Boxing Day at Antoine’s was a fun lunch experience.
Boxing Day at Restaurant Antoine
When LT Firstborn comes home, he requests we go out to Antoine’s. We celebrated his eighteenth birthday there. That meal stuck with him. Mrs. YatPundit and I are OK with that. Antoine’s was my father-in-law’s go-to place to wine and dine clients (he was a partner in a national Public Accounting firm). So, Mr. Branley asks, we deliver.
This year, we dined at Antoine’s for lunch. The theory was, we’ll order off the “$20.18 Lunch Menu.” Well, give us credit for good intentions. Nobody ordered the “twenty-five-cent cocktail,” but my Sidecar was good. So was the wife’s Poinsettia. The drinks refreshed us as we perused the menu.
LT Firstborn ordered off the Reveillon menu. He chose Crawfish Cardinal. The dish is crawfish tails in a white-wine-tomato sauce. Tasty. Wife chose the Charbroiled Oysters from the lunch menu. Kiddo’s girlfriend had the salad. I ordered Oysters 2-2-2 off the main menu, sending them around the table. Oysters 2-2-2 is two each of Oysters Rockefeller, Bienville, and Foch.
We ordered all over the menus. LT Firstborn had the softshell crab from the Reveillon menu. Wife and Kiddo had the Stuffed Drum (above), also from the Reveillon menu. Kiddos GF had Shrimp Regua, chilled shrimp in a horseradish/tomato/mayo dressing.
Note that wife and Kiddo chose a starter from the lunch menu and a main from the Reveillon menu. Antoine’s rolls with that. Not that it kept the price of the total check down, but who cares, when we’re just happy the family is together.
I ordered my usual, Chicken Rochambeau. The bottom layer is ham with the brown-sugar “Rochambeau” sauce. Then comes a grilled chicken breast, topped with Bernaise sauce. The dish has evolved since the first time I had it in 1979. Originally, the chicken was slices of roast chicken. Now, it’s a grilled chicken breast. That’s easier to manage in the kitchen. Just grill up the chicken to order, rather than worrying about having enough roasted chickens. The entire dish sat on a Holland Rusk, a variant of an English Muffin. Now, it’s served on a rice pilaf. Carbs and all that. Antoine’s provides enough French bread that I don’t sweat the loss of the bread on the bottom.
Kiddo chose the wine, and alas, I forgot to take a pic of the label. He picked a Sauvignon Blanc, since everyone ordered chicken or seafood. I’ll update this if he remembers what it was.
Wife and Kiddo had this, the Egg Nog Bread Pudding. Reading it, I was skeptical. It was pretty good! Mr. Branley had the Holiday Meringue Glacee au Chocolat.
LT Firstborn wanted to end the meal with Cafe Diablo. We gladly obliged him.
Antoine’s is a must for your next trip
Check out the menus for Restaurant Antoine. They’re doing the “$20.19 Winter Menu,” now that we’re in January. Enjoy!
Bourbon-glazed ham – not just for the holidays
Turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Christmas. Pretty much the classic/traditional combination of holiday meals. We eat ham more than just the holidays at Casa de YatPundit, though. I experiment with various glazes for a ham meal. We try a number of styles, from the Reese’s red gloop to orange-based, to whisky glazes like this one.
The one thing I don’t do with ham is pineapple. The family rejects this notion entirely. Maybe if I buy a fresh pineapple. Come to think of it, we’ll try that.
Chisesi’s Pride is my go-to selection. For a regular family meal, I cut the ham in half. We freeze half, eat the other. Even when the boys lived at home, this produced a lot of leftovers. It’s OK! That means ham sandwiches, ham omelettes, ham steak for future dinners.
To clove or not to clove? Mrs. YatPundit prefers no cloves. With both halves served, this is easy, put cloves in one, leave the other naked. An alternative is to add cloves to the basting juices and/or glaze. This presents the flavor without dealing with the cloves in the meat. I’m all about infusion here.
Scoring the ham splits the very-tough skin. As the meat bakes, the skin splits open. Place the cloves in the intersections for peak flavor infusion.
Bake the ham for an hour at 350F
I tried a recipe from MyRecipes.com for Christmas:
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 1/3 cup Creole mustard
- 1/3 cup molasses
Stir the ingredients together, spoon over ham.
