The Far Eastern Side of France at Paris Baguette

When I saw a Paris Baguette going up right near my house, I got excited. After all, wasn’t this the Korean owned, French inspired bakery with things like bulgogi sandwiches? We really need more Asian food up this-a-way, so I was pretty excited.

This, however, is much more continental version of the mini chain.

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The minuscule shop (only 4 seats in the whole place) is pristine and filled with the scents of yeast and butter.

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By looking at the overflowing pastry cases, filled with loaves of fresh bread and beautiful cakes, you might as well think that you were in France.

Until you get a little closer.

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Curry croquettes? Franks in Danish dough?

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And what the hell is hash brown bread and why am I not eating it right now?

This is the Asian influence…love it!

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Roasted veggie and goat cheese sandwich

My decidedly un-Asian offering was finger-lickin’ good. The bread is thick enough to house the garlicky pesto and creamy goat cheese without crumbling, yet the crust is very pliant so it breaks easily under your teeth. The vegetables are super fresh – no limp lettuce or green tomatoes here. And the house roasted tomatoes are wonderful – plump and spiced with oregano and olive oil. They are so soft and juicy that they are almost confit style – really something else! The sandwich is filling and properly sized – no afternoon naps needed to recover.

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Pistachio macaron

Satisfies the craving but not much more. The cookie is a little soft and the ganache is a little on the sweet side. It’s still nutty and delicious, but it’s not the best in town.

Paris Baguette is a nice spot if you are in the mood for a quick pastry or sandwich, but it isn’t destination worthy. It’s pricey and the seating is so limited that it isn’t really good for a leisurely meal.

Come on, banh mi place, open up near me!

Russo’s – The Pizzeria of My Youth

On my little suburban jaunt, I needed more than lunch with appetizers and dessert.

Because once I am out of the 212, calories don’t count.

Luckily, my sister directed us to Russo’s Pizzeria.

I don’t know wheer she found it – it isn’t on any blog that I can find.

But it is one of the best old school slices I have ever, ever had.

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The joint is just like the one that I grew up going to - Winner’s, in Westlake, for any of my 818 peeps (ok that’s it for the area-code slang).

It’s family owned with some vinyl covered table, an ancient menu on the wall, and a bulletin board with business cards for towing companies, fliers for babysitters, and advertisements for local school plays.

It’s impossible not to like this place immediately.

And that’s before you even try the pizza.

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Sausage, Meatball, and Cheese

Be still, my heart.

The slices are thin and properly floppy, with doughy, floury bones. They aren’t too charred, but the best street slices aren’t. The sauce is mild and oregano heavy and the cheese is stretchy and tangy, put on with a light had so as not to overwhelm the delicate sauce. The meatballs are soft, spiked with fennel, and this sausage…oh this sausage. Shaved into thin, garlicky ribbons that almost melt into the cheese with porky goodness. Tiny crisp edges and melting, soft meat…this is the best sausage pizza I have ever had.

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This place is ridiculously cheap and the owner couldn’t be more efficient or kind. If you find yourself in town, come here.

After all, when calories don’t count, what do you have to lose?

3 West Restaurant in Bridgewater – Why I Love Suburbia

On a recent rainy Saturday in suburbia, I had such a delightful lunch that I figured I should blog it. This restaurant isn’t just good for a lazy day road trip, it’s good for a New York City restaurant.

I know how snobby that sounds.

Don’t worry, I promise to watch trashy tv and eat an awesome Doritos Locos Taco as penance.

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I found 3 West on my favorite app, Foodspotting, and loved the atmosphere from the second my family and I walked in. Cozy, warm, and inviting with brass fixtures, heavy wood paneling, and a rumbling fireplace. It’s the kind of place that is upscale but not snobby and where you could easily take your well-behaved kids for a brunch treat. Even better, get a sitter and come here with your significant other for a few drinks off of the extensive cocktail menu.

