Wednesday, May 5, 2010
1086 Restaurants Open Around Town
Chef Guillermo Peters Moving
Taqueros, the best, most interesting, and most intermittent Mexican restaurant in the history of New Orleans, has been operating quietly in its building on St. Charles Avenue for many months now, with a more limited menu than the place had in its heyday but still a good one. But apparently owner/chef Guillermo Peters was moved by the Cinco de Mayo festivities to do something special, recalling the gourmet days here. Tonight he has a $48 menu of five courses (plus tax and tip). It all sounds terrific--the unusual but authentic food that we all wish Guillermo would offer more often. Here's the menu.
Tequila Milagro Torito or Margarita
Roasted Stuffed Quail
Stuffed with roasted poblanos and chayotes
with roasted corn
Rabbit Pozole Soup
Chilled Squash Medley Soup
Fish Poached in Tomato-Acuyo Sauce
Rabbit in Mole Verde
Turkey in Mole Rojo
Flamed Sweet Potato with Pumpkin Seeds
dessert served with Mexican Drinking Chocolate
Taqueros Lee Circle Area: 1432 St. Charles Ave. 504-267-3028. email@example.com
Zoo To-Do This Friday
The Zoo To-Do is the big event this weekend, and as usual it appears that the event may be sold out by then--so I'm telling you about it now. The Zoo To-Do was the first fundraising event of its kind anywhere when it had its first running in the early 1970s.
At the time, the Audubon Zoo was in very poor shape, and needed a major influx of cash to become something better. The chefs of the city's restaurants were invited to serve appetizer portions of a dish or two, and people paid top dollar to attend. Now such events are so common that not a week of the year is without two or three, but the entire concept was born at the Zoo To-Do. It became the biggest non-medical fundraising event in America, which it still is.
Even after the scourge of Katrina Casual, the Zoo To-Do has remained a very classy event. Tuxedos and cocktail dresses are de rigueur. The price is substantial: $155 for members, $195 for non-members. That's high enough that people start looking at the food offerings with a sharp, critical eye, but never mind. There's plenty enough food and wine about to make it a satisfying evening. And the socializing is the main part, anyway.
Things begin at the patron party at 7:30, in the Audubon Tea Room. The main event is all round the grounds of the zoo, beginning at 8:30. Live music goes on all night long. It looks like the weather will be perfect, if a little on the warm side. Tickets can be paid for and printed out online:
This year's event, whose title sponsor is the Whitney Bank, will underwrite a new attraction for the zoo, described as a lush, interactive tropical oasis for kids to play in after and before they check out the animals. The Audubon Zoo continues to grow in creativity and excellence.
Will Creole Cuisine
Survive The Oil Spill?
The extent of the damage that will be done by the oilfield accident two weeks ago is still not known. British Petroleum still hasn't figured out what to do about it or how long it will take. The entire industry and the governmental agencies that oversee them are in Code Red.
Not about the shrimp, crabs, trout, and redfish. The seafood that dies (mostly next year's crop) will come back a year later. In the meantime, all the estuaries west of the river are as yet untouched by any more than the usual amount of oil floating around (there always is some). They will likely remain that way, since the circulation in the Gulf is counter-clockwise, carrying the stuff east. That gives us plenty enough seafood to keep restaurants from closing.
Restaurants closing? Who said anything about that?
Only about three dozen people who wrote me or called me on the radio or posted on the messageboard. One caller said he thought it would be a good idea for restaurant to post a sign on their doors saying, "All seafood from fish farms and West Coast."
Most of what's been said has been alarmist overstatement. Yes, seafood prices will rise for the same reason that the stock market went down after Greece's bonds were declared junk--then went back up a few days later. Markets react to everything, whether it means something or not.
The oil spill will be very bad for fishermen and dealers whose produce comes from east of the Mississippi River. But the majority of fishing areas remain open. Fish are inspected and tracked extremely well in Louisiana. It's one of the few benefits of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' draconian oversight of commercial fishing. They are able to determine exactly where fish come from, and they check it all the time. The origin of oysters is tagged on each sack. Penalties are very severe. The possibility that tainted fish will get into the stream is slight. If you want to worry about something, be worried about fish you get from your buddy who came back with 100 trout, though, since the tracking of recreationally-caught fish is relatively light.
