Glorious gluttony ensues…

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Never in my wildest imaginings would I believe that I could not only score tickets to the 2012 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, I got to be a judge. Oh yes…this simple glutton from the suburbs, this flyspeck on the global culinary radar, was actually fortunate enough to sample more than 17 dishes from some of the finest restaurants all over this wonderful city in a dizzying tour-bus adventure that lasted a day and a half.

Although I was ecstatic about gorging myself on dishes like a Mayan Quinoa Salad from Chef Guillermo Peters at Canal Street Bistro

…or these Crab & Avocado Shooters topped with tiny crab beignets shaped like donuts from Chef Randy Buck at the Hotel Monteleone

…or even this decadent, Southern Style Louisiana Voodoo Shrimp with a sweet and spicy sauce, portabello mushroom, fried green tomato and cheese grits from Chef Duke LoCicero at Cafe Giovanni

…the best part of the trip was that I was able to meet so many interesting people, all of whom possess a great passion for food, just like me!

On the first day, I got to hang out with fellow judge Dale Curry; former food editor of the Times Picayune, writer for New Orleans Magazine and author of New Orleans Home Cooking. Admittedly, I was a bit intimidated at first, but this incredible woman is very familiar with New Orleans cuisine including fads that have come and gone, the rise and fall of chefs and a discerning palate…thank goodness she is super-cool to boot!

I was also finally able to put faces with the names Robert Peyton, columnist for New Orleans Magazine (and bad-ass civil defense attorney) and Doug Brantley editor of Where New Orleans. The stunning shots by Photographer Romney Caruso both taught me about styling, equipment and light while effortlessly putting my food porn to shame. We were also lucky enough to have Executive Director of NOWFE Jamie Peckenpaugh and her texting, Tweeting, Instagram-wielding, on-the-ball, side-kick Chelsea from Georgia who came along with us to chronicle the tastings and to join in on the the fun.

As if this were not enough to make me giddy, I was able to experience things that would otherwise be denied to me because there is no way in hell I would be able to afford it! The most glaring example of this would be our short stint sitting at the chef’s table in Commander’s Palace. Two mountains of large, ripe, Louisiana strawberries set the scene as we watched Executive Chef Tory McPhail demonstrate his “super-strawberry” dessert.

Vacuum-packed strawberries are steeped in strawberry jam and sugar overnight, then dressed with more strawberry jam, strawberry whipped cream, strawberry Pixie Stick dust and strawberry Pop Rocks. Served alongside this childhood-candy-fantasy-come-true, Chef whipped up a delicious strawberry hurricane made with Old New Orleans Rum.

All of this was possible thanks to my friend Kendall Gensler who is editor and publisher of Culinary Concierge Magazine as well as an excellent food stylist…among many other accomplishments. Kendall, if you are reading this, know that I will definitely be available for this again next year…and thank you!

Hissy fit at Crabby Jacks

Though I don’t regret the evening of debauchery at the Hookah Bar, I did miss out on the Po-Boy Fest which left me with a hankering…and not for a hunk ‘o’ cheese. Well, maybe a couple of slices of Swiss on a fried oyster and bacon?

Yeah, I wanted a po-boy.

So without further ado, John, my friend Dani and her daughter Posie all hopped into her bright orange, taxi-turned-personal-van and sped off down to Crabby Jacks. I’d heard they served a awesome Cochon de Lait po-boy, among some other tasty specials, and it was high time I found out for myself.

We all tromped into the small restaurant on Jefferson Highway around 2:30 pm in an attempt to miss the busy lunch hour. Posie was quite interested in the bright gumball machines in the front, especially after she scored a couple of stragglers in one of the chutes, though we were too busy selecting our lunch from the menu to notice ’till it was too late. We placed our order and found a place to sit at one of the communal benches, admiring the the work of local artist Dr. Bob that was plastered all over the walls.

