Friday, April 8, 2016

Staycation in New Orleans : Balise & Compère Lapin

This was the first time I've had a weekday off in New Orleans since I first started working! It was such a nice break because it reminded me of how it used to be when I had so many sunny afternoons to spend as a student. My stayation landed on French Quarter Fest weekend, so more things were happening in the Quarter than usual. The musicians, bands, street performances, poets, Jackson Square artists, vendors, and visitors just seemed to multiply! Stages and markets are set up in various locations all around the French Quarter, and many restaurants are serving festival food specials ranging from barbecue shrimp stuffed po-boys to crawfish in lobster sauce. Though you already know I'm all about festival feasting, this photolog I'm going to share with you some finer dining experiences I had this long weekend. 

One Warehouse District go-to for me is Balise. It's modern Louisiana fare for the gastronomically adventurous. The first time I went, they just recently started serving brunch, and I had the most juicy hot sausage lambwich that was topped with a runny egg in a soft brioche bun. It's not easily forgettable, so I went back and had the fried smoked oysters with a side of fried smoked cauliflower. Definitely one of my favorite brunch spots in New Orleans. 

Now the real highlight this weekend, however, was my lunch at Compère Lapin. It's located in the Old No. 77 Hotel off Lafayette and I honestly can't stop thinking about it. It's a New Orleans Creole Caribbean cuisine that is exquisite, creative, and hearty. Chef Nina Compton showcases her St. Lucian roots, adding a New Orleans + Southern flair with the sophistication of French culinary pedigree. Her chive buttermilk biscuit was served with small logs of bacon butter and salted honey butter, which I ended up combining on my warm flaky biscuit. I also tried a very flavorful curried goat stew with homemade sweet potato gnocchi and topped with cashews and cliantro. It was reminiscent of Hong Kong style curry beef brisket. My tastebuds still get excited just simply thinking about it. I can't wait to go back. 

640 Carondelet Street
New Orleans

Compère Lapin
The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
535 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans

Power breakfast! Barley quinoa avocado bowl spiced with Slap Ya Mama

When your cauliflower game on fleek, Balise

Fried oysters with a shaved broccoli + brussels sprouts salad, Balise

Best hot sausage lambwich on the softest brioche bun, Balise

Mr. Jack Daniels courtesy of local artist Simon

Chive buttermilk biscuits with bacon butter + salted honey butter
- AMEN!, Compere Lapin

Chef Nina's signature curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi, Compere Lapin

Miss Luna admiring Reggie's Art from Jackson Square!
Thank you so much for the beautiful New Orleans jazz + architecture print! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Feasting at festivals

It's spring time in NOLA and that means festivals on festivals on festivals! After Mardi Gras, it's pretty much non-stop festivals until Halloween. What that means is plenty of outdoor fun, live music, and of course, food. This past weekend was a successful one because I went to two food focused festivals: Louisiana SPCA's Brunch Fest and FoodFest: America's Hometown Eats.

We started at the Brunch Fest in City Park that was a fund raiser and adoption promotion for the SPCA. There were many doggies out and about as well as way too many people in a tight space setup. Though we got there only a few hours in, the lines were unbelievably long and many vendors were already out of food. Man was I disappointed! All I got after a 20+ minute wait was a got a Bloody Mary and fruit parfait from The Cheesy Cajun for $12.

Needless to say, we quickly left and headed to the French Quarter for FoodFest. Though it's advertised as hosting America's Hometown Eats, vendors were primarily from all around Louisiana and Memphis. Not that I'm complaining, because we got some bomb food from every booth we tried (plus less than 2 minutes wait for any of them)!

  • Gus's Fried Chicken, Memphis - $2 for a wing, $3 for a thigh, but man do they know how to do their chicken fried! It's extra crispy, paired great with their slaw, and even better topped with Louisiana hot sauce. 
  • Central BBQ, Memphis - great ribs with the most seasoned BBQ chips you'll ever taste and even greater service. My friend bought a t-shirt, but they didn't have her size, so one of the owners offered to mail her one for free! 
  • Sheraton, NOLA - they had all their gumbo trophies laid out on the counter for everyone to say, and I must say their gumbo was very rich, flavorful, and got more tasty with each bite. I also ordered a delicious glazed redfish topped with a crab/peashoot salad for $8 (best value, hands down). 
Festival season is definitely my favorite season of the year. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Soup or stew?

It's finally spring! There has been gorgeous days with endless sunshine balanced with dreadful rainy ones that are unseasonably chilly. For days where I happily stay indoors with Luna, I enjoy one of my homemade soups (that always turn out more like a stew) while watching lightning storms. 

