Showing posts with label muffaletta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label muffaletta. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Voyager Bien: A Crescent City Farewell

99 degrees and 99% humidity. Just another August morning in the Big Easy.
My belly was full from Jazz Brunch and I had but a few hours left to run around town and check the remaining tasks off my list.
I was enthusiastic to swill my first authentic NOLA street daiquiri, although, to be honest, it may also be my last (nothing should come with a free Sex on the Beach test tube shot on the side)!
So long Monteleone Hotel and Carousel Bar, I'll miss you.
Café Beignet, you're officially on my list.
I noticed our pace slow around 3 o'clock when the sun proved unavoidable. We sought solace in the Royal House Oyster Bar, its marble corner bar and promise of a cold cocktail a welcoming respite. While the julep wasn't quite the afternoon delight I had hoped for, it was still refreshing, and the bartender was sweet to send us back outside with a full tall plastic tumbler of ice water.
Since Central Grocery is closed on Sundays, Rouses Market at the corner of Royal and St. Peter fulfilled my take-home grocery needs (like Camellia red beans!).
Several glasses of water later I was still having trouble cooling off. The Organic Banana in the French Market came to my rescue, a splendid real fruit alternative to the other street daiquiris and worth every penny ($6) for a frosty fresh pineapple, coconut and rum cooler.
A stop at Laura's Candies is a must, my favorite praline maker in the Quarter. I gobbled a pink champagne truffle as my rum pralines were wrapped up for the trip home.
Most exciting of all, I finally got my afternoon hang at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, my first glimpse of NOLA's history last October and the watering hole I've been dying to visit ever since that moment. Housed in a former -you guessed it- blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street circa 1772, Lafitte's is one of the oldest standing buildings in the French Quarter, and a step into the eerily cool interior is all it takes to feel its history. There are more spirits than what's behind the bar there, and as I drank my bourbon I would be lying if I didn't say I felt more folks 'round that table than Michael and myself!
A wedding party crashing Lafitte's for a photo opp
After a stop in Skully'z Recordz, to-go cocktail in hand (love it), it was time for a snack before the airport so we ducked into the Quarter Master market where the counter in the back, cheekily dubbed the Nelly Deli, had one muffaletta left, and it had our name on it.
A summer storm was brewing, and the town grew a little quiet, which comes as little surprise. Inside the cab, our good natured driver was giving us the scoop on which celebs were moving in and out of NOLA, as we headed out of the Quarter and onto the interstate, from Brangelina and Sandra Bullock's new homes to Nick Cage losing his haunted LaLaurie Mansion in his financial troubles. Rain began to patter the windshield and he paused his storytelling, silent for a moment. "It's hurricane season," he said pensively. But as quickly as the rain had begun, it ceased and a beam of sunlight pierced the clouds, illuminating an outlying field near the airport. The driver was back to his story about Jon Goodman, bright Cajun drawl finally declaring "but I guess that's neither here nor there for you Hollywood folks." I laughed, thinking about how much more impressed I was with the strength of this city than any of these celeb expats, and wished him well before stepping back out into the sweetly suffocating Southern heat.

Daiquiri Paradise Island
911 Decatur St. New Orleans, LA; 504.523.3257

Café Beignet
334 Royal St. New Orleans, LA; 504.525.2611

Royal House Oyster Bar
441 Royal St. New Orleans, LA; 504.528.2601

Rouses Market
701 Royal St. New Orleans, LA‎; 504.523.1353‎

The Organic Banana
1100 North Peters St. New Orleans, LA‎; 504.587.7903‎

Laura's Candies
331 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA; 504.525.3880

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA; 504.522.9377

Skully'z Recordz
907 Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA; 504.592.4666

QuarterMaster & Nelly Deli
1100 Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA; 504.529.1416

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Voyager Bien: New Orleans, Day 3

