Posted by camper on July 21, 2011
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What’s the difference between American and French oak?
Can you taste the difference between the flavor wood gives to a spirit versus the amount of time a spirit has spent in wood? (Spoiler: yes, you can.)
Check out this posting on what Camper English learned at this seminar at Tales of the Cocktail. The post is here.
Posted by doctorbamboo on July 21, 2011
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The first 24 hours surrounding Tales of the Cocktail is a hectic and joyous period. No matter when you arrive and begin your activities, that first day or so is always an intense, gleeful mixture of anticipation, participation, and disorganization. Here’s a few thoughts and observations from my initial 24:
~ I know it doesn’t rank very high on the list of existential dilemmas, but I always have trouble deciding whether my first drink during Tales of the Cocktail should be at the Carousel Bar or on the plane to New Orleans. (Yes, Tales officially begins when they board your section of the plane. Wasn’t that covered during orientation?)
~ Speaking of which, why does a can of Coke always taste better on a plane? I think it has something to do with altitude. And maybe that an attractive woman opens it for you. And maybe that mine had whiskey in it.
~ Not to beat the plane thing to death, but when did commercial airline flights become flying produce stands? The guy in the seat in front of me brought an entire bag of plums as a snack, and the woman two seats over had a banana and a sack of strawberries. I really had to fight the urge to muddle something.
~ After flying all day, stepping out of the airport shuttle in the middle of the French Quarter is a bit like landing on Mars…if Mars had a bar every 15 feet
~ Some hotels have a basket of fruit or a flower arrangement waiting in your room as welcoming gesture. Mine had a bottle of gin. I think I prefer that option.
~ Never, ever, underestimate the simple, restorative properties of a nice shower. With gin.
~ In most busy places, you can cause a riot by throwing fistfuls of cash into the crowd. In the Monteleone lobby you can achieve the same result with bottles of obscure bitters.
~ I was starting to get uncomfortable with the New Orleans heat, then I went to the Beefeater party and saw a ballerina dancing inside a plastic bubble. Remember: it can always be worse.
~ I’m not exactly sure how using goats and cows to promote your product works, but I predict that all the PR and marketing types will pounce on it, and we’ll be seeing a lot more livestock at future cocktail events.
~ I didn’t think it was possible to make an Airstream trailer any cooler-looking, but putting retro tattoo designs on it is a decent start.
~ Drinking in a big crowd can be fun. Drinking in a big crowd while wearing a whimsical sailor hat and surrounded by old tanks and fighter planes is bonus fun.
~ I know the local bars and restaurants make a ton of money during Tales, but whoever is selling mutton chop sideburns and tiny hats is making the real cash.
~ Did I mention the showers already?
~ Based on how crowded the Kahlua bar at the Monteleone is, I’m guessing next year we’ll be seeing a satellite event titled “Tales of the Coffee” where everybody gets jacked up all day and then has to spend the next morning drinking booze to get settled down.
~ While it’s probably not ergonomically correct, sitting on a nice, cool marble floor and leaning against a nice, cool marble wall is an ideal way to use a laptop computer. A nice, cool cocktail helps too.
Posted by chuck on July 21, 2011
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Fire, red-hot metal, smoke and sizzle — now that’s my kind of seminar! (More in a bit.)
And oh, the punch! We do love our punch, and punch is undergoing quite the revival these days, now that we remember how to do it properly. Punch lost its cachet for a while, thanks to an image of frumpy old ladies with porcelain cups, followed by the frat boys’ version of cheap booze dumped into a garbage can, and that bizarrely violent “Hawaiian punch” guy certainly didn’t help. Punch is back though, from its 17th and 18th Century origins, but what about the other drinks of the era? How about recreating that style?
“Nobody looks good in breeches, stockings, a frock coat and a three-cornered hat,” said our presenter Wayne Curtis. “Really, who ever thought that looked good? Nowadays it’s a great way to get beaten up in a bar.”
Punch is indeed back, and we’re learning and enjoying the basic flavor profile of punch — “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak, plus spice” — but why aren’t we seeing more colonial-era drinks returning to our modern drinking? Well, it could be that colonial-era flavor profile — “sweet, sweet, sweet and sweet,” as Wayne put it. The drinks were also sweetened in ways we might find a bit unusual today. People at the time didn’t have a lot of access to white refined sugar and used what they had on hand — honey and molasses, but also apple juice, maple sap, dark hard cones of loaf sugar and even dried pumpkin, called for in many recipes of the era due to its native sugar content. We might not want to drink exactly what they drank in those days, but we can certainly modernize them and use elements from them to more suit contemporary palates.
