Too often, visitors to the Big Easy miss out on many of the best places to dine in the Crescent City. I guess you could probably say this about most travel destinations; in the Crescent City, visitors tend to get “stuck” in the French Quarter or nearby Garden District and miss out on the neighborhood dining experience. Not that there is anything wrong with what is available in either of those two locales, it’s just that New Orleans has so much more to offer when you get out and about.
Not far from the Quarter, Liuzza’s has been operating and serving local favorites since 1947. In a city where some eateries have been open for way over a century, one that is only approaching 70 might not seem like such a big deal, but in most US cities other than New Orleans, a seventy year old restaurant is a big deal.
Liuzza’s menu is straightforward New Orleans, a combination of Creole and Cajun cuisines, with a little Italian mixed in. Luizza’s has a second location, “Liuzzas By the Track”, which is not far from Burgerdogboy daughter’s domicile, and near the fairgrounds/racetrack where the annual fete of JazzFest takes place (starts in two weeks!) The “Jazz” part of the name is kind of misleading, as every year during the two week extravaganza, you’ll also have the opportunity to hear the biggest stars in the history of rock, as well.
Anyway, the spawn and I hit Liuzza’s for a quick lunch, and as always, it was superb. She went with the soup of the day, which was Turtle, and excellent, and I opted for a fried shrimp po-boy, which was absolutely perfect at every level. We hastily decided to split an order of fries, and that was over ordering, as it turned out.
If you’re planning on hitting New Orleans, it’s worth a quick cab ride to either location to have some great grub, and dine with the locals, who can be pretty entertaining all on their own! Open Monday through Saturday from 11A – 7P.
I love coney island style hot dogs, which are not to be confused with chili dogs. Coney islands follow a basic formula of a natural casing wiener, adorned with meat sauce, chopped raw onions, and yellow mustard. There are variations of them around the midwest, usually at shops started by Greek families two or three generations ago. Some of the more famous include American Coney in Detroit, Skyline and Gold Star in Ohio, and of course, Deluxe Coney in my home town of Duluth.
On occasion, I make my own sauce at home, whipping up a batch large enough to consume immediately, and freeze the rest in sandwich bags to take out whenever I have the urge over the succeeding couple of months.
My recipe has been developed and fine tuned over many years, and is similar to the sauces listed about, but not identical. Each establishment has their own ‘secret ingredient’, I am sure.
Coney Island Style Hot Dogs
Ingredients for Sauce:
- 6 C water
- 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
- 4 t chili powder
- 1 t salt
- 1 t allspice
- 1 t garlic powder
- 1 t cinnamon
- 4 t cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 finely diced onions, one for broth, one for assembly later
- 2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
- High quality, natural casing hot dogs (I used Usinger’s)
- Yellow mustard
Bring the water to a boil, and add and stir in the tomato paste. When thoroughly mixed, add the dry spices and herbs. Now here’s the twist, which is different that I usually would have done in the past, but it really works for this. Crumble the beef RAW into the broth, and the onions, and simmer for three hours or until reduced to a thickness that you prefer. You may have to further crumble the beef while cooking with a wooden spoon or potato masher, but chances are the hot water will do the job for you. I usually end up cooking for considerably longer than three hours, reducing my concoction to a thick and meaty sauce.
Steam or griddle fry your dogs, place one on a bun slathered with yellow mustard. Ladle a quantity of chili to your personal preference and dust with diced onion.
Pictorial, step by step:
Coney Island Recipe
Continuing to cut a swath through small Midwestern frozen pizza manufacturers, I happened upon Luigi’s brand, manufactured in the small town of Belgium, WI. I’m not able to find much information about it online, nor do they have a website. I’m going to make a giant assumption here and opine this is yet another manufacturer that started out as a supplier to bars and restaurants and made the leap to retail. Stop the presses! Upon further investigation, with a ‘similar logo’ and geographical proximity, it may be these pies originally came from the loins of a nearby restaurant, Luigi’s of Sheboygan. Maybe.
It’s also one of those times when I reached for one product and ended up bringing home another; usually I go for “all meat”, but ended up grabbing a supreme, which is topped with sausage, pepperoni, onion, green and red peppers. The sausage bits are small and pre-cooked. The quantity of toppings is adequate; the pie falls into what I would determine to be a medium price range at about $7 per pie, which ways in at about 25 ounces, or 28 cents per ounce, or 87 cents for each of the eight slices (recommended servings). Further, each slice contains 20 % of your daily sodium content. Whoops!
Instructions call for 15 – 18 minutes at 400; they further state that since ‘oven temperatures may vary’, one should rely on appearance, rather than timing, and bake until the cheese bubbles and the crust is brown.
