Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oregon's '08 Pinot Noirs have a vintage year

I love red wines and am always looking for new Pinots. Jon Bonne of The San Francisco Chronicle has rave reviews for the '08 Pinots from Oregon. For his list of recommended wines, click here.

Can't Find That Wine? There's an App for that!

You're out at a restaurant for a special occasion and have ordered a wonderful bottle of wine. It's so good you want to know if it's available at your local wine store. With Snooth Wine Pro, a new iPhone app, you can find out simply by taking a photo of the label. For the complete story from Jennifer Lawinski on SlashFood, click here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Travel & Leisure's Top 25 Hotel Spas

Here is Travel & Leisure's list of 25 best hotel spas in the United States and Canada. I want to go to them all!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cochon Butcher | Lunch with Friends

I met friends for lunch at Cochon Butcher today. It was our first time there. I ordered the pastrami on rye with sauerkraut and my friends both ordered the Cuban sandwich.

The pastrami is tender and flavorful; the sauerkraut is mild. The sandwich is good but could have used more pastrami and sauerkraut. The Cuban sandwich, made with slow-roasted pork, is served on French bread with a cilantro pesto. Very good. Sandwiches are served with a pile of house-made chips and a house-made pickle spear – both are delicious.

My friends tried the bacon praline but it didn’t appeal to me. Instead I headed to the fresh meat case and picked out a lb. each of the freshly made roasted garlic & bay leaf sausage and the roasted jalapeno sausage. Can’t wait to put it on the grill!

Cochon Butcher is owned by James Beard Award-winning Chef Donald Link and is attached via a hallway to Cochon, one of his two full service restaurants (Herbsaint is his other gem) in the Warehouse District. At the Butcher, Link and his staff prepare all meats, sausages, pates, chips and pickles in-house. Big salamis and hams hang from the ceiling behind the counter.

The fresh meat counter offers hanger steak, skirt steak, various kinds of pork, including bacon, standing rib roasts, racks of lamb, and jambalaya-stuffed chickens. House-made meats & salamis include andouille, boudin, tasso, fresh ham, fresh sausage, duck pastrami, mortadella, coppa salami, genoa salami, and deer sausage. There’s also a selection of pates and foie gras. And for those who like to go all out and have a cochon de lait – whole hogs and goats are available. A full bar is offered with a long list of wines by the glass.

Cochon Butcher is a terrific addition to the Warehouse District. Looking forward to the next time.

Cochon Butcher on Urbanspoon

p.s. Tonight I grilled a link of Cochon Butcher's roasted garlic & bay leaf sausage and a link of roasted jalapeno sausage. So full of flavor. Talk about good, y'all!

Facts vs. Fiction on Genetically Modified Fish

An NPR contributor provides a good summary here of peer-reviewed research based on the science behind genetically engineered fish. According to the author: "So – if one is 'against GMO’s,' then one should, to be consistent, be 'against domesticated animals and plants' as well, restricting food intake to wild organisms (some grasses are still OK, but no wheat or rye; no chicken eggs; etc.). While fish are currently among the few animal-based foods still extant in the wild, they are being rapidly driven to extinction by overfishing — if present trends continue, most fisheries are predicted to be depleted by 2050 — so this position raises important ecomoral issues."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The 2010 CHOW 13

Last year was CHOW's inaugural selection of visionaries in the food world. It's that time of year again, and they've got another crop of activists, chefs, food producers, and media makers to give props to, including New Orleans' own Chef Susan Spicer!

Here's CHOW's list of honorees for 2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Marigny Brasserie | Sunday Brunch

Kathy and I started our Sunday off with brunch at The Marigny Brasserie on Frenchman Street. We didn't have reservations so had a 15 minute wait that we spent at the bar sipping a delicious Sazerac.

While waiting we perused the menu that offers daily, from 8 a.m. till 11 a.m., $2 Mimosas & Bloody Marys and an All You Can Drink Mimosa for $15!