They drank a wide variety of booze back then too. A Swedish traveler and writer named Israel Acrelius kept a meticulous list of every spiritous potable he came across in the colonies at the time:
That’s quite a bar crawl, although we might not necessarily like it all.
Wayne took us through some really tasty modern versions of what our forefathers drank 200+ years ago, starting with a lovely Pineapple Syllabub, which I can see myself having for breakfast in the morning:
It’s a fairly gentle morning drink a hybrid imported from abroad along with New World materials at hand. It’s an incredibly old style of drink as well, dating back to the 15th century. Wayne read us an early recipe: “To one bottle of red or white wine, ale or cider, sweeten and grate in nutmeg. Hold under a cow and milk it until a fine froth is on top.”
Well, we had a hard time getting the cow up in the elevator, so our modern version was made with pineapple-infused Cruzan rum, cream, and lemon zest. Yum.
I’ve enjoyed modern versions of the Stone Fence, but this one was a bit more like the so-named drink of old. The colonials basically drank it as a spirits-fortified apple cider; today’s version was made with Cruzan blackstrap rum, St. Elizabeth’s allspice dram for a bit of spicy complexity, Woodpecker hard cider, and a bit of vinegar for acidity. (Vinegar was a common souring agent used in lieu of citrus, which was unavailable to colonial folks most of the year.)
Spruce sap/resin was very popular in 19th century — spruce gum was one of the more popular chews of the time, with a flavor so long-lasting that a writer of the era said you could chew it half the day, then pass it on to a friend and let him chew it for a while. (Ahem. Very glad I live in the 21st Century.)
Calibogus was a typical spruce-based drink of the era, which at the time was a spruce beer fortified with rum. Today’s version was made with Cruzan single barrel rum, fresh lime juice (not a typical historic ingredient), Layman’s spruce beer extract, Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur for a little bit more of that flavor of the forest, plus a bit of molasses syrup & soda. Delicious and (to our contemporary palates) pretty unusual.
Aha! But! What about the fire and glowing iron?
About an hour into the seminar we were ready. Wayne had a reproduction of an 18th century loggerhead made — an iron implement about three feet long, with a small hook on one end and a ball on the end somewhere between a tennis ball and golf ball in size. Someone apparently had the grand idea that this should be moved into the bar to heat up drinks. (Well, why not? Go figure.)
What Wayne had been saving for us was a Colonial-era Flip, which bears pretty much zero resemblance to what we think of as a flip today (a drink shaken with spirits and a whole egg). Flips in the 1700s were brown ale, rhum and molasses, heated up by plunging a hot loggerhead into the pitcher. It wasn’t just a way to heat it up quickly, though — the red-hot loggerhead had some other amazing effects on the mixture. It almost immediately builds up a huge, frothy head, burns the grains, hops and the barley of the ale, caramelizes the molasses and really blends the flavors and changes the taste profile in a way you wouldn’t get by just heating it up on the stove. (Martin Cate once tried using a charcoal starter, and that really didn’t work.)
Here’s how it’s done (tri-cornered hat optional):
Wayne prepared the drink by pouring two bottles of dark ale (Bass, in this case), 4 ounces of molasses and 8 ounces Cruzan aged rum. Then … the plunge!
Man … that was good. The sharp tang of the molasses that bothers some people was really nicely tempered, making a deep, rich flavor with developed sweetness from the caramelization. I could really get used to this drink. Unfortunately, living in either New Orleans or Los Angeles a piping hot drink isn’t going to be terribly appropriate most times of the year … but hell, I’ll enjoy it during the two weeks that it’s actually cold.
Of course, during the question and answer session I was curious as to whether there was any direct evolution from this style of colonial flip with the drink to which we now refer as a flip, spirits shaken with whole egg. “You sir,” Wayne replied, “have just destroyed three days of my life!” Actually, the serious answer was … who knows? The only relation, it seems, is the name, and sometime in the mid-1800s the name was appropriated for the egg-bearing drink. Ah well, the reality might be unsatisfying but it’s good to know. I’ll do whatever I can to get Wayne those three days back.
