It’s … it’s … an ice cream po-boy?

When it comes to ice cream sandwiches, nothing is finer (in this Bay Area girl’s most humble opinion) than an It’s It. These rather notorious cookie and ice cream sandwiches have been around since 1928 and, regrettably, I tend to judge all other similar confections by their standard.

Now admittedly, It’s-It has gone somewhat downhill since I was a kid. The ice cream isn’t as creamy and the cookies seemed to have shrunk, but I will never forget being a sweaty, hungry 10 year-old girl who was treated to pizza and It’s-Its after a continuous stream of disappointing soft ball games. (*Our coach was flaky and cut out on the team right before our big game, taking all of the candy money we earned with her, but that’s another story). Smooth, dense chocolate ice cream sandwiched by two, chewy oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate … I can almost taste it.

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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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Swooning at Shaya

While I realize that everyone and their brother’s mother are waxing poetic about Shaya, I just can’t help jumping on the bandwagon. After all, Alon Shaya was awarded the 2015 James Beard for Best Chef: South and he is the undeniably creative force behind one of Downtown New Orleans’ most popular restaurants Domenica. So I’m getting on the praise train, not only for the above reasons, but also because Shaya is next in line on my (pitifully delayed) blogging schedule and because the restaurant is, without a doubt, fabulous.  Continue reading

Fat Falafel plus at 1000 Figs

While I realize I constantly tout the awesomeness of my Oak Street neighborhood, there are areas all over the city of which I would love to be a part. One such neighborhood is the Esplanade Ridge, especially that area right next to the Bayou St. John. The trees and houses are stunning; you’re right near the bayou, City Park and the fairgrounds; and you have “around-the-corner” access to restaurants like Cafe Degas, Liuzza’s by the Track and, a new addition, 1000 Figs.

Opened a little over 6 months ago, the folks from one of the city’s favorite food trucks, The Fat Falafel, have planted their specialties into a brick and mortar along with a few other tasty tidbits. About a month after it opened, Lorin and I visited 100 Figs and enjoyed a fabulous sit-down lunch which always tops standing on the sidewalk, shoveling goodies in my face with a plastic fork. Does that make me a snob? Maybe. But I’m also a gimp with back problems who enjoys a comfortable seat and real silverware…so sue me.

The restaurant was smaller than I expected, but offered gorgeous, wood benches and tables, plus a high counter along the front window where guests can perch, savor lunch and watch the world go by. I wanted to try one of everything, but to start we ordered some crispy, flash-fried Brussels sprouts with red cabbage and salad greens drizzled with fresh lemon. We also scored a big bowl of hand-cut French fries served with a thick, creamy labneh or yogurt for dipping. I couldn’t stop munching on the fries and long after we “finished” and were paying the check, I couldn’t help sneaking forkfuls of the crispy sprouts.

For her entree, Lorin ordered a ginormous squid salad and I opted for their signature falafel in platter form. I got a taste of Lorin’s calamari which was nice, but I was far more focused on the light, crunchy falafel that was served with a creamy hummus, salad greens and wedges of pita. Overall, it was a lovely lunch and while I realize French fries and falafel are … well … fried, I felt like I had enjoyed a healthy meal because it didn’t weigh me down or make me groan from being over-sated. If you’re looking for a delicious, “light” lunch, I highly recommend it. Oh, and don’t forget to get a big glass of their Hibiscus Iced Tea!  

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Lunch at The Munch Factory

Several months back when I was still entertaining the idea of actually purchasing a house in Gentilly, I met my realtor (and awesome new friend!) Zuheily for lunch at The Munch Factory. Cruising around the area, it seems to me that Gentilly still has a long way to go before it competes (in a culinary capacity) with other New Orleans neighborhoods, but there are certainly a few gems worth visiting.

Located on Elysian Fields Avenue, less than two blocks from the University of New Orleans campus, The Munch Factory is a fairly new eatery (opened in 2011) headed up by talented chef Jordan Ruiz. When Zuheily and I walked in for an early lunch that day back in November, I was expecting Creole comfort food with a twist and that’s exactly what we got.

