I’m baaaaack! Just in time for the thick of summer when I usually begin winding down due to lazy, hot days. Days when I would much rather open a bottle of rosé and plop an ice cube into the glass while kicking my feet up […]
Hot days, hot beignets, live jazz, street performers, hurricane drinks, and excellent gulf seafood are among things this fine town of New Orleans is known for. They really know how to have a good time and eat well and I admire that. New Orleans has been on my list of places to visit for quite a long time so when we had to opportunity to meet up with here with friends, I knew my chance had come. I booked us some plane tickets and didn’t look back. Here’s a super condensed glimpse of what we got up to.
Bourbon Street Madness + French Quarter
We arrived late in the day and were absolutely famished from all of the travel. Our first stop was a bee-line for Napoleon House to quench our thirst with their classic Pimm’s Cup, a side of red beans and some po’boys. I definitely recommend Napoleon House for their refreshing Pimm’s Cup. The inside alone is worth a peek. This is the kind of place I dream of… authentic, historic, dark, and if those walls could talk, what a feast for the ears it would be.
But before I get ahead of myself, lets get to first things first. No matter what, if this is your first trip to New Orleans you must witness the madness that is Bourbon Street at night, in all of its glory. I’m not saying you need to spend a lot of time here, even a quick stroll through the streets will give you your fill. Just do it. Oh, and if you really want to get in on the festivities, get yourself a grenade or a fishbowl if you’re fealing adventurous. Let the good times roll…
All that walking around Bourbon Street will work up a fierce appetite. Duck into one of the many eateries for a quick snack. We chose to try Acme Oyster House for their fresh local oysters, gumbo, and my personal favorite, the fried crawfish. I could not get enough of those suckers which were not only finger licking good, they were slap yo mama good. For real.
It’s amazing in our tired state we were able to continue on, but somehow we managed to keep going. We happened upon Pat O’Briens Pub and were immedately smitten with their courtyard and instantly taken by the piano bar in the other room. We proceeded to get ourselves a table, hurricanes, and enjoyed the raucous sing alongs and even put in song requests. All in all, a very good time.
I think it was about this point when we decided to call it a night since we’d been on the go since before 5AM west coast time and were in full zombie mode by now. On the way back to the hotel, we searched for some good fried chicken and finally hit the gold mine… in a convenience store! Yes, you read right. A convenience store. Brothers Fried Chicken was freshly fried and all of the goodness we hoped for. We took it to go and feasted back at the hotel with greasy fingers, napkin bibs and all. The works.
The next morning, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise. Hot beignet s from Cafe du Monde! Yesssss!!!! Our firend woke up early and walked down to CdM and got some beignets to go and man, were they good. They were every bit as delicious as I had imagined. In fact, I enjoyed them so much, we went back a few more times. Self-control was long gone by now. K ate one and I finished the rest. Even licked my sticky fingers clean, no shame.
From French Quarter, hop on the St. Charles street car and take a short ride up to the Garden District.
One would be remiss to visit New Orleans without making time to stroll the Garden District. Architecture fans will definietly enjoy seeing the opulent homes and ornate gardens albeit from a distance and on the opposite side of the gates. But no matter, it is time well spent on a nice day. Put on your walking shoes, get yourself some coffee, and bring the camera.
If you need a rest, a good place to stop by is Mojo Coffee House in lower garden district where you can get your coffee, latte, teas, or a pastry snack. Since we were there in September and it was sticky hot, I opted for an iced tea and we sat for a spell snacking on coffee cake and planning the next move.
No trip for me would be complete without a stop to the cemetary. To be honest, there were too many I wanted to see while visiting, but not sure if K had the fortitide to be dragged through all of them. Since we were in the Garden District, we decided to go to Lafayette Cemetary No. 1 early in the morning to takle advantage of the good natural lighting and avoid crowds. This turned out to be a successful plan as we hardly had any company and were able to leisurely take it all in.
Side note: Most cemetary entrances require a tour and few let in unguided guests. Lafayette is one of the few that do not require a tour.
After our cemetary stroll, we were good and hungry so we stopped by District Doughnuts for what else, doughnuts and coffee. Oh, and I should mention this was our second visit in a few days where we sampled even more flavors and K got a slider. My favorite doughnut was the pistachio brown butter. So good that I still think of it and wish I could transport myself back just to have another (or three) of these.
