looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.
2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.
Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting. If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.
If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse. Search this site:
Barack Obama for President
"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.
Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.
The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)
* * *"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.
"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans
"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.
"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune
"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times
"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.
"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan, AllAboutJazz.com
"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy, PopMatters.com
"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times
How to donate to this site:
Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!
You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!
(99 and 44/100% link rot)
2007: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2006: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2005: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2004: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2003: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2002: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2001: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2000: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
1999: Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...
Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!
Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki
NOLA.com & The Times-Picayune
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)
New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.
2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Ashley Morris (in memoriam)
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
People Get Ready
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.
The Internet's most comprehensive
and indispensible database of
authenticated cocktail recipes,
ingredients, reseearch and more.
By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)
Museum of the American Cocktail
Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
Celebrating a true American cultural
icon: the American Cocktail.
The Sazerac Cocktail
* * *
(The sine qua non of cocktails,
and the quintessential New Orleans
cocktail. Learn to make it.)
The Footloose Cocktail
(An original by Wes;
"Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
"Very elegant, supremely
sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)
The Hoskins Cocktail
(An original by Chuck;
"It's nothing short of a
masterpiece." - Gary Regan)
* * *Chuck & Wes' Liquor Cabinet
(Frighteningly large, and would
never fit in a cabinet)
Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
(A few things we like to
drink at home, plus a couple
we don't, just for fun.)
* * *Peychaud's Bitters
(Indispensible for Sazeracs
and many other cocktails.
Order them here.)
(The gold standard of bitters,
fortunately available everywhere
worldwide. Insist on it.)
Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
(Complex and spicy orange
bitters for your Martinis,
Old Fashioneds and many more.
Order them here.)
Fee Brothers' Bitters
(Classic orange bitters,
peach bitters and a cinnamony
"Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)
The Bitter Truth
(A new brand of bitters
from Germany: orange, lemon,
aromatic bitters and more!)
(Fantastic new small-batch
bitters company with forth-
coming products including
Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
and sweet chocolate bitters, wow!)
* * *Alcademics
(The study of booze with Camper English)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
The Art of Drink:
An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
Bar Mix Master
(Brad Ellis, New Orleans)
(Jeff Berry, world-class expert
on tropical drinks)
The Cocktail Chronicles
(Paul Clarke's weblog)
(Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
Chico and me).
A Dash of Bitters
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
(Robert Hess, et al.)
DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog
(Online magazine for the
Esquire's Drinks Database
(Dave Wondrich and
news & insider info)
(Celebrating the world in a glass)
(Bartender/mixologist, Eugene OR)
Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
(Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
and great photographs)
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
(Ladies United for the
Fine Spirits & Cocktails
The Ministry of Rum
(Everything you always wanted to know)
The Modern Mixologist
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
(Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
in Hungarian. Well, why not?
Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)
Off the Presses
Rowley's Whiskey Forge
(F. Paul Pacult)
Spirits and Cocktails
The Thirstin' Howl
Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
The Wormwood Society
(Dedicated to promoting accurate,
current information about absinthe)
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
The New Orleans Menu
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
Chocolate and Zucchini
Mise en Place
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
The Global Gourmet
The Hungry Passport site and weblog)
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
In vino veritas.
The Oxford Companion to Wine
The Wine Spectator
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers
Wine/spirits shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Mission Liquors, Pasadena
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena
Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.
Reading this month:
Duma Key, by Stephen King.
Old Man's War, by John Scalzi.
Mister B. Gone, by Clive Barker.
Jude: Level 1, by Julian Gough.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots
Miles of Music
New Orleans Bands.net
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
KCSN (Los Angeles)
Stream the last "Down Home"
for 1 week after broadcastk
Live MP3 audio stream
Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
(A rich history of N.O. radio)
Air America Radio
(Talk radio for the
rest of us)
Grateful Dead Radio
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
(Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
Films seen this year:
In the cinema:
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (****-1/2)
No Country for Old Men (****)
Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (***)
Eastern Promises (***-1/2)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (**-1/2)
Across the Universe (***-1/2)
Michael Clayton (****)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (****-1/2)
Lookin' at da TV:
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)
My photographs at Flickr
The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy
Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley
Get Your War On
by David Rees
by Jonathan Rosenberg
L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
by Emily Flake
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Walt Kelly
by Greg Peters
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
AlterNet.org (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)
Borowitz Report (Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.)
Whitehouse.org (Not the actual White House, but it should be)
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief
Friends with pages: The Final Frontier:
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918
"There ought to be limits to freedom."
-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999
"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."
-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998
"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-- George W. Bush, CNN.com, December 18, 2000
"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."
-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)
"Eating, drinking and carrying on..." -- Adelaide Brennan
Friday, May 30, 2008
Make way fo' da Reeeebirth! The ReBirth Brass Band is celebrating their 25th anniversary with a two-night throwdown at Howlin' Wolf in New Orleans. I ain't in town at the moment so I can't go, but if you are, that's the place to be.
Rebirth Brass Band's 25th Anniversary
"We got New Orleans on our shoulders," [bandmember] Keith [Frazier] said. Their most important words of wisdom? "Don't take anything for granted, " Keith said. "Until you leave here, you don't understand what it's like, so don't take it for granted. Just play like it's your last time every time."
Yeah you rite.
Cocktail of the day. Sorry, I know I haven't done this in a while. Out of town, busy with all kindsa stuff and posting New Orleans food porn (and yeah, I know, it's been three weeks and I'm only just gettin' started). Let's have a drink.
This one hails from Saratoga Springs, New York in the 1880s. According to David Wondrich's Imbibe!, there were two cocktails by this name, one being basically "a Fancy Brandy Cocktail with a squirt of Champagne," the other being this, similar to a Manhattan in which half the rye has been switched out. It's mighty tasty.
Oh, and the rye was Rittenhouse Bonded, the brandy was Hennessy VSOP, the vermouth was Carpano Antica.
The Saratoga Cocktail
1 ounce rye whiskey.
1 ounce brandy.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
2 dashes Angostura Bitters.
Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass or, as the book suggests, "a thin stemmed glass with a curved lip." Garnish with a quarter slice of lemon, either perched on the rim or floated in the drink.
"Replace the vermouth with absinthe," Dave says, "and you have what the Hoffman House called a 'Morning Cocktail.' If that's what you need to get going in the A.M., God help you."
Quirky New Orleans. From New Orleans Magazine:
New Orleans. Endlessly interesting. Mysterious. Offbeat. What can you say about a city that has been through so much, yet remains as vibrant and intriguing as any city in America? We New Orleanians know that we have something special in this low-lying plot of earth between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. But how many of us take the time to explore those unique little treasures that dot our landscape? How many of us take for granted those little gems that make us stop and think, give us a giggle or make us cock our heads and say, "Wow."
Each local has a favorite site -- historic, quirky or inspiring -- that he or she feels sets this city apart. Here is a locals' guide to some out-of-the-way favorites, some of the areas best kept secrets -- 97 to be exact. Explore them with us as you walk the neighborhoods of New Orleans and some of its outlying communities. Most of all, appreciate the uniqueness of our city and those who still proudly call it home.
I've done or seen 52 of those 97 things. (Man, I've got some catchin' up to do.) How 'bout you?[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The Cocktail Spirit: "Saturated with Sazeracs, Episode 1" Robert Hess begins a three-part series about my favorite cocktail.
