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Saturday, March 28, 2009

nola, part 3a

So, I've been out a whole week! I don't like to write when I'm not happy. That's the luxury of being an amateur blogger and not a paid writer.

So, nola. Saturday. We woke up. We slept in a bit. We were wondering what to eat. The Food Pimp wanted to go to his buddy's po boy shop, but we were too slow to move and didn't really have the time. So we were thinking, and then it dawned on us - Ugly Dog, Dog!

So it was just a couple of blocks down the street. Good ole Ugly Dog. I remember when it first opened. It was kinda, well, ugly. And it was in a weird area, there wasn't as much stuff down there. But then, the food turned out to be really good. Simple, but good.

So there we were. It looked a little worn for the wear. There was like a layer of smoke on everything. Even in the air. Smoke from the smoker, that is. So, we had to order up at the bar. I guess the place wasn't as busy to warrant the servers taking orders at tables. They used to be so busy for lunch. There would be like 3 servers running around like crazy with every table occupied.

So we ordered. Of course, we both had to get the ribs. This was our one shot.

So, there are only a few menu items - ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, hamburger, smoked sausage, pulled pork, brisket or chicken sandwich. Then there are sides - green salad, potato salad, smoked potato(baked), coleslaw and bbq beans, and broccoli.

Anyway, we got ribs. The FP got chili beans and potato salad. I got potato salad and slaw. I have to say, as much as I have fond memories of the Ugly Dog, they were pretty inconsistent. I think when you have products that are slow smoked, there's lots of room for inconsistency. You run out of ribs before you expect and you serve the next batch a bit before they are ready. Or maybe you get busy and don't pull them out in time. Or whatever. Maybe whoever was manning the smoker was hungover and showed up late. But the sauce was good, and when they were cooked right they were really good. So these were very cooked. That doesn't really bother me. I know when I watch Food Network, which is way less than I used to, they say that bbq is supposed to be not falling off the bone. Well, I like it that way. It doesn't bother me. These were really smokey. I guess we just don't like smoke as much as we used to. I don't like it in bars, and I don't like it in my food as much. And then the sauce was different. It was like more vinegar and less sweet. That's like SC bbq, right? I'm not a BBQologist. I'm really a novice when it comes to bbq. I like to happily live in ignorance of this subject. I want to get bbq whenever I can, and I don't want to be all judgemental. Either it tastes good and is cooked nicely or it's not. I'm not a by the book kind of guy. I'm not a guy to begin with.

Anyway, the sides are an equal part of the experience at Ugly Dog. They can be just as inconsistent as the bbq. Sometimes the potatoes are al dente. Sometimes the beans are all soupy with barely any beans. But if it's all on...It's ON!

So the beans were good - but the FP forgot he didn't like sour cream on them. When you order, they ask if you want cheese onion and sour cream. The FP said yes. But he meant no. On the sour cream. But I like the sour cream. They were good though. They are like really soupy and sweet and not really spicy, you have to add the heat. But they are just good.

So then there's the potato salad. It's herby and mayonnaisey, but in a good way. It's big chunks of potato. It's just good stuff. When the potatoes are cooked. Luckily they were cooked this time.

The cole slaw. This is like the star of cole slaws. I generally hate cole slaw. You know the stuff that comes in the tubs. The evenly shredded cabbage, purple cabbage and carrot with mayo and it's really watery. Hate it. I don't want it on my plate. I have to leave the room if someone is eating that stuff. So this cole slaw is much different.

See. It's big fat ribbons of veggies with mustard. Okay, it has mayo, but it's a thicker sauce that doesn't become a milky watery pool at the bottom. It's just so much better than that foul anemic stuff you get at KFC. It's what I base all other cole slaws against, whether or not it's fair.

So it was a good meal. And then, there was a surprise. Our old buddy was still cooking there. So actually, when we went to pick up our order, he gave us the food, but he was so serious, that we weren't quite sure it was him.

So we ate. We studied him. We were pretty sure it was him. So we finished eating, and we went up to him again. We asked him if his name was Amadou. That's his real name, because he's like a public figure who you can ask for if you ever go to the Ugly Dog. He said yes. So we said, you probably don't remember us, but blah blah. So then he said, yes, I remember you. And he smiled. And his face lit up. And then he looked like the Amadou that we knew. And so that ended a great memory and a great meal.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

nola, part 2g

So, we left Coop's. We went to DBA on Frenchman to see Red Car, and we sat in the fish tank window. We were just sitting there, when CMG's brother walks by, LCRM - Little Cuban Renaissance Man. You know, it's not easy thinking up nicknames. Most the people who I give nicknames out to don't read this, but at least half of those that do read it get upset with their nicknames. You know, some people forget that this is just my piece of creative nonfiction. Creative being the operative word, nonfiction being a loose association.

Anyhoo, getting back to what? Nicknames? No. Anyway, CMG's who family is pretty great. We went over to their house once for like Father's Day, and I was jealous of how close they seemed. My family is not that close anymore. We haven't all been together since like spring of 05 maybe?

Anyhoo, getting back to DBA. So we were there drinking. Red Car ended his shift. CMG and LCRM were trying to close the deal with two chicks at the bar. So I went with The Food Pimp and Red Car to Mimi's upstairs.

Mimi's is one of those great neighborhood bars that people leave their neighborhood to get to. The downstairs bar is like a typical neighborhood bar. The upstairs is like a "shabby chic" bar that now is more shabby than chic. But it's still cool. The FP set up the kitchen and developed the first menu. It's tapas. Anyhoo, Red Car was hungry, so he ordered some food. That was great, because we were not hungry, but we could nibble. In Nola, there's always room for a nibble.