And man, that flip was good.
Posted by Marleigh Miller on July 21, 2011
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There are cocktail people all over the place at Tales–enthusiasts, bartenders, brand reps, bloggers–and you can’t turn anywhere but you run into a cocktail conversation in progress. As such, a 10am seminar seems, besides being pretty early in NOLA time, very much like a continuation of last night’s discussions.
Until you walk in on Wayne Curtis dressed like a Son of the American Revolution.
Wayne is a writer and historian of cocktails, and the author of the excellent book “And a Bottle of Rum.” As you might guess from that title Wayne knows quite a lot about rum, which was the spirit of colonial America–the perfect background for the history of early American drinking.
Sponsored by Cruzan Rum, attendees woke up to a glass of Pineapple Syllabub, a vinegar-rum-cider Stone Fence, a spruce beer-rum-Zirbenz Calibogus and a hot beer-and-rum flip.
Picking up where punch, the famous tipple of American taverns, leaves off, Wayne took the audience on a tour of the history, ingredients and process of making colonial favorites like syllabub, cider, cherry bounce, sangaree and the flip–including the red-hot cast iron poker used to mix it (fire!).
Fire is an excellent strategy to, as Wayne hoped, turn out a room full of people dying to know where to buy a tri-cornered hat. Time to visit the hat shop…
Posted by camper on July 21, 2011
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Phil Duff gave a seminar in the Pro Series seminars at Tales of the Cocktail about the Global Drinks Business.
There were so many numbers flying around that I couldn’t capture them all, but I hope you’ll get a good idea of what a bottle of liquid that costs $1 to make is sold for $30 at retail.
Go enjoy over at Alcademics!
Posted by camper on July 21, 2011
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As part of the Pro Series of Tales of the Cocktail, Gina Chersevani and a bunch of scientists and chefs talked about sweeteners in cocktails. She gave a tempting recipe for sugar beet syrup, proper treatment of honey, and the plant-based sweetener Truvia.
Read all about it over at Alcademics.
Posted by chuck on July 20, 2011
Filed Under Chuck Taggart | 1 Comment
“The entire soda market is dominated by one or two huge corporations,” said Darcy O’Neil during today’s soda program seminar. “I think it would be great if we could get more sodas created by bartenders in our bars,” said his co-presenter Andrew Nicholls.
Don’t buy little bottles, don’t use the hose guns … control what you do and keep the quality high by making your own soda and using soda chargers. This is handy for your home use as well as instituting a professional soda program in a bar or restaurant, which was the focus of Andrew and Darcy’s fascinating seminar today — we learned a lot, including a pile of chemistry.
The two main things to remember when making soda — CHILL YOUR WATER and BOIL YOUR WATER. Sounds a bit contradictory, doesn’t it? There are solid reasons for it though, right out of chemistry. Warm or room-temperature doesn’t carbonate well at all, you may have noticed; if you put tepid water in your soda siphon and charge it, all that carbon dioxide will just whoosh right out, leaving your water rather flat. The solubility of CO2 in water increases dramatically the lower the water temperature is — the closest to freezing point the better.
But boiling it? Why would we do that? Because dissolved air in water takes up four times the room that carbon dioxide would — make more room in the water and more CO2 will have room to remain behind and create sparkle. Bring your water to a boil, fill your soda siphon (preferably a metal one), let it cool and stick it in the fridge for at least 24 hours, preferably 48. Your water will sparkle beautifully and retain that sparkle.
Don’t over-pressurize your water, but using two chargers in a standadrd one-quart or one-liter siphon would create the ideal pressure for more robust carbonation. That tingle on your tongue works physiologically on multiple levels, bringing aroma up the back of your throat and into your olfactory system, plus that tingle on your tongue can get quite addictive, not unlike how folks get addicted to very spicy food. Endorphins being released in your brain is a very good thing.
The growing trend is for bars to ditch their horrid soda guns and start making their own soda, tonic waters etc. in-house, but it can go far beyond that. For instance, in old cocktail books we see fizzy drinks calling for Apollinaris water, a particular mineral water which added a lot of character to the drink as well as fizz. Who knew that you can make your own Apollonaris water by adding 23g sodium bicarbonate, 11.5g sodium sulphate, 8.8g sodium chloride, 7.6g magnesium carbonate and 1g calcium carbonate to 5 gallons of water and carbonating it?