Once seated I ordered the Eggs Marigny: fried green tomatoes, poached eggs, artichoke remoulade, and hollandaise. Kathy ordered the Executive Chef Benedict: fried eggplant, grilled ham, poached eggs, topped with a tarragon reduction sauce. We divvied up the entrees so we each got to sample one of each.

The prices are reasonable and the ambience is relaxed. A big thumbs up for brunch at this lovely Marigny spot.

Marigny Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Da Wabbit | Gretna Institution

I recently had an envie for a good burger. Da Wabbit is just around the corner from my house and serves up delicious old classics. Here's a picture of my burger: 8 ounces of 100% ground chuck. Mmm ... good!

As most of you know, I am the food writer for The West Bank Beacon, a free monthly publication that chronicles life in West Jefferson and Algiers with a mailed circulation of over 23,000 and thousands more distributed at points from Gretna to Grand Isle. A “good news” newspaper, its mission is to make readers aware of how both individuals and groups are making a positive difference in the neighborhoods where they live. This includes a focus on civic and city initiatives, volunteer efforts, and charity fundraisers, to name just a few examples. Go to wbbeacon.com to subscribe to this monthly publication, at no cost.

Here's my review of Da Wabbit that ran in the February 2010 issue of The Beacon.

Café 615 Home of Da Wabbit: Not Your Daddy’s Da Wabbit!

In 1946, a small drive-up diner and bar called Kerner’s opened at 615 Kepler Street in Gretna. One year later its owner lost the place in a card game. In 1947, the name was changed to Da Wabbit in honor of its new owner “Da Wabbit” Licciardi whose family operated it until the early 1990’s. Legendary more for its black jack games than its menu, the original Da Wabbit was a bar room serving hamburger steak and fried chicken. The diner was shuttered for most of the 1990’s with a brief, yet unsuccessful, revival attempt in the early 2000’s. Along with its one-of-a-kind Bugs Bunny neon sign, Da Wabbit has been a Westbank icon for 64 years.

In July 2004 when Gretna-native Eric Savoie bought Da Wabbit from the Licciardi family, he altered the name of the place to alert the public that new owners were going in a different direction. Savoie, who worked at many New Orleans restaurants including LeRuth’s and Palace Café, chose his longtime friend and fellow Westbanker James “Jimmy” Buller as his manager. Like Savoie, Buller spent years working at some of New Orleans’ finest restaurants including Emeril’s, Bella Luna, Palace Café, Indigo and Ralph’s on the Park. Together they designed a whole new menu but kept 2 original recipes: Da Wabbit Hamburger Steak and Da Wabbit Fried Chicken. They served their first meal at Café 615 Home of Da Wabbit on January 1, 2005.

Savoie and Buller were off and running when Katrina hit on August 29, 2005. They were back in their kitchen only a week and a half later providing meals for first responders and the National Guard. At first their daily menu was limited to their local supplier’s inventory. As time went by, they were able to expand their menu to accommodate their growing business. Because of Katrina’s devastation of the Eastbank, many of our neighbors from Lakeview, Mid-City and Chalmette re-located to the Westbank. And they flocked to Café 615 then and now.

The lunch menu is extensive and varied. Appetizers include crabmeat-stuffed mushrooms ($7.95). Soups include crab & corn bisque ($6.50) and turtle soup ($5.00). A long list of sandwiches including fried seafood po-boys ($7.95-$10.95). The entrees include their legendary 11 ounce, ground chuck Da Wabbit Hamburger Steak ($12.00) and 1/2 Fried Chicken ($10.50). Café 615 also offers traditional daily lunches including red beans & rice ($7.95) on Mondays; chicken stew over rice ($7.95) on Tuesdays; and, white beans with pork chop ($7.95) or smothered wabbit ($10.50) on Fridays.

