Archive for June, 2012

The Bon Appetit Grub Crawl: A Tour Of French Quarter Cuisine

The New Orleans MetBlog is happy to present a guest post by culinary historian Elizabeth Pearce. She recently attended the Bon Appetit Grub Crawl, which led foodies through a range of French Quarter eateries to sample new dishes. 

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One of the great things about food festivals is the opportunity to taste dishes from a variety of chefs. Unfortunately when tucking into a plate at an outdoor event, you miss out on all the other pleasures of dining in a restaurant: the music, the lighting, the flowers, the linen, the china and crystal. You also miss the conviviality of sharing food across a table with friends and family. A chef’s repertoire is also limited at outdoor events, narrowing a guest’s opportunity to experience the full spectrum of a restaurant’s menu.

Enter the Bon Appetit Grub Crawl. Conceived along the lines of a pub crawl, where participants move from one location to another, the Grub Crawl allows guests to sample a restaurant’s signature dishes in their original setting. Originally launched in Brooklyn, with plans to expand to L.A. and other cities, New Orleans played host to the second incarnation last weekend, rolling through the Central Business District Friday night, the French Quarter Saturday, and Uptown on Sunday.

I was lucky to attend one leg of that savory journey in my favorite neighborhood: The French Quarter. Along the way, participants cooled off with some delicious Belvedere Vodka cocktails. (Belevedere reps gave us several recipes for tasty drinks. Click here for those.)

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The Saturday Bon Appetit Grub Crawl snaked through the French Quarter beginning at Domenica, the John Besh restaurant located in the Roosevelt Hotel. We were greeted by Chef Alon Shaya who offered us a stunning array of house-made charcuterie, relishes, pate, cheeses, and a refreshingly bubbly Lambrusco. I quickly appreciated an additional benefit of the Grub Crawl format: face time with each restaurant’s chef, when Chef Alon told us how the prosciutto was made from locally raised hogs and cured in-house.

Wanting to save room for the next stops, I initially shared a plate with my friend and guest Monique Leon. But as we tore through the three-year aged prosciutto and Taleggio, it quickly became apparent that neither of us was in a sharing mood. Of particular note was the pate, so delicious that we contemplated stealing the jar to nosh on at home, but decided transportation would be messy. So we had seconds. And thirds. No kidding. And then came the artisan pizzas and at that point we were just eating on principle because it was all so delicious.

Though our bellies were full, we rallied and headed over to the Napoleon House to sample its signature muffaletta and Pimm’s Cup. We were served by third-generation owner Sal Impastato who regaled us with stories of his family restaurant’s. From there we walked a few blocks to Sylvain. It was a nice contrast to leave the Napoleon House — operated by the Impastato family since 1914 — for Sylvain, which has been open less than a year.

The French Quarter is usually viewed as the most traditional neighborhood in New Orleans, but there is plenty of room to start something new here, as we learned when owner Sean McCusker recounted his professional arc from New York writer to New Orleans restaurateur. We savored a tasty portion of crispy pork shoulder served with tangy greens and creamy Coosa Valley grits. Chef Alex Harrell not only told us how he made his dishes, but also where to get his grits (sourced from near his home in central Alabama). But my favorite bite at Sylvain was of perfectly pickled okra. Unlike its soggier, commercially-made cousins, this okra remained crisp, and though pleasantly sour, it wasn’t aggressively pickled. All I could think about was how delicious it would be in a gin martini. But we had more drinking and eating to. Onward!

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Hello, Texas Friends! Have You Read Your State’s Republican Party Platform?

…because it’s pretty depressing. I can’t imagine that Louisiana’s is much better, but at least our creepy, backwards-looking, misogynist, white supremacists have been quieter about it. (And lazier: they haven’t posted an update to their obnoxious 2008 platform.)

Anyway, here are some of the high low points. There’s a lot more here. Not recommended on an empty stomach. Or any stomach.

Homosexuality – We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples”.

Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.

Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.

Rights Versus Products ― We oppose calling welfare and other income and product redistribution schemes “rights” or “entitlements”. We know that fundamental human rights are inherent to individuals and are granted by God and are protected by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. They are not products of others labor.Unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property rights, free speech, religious freedom, self-defense, etc. do not impose on others rights whereas income and product redistribution invariably do so.

Supporting Motherhood ― We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family.

American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.

Party like it’s 1899, y’all.

Tonight In New Orleans: Pause4Dinner, Supporting The LASPCA

Just a reminder that tonight is the Louisiana SPCA’s annual “Pause4Dinner” event. If you want to give the organization a leg (or a paw) up in helping strays and other animals in need, all you have to do is grab a bite tonight at any of these participating restaurants. Each and every one of them will donate 20% of dinner proceeds to the Louisiana SPCA.

See you tonight!

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