Posts Tagged ‘#Nola’
(From our archives) I’ve intentionally shied away from the Café Degas, because it’s one of those places that many natives find absolutely thrilling. That’s usually my first clue to avoid it like the plague.
I frequently find that my view of “outstanding” varies widely from my native friends, but that’s largely due to the fact I’ve been exposed to restaurants outside of the area, and have a base of comparison. When my native buddies talk about a local restaurant as “outstanding,” I realize it is because they are comparing it to the Tiffin Inn.
Desperate to find something nice to say about the Café Degas, I come up empty. It is tied with my visit to the Café Adelaide a few weeks ago, for worst overall dining experience in New Orleans.
We could start with parking, but there is none. At that corner of Esplanade, with Whole Foods and a few other shops, parking is non-existent. The Café could well use a valet service, but service doesn’t seem part of their vocabulary.
I had made a reservation and arrived promptly on time. One enters the Café thru the bar, and walking into that space, four employees were busy talking about everything under the sun, but none asked if they could help me. I wandered into the dining room alone, where a single waiter was waiting on the one couple that had arrived before me. The waiter DID ask if he could help me, but it was more the kind of “are you lost” type of inquiry. I told him I had a reservation, and he told me to go back up front and see the hostess. She was nowhere to be found, so I returned to the dining room, and the waiter did show me to a table.
The place did fill up over the course of the next few hours, and “fill up” is an understatement, as they have crammed far too many tables into the small space, claiming an “authentic French bistro” ambiance. The owners and I must have visited different bistros during our journeys to France. Certainly the French buy more comfortable chairs, anyway, so that if space is at a premium, at least your personal space is enjoyable. Dega’s chairs are patio furniture.
The menu (“French with a Creole accent”) (geez, why does EVERYTHING have to have a “Creole accent?” – why can’t one get simple classical French cuisine in this town?) is short, with a few nightly specials.
As restaurants, like everyone else, struggle with increased energy and supply costs, they look to cut costs, and Café Degas has done it on two fronts – wait staff and ingredients.
In short, the service was lousy, the food worse.
The house salad with Dijon vinaigrette was bad enough (btw, add gorgonzola for a buck extra); I ordered “parmesan encrusted veal with caper lemon butter” for an entrée, and the first bite cried out “chicken fried steak!”
Some portions of the meat were inedible.
Service was nearly non-existent, again, probably due to cut backs, the room is noisy and crowded, and a peculiarity with the air conditioning causes the vents to drip water on diners. A woman at the table next to me, having had enough to the drips alternating hitting her plate or her shoulder, asked the waiter to do something about it. He asked her to stand up, whereupon he stood on her chair and wiped the grill above her with a towel.
Let’s not talk about what color the towel was after a single wipe.
Or the look in her eyes as she glanced at the chair that she was supposed to sit back down on.
Café Degas is a disaster. Another in a series.
The good thing about the evening? I got to leave at the end.
Cafe Degas Review
For as crazy as New Orleans can get, as long as I lived there, it was never a late night dining town. Having exhausted all your energy in the Quarter, and not in the mood for an overpriced slice of pizza, one was left with few choices for satisfying cuisine. I love diners, and my favorite at the time was called the Hummingbird, had been there forever, closed to make room for a project that never happened.
One around the clock outpost is the St. Charles Tavern, just up St. Charles Avenue from the Central Business District, not a terribly long cab ride from the Quarter.
The St. Charles serves cajun and creole specialties along with American diner food anytime of day or night you’re in the mood. I used to frequent it quite often on my late night prowls of the Big Easy.
Stopped in during the daylight this trip, and grabbed half a muffaletta, which was excellent. Guess they were closed for awhile, a little remodeling, maybe new owners. Looking at their website, I see they feature Charmaine Neville Wednesday nights (she’s a Neville sister) and if you’ve never seen here on your trips to the Crescent City, you should try and take in a show.
St. Charles Tavern Menu (pdf)
st charles tavern reviews
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.
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.
Happy Mardi Gras and let the good times roll!
New Orleans is a magical place for many different reasons, whether your fascination lies in the incredible culinary offerings, the historical buildings of the French Quarter or the stately manses of the Garden District. Jazz? Blues? Street performers? Cultural attractions? The mighty Mississippi? The “Crescent City” has something for everyone.
Summoning up a memory of walking in front of the nearly 300 year old St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, as the fog rolls in on a sultry night and the tops of the buildings, trees and lampposts disappear from site, one gets the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket of sensual pleasure.