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Crispy shrimp spring rolls

Just what you imagine. Crispy, light, filled with aromatic vegetables and such mild, buttery shrimp that it might as well have been pork. Served with sweet-spicy chili sauce and a garlicky aioli, these could easily be eaten by the tray. They are juicy but not soggy and served piping hot – nothing worse than an old eggroll.

If that isn’t a saying, it should be one.

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Wasabi edamame hummus

WHOA. I rarely order hummus off of a menu unless it’s at a mediateranean or middle eastern restaurant, and I didn’t order this – my mom did.

Mama knows best.

This hummus is craveable. It uses chickpeas, garlic, onions, lemon, AND edamame, wasabi, and various asian spices. It’s savory, it’s thick and has some texture, and it has that wonderful, nasal-clearing property that wasabi has. I wish it had a little nutty component form some sesame oil, but other than that it was top-notch and spot on. SErved with freshly fried wonton crisps, we made quick work of this.  Forget Tuscan Hummus, it’s all about this Asian version.

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Spicy chopped salad flatbread

This is pretty much everything I love about food.

Fresh vegetables – check. Creamy chip0tle dressing with a slow, gently burn that heats up to a pleasant frenzy? Check. Buttery avocado and crispy bacon? Check. Crumbly, salty feta – double check - they aren’t stingy here! Warm, freshly fired pizza dough with a charred underskirt and pillowy top? Check.

Yeah, I ate this like it was my job.

The desserts here aren’t special, but everything else is! The service is personalized and attentive (ie, they heard us talking about my upcoming nuptials and brought us a celebratory cookie at the end of the meal), the atmosphere is lovely, and the food is well priced and just delicious. If this were in the city, I would be here week in and week out. I just can’t say enough about it.

Plus, when you are done with lunch, you can go to Target.

Who doesn’t love suburbia?

Carl’s Custard – My Favorite Landmark

And, now, a blast from my roadtripping past.

If you should ever find yourself in Fredricksburg, VA, don’t worry. This small town is near some awesome seafood, some finger-lickin bbq, and one of the best desserts you will ever taste.

 Carl’s Custard has been in this spot since 1947, and can be easily seen by the big neon custard cone on top. It’s actually on the National Registry of Historic Places, if you can believe it! Frozen custard is perfect road trip food – open late, cheap, quick, and – most importantly – something way too indulgent to eat on a daily basis.

  Frozen custard differs from ice cream in that it has more eggs added to it.  It is made in a machine that also incorporates less air into it than traditional ice cream, more like a gelato machine. In other words, the ice cream is richer.  It is to ice cream what Bill Gates is to your dad.

Just step up to the counter, order your custard and toppings, and dig in. The line, if there is one, goes quickly and the servers, who are often high school kids, are efficient and congenial.

Maple walnut sundae and a plain scoop of chocolate 

Shove it, Snapple. THIS is the best stuff on earth.  That first bite of vanilla custard hammers home the truth that this is NOT ice cream. This isn’t sugar or fluffy – it is pure, sweet, clean cream with the texture of frozen pudding. The sundae version amplifies that rich custard. The almost overwhelming, creamy, eggy feel is just barely tempered by the sweet maple syrup and meaty walnuts.  The chocolate has a bit more complex flavor, with hints of espresso and nuts, but with the same buttery, rich mouthfeel.  It is divine.

Don’t be a shmo. If you are in Fredericksburg, come here. Hell, if you are in Virginia come here! What other National Historical Landmark has a dessert takeaway?!

Sorry, Lincoln Memorial, you don’t hold a candle to this when it comes to lasting impressions.

The Friendly Toast Serves the Perfect Brunch

It’s time to discuss the most important meal of the day.

Brunch.

Ok, I take that back. Considering that it’s a totally optional meal, it’s not the most important meal of the day – it’s just the most PERFECT meal of the day.

especially when you have it at The Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH.

The Friendly Toast isn’t just a place to get brunch – it’s THE place to get brunch. It comes up over and over again in google searches, there is always a wait, and it has a menu that is less of a menu and more of an encyclopedia.