In this first episode of our very special series - Saturated with Sazeracs - Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, visits H. Joseph Ehrmann's Elixir Saloon in San Francisco. During this unique happy hour on May 16th H and his colleagues behind the bar mixed up countless classic Sazerac cocktails.
Although I think a Sazerac needs more Peychaud's bitters than what you can saturate a sugar cube with (and I prefer simple syrup anyway), and that was an awful lot of water in that drink, dude ...
Yeah, I'm a persnickety pain in the ass, but still.
Dante's Kitchen. Oddly enough, I'd never been to this Riverbend restaurant, but I'd been across the street at Brigtsen's more times than I could count. Our friend Ti Martin of Commander's Palace raves about it -- she should know, as the chef Emmanual Loubier had cooked with Jamie Shannon at Commander's for 10 years. She goes often, and told us that we were overdue for a visit. Diana made plans for the first Friday of Jazzfest, and off we went.
I'm going to want to go back, especially because I think a Jazzfest weekend is not the world's greatest time to try a restaurant for the first time. Predictably, they were slammed, although they seemed to manage things as well as can be expected. The service was friendly from the moment we walked in.
I have to say, though, that there was a problem with the drinks.
I ordered two Sazeracs for Wes and me while we waited, and as I stood there and watched the bartender make them I imagined Jeff Morgenthaler next to me, and together imaginary Jeff and I counted the mistakes the poor fellow made:
1. Too much simple syrup. (The scourge of the Sazerac.)
2. Glass rinsed with Pernod. (Dude, we're in New Orleans. Herbsaint is our pastis, plus it's 1/3 the price of that other stuff and ten times better. Absinthe is legal now too.)
3. Incorrect amount of bitters. (I watched the guy dribble two dashes of Angostura and barely one of Peychaud's, and at that point I had to step in. "Excuse me, could you put more Peychaud's in there, please? At least three more dashes." He picked up both bottles, looked at them quizzically, and actually said, "Oh yeah ... I can never keep these two straight, I always get 'em confused." *facepalm*)
4. The drink was shaken, not stirred.
5. The lemon twist was simply dropped in the drink with no lemon oil being expressed.
6. A cocktail glass was used rather than a rocks glass. (OK, this is one of Jeff's don'ts, but Wes said I was being too persnickety about this one.)
I don't want to sound like I'm picking on this place in particular, because I see this sort of thing far too often around the city, but folks ... you're bartending in New Orleans. Learn how to make a Sazerac properly.
We were seated not long after that, in our own little room, no less, and very well taken care of by two friendly, attentive and attractive servers. Almost immediately they brought this:
This was one of their signature offerings, Molasses Spoonbread. It came in a little skillet, swimming in melted honey butter and was ... oh my. Oh my. Fortunately they brought three of these for the table, because there was a bit of a feeding frenzy and someone might have gotten hurt had there been fewer lil' skillets. Next time I would like a 10" skillet full of this stuff, please. Just for me. (Buzz off, all y'all, it's all mine, mine I tell you!)
We also got a little amuse:
Hooooo ... Marinated Crabmeat with Watermelon Rind Pickles. Looka dat. How beautiful is that jumbo lump crabmeat? The pickles were interesting, a bit tangy. I have to confess I've never been a big fan of watermelon rind pickles. I believe it was Garrison Keillor who described them as coming out of the jar and going onto the relish tray on holidays, whereupon after they remained untouched they'd be scooped back into the jar for the next holiday, and a redeployment onto the relish tray, ad infinitum. Wes loves them, though, and he was a very happy Midwestern boy. It was a nice Southern touch, though, and I enjoyed the dish very much. Once again, my bouche was highly amused.
Shrimp and grits, another Southern perennial, and in this particular case a wonderful presentation that was, more specifically, Grilled Gulf Shrimp with Stone Ground Grits and Andouille Red Eye Gravy. A dish like this makes me laugh. Not only because it tastes so good, and really good tasting food can elicit a number of emotional reactions from me, one of which is laughter, but because of where I live. I'm a Louisiana expatriate living in Los Angeles, California. The sight of a dish like this makes me salivate. The sight of a dish like this makes the average Angeleno leap up from the table in horror and run screaming for the door. Apparently these people out here have never seen a shrimp head served to them on a plate, poor bastards. Some might be getting more used to it, but I do remember hearing stories from the wait staff at one of the first fine dining Louisiana-style restaurants to take advantage of the '80s "Cajun craze" in Los Angeles (but actually doing it well). They served New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, heads and shells and all, and people literally shrieked and leapt up from the table.
I keep those entertaining scenes in my head, but I hope that L.A.-ites have grown up a bit since the '80s, mostly because it'd be sad for them to miss a dish like this, a dish this good. The grits were perfect, slightly chewy as good stone ground grits should be, and andouille red eye gravy ... what a great idea. I forgot to ask if it was chicory coffee used to make it.
This was one of the appetizers specials for the week -- Crawfish Gratin, in light cream and baked with a crispy Cheddar cheese topping. This wasn't one of my dishes and I don't recall getting a bite (d'oh), but word around the table was that it was good.
We love pâté and other charcuterie, and frequently go for a charcuterie plate when it's offered, and here it was -- Housemade duck and cherry pâté, duck liver mousse and duck rillettes served with house made pickles, relish, and mustard. All very nice, and the begininng of a rillette-filled two weeks, as it turned out. (Boy, I could eat duck liver mousse out of ice cream cones. Hmm, hey, there's an idea ...)
Here was my entrée -- Pork Loin Roast, Stewed Collard Greens and Goat Cheese Grits, with a Coffee-Pecan Demiglace. Gorgeous seasoning on the pork, the collards were simple but intense and lovely, and although I love cheese grits I'd never had them with goat cheese before. I hope I do again, soon. Excellent dish, but unfortunately my pork was a little dry. Again, I attribute this to the kitchen being slammed -- it wasn't a dealbreaker, and it's still a well-conceived dish which I enjoyed. If only that pork had been a little juicier ...
The Gulf fish special for the day came along with Warm Creole Potato Salad, and although it wasn't listed as one of the available a la carte sides, I asked if I could have a side of that, and of course they gladly obliged. Simple yet very tasty.
This was Wes' entrée -- Roasted Duck Breast with Barq's Candied Sweet Potatoes, Andouille Cornbread Dressing and Louisiana Kumquat Sauce. I think that although the basic preparation of the dish remains the same, the chef changes the sauce sometimes due to inspiration and what's available and good-looking; the sauce listed on the web menu is a fig and habanero barbeque sauce, yum. This was fairly inevitable, what with Wes being Mr. Duck after all. I really liked the taste I got, and I know Wes enjoyed the dish, but as far as it being as the server described -- "the best duck dish in New Orleans" -- well, mighty big shoes to fill. Maybe we'll get more on this dish from Himself in the comments.
This was perhaps the most adventurous dish at the table that night, a Jazzfest week special which Robin ordered: Mixed Grill, with a raised short rib over a poblano grits cake, Louisiana boudin rouge with grilled green onion vinaigrette, and a Piney Woods beef and sweet potato empanada with beet slaw. I didn't get to taste it all, but Robin said the shortrib was fantastic (most shortribs are, yumm), but after that she kind of hit a stumbling block.
