Atchafalaya: Self-fulfilling prophecy?

“Dare to believe in the reality of your assumption and watch the world play its part relative to to its fulfillment.”  -Neville Goddard

Over five years ago, John and I had planned a fun night out, dinner reservations at Cafe Atchafalaya and tickets to see Big Sam’s Funky Nation at Tipitina’s afterwards. Unfortunately, the night didn’t progress as well as we planned. We ate dinner, strolled over to Tips and within minutes after Big Sam started his first number, I was in the bathroom sweating profusely and praying to God that I wouldn’t need to ralph in the bar’s well-used toilet. Thankfully, I managed to hold everything back till John drove me home, periodically pulling over to the sidewalk when my face turned a peculiar shade of green.

Now, I am not saying that I got sick from the food I ate at what was then called Cafe Atchafalaya. Who knows? I could have eaten something foul earlier that day, caught a stomach bug, or hell, accidentally ate a bug on the walk to Tips, but whatever happened, I have not been able to separate my experience with dining at the cafe and could never bring myself to return.

Well, “never say never” right? Here it is, more than five years after the fact and everything has changed. Cafe Atchafalaya was now simply Atchafalaya, the chef had changed several times and now it was Christopher Lynch (former chef de cuisine at Emeril’s Restaurant) and I had changed, as I was willing to give the restaurant, so tainted in my eyes, another try. John, on the other hand, was not willing to risk it and stayed home while Anne and I braved Atchafalaya for Sunday brunch. It was a whole new experience. I thought to myself, “What could go wrong?”

It seems quite a lot.

After we were seated, Anne and I asked the server for more time to peruse the menu before making a decision, but in the meantime, I ordered coffee and Anne made her own Bloody Mary from the DIY Bloody Mary bar. And then we waited…and waited a bit more until we finally were able to flag down the server and place our order. I also had to remind him that I had not yet received my coffee, to which he apologized profusely and ran off to procure. When I did get the coffee, it was poured out of a carafe lukewarm, but seeing as I just need some caffeine, I drank it. At least it was a good French Truck blend, the flavor was outstanding.

To my surprise, our entrees came out in a flash. Anne ordered Eggs Treme which consisted of poached eggs sitting atop boudin “cakes” and smothered in hollandaise and popcorn crawfish. The flavor was wonderful and the sauce was creamy, although I thought the fried crawfish kind of tasted like Corn Pops cereal. I chose the Duck Hash with duck confit, blackberries, mangoes, poached eggs, hollandaise and bacon vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the sweet, fruity flavor against the rich duck, but the whole dish (aside from the eggs and sauce) was rather greasy. I also ordered a side of their house made breakfast sausage patty, but after one bite, I noticed it was still rather pink inside. I have no aversion to pinkish, double thick pork chops, but pink ground pork is a different story.

Finally, we finished off breakfast with a sweet treat of Atchafalaya’s Vanilla Chai Tea Crème Brûlée. The custard itself turned out to be delicious, that creamy, eggy goodness with a hint of earthy chai knocked my socks off. It’s too bad the crust wasn’t the same. Whomever prepared the custard just sprinkled on coarse sugar crystals and made a half-hearted attempt at “burning” the top. Instead of a perfect, caramelized shell, we just had some browned crystals.

As Anne and I were headed home, I started to feel rather warm and a nauseous feeling overwhelmed me. Was I getting sick or had I simply convinced myself I would? Fortunately, I will never know because I am certainly not brave enough to try again.

Atchafalaya on Urbanspoon

Apolline: Food of the Gods

Okay, well maybe I am exaggerating somewhat, but they sure do offer a brunch deserving of a little exaltation. Craving breakfast, as we often do, John and I visited Apolline a few weeks ago for the very first time and while we didn’t start dancing naked in the street, wreathing onlookers with flowers, we certainly enjoyed ourselves.

We arrived at the beautiful Victorian house-turned-restaurant right on time for our reservation at noon. The simple, yet elegant, dining room was about half full with diners laughing over linen-covered tables and servers in long, white aprons crossing the hardwood floors. We were seated at a two-top next to closed French doors that let in soft, spring sunlight. After placing our order, we whiled away the time watching a group of laughing diners who were eating out front on the patio and admired the gorgeous peach roses in a vase on our table.

Before long, our appetizer arrived, a couple of fluffy buttermilk biscuits smothered in a rich, white gravy with crumbled sausage. Since we were both hungry and both big fans of biscuits and gravy, we devoured the dish in no time, carefully scraping up the last morsels with our forks and (when we thought people weren’t looking) our fingers.