*Disclaimer – most of my pictures turned out terribly, thanks to awkward lighting. Hence, the outsourced photos.*

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The interior is something out of a John Waters film. It’s a huge warehouse that is crowded with vintage posters, memorabilia, and random paraphernalia – a full sized rocking horse hung from the ceiling, anyone? Before you are allowed to sit at a Formica covered table from the 1950s, you will probably have to wait in line – that’s how popular this place is. The wait is made easier by the coffee, hot cocoa, and scones waiting for you to sample at the hostess station.

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Orleans Fries – sweet potato fries topped with Tabasco and brown sugar, and served with sour cream

Hands down amazing. Somehow these fries get super crispy and stay that way beneath their sticky, sweet, spicy, and tart glaze. Yep, brown sugar and Tabasco tend to do that to a fry. It’s sweet and hot perfection, especially dipped in tangy sour cream. This may not be on the brunch menu, but it’s an awesome starchy counterpart to a very good bloody Mary – ask for some horseradish to up the spice quotient.

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Ole Miss – cayenne cheddar toast topped with sausage, chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs, and mango sour cream

What sick genius runs this joint? This is over the top and yet JUST enough. The homemade toast is stellar – filled with hunks of sharp cheddar and enough cayenne to make it taste zesty but not spicy. Atop that is a porky, savory sausage patty and atop that are some sweet and smoky chipotle mashed potatoes. The eggs are well scrambled, but not overly done, and topped with a fresh, vibrant sour cream that is sweet but not sugary – just enough mango to bring another facet to the meal. This really has it all. Yes, it’s extremely heavy but it’s so, so good. The pork is really important to ground the meal so you don’t just have a landmine of carbs.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Oh yeah, and there are some kick ass sweetly caramelized onion-laden breakfast potatoes alongside, too.

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King Cakes

Chocolate chips, peanut butter, bananas, whipped cream. and bacon.

All together. Nutty and creamy and porky and banana-y.

In pancakes. Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the edges, pancakes.

Whoa.

I’m all shook up.

This meal is more than most in Portsmouth, but is so worth the price. The portions are huge, the staff is competent (not to say amazing), and the food…is…memorable.

Hands down the best meal of our little getaway.

Hands down the perfect way to have the perfect meal.

Renaissance Vendome in Paris Fits the Bill, but That’s About All

I stayed at a very nice hotel in Paris, too. It was nowhere near the level of service or beauty that the hotel in Amsterdam had, but it was serviceable, very well located, and came at a much lower price point.

The Renaissance Vendome bills itself as a boutique hotel but it is really more of a smaller, tighter chain hotel. You won’t see ultra luxe linens, a staff who will personally deliver you dinner from its own home, or a fleet of Rolls Royces to shuttle you around town. But you will find a very well run and organized hotel who, when asked, will do what you request, provides a lovely buffet breakfast, and extremely spacious (by Parisian standards) room.

The hotel is literally in the back of the extraordinary Le Meurice Hotel, a stone’s throw from the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, and the world’s best macarons. The location is safe, central, and unbelievably easy to access via foot, taxi, or metro. It’s the location that really sells this place, because from the inside, you could be anywhere in the country.

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The rooms are clean and modern, but they don’t scream Paris, or even whisper it. They are quiet and provide a comfy, American-king sized bed (harder to find than you might imagine), but other than that…they are a bit of a let down. You are in the city of light, is it too much to ask for a little gilt, some angels, or a couple of flourishes?

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Note: The bathroom is well equipped and the amenities ARE Bulgari – they couldn’t be higher end.

The hotel is very small and offers citrus scented water, jars of candy, and a coffee machine for your use at any time of the day or night.

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You may also check out the dark, gothic-style chinoiserie bar area – it’s tiny but has a full bar and a nice menu. Where else but Paris can you get foie gras and champagne at a Renaissance Hotel bar?

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The restaurant, Pinxtos, has a very thorough, if unmemorable, buffet. A cold selection of meats, cheeses, and smoked fish awaits, along with hot selections including scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, and warm breakfast meats.

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There is, being France, a gargantuan bread and pastry section. I wouldn’t seek out this breakfast but if you are staying at the hotel, it is both convenient and filling.