A good place to go if you’re with a group of people is the St. Roch Market in Fauborg. It is a food and drink hall that has somthing for everyone. Stocked with local vendors selling coffee, regional specialties, wines, dry goods, and fresh prepared foods it is a one-stop-shop for pleasing everyone in your party.
Further afield, there are plantation houses all along both sides of the Mississippi River. It is a beautiful drive and a nice way to spend a quieter day out of the city. We chose to tour the Whitney Plantation located about an hour outside of New Orleans near Wallace in St. John the Baptist Parish. An antebellum estate and sugarcane plantation, the entire tour is centered around slavery and details the history of what life was like as a slave on the plantation, from birth to death.
Side Note: If you go when the weather is hot, make sure to bring plenty of water and perhaps an umbrella to shield you from the sun because the majority of the tour is outdoors.
Back in Town
One of the many things I had on my “must do” list was to try all the fried shrimp po’boys I could get my hands on. I love me some shrimp and if it’s fried, all the better. Let the glutton bowl commence. Hands down, our absolute favorite was at Parkway Bakery. The breading on the shrimp was mouth watering delicious and the french bread with its delicate crisp crust making way to a soft and tender inside was just too good. And, with a glass of local Abita beer and bag of Zapps, I throw in the towel. I found my spot.
Our final night in New Orleans was spent at Commanders Palace for a meal extravangaza. I had no idea how large this restaurant was and how many dining rooms they have. We passed several dining rooms, went upstairs, and menadered thought another before arriving at our table in the garden room. While I can’t remember everything we all ordered, some of the highlights were: turtle soup, chicken and sausage gumbo, gulf fish, and veal chop. In between that, there were copious amounts of cocktails, wines, and desserts. A fabulous night to end this leg of the trip, indeed.
I have to say, although New Orleans is a touristy town, we did not have a bad meal for all the days and nights we spent in this city. It took some obsessive searching but was well worth sifting out the gems that made for a great time. Here are a few other noteworthy places we tried but are not shown here:
Bacchanal in the Bywater district for live jazz, relaxed backyard patio sitting and casual dining. Grab a bottle of wine from their shop and a cheese plate and relax under the twinkling lights while listening to live music.
Toups Meatery in Midcity for a carnivorous meal that will leave you absolutely stuffed. Highlights of our meal included chicken liver pate, gulf shrimp, and lamb’s neck.
Buffa’s Bar and Restaurant in Faubourg Marigny for a super casual drinks, food, and live music. We also loved their red beans and rice.
Courtyard Brewery great spot for local beer (IPA and Saison) and food trucks.
Crescent City Farmer’s Market for prepared foods and fresh produce.
Frenchmen Street for live jazz music. Pop in and out of bars and listen to live jazz without the raucous Bourbon Street crowds.
Hello! It’s been a second since I’ve spent some time here and I’m glad to be back. We’ve had a busy fall with some travel and excitement around these parts so not much cooking has been done. I have some travel posts upcoming up from the South […]
Cheese is delicious food. Usually, if you’ve got a good quality piece of cheese, it needs nothing else, definietly no embelishments. Sometimes, a nice loaf of crusty baguette and maybe some grapes are really good with cheese too. This time, I decided to go for […]
Every trip to Mexico City is a fantastic experience for one reason or another. This last time was especially memorable for me beacuse I learned a new way to prepare filled masa and was introduced to quelites- leafy greens, usually amaranth, but can be a number of dark colored tender greens that are slightly bitter. Our trip to Mercado 100 and learning about tlacoyos can be seen here. Tlacoyos are oval shaped filled masa treats that are toasted or can even be fried.
Over the years and through our travels, I learned the hard way that if I want to have any chance of accurately replicating a dish we had abroad, I need to get on it as soon as we return home. Otherwise, all is lost. Luckily, I took notes while on vacation and got to work in the kitchen soon after while the memory was still fresh and I’m so glad I did because this is a wonderful vegetarian dish that is delicious and everything but the filled masa can be made ahead. Let’s get to work.
Quelites and tomatillos.
