Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just TripIt!

Leaving for vacation and stressing out over protecting your travel documents and credit card information? Just TripIt! Get organized with Frommer's handy list of tips for storing flight information, passports, and credit cards BEFORE leaving home so they are just a click away when you are on the go. And fear not, there's an app for that, too! Check out TripIt's FREE iPhone app.

Café DiBlasi Italian Fare & Spirits | A West Bank Institution

Here's my review of Café DiBlasi Italian Fare & Spirits that ran in the January 2010 issue of The West Bank Beacon.


Café DiBlasi Italian Fare & Spirits, located at 1801 Stumpf Boulevard in Terrytown, is a Westbank institution. Chef/owner Mario DiBlasi is the 3rd generation of his family to operate a restaurant on the Westbank.

Mario DiBlasi is the son of Anthony DiBlasi and Anna Maria Giovanna Paoli, who met in an area near Pisa, Italy, during World War II. Mario grew up with his parents and siblings in a double on Valette Street on Algiers Point. The family lived on one side of the double and his mother operated A&A Grill (Anna & Anthony) out of the other side serving sandwiches. Years prior, Mario’s paternal grandmother operated Five Points Café at the corner of Opelousas and Bouny Streets.

In 1962, Mario’s father opened Mother’s Restaurant in the Butterich Building (current location of Thanh Thanh Restaurant) on Huey P. Long Avenue near Front Street in Gretna. In 1976, Anthony DiBlasi sold Mother’s and, with Mario and his brother, opened Antony’s Restaurant at 5100 Westbank Expressway near Barataria Boulevard where they served classic Italian fare until 1985.

In 1985, Mario and his wife Mary opened Café DiBlasi at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and Holmes Boulevard. Since 1996, Café DiBlasi has been in its present location at 1801 Stumpf Boulevard at the corner of Wright Avenue in Terrytown.

Chef Mario prides himself on serving the freshest premium ingredients available. He serves a luscious, thick Sicilian-style red gravy as well as a traditional cream sauce. The dinner menu is filled with classic Italian dishes including Bracioloni (my personal favorite), Veal Marsala, Veal DiBlasi (pan-fried veal topped with lump crabmeat & lemon cream sauce), Ossobuco, and Crabmeat Cannelloni, to name a few. Most dinner items, which include a salad and hot French bread, are in the $16.00 - $20.00 range.

At lunchtime, in addition to the regular menu items, Chef Mario features traditional New Orleans “daily” lunches ranging in price from $8.95 - $12.95. I recently had lunch there on a Wednesday and ordered the Stuffed Bell Pepper served with a salad, baked macaroni, and artichoke casserole. A big, delicious meal priced at only $9.95! Complementing the meal was hot French bread served with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Other daily specials include Sauteed Veal Liver served with a salad, rice & gravy and a vegetable medley ($9.95) on Tuesdays; Panne Veal served with a salad, baked macaroni, and artichoke casserole ($10.95) on Wednesdays; Crabmeat Fettuccine with a salad and fried eggplant ($10.95) on Thursdays; and Seafood Gumbo served with potato salad ($7.95) on Fridays.

Café DiBlasi attracts an eclectic crowd. The day I was there, the lunch diners included professionals, a family celebrating a toddler’s birthday, office workers, police officers and neighborhood retirees.

In addition to its spacious main dining room, Café DiBlasi has a private room that can accommodate up to 30 people. The restaurant has a full bar and offers drink specials ($2.50 martinis on Wednesdays and $2.50 house wine on Thursdays) at lunch and dinner.

Located at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and Wright Avenue, Café DiBlasi is conveniently located and easily accessible from the Central Business District via either the Terry Parkway or Stumpf Boulevard exits. There is plenty of free parking in the shopping center parking lot.

The restaurant hours are Tuesday – Friday, lunch from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; and Tuesday – Saturday, dinner from 5:00 p.m. – 9 p.m. For reservations or information, call 504-361-3106. You can check out their website at www.cafediblasi.com.

Whether for lunch, dinner or a private party, Chef Mario and Mary DiBlasi look forward to serving you soon at Café DiBlasi!

Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.