This hotel is good for the money. The location is dynamite, the rooms are clean and spacious, and the staff is accommodating. The only reason that I can’t be more thrilled about it is because it is a very American experience. There is no one who goes out of their way to remember your name, no exclusively French touches, and no really special experiences. However, a lot of people aren’t going to notice these things. They would rather have large, soft beds, plenty of pillows, air conditioning, and reliable wifi, which this hotel absolutely had. If that is what you want in a Parisian hotel, I cannot recommend this hotel enough.

 I stayed at this hotel at a media rate. I was not required to write about my experiences, and all of my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

The Grand – Amsterdam’s Luxury Hotel Experience

On my rather epic European vacation last summer, my time traveling was about more than stuffing my face until I had to go up a pants size.

it was also about staying in some awesome hotels,the most memorable of which was The Grand in Amsterdam.

This ancient hotel (really,the oldest in Amsterdam, where the royalty used to host their guests) was recently taken over by the Sofitel hotel brand. Sofitel has made it whir European flagship for their ultra high end Legend line.

The hotel is a triumph. It seamlessly blends old and new, luxury and warmth, and attention to detail with the modern amenities you might expect at home.

The location is unbeatable – a stones throw from Dam Square, the Jordaan District, the Red Light District,and even walkable to The Nine Streets and the Ann Frank House.
first 2 days trip 081 The hotel’s inner courtyard is the ideal place to relax with a glass of wine or a cappuccino. It is all exposed brick and modern glass.The flowers for which Holland is so famous are abundant,there is a weekend jazz quartet, and the service is attentive but not overly so.  first 2 days trip 083 Every room in the hotel is different – whether you choose a smaller, more basic room, or one of the ultra luxurious suites, you can expect a bathtub, shower, air conditioning, wifi, and an espresso maker.  first 2 days trip 090 The savior after many a long night.  amsterdam day 2 037 Even the smallest rooms are well laid out,with bright, saturated jewel tones decor and luxurious amenities.
amsterdam day 2 044 Of course, should you choose to spring for an insanely luxurious canal apartment suite, you will stay in the oldest part of the hotel, which is outfitted with the most luxurious accouterments. We are talking a kitchenette, a view of the canal, a sitting room,  a bathroom with a standing tub and modern shower fit for a queen, and a lush bedroom.
amsterdam day 2 047 The rooms are all different, but the richly saturated tones echo throughout the hotel.  amsterdam day 2 053 The hotel is also home to an award wining florist (the flowers in Amsterdam are actually unbelievable…they are both ubiquitous and beautiful). amsterdam day 2 054 The hotel is also filled with remnants of its long history, including hidden ancient documents that were found inside the hotel’s walls when the canal rooms were being redone.

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Or this guest book, on this day showcasing an autograph from Andre Agassi.

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Or this dining room mural, covered by a fake wall right after WWII because it depicts hungry children. It was only recently discovered when the Sofitel took over the Grand.

amsterdam day 2 057 Don’t forget to take a moment to have a cup of coffee or plan your dy in the ever so inviting library, just off the elegant lobby. amsterdam day 2 059 There are little nooks all over the place, ideal for realizing after your dogs are barking from walking all over the city. 

amsterdam day 2 066 And you already know about the wonderful buffet breakfast.

This doesn’t even begin to describe the minute but beautifully outfitted spa, the hotel tour given each and every week, and the out-of-this-world staff. They will bring you an ironing board in 10 minutes if you need one, write down their favorite restaurants in Paris, or walk you out the door to personally show you where the nearest haberdashery is.

I can’t say enough about this hotel. It is fairly priced (to say, expensive but worth it) and the experience and location are wonderful.

Don’t pass up The Grand…it’s really an only-in-Amsterdam luxury hotel.

I stayed at this hotel at a media rate. I was not required to write about my experiences, and all of my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Commander’s Palace – A Blow-Out Fine Dining Experience

I played fair. I went every small, mom and pop joint I could. I ate sandwiches. I even walked Bourbon Street.