Boudin rouge (red boudin), also sometimes called boudin noir (black boudin, similar to what some people would call black pudding) is a fresh blood sausage. I think it was very ballsy of Chef to put it on the menu during Jazzfest when he was liable to get a lot of tourists who'd blanch at the idea, and even more ballsy for Robin to order it -- yeah you rite, girl. Turns out that, unfortunately, she didn't like it. It's a strong flavor and can be an acquired taste. Fortunately for me I do like boudin rouge, a lot, and she gave the rest of it to me.
I thought it was out of this world. This is such a rare treat to see this on a restaurant menu -- I can't remember the last time I've seen it, and it can be hard to find even in Acadiana. I hope Chef does it again, especially next time around. The empanada was an interesting yet odd choice to include on a mixed grill, and although I didn't get a taste of that I got the impression from Robin and Wes that that part wasn't entirely successful.
Desserts were simple and straightforward -- on the left, a Trio of Crème Brûlée (Vanilla, Orange and Cardamom) and on the right, Chocolate Molten Cake with Housemade Port Ice Cream and Fruit Preserves. The crème brûlées were good, although I found the orange and cardamom flavors to be almost too subtle, and the port ice cream was lovely with the cake.
We enjoyed our visit to Dante's Kitchen, and once again had special praise for the wait staff, who given how insanely busy the restaurant was did a great job and helped to make it fun. I'm looking forward to trying them again, on a non-festival weekend next time.[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Jazzfest 2008, Day 1. Gorgeous day, and always happy to set foot back in the Fairgrounds. As some of my friends (Hi, Sarah!) consider this to be a food festival first and foremost, we'll start wtih the grub.
As always, every day of Fest, first thing before anything else, for over 20 years ... I go see a lady named Merlene Herbert from Lafayette and buy one of these -- Creole's Stuffed Bread. You've heard me rave about it for about half that time, but I shall continue to rave. It's one of the best things to eat on the Fairgrounds, is still the most criminally underappreciated and unknown (although despite being ignored by the local media and unknown to the hordes who inexplicably gorge themselves on the wildly overrated, overly cheesy crawfish bread, Miss Merlen sells tons of these). Creole's Stuffed Bread also kicks the everlovin' ass of Natchitoches Meat Pies, which although good are greasier and far less seasoned than these little buns of steel.
Deceptively simple -- ground beef and pork, sausage, cheese, jalapeños and seasonings, inside a thin-shelled delicious bun that's brushed with butter and baked. I would really like to have one of these every day for the rest of my life.
This is one of the other moan-inducers of the Fest -- Cochon de Lait Po-Boys, which you read about in Da Papuh a while back. Porky, smoky, tender, delicious slow-smoked pork butt, served hot with cold cabbage and horseradish sauce. We had at least three of these during the 7-day Fest.
I did mention that this was The Year of Living (Chicken) Livery, and it continued on the Fairgroudns with the Praline Connection's fabulous Grilled Chicken Livers with Pepper Jelly Sauce, with Collard Greens and Rice. Apparently they're not making these in the restaurant anymore -- the ones you get there are fried -- but I may be wrong about that. These amazing little morsels of flavor and cholesterol taste like they've been dipped in bacon fat before grilling, and perfectly seasoned. The pepper jelly dipping sauce, I understand, came about by mistake when someone neglected to add pectin to a batch of pepper jelly, and someone else discovered that these livers tasted really good when dipped into them. I had this several times too, including bites off other people's plates. Fortunately there's time to clear the cholesterol out of my bloodstream before my next checkup, but it was so worth it.
Oysters Rockefeller Bisque, which I believe was originally developed by Frank Brigtsen but is now served in many places around the city. This is one of those restaurant-quality dishes you get in a Styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon for four bucks, and while you're eating it you're eating better than most people in most restaurants around the country at that moment.
We didn't go too overboard with food, as we had a big dinner at Dante's Kitchen set up for that night, but we did see plenty of great music.
We started the day with a fantastic set at the big Fess Stage (which is what it used to be called and how I still refer to it, without mentioning the big car company sponsor unless absolutely necessary) by Susan Cowsill and her band. She's a New Orleanian although not born and raised, but lived there for the last 15+ years barring eight months or so while she and her husband (and drummer and co-songwriter) Russ Broussard wandered around wondering if they needed to find another city to live in after the Federal Flood destroyed their Lakevew home and everything in it. She spent her earlier years with her family band The Cowsills, and even treated us to a snippet of "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" among the set of her own wonderful songs, plus at least one written by her late brother Barry. You can buy a CD or download of Susan's set from Jazzfest Live, and it's one of the really good-sounding ones well worth the money.
We moved on to The Zydepunks (above left; click on small pics to embiggen), whom I'd heard of but never gotten around to seeing, and given that they're New Orleans top (and only) Cajun-Irish-Breton-Klezmer-Slavic-zydeco-folk-punk band, it's probably a foregone conclusion that I'd like them, and I did. A lot. In the pic to the right of the Zydepunks' accordionist Juan is a member of one of many Mardi Gras Indian tribes who come to Jazzfest. Impromptu parades and second lines with cries of "Get out de way!" break out here and there, and are great fun.
We headed to the Blues Tent to catch the latter part of Barbara Lynn's set, the great blues/R&B singer and guitarist from Texas. Besides her big band she was being accompanied on guitar by zydeco/blues legend Paul "Lil' Buck" Sinegal, who played for years in Clifton Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band. She was great, but we only caught maybe 2-1/2 songs as she ended her set at least 10 minutes early. Hunh? No mention was made of why. Illness? Technical problems? Diva syndrome? We decided that if it were anything other than the former we were officially annoyed. We then headed over to catch some of Big Sam's Funky Nation, who have a terrific new album out and who proceeded to funk up the house.
I tend to stick my nose up at most non-local, non-international, big-name mainstream rock acts, but this ain't one of 'em. I had been looking forward to the set by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss for months. I never was much of a Zeppelin fan (probably due to spending a great many of my younger days being stuffed into lockers by guys wearing Led Zeppelin t-shirts), but the album Raising Sand that they put out last year is rootsy and folky and phenomenal. As you can see from the pictures above, we were way in the back and relied on the Fess Stage's most excellent video screens for the majority of our view, but that was fine. The sound was fantastic, which was most important. And these two knocked it outta da Fairgrounds. Alternately thrilling and chilling and joyous and outright fun, this set was the talk of the Fest for days. In fact, in his post-Fest roundup Keith Spera in the T-P named this as THE set of the year.
I was particularly blown away by some of the Zeppelin stuff they did, including "The Battle of Evermore." Here's a highly illegal YouTube clip of that performance:
We finished our musical day with Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience, winner of the first-ever Grammy Award in the new Cajun and Zydeco album category. Terrance is and always was a great performer, really playing to the crowd and entertaining as well as singing and playing. At the upper left, he proudly displays his Grammy to the crowd. Upper right, the very photogenic Terrance jams the Jazzefest, as his song goes, on his accordion, and at bottom, Terrance and the very, very, VERY photogenic bassist Taylor Guarisco (formerly of Feufollet) play in an extended jam for the last song, which featured lots of crowd participation and bead-throwing.
Pretty damned good way to start off da Fest.
How far are you willing to go to express your love for bacon? This far?
Ohh ... I dunno, Crow. My first instinct is to say, "I MUST HAVE ONE!" but then common sense kicks in. Where the hell would I wear it other than to a Fat Pack food gathering, and then we'd fight over which one of us got to wear it. It'd be worse than Lucy and Ethel ... "Well, I'm not going if she's wearing that dress!"