The forecast said rain, but on my third NOLA morning, sun streamed in through the window and the Southern birds were chirping. Our rental car for the day was parked on the curb outside and we were packing up for a day trip to visit Laura Plantation, an authentic Créole sugar cane plantation on the bank of the Mississippi.The splashy color is what distinguished a French Créole home from the common white columned American manor houses (the Créole were a proud people who didn't want to be mistaken as American by passersby). Built by the Duparc family (and originally called l'habitation Duparc) in 1804, the sugar plantation was run for four generations by the matriarch of the family, lastly the plantation's namesake, Laura Locoul.Not the family's primary residence, the plantation house served as office headquarters for the business as well as the site for all manner of social entertainment - probably why the dining room is the largest, central room of the house. The front room served as an office.
The brick plot in front of the animal coops here is where a 2,500 square foot detached kitchen once stood behind the main house.These clay pots were buried to the rim in the moist and cold swamp earth and used to "refrigerate" milk and other perishable foods.Approximately 400 feet behind the house was a road, going south, perpendicular to the river, lined on both sides with slave cabins and stretching a distance of 3.5 miles.I am still kicking myself for not purchasing a jar of Laura pure sugarcane syrup.. But did pick up my favorite new cookbook in their gift shop - River Road Recipes: "The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine". It is loaded with Southern staples that I can not wait to get fat making and enjoying.After the tour, a magical treat was uncovered back at the car. Before we left Peter had picked up a giant muffaletta at Central Grocery Co. for us to share. I was stoked to compare the "original" muffaletta (Signor Lupo Salvatore, owner of the Central Grocery, claims to have invented this sandwich in 1906 when he started making sandwiches for the men who worked the nearby wharves and produce stalls of the French Market) to the one I had tried previously at Napoleon House. No question, this sandwich from Central Grocery was far superior! Moist sesame bread, tender meats and cheese with just-greasy-enough-to-be-awesome-and-not-sinful tangy olive tapenade. Perfect balance. We also munched on several bags of Zapp's Louisiana potato chips as we pulled back onto the main road, that rain we'd been promised appearing from nowhere and pelting the windshield, misty sheets sweeping across the sugar cane fields outside.

Darkness fell over the French Quarter and the anticipation over our big splurge dinner was teeming. We had reservations at Susan Spicer's acclaimed Bayona. I was practically skipping on the wet bricks as we clambered through the corriders in the rain, bumping umbrellas and shouldering the icy runoff (hard to believe it had been 84 degrees that morning!).After shaking off the rain, we were lead upstairs to a round table in Bayona's wine room. We stuck by the classic and ordered a round of Sazeracs, which were dreamily perfect.We decided on three appetizers, starting with the seared sea scallops with baby fennel, barigoule (a Provençal mushroom), Kalimata olives, thyme, and orange. Refreshing and balanced!Next, the foie gras torchon with apple butter, cider vinegar caramel, brioche and celery salad. I will admit it, I do not love foie gras - but this was quite delightful and may start me leaning. A flawless plate.I was nervous about the veal sweetbreads in lemon caper butter, but our affable server convinced me that if I was curious, this was the place to try it (and that it doesn't get any better!). Plus I had already established an adventurous mission for myself this week, so sweetbreads it was! The cornmeal-fried bits were not untasty, delicately seasoned and rather enjoyable. Done and done!On to the big guns. I ordered an '06 Fiddlestix Pinot Noir once I decided on my entrée, the rabbit duo. This gorgeous plate consisted of a liver and bacon-stuffed rabbit roulade, paneed leg, with portobello mushrooms, marsala sauce, polenta, and Lacinato kale. Holy delicious. Though I adored my meal at Jacques-Imo's, this paneed rabbit leg was far more tender and lightly breaded, the roulade heavenly rich and hearty.Alex ordered the grilled duck with pepper jelly and wild rice which was just stunning, moist and flavorful.Michael ordered my runner-up, a peppered lamb loin with goat cheese and zinfandel sauce. It too was beyond satisfying. I didn't get to try Peter's pan roasted halibut with brussels sprouts, chantrelle mushrooms and sherry brown butter, but I could tell from his clean plate it passed the test.
We finished with an espresso and two desserts to share. The semolina cake with autumn compote and fresh pomegranite seeds was super moist and not overly-sweet. An unexpected flavor that grew on me as I, well, finished it off!
The other dessert was a satsuma curd empanada with pumpkin brittle and frozen banana milk punch. Every element was popping with flavor and creativity, but I did feel it was a little overwhelmed and scattered.. But frozen banana milk punch!It was a lovely meal with great company and the best birthday present I could have ever asked for (thank you Michael!). After dinner we retired to the St. Philip for cocktails in the owner's flat and then off to Halloween 26's Friday night party. Yes, this is a life I could get used to!

