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big, easy bites

the summer of love. i mean lunch.

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By Jen White · August 7, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I've been collecting some lunchtime photos this summer, and I'm trying a new way to lay them out here, in a slideshow-type of gallery. Let me know how you like it!

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a little progression: Felix's to Stanley

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By Jen White · February 27, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

A few months ago, I wrote about my grandmother and her sisters taking their husbands along on progressive dinners in the French Quarter when they were all in town together, and Paul and I haven't stopped thinking about making our own progressive dinner routes ever since. It's fun, it's easy due to the high number of eateries in the Quarter, and it gives you a little something extra to do while you're down there. Because once you get to the French Quarter, you might want to have a plan. Maybe some of the time you'd like to ramble and follow your nose to the next fun thing, but sometimes you'll want to not make many decisions, and you'll want to know that a particular place is open and particularly worth it.  Yesterday, we devised a short progressive lunch for a drizzly Sunday afternoon: Felix's for oysters of any variety, then Stanley for gumbo (or a po-boy or even breakfast, but definitely the gumbo).

Felix's is our favorite French Quarter spot for raw oysters for nostalgic reasons, but also because they always taste good there. Also, Felix's is not a pretentious place; it's not trying to look cute or slick or full of Cajun artifacts. It's just a good place to eat.  I'd eat oysters there any old day.

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a few of my favorite things: new orleans and beyond

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By Jen White · February 10, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I've been cleaning out my iphone photo roll and came across some great shots that made me swoon, laugh, and shake my head at how good this stuff was.  This year I got to go to my first LSU game in Baton Rouge, and although I probably lost a small percentage of my hearing, I had a great time. And the jambalaya was great!  We're also enjoying some shucking-good oysters these days.  Come visit!

Creole Creamery: knock your flip-flops off good!

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heavenly feasts in a holy city

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By Jen White · June 21, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I've had dozens of cherishable moments living in New Orleans.  They happen all the time...how can they not in a place where a parade or a song can spring up at any time, for any reason at all?  This summer is a precious and tense time, because we're losing animals, coastline, food, and traditions.  We're celebrating everything and keeping one eye on the weather channel.

The past few weeks have been filled with marvels for me.  Truly, it's way too hot to do anything outside or even go anywhere, but we keep doing and going, and we keep getting rewarded for it.  For instance, the New Orleans Oyster Festival, which was held June 5-6 in the French Quarter.  We went on Sunday afternoon, after the rain cooled the air down.  And it was actually pleasant--so pleasant that we decided to find something fun to do in the Quarter after the festival shut down at 6:00 p.m.  More on that in a minute.  First, the food:

Turtle soup from the Court of Two Sisters.  Turtle soup is delicious.  I know it sounds bizarre to some folks, but trust me--it tastes like really really rich chili.

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high standards, surpassed expectations, and getting a little awesome: Restaurant August

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By Jen White · May 2, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I was talking to my friend Chana the other day about dining in New Orleans, and we have the same philosophy:

  1. If you charge $5 for something, it doesn't have to be fantastic. Kudos to you if it is fantastic.
  2. If you charge $40 or $50 for something, it better be awesome. It better not be something that I can taste and say, "You know, I think I could make this better."

 

We're just trying to get the best dollar-to-awesomeness ratio that we can, and in a city where the prices can be as high as diners' expectations of the food, that's important.

We went to August the other day for a celebratory family lunch (see #2, above). I've only been to one other John Besh restaurant, Luke, but I've been there a few times and enjoyed it. The food at Luke is not fine dining, but it's quality. August is in a different league of dining experiences, along with places like Stella!, Herbsaint, and Bayona, where you arrive expecting a fantastically prepared meal and usually leave shaking your head in disbelief of how good it truly was (see #2, above, again).

roast beef to remember: parkway bakery & tavern

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By Jen White · March 14, 2010 · 0 Comments ·


This photo is my gift to you. Fantastic, rich, tender roast beef and gravy over french fries, and it's not even a holiday...it's just another Sunday in the food capitol of my heart. I had to share.

