Eating the Quarter

Posted by Cameron on 07.10.09 9:08 AM

Beignets

Originally posted on the Tales Blog, where we’re working with many other cocktail bloggers to cover Tales of the Cocktail, 2009.

As someone who has been to my share of trade shows and conferences, I can tell you that the phrase “convention lunch” is enough to strike fear into the heart of the boldest traveler. But this is Tales of the Cocktail, which is about as un-convention-al as it gets. You can count on a good time in the seminars, tasting rooms, and party rooms, and then stroll out to some seriously good food.

Yesterday was the perfect example. We rolled out of bed, still on Pacific Time and fuzzy from the previous night’s festivities, cleaned up a bit, and then hit the bricks, aiming for the river, Cafe du Monde, and beignets with cafe au lait. The beignets come three to a plate, snuggled into a pile of powdered sugar that looks like nothing so much as the scene in the third act of Scarface where Tony Montana plunges his face into a mountain of cocaine. Instead of our noses, we plunged our beignets into the fluffy white mound while a singing, trumpet-playing entertainer performed “Down by The Riverside,” “Danny Boy,” and other feats of musical daring for the amusement of passers-by.

On our way back to the hotel, our eyeballs vibrating ever so slightly from the sugar buzz, we realized that our “lunch” break wouldn’t come until 2:30, and that we needed something a bit more substantial to carry us through the day. So, we stopped at Johnny’s Po-Boys and split an egg and bacon po’boy, washed down with a couple of Barq’s root beer sodas. Mother’s may get more attention, but for our money, Johnny’s is the spot. It’s a place of wonderful mysteries. How do they manage to get the rolls to be tender, chewy, and flaky all at the same time? How can they offer fried chicken with a homemade biscuit and white gravy for $2.50 a plate? And how am I going to manage to get here enough times this week, given all the other great places that we’ll be eating at?

Back at Tales, we soaked up some knowledge and tasted some spirits, but I have to admit that I was already looking forward to our next food foray. We roped in Marshall from Scofflaw’s Den and headed back into the Quarter, aiming for Central Grocery and its famous muffuletas.

I had my first Central Grocery muffuletta at last year’s Tales, and it was a madhouse. There was a line out the door, and every horizontal surface was staked out by someone eagerly devouring one of the sandwiches. Today, there were no crowds, which made the lunchtime experience much more civilized. But even if it were wall-to-wall people, it wouldn’t have mattered. If there’s anything wrong with loving a sandwich the size and shape of a hubcap, spread with oily, tangy olive salad and filled with all sorts of good things (salami, capicola, and provolone, just to name a few), I don’t want to be right.

The best part? The day wasn’t over, much less the week. We have got to get to Green Goddess, and there’s a slew of other stuff on the schedule. And no matter where we are I’m pretty sure that there’s another plate of beignets calling my name, down by the riverside.

ZappsAbitamuff2MuffulettaJohnny's

New Orleans, restaurants, Tales of the Cocktail
6 Comments »

 

Countdown to Tales

Posted by Anita on 05.11.09 7:18 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**It’s hard to believe that in just two months — July 8 through 12 — we’ll be back in New Orleans for this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. Cameron and I are both participating in this year’s TalesBlog group, and {gulp} I’m moderating a Saturday-morning seminar called “Secrets of Cocktail Photography“.

TalesBlog is already up and running with previews of many of the interesting sessions, tasting rooms, events, and meals that make Tales the must-do event for anyone who loves cocktails. The contributor list is pretty much a Who’s Who of top cocktail bloggers, so it’s worth adding to your feed-reader even if you’re not planning to attend.

In other Tales-related news, host venue Hotel Monteleone is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Carousel Bar, and they’re celebrating with a contest open to all bloggers. Here’s the gist: From 1949 until sometime in the late 60s or 70s there was a drink on the Carousel Bar’s menu called the Monteleone Cocktail. Unfortunately, the hotel folks have no idea what the exact recipe or ingredients were.

Here’s where you come in: Submit a recipe for your best idea for the new official Monteleone Cocktail. Entries will be judged by VIPs at the Carousel anniversary celebration on May 21. There are no requirements on types of liquor or style of drink, but all entries must be posted on your blog and emailed to the sponsors no later than May 18. (Send your drink recipe, along with your name, address, and phone number, to athornton@hotelmonteleone.com.)