Then there's the bit about it being made of "chemically treated latex print fabric," which pretty much loses me. There's also the fact that I once bought a bacon-scented car air freshener from this same outfit, and what little smell it had smelled absolutely nothing like bacon.
Sigh. Well, at least you ladies still have the bacon bra.[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
She's heeeeeeere! Sorry to have been quiet the last few days, but there was a bit of excitement. My niece Molly Katherine Willmon was born last Friday, about two weeks before her due date (but a week before she was actually scheduled to be born via C-section), at around 10:30pm, weighing in at 6 pounds 9 ounces. (YAYYY!!!)
Her mom was surprised, to say the least, and there was much (in retrospect) comedy/stress in getting her to the hospital. Adding to the drama was the fact that her dad, who's a petroleum engineer, was on an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico at the time, and had to be airlifted out by helicopter. Such a commotion this kid caused, sheesh!
Mother and daughter are doing fine -- they both went home today -- and she's beautiful.
No "Down Home" stream last week. Those of you who listen in may have noticed that there was no stream. In fact, the KCSN webcast is down indefinitely. Stated reason: "Due to the uncertainty over newly-increased performace royalty structures and mandated reporting guidelines that have been established for all Internet music streaming, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our music stream at this time."
I have nothing to say about this, other than to write your congressperson and senator to get these ridiculously extreme royalties and regulations for web radio rescinded.
Punch and Judy: Official Tales of the Cocktail '08 drink. Tales of the Cocktail approaches, and it's been decided. The official cocktail of this year's Tales is the Punch and Judy, by Charlotte Voisey. It is indeed a punch too, which is great and which will no doubt delight punchmeister David Wondrich too!
Punch and Judy
1 ounce Martell VSOP Cognac.
1/4 ounce Old New Orleans Crystal Rum.
1/2 ounce Hendrick's Gin.
1/2 ounce Bols Orange Curaçao.
2 ounces pineapple juice.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice.
1/2 ounce agave nectar.
2 dashes Angostura Bitters.
4 mint leaves.
Assemble ingredients in a mixing glass with as much love and interest that is healthy (that is to say, not in a obsessive fashion but certainly passionate) - no need to muddle the mint, just throw it in - shake properly (hard) and strain over fresh ice in a highball glass.
Cut a thinly sliced lime wheel and place on top of the Punch and Judy; add a hearty sprinkle of ground nutmeg directly on the lime wheel fresh from the "nut" with a small grater, instead of using already ground nutmeg from a small shaker.
Oh, and as you can tell, the contest asked that one use as many of the sponsors' products as possible. No worries, though ... alll that stuff's mighty good.[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Yay, Chicago! Carol just called to tell me that the Chicago city council has overturned the city's ridiculous ban on foie gras. "Monica Davey, the Times.s Chicago bureau chief, says the ban has been a source of embarrassment for the city and the repeal comes as residents have accused officials of trying to micromanage people.s lives, with talk of prohibiting smoking even outside along the lakefront and eliminating transfats from restaurants."
Now we need to start working on California, who are set to start a ban in 2012.
Brigtsen's. Wes and I can't remember if Brigtsen's was the first restaurant I brought him to in New Orleans, or if it was second to Peristyle. A mere eight years later and the memory is all cobwebs, but he seems to remember it as Brigtsen's, which works for me. I've been a huge fan of Frank Brigtsen's cooking for years, and we hadn't managed to get back here since Katrina and the federal flood. The restaurant is at the Riverbend not far from the Mississippi levee, in the Sliver by the River, and suffered no flooding or damage, but Frank and Marna evacuated to Shreveport and apparently considered staying (as did so many others who were displaced), but fortunately decided to come back home. (Countless customers begging them to do so didn't hurt.)
We were both eager to get back there, and we were glad we did.
Our first dish was a showstopper -- Crawfish Shortcake, which was crawfish étouffée atop a basil-black pepper biscuit. This was really, really good. Next time my momma makes her fantastic étouffée I'm gonna make a batch of basil-black pepper biscuits. :-)
Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads with potato-leek cake, shiitakes, capers and a lemon-roasted garlic sauce.
I've had many sweetbreads dishes in New Orleans and elsewhere, and this was one of the best. The brightness of the lemon in the sauce, along with the piquant capers balance the creaminess of the sweetbreads, accented by the creamy nutty roasted garlic. Oh, yum.
Pannéed Rabbit Tenderloin on a Tasso-Parmesan Grits Cake with Sautéed Spinach and Creole Mustard Sauce. YAY! The best rabbit dish in the city, and a perennial on Frank's menu, is still there and still as great as it ever was. I used to get this all the time, but I really wanted to try his newer starters too. Solution? Order this as well, and split it. (We so smart, yeah.)
Now, for the mains. Sautéed Veal Gratinée with Oyster-Creamed Spinach and Brie. This was Wes' main course, which was so good it made both our heads spin. Yes, that's oysters and spinach in the crust of the veal. Oh my.
And rich? Ya think?
And now ... my dish. Brigtsen's Seafood Platter, which he also calls the "Shell Beach Diet". Shell Beach is a fishing village in St. Bernard Parish that got badly slammed during Hurricane Katrina, but has been some of the most fertile fishing grounds in the area for generations.
This one nearly killed me. I couldn't finish, which made me sad because everything tasted terrific.
When you hear "seafood platter" in New Orleans, it almost always means a Gargantuan pile of fried seafood, usually with French fries, sitting atop a layer of toast that's been drenched with butter as well as the grease that drips from the fried seafood. Not bad -- in fact, it can be great -- but it can be a bit much to say the least, and it all develops a bit of sameness after a while, everything being battered and deep-fried the same way.
Brigtsen's seafood platter has nothing fried on it at all, but a half a dozen different kinds of seafood cooked in ways that are both traditionally inspired, very creative and absolutely delicious.
Clockwise, starting from the crawfish, we have:
1. Gratin of Crawfish Parmesan.
Creamy, creamy, rich rich rich.
2. Baked Oyster LeRuth with Shrimp and Crab.
Named for and inspired by the great New Orleans chef Warren LeRuth, one of the fathers of the modern era of fine dining in New Orleans and creator of some of our best dishes (like oyster-artichoke soup). I think Chef LeRuth would have been honored to have this dish named for him.
3. Deviled Crab.
Frank's own take on the old traditional favorite, stuffed crab.
4. Grilled Drum with Crawfish and a Jalapeño Lime Sauce.
Gorgeous, with a spicy, bright and tangy sauce with a great Caribbean feel.
5. Seared Sea Scallop with Baby Arugula and Jalapeo-Corn Vinaigrette.
A bit of a Southwestern feel to this one, with the corn vinaigrette taking a maquechoux on a weekend to Albuquerque. The scallop was fat and sweet and tender, too.
6. Fennel Baked Oyster.
Classic flavor combination, beautifully done.
This dish apparently changes somewhat on a daily basis, depending on the availability of ingredients. I hit 'em on a good night, but damn ... I wish I could have cleaned my plate.
I was seriously full, so we decided to split a dessert -- Louisiana Strawberry Shortcake. During this time of year we gorge on Louisiana strawberries, the best anywhere, and we do it in everything from salads to desserts to Abita's Strawberry Harvest Lager beer. This is a classic, traditional strawberry shortcake like ya grammaw used to make. And just as good.
