Archive for the Restaurants Category

Cochon– lafille’s Culinary Kryptonite

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , , , on 9 February, 2010 by la fille

Monsieur D just celebrated his birthday, so that was the perfect excuse to treat him to a fancy dinner while he was in town. Cochon was on the shortlist, but after sending a request for suggestions into the aether that is Twitter the answer was clear and I made a reservation.

Now, when it comes to ordering from a menu, I usually pride myself on being a terrific food-chooser. Upon trying the dishes of my dining partners, I inevitably say, “That’s good, but I like mine better,” which is always what you want to be able to say.

For some reason, though, my food choosing skillz vanish when I walk into Cochon.  I acknowledge that it’s a terrific restaurant– I love the concept, and lord knows I LOVE meat (har dee har).

Both times I’ve eaten there, however, I’ve CHOSEN POORLY.

To give Monsieur D an idea of the kinds of things Cochon produces, we started off with the boucherie plate, consisting of homemade bologna, tasso, head cheese, pork rillettes, pickled tomatoes, baby toasts, and creole mustard. Everything tasted delightful, but we were both mainly enamored of the head cheese.

Last time I dined at Cochon, it was springtime and they were running a crawfish special, which I ordered for my entree. While tasty, I later wished I’d just gone with some pig, and vowed to do so on my next visit.

Guess what? I didn’t.

I ordered the rabbit and dumplings, while my companion went with the smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad. Now, to be perfectly clear, there was NOTHING WRONG WITH MY MEAL. It just wasn’t my style– being raised on super-simple chicken and dumplings, I’ve never been a fan of the type that contains carrots, celery, and other sundry additions, which is what they serve at Cochon.

The presentation is lovely, coming out in hot cast-iron, but once again, too much going on for my tastes.

Monsieur D’s brisket, on the other hand, tasted like melty, savory heaven in my mouth and I may or may not have contemplated incapacitating my friend in some manner so as to have the dish for myself. So tender that I hardly believed it was cow, with a mouthwatering sauce that was intensely flavorful, but which allowed the quality of the meat to shine through as well. The horseradish tater salad wasn’t anything to sniff at, either.

Cochon’s got a nice beverage selection, and we got a bottle of Dona Paula malbec, which is a nice, inexpensive red that Monsieur D likes but can’t get in his neck of the woods.

The service was just the way it should be– attentive yet unobtrusive– and when I called to say we were running a bit late, the hostess was accommodating and pleasant. (We ended up being on time for the reservation, which of course made her even more accommodating and pleasant.)

So– super interesting concept, great menu and beverage list, good service, nice atmosphere, tasty food…Cochon gets a lot of attention, but it’s definitely warranted.

Most importantly, the birthday gentleman had a stellar time.

Cochon

930 Tchoupitoulas St

504.588.2123

cochonrestaurant.com

Grapevine Cafe, Donaldsonville

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Restaurants, Reviews, Sweets with tags , , , on 30 December, 2009 by la fille

After returning from The Frozen North on Christmas Eve and watching movies ’til my brains turned to mush on Christmas Day, I found myself restless on Boxing Day.

I decided to take a drive up River Road with no real destination in mind, just to see what I could see. I crossed over the Huey P. and went up on the Westbank, through the weird combination of plantations and industry. There were lots of neat things to look at. I was treated to some good advice:

I ended up in Donaldsonville, which has a quaint little downtown area, but was super dead that day, due to it being both Sunday and the day after Christmas. The Grapevine Cafe was open, however, and seemed to be doing a brisk business.

Here’s a blurb from their website:

Grapevine Cafe and Gallery’s award-winning cuisine has earned rave reviews from food writers and local residents for its authentic and original South Louisiana fare.

Our recipes draw from the diverse cultures that have made Louisiana the unique treasure it is. With the perfect blending of Cajun, Creole and African traditions, we are proud to offer you the best in Louisiana dining.

The restaurant resides in a 1920s storefront on the main drag of town and features high ceilings, brick walls, and displays by local artists. I sat by a side window that looked out at a lovely alley-way garden, complete with a cat sitting outside on the sill. “A” for atmosphere!

I knew that the place was famous for Chef Cynthia Schneider’s white chocolate bread pudding– which she served at the James Beard Awards Dinner in 2006– so I was sure to order light to save room for it. I got a cup of seafood gumbo and a grilled crawfish tail appetizer.

The gumbo was good; not as thick as some I’ve had, but it came with a side of rice that solved the problem. It was also accompanied by a scoop of potato salad that was heavy on the relish or pickle juice or something, but tasty nonetheless.

I found myself slightly disappointed in the crawfish tails. The seasonings didn’t add a whole lot of flavor, and the tails themselves tasted like they’d been sitting for a bit before winding up at my table–not very warm. The remoulade tasted like the same pickle monster made it who made the potato salad. Again, not bad, but a little overwhelming.

