Wednesday, August 17, 2011
1205 Restaurants Open Around Town (click for the whole list)
The Food Of Costa Brava, Rio Mar
Now we're getting somewhere with Spanish food. Used to be we could hardly get it at all in New Orleans. Now Chef Adolfo Garcia is producing regional versions of it. Costa Brava is the Mediterranean coast of Spain, from Barcelona up to the French frontier. Lot of seafood there, of course. All this week (though August 20), RioMar is serving a four-course dinner of the food of Costa Brava for $62, including wines paired with all the courses. The dinner can be had without the wines for $39, or any part of the menu a la carte. Sounds like a bunch of big flavors. The man knows how to make them all detonate. You can get this any time, any night this week, but I'd call for reservations.
Pa Amb Tomaquet & Colcots Romesco
Garlic/tomato crostini and grilled green onions
Wine: N/V Codorniu Brut Cava, Penedes
Salt cod, tomatoes, olives and onions
Wine: 2010 Can Feixes, Penedes
Nuevo Arroz Negro Costa Brava
Calasparra rice, grilled octopus, shrimp and squid with saffron gelee, squid ink alioli and parsley oil
Wine: 2008 Gine Gine, Priorat
Arroz con Leche
Traditional rice pudding
Wine: 2009 Vi D' Agulla cocktail, Penedes with St. Germaine liqueur
You can get this any time, any night this week, but I'd call for reservations.
RioMar. Warehouse District: 800 S Peters. 504-525-3474
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Coquette Flirts With Coolinary
Coquette is the New American bistro on the corner of Washington Avenue and Magazine Street. Cute little place with interesting food. Chef-owner Michael Stoltzfus has joined the Coolinary charge with both a three-course lunch for $20) and a four-course dinner ($40; $60 if paired with wines all the way). The menu changes every day (as it always does over there), but the chef has supplied us with some samples of the sort of things you might see:
Boston Lettuce Salad
Candied pecans, goat cheese, Dijon vinaigrette
Pickled peach salad, gingerbread mustard
Duck confit, collard greens
Gulf Shrimp And Grits
Cherry tomatoes, English peas
roasted potatoes, leeks
Chocolate coffee pot de Creme
Kaffir Lime Panna Cotta
DINNER $40 ($60 with wine pairings)
Peach hot sauce
Wine: Louis Métaireau Muscadet Sur Lie, France '09
Espelette pepper, pickled vegetables
Wine: Cuvaison, Carneros, Napa, CA '09
Cochon de Lait
Field peas, Gulf shrimp, Benton's bacon
Wine: Féraud - Brunel Cotes du Rhone, France '09
Salted caramel, chocolate coffee pot de créme
Wine: Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout
Coquette. Garden District: 2800 Magazine . 504-265-0421
We'll feature a different Coolinary menu in this space every day throughout the event, and keep all of them online here. The Coolinary is orchestrated by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most of the dinners run through the month of August, although some restaurants continue the specials into September.
If you have renewed within the past week, please ignore this notice and accept my thanks.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011.
Curry Off The Corner. China Rose.
My first thought for dinner was the Curry Corner, a little restaurant in the old Carrollton Branch of the Whitney Bank (but not the old-old one, which is across Oak Street from the old one, and a block from the new one). Curry Corner is owned by the same guy who owns Sara's. I've wanted to try it for some time, but never thought of it at the right time. Nor did I tonight, as it turned out. A sign on the door said that tomorrow the Curry Corner would reopen as a New York-style deli. Well, I missed that one. Glad I didn't come a month ago, when the effort would have been wasted.
Instead, I wound up continuing my current investigation of the Chinese restaurant population. Too many in that category have gone unreviewed. I don't think I'll find much of brilliance--most of the new places are clearly for the take-out business, not to thrill palates. But I'm hoping for some nice surprises.