So, the cheese plate. Don't ask me what cheeses. I don't remember. They were good. No cheap boursin, Albertson's cubes of cheddar or jalapeno jack here. Not that I won't eat that cheese. I would probably eat Velveeta. I had my Velveeta grilled cheese phase in junior high. I ate them like every day after school. Sometimes I sliced Velveeta off the "log" and ate it cold. Such a weird texture and taste. Even weirder than American. I'd like to try it now and see if I like it - although, I know I still appreciate the rotel dip with velveeta and canned chili...

Anyway, these were imported fancy cheese - Mahon, valdeon, cabrales, manchego, I don't know. Good cheeses. Nice bread. Some other stuff on the plate that I can't identify. Anyway, you have to have a nice cheese plate in New Orleans. Really. You do. It's a food city. And the bread has to be good. There are a lot of good sources for bread there.

Mushroom manchego toast. Ha. This is funny. This was the FP's creation. It's a take on a dish that other Nola chefs do - now the FP is going to be all sore at me for writing this - but, it's my piece of creative nonfiction, right?

Mushroom manchego toast, when executed properly is delicious. It's fresh mushrooms sauteed with cream and sherry and manchego toasted on bread. Here, the FP might nit pick again and say, well, actually, it's not quite how I would describe the dish...

Anyway, my point to all this is that it didn't taste like the FP's dish. It was a soggy piece of bread with this runny sauce of cream and canned mushrooms. Yeah. Canned mushrooms. Like the can was opened and they were scooped out of the can by hand and thrown into some cream. Not good. I'm not a food snob. If you have been reading this I should not have to say that. But I'm not. I was just talking about Velveeta. Anyway, I will eat canned mushrooms sometimes. But this sucked. Whoever was cooking that night, I'm sorry. Maybe it's not your fault. Maybe you're not allowed to buy fresh mushrooms, maybe you ran out of mushrooms, maybe it's beyond your control. I know about that. But I didn't like it. That's all.

I get bashed with my work all the time on the internet, in reviews too, so I know how it feels to get negative press. But you gotta sort through that shit and figure out what's useful to you and what is just not useful in any way. That's it. I'm trying to be helpful. Don't use canned mushrooms unless there's some kind of nuclear war type situation or natural disaster or something.

Anyway, that's 2 things from Mimi's Upstairs. It's a great place. Go there, but proceed with caution!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

nola, part 2f

So, getting back. We left Rio Mar. We met the couple to be at the Monteleone Carousel Bar. If you go to New Orleans, this is one of those places you're supposed to go to. It's okay. The bar rotates. But it's not like high up or anything where you can see the city. It's on the first floor. And there's a piano in the back with a piano player. And expensive drinks. So we got there and kinda sat by ourselves at a big booth and wondered why we rushed to be there at 9 to not really talk to anyone and spend money on expensive drinks.

So the groom was very fidgetty and nervous and drunk. Frankly, he was annoying. So he asked the FP to go out with him to smoke. I had to stay and guard our table.

Our other 2 friends - John Sparkling Wine and Cuban Musical Genius showed up. They all 4 went to smoke. I had to guard the table. The piano guy watched me 3 - 4 times sitting in this big booth by myself looking like a dejected loser. So he started singing to me, like, hey there lonely girl, why you so lonely sitting by yourself. How sad. I had to look up and laugh. I had to tip him when we left.

So luckily, when the bride was leaving, she seemed to be getting into a fight with the groom. Basically, she wanted to go. She said she was going to walk with her friend. The groom said, are you sure? And he didn't really put up a fuss about how he would take her home. He said he would drive her, but it seemed unconvincing.

So she left, then she called him, then he had to go. No offense, but he was so irritating, and I wanted to get out of that stupid expensive bar!

So we went to Coop's. CMG was hungry. Yes, we had just eaten fried pork products and dessert, but we could taste it for the food blog, right?

Coop's is like one of the best local restaurants. It really is one of those places where locals and tourists go to. You know how restaurants advertise that? And it's usually a false statement? Well, locals go here. I have to warn you, it's a dirty hole. It's a bar. It doesn't get that deep cleaning every day that it should. There's a resident cat that scavenges for food. I can't remember if I ever went to the bathroom there. I must have at some point, but maybe I tried to block it out.

Anyway. CMG ordered gumbo, jambalaya and shrimp remeloude. So we all got silverware and dug in.

So. The gumbo. Way waaaaaaaaaaaaay better than Johnny's. It was just right. Sometimes seafood gumbo can be..well, murky. You know. Like maybe every time they make a new batch they dump the old stuff in it, and it breaks down in the new stuff. This one wasn't like that. It was dark enough, it was cooked long enough. It was just right. Louisiana seafood. Really some good shit.

The shrimp remeloude. It looks like a big pile of dressing, no? If I got this plate anywhere else, I would probably say, that's apalling! But this is different. Remeloude. Basically, it's like souped up thousand island dressing. It's yummy. You can use it for many applications. Mustardy goodness. So, the lettuce, the out of season tomatoes, the big cucumber slices, the shrimp, it's all just a parking lot of vehicles to transport the remeloude to your palate. It's like driving Obama to the White House in a Camry. It's not flashy, but it will get the job done. All the salad items look kind of crappy, but once the remeloude is on them, it does not matter. If you go to Coop's, just order a side of remeloude and a spoon and bread. That's all you need.

Rabbit and sausage jambalaya. It's just comfort food at it's finest. It's just mushed the right way. I feel like I wrote this last year about Coop's. It's all cooked together and it's sweet, and I don't know if I should reveal the secret that CMG told us about it. You know what, I hate to be that guy (girl) that does that, but I'm going to be that guy (girl). You know, the one who says, you want to know something? Oh, I can't tell. Well, if there's any chance you're going to go to Coop's, I don't want to ruin it for you.

But this shit is delicious. The two honed palates of the FP and CMG were a little disturbed by the revelation about the jambalaya, but we sure polished it off. This was one of several moments during this trip when I thought about how much I miss nola and the fellowship of sharing a great meal with great people. We just don't do that here in sunny San Diego......

