"[A] fantastic blog... which ranges from opinions on food and wine to daily adventures in a culinary-related profession."

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Margherita Made in Inwood

a Margherita is always the first test

IF you've been following this blog for long (you're still unemployed?), you probably know just how much I love sparkling wine... and a good Margherita pizza! Hence, I was thrilled when I'd learned that the latest restaurant to open in my neighborhood was serving an authentic-seeming pizza Margherita!

My first bite at Maranello Trattoria (no website as of yet) was about 2-3 weeks ago. With suspicions, David and I walked the few short blocks to the new eatery which currently has the closest semblance of a white-tablecloth, sit-down restaurant one can find in Inwood--save New Leaf Restaurant. (Yes, I am a snob; and yes, I will judge you if your napkin is not in your lap at least by the time any sort of food arrives at the table.) David was not really eating, but I was; and I placed an order for a simple Margherita pizza to start. (After a short stint working for Neapolitan-inspired chef, Donatella Arpaia, I've concluded that a pizza Margherita is the true test of any self-proclaiming pizzaiolo; if Maranello's Margherita could pass muster, then I'd be willing to try one of their other pies.)

When my Margherita pizza had arrived I had my Canon S95 at the ready, but with a somewhat lackluster presentation, I instead reached for my fork. But at first bite I was humbled by a pie that tasted as pure as the volcanic-stone baked pies I'd enjoyed just a few years prior, working with chef Arpaia (there are strict guidelines one must follow in order to claim their pies "Neapolitan"). Pleased with the pie, I carried on with an order of arancini; yet, while I could tell that the arancini were, in fact, handmade, they also came across as a bit bland.

HOWEVER, living in New York City for more than half of my life now, pizza is in my blood (along with black coffee and my unlimited MetroCard). And following my late lunch/early dinner at Maranello, I was counting down the days to my return (being just three blocks away, how could I not be excited?).

fried calamari at Maranello

































This afternoon I returned for "brunch" (even though it was 5 o'clock, it was my first meal of the day). Having just opened, I had free range of the entire dining room and opted for a Broadway-facing window seat. And since it was also my day off, I decided to start with a glass of prosecco. Following my order, I looked forward to Maranello's bread service which consists of your choice of fresh baguette or focaccia served with oil.


Again, I ordered a Margherita pizza which arrived much quicker than I'd expected it would and while its presentation appeared more photo-worthy than on my last visit, the product ultimately seemed a bit off. First, there seemed to be an out of place aroma... was that truffle oil that I was smelling? And just beneath the surface, the dough seemed to be a bit undercooked. Yet, the pizza still proved to be one of the decidedly better meals one could get in the neighborhood. And the service was pretty much on point and friendly. Finishing both the wine and the pizza, I decided to order one more item (as to not have to cook later). Examining the menu, I eventually narrowed down my selection to fried calamari, paired with a glass of the house rosé (decidedly drier than the prosecco).

As my 'reverse starter' was placed before me, I thought that it looked well enough; and it mimicked Maranello's theme of freshness, with circles of steam wafting upward. I was also glad to see a fair number of tentacles included on the plate, as well as two choices of dipping sauce (a cilantro-garlic aioli and a fresh mint marinara sauce). The squid itself tasted fresh and the batter was nice and crispy. But as for the flavor: the dish could have benefited greatly from a fresh squeeze of lemon, or at least from a bit more salt. However, the rosé kept me placated and in the end I benefited from knowing that next time, I'll simply stick with a Margherita pizza. Perhaps over the next few weeks, Maranello will iron out some of its kinks.

Maranello Trattoria, 1 Nagle St., Inwood (212) 544-7400

Thursday, May 1, 2014

#GayFoodieColumn

click image for a full-size view

I'D realized a couple of weeks ago that the hashtag #gayfoodiecolumn had not (yet) been claimed on Instagram; I now unofficially own it and have been adding it to all of my postings of "THE DISH" (#THEDISH) on my Instagram profile. 

