Monday, September 13, 2010
1114 Restaurants Open Around Town
Coolinary And Other Special Summer Menus Now In Play
Lobster Month At GW Fins: Three Courses, $45
Whenever some kind of seafood reaches a seasonal peak, GW Fins makes a fuss about it.It's time for the fuss to be about lobster. As is true in all seafood markets, when lobster is at its best, it's also at the low point of its price curve. This allows an all-lobster three-course dinner for $45, through October 2. Here's the menu:
In a lobster butter sauce with fennel and tomato
With mango, papaya and avocado; chervil aioli
Lobster salad in a house-baked brioche
Baked Maine Lobster
With deviled crabmeat
Steamed Lobster, clams and mussels.
The dessert is on you. Complimentary parking is available at Central Parking, corner Dauphine and Iberville, a block from the restaurant.
GW Fins. French Quarter: 808 Bienville 504-581-3467.
All 30 Summer Menus So Far
NOMenu has a page listing not only all the summer specials we know about, but all the menus, too. I'm adding new ones daily. That list is now online here.
Friday, September 3. A Lonely Night At Mike's On The Avenue. I had some commercials to write and record after the radio show, which kept me from my dinner until 8:30 p.m. But it's a Friday night, and Mike's on the Avenue is the hip kind of place that would surely still be rolling at this hour. It wasn't long about that 8:30 was the busiest time of the night. No more. In most restaurants, closing time--and everything else--has shifted from ten up to nine. Most of the exceptions are in the French Quarter, but not even there is it easy to find late dining.
But Mike's was distressingly vacant. Only three tables were occupied when I arrived, and most of them left before I finished dinner. Nobody at the bar. I can understand why. If a bar can't make a decent Manhattan, they can't make much. Neither Vicky Bayley nor Mike Fennelly were in the house.
I almost gave up and left. I don't think I get a fair taste of a restaurant when it's Deadsville. But the waiter, who knew me, came over with a good attitude and some better suggestions for dinner. He brought some redfish pate and homemade sesame crackers as an oversized amuse bouche. It could have made a good lunch all by itself. The pate was possessed of a a fresh, spicy flavor, and just enough texture to prove that it was really fish in there.
Next, a bowl of a creamy artichoke soup topped with a couple of fried oysters and curlicues of pepper oil. Very good, in a style I haven't seen in quite awhile. Then something even more impressive: a quarter-inch-thick slice of watermelon, the rind going all the way around. You could read a large-print magazine through it. In its center was a single enormous sea scallop, wrapped in bacon. Around it were three marbles of goat cheese, and a scattering of herbal oil. This is a brilliant dish, and not merely visually.
Yet the dish of the night was yet to come. I let the waiter's suggestion trump my misgivings about the crab cake atop a bowl of tagliatelle pasta, tossed with an andouille sauce. This unlikely combination was so good I kept eating long past the point of satiety. The best part was the pasta and that counter-intuitive sauce. (Not that there was anything wrong with the crabcake.)
For dessert, lilikoi cheesecake--chosen mainly so I could see what lilikoi tastes like. (It's a variant of passionfruit.) The cheesecake was good, the lilikoi aspect not distinctive. I was halfway through it when the waiter appeared with a second dessert the kitchen thought I had to try. A banana cream pie served in a glass had all the pieces of the more traditional slice of pie, but rearranged. Yeah, the menu called it deconstructed. In its first incarnation in the 1990s, Mike's made the first deconstructed dish in my experience, a ravioli. I thought it was clever then, but somewhere around the sixth or seventh deconstruction, it stopped being fun. Like a joke you've heard one time too many. I say keep the banana cream whatever in the glass, but ditch the reference to the pie, deconstructed or not.
Mike's On The Avenue. CBD: 628 St. Charles Ave. 504-523-7600. Eclectic.
Saturday, September 4. Breakfast. The Prodigal Daughter Returns For A Visit. Bosco's. It's two weeks since Mary Leigh moved into her dorm room at Tulane. Last night she came home for the Labor Day weekend. Was there not enough action on the campus? Maybe. The more likely story was that she wanted to tool around in her car again. Which is how she spent most of the day after getting up too late for breakfast with me.
While out for breakfast, I went to the Chrysler dealer to get a lug nut. During the three miles I drove on a flat tire on the Causeway this past Tuesday, one of the nuts became unusable. (I hope that's what it is, and not the lug bolt--an expensive repair.) At the parts window, the man (who recognized me by my voice alone; I'm always amazed when that happens) told me they'd have to order the thing. I've bought three cars from these people over the years, and had more repairs than I can remember. Not once were the needed parts in stock. I'd like to look at their parts storage shelves. I'll bet there's nothing on any of them.
A radio show filled the three first hours of the afternoon. After that I cut the grass, once again high enough that the wind makes waves of green. It's rained fiercely through all my available grasscutting time for weeks. The tractor was close to getting stuck a few times today, so wet is the ground. The project took two and a half hours, including the meadow by the pond. That's only been cut twice this summer, and it's really high.
Cutting the grass was nice. The summer heat took a day off today, and even though it was sunny out there enough of a cool breeze blew to hint at the coming of fall. Mary Ann said she read somewhere the the smell of new-mown grass is good for you, but I don't see how, what with all the tractor fumes mixed in.
