House of the week: Creole cottage on Dauphine Street

While I’ve been biting the bullet and concentrating seriously on a potential future abode, sometimes I accidentally come across a property that I simply can’t help getting randy over. I mean, some homes are just so sexy, so alluring, that they can seduce with seemingly-innocent words like “guest house” and “courtyard.” This just happened to be one of those times…

Located smack in the middle of the French Quarter, this Creole cottage looks harmless enough from the street, but inside it’s a whole other world. Built c. 1825, this house boasts high ceilings, hardwood floors, French doors, a huge courtyard and garden, an in-ground swimming pool, a three-bedroom guest house, an elevator, a kitchen featuring custom-built cypress-wood cabinets and working fireplaces (if you know the fiery history of the French Quarter, then you’ll know how rare it is to have working fireplaces).

Although some of the decor is tacky, I’ve never been a fan of floral wallpaper and fabric shower curtains, the house is a stunning example of the gorgeous properties to be had right inside the Vieux Carre. Yes, I admit it’s only a block from raucous Bourbon Street, but I bet you three million dollars, when you are inside that courtyard, it’s like you’re in another world.

Listed for only $2,995,000, this awesome house will probably be snapped up by some wealthy CEO or movie star. Still, I can’t help wishing it was me….

Fishes and Felipe’s

Although I’ve been living in New Orleans for over ten years, there are still a quite a few places I’ve never been. For example, I have yet to dine at Galatoire’s for a Friday afternoon lunch, set foot inside the Superdome or seen a Saints’ game, for that matter, and until a few weeks ago, I had never been to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

My friend Dani and her 3-year-old daughter Posie just happen to have an annual family membership to all of Audubon’s attractions and one day they asked John and I to come along. We strolled through the cool, dark halls and gawked at jellyfish, garfish, turtles and sharks. We visited Parakeet Pointe and tried to feed sleepy, colorful birds $1.50 sticks clumped with what looked like honey and birdseed at one end. But, either the birds weren’t hungry or simply sick of sticks, because none of them really wanted what we were offering.

We saw penguins and sea otters and stood inside the pre-fab jaws of a prehistoric shark to take pictures. We experienced what it’s like in a subtropical climate (wait…don’t we do that everyday?), climbed over a waterfall and saw river creatures like catfish and anacondas, though the snake was hiding in a hole. Shortly after sauntering through a glass tunnel built right through one of the main tanks (does anyone else remember Jaws 3?), we all started to feel hungry and decided that eating in the aquarium’s small food court was not an option. As we were heading out to scrounge something for lunch, Posie was waylaid by all the glittering goodies in the gift shop. While she was picking out a souvenir, I hopped onto my trusty smart phone to see what restaurants were nearby and the first name to pop up was Felipe’s Taqueria.

So that’s where we went…

I’d been to the Uptown location many times and knew what to expect. While Felipe’s is not exactly “authentic” Mexican cuisine, as they tout, they always use bright, fresh ingredients and there’s some excellent bang for your buck. As we discovered, the French Quarter location was very much like Uptown, although larger with a huge bar area. It’s basically like a cafeteria where you decide whether you want — burrito, nachos, flautas etc.– and then you choose what you want inside from a large list of ingredients and watch them while they pile it on.

This time, I wanted a taco salad which was a crispy, flour tortilla bowl filled with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, refried beans, black beans, fried Gulf shrimp, crumbled queso, creamy guacamole and a dollop of sour cream. John opted for a burrito filled with Al Pastor, or caramelized pork marinated in a pineapple sauce, with refried beans, crumbled queso, pico de gallo, rice and guacamole. Posie got a cheese quesadilla and Dani also got a taco salad but with char-grilled chicken. I must have been ordering with my eyes, because I also got nachos with lots of cheese, refried beans and guacamole for us all to share. It turned out to be way too much food. I was only able to eat my salad, not including the shell, and a few bites of nachos. Everything was delicious and we were all extremely satisfied, or so we thought…

As we were leaving the restaurant, Posie decided she wanted to go back to the aquarium, but since we had such a late lunch (almost dinner!), the aquarium was already closed. While she threw a hissy fit out on N. Peters Street, I seriously considered stepping back into Felipe’s for a margarita…heavy on the tequila please!