Oh yes... that's what's been taking up so much of my time over the past several months (THE DISH, not Instagram).

SINCE about November of last year, I've been writing a regular dining column aptly titled "THE DISH" for a bi-weekly, free listings magazine which is available throughout NYC and even extending unto Long Island and New Jersey. With 35,000 metro-ites reading my column every two weeks, my dream of making as a (print) writer has well-nigh come true! But perhaps the most interesting thing that's happened through all of this is seeing how much one's writing can change when targeting a specific audience (and topic)--as well as trying to maintain consistency of product (think "non-vintage," all you wine nerds out there). There's a lot more people you need to please writing for a magazine, than you do writing for your own blog!

I've also learned quite a bit about the mechanics of publishing, as well as learning a great deal of patience (it can sometimes take three additional pages of content to add just one additional page in a magazine)! I will probably never forget the time when I'd submitted my second column to the magazine via e-mail--and it didn't appear in the following issue!--how I'd canceled all of my plans that evening because I was devastated thinking that the magazine had changed their minds about having me write for them! Needless to say, that was not the case and my article ran in an issue two weeks later.

Yet, I have been neglecting my blogging duties. But I am always on the lookout for new and worthy blogging material! My problem, however, is that I'm a bit of a creature of habit and once I've become fond of a particular bar/restaurant/bottle of wine... it can be rather hard to tear me away. And a blog all about brut bubbly and 2013 Provence rosés would probably not be the most interesting read. Unless that is what you want. Do you? 

Nah! Just invite me somewhere great that I haven't been to before... and now that I'm a real writer, the tab's on you! #sassygay

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Funky Red

































DURING a recent trip to De Wine Spot, I came home with this "real funky" red (thanks to 'house sommelier,' Cynthia Araiza). Grateful of Ms. Araiza's wise recommendations, I was quite excited about trying this new vin de pays. I opened the bottle one night while David was cooking up a celery soup (whose version is decidedly different from mine), and at first taste I'd noted: wild tannins which attack on the tongue, but soon soften in the mouth. And on the nose: that woodsy, wet paper scent that often comes with drier, more aged reds.

WITH its big, soft tannins and unique nose, it really was quite a lovely wine. But what to pair it with? I don't know if celery soup was the best... I keep thinking of goat cheese. Is that even a goat on the label?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Undoing the Holiday

IT'S 2014 and alas, last year's holiday season has come and gone (including my birthday). But it didn't pass without more than a few hurrahs...

it takes more than bells and whistles to impress this New Yorker;
a recreated Scottish railway station c. 1940 will do


































Three weeks after my birthday, on a Monday night, David (who was still in Ithaca on my birthday) took me out for an evening of birthday surprises which both started and ended at The McKittrick Hotel.

Our first stop was at The Heath, a recently opened restaurant spinoff [of Sleep No More]. As David and I loaded ourselves into an elevator, we had our first encounter with what would be an evening spent with actors; Are you checking into the hotel? When we stepped off the lift, we'd been transported to a 1939 Scottish railway station complete with a newsstand displaying vintage periodicals. After checking my coat in (with another actor), we were directed to the restaurant "across from platform 1." A few steps forward through a narrow corridor led us to the main entrance of the restaurant. The first thing I'd noticed upon peering in (aside from the 1930's garb that the entire staff was in firm accordance with), was the faux, recreated smoke of a smoky restaurant, which wafted slowly beneath low-hung lampshades.

Following the red-lipped hostess to a corner banquette at the front of the restaurant, David recommended the prix-fixe menu, "for those about to experience Sleep No More." (It was, then, clear what the rest of our evening would entail.) We decided on sharing our selections: mini pork pies and bitter greens; roast chicken and benne crusted cod; and Nutella icebox tart and bread and butter pudding. After starting our meal with a half-dozen oysters, which we'd added into the mix, our main appetizers arrived promptly thereafter. The pork pies, with their decidedly-spicy picalilli relish, were pleasing enough; but it was the salad of bitter greens with meyer lemon, red onion, pistachio and crumbled cheddar that was unbelievably good!