It wasn’t long before our orders arrived in a flurry, long packages wrapped in butcher paper dealt to the right person as soon as we deciphered the spidery scrawl in red ink on the outside. Dani’s 8-inch, fully-dressed, fried shrimp po-boy was the most visually stunning of the three. Large, crispy, cornmeal-crusted shrimp tumbled out of the overstuffed loaf allowing me to snatch a few. John’s large BBQ brisket po-boy was quite juicy and the brisket melted in your mouth, but the sauce was a bit sweet for my taste and I turned to my own.

I wanted to get the Cochon de Lait po-boy, but they had ran out by the time we arrived. Apparently coming later in the day not only helps you miss the crowds, you also miss the preferred specials.  I turned instead to my second choice, the slow roasted duck. Though I ate it and enjoyed the moist texture of the duck and the chewy French bread, I thought the gravy was fairly bland. Next time, I am getting there early…

We also got some fries, onion rings and a side of mac & cheese for Posie. We didn’t realize that the mac was made with jalapenos and though Dani doesn’t like them and picked a lot of them out, Posie seemed to dig it when she managed to finally get some into her mouth. I got a taste and I agree. It reminded me of nachos you get at theme parks or local carnivals.

It seems that Posie liked everything too much. What with free gum, jalapeno mac & cheese AND accessible jingle bells on the Christmas tree, who would want to leave? Certainly not Posie. She even sat down on the ground in the parking lot to (not so silently) protest our departure. We’ll be back, Jack!

Crabby Jack's on Urbanspoon

An afternoon tryst at Lüke

I met someone and I think I’m in love. He’s sweet, accommodating, relaxed yet stylish and extremely tasty as I was fortunate enough to discover last Friday afternoon. My friend Anne was there, too and we both enjoyed what he had to offer…I’m pretty sure anyone would.  His name is Lüke.

Now I could keep going with this and assuredly suffer from gales of mischievous and unabashed laughter while writing, not to mention possible castigation from my peers after publishing (suck the heads would take on a whole new meaning). So, instead I’m going to lace it up and talk about the food. I promise, if I start writing that kind of blog, y’all will be the first to know…
Nevertheless, it was still quite a sexy lunch. Anne and I got to the restaurant just after noon, luckily scoring a choice parking spot only a half block away. For those who don’t know, Lüke is located on St. Charles Avenue only blocks from Poydras Street and right, smack downtown. Like any city, finding parking is nigh impossible and it seemed like fate when we slipped into a spot that opened up right in front of us. 

We were seated right away, without a reservation, and ordered a couple of cocktails while perusing the menu. Both of us ravenous, we got a little carried away with our order. Thankfully, our server steered us onto the right path, when he could have just as easily let us order way too much food like a couple of boobs. (really, I’m not even trying…) Anne had a “St. Charles Streetcar” with St. Germain, pear vodka and champagne, which was tasty, but I liked mine better and not only because of its name.  Dubbed “The Riverbend,” my cocktail was of the refreshing, summery type with Ultimat vodka, lemon, basil syrup, blueberries, cucumbers and ginger ale

Almost right away our first dish arrived, a half dozen raw Gulf oysters on the half shell. When Anne saw them on the menu, she just couldn’t resist and I don’t blame her. They were large, ice cold, salty and perfect. I think both of us were a little sad when we slurped down the last one, but we didn’t have time to consider ordering more because our next appetizer showed up just in time. Called “flamenküche,” it was an onion tarte with thick hunks of fatty bacon and a creamy Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese. It was quite possibly the best thin-crust “pizza” I have ever eaten. 

For our entree, we both wanted the “Choucroute Garnie Maison” and thanks to our server, we wisely decided to split it. I had to look this up, but apparently this is a famous Alsacian dish of sauerkraut topped with salted meats, sausage and other charcuterie. Conveniently split in half, our dish at Lüke featured a smoked pork shank, a hunk of Mangalista pork belly and a huge link of bratwurst. Basically, it was a unadulterated pot of meat that while feasting upon it, made me feel a bit carnal…not that I’m complaining.  