You made your way to one of the ubiquitous coffee shops and enjoyed the only beverage that seemed appropriate for the location and weather, a cafe au lait on ice.
Months later, having returned from your vacation, you hear Billie Holiday on the radio crooning her version of “Do You Know What It’s Like to Miss New Orleans?” and suddenly you do. You attempt to recapture the feeling of that night by struggling to make a New Orleans style coffee at home. You fail miserably. Your glass contains a bitter brew, not the deep flavorful smooth inky coffee of New Orleans.
Fortunately, now there’s a solution, thanks to the late inventor Philip McCrory, who in 1989 perfected a large quantity method of duplicating the ‘trick’ so many New Orleans coffee shops use in very small batches to get that special taste – cool brewing. Brewing freshly-roasted batches of beans without heat for a smooth and non-acidic coffee, served hot or cold.
The result is CoolBrew, a coffee concentrate that lets you make the perfect cup or pot every time. Arriving in a unique bottle that inhibits air contact with the brew, simply squeeze an ounce of CoolBrew into your cup and top with cold or hot water. Add your favorite sweetener or dairy product if you like.
If you enjoy flavored coffees, CoolBrew has a something for you, as well, including Mocha, Vanilla, Hazelnut, and, to celebrate their 25th anniversary, new Chocolate Almond. And yes, there’s a Decaf too.
Invite me over and I’ll say “I bet I can tell you where you got dat coffee!”
Here’s a few idea starters for other ways to use CoolBrew.
(CoolBrew furnished samples for this taste test).
Cool Brew reviews
I love old-timey places that have survived and thrived over the years, and certainly Casamento’s fits that description. The consummate oyster restaurant in New Orleans, it’s been open continuously since 1919. Except when they close every June, July, and August, much to the dismay of locals, who eagerly await it’s reopening every year.
With a menu long on locavore supplies and tradition, Casamento’s dishes out raw oysters ($11 a dozen in 2013), and fried seafood plates and “loafs”, or poboys sandwiches, using their own special bread, and eschewing local tradition of French bread for poboys.
While the joint had been the setting and backdrop for numerous movies and television shows over the years, it’s the inner workings, the kitchen, that make this restaurant shine. Try the gumbo, some of the area’s best, as are the soft shelled crabs. That’s what Burgerdogdaughter had the other day when we dropped in.
I went with a catfish poboy, as it’s nearly impossible to be able to afford catfish in Portland, OR, where I reside. Down these parts, it’s dirt cheap and delicious.
We split a dozen raw oysters to start.
Casamento’s should be on every tourist’s list of ‘must stops’ in the Big Easy. Be prepared to wait for a table, and it’s cash only. Menu.
Twas the night before Mardi Gras, and all through the burb,
Denizens were in place to see the parades, even lining the curb;
The beads were hung from the floats with care,
In anticipation of the throngs that would soon be there;
The children were nestled all snug in the car,
Dreaming of doubloons tossed from afar;
Mamma in her toga, and me in my mask,
I was all tuckered out from my bead buying task.
When out in the street there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my perch to see what was the matter.
Away to the neutral ground I flew like flash,
Tripped over the Singleton sign and fell face down in the trash.
The sun was just rising on the St. Charles line
Giving the impression parade day would be fine.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the homeowner in his robe, his shouting so crass,
Saying, ”Hey, you buddy, get the hell off my grass!
The curmudgeonly old man, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he was a tourist, he acted like such a dick,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called me some name;
It was obvious to me, he didn’t understand the game.
I looked around before leaving, to see what was the matter
But no I hadn’t forgotten anything, Not even my ladder.
I gathered my things, and got ready to view
The amazing display that would be put on by the Krewe.
I was ready as ready, me, Mr. Jimmy Crackcorn
I even had fresh double A’s, to use in my bullhorn.
I had borrowed a kid from some neighbor named Jim
So I could point to the toddler and say, “Hey the throws are for him!”
We worked all night on the “We’re from…” signs
Many places listed, the more exotic the better
After seeing all those, will they guess we’re from Kenner?
Continuing my mental tick list of things, forgetting the old coot,
Yep, I had my umbrella and fishnets, to help catch the loot.
I was stuffed with King cake, the tasty treat screamed “eat us”
I’d eat much more, if the toy didn’t look like a fetus.
