So we were in New Orleans. We had had a great morning/afternoon. We took a nap. We were ready for dinner.
First we went to Vega. A little background. That was the first place I worked at. The Food Pimp worked there with me a while. We met most of our friends working there. Then later on, after El Jeffe bought the place, the Food Pimp went back and eventually became the chef there. El Jeffe was in Munich or something. So the only person we knew that was there was Big Gay Notgay Tut. He had been at Vega on and off from the beginning. I had always told him he'd be an old man and still in that hot kitchen. So we said hi. We got a drink. The FP asked the bartender what kind of cocktail was her specialty. She said, if you want any kind of fancy cocktail, that's not my thing. If you want tequila or something, I can do that. So the FP ordered some $10 albarino and I got some Italian Pinot Grigio. the Albarino sucked. So for the next drink the FP ordered a vodka soda.
So the kitchen sent out a plate. We asked what it was. The bartender went in the back, then she came out and told us it was a smoked pork rillette. We had met the "chef du cuisine" last time we were in town, so I guess he sent us out a special thing he made. It came with some accompaniments, which we later found out were pepper jelly, fig, mustard, and apricot marmalade. The rillette was really smoky and rich. We liked the accompaniments, so we figured that if we put a little of the pork and more of the other stuff it tasted pretty good. But the rillette was in a 6-8 ounce ramekin. It was too much. By the time we had about 1.5 ounces between the two of us, we were done with it. It was too rich and too strong. And then the jellies started to melt and run off the plate onto the bar. You know, maybe 7 years ago I might have thought that was the best thing I'd ever had. But now, no. Oh well. We were going to finish our drinks and leave. But then they sent us out another dish.
I really don't mean to sound like an ungrateful bitch... but here I go. We purposely didn't order food, because we were going to go to 2 or 3 more restaurants. We didn't want to waste the stomach space on this place. This is horrible of me, but hey, this is my blog, my opinion, my honesty. If you don't like it go read the Food Network blogs of Rachel Ray or one of those ones that never say anything bad. You know, I guess they get paid the big bucks because they can lie.
Getting back to the food. This is a food blog.
I am about to bash the place that I used to work at, but it's not the same place. Different owner, different staff, different attitude, different time. Now, I'm not saying this is a terrible place. Maybe I'm backpedalling. There are things on the menu that we would have ordered if this was where we had planned to eat dinner. The atmosphere is pretty cool, but I spent so much time in that place, that to me it has lost the excitement. That's all.
Getting back to the food. They sent us out the Croque Senor. No, not the Croque Monsieur or Madam, but Senor. It's a tapas place with a spanish "bent". So, cie, Senor. We had actually looked at this on the menu and thought that this was one of the least appealing dishes to us. Here's the menu description:
Duck Confit, Saffron Bechamel, and Manchego
Broiled on Crunchy Toast
Here's the picture:
So the dish was true to the description. That is one point for Vega. But that's where it ends for me. I can't say no offense, because what I'm writing is very offensive if you are connected with this dish or restaurant.
Okay, here's one thing. Once again, my taste has changed. I've realized that food tends to be indeed richer and heavier in good old Nola than in other parts of the country. I remember having people visit and say, oh, it's so rich, it's so filling. I can't eat anymore. And I remember thinking, god, I'm still hungry.
Getting back to the croque senor. I don't know how to make that squiggly thing over the n, so that's another point for Vega. The first bite. I unwillingly took a bite. I crunched down on the crunchy toast from the lower choppers. It was nice and crunchy. I sunk my uppers into a toasted cheesy crust, then soft creamy middle. In the very middle there was a little resistance, the duck. Okay. Nice contrast in textures. I'm going to go on a limb (a very brittle little shaky one) and award one more point. That's 3.
Taste. Disgusting. I'm sorry. Give me those 3 points back. Not only that, I deduct 5 more. That's -5. God, I'm such a bitch. But I'm being honest. Do you want me to lie? I can try. Develop a stupid laugh like Rachel Ray. I mean, she is very poopular...