I had one tonight. The China Rose is a new/old restaurant. It originally was in the shopping mall on Robert E. Lee and West End Boulevards. The Katrina flood put it out of existence for awhile. The old place was too badly damaged to be repaired, so the owners took over the former Ming Palace in Metairie. A couple of blocks toward the lake from Drago's, this is a pleasant little restaurant but not nearly as nice as the old place, which the China Rose inherited from the overbuilt Imperial Palace. (I may be giving out too much information, but my head is full of these connections.)
My past meals at the new China Rose were not spectacular. I was lured by the existence of a "Chinese menu." (As opposed to an Chinese-American menu.) This is the hot thing: dishes allegedly of interest only to Chinese people. However, what I've found so far is very plain, homestyle food. I think what is going on is this. Chinese natives have nostalgia for the dishes they grew up with, and here they are. In other words, it's the Chinese answer to meat loaf and macaroni and cheese. I have a feeling that the dishes cooked for Americans is actually more ambitious and better--restaurant food, as opposed to home cooking.
Yes, yes, home cooking is good, sometimes wonderful, and sometimes better than restaurant food. But if it were always better than restaurant food, nobody would go to restaurants.
Well, I'm not ready to say that this is true of China Rose's Chinese menu. I've only eaten from it twice, and without the benefit of Chinese hosts. But I really think that my theory is possibly true.
My supper was from the Americanized menu, mostly. I began with hot and sour soup, good in flavor, if overthick with cornstarch. Then an order of shrimp toast, made as well as any I've had in a long time. The dish consists of a toasted slice of white bread on the bottom, piled with a mixture of finely-chopped shrimp with enough egg to hold it together. The whole thing is cut into sixths, sprinkled with sesame seeds, then deep-fried into pyramids of nearly-fluffy shrimpiness. I've always liked shrimp toast, but what most Chinese places put out under that name is terrible. This was not only good but enough for two people.
The entree was chicken curry, an attempt to satisfy the urge that took me to Curry Corner first. Chinese curry has only a little in common with Indian curry. This version had even less than usual. Chicken, onions, carrots, bell peppers, a light sauce with none of the distinctive curry flavors. They did, however, make it pepper-hot, as I requested. Can't say I didn't like it. Ate too much of the large portion.
A friend I haven't seen for many years came over from the next table. She was eating from the Chinese menu, and brought me some scallion pancakes. Oily, dry, flavorless. Home cooking. What I'd eaten was incomparably better.
China Rose. Metairie: 3501 N Arnoult. 504-887-3295.
It has been over three years since a day was missed in the Dining Diary. To browse through all of the entries since 2008, go here.
Cool, Light Italian Food And Wine For Summer Weather
Thursday, August 25, 2011, 7 p.m.
Metairie: 3100 19th Street
$75, inclusive of tax, tip, and wines
Join Tom Fitzmorris, other readers and radio listeners for another in out 17-year series of weekly wine dinners! Everyone is welcome.
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Shula's is two restaurants in one. It's the all-day restaurant of the JW Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, serving all three meals every day of the year. More distinctively, it's the local outlet of a nationwide chain of premium steakhouses. This one is better than the other three I've been to in other cities. While it follows the corporate specs on most matters, the Canal Street franchise buys more local product and cooks more local dishes than is typical for a national outfit. For the most part, however, Shula's delivers the standard high-end steakhouse menu, with the usual masculine, straightforward trappings.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The spec for the beef across the menu is Black Angus, without regard to USDA grades but to the company's own fairly rigorous standards. In my opinion, this is not quite as good as Prime, but you won't notice if you order a filet. I do notice the step down in the strips and porterhouses, though even there it's not drastic. The steaks are served in the sauceless American style, although just-okay classic French sauces can be had. Shula's serves prime rib routinely--a rarity these days. The rest of the menu is exactly what you'd expect. They serve a breakfast buffet here every morning; it's excellent when the hotel is busy, terrible when it's not.