We were reminded in the seminar that mineral salts found in mineral waters enhance flavor, which is why mineral waters work so well with food, and carbonated ones even more so, as the carbon dioxide enhances flavor as well, as do the bubbles which bring the aroma up to your nose, both outside and up the back of your throat. This is why people have enjoyed soda for so many years, and why flat soda is singularly unappealing.
Our cocktail example was delicious and instructive on multiple levels, with a house-made syrup added to cream, egg and fizzy mineral water to create an amazing, multi-layered flavor.
(featured in Fix the Pumps, by Darcy O’Neil)
2 ounces zozia syrup
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1 whole egg
Prepare as a standard egg fizz — vigorously shake first three ingredients, strain into a tall ice-filled glass and top with soda water.
3/4 tsp lemon essence
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15 drops Angostura bitters
15 drops absinthe essence (Herbsaint was added to taste in this version)
3/4 tsp citric acid solution
1 qt simple syrup (or gum syrup, preferably)
Caramel coloring (sufficient)
The chemistry was fascinating here, as the vanilla worked well with the abisnthe flavors, and the lemon essence provided wonderful aroma but very little flavor until the acid was added in the form of citric acid (or acid phosphate in similar syrup and cocktail formulae), and then the flavor just popped right out.
Andrew went on to discuss working with taste, texture, flavor and aroma in conjunction with mineral salts in soda water to create unique flavors, and this could have gone on all weekend. Tying in with Darcy’s excellent book on the history of the soda fountain, Fix the Pumps, and his forthcoming seminar with David Wondrich on the oft-crossed line between bartender and soda jerk, all this shows us what wide-ranging opportunities we have to improve the drinking experience in our bars by taking control of soda and integrating it thoroughly into cocktail programs.
Posted by camper on July 20, 2011
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In today’s seminar entitled How to Build a Cutting-Edge Ice Program, we learned about the progression of ice programs in New York bars from Milk & Honey to Pegu Club to Little Branch to Weatherup. Geared toward professionals, this seminar can save bar owners a few years of research.
Read the write-up on Alcademics here.
Posted by Marleigh Miller on July 20, 2011
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Tales kicked off with a day of seminars focused on the needs of beverage professionals, covering such topics as intellectual property, sugar, ice, menus and soda programs. Yes, that soda–the kind you remember at those fountains the kids in “Leave It to Beaver” visited after school.
Led by Darcy O’Neil, author of “Fix the Pumps,” and Andrew Nicholls, of Amsterdam’s Vesper Bar, who gave attendees an overview of the history, production and application of housemade sodas in modern bar programs. The featured drink was the Zozia Fizz, a light and delicious egg drink based around Herbsaint-tinged acid phosphate syrup. Bottoms up!
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Posted by chuck on July 19, 2011
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“Oh yeah, we’re going to New Orleans for Tales this year! I hear the food’s good!” (Well … yeah.)
I thought it only proper to continue the four-year series of posts I’ve been writing about places to eat and drink in my hometown as you descend upon it for Tales, but first a few logistical notes …
In case you haven’t noticed the weather forecast, scattered thunderstorms began in New Orleans last week and are expected to continue through the beginning of Tales. I’ve seen forecasts that show daily thunderstorms the entire week, but the local forecast on nola.com shows good weather Thursday through Sunday. As one always does when one comes to New Orleans, though, bring your umbrella and don’t lose it, ’cause you’re likely to need it.
Also there’s apparently still some construction going on around the Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel, drinking central for many folks staying in the hotel for Tales. Not to worry, the Carousel Bar itself is open but as of this weekend the piano bar behind it was not, as it’s under construction; it’s being joined with part of the restaurant space behind it to create a larger bar space. They’ll be opening up windows on the street-side of the new space, which will be terrific. According to Diana Schwam of Frommers.com, one of our esteemed local advisers, apparently there were windows when the building was first built, which makes sense; now they are going through 3-foot walls to re-use them. I love the reclamation of history! The plan was for the project to be finished before Tales, so we’ll see what happens by Wednesday.
