Wednesday, April 7, 2010
1075 Restaurants Open Around Town
MiLa, Farmers Market Create
Vegetarian Wine Dinner Tonight
Now here's something we've almost never seen: a wine dinner in which the entire menu is vegetarian. If such a thing could possibly be made to be delicious, it will be at MiLa, where chefs (and marriage partners) Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing routinely work with local growers and farmers to fill their menu with first-class fresh food.
In tonight's dinner, they're partnering with the Crescent City Farmer's Market--the non-profit outfit that organizes most of the markets held around town, and where you and I can buy the same first-class eats. The dinner is tonight at 7 p.m. The price is $65, plus tax and tip, but the four wines are included. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant, 504-412-2580. There's free valet parking in the Renaissance Pere Marquette hotel garage. Here's the menu:
Cucumber and Ryals Goat Cheese Cannelloni
Market Tomato Condiment, Olive Petals
Wine: NV Gruet Winery Sparkling Brut Rosé, New Mexico
Feliciana Greenhouse Lettuce Soup
Poached Farm Egg, Black Truffle Purée
Wine: 2008 Mil Piedras Viognier, Argentina
Ravioli of Jim Core's Taylor’s Happy Oaks Farm Greens
Mississippi Shiitakes, Beet Dijon Jus
Wine: 2007 Ònix Priorat, Spain
Johndale Farm’s Louisiana Strawberry and Vanilla Mousse Trifle
Wine: 2002 Château La Rame Sainte-Croix-Du-Mont, France
MiLa. CBD: 817 Common, 504-412-2580.
Wines From Hidden Wineries
In Tonight's Dinner At La Provence
Peter Weygandt, who has made a name for himself finding and importing excellent but little-known wines from all around the world, will be at La Provence tonight to lead a four-course (plus extras) dinner. Also there, collaborating on the menu, will be chef-owner John Besh and La Provence's chef de cuisine Erick Loos. The menu uses ingredients predominantly raised at La Provence's network of farms (one of which is around back of the place). It's tonight at six; the price is $85 per person, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines. Here's the menu:
Mini-pissaladières, crawfish pies, paella balls, gougères, salmon rillettes
Wine: Sparkling Cremant du Jura, Clavelin Brut Comte, France, NV
Pan Roasted Sablefish
Roasted cauliflower, jumbo lump crabmeat, brown butter and capers
Wine: Chenin Blanc, D. des Aubuisieres Cuvée Silex, Vouvray, France, 2008
Spring Stew of Local Rabbit and Cavatelli
Slow cooked rabbit leg, shoulder, and sausage, hand made pasta, cherry tomatoes and our house smoked bacon
Wine: Syrah, Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage, France, 2007
Whole Roast Baby Lamb
Panise, spring onions, and wild mushrooms, rosemary and sage, morels
Wine: Grenache/Carignan, J. Louis Tribouley “Les Copines,” Côtes Catalanes, France, 2007
Tart of Local Strawberries
Buttermilk ice cream
Dessert Wine (a surprise from Peter Weygandt!)
La Provence. Lacombe: 25020 US 190 985-626-7662.
Crawfish Prices Coming Down,
Sez Frank Brigtsen
I just got an e-note from Frank Brigtsen, who I think is having as much fun as a crawfish boiler at his newly-bought Charlie's Seafood in Harahan as he is at his long-running, excellent bistro. "The crawfish supply and prices continue to improve," he says. "Charlie's has boiled crawfish for $3.29 a pound, and we can also provide sacks of live crawfish for $2.39 if people give us 24-hour notice."
Charlie's Seafood. Harahan: 8311 Jefferson Hwy. 504-737-3700.
Monday, March 29. Hungry Town. La Carreta. The UPS truck pulled in around noon. I always know when it's here, because the dog Suzie goes bananas. Nice to know that nothing can sneak up on us at the Cool Water Ranch. (Except, of course, when Suzie is on one of her excursions, which range very wide in the woods and who knows where else.
The delivery was one I'd begun to wonder about. Here were the first two copies of Hungry Town, my new book! It looks much better than the preview copies I've had for months, which had a cigarette-smoke yellow background color. The real deal was jacketed with an off-white, embossed to make it seem clothlike. The fork and spoon are also embossed on the paper, making them seem vaguely real. My first hard-cover book! There's nothing quite like the feeling of holding a finished book of your own in your hands for the first time. It's not as intense as holding your newborn healthy baby, but it's a little like that. The smile that spreads over your face is irrepressible.