Bayona Restaurant
430 Dauphine St. New Orleans, LA; 504.525.4455
Bayona Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 27, 2009

Voyager Bien: New Orleans, Day 2

Day two started bright and early when the shuttle from Airboat Adventures swamp tours tooted their horn outside of the St. Philip at an ungodly cruel hour for vacation. We picked up a few more adventurers outside of hotels around the French Quarter and were off to the swamp. An hour or so outside of town, and just past the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve we pulled up to a dock with a handful of airboats and a cabin-like lobby housing an albino gator and a host of striped baby gators.Within minutes we were off. What I immediately appreciated about the tour was the small size - with just 8 passengers and a guide, we were flying across the water at high speeds unlike the clunky Jungle Cruise type "party boats" I'd seen docked at some more commercial swamp tour spots along the drive out. Our small agile boat also let us explore some of the more hidden and mysterious narrow and shallow waterways with ease, even hopping the occasional log when necessary.Hard to capture on film was the abundance of wildlife flitting about us, great blue herons and egrets silently ascending through the Spanish Moss, a few piles of baby gators sunning on cypress roots, golf ball size bumble bees bouncing upon lily pads (yet surprisingly few mosquitos! I got just one bite on my elbow the entire day). Our first large gator was a treat to discover (little did we know how many we would see). It was the first warm sunny day in some time, so the reclusive reptiles were out to catch some rays.This BIG guy came this close - no zoom used here. Our guide (who'd grown up in these swamplands) fed him jumbo marshmallows and eventually got his head up, scratching under his chin.The beautiful two hour exploration was a blast, something I'd definitely recommend. I drew the line however back at the lobby when handed a menu for Gator Me Crazy, a cafe the swamp tour owners just opened in the French Quarter serving nothing but gator in all its forms, supposedly famous for something called the Swamp Roll. Hmm, no thanks!We got dropped off back in the Quarter, famished, so decided to grab a bite at the famous Napoleon House.Housed in a historic landmark dating from 1797 and family owned since 1914, the history was omnipresent in this space.The two house specialties claimed on the menu here are the Pimm's Cup (a British cocktail of Pimm's No. 1 Cup, lemonade, splash of 7, cucumber garnish) and New Orleans' own Muffaletta. Naturally, I ordered one of each.The crisp Pimm's Cup was well made, perfectly refreshing for a muggy day with a slight swamp sunburn.The Muffaletta was ENORMOUS. What you see here is half - thank goodness I had decided to share with Michael. Each of these quarters piled with ham, Genoa salami, pastrami, swiss cheese, provolone cheese, and housemade Italian olive salad was about the size of a large hamburger. The bread proved to be a bit much for me and I folded by the second half, scraping the olive salad out to finish. Tasty, but I decided then to try the "original" at Central Grocery before closing the Muffaletta book this trip.
After lunch, we strolled a couple of blocks to Laura's Candies - New Orleans' oldest candy store and factory - that sells handmade chocolates, truffles, and of course pralines. The counter proudly displays their winsome pralines (pronounced praw-leens) with samples of the various flavors: maple, creamy, rum, chocolate, extra chewy, and of course the original (a 200 year old recipe). All were absolutely incredible, but I favored the rum, creamy, and original so got one of each - but to eat much later!
Sugar coma taking effect, the guys all decided it was nap time, but I was high on the city, so set off on my own for the first time, stopping in Rev Zombie's Voodoo Shop and Skully'z Recordz before wandering back.As the sun began to set I arrived back at the St. Philip to wash the swamp silt off and get ready for the first Halloween 26 benefit kick-off event.
The cocktail party was mainly a meet and greet/registration for the rest of the weekend, with a sassy lounge singer and silent auction for patrons. But I immediately gravitated to (well, first the open bar and then) the "Taste of New Orleans" court featuring small bites from several of the Quarters' most popular establishments.
I started with Broussard's corn, shrimp, and sweet potato bisque was heavenly - silky and spicy/sweet. Palace Café's rich Turtle Soup with fresh lemon and sherry was - well, for starters my first turtle soup ever - but multi-layered and incredibly decadent. I skipped the Muffaletta table because I was still digesting the bread from the one at lunch. And though I probably also wouldn't have approached the brownie table, a local tipped me off that I wouldn't regret it - They were from the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, famous for this perfect moist, frosted brownie. Yum.
The table I went back to several times though (the belle of this ball) was sautéing fresh batches of fragrant brown-buttery BBQ Creole Shrimp courtesy of Ralph's On The Park. This absolutely flawless recipe actually made me want to urgently dine at Ralph's (alas we did not) or else buy the cookbook sitting beside the chafing dish. The woman tossing the shrimp informed me not to be fooled by the name and confuse this with your typical idea of "BBQ" - this quintessential New Orleans recipe is achieved mainly with LOTS of butter, Worcestershire sauce, and Creole seasoning. Divine!!!
Following the cocktail party was even more bourbon on Bourbon Street and the end of another magical day in my new favorite city.

Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
500 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA; 504.524.9752
Napoleon House Bar & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Laura's Candies
331 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA; 504.525.3880