So. Mediocre fare thus far, but I wanted to stick with it through dessert, which did end up salvaging the whole meal. That’s some damn fine bread pudding, as Dale Cooper would say. Spongy and warm, with a subtle flavor to showcase the stellar white chocolate sauce that it was drenched in. Not to mention the fact that the serving was more than generous.

I’ve read nothing but phenomenal things about the Grapevine Cafe, so I’m guessing I just chose poorly from the menu. If I ever get back to Donaldsonville I’ll give the place another try, this time for dinner, though, since the lunch menu is truncated.

Here’s a copy of Chef Schneider’s bread pudding recipe (via):

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

8 Servings

Stale French bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups chopped white chocolate
2 large eggs
8 large egg yolks

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray the bottom of a 4-by-8-inch baking dish and place a layer of bread slices.

2. In a saucepan, scald the cream with the milk. Add the sugar and white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the yolks. Gradually whisk in the white chocolate mixture until blended. Pour half the mixture over the bread and let it stand until absorbed. Cover with another layer of bread and pour the remaining mixture on top, making sure each slice is thoroughly soaked.

4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the center of the pudding puffs up. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes. Let cool until set, about 15 minutes. Scoop the bread pudding into bowls with an ice cream scoop or serve in squares, topped with warm White-Chocolate Sauce.

White Chocolate Sauce

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup chopped white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Whisk in the whipping cream until smooth. Serve warm.

The Grapevine Cafe and Gallery

211 Railroad Avenue

Donaldsonville, Louisiana 70346

(225) 473-8463

(225) 473-8486

(interior photo courtesy of grapevinecafeandgallery.com)

I Got Gott

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , on 17 December, 2009 by la fille

Something else that’s kinda cool about my new job is that I get a lunch hour. I’ve never worked a nine-to-five type gig before, so the concept of leaving in the middle of the day is new and exciting. I usually bring my lunch and sit in the park across the street, reading and just chilling in general, but yesterday I decided it was time to start venturing out for my mid-day sustenance.

Sending a call for suggestions into the aether that is Twitter, Eating in NOLA suggested Gott Gourmet on Magazine Street. Close by– check. Fast– check. Cheap– check. Online menu for easy phone ordering– check. Works for me!

Through a perusal of their website, I discovered that Gott is committed to being as environmentally conscious as possible, and their to-go packages are biodegradable. That’s awesome! I often feel bad getting takeout because of all the Styrofoam and plastic and whatnot.

Since this was a takeout order, I didn’t get to experience much of the place’s atmosphere, but it seemed clean, bright, and pleasant. The man at the register was friendly and personable, as well.

I ordered the Chicago-style hot dog, which came with chips, and a side of ancho-honey slaw.

That was a good dog. Big ol’ all-beef frank on a poppyseed bun, yellow mustard, shockingly neon green relish, sport peppers, a pickle spear, onions, halved grape tomatoes, and celery salt. Tart, spicy, and savory– all the things a Chicago dog should be!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the slaw, but it was pretty tasty. Even though it was mayonnaise-based (I usually prefer vinegar-based slaws), it wasn’t overly goopy and retained its crispness. The flavor was a lot milder than other similar slaws, maybe because of the addition of honey. Regardless, I enjoyed it.

I’d like to go back sometime when I can sit down and eat. The menu’s gott got (we’re not gonna do that) a fair number of tasty-looking items that look to be creative treatments of standard lunch fare (soups, salads, and sandwiches). They also serve breakfast on weekends.

Gott Gourmet Cafe

3100 Magazine St.

504-373-6579

gottgourmetcafe.com

The Delachaise

Posted in Bars, Beer, Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Restaurants, Reviews, Wine with tags , on 15 December, 2009 by la fille

Ok, so I have a new job that is AWESOME. There are many things that make it awesome, one of which is the fact that it’s located in a different neighborhood from the one in which I live. My old job was three blocks from my abode. This was damnably convenient, of course, but it also meant my world was very small. Get up, walk to work, get off, walk to the grocery, walk to the wine store, walk to a restaurant, walk home…you get the drift. On a REALLY exciting day I might get on my bike and ride to a restaurant.

Working Uptown means that I get regular exposure to a bunch of places I used to hear about but never went because they were more than 100 yards from my house.

I’ve been to the Delachaise a couple of times since becoming a part-time Uptowner, and I must say, it’s pretty rad. Good cocktail selection, good wine list, and probably some of the best frites I’ve ever had.

Y’all. THOSE POTATOES ARE FRIED IN GOOSE FAT. AND THEY’RE SERVED WITH PEANUT SAUCE.

Sweet Jesus, I may have to take a second to recompose myself.