Felipe's Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Every woman a king at Kingfish

Yeah. I’ve been lagging in the posting department, but I certainly haven’t been lagging in the eating department, so I have a lot of catching up to do. So many restaurants, so little time! Anyhow, almost two months ago (don’t hurt me!), I went to a media lunch of sorts at Kingfish with my good friend Lorin Gaudin and two new friends (if I didn’t scare them away), Mary Sonnier and Kristen Essig.

Now, I don’t often go to media lunches/dinners because I think it’s important for me to be treated like the average “gal on the street” when I am reporting back to y’all on this fine blog of mine. BUT! Sometimes, it can be a whole big barrel of fun to get royally spoiled and this happened to be one of those times.

Let me preface this a little by saying I am one of those unfortunates who never had the opportunity to visit the famed Gabrielle Restaurant before it was damaged, never-to-return, during the levee failures in 2005. But, now that Chef Greg Sonnier is at the brand new Kingfish in the French Quarter, I finally was about to sample some of his most excellent cuisine and I couldn’t be more excited. Plus, I was hanging out with two other chefs, Greg’s wife Mary and Kristen, who was recently named Executive Chef at Sainte Marie Brasserie. I swear to you, mine is the coolest job EVER!

So, as soon as we were all together, drinks in hand, the food started rolling out from the kitchen and I didn’t think it was ever going to stop. Unfortunately, my pictures weren’t a awesome as I like them to be because there wasn’t a lot of natural light where we were sitting. Plus, we were all anxious to dig in! Anyhow, here is the run down on all the delicious dishes I got to try, pic by pic. Next time I go to Kingfish (which should be quite soon), I promise to procure some porn. In the meantime…

First, we got to share a couple cups of Smoked Rabbit Gumbo with French Sorrel sausage and topped with dirty, brown basmati rice. It was thick, rich and utterly devoured in mere moments.

While we were finishing off the gumbo, our server slapped down this huge plate of Sweet Potato Waffle Fries with guava-garlic butter…yes, I said guava-garlic butter. Oh…My…GAWD! I can’t even explain the awesome mouth-joy I experienced with these magnificent fries. DO NOT leave Kingfish without trying them. You’ve been warned…

Next, they brought out a bunch of plates to share, starting with this fresh, bright Roasted Gold Beet Salad with Sartori cheese, tasty pea-shoot greens and roasted pistachios tossed in a sherry vinaigrette.

We reluctantly shared an order of #Duck (insert Twitter joke here) served with hollandaise, sassafras catsup and topped with a cage-free egg. This dish was gobbled more voraciously and more speedily than the waffle fries…what does that tell you? I only wish my photo could do it justice…

We also shared an order of the Shrimp Prima – Jumbo Gulf shrimp stuffed with blue lump crab meat and wrapped in prosciutto served atop a candied pecan slaw. I enjoyed this dish so much that I ordered it for my entree, which (as my stomach later told me) was entirely gluttonous and unnecessary, but I was glad I did it anyway!

As if that wasn’t enough, we also were brought out a plate of Eunice Stew, which was stewed pork and grits with roasted corn, fresh herbs, jalapeno sour cream and manchego cheese. Though this dish was really quite wonderful and homey, it was a hot summer day and seemed way too heavy for the season. Now, would I inhale this stew during a cold, stormy day in midwinter? You betcha.

For their entrees, Lorin and Kristen ordered the Pescado Borracho or mojo-marinated fish tacos topped with a Napa cabbage slaw…

…and Mary chose the Stuffed Quail with pickled mirliton and cornbread dressing, wilted greens and mayhew gastrique…

…and then we had dessert. We did! We shared a delightful slice of Bourbon Pecan Pie…

…and a creamy, cool Chocolate Pot de Creme.