I have two stewy soup recipes to share with y'all. The first one is actually a special case of red beans leftovers remade with lots of local veggies, such as okra and kale. The second is my rendition of cabbage soup. I used my tomato sauce as a base, so it's a little reminiscent of Chinese style borscht soup. And though I didn't make it to the parades this year to catch my own cabbage, I think I made up for it by serving with homemade flax Irish soda bread. 

Soups/stews are easy because once you prepare everything, you just toss it all together in a pot and let it do its own thing while you can do yours. I'm all about the low maintenance cooking. I hope you enjoy these hearty recipes to get you through until the rain clouds part and the sun shines brightly again! 

Red beans okra kale stew (serves 4)
1 cup cooked red beans (feel free to use a can of Blue Runner beans)
4 oz chicken, sliced into chunks 
4 oz chicken sausage, sliced uinto chunks 
1 cup kale, chopped
1 cup okra, chopped
1/2 cup kitchen vegetable scraps, chopped (I used carrots, celery, tomato, and onion) 
1 cup vegetable / chicken broth 
2 oz canola oil
1/2 tsp Slap Ya Mama

1. In a saucepan, sautee chicken and sausage in canola oil until browned. 
2. Add the vegetable scraps and kale.
3. Once everything is sizzling, add the okra, red beans, and broth. 
4. Bring to a low boil and allow to simmer for at least thirty minutes to an hour. Add Slap Ya Mama.
5. If stew is too thick, add more water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat once desired consistency is reached. 

Creole cabbage soup (serves 4-6)
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
4 red potatoes, chopped 
1 cup tomato sauce 
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbs ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp Slap Ya Mama

1. In a pot, allow butter to melt. Brown garlic. 
2. Toss in cabbage and mix thoroughly.
3. Once sizzling, stir in tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Bring to a low boil.
4. Add carrots, potatoes, and bay leaves. 
5. Allow soup to simmer for at least 2 hours. Mix once every 20-30 minutes. 
6. If soup is too thick, add more water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat once desired consistency is reached. 
7. Serve with a side of Irish soda bread! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Farm fresh salad

A few days ago, I was heading towards Camp Hope out in Arabi. As I was pulling up, I saw a familiar face. It was Jimmy of Parish Farms walking his dog. I met him a year ago when I had my internship rotation at Hollygrove Farmers Market and he was delivering his salad mixes and arugula. Since then, I've always returned to Hollygrove for the arugula because that's the only place where I can get the spicy mature green (the supermarket boxes taste bland after you try his).

I waved Jimmy down and he offered to give me the "50 cents tour" of his plots in the area. He took a knife and a large bag out of his little pick-up and I followed him around his after-rain muddy half wild rows. As he chopped me pounds of broccoli, several types/colors of romaine, baby bibb, frisee, and what seemed like endless amounts of his famous sharp peppery arugula, we chatted extensively about the health of our country and the obesity epidemic. At the end of walking through five out of seven plots, I had a hefty bag of garden fresh greens that I could not wait to go home, rinse off and eat. I thanked him for his generosity and he encouraged me to call him whenever I was in the area in the late afternoon because he has so much produce that he may not be able to sell, but would love to share so it won't go to waste.

After lots of rinsing and drying, Henok put together a green mix with all the fresh salad greens we got from Farmer Jimmy. He tossed it with fresh Ponchatoula strawberries and cherry tomatoes from the Crescent City Farmers Market, while I roasted carrots with honey and baby portobello mushrooms with balsamic vinegar. They all went together with some pecans, walnuts, and I topped it off with mozzarella pearls. With a drizzle of my homemade Creole mustard vinaigrette and a side of rosemary (fresh from volunteering with Edible Schoolyard) biscuit pancake, oh goodness, what a perfect lunch!

Farm fresh salad (serves 4)
2 cups mixed lettuce
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup frisee
1 dz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 dz strawberries, sliced 
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts) 
6 carrots, sliced and roasted with olive oil and honey at 400F for 15 min
1 dz baby portobello mushrooms, roasted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar at 400F for 15 min
1/3 cup mozzarella balls

1. Prepare all ingredients 
2. Toss together and serve 

Creole mustard vinaigrette (serves 4)
1 tbs Creole mustard
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp black pepper 
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Mix all ingredients 
2. Drizzle over or toss with salad 

... still working on my biscuit shaping, hence biscuit pancake! 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Shaya, New Orleans

Arguably the hardest restaurant to get a decent reservation at in town, Shaya serves modern Israeli cuisine by Alon Shaya and John Besh. Yes, this restaurant probably has reservations lined up so that you can next get a table Monday evening at 4:30 in June. I may be exaggerating, but not by too much.

TL;DR -- great food, better pita. 