This glaze is simple and tasty. I argued a bit with my 24yo Kiddo about the bourbon. He’s quite the bourbon snob (whereas LT Firstborn is an even-worse Scotch snob). At Martin Wine Cellar, he didn’t argue about buying Jim Beam. When he poured some for himself, though, in an effort to try not being a snob, he got thoroughly grossed out. 🙂
The result was the photo at the top. The ham tasted fantastic, and this glaze now gets a place in the rotation.
Parmesan Spinach is an easy side dish
When your cousin or sister says, “bring a veggie” to the family gathering, here’s an easy recipe.
- 2 pounds fresh spinach
- 8oz Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Pre-heat oven to 350F
- Heat water in a 3-5 quart pot. It should be hot to the touch, but not boiling
- Put spinach in pot for 1-3 minutes, until wilted but not mushy. This will take several shifts. Look at how big that bag of spinach is. Grab a handful of the fresh spinach, and put it in the water. Push it down with a spoon or spatula, and add more. You don’t want to leave the spinach in too long. By the time you get the pot full, it’ll be time to dump it all.
- Empty the pot into a colander. When the water drains, put the spinach in a bowl.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’ve wilted the full two pounds of spinach.
- Add the EVOO to the spinach in the bowl, mixing thoroughly.
- Sprinkle in the cheese. Mix thoroughly, coating all the spinach with cheese.
- Spread the spinach into a 9″ baking dish.
- Place in 350F oven for 15-20 minutes.
I bought the ingredients at my local grocery, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket, in Metairie. It’s easy to carry this dish a few steps further on the freshness scale by buying spinach at a local farmers market or greengrocer, if they’re nearby. While this dish scored points with my niece (who loved that there was green stuff for her 3yo and 1yo daughters) at Christmas Dinner, the sourcing certainly can improve. Still, because we get busy, grabbing a couple of bags of spinach from the supermarket produce section isn’t a bad thing. I won’t judge you for it.
One of my New Year’s goals is to buy more from farmers markets. The Crescent City Farmers Market offers numerous opportunities weekly, in different neighborhoods. Locally sourced fresh veggies!
Zuppardo’s sells coarsely and finely grated Parmesan and Romano. While the coarse grating is good for, say, pizza or other Italian-style dishes, I prefer the finely-grated cheese for this dish. The spinach is chewy on its own. The cheese is there for flavor. So, the fine grating keeps it from being too stringy.
Simple dishes enable you to have fun at family events. Prepare this veggie the day before and stick it in the fridge. Heat it up just before leaving for the gathering. Because it’s this basic, you can even heat it up when you arrive.
Christmas Day 2018
We went to my sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving, because her kids and their kids came over. The kids split the holidays between the families. So, Christmas this year is a smaller group. My boys are home, but they’re not towing children in their wake. We expect eight for dinner, only adults. That makes things simpler. It also means, don’t run out of wine!
My in-laws served turkey for Thanksgiving. So, we’ll have ham. I bought a Chisei Brothers ham at Zuppardo’s supermarket. The plan is to cut it in half, bake it for about an hour, then glaze it. We’ll also have mac-n-cheese, sweet potatoes in butter and brown sugar, spinach with parmesan, and some dessert. My in-laws handle the dessert this year.
The Ham Glaze
The glase for tomorrow is a honey-bourbon glaze I found on myrecipes.com. I’ll glaze half the ham with the full recipe and half without the bourbon.
My boys are whiskey snobs. LT Firstborn is a consummate Scotch snob, always the first to buy the new Glenmorangie or The Balvenie. The CPA Kiddo experiments with Bourbons. He’s seeking his style on Bourbon. In the house at the moment, we have Stagg, Pinhook, and 12yo Weller. Kiddo rejected the notion of using 1/2 cup of any of those for the glaze. I bought a bottle of Jim Beam yesterday.
I brought the spinach for Thanksgiving. It was a hit. So, I know it will pass muster tomorrow. While I’m not as good as Chef James at Upperline at mac-n-cheese, mine isn’t bad. These dishes get their own posts after the holidays. Maybe even a bit of video, we’ll see.
I planned to make a little extra mac-n-cheese to experiment. The wife rejected chorizo mac-n-cheese or pork belly mac-n-cheese. They WILL be made before Mardi Gras, though. It’s just too easy to kick up basic mac-n-cheese. Shoot, even Kraft dinner with some Mexican chorizo isn’t all that expensive.
Our household is experimental when it comes to wine. I’ll pick up something at Zuppardo’s in the under-$20 range for your average dinner. Sometimes we’re less experimental. We pour the 1.5L bottle of Woodbridge that’s usually on the counter for cooking. The most common wines in the house are “Steve’s Picks” selections from Martin Wine Cellar.