In other words, the restaurants will have plenty enough shrimp, fish, and crabmeat to keep from losing tourism to China, or whatever other doomsday scenario you may hear. Crawfish, of course, are entirely unaffected. Lake Pontchartrain fish and crustaceans are also in more danger from morons who change their oil and dump it in the nearest ditch than they are from this spill.
It's also worth noting something that the Times-Picayune's superb, extraordinarily well-informed reporter Mark Schliefstein mentioned in an article last week. Even if the oil keeps coming up for another couple of weeks, it's only about a fourth of what got loose in the aftermath of Katrina. And, as we know, the fish, shrimp, and oysters came back within a month after that.
And one other datum: no significant amount of oil has yet washed up onshore.
Why are predictions of doom more entertaining than equally plausible predictions that the end of the world may not be upon us? This too shall pass, and sooner than panic would have us think. In the meantime, enjoy eating Louisiana seafood as usual. The restaurants will not allow you to be poisoned.
So what am I worried about? The birds, mainly. Oil-covered birds break my heart. There will be many bird deaths. Oil-covered water looks like water to them. But fish and shrimp? They get a whiff of oil, and they move quickly away to cleaner water. Most of them will make it.
Wednesday, April 28. Paperwork Replaces A Meal. Galvez. Ron Sciortino called me a few weeks ago. He's the president of Sno-Wizard Corporation, the maker of the sno-ball machines found universally around New Orleans and elsewhere. Before Ron took over Sno-Wizard from his family's earlier generation, he was a chef, and he remains a serious gourmet. He and some friends have a monthly dinner, and he invited me to join them. I couldn't make the first one that came up, but I was all set for this month's, planned for Le Foret, the terrific new place on Camp and Common.
But Mary Leigh's plan to go to Tulane checked that. She and Jude both suddenly had a complex bunch of financial forms (some twenty pages worth each) that I must prepare. Unless I am willing to pay the full tuitions, which between the two of them may go into six figures. That is not in my hand of cards. I canceled the dinner, which I knew would have finished me for the night. I got home early (and sober) enough to work on the documents for about three hours.
I had to have supper, though, not having had lunch. I knew we were going to have a nearly-full moon tonight, and the thought of having a Spanish dinner while looking at the moon rise over the river seemed calming enough.
Galvez took over the stunning restaurant that was Bella Luna before the storm. It is not as well furnished as that restaurant was, but the view tops the list. View is not something many restaurants have--a function of our living on flat land. All we have is water to look at. But few New Orleans restaurants have that, either, and no other one has a view of the river. Someone should do something about that.
Galvez is a Spanish restaurant. That cuisine is catching on, but not wildly popular yet--and probably not the best idea in a heavy-tourism location. I was happy to see that the dining room much busier than last time. All the window tables except two were taken. I grabbed one, of course. Light was still in the cloudless sky, and the panorama of the Father Of Waters was everything I'd hoped for.
I started with a soup of asparagus and crabmeat. Reasonably good, stopping short of memorable. Then a salad of beets and greens with blue cheese, fresh and nice. The fish special was sheepshead--a fish I always order in any restaurant with the fortitude to serve it. It's a great fish that more people eat without knowing it than those who do. It can pass (and does) for trout or redfish.
This sample, however, could have passed for tilapia. It had a soft texture I never like to find in a fish, and a vapid flavor to match. The dish was saved by what I thought was a brilliant garnish of chunky avocados, tomatoes, and carrots, all made into a salsa. I could have left the fish alone and just eaten the shrimp that were also on the plate and had plenty enough.
By now it was dark. I heard the sound of a locomotive. The railroad tracks between the restaurant and the river are on one of the two transcontinental rail routes through New Orleans, and they stay busy. A single New Orleans Public Belt unit trudged by with a short consist, all painted by some graffiti masters. And then I saw the moon, coppery, coming up over the West Bank.
Dessert was the flan of the day, garnished beautifully and juicily with figs and strawberries. Nice ending. If it weren't for the paperwork waiting for me at home, I would have lingered to watch the moon move upward. But this variety of Daddy Duty (it's always changing) forced me to eat it and beat it.