While perusing mandatory desserts, Anne was quite adamant about not sharing (dessert can do that to people), so we each ordered our own. Anne chose a “Gateau Basque” or vanilla cake with crème fraîche and local satsuma marmalade and I got a “Belle Ecorce Chevre Tart” – basically a goat cheese “cheesecake” topped with braised celeste figs and honey. Since I shared some of mine, Anne was willing to give up a few tastes of hers and, all kidding aside, both were quite delicious.
In all honesty, I may not be in love with Lüke, but I am undoubtedly in lust.

Lüke on Urbanspoon

Pigging out on New Orleans Ice Cream

A few weeks ago I vented on Facebook about how I can rarely ever find New Orleans Ice Cream Co. flavor Banana’s Foster in supermarket freezers. It seemed like other banana ice cream maniacs beat me to it every time I looked. New Orleans Ice Cream Company owner Adrian Simpson saw my little bitch fest, contacted me and offered to send over a few pints as a sign of good faith. I couldn’t possibly refuse. Adrian and I had met a few years back when NewOrleans.com had a table right next to New Orleans Ice Cream Co at a Grand Tasting during NOWFE. I’ll never forget my first mouthful of Rum Raisin ice cream or getting “juiced” with Adrian as we tasted every wine on the floor.

Needless to say, I was still a little surprised when a man named Henry showed up at my front door presenting me with a bag of seven pints of New Orleans Ice Cream. Seven! I was all a dither…I mean, how often do you have that much ice cream in your freezer? Especially if you’re dieting?

Several different options ran through my mind. For example, I thought of throwing a mini ice cream social where I’d invite over a few friends, sit around the table and pig-out on ice cream while rating which ones were our favorites and why. I looked around my tiny one bedroom apartment and knew immediately that I could not, under any circumstances, properly entertain guests in my 400 square foot hovel.

I also considered meeting at an outside location, but with the temperatures in 100’s, a typical New Orleans summer, I couldn’t justify dragging my friends outside in the heat to eat what would most likely become New Orleans Ice Cream soup. I kept getting these horrible visions of all my girlfriends melting under the oaks in Audubon Park, drinking their favorite flavor right out of the carton.

For almost a week the ice cream sat in my freezer while I debated what to do. Well, you might have noticed that I didn’t have any dessert on my last cheat to The Lucky Ladle. John, Dani, Posie and I all returned to my place after lunch to watch a movie and I thought…why not have some ice cream?

I shoveled out seven large scoops of each flavor onto a large serving platter and the three of us gathered ’round and dug in.  After tasting all of the flavors, each of us selected a favorite and a runner-up.

My absolute favorite was Banana’s Foster.  I am a die hard banana lover and when I discovered actual slices of frozen banana hiding in the midst of a butter sauce, I was completely won over.  My second favorite was the Cherries Jubilee featuring brandy soaked cherries and a splash of orange liqueur.  Both amusing and highly appropriate, I thought the added alcohol was perfect for the true flavor of a New Orleans dessert.

John’s top pick was the Nectar Soda.  He enjoyed the unique flavor, which was exactly like red cream soda, and he liked the thick, chewy texture.  John definitely prefers ice cream that doesn’t have chunks of “stuff” in it so it’s not surprising that he chose Creole Cream Cheese as his runner-up.  Smooth and creamy with a slight cheesy tang, he easily demolished the rest of the pint later on.

Finally, Dani’s winner was the Toasted Coconut.  She loved the intense creaminess, it was so smooth with no ice crystals mucking up the texture.  Strangely enough, she isn’t a huge fan of coconut, but she couldn’t help falling for New Orleans Ice Cream Co’s delicious interpretation.  Her second choice was the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.  She really loved the complex flavor; the mixture of cinnamon, butter, powdered sugar, white chocolate was admittedly overwhelming.  This particular flavor fought hard with Cherries Jubilee for my second choice, too.

The only flavor left out was the Cajun Rum Raisin.  I do love the flavors of this ice cream…the spicy kick of rum and a ton of plump, juicy raisins, but it simply didn’t make it into the top two.

After our massive ice cream pig out…there really wasn’t much left.  John has been set the task of finishing the remaining cartons and I think he’s just about done.  Don’t worry, he’s so skinny he can stand to gain a few pounds.