Following the salad (that I could eat everyday) was the succulent roast chicken with charred broccoli, apples, hazelnuts and boiled cider. Its presentation was lovely, and the tender, savory chicken was thoughtfully offset by slivers of sweet, cooked apple and whole, toasted hazelnuts. (The benne cod followed suit after the pork pies.) While David and I were still sipping sparkling rosé, our final course had arrived. Again, my plate was garnished with whole, toasted hazelnuts--an ingredient that chef R. L. King (previously of Hundred Acres) seems to be fond of--and my dish was as pleasing as its predecessor. In the end, I'd decided that this prix-fixe menu (and prix-fixe menus are something that I never opt for) is one that I could definitely revisit!

I always put my best foot forward at Christmas


































THREE nights later, David and I were celebrating again; this time it was a pre-Christmas celebration, as he would be heading south the following morning to spend Christmas at his sister's house in San Antonio. As I headed home with a bottle of Bollinger champagne, picked up at PJ Wine earlier that day, David was preparing a(nother) surprise dinner. At home, he'd laid out a beautiful spread of several of my favorite foods, from black truffles to caviar; and the Bollinger champagne was excellent with deep, mature flavors and incredibly fine bubbles. It was certainly the best champagne I've had to date--I even prefer it to Dom Pérignon (2003) which is simply too "clean" for my taste...

Yet, with week after week of unbridled indulgence: come January 1st, I was yearning for something light and green. The solution: celery soup!

doing more cooking wouldn't be a bad resolution, either

I'd nearly forgotten just how much I love to cook, and that a vegetable soup is one of the easiest things that I know how to make--I don't even need a recipe! Thinking about the soup for several days, I knew that I wanted to keep it light, using primarily celerychicken stock and not much more than that. But after picking up what I'd thought was all the ingredients I'd need for the soup, I decided on adding some heavy cream (if only just a touch) as well.

chopped, seasoned and ready to boil

After chopping the celery (for even and quicker boiling), I threw it into a stock pot along with a quart of chicken stock and a healthy dose of salt, pepper and garlic powder (plus a dash of truffle salt as well). Covered, I brought the soup to a full boil; then reduced the heat for a low boil, keeping it covered and stirring occasionally. Once the celery became tender (about 20 minutes), I poured the whole lot into a blender (in two batches) over a low purée. Transferring the puréed broth to a smaller pot, I added a quick pour of heavy cream and adjusted the seasonings to taste, adding a bit of allspice and nutmeg (I wanted to mimic a wintry butternut squash soup).

holiday weight, consider yourself served!

That afternoon, David and I enjoyed the slightly creamy soup for lunch along with olive oil tortas and rye crispbread, paired with a French sauvignon blanc leftover from our wedding in August (yes, we still have wine leftover from the wedding).

I'm rarely one to reach for sauvignon blanc,
but it worked quite well with our soup


































The vegetal notes in the Coteaux du Giennois were brought out quite strongly by the soup. And for once (we'd been trying to finish these bottles for months now!), the wine made perfect sense at one of our meals.

Just a few more days of this soup and my waistline will be prepped and ready for (my famous) pommes Maxim's!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Week of Celebrating

ONE week ago today marked my thirty-fifth birthday. I can hardly believe it either.

Alas, David had to be on campus in Ithaca that day; but a few of my nearest and dearest friends did not let the day go by without at least a hurrah...

birthday dinner at Jean-Georges' Perry St

I began my evening with a glass of Georges Gardet champagne in Perry St's lounge while I waited for my dear friend, Cynthia to arrive (for a gentleman never leaves a lady waiting).

birthday champagne

By nine p. m., my entire party had arrived and we were warmly escorted to a banquette table at the front of the restaurant. In usual fashion, I had already decided on my menu selections after viewing Perry St's menu online, earlier that day. Having had their (stellarfall roasted vegetables and fruits previously, I decided on starting my meal with a cheese course: the farm brie cheese with Provence black truffle. It was a natural pairing with champagne, after all. 