All right. Now, I’m a humongous fan of peanut sauce, and am usually of the opinion that anything served with it is purely a vessel to get said sauce into my mouth and should take a supporting role in the process. These fries, however, make me question that philosophy– they are plenty awesome on their own. They also come with a malt vinegar minez, just like they do it in Britain. I often wonder why more Americans don’t eat mayo with their fries, since we usually opt for the most fattening option available.

I also had my first frog legs. “Wickedly spicy”, according to the menu, and glazed in remoulade, I’m now a fan of those little cuisses de grenouille. Although I must wonder what they do with the rest of the frog. My coworker Skooksie just suggested maybe they make fwog gras (get it, GET IT?) out of ’em. Or maybe there are a bunch of French high school students dissecting legless frogs in biologie class.

They’ve got very well-chosen wine and beer lists, and offer a huge variety of stuff by the glass. The night in question I stuck with an ’07 Olivares Monastrell. The tap choices are terrific too, with a representative selection of styles like Chimay, Anchor Porter, Spaten Lager, and even a lambic.

I like the atmosphere a lot and, as my dining partner noted, the fact that the building’s long and skinny means that it doesn’t take many customers to make the place feel full. They do allow smoking, also.

Flojindamesa over at Eat Drink Nola relates an amusing Delachaise experience here.

The Delachaise

3442 St. Charles Ave.

504.895.0858

thedelachaise.com

San Fermin at Surrey’s

Posted in Breakfast, Eat, Restaurants, Reviews on 13 July, 2009 by la fille

New-Orleans-Restaurant-Surrys-Cafe-and-juice-Bar.jpg

Surrey’s has been on my To-Try List for months now, so when several friends and I found ourselves famished after the Running of the Bulls on Saturday morning, I suggested we head up to Magazine Street. Not having even had coffee before heading into the French Quarter brouhaha, we were all ecstatic to sit down to a fantastic breakfast.

Here’s a brief description from their website:

Started in 2001 by owner Greg Surrey, the café started out as a small neighborhood café serving up fresh-squeezed, organic juices, Central American inspired dishes such as Huevos Rancheros and Migas, and with traditional breakfast fare.

With a steady following of local regulars and juice lovers, Surrey’s blossomed over the years. Even after Hurricane Katrina, Surrey’s remained intact and reopened its doors just a short while after everyone was allowed to return to the city.

Our belief in New Orleans and our community guided our decision to stay open and give our customers a familiar place to come to. Now Surrey’s is considered a staple in the New Orleans’ breakfast/brunch/lunch scene and under the guidance of Adrian Schrauwen, the café is able to offer local seafood fresh from Lafitte, Louisiana, fresh boudin and charice sausage from Creole Country Sausage and locally grown organic produce.

Because of our belief in the city and its inhabitants it is a source of great pride for the café that we order fresh Louisiana products as often as we can.

None of us partook in the options from the juice bar this time around, but they sure were tempting. Choices include orange, beet, carrot, grapefruit, celery, and wheatgrass, with the option to add ginger to any of them. Mmmm! However, we needed our coffee, which, although unremarkable, was perfectly tasty.

As far as breakfast goes, Brother O’Mara and I couldn’t be more different. I need something hearty, savory, and protein-packed to get me through until lunch, while he almost always opts for the sweet breakfast. (This is evidenced by the boxes of Wheaties and Count Chocula next to each other on the shelf at home.) Surrey’s definitely catered well to both tastes, in fact, I was almost overwhelmed by the size of the menu! So many choices for so early in the day!

I went for the migas, a delightful plate of eggs scrambled with chorizo, onion, bell peppers, tomato, cheese, and tortilla chips and served with a fluffy biscuit. It certainly satisfied the needs of my empty tummy. Brother O’Mara had the French toast special, which was stuffed with blueberry cream cheese and served with strawberry sauce on top. The presentation was beautiful, and it may well be the best French toast I’ve ever had. Our friend Kathy judges a breakfast place on their Huevos Rancheros, and was happy to report that the ones she had at Surrey’s did the trick. I’ll admit I’ve never been attracted by Huevos Rancheros, but Kathy’s were beautiful and I had to snag a bite. There’s also the option to make the dish “delux” with the addition of smoked salmon, goat cheese, and capers. DANG.

I think that no matter your dietary restrictions, Surrey’s probably has something tasty for you. That giant menu offers sweet and savory, meaty and vegan, low-fat or covered in cheese.

Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar

1418 Magazine Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

(504) 524-3828

Open 8am-3pm, seven days a week.

Mouthwatering Meals on Magazine: Baru

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews, Sweets with tags , , on 21 June, 2009 by la fille

large_Baru exteriorA few days ago, Flojindamesa over at Eat Drink Nola posted about Baru, a Caribbean/Tapas restaurant on Magazine Street. Of course after reading her post, Baader-Meinhof Syndrome set in and I saw Baru mentioned everywhere! Brother O’Mara has been working in that part of town this week, and suggested we check the place out on Friday night, so we picked up a bottle of Domaine Audras 2006 Julienas at Martin Wine Cellar and made our way to the lovely purple building on the corner of Magazine and Amelia Streets.