I just want to thank Adrian for the ice cream feast.  Don’t stop coming out with these awesome, original New Orleans flavors and I will keep looking for Banana’s Foster, especially now that I am well and truly hooked.

Another famous Ziggy at Maple Street Patisserie

When you think of the name “Ziggy”, a slew of famous characters come to mind; Ziggy Marley, Ziggy Stardust, Evander “Ziggy” Hood and even Ziggy, the well-known cartoon strip.  Thursday afternoon I was forced to add another personality to the “Ziggy” hall of fame, Ziggy Cichowski…Master Pastry Chef at Maple Street Patisserie (7638 Maple Street, (504) 247-7912).  This was my 37th cheat and I have lost  a total of 62 pounds. 

Ever since Lorin Gaudin mentioned the new patisserie on Maple Street a couple weeks ago, I have been searching for a way to try it out.  I mean, all of my cheats usually consist of an entire meal that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert.  Was I sure I wanted to sacrifice an entire precious cheat meal for a literal binge session that would only feature large quantities of pastry?  You can bet my ass I would!

Like indulgent children in a candy shop with too much pocket money, John and I visited Maple Street Patisserie with one thing on our minds, enjoying as much pastry as humanly possible before we made ourselves sick.  The enthusiastic gentleman behind the counter was ready and willing to help, suggesting we try one of everything (it was so difficult to choose!) and we almost did.

John just started pointing to delicacies in the case, picking out a raspberry bear claw, an apple danish and a chocolate cupcake.  Showing uncharacteristic restraint I selected only two items, a strawberry turnover and a banana cream tart.  The coffee we ordered came from a “serve-yourself” stand of Luzianne dispensers in the corner of the bakery.  Noticing our excited response to the treats before us, Chef Ziggy came out and offered yet another delight that was his grandmother’s recipe, a apple pastry shaped like a tart, but with a dense sweet crust that reminded me almost of a cookie.

Although we shared our sweet feast, John and I were still unable to completely finish all six pastries.  It was no surprise that the bear claw disappeared quickly, unlike most I’ve tried it was crunchy, flaky and light with large granules of sugar adorning the crust and a thin, tart layer of raspberry inside.  The other items, although fantastic, were simply too much richness to handle.  We were able to demolish most of the strawberry turnover, the filling surprised me mostly with the distinct flavor of fresh berries that weren’t overwhelmed by too much sugar.

We dipped into the decadent banana cream tart featuring thick slices of real banana, creamy custard and whipped cream resting in a chocolate cookie-like shell but were unable to finish it.  We also tried, in vain, to eat all of the apple danish and Chef Ziggy’s most generous gift but we simply couldn’t go on.  The chocolate cupcake wasn’t even touched, although you can be sure we gobbled the moist, heavenly cake later that day.

While catching our breath, Ziggy chatted with us, relating his baking schedules, the popularity of his creations and his upcoming catering gigs.  Animated by obvious enthusiasm and devotion to his craft, he joked with us good-naturedly and encouraged us to request anything we wished from his bakery, confident in his talent and skill.  He offered us a sample of some whole grain bread that was fresh from the oven, relishing our reactions and basking in our praises.  John mentioned my unnatural obsession with bread (it is easily my biggest dietary vice) and Ziggy encouraged it, recommending I visit the bakery in the morning when the smell of freshly baked bread permeates the shop…I wouldn’t be surprised if I could smell it several blocks away.

With a large box full of leftovers, John and I finally left the patisserie.  We were utterly full, sated by the sinfully delicious desserts we just ate and high from an inordinate amount of sugar.  Ziggy’s magical pastries had elevated our senses and further exaggerated why I must stick to my dietary regime.  It will be incredibly difficult to avoid the Maple Street Patisserie in the future.  Don’t be surprised if you see me lurking around the building, sniffing indiscreetly every time the doors open, stealing jealous glimpses of string-tied boxes filled with goodies unimaginable carried by patrons unaware of my stalking.

Only please if you see me, don’t offer me a bite!

