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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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!  

1000 Figs on Urbanspoon

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 …

Munch Factory on Urbanspoon

25 Scrumptious Things to Eat In New Orleans That Aren’t Po-Boys

I’m not on a mission to offend fellow writers or popular publications, but I have a problem with “listicles.” Instead of well-crafted, thought-provoking articles, it seems theses days, most of what people read are just lists. No one cares how long it takes to construct the perfect sentence or pull together a piece that both educates and entertains. Very few people even take the time to read at all, let alone a full, 1000-word piece on the value of honey. There’s just too much information out there, too much to absorb and too little time. Listicles tend to be what my boyfriend calls “click bait” whose sole purpose is to get more clicks, which in turn translates to more page views, which in turn translates to more advertising dollars.

Also, it seems to be what “readers” these days want and who am I to argue?

In an effort to pull my nose out of the clouds and get with the program, I’ve decided to try my own “listicle.” Let me know what you think …

In an unabashed imitation of a Buzzfeed article I saw the other day, here are my “25 Scrumptious Things To Eat In New Orleans That Aren’t Po-Boys.”

1. Cake Donuts from Blue Dot Donuts

With shops in both Mid-City and Uptown, this retired-police-officer-owned donut shop doesn’t mess around. Although some might be all about their specialty donuts (Boston Cream Pie, Red Velvet etc.) their blueberry glazed cake donuts rock my world.

2. All Meat & All Sides from McClure’s Barbecue

New Orleans, for a long time, was not a great town for BBQ, but in the years since the levee failure, ‘cue restaurants have been popping up all over town, including McClure’s on Magazine Street where you  and a friend can feast on ribs, pulled pork, sausages, smoked chicken and delicious sides for $32.

3. Vermicelli Bowl from Ba Chi Canteen

Loaded with BBQ roast pork, egg rolls, fresh veggies and rice noodles, you could do a whole lot worse for lunch! Plus, Ba Chi’s crispy pork egg rolls are second to none.

4. Steak Tartare from La Petite Grocery

I can almost hear people turning up their nose and scoffing at this particular dish. Hey, you know what? If you’ve never tried steak tartare, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have, and enjoy it, you shouldn’t miss this particular version.

5. Truffled Manchengo Cheese Grits from Green Goddess

Buttery, cheesy deliciousness for a mere $5. Need I say more/

6.  House Ramen Bowl from Noodle & Pie 

Shoyu chicken broth, slow cooked pork shoulder, soft egg, greens, mushrooms and shredded nori make up this big bowl of comfort, but don’t forget … there’s also great pie.

7. Whole Grilled Fish from Peche

Although the type of fish and added ingredients vary from season to season, you can’t go wrong with this whole grilled fish from Peche. Yes, it can be pricey, but believe you me, there’ll be nothing left but bones because you’ll want to inhale every last bit.

8. Mississippi Lamb Meat Pies from Oak

This swanky, Uptown wine bar offers a great wine list, creative cocktails, live music and some incredibly tasty vittles like these Mississippi Lamb Meat Pies that they serve with Crystal Hot Sauce yogurt for dipping.

9. Ham & Gruyere Quiche from Toast 

Never in my life have I experienced a creamier, fluffier or more flavorful quiche (and I have been known to make quite a few of my own). Chef Cara Benson is a freaking magician.

10. “Loaded” Guacamole from Del Fuego Taqueria

As if fresh, bright guacamole wasn’t enough, the folks at Del Fuego have taken it upon themselves to stuff you silly with the addition of chicharrones (a.k.a. cracklins), tomatoes, pickled onion, queso cotija, roasted poblanos, pumpkin seeds, bacon (because the cracklins weren’t enough pork) and pickled jalapeno.

11. Cheeseburger from trūburger

A Chef Aaron Burgau creation, trūburger on Oak Street offers 100% Creekstone Angus Beef burgers, ground in-house and grilled to order. They also make swoon-worthy, hand-dipped corn dogs using Zweigle’s franks. 