Now, eating and drinking! First of all, my previous advice stands. If you’re a newbie to Tales or a veteran who needs a refresher course, check out my posts from 2010, 2009 and 2008. All the advice in the previous post from Steve and Paul is good too. (And may I add … Cochon, Cochon, Cochon! Do it!) Shall I tempt you a bit more? Here are a few scenes from my most recent meal at Cochon, a couple of months ago:
Some crispy-fried pork belly, perhaps?
Fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly? (They also do the dish with chicken livers.)
Braised pork cheeks with fava beans and spoonbread? Yeah, like they said, get thee to Cochon.
Don’t forget Cochon Butcher next door for quick, casual dining or grabbing a magnificently porky or other meaty sandwich to go. You also might want to grab some charcuterie to bring home with you if your trip isn’t too long.
My foremost new recommendation this year is one of the newer spots in the Quarter, one we’d heard a lot about and checked out during Jazzfest this year — Sylvain, at 625 Chartres St., about a seven minute walk from the Monteleone. Sylvain is housed in a historic building, a 3-story carriage house built by Don Andres Almonaster y Roxas when the province of Luisiana was held by Spain, and you get a feel of that history when you walk in. The gorgeously appointed room is dominated by a beautiful copper-surfaced bar, behind which are an array of spirits and a cocktail list (with influences from Death & Co. in New York) that will make you very happy indeed. I’m not sure how often they change their coctkail menu, but on our last visit in late April we enjoyed a Dutch Afro (a Negroni variation with Bols Genever, Aperol, Carpano, Regans’ orange bitters), a Final Word (a Bulleit rye, fresh lemon, Luxardo Maraschino, green Chartreuse), a lovely Maker’s 46 Manhattan, and a Death Co. import called the Pressure Drop (Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Amaro Meletti, Dolin Dry Vermouth, pear eau de vie, Angostura bitters). Happiness ensued. Murf Reeves, the head bartender, is very dedicated to the craft of spirits and cocktail and will undoubtely be happy to see you. (Incidentally, you can also catch Murf on the air, hosting the New Orleans Music Show every Monday morning from 11am to 2pm Central Time on WWOZ, locally at 90.7 FM and on the web at wwoz.org.)
The chicken liver crostini were insanely good, as were the pan-fried pork shoulder, the roasted pork po-boy (oh my), pappardelle Bolognese (fresh house-made pasta, of course) and braised beef cheeks (tender as all get out and profoundly beefy). The Sylvain Burger is also outstanding if you’ve got a craving for a big, sloppy, perfectly medium-rare burger (and I often do). A new and tasty-looking sandwich addition is the “Chick-Syl-Vain,” a buttermilk-fried chicken breast with house-made pickles which I suspect will beat the hell out of what you’d get at that chain that’s closed on Sundays.
All this plus supremely friendly staff, great atmosphere, beautiful courtyard and a live-in ghost. As is the case with many French Quarter buildings, they say that 625 Chartres is haunted … well, maybe. The supposed spectral resident is Aunt Rose, a madam who ran a brothel in the early part of the 20th Century and who once owned and lived in the building. By the account I heard she’s quite benevolent, however, and the staff take good care of her — every night a fresh Sazerac is made for her and left as an offering on a high shelf behind the bar (which is awesome). It seems to get consumed every night, but by whom? The actual ghost of Aunt Rose? A sneaky bartender? Who can really say? If I were behind the stick there I’m not sure I’d steal a ghost’s cocktail, though, if I knew what was good for me. I do so love this place, and can’t wait to get back. Don’t miss Sylvain, and raise a toast to Aunt Rose while you’re there.