For company, taking care of the guests is paramount. Decoy makes a solid choice. We’ll have a couple of bottles of Domaine Ste. Michelle bubbles to start the afternoon off. I picked up some Wensleydale with Cranberries and a piece of Manchego to complement the sparkling wine.
My brother-in-law is an excellent baker. I’m not sure what he’s got planned. So, it may be his wonderful chocolate pie, or perhaps something from Haydel’s or another fine local bakery. Either way, I’m not complaining.
My boys are craft beer junkies. They constantly check into the Untappd phone app. They love collecting badges! Good beer contributes to naptime. I don’t know if I’ll follow their lead and have beer. While I love a good dark beer, a bit of the creature is rarely a bad idea.
Sandwiches for Supper
We plan to have…wait for it…ham sandwiches for supper! Leidenheimer’s pistolettes and some nice tomato slices make a great combination.
Zea Metairie – a good place to watch Drew Brees break records.
Bad weather evenings offer two choices for dinner if you don’t want to cook. Delivery services operate in the rain, but the food may arrive wet. Restaurants close by serve dinner under all conditions. I chose the latter on Monday night.
Zea in Metairie is right in the front of Clearview Mall. It’s been there for years. The company opened the restaurant as a brewpub. Brewing moved across the lake. They serve beers from other breweries now as well.
I started with a Sweet Potato Stout from Lazy Magnolia, a 20oz pour. I like this beer. It’s dark and smooth.
I pretty much knew what I wanted when I walked in. Mondays mean red beans, and I like Zea’s. I sipped my stout and perused the menu. I brought my Moleskine for a writing project. Beer helps creativity! With nobody at home but the cat, I wasn’t in a hurry. Maybe a starter?
I ordered the Duck Empanadas. Zea sells their starters in small and “to-share” sizes. I got the small portion. The two empanadas hit the spot.
Red Beans and Rice
Monday means beans. Totally New Orleans. Zea serves their beans with andouille sausage and chicken. They serve the chicken either fried or grilled.
Fried chicken and red beans goes back to Buster Holmes for me. Buster’s place also sold their beans with a pork chop. The chicken needs to be fried, though. There’s something about the combination of fried chicken batter and red beans that’s magical. These days, few lunch places serve fried chicken. It’s labor-intensive. Since Zea serves fried chicken anyway (notably on their “Honey Island Chicken” sandwich), it’s no big deal.
The andouille sausage is also tasty. The beans and sausage without the chicken would make a good lunch plate.
While I’m indifferent to the NFL, Drew Brees breaking records is fun to watch. Better with beer!
Muffuletta Festival 2018 was laid back and tasty
Muffuletta Festival 2018
Nor-Joe Importing Company
The first time I went to Nor-Joe was back in the 1980s. The lunch conversation one day centered on muffuletta sandwiches. A friend said, you need to try this place off Metairie Road. So, we did.
Nor-Joe was more of a grocery back then. My prominent memory was all the different imported olive oils they sold. The place is more a deli than grocery now. That’s common with old groceries. Online buying depressed sales at the specialty shops.
It’s hard to buy a sandwich online, though. You can get a Nor-Joe muff via Waitr, but not from Amazon.
We arrived at Metairie Road and Frisco around 10:30am. The first musical act warmed up as we checked things out. Errol and Peggy Laborde sold their books outside a shop on Frisco. The vendors geared up for the anticipated crowd.
That first musical act was a young lady named Mia Kyle Ditta. She was pretty good! Ms. Mia chose old-people tunes, sort of a light-rock-less-talk set. She knew her audience.
Mahoney’s Po-Boys joined Nor-Joe as the big food vendors. Mahoney’s offered a paneed pork chop po-boy and “poor man’s lasagna”. They served a version of mac ‘n cheese similar to Rocky and Carlo’s, smothered in red gravy.
We got a couple of things from Nor-Joe’s. The quarter muffuletta ($5) and the “Lil Joe” ($5). The muff was warm, the cheese just a bit melted, and the olive salad the right proportion. The Lil Joe is a turkey sandwich on an Italian roll, topped with provolone, grilled peppers, and grilled artichoke. I had the muff, Mrs. Yatpundit had the Lil Joe. Her only issue with the turkey sandwich was the bread was huge, and she’s trying to cut back on the carbs.
Several vendors offered desser at Muffuletta Festival 2018t. A gelato truck, City Gelato, anchored the back of the two-block festival area. Mahoney’s sold bread pudding. Nor-Joe sold cannolis. I chose a blue-raspberry ice from Ravasio’s of Baton Rouge.