12. Double-Cut Pork Chop from Toups’ Meatery

Not only is this pork chop perfectly cooked and drizzled with a cane syrup gastrique, it’s served with the best dirty rice in New Orleans. Chef Isaac Toups is the meat “master” and his super-sweet wife Amanda makes everyone feel like they’re family.

13. Mechada from Mais Arepas

Although there’s lots of great dishes on the menu at Mais Arepas, a Latin-American restaurant in Central City, I can’t help but order the Mechada almost exclusively. Slow cooked skirt steak, sofrito, maduros (fried plantains) and melted mozzarella are stuffed into a thick arepas (corn tortilla) and served with crispy plantain chips. Every time I think about this dish, I have an irresistible urge to return.

14. Crispy Chicken Wings from MoPho

They’re just wings, no big deal … right? Wrong! It’s all about the spicy/sweet sauce with accents of lemongrass and ginger. It’s “mopho-ing” awesome.

15. Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake with Peanut Brittle Ice Cream from Herbsaint 

It’s hard to pick just one dish from Donald Link’s flagship restaurant Herbsaint, but this one never fails to impress, especially when the warm pudding oozes out after your first forkful. 

16. Shrimp BLT Wrap from GG’s Dine-O-Rama

Whether the name is GG’s Dine-O-Rama or Gott Gourmet, this particular eatery has an abundance of great food. One of my favorites is the Shrimp BLT Wrap with sauteed gulf shrimp, fresh mozzarella, Nueske’s apple smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, avocado, roasted tomatoes, chili mayo and chipotle cream cheese. 

17. Mazorca from Baru Bistro & Tapas

An excellent spot to dine al fresco, Baru offers an array of Latin and Caribbean cuisine. One of the local favorites (and a dish they simply can’t erase from the menu) is the Mazorca with roasted corn, salao cheese, “pink sauce,” and crispy potato sticks. It’s hard not to shovel this in your mouth at one go.

18. Gulf Fish Almondine from Patois

Every dish is wondrous at Patois, one of my all-time favorite restaurants, but this one certainly stands out and seeing it hasn’t changed a whole lot since it first appeared on the menu years ago, it seems I’m not the only one who’s in love. Using whatever is fresh (and appropriate) from the Gulf, this fish is breaded, pan-fried and served with roasted potato gallettes, buttered green beans and drizzled with a citrus meuniere. 

19. Raisin Cinnamon Bun from Gracious Bakery

Baker and co-owner Megan Foreman will blow you away with her amazing pastries and breads, made from only the finest ingredients. Anyone would be the envy of the workplace if they walked in one morning munching on this gorgeous cinnamon bun and sipping on French Truck Coffee

20. Bacon-Wrapped Prawns from Salu

Mammoth Gulf shrimp wrapped in bacon and served in a garlic beurre monté (emulsified butter) … there’s just something wrong with you if the mere idea of this dish doesn’t make you salivate. Go see a doctor or just go to Salu.

21. Kurobuta Pork Belly from Three Muses 

Since it’s inception, Three Muses (and Chef Daniel Esses) have been serving this dish and it is still one of their most popular items. Sit back, enjoy the music and dive into beer-braised pork belly served on scallion pancakes and topped with apple chutney. 

22. Crispy Hen from Mint Modern Bistro & Bar

Spicy, sweet and just downright delicious, the crispy hen at Mint is worthy of a return visit. Not to mention that you get the hen (and everything else pictured) for a mere $8.50. It’s lunchtime!

23. Blackened Shrimp & Grit Cake from Boucherie

In a twist on the traditional Southern dish of shrimp and grits, Chef Nathaniel Zimet offers this stunning dish of blackened shrimp and blackened grit cakes in a warm, house-cured bacon vinaigrette.

24.  Tacos Al Pastor from Cowbell 

Chef Brack May not only offers a fabulous, grass-fed beef burger at Cowbell, he never fails to show off his native-Californian love for Mexican cuisine. Case in point, his sinful Tacos Al Pastor with achiote-rubbed pork, queso fresco, arroz verde, black beans, charred pineapple salsa and corn tortillas.

