Friday, April 20, 2012
1276 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
Chef Guillermo Peters Settles Down--For Now.
Among the city's most elusive chefs, the brilliant Guillermo Peter has led us a merry chase during the last decade. Starting with a salsa operation in Slidell, moving to the original Taqueros in Kenner, then to the dual Taqueros/Coyoacan on St. Charles at Melpomene, he cooked the best and most adventuresome Mexican food in New Orleans history. Then he shut it down, reopened, shut it down again, reopened again, closed, opened, and finally closed for good. The place is now the Irish House.
But Guillermo came back anyway, taking over a neighborhood breakfast-lunch spot on Canal Street. Renamed the Canal Street Bistro, its menu is dominated by Mexican cookery, but also performs essays on other cuisines. Breakfast, lunch, and brunch happen every day except Tuesday. Dinner is Wednesday through Friday. Prices are those of a gourmet bistro, with entrees from the high $20s to the mid $30s.
This plan looked sketchy at first, like a pop-up. But it seems to have achieved regularity. Enjoy it now before we move to the next chapter of this restaurant picaresque.
Canal Street Bistro. Mid-City: 3903 Canal St.. 504-482-1225
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Monday, April 23, 2012.
A perfect Monday to stay at home, with a lot of work to do and a beautiful day outside. Unusually cool this morning, the temps never really went up, even with a blue sky and sunshine. This must be Indian Winter.
Mary Ann and I lunched at Pontchartrain Po-Boys. I'm glad I got there first, because if she had she would have told me it wasn't worth the wait. The little shop was crammed with people, and a line extending from the kitchen window almost to the front door. Once we got the order in, we stood around for a long time waiting for a table to open up. It never did, but a construction worker offered us the open seats at his table.
That proved to be a lucky break, for a number of reasons. Alex (he gave me his card) had ordered an unusual dish: broiled shrimp and oysters, all in a huge pile between two pieces of garlic bread. He's a regular here, and said that this was one of Pontchartrain's better dishes. I didn't see it on the menu.
Alex's card also noted that soffit and fascia repairs are his specialty. Great! We have a soffit-and-fascia disaster at our house, one I keep deluding myself that I will repair, even though I'm not sure it's such a good idea for me to climb a ladder anymore.
Finally, we were sitting down with Alex when our first course came: a pile of onion rings. I liked them last time, and did again this time. We offered Alex some of them--even the small order is too big for two people--but he already had a lot of food in front of him.
I put my roast beef hunger on hold in order to try something new here: the Hotburger. I didn't have to ask to know that this would be ground beef and hot pork sausage mixed together, made into a patty, grilled, and jammed into a poor boy. The only surprise was that it was a double--two hand-made pucks of this spicy melange. It was a little overgrilled for me, but otherwise excellent. And too much to eat, even in the small size that I ordered.
Mary Ann put a decent dent in a quarter of a muffuletta, stuffed with ham, salami, cheese and olive salad. Like most people, she has fallen for the erroneous idea that all sandwiches are better heated, and all cheese is better melted. This prophet is definitely not respected in his own home.
Pontchartrain Po-Boys. Mandeville: 4700 LA 22. 985-792-0499.
It's over three years since a day was missed in the Dining Diary. To browse through all of the entries since 2008, go here.
TONIGHT! Evening In Campania, Chef Andrea, And His Own Wines
Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 6:30 p.m.
Metairie: 3100 19th St, at Ridgelake
$75, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines
And here it is! Be among the first to try Andrea's own wines as the Eat Club feasts on a collection of some of the restaurant's best dishes. In addition to the good eating and drinking, we'll have live music. Come early for butler-passed appetizers and the first wine.
Cocktails With Tom
Mozzarella en Carozza
Wine: Andrea's Falanghina
With jumbo shrimp and zucchini
Wine: Andrea's Greco Di Tufo
Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with arugula
Fresh Flounder Bellavista
Stuffed with fresh spinach, salmon mousse, lemon sauce
Filet Mignon Pizzaiola
Fresh tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano
Wine: Andrea's Capri Red Wine
Torta Di Mandorle Caprese
Flourless almond-chocolate torte topped with homemade vanilla ice cream
Wine: Lachryma Christi Mastroberardino
Uptown: 4100 Magazine Street
Bouligny was the restaurant which, in 1982, got everybody hip to the news that eating Uptown had changed. In a renovated firehouse on Magazine at Marengo—with a substantial parking lot, yet—it was a place you liked from the moment you set foot in the place. Lots of big windows, lots of greenery, and lots of Baby Boomers in their thirties and starting to making money.