My new Sunday favorite is Parkway Bakery & Tavern, at Bayou St. John. Our friend John Mark turned us onto this place a few weeks ago--our friend who was visiting. We didn't even know the riches that were waiting for us a mere football field away from our front door. Now we can't stop going. For the photo experience, order "fries with gravy." I know the photo doesn't look like fries with "gravy"--it looks more like your grandmother's roast beef--but that's what they call it, so just believe them. Parkway is famous for piling this roast beef onto po' boys, and for their metabolism-demolishing "surf-n-turf" po'boy, which is loaded with roast beef and fried shrimp. We haven't braved that combo yet, though we hear it's mighty good.

fat and happy at mat and naddie's

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By Jen White · July 3, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

Guess what? I had a really good meal for my first birthday as a New Orleans resident (surprise, surprise). We went to a great little place in our neighborhood, Mat and Naddie's, which our neighbor Mark has been telling us we should visit for months. Mark was right--this place is a gem. I'm so glad it's in our neck of the woods.

The only cocktail I ever want to drink during a stifling New Orleans summer: the Pimm's Cup. I've been trying these at different locations to find my favorite. Mat and Naddie's was smooth, so I don't think they use ginger ale or 7-Up...maybe lemonade? The cucumbers always make me happy.


A nice sampling of olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and fresh mozzarella to nibble. Everything was marinated in olive oil and herbs.


This photo doesn't do justice to these fantastic oysters, on the menu as "Grilled Oysters with Brie Cream and Shiitake 'Bacon.'" That's right--they make a "bacon" out of sliced shiitake mushrooms, I can only guess, by cooking it low and slow in a skillet until it intensifies its shiitakiness and dries out a little, like a mushroom jerky. Or maybe this happens in the oven. There's also a little garlic and pecorino-romano action going on here.


My fabulous entree, "Spicy Tempura Fried Gulf Shrimp Tonkatsu." This is one of the most exciting dishes I've had in New Orleans. The shrimp are butterflied and coated in a light tempura batter, and somehow remained outside-crispy and inside-silky the whole time I was loving this dish. I didn't know what Tonkatsu meant, so I asked the waiter if this was a good item to order, and he said it was one of the best things on the menu, which I totally believe. Apparently, Tonkatsu is a Japanese combination of fried pork served with something crunchy, like cabbage, and a sweet-spicy sauce. Mat and Naddie's serves their seafood version with a fresh bok choy slaw, sticky jasmine rice, and a sauce--it's one of the best sauces I've ever tasted--of red chile and a deep, complex sweetness, maybe plum, maybe lemongrass, a small piece of sun for brightness, a drop of dew from the Garden of Eden? I will meet this sauce again.


Paul's "Grilled Filet Mignon with Smoked Marrow Compound Butter." Nice. It looks like Paul was eating in another restaurant because this photo was taken with flash. But he wasn't! He was sitting across the table from me! Thank goodness, because I really wanted to taste this, and he was kind enough to let me. Rosemary steak fries (not too exciting), but (continuing from the menu description) "wilted greens and a Maytag blue cheese and bacon buerre rouge." ?!? Please, sir, I'd like some more. While the potatoes were a little too basic to stand up to the rest of the plate, the rest of the plate was divine: a smart combination of beefy, winey, tart, creamy, burgundy, and leafy.
Sorry to say we couldn't squeeze in a dessert to show you. I would've done it too, because I was so impressed with everything else I ate that night. To all my friends: come visit already, so you can go here too!

taking the long way: Casamento's

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By Jen White · January 4, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

 

If you want to eat some good seafood, and you want to eat it at a NOLA institution, Casamento's on Magazine Street fits the bill. I fell in love with this place the minute I saw it, though we had to find something else to do with ourselves while we waited for it to open. It was so worth the wait.

The problem was that we arrived too early. Tip #1: they open for dinner at 5:30, Thursday through Saturday only.

So we headed toward the track, to visit Liuzza's, famed for its po' boys--a tip from Davey and Gracie. BBQ shrimp po' boy? Garlic oyster po' boy? Yes. But along the way, we got distracted by the idea of stopping on St. Charles for a drink somewhere, then got even more distracted by a new route which ended up taking us downtown. We decided to land in the Quarter. I found my first-ever parking place on Bourbon Street (a very big deal). Since we were there, we thought, "Frank's"--we'd heard great things about it. Alas, our stay was short. Under pressure from our waiter, we ordered crab-stuffed mushrooms, which were highly flavorful, but $10 for three? Ouch. Tip #2: Frank's is tasty but priced for tourists. Luckily, we mustered the courage to brave the rain and the traffic and head back to the car, by way of Molly's. Tip #3: Molly's is a cozy little place, but it gets real fratty on Saturday night. Back uptown, we returned to our starting point at 7:00 p.m., which was just in time to beat the crowd.