25. Blueberry Muffin from Maple Street Patisserie

Pastry chef and co-owner Ziggy Cichowski never fails to dazzle, showing off his extensive skill in bread-making and pastry crafting at Maple Street Patisserie. I mean, just look at this blueberry muffin! It’s almost as big as my head, but certainly not bigger than my stomach!

*P.S. This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible food to be had in our beloved Crescent City.

*P.S.S. I was going to do 35 dishes (like the Buzzfeed article), but I got lazy.  

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!

Namese on Urbanspoon

Wolfing Waffles on Maple

“You should eat a waffle! You can’t be sad if you eat a waffle!”  -Lauren Myracle

I wasn’t sad, but I wanted a waffle, specifically a waffle from the groovy (pun intended), Waffles on Maple located on Maple Street (duh) featuring a distinctive waffle facade. A new friend and I met at the small wafflery (is that a word?) for lunch a few months back and quickly got happy.

Due to my every-widening ass, I’m not a huge fan of the restaurant’s interior. It’s a tiny place taken up mostly by the kitchen/counter and the only seats require one to perch upon a small stool while wolfing your waffle. If you’ve got posterior problems like mine, I highly suggest waiting for a warm day and sitting at one of the tables outside on the sidewalk.

Zuheily (my friend) and I ordered at the counter and perched on a stool to await our simple, yet fabulous fare. I mean, how hard is it to make a waffle? I’ve made tons at home on a Williams Sonoma Waffle Iron I bought for a relative long, long ago (she didn’t want it … go figure?). I’ve whipped up everything from Belgian to Chocolate Chip and topped them with honey, whipped cream, maple syrup and ice cream, but these … these were waffles of a different color.

I ordered one of their daily specials, a cornbread waffle topped with a jalapeno-grit cake and smothered in melted cheddar cheese and sour cream. Talk about a carb attack! It was intensely filling and pretty tasty, though I’m not positive I’d order it again. It’s more likely I’d order on the sweet side next time, likely something similar to Zuheily’s dish, a Strawberry Shortcake waffle covered in a hot, strawberry sauce with huge chunks of strawberries and whipped cream cheese. Next time…

Waffles on Maple on Urbanspoon

Insight at Asuka Sushi & Hibachi

A lot of folk claim there is one type of food that they know they could eat every day for the rest of their life. For me, that food was sushi. Since my first taste of salmon nigiri in a tiny, Japanese restaurant off 19th Avenue in San Francisco almost 20 years ago, I was hooked. My friends and I used to hit up Fuji Sukiyaki in San Mateo where we would literally gorge ourselves on the special rolls — from a simple Crunchy Roll to a Dragon Roll and everything in between. (*Note: Remind me to tell you about the time my friend Wilson was dared into eating a huge wad of wasabi.)

When I came to New Orleans and met John, I took him out for his first taste of sushi and he loved it as much, if not more, than I did. It got to the point where if we ever went out for lunch or dinner, more often than not, we’d end up at a sushi joint.

A few months back, John and I realized that it had been months since we indulged in our favorite food, so we went out to try one of the newest Japanese restaurants in our area, Asuka Sushi & Hibachi.  You know that weird triangle between Short Street and Fern on Earhart Blvd., the one with a jeep that looks like it crash-landed into a fake palm tree? That’s where you’ll find Asuka, right in front of the Daiquiri Island Sports Bar. 
When we arrived, the restaurant was empty and kind of dark, but a server quickly came out from the kitchen and offered us a seat at one of the booths. We browsed the menu, ordered several items and sipped iced green tea while we waited.
Since we only ordered rolls and nigiri, everything came out at once. We got a Crazy Roll with tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado and masago (roe) in a soybean wrap and topped with eel sauce, and a Louisiana Roll (the whole thing was battered and fried) with tempura shrimp, snow crab, crawfish, avocado, masago and cream cheese topped with their own “special sauce.” We also got a Crunchy Roll, a Tuna Avocado Roll and Tuna Tataki Nigiri.
Now don’t get me wrong, all of the rolls were delicious and for people who love the big, extravagant, Westernized rolls, they were perfect. But, when it came down to it, John and I enjoyed the Tuna Tataki the most, just simple, seared tuna with green onion and ponzu sauce. Perhaps it was because our palates had developed since our last sushi extravaganza, but the big showy rolls no longer held any fascination for us. In fact, they all started to taste the same. 
In our subsequent sushi adventures, we’ve stuck to simple rolls (like tuna and avocado), nigiri and sashimi, enjoying them as much as we did the elaborate rolls. Why mess with a good thing? We have Asuka to thank for that revelation.

