House of the week: Shotgun on North Rampart St.

Have you ever experienced love at first sight? I have, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Yes, I am head-over-heels in love with an object. More specifically, I am in love with a house. This IS my house. This is what I picture when I dream about the perfect little abode for John and I. I see myself here…I must have it!

I want it now!

Like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the old one with Gene Wilder mind you, not that demented Johnny Depp version), I want a house, a house on N. Rampart Street. There’d be roomfuls of laughter, bows in my hair and all kinds of bean feasts if I could slap the cash down for this ultimate little haven.

Located in Bywater, this absolute jewel is a two bedroom, one bath shotgun with high ceilings, gorgeous hard wood floors, transoms, exposed brick fireplaces, barge board wainscoting, bead board ceiling, mammoth built-in bookshelves, distressed-wood kitchen, a claw foot tub … can you hear me panting? As if that isn’t enough to drive me into a frenzy, one of the finest features is a cute little, “shack on da swamp” guesthouse in the back where I would set up my office and write till my fingers fell off.

My house (a girl can dream!) is also in a great neighborhood within walking distance of Vaughan’s Lounge, The Joint, Jack Dempsey’s, Meltdown Pops and Bacchanal. Sadly, at $295,000, I could never afford this piece of heaven on earth, but it won’t stop me from dreaming about it.

Of course, if some super-rich soul out there wants to buy it for me out of the kindness of their heart, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed!

Post-gym binge at Maurepas Foods

Other than swimming, exercise and I really don’t get along. My knees and lower back are a complete mess, making any strenuous activity an effort in sheer masochism. Like Buddha, I must embrace the pain simply to tolerate a walk to the bookstore around the corner. I do adore swimming, though. It is great exercise with an absolutely no pain involved, unless you count the warm, tingling soreness I experience after an hour or so in the pool. The only problem is that unlike sweating on the elliptical, doing a weight-lifting routine or even 90 minutes of yoga, swimming makes me ravenous. Seriously…I could eat the whole gym.

Instead of crunching down on stationary bikes, Anne and I decided to have lunch at Maurepas Foods. Keep in mind, this luncheon occurred a few months ago seeing as Maurepas has recently changed their hours to include brunch and dinner and lunch no longer exists. No big deal really, it’s not like they closed (heaven forbid).

We arrived at an odd hour (around 2 pm) and the restaurant was pretty empty, but as we sat next to the window overlooking Burgundy Street, people gradually filed in for afternoon drinks, snacks and early dinners. Anne and I decided to share a couple of appetizers and the first to arrive was the Crab meat Calas with papaya and Hoisin syrup and a pile of crisp, grilled snap beans. Although the calas were savory, delicious fried balls of happiness, the snap beans really blew me away with their “fresh-from-the-garden” look and bright green flavor.

The other appetizer arrived as we were still scarfing down the first, Crowder Pea Pupusas with crowder tapenade and crowder hull syrup. This dish was so cool in that it displayed three different ways to use crowder peas, not to mention it was awfully tasty and incredibly filling. Anne and I were both a bit worried about managing our entrees after wolfing down the pupusas.

For my main dish, I chose the ever-popular Goat Tacos with pickled green tomatoes and cilantro harissa. Three piles of shredded and well-seasoned goat meat were heaped inside of house made corn tortillas and I enjoyed the rich flavor both with and without the garnishes. Anne, who was new to goat, decided to play it safe with a Roasted Pork Shoulder served with pickled squid, romesco and a mustard green vinaigrette. It seemed so strange to pair squid and pork together, but Anne thoroughly enjoyed the dish and I certainly wasn’t complaining after sampling a few bites.

In an effort to completely negate our earlier workout, we also ordered dessert. Anne desperately wanted the Pumpkin Pot de Creme with caramel, creme fraiche and popcorn ball pieces, and I wanted the Cookie Sandwiches with mint chocolate ice cream, ranger bites and chocolate syrup so instead of coming to a compromise, we each had our own dessert. I have to say, neither of us regretted our decision because both desserts were fabulous (we shared anyhow), but we probably should have headed straight back to the gym after lunch.

Maurepas Foods on Urbanspoon

Breaking away at Booty’s Street Food

Have you ever had one of those nights where everything seemed to go wrong, but somehow ended up being quite all right? A couple of months ago, this exact thing happened to my friend Anne and I. We were all ready to attend a certain free event in the French Quarter and since we were planning on drinking, we decided to take a cab from my apartment. We called for a cab a half hour before the event was to start (6pm) and an hour later, there still was no black & white vehicle outside honking the horn. Grumbling about the unreliability of taxi cabs, Anne and I decided to just get in her car and drive to the Quarter.

Unfortunately, and perhaps unwisely, we were hoping for the best when it came to parking and were naturally disappointed. We drove around relentlessly, trying to find a decent spot, or even a pay garage nearby the event, but all to no avail. By this time, we were very late for the event which was quite close to being completely over.

Frustrated, parched, hungry and dressed up with no where to go -we decided to make a night of it anyhow and headed through the Marigny and into the Bywater to try a restaurant/bar we’d been talking about visiting for some time…Booty’s Street Food.

After the bustle of the Quarter, it was odd to drive up to the restaurant and find a parking place right out front on Dauphine Street. We strolled into the mostly empty bar and were told to seat ourselves. (*Warning, the chairs in Booty’s are totally awful and uncomfortable for my big booty, so if you’re even slightly larger than the average waif, I’d suggest sitting on the bench side of the table.) Our server was all smiles and totally accommodating, especially when she realized we’d likely be sampling one of every item on the menu…not to mention a few drinks.