God, I'm soooooooo hungry.

Coop's Place
1109 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
Hours: 11AM to CLOSE

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

nola, part 2e

So, we left Cochon. We went down the street to Rio Mar for dessert. Rio Mar. The single biggest influence on the FP's cooking career. Chef Adolfo. I'm not sure which is bigger, his personality or his build. Both very impressive.

And then there's Nic. He's very....slick. I think he's more sarcastic than me. And he does triathalons. Interesting guy. I always have the urge to check my back pocket for my wallet after talking to him. Even though I don't put my wallet in my back pocket.

So Rio Mar is a hispanic seafood restaurant. So it's not coconut shrimp and boiled lobster with drawn butter. Zarzuela, black rice, grilled octopus, also meat too - they used to have this double cut pork chop with mashed potatoes and clam sauce. God that was good! One time I went with my family and the FP's family. I don't remember everything, but it was damn good. There was this foie gras with bread fruit. It was sooo good.

Tapas. They have tapas lunch where you order with a pencil by checking boxes like when ordering sushi. So much good stuff. The blood sausage was always a must have. And once again, the grilled octopus. Almost every time it was the most perfectly tender octopus tentacle I'd ever had. And then of course the ceviche. I believe they have 4 different ones currently. The newest one has coconut milk. We didn't get to try it, but it sounds delish!

Anyhoo, we went for a cocktail and dessert. So we had the pineapple caiparihna and Dieter had the passionfruit caiparihna. (Can you believe I spelled caiparihna correctly without having to check the net first? I mean, I did check it just now to confirm, but I was pretty sure I had it right) Very yummy. Cane sugar liquor lime, more sugar and pineapple or passionfruit. I have to admit, the passionfruit one was better, a little less acidic. But they were both good.

So on the far end is the tres leches. Closer is the "El gran chocolate".

Tres leches. One of my favorite desserts that is so so so very easy. It's just like sponge cake soaked in 3 milks. One of them being coconut milk. Coconut milk is like the nectar of the gods. And caramel sauce. And marcona almonds. Have you ever had those marcona almonds? OMG, they are so good. They are bigger and sweeter and nuttier and more expensive than regular almonds. But damn is that tres leches good. I was still kinda full, so I didn't eat as much as I would have liked to. That, and the FP really gobbled it up in between yaking to Adolfo or whoever he was talking to.

And then Dieter's "El Gran Chocolate." Damn. It was like one of those chocolate tortes. Not really overly sweet, pretty dark and bitter. But when you ate it with the dulce de leche ice cream, it was a perfect combination. Man that was good. Really good.

This place really is the shit. Yeah, I am biased, but it really is. Once again, this is a must not miss place in your travels to Nola.

Lunch Tapas : Mon-Fri 11.30 - 2pm
Dinner : Mon - Sat 6-10pm
Closed Sundays and all major holidays
800 South Peters Street – New Orleans, LA
504-525-FISH (3474)
2 blocks from the Convention Center.
On the corner of Julia and South Peters.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

nola, part 2di

Okay. I was kidding. Did you really think I wasn't going to tell you what we ate at Cochon? The place we had been waiting to eat at forever. I mean, this place was in the planning stages before we even left New Orleans.

Boudin balls.

The Food Pimp didn't want to get these. It's kind of like the risotto balls, no one ever makes them right. But this was Cochon. They wouldn't put something on the menu unless it was just right. It was the only way I saw boudin on the menu, and I wanted to taste their boudin - god forbid theyre coated in breading and deep fried. They were delicious. Crunchy thin coating. Hot creamy meaty center. Pretty mild boudin, but tasty. Sometimes some boudin is really livery. They were great. These would be a hit at any carnivorous function.

Oyster and meat pie. So it was like a meat pie, which we are all familiar with, right? Every culture has a meat pie or some type of ground meat encased in pastry or wrapper. It's like a staple. Love the meat pie. Not sure if I would marry it, but I would definitely have a long and arduous affair with the meat pie. C'mon, who wouldn't? Don't say vegetarians, because they are the ones who would get into the weird s&m shit.

So this one had oyster in it too. Once again, there was a crunchy outside and a soft hot meaty inside. That just is a wonderful combo - especially when you throw oysters into the mix. Really delicious. I could go for one now. Really. Yeah, it's 10:44 am which is really 9:44 due to daylight savings, but I could eat one. Some might find oyster and meat pie a weird combination, but not I said the pig. It's almost as natural as wine and cheese, beer and burgers,temperanillo and tapas (I just wrote that one because I like alliteration).

Paneed pork cheeks with goat cheese, arugula & beet rosti. What is a rosti? Well, it's a swiss potato pancake. So this one was beet. It's like a galette or a hashbrown type thing. Although this one was very thin and crispy. Usually hashbrowns are soft in the middle - sometimes they are raw, but that is not the classical preparation. Anyway, this beet rosti was just a fraction of what made this dish delicious. Okay. Pork Cheeks. PORK CHEEKS. Why is this weird to people? I mean, it's meat. They eat pork bum and don't think it's weird. I guess pigs sometimes resemble people a little too much maybe? I don't know. The cheek is a very tasty part of an animal. Fatty. Rich. Have you ever had duck cheeks? No, me neither. I was just checking. Anyway. This is like the ultimate fatty pleasure - insert fat joke here. So it's this rich meaty thing, and this tangy creamy element, and this bitter spicy lettuce and a crispy delicious sweet beet rosti on the bottom. It was just lovely. It makes me want to cry, when I look back on it.