During the dinner hours, the Café 615 chefs showcase their creativity and talent with house specialties, including a blackened 16-ounce ribeye ($24.50), blackened yellowfin tuna ($15.00), crabmeat-stuffed catfish ($16.75), and seared duck breast ($16.75). Additionally the kitchen offers a long list of ever-changing nightly specials including but not limited to pecan-crusted grouper, frog legs provencal, grits & grillades, soft-shell crab with crawfish au gratin, and an 8-ounce filet with wild mushroom demi glace.

On Tuesday nights, it’s Oyster Night when you can sample oysters 6 or 7 ways: on the half-shell, baked with crabmeat, char-broiled, baked with spinach & artichoke, and in brochette (wrapped in bacon). When in season, it’s All-You-Can-Eat crawfish on Wednesdays.

Café 615 can accommodate up to 100 people for private parties and offers an extensive catering menu from which to choose. The dining room was recently re-modeled and expanded. The place looks great.

The restaurant is open Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; and, Saturday 5 p.m. -10 p.m. Closed Sundays. The kitchen serves food continuously during operating hours. The bar is open ‘till. The phone number is 504.365.1225.

The goal of Savoie and Buller was to create a family-friendly restaurant serving local staples and premium specials: a quintessential New Orleans restaurant. By all accounts, they have succeeded. This is not your daddy’s Da Wabbit!

Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.

Cafe 615 Home of Da Wabbitt on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nathan Winowich is named the new chef of the Upperline

JoAnn Clevenger, owner of the Upperline, named Nathan Winowich as the new chef at her iconic Uptown restaurant. Mr. Winowich comes to the Upperline from The Foundation Room at the House of Blues in New Orleans.

Crescent Pie & Sausage Co.

In 2007, longtime friends Bart Bell and Jeff Baron decided to open their own restaurant in New Orleans. According to their web page, Bart grew up in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana in the heart of Acadiana, where he developed a passion for cooking authentic Cajun food, including making sausage. For the past 16 years, he worked his way east from Acadiana cooking in kitchens from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, most recently as sous chef at New Orleans’ Cuvee. Jeff is a pizza man having last worked at his pizzeria, The Dough Bowl, next to Tulane University. Bart and Jeff came up with a unique restaurant concept – combining their talents and pairing sausage with pizza and craft beer. Crescent Pie & Sausage Company opened at 4400 Banks Street in Mid-City, on the corner of Banks and S. Alexander Streets, in 2008. I’ve been twice in the past few weeks and had terrific meals both times.

The menu offers a selection of salads and appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, sides, and desserts. There are five pizzas on the menu. The dough is thin, the toppings make use of local ingredients and house-made sausages, and the pies are cooked to crispy perfection. Selections include a BLT (bacon, spinach pesto, roasted tomatoes and cheddar), a Margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil), a Hot Coppa (salami, arugula, peppadews and bleu cheese), a Chicken Marsala (mushrooms, ricotta and chicken) and the Mediterranean pie (house-made lamb sausage, red pepper sauce, olives, artichoke hearts, goat cheese crema with fresh mint, and eggplant).

The Mediterranean and the Hot Coppa are standouts. The goat cheese and mint crema is drizzled on the Mediterranean pies right after they come out of the oven and adds a burst of flavor. The Hot Coppa (salami) combines the perfect blend of salt, spice, crunch, and creaminess resulting in a flavor fest.

The sausages at Crescent Pie are made in-house, and change regularly. When I last ate there, the Mixed Grill plate included little smokies topped with a sweet barbeque sauce, chicken sausage with Dijon mustard, and lamb sausage with goat cheese crema for dipping.

The Redneck Brisket sandwich is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in New Orleans. The brisket is tender and juicy. It is topped with shaved red onion, poblano, red pepper aioli & BBQ sauce. The sandwich is served with house-made potato chips topped with chopped, fresh dill. Pure deliciousness!

The prices at Crescent Pie are more than reasonable. The 14-inch pizzas range in price from $12 to $14; sandwiches $8 to $10; and, sausage plates $10 - $15.

Crescent Pie has an eclectic beer and wine list. The dining room is bright, relaxed and comfortable. There are several tables outside on the deck facing Banks Street that provide a lovely setting on cool New Orleans evenings. I am looking forward to my next meal there!