I want to emphasize last year’s recommendation for the marvelous Chef John Besh-owned Italian restaurant Domenica, in the Roosevelt Hotel. Just a quick walk from the Quarter into the CBD, I consider it to be the finest Italian restaurant in town; in fact, local food writer and critic Tom Fitzmorris notes that the average diner might not recognize 80% of the dishes on the menu if he or she hasn’t been to Italy. The menu is marvelous — every single morsel I’ve had here has been delicious, especially all the house-made salumi and other charcuterie. Chef Besh and executive chef Alon Shaya go all out in this department, raising their own pigs and dry-curing all the salumi and hams for the weeks and months needed for each variety. What I’d like to feature this time is the amazing pizza, easily the best in the city and perhaps the best I’ve ever had. They have a custom-made pizza oven, fired by both pecan wood and gas with a rotating platter inside for even cooking. My favorites are the Bolzano (roast pork shoulder, fennel, bacon and sweet onions), Prosciutto with bufala mozzarella, tomato and arugula, Gorgonzola with pecans and speck (like a smoked prosciutto) and Bacon with fontina cheese and yard egg. Best of all, pizza happy hour is every day from 3pm to 6pm — all pizzas, beers, well cocktails and wines by the glass are 50% off. A late afternoon or very early evening pizza that will beat all pizzas you’ve ever had? Yes, you should.
The Bolzano Pizza at Domenica
In all my visits home over the last several years I’m not sure how I managed to miss going to Bar Tonique … maybe it’s because I don’t know anyone who works there, and I had a tendency to visit my bartender friends at other places. This is a loss for me, and one I intend to remedy this week. As those of you who’ve imbibed there already know, they’re very serious about their cocktails; “[j]ust because you are at a neighborhood watering-hole doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a sub-par cocktail,” they say. This neighborhood is the edge of the Quarter heading toward the Tremé and directly across the street from Louis Armstrong Park, Bar Tonique have a very impressive cocktail program. Their lengthy menu of classics includes the venerable Widow’s Kiss (which I’ve never seen on any other bar’s menu), Last Word, Southside and Corpse Reviver No. 2, and several intriguing originals such as the locally-named St. Claude (Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum, lemon and maraschino) and the Bitter Harvest (Berhheim’s Wheat Whiskey, Averna, allspice dram and bitters). Walking distance from your hotel, so walk on over and have a drink or three. Meauxbar, which I covered year before last, would be a logical pre- or post-Tonique destination for food.
A new spot I’m eager to try is Patrick’s Bar Vin at 730 Bienville St. Those of you who are longtime New Orleans diners will remember the wonderful maitre d’ at The Bistro at Maison de Ville, Patrick van Hoorebeek. Everyone knew him as the consummate host, a man who knew his customers yet was able to quickly determine the needs of new customers and out-of-towners, a lover of wine with a deep knowledge of the subject, and the King of the Krewe of Cork, among other things. During the Bistro’s long closure and hiatus following Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood, Patrick moved around town a bit, at the now-closed Peristyle, the Rib Room and finally at Restaurant August. He’s finally settled down in his own place, which will of course feature a wide variety of wines as the star of the show. There’ll be a list of signature cocktails as well, most wine-based or featuring vermouths, aromatized wines or quinquinas, and chef Agnes Billet will be offering a menu of small plates “typical of traditional French wine bars and cafes: endive salad, French onion soup, charcuterie and cheese selections,” according to the Times-Picayune. The more time spent in Patrick’s company the better, so please do visit him, sample the plates, have a cocktail if you like … but you’ll make him happy if you take a bit of time out of this gigantic cocktail festival to enjoy a nice glass of wine.
If you’ve missed out on cabbing or taking the St. Charles Ave. streetcar down to the Riverbend to eat at the legendary Camellia Grill, you’re now in luck — they’ve just opened a new branch in the French Quarter at 540 Chartres St., right off the corner of Toulouse. It looks almost exactly like the Riverbend original, with the same menu and same old-school service. They open at 7am for breakfast (not that any of you will be up that early, unless you’ve been up all night) and best of all, they stay open late — 1am on weeknights, 3am on Friday and Saturday. Just what you need to soak up all that booze …
A Pecan Waffle with syrup and butter …
One of their famous omelettes that are about the size of a rolled-up newspaper (this one is my favorite since high school — a potato, onion and cheese omelette) …
Or a slice of chocolate pecan pie à la mode? You can actually do all three (if you have someone with a wheelbarrow to help you get out). There are myriad sandwiches on the menu as well, great burgers, daily specials including red beans ‘n rice on Mondays and more — like the chocolate freeze, don’t forget that.