We showed up almost a half an hour early for our reservation, but even though they were very busy Marna seated us immediately. The pre-meal Sazerac was lovely, the service was comforting and embracing without being obtrusive, and although it was a little noisy, given the fact that the restaurant is an old converted home and you're dining with three other tables in small rooms, it was still fine for conversation and seemed lively rather than oppressive. Every aspect of the meal was superb, and we were reminded why Brigtsen's has been one of my favorite restaurants for years.[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess. We got behind on Robert's videos while in New Orleans, so here's a bit of catch-up:
As the Kentucky Derby approaches there is one cocktail that is essential to have in your repertoire, The Mint Julep. Whether at the track or on the veranda watching the sun set, this refreshing, simple and elegant cocktail should be sipped and savored.
# # #
Not only must you stock your bar with the best ingredients and most useful tools, you need to be able to take your act on the road. Robert packs up his traveling mixologist bag and let's you in on some secrets of transporting those all important bitters.
To learn about some great historic variations on the classic Mint Julep, read David Wondrich's Imbibe! or Stanley Clisby Arthur's New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em. (I've got a great "doctor's bag" myself too, and I love taking our show on the road.)
Elizabeth's. After the indulgence of the Swizzle Stick and Cuvée the night before, we slept late on Thursday the 24th -- well-deserved. Forging on ahead, we met Nettie and Robin again for an early lunch. Elizabeth's was the choice, and it had been a while since we'd been. In fact, we hadn't been since Heidi, the original owner, and sold the place and moved out of state. The new owners have pretty much kept the place just as it was, with the addition of a dinner menu and later hours, plus I understand that the people in the kitchen are the same as before, and it was certainly as down home and yummy as it had always been.
We resolved our first dilemma -- which appetizers to order -- with the typical Fat Pack sledgehammer solution of simply ordering them all. (Fortunately there were only four.)
Boudin balls in Creole mustard sauce. Boudin balls are a easy-peasy snack -- you simply take Cajun-style boudin (a spicy pork sauce made from pork and pork liver, seasonings and about 2/3 rice), roll it into balls, bread and deep fry them. Yum yum.
I was reminded of a joke that kinda backfired. Several years ago I was at Jazzfest eating an order of boudin balls when two girls from out of town approached me and asked what I was eating. Now, they were doing exactly the right thing for Jazzfest newbies -- if you see something that looks or smells tasty, just ask the person what it is. As one local wrote a while back, "If the person eating it is from out of town, they'll probably say something funny. If they're local, you'll probably learn something. If they're from the Ninth Ward, they'll probably offer you a bite." I was ready to offer a bite, but first I said, "They're boudin balls."
"What are boudin balls?" one of the girls asked.
Without missing a beat (and for God knows what reason), I said, "They're the breaded and deep-fried testicles of the wild freshwater boudin."
The girls' faces actually elongated with horror, and they made gentle choking noises, when I quickly said, "No no no! Just kidding! It's a pork and rice sausage dressing, rolled into balls and fried. Look! Wanna try it?" But by that time it was too late, and they were backing away slowly. Oh well, I tried for a laugh and it fell flat. I still feel kinda guilty about that. I hope they finally tried boudin balls sometime. They're really good.
Praline bacon. Elizabeth's signature dish. World-renowned. Never spoken of without reverence (or a tone of voice recalling the Deadly Sin of Lust). One of the great dishes of New Orleans. One of the great dishes of the Milky Way Galaxy, for that matter. And yet, deceptively simple: a mixture of brown sugar, a bit of butter, a touch of vanilla, ground pecans and a pinch of cayenne, applied to bacon which is then cooked crisp on a rack and then cooled to room temperature.
It's a brilliant combination of flavors -- the porky and the smoky and the salty and the sweet and the nutty and the spicy and the crispy and the richness of it all.
It is indescribably delicious. It is heaven on a plate. "It is," said a friend of ours once, "better than sex." Okay, it's really really really feckin' good, but let's not get carried away.
Blue Cheese Fried Oysters, reminiscent of the great dish at Uglesich's but different, done in Elizabeth's own style, with a creamier dressing. The oysters were perfectly fried too, crisp and hot and creamy and not a dot of grease.
Fried Chicken Livers with Pepper Jelly. This is a classic combination, but everyone puts their own spin on the preparation. This batch was, natch, battered and deep-fried, crispy little balls of cholesterol. Tasty, tasty cholesterol.
"Hey Chris, how was New Orleans?" -- my friend Chris' cow-orkers, after his first trip to NOLA with me, several years ago.
Chris: "Battered and deep-fried."
We decided not to get too crazy with the entrées (yeah, good luck with that!), so we got three things to split among the four of us. My choice:
Hot Smoked Sausage Poor Boy. I prefer the fresh Creole hot sausage patties, which when done right make just about the best po-boy in this and all other possible universes, but I'm fond of good ol' hot smoke too. This one was good and peppery, nicely grilled with a crackly skin, on perfect Leidenheimer's French bread and dressed to the nines.
Nettie ordered the Tuesday special, which was a somewhat unusual dish for a Bywater neighborhood jernt -- Spicy Lamb Meatballs in Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce with Black Olives, topped with Feta Cheese. Served over penne pasta, and really tasty. The look and the preparation technique for the sauce was what you'd expect of an Italian tomato sauce, but the olives and other seasonings wtih the lamb gave it more of a Greek feel.
The classic Fried Potato Poor Boy, the first and original "poor boy" sandwich devised by Bennie and Clovis Martin at their Martin Bros. Restaurant, filled with fried potatoes, roast beef gravy with debris, sold to the "poor boys," i.e. striking streetcar workers, for a nickel so they could feed their families on the cheap. This was, sadly, the only down note at this meal. The type of fries they make at Elizabeth's aren't, in my opinion, the right kind for fried potato po-boys. They're the thin, shoestring variety and I believe that fries for a po-boy have to be thicker and "meatier." They were also too crisp. The sandwich was still tasty, but didn't have the right texture for me.
Now for dilemma time again. The dry erase board on the wall that lists Elizabeth's daily dessert selections was ridiculously crammed with so many choices it made our heads spin. What to do, what to do?! Hummingbird cake was a classic, but I'd had that before and wanted something different. The name won us over on this one ...
Ooey Gooey Cake. C'mon, how can something with both "ooey" and "gooey" in the name not be good? This is another of those Southern dessert recipes that starts with a box of yellow cake mix and adds something like a pound of cream cheese and butter and eggs and sugar, but I think this one is even ooier and gooier than most. Holy crap, this thing was rich. And sweet. And over the top. And good.
Yay, Red Velvet Cake! We love red velvet cake. This one had lots of cocoa in it, and a really great tangy sour cream/cream cheese frosting.
This sounded like a great idea -- Vietnamese Iced Coffee Sorbet. I love Vietnamese iced coffee, which is properly made in a tall glass with ice, an ounce or so of sweetened condensed milk added, and then the strong coffee is brewed in a little gizmo on top of the glass and then dripped in. It's already like a strong coffee ice cream, so this flavor was a natural. You might not expect such a simple yet sophisticated dessert in a neighborhood joint that also serves 7-Up Cake for dessert, but Elizabeth's is full of great dishes among the homespun.
And of course, we had to waddle out of there. Wes and I ended up spending a couple of hours walking around City Park, especially the Sculpture Garden,, to walk some of this off and build up more of an appetites for dinner at Brigtsen's that night.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, May 9, 2008
I'm actually kind of astonished that I only put on four pounds during the two weeks back home in New Orleans, while eating the amounts of food that you are about to begin seeing with today's burst of food porn. And I didn't even exercise every morning with a brisk walk down St. Charles, like I said I was going to.
