Zea MetairieBad 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.
Lazy MagnoliaI started with a Sweet Potato Stout from Lazy Magnolia, a 20oz pour. I like this beer. It’s dark and smooth.
Zea’s MenuI 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 RiceMonday 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.
Breesus!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.
Brown Butter Mid-City
(cross-posted to YatPundit)
Brown Butter Mid-City for Lunch
231 N. Carrollton Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
Reservations via OpenTable (click to the restaurant’s website above)
From the restaurant’s website:
Located at the corner of N Carrollton and Bienville in Mid City New Orleans, we are the city’s destination for Contemporary Southern American cuisine in a comfortable cozy setting. Our goal is to challenge your palate with new and exciting flavors while anchoring our ingredients in the comforting and familiar. We are the place for a quick lunch, fine dinner, business/special event or just a beer and small plates for the game.
Went out to lunch yesterday with the “Todd Price Taste Club,” for the group’s first lunch outing. Had a great time at Brown Butter on Carrollton and Bieville in Mid-City.
HUGE CORRECTION TO THE POD: I refer to the group as “Todd Price Eats and Drinks. That is actually the name of Todd’s old Facebook page. Now, Todd, Ann, and Brett from NOLA dot com aggregate all their stuff on a single Facebook group, Where NOLA Eats. Sorry, Todd, I’ll get it right next time. 🙂
The two starters were a Gem Lettuce salad with radish, fennel, onion, and Pecorino, with an herb vinaigrette. Our second starter was Flash-fried Brussel Sprouts. While just about everyone else got the sprouts, I got the salad and snitched some of the Brussels Sprouts from others. Both were good, but the Brussels Sprouts were the winner.
The Brown Butter Burger, with pimento cheese, pickled red onion, roasted garlic aioli, on a brioche bun with house cut fries.
Our second option was Smoked Brisket with skillet corn bread, vinegar slaw, along with a white sauce and a smoked onion and apple BBQ sauce. I had the brisket. It was great.
Folks who got the burger also enjoyed their choice!
In addition to the beef and burgers, we enjoyed a chocolate torte. The dessert had whipped cream and an Amarena Cherry sauce. Tasty!
Be sure to check out Ali’s blog at NowNewOrleans dot com!
TDAC Sushi – They Draw and Cook
Today’s featured collection on They Draw and Cook is Sushi! I got started eating sushi as a student at UNO, in the late 1970s. A lot of folks do the “oh, I’m not going to eat raw fish,” but it’s easy to get into sushi for New Orleanians. That’s because we all grew up eating seafood. Start your non-sushi-eating friends with the cooked stuff, such as shrimp, or maybe a crawfish roll. Both are boiled, and the flavors are actually quite tame in comparison to Zatarain’s Crab Boil. Others will suggest going with egg sushi, but cooked seafood makes much more sense for people who grew up on the Gulf Coast.
Learning to eat sushi in New Orleans
That’s how it was for me. Two pieces of shrimp nigiri and a crawfish roll, then some teriyaki or tempura. Eventually, your curiosity gets the better of you, particularly if you have friends who are totally into sushi. You see them eating tuna, salmon, yellowtail. The fish is sliced thin. You think, it can’t be so bad, right? Then you put that first piece in your mouth. You’re already into the rice, the little bit of wasabi used to hold the seafood to the rice, and the soy sauce you dip it all in. Maybe you dip that first piece of fish in a lot of soy sauce. Turns out that you didn’t freak out.
Now you’re into the basics of American sushi eaters. From here, it gets fun. Split a rainbow roll, or whatever your local place calls the basic California roll that they lay out as a multi-color spectacle. Dig in! Eventually, you start cutting back on the amount of soy sauce you use. The taste of the fish appeals to you. Maybe you go beyond your comfort-fish types. Even if you don’t, it’s still a fun experience.
Top Oyster spots offer a great range of choices.
Top Oyster spots – I’ve got a few quibbles
This list of places in town to get good oysters isn’t bad. GoNOLA.com rarely puts forward a bad or controversial set of recommendations. Still, I’ve got a couple of quibbles with the list, as well as a few comments.
Best raw: I’ve got no argument with Manale’s, but don’t think they’re the only place in town. A lot depends on how you’re ordering your erstas. If you’re sitting at an oyster bar, chatting up the shucker, then the entertainment is a factor. If you’re just having them brought to the table, you’ll get good raw from a lot of places, such as Mr. Ed’s, Katie’s, and the places out on the lakefront. Casamento’s is still the fun, “old school” experience.
Rockefeller/Bienville: For Rockefeller, Antoine’s invented the dish. Their version doesn’t use spinach, but finely-chopped green onion. Other places just don’t taste the same. I prefer Antoine’s Bienville to Arnaud’s, but that’s a quibble. I’d get shrimp remoulade at Arnaud’s over the oysters, anyway. If you’re going to Antoine’s, the best option is to get the “2-2-2” – two Rockefeller, two Bienville, and two Foch.
