31 October 2008

Mahony's Po-Boys

One would think we'd have set some sort of quota for po-boy restaurants in this city. There's Domilise's, Crabby Jack's, Guy's, Magazine Street Po-Boys, Mother's... those are just the first few that come to mind, and I guarantee you we've got more abounding in every pore of this city. That said, I was a little surprised when a new place called Mahony's opened on Magazine a few blocks off Louisiana Avenue. It seems just a tad superfluous, but I guess the philosophy is that you can never have enough Leidenheimer's bread and fried oysters in a city like this one...

With that said, it's fairly implicit that each of these subway meccas must find its own hook, its own tagline, its own claim to fame. I would imagine that this has been easier for some than for others. Mother's and Domilise's, for example, are just permanent fixtures, and we love them as much for their decadent roast beef po-boys or interminably long lunch lines as we do for their familiarity. But for the places that aren't older than God and have had to work to win locals' respect, one fact is of the utmost importance: New Orleans will find justification to eat a po-boy just about anytime. So, even though Magazine Street Po-Boy is by no means remarkable, I eat there because it's just a few blocks from school. Guy's has a grilled shrimp po-boy, which is fairly rare. I'm sure you get my drift. Both places have earned special places in my heart because they have certain assets, insignificant or imperative, that set them apart.

Luckily, Mahony's has a few things to its advantage. The ambiance is casual and (as one would expect of any self-respecting po-boy establishment) exactingly no-frills, with old football memorabilia decorating the walls and a video game machine. Unlike some other dearly beloved locales, it's welcomingly and abundantly spacious, with simple chairs and simple tables scattered throughout several rooms and a big bar up front where you can sit and chat with the very friendly hostess/bartender/waiter. There are two front doors, each decorated with its own charming "In" our "Out" sign. Nobody really questions the fact that, sure, the "Out" door can, in fact, be entered from the outside. Mostly, people are reverent of the doors' designations.

Then there's the menu. Ironically, this is important, and that's coming from someone who is loath to eat anything other than a half-shrimp, half-oyster po-boy, no matter where I am. Mahony's menu is generous and diverse, with the old staples as well as some new additions. Most notable are the onion rings. They're not the most substantial things I've ever seen (as substance goes, I think College Inn on Carrollton takes the cake with its giant juicy rings of thickly sliced onion); rather, they're shredded like cole slaw or like the lettuce you get on a burger. This makes the ratio of fried batter to onion inordinately and extraordinarily high, and while I nibbled on them, I realized how perfect it would be to stick some on with my po-boy. It was sheer bliss- like a whole new level of onions on sandwiches. For that alone, I recommend Mahony's, though the po-boy was good enough on its own that the sandwich joint managed to weasel its way into a corner of my heart...

26 October 2008

Things I have eaten lately

-A really awful peanut butter and honey sandwich. I woke up on Spirit Day to find that our entire bread loaf was moldy, so I had to resort to getting two slices from the cafeteria at 8 in the morning. I stored them, uncovered, in my locker, and by the time I took them out at lunchtime, they were crusty and dry. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that I had to use the handle of a plastic fork to spread the peanut butter. It was poorly distributed and wretched.

-Some delectable leftovers from a lunch Mom had at St. James Cheese Company: prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, the smallest little tomatoes I've ever seen (grape? no. cherry? no. I'd say... blueberry tomatoes. wait, those don't exist), pesto... mmm. Can't get enough.

-A ROAST! With mashed potatoes. Nothing like comfort food.

-PJ's has started carrying sunrise muffins. They're deep and dark (must be molasses-y) with carrots and raisins and (I think) coconuts mixed into the batter. Presumably lots of brown sugar. The top is crunchy. Delicious.

-Some special Moroccan Mint tea that Sean got for me at this lounge near his apartment. It's so perfectly sensuous with all kinds of layers of flavor wrapped up into a single tea bag.

-Oh, and gooey just-baked chocolate chip cookies... or someone's leftover flourless chocolate birthday cake (which, by the way, is really just sneaky fudge in the shape of a cake). Jealous?

21 October 2008

Oh, and


Molecular gastronomy, meet reckless conceptualization.

Some pictures, which I must attribute to blogs and photographers only Google Images could find:

The item on top is short rib. The red sheet below consists of Campari, beet root juice, cranberry, salt, sugar... etc. The chef then added agar agar, which gives the sauce its suddenly jellyish consistency, thus allowing it to be manipulated as such.

This is a photographic representation of the 24-course meal that Alinea calls "the tour." If you want to actually read about each of the dishes, feel free -- I found the description here: http://www.foodite.com/foodite/2006/09/alinea.html#more

Potato soup chilled to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, served with a ball of potato heated up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, a single black truffle, and Parmesan cheese. It's designed to be eaten in a single bite so that one has time to enjoy the nuances of flavor as they naturally progress.

Hearts of palm. (!!!!!) Who knew?

Bacon. Somehow, the assortment looks at first like a stage of dancers in frilly green tutus. Why? No one knows, but I for one will not ask any questions...

Crab apple.

Chocolate, passionfruit, lemongrass...!