What's up with that? Did I do that that much walking at Jazzfest? Surely it couldn't be my dancing (which mainly involves bobbing my head).
My first Talesblog post. This year I'm not on any panels or doing any seminars at Tales of the Cocktail, but I am a member of its press corps! I'll be writing about Tales events both here on Looka! as well as the new group blog, moderated by Paul Clarke of The Cocktail Chronicles, called Talesblog, or more properly, Blogging Tales of the Cocktail.
My first post went up earlier this week, in which I talk about "Rye Nation", the seminar on rye whiskey being led by Allan Katz, Director of Mixology and Spirits Education for Southern Wine and Spirits, and sponsored by my two favorite ryes: Sazerac and Rittenhouse. Can't wait for this one!
Last night's "Down Home" is now available for streaming for one week. Last night was the worst drive to Northridge I'd had in 10 years -- apocalyptic traffic, street closures, police and fire investigations on my route, ugh -- and I arrived in the radio station quite literally at 6:59:45. I was all ready to go and it would have been seamless, but, of course, something had to go wrong and we had, shall we say, a bumpy start. Fortunately that endless agony only lasted about 30-40 seconds in real time, and then da show got on da road.
I did a lot of recapping of my own Jazzfest experiences, playing music old and new from Shamarr Allen, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, The Zydepunks, Barbara Lynn, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, T Bone Burnett, Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience, Eddie Bo, Bobby Lounge, 96-year-old Lionel Ferbos, Egg Yolk Jubilee, Tim Laughlin, Michael Doucet, The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, Irma Thomas, Kevin Crawford, Colum Sands, Q, Flook, Pete Fountain, Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint and Bonerama.
Arrival in New Orleans, and priorities. We flew home on Wednesday, April 23, and did the usual things you need to do when you travel: collect baggage, pick up rental car, drive to the apartment where we're staying, drop off our stuff, put some decent clothes on, and then go get a drink. All the previous steps led to the latter, of course.
We had plenty of time before our 9:30 dinner reservation at Cuvée, and there's no place in the city I like to drink more than I like to drink at The Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide. Head bar chef Lu Brow is made of awesome, and we enjoy seeing our other favorite bartenders there. Beeline Downtown from Uptown, and even found a good parking place on Poydras, go figure.
I hadn't seen Lu since Christmas, and she fixed Wesly and I up with two perfect, and I mean perfect Sazeracs. Watching her make drinks is a joy; she mixes, tastes, balances, tastes again, until it's ready. Not many bartenders these days do that (and they all should). We talked about technique, and she seconds Jeff Morgenthaler's advice that one dash of Angostura helps round out the flavor, along with the four of Peychaud's. We didn't get far into our discussion and sampling of lemon vs. orange twists, and whether the latter works in a rye version at all or just better in a Cognac version, but we shall return to that another day.
Wes and I had two rounds of Sazeracs, and she regaled Nettie and Robin with Twentieth Century Cocktails (a bar that actually has this drink on the menu ... bliss, bliss and heaven). After an hour or so we excused ourselves, and told Lu that although we'd be back a week from Thursday to have dinner there, that night we were heading over to Cuvée. "Y'all are going over there now?" she asked. "Can you do me a favor?" Sure, anything. "Can you bring a drink to Bob for me?" That'd be Chef Bob Iacovone of Cuvée, who she suspected could probably do with a drink about then. "Hmm, let's see, what would he like about now? ..." (*mix*mix*muddle*muddle*shake*pour*) Voilà ... a refreshing Caipiroska in a go-cup. (Café Adelaide's new go-cups are really cool too, with the restaurant's logo featuring Aunt Adelaide on one side, and on the other, "The center of the cocktail universe." Heh.)
Lu looked us all in the eye, determining which of us was the least shady-looking and which of us was least likely to drink Bob's drink during the three-block walk to the restaurant, and I was deemed the most trustworthy. (Ah, that innocent-looking baby face of mine. Muwahahahahaaa.) I kept my promise, and we walked a couple of blocks down Poydras to Magazine, then over to the restaurant, where we passed the cocktail to the host, who then brought it to Chef Bob in his hot kitchen.
Only in New Orleans.
Restaurant Cuvée. It seems to have become a bit of a tradition over the last few years, having our first dinner upon arrival in New Orleans for Jazzfest be at Restaurant Cuvée, generally within a few hours of arrival, in fact. Why? Um, well .. because we like it. A lot. Like, this much.
I felt a little guilty, as we were arriving fairly late (9:30, in fact), but as I recall they serve until 10, my guilt was assuaged somewhat. There were still several tables filled when we arrived, which helped. The staff lavished us with attention as is their wont, and we got a glimpse of their delightfully frightening POS system, in which they (and most good restaurants) store reservation information and histories, as well as the preferences of their customers. "Hey, y'all were here almost exactly a year ago, right? And you two guys had ... Manhattans." Gulp. I have a dossier. That's okay, it's cool if it's a restaurant and not the FBI.
A round of Negronis started us off, and as we perused the always wow-inducing menu we all seemed to get the same idea -- hey, how about doing the chef's degustation? We'd always ordered off the regular menu here, and never got the prix-fixe tasting menu. Why not? (Well, because there was probably someone on the line cursing our asses out for ordering a degustation that late -- I would have -- and I did feel a bit guilty for that. Mea culpa.) And since we had had two cocktails at the Swizzle and one here, maybe I'd order one course of the matching wines and we'd all taste them from the one glass (cheap bastards, you might say, but we didn't want to get completely soused). Only problem was ... there were a couple of things on the regular menu we wanted too. Okay, so we each get our own degustation, but we order the two extra things and split 'em. See, how easy is that?!
Chef Bob came out and greeted us and, as a little thanks for our delivery I suspect, brought out a pretty spectactular amuse bouche:
This was Cuve´e's signature dish, Spiced Shrimp Napoleon Rémoulade, with Crisp Mirliton, Cayenne Beurre Blanc and Frisée, in an amuse bouche-sized version (well, bigger than an amuse, but smaller than a full appetizer portion -- my bouche was very amused). We'd had this dish several times, in its full version, as a starter, and it's an old favorite.
Now, for those two extra dishes ...
Wes spotted this one first, I think, as he is Mr. Duck. He loves duck so much, and eats it as often as he can, such that I wonder if he'll wake up one morning with a bill. ("Good morning!: *quack*) Not only that, this was the very first mention we'd seen of The Best Strawberries in This and All Other Universes ... Louisiana strawberries, particularly Ponchatoula strawberries. And the name of the dish ... Lacquered Duck Meat Pie with Rhubarb, Red Wine & Louisiana Strawberry Jam, and a Louisiana Strawberry Cream Soda. Oh ... my.
Oh, and in the background of this photo you may notice a dish of something that looks like risotto. That's because it is, one of the side dishes listed at the bottom of the menu, Truffled Parmigiano-Reggiano Risotto. "Oh, we've got to get one of those," said Wes. Who am I to argue?
Let's have a closer look at that pie.
This was great. The flavor combination of that shredded duck with the jam was heavnely, and the housemade strawberry cream soda (red drink!) made us laugh. The other day on "Top Chef" Nancy Silverton, a chef whom I adore and whom I admire greatly, pooh-poohed the trend of putting glasses of some kind of drink on a plate with a dish, but in this case ... sorry, Chef Nancy. This rocked.