After 15 minutes, the cheese was not ‘bubbling’, so I went the distance with another 3 minutes. And then another two and a half minutes, I must need my oven temp calibrated!
The result is pictured below. It’s a thin and crispy ‘Upper Midwest style’ crust, but it broke in a couple of places coming out of the oven. No big deal.
Coming out of the oven, the aroma was similar to a pizzeria, which is a plus with me, but also noticeable was the scent of the green peppers, which I believe in the “a little goes a long way” with that topping. Not my favorite. Cheese and sauce were good, the cheese had a nice “pull” to it. Cracker crust lived up to its billing.
Sausage? Not so much. There are very few frozen pizzas that have raw sausage, I get that, but the pre-cooked crumbles, especially this small, have a taste that just doesn’t sit well with me. This sausage isn’t very seasoned, either, tasting more like pure ground pork. That’s ok, just not at the top of my list. Pepperoni did not char or cup, indicating a better quality pepp than many suppliers.
Would I buy it again? Sure. While it’s not at the top of my list for frozen pizzas, it is soooooooooooo much better than so many brands. I recommend you try it, though I suspect it might be a bit difficult to find outside of the Wisconsin and Northern Illinois areas.
Luigis Pizza Review
If you’re a fan of smashed burgers, with a nice char crust, whether your favorites come from Smashburger, Shake Shack, Fatburger, or other joints, here’s a fairly faithful reproduction. Now you can make ‘em at home!
Divide one pound of quality 85/15 into five balls, each will be slightly over 3 ounces.
Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle until it is ‘smokin’ hot.’
Salt and pepper the balls and drop onto the skillet for one minute.
After the minute, flip and smash, cooking for another minute.
Flip and cook for one more minute, and you’re done.
Method photo from Serious Eats site.
Smashed Burger Recipe
If there’s a “first family” or royalty of the restaurant biz in the US, one surely has to consider members of the Brennan family in New Orleans at the top of the list. Various family members own a dozen or more restaurants in the Crescent City and elsewhere, including the always highly touted Commander’s Palace.
A trained chef and third generation member of the family, Dickie Brennan has made his own mark on New Orleans dining, with four marks to his name, including the fine dining establishment called “Bourbon House“, at the corner of Bourbon and Iberville, at the western gateway to the French Quarter.
There are three elements of a good restaurant experience: food, service, and ambiance. Sometimes it only takes one of them to carry the night, two can make it a great event, and all three create an over the top outing.
At Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, I had the extreme pleasure of a trifecta: great food, pleasant atmosphere, and over the top service.
A large but tastefully decorated room, with white linen adorned tables and appropriate place settings with ample cutlery made for a nice set up for the environment.
Starters included the seafood gratin, a mixture of shrimp and crabmeat in a rich bechamel, with artichokes and leeks, served with toast points from local legendary bread baker Leidenheimers. The dish was chock-a-block packed with the seafood, and the vegetables added a nice zest to the creamy staple of French cuisine, a white sauce made with a light roux, milk, and seasonings.
I opted for a very traditional New Orleans entree, barbecued shrimp, which has nothing to do with either barbecued or grilled cooking, but is rather whole shrimp simmered in a butter and herb sauce. This is a dish offered at a number of different restaurants in the New Orleans area, including one that purportedly created it in 1913.
Having consumed this dish around the Crescent City, other places around the country, and made it at home, you should know, in my opinion, if you’re traveling to New Orleans, you can chose to eat it at the restaurant that claims it as its own (and relies on a decades old reputation), or you can have the best in the city, like I did, at Bourbon House. Bourbon House’s recipe is buttery, herby, and zesty. Perfect. Mop up the left over broth with more Leidenheimers.
The third element of the perfect restaurant evening – service – was over the top. Each table is taken care of by a team, and ours was seen to by a lead server named Kat ,who was charming, affable, knowledgeable about the menu offerings, local lore, and provided exactly the right amount of attention and timing to make the trifecta complete.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Bourbon House Reviews
About 40 miles north of New Orleans, Ponchatoula is a city of about 5,000 souls in Tangipahoa Parish. Established in the early 1800s as a logging camp, the town today is a regional commerce center for the Parish, and home to Louisiana’s second largest festival (after Mardi Gras), the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, which takes place in early April.
The town also describes itself as “the antique capital of America” and it does seem to have its fair share of shops of that ilk, and prices are very reasonable.
The local produce market sells a wide variety of products grown in the area, including the strawberries, along with preserves and various canned fruits and vegetables.