Taste, taste, where was I. Oh, it was gross. First, there was the cheesy crusty manchego on top. Fine. But then the saffron bechamel. Not the ideal couple, but I could accept this pairing. But then my tastebuds and my brain said, seafood, maybe. But then I tasted the duck confit. Not what I expected, not in a good way. Saffron is such a strong flavor. So is duck confit. They compete. Neither wins. It was a disgusting stalemate in my mouth. I managed to finish half of my crouton. I guess I was intrigued by how unholy this dish was, that I somehow found the will to eat that whole half. The Food Pimp, he can be such a martyr. He ate the whole thing!!!!! I offered him my half, but he deferred. He only ate it to make it look good. We should have done them a favor and thrown it up back on the plate so they would know how bad it was.
So we went in the kitchen, thanked them for the food, then we jumped into the Titan and hightailed it to Rio Mar. At that point, I was feeling a bit ill. I was sure a drink would help though.
A little background about Rio Mar. After Vega, the FP worked at Rio Mar. That's where he really cut his chops, and he later became sous chef. Chef Big Love was the Food Pimp's mentor, which makes sense....
So we walked into the newish bar. It was great. Very spanish looking. Very long. Lots of room. We bellied up. We saw the Serioussarcastic Marathoner. Hugs, kisses. Then we got a drink. Caparihnas, of course. The Bartender asked, pineapple or regular. They had a big vat of cachaca with pineapple macerating in it. Obviously we got the pineapple one. It was strong, but delicious.
Chef Big Love came out to say hi. Hugs, kisses. He was great, as usual. We shot the shit a bit, then he went back to the kitchen, and we ordered. They had razor clams on special. Just our luck. We got those babies.
I don't know what to tell you. They were fantastic. The perfect balm to my affliction. (My affliction being a croque senor raping and pilaging my digestive system) They were fresh. They were not too sandy. They were cooked perfectly. They were just chewy enough, but not dog toy chewy. They were cooked by someone who obviously had the confidence to cook them simply, with white wine, garlic and parsley. Bravo, bravo, Chef Big Love. If we were mormons....
So on to the Panamanian ceviche. The Food Pimp had been talking about this for a week or so. It was great. Just like I remembered it. I think it was made with puppy drum. (Aw puppy drum. I remember that fish. We used it alot at Cafe Negril. (Aw Cafe Negril. (Aw Chef Cecil))) It was just fresh fish, habanero and lime. It was so good. One of those great taste memories. Even now I can conjure up that taste in my mind. And those crackers that came with it. This was like the Light after the Darkness, the Sun after the Rain, the Saviour after Beelzebub, the Good Food after the Bad Food.
We looked at the menu, and the FP got another drink. We were thinking about getting one more thing, then going to La Boca, the new Argentinian sister restaurant around the corner that they had opened up. But then Chef Big Love brought us out a plate of... Iberian ham. [cue the porn music]
(Knock at the door, enter plumber into horny housewife's abode)
(Pipes burst, pants rip off, boobs pop out)
(And... the money shot)
This is ham from the black footed pig. It's like serrano, which is usually from oinkers with black feet too, but this is like top shelf shit. Look at the glistening fat. It just melted in my mouth like... well like fat. In a good way though. It was...sublime. Yummy thin fat, and I swear, I could taste the acorns. Goddamn it was good! Those religious people that don't eat pig, god, they are missing out. It must be a cruel prank. What is it worth, unless they die and they get to go to heaven and eat Iberian ham?
So I was spent. It was time for our next stop, La Boca. A bartender, the Serioussarcastic Marathoner, and maybe Chef Big Love for all I know, called to let them know we were coming. Talk about VIP treatment. These guys hooked us up at Rio Mar, and they were rolling out the red carpet to La Boca. Such great people, such a great place. I can't imagine ever getting sick of Rio Mar. I think the worst experience I had there was the first time we ate there. Way, way, way before the Food Pimp had worked there. And that was a great time...
to be cont....