Deja Vu

Coming back to New Orleans again is one thing, but the irresistible pull of brunch at the Palace Cafe on Canal Street comes down to one thing. It’s not the neatly tailored waiting staff, or even the delicate combination of dark wood panelling, white linen tablecloths and shiny floor coverings. It’s not the coffee; far better can be found with a little bit of intrepid searching.

No, it simply comes down to their signature dish… a savoury take on a sweet idea, topped off with a creole muniere sauce of just enough spice. Yes, for my regular reader, I’m once again introducing you to the Crabmeat Cheesecake that is every bit as good to the taste as it is stunning on the eye…

Until we speak again, this cat is simply going to continue suffering in order to bring you these magic morsels!

Feast of New Orleans

Is it really 20 years since Jeff Bridges uttered the memorable words in his role as Jeff LebowskiThe Dude Abides! Well, I don’t know about you, but when in New Orleans your taste buds will be on a collision course for which that phrase is definitely the most apt response.

Lets start with a stroll along Dauphine Street calling into EAT for a dish to truly baffle the likes of Juno and BellaBlackened Catfish… a lightly crusty outer skin with soft meaty fish. Just add cups of gumbo, rice, and generous portions of gherkin and tomato to provide an introduction to the coming days of what is likely to be a culinary explosion.

Meanwhile, at Joey K’s over on Magazine Street I stumble across a NOLA staple of Red Beans and Rice. A slice of Andouille Sausage brings out some spicy flavour. Not exactly the best accompaniment to a full on Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, so my recommendation is to sample the free water with the food, and then gently sip the wine.

For an introduction to the definitive ‘Taste of the BayouThe Creole House on Canal Street offers a trio of cups to tantalise the taste buds, as the gastronomic Louisiana trilogy of Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya are presented for inspection. If you know what you want, dive in, but if you are unsure this option helps you decide what next to dive in to…

Strolling further along Canal Street why not try the Palace Cafe for a hint of Shrimp & Grits with a Creole Muniere, or maybe Turtle Soup followed by their signature dish of Crabmeat Cheesecake. The creole munière is a gravy with just the right level of spice to give an amazing dish extra oomph. As for the cheesecake… you have probably never tried anything like this before, and will then probably want to spend whatever it costs on returning to NOLA to check out what you just tasted! As for the poor turtles, well, you just have to when the opportunity arises… don’t you?

But, not everything here is about visiting restaurants. In between the dining establishments that provide great drinks there are, you guessed it, the drinking establishments providing amazing food. Try Vacherie on Toulouse Street, and while sitting at the bar sipping a range of local beers why not wrestle some Alligator Bites, Collard Greens, Bacon & Brussels Sprouts, oh, and a House Salad for balance…

And New Orleans may just have a welcome and forthright message for any youngsters dreaming of eating their usual fayre… take a hike Colonel Sanders! For the real taste of Fried Chicken check out the Treme based institution of Dooky Chase, particularly with a side order of Candied Yams (and that’s a Shrimp Creole that my friend is choosing, in case your concentration was drifting across the table!)…

Talking of Treme based institutions, a Shrimp Po-Boy slides down well, even with Tabasco Sauce, at Li’l Dizzy’s on Esplanade Avenue, but as a Brit I note that not even NOLA can hold a candle to our chips (that’s proper chips, not the fries nonsense inherited from somewhere in the basement of French cuisine)…

By now you are probably wondering how your health is coping with all of this gastronomic fabulousness. So, if it’s something a little lighter your looking for, but, being America no less enormous… try a salad or two, or more! Starting with the sumptuously named Satsuma Cafe on Maple Street the recommendation would be a boiled egg and avocado surrounded by the funky leaves of a Kale Salad washed down with a Beet Lemonade

Or, drop in to Luke on St Charles Avenue for Fried Oyster Salad accompanied by something distinctively fabulous that they do with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Then again, if it’s music you like with your salad, try BB Kings on Decatur Street. The Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken is a terrific accompaniment for the Blues, man!

BB King's Club Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken

Did you say fine dining? Bayona on Dauphine Street provides a more delicate option than the soulful sounds of a blues club; but, starting with a Fig Salad or Quail Salad, the need for a deeper wallet will be more than compensated for on the tantalised taste buds…

Ultimately, thinking about all of this food, Envie is a place you may well be contemplating at this stage. Well it exists on Decatur Street and provides just the right accompaniment to a start of the day large cappuccino and OJ in the form of an Asparagus and Prosciutto Omelette with a side Biscuit (US rather than UK style of biscuit, that is)…

Until we speak again, not all institutions are necessarily good! NOLA is just waiting to ensnare you with a distinctive plate of their trademark Beignet. An avalanche of sugar covering a doughy case to a gloopy mess; think doughnuts ramped up to warp factor 10, this is something Juno and Bella would definitely turn noses up at and simply walk away… you may be well advised to do likewise, but when in New Orleans sometimes you simply have too dive in and hope!

Alka-Seltzer anyone!?