We started with Shrimp Remoulade served atop several slices of fried green tomato. The dish was as delicious as any “fine dining” plate of remoulade I’ve ever tasted. The shrimp popped and the tomatoes were crisp, tart and not the slightest bit greasy. I also had to sample a bowl of their soup of the day, which turned out to be a creamy potato leek topped with a little shredded cheddar and a few croutons.

For our entrees, Zuheily and I shared out an Ultimate Grilled Cheese and a Hot Sausage Patty Melt. Both sandwiches were pressed on Cuban bread, both were oozing cheese and both were served with their signature “Elysian Peels” which are essentially well-seasoned, baked potato skins. Though we gobbled as much as we could, we still ended up taking some home because the portions were incredibly generous.

Dessert is almost always a given on my lunch outings, so naturally, Zuheily and I shared a slice of Tres Leches cake. Though the flavor was nice, it was much drier than I expected which kind of bummed me out, but the rest of our lunch more than merited a return visit. Especially since I’ve heard so much about the herb chicken he serves at dinner …

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New experience at Namese

Since it sometimes feels as if I’ve tasted virtually everything, it’s always a wonderful surprise when I get the opportunity to sample something new. That’s exactly what happened when Lorin and I enjoyed a lunch at Namese a few months back.

Located on the corner of Tulane and South Carrollton Avenue, Namese was once a convenience store that sold Chinese food to-go. What with the surge of interest in Vietnamese cuisine and the changes that are slowly-but-surely happening in this previously unloved corridor, the owners sensed it was kismet to get back to their roots and open a full-service restaurant.

Though it was cold the day we visited, I could totally see returning in the springtime (and I have!) to lounge on their spacious and comfortably-furnished patio out front. But on this particular occasion, Lorin and I sat inside. After placing our order, we munched on complimentary prawn crackers and talked about all things food-related while we waited.

First to arrive was an appetizer we ordered to share, a dish of shrimp and avocado spring rolls with a rich, dark peanut sauce for dipping. Needless to say, the rolls were fresh, flavorful and gobbled up in no time at all. Shortly thereafter, our entrees arrived and I couldn’t help oohing and aahing … at least a little.

Lorin ordered their Shakin’ Steak that was marinated, pan-seared and served with jasmine rice and pickled vegetables. Me? I was in the mood for pho, so I chose the filet mignon. Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve ordered filet mignon pho at almost every Vietnamese restaurant in the city, but not once has it ever been served up like it was at Namese.

Instead of just a bowl of soup, Namese took it one step further bringing out the pho (with noodles and veggies, of course) with a separate plate of raw, thinly sliced beef. Essentially, I was cooking each piece of meat in the piping hot broth right before stuffing it into my face. It was fantastic! Especially with their spicy, sate chili sauce that I added to each bite. Although it might not seem like much, this added dimension to the meal made all the difference. I just love trying new things … especially when it’s food!

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Mission at Del Fuego Taqueria

I’m ecstatic that New Orleans has finally upped its game when it comes to Mexican cuisine. If anyone asked me what I missed most about living in California, other than the fact that my whole family lives there, I would have to say two things: 1) the Pacific Ocean and 2) Mission burritos. Thankfully, a man after my own stomach, owner David Wright, opened Del Fuego Taqueria early this summer bringing the Mission burrito to the Crescent City.

