Brunch in NOLA: Cafe Amelie

If you are looking for bunch in The French Quarter, you could do worse than Cafe Amelie.

This sweet little cafe, with ample outdoor seating and a spacious dining room, offers elegant Creole-inspired food at excellent prices. Plus they take both reservations AND walk-ins – great for whatever you need.

Just be sure to wait in line early if you want to be seated at 11 am when the doors open.

20150314_121734 Bread and butter

True to its French roots, New Orleans offers only exceptional bread in its restaurants. The carbs here are unbeatable. And the butter is pretty damned good, too.  20150314_123453 Egg sandwich

My girlfriend ate this so quickly that I didn’t even have time to steal a bite. Of course, I repaid her by snarfing down my entre just as quickly.  20150314_123510 Sunny side up eggs with cochon de lait and spicy gravy over a chive biscuit

Beautifully fried egg atop a dense, buttery biscuit that soaks up all of the spicy, smoky, porky gravy. That cochon is soft and juicy, with a slightly earthy, almost gamey taste. It goes will with the rich egg and that buttery biscuit. The portion is huge, but clearly…
20150314_124639 I had no problem cleaning my plate.

What a find! Cafe Amelie is very fairly priced, the Bloody Marys are strong and spicy, and the food (while rich) is totally New Orleans. It’s a wonderful place for brunch with a group and it couldn’t be better located – right near Bourbon and Royal streets yet secluded and charming. If you’re in a rush, there is even a casual offshoot at the corner that looks like a great spot to grab a very quick bite.

Just don’t miss that insane cochon de lait…it puts roast pork to shame.

Tomorrow: Dinner at Boucherie.

Muffaletta at Central Grocery, New Orleans

On my first trip to The Big Easy, I ate quite well.

But I left without trying something that I have always dreamed of eating.

No, not some ultra expensive caviar or deluxe champagne.

An original muffaletta from Central Grocery.

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Legend has it that Salvatore Lupo, the store’s original owner, invented this sandwich in 1906 for the dock workers and produce grocers of the city. The Sicilian immigrant layered cold cuts, cheese, and a spicy relish onto freshly baked loaves of round bread and served them to hungry customers.

The rest is history.

20150313_160349 This tiny grocery store is packed full of Italian and European imports. Cheeses, meats, olives. Preserved fruits, breads, olive oils, and vinegars.  20150313_160358 The real pull here, though, is that mufaletta. Just line up, wait your turn, and order a half  ( each quarter of the sandwich is HUGE).

20150313_160902 This is a great example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” What appears to be an ordinary sandwich is, in fact, quite extraordinary.

It’s the best damn cold cut sandwich I ever had in my life.
20150313_160845 Garlicky salami, ham so sweet and thin that it might as well be prosciutto, and creamy, tangy provolone. Bread that is thick but not dense, substantial, but not cottony. And that relish. THAT RELISH. Garlic, olives, capers, peppers, vinegar, and love? That’s all I can guess that’s in there. Both my sister (olive-hater) and I (olive-lover) were crazy about this relish. If we had done stow-away luggage, we would have brought some home! Here, the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t like ham – never have, never will. When it comes to sandwiches, I ALWAYS need more veggies than meat. And I have always thought that this sandwich looked a little too dry for my tastes – where’s the mayo or mustard?

This. is. perfect. I had no fewer than 2 of these in 36 short hours.

And I brought one on the plane.

Sure beat that packet of peanuts.

Don’t miss this sandwich – stand and eat it at the counter or bring it home for a midnight snack.

Next up: A real Southern brunch, y’all.

On Flying Days, We Eat Fried Food

I just finished a whirlwind trip to New Orleans for my girlfriend’s bachelorette trip, and there was everything you might expect.

There were fluorescent drinks.

There were ghost tours.

There were 4 hour naps which resulted in 3 AM bedtimes.

But, first, there were flights. 

And for me, flying means fried food for breakfast at my layover. 