Hogshead cheese with fried pig ear. Really. Yes. All on the same plate. This wasn't hogshead cheese made from old rotting head gook. No, it's from quality head. It was so yummy, you could give it to any meatloving person and they would scarf it down if they didn't know it was head cheese. Once again there was the spicy bitter greens to cut through the rich fattiness, and then the crispy thing was pig ear, which is just like chicharrone. And the pickled onions. These were different than the pickled onions that Dieter got. These were slices and they were just tender enough and tangy enough. I want to cry. I don't have access to this restaurant any time I want. Not that I could afford it all the time. But there's so much more of the menu to be explored. Fried rabbit livers that the FP wanted to try, wood fired oyster roast, spicy grilled pork ribs with watermelon pickle, ham hocks. Anyway. I liked Cochon. And Dieter was very nice. He footed(?) the bill. Very nice of him.

So Cochon. They don't need my rating from my small time food blog. They're pretty set. If you ever set foot in Nola, I command you to go there.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

nola, part 2d

So, we went out for dinner. Cochon. We had been dreaming of this place since we first heard they were even going to do this place. Cochon is the conception of Donald Link and Stephen Stryidnfksd.d,fidfoncekjkdlfjs. Stephen Stryjewski. I looked it up online. It's so easy to open up another tab and do research. It's a little too easy. I can't believe people get paid to do shit like this. I should get paid to do shit like this. People would pay for my take on food and life, right? BTW, I'm using their real names, because once again as mentioned previously, I use real names for public figures.

Anyhoo, getting back to Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski. I have an embarrassing part of my past that I must bring up. I worked for them at Herbsaint. Herbsaint was the collaboration of Donald Link and Susan Spicer. So a while after I left Vega, I applied for a job at Herbsaint. I had heard lots of negative stuff about the place, but I thought I'd give it a shot. Everyone needs their baptism by fire, right.

Well, it was the hardest kitchen I'd ever worked in. The prep was overwhelming, precise - it was fast paced and there were too many cooks in the kitchen. In this teeny place, there would sometimes be like 10 cooks in there. So I was the newbie, the rookie. I got told 5 different ways to do one dish by all the different levels of authority. I worked lunch, so Stephen was like my direct superior. There were others - Kelly was the other sous chef who worked days sometimes, and there was another guy whose name eludes me who was like lead line cook and was going to be promoted to sous chef as well. And of course there was Donald - the chef. So basically I had to be taught how to make this sauce and that sauce by 2 people, and then someone else would tell me another way and say forget what the last person told you. Then it came down to Donald who said, don't listen to what anyone else said, make it my way. So I would make it Donald's way, and the first guy would tell me I did it wrong, and I'd have to say that Donald told me to do it that way. Then the first guy's reply would be, yeah, but he doesn't work the line, it's easier if you do it this way, and you get more orders out of it.

And then there was the knife skills. Stephen would watch me cut mirepoix for like shrimp gravy. The veg was going to be cooked down. He would pick up a handful of onion and point out the longer rectangular strips and say it wasn't good enough. He would take the whole batch and dump it in the stock veg pile and make me do it over. And I had this crappy thin dull Forschner knife. Meanwhile, the guy next to me who was several steps above me in the line of command and one step below Stephen would have just as imperfect mire poix. But it was all about breaking down the individual, right?

So this was a hard job. I cried a lot. Embarrassingly, I cried in front of them. In front of all those... men. Embarrassing. I cried all the time, back then, before Hurricane Katrina. I don't cry nearly as much now. It's weird. I hold my feelings in much more than I used to.

Anyhow. I think I could have stuck it out. I could have molded into their male dominating french military kind of way of thinking. I could have gotten beaten and beaten. Every single day during shift change I was the lunch cook who pulled up the dirty ass mats and swept the floor. I didn't bitch about it. I just sucked it up and did my job. None of the men ever did it. If they needed me those few times to stay 3 - 4 more hours, I did it. I didn't take a break. I didn't eat.

But I gave up after 2 weeks. I didn't want to become one of those arrogant cooks who think they know everything just because they worked for Donald Link. Donald Link is a great cook. Stephen is a great cook. It doesn't mean working for them will necessarily make one a great cook. Some of those guys learned how to put the food out fast enough by making things easier in a way that Donald might not pick up on if he weren't paying attention. That's not how I roll. So I left. But I always respected those 2.

So, after my brief personal introduction, let's get back to present day. We went to Cochon for dinner.

The FP and I got there early, and we sat at the bar. The place was all wood. Panels. Not like tacky dark fake outdated stuff - light panels. The seating was the same kind of wood. Hardwood. What does that mean. Hardwood floors. Nah, I'd like to go with softwood flooring for my house. It will be easier on the feet. And when I drop my glass of red wine because I'm wasted, it won't shatter. Anyway, I like the feel of the place. Kinda stark. There was a chef's bar that was cool.

The cocktails looked good, but it seemed like I wanted wine. Just with the fatty pork that we were about to eat (on the first Friday of lent, mind you) I wanted wine. So we waited for Dieter. He got there. We got a table.

Our server greeted us. I wish I could remember her name. I forgot to take a picture of her and her apron. She had this collection of rainbow colored pens. All lined up on the pocket of her apron. Hanging in a perfect row. The FP commented on them, of course. She said that she was always losing pens, so this way she could keep track of them better because her pens were unmistakably her pens and no one else's.

So the FP and I had discussed the menu while we were waiting at the bar. The server told us about specials, but nothing really distracted me from what I wanted. So Dieter, the protestant of the group, gets the special roasted redfish.

Here's my crappy picture of it. He does have a very lovely embroidered shirt on, though.

He asked for the special redfish with only a side of greens. I think it came with something else, but Dieter was still recovering from Mardi Gras, so he wanted fish and veg to counter all the meat, beans, starch, beer and more beer he had consumed the past week. It was good. The redfish was delicious. The greens, cooked with bacon of course, were yummy. The redfish had a pickled onion garnish, though that didn't match the fish. I didn't taste it, but Dieter and FP agreed. It kind of on the crunchier side, I think, it was a white or yellow onion, and there were big slices of it. It was too strong for the fish. I think that was the only complaint. A small complaint at that.