At dusk, it was off to dinner at Bosco's with the Marys. Bosco's was a favorite daddy-daughter dinner date venue for years until ML's social life took off. Tony Bosco has expanded his menu, something I was surprised he didn't do right after he moved into his much bigger new restaurant a couple of years ago. He now has much more seafood and big deal dishes like veal chops.
We started with the house salad, always astonishingly better than it appears (it looks like a stack of romaine leaves, period). Mary Ann amped that up into an entree-size Italian salad, with pinwheels of ham and salami, olives, tomatoes, artichokes, and too much other stuff for a person who would follow it with a cheesy, red-saucy eggplant casserole (below).
With that bubbling, aromatic plate came panneed chicken and two different kinds of pasta for ML. I ordered last so I could act as a sort of belt tensioner. My entree was an appetizer of crabmeat dressing in an artichoke bottom with a lemon butter sauce(below)--one of Tony's best new dishes. I filled out the meal with the gross excess on the girls' side of the table, especially the part in front of Mary Ann.
Bosco's continues to be an underpriced, simple delight. It's everything New Orleans-Italian food should be.
Bosco’s. Mandeville: 2040 La. Hwy. 59. 985-624-5066. Italian.
Lakeview: 515 Harrison Ave.. 504-484-0841. Map.
Lunch seven days. Dinner Monday-Saturday.
Harahan: 6215 Wilson , 504-737-3933 . Map.
AE DC DS MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Koz's is a poor boy specialist of the old school. In comfortably worn circumstances, you walk up to the counter, place the order, then sit down and wait until they get around to it. The sandwich will be very large, but if it's still not quite big enough for your needs they can make a sandwich out of an entire poor boy loaf.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Everything is cooked here, and if seafood is involved it's usually fried to order. The sandwiches are well-stuffed with whatever belongs on them. The roast beef gravy is a bit lighter in both flavor and color than most. Here we find one of the most under-appreciated poor boys of them all: barbecue grilled ham. The menu also offers a few platters, including the standard daily specials in the red beans, spaghetti, and shrimp Creole vein. While none of it could be called the best in town, the prices are low and the cooking is beyond reproach.
Koz's two locations are the successors of the Po-Boy Bakery, a long-running fixture on Franklin Avenue in Gentilly. Gary "Koz" Gruenig began working there at age twelve in the 1970s, sweeping the floor. Owner Jerry Seely gave him the nickname, for "kamikaze without a plane." Koz took over when Jerry died, and continued running the Po-Boy Bakery until Hurricane Katrina wrecked it with ten feet of water. Koz opened a new shop under his own name in Harahan in 2006. In 2009, he took over the former Charlie's Delicatessen in Lakeview.
Both restaurants are spacious and minimally decorated in an old-fashioned neighborhood poor boy shop style. There's a small cafeteria-style line where you place your orders and later pick them up. You will likely eat the sandwich over the paper it came wrapped in.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Poor boy sandwiches:
Chicken (fried or grilled)
*Red beans and rice
Fried chicken tenders
Country fried steak
Fried seafood platters
Fried chicken (Mo. & Sat. special)
Pork chops (Tues. special)
White beans (Wed. special)
Meatballs and spaghetti (Thurs. special)
Lasagna (Thurs. special)
Shrimp creole (Fri. special)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Tell them to go easy on the roast beef gravy, unless you like sandwiches to fall apart halfway through. This is not fast food. Give yourself at least a half hour to order and eat. The whole-loaf poor boys make terrific party food. (Get the gravy on the side.)
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The roast beef is sliced too thick. This is the kind of place where I'd expect to find liver cheese and stuff like that, but it's not here. (Maybe nobody at all eats that anymore.)
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
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color +1
- Open Sunday lunch and early dinner (Lakeview only)
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
Seared Tuna With
Although the menu at Gautreau's is constantly changing, there always seems to be a great tuna dish on it. This is one I recall from the early 1990s. It involves tuna cut into thick blocks. It's finished almost in the style of a salad. I've been cooking this ever since, whenever I can find thick tuna.
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. white pepper
- 2 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- Leaves of 1 sprig fresh thyme
- Pinch salt
- Pinch pepper
- 2 lbs. thick tuna steaks, cut into 16 cubes
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 6 oz. arugula or spring mix salad
1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk the mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar in a bowl until they blend. Add the oils slowly while whisking to create a light emulsion.
2. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Cut the stem core out of the top of the tomatoes, and cut an X in the bottom. Plunge the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15-20 seconds, then rinse under cold water. The peel can now be removed easily. Slice the tomatoes in half crosswise and remove the seeds and pulp.
3. Combine the results of the first step with the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Mix until well blended. Thin with a little vinegar if necessary.
4. Allow tuna fillets to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Season all sides with salt and pepper.
5. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until almost smoking. Place four tuna blocks at a time in the pan and cook over high heat for about 20 seconds per side, till all sides are lightly browned. Repeat till all are cooked, adding more olive oil if necessary.
6. Toss the arugula or spring mix with enough vinaigrette to coat, and place in the center of the plate. Place tuna around the salad, and drizzle with more of the vinaigrette.