Casamento's was established in 1919 and still inhabits the same location. It's small, tiled, and bright, and you walk through the miniscule kitchen to get to the restrooms. I absolutely love walking through restaurant kitchens. More!






At Casamento's, the sandwiches are "loaves," which differs from a po' boy by bread. The bread for a loaf isn't the light, fluffy New Orleans French that you expect when you order a po' boy. It's thick-cut white toast, the type I normally call "Texas." Somehow that doesn't feel right anymore. I guess I'll start calling it "loaf." I think there's a little garlic butter spread on this bread. Your basic NOLA "dressing" of mayo, tomato, and lettuce, and then the lightest, freshest fried catfish you can imagine. Oh my.


The menu is small but complete. Everything you could want in a New Orleans seafood joint is there: seafood gumbo (a tomatoey version), fresh, juicy raw oysters ($9 a dozen! $4.50 half dozen!), fried trout and catfish, softshell crabs. The star, to me, was the catfish loaf I ordered--the best-tasting sandwich I've had in this city, bar none. I'm a fan of Casamento's for several reasons, but their "small prices"--the choice you have of ordering a full-sized dinner for $12 or a half-sized dinner for $6.75--are the most important, for me. I'm a taster. I don't need a huge plate, and I usually don't even want it. I respect a restaurant that does something to keep me coming back: excellent food, fair price.

we can make it together

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By Jen White · November 1, 2008 · 0 Comments ·


Remember that old Tony Orlando & Dawn song, "Candida"? Sing the chorus, but substitute the word "Mandinas." Good. Now you're humming the tune I was last Sunday, after we visited this famous New Orleans eatery.
Located on Canal Street in Mid City, Mandina's--a bright & friendly family restaurant--serves up classic New Orleans food like gumbo, turtle soup, fried oysters, and po' boys, and laces its menu with Italian-American faves (veal or chicken parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs). It won't be a quick trip, but you'll enjoy every minute you spend tasting.
my happy face

turtle soup au sherry (dark), crab and artichoke soup (pale); seafood platter (oysters, shrimp, catfish, and crab "ball" (like a crab hushpuppy))

Creole eggplant (casserole with shrimp, ham, & crabmeat, served with spaghetti) and a cold Dixie

Just take my hand and I'll lead ya!
I promise life will be sweeter,
'Cause it said so, in my dreams...

virgin no longer: a seafood love story

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By Jen White · October 10, 2008 · 0 Comments ·


I'm an Oklahoma girl, born and raised, so it should be understandable that I never had much occasion to sample raw oysters. There is a popular oyster bar, P&J Oyster Co., in Tulsa's Brookside (near my stomping grounds), which my dad visited occasionally, but when the family went, I only ordered fried shrimp. I should admit here that I was fifteen or sixteen before I could even abide the texture of shrimp.

But after a few years of eating shrimp, I palated scallops, then lobster, then clam strips. Then I tasted my first fried clams "with bellies"--the whole animal--at Cape Cod. After those, I was hooked on all the secret, dark wonders of the fruits of the sea.

I became a sort of sushi wunderkind. I craved mussels, relished snails, and devoured squid. And now, I can slosh oysters down with all of you. Order up.
My de-flowering experience took place at Felix's Oyster Bar in the French Quarter--romantically, also the place where my Paul had his first raw oysters (though he was ten years old--what a pro!). The oysters were so juicy, cold, and fresh; they tasted like the sun-drenched air above the seawater. That's the best way I can think of to describe it.

I'm still quite a fan of all the different cooked-oyster treats I get to sample here in New Orleans. At Felix's, I had my first serving of Oysters Rockefeller, with their casserole-like spinach topping, and Oysters Bienville (left side of plate), which has a rich, custardy sauce. Serious yummers. (Check out John Folse's Bienville recipe here: http://www.jfolse.com/recipes/seafood/oyster06.htm)
What also happened: turtle soup. Gosh.
Note: I'd like to ladle on some advice to all you raw oyster-eaters trying to convince non raw oyster-eaters to try them. Don't say anything about texture. If you can eat steak, you can eat an oyster. I was shy for way too long due to texture comments. That's all.



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