Po-Boy: I’m not going to a full-service restaurant for a po-b0y. I’m going to a po-boy place. Go to Parkway or Parasol’s with a friend. Have them get an oyster sandwich, you get a shrimp, and split them.
Charbroiled – They’re A Thing these days
Definitely a top oyster spot — Drago’s invented the charbroiled oyster. They still do them well. It’s a lot of fun to go to a school or church fair where Tommy brings out one of the trailers and sells charbroiled oysters. The dish has expanded beyond Drago’s, however. Like Rockefeller and Bienville, you can get charbroiled at a number of places in town. My favorite is Katie’s in Mid City. I’m not going to turn down your invitation to join you for dinner at Drago’s, but if you let me make the plans, I’m going to say, let’s go see Chef Scot at Katie’s
Drinking and Erstas
I don’t see the two as compatible. Oyster shooter? What’s the point? The idea of sucking down an oyster so fast you can’t taste it is something for folks who say they hate them raw. Oysters at happy hour? Meh. Eat oysters or drink cheap liquor. Still, if you say, “we’re going over to Blind Pelican for happy hour,” I’ll say, I’m on my way.
Side comment on Acme Oyster House: the one in the Quarter is a zoo. No, it’s not just a zoo, it’s always a zoo. Acme has good food. Go out to Metairie to enjoy it.
The bottom line
We’re talking oysters here. If you like the place, and their seafood is cold and fresh, it’s going to be a good time.
What’s your place for oysters?
Vessel New Orleans in Mid-City
Vessel New Orleans is fun!
I felt uninspired when it came to cooking dinner last Saturday, so we decided to go out. Vessel New Orleans was our to-try list for some time. I went to their page on Open Table, and easily booked a table. Almost too easy, in fact, to the point where I feared the place might not be so hot.
I was wrong!
The place was active, in spite of the wide open options on Open Table. For now, at least, it’s a place where Mid-City folks walk in. As I sipped my “Violent Delights Have Violent Ends” cocktail, people began to come in. The cocktail, made of Sheep Dip Blended Scotch, Liquore D’Erbe Tosolini Amaro, St. George Spiced Pear Liquor, Lime, and Ginger Beer, was refreshing. I’m always worried about Scotch-based cocktails, but this was nice. Mrs. YatPundit had a French 75. It was cool that they asked her if she wanted it based on gin or brandy. She chose gin.
We started with a cheese plate with three cheeses. Left to right in the photo were a buffalo cheese with housemade strawberry preserves, pecorino with honey, and a Mediterranean Farm Cheese. The buffalo was creamy and smooth, a good pairing with the strawberry preserves and grilled lavash bread. The pecorino and honey was Mrs. YatPundit’s fave, and I enjoyed it as well. The farm cheese on the right had a nice peppery crust to it that paired well with my cocktail. Conclusion here: Mrs. YatPundit said next visit, she’ll likely order the cheese plate as a main, as it’s a good small-plate/light entree. I could probably do the same, but there are a lot of other interesting small plate and flatbread options.
No photos of the mains, alas. My family does not indulge my #foodporn habit well. After taking pics of the cocktail menu, the lovely copper mug, and the cheese, then putting them up on Instagram, I figured I should give it a rest.
Wife got the house fettucine, shrimp, oyster, crawfish, house tasso, and creole cream. She didn’t care for the fact that the shrimp were whole and unpeeled. It’s easy to toss 15-count shrimp on a grill, then on top of a pasta bowl, but then the diner has to peel it. So, the dish would have been better with the shrimp peeled in the kitchen. Once she got past that, however, it was all good. The oysters were chopped fine, and the crawfish were a good size. Vessel New Orleans’ tasso is spicy, and it does the job tasso is supposed to do, spread out through a sauce, reducing the need for additional salt or pepper. Since I didn’t get any of the shrimp, I got all the good stuff to taste, minus the peeling experience.
My entree was the house pappardelle pasta, louisiana wild boar ragu, with pecorino. Very tasty. Pappardelle is a fun, broad-noodle pasta, and the ragu (Shouldn’t that be ragout? Nevermind.) was very flavorful. Good base, and the shreeded boar was thick and tasty.
While the cocktails carried us though the cheese, wine was naturally necessary. We chose a white, Planeta La Segreta, from Sicily. One of the managers stopped by to check on us and asked after the wine. He said it was new for them. It was a Pinot Grigio blended with something else that I don’t remember now, but that’s OK. I’ll look for it at Pearl and/or Martin on my next wine run.
We split the Isot chile Vairhorns chocolate cake. It came with a white chocolate pudding and a taste of cherry sorbet. I could have had a full scoop of that sorbet and been happy. The cake was good. The dish looks like one of those silly deconstructed things, but it was just a cool presentation.
In addition to the tasty dessert, I had a cup of coffee (French pressed) to round out the evening. Next time, we’ll arrange a ride home, and I’ll have another cocktail.
Vessel New Orleans is in the 3800 block of Iberville, in the old church behind Schoen Funeral Home at Canal and N. Scott Street, therefore it’s easy to get to from downtown. Take the Canal Streetcar (either City Park or Cemeteries), and get off at the funeral home.