Now, time for the commencement of the degustation. (I.e., gangway, food coming!)
First course: Foie Gras Mousse with Brandy-soaked Cherries and Toasted Brioche. Oh. My. Foie gras mousse as a rule is pretty intense; I had one at Spago years ago that nearly killed me (but it was fantastic, don't get me wrong). This one wasn't as heavy as the other, but rich and delicious and lovely with the brandy-soaked cherries that reminded me of the Manhattans I put them in (in fact, I kinda wished I had had a little taster Manhattan for this dish). I think I removed every molecule from that little dish.
Second course: Maine Lobster Consommé with Sweet Corn-Ricotta Ravioli. Clear as a bell (natch), great lobster flavor, and after the magnificent Cjalsons I had at Tratorria Tré Venezie, I think I may want all my ravioli to have sweet corn in it. This was a simipler, and beautiful little pillow of pasta. Yum.
Third course: "French Onion" Risotto with Sweet Spring Onions and Gruyère de Comté. This was a really fun dish. The flavor was like the best-ever French Onion Soup, but here with the added texture of risotto. Delicious, and a great twist on a classic dish, spinning something staid into something new.
Fourth course: Black Sea Bass wrapped in Parma Ham, with Crispy Parmesan Polenta and Olive-Peppadew Relish. You could wrap a shoe in prosciutto di Parma and I'd eat it (well, maybe), but this lovely piece of fish reminds me of one of my favorite ways to prepare certain kinds of fish at home -- wrap the sucker in Parma ham and into the oven it goes. I love the contrasts of texture here, the crisp ham on the light, flaky fish; the crisp polenta in a little creamy potato purée, and that nice spicy relish. Chef Bob loves peppadew peppers, and I love eating them here.
Fifth course: Grilled Lamb Tenderloin with RosemaryPotato Hash, Arugula Salad with Mint, Olive Oil and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. I love lamb, and was really looking forward to this one. It was slightly different from the version listed on the menu, though. Chef Bob came over to the table personally, bearing the plates and an apology -- the dish was supposed to be Parma Ham-wrapped lamb, with grilled ramps and fava bean purée, but an overzealous kitchen crew member had thrown away the rest of the fava bean pur´e, not realizing that there was one more degustation table in the house and thinking there was nobody left to eat it. (Whoops.)
This kind of stuff happens in kitchens, and is actually a great opportunity for a chef to think on his or her feet. Bob quickly rejiggered this and the dish before, wrapping the bass in prosciutto di Parma (which was fantastic), grilling the lamb (which was perfectly seasoned) to a gorgeous medium rare and doing a quick but tasty potato hash accompaniment, and described the salad as "salt and pepper, with the arugula acting as the pepper, playing against the cheese, which acts as the salt" to accompany the lamb.
It was still a terrific dish -- I still love meat and potatoes!
Sixth course, dessert! Triple-Stack Chocolate Moon Pie with Dreamsicle Ice Cream and Spun Sugar. We've had this one before, and we were glad to have it again; it's Cuvée's signature dessert. Moon Pies, mmmm. Very Southern. That, plus the Dreamsicle ice cream made me feel like a kid again (although I must admit none of the Moon Pies I had as a kid tasted this good).
At least we tried not to be that kind of pain in the ass late-seating customers, and apologized profusely for keeping them later than they might have ordinarily stayed, but we were out the door by midnight, which isn't too bad for such a late night town. Once again, Chef Bob (whose wife arrived while we were hanging out chatting outside to whisk him home in one of these, which was way cool), the guys on the line and the front of the house took great care of us, and made our first night back home another memorable one. Hie thee to Cuvée when you're in New Orleans for a whimsical and wonderful meal.[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Whoa! Burma Jones' exclamation seems apropos for the entirety of the last 13 days. Once again I'm bummed to leave New Orleans (and thinking about how I could move back here for at least half the year without winning the Lotto first ... no ideas on that front yet). With an enormous amount of visiting, eating, drinking, music-listening and Jazzfesting behind us, we're tired and fat, but happy. One odd symptom -- my feet are freakishly swollen. I suspected it's all that standing and walking combined with way too much salt in all the food we ate, or something like that. When I asked Peter and Dean, two of my oldest friends, both of whom are physicians, what might cause that, they immediately began to toss out ideas. "Syphilis," said Dean. "Pregnancy," said Peter. "Pellagra or beri beri, maybe?" "Unnatural acts with a sheep!" (They shouldn't give up their day jobs for standup.)
My own food and music porn won't start for a day or two, but if you haven't been following NOLA.com here's Keith Spera's wrapup of Jazzfest 2008 -- with attendance estimated at 400,000 it was the biggest post-Katrina fest so far. Keith was pretty spot-on in his observations, and I especially agree with him regarding the egregious classism of reserving the air-conditioned Grandstand seating area for the so-called "Big Chief" VIPs, when it used to be open to everybody. We should all write letters to Quint.
More Jazzfest recapping. Our friend Steve, who does this sort of thing for a living and is better at it than I am, has posted two articles about what we've all been up to. One is from the new online magazine Sonic Boomers, and is about the first weekend of Fest; the other is from the Los Angeles Times about about the night of craziness at the fabulous Ponderosa Stomp.
Okay, I'm gonna walk up to Plum Street and get a sno-ball now.
Onward. Upward. 9thWard. This month's blog tag line is shamelessly stolen from the folks at Dirty Coast, a local New Orleans business who make and sell "nice New Orleans shirts." I've got a ton of 'em, and one that they sell (made by their friends at Trumpet Group) features the same slogan. I must've gotten stopped a dozen times the day I was at Jazzfest -- "Where'd ya get dat shoit?!" -- and even more by people who just commented how much they liked it. You can get one too and show your support for the Lower Nine (and da Uppuh Nine too).
And in case you haven't listened yet, last week's "Down Home", featuring artists from the second weekend of Jazzfest, is up for your listening pleasure.
Be sure to listen to the new one day after tomorrow -- I'm bringing back a LOT of music from New Orleans.
April Looka! entries have been permanently archived.[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Alive! Just a quick check-in to say hi. (Hi!) So far we've dined at Cuvée, Elizabeth's, Brigtsen's, Dean & Becky's house, The Delachaise, Gene's Po-Boys and all day Friday through Sunday at Jazzfest. We've survived that so far, but tonight, the staff at Emeril's tried to kill us.
Death by overindulgence in fantastic food was, I think, a motive in a few murder mysteries, and if they had actually pulled it off tonight, we'd have died smiling, believe me.
So far I'll say this -- Emeril's has still got it, and how. An infusion of new blood hasn't hurt at all, and in fact has helped enormously. We'll have full food porn once we get back.
Mary also reminded me that I never ever got around to posting the account of our spectacular Fat Pack meal at Commander's Palace LAST year around this time, which shocked me, and then didn't, because not getting around to things is so typical of me. I shall do my best to include that in this year's wave of food porn as well. If I don't, hassle me.
Tomorrow, lunch at Lüke and dinner ... well, maybe a bowl of gumbo somewhere. We need to start pacing ourselves.
We haven't been hearing much music late at night, sadly. After these big meals with all the accompanying wines and spirits, we tend to go home and collapse afterward. However, Paul Sanchez put on a fantastic show at Carrollton Station last Friday, and allow me to begin raving about his new album Exit to Mystery Street now. You can catch one track from that and from the new John Boutté album on the currently available episode of "Down Home".