Bouligny's manager Tim Gannon had worked out this new restaurant concept at Stephen & Martin, and rolled out Creole Bistro 2.0 at Bouligny. The chef was Sebastian "Buster" Ambrosia, who after a few years at Commander's Palace was the first chef of Mr. B's Bistro, the archetype of the new casual gourmet places. His menu was decidedly Creole. A little more Cajun than usual (darker roux, andouille in new places, more cayenne). The fish was more likely to be grilled than fried—a hallmark of the bistros.
Bouligny changed my own dining schedule. I'd wind up in there two or three times a week, eating the oysters bonne femme, veal with choron sauce and fried crawfish, the grilled duck breast with a nest of vegetables. A lot of this was influenced by Chef Paul Prudhomme, who'd started cooking like this at Commander's five years earlier. But here it was in a moderate-price, dress-down restaurant with a very cool look.
By all rights Bouligny should still be around. What happened was that the owners weren't particularly into food. One of them was Craig Ripley, a very nice guy who was in the wrong business. (He told me that he had no sense of smell.) He was happy to get out of the restaurant hurly-burly.
Bouligny's last years were exciting, though. In 1989, Michael Uddo took over the kitchen and started cooking the best food in Bouligny's history. But by that time the Uptown restaurant scene was overpopulated, and the owners threw in the towel. Uddo would shortly open up his own place, the G&E Courtyard Grill, discussed elsewhere.
The name (it was that of the plantation and then the faubourg in which the place was located) lives on. John Harris of Lilette calls his new bar Bouligny.
This is one of 122 reviews of fondly-remembered but extinct restaurants from Lost Restaurants Of New Orleans, just published by Pelican. It's available in bookstores all around town, and full of photos, graphics, menus, and memorabilia.
Bruschetta is the forerunner of garlic bread, popular in Italy for at least 500 years. The essential ingredient is a loaf of bread in the Tuscan style: with a thick, dark crust and a coarse interior, with an up-front yeasty flavor. French bread will do in a pinch, but it's worth buying a loaf of bread in a rustic style to make this. Bruschetta is the perfect appetizer to make when you have a surplus of tomatoes. The riper they are, the better.
By the way, it's pronounced "brooss-KET-tah." Not "broo-shet-tah."
- 1 loaf crusty, rustic bread
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
- 5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
- 24-30 leaves fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. salt (sea salt preferred)
- 1 1/2 cups ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 oz. ricotta salata cheese, shredded
1. Combine the olive oil, garlic, parsley, basil, black pepper and salt in a cup.
2. Slice the loaf of bread on the bias to make slices a little less than an inch thick and about four inches across. Using a hot grill, broiler, or toaster oven, toast the bread until medium brown.
3. Stir the olive oil mixture well and spoon about a teaspoon of it across each slice of bread. Cover that with a layer of the chopped tomato. Drizzle another teaspoon of the olive oil mixture across the tomatoes, and top with a sprinkle of the ricotta salata.
Serve while the bread is still warm. You can keep it warm in an oven that's barely on, but not for long--the tomatoes should remain cool.Serves eight to twelve.
April 25, 2012
Days Until. . .
Jazz Festival 2
Mother's Day 18
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience 27
Chef D'Oeuvre Du Jour
#370: Crawfish Bisque @ Bon Ton Cafe, CBD: 401 Magazine. 504-524-3386. Making crawfish bisque is a lot of work, and requires fresh crawfish in the shell for it to be made perfectly. That's why you only find it on restaurant menus during crawfish season (Thanksgiving through the Fourth of July, in a good year). Crawfish bisque is such a specialty at the Bon Ton, however, that they keep it on the menu year-round. Frozen crawfish is used in the off-season. Despite that, it's never disappointing. It's made in the old style, very thick with a dark roux, big chunks of boiled egg, and stuffed crawfish heads. Big flavor. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
ranchero, [rahn-CHEH-roe], Spanish, adj.--A warm, savory sauce based on crushed tomatoes, flavored with sliced onions and chile peppers. Ranchero salsa is to Mexican food what marinara is to Italian, or what Creole sauce is to New Orleans cooking. The most famous ranchero dish--huevos rancheros--is scrambled eggs cooked with ranchero sauce. But it also turns up in seafood dishes and many other Mexican dishes.