Asuka Sushi & Hibachi on Urbanspoon

Toast: Breakfast will never be the same again …

Everyone has heard me rave in many different mediums about the wonders to be had at Tartine run by chef/owner Cara Benson. Well, this magical, magnanimous, Mom and baker extraordinaire has done it again with Toast, a mouth-watering breakfast experience she opened about six months ago.

To be perfectly fair, I’ve already raved about Toast, too … just not here on my lil old blog. Now seems the optimal time to rectify that. I’ve been to Toast on many occasions since the first, an experience I’m about to relate, but just know, there is nothing on this menu that won’t make you swoon, and if it doesn’t well … more for me!

About a month after it opened in June 2014, John and I headed Uptown to Laurel Street to have a meal that was so delightful, Toast has become the stuff of dreams to us, a place we think of every time we think of breakfast.

Though it was still dreadfully hot, we opted to sit outside since it seemed the only way we’d be sure to get a table. We both ordered a cup of coffee (yes it was French Truck, thank you very much) and tried hard not to order everything on the menu.

John chose one of the “toasts,” with cream cheese, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and capers atop a thick, toasted slice of Benson’s brilliant, house-baked brioche. What can I say? It was astoundingly simple, yet exquisitely delicious. Everything was just right, from the amount of cream cheese to the fluffy scrambled eggs.

While I loved John’s toast, we both couldn’t help oohing and aahing over my dish, a huge slice of ham and Gruyere quiche. Cross my heart and hope to die, this was the best quiche I ever had the pleasure of inhaling. Easily three inches high, it had a gorgeous golden crust and the filling was so light and creamy, it was almost like delving into a delicate souffle. Don’t doubt that I’ve enjoyed her daily quiches many times since.

John and I also shared a side of thick-sliced bacon and, something I never thought to see on a breakfast menu, a plate of ratatouille — a mouth-watering, stewed vegetable dish that only added to the meal’s overall wonder. I can’t wait to go back again … and again … and again …

Toast on Urbanspoon

MMMeat! McClure’s Barbecue

This is not a blog where I describe several courses, going into great detail on each morsel that entered my mouth, well, at least not exactly. This is a blog where I tell you how you should go to McClure’s Barbecue on the corner of Magazine Street and Bordeaux with a friend and order “All Meat & All Sides” and be sure you are hungry …. very hungry.

With your stomachs grumbling audibly, Owner Neil McClure, or one of his attentive employees, will set before you a virtual trough of goodies which will most likely include juicy pork ribs almost falling off the bone, a heavenly-smoked portion of chicken (breast and thigh), pulled pork, crispy brisket and a plump sausage. This carnivore’s heaven isn’t quite complete if you don’t try one (or five) of over 15 different kinds of BBQ sauce that are lined up against the wall like spice-laden sentinels.

As if that were not enough, you’ll also get Pork & Pork & Beans, a creamy scoop of Four-Cheese Mac, a pile of BBQ Jambalaya, Creole Potato Salad, Molasses-Stewed Collard Greens and a large hunk of Roasted Corn & Jalapeno Cornbread.

John and I enjoyed this feast with relish and, believe it or not, managed to polish off every single bite. We will most assuredly be back…

McClure's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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…  

Del Fuego Taqueria on Urbanspoon