Shula's is named for Don Shula, the winningest football coach in NFL history. His son and partners run the thirty-two restaurant chain. The JW Marriott is the former Meridien Hotel, a luxury property from the pre-World's-fair hotel boom in New Orleans. Shula's occupies the space that was formerly the French bistro Midi. Shula's was just about to open when the hurricane hit New Orleans; the opening was delayed, but only a little.
Logically enough, the restaurant has a subtle football motif--the menus, for example, are covered with what looks football leather--but it's not overbearing. The front dining room has windows looking into Canal Street. Further back, the tables are darker and more private, even romantic. The comfortable bar spills into the mall that runs through the hotel.
ESSENTIAL MENU [»=Recommended]
»Jumbo lump crab cakes
»French onion soup
Flash fried lobster tail
Blackened tenderloin tips
Chilled half Maine lobster
»The wedge salad
Tomato and fresh mozzarella chop salad
Beefsteak tomato and gorgonzola salad
Steak Mary Anne
»New York strip
Cowboy steak (bone-in ribeye)
»Kansas City strip
French cut chicken breast
»Jumbo lump crab cakes
Cold water lobster tails
Surf and turf
3-4 lb Maine lobster
»Lamb loin chops
»Asparagus grilled or steamed broccoli with hollandaise sauce
Spinach creamed or sauteed
»Crabmeat mac and cheese
Double baked potato
Lobster mashed potatoes
»Chocolate seven layer cake
»Molten lava chocolate cake
Key lime pie
Häagen-Dazs ice cream and sorbet
FOR BEST RESULTS
The bigger the steak, the better it is. Split one big one instead of getting two small ones. The soups here are unusually good, made on the premises instead of being bought finished.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Corporate uniformity is not a good enough reason for serving crabmeat, shrimp, and oysters from out of town. It's insulting here. Sizzling butter, New Orleans style, ought to be an offered option.
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 +1
- Consistency +1
- Service +1
- Value -1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Sidewalk tables
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all holidays
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- Reservations honored promptly
We wanted potatoes to go with some beautiful strip sirloins we'd found, but we didn't want mashed or fried or baked. So we roasted, with the potatoes at Mosca's and the potatoes fournou from Greek restaurants in mind. After a few tries, here's what we came up with.
- 3 lbs. medium potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
- 2 Tbs. salted Creole seasoning
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried dill
- Leaves of 1 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary, or 1 tbs. dried rosemary leaves, chopped
- Juice of 1 /2 medium lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1. Scrub the potatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated 400-degree oven for 20-35 minutes (depending on size), until a kitchen fork plunged into the largest one no longer encounters hard resistance.
2. Remove the potatoes and let them cool enough to handle. While waiting, preheat the broiler.
3. Cut the potatoes into quarters (or eighths if they're on the large side). The pieces should be about two inches long. Place them skin side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the potatoes with the Creole seasoning and the herbs. Then sprinkle the olive oil over the potatoes.
4. Put the potatoes in the broiler, about two inches from the heat source. Roast until the tops of the potatoes begin to turn dark brown. Remove and serve immediately.Serves six to eight.
August 17, 2011
Days Until. . .
Coolinary ends 14
Chef d'Oeuvre du Jour
#110: Creme caramel @ Galatoire's, French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. There was a time when almost every restaurant with white tablecloths had caramel custard among its dessert. The vogue shifted to creme brulee in the 1980s, and now cup custard (another one if the several names for the same thing) is a rarity. Through all these shifts of taste, one immutable truth has held: nobody makes caramel custard that can top Galatoire's version. It's silky, creamy, not too sweet, just the right touch of vanilla and caramel sauce. It's what they bring you, with a candle on top, when it's your birthday. I tell them it's my birthday every time I dine at Galatoire's. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans. Collect all 500!
Today is Caramel Custard Day. Those of us who are aficionados of the Custard Dessert Group know that during the past fifteen years or so creme brulee has pushed caramel custard completely off most menus. That's a long fall for the second most common dessert in New Orleans restaurants after bread pudding. A few restaurants preserve creme caramel or cup custard (two other names for the same thing) from extinction. Fortunately, those are the older places like Galatoire's, whose definitive version is in no danger of ever disappearing.