A few months back, John and I visited Del Fuego Taqueria for the first time and in case you were wondering, I’ve been back many times since.  Located on Magazine Street just a hop from Napoleon Avenue, Del Fuego offers both indoor and outdoor seating and, on this particular occasion, John and I opted to sit outside. We kicked off our dinner with a couple of perfectly delicious, house Margaritas made with Souza Blue Silver and house made triple sec and fresh “limonada” or lemonade decorated with a heavy, salt rim. 
First out was their “loaded” guacamole that was like a cornucopia of all the good stuff you can put in guac … plus a little bit more. After feasting on crispy, fresh tostada pieces weighed down with fresh avocado, chicharrones (Spanish for “cracklins”), tomato, onion, cotija, roasted poblanos, pumpkin seeds, bacon and pomegranate seeds (yes, I said pomegranate seeds), we were actually quite full. Nonetheless, we were still determined to try at least a bite or two of our entrees before we asked them to box it all up.
John got the “Cochinita Pibil de Costenos” which translated to mean a half-rack of St. Louis ribs that were slow-cooked in banana leaves with an achiote-spice rub and served with a side of black beans and pickled onions. The ribs were wonderfully heavy with heady spice and practically falling off the bone. 
Seeing as I’ve raved about them in the past and missed them oh-so dearly, I simply had to have a Mission burrito. I chose the carnitas filling (slow-cooked and fried pork) that was also accompanied by the traditional Mission-style ingredients which include pinto beans, rice, queso, crema (or sour cream), salsa fresca, avocado, onions and cilantro. Let me tell you, it was like taking a bite of home. If my dish had a few whole, pickled jalapenos, sliced onions and carrots, all I would have had to do was close my eyes and I’d feel like I was sitting in front of La Cumbre. Thank you Mr. Wright, you have no idea how happy you’ve made me…  

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Sips and snacks at Ivy

While I have not yet acquired the funds needed to dine at Gautreau’s, I did get the opportunity to taste Chef Sue Zemanick’s highly capable cookery a few months ago at the recently-opened Ivy. One balmy afternoon, I met a new acquaintance for a few bites at the Magazine Street restaurant (gastropub?) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I only wish I could have afforded to try more…

We chose to lounge outside and immediately ordered a couple of drinks. My DC opted for a French 75 with gin, lemon juice and champagne, while I chose their version of a Dark & Stormy with dark rum and ginger beer. We sipped the cool drinks while the sun made its decent towards the horizon and talked about our love for a city that was not, technically, our home town.

About halfway through our cocktails, the small plates arrived one-by-one, the first being house made potato chips with a French onion dip. They were perfectly crisp and not even a tad bit greasy, but we devoured the small portion faster than you can blink, though we left a lone chip in the bowl, neither of us willing to deny the other another taste.

Next up was a Hamachi Crudo with fennel, grapefruit, and basil, a dish that light and refreshing, perfect for a mid-summer afternoon. For that dish, there was a scramble to devour every bite and neither of us “played the lady,” leaving not a single morsel on the plate.

Our last dish was Pimento cheese-stuffed Boudin balls with Creole-cane syrup, of which there were three. Although we graciously split the last, so each of us enjoyed one and one half, I couldn’t help but be reminded about my appetizer pet peeve. You see, I have this sinking suspicious that chefs serve dishes in odd numbers forcing you to order twice as much to have an even number of portions. The Boudin balls were delicious, but not enough to cause us to order more.

Overall, I though the food and drinks were quite wonderful, but everything was drastically over-priced. $10 for a plate of crudo that altogether wouldn’t equal more than two mouthfuls? $7 for a small handful of potato chips? $11 for three Boudin balls smaller than ping pong balls? Frankly, I’ll have to wait for someone with a lot more expendable income than I to take me here again, but I am glad I got to experience even this little bit just once.

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Vegan eats at Seed

As y’all probably have guessed, I’m a meat-eater. As a die-hard carnivore, I doubt I could ever subscribe to the vegan diet, there would be far too many foods I would miss too damn much. That being said, I’m certainly not opposed to eating vegan (or even raw) for a meal. That’s probably why I suggested Seed when I met my good friend Jeanne for lunch a few months back.

Although Seed replaced one of my favorite lunch spots less than six months ago, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by a menu where all of the dishes were either vegan or raw, and sometimes both! We arrived at the restaurant at around 1pm thinking we’d avoid the main rush, but the place was still jumpin’ and we were lucky to score a two-top before a large queue formed at the front door.