The middles are not plain, but now stuffed with a filling
Since McKensies went bankrupt, small bakers made a killing.
I heard the music, the parade was near
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
Floats so lovely, adorned in things so bold
And trimmed of course in green, purple, and gold.
“I can’t get enough!” I thought, so I recounted them all
“Now, Zulu! now, Rex! Now, Endymion and Proteus!
To the end of St. Charles! to the top of Canal!
Then fade away! fade away! fade away all!”
“Damn I’m thirsty,” I thought, as I took a swig of my booze
“I hope I don’t have to pee before I see all of the Krewes!”
And then he appeared, the King of the Day,
He laughed and he chortled, and got ready to play.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Reached in his sack, then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, skyward went the throws!
The beads, candy and toys all flew like rain,
Me and ma were so drunk, we was feelin’ no pain.
The kids were getting trampled, ordinarily a horror
But not today, cause someone nearby was surely a lawyer!
The crowds were noisy, their hearts were a thumpin’,
As they cried in unison, “Hey Mister, throw me sumpin!”
Copyright BurgerDogboy, 1/13/2002
(From our travel archives) Where do ex-spouses of great restaurants go? Why, down the street to start their own. Tommy Andrade (nee “Irene’s”) is happily serving the public a little bit of Italian and a little bit of Creole at “Tommy’s Cuisine,” 744 Tchoupitoulas.
I had noticed this place out of the corner of my eye several times, and had hoped to get there. Ended up sampling it last night, due more to circumstance than design, but will make it a point to be a repeat customer.
Convention traffic made it a full house on a Monday night, but no reservations meant only a 20-30 minute wait, my only real gripe about that is one must stand at the bar (there are no stools), and, as the place is crowded to begin with, you find yourself occasionally negotiating your space with the wait staff. If you make reservations, that might not be a problem.
I don’t know what quality there is that gives a restaurant the atmosphere that creates what I am about to give you my observation on: some places are crowded and you feel like you are dining with the people at the next table. Tommy’s didn’t have that feel at all. Despite a full house, and tables that are somewhat close together, one doesn’t come away with that “claustro” feeling that one gets from other places. I feel that way at Clancy’s, for example.
A gregarious host and an enthusiastic wait staff might make all the difference, as does the ambience of the room, which is dark and intimate, with crisp white linens and gleaming stem and flatware.
The menu is straight forward and leans towards brevity. There are a couple of daily specials in all categories, and these are printed on a separate menu. Last night there was one “off the menu” special as well. Do you think this means it was a last minute inspiration? Leftovers? Or simply a printing gaff? Doesn’t really matter, does it?
Starters are in the $7 range, and include baked oysters, mussels marinara, escargot, and a pan sautéed oyster and shrimp dish. We had last’s night “special” appetizer which was a lump crab concoction, perhaps rolled in bread crumbs and sautéed, ample enough to share, and very good.
Two salads (a Caesar and a mixed green) and ten entrees (chicken, veal, crab, shrimp, fish, duck and lamb) round out the menu. The nightly specials were a choice of trout preparations, and we tried two of those, and they were both very good.
I prefer a more natural approach to fish, and opted for meuniere, as opposed to the local standard of seafood adornment and cream sauce. While they were both excellent, I preferred mine. As good as the Bon Ton, which I consider the local authority on trout.
Although it is not detailed on the menu, each plate includes a starch and vegetable, our starches last night were Brabant potatoes (a larger chop than other places, and slightly less crispy, but good nonetheless), and a “twirled pile” of garlic mash, very light on the garlic. One of the vegetables was a very lightly sautéed, still crunchy asparagus, which was more than fine.
Bread is a sesame strewn crusty French, accompanied by unsalted soft butter.
Passed on dessert, of course, but were told by several people that they were very good. Reasonable prices, with entrees in the mid teens.
Tommy’s Cuisine serves dinner nightly from 5:30. 581-1103 for res.
(From our travel archives) Sal Impastato is from Sicily – having come to a America as a young man 50 years ago, and worked in restaurants in NOLA and TX, Sal finally got to open his own place several decades ago – on a quiet country road in Lacombe, Louisiana.
“People” say “Italian” in New Orleans and thoughts usually go to Mosca’s, on the West Bank. Lacombe is probably the same distance or a little bit longer, in the opposite direction, but light years apart in their food, preparation, and service.
It was my first visit to Sal and Judy’s, and it was memorable, to say the least, because I was a guest of the owners, and ate in the kitchen.
