over to the Riverwalk, which is a mall. but not your typical mall that has name brand stores. this mall held more independent stores, none that were of great interest to me.  i feel like walking around anywhere gives you a better idea of what the culture of an area is like so i just continued to walk around aimlessly.

as i walked down Royal St. towards and through the French Quarter, i noticed that the street was closed off to cars and that on every other street there was some sort of musical act. the types of music varied, but remained very New Orleans. 

this band was funny. 

i'm preeeetttty sure i saw them the next day as well but they'd changed their little cardboard sign and advertised themselves under a different name. 

i like Pirate's Booty, but i'm not liking this pirate's booty.

next i roamed about the French Market, which was part flea market, part food vendors and part farmers market. it reminded me a lot of the Ferry Building on a saturday, except not as awesome.

keepin hopes high in Nola

when i go on vacation my souvenirs are the photos i take. i never stop into shops and look around or roam a flea market intently. i don't like junk and trinkets or cheesy things that have loud bold lettering stating that i did indeed visit New Orleans. so with all the extra time i had where most people would be shopping, i ran out of things to do. i decided to hop on the St. Charles St. trolley and just take a ride. it was two hours roundtrip. it brought me through the nicer areas of New Orleans. where the giant ten bedroom houses are. where Tulane University is. where i didn't see people who looked like they were drunk or on meth. where nobody was dressed in some crazy outfit.  it was refreshing to finally see an area where it seemed people lived a normal life.

just more random.

the next morning Ciara and i went for brunch. after brunch we walked along the Mississippi River.

this day was also St. Patty's Day. when i had booked my flight out to New Orleans i didn't realize that i'd be there through the holiday. but i'm glad i was because we went to the St. Patty's Day parade which was much like a tamer version of Mardi Gras. the streets were lined with green and people drinking the day away.

and of course beads were involved.

Sort of Creepy Man: do you know what this is?
Ciara: umm no
SoCM: it's a cleavage clover

he then put it on Ciara's chest and kissed it. i'm not sure she loved that.

on St. Patty's Day not only do they throw beads at you, give the women flowers, put stickers on you, kiss you, hug you, throw Lucky Charms at you along with other Irish things, they also throw cabbages at you. so if you're ever in town for this, watch your noggin!

the next day we partook in yet ANOTHER parade. i swear it seems like there are parades or festivals every weekend in New Orleans. this one was called Super Sunday. because i haven't educated myself on what exactly this was all about, i'll just give you the gist of what i understand about this. back in the days of slavery Native American tribes would occasionally adopt some of the slaves (or ex-slaves?) into their tribe. those people eventually formed gangs. annually there is a parade to honor these gangs. the Mardi Gras Indians, as they're called, parade in the streets dressed to represent various gangs. none of these people are actually fully Native American. i imagine some of them are part, but most of them just look black. they dress in what looks to be ridiculous feathered ensembles, but they're actually very intricate and sort of awesome. nonetheless, if you look into their eyes, they still look like they could shank someone real quick. 

this shit mad creeped me out

whoa, bro.

and that was my trip to New Orleans!! overall i am happy that i went to Nola. the culture is very different and the people are really proud of their city. the random art, whether it be musicians, artists or street performers, offers up a lot of entertainment. the parades and festivals give you a sense of community. while i can see why people love New Orleans, i can say for myself that i appreciate New Orleans. will i ever find myself itching to go back? probably not. been there done that. but i'm glad i got to see it.

 if you know me at all, you're probably wondering how i could do a whole post on Nola and not have any pictures of food. well, my friends, if you really knew me, you'd already have guessed that i ate so. much. food. that the food itself is enough material to have a whole separate post. coming soon: what i devoured in New Orleans.