Although it was difficult to decide, Jeanne and I finally placed an order and looked around while we waited … and waited … and waited … till the usual jokes arose — “guess the chef had to kill the cow first” — but in this case we were baffled. Everything we ordered was raw … meaning uncooked … meaning what the heck was taking so long? As we glanced around, we realized that no one else was eating either. Everyone was just sitting around, sipping their drinks (we got a lovely iced mint tea, by the way) and conversing like there was absolutely nothing amiss.

Now, I was willing to give them a little leeway, seeing as they hadn’t been open very long and were likely working out some kinks. But a 45 minute wait for raw food? That’s a pretty big kink. Jeanne and I cheered when they finally brought out our appetizer, a Beet Carpaccio, that was visually stunning. Both red and gold beets were thinly sliced and served with red onions, capers and crushed pistachios all drizzled with grape seed oil. Although the flavors were fresh and bright, the tough texture of the raw beets sort of threw Jeanne and I for a loop. They were sliced pretty thin, but not thin enough to make this an appetizer that was easy to eat. Maybe if they cooked them a bit?

Our entrees arrived in a somewhat timely manner (the waitress forgot about mine), and these were the highlight of the meal. Jeanne opted for the Seed Club Sandwich which featured hummus, avocado, tomato, sprouts and garlic aioli on toasted, whole grain bread. She enjoyed it thoroughly, which was obvious through the groans of delight that she uttered while chewing, and it presented quite well. It was the kind of sandwich that is perfect for a healthy eating ad, “delicious AND good for you!”

I thought my entree was the star of the show, a vegetable spaghetti with spiralized veggie noodles, avocado pesto, puttanesca sauce and shaved coconut to garnish. The flavor was outstanding! I had difficulty believing that my meal was completely vegan, and the fact that it was completely raw to boot was staggering. The puttanesca was so bright and rich, with tomatoes, olive oil, capers and garlic, and the noodles were cool and light, completely absorbing the flavorful sauce. I was completely blown away and I assure you, I could devour that dish daily.

We finished off the meal with a little dessert, a raw mint ice cream composed mostly of frozen banana. It was not too sweet and super-minty which worked on a hot summer day, but it certainly failed to give regular ice cream a run for its money. All in all, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian in New Orleans, Seed is your home away from home. If you’re not, its still pretty darn good, but I suggest exploring the menu to find your favorite dish. Seed’s biggest fault? I mean, aside from a deplorable wait (that I hope had been rectified since my visit)? I walked out still feeling hungry.

Time to seek out a steak…

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Westbank eats at Perino’s Boiling Pot

Whenever I go over to the Westbank, there’s a few places whose cuisine I tend to crave, places like Pho Tau Bay, Hong Kong Market, Tan Dinh and Perino’s Boiling Pot. It’s kind of like that Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn’t belong.” Usually, if I’m on the “Wank,” I’m all for the Asian/Vietnamese joints because, well, there’s a lot of them. But Perino’s drew me in a long time ago, a recommendation from a local on where to get the cheapest oysters, which were at that time only 25 cents each.

A few months ago, John, Casey and I headed for lunch at Perino’s only to find that not a whole lot has changed, except the oysters have jumped in price, but that’s to be expected. We still ordered a half dozen as an appetizer just for the hell of it, even though they now cost $8, approximately $1.30 each. They were plump, briny and delicious, as usual, but they just served to rev us up for our entrees.

Instead of each getting a seafood basket, we decided to split two baskets between the three of us, crab claws and alligator, both of which came with curly fries. It was all crisply fried and just as tasty as I remember, especially the tender alligator, a local treat of which I can never really get enough. I need to get back to feast on boiled crawfish and crab (their specialty), but I’ll wait till the season is right.

Perino’s is super-casual with paper-towel rolls instead of napkin dispensers and huge sodas that come in durable, plastic cups, but that shouldn’t discourage diners one jot. The only thing I found a bit difficult to adjust to is all the wildlife watching you eat. Don’t worry, they won’t steal your food…

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