Café DiBlasi on Urbanspoon

The Spirit - Inspiring Cocktails

Snooth.com just launched a fully searchable, comprehensive cocktail database - The Spirit. Check it out here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Recipe | Café Reconcile's White Beans & Shrimp

This Central City cafe offers at-risk kids an opportunity to learn the restaurant business. Café Reconcile is "a nonprofit restaurant that uses innovative strategies to provide life skills and job training to youth from at-risk communities in the New Orleans area. Since the restaurant opened in 2000, more than 500 young people (ages 16-22) have successfully completed the program and moved into permanent jobs in New Orleans’ food service industry." Many New Orleans chefs lecture and otherwise participate in teaching the students on a regular basis. Café Reconcile, located at 1631 Oretha Castle Boulevard, serves creole classics cafeteria style at lunch only. I've eaten there countless times and always enjoyed the food and the laid back ambience. One of my favorite meals there is their white beans & shrimp served on Thursdays.

A friend cooked Café Reconcile's white beans & shrimp last night. C'est si bon! The beans were creamy (thanks to heavy cream!) and popping with flavor. The shrimp add a wonderful texture and essence to this classic dish. Try this at home!

2 pounds White Northern Beans
4 cups Chopped Onion
2 cups Chopped Celery
2 cups Chopped Bell Peppers
½ cup Chopped Parsley
3-4 cloves, Chopped Garlic
1 tablespoon Thyme
Black Pepper, to Taste
dash Cayenne Pepper
dash White Pepper
Salt, to Taste
Chicken Stock or water, enough to cover beans
1 ½ pounds Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cups Heavy Cream
Steamed White (or brown) Rice

Soak beans, in enough water to cover, in the refrigerator overnight.
Drain beans.
In a large pot, combine beans, veggies, seasoning and stock or water.
Simmer covered for 2-3 hours until beans are tender. Add shrimp and cream and simmer until shrimp are cooked (approximately 5 minutes). Serve over rice. Serves 10-12.

Café Reconcile on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Clover Grill | No Frill Comfort

I was in need of comfort food today so headed to the "World Famous" Clover Grill at the corner of Bourbon and Dumaine in the French Quarter. The Clover Grill has been a Quarter institution since 1939. And from the looks of the place, not much has changed since then.

No pretense here. About a dozen tattered red swivel stools line the counter. 6 tables line the windows along Bourbon Street. There's one griddle where Sheika cooks the 8 ounce burgers under "an American made hubcap." French fries are fried to order - no food staying lukewarm under lights. She aptly made omelets, got a malt going in the machine, and cooked burgers all at the same time.

Reading the menu provides entertainment. Here are some of the jokes on the menu: "If you're not served in 5 minutes, it may be another 5. Relax. This isn't New York City." "Dancing in the aisles only. Please keep off the tables." "No strange tricks at tables, please. Please keep hands on top of the table." "No talking to yourself." "
We don’t eat in your bed, so please don’t sl
eep at our table." And, "
You’ve paid the price, now look how much you’ve gained."

I ordered a burger dressed ($5.49) and an order of fries ($2.49). The burger was juicy and the fries hot & crispy. It hit the spot!

The Clover Grill is located at 900 Bourbon Street and is open 24/7. Omelets, waffles & burgers are available all day long. For a no frills, good burger and a cast of characters behind the counter and next to you - the Clover Grill is a good bet.

Clover Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Looking for a picture of the dish you crave? There's an app for that!

Foodspotting is a visual guide that lets you see the dishes you crave. With Foodspotting, a FREE iPhone app, you can literally see the food around you!

The Riverbend International Tapas Crawl

The Riverbend International Tapas Crawl began in July and has become a regular event held the last Wednesday of the month. Participating restaurants serve a special tapas-style dish of the evening along with a short glass of wine for $5 (cash only). Participating restaurants include: Barcelona Tapas, Brigtsen's Restaurant, Dante's Kitchen, G.B.'s Patio Bar & Grill, Hana Japanese Restaurant, Jazmine Cafe, Saltwater Grill and Sara's Restaurant.

The next crawl is next Wednesday, October 27th from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Mario Batali's Eataly in NYC

Mario Batali and his partners opened a huge full-service restaurant/market/grocery emporium in New York. Eataly is "an enormous and enormously crowded new Italian-food market and restaurant collection that opened recently off Madison Square Park: 50,000 square feet of restaurants and peninsular provisions, with a fishmonger and butcher (and vegetable butcher) and an espresso bar, a wine store, a cheese store, a cooking school, a kitchenware department and a great deal more." Read the full article in the New York Times here.

I love this concept of one-stop eating & food shopping! I could spend hours (and lots of money) in a place like this. A food lover's nirvana!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Travel + Leisure" Loves NOLA!