There is no way in hell I was leaving New Orleans without having an honest-to-goodness fine dining experience.

I mean, New Orleans is one of the premiere dining destinations in our country. You can spend 10 dollars a day there and eat very well.

OR

you can  max out the credit cards, plan on eating ramen for the next month at home, and really go to town.

We obviously had to do both.

Commander’s Palace isn’t somewhere that you can wear jeans. Gentlemen wear jackets and black napkins are provided if the ladies have dark dresses. There are at least 3 servers per table, and the moment that your water glass has a sip taken from it it, is refilled. If you get up to use the restroom, the servers standing in the dining room part ways as if they are the red sea and you are Moses. If a mistake is made in service, you know that the staff feels personally responsible and they could not be more apologetic.

It’s warm and friendly but very much a “the customer is always right and thank you SO MUCH for dining here” experience.

Not as much like those places in NYC that ask for your blood type when you make  a reservation.

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Garlic toasts

Every meal starts with these.

You know, New Orleans loves its garlic.

These are exemplary in how familiar they are. You are in an exquisitely beautiful room, with servers all around, yet they want you to feel at home. This is like a better version of what your mom made growing up on spaghetti nights. The toasts are small but there is a whole loaf of them – don’t worry, you won’t go hungry. The tops are crisp and the innards are soft. The garlic is fresh and the herbs are plentiful, but the flavor is not aggressive. It just lets you know that, hey - you aren’t at The Olive Garden.

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Oyster and absinthe dome

Briny Gulf oysters poached with bacon, artichokes, tarragon, Swiss absinthe, and cream under a pastry dome

A unique, shockingly light, oyster stew. The oysters take well to the cream, and their mild flavors really do taste brinier and saltier, but not too fishy. The bacon is very mildly smoky and the tarragon is alight, sweet twist. I don’t takes absinthe, but he cream isn’t at all cloying or heavy, which may be where the absinthe comes in. Dunk the buttery crust into the creamy broth and you are in shellfish heaven. This is mild and elegant – a wonderful starter.

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Turtle soup

The kitchen’ one misstep, though my tablemate loved it. I found it very muddy.

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Roasted foie gras with basil syrup and apple beignets

I love pairing the meaty, buttery foie with light, cinnamon dusted doughnuts! Foie is best with sweet counterparts and pairing it with sweet, yeasty doughnuts is nothing less than whimsical. The accompanying basil syrup taste dlike water when tried alone, but when drizzled over the foie, it adds a light, vegetal note that really brought a whole new facet to the dish. Though  the foie could have been seared a little better and served a little warmer, it’s still a wonderful dish.

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Seared gulf fish with habanero oil and seasonal vegetables

I wish I remember more about the other ingredients in this dish, but it’s hard because the fish is so exemplary. It’s light and flaky, similar to sea bass. Here, it is seared so the flesh is moist but the skin is crispy and salty, almost like a potato chip. The habanero oil is punchy but not overwhelming – it kicks up the sweet flavor of the fish and the earthiness of the roasted tomatoes and thick stalks of asparagus. I don’t know where they get such awesome sweet vegetables in the middle of October, but I’ll take them! This is a genius main dish to order, because when you are eating so much food, you might not have enough room for the wonderful fish stuffed with buttery, rich crabmeat or the venison schnitzel that my dining companion pronounced as “life changing.”

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Apple root beer strudel

Lovely. Buttery pastry encasing sweet, soft apples infused with the aromatic, sweet taste of root beer. Served with soft vanilla ice cream. It’s comfort on a plate.

But let’s not beat around the bush.

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Bananas Foster

If you come here without ordering the tableside bananas foster, you might as well go to Popeye’s and call it a trip to The Big Easy.

Your primary server approaches your table with a rolling cart with various ingredients. Then, in front of your eyes, hem mixes butter, sugar, and bananas in a saucepan. He adds rum and…

Voila! Tableside theatrics that put Benihana to shame!

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The dessert is so tasty. Buttery, sweet, warm, cool. Bananas, ice cream, caramel, rum.