Good food, music, and even a train went by!
Crewfish au gratin with gouda – quick Creole dinner
Crawfish au Gratin
“Put some cheese on it” is a common Creole-French/Creole-Italian cooking tradition. Putting seafood in a white sauce isn’t any healthier than deep-frying, but it’s definitely a tasty change of pace.
Folks used crabmeat for this dish more often than crawfish. Up until the 1980s, crawfish were not a go-to for New Orleanians on a year-round basis. They were caught wild, in-season. As companies began to farm mudbugs, packaged, peeled tails appeared in the supermarkets. Crabmeat makes a good cheesy dish, now it’s more expensive. Crawfish are a better choice for experimenting.
Cheddar is the cheese of choice for most au gratin dishes. Cooks change things up with swiss on occasion. Usually they pass on the Italian cheeses, provolone and mozzarella — we eat a lot of red gravy stuff. Now that domestic companies make Gouda, it’s affordable. It also melts well. So, let’s give it a try with crawfish.
- 1 12-16 ounce pack of Louisiana crawfish tails
- 1/2 cup “Holy Trinity” – onion, celery, green pepper, finely chopped
- 5 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup white wine, or 1/2 cup wine, 1/2 cup seafood stock
- 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
- 8oz Gouda cheese, grated
- Defrost the crawfish tails in the package.
- In a large frying pan, saute the holy trinity in 2 tablespoons of the butter or olive oil for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in the remaining butter/olive oil.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables evenly. Stir to make a quick roux.
- When the flour is mixed in, slowly stir in the wine/stock.
- When the wine is mixed in, open a corner of the crawfish package. Squeeze the juice from the package into the pan. Stir, whisk thoroughly
- Whisk in the cream/half-and-half.
- Add the crawfish to the pan.
- Simmer the entire mixture for three minutes, then remove from heat.
- Place the crawfish mixture in individual ramekins. Cover each with a generous amount of cheese.
- Bake in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes, to melt the cheese.
Makes 4 servings.
Gracious Bakery nails it!
Gracious Bakery – Great options on the Uptown route
Apologies for no photos, but, let’s face it, parade food isn’t very photogenic.
Gracious on the Avenue, at St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street, is a great option for folks catching parades in the Garden District. While there are a number of great places and food trucks between Napoleon and Louisiana Avenues, St. Charles Avenue becomes very residential between Louisiana and Jackson.
The location at Sixth Street was “The Grocery” for years. It was even in the pilot of “NCIS: New Orleans,” a couple of years back. The place is now Gracious Bakery, makers of many fine breads and pastries.
For carnival, Gracious sells sandwiches, pastries, as well as chips, candy, and drinks. We got the “Hot Beef Sandwich” and the “Hot Turkey Sandwich”. The beef sandwich is sort-of an Italian Beef sandwich, beef, white sauce, and peppers. Tasty. The turkey sandwich is a pressed sandwich, with turkey, pesto, and swiss. Also excellent. The sandwiches were $10 apiece.
In addition to the sandwiches, we had a “Andouille Roll.” It’s sort of a stromboli, smaller (the $5 price reflects that) than the sandwiches. It was good, but I felt like it needed a dipping sauce, like the marinara that usually comes with a stromboli.
We picked up a Diet Coke, water bottle, and a bag of chips, bringing the tab to $31, plus tip. The folks at Gracious on the Avenue were nice, and there wasn’t much of a line when I went (just at the start of the first parade). Overall, this was a good parade-food experience. A bit pricey, compared to a 2-piece-all-white-with-red-beans from Popeyes, but worth it.
We claimed a bit of the neutral ground side for the Sunday Parades at Third Street. The walk up to Sixth wasn’t that big a deal. If your parade-watching spot is between Jackson and Louisiana, this is a good possibility.
#McKenziesMemories – Chocolate Donuts!
#McKenziesMemories – Chocolate Donuts!
McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes are long “Ain’t There No More,” as we say here. There are a number of reasons why the chain remains a fond memory of many. The main reason is how ubiquitous the stores were. You could find a McKenzie’s in just about every neighborhood in the metro area. We’re going to talk about some of those locations. So, that’s going to include the baked goods as well.
McKenzie’s donuts were always a hot debate topic. The chain’s business model made donuts a challenge. McKenzie’s operated a central bakery plant in the Ninth Ward. From there, they trucked the day’s goods to the stores. Shops like Tastee sold fresh hot donuts. McKenzie’s donuts were tough to sell by comparison.
