Breaking my fast at Biscuits & Buns on Banks

*Warning – Today I will be venturing into the realm of “too much information.” If you can’t hang with a bit of over sharing, I suggest you ramble on.

In a vain attempt to make a long story short, I suffer from recurrent UTI (a.k.a. urinary tract infection). Over the past several years, it’s gotten so bad that I have developed allergies to all of the typical antibiotics that “cure” UTI. That’s right, I break out into hives (or worse) when ingesting Cipro, Macrodantin, Bactrim (or any of the sulfa drugs), Doxycycline etc. I’ve tried many different remedies or forms of prevention, everything from non-sweetened cranberry juice and herbal extracts to D-Mannose, which, for those of you wondering, doesn’t work.
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Toast: Breakfast will never be the same again …

Everyone has heard me rave in many different mediums about the wonders to be had at Tartine run by chef/owner Cara Benson. Well, this magical, magnanimous, Mom and baker extraordinaire has done it again with Toast, a mouth-watering breakfast experience she opened about six months ago.

To be perfectly fair, I’ve already raved about Toast, too … just not here on my lil old blog. Now seems the optimal time to rectify that. I’ve been to Toast on many occasions since the first, an experience I’m about to relate, but just know, there is nothing on this menu that won’t make you swoon, and if it doesn’t well … more for me!

About a month after it opened in June 2014, John and I headed Uptown to Laurel Street to have a meal that was so delightful, Toast has become the stuff of dreams to us, a place we think of every time we think of breakfast.

Though it was still dreadfully hot, we opted to sit outside since it seemed the only way we’d be sure to get a table. We both ordered a cup of coffee (yes it was French Truck, thank you very much) and tried hard not to order everything on the menu.

John chose one of the “toasts,” with cream cheese, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and capers atop a thick, toasted slice of Benson’s brilliant, house-baked brioche. What can I say? It was astoundingly simple, yet exquisitely delicious. Everything was just right, from the amount of cream cheese to the fluffy scrambled eggs.

While I loved John’s toast, we both couldn’t help oohing and aahing over my dish, a huge slice of ham and Gruyere quiche. Cross my heart and hope to die, this was the best quiche I ever had the pleasure of inhaling. Easily three inches high, it had a gorgeous golden crust and the filling was so light and creamy, it was almost like delving into a delicate souffle. Don’t doubt that I’ve enjoyed her daily quiches many times since.

John and I also shared a side of thick-sliced bacon and, something I never thought to see on a breakfast menu, a plate of ratatouille — a mouth-watering, stewed vegetable dish that only added to the meal’s overall wonder. I can’t wait to go back again … and again … and again …

Toast on Urbanspoon

Breaking out for breakfast at Oak Street Café

After subsisting off oatmeal and frozen blueberries for breakfast over the past several weeks, I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s not that I am slamming those particular food items really, it’s just that breakfast is truly my favorite meal of the day, especially when it means dishes like French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar, sunny-side eggs with a hefty serving of bacon or flaky biscuits loaded with creamy butter and lots of honey. If I’m really indulging, it wouldn’t be tough for me to polish off all of the above at once! Anyhow, it was time for a change, so I convinced John to get out of the apartment and go around the block for a real breakfast at the Oak Street Café.

This was far from our first venture to the corner cafe seeing as it’s one of the few places in our neighborhood that serves donuts, not to mention egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches on huge, chewy bagels. We arrived around noon to find the restaurant fairly empty, placed our order at the counter and sat at one of the checkered cloth-covered tables to wait. While sipping a hot cup of Community Coffee, we listened to a young woman belt out classic R&B tunes like “Route 66” accompanied by one man playing a stand-up bass and another, an upright piano. Tons of framed photos, sketches and paintings adorned the walls, almost from ceiling to floor, several of which I recognized as the work of another Oak Street resident, Frenchy.

We were both pretty hungry when our plates arrived and I am surprised how well we held ourselves back in order to take pictures. John ordered the a boudin breakfast that came with one large, split link of boudin (naturally), as well as a side of “smothered” potatoes and a pile of wheat toast. After asking the owner I discovered the boudin came from Billy’s in Opelousas, Louisiana, about 25 miles outside of Lafayette, and is said to be some of the best around. I took a few bites and found it spicy and delicious, with a strong aftertaste of anise.

I opted for the Eggs Beauregard, a Southern twist on Eggs Benedict that featured two fluffy biscuits topped with sausage patties and over-easy eggs all smothered in a creamy, white sausage gravy. Like John, I also got the potatoes, which were roughly chopped reds that must have been boiled and then sauteed with plenty of spicy-hot cayenne. Some of the potatoes were eaten, but I kept shoveling in the eggs and by the time I finished them, I simply couldn’t eat another bite.

All in all, I find the food at Oak Street Café to be a little pricey (our tab came to $30!), but it certainly won’t stop me from rounding the corner for breakfast (or donuts) from time to time…

Oak Street Café on Urbanspoon

An overdue visit to Surrey’s Juice Bar

During my drunken days at the Circle Bar, I often saw Greg Surrey come in for a pint and anyone who could, would tell me about his incredible restaurant.  “You simply have to go for breakfast,” people would tell me. “It’s one of the best kept local secrets in New Orleans.”

Lately, Surrey’s Juice Bar has not been a secret at all. You can find reviews all over Yelp, Chowhound and a multitude of other online publications. Only a couple of weeks ago, Blackened Out visited Surrey’s second location that recently opened where Fuel Cafe used to be, right next to Le Bon Temps.

After years of hearing glowing reviews, I finally decided to go see for myself what the hullabaloo was all about. This is my 52nd cheat and I am down 72 pounds.