Diana also told me about a new find of hers which I have yet to try — Somethin’ Else Café at 620 Conti Street. It’s not a must-do attraction — basic American breakfast & lunches, melets, burgers, salads, po-boys, etc. But it’s tasty and hearty and a convenient walk from the Monteleone, it seems to be well-regarded and they’re also open late — Sunday through Wednesday until 10pm, Thursday ’til 12 midnight and Friday-Saturday until 3am. We figure their killer big-ass biscuits with boudin balls and eggs (or pulled pork, or traditional gravy or various other things) would do well to soak up a bellyful of booze the night before or a hangover the morning after.
I know that many Talesgoers tend to stick around within walking distance of the hotels, within the Quarter and the Marigny, which makes a certain amount of sense — you’d really have to be irresponsibly crazy to rent a car while you’re attending a five-day drinking festival — and some people don’t want to deal with cabs. That’s okay, there’s certainly plenty to do within walking distance of Tales. Those who don’t mind hopping in a cab (affordable; the city’s not that big) will be rewarded handsomely, though. I know some of y’all are going to see the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar tonight — if you think you’ll get to the neighborhood early enough call the amazing Boucherie at (504) 862-5514, 8815 Jeannette St. about 4 blocks from the Maple Leaf. It’s a cozy, friendly restaurant, nestled in a former Uptown home and began its life as a purple food truck parking outside music venues like Tipitina’s before they found a more permanent home. They serve “contemporary Southern cuisine” with a Louisiana twist, and our last meal there was spectacular. Start off sharing some boudin balls (spicy Cajun pork and rice sausage, removed from the casing, rolled into balls, breaded and deep-fried) or hand-cut French fries with garlic butter and topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or …
Steamed Mussels with Collard Greens and Grits Crackers (this one’s more like a French dish with a Southern twist) …
Blackened Shrimp on Grits Cake with Warm House-Made Bacon Vinaigrette … oh my.
Pulled Pork Cake with Potato Confit and Purple Cabbage Cole Slaw, which was rich and porky and balanced with the crispy, vinegary slaw. The dish you’ll be served will be in focus too, unlike my lousy photograph which was taken after a fair number of cocktails and glasses of wine.
There’s also a fantastic scallop preparation which changes constantly; I remember at least one person at our table saying that it was the best scallops they’d ever had, perfectly seared on the outside and perfectly cooked inside. The current menu lists the preparation as Applewood Smoked Scallops with a Low Country Red Risotto, Pickled Green Tomatoes and Cucumbers; the one shown below that we had had a spicy aïoli and was atop corn flapjacks.
Enjoy Boucherie if you can, and your continued business will greatly help the restaurant and its chef/owner Nathaniel Zimet, who was shot and seriously wounded in an attempted robbery about two months ago. He’s recovering well and his crew is doing a great job keeping the restaurant going but he’s got a lot of medical bills to pay, so go eat his food!
For more casual dining there are two new spots open in the neighborhood — Cowbell and TruBurger, the latter being a brand-new venture by Chef Aaron Burgau of the well-known local restaurant Patois. TruBurger is a burger joint as its name implies, although Cowbell’s menu is a bit more varied with items such as grilled fish tacos and lime grilled chicken. Both are casual, and according to Diana well worth a try and ideal for your pre-Rebirthing.
I’m sure many of you will be cabbing it up to the Freret neighborhood for a visit to Cure, the cocktail nerd and craft bartender’s local nirvana. Cure has pretty much singlehandedly sparked a rebirth of that neighborhood, and many more establishments are popping up all the time. Cure has a terrific small plates menu to enjoy with your drinks, but there are several other walking-distance options: Ancora Pizzeria & Salumeria at 4508 Freret for authentic Neopolitan pizza (with the gorgeous imported oven to prove it), and from what I’ve heard really terrific salumi. Next door is High Hat Café, offering home-cooked New Orleans and Southern-style food (think catfish, pork chops, and specials like crawfish étouffée or chicken-fried steak), very much a neighborhood joint but with high-quality food. The chef-owner’s resumé is mostly in fine dining, and has worked in kitchens in Manhattan and Memphis. Chef Adolfo Garcia of Rio Mar, a Mano and La Boca is partner in both Ancora and High Hat, an additional assurance of great food.
That, plus three other years’ worth of posts ought to keep you busy. Remember, bring loose pants when you dine in New Orleans, take your time (you should be built for comfort, not for speed) and just don’t bother getting on the scale when you get home. Those extra pounds are, as a wise man once said, a small price to pay for such pleasure.
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