Uhhh! I could barely make it off the couch. Every year the day after my company holiday party gets tougher. I blame age. And each time I vow that I ‘will never do this again.’ Sometimes you just have to have the ability to laugh at yourself, especially since everyone else is laughing at you one way or the other.
By 5:00 pm I was ready to venture back out into the world, but only if it meant one thing: pho. Steve wanted a beer (hair of the dog) and I preferred to have the soup delivered to the couch. At least we could agree on the food so to Pho Orchid we went. This Vietnamese national dish is always tasty; the morning after certain evenings it is necessary. Continue reading
There’s nothing cooler than jetting off to less-traveled places around the globe and getting to know, really getting to know, the people and the culture of a place just by eating their street food. If you don’t believe me, just ask Anthony Bourdain. We used to have to waste time immersed in tedious things like ‘history,’ doing boring stuff like ‘reading’ and ‘learning’ if we were to begin to understand another place. Thanks to the Food Network, we all know we don’t have to bother with any of that lame knowledge stuff anymore; we can just chow down some mystery meat on a stick and hey presto, we’re cosmopolitan, cultured, and smart.
As if that weren’t enough, those of us lucky enough to live in the Big Easy don’t even need to bother with all that time-consuming travel anymore. We can just roll down to the trendy with a capital T Bywater and stop into the recently opened Booty’s Street Food and Instagram our friends with evidence of our global smartness in one sitting. Continue reading
tableside Cafe Brulot at the Grill Room
Sometimes you don’t feel like chasing down the latest hipster pan-ethnic super-secret skinny-jeans hotspot. Sometimes you grow weary of this 99% life. Sometimes you want to dress up and get taken care of.
For those nights, there is the Grill Room.
We have a birthday tradition around here. No matter what else we might do to celebrate the happy day, the festivities always include dinner for two at the place of the birthday boy or girl’s choosing. There are no shortage of worthy restaurant contenders in NOLA, and the choices are never easy. This December, my bride settled on the opulent dining room at the Windsor Court, where new chef Kristin Butterworth is garnering more than a little buzz as her restaurant attempts to return to its previous heights.
Those who’ve not been in NOLA all that long might be surprised to know that there was a time when the Grill Room was unquestionably the finest restaurant in town. In the late ’80′s and early ’90′s with the legendary Kevin Graham running the show The Windsor Court had carved for itself a comfortable spot at the top of the local and national fine dining heap. Since then a parade of chefs have accompanied changes in hotel ownership. Through it all, the Grill Room has remained undeniably luxurious yet unable to make its way back onto the short list of the very best dining rooms in town.
Enter chef Butterworth, the impeccably credentialed veteran of Pennsylvania’s 5 Diamond Lautrec and the Inn at Little Washington, who we had the opportunity to meet at a reception soon after her arrival. On paper at least, the Grill Room seemed to have made the perfect hire, and we were looking forward to the experience.
What happens when the local anarchist buys a minivan?
We’ve written before about Green Goddess, the extremely eclectic French Quarter restaurant located just across Exchange Alley from the staid Pelican Club, a juxtaposition much like a parked hippie-filled VW Microbus on Audubon Place. Chris Debarr’s intimate love child has been on the short list of most unusual NOLA dining options since its opening, an exuberant not-for-everyone grab bag of ingredients many of which you’ve not only never considered combining, but in many cases didn’t even know existed.
Well the enfant terrible of the French Quarter has grown up and gone all mainstream.
Six weeks ago, DeBarr opened Serendipity in the American Can building on Orleans Avenue, eschewing the legendarily cramped dining area and kitchen of The Goddess for some decidedly more spacious and upscale digs, complete with parking. We had a first look last night. Continue reading
Exhibit A, from a restaurant in Morocco. We left.
It is 7:00 pm. This place is empty. In that instant we glance at one another as if to say “let’s get the hell out of here” and suddenly a young woman arrives to greet us: “Table for two?”
In that brief moment we missed our opportunity. We should have left.
We’ve all been there. As recently as two weeks ago, Steve and I happened upon such an occasion. As we approached the restaurant the owner was outside by himself enjoying a dessert on the front porch. This was our first sign that this might not go well. It continued to spiral downhill once inside with a combination of scratched-through menu items and unavailable wine. These factors in addition to an overall air of depression/desperation permeating the establishment led to a rather somber meal. The owner was basically waving his white flag outside the door. I only wish I could say we entered obliviously, but the truth is we knew and stepped right through the portal of doom anyway.
Which led Steve and I to two questions:
- How do you know when a restaurant is past it’s prime? Are there tell-tale signs that the joint has one foot in the culinary grave and is just going through the motions until someone puts it out of its misery?
- If you do get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, is it ok to leave?
First, I’ll address number 2: Can you leave? The short answer is yes, of course. You are choosing to spend your dining dollars at a business. By definition this is an at-will experience and if at any point (preferably prior to actually ordering although there are notable exceptions) you conclude that you’d prefer anethetic-free surgery to the meal in question, you can absolutely opt-out. Just remember to be respectful to the staff.
If there are multiple signs (and I don’t mean the hostess is seating another set of guests the second you grace the restaurant with your presence), then you can leave at one of a few pivotal moments either before or after you’ve been seated. You have not obligated them to making you any food or serving you drinks so I think you are free and clear to walk. If you have in fact ordered/received a drink, kindly pay the fare and be on your way.
Now for the more subjective issue of what precisely those signs are: An empty dining room in and of itself is not code for “the lights are about to be cut off.” If however you can check the boxes for multiple of the following, your no-so-good alarm should be sounding and you may want to reconsider spending your next hour here:
- The dining room is empty around 7pm, particularly if it is a Thursday-Saturday.