The new location is closer to home, but John and I decided to visit the original on Magazine between Euterpe and Terpsichore (music and dance) in the Lower Garden District. Since it was Friday at lunch time, we were not surprised to see a line stretching out from the front door, but after we put our name on the list, our wait amounted to all of five minutes.

 There were a lot of tasty items to choose from (I almost got the Caribbean French Toast stuffed with Pineapple Cream Cheese), but we finally made our selections and absorbed the bright, yet cozy environment. Tons of local art adorned the walls and I even recognized some cool plaques designed by my friend Will Smith, Jr., who is yet another Circle Bar denizen. Also, I couldn’t help grinning at the bikini-clad mannequin lounging in a hammock that was suspended  from the ceiling.

Before we got our second cup of coffee, our breakfast arrived. When going out for breakfast, I am not usually an omelette kind of gal, but I couldn’t resist Surrey’s Crab Meat Omelette stuffed with brie and fresh avocado and topped with a creamy, lump crab meat sauce. The eggs were fluffy and the avocados were perfect. Plus, I was ecstatic at the generous amount of crab meat that contained no shells whatsoever. I couldn’t resist getting a side of Boudin patties which were delicious with the perfect amount of heat.

John ordered the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers and green onions. His plate also came with what they call “hash browns,” but the thick wedges of seasoned red potatoes looked more like what would I call “country potatoes.”  Potato, potato; tomato, tomato…it doesn’t matter what you call it, they still tasted great to me. It’s just that John had a hankering for traditional hash browns, so he was a bit disappointed. His scramble was tasty, but with the capers and the salmon, I think a nice dill sauce would have really rounded out the dish.

John and I both selected a home made biscuit to accompany our entrees and it was crumbly on the outside and tender on the inside, just like my Aunt Edie used to make. Unfortunately, whomever was rolling them out used too much flour. I think a quick brush of melted butter before baking would have wiped away the excess flour and made for optimal browning and better flavor.

I was glad to see Greg’s quaint cafe was thriving. I am going to have to come back and try more of the menu because certain items like the Stuffed French Toast or the Migas with chorizo were calling my name.  Alas, there is only so much I can eat in one cheat!

One out of three ain’t bad? The Ruby Slipper

All apologies for being so late in writing my cheat.  I was feeling terrible on Thursday and decided to postpone my meal for a nice brunch on Saturday with John and my good friend Casey.  By the time Saturday morning rolled around, my mouth was more than ready for a fantastic meal and I couldn’t stop thinking about things like bacon, hash browns, pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit, and a never ending cup of coffee and chicory.

There are so many different options for a great brunch in New Orleans, but one place came to mind and stuck…The Ruby Slipper Cafe. This is my 44th cheat and I am down 62 pounds.

We pulled up to the restaurant on the corner of South Cortez and Cleveland Streets around noon to find it quite full.  The manager fussed at us to hurry up inside, it wasn’t really all that hot but the air conditioning was cranked on high and I suppose he didn’t want to let any cool air out.  We wrote down our name and returned outside to wait for a table.

Casey, recovering from a crazy night at the Half Moon, needed a little “hair of the dog” in the form a tall Bloody Mary.  It looked really spicy and refreshing at the same time and I tried a sip.  I’m not a fan of tomato juice, so it didn’t really appeal to me, but although Casey loves Bloody Marys, she didn’t seem to like it either because she barely drank half.

After a short ten minute wait, we were ushered back inside and seated at a four-top near a large window.  When I began reading through the menu, I was a little disappointed by the drastic difference from the menu on their website, but as this tends to happen all to often, it was nothing to let it slide.  We made our selections and chatted, watching other plates come out and gauging the reactions of  diners around us.

The great thing about most breakfast/brunch items is that it takes almost no time to cook.  In a very short time, we received our entrees and John and I also got a fat cup of cappuccino.  I got the Banana’s Foster Pain Perdu since I was craving something sweet.  It was basically four thick hunks of French bread, a Banana’s Foster topping with the inclusion of raisins and served with two pieces of Applewood smoked bacon.  The flavor of the sauce was nice, but I thought the bread was dry…especially for something that should be crispy on the outside and almost custard-like on the inside.  Unfortunately for John and Casey, I was the luckiest person at the table.

Casey threw caution to the wind and selected their BBQ Shrimp & Grits.  The description specified Gulf shrimp prepared in an Abita Amber BBQ sauce served over slow-cooked grits.  Whether they were trying for regular BBQ or traditional New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, they failed miserably.  The shrimp tasted like it had been boiled in plain water and dumped into this huge bowl of grits.  There was some kind of sauce (owing to the darker color) but the flavor was negligible.

John ordered the day’s special, Ruby’s Crab cake.  It was a four ounce crab cake topped with Hollandaise and served with two eggs, grits and a biscuit.  Now, I have to admit, there was a large amount of crab in their delicately fried cake, but there was also quite a few shells.  I kept looking over at John, watching him pull small pieces of shell out of his mouth after every bite.

All in all, the whole cheat was pretty terrible.  I insisted on paying for everyone as it was my fault for dragging them there and I was the only one with a decent entree.  I cringed as I signed off on $54, but hoped that with the way my luck was running, next week’s cheat should be stupendous.

I stopped outside and relaxed while John and Casey enjoyed a cigarette and watched folks file out of the restaurant.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the comments I heard coming from other diners, remarks like “that was far too expensive for what we got” and “we could have saved $50 and had a better meal at the Trolley Stop.”

When we got back into the car, I felt a little guilty being the only one who had a decent breakfast.  I guess one out of three ain’t that bad…or is it?