And it’s prepared tableside.

That’s the best part.

That’s the thing about Commander’s Palace – it’s not just the food that makes it famous. Yes, the food is good – the food is GREAT. But it’s more than that. It’s eating in a room with glass walls that look out onto a tropical garden. It’s having your chair taken out for you and being called ma’am. It’s walking up a staircase lined with so many James Beard awards that they are uncountable. It’s having a blow out New Orleans experience.

It’s making me want to go back to NOLA asap

Jacques-Imo’s: Deep Fried Po Boys and More

When I went to New Orleans, I was told two things:

1) Start drinking early

2) Go to Jacques-Imo’s

I’ll be damned if I didn’t follow directions perfectly.

Jacques-Imo’s isn’t on the beaten path. It’s in a dodgier part of town and they don’t take reservations for parties under 5 people – you have to wait for at least an hour. You just show up wearing torn jeans, order a glass of wine or a beer at the dark, crowded bar, and clamor for a seat as people around you inhale plates of crisply fried green tomatoes. If you are lucky, you might see Jacques himself, a true bon vivant. He is a real character, and goes around the bar taking pictures, taking names, and taking shots with the patrons. It is the kind of crazy place that you might see a fraternity, a couple of well-to-do lawyers,  and a rabid foodie.

It’s the kind of place where too much is just enough.

The time you spend waiting goes quickly thanks to strong drinks and the infectious laughter of the place. Also, you are actually quoted the time that you wait – none of that “15 minutes becomes 90 minutes” crap.

By the time you sit down, you should be – if you did it right – tipsy and starving. That’s where this stuff comes in:

DSC_0161 Garlicky corn muffins

Not just any corn muffins. Moist but not mushy with a garlicky-licious explosion of flavor. They are very savory, and moist enough to enjoy sans butter.

That’s obviously due to the intense amount of butter already in these suckers.

They are sweet but not sugary and a really great start to an unconventional meal.

DSC_0163 Shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake

It sounds gross. It sounds repulsive.

It tastes like angels singing on high.

It’s that miraculous.

It’s a rich, garlicky quiche. The bits of shrimp are sweet and snappy and the alligator sausage just tastes like very seasoned pork sausage. It’s the classic combo of pork and shellfish – salty, sweet, and savory. The cheesecake itself is served with a creamy seafood sauce that isn’t muddy or fishy at all – it’s really just buttery. This is a dish I would never have ordered but I am so glad that I got to try some!

The unpictured interlude of spinach salad with sesame dressing and one perfectly fried, crispy-crusted oyster, is a welcome reminder that no dish can be too healthy if it really wants to call itself Creole.

DSC_0165 Deep fried roast beef po boy

What, you want a closer look at one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten in my life?

IMG_20131026_205113_001 Yeah, there it is. Soft French bread filled with tender, wonderfully moist(though well done) roast beef, and melty Swiss cheese. It’s all fried to a very soft golden brown then dunked in hearty beef gravy. Let’s not forget the pickle – for some reason the rest of the country hasn’t picked up on how fantastic pickles are. They are all over N’awlins and always to spectacular effect. Here, they are vinegary and bright and TOTALLY cut through the heavy sandwich. This is just so delicious. It’s saucy and melty and cheesy and beefy – like a Big Mac gone Creole. I loved this dish so much that I ate it past the point of comfort.

It was worth it.

That’s the whole thing about Jacques-Imo’s. Everything is just a little too much. A little too noisy. A little too small. A little too out of the way. Certainly too cheap and with far too sweet and friendly service for how busy it is.

But, somehow, it’s all perfect.

Because, for a few days a year, too much is just enough.

Royal House Oyster Bar – The Butter, The Garlic!

I had grand plans to eat at Acme Oyster House.

I was going to order at least 3 different preparations of oysters. I was going to have my photo taken. It was one of my nonnegotiables on our New Orleans sojourn.

Needless to say, we never made it there.

We were too late, too early, too tired, too hungry, or all of the above to wait the line.