Up market dining

Strolling around the tranquil Penarth Marina, on the far side of Cardiff Bay, only served to tempt thoughts of the sea, of fish… of a time to eat. But, the restaurant chains of Mermaid Quay were a distance away and just not stimulating the gastronomic needs of a discerning cat.Penarth Marina [1]

This was a stroll with intent… to enthuse a visiting stroller from outside of Cardiff to what the city has to offer. But, where would match up to the beauty of the wider setting? Step up to the plate The Custom House building near to the Cardiff Bay barrage; a remnant of the former grandeur of the Penarth side of the old docks, built in a Renaissance style in 1865, and converted from dereliction into a fine restaurant in the 1980’s…

Custom House building

This fine building now houses the El Puerto restaurant. Forget menus at your table, this is the marketplace brought into a restaurant…

El puerto [1]

Order your drinks at the table then step up to the main counter for up close inspection of the produce on offer, and place your order…

El puerto [2]

The returning visit of the previously identified ‘delightful company‘ was a situation requiring delicate and refined taste. Hake for the lady and Swordfish for me would complement the aquatic excursion of the previous hour…

El Puerto [3]

Until we speak again, for the vegetarian critics amongst you dear readers, here is a special moment just for you…

Who needs William anyway?

When you can have Bill’s!

Outside [2]

So, what to do when you find your ship has run aground down the Bay?

Ship on roof

When you wish to play the welcoming host with a promise of a trusted restaurant, only to find your number one choice (Bayside Brasserie) has closed down and deserted you? And just when you’re on a mission to satisfy that late Sunday afternoon hunger? Bill’s comes to the rescue.

For starters we both settled on the Crispy Calamari with Red Chilli and Lime Aioli. What is it with this fashion for serving food straight from the cooking utensils? Saving on the washing up, maybe. But hang on, it could just be that my delightful company has seen the red chilli’s lurking with intent, and is grabbing her bag to make a quick getaway…

As for the main event, my thoughtful companion surveyed the menu for interesting tastes, opting for a healthy sounding Warm Chicken, Avocado and Parmesan Salad. As for me, well another cow just had to lose some weight in the Sirloin region, and a side of foliage will surely temper the overall threat of arterial assault…

Until we speak again, if your looking for posh and formal this is not the place. But for serviceable food in a relaxed setting it fits the Bill (yes, I hear the groans at that one). And the staff will simply be queuing up to serve you… possibly!

20180819_1719088065294201661373079.jpg

What’s in a name?

Strolling down Cardiff’s infamous Caroline Street (aka chip alley) it is easy to see how we can become accustomed to a familiar name when treating ourselves to that special dining out experience. Tony’s may have been around for some time, but for truly satisfying ‘chips and chicken curry off the bone‘ then it has to be Dorothy’s, serving Cardiff’s late night inebriates since 1953.

Caroline Street at night

With many other neighbouring establishments churning out British and faux Mediterranean nosh at speed, there is clearly no room here for Marco and his comfortably relaxed approach to cuisine. No, for Marco Pierre White another run down part of the city centre would need to upgrade in order to accommodate an altogether different way of dining.

The once dilapidated Dominions Arcade has had a makeover, with Dominions House recently accommodating the Indigo Hotel

On entering the old entrance to the arcade bypass the hotel reception and take the lift to the 6th Floor, because you don’t have to be a hotel resident to partake of the roof terrace restaurant that landed in November 2017…

Indigo Hotel entrance

Checking out the menu provides plenty of good reasons for making the elevated journey, with Rillettes of Pork and Armangnac Soaked Prunes providing a starter never to be found on Caroline Street! They only provided two of the prunes over a pate of pork, as no doubt a bowl full of the devils would seriously impede your subsequent ability to walk (though it would be a delightful anatomical challenge!)…

Prunes starter

As this was an occasion for two guys to celebrate Christmas 2017 in August 2018 (if you don’t understand that one, don’t ask), the interesting vegetarian options on the menu were comfortably placed in the ‘not to be disturbed’ section of the culinary brain. Tempting as the steaks were we were both a bit filleted out of late. So, it was time to distribute patronage more liberally around the animal kingdom… sheep and pigs were put on high alert to do what they do best!

For me the temptation of Roast Rump of Lamb A La Dijonnaise was irresistible. And a side of French Beans with Toasted Almonds was a personal nod to the possible delights that the world of vegetables can offer to us dedicated carnivores…

Rump of Lamb

As for my visiting companion, only a porcine assault in the form of The Pig Mixed Grill with Triple Cooked Chips would satisfy… something that the sausage and chips down Caroline Street would never be able to compete with!

Pig feast

Until we speak again, Juno would only have agreed to put her name to this blog if it was going to be a true reflection of her views and experiences of Cardiff and elsewhere. As for Marco Pierre White, it seems he is so confident in his name he even includes it on a specially created bottle of wine (though the water was pure Welsh!).

Wine and Water

 

Revered Cuisine

Who could possibly resist Magret de canard roti et sauce aux cerises? That is pan fried duck breast and cherry sauce for the less travelled gourmands among you…

It may well be supremely complemented by a glass of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, but it is always important to be aware of the derivation of what you eat. On the very morning of this feast I surveyed the environs of my Paris hotel only to be somewhat dismayed by the attraction of the currently topical plastic flotsam and jetson for the local duck population…

But, I was quickly reassured that my wildfowl actually walks on water before adorning my plate!

Until we speak again, remember that only in Paris can we revere that which we may subsequently devour… allegedly!

A religious experience

The Last Supper

“Jesus… it is so easy to become one of the devoted disciples after crucifying some fried oysters!”

Welcome to blasphemers corner. But, that is something that NOLA [colloquial term for New Orleans, Louisiana] can do to you. A recent moment’s quiet contemplation, and suddenly I was there again. The day is 5th October 2017; the time is approximately 9.30pm; the bar is Vacherie in New Orleans.

The snare is a plate of fried oysters on spinach salad with belly pork and a bacon vinaigrette, with a glass of porter on the side. For tomorrow I take my leave, and a NOLA resurrection will have to wait.

20171005_2142311203216288.jpg

Until we speak again, in memory of Juno & Bella, Veganuary converts need not apply!