So what did we get? Some pork dishes. It was good.

Friday, March 6, 2009

nola, part 2c

So, we had a huge lunch. We might have overeaten. We went for a walk. We decided to check out Butcher - the meat market/wine bar connected with Cochon. What kind of city has a meat market/wine bar? Only in New Orleans...(shakes head) So it's in the warehouse district. I admit, we got a little lost. We wandered by Grand Isle. It looked nice enough. It's like a french quarter type of restaurant, but it's not in the quarter. I'm sure it does well during conventions. So we found Butcher.

It's very sparse, clean - and did I mention it has a wine bar? Not a huge selection, but enough. It was around 1pm or so, and there were some people sitting at the bar having some wine.

Here's some pics of the place:

The guy with his back turned to the camera under the hanging meat is Rik Slave. So that's not one of my nicknames. I figure public figures can have their real names mentioned in this here blog. He's the vocalist for this band, Rock City Morgue. They are fairly successful. Here's their myspace page: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=5248960

If I lived in New Orleans, I'd be here - every once in a while. You know this kind of fancy butchery isn't cheap. Of course, I would be making more money than I am now, because I would have been at the same place for years and years. But I kid. They do have sandwiches for sale. But, well, we didn't save anymore sandwich space in our digestive systems.

Cochon Butcher,
930 Tchoupitoulas,
New Orleans LA 70130
mon-thu 10–10, fr+sat 10-11, sun 10-5

But we did have room for oysters. Whhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
Oystas. Raw.

So what did we do? The Food Pimp said we could go to Acme or Felix's. But I didn't want that. I wanted Cooter's. So we decided to catch the streetcar. We went to the stop on the corner. We speculated on how much it costed. I figured, it must be almost $2 by now. The FP said $2 - $2.25. So I asked a metermaid. $1.25. The price hasn't gone up since we left. Don't they need more money? Oh well, we were happy. We had that much cash.

So we got on the streetcar. That was nice. Sitting semi-comfortably in the streetcar watching our past lives stand still and we chugged by. There were a big group of tourist on the streetcar. They seemed kind of confused. Didn't know where they were going. So they asked the driver where Commander's was. So he told them, Washington. So when he got to Washington, he yelled "Washington." No one made a move. So he yelled, louder this time, "Washington." And they were like, oh, is this our stop, duh? So they filed off. The driver warned them, "go left. If you go right, you'll end up on a milk carton." Good shit. Good shit. It's funny cause it's true.

Anyhoo, it made me sad to look at these grand old mansions and apartment houses on St. Charles. We had looked at several of these places over the years whenever we were looking to lease. There was one particular place that we really wanted. The bottom floor of a 2 story double. They never called us back or something. There was a for rent sign in one of the windows.

So we got to the river bend. There was good old Cooter's. It was a pretty day, so it was weird to be going into a dark smoky bar, but the oysters were calling.

So we walked in. No one at the door to ID us. The FP ordered a draft beer. I ordered a bottle. We had just had a discussion with Hipster Redneck about how so many bars in town had dirty taps. So I wasn't feeling up to testing that theory, even though Cooter Brown's sells a lot of draft beer and is known for their selection. I was still kind of sleep deprived and maybe a tad hungover. I didn't even really want a beer, but it was Cooter's. What was I gonna do, order a water?

So we sat at one of the long communal tables that they had. I was kind of panicky, because I didn't see the oyster guy, Vince. (Once again, I'm using Vince's real name. That's because if you go to New Orleans, I want you to go to Cooter Brown's and ask for Vince.) But FP was confident. Vince had been there shucking oysters since before we started frequenting Cooter Brown's. Tuesday night $5 oysters. A crowd of us would go and get like 4 dozen. You would see the look on his face as we ordered the first 2, then the growing disgruntlement as we ordered the next 2. But he was a good mothershucker.

After a while, Vince came around. The FP asked for 2 dozen. I had to go get batteries for my antique digital camera, so I went across the way to Walgreens. When I got back, the oysters had been waiting for several minutes, and they were turning room temperature. But they looked beautiful.

Look at them.

Just look!!!!

Oh baby!!!!!

FH thought - how come foods that are suggestive of female anatomy are aphrodisiacs (this is more in western culture), but foods that are suggestive of male anatomy are to be snickered at like they make people regress to 7th grade?

Anyway, they were gorgeous. They were exquisite. They were sublime. They were ecstasy. They were consummate. They were transcendent. They were ethereal. They were celestial. They were divine. They were unearthly. They were incorporeal. They were okay.

Here's the thing. Maybe if we still lived in Nola, we would have thought these were average. Maybe. Maybe we would have been disappointed. But we don't live there anymore. What do we have. Briny, clean oysters. They are nice. But it's like comparing Ella Fitzgerald to Beethoven.

These oysters at Cooter Brown's were plump, voluptuous. Meaty, sweet, luscious. Not really briny at all. These oysters come from some nasty ass brackish waters. But that's the flavor, baby!

I had wished I hadn't eaten so much at lunch. These were filling. Not like the anemic Carlsbad Aquafarm oysters we get at work. I was slowly working my way through my dozen, but the FP had been long finished with his. I saw the scavenger in his eye. Sated and happy, but still looking to feed. I ate mine all, though. This was a rare chance. Usually, back in the day, he always got one or two of mine. Not this time, bucko. No way Jose. Back off Jackoff. Hands off my tray, Ray.

So we sat there with our trays of empty shells. The FP was having an internal struggle. A few minutes later, he got up and ordered another dozen. Obviously, he talked himself into it. When was he going to get to eat another oyster this good? It might be a year? It might be 2? 3, 4, 5? So he went for it. He was full, but he put them away. Then it was time to head back down to the hotel. Rest up before dinner. Hopefully make space for dinner. What a great city!