PS, lines for restaurants are a thing in New Orleans. They are outside almost every restaurant and everyone just waits pleasantly until they are seated. The open container laws might have something to do with how patiently everyone waits. 

However, being whiny New Yorkers, we all settled for a little oyster house down the street. And we are SO glad that we did!

IMG_20131027_143626_949 Royal House Oyster Bar is located in a typical French Quarter style home on the totally charming Royal Street. Flanked with antique stores and vine-lined iron trellises, the restaurant’s most lovely aspect is its second floor which opens onto a narrow balcony.

The whole time we ate, we heard jazz musicians down in the street playing. Eating whilst listening to jazz waft up from the historic street below? Does it get any better? IMG_20131027_143632_546 The restaurant is very relaxed, with a bar-meets-casual restaurant atmosphere. It is perfect fora  relaxed, boozy lunch, but it would be good for a low-key dinner, too.

IMG_20131027_144314_572 Bloody Mary

This city just loves my favorite cocktail! And this one was almost…almost…as good as my famous 3 Day Bloody Mary. It’s made with olive and pepper infused vodka, so the alcoholic kick is very slight. It’s zesty and very vegetal tasting – You really get that oniony-garlicky-tonatoey-olivey kick. It’s practically healthy! I drank two…and then I napped.

New Orleans involves a lot of napping, post eating. IMG_20131027_145811_783 Redfish beignets

Because our server told us that you can’t go to NOLA and not eat redfish. These are, as a dining companion put it “like General Tso’s chicken meets fish fingers.” By Jove, he is right! Meaty, mild redfish is encased in a thick, beignet batter and served with a sweet, spicy dipping sauce. The finishing touch is…wait for it…powdered sugar. It sounds horrible, I know, but somehow the sweetness negates any muddy taste and makes the clean flavor of the fish shine though. The bit of heat in the sauce keeps it from being too weird or sweet. This is a surefire way to get non-fish eaters to like a seafood dish! IMG_20131027_145817_754 Crab claws in garlic butter sauce

A misnomer. This appetizer should be called crack. Just plain old crack. It’s that addictive. Miniature crab claws, already cracked, swim in a buttery ,creamy, vaguely spicy sauce that is so garlicky that you might smell my breath right through your computer screen. It’s bright with lemon and the crab meat is so insanely sweet that I was gobsmacked. The sauce is just unreal. The server told us the garlic makes it special, but I’m pretty sure that the butter helps too. Wow.

chargrilled oysters Chargrilled oysters with butter, garlic, and Parmesan cheese

Notice a theme here? Garlic and butter are big players in the seafood dishes here, and with good reason. I find gulf oysters to be a little dull tasting and they really benefit from strong seasonings. This topping is perfect. The cheese might sound unconventional to pair with an oyster, but it just creates a nutty, crunchy aspect that enhances the mollusks mild salinity. The garlicky butter sauce is bread dippin’ good. This may be the best dish I had on the entire trip. It’s just so tasty – big and bright flavors in an unexpected combination. oyster po boy Oyster BLT po boy

Awww yeah. Fully dressed. Now THIS is a po boy. Lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, bacon, fried oysters, and chipotle remoulade all layered on soft, dense French bread. The sandwich did need some more mayo, but it is a totally satisfying meal. A crunchy crust surrounds the piping hot oysters – soft but not mushy – really fabulous. The bacon is the perfect additional salty crunch and the pickles – what a revelation! Pickles and oysters are just delicious together – the salty, bright flavors work so well together and lighten up a rather heavy sandwich. I am a po boy lover, and though the accompanying fries were mediocre at best, this po boy is a winner.

The whole restaurant is a gold medalist! Royal House was a last minute stop, but it had some of my favorite food of the trip. Those buttery, garlicky oysters. That buttery, garlicky crab. The butter…the garlic! The atmosphere is totally delightful and just what I had imagineed before I visited The Big Easy. It’s all jazz and balcony and seafood and…lovely. Fair prices, efficient service, and really great food.

It’s relaxed NOLA at its best.