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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

New Orleans – Liuzzas Review

Luizzas Review

Liuzzas Original Location

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.

Luizza's Review

Fried shrimp poboy

Liuzza's by the Track on Urbanspoon
Liuzzas Review

New Orleans, LA – Bourbon House Reviews

Bourbon HouseIf 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.

 

Bourbon House

Barbecued Shrimp

 

Bourbon House

Main Room

 

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

Bourbon House on Urbanspoon

Bourbon House Reviews

Ponchatoula, LA – And Middendorfs Restaurant

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.

Menu

midd1

2009 dining guide
Middendorfs Restaurant

Middendorf's Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Recipe – Sweet and Tangy Fingerling Potatoes

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.

(8 servings)

  • Two pounds fingerling or baby Yukons
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • Chives, or diced green stems of onions
  • Salt
  • Pepper

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

 

fingerling potato recipe

Burger King Whopper Review

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

 

 Burger King Whopper Review

 
Burger King on Urbanspoon

 

Burger King Whopper Review

Chicago Pizza Benefit Returns

The 30th annual “Pizza Blast” to raise money for the Quentin Road Christian School, Lake  Zurich, IL, is scheduled this year for April 11 -12th, 4p – 8p.  Children are $3, adults $5.  All you can eat, soft drinks included.  Good cause, be there!

pizza blast

New Orleans, LA – Morning Call Restaurant Review

Morning Call New OrleansThe “official state donut” of the State of Louisiana, the beignet (ben-yaa) has become synonymous with the stereotypical tourist stop in New Orleans at a joint in the French Quarter called “Cafe du Monde.”  The pastries, developed by French bakers, use a type of dough that rises due to its own steam, rather than from yeast.  This type of baking is called “choux” pastries.

French settlers brought the tradition during their immigration to Eastern Canada, and their later forced migration to Louisiana.

The fried delicacies are generally sold in an order of three, accompanied by a shaker of powdered sugar and a steaming cup of cafe au lait or other local beverage.

While most visitors experience the pastry at the aforementioned stop, the sweet delights are widely available.  An alternate choice is an old-timey stand in Metarie, ‘Morning Call”, which is open 24/7 and is the local gathering place for die-hard denizens, particularly judges and lawyers.

Morning Call now has a location in City Park, easily accessible to tourists via the Carrolton street car which you can catch on Canal. City Park is one of the nation’s most impressive green spaces, and is home to a number of diversions including the New Orleans Museum of Art.

At  the “casino”, which isn’t one, you’ll find Morning Call, which you can enjoy your beignets and a few other local specialties in the splendor of the park.Morning Call New Orleans

 

Morning call restaurant review

Morning Call on Urbanspoon

New Orleans, LA – Brothers Food Marts

Fry Deli“Fry delis” – are a distinctly southern thing, a serving counter of fried on location foods like chicken, catfish, sausage, biscuits and potato wedges, found at gas stations and other outlets below the Mason Dixon line. I explored a few on a previous sojourn when I was comparing chicken fingers and strips in LA, MS, GA, and AL last year.

This trip was no exception, as I grabbed pieces of fish or chicken to nosh on at various locations on this expedition, including some from “Chester Fried“, and ‘Krispy Krunchy“, two inexpensive (to own) franchises stuck into corners of gas station along the way.

Brother’s Food Marts is a local chain New Orleans of mini-marts (New Orleanians are fiercely loyal to local businesses, some chains have never successfully penetrated the market – like 7-Eleven or Starbucks).  You’ll find Brooks scattered around the metro, sometimes as stand alone locations, sometimes at gas stations.  There’s one in the CBD (Central Business District) a few steps from the both the French Quarter and my hotel base this trip.  This one is open 24 hours and their fry deli is amply stocked with fish, chicken, and fries, as a “meal combo” or to be purchased by the piece.

Nothing like being able to get a crispy hunk o’ catfish at 3 AM, I say.  Which I did.  Later on, down the highway, I hit a Chester’s for some strips, which were lightly breaded and H-U-G-E compared to other chicken places.  Tasty.   Course if you want something a little lighter, you can always opt for a cup of boiled peanuts, regular or Cajun seasoned!

Fry Deli

Fry Deli Catfish

Fry Deli Chicken Chesters

Chester’s Chicken Strips

Boiled Peanuts

Brothers Food Marts

Brother's Food Mart on Urbanspoon

Shrimp Boats A Comin’…… Shrimp or Crawfish Boil Recipe

Crawfish boil recipeAll the along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to the Florida border, you’ll find enterprising families who have made their living shrimpin’ for generations.  Some small boats with a single operator, some large fleets which have become good sized corporations.  If you’re interested, try and catch reruns of the reality show that follows some operators out of Alabama.

While many of the families have been in the biz for decades, Vietnamese immigrants have also taken to the business, and you’ll find a lot of them operating on the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.

I headed down to Highway 23 out of New Orleans, toward’s “land’s end” and the port of Venice, stopping at a small processing factory where you could buy shrimp off the boat, at extremely reasonable prices (nearly a 10th of what one would pay in the Upper Midwest, and about 40% less than in the stores in New Orleans).

Picked up ten pounds, some to share with BurgerDogDaughter for a shrimp boil (pronounced “berl’ down thataway) and some to tote back.

A shrimp or crawfish boil is a no muss, no fuss easy dinner to share with a large group.

Get a giant pot of water set to aboilin’, and add your favorite brand of boil seasoning. (liquid or powder).

  • Drop in a mess o baby potatoes.
  • After 30 minutes, add Andouille or smoked sausage pieces.  Ten minutes later, add corn cobbettes, and my daughter tossed in mushrooms as well.  A few minutes prior to serving, turn off the water, and toss in the shrimp (or crab or crawfish or all), and it’ll be ready in a jiff.
  • Traditional serving method would be to drain the water and pour the contents out on newspapers spread over a picnic table.
  • Grab, peel, and eat.  Fantastic.

If you’re in the mood for a shrimp adventure when in the area, you can go out for a half day trip out of Gulfport or Biloxi, learn how the biz works, and keep your catch! Example.

BUY AMERICAN SEAFOOD!  Support our “ocean’s farmers.”

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Crawfish Boil Recipe

Crawfish boil recipe

Springfield, IL – Charlie Parkers Diner Review

Charlie Parkers HorseshoeThree things Springfield, Illinois is known for, not in order of any particular importance: possibly the birthplace of the corn dog; home of the locally famous horseshoe sandwich; and some dead president with a big hat.

My reason for stopping was to grab a breakfast horseshoe, Texas toast on a plate, with your choice of breakfast meat, eggs, gravy or cheese sauce or both, and topped with taters.  Lunch versions add different protein choices, like a burger, fish, or fried chicken, with an option of swapping out tots for hash browns or American fries.

Housed in a vintage WW2 quonset hut, Charlie Parker’s is one of several choices you have for popping your horseshoe cherry, and a choice I’m glad I made.  Once again, better than my expectations for a “local legend”, my only disappointment was not with the food service of ambiance, but rather my own lack of capacity, wishing I could try more than one version at a setting.

The regular ‘shoe” comes with two pieces of toast and double meat servings;  a lesser size, for us mere mortals, is called a “pony shoe” and is more of a single serving.

May well be the best breakfast potatoes I have had anywhere, bar none.  Service was cheery and helpful, despite a jammed room and long wait.

Charlie Parker’s may well be a must stop for every visitor to the dead president city or traversing America’s most famous highway, Route 66. Menu.

 

Charlie Parkers Horseshoe

Breakfast Shoe

Charlie Parkers Diner Review

Charlie Parker's Diner on Urbanspoon

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