Trading Thai for tapas

When the Spanish-inspired Costera Restaurant & Bar opened in the Prytania Street building that formerly housed La Thai, I was easily one of the first to try it. My zealousness was not due to the type of restaurant nor was I overly anxious to see what Brian Burns, formerly chef de cuisine at Peche, had in store (well, in all honesty, I was actually a little excited about that). But what really pulled me in there, no joke, was the fact that Costera was an Uptown spot that was open all day long.

While that may be a strange thing to look for, if you think about it, there are very few eateries Uptown that are open all day with no breaks between lunch and dinner. Though I understand why lots of places have set hours, I’m the first to admit that I’m an odd duck. I often get so wrapped up in work, errands and/or chores that I won’t have lunch till 2:30 or 3pm and finding a spot Uptown (where I don’t have to deal with tricky parking) that’s open all day is few and far between.

Anyhow, because of their convenient hours and generally fabulous food, I’ve been to Costera a few times since they opened this February. I haven’t tried everything on the menu (almost!), but I can tell you that Chef Burns and his partner Reno De Ranieiri are knocking it out of the park.

Rather than rattling off the whole menu, I’d rather just highlight a few of my favorites, starting with the “Gambas Al Ajillo” or garlic shrimp with olive oil, lemon and sherry. These perfect Gulf beauties are served head-on in a little cast iron pan with several toasted  slices of Bellegarde‘s country loaf served on the side to soak up all of that garlicky sauce.

Though much simpler, I also enjoyed the blistered shishito peppers with Arbequina olive oil and big flakes of Maldon sea salt. They could easily be a daily distraction for me. Another great veggie dish is the marinated beets with fennel, orange and creamy ricotta. This was a dish I was reluctant to share.

On the meatier side, I adored my small taste of the beef shank and potato “bomba” with pickled peppers. I kept scooping up the sauce with my finger till John gave me a dirty look. We also enjoyed the “Jamon Iberico” or thinly-sliced cured ham served with peppery arugula and crunchy Marcona almonds.

I realize it’s easy to stuff yourself silly with all these small plates, don’t forget to save room for dessert!  Though I’ve tasted several different offerings so far, my favorites have been their caramel popcorn crème brûlée and a pistachio-crusted cheesecake that also had the distinct, buttery flavor of toffee.

I look forward to returning to taste the last third of the menu I’ve yet to enjoy.

 

House of the Week: Sidehall Camelback on Coliseum Street

New Orleans’ wretched summer heat is already upon us and it’s not even officially summertime yet. Though I love taking walks with Pippin around my gorgeous neighborhood, my sweet pup turns 17 this year and he’s really slowing down … especially when the heat index is over 90°.  Our long, long walks have recently shortened to a quick jaunt then back into our air-conditioned apartment.

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Down on Oak Street

Opened a little over two years ago, DTB or “Down the Bayou” is a restaurant in the Carrollton neighborhood described as offering “reinterpreted  coastal Cajun cuisine.” Created by talented local chef Carl Schaubhut and run by his chef de cuisine John Hill, this intriguing, corner restaurant has been going strong, enticing diners with their dishes of fried cornbread with ham hock marmalade and goat cheese mousse, LA-1 Gumbo with blue crab and collard greens, and blackened redfish with succotash risotto.

Shrimp & Grits with oyster mushrooms and Pecorino cheese grits

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Cooking Keto: Andouille Sausage, Spinach & Mushroom Quiche

As anyone who has followed my blogs knows, I have always had a weight problem. For reasons I’d rather not delve into as of yet (someday), I’ve used food for comfort since I was 9 or 10-years-old. People have many forms of escape to dull the pain of living, from drugs and alcohol to athletics or a well-worn book. For me it was mostly food. Sure, I dabbled in drugs during my youth, but stints with LSD and cocaine were more about fitting in, having fun and expanding my mind as opposed to easing the aches and pains of reality. For me, food was the ultimate safety net, the bastion of comfort and pleasure, the hole I would crawl into so frequently, that it’s taken all my life to finally emerge from its dangerous embrace.

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A sign?

Throughout my 45+ years on this planet, I’ve seen some pretty amazing natural phenomenon. While walking with my mom on Sawyer Camp Trail in San Mateo, we encountered a large buck standing on a hill staring down at us and as we glanced up, the  sun just happened to be setting perfectly in between its antlers. Another time, while I was on a 6th grade camping trip, we discovered a large meadow of white wildflowers in the middle of the forest and when one of my classmates stepped into it, clouds of ladybugs burst from seemingly nowhere and many of them lit upon us … covering us all in red and black. Finally, at one of the many late night beach parties I attended in Half Moon Bay, we were shocked to find our footprints were glowing. Every time we stepped in the wet sand, green sparks would shine and then fade before our disbelieving eyes. We later discovered that a tiny, single-celled marine animal called “noctiluca” will often wash up onto the shore and when it’s disturbed, it emits a bio luminescence or those eerie green sparkles that glowed in our wet footprints.

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Like a fat girl loves cake …

Over the past several years I have formed a somewhat unhealthy addiction to king cake. It’s an affliction you can chalk up to loving “all things New Orleans,” but I think it also goes deeper than that. The mammoth brioche-like rolls heavily iced with purple, green and gold seem to embody this extraordinary time of year, a holiday that I have taken into my heart and held closer than Christmas, Easter and Halloween combined. It is a sugary-sweet representation of all that’s wondrous about New Orleans and the multitudes of variation only expound that fact. More than anything, king cake is about ritual, from waiting till January 6th for that first annual bite to the obligation one inevitably feels when the baby is discovered in their slice. Continue reading

Looking back on 2017

Since 2013, Eater New Orleans (or should I say editor/writer extraordinaire Gwendolyn Knapp) would hit me up for dining reflections of the past year and predictions for the next. This year, I was not asked and I have to confess, I was a little bummed. Perhaps it was because the new editor, Stephanie Carter, doesn’t know me from Adam or perhaps my recent slump in food blogging deterred her from seeing me as a reputable source … whatever the reason, I still feel the need to share. Whether or not this information is valuable is for you to decide …

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Changes

I’m not quite sure what drove me to login and post today. As I hit “add” I noticed it’s been over a year since I’ve last blogged. I could say it’s been a rough year, emotionally and creatively, for me but I am sure it has been no more difficult than most others’. Early September of last year, right around now, John’s mother passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer at the age of 53. We were at her bedside when she took her last breath and it shook me. It rattled me down to my bones. Continue reading