Following the cheese course, I selected the signature Perry St fried chicken with honey-chipotle glaze, local brussels sprouts and chicken jus. Continuing with bubbly, Cynthia and I agreed upon a bottle of Billecart-Salmon because in my book, champagne is an ideal pairing with anything fried!

Perry St fried chicken

It's not often that I'll refer to something as the best When I call something the best it's because I know what I'm talking about, or at least it's the best of what I've had... That being said, Perry St's fried chicken is the best fried chicken (I've ever had). And actually, that's saying quite a lot because I'm usually the type that would turn up my nose at such a "homey-sounding" entrée. But Perry St's deboned and light  fried chicken (it's flash-fried after a near-full cook in a pan) was beautifully elegant with brussels sprouts three ways (puréed, roasted and wilted) and full of intense flavor with its rich and slightly tangy chicken jus.

At the end of our meal, I decided against dessert and instead decided on a glass of housemade Johnnie Walker Black and Gosling's rum eggnog which turned out to be the perfect ending to my birthday dinner.

THE following day, I was lucky enough to have off--not only to recover from what ended up being a very late night, but also to prepare for the annual The Family Stone viewing and strata eating party!

'twas the night before strata


































The annual Family-Stone-strata-eating-party is a Bradley family tradition, of sorts (although with my sister and me now married, I should say Bradley-Friend-DeVito). Each holiday season my sister, Kim and I get together to watch The Family Stone (our favorite holiday movie) and enjoy homemade strata and bubbly. One of the characters in the film (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) attempts to make strata, but fails miserably, which is where I'd originally gotten the idea of making one (as well as from the recipe included in the DVD extras).

cremini mushrooms, ready for sautéing

Recalling wisdom imparted from Julia Child, of using the finest ingredients possible, I opted for cremini mushrooms in this year's strata. After a brief sauté (with plenty of butter!), I layered the delicate mushrooms into the two pans.

with extra guests this year, I decided
on making two stratas

Next came the fun part--decorating the stratas with the bread snowflakes. Next: another layer of tomatoes, then the egg mixture; and the final step was a generous grating of parmigiano-reggiano atop the strata. (The original recipe calls for parmesan, but we all know that parmesan is imitation parmigiano-reggiano!)

































































Being that I made two stratas this year, I decided to add sliced black olives--an optional ingredient--to one.

AFTER spending a minimum of six hours overnight in my refrigerator, the stratas were ready for their ninety-minute baking. This was the fruit of my labor:

this is not a close-up of a N. Y. slice

After cooling for several hours, I sliced the stratas into squares and packed them for their rail trip to Chatam, N. J. where this year's Family-Stone-strata-eating-party took place. Although I saw room for improvement, everybody else in attendance was in unanimous approval of the strata.

Meh.

The following day was Thanksgiving Day and guess who had to work a continuous service from noon to 10 p. m. I'll give you a hint: he just turned thirty-five. Yes, it was me. It was my first time working on Thanksgiving, but I'll have to say that it wasn't all that bad. Especially when you consider the fact that we were given a Thanksgiving dinner at the end of our shift.

a late-night spread for the staff

It was planned that we all would have a proper, sit-down dinner in the main dining room; but even at 11:30, there were still not enough vacant seats to accommodate the lot of us. Nevertheless, we did manage to have a happy Thanksgiving...

especially me!

I must say that it was among some of the best Thanksgiving dinners I've ever had (that turkey jus!) and even though by Friday morning, I'd felt as if I'd been in a two-day carbohydrate coma... I had a 2:30 brunch reservation at Cookshop!

ALTHOUGH Cookshop is known as one of the best--if not the best--brunch destinations in the city, anyone that's brunched at Cookshop also knows just how heavy a Cookshop brunch can be. For long, my Cookshop brunch triad was: beignets, mac & cheese and potato hash (oh, that potato hash!). But after two back-to-back days of holiday overindulgence, I'd promised myself that I'd be good...

