Missing Paris is a favorite pastime of He Said and me. We often ponder our fabulous journey this past January, talking about our adventures around this most hopelessly romantic of cities. I find He Said comparing experiences here to those we had in Paris and frequently seeking out French food and wine. We have been on a kick post-trip to familiarize or re-familiarize ourselves with the various bistros in town, and French food always calls for French vino!
One of these “research trips” was just steps from our pied à-terre (see how French we are?) to the Bistro at Maison deVille, located on Toulouse about ½ block off of Bourbon Street. Or, to put it another way, you can’t get past the stink before you are at the door to this place. It was at one time affiliated with the Hotel at Maison deVille, became independent, and now appears reaffiliated once again (I think).
Church of the Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg
“I must break you.”
The words, heavy with a Slavic accent, dropped like stones from the immigration officer’s lips. As I glanced at the soldiers flanking us, hands on their Kalashnikovs, it finally sunk in: We were behind the iron curtain, with no way out.
Ok, so it wasn’t exactly like that. If you want to be nit-picky, the iron curtain collapsed like, twenty years ago. And we weren’t actually intercepted by the KGB during a midnight border crossing. It was more like a departure from a cruise ship. With a tour group. And the immigration officer might not have specifically quoted Ivan Drago, but I don’t speak Russian, so how do I know? And she was like, 110 pounds dripping wet, but nevertheless very stern.
Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. What’s indisputable is that we spent the day in Saint Petersburg this August and have the passport stamps (and a few rubles still burning a hole in my pocket) to prove it. Russia’s certainly a place I’d never anticipated visiting, and we were thrilled when we discovered Saint Petersburg would be included on our corporate trip. So, I thought I’d jot down a quick field trip report.
” At the mere hint of a doubt, he would push his plate away and say: ‘This meal has been prepared without love.’” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
He and She Said:
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Waiting, in the old days by the phone, or lately just on pins and needles listening for the chime of an email, IM, or tweet? Parsing the body language, eye-contact, and the spaces between the conversation of the night before. Was there real laughter, or just a bit of social grace? Was there common ground, or just common politesse to get through the evening? “We should do this again sometime,” were the parting words, but you know from crossing it that the bridge from Saturday night to Sunday morning is built of a million lies, and this might just be one of them.
Holy crap, is there anything more stressful than couples’ dating? You find your mate, and you think you’re finished with all the doubt, insecurity, and angst that comes with the courting ritual, only to discover that it continues times two.
First things first: She has to get along with her, because if the ladies in group hate each other, the rest is a waste of time. But of course, the men in the equation might not know if the ladies hate each other until they are told so the next day. For whatever reason, men seem unable to distinguish an actual compliment from a snarky frenemy verbal bitch-slap obvious to every female in the room. Often, they will sit discussing the merits of zone versus man-to-man, utterly oblivious to the estrogen-fueled rockets being lobbed across the table in front of them.
We may have to rethink our list of the coolest places to dine al fresco in NOLA:
We dropped in on Sylvain last night, the new place at 625 Chartres, just down the street from the Cathedral, in the space formerly occupied by La Marquise pastry shop. Sylvain is marketed as a gastropub, “historic, yet thoroughly modern,” as their tag line puts it. It’s new, it’s in our hood: We had to check it out.
The interior space is dark and cozy, with a bar along one side and tables down the other, but the killer app here has to be the very large courtyard. Really, stinkin’ nice! Because it was, like, 80 degrees last night, we opted for inside dining. But, once it cools down the outside space is worth a visit for its own sake.
First things first: this place is loud. Loud as in, raise your voices a little bit to have conversation at your table loud. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. I would never suggest this as the quiet romantic place ideal for the whispering of sweet nothings. But, so what? NOLA’s got lots of those places if you want them, and this is after all a pub, even if you put the gastro-tag on the front of it. Within that context, we think the volume worked. This is a great place to bring a crew, and in fact there was a group of ladies celebrating a birthday at the table next to ours. My wife said the vibe reminded her of some places in Spain: so, think old-worldish, fun, lively, and energized.
He and She Said:
We’re happy to announce the return of guest-blogger Mr. Mirepoix, a frequent contributor in the days before we left on a nine-month pilgrimage to the Dali Lama in search of the meaning of blogging (big hitter, the Lama.)
Mirepoix is an actual, real chef, so we and he are quite similar. Similar in the way the sandcastle we made at the beach this summer is to Krak des Chevaliers, if you know what we mean. Click on his name in the Category Cloud or the tags, or just search for him to see some of the ridonkulous recipes he sent our way in 2009. Don’t miss the chicken and andouille gumbo, the last recipe for this you will EVER need. This guy is good. Well, for the past month, our people and his people have been in heavy negotiation regarding his return to our little endeavor. Unfortunately, those talks made little progress, probably because our people are actually two lazy Boston terriers (but they also do our IT, so it’s kind of a 2 for 1 thing…recession and all) and Mirepoix seems to have no people at all. At least none he will let us talk to, which might be wise.