The November issue of Travel + Leisure has a terrific feature article on New Orleans. In Exploring the New New Orleans, Thomas Beller beautifully guides readers through our neighborhoods, customs, food, music, and culture. It's a must-read!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bayona | Classy Repast

One of the best perks of working in the French Quarter is the proximity to so many of New Orleans' best restaurants. I met my friend Marcia for lunch at Bayona recently. Chef Susan Spicer is one of the most talented chefs in New Orleans and I was excited to get back there. We opted for patio seating on a perfectly gorgeous October day.
We were a little early for our reservation. Co-owner Regina Keever was on hand to welcome us. Once seated, our server Jane and her team took our drink order and introduced us to the menu. Jane was professional, informative, and fun. She knew the menu well and her recommendations were spot on.
We both started with the golden beet salad: perfectly roasted baby golden and red beets on a bed of thinly-sliced fennel and arugula. The salad was divine!

For an entree, Marcia ordered the scallops. Served in a creole sauce with quinoa, the scallops were perfectly seared. I got the sweetbreads with sherry & mustard sauce. The sweetbreads were the best I've ever had! Wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

We were celebrating Marcia's 40th birthday so we just HAD to have dessert. Wise decision. We chose the flourless chocolate cake (pure deliciousness!) and the ginger-peach sorbet & ice cream (a fantastic fall dessert).

The lunch prices at Bayona are reasonable: salads and appetizers range from $6-$9 and entrees range from $14-$16. The dining room is lovely and romantic. Dining al fresco this time of year in Bayona's courtyard is a quintessentially New Orleans experience! Brett Anderson agrees and rated this courtyard as one of the 8 that beckon in fall in the Crescent City. Whether you choose to sit inside or outside, the food, service and ambience at Bayona ensure a terrific dining experience.

Bayona on Urbanspoon

Bubbly Sensations!

Martin Wine Cellar is hosting Bubbly Sensations, a champagne tasting of some of the best bubbly in the world on October 23, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at its Uptown location - 3500 Magazine Street. For $40 per person you get to sample champagnes from: Veuve Cliquot, Roederer, Schramsberg, and many more.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Napoleon's Best of the Best in NOLA

WWL-TV's food critic, Napoleon, has been on the food beat for one year. To commemorate the event, WWL put together a slide show of all 57 reviews of some of New Orleans' best restaurants. Bon Appetit!

Boutte's Bayou Restaurant | Accidental Gem on the Bayou

Here is my review of Boutte's Bayou Restaurant from the April 2010 issue of The West Bank Beacon:

The Accidental Gem on The Bayou

In 1971, Russell and Margie Boutte bought a house in Lafitte on Bayou Barataria. The Boutte family lived in the front part of the house where Margie Boutte routinely cooked the family meals. Out of the back of the house, facing the bayou, the Bouttes operated a small grocery store. Local boaters, fishermen, and sportsmen pulled their boats up to the store to buy groceries and supplies. The aromas of Ms. Margie’s cooking wafted over into the grocery store making customers want to buy what she was cooking.

As a result of customers’ encouragement, a limited food menu was offered in the store. Mr. Russell decided to expand the food service by driving his station wagon out to the local shipyards to take lunch orders. He would return to the house with the orders, help Ms. Margie fill the orders, and then head back out to deliver the meals to the workers. The delivery menu included daily lunches, fried chicken, and roast beef po-boys. Eventually the food orders grew in popularity and Boutte’s grocery added a café serving mostly take-out orders.

In 1975, the Bouttes converted the grocery store/cafe and their house into a full-service restaurant. Boutte’s Bayou Restaurant has been operating a seafood restaurant in the same location since then. In 1980, the Bouttes added an upstairs dining room for banquets where they can accommodate up to 50 people.

Russell Boutte, Jr. and his wife Katie Areas took over the business in the 1990’s. They have since divorced but maintain the family business together. Ms. Margie still does the “pot cooking,” i.e., red beans, turtle soup, gumbos and all plate lunches.

Boutte’s menu offers a variety of local favorites including fried chicken ($4.75 for ¼; $6.25 for ½), hamburger steak ($6.50) and red beans & rice with either pork chops or fried catfish ($7.00). Sandwiches and po-boys include foot-long oyster po-boys for $9.75 and foot-long shrimp po-boys for $7.00.

No seafood restaurant on the bayou would be complete without serving heaping platters of freshly-caught fried seafood! On a recent Friday, I enjoyed the half shrimp, half oyster platter ($11.50). The seafood was perfectly fried. The flavor of the oysters and shrimp was intact and not overpowered by a heavy batter. My dad had a delicious seafood platter with shrimp, oysters, fish, and stuffed crab. ($16.00). The platters are served with fries or baked potato, salad, and toast. My nephew had a bowl of seafood gumbo ($5.50) that was full of shrimp and crabmeat and a fried catfish po-boy ($6.00) served on fresh French bread.