Cooter Brown's Tavern
& Oyster Bar
509 S. Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans, LA
phone: 504-866-9104

oyster shucker: Vince. Ask for him. Here's his picture:

BTW, this place also has great prepared food - cheese fries, po boys, wings, burgers. They have one ridiculous sandwich called the "coonass special" It's a po boy with a meat pie, provolone and gravy. For real. We had it once. It was ridiculous. But you gotta try it once!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

nola, part 2b

So, Thursday night, we left the rehearsal dinner and then we went to Molly's on the Market. This place an on and off hangout throughout our time in nola. So we met CMG - Cuban Musical Genius at Molly's. He was with some friends - one being Ripped Shirt Ladies' Man - RSLM for short, of course. So I call him that because I remember him being a bartender at the Saint. He would where these ripped tshirts, and he was quite the ladies' man. Anyhoo, we all shot the shit, especially GiGi, per usual.

It was late, we hadn't had any sleep the night before, so we pussed out and went home at 2 am. On the way to the car, though, GiGi wanted to show us his now closed restaurant. It was 2 blocks away. Cafe Sbisa. He ran it for 2 months. Now it stood looking creepy and deserted - very New Orleansy.

We slept in until kinda late on Friday - 11 or so. So we got up, and our first thought was, what to eat? We had gotten a message from Hipster Redneck, so we went to get coffee, then see him at Urban Outfitters. The FP got a super grande iced coffee. It was strong and yummy. But I was a bit dehydrated, so I didn't drink much of it. So we were walking down Decatur, when we saw Johnny's Po Boys. Done deal. There was lunch.

So then we crossed the street and went to look for HR. When we walked, we didn't see him. So we asked at the counter. The girl said he was probably out back. So they had to page him. He came in all sawdusty with his workshirt, tool belt and whatnots. He was out back building some shit, a shelf or something. He pointed to these wooden stick trees that were nailed together with bare nails that you could see, sticking out of the walls. They were like decorative shop projects. He did those. For money. He quit the managing gig, and spent all his time making shit for displays. What a dream easy job for him!

So, we headed up to Johnny's and waited for him. We were just ahead of the lunch crowd. So we were deciding what to get. I couldn't really think of anything else to get but a roast beef po boy. It's like traditional.

Here it is, I think. You can't really tell what the hell it is. It's a sandwich. I couldn't really capture the beauty of it on my camera phone. It was beautiful. Rich meaty roast beef dripping with gravy. Lettuce, tomato, mayo - dressed - that's what we say in nola - all on airy french bread. So we were talking for a minute or two. Then I picked it up to take my first bite. All that gravy had soaked into the french bread. That's a bad thing right? NOOOOO! Po boys are a sloppy business, the sloppier, the better. It was delicious. It's like a lazy french dip. The dippin's already done, boy. It was big though. I couldn't eat much of it. Luckily I had the FP with me to polish it off.

So then the Hipster Redneck got a shrimp po boy. He remembered that it was Lent and Friday, like the good catholic boy he was raised to be. I on the other hand are a bad catholic girl. It never even crossed my mind.

So here he is with the lovey fried shrimp goodness. Watch out ladies - he'll steal your heart and cook good food for you too! So I stole one of his swimps. It was delicious. Gulf shrimp - cevichefied, grilled, sauteed, fried, it's all good, as they say.

The FP of course, got 2 things. An oyster po boy. And gumbo. Very catholic of him.

Gumbo. Crab, shrimp, oyster, whatever. It was really very disappointing. Like they just made it and it needed to stew for a few hours. I think I took 2 bites at the most.

Oyster po boy. Okay. That was so...comforting. Emeffen deep fried gulf oysters. So great. They are perfect for deep frying. They are plump and sweet, not as briny. Just terrific. Really. We polished that puppy off. All the oysters on it anyway. We ate way more than we should have. But, we only had 10 bites of food for dinner the night before, so we had been starving going into Johnny's. Very happily sated leaving the joint.

So we said bye to Hipster Redneck, and went to walk around our hometown.

Johnny's Po Boys
511 St. Louis St.
New Orleans, LA 70130


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

nola, part 2a

So, we flew into Kenner, LA, about an hour and a bit late. We had to take a $30 cab ride into Nola to our hotel. We stayed at the Ambassador on Tchopitoulas. It was cheap. Not the cleanest or the prettiest or the windowiest, but, did I mention it was cheap? We had this very long and skinny window in the corner of the room, so when it was full daylight outside, it felt like twilight in the room. I figured it would be great for catching up on all that sleep we had missed out on the past few days, though. So we pretty much had to check in, take showers, change and get to the rehearsal. We were going to take a cab, because we were running late, but LMF called and said he would pick us up. I guess he figured he's always running late, so what's the difference. They couldn't start rehearsal without the bride and groom.

So they did the rehearsal. It was like 45 minutes. The coordinator wasn't that good. She was snippy and overweight. I'm not sure what the overweight part had to do with anything, but I was just tired, edgy, thirsty, ready for an alcoholic beverage, hungry for a good meal, not wanting to be there.

Finally it was over. We hopped in the big Tahoe cab of LMF and were whisked away to Metry Road. Good ole Metry Road. Of course, the rehearsal dinner was at Vega. Vega Tapas Cafe. The basis for our life in New Orleans. It was my first kitchen job, my first pantry job, my first grill job, my first saute job, my first sous chef job - no, not my first blow job, although I've heard it was some people's first. It was the FP's first chef job in a restaurant.