Mary Leigh returned from school in the middle of the radio show. When it was over, we went to dinner. Her pick, of course: La Carreta. The place was busy. All the outdoor tables were full. Too bad: the sun was going down and the environment was perfect for dining outside. If Mary Ann had been with us, she would have insisted that we wait for an alfresco table.
Instead, we were in a dining room dominated by television screens. All on ESPN, of course. Nothing major was going on, as far as I could tell. Do they now rehash the past football season continually until the new season begins?
And do all the customers in restaurants really want to watch sports? I understand it when a major game is on, but for this stuff? Wouldn't they sell more food if they showed the Food Network, or the Travel Channel? Or, perhaps, if they turned the damn things off? So you can talk with the people you're with, instead of constantly being distracted? Is there any chance that these ideas will ever be taken seriously by the mainstream? I don't think so.
After the usual two baskets of tortilla chips with queso (too thick, but good) and salsa (almost too spicy, but La Carreta's may be the best salsa in the area), Mary Leigh chose a trio of shredded beef tacos and I a chile relleno plate. The latter was much better than I expected. The poblano pepper, stuffed with white cheese, had a pleasantly light batter, as opposed to the tempura-like thickness usually found on these things. Also on the plate were two flour tortillas stuffed respectively with beef picadillo and chopped chicken. The sauces--a ruddy brown one and a tomato sauce a lot like Creole sauce--were very good, too. My only complaint was that this was way too much food. But the customers of Mexican restaurants demand that, to their detriment, I'd say.
The p.r. lady for La Carreta wrote a few weeks ago to ask me whether they could quote my review on their web site. She said I explained most accurately the difference between La Carreta (which I like) and the unrelated Carreta's Grill (which I don't). While we were corresponding, I took La Carreta to task for not having anything on the menu with mole poblano sauce, the highest achievement of Mexican cuisine and one of the greatest sauces in the world. She said she'd passed along my suggestion to the management, that they'd done some test runs of it, and everybody in the office gobbled it up. Mole is expensive and complicated to make, but I'd pay for it.
Back at home, when Mary Leigh went upstairs to her room at bedtime, it was the last time I would see her for nearly five days, even though both of us came home every day. I don't like not seeing her, but I am proud that she's self-reliant enough to get along without either parent.
La Carreta. Mandeville: 1200 W. Causeway Approach 985-624-2990. Mexican.
Pizza. Sandwiches. Salads.
Uptown: 741 State, 504-899-1414. Map.
Uptown: 3244 Magazine, 504-895-7272. Map.
Lakeview: 874 Harrison Ave., 504-488-0133. Map.
Kenner: 817 W. Esplanade Ave. 504-712-6868. Map.
Elmwood: 5608 Citrus Blvd., 504-818-0111. Map.
Lunch and dinner continuously seven days.
AE MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
A local chain of clean, sharp, Americanized (maybe even Creolized) pizzerias, staffed by pleasant people. The selection of specialty pies is reasonably interesting, but you can build any way you want. The crust is a bit softer, breadier and fluffier than the ideal, but it tastes good and the ingredients are of good quality.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The pizza's finest quality is consistency. Unless you overload it with ingredients, it holds up well and is deftly assembled. If you never ate anything here but pizza, you'd like it better than if you ordered something else. The sandwiches are offbeat and made with good deli meats, but I wouldn't come here for those. The salads are just okay.
Darryl Reginelli began his restaurant career in 1993 with a gourmet Italian bistro on Magazine Street that almost became famous for its large selection of specialty polenta. He closed it after a couple of years, and reopened elsewhere in 1995 with this much simpler concept. It became popular and spread around and outside of New Orleans. Some of the locations are franchised.
Each location is different, but brightness and color--clearly aimed at a young clientele, which in fact the place does get--are a running theme. Service is basic but pleasant.
Avocado and asparagus salad with feta.
Salad Number Three (mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, fresh-milk mozzarella).
Caesar salad and variations.
Baked brie calzone.
Meatball or Italian sausage calzone.
Pizzas in general.
Chicken pesto pizza.
Parthenon pizza (garlic-herb sauce, with feta and artichokes).
Baked tortellini with pesto or marinara sauce.
Downtowner (turkey, prosciutto, salami, mozzarella).
Uptowner (turkey, provolone, avocado).