Crescent Pie & Sausage Company on Urbanspoon

Sunday Recipe: Eggplant & Goat Cheese Casserole

After reading the paper, I enjoy culling through recipes while sipping a cup of hot Community coffee on lazy Sunday mornings. One of my favorite side dishes is an eggplant and goat cheese casserole that I've tweaked over the years with the help of my brother-in-law. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Eggplant & Goat Cheese Casserole


2 – large eggplants, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks

1 – medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 – tblsp. finely chopped garlic

6 – Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 – lb. Italian sausage

½ - red pepper, finely chopped

1 - 6 oz. package of goat cheese

½ - cup olive oil

½ - cup Italian bread crumbs

¼ - cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

Cooking instructions:

In a large saucepan, sauté eggplant, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and red pepper in olive oil until eggplant is soft and tender - about 20 – 25 minutes. Add 1 tsp. each of salt & pepper. Stir mixture. Taste to ensure salted to your preference. Add extra olive oil to mixture if necessary.

While the vegetable medley is sautéing, in a separate pan, brown the Italian sausage (loose and out of casing); once browned, drain excess grease then add browned sausage to vegetable mixture.

Add 6-oz. goat cheese, stir well until cheese is completely melted.

Add bread crumbs and stir into mixture.

Place mixture in a 9” X 13” baking dish, evenly sprinkle parmesan cheese and extra bread crumbs on top of mixture. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top.

Serves 8 - 10 as a side dish. Nicely complements pork, chicken, and lamb entrees.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

R.I.P Brown's Velvet Ice Cream!

According to the owner of The Creole Creamery in New Orleans, Kemps will no longer make Brown's Velvet ice cream. A very sad day for ice cream lovers in New Orleans. First introduced into New Orleans in 1905, Brown's Velvet was acquired by Kemps in 1993. It was THE ice cream for generations of New Orleanians. The sight of those red, white and blue containers was a cause for celebration in our household. Remember the little, individual containers we'd open then fold the top to use as a scooper? Brings back a lot of good childhood memories. Another "ain't der no more." I will miss their one-of-a-kind Creole Cream Cheese flavor. R.I.P Brown's Velvet ice cream.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Gratuity Guide from the Sommelier to the Sushi Bar"

Ever wondered what the pizza guy should be tipped? Or the host at a restaurant? Huffington Post took a close look at exactly who should get what in various food service positions.

Oh, and there's the nagging question of whether it's proper to tip pre- or post-tax. Luckily the LA Times' David Lazarus cleared that one up. According to Lazarus' research, although restaurants often show suggested tip amounts calculated post-tax, it's perfectly proper etiquette to calculate the tip pre-tax.


At a high-end restaurant where the sommelier has played an important role in the wine program, it's appropriate to give 10-15% of the price of the wine directly to the sommelier. However, when paying the bill, diners should deduct the price of the wine to calculate the tip to go to the waiter. At most meals, it's okay to just tip 15-20% of the final bill and let the restaurant divvy it up.


While bartenders used to expect only $1 per drink, nowadays it's customary to pay 20% of the final tab, with a minimum of 50 cents for soft drinks and $1-2 on alcoholic drinks.


By all means tip away, but it's not a huge faux pas if you occasionally -- or even often -- don't.

Maitre d’

Diners should never tip the maitre d'. It's tacky and pointless.

Food Delivery

Diners should tip 10% of the bill, and between 15-20% for especially hard deliveries. Tips should be slightly higher for a large corporate order if the delivery person has helped set up the meal.

Pizza Delivery

Serious Eats had their "Pizza Girl" blogger explain what compensation she expects from customers. She suggests a minimum of $3 dollars on any order, because it's 15% of a $20 order, and, she reminds us, delivering one pizza is just as much work as delivering three. Pizza Girl suggests customers never tip less than 10%, and that they add $1 for complicated orders executed correctly, delivery to a house outside of area, or for inclement weather.