Galvez. French Quarter: 912 N Peters. 504-585-1400. Spanish.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
This is a great name for a fairly good, consistent pizza shop, except for one thing: it's a misnomer. It's thin-crust pizza, crisp on the bottom, and restrained in its application of ingredients--all hallmarks of the New York style. But it's not quite that, and people acquainted with the best pizza in New York might be disappointed. After thirty years in a cramped location, it moved in 2009 to a much more pleasant space down the street. The move also allowed a major expansion of the menu, turning it into a more important resource.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The quality of the raw materials has always been well above typical. Fresh vegetables, whole-milk mozzarella, dough made in house--all these were rarely encountered in other pizzerias when this place opened. In the new premises, they're making more out their dough, serving pizza by the slice for the first time, and offering pasta and sandwiches.
Wayne Del Corral and Claire Thomas--both New Orleanians--opened New York Pizza in 1980 on a Magazine Street corner. It quickly became the hip place to get pizza--particularly among Tulane students, many of whom are from the Northeast and hungered for the pizza they remembered from home. In 1992 a second location opened on Carrollton just off Canal, but it didn't reopen after the hurricane.
Bright, spacious, and a bit stark, the new dining room is much more amenable to having a full meal than the old one. There are a few tables on the sidewalk. The service staff varies widely in its hospitality. A rather cool metal Statue of Liberty stands at the front door.
Cappellini pasta with marinara.
Baked feta cheese.
Snooie bread (like bruschetta with cheese and tomatoes).
Salads (wide range of them).
Meatballs or sausage with pasta.
Pizza by the slice or pie (with red sauce, olive oil, or garlic butter).
FOR BEST RESULTS
Don't come in here thinking you're eating at Ray's in Manhattan. And know that the most common complaint voiced about the pizza--that it seems oily--is what happens when the richer whole-milk mozzarella is used. The pizzas that come closest the the ideal of the name are the plain cheese pizza. My favorite: cheese with fresh garlic. one with
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They're still getting the service act together.
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 +1
- Sidewalk tables
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after midnight
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
Ten Best Dishes With Oranges
In There Somewhere
I love oranges. I've never encountered a dish made with oranges than I didn't like, too. The juice of oranges, as well as the much different flavor of the oil from orange skins, can be worked into a wide range of dishes and sauces, both sweet and savory. Some of them are famous, like the French duck a l'orange (although that's become something of a rarity). A lot of chefs are using orange juice instead of lemon in their hollandaise, to good effect. And if you ever run into something that combines orange and chocolate, get it. Here are my current favorites with an orange component.
This symbol, when clicked, brings you to a detailed review of the restaurant.
Chiles rellenos ("stuffed peppers") have always been a fixture on local Mexican menus, with a great deal of variation in quality from one version to the next. Now that fresh Anaheim or poblano chiles (both mild varieties) can be found in stores easily, we can make this with some authenticity. I find it makes a better side dish than a main course, and I think it works well without a sauce--although a Mexican red sauce or a cheese sauce would not be bad.
- 4 fresh Anaheim or poblano green chile peppers
- 1 cup grated asadero or Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/3 cup onion, chopped very fine
- 3 large eggs
- 2 Tbs. flour
- 1/4 tsp. Creole seasoning
- 1 cup light vegetable oil
1. Roast the peppers over a flame or under the broiler until the skins are blackened and blistered. Cool them in a plastic container for about a half hour (they won't dry out that way). When cool, peel the black outer skin off. Slice around the stem end and pull out the inner seed pod, making sure to get all the seeds out. Wash your hands well after handling chiles, or wear gloves when working with them.
2. Combine the cheese and the onions, and stuff each pepper with the loose mixture, being careful not to tear the soft peppers.
3. Separate the eggs, and beat the whites till fluffy. Beat the yolks in one at a time. Mix the Creole seasoning with the flour, and fold into the egg mixture with a rubber spatula.
4. Heat the vegetable oil to about 350 degrees in a heavy skillet. Dip the peppers into the batter, and shake off the excess. Lower the peppers into the hot oil, and turn them frequently until browned all over. Don't worry about the cheese melting--just pay attention to the color of the batter, to keep it from burning.
Serves four as a side dish, or two entrees.