Meatball and mozzarella with red sauce on focaccia.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Reginelli's, like most pizzerias, does a large take-out and delivery business. Unless you don't mind having the quality of the pizza reduced by half (pizza doesn't really travel well), eat in.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The crust could be crisper on the bottom and thinner. And The calzones seem to be made by someone who doesn't understand the concept.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color
- Sidewalk tables
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- No reservations
Ten Best Rack-Of-Lamb Chops
The days of getting a rack of lamb seem to have come to an end around New Orleans, replaced by double-cut lamb chops, in twos and threes. It's the bone-in ribeye of lamb, and the most desirable cut in the entire animal. Here are the best examples of those in the city's restaurants, from the most expensive down to the bargains at Middle Eastern cafes.
The first four restaurants on this list buy their Colorado-raised lamb from the same source. It is a spectacular product, needing not much more that a skillful broiler chef. (And maybe some bearnaise.)
1. Commander’s Palace. Garden District: 1403 Washington Ave.. 504-899-8221. Spectacular Colorado chops, grilled over wood and sauced naturally.
2. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. The best non-seafood entree on Galatoire's menu. Get it with bearnaise.
3. Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St. Louis. 504-581-4422. Striking quality, juicy and good. Get the chops, not the noisettes, with bearnaise or Alciatore sauce.
4. Emeril’s. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas 504-528-9393. A crust of Creole mustard and bread crumbs and a light jus allow this superior lamb to shine.
5. Vizard's. Uptown: 5015 Magazine. 504-895-2246. Seared with a crust of pistachio, napped with lamb demi.
6. Bistro at Maison de Ville. French Quarter: 733 Toulouse. 504-528-9206. Panneed lamb chops with blueberries. Much better than it sounds.
7. Gallagher's Grill. Covington: 509 S Tyler. 985-892-9992. Pat Gallagher's greatest hit, in all his restaurants over the years, is a pairing of grilled lamb chops and quail. It's back again in his new place, sizzling in butter.
8. Lebanon’s Cafe. Riverbend: 1500 S. Carrollton Ave. 504-862-6200. Six or seven small New Zealand chops, grilled over charcoal--the best in the Middle Eastern restaurant segment.
9. Impastato's. Metairie: 3400 16th Street. 504-455-1545. A shade inconsistent, but usually thick, double-boned, and delicious at a very attractive price.
10. Clancy’s. Uptown: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111. Nice-looking chops with either a natural jus or bearnaise.
Have I missed a good one? If you know of a great lamb chop that belongs on this list, post it on our messageboard. (You'll also find other people's suggestions there.)
A well-made coffee cake--aromatic of spice, crunchy-crumbly on top, each bite with a different mouthful of textures and tastes--is a wonderful thing. Makes the whole house smell good as it bakes, and keeps on giving pleasure for days of breakfasts if it lasts that long. You can add all sorts of things to the standard nuts and brown sugar--apples and blueberries are especially common. This recipe is for a basic coffee cake, a starting point for your additions. But pretty good on its own. What makes a coffee cake special is the streusel--the lumpy, nutty scattering that bakes and encrusts the top. You can bake the cake in either a tube pan (with a funnel-shaped hole in the center) or a deep (at least 2 1/2 inches), round cake pan.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- 2 Tbs. cinnamon
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbs. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Mix the flour, sugar, and brown sugar in a bowl.
2. Measure out two cups of the mixture. Put that into a food processor. Add 3 Tbs. of the butter, the cinnamon, and the pecans to the processor bowl. Pulse the processor until everything is barely. There should be lumps about the size of lentils or smell peas. This is the finished "streusel." Set this aside.
3. Grease the inside of either a 10-inch tube pan or a 12-inch cake pan.
3. Put what's left of the flour-sugar mixture from the first step into a mixer bowl. Add the salt, baking powder, and baking soda, and give it a quick stir with the mixer to distribute everything evenly. Add the butter and let it mix into the flour on low speed.
4. In another bowl (you can use the one the flour and sugars were in), whisk the eggs, then add the buttermilk, sour cream, and vanilla.
5. Pour half the egg mixture into the mixer bowl and beat on medium speed for about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, all the way to the bottom, with a rubber spatula. Start the mixer again on medium-low speed, and add the rest of the egg mixture. After about a minute, scrape down the bowl again. Now run the mixer a bit higher, until you can see the batter starting to rise and expand.
6. Pour about a third of the batter into the pan. Smooth it out with the rubber spatula, and sprinkle about a third of the streusel uniformly around the pan. Add another third of the batter and repeat the strewing of the streusel. Add the rest of the batter, and top it with the rest of the streusel.
7. Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Check with a cake tester; when it comes out clean of interior ingredients, it's done.
8. Let the cake cool for about a half-hour. Remove from the pan to a rack, and cool for another hour or two. (You can serve it warm, but sometime it falls apart when you slice it.