Carry Out

According to Bon Appétit, diners should always leave a few dollars, no matter how cheap or expensive the order is.

Sushi Chef

Diners should leave 15% for the waiter and 5% for the sushi chef.

Room Service

Many hotels will include a "service charge," which completely covers the tip. But a tip is not included in the mysterious "room service charge" or "delivery fee" or "delivery charge." If a "service charge" is not included a tip of 15-20% is customary.


A tip of 15-20% is customary for good to great service, 10-15% is common for poor service and 20% and up for excellent service.

Grocery Loader

It's normal to pay $1 for bringing bags to the car.

Hibachi Griller

There's no need to tip the grill master individually. A tip to the waiter will get split and given, partially, to them.

Waiters at Buffet-Style Restaurants

Since waiters need to provide less service when there's a buffet, a typical tip runs between 10-15% depending on how much is required of the server. If there are complicated drink orders or many silverware changes, diners should treat it like any other restaurant.

"Mealtime Common Etiquette Mistakes and Dining What-If's"

by Lisa Mirza Grotts, etiquette expert

At the dining table, get comfortable with common etiquette Do's and Don'ts...

Do wait until everyone is seated and served to begin eating or until your host gives the okay.
Do take small portions when serving yourself. You can always have seconds.
Do leave your napkin on your chair if you leave the table in between courses so no one will see the stains. The napkin is placed loosely to the left of the plate at the end of the meal.
Do take small bites when eating.
Do remember that salt and pepper travel together, even if your neighbor asks for one or the other.
Do try a little bit of everything to be polite unless you have food allergies, but never be shy about letting your host know if you're allergic to something!
Do pass foods, bread, salt, and pepper to the right.
Do serve food from the right and clear from the left.
Do keep dinner conversation pleasant. Avoid topics that might make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Do remember your posture at the table. Straight versus slumped, please!

Don't place items on the table that are not part of the meal, such as keys, purses, and cell phones.
Don't wave utensils around while eating or you could injure your neighbor.
Don't rest your elbows on the table except when there is no food in front of you or between courses.
Don't chew or talk with your mouth open at any time.
Don't mix foods on your plate unless they're meant to go together, like ingredients in a stew.
Don't reach across the table for anything. Instead, ask for it to be passed.
Don't pick or floss your teeth at the table or in public.
Don't use salt or pepper until you first take a bite of food. It may already have the perfect amount of seasoning.
Don't lean back in your chair or you could break both the chair and your back.
Don't speak in a loud voice at the table.
Don't push your plate away no matter how anxious you might be. Wait until it is cleared by a waiter.

Men: Do tuck your necktie in between the second and third buttons of your shirt to avoid spills.

Dining What-If's?

Good etiquette requires being able to handle yourself in any sticky situation.

So What If? . . .

You drop a utensil on the floor. Don't pick it up and use it but ask for another.
You spill something on somebody. Ask the waiter for help, as the spill might be in a "compromising" location.
You have to sneeze. Turn your head to sneeze, but don't use your napkin. If sneezing persists, excuse yourself to the restroom.
You want seconds. Never request seconds, but accept them graciously if offered.
You have to use the restroom. Excuse yourself without telling everyone where you're going.
You want French fries but they're not offered. Never ask for foods that are not offered by your host.
You don't know when to put your napkin on your lap. The napkin goes on your lap the minute you're seated, without exception!
You have bones or olive pits to remove from your mouth. They are removed in the same manner as they went in: with your fingers!
You don't know where to put used sugar packets. On the edge of the dinner or butter plate.
You finish dinner early. Wait patiently for others to finish before leaving the table.
A bug pops out of your food. Ask for another dish without making a scene.
Your guest is late. If a guest has not arrived at the restaurant after twenty minutes, it's okay to leave or eat without them.
You need to make a phone call. Never leave the table for more than a few minutes.
You have a visitor to the table. Get up and greet the visitor, although it's not necessary to introduce him or her to your guests.