It’s worth a drive if you’re visiting the Crescent City, and enroute or on the way back, take in a meal at Middendorf’s, 10 miles south of Ponchatoula on I-55. Famous for crispy thin sliced strips of catfish, your lunch of dinner options include a wide variety of local seafood, steaks, and chicken. Start out with a cup of gumbo, turtle soup, or a dozen fresh oysters.
Louisiana seafood is fresher than nearly anything you’ve ever eaten, and enjoying it on the waterside dock overlooking a back bay of Lake Ponchatrain, at Middendorf’s makes it twice as tasty.
Mrs. Burgerdogboy is strictly a meat and potatoes man, and I’m often “accused’ of not being creative enough in prep of that kind of cuisine. For a long time, my “go to” side was a roasted potato dish, seasoned with rosemary infused olive oil, and dashed with sprigs of fresh rosemary. We had a rosemary bush beside the house which was out of control at about six feet tall, so I was pushed to find as many uses as possible for the fragrant herb.
Couple years ago, on one of my trips through the back roads of America, I stopped and talked to a potato farmer in Idaho, who had changed up his crop to fingerlings only a couple seasons ago. Fingerlings are small, narrow, stubby potatoes, which can be bred from any member of the stem tuber family. Popular fingerlings include the yellow skinned Russian and the orange skinned French. There’s a purple one, too.
Fingerlings were starting to have a wider availability in stores, due to a higher price point than ‘regular’ potatoes can achieve.
I asked the farmer if he enjoyed eating them, and he confessed he did, and said he had a secret family recipe, which he would pass on if I promised not to share it. He did, and oh well…..here it is.
- Two pounds fingerling or baby Yukons
- 2 T EVOO
- 1 T honey
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- Chives, or diced green stems of onions
Wash potatoes, pat dry. Combine EVOO, honey, mustard, chives in a bowl, toss potatoes until thoroughly coated. Drop into a roasting pan, and cook at 425 for 40 minutes or until spuds can be easily pierced by a pork. Put into serving bowl, salt and pepper to taste, garnish with more chives.
Your family or guests will love these and demand the recipe. But don’t pass it on, it’s a secret!
fingerling potato recipe
I am (was) a virgin when it comes to Whoppers and Big Macs. Just have never been inclined to try one. Closest I came to a Whopper previously was living in Paris, and my girlfriend went on a trot to find one for me as a treat. She was unsuccessful, I think it was a time issue, and came home with the ingredients to make me one. Outstanding effort on behalf of a beautiful vegetarian girlfriend.
The Whopper was invented by one of the Burger King founders in 1957 and originally sold for 37 cents. It has become one of the most iconic fast food offerings in the U.S. and has gone through several different recipes and configurations in its history. The current version is a single quarter pound flame-broiled hamburger patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and sliced onion. Keeping to its marketing slogan of “have it your way,” stores will add additional condiments upon request, and cheese, bacon and more meat patties at an additional price. There is also a “Whopper Jr” available.
The occasion for me trying one as stopping in this Arkansas town late at night, few other dining options, and a having a coupon that reduced the price to “free.” My second favorite “f word.”
It doesn’t suck. The flame grilling method (or smoke flavor) in the meat gives the sandwich a distinct beefy flavor other fast food burgers lack. At least among the big three – as I have never found McDonalds or Wendy beef patties to have much if any flavor, beyond those of the condiments. The Whopper can be a messy affair however, probably not suitable for eating while driving. Just ask my shirt.
But having bravely tackled my first Whopper and lived, perhaps a Big Mac is in my future? BTW, Burger King has added a burger called the “Big King”, which is their two patty, three bun version of the Big Mac.
The fries don’t suck either, I had the original ones, not the new reduced fat version. Fry wise, I continue to think Wendy’s natural cut sea salt fries are the best, as long as you get them right from the fryer and eat them immediately. But my favorite side remains Arby’s steak-house onion rings, the best rings ever offered by a fast food giant.
Burger King Whopper Review
Like all pork (and meat in general) products, they have gotten really spendy lately, pushing over $6 a pound. While I have some very specific favorite brands, determined by taste and texture, I am a sucker for sale priced ones, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Eckrich “Li’l Smokies” yesterday. They were half the price of the other brands.
Eckrich is part of John Morrell now, and according to the USDA plant number on the package, these babies were made at the Morrell plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).
How were they? OK, especially at the price. A pork and chicken product (I prefer all beef), they aren’t as flavorful as some brands I prefer, tasting more like cocktail franks, which should be an entirely different recipe than smokies. I’d buy them again tho, at the sale price.
Why the ‘char?’ I prefer sausages with natural casings, and you’ll never see little smokies in a casing. Too expensive, troublesome for mass production I imagine. For me, putting a little char on the baby weenies gives them a texture more again to a casing product. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Lil Smokies Review