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!?

Under the radar cuisine

Sometimes it’s the quieter places that can occasionally provide the big surprises. Take Whitchurch in Cardiff… as a teenager I would frequently be saying, yes, just take it; but then I escaped only to re-visit over many years to find that it has a quaintly interesting aura about it.

Never a place to appear in any gastronomic lists, but somewhere that domestic pets needn’t live in the fear of abduction with designs on being turned into heavily disguised nouvelle cuisine! It seems that one quiet little corner is bucking the trend of many years, as The Brook Bistro has had many failed previous incarnations but now seems to be thriving…

Brook Bistro

Well, thriving may not be what comes to mind on entry, but we were visiting very early evening and it was a fully booked little establishment later that same evening…

Restaurant

But, then again, unlike some of the bigger more ferocious members of the cat family, we weren’t here to eat the locals. When it comes to what’s on the plate, this place served up some delightful surprises; with a mushrooms, chorizo and stilton starter leading the tastebud assault…

Mushrooms Chorizo and Stilton

Then it was time for the main event, and a combination of Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb and a Grilled Tuna Steak Salad were delightful sights and mouth-watering tastes…

Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Tuna Steak Salad mains

Until we speak again, discerning cats are currently licking their lips over tasty Argentinian Malbecs!

Meal of the year!

Okay, so Christmas festivities are enveloping our gastronomic juices at these very moments; but for me, nothing is going to quite equal the most breathtaking of many experiences of New Orleans back in October.

Crabmeat Cheesecake… yes, you read that correctly! The Palace Cafe on Canal Street have developed a signature brunch dish for those who can’t quite make their mind up… is it going to be shellfish or a desert that will provide the best kick start to yet another day of sensory overload?

Until we speak again, why not spice up your start to the day the NOLA way!

Palace Cafe Crabmeat Cheesecake [3]

Booze-free eating?

What… dining out without alcohol? Whatever next?

Take a stroll through Bold Street in Liverpool and you might just happen upon a Lebanese Carrot Juice, with a Grilled Halloumi Salad on the side (at Bakchich Restaurant), where pomegranate seeds make for a great accompaniment to the grilled halloumi…

Then again, walking 10 yards further along the same street you just might find a refreshing Moroccan Lemonade, Fresh Mint & Lime, ideally complemented by a Lamb Tagine (at Kasbah Cafe), where the lamb just falls off the bone…

Meanwhile, across the street, a breakfast cup of Lemongrass and Ginger Rooibos must surely be accompanied by a taster of Asparagus and Poached Egg but don’t forget to add the Bacon and Halloumi options; don’t worry, a smidgen of greenery and tomato provides an illusion of healthy eating (at Leaf Cafe)…

Back in Cardiff, the alcohol-deprived extravaganza may be continued with an Indian Salted Lassi amply supported by Chilli Mushrooms, Channa Batura, and Almond, Jeera & Cinamon Rice (at Vegetarian Food Studio)…

Salted Lassi

With a stroll from Penarth Road to City Road enabling a Lebanese/Turkish combo Mango Lassi to be deliciously interrupted by a Mixed Shish or Chicken Shawarma (at La Shish)…

And, if you are in the mood to search for Persia, return back along City Road, take a left into Newport Road, and a couple hundred yards on the right just off Newport Road you will find Mowlana. Here you must try the house speciality Lemon and Mint Juice… it certainly helps meet the challenge of the shared platter of a Mixed Kebab!

Until we speak again, booze-free eating is just a fabulous reason for going on tour, just so long as Juno was selecting a fine bottle of wine for the return home!

Wine stocks

Fearsome sights in Liverpool

It’s a chilly evening… Friday, or maybe a Saturday. You see three young Liverpool lasses coming towards you. The Man From Del Monte may be saying ‘Yes‘ to the vision of an all too familiar hue, but… you might just be witnessing the staggering largesse of ‘The Terracotta Army in Stiletto’s‘!

Then again, an autumn afternoon vista at the Museum of Liverpool captures the threefold beauty of the locally known Three Graces

Meanwhile an evening stroll around the Albert Dock illuminates a colourful side of the wider picture…

The Cunard Building sits centrally in the ranks of the Three Graces, and presents a solid facade, but sits between more dramatic neighbours… The Port of Liverpool building presents stunning detail…

But, to the majority of us who know, or even think we know, Liverpool, it is The Liver Building that sparks the imagination…

Until we speak again, raise a rooftop garden cup of mulled wine to some fearsome Liverpool sights…

Winging it in Bodmin

Who said there is nothing good in Cornwall? Oh yes… my regular Devon correspondent! Well, a brief sojourn in Bodmin has just served to remind me how much I love chicken, particularly when satay is involved.

Until we speak again, my favourite duck is most certainly aromatic and crispy. As discerning cats I am sure Juno and Bella would have agreed.

Wind power

What better source than a combination of a skillet of Brussels Sprouts (with added bacon) and a glass of the amber nectar?

Until we speak again, thanks go to the Vacherie bar at Hotel St Marie in the French Quarter of New Orleans for providing the stage and necessary equipment for the production of who knows what subsequent stormy conditions!