Phew! So, I am full just writing about all this food. Can you imagine how stuffed I was that day? Not that I’m complaining! It was a wonderful lunch with three fabulously talented ladies and I could not have asked for more. Keep in mind, the menu has changed at Kingfish since this awesome lunch, but I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed, not to mention those miraculous fries are still there…so HURRY!

Kingfish on Urbanspoon

Pleasure without porn: Killer Poboys

Quite often, I find myself genuinely frustrated that I cannot offer choice food porn from wonderful restaurants due to bad lighting, a mediocre camera or simply a lack of photographic skill. This is one of those times.

A little while back, John and I were in the French Quarter and decided to hit Killer Poboys, a hot new pop-up inside the Erin Rose Bar on Conti. It was just past 5 p.m. and the tiny bar was already full of devoted patrons, drinking and enjoying a football game on TV. We squished our way through to the back and placed our order at a small counter in a room eclectically decorated (like any great bar), replete with a colorful mural.

Sitting down at the only available bar stools, we sipped on Abita Ambers and waited for our food to appear.  Before long, our poboys were ready and they were most definitely “killer” dude. John ordered the Dark & Stormy Poboy with pork braised in Old New Orleans Rum, lime slaw and garlic aioli. I must acknowledge its sloppy, wonderful tastiness, but I sincerely like mine better. I chose the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp Poboy with marinated radish, carrot, cucumber and a “special sauce” that was spicy and mustardy. The only complaint is that there was not enough shrimp for a greedy little grubber like myself. Perhaps I should have ordered two?

We also got a side Green Bean Salad with pickled shiitake mushrooms and pumpkin vinaigrette that I thought was scrumptious. I gobbled it all down, sparing only a few bites for John who seemed far too busy with his poboy to bother.

*Again, I would like to apologize for my lack of proper food porn, but taking good pictures in the back of a darkened bar is pretty tough. Surprisingly, my iPhone took some fairly decent shots, though you’ll have to go find out for yourself how killer Killer Poboys can be.

Killer Poboys (Erin Rose Bar) on Urbanspoon

House of the week: Cottage on St. Phillip

I often use the word “cute” to describe some of the houses I have found, but this one had me “awing” with my head tilted to the side and a blissful smile on my face, a reaction that only got more pronounced  that as I watched the visual tour.

Right on the edge of the French Quarter on St. Phillip Street lies this adorable little cottage that almost looks like a child’s drawing from the facade. All that’s missing is a cotton ball tree, some “w” shaped birds and a big, smiling sun in the sky. Built in the 1800’s, this house is so precious it hurts…seriously…and features all of the classic New Orleans architectural goodies I love, plus a really cool extra. It’s is a cozy, one-bedroom affair with high ceilings, original mantles, hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, but there is also a delightfully charming courtyard that separates the main house from an irresistible, two-story guest house! This addition is even more precious than the main house, if that’s even possible, complete with a spiral staircase leading to the bedroom and it’s own kitchenette and bath! I think this house is a steal at $515,000 because it’s just that damned cute…but that’s just me.

House of the week: Creole cottage on Barracks Street

When you live in the Bay Area, finding enclosed dog parks is as easy as meeting blonde girls who say “hella” and dirty vagrants on Haight Street selling bunk acid from their left shoe. The suburbs are literally rife with pre-fab, astro-turfed dog “havens” where anal owners strictly patrol and enforce poop protocol and God forbid you bring your small-breed dog to the “big” dog side of the fence. As much as I hate these places, Pippin (my shih-tzu) loves them and since he is such a reckless, “will-run-into-traffic-regardless-of-how-much-his-owner-yells-at-him” kind of dog (read untrained), having that enclosed, safe environment is a balm to my frazzled nerves when letting him off the leash.