As Flojindamesa noted, Baru is strictly BYOB and charges a flat $8 corkage fee. I have no problem with this, as $8 is far less than I usually spend on drinks at a restaurant, I can bring whatever I want, and it allows me to spend more money on food!

I can’t overstate what a wonderful time Brother O’Mara and I had that evening. Even though the day had been blisteringly hot, we decided to sit outside on the sidewalk rather than wait half an hour to score an inside table, and as a result we had some great social interactions and got in a lot of good people-watching. The service was terrific — attentive and pleasant butnot overbearing — while the atmosphere was relaxed and unpretentious. And the food. Oh, the FOOD! A tapas restaurant was the perfect choice for us that night, because I had recently eaten an entire pastrami on rye at Stein’s Deli, while O’Mara was famished from a long day at work; thus I ordered one small plate and he ordered three.

Ceviche

I had the ceviche, described on the menu as “fresh gulf fish marinated in lime juice and mixed with avocado, cilantro, and pickled red onion”, and it was exactly what I was craving. The heat outside combined with my lack of extreme hunger meant this cool, refreshing dish satisfied me completely.

Pimenton Asado

This was the first of O’Mara’s dishes to come out: roasted red bell pepper marinated in olive oil and citrus, served with grilled bread. Cool and crisp, this was a terrific appetizer, especially once the juices seeped into the bread and made it all soft. Mmm.

june09-06chuzo and empanadas

Chuzo

Grilled skirt steak marinated in mojo and served with chimichurri and papas fritas. Man o nam, this was a great little piece of meat. That’s what she said. The chimichurri was nothing to sniff at, either. What a great combination of flavors.

Empanadas

Picadillo beef-filled cornmeal pies with aji. I’ve since learned that aji is a pepper native to Peru, but I wish I had more words to describe how awesome this sauce was. I tried to pick out flavors at the time of ingestion, but apparently I was too wrapped up in the moment to remember anything noteworthy. You’ll just have to trust me that it was FANTASTIC!

Since we didn’t have to pay for a bottle of wine, we decided to go for two desserts, the Tres Leches Cake and the Mango Flan, both of which were presented beautifully and served as delightful finishes to the meal. Look at that use of fresh fruit!

june09-07tres leches cake and mango flan

The combination of great food and great wine was enough to make it an evening to remember, but we were lucky enough to make the acquaintance of one Manolo, who was eating dinner there with his family and turned out to be very close friends with Baru’s owner, chef Edgar Caro. Manolo took a shine to us, and insisted we go back to the kitchen to meet Edgar, which we were glad to do. It’s always a pleasure to be able to interact on a personal level with someone who has created such a wonderful, comfortable environment for his patrons.

I really cannot wait to make a return trip to this little gem of a restaurant.

Baru Bistro and Tapas

3700 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70115-2637
(504) 895-2225

(exterior photo by David Grunfeld of the Times-Picayune, food photos by lafille, taken with O’Mara’s new iPhone)

Herbsaint named to the Fine Dining Hall of Fame

Posted in Restaurants, Words with tags , , on 3 June, 2009 by la fille

By Ian McNulty, from Gambit’s New Orleans Blog:

Chef Donald Link’s restaurant Herbsaint has been named to the Fine Dining Hall of Fame, a list of top restaurants around the country compiled annually by Nation’s Restaurant News, a restaurant industry publication.

Nation’s Restaurant News says that more than 220 restaurants have been inducted into its Fine Dining Hall of Fame since the awards were established in 1980. Chef John Besh’s Restaurant August was inducted in 2007.
The 2009 inductees were nominated by past winners and selected by the magazine’s editors. Criteria included excellence in food quality, professional service and a memorable ambiance. Check out the rest of the list here.
Link originally opened Herbsaint in 2000 along with chef Susan Spicer, under whom he worked as sous chef at Bayona in the early 1990s. It served as the springboard for much more culinary entrepreneurialism from the Louisiana native. He opened Cochon along with co-chef Stephen Stryjewski and last year they opened the related Cochon Butcher, an upscale meat market and sandwich shop attached to the Warehouse District restaurant. Earlier this year, Link opened an events hall and private dining facility called Calcasieu on the second floor above Cochon. This spring he also published his first cookbook, titled “Real Cajun.”
Still Herbsaint has remained Link’s flagship, where his French-meets-Southern cuisine and passion for cured meats and other made-in-house touches consistently puts it at the top of the pack for fine-dining restaurants in New Orleans.
The magazine also named chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., as its 2009 Fine Dining Legend, an honor bestowed on Ella Brennan of Commander’s Palace in the past.

— Ian McNulty

Link to original.