No cheating at Pho Tau Bay

Cross my heart and hope to die, I swear I didn’t cheat on my diet today.  I dined at Pho Tau Bay.

John and I met some friends for lunch on the Westbank and we all agreed to meet for pho at our favorite restaurant.  It was my old co-worker, Leigh who got me addicted to pho back when we used to work in Harahan.  There is this little eatery in a strip mall along Jefferson Highway called Kim Anh’s, only a few blocks away from where our office was.  Leigh often tried to convince me to eat there almost every day.  I thought pho would start to leak from my ears after a while, but it was just a matter of time before I was hooked too.

When the office moved into the CBD, we tried out Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expressway) and have been loyal fans ever since.  Not only does Pho Tau Bay have excellent pho, they have a huge menu to please any palate and offer some of the finest Vietnamese cuisine I have ever enjoyed.

There is one dish in particular that I simply can’t resist, the Pho Tau Bay Won Ton Soup, one of the chef’s specialties and at only $6.95, a great deal for lunch.  The soup is replete with a rich broth, thin slices of pork, lots of vegetables and delicate won tons stuffed with shrimp and pork.  For an additional $1.50, I like to add some rice noodles to the soup and that is all she wrote.  After a bowl of this incredible soup, and possibly an egg roll (cha gio) if I’m feeling naughty, I’m completely full and more than satisfied.

The best part is that with all of the vegetables and lean meat, I’m not breaking the rules of my diet even though it feels like I am!  Pho anyone?

Finding food on Facebook: Fat Hen Grill

Before I began using them, social networking sites and services like Facebook and Twitter used to make me cringe.  I kept thinking, “Does anyone really care if ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is playing over and over in my head or why I prefer mayo to Miracle Whip?”  As it turns out…they do.

But what’s truly amazing about social networking, aside from communing with family and friends across vast distances, is being able to tout yourself and your work.  You can share your efforts with everyone you know in a matter of keystrokes and draw people together who appreciate the same things you do in a matter of moments.  For example, over the past week while I was considering a few different places for my cheat meal, I kept getting menu announcements from Fat Hen Grill on Facebook.  After seeing posts discussing the “synergy of a burger”, Crabmeat Mango Salsa or a Soft-shell Crab BLT, Fat Hen Grill snuck into my list of places to go and I decided to try it out.

This is my 36th cheat and I am down 61 pounds.

Fat Hen Grill is a fairly new establishment that recently moved from their former location on Citrus to the old Pellittieri’s building on Hickory Avenue in Harahan. I think I preferred the old locale only because it looked more like a diner whereas the new building still has the feel of an Italian restaurant with dark green faux-finish on the walls and lots of four-top tables instead of squishy, yet comfy booths.  I let my criticisms fall by the wayside though because the move was very recent and it appeared they were still trying to pull things together.

Fortunately, my friend (and local Food Goddess) Lorin Gaudin and her husband Andre decided to have lunch with John and I for this particular cheat and we ended up languishing over lunch for some time.  It did take us a little while to order, but only because there was so much to choose from! After the three menus circled the table (breakfast, lunch and specials), we finally made our decisions.

We started with the Crawfish Biscuit, a homemade biscuit served with a crawfish cream sauce drizzled on top.  I thought the biscuit was light and fluffy, really quite tasty, but the sauce was just a bit too tart…perhaps a little too much lemon?  Andre had also ordered some Onion Rings that came out as an appetizer which I totally enjoyed.  They were nice and crispy and were also, most obviously homemade.

Before too long, our entrees arrived.  John got a Barnyard Burger featuring American cheese, grilled onions and Fat Hen’s special sauce served with French fries.  Although it tasted nice, I thought it was odd that the patty was all broken apart inside the bun, which made for difficult handling.

I had ordered the Crispy Fried Soft-shell Crab BLT dressed with avocado mayonnaise and a side of macaroni and cheese.  The mac and cheese was tasty with large penne noodles that held a thick, gooey cheese sauce, but my sandwich was somewhat of a struggle.  Even though I enjoyed the flavor, trying to contain a fried soft-shell crab plus several strips of Applewood smoked bacon and fresh lettuce and tomato on small slices of toasted wheat bread made no sense to me at all.  I think using a sturdier bread like sourdough or even French might have saved the day.