Cookshop's Amish chicken breast salad

Looking over the menu, I decided to bypass the spiced apple beignets, and didn't even consider the chipotle-spiced potato hash; it was the house made semolina macaroni with five cheeses and seasoned bread crumbs that required girding up of loins to refrain from ordering it! Being (nearly) as modest as a Carmelite nun, I ordered no more than a glass of Rioja, and the Amish chicken breast salad. Steering away from red meat; far away from anything fried; and with plenty of dark, leafy greens to boot--I figured I was in the clear and on the road to resetting my equilibrium. The salad with marinated Tuscan kale, carrots, celery root, toasted walnuts, golden raisins, honeycrisp apples, and a sherry vinaigrette must have been just what I'd needed because within minutes of finishing the dish, I felt completely renewed and healthful! Who knew that a Cookshop brunch could do that?

I never said restraint was my forte.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's Time for Another Giveaway!

IT'S been a while since I'd held a giveaway and through the kindness of author, Edward Behr and The Penguin Press I decided it was high time!


booty for one lucky winner!


50 Foods is not a cookbook, but if the way to prepare, serve, or eat something isn't well-known, Behr explains it within...

Like Behr’s celebrated magazine, The Art of Eating, 50 Foods presents simple, practical information about buying, using, preparing, and enjoying. Behr focuses on aroma, appearance, flavor, and texture to determine what “the best” means for each food. He tells you how to select top quality—signs of freshness and ripeness, best season, top varieties, proper aging. If the way to prepare, serve, or eat something is little known, then he explains it (how to open an oyster, why the best way to cook green beans is boiling, how to clean a whole salted anchovy, when to eat and when to discard the rind of a cheese). Behr also names the most complementary foods and flavors for each of these fifty marvelous foods and the wines that go with them.

I've already started flipping through the book (I ordered a copy for myself, as well) and what I've learned about anchovies (and how to shop for the best selections) would have taken me several months, trips and apprenticeships if I were to attempt to learn it all on my own. Behr goes on to explain forty-nine more foods including artichokes, caviar and oysters and six different kinds of cheeses because "cheese is probably the best food,  just as wine is the best drink..."

Behr also dispenses his trademark culinary wisdom amassed from a twenty-five plus year career in food writing as he states in the preface, "I strongly believe that food tastes more delicious when it's closer to nature, something that after years of careful tasting seems to me obvious. By closer to nature, I mean made using simpler processes, generally lower technology, and without deceptive additions."

the winner will also receive a handsome,
high-quality poster

For the connoisseur at any level, 50 Foods is a beautifully written guide to deliciousness!

You can't always have the best food, but with the information in this book you will eat better every day. Knowing good food is part of a complete understanding of the world--part of a full enjoyment of nature, a full experience of the senses. 

- Edward Behr

Through the generosity of Edward Behr and The Penguin Press, one lucky winner will receive a copy of 50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste! For your chance to win, simply send an email to: FromBehindTheOpenTable@gmail.com with BEHR in the subject line. You will automatically be signed up to receive From Behind the Open Table email updates* and one winner will be selected at random and announced on November 22nd. Good luck!

*Email updates require user validation. You may choose to decline receiving updates if you so desire.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Celebratory Dinner

LAST Wednesday, I was celebrating the release of my first restaurant review to be published in print... which of course called for champagne!

boutique champagnes are
my latest favorite thing

Ever since I'd begun stocking my wine cabinet with the best selections I could curate, I eventually began leaning toward boutique champagnes. My most recent acquisition came from Sea Grape Wine Shop on Hudson Street.

the raison de la fête!