20150315_103941 If you are in Charlotte International Airport, head to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. It serves breakfast and burgers from morning through evening, the service is sweet and efficient, and the food is good. 

And by good, I mean fried.  20150315_104013 (1) Sure, the pimento cheese is just Velveeta with some hot sauce and red peppers mixed in, but the potato chips are fresh, not too salted, and wonderfully crispy.  20150315_103945 The chili isn’t fried, but it is blanketed in a thick layer of tangy cheddar cheese. It’s filled with beans and spicy ground beef that would be perfect hot dog chili. This is just what you need after waking up at 4 am for your first flight. 

20150313_150037 Cheddar Jalapeno Poppers

Johnny White’s Pub and Grill is in no way a destination restaurant, but you could do a lot worse for a bar on Bourbon Street. During the daytime, at least, it’s clean and breezy with a large menu, great prices, and competent (if surly) service. The gumbo is savory and smoky and the jalapeno poppers are GOOD. Molten cheddar cheese inside a tender jalapeno pepper encased in a thick, crunchy breading. The ranch dressing that comes alongside is homemade and it is downright addictive – more like blue cheese than standard ranch dressing. And be warned – these are real N’awlins poppers. They are SPICY.

Next up: The world famous Central Grocery Mufaletta!

Wasabi Doesn’t Bring the Heat

My sister and I checked out Wasabi for lunch the other day.

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It’s a cool, easy concept – pre-wrapped sushi, miso soup, katsu, and other assorted Japanese-y dishes that you put together to make your own inexpensive lunch or dinner. It’s very minimalist and modern without being cold – IKEA would do well here, and so would your co-workers.

Unfortunately, there was a weird, fishy smell to the place which turned us off trying any of the sushi.

20150312_112831 Vegetarian gyoza

Surprisingly delicious. I haven’t ever had room temperature dumplings, but these are surprisingly delicious! Served atop baby greens and drizzled with a sweet and spicy glaze, these are crispy and stuffed with soft vegetables, toothsome soybeans, and a healthy dollop of spice. The gyoza are crispy outside and because they are both room temperature and vegetarian, they are refreshing – not often a word hat I associate with gyoza!

20150312_112932 Chicken katsu

Nothing revelatory, but fine. A little dry, a little undersalted, but I love katsu of any sort. I actually also love cold friend chicken, so this pseudo-warm stuff works for me. The dipping sauce is a little too sweet for my liking, but the chicken is tender and tasty enough to enjoy all on its own.

20150312_112334 I had high hopes that Wasabi would be the cheap sushi holy grail, but it really isn’t. It’s cheap, clean, and serviceable, but not much more.

It’s okay that I ate lightly, though, because I’m headed to New Orleans this weekend. LORDY, please help me maintain some cholesterol stasis there.

Adrienne’s Pizzabar and Tastemade!

Well, everyone, it’s time that you knew about some really great pizza downtown.

But instead of writing about it…why don’t I show it to you?

I’m working with Tastemade now – it’s a free app that’s all about creating these cool “appisodes” of your dining experiences – and it’s crazy easy and fun to do! Drop me a line in the comments if you are interested in learning about it.

And…in the meanwhile…GET YOURSELF DOWNTOWN TO ADRIENNE’S. Like, stat.

Meat Hook Sandwiches at Culture Espresso Raise the Sandwich Bar

I found some amazing sandwiches.

I mean, I didn’t find them – Culture Espresso found them.

And Midtown Lunch publicized them.

But then…THEN I found them.

Or at least I ate them

20150309_115228

The Meat Hook is known for excellent meat and kick ass sandwiches in Brooklyn. And now, at one tiny coffee shop in NYC, you can get them for lunch.

But you had better get there early because they sell out, there is a line, or both but the time that lunch rush is underway.