Andre chose Chicken Fried Steak served with seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes and Black Pepper Country Gravy while Lorin opted for the Harahan Patty Melt served on sourdough with American Cheese.  Out of all four entrees, I liked Lorin’s the best, but in general I found all of the food to be a little too heavy for me.  Am I really starting to dislike your typical “greasy spoon” type of cuisine?  Has my diet begun to steer me away from the things I love most?  Regardless, I was really full after only a few bites.  Maybe my stomach just won’t let me eat like I did in college anymore…

Considering I want to lose weight, this isn’t such a bad thing.

Well, even if most of my lunch ended up in a to-go box, I still couldn’t walk away from this cheat without dessert.  There were several options like Banana Cream Pie and a Chocolate “Glob”, but for some reason (okay, it’s my obsession with Queen), I couldn’t help wanting to try the Fat Bottomed Chocolate Cake. The waitress assured us that the cake was house made and quickly saw to our order.  She split the normally humongous slice into two pieces so we could share the dessert in couples.  Even though I enjoyed the rich, chocolate flavor of the cake, it was quite dry and sadly disappointing. 

Although the cheat wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, I still had a fantastic time dining with Lorin, Andre and John and thought that Fat Hen Grill had a lot of potential. It’s obvious they use fresh ingredients and that they care a lot about prompt service and a clean environment.  I will have to come back again and try the infamous “Womlette” (an omelet served atop a Belgian Waffle) or perhaps their Eggs Benedict some time in the future.

Until then, I feel the urge to share “Another One Bites the Dust” while debating the flavor value of non-fat mayonnaise (if indeed there is any) on Facebook. Wanna be my friend?

You can judge a book by its cover: The Famous Gumbo Pot

Sticky from the humidity, tired and hungry, John and I wandered into a restaurant we chose purely because of its proximity to the car.  It had been a crazy day what with John being called into work unexpectedly and, after running some errands, I searched for an hour to find a parking place in the Quarter…even the lots were full!  I knew there would be a lot of tourist traffic, but it was 2 pm!  Shouldn’t all these people be at Jazz Fest eating Crawfish Monica and listening to Kermit Ruffins or the subdudes?  Needless to say we were both feeling a bit ornery too, so we chose to eat conveniently as opposed to wisely.

On Friday afternoon, John and I ate at The Famous Gumbo Pot. This is my 34th cheat and I am down 59 pounds.

First off, I really have to address the word “famous”.  Even though I was exhausted and hungry, that word itched at me, I mean, I had never heard of the Gumbo Pot before…have you?  A Google hunt revealed a Craigslist job posting and reference to a New Orleans-style restaurant in Los Angeles.  How could you be famous if no one knows who you are?

Anyhow, we both realized we were subjecting our wallets and stomachs to the whims of a restaurant positioned (and named) to ensnare the unwary tourist, but we were too tired to argue and decided to risk it.  We were seated at a patio table and quickly served a couple of beers while looking over the menu.  The prices were ridiculous, although fairly common among French Quarter eateries and we decided to go with what would be the most affordable…a couple of po-boys.  We also got one side of fries (the $14 po-boys did NOT include them) and I thought, since they were named The Gumbo Pot, I should taste a cup of their “famous” stew.

The po-boys came out first, John got a roast beef and I chose shrimp.  They both were very large and pretty tasty, even though the bread was not what we are used to.  John’s po-boy could have used some more roast beef, it was a comparatively skimpy portion, but the sandwiches were easily the highlight of our meal.  When John tasted their duck and andouille gumbo, he laughed and said “Where’s the roux?”  I tasted a spoonful and realized he was right!  It tasted like all of the rich flavor that comes from a good roux had been substituted by some kind of boil seasoning…perhaps Zatarain’s? I am not positive what it was exactly, but I do know that if you are going to tout the name The Famous Gumbo Pot, you better have some really good gumbo.