Pippin

After my first few months in New Orleans, Pippin was yearning for another doggie safe haven and I had no idea where to take him. Searching online, I discovered that a lot of owners used Cabrini Playground in the French Quarter for this exact purpose. Well, we went and we both loved it! There was lots of grass and trees, places for humans to sit and laid-back owners. I found out later that technically, that park isn’t supposed to be used for dogs, but as far as I could tell, no one else was using it…

Anyhow, to make a long story short (too late!), when I was looking for my house of the week, I found this incredible Creole cottage that just happens to be right across the street from Cabrini. This early 1800’s home is complete with the original, two-story slave quarters in back, a gorgeous courtyard, original Cypress-wood  floors, lots of exposed brick, French doors, transom windows and high ceilings. There are six bedrooms, four bathrooms and 3800 square feet of living space. I really, really, really love this house, but at $1,150,000 — it’s just a tad out of my price range.

House of the week: Creole cottage on Dauphine Street

Living in the French Quarter was a dream I had when I first headed down to New Orleans. The historic aspect of this town was a huge attraction to me after all and the Vieux Carre IS history. You won’t find an older neighborhood anywhere else in the United States. There are a ton of homes with iron-wrought wrapped balconies and gorgeous gingerbread-like trim, but there are also a few places that look like they just might collapse in the next big tropical storm.

I’m about to show you how deceiving those tumble-down facades actually are…

For example, check out this particular abode on Dauphine Street. It’s an ancient-looking Creole cottage that was built way back in 1911. The shutters are old with rusty iron hinges, keeping the interior hidden from the general public walking by. The plaster looks worn, beaten by a century of adverse weather, disrespectful tourists and even a civil war. Now take a look inside. You tell me, is this house worth $675,000? It’s like Mama always said, “You can never judge a book by its cover!”

When I was a tourist: Antoine’s Annex

Last week I was running errands in the French Quarter with John, when we stopped into Antoine’s Annex for a quick meeting and a cup of coffee. Not that we needed the extra caffeine, we were already bouncing off the walls from the three cups we drank earlier, but sometimes you just have to have one more cup.

Located at 513 Royal Street, the Annex is a clean, well-lit little coffee and sandwich joint which is, I assume from the name, affiliated with Antoine’s Restaurant around the corner on St. Louis (which I have not yet visited…I know!). The black & white decor with splashes of color coming only from the photos on the wall or the food on your plate is elegant and inviting, not to mention a huge tourist magnet.

For some reason, I started thinking about when I was a tourist to this city. Over ten years ago when I first visited New Orleans with my mother, I recall the awe and wonder on our faces as we strolled through the Quarter with its historic architecture, decadent food and exquisite shops…oh the shops! I am pretty sure we walked into every single store on Royal Street from Esplanade to Canal. I suppose the memories came flooding back because Antoine’s Annex was exactly the type of respite we would have sought on that long, 14-block trek. Even as I sat there, trying not to intrude on a meeting I wasn’t involved in, I saw several groups of shopping bag-laden tourists stroll inside to buy a bite to eat or pick up a chocolate gator to take home.

I only stayed long enough to enjoy a delicious Butter Rum Latte, but while I was sipping, it was quite refreshing to take a small trip back into my first memories of the city. I realized that my awe of New Orleans had not diminished – only changed into a deeper, richer understanding of the culture and environs I’ve always loved…even before I was a wide-eyed tourist.

Enlightenment at the Green Goddess

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Casey had accompanied John and I on one of my cheats and unfortunately, it turned out badly.  I felt terrible, especially after constantly bragging about the all the fantastic eateries I had already experienced.  Determined to make it up to her, I chose a special spot for lunch this past Saturday that I knew for a fact would be outstanding and blow both of our minds (not to mention our palates)…the Green Goddess.

This was my 46th cheat and I am now down 65 pounds.