The winning entry will become the new official Monteleone Cocktail, and the winner will receive four free nights at Hotel Monteleone during Tales of the Cocktail 2009.

bar culture, drinks, New Orleans, Tales of the Cocktail, travel
5 Comments »

 

Local, NOLA-style

Posted by Anita on 07.27.08 10:08 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**One of the hardest things about traveling is coming home to an empty fridge. Even back when we mostly shopped at the supermarket, this was one of the worst parts of any vacation. But now that we buy nearly all of our food at the farmers’ market, we’ve added a level of complexity to the mix.

Luckily, we have a really nice Tuesday lunchtime farmers market at the Ferry Plaza; it’s much smaller than the Saturday showplace, but there’s just enough diversity to re-stock for a few midweek meals, especially if you hit up the indoor shops for meat and bread. So, our 100% local meal this week for One Local Summer included a Range Brothers pork chop dusted in Eatwell rosemary salt, Eduardo’s fusilli with Spring Hill butter, and some Iacopi Farms romano beans… a simple slice of summer.

But honestly, the foods we really wanted to be eating were back in New Orleans, where we spent the last week. Perhaps the feast of the week was our Spirited Dinner at Restaurant August, where chef John Besh created a mostly local, entirely seasonal menu with cocktail pairings by Charlotte Voisey, brand ambassador for Hendricks Gin.

Here’s the menu (and links to photos):

  1. Chilled melon “soup and salad” local charentais, watermelon, and Vietnamese herbs
  2. Belle River crawfish agnolotti with Allen Benton’s bacon, Honey Island chanterelles, and sweet fava beans
  3. Seafood-stuffed breast of local veal Silver Queen corn and crab risotto
  4. Heirloom tomato tarte tatin with creme fraiche ice cream

It was all quite lovely (well, perhaps excepting the dessert, which was much more interesting in concept than in execution) and it was fun to experience locavore life in another part of the country, where asparagus and favas are still in season, and crayfish — not crab — are fresh and plentiful. But honestly, as delicious as the high-falutin’ food was, it wasn’t very novel. Other than those crayfish, there wasn’t much that couldn’t have made an appearance at a Bay Area restaurant of August’s caliber. No, the true treasures of New Orleans’ local food scene were neither organic or sustainable.

One Local Summer 2008The Crescent City’s culinary delights are the stuff of legend. Even if you’ve never been to New Orleans, you’ve probably read of the glories of beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. I’m sure you’ve heard of Central Grocery‘s legendary muffulettas, and the po-boys at places like Mother’s or Johnny’s. You might even have seen photos of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, the world’s most perfect frozen delights, the kind of snow cones they might serve in heaven.

But as lovely as these made-to-order treats are, even the local stuff that comes in bottles and boxes tastes better in N’awlins than whatever it is you have at home. And nobody ever tells you about them! So let me be the first to suggest — nay, insist — that when you visit New Orleans, don’t miss out on some local treasures that can actually make the trip home with you.

Closest to my heart are Zapp’s — a brand of locally made potato chips that taste like a cross between Kettle Chips and manna from heaven. (And I bet you can’t find flavors like Spicy Cajun Craw-Tater, Dill Gator-Tater, or Spicy Creole Tomato back home.) Wash your chips down with a bottle of Abita amber beer, or a Barq’s root beer in the painted-label bottle… both of which taste much better in Louisiana than they do when you happen to run across them elsewhere.

Later, when your appetite comes back, make sure to find a Hubig’s pie or two. The closest analog is those Hostess ‘fruit pies’ you might have eaten as a kid, but they’re so much better that the comparison is entirely inadequate. No high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil here, just beef fat and pure southern sugar. Their fruit fillings are made from actual fruit and sugar, not chemicals and essences. Tuck one in your carry-on bag for the flight home, and you’ll be the envy of your seat mates for sure.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

More New Orleans photos and notes on Flickr…

Spirited Dinner: At restaurant August, with cocktail pairings
Central Grocery
: Muffulettas, Abita amber, and Zapp’s chps
Cafe du Monde: Beignets and chicory coffee
Mother’s: Ferdi po-boy (ham and ‘debris’)
Johnny’s Po-Boys: Crawfish po’boys, Cajun sausage po’boys, Barq’s root beer
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz: The best snow-cone treats in the cutest little shack
More New Orleans photos: Emeril’s, Tales sessions, Quarter scenery, and more

locavore, New Orleans, One Local Summer, restaurants
6 Comments »

 

DOTW: Pimm’s Cup

Posted by Anita on 07.18.08 6:36 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Few of our friends can believe that two people as obsessed with food and drink as we are have never been to New Orleans before. But it’s true: This week is our inaugural — although I think it’s safe to say definitely not our last — adventure in the City that Care Forgot.