During a recent chat with the wine seller at Sea Grape, I was told that they carry a champagne in the style of Moët & Chandon (most often my champagne of choice). Wednesday night, I picked up said bottle--Paul Laurent champagne--before heading to Joseph Leonard for some accompanying takeout (it was simply too late to cook).

caramelized cauliflower from Joseph Leonard

































As I was looking over the menu near the entrance, a friendly hostess approached, to whom I'd responded that I wanted to order some takeout that would still be good in an hour. Narrowing down those items was an easy task for her (First of all: none of the seafood,) and together we decided upon caramelized cauliflowerHudson Valley duck confit and roasted brussels sprouts.

Hudson Valley duck confit with French lentils,
and celery root-apple remoulade

Arriving home, I placed the champagne in the fridge; some serving plates in the oven; and covered the duck in aluminum foil for a brief re-heating. Once the table was set, I poured David and I our first tastes of Paul Laurent. After David's initial Mmmm, I noted: reliably dry, with the taste of dark fruit (think blanc de noirs). As for our dinner: I'd like to say it was also reliably good, but I'm instead going to say that it was uncharacteristically good (because Joseph Leonard can sometimes be hit-or-miss).

roasted brussels sprouts with sriracha

For me, the most memorable components of the dinner were the French lentils and celery root-apple remoulade, both well-seasoned and well-cooked. For David, it was the duck confit of which he'd had the same compliments. 

The style of food served at Joseph Leonard reminds me a lot of the food served by Marc Meyer at Cookshop. However, Joseph Leonard seemed (on this occasion) to be better at delivering satisfying flavor. On occasion, dishes that sound very good on Cookshop's menu do not offer the same excitement on the palate (the same goes for Joseph Leonard). Yet, both of these restaurants appear to be "greenmarket-driven" which lends to frequent menu changes and sometimes, experimental dishes. For those that change their menus based on season or availability, hits and misses can sometimes be two sides of the same coin!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is It Wedding Season?

OR did David and I start a trend?

I'm only kidding of course, but it certainly did feel like a whirlwind of weddings in the weeks following our own...


NEARING the end of September, David and I made the trip to Bronxville, via the Metro-North rail, for the wedding of a fellow colleague of his. It was a beautiful "garden party" wedding, complete with the brides wearing their own custom tea dresses. An afternoon wedding, the cocktail hour began with both bloody Marys and a decadent peach sangria, but in usual fashion I opted to begin with a mimosa. The wedding luncheon was a self-serve smorgasbord which included two chefs offering fresh fish tacos and both sweet and savory crêpes. While I sipped sparkling rosé throughout the sit-down portion of my meal, it was soon time for the cutting of the cake, made of alternating tiers of sponge and carrot cake (I waited, patiently, for the latter). Following the pattern for the savory courses, the dessert course also consisted of a variety of options, including a tiered chocolate fondue fountain!


LESS than one month following was the wedding of my sister, Kim, to her husband, Derek. As Kim was in my wedding party (nearly three months prior), I was also in hers as one of her "bridesmen." Being a bridesman, I was in the loop of many of the wedding-planning details including hair and makeup trials (Kim's updo was called, "playful Gatsby") and floral arrangements (I urged her to use the most local and in-season varieties). Post-ceremony, Kim and Derek were whisked away in a vintage (premiere model) Chevy Impala which transported them to their nearby reception hall. After a short photo shoot, a cocktail hour preceded toasts by the wedding party and a sit-down dinner. Yet some of the biggest wows of the evening came at the arrangement of the "fall dessert bar," all handmade by Kim's dear (and visibly talented) friend, Angela Guttilla.


At the dessert bar, I snapped no less than fourteen photos of dessert tray after dessert tray--each one being more impressive than the last! Yet, it was the kid in me that was really drawn to these red and white rum balls (or perhaps the adult being drawn to the rum)!

































There were so many things to choose from that--looking again at the photos--I'd missed a few that I'd wanted to try! Perhaps it was a good thing that my dessert plate had a built-in portion control...

































But all culinary chat aside, I was truly honored to be a part of such special days... Happy wishes to both of the happy couples!