Okay, I gotta go to bed (it's 1:22am, and I'm tired). 'Night.[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, April 24, 2008
What a way to get started. Within three hours of landing at home we were at the Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide, where mixologist extraordinaire Lu Brow fixed us Sazeracs (with real absinthe) and Twentieth Century Cocktails. As busy as she was we did get to visit with her for a bit, and when we told her we were heading to Cuvée for dinner she fixed us a nice big Caipiroska in a go-cup to bring to Chef Bob (ah, only in New Orleans).
Cuvée, our first-night-back-home restaurant of choice for a few years now, was as fantastic as we had hoped. For the first time we did their degustation (Nettie: "We ordered the whole right side of the menu!"), plus two other courses from the regular menu we wanted to try, plus one other one Chef Bob sent out. It was all heavenly, and we'll have more detailed food porn when I have more time.
All I'll say so far is ... shrimp, mirlitons, duck, strawberries, cream, rhubarb, truffles, Parmigiano-Reggiano, riso, foie gras, cherries, lobster, corn, ricotta, French onion, sea bass, serrano ham, lamb, arugula, rosemary, potatoes, chocolate, dreamsicle ...
Tantalizing, ain't it?
This morning, breakfast/brunch at Elizabeth's!
Da cochon de lait lady. The Times-Picayune did a story today about Wanda Walker, one of our favorite people at Jazzfest, because she's the one who makes us this:
At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival ... Walker and her catering company, Love at First Bite, will slow-smoke a ton -- literally -- of pork butt over a hot barbecue pit. Then they will layer mounds of the warm shredded pork with cold cabbage and a homemade horseradish sauce on French bread, balancing the hot and the cold, "the yin and the yang," as Walker puts it. And customers will be lining up for their portions. [...]
The po-boy has won many fans in the seven years Walker has been selling it at the Fair Grounds. In March, Esquire magazine named it one of the 30 best sandwiches in the country. [...]
"Cochon de lait" is the Cajun term for a roast suckling pig and the party for serving it. Walker said that trying to get enough meat off the bulky suckling pig is very hard. Instead, she uses bone-in pork roasts because they have "that good flavor boneless butts don't have."
The meat is heavily seasoned, then given 12 hours of slow hickory smoking.
As for the influence, "I think it's what we call New Orleans cooking," Walker said. "We have our own flavor here....It's not vinegary. It's not cooked without seasoning.
After the obligatory and traditional Creole's Stuffed Bread, of course (hey, Miss Merlene!), the tough decision is, what to have first at Fest? Soft shell crab po-boy or cochon de lait po-boy? Hmm. I think the pig might win out.
No recent tweak, this. New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni learns that a rye Manhattan is not a modern "tweak," but the way it was made to begin with, and the way it really needs to be made all the time (as it beats the hell out of one made with Bourbon). Then he spreads the word. This is a good thing.
The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess. Keeping in spirit with the brunchy drinks he's posted recently, as well as the one we posted this week, Robert presents another lovely idea for a brunch libation.
Often confused with the Mimosa, the Bucks Fizz is an elegant drink suited to the simple brunch or extravagant celebration.
I'd call this an evolved Mimosa, really ... and with the addition of gin and cherry brandy I'm not sure I'd want plain ol' orange juice and bubbly again. Yummers.[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Cocktail of the day. Ooh, I did manage to get a post written last night after all. A perfectly appropriate one here too, although unfortunately I'm not going to get to breakfast on this drink quite yet. This one appeared in the April '08 issue of New Orleans magazine, created just for them by mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir in San Francisco. He puts a wonderful Caribbean spin on a venerable New Orleans breakfast classic, and I can't wait to quaff one of these.
A Milk Punch Named Desire
1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément VSOP.
1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb.
1/2 ounce Navan Vanilla Liqueur.
3-4 ounces whole milk or half-and-half.
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a few large ice cubes. Shake vigorously for at least half a minute, in order to build up a nice froth. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
I covet Simon's bar. Mixologist and spirits guru Simon Difford's got a new issue of his digital.diffordsguide online, which starts off with a review of a bunch of new spirits, and then proceeds to a look at Simon's new home bar, which is the most amazing home bar I've ever seen. For feck's sake ... I want one! (Sadly, we have no room.) Barring that ... Simon, can I come over?
The Making of Nirvana. No, not the band, but our favorite food ... bacon!
Well, not exactly your favorite food in this case, not its ideal form at least.
They say that two things you never want to watch being made are sausages and the law, and I wonder if this should be extended to bacon as well. That said, here's a fascinating video about the production of mass market pre-cooked bacon production -- how the stuff is actually made. Y'ever see that stuff? The kind you just crisp up in the microwave for 30 seconds, and voilà, bacon? I was intensely skeptical of this at first, but after trying some it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. I considered it feasible as "emergency bacon," but we tend to keep The Real Thing on hand at all times.
I found some of it a bit disquieting (liquid smoke?), preferring as I do more artisanally made bacons from folks like Benton's who actually smoke them, and some of the artisanal bacon makers you can order from via The Grateful Palate. This has made me curious about the non-instant mass market bacons, like Oscar Meyer (the best of the supermarket bacons). Do we really wanna see how it's made?
English! Dost thou speak it, whoreson cur? One of the most amazing posts I've ever read on MetaFilter, in which various people rewrite the marvelous dialogue of Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (plus a few others) in Shakesperean English, style and meter. (Ah, the joys of iambic pentameter and anapests.)Jules: Your pardon; did I break thy concentration?[ Link to today's entries ]
Continue! Ah, but now thy tongue is still.
Allow me then to offer a response.
Describe Marsellus Wallace to me, pray.
J: What country dost thou hail from?
J: Thou sayest thou dost hail from distant What?
I know but naught of thy fair country What.
What language speak they in the land of What?
J: English! Dost thou speak it, whoreson cur?
J: Then hearken to my words and answer them!
Describe to me Marsellus Wallace!
JULES presses his knife to BRETT's throat
J: Speak 'What' again! Thou cur, cry 'What' again!
I dare thee utter 'What' again but once!
I dare thee twice and spit upon thy name!
Now, paint for me a portraiture in words,
If thou hast any in thy head but 'What',
Of Marsellus Wallace!
B: He is dark...
J: Aye, and what more?
B: His head is shaven bald.
J: Hath he the semblance of a harlot?
JULES strikes and BRETT cries out.
J: Hath he the semblance of a harlot?!
J: Then why didst thou attempt to bed him thus?
B: I did not!
J: Aye, thou didst! O, aye, thou didst!
Thou sought to rape him like a chattel whore!
And sooth, Lord Wallace is displeased to bed
With aught but Lady Wallace, whom he wed.
Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog, providing links, comments and sometimes lots more. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Mary Herczog, Steve Hochman, Dave Schmerler, Nettie DeAugustine, Diana Schwam, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
chuq's links | the gumbo pages
creole and cajun recipe page | search this site
chuck taggart | email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com
This site ©1994-2007 by Chuck Taggart.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
This means that you may not copy my writing onto other web pages or anywhere else without my specific written permission. (Quotes of short passages, properly attributed, may be considered fair use.) If you do copy my work and pass it off as your own, it's called "stealing" and "plagiarism".
People who steal my stuff will be étoufféed and served to Dr. Lecter, with a nice Chianti. (I'm serious. Just don't do it. Thanks.)