McKenzie’s recognized this. They had the perfect response: lower prices. Picking up a dozen donuts from McKenzie’s was easy and cheap. By the time they arrived at the office, nobody got all that upset. Free donuts, after all. Same for big events, like a church’s after-mass donut social. McKenzie’s rolled easily with large orders. The shops opened early, even on Sundays.
Competition and Coffee
“Hot glaze” are the mantra of places like Tastee and Krispy Kreme. Other than basic glaze, instant gratification is less important. Everybody’s chocolate covered donuts sit in the case, for example. That worked for me.
McKenzie’s vanilla cake donut, covered in chocolate was a favorite. When I first started out as a computer consultant, my routine was to get out of the house early. TV was a distraction. The coffee shop phenomenon was not yet a thing. I’d go out to City Park or Lafreniere Park to read and write. There was a McKenzie’s shop on Veterans, in the strip mall near David Drive, where Chuck E. Cheese Pizza is. Breakfast for me was a couple of donuts and a pint of chocolate milk. Usually, one of the donuts was a chocolate cake.
Those donuts became an addiction! Then the chain closed down, leaving me with a hole in my breakfast menu. A lot of other folks make similar donuts, but they never measured up.
Blue Dot Donuts
Until Blue Dot Donuts, that is. While their chocolate cake donut isn’t exactly like McKenzie’s, it’s close. Close enough for me. My current breakfast place of choice is Wakin’ Bakin’, on Banks Street in Mid-City. They get donuts from Blue Dot. The donut shop is only a few blocks away. So, when the daily selection includes chocolate cake, I’m there!
NOLA Nica – Nicaraguan cuisine in the ‘burbs
Kenna (bra)! – NOLA Nica
Full disclosure: I am an “honorary citizen” of the City of Kenner. Goes back to when I ran a Radio Shack out there. Seriously. What that translates to with respect to food blogging is that I don’t mind going out to Kenna (bra) for lunch. So, when Jessie suggested a place out past the airport the other day, I didn’t blink an eye.
Nicaraguan food in New Orleans
New Orleans has a rich tradition and heritage of Central American food. We’re the northernmost Spanish colony on the Gulf of Mexico, after all. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Mexican migration pretty much stopped at Houston, since there were (and still are) jobs beaucoup there. So, “Mexican” and “Tex-Mex” restaurants were often owned/operated by Central Americans. These days, a family doesn’t have to pretend they’re something else to operate a restaurant, and the guys who own NOLA Nica do their thing and do it well.
We started with an order of Jalapeño Yucca Fritters. That’s avacado ranch dressing drizzled on them. They were fantastic. You see peppers and your brain braces for hot, but these were subtle.
We did our usual, get two or three things and split them up. First up was the NOLA Nica Burger. When you look at their menu, the burger is towards the bottom. You think, why would I order a burger with all these other options?
It’s a six-ounce patty that’s a mix of beef and pork. Some places around town make a burger that’s half beef, half hot sausage, so the concept isn’t new. These guys grind up their pork and put it in the burger. They top the burger with fried cheese, plantains, and a tangy cole slaw. Then it’s placed on a toasted coconut bread bun. That’s why you get the burger. It came with more slaw on the side, and a choice of fries or the yucca fritters. We got the fritters.
Our other choice was the “Fritanga”, a platter containing carne asada, chancho frito, tajadas fritas, platano fritas, yucca, queso frito, slaw, chicharron, chorizo, gallo pinto, and repocheta. The carne asada was well-seasoned. For me, the beef is usually the least interesting in a meal like this, particularly when there’s chorizo to be eaten. The plantain chips were absolutely fantastic, and the yucca didn’t have the peppers of the fritters, so it was an interesting switch. In spite of eating our fill on this wonderful food, we still had a lot to take home.
We had unsweet tea to drink, but there’s a cooler of soft drinks and bottle water to choose from as well.
NOLA Nica is a small, strip-mall sort of place that’s on Airline Drive, past Louis Armstrong International Airport. It’s a counter-service restaurant with no-frills. The guys say they do well with Uber Eats for delivery, and there were a bunch of people who appear to work in the area coming in for pick-up orders.
Worth the trip
NOLA Nica is easy to get to from in-town, just take I-10W to the Airport exit. Turn onto Airline Drive before continuing into the airport. Go west on Airline, past the airport and the railroad overpass. You’ll see it a few blocks up on the right.
by Edward J. Branley
For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.