20150309_115315 Roast beef with cheese and hash browns

Oh yes. YES. Though the beef is a little browner than I prefer, it’s INCREDIBLY tender and well butchered It’s all soft, juicy meat with no tendons or strange fatty parts. Some crispy hash browns are whimsical and delicious – who doesn’t love potatoes in a sandwich!? The cheese is important here – it adds a sharpness, a creamy soft texture, and compliments the crisp lettuce. A swath of spicy horseradish mayonnaise completes this traditional, really delicious sandwich.


20150309_115251 Vegan sandwich

SHOCK O’ MY LIFE! How does somewhere called The Meat Hook school every single place on the planet on how to make an animal and animal product free sandwich? This is extraordinarily good. I know what’s not in it, but I don’t know what is. All I know is the taste and the texture. Crunchy, soft, snappy, silky. Creamy, tangy, spicy, fragrant. Eggplant and beets for sure. Maybe walnuts? Sprouts? PERFECT bread that soaks up the punchy vinaigrette but doesn’t disintegrate at all. This absolutely DANCES on my tongue. Yes, I’m being a little hyperbolic.

But not that much.

This kicks falafel’s ass. This is so much better than cheese-free pizza. I would never crave a burger if I could eat this every day.

And if I was in midtown every day, I would wait on-line for these sandwiches. I would leave work early. I would even ask for one more week of winter to disguise my overeating under heavy jackets.

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But these are some outstanding sandwiches.

Chalk Point Kitchen – Great Food…If You Can Wait for It

In case you don’t remember, let me refresh you on a few points:

1. I hate doing anything athletic.

2. I love reality television.

3. I DO NOT LIKE WAITING FOR BRUNCH

That’s specifically why I said yes to brunch at Chalk Point Kitchen. Because the took reservations. Because the menu looked great.

BECAUSE THEY TOOK RESERVATIONS.

What, may I ask, was the point of that reservation if we weren’t seated for 45 minutes?

If it weren’t for the bar downstairs, I would have ACTUALLY been angry. Luckily, booze did a lot to mollify my hangry nature.

20150307_144837 Chalk Point Kitchen looks like pinterest exploded. It’s cute, it’s chic, it’s chalkboard and gingham napkins and mismatched china. It’s kale-tinis, it’s farm-fresh eggs, it’s avocado toast. It’s a place to see and be seen and ALSO eat well.
20150307_140619 Start with a mimosa and then make your way down the menu.  20150307_142045 Blueberry muffins

Were they really so soft, crumbly, fresh, moist and delicious? Or was I just way too tipsy from lack of food and almost an hour late seating? I may never know, but I would get these again in a heartbeat. They aren’t too dense nor too cottony. Just sweet enough to whet your appetite without overloading you with sugar. Great with the house made marmalade.  20150307_142307 Avocado toast

Good but not the best in town. Buttery avocado, some lightly dressed greens, and pleasantly sour, toasted bread. But it could use some extra spice or a hit of tang.

20150307_142312 Ricotta and pea toast

Okay, this is great. I don’t know where they got their peas, but these scream spring. They are soft and juicy with a sweet, super vegetal flavor. The shoots are earthy and the snippets of chives are sharp and garlicky against the cloud-like ricotta. This is a must get.  20150307_143652 Roasted carrots with truffles and feta

The dish to end all brunch dishes. Meaty, crispy, soft. Sweet, spicy, vibrant. Cheesy, truffle-y, herbal. I wouldn’t even get this with the egg, as recommended. The carrots are so delicately and completely flavored that the egg would dull the flavors. The headiness of the truffles highlight the carrot’s sweetness. Get this and get 2 orders – that’s how great it is.

Actually, it’s so great that I would get it again. That’s right, I would return. The service is excellent, the food is tasty, and the vibe was really fun for a celebratory lunch. Next time, I’ll just come with a granola bar in my purse and the knowledge that it may be awhile before I chow down.

Delivery Diaries: Topaz Thai

I see an eventual end to this never-ending stream of delivery food! There is SUN today!