So, was it worth it? Let me tell you. Nestled in the back of a white building adorned with ocean blue gas lamps on Magazine Street is a wood burning oven that spits out steaming hot pita bread that is constantly refilled for your pleasure and gluttony. (Warning: I will be praising this pita incessantly throughout the rest of this post.) I heard that the pita was good, but I didn't expect it to be that good. Every time our waitress brought us over a fresh loaf, I swear it was fresher and fluffier than the last. I even complimented the oven master (I made that up) on his amazing job and asked him what temperature I needed to get my oven at home to replicate this bready ambrosia -- the answer is 650 - 700F. Anyways, good thing I planned the meal around having amazing bread and veered away from all the carby menu choices. 

Henok is not the strictest vegan in the book, but vegan enough that eating out in New Orleans/ Louisiana/ the south tends to be a challenge. So thank goodness for ethnic cuisine that doesn't have cheese or pork bits intermingled in every recipe. There were more than enough options on the menu that are both vegetarian and vegan friendly here at Shaya, making us both happy campers (I gave up eating a lot of different animals for Lent). Here's an overview of what we had on the table:
  • tabouleh - a rather green and roughly chopped tabouleh made with lots of slivered almonds
  • lutenitsa - a smoky Bulgarian spread of red pepper, garlic, eggplant, and tomato
  • Moroccan carrots - served warm, generously spiced, and my favorite of the sharing plates
  • roasted cabbage - a flavorful and tender whole quarter head of cabbage prepared sous vide then roasted served with muhammara, a creamy roasted red pepper dip, drizzled with tahini and hazelnuts
  • crispy halloumi - I can never resist halloumi when it's offered because it honestly remind me of my favorite childhood snack, Cheez Doodles. It was fried and served over a creamy bed of caramelized celery root and greens. 
  • Moroccan mint tea - this is my favorite thing to enjoy at shisha bars, and Shaya's was served generously in a large French press. However next time I'll ask them to hold the lemon. It came out way more citrusy (and sweetened) than mint! 
As expected, everything paired perfectly with the perfect pita. It was made for dipping, tartining, and sandwiching. The thick, warm, airy pita makes me reminiscent of Luzzo's cloud-like pizza crust because it is simply that amazing. Good thing we didn't order more dishes because we left that night with half the cabbage, letenitsa, and two thirds of the halloumi to go (yay, leftovers!). When I come back, and I most certainly will to get more of this life changing pita (am I starting to sound like Katniss yet?), I will try it with the curried fried cauliflower and black garlic butternut squash hummuses. Yup, I already got my next meal here planned. 


fried cheese FTW

4213 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Oyster fried rice + choy in oyster sauce

When you're running a Chinese kitchen, you are bound to have a pantry filled to the brim with a variety of dried goods ranging from flowers to medicinal herbs to seafood. Over Chinese New Year, my mom prepared dried oysters and seared them with soy sauce and honey to offer to the heavenly beings and deities. With that of course comes all the leftovers you can imagine, so I found myself with an excess of honey soy glazed oysters in my fridge back down here in New Orleans. After days of eating whole dried oysters, it honestly got monotonous and textures and flavors were starting to become overwhelming. In my usual fashion, I decided to remake my leftovers into something way more glamorous: oyster fried rice. 

There are several key factors to making irresistible fried rice that I can eat several bowls of at a time.
  • THE RICE! Like I mentioned before, it's got to be overnight rice.
  • Start with browning garlic, scallion, and ginger: the Cantonese holy trinity. 
  • Always finish off with a splash of sesame oil 
And because I'm a dietitian and actually try to eat as nutritiously as possible, you'll see that #myplate is half filled with vegetables. The lady at the Crescent City Farmers Market told me that it was bok choy, but it must be some southern / American variety that I'm unfamiliar with. Either way, it tasted delicious simply sauteed and topped with oyster sauce. 

What an easy meal that I have been eating leftovers for days of! 

Oyster fried rice
6-8 whole dried oysters, pre-soaked and diced
1 tbs dried shrimp, pre-soaked  
3 tails scallion, diced 
1 knob ginger, diced
6 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups of brown rice, cooked 
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder 
3 tbs canola oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Brown scallion, ginger and garlic. Sautee with oysters and dried shrimp. 
2. Once everything is slightly browned, add the rice and stir-fry until rice is fragrant. Rice should be slightly harder to the bite, yet still retain some degree of moisture. (This should take 5-10 minutes depending on the heat of your stove top.) 
3. Season on salt and garlic powder. 
4. Mix in the two beaten eggs and keep the rice moving in the wok until the eggs are fully cooked and dispersed throughout. 
5. Finally, add the sesame and make sure all ingredients are mixed evenly. 
6. Remove the fried rice from the heat and add the sesame oil. Mix well.

Optional: top with XO sauce - spicy dried scallop sauce