If you enjoyed reading this post, check out more culinary musings at: http://www.dewinespot.co/blogs/news

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gluten-Fair

Wild's mozzarella, ricotta and truffle oil flatbread

LAST week, after a several-month hiatus, I decided I'd give Wild another try. I wanted a quick lunch and headed directly to the bar for what I'd hoped would be quicker service. I was immediately greeted by the manager on duty who informed me about the brunch items also available. Noticing a somewhat tweaked menu since my last visit, I opted for the "wild white" flatbread.

I was impressed by the (somewhat overzealous) manager who was constantly darting about, ensuring things ran according to his (very specific) specifications. (But, he'd probably run a tighter ship if he improved his demeanor with his staff.) In addition to the flatbread, I also ordered the homemade hummus served with gluten-free toast sticks, which was nothing to write home about; as requested, it arrived along with my flatbread.

the hummus on the previous menu was better

Recalling what I'd previously referred to as a Pangaea-like shape, I was immediately impressed with what appeared to be a very uniformly-shaped flatbread! At first taste, the flatbread seemed significantly improved since my last visit (although still a bit lacking in salt); and this time around, I didn't mind the gluten-free, vegan crust all that much. A new service they've added at Wild is supplying all of their flatbread-ordering customers with olive oil and crushed red pepper (very Neapolitan) of which I'd deftly made use!

wild mushroom truffle flatbread

About a third of the way into my meal, I was joined by a fellow co-worker who'd ordered the wild mushroom truffle flatbread. After first receiving the wrong flatbread, he prompted me to taste some of his. "Yours is so much better!" Hence, I returned yesterday, in hopes of reliving the moment... alas, my wild mushroom flatbread arrived less appetizing-looking than the one I'd previously tasted and its mushrooms were less fresh. Yet, I reminded myself that I was eating at a gluten-free (which I am not) restaurant. Perhaps I was hungrier last week.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Very Southern Honeymoon

After working a couple of days at the restaurant,
I was glad to check into our hotel in NOLA

AFTER a big sigh of relief that our wedding was not only a success, but also over, David and I were in sweet anticipation of our upcoming New Orleans getaway.

The view from our room at Hotel Royal,
in the French Quarter

Our third time together in NOLA, David and I had plotted out nearly every eating excursion during the four-day stay. We arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans airport in the early evening, and checked into our room with enough time for an early-evening dinner. Our first NOLA stop (as has been the pattern) was at Mother's Restaurant, located in the central business district (also known as the "CBD").

fried shrimp & oyster po' boy at Mother's Restaurant

Not exactly a "Roman" yet (when in Rome...), I decided to let David do the ordering (although I did decide on a mimosa which I was heavily chastised for--People don't come to New Orleans to drink mimosas!). For our first New Orleans dinner, David chose: (his favorite) turkey ferdi po' boy (turkey po' boy with ham, roast beef, debris and gravy); po' boy special (fried shrimp & oyster po' boy); gumbo; and a side of collard greens. It was an insane amount of food.

At Mother's, David wasted no time

Being a Saturday, David and I designated our first night out in NOLA as a "going out" night. The night was filled with the usual French Quarter shenanigans including hurricanes on Bourbon Street and... more fried shrimp, later that night!

I was swooning over New Orleans' fried shrimp!

SUNDAY morning, I decided to let David sleep in while I eagerly (and patiently) awaited our 1:30 brunch reservation at The Court of Two Sisters. In the meantime, I enjoyed the picturesque bedside view...

our daily view for four days of bliss

































Eventually roused from his sleep, David and I made the short trip to The Court of Two Sisters at a 'Sunday stroller's' pace. Upon checking in, we were directed to a second host stand from where we were escorted to the restaurant's inner courtyard at which a "jazz brunch buffet" was taking place. After placing an order with our server for mimosas, David and I made our way to the buffet line...

from an experienced past in "buffeting," I judiciously scanned
all options before making my plate

From the cold buffet I selected: zesty Cajun pasta (only some of the pâté and red onion) and shrimp cocktail; and from the hot buffet: macque chouxveal grillades and gravy, crawfish Louise, duck à l'orange and catfish roulade. For my second helping, I only went back for a modest cup of turtle soup au sherry.

the best turtle soup I've had, to date!