So we get there, and I go straight to the kitchen to see Big Boy. He was at Vega when I first started. He was the skinny little punk ass (black) dishwasher. If he read this, he would say, why does it have to be about color? That's why I had to point out he's "black". He's gay too. Okay. He's not gay, but he has this famous one liner that he uses for almost every occasion. "You gay." That's his standard response for everything.

"How much risotto you have left?"
"You gay."
"Is that Paella coming up?"
"You gay."
"Did the fish come in yet?"
"You gay."
"How's your mom?"
"You gay."
"How'd you get that big open gash in your hand?"
"You gay."
When asked by a gay guy, "How are you?"

Over the years he's worked his way up. He was chef at a short lived sister restaurant opened by GiGi, but currently he's sous chef. I once made a joke about how he'll be 60 and still there. That may happen for real, though. It happens in a lot of New Orleans dining institutions.

The owner, GiGi is claiming to be the chef. I shouldn't say claiming, because that's just me being a catty bitch. So I'll say, GiGi is the executive chef. (snigger) I'm sorry. I can't be grown up. It's just that I have a low self image, so I always have to put others down to make myself feel better. Sometimes it works. But whatever. GiGi has had be in the kitchen cooking enough, that I suppose a lot of people in the same situation would name themselves chef. It's gotta be way cheaper too, than having a chef that you have to pay.

So, GiGi recently went to El Bulli in Spain, and he also watches Top Chef. I don't think that had any influence on the rehearsal dinner at all. It was boiled crawfish, andouille sausage, corn and potatoes. I wish. That would have been amazing. Everyone all dressed up digging into some crawdads, boy.

So Vega has always had a "feed me". Which is where the guests let the "chef" "choose" their dinner. Which is great for when you have, say a lot of carp roe dip, but not so much white bean dip. So anyway, it's about doing it family style. One plate for the whole table to share. But of course, GiGi had to be different. Most of the courses were plated up individually - one bite per person, one at a time. Did I mention that there were 50 in the party?

Ceviche in a martini glass. Everyone at the table loved it. Except for me. I ate it. I liked it. I guess I'm just a ceviche snob. Everyone's a critic, right? No, my beef is that, I like it when you take the raw shrimp and cook it in the lime juice by marinating it. It's a different texture. A lot of people think this is gross - but it's cooked. I'm always telling people not to call ceviche a raw seafood dish - but who the hell listens to me? Not my bosses. That's another blog topic entirely, though. Anyway, the presentation was nice. The flavor was nice, the ingredients were prepared nicely. I just wasn't blown away. Maybe I'm too close to be a good critic on this subject.

Beef Carpaccio with oyster mushroom and parmesan cheese. It was a nice presentation. The beef was falling apart though. It was so thin that it was kind of shredded. The FP kept going on about how they had frozen it to get it so thin, and then it resulted in a watery pool on the plate just like that guy Stephan on Top Chef did in the final. The FP is obsessed with Top Chef and likes to point out whenever someone does something like someone on Top Chef. So, it's funny to say something was sliced too thin, but in this case, it was! The mushroom was quite bold and more flavorful than the beef. It would have been a great dish if one could have gotten a better taste of the beef.

The Best Dish At Vega. Coriander Tuna with Avocado Relish. It's really an asian dish, but somehow it made it onto the menu years ago and has been at Vega ever since. So this is tuna loin coated in coriander and salt. Then it's seared and served with an avocado, tomato and green onion relish. The cilantro chili viniagrette is what makes the dish a rock star. OMG! People rave about, ask for the recipe, want to buy the dressing to take home, it's really wonderful. Really.

Shrimp, Redfish and White Bean Puree. This one probably the second best dish. The shrimp were nicely grilled. Gulf shrimp are just wonderful. A lot of what we get on the west coast are shrimp from Thailand or wherever. They just don't have anything in common with the gulf shrimp. I have to say. I never realized what great food I had access to growing up and living on the gulf coast. You know, people from other areas told me, but I didn't understand, because that's all I knew of. I thought all shrimp and crabs were sweet. I didn't know.

Getting back to Vega. The shrimp were nice. The redfish had a good taste, but it was kinda overcooked. The white bean puree was very nice, and the olive oil was a nice finish. This came as 2 plates to a table of 8. There were 3 shrimp on the plate and 2 cubes of redfish. It looked nice in the presentation, but I didn't have my abacus with me, so it was hard to divy up the portions in my head - especially after my 2nd or 3rd glass of wine.

At this point, I'm not 100% about the order. But let's pretend this was the exact order that the food arrived. Smoked Shrimp Salad. This was a classic Vega special. I really didn't like it. It was probably very identical to the dish we made when yours truly, the FH and the FP worked there. I think my palate has just changed. Just like how when you start to want music to be quieter the older you get, maybe there are flavors you want to be quieter too, the older you get. Like smoke. Man, we used to smoke the shit out of everything. We went through those wood chips like there were mad beavers after our mesquite or hickory. So the dish is a mixed greens salad with roasted sweet potatoes, candied pecans and smoked shrimp. The sweet potatoes were tender, the candied pecans were fatty sweet yumminess. It was great, except for the smoke. You could smell it off the plate. So acrid. But you know, 10 years ago, that's the way I made it. Let's say this dish was an artifact of my old life.

At this point we were probably almost an hour into the dinner. Everyone was saying how they wanted to order a pizza from Mark Twain's. That's the place down the shopping center. We ate that pizza a lot. Sometimes we would order it during service, pick it up, walk through the front door with it, and eat it in the kitchen. Some restauranteurs frown on this behavior, but hey, it wasn't McDonald's or that crappy chinese place in the shopping center. Although we did order from the crappy chinese and walk through the front door with that too.

Fried Mushroom Risotto. It should have been good. But I think these are hard to execute, because they rarely seem to come out good. It was gluey and kind of flavorless. They gave us 4 to the table, thankfully.