Fortunately, we were able to break the impasse via back-channel negotiation and the offer though one of our boosters (the little kid we met at urgent care last night who’d swallowed a quarter) of $180K in Monopoly money, plus the little metal race car (shrewd bargainer, Mirepoix). When you read his posts, you may become bewildered at how a chef of Mirepoix’s stature would associate himself with a blog of ours. We pretty much wondered the same thing., but we think it has something to do with the Witness Protection Program, hence the anonymity. But hey, who are we to judge?
We need reader help: below is his first new submission, a winter cocktail, which we have tested extensively (for quality control purposes, of course…gotta protect the brand) and declare yummy. (Full disclosure: we were fresh out of Bushmill’s and subbed with Maker’s Mark)
So, I have been following this blog for well over a year now. You see, there are these guys who are witty and interesting, and who eat at all these cool places. They are the poster-child for what I want our blog to be. It is pure love-hate. Well, it started that way anyway. I kid you not, a minimum of 10 times, after He Said and I would go somewhere but before we could get a post up, Blackened Out made it happen first. It became the running joke in our house.
We got away from blogging for a bit, and I continued to follow them, totally envious that they were so blog-tacular. How do they have all this time to write considering they have real jobs? Well, at least they claim to have real jobs. Recently, when we decided to get back in the saddle, they were kind enough to comment, something like, “We’re glad to see you are back.” Really? Seriously? How could I love to hate these guys now? They seem decent enough. Besides, they purport to be readers, which is more than we can say for our friends.
For awhile, I’ve been meaning to catch up on some of what occurred during our little sabbatical. We gave you the quick and dirty in a recent post, and those very familiar with my writing are probably thinking that’s really all you need. Fortunately for me, the high-level He Said/She Said marketing department has been able to determine that masochists, insomniacs, and people who’ve never read a word I’ve written constitute a huge segment of the population. Right in my wheelhouse.
These travel posts may be only tangentially about food, and this would seem to run counter to our mission or perhaps dilute our brand, or change the paradigm, move the cheese, or whatever. Yeah, well, it’s my blog, and turning down my muse when she decides to show up because I’m not ok with the topic is like turning down the girl dancing on the pool table at F&M at 4am because I don’t like her purse…NOT gonna happen (This is of course a purely hypothetical simile: I am very married, can barely remember what it’s like to be up at 4am, and am very picky about purses). As always, I digress.
This review is long overdue. In August, Chris Starnes, Sophie Lee, and Dan Esses opened Three Muses on Frenchmen Street, between Blue Nile and Praline Connection. Billed as a fusion of hospitality, food, and music, this place looked promising to us. As former residents of the Marigny Triangle and now part-time French Quarter habitués, we have a great affection for our old stomping grounds.
We’ve run across Dan Esses’ food in a number of venues: The now-defunct Bank, formerly at the corner of Dauphine and Touro, the Marigny Brasserie, Clever Wine Bar, and the courtyard Sunday nights at Bacchanal. For whatever reason, Dan’s been kind of a gypsy chef, bouncing from place to place. What has been consistent is the quality of his work. This guy knows what he’s doing, so hopefully he’ll stay around for awhile.
We got to know Chris when he was running the front of the house at The Marigny Brasserie, right after Katrina, when that was a very solid place. After that, he ran Coffea Café in Bywater, where Satsuma is now, and also popped up at the very well-regarded Boucherie.
So, knowing some of the players, we had high hopes. But we also had significant reservations as we waited to see the concept. In recent years, Frenchmen has grown more and more funky, and less and less amenable to fine-dining. The Brasserie, blessed with by far the best space and location on the street, did a good job for awhile, but the wheels have come off in recent years. Some may remember Belle Forche anchoring the other end of the block years earlier. For the most part this stretch of the Marigny has proved friendlier to casual, eclectic places like Yuki, 13, and Adolfo’s. We wondered if Three Muses would open it’s doors with a concept that would catch fire with the very singular Frenchmen crowd, but we worried they might aim too high. We’ve now been five or six times, and this review keeps getting away from me, so it’s time to sit down and knock it out.
We were fortunate enough to host one of my absolutely favorite friends and her husband this past week. They flew in from Santa Barbara on Wednesday evening and we had several days to hang out together. They were coming in for the LSU vs Bama game which has become tradition. These friends are the ones we met up with in Napa for a wine tour last year as well as in Colorado this past March. We were happy to host them at our apartment in the Quarter for their stay.
She had planned a surprise dinner for us months in advance that had He Said and I so intrigued that we couldn’t wait for Thursday evening. We grabbed a cocktail at our corner bar followed by another round at Napoleon House and were off to our top secret destination. What comes next folks is nothing short of pure love. These guys must really like us because they brought two of their favorite boutique wines from obscure vineyards in Santa Ynez and hosted us to an extravagant meal at Stella!
Those of you who have read a few of our past posts and/or rants are likely to hone in on just how much we love Stella! Our friends certainly did as they proved in planning this event. We, as always, loved the meal. Them? …well not so much. Disclaimer: I believe this reflects more on us than them as I had a very similar experience with another couple who were equally, if not more, unimpressed. This was eye-opening for me because it made me realize just how far from our roots He Said and I have veered.
Posted in Dinner, Rants, Restaurant, Reviews, She said
Tagged dinner, food, rants, restaurants, reviews, Stella!, wine