And I am here to tell ya – me, “mr. I seldom use superlatives,” Sal and Judy’s is incredible. We plowed through the menu with abandon, sampling numerous appetizers and entrees.
Starters included crab claws in a cream/lemon/wine sauce; baked oysters with Italian sausage; a crab stuffed giant “cannoli” sauce piece of pasta with creamy cheese sauce. Entrees ranged the gambit – lemon breaded veal, pasta with red gravy, seasoned rib eye steak, and at that point I either lost count or consciousness.
Waiting for my host earlier, I had sat at the bar for a few moments, and listened to the phone ring time after time, and here the reservationist say “No, sorry, sold out that night,” or “sorry, the only seating we have that night is at 5PM,” and similar remarks. You have to plan ahead to go to Sal & Judy’s, and it is a plan worth making.
They have a private room as well for your (smaller) events, and I believe, but am not sure, they do some catering.
“Best Italian in New Orleans.” No question.
Some Sal & Judy’s products are available in your local grocery, including a half dozen pasta sauces, a few salad dressings, and olive salad. All are the exact same product you will find at the restaurant.
Sal & Judy’s is at 27491 Highway 190 West, in Lacombe, LA. Reservations (985) 882-9443
(From our archives) I had some out of town visitors the other day – eschewing my dining suggestions, they wanted to go to the Pelican Club, on Exchange Place in the Quarter. The owner chefs, Richard Hughes, and Chin Ling, despite having heritages that come from tenures at other fine dining establishments, carry fusion a bit into the too distant future, trying to combine Creole, Asian, Italian, and Southwestern flavors into dishes that end up being a ‘combinaison malpropre’ or, to put it simply: a mess.
Once again you will find my opinion at odds with Tom Fitzmorris, and the Times-Picayune, but that’s fine with me, I tend to disagree with most everything both of them say – on dining or any other issue.
The restaurant is a study in contrasts – the front bar, where you enter, is dark and wooded, intimate; the dining rooms are brightly lit, marble-floored, with local art decorating the walls.
One of our party suggested in advance it seemed “Key-Westish,” but I didn’t get that at all. Perhaps the Creole flavor of some of the artwork inspired that thought.
If one had to choose a brief description, from the cuisines listed above, I’m guessing the restaurant would fall into the “Louisiana seafood-Asian” fusion category, though why chefs think they need to keep reinventing cuisines is beyond me. Some work, most don’t.
For example, there’s a clash of balance in the duck-shrimp spring roll appetizer; duck is a heavy flavor, and shrimp is easily influenced by the flavors that surround it. It’s served with sauces from a variety of Asian cultures, further complicating what should be subtle, into the overbearing category of tastes.
Escargot, with crawfish, mushroom duxelle, and tequila garlic butter sauce was another miss: a piece of snail nestled beside a crawfish tail, hidden under a broiled butter cap that tasted only of burned garlic, and nothing more.
In addition to some fairly standard fare (beef filet, jambalaya, a trio of duck entrees served in unison), Hughes and Chin depart from the ordinary at that point, and venture into the slightly bizarre. Soba noodles, a Japanese vegetarian (buckwheat) pasta usually served cold for breakfast or a snack, are offered stir-fried with vegetables, and optional shrimp. Seared yellowfin is offered over rice noodles with a teriyaki sauce. Pecan and coconut crusted tilapia (can a restaurant possibly serve a less expensive fish?) is plated with a mélange of Asian vegetables, fruit, new potatoes and a citrus beurre blanc. I challenge you to count up the number of cuisines attempted in that!
Italy and Louisiana collide in the Louisiana Cioppino Seafood and fish, served with linguine; with a tomato, basil and garlic sauce with Parmesan cheese.
Service was very good to excellent. My final “beef” about the place is the constant traffic to the washrooms, the entrances to which are located in the center of the main dining room, and, as the night grows on, because of the marble floors and relatively bare walls, the noise level can grow to deafening.
Still, being in Exchange Place, the restaurant has a bit of a “bistro” feel to it, and the lack of street traffic out of the front adds to that. I think it’d be great to eat at the bar (if they permit that) in the Spring and Fall, if the doors or windows are open.
But that’s probably a flashback to the time I lived in Paris, and one could lounge for hours as a sidewalk café.
Here, of course, that’s impossible. Our French-heritage city doesn’t allow sidewalk dining in the Quarter.