Instantly, I remarked that it was the best duck à l'orange (better than Tout Va Bien's) and best turtle soup (better than Palace Café's) I've ever had! Post-brunch, we returned to the serene space of our room where we recharged for a walk to Bywater.

having the doors and shutters closed made our room the
perfect getaway-within-a-getaway


































Being that we were in New Orleans on a bit of an extended stay (our last two visits lasted no more than forty-eight hours), David made plans for us to walk to Bywater, a nearby historic district and home to The Country Club. There, we were able to spend the afternoon relaxing poolside, enjoying mango (myself) and strawberry (David) daiquiris; I even got a taste of The Country Club's house made boudin balls!

café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde

MONDAY morning, David and I finally got around to having a "beignet breakfast" at Café du Monde!

be not fooled--it's the only place in NOLA to eat beignets!

With that major task out of the way, David and I spent our final few days in New Orleans listening to some good jazz (The Spotted Cat Music Club), tasting some out-of-the-way (and out of this world) Vietnamese food (Lilly's Café), checking out the much talked about Cochon, uptown, getting our favorite pralines (Southern Candymakers), trying local muffuletta and even taking the "voodoo tour" to Marie Laveau's grave.

Jackson Square at dusk

OUR final evening in New Orleans was marked for the romantic, quiet dinner for two that we never did get around to having in the days following the wedding. Finding ourselves caught in a regular New Orleans shower, we tucked into Patrick's Bar Vin on Bienville Street (seemingly the only place in the area highlighting champagne as a libation of choice). Being that I had something special tucked away (on ice) back at the hotel, I selected a modest glass of Charles de Fère while we waited for the rain to subside.

a final night's glimpse of the courtyard at
Hotel Royal


































Back at the hotel, David and I dressed for our farewell, NOLA dinner--it was my first opportunity to wear my wedding suit since the wedding. Having already had an apéritif at the champagne bar, David planned for some pre-dinner jazz at Preservation Hall (no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit). Before heading out the door, I had David wait in the hall while I stowed a bottle of Dom Pérignon 2003 in my bag. (Our concierge recommended Sidney's Wine Cellar for a "really nice bottle of wine." I was very happy to find there what I was looking for.)

wedding-honeymoon shadow box

































After the nearly one hour set at Preservation Hall, we headed upriver to Dickie Brennan's Palace Café on Canal Street. David and I have a tradition of going to Palace Café on every New Orleans visit (although on our last visit, it was only for a cocktail), therefore it was the clear choice for our final NOLA dinner. Upon being greeted by our server, I removed the surprise bottle of Dom Pérignon from my bag to which David leant over and whispered, "... you're very bad!" Our server deftly poured out two flutefuls (which, to my surprise, where at the ideal temperature) and at first sip, David noted: ... there's no imperfections. (Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from our dinner at Palace Café. With Dom Pérignon on the table, I didn't want to be fumbling for a camera--sometimes you have to draw the line.)

Palace Café on Canal Street

Again, I let David do (most of) the ordering (after ensuring he'd order turtle soup). Beginning with the soup, our next course consisted of barbecued shrimp and oysters pan roast, poached in rosemary cream with herb breadcrumbs (I was particularly fond of the latter dish). Following, was catfish pecan (which David and I easily agreed upon) and a decadent bleu cheese salad with thick-cut crispy prosciutto, local blueberries and candied pecans. The catfish was one of the best fish dishes I've ever had and we both remarked on how decadent (and delicious) the bleu cheese salad was! If this place existed in New York, the line would be out the door. Following the main course, we simply had to end the meal with bananas Foster (originating at Brennan's in 1951)--prepared tableside from start to finish. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal and a perfect honeymoon... Until next time, NOLA!