How did I know the Green Goddess would be a good bet? With chefs like Chris DeBarr and Paul Artigues at the helm, how could it possibly go wrong? Both are local heroes known for their creativity at the Delachaise and Surrey’s Juice Bar respectively, not to mention that DeBarr is married to one of my favorite authors (Poppy Z. Brite), but that’s just lagniappe. My mouth was watering in anticipation for what I knew would be one hell of a meal and at this point, I think Casey was simply hoping I would be right this time.

Although located in the French Quarter, this tiny cafe has an unusual level of intimacy not easily found so close to Royal Street.  Tucked into Exchange Place, a small alley found right off Bienville between Royal and Chartres Streets, we were surprised to find two available outside tables, especially since it was the second day of the Satchmo Summer Festival. I suppose the heat drove most of the patrons inside, but Casey and I thought it was pleasant under the large shady umbrellas and sat down, prepared to relax into a long, leisurely lunch.

With so many drool-inducing items on the menu, it took us a while to order, but our server was patient and accommodating, taking our drink order while we debated our options.  Casey chose a “Pear 75”, which was a like a tricked-out Mimosa featuring Oregon Pear Brandy, Austrian apricot liqueur, a house made ginger syrup and topped with champagne. Its flavors were very complex and my only complaint was that I wished it was a lot colder. I opted for “Solidarity Sunshine”, a cocktail the restaurant tagged as “an adult lemonade” with Sparkling Meyer Lemon Juice, Sobieski Vodka and fresh basil…a delightful and refreshing drink, reminding me of the almighty Mojito. We both were so dazzled by the “Sunshine” we had to order two more.

Casey’s allergies prevented her, but I just couldn’t resist ordering the special, a chilled mango puree drizzled with balsamic and laced with thick, crisp strands of prosciutto. Tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, banana, guava etc. intrigue my taste buds to no end and mango soup was an adventure impossible for me to ignore. I have to admit feeling a little guilty devouring the tangy, wonderfully chilled soup without being able to share with Casey…just not guilty enough. I think she understood though, plus the prospect of breaking out in hives while sweating in the mid-summer New Orleans heat was an effective deterrent.

Casey came into her own though with what I thought was the better entree, the “Cuban Luau,” a pressed sandwich featuring pulled pork, salame, grilled pineapple, pickled banana peppers and Manchego (Queso) cheese on ciabatta bread. Casey immediately declared that it ranked in her personal top five sandwiches of all time and I’m inclined to agree. Every bite danced you through a crispy, buttery, tangy, creamy, salty whirlwind leaving you breathless, but raring for another go.

Not quite as daring, but still absolutely delicious, I enjoyed the “Lafitte Blue Crab Melt” that was literally loaded with large chunks of juicy crab and melted Robiola cheese with a spicy remoulade sauce on toasted ciabiatta. The slight tang of the cheese complimented, rather than overpowered, the delicate crab meat and I had no difficulty scarfing down the entire sandwich. Actually, since I am re-savoring the moment, I must remember to ask them where they get their bread! Next time…

Casey and I also shared a order of “French Duck Fat Potato ‘Home Fries'” served with garlic aioli and roasted, red bell pepper dipping sauces.  Can anyone really resist potatoes cooked in duck fat? The thick potato slices were either super crunchy or soft and greasy, but wonderful nonetheless especially after being dipped.

Bursting at the seams but determined to do it right, I requested the dessert menu, disregarding when Casey helplessly moaned “No more!” Forcing her to my will, I made her scan the menu till we both agreed on “The Sultan’s Nest”. Regardless of how full she was, Casey couldn’t help indulging in several bites of the delightful dessert. Pistachio Gelato and whipped cream sat atop a nest of crunchy, shredded phyllo curls and honey infused with saffron, candied Yuzu peel and orange blossom water. Ambrosial, mysterious and sweet, it was certainly food for the gods, or in this case goddesses, and we’d just been given a brief taste of heaven.

My compliments to the magic-makers at the Green Goddess for a most memorable meal and, more specifically, for helping me regain Casey’s trust in my choice of eateries. One thing’s for certain, I’ll be back to worship at your temple again soon…