- It takes more than a minute or two for you to be greeted at the door by a representative of the dining establishment.
- There is a bar and no person is manning the bar.
- You are presented a menu where there are items crossed out. If they have a paper menu enclosed in one of those 1980’s clear plastic sleeves with the gold corners and they haven’t spent the time to reprint it with the current menu selections, walk out now. In fact, you have carte blanche to walk simply because of the presentation of the menu in the clear plastic sleeve.
- The server initiates conversation with a laundry list of 86ed items as opposed to daily specials.
- The atmosphere in general is dreary and more akin to a funeral rather than a nice, jovial evening.
The short of it is this: there are too many great restaurants in this city to spend your dollars triaging a dying patient. I am all for trying new places and taking chances but caveat emptor and trust your gut. This is your meal, your experience and your money. Spend it wisely my friends.
What’s a girl to do with her gum? I was fancied up, dress and heels, for a night on the town, grabbing a last-minute stick of gum as we walked the couple of blocks from the cab to the restaurant. The expected last trash can opportunity to discretely get rid of it before being seated failed to materialize and so I found myself across the table from my husband, all dressed up with no place for the gum to go…but only for a moment.
Notably absent from the new openings in New Orleans over the past two years is a spot-on fine dining establishment. Until now. Sure there have been some solid newcomers in the casual dining arena, but I had been left wanting for the knock it out of the park kind of place that is Restaurant R’evolution.
It’s been a long time coming. Literally. Nearly two years and over $8 million in the making, the joint venture between Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto opened officially on June 4, 2012, and we found our first opportunity for a visit this past Saturday evening.
We arrived slightly tardy for our 6 pm reservation in a sea of Red Dress Run aftermath. The bar, even at 6pm, was packed. We were escorted to our table in the first of at least 3 dining rooms (three that we saw anyway). Continue reading
Welcome to the funhouse
Oh boy, there are so many reasons not to go to Dat Dog.
Thousands of them.
As in the thousands of calories that descend upon you, reducing you to a Rip Van Winkle stupor upon leaving and Amish-style shunning of the bathroom scale for days afterward.
And that is why it is with just a bit of guilt I tell you that if you’ve not been to Dat Dog, you must go.
I’ll admit it; we’re late to the game. The homage to all things dog has been open on Freret for more than a year now. They’ve already outgrown their launch location and moved across the street to a repurposed garage. We don’t eat a lot of hot dogs, and we don’t cherish any misguided illusions about how healthy they are, so whenever we discussed Dat Dog we just ended up somewhere else, until last week.
Let me tell you, that was a mistake, because calories aside I can’t find anything wrong with this place. Continue reading
CC Image courtesy Nina Matthews Photography at Flickr
First, I want to thank you for all the good times, and we sure have shared some. Yes, there’s been far more good than bad, and that’s what’s kept me in this relationship. That is until perhaps now. You see, I’ve met someone new. I didn’t know it could happen like this, but one little experience and I am hooked. I’m counting the days until we see each other again, and I just can’t get that taste out of my mouth. The thought of him is dancing around in my head.
It’s not you, it’s me… Continue reading
My first time was the fall of 2006 on a crisp Friday evening. I’ll never forget the feeling of complete decadence as if I left my own body and traveled far away and into someone else’s with a much larger bank account. At least that’s how I remember it.
Steve and I had eaten out a lot, perhaps more than 75% of our family and friends, but never before had we stepped into such a luxurious experience in the city of New Orleans. Stella treated us like pure royalty and it didn’t take long to figure out we weren’t in Kansas (or Olive Garden) anymore.
I had the Georges Bank Scallops and he the Duck Five Ways; we shared the Iron Chef Chili Prawns . We savored wine over dinner and before the end of the meal Chef Scott Boswell chatted with us about our pending honeymoon in Spain, telling us we needed to get to El Bulli if possible (that didn’t happen). Stella was an instant favorite topping both of our lists. We’d send people here for years to follow.
Fast forward several visits to 2010 when we had the winter truffle tasting in February followed by a second visit in October of that year with friends. Steve and I secretly left feeling perhaps like it had lost just a little bit of its luster. Was the chef focusing on other things, we pondered? Continue reading
Passing the salt at Suis Generis
The ladies at the next table needed salt and pepper, so I drove it on over. It was just another detail amid an evening of discovery, the centerpiece of which was Suis Generis, the Bywater creation of Ernest Foundas and Adrienne Bell.
After beginning with a set at the Spotted Cat (incidentally, remember the name Kristina Morales. This lady is a talent), we found ourselves amid a street scene we didn’t know existed at the corner of Burgundy and Louisa. There are a number of new restaurants in NOLA at the moment that remain on our list, and this was our night to hit Maurepas Foods. As we drove past the sleek restaurant and circled the block to hunt for parking, Maurepas was beginning not to look like a sure thing. The restaurant was packed, and the wait was an hour, so we put ourselves on the list and decided to explore the block a little, as we certainly had the time.
Thus we found ourselves outside Suis Generis, wondering what exactly it was. Bar? Restaurant? Art installation? The cards and menus on a small table outside gave it all away, so we decided to check it out and get a drink as we waited for dinner, wondering why we’d not heard a whisper about this place before. Adrienne greeted us as we entered and answered our first question by letting us know that we’d stumbled in on their opening night. She showed us to a small table where we could of course have a drink, dropped off menus, and took off. The place was busy as hell, and the staff was running. Continue reading