Our server whisked away our plate before bringing out our entrees in a flash. John ordered a juicy, Double-Thick Pork Chop with creamy mashed potatoes and crispy, fried onions and though it was moist, rich and decadent, he had difficulty finishing since he also ordered a side of Andouille & Potato Hash. Perhaps his eyes were a bit bigger than his stomach? Thankfully I, and my bottomless-pit of a belly, was there!

I chose the Eggs Apolline which featured a cornbread Belgian waffle, Jacob’s andouille sausage, peeled crawfish and two poached eggs smothered in a decadent hollandaise. I inhaled this oh-so-Cajun and delicious version of Eggs Benedict, scarfed a side of Beeler’s thick-cut bacon AND I helped John finish his breakfast. Yes, I was in heaven…well, I would have been if there were no calories in that feast…but we can’t have everything!

Apolline Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Healthy and happy at Dante’s Kitchen

All last week, starting on Sunday, I was feeling decidedly ill. Then, after I visited the doctor on Wednesday and was prescribed antibiotics, I experienced an allergic reaction to the medicine and felt even worse (itching from head to foot all night long). It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I finally began feeling like myself again and I knew exactly what would perk me up after such a miserable week….a decadent cheat!

I’d been dreaming about breakfast (read bacon) all week long, so it seemed only natural for John and I to walk a few blocks down the road to Dante’s Kitchen to enjoy what was sure to be an ambrosial brunch. This is my 71st cheat and I am down 79 pounds.

John and I had both been to Dante’s before, but we’ve never visited for brunch mainly due to the fact that on weekends, we are lazy bums who lounge in bed all morning and barely manage to drag our butts out of bed by noon. This Saturday though, I bounced out of bed at 9 am and we were out the door and walking to the restaurant at the end of Dante Street by 10:30. I had heard how popular brunch can be at Dante’s and I wanted to be sure to get a table without too much of a wait.

Though the restaurant was busy when we arrived, there were still some tables left and we were seated immediately. We ordered some coffee while we hemmed and hawed over all the enticing items on the menu. Finally ordering, I took a look around at the dining room which, surprisingly enough, I had never really seen being as I had always sat outside in the past.

Dante’s Kitchen was a cute, old Victorian house in a previous life, which would explain why the dining room is actually broken up into several smaller, multi-leveled areas, each one painted a different color. There’s a bright  lime-green sun room with tall windows on every wall, a dark red room with a bit more of a formal feel with long curtains and subdued lighting and the entry area near the bar, where we were seated, was a sunny shade of orange. There’s even another dining room up a short staircase in the back (which I didn’t really get a good look at) and of course, a huge outdoor patio.

As I was admiring some of the funkier art pieces on the walls and the high shelves featuring endless mason jars filled with all kind of wonderful preserves, our appetizer arrived. Though John foresaw a doggie-bag in our future, I couldn’t help ordering a plate of their house made breads. There were two, sweet, bite-sized scones flavored with fennel that were wonderfully crumbly and dense and got gobbled up almost immediately. Then there were two cornbread Madelines, a thick hunk of banana-nut bread and delicate muffin full of plump, sweet blueberries.

Before we finished the scones, our main dishes arrived and from that moment, we had eyes for nothing else. I chose the Debris (chopped roast beef) and Poached Eggs which were piled on top of a thick, buttermilk biscuit and draped with a demi-glace Hollandaise sauce. When I broke a perfectly poached egg, it’s golden creamy yolk cascaded down onto the rich, spicy roast beef and had me salivating before I even took my first bite. With this mountain of meat, I almost felt bad about ordering a side of thick-sliced, Berkshire bacon…that is until I had a bite. Lucky, I assuaged a bit of my guilt by sharing some with John.

Though he frequently eyed my plate, John’s order was equally fabulous, the Dante’s Eggs Benedict. Two perfect eggs balanced on top of thick slices of roasted, rosemary flavored pork loin served over a split buttermilk biscuit laced with honey and topped with Hollandaise sauce. It was a wonderful combination of sweet and salty and I think I had almost as many tastes of John’s dish as he did of mine.

If there was any of my sickness* remaining when I walked into the restaurant, it was completely gone by the time I walked out. With full bellies and sated smiles on our faces, John and I slowly walked back home. It was the absolute ideal way, in my eyes, to erase the damage of a horrible week.

*By the way, what I had wasn’t catching, so if you were at Dante’s at the same time I was on Saturday, no worries!

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?