Here are the differences between caramel custard and creme brulee. The former is made with milk, the latter with cream. The added milkfat in the cream prevents creme brulee from setting up; it should flow, even when chilled. Caramel custard, on the other hand, sets up so well that the standard service is to just invert the cup it was baked in and let the evicted custard stand on its own. (With a bit of a sag, of course.) The other difference is that the caramel aspect of custard is done by adding melted, browned sugar to the cup before the custard goes in. A creme brulee is topped with sugar, which is then broiled until it melts and browns. I love them both, but today I will got Mandina's and get caramel custard.
Cream Creek disappoints in that it pours water, not cream, into the Madison River. Its source is among the most remote headwaters of the Mississippi-Missouri rivers, in the little panhandle in extreme southeastern Montana. Cream Creek ends six miles from the Wyoming state line, and just west of the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. So what Cream Creek lacks in creaminess it makes up for in scenery. Quite a few restaurants are two and a half miles away in West Yellowstone. The one that grabs me is the Running Bear Pancake House.
Deft Dining Rule #124
If a restaurant has caramel custard instead of creme brulee, and it's well made, the place is more interested in flavor than in style.
flan, n.--The word flan has two meanings. The most common in this country these days is the caramel custard very commonly served as a dessert in Hispanic restaurants of all stripes, from Spanish to Central American, Caribbean, and South American. It is typically baked a little harder than a French-style caramel custard, resulting in a firmer texture and a more pronounced caramel flavor. The second sense of flan is French in origin, referring to a wide, shallow pastry, usually with a crust, with a custard filling. This kind of flan usually has a topping, with berries and other fruit being the most familiar. These are more often found in French bakeries than in restaurants.
Hurricane Camille--possibly the most intense hurricane ever to enter the United States--made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast today in 1969. With winds well inside Category Five, Camille destroyed everything in its path, even ripping highways out of the ground in many places. Its winds are believed to have exceeded 200 miles per hour, although nobody's sure, since all the measuring instruments were also destroyed. It did less damage overall than Hurricane Katrina, however, because its wind field was compact compared with the monstrous size of Katrina.
By coincidence, the most famous movie with a terrible storm in its plot premiered thirty years to the day before Camille. The tornado in The Wizard of Oz turned Dorothy's world upside down. That no longer seems so far-fetched to us here in New Orleans.
Annals Of Dishwashing
Hazel Bishop, a chemist, invented a lipstick that would remain on the lips far longer than previous formulations. It was advertised as being "kissable," because it wouldn't leave a mark on the kissee's lips or cheek or whatever. Hazel Bishop's name became a major cosmetics brand. A side effect to her invention: no dishwashing machine yet produced can get lipstick off a wine glass.
Locals In The Movies
Actor and latter-day Orleanian Sean Penn was born today in 1960. During the hurricane aftermath, he was involved in a number of rescues of stranded people, who must have thought they were dreaming when Sean Penn showed up to save them.
Vince Marrow, a professional arena football player, was born today in 1968. . . Dottie Mochrie Pepper, a professional golfer teed off her life today in 1965.
Words Not To Eat By
"Custard: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook."--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.
I guess he was a chocolate lover.
Words To Eat By
Today is the birthday of Mae West (1892), who was far ahead of her time in her attitudes about just about everything. She uttered quotably on a few matters that concern us here:
"I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond."
"Too much of a good thing is wonderful."
"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before."
Food Sports. Not Food With Sports, But Sports With Food.
Imagine this: olive oil wrestling. (Would it require extra virgin? If so, how many?) Cheese rolling. Pancake Races? (Bet that's on Mardi Gras.) More. Click here for the article.
Backyard Barbecue Tip #56-3754
The skill of knowing when the meat is done is difficult to obtain, and sometimes reaches the status of an art. Click here for the cartoon.
Have a lusty New Orleans meal today!