I should have known that ordering dessert would only further my disappointment, but it was like seeing a car wreck happen right in front of you…you just can’t look away.  Maybe I was a glutton for punishment or maybe I was hoping they would pull it together for dessert, but I ordered a slice of their pecan pie and crossed my fingers.  Pecan pie is fairly simple to make, they couldn’t possibly screw it up too bad, right?

As it turns out, if you are seeking a way to completely rip off your patrons, you can very easily screw up the simple recipe for a pecan pie…just leave out the pecans!  I mean, I was shocked!  In this rather large slice of pecan pie there were only three or four pecans. Really?  For a $6 piece of pie I only get four pecans?

Well, I suppose that’s what I get for being grumpy and impatient.  At the very least, anyone who reads this will be wiser for the ware.  If you want some pretty good gumbo, tasty po-boys and really respectable prices while you are in the French Quarter, go to the real original…go to the Gumbo Shop.

“Girl time” at the Delachaise

It seems inevitable for girlfriends go through periods of distance, not because of any flaw in the friendship, but because we become busy with our own lives and romantic involvements. But, one thing is for sure, you’ll always know who your true friends are because true girlfriends always check back from time to time as a reminder that nothing between them has changed, to let the other know that this friendship is still important, still valued.  So you’ll understand, why after a year of sparse contact, I needed to spend some serious “girl time” on Wednesday afternoon with my close friend Dani at the Delachaise.

The Delachaise Restaurant rests on one of the shortest blocks Uptown, a strange stretch of property that juts out towards St. Charles Avenue in the familiar guise of a streetcar…a streetcar with an awning and a patio fashioned from police barricades out front.  As odd as that sounds, the interior of the Delachaise is much more sophisticated with a long, elegant bar and comfortably cushioned booths at both the front and rear of the “car”.

Dani and I wandered in and sat down at the bar.  I looked up at the chalkboard drink menus and saw that the Delachaise offered not only an amazing variety of wines, they also carried some interesting labels for beer, as well as hard liquor.  Handwritten lists for a variety of vodkas, gins, scotches, tequilas and more stood above his head, but when I asked the bartender for his “signature” cocktail, he told me “this is a wine bar, ” and handed us menus.

When he walked away, Dani and I gave each other a knowing look, eyebrows raised, but I figured if the man only wants to pour wine, so be it. We decided to try a glass of ’06 Alonso Vidella Malbec from Argentina.

Although the man that made a name for the Delachaise as a fine eatery in New Orleans no longer graced it’s kitchens, I still couldn’t help being curious about the food options.  Dani and I both wanted the Pomme Frites fried in goose fat and served with a malt vinegar aioli and spicy, peanut satay.  Now I realize, this is not a cheat night, but how often does quality girl time come along?  It was time to indulge a little. The wine was really wonderful, heavy and rich with the odor of blueberries and violets.  We warmed to the spirit quickly and conversations old and new transpired until we were awed by the aroma of our appetizer.

Brushing aside the slightly sloppy service, we found some fries drowning in the aioli sauce dish, the food was pretty tasty and we made quick work of it.  Still a bit hungry, we decided to order another wine, a glass of Grenache, a 2004 Domaine Cuvee de Beaume and their Grilled Eggplant “Cannolis” with Chevre and ricotta piped into the rolls of eggplant served with a “Muhammara” sauce.  Although Muhammara is supposed to be a spicy pepper dip, the sauce tasted suspiciously similar to the satay we ate earlier with the fries.  I have to admit the “cannolis” were tasty though, and we had no difficulty polishing them off.

The second wine (which we chose at random, I might add) featured a lighter, fruitier flavor with a higher alcohol content and I actually enjoyed it more than the Malbec as it reminded me more of the season, more appropriate for the warmer weather.

The warmth of our conversation mixed with good wine and tasty bites made for a lovely afternoon that I won’t soon forget. The atmosphere of the Delachaise made a perfect location for us to re-ignite our friendship and give us both a chance to step away from our responsibilities for a short while and be carefree, giddy girls again.  I only wish it could happen more often…