So I appparently didn't take pictures of everything. I used my cell phone to take pictures because I didn't have batteries for my camera. The next course, I believe, was the duck sausage empanada. This was strange. The first bite I had, I didn't like it. It was really sweetish and rich. Everyone else loved it. The second bite had the sauces - pesto and roasted pepper sauce - on it. Those both helped lighten up the deep fried pocket. It was good. I wasn't a huge fan, but everyone else at the table was getting out their foam hands, pom poms and their airhorns to sing the praises of the duck sausage empanada. To each his own. Not everyone has such a discriminating palate as me. (If you don't read this often, then you don't know that the preceding statement was a joke. You can peruse the labels I use, where you will find such fine dining establishments as KFC, Long John Silver's, Del Taco, to name a few.)

So around this time, the speeches started. It was about 1 1/2 hours into the dinner - oh, say 9 pm. The loudmouth lawyer lady started it, thankfully, to move it along. A lot of people spoke. A lot. Some of them were quite long winded. A lot of people. At this point. They stopped serving food for about 20 - 30 minutes. LB, the best man, was the first to speak. He was great. Very funny. He read his speech, but it made it even funnier. Great delivery. So people sucked. Some were inappropriate. Some talked about nothing. Some talked about themselves. Some were sweet and short.

Luckily, at some point, someone thought to start serving the food again. Duck breast with almond cous cous. A common Vega dish. The FP mightily upset that the duck was not rested before being sliced. You know how it gets kind of curled on the plate and the juices are on the plate and its not as tender as it could be? That's because they didn't let all the lovely juices redistribute before slicing. I'm sure they were tired and in a hurry to knock this shit out at that point. Maybe other tables had perfectly rested duck. Maybe. The cous cous was - cous cous. Not too much going on with that.

The next thing was the moorish pork. Another Vega classic. It's pork loin marinated in a dry rub and grilled, served with fried spinach and horseradish cream. I used to really like this dish - the FP never really cared for it, to tell the truth. So the pork was not so good. I'm not going to say terrible, but not good. It was as if it had been curing in the dry rub for a little longer than it should have, then it was overcooked too. Maybe they had cooked it earlier then threw it in the oven to reheat it. But it was starting to shred like pulled pork. God, I have to say, I hate to bash this place and my old buddy Big Boy, but it was not good.

So I guess there were a few more courses that they didn't put out because it was getting late. So they served bread pudding to the few people at tables who weren't outside smoking or clamoring for a drink at the bar. The bread pudding was delicious. Perfect. Really. Warm with a nice rum sauce. Real New Orleans bread pudding.

So finally it was over. We would get to leave Metry and head back into New Orleans. But we didn't have a ride. LMF had to go home to bed. So we ended up waiting another 30 - 40 minutes for a ride back into town. Big Boy was going to take us, but GiGi ended up making him close and we hitched a ride with GiGi.

So here's what I'll say about the rehearsal dinner. GiGi was trying to do too much. He wanted to impress. I think he did. But maybe if they had served more than one dish at a time, it would have kept the pace up. It was a little too formal type of "wow" service that didn't quite play right for a rehearsal dinner. The bride had taken time to set the place cards in a thoughtful way, mixing both grooms' and brides' friends and families together in ways that she thought would be compatible. It seemed to work, but at the same time, the multicourses and teeny individual plates were a bit segregating. We each had to focus on our own plate to get the full food experience, and then we were waiting for the next course.

Also, the Food Pimp's point was that he had been yearning for Vega classics, and we really didn't get that. We got one bite of the coriander tuna - but where was the carp roe dip, the eggplant napoleon, the paella, the sauteed shrimp with capers basil dill white wine and butter, the gnocchi, the crispy sweetbreads with mushrooms, serrano and sherry beurre blanc, the chicken and mushroom phyllo with sherry beurre blanc?

But you know, we all want to make our own mark.

Vega Tapas Cafe
2051 Metairie Rd
Metairie, LA 70005


nola, part 1

So, I need an assistant. It took me a long time to download all those pictures to the computer. Now I have to write about them too?

So, we went to New Orleans. No...not for Mardi Gras. We just got there on Thursday, conveniently missing all the festivities. Of course the beads were still in the trees. Those never go away. Even after hurricanes they are still dangling from bare, limp branches.

Our friend, Lil Metry Fireman got married on Saturday. He thought it would be a great idea to get married the weekend after Mardi Gras. He put the Food Pimp in the wedding to make sure we didn't ditch on the wedding.

So this is going to be a multi part series.

Enough with the intro. Everyone's asking, isn't this blog about food?

Exhibit 1.a The FP's lunch in Denver Airport. Chips and Salsa, chili. Okay. It was like Tostitos salsa. I loved that shit when I was in college because that's all I had ever tasted. The chili was... Hormel, maybe? Anyway, they both blew. The beer was some local Denver microbrew. The microbrew blew too, in my opinion. But this is all strictly my opinion, isn't it?

The worst hot dog in the world!!!!
So, I've had great experiences with hot dogs at airports. Really. So I thought, how bad could they fuck up a hot dog? Pretty fuckin bad. Note all my f bombs when I recall this fuckin hot dog. So, we ordered a little after 10 am. They weren't ready for lunch, of course. "Americans" or "whites" if you please, aren't ready for lunch generally speaking, until 11 am at the earliest. They can eat breakfast 24-7 though. Why is that?

Anyway, getting back to the worst cylindrical object that ever touched my lips...
They must have had it left over from the previous night. You know those age old dogs spinning on the hot dog roller at the 7-11, this was one of those. This was like the hot dog in the Seinfeld episode that Kramer eats at the movie theater...you know that one. It had more wrinkles than a tour bus to a casino. It had more wrinkles than this guy:

So, if I'm not getting my point across, this hot dog was THE WORST HOT DOG IN THE WOOOORRRRRLLLLLLD!!!!

And we were already out $35.