Since this was an unexpected visit, I didn’t bring my camera and had to rely on my crappy iPhone for pics, but while the light lasted, they didn’t turn out half bad. We started out with a couple of cocktails, a Cottontail for Anne with vodka, ginger, elderflower, smoked velvet cream soda and lemon, and I had a Joyride with aged rum, house orgeat, cherry bitters, cava and lemon. I enjoyed the flavor of both drinks, but Anne definitely liked her Cottontail better, so much so that she wanted another one, though I encouraged her to try something different later on.

Booty’s concept is based on international street food and Anne and I wanted to take the world tour, so we started in Peru with their Ceviche de Coco made with local puppy drum, lime, onion, habanero, cilantro and (my favorite part) coconut milk. The fish was topped with “ensalada de aguacate,” basically an avocado salad, and together it made harmonious music in my mouth. I adore ceviche and this is one of the better ones I’ve tasted…ever…something about the sweet, heat and tang all rolled together and topped off by the creamy avocado. Yum. Yes, I am drooling on my keyboard again.

Next, we traveled east to Puerto Rico for Yuca Mofongo. Although mofongo is traditionally made with plantains (something we are not short on here in New Orleans), Booty’s yuca version was just as delicious. Essentially, it was a large, bell-shaped fritter, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and stuffed with roast pork. It was also served with their aji panca aioli (a dark red, mild pepper with an almost fruity taste) that our server really talked up for our next dish…

We crossed the Atlantic and landed in Belgium for some French fries served with our choice of two, house made sauces. Anne and I opted for the aji panca aioli and roasted garlic mayo. The sauces were quite tasty and the perfect munchable companions with our cocktails. It seemed a little off that the fries were the standard frozen variety. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to scoff at any kind of fries, I just found it strange in a world where hand-cut seems to have become the norm.

After that, we headed back just a little northwest for some Fish ‘N’ Chips in England. Booty’s beer-battered and fried a local whitefish and served it with some more fries (we overloaded on fries), a house tartar sauce and curry ketchup. The fish was nice and crispy, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit of malt vinegar.

By this point, the journey begins to get a little blurry, not because we were drunk (it takes much more than two cocktails to floor me), but because the last three dishes were pretty disappointing. We went to Poland for a pierogi that was only so-so. That could be because this Polish dumpling stuffed with potatoes and cheese is rather bland compared to almost everything we ate before it. Perhaps if we tried it first next time? Anyhow, the follow up in South Korea, a kimchi pancake with pork belly hash would have been fabulous if not for the super-sweet, hoisin-like sauce that smothered everything beyond palatable recognition. To top it all off the dessert, the course I look forward to most, was a major letdown. We flew over to Vietnam for the Banana Sago Cream, a creamy custard with tapioca pearls. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, it would have been wonderful if the pearls had thawed completely. Yep…they were still frozen.

Good thing I only want to remember the first half of the night, because I’d like to devour the other half of Booty’s menu the next time I go. Wish me luck!

Booty's Street Food on Urbanspoon

Deliciously delicious pizza

“The big bubbles of crust that expand right up through the sauce, glistening pools of oil as still and inviting as a mountain lake, the ropey knots of cheese that gather in the center as the slices are pulled apart.” – The Sure Thing

I know, I know, my 80’s is showing again, but for some reason almost every time I eat pizza, this scene comes to mind. It just happens to eloquently and succinctly describe my love/hate relationship with pizza. Unfortunately, your average American pie ordered from certain fast food chains that will remain nameless are pleasing in the way a Totino’s Pizza Roll can be after a night of heavy drinking, but they are always, always regretted later…mainly in the form of heartburn and other gaseous entities that really shouldn’t be discussed in any food blog, let alone mine.

Since my “Westernized” experience of pizza has ever jaded my my views on one of our country’s favorite pastime, it really stands out to me when a along comes a pizza that oh-so obviously prides itself on fresh, quality ingredients and excellent craft. My first such eye-opening experience was ages ago at a hole-in-the-wall in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. The second was as Pizza Delicious.

Dani, Posie, John and I made a pilgrimage to Bywater a few weeks ago to try the pop-up, pizza sensation that finally got its own digs. I had heard the rave reviews about Pizza Delicious, but was all the way across town and I never failed to miss out on their previous, Sunday special appearances.

We placed our order at the counter and sat down. Everyone was smiling and friendly, from the other patrons in the clean, modern dining area to the guy tossing dough in front of the ovens. Before long, our first orders were up, two different types of pizza rolls – broccoli and spinach- that we decided to try in addition to our pie. Both were flaky, cheesy and just down right “gobbable” which we proved by scarfing them down in nano-seconds. I especially enjoyed the spinach version because it reminded me of one of my absolute favorite Mediterranean dishes, spanakopita (something I have been known to whip up on special occasions) only with pizza dough instead of phyllo.  

Before we could take a breath, our Margherita pizza arrived hot and fresh out of the oven. All I can say is when a restaurant is using quality ingredients like their creamy, slightly salty and fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce that tastes like a burst of summer on your tongue and basil that could have been picked right before they put it on the pie, you just know they care. Not to mention the perfect, crispy thin crust that wasn’t soggy in the slightest. Fresh ingredients, people who care, attention to detail and seriously delicious pizza. That is Pizza Delicious.

Pizza Delicious on Urbanspoon