Crawfish Creek is a tributary of the Wabash River, on the Illinois side, in the southernmost wedge of the state. Its water then goes into the Ohio and the Mississippi, winding up in the French Quarter. It's forty-four miles north of Evansville, Indiana. Crawfish Creek really does have crawfish in it. Indeed, twenty-four species of crawfish are found in Illinois. These are pretty small , and if they're caught by people at all they're used for bait. (Birds love them, however.) Crawfish Creek travels eighteen miles, and in its lower reaches is good for fly fishing. The place to dine is the Nostalgia Restaurant, three miles south in Mt. Carmel.
Food On The Air
Today in 1874 Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio and the man for whom Marconi Drive next to City Park is named, was born in Bologna. His patent (number 7777) came from England. Where would we be without him? We'd have to sit around writing letters or something. In Marconi's honor, tune in our radio show, from three to six p.m. today on 1350 AM.
Drink And Topology
Felix Klein, the inventor of the Klein bottle, was born today in 1849. A Klein bottle has no inside or outside; the two merge into one continuous side. Problem: it requires four dimensions. If you find yourself drinking from a Klein bottle, you've had too much. (Or, really, nothing: a Klein bottle has no volume.) Klein bottles have their own web site, with pictures of projections of Klein bottles in three-dimensional space.
People We'd Like To Have Dinner With
This is the birthday, in 1940, of Al Pacino. Of course, we'd go someplace Italian, but which place? It would have to have cannoli. We'd also invite Talia Shire, the sister of Francis Coppola. Talia also has a birthday today (1946). Both Pacino and Shire were in The Godfather, and since Francis himself might be in town for the Jazz Festival, he could come too. What an unforgettable dinner!
Deft Dining Rule #520:
In a restaurant, the person who sits with his back to the wall is the one most likely to pick up the check for that table. If he doesn't, he's a fraud.
Music To Dine By
Ella Fitzgerald was born today in 1917. "The only thing better than singing is more singing," she said. The same is true of listening, if it's to her. She was one of the creators of scat singing; her records with one of the other scat masters--Louis Armstrong--are delicious in their contrasts.
Annals Of Canned Milk
Today is the thirty-first anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, which changed Portugal from a dictatorship to a liberal democracy. Although the first thing I thought of when I saw this was a famous rhyme allegedly sent in by a contestant for a contest put on by Carnation Milk. Maybe you've heard it:
Carnation Milk is the best of all
No teats to pull, no pails to haul
No barn to clean, no hay to pitch
Just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.
Zucchini Bread Day sounds appealing--for about ten seconds. That's why it's evolved in Louisiana into Crawfish Bread Day. Crawfish bread is made by covering an underbaked loaf of French bread with crawfish, cheese, a sauce like crawfish etouffee and herbs, then baking it. It is not widely available except at festivals--notably the New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival, which begins this Friday.
It's the feast day and birthday (1270) of Louis IX, king of France. He achieved sainthood for his exemplary life and devotion to the Church. On the other hand, he was captured during the Eighth Crusade by the Egyptians, and had to be ransomed for one and a half times the annual income of France at the time. St. Louis Cathedral, the focal point of New Orleans, is named for him, as is the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1932, the most famous player in the history of the Harlem Globetrotters, Meadowlark Lemon, was born. . . Stu Cook, bassist with Creedence Clearwater Revival, was born today in 1945. . . Fish, a Scottish progressive rock singer and composer, was born today in 1958. His real name is Derek Dick. . . Karel Appel, a Dutch painter, was born today in 1921. . . C.B. Fry, ace cricket player and one-time holder of the long-jump record, was born today in 1872. . . The United States lease on the Corn Islands, off the east coast of Nicaragua, came to an end on this date in 1971. . . Italian poet Torcuato Tasso died in Rome today in 1595.
Words To Eat By
"Eating at a new, highly recommended restaurant is like a Very Important Blind Date, a contract with uncertainty you enter into with great expectation battling the cynicism of experience. You sit waiting, wondering about the upcoming moments of revelation. Somewhere in the back of your head is the dour warning that disappointment is inevitable but you don't really believe it or you wouldn't be there. The best eaters are always optimists."--Stuart Stevens, American author.
Words To Drink By
"Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar."--Edward R. Murrow, CBS news reporter, born today in 1908.
The Battle Of The Peppers Begins Young.
Things got really hot when those habaneros showed up. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!