Prepared, fresh Masa
Quelites, one large bunch
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
½ onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Nopales- 2 cactus lobes
Refried black beans
In a medium size saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic, lower heat to very low, stir and cover. Let cook on low heat until the onions become translucent, about 8- 10 minutes. Remove the lid, increase heat to medium high and add the quelites, stirring occasionally just until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the nopales:
Wash and dry the cactus lobes. With a pairing knife, cut off the prickly needles in one swift motion against the growth. After cleaning the cactus, slice into 2” long x ½” wide strips. Place into a colander and rinse with cold water. Let drain. Place a grill pan on the grill and cook cactus until they soften, making sure to turn and move them around. This process not only cooks the cactus but also dries them out enough to significantly decrease the amount of viscosity. This can also be done indoors on a comal or in a dry skillet. When they are a bit charred and soften, remove from heat and let cool down.
Make the Tlacoyos:
Size does not matter here. These can be large or smaller, whatever you desire.
Pinch off a ball of masa and roll between palms to form a thick tube shape. Place onto a piece of plastic (a produce bag from the grocery store is ideal), or wax paper works in a pinch) and cover with a second piece of plastic. Using a rolling pin, roll the masa lengthwise, into an oval shape with tapered ends. Place on a parchment lined sheetpan. Repeat the process 3 more times for a total of 4. Try to make them roughly the same size so that they fit together easily when sandwiched. These will be the bottoms. For the tops, repeat the rolling process 4 more times and set aside. Do not stack.
By now, you should have 4 bottoms on the sheetpan. Spread the refried beans in a thin layer over each bottom piece leaving a ½” border around the edges. Top with another piece of rolled masa and gently place directly over, pressing very lightly over the surface to get rid of excess air pockets. Pinch the border together to seal. Repeat until you have completed all 4.
On a heated grill, comal, or dry saute pan, place the filled tlacoyos and cook until the masa turns opaque, making sure to flip them over half way through. Depending on how thick your masa is, the cooking process could take between 5-8 minutes. Generally, when the masa begins to puff up, it is ready to be flipped over and cooked on the other side.
Layer a scoop of quelites over the tlacoyo, and spread out in a thin layer. Top with slices of nopales, tomatillo salsa, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese.
Since we’re in the thick of summer weather, I bet not many folks are willing to turn on their oven these days. That’s perfectly acceptable and nobody understands not wanting to heat up the house better than me. However, I am willing to toss dessert […]
These hot and humid summer days do not call for turning on the oven. Instead, let’s keep it simple and cool down with miniature banana split bites, adult style. What makes these special is the whiskey caramel and homemade magic shell. Colorful sprinkles make it […]
Summer fruit is by far my favorite. Our peach trees produce the sweetest, juiciest fruit that I eagerly await each year. And, I greedily hog the first ones of the season for myself. We have a system here that works out very well for me. K prunes and tends to the trees, watering and patiently taking care of them throughout the season. I am nowhere to be seen during this time. As soon as the fruit comes in and becomes ready to pick, I swoop in and select the best ones.
This year we were on track to get the largest yield yet. Sadly, that did not happen since we had a reverse spring and the weather was all out of whack. Many of the flowers fell off and the few that hung on to turn into fruit turned out small and many cracked since we got a deluge of rain over two days right before picking time. I did not have high hopes for these peaches. Thankfully, I was proved wrong and despite their smaller size and not looking as pretty as in previous years, they were just as sweet and delicious.
We love scones with our morning coffee and a warm batch first thing in the morning is a treat. The addition of fresh peaches makes them even more rich and creamy. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: 8 scones
1 ½ cups fresh peaches, diced
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen whole + 2 tbsp melted butter
½ cup sour cream
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sugar+ 1 tbsp for sprinkling
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
¼ teaqspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon table salt
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Grate 8 tbsp of butter on large holes of box grater. Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tbsp of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Place diced peaches in freezer until needed.
Whisk together sour cream and milk in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar salt, baking soda, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metalspatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle peaches evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 min. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 min before serving.
To Make Ahead: After placing the scones on the baking sheet, either refrigerate them overnight or freeze. When ready to bake, for refrigerated scones, heat oven to 425 degrees and follow directions in step 6. For frozen scones, heat oven to 375 degrees, follow directions in step 6, and extend cooking time to 25 to 30 minutes