Boutte’s also offers broiled seafood items including catfish ($10.50), stuffed flounder ($16.00), and a char-broiled 14-ounce rib eye steak ($15.50), all served with baked potato, salad, and toast. There are two specialties that sound divine: Boutte’s Shrimp Supreme – broiled shrimp in butter sauce, salad, and garlic bread ($11.50), and Shrimp Lover’s Plate – shrimp remoulade, shrimp salad, cup of seafood gumbo, stuffed shrimp, ½ dozen fried shrimp and French bread ($16.00). Child’s platters are available and range in price from $3.75 to $5.50.

The menu offers a nice selection of appetizers: shrimp cocktail, shrimp remoulade, fried crab claws, fried crawfish tails, chicken strips, and crawfish meat pie. (All are $4.75). A full bar offers draft beer, bottled beer, wine, and cocktails.

Boutte’s is open Tuesday – Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thursday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Closed on Monday. The phone number is 504-689-3889. The address is 5134 Boutte Street, Lafitte. (Look for it on the right a short distance after crossing the Goose Bayou Bridge). You can also check them out on their Facebook page. Locals, families, and tourists alike are all welcome at Boutte’s where they will be warmly welcomed by Katie and her friendly, attentive staff.

In 1971, aspiring entrepreneurs Russell and Margie Boutte realized their dream of opening a little bayou grocery store and accidentally became restauranteurs. As Mark Twain said: “Accident is the name of the greatest of inventors.” Boutte’s Bayou Restaurant is a real gem on the bayou.

Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.

Boutte's Bayou Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Travel Questions? There are Apps for That!

Frommer's put together a handy list of must-have iPhone apps for travelers. From AroundMe to Yelp! - here you go.

Come Fly Away ...

and mind your manners!
In 10 Ways to Tell if You're an Annoying Airline Passenger, Tracy Stewart of Airfarewatchdog.com compiled a list of pointers to make life easier for our fellow travelers, the flight crew, and ultimately, ourselves. Let's face it, the glory days of air travel are gone. Today's airports are over-crowded, under-staffed, and downright stressful. It's no wonder the travel-weary public is guilty of violating one or two of these rules after long delays and hours in cramped quarters. This article reminds us that a little common sense and common courtesy go a long way in making the air travel experience better for everyone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dirty, spicy, sweet or salty?

Gambit New Orleans is hosting a readers cocktail recipe contest to find the signature cocktail that defines 30 years of covering New Orleans news, politics, parties and dining. So send in your best Finlandia Vodka Gambit-ini recipe and enter to win dinner for two at M Bistro plus spa services at the Ritz Carlton Spa.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I am NOT drinking any f*&^%$g Merlot!

That line was, of course, made famous by the character Miles in the 2004 hit movie Sideways. Turns out, Miles is not alone in misunderstanding Merlot, a part of the family that includes the many grapes referred to as Bordeaux varieties. Merlot has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of wines. Personally, I enjoy the full bodied black cherry, plum, and cocoa flavors prevalent in good Merlots that nicely complement chicken, rich stews and pastas.

For a history of Merlot, check out a good article from Snooth.com.

New Orleans Rum Cake From Pirates Alley Trading Company

If you like rum cake, or a good story, check out this article on 411 NOLA.

"Food & Wine" in NOLA again giving props to Hoa Hong 9 Roses and Mahoney's!

To research regional American dishes for his upcoming Manhattan restaurant, chef Andrew Carmellini road-tripped around the country in search of spectacular flavors—and found just a few good ones.

In Louisiana, Hoa Hong 9 Roses Restaurant and Mahoney's Po-Boy Shop were standouts. For Kate Krader's article in the November issue of Food & Wine, click here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Food & Wine" Gives Props to a Mano and Cochon

Chef Adolfo Garcia

Food & Wine's restaurant editor, Kate Krader, and associate editor, Kristin Donnelly, reveal their favorite new restaurants in the South. Among them: Chef Adolfo Garcia's a Mano in New Orleans' Warehouse District and Chef Donald Link's Cochon in Lafayette (opening in 2011).

Congratulations to both!

Chef Donald Link

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who Dat Nation: Ask not what your Saints can do for you, Ask what YOU can do for your Saints!

Our Saints need your help, Who Dat Nation! Want to know what you can do for your team? You can put the Gris-Gris on our opponents each week with your very own Who-Do Voodoo™ Doll brought to you by local entrepreneurs, Kim Fernandez and Gwen Leonhard.