When Cameron mentioned at poker night last week that we were heading to New Orleans, our friend Dave’s eyes lit up. If there’s a San Franciscan who loves NOLA more than Dave, I sure don’t know him. He and his crew of roving debauchés have made their way to the Crescent City at least once a year for the past 11 years.

He sent us a 1,000-word-plus email, jammed with his favorite places and treats, devoting an entire paragraph (after 10 others on more-obscure offerings) just to the touristy French Quarter food & drink experiences that are actually worth the trouble:

“Get a cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde! Eat a muffaletta from Central Grocery on Decatur Street! Shoot oysters at Acme Oyster House! Get late-night eats and abuse from flaming waiters at Clover Grill! And drink a Pimm’s cup at Napoleon House bar!”

So, never one to pass up good advice, we hopped over to Napoleon House for lunch yesterday. We sat ourselves down amid glorious decrepitude and a century’s worth of graffiti, and ordered up a round of Pimm’s, a half a muffaletta, and a roast-beef po’boy. Ancient ceiling fans rotated overhead as bow-tied waiters shuttled between table, bar, and patio. Mid-meal, our Seattle cadre wandered in from the sidewalk swelter, followed closely by a friend from the other side of the continent. No fools, these drinkers: It was Pimm’s for everyone; tall, cool, and fast.

The Pimm’s Cup is our entry for this month’s Mixology Monday — aptly honoring the fine city of New Orleans, and even more aptly hosted by MxMo’s founder, Paul of Cocktail Chronicles. Now, frankly, I’m not sure how this quintessential English picnic drink became such a New Orleans standard. But if there were a Jeopardy! category called “Drinks of the Big Easy”, it’d be right there in the middle of the board, below the Hurricane, the Ramos Fizz, and the Sazerac, but above the Vieux Carre, the Obituary, and the La Louisiane. No matter the reason for its iconic status, it’s certainly a long, cool refresher that makes a potent antidote to the sticky New Orleans weather, and it’s known as a respectable option for daytime drinking… a pastime in which the Crescent City excels.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Pimm’s Cup
- Napoleon House, New Orleans
Food & Wine Cocktails 2008

1-1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
2-1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1-1/2 oz chilled lemon soda (preferably French-style ‘lemonade’, but 7up will do)
cucumber wheel, for garnish

Mixology Monday badgeAdd the Pimm’s, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake well, straining into an ice-filled colling glass. Stir in the soda, and garnish with the cucumber wheel.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, Mixology Monday, New Orleans, recipes, Tales of the Cocktail
19 Comments »

 

First visit, first Tales

Posted by Cameron on 07.17.08 3:29 PM

Married…with dinner is in New Orleans this week for Tales of the Cocktail. This entry is crossposted from Blogging Tales of the Cocktail, where we’re honored to be among the contributors.

Coherent thought is simply too much to ask for after a night of boozing with trained professionals in one of the world’s finest party towns. Even a bag of Zapp’s Cajun Dill Gator-Tators doesn’t seem to be helping to organize my fractured, kaleidoscopic impressions of our first night in Crescent City. And so, expect none from this particular NOLA/Tales virgin.

Palace CafeAfter we dropped our bags and grabbed our press credentials on Wednesday night, we headed off to the Palace Cafe. A pair of Beefeaters in full costume greeted us, followed by a bright-eyed nymphette wearing a Union Jack halter and not much else. We slipped into the main party area, and fought through teeming crowds to the bar to grab drinks. Properly fortified, we turned to survey the scene and realized that we had jumped a line 25 people long. Encouraged at getting the week started on the right foot, we pressed on.

The next couple of hours flashed by in a whirl of gin and noise as we put faces to the names of electronic friends—many of them posting here.

Packed in at Arnaud'sEventually we were ready for new scenery so we set sail for Arnaud’s, the second destination of the evening. If the Palace was busy, Arnaud’s was packed. We squeezed in like toothpaste going back into the tube and finally found a slightly-less-insane corner toward the rear. Some friends were already here and as more arrived, I began to feel like I hadn’t really gone anywhere. I had joined a roving celebration that flowed from event to event, from place to place, as if the Quarter wasn’t made of separate buildings and bars, but rooms in a single grand mansion.

Jane and Camper trade secretsSome started the evening at the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. We ended there, twirling around the bartenders and mirrored center column as day one turned into day two.

bar culture, drinks, New Orleans, other blogs, Tales of the Cocktail, travel
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