Anyway…

The lower part of the UWS of Manhattan has a dearth of good Thai food. There’s great stuff in the 90s, great stuff in the 40s, but not a lot of worthy pad see eu and curry puffs here. Which is a disappointment because I am a pad kee mao KILLER.

This is how our latest delivery venture went with Topaz Thai Restaurant:

20150307_195311 Curry puffs

The standout of the meal. These are exceptional, even at the slightly above room temperature at which they arrived. The chicken and potato mixture inside is soft, buttery, and intricately spiced. It’s fragrant with coriander, anise, and just a touch of curry. The pastry is rich and flaky. Any slight grease of the dish is cut by the sweet and tangy vinegar sauce served alongside. I would get 2 orders of this as a main dish and call it a day. 
20150307_195319 Pad Thai

Never my favorite dish, but this version just isn’t good. The noodles are sticky and dry, the chicken pieces are too large and thus rubbery, and there aren’t enough bean sprouts or green onions. Worst of all, it’s tasteless. I can take it if my pad Thai is too sweet or salty, but to have no taste at all is just a waste of good noodles.  20150307_195338 Dancing chicken

Very good, if one note. This minced chicken and chile dish totally delivers on the spice front. It makes your tongue tingle and your lips buzz. The greens in it are sliced thinly and provide a snappy, vegetal aspect to the juicy chicken, fragrant jasmine rice, and that excellent heat. But it’s missing a sour, fresh aspect. Some additional fish sauce, some lime, perhaps some fresh basil at the end…any of these would have elevated the dish to a memorable level. As it is, it was satisfying, but not craveworthy.

For the price, I wouldn’t order from Topaz again. The food was good but not great and though they delivered true to their delivery time, the price just didn’t justify the mediocre meal.

I’m not concerned though…like I said, the sun is shining and soon, I may even be able to go outside after 4 pm without being in pitch black!

Snowed Out

My plans to go out to eat or cook yesterday got completely snowed out.

I ate a cup of canned tomato sauce, 8 girlscout cookies, enough tortilla chips to choke a horse, and this:

A bright spot in an otherwise depressing eating day.

See you Monday for some actually delicious eats!

Delivery Diaries: Oaxaca Taqueria

I have been to Oaxaca Taqueria before, but not when it was snowing.

In March.

When it snows in March, I order in. And I drink white Russians.

Let’s just say that my alcohol tolerance has really increased this winter, mkay?

Anyway, let’s see how Oaxava delivers on the delivery front:

20150301_171808 Salad with pulled chicken

The salad that really eats like a meal. The lettuce is dressed in a light, zippy lime dressing and is tossed with fresh pico de gallo and piquant pickled onions. The chicken is juicy and well spiced with cumin and garlic. Guacamole is creamy and rich and the sour cream is…well..w.ho doesn’t love sour cream? I do miss a crunchy element here, but an order of fresh, well salted tortilla chips fixes that problem right away. This isn’t soggy or overdressed. It’s also not an afterthought, like so many salads at other Mexican places.
20150301_171811 Quesadilla

Tasty, nothing more. Crispy tortilla, melty cheese. It would have been improved by some jalapenos or pickled onions – they should jazz up the quesadilla offerings a bit.

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Carnitas torta

Yeah, this is what I want when it’s snowing. All day, every day.

20150301_172059 The juiciest, porkiest carnitas. Spicy jalapeno and cumin-spiced beans. Shredded lettuce, tangy cheese, and the bread…oh the gbread. The bread just makes this sandwich. Thick but very soft, threatening to fall apart but holding together through the smoky chipotle spread. This is definitely on the spicy side of things, but I love that. This is a LARGE sandwich and you could easily split it with someone for lunch, as long as a side of chips and guacamole is also involved.

Oaxaca Taqueria delivers on all fronts. It comes promptly, the price is fair, and the food is really good. As in, you don’t feel like you have killed your cholesterol when you are done eating.

It’s so tasty that I will almost be sad when spring finally arrives, because I won’t be able to order in as much any more.

Keyword: almost.