You can chant "Who Dat" while you Stick Dat and put a hurting on our opponents. And let's face it, if the rest of the season is as tension-filled as the first 4 games, you'll need to be stabbing something during the
4th quarter, at least!

Who-Do VoodooDolls are available NOW at the Who-Do Voodoo web site and at retail outlets: Fleurty Girl, 3117 Magazine Street, New Orleans, and Bayou Gifts, 9605 Jefferson Highway, River Ridge. Check out Who-Do Voodoo's Facebook page and "Like" it to become a fan.

C'mon, Who Dats! Hurry up and Stick Dat! Go, Saints!

Photo reprinted with permission of Who-Do Voodoo

Hoa Hong 9 Roses | South Vietnamese Cuisine in Gretna

Here is my review of Hoa Hong 9 Roses in Gretna that ran in the March 2010 issue of The West Bank Beacon:

Hoa Hong 9 Roses | South Vietnamese Cuisine in Gretna

In 1984, single mother Tu Doan and her 3 children made the journey from South Vietnam to Terrytown, Louisiana, to start a new life. Mamma Tu had made her living in Saigon as a restaurant cook. Upon her arrival in this area, she brought her skills to Tu Do restaurant on Manhattan Boulevard. Tu Do was one of the first Vietnamese restaurants on the Westbank.

She worked at Tu Do until 1990 when she opened her own restaurant Hoa Hong 9 Roses on 8th Street in Harvey. The whole family, including the children, worked at the new restaurant.

In 1993, Mamma Tu’s oldest child, Ana, graduated from LSU with a degree in Business Administration. After graduation, Ana went to work at the highly acclaimed and very popular Five Happiness Restaurant in New Orleans.

In 1996, the Doan family made the move from the small building on 8th Street to the restaurant’s current location on Stephens Street in Gretna. By this time, Ana was married to Jeff Nguyen and they both joined Mamma Tu in running the new, expanded 9 Roses. Mamma Tu, Ana, Jeff and their families have built 9 Roses into a successful restaurant with a very loyal clientele.

The menu at 9 Roses is extensive and includes Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The menu in its entirety can be viewed here. For those not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, it is a lighter style than traditional Chinese food. A constant in the preparation of the food is fresh herbs: mint, cilantro, and basil. Some of the more interesting dishes are those aimed at ethnic Vietnamese; for example, Vietnamese diners routinely enjoy dishes prepared at the table with delicious broths, sauces and fresh herbs accompanying meats, seafoods and vegetables. Deep-fried whole fish served with various sauces is another crowd-pleaser.

For those not quite as adventurous, I recommend introducing yourself to Vietnamese cuisine with one of the two Vietnamese staples: the bun (vermicelli) or pho (soup). Light and savory bun -- topped with either chicken (pictured above), pork or beef -- is served over vermicelli, lettuce, fresh bean sprouts, cucumbers and mint, sprinkled with roasted onions and peanuts. The regular bowl is $6.95 . The dish is full of flavor and delicious.

The pho is the perfect comfort food. On a recent cold day, I enjoyed a bowl of the Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup). All pho is served with a side plate of fresh bean sprouts, basil leaves, cilantro leaves, sliced green chile pepper, and a lemon wedge. You get to control how much of all seasonings go into your pho. I always add a dab of Sriracha (aka Rooster sauce) to my bun and pho for a nice kick. Be careful – it’s hot and a little goes a long way. The regular bowl of pho is $6.95 and is a meal in itself.

The Vietnamese spring rolls are light, delicate, and flavorful. An order of 4 is $5.75. The Vietnamese egg rolls are fried yet still light and delicious and are also $5.75. Other favorites include: lemon grass chicken, $8.75; curry and coconut shrimp, $11.75, and the eggplant in garlic sauce, $7.95. For those looking for bargain lunches, 9 Roses can accommodate you. The lunch menu includes a long list of Chinese entrees served with a choice of soup, rice, and iced tea for $7.25.

I have been a regular at 9 Roses since the early days. The food is consistently fresh and flavorful. The prices can’t be beat for the quality and quantity of the cuisine. The dining room is large and nicely appointed. Big parties and children are always welcome. The restaurant is located at 1100 Stephens Street in Gretna. Lunch and dinner are served continuously from 10:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. every day except Wednesdays. The phone number is 366-7665. 9 Roses is Zagat-rated and was voted the Vietnamese Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine in December 2009.

Mamma Tu retired a couple of years ago but still serves as Ana & Jeff’s “consultant.” Thanks, Mamma Tu, for sharing your recipes with all of us all these years!

Reprinted with permission of "The West Bank Beacon."

Hoa Hong 9 Roses on Urbanspoon