What sweeps me away is the utterly romantic notion that food can be as much an artistic medium as oil paints -- it's an idea I've always believed but never seen in practice to such a degree as this. I'm dying to go and aching to figure out some sort of bribe involving someone taking me to Chicago to eat at this restaurant... hmm. Let me know if you have a brainstorm.

Ode to Appetizers

Well, hello, it's been a while. Mainly because I've been borderline nomadic and haven't dabbled in many culinary wonders of late. HOWEVER, this weekend... everything changed.
You see, my best friend flew in from college, and in doing so unleashed as much of an extravaganza as could be fit into the course of 24 hours.

Surrey's- breakfast for them, "lunch" for me (I had previously devoured a CC's chocolate chunk cookie, which, by the way, is sent directly from Jesus to us). I haven't gone to Surrey's much because it's on Magazine Street way down where it turns one way. For some reason, this repels me; presumably because it's one way the wrong way when coming from my house? So psychologically, I reason that the restaurant doesn't want me to come. Every time I'm there, though, my heart breaks a little. It was there that I enjoyed the greatest bowl of shrimp and grits I have ever, ever encountered, and it was there this past weekend that I devoured a fabulously perfect Cuban beef sandwich, comprised of realllly really tender beef, ham, Muenster cheese, and dill pickles that tasted homemade. All on sourdough. Need I say more? It was juicy.

My monthly venture into Sucre- six each of the Gianduja Crunch, Avery, and Bolivian Palet D'Or, plus two Passionfruit for the road. The guy who was ordering before me seemed to be waffling and amateurish. I didn't let him go before insisting that he try the Gianduja Crunch. Other moments: Joel, who works there, surveyed my selection and said, "Ooh, that's gonna be a good box." I explained to him that I knew what I was doing; in fact, I wrote my college essay on this, such is my expertise. He shook my hand and snuck me a free tasting of macaroons -- two pistachio, two strawberry. I had one of each yesterday, and I now know NEVER to pass them up again (I was previously a bit wary of their colors and went straight for the chocolate-hazelnut ones instead). Sucre macaroons melt in your mouth; they retain a perfect gooiness redolent of chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven. I'm not sure if this is an accurate representation of the Idea of the Macaroon, but whatever it is, it's AMAZING. I'm going to get every color of the rainbow next time I'm in.
Before I left, Joel introduced me to Tariq Hanna, Sucre's chocolate chef, and explained that I had written the essay that might determine my future gushing over his creations. Then... the man KISSED MY HAND. My hand has been kissed by the genius of Sucre. It was a major watershed.

Baru- A veritable deluge of tapas! And oh, what amazing inventions they are. After all, why would you limit yourself to the steak entree when you can order 10 tapas with three friends and enjoy a bit of all of them? Every time I am at Baru, I am struck by how obsolete the idea of traditional dining is nowadays. All I have left to say on this subject is that the Mazorca -- a plating of smoky roasted corn, Salao cheese (a farmer's cheese), "pink sauce" (a sort of tomato aioli), and potato sticks (imagine whisper-thin crunchy potato fries) -- will save my life. That, and I want to devote my entire life to the ceviche there. It's superb.

A picture of me basking in the glory of my Cuban sandwich will be up as soon as I get it from Jenna.

05 October 2008

Maple Street Cafe

I had dinner Friday night at Maple Street Cafe, a cute restaurant uptown in the Riverbend vicinity. I remember picking up dinner from there and eating it for dinner from way back when I was a little kid, and even though I hadn't been there in an awfully long time, it's a fixture in the neighborhood and seems to have an inherent feeling of familiarity and warmth that lends a lot to the atmosphere of the restaurant. All of the tables are in one room, and everyone there seems to be in good company, talking and laughing and eating and connecting. There isn't an ounce of pretension, noise levels are perfect, and while the degree of frilly luxury stops with the fancily-folded napkins, it really just works.

I am a firm believer in bread at restaurants. It's a quick and simple way to exponentially up the feeling that you're being served -- it's just an added bonus that, in my opinion, sets the distinction between a great meal out and a great meal at home. This bread was crusty and rustic in all the right ways, with teeny morsels of garlic (but not too much at all) baked in. The butter was to die for. I wish I knew what they put in it. It was both sweet and savory and turned into this succulent melting yellowness on the warmth of the bread. To start, Mom got a Caesar salad, which, quite frankly, I hated. With something like a Caesar, it's all about getting the details right, since there's so little room for creativity. I found the dressing tangy -- cloyingly so -- and the consistency was off.

Nonetheless, dinner itself was scrumptious. Mom got mussels in a really fresh red sauce that offset the mussels nicely and made us both wish for more bread. I got a pasta dish that just really epitomized everything I look for in a pasta dish. It consisted of angel hair pasta in butter and olive oil. There was a generous amount of three different kinds of wild mushrooms. The best part, though, was the crushed red pepper, which was invisible but which really added the kick that was necessary to take a dish from simple comfort food to quintessential delightfulness. Truthfully, the only downside was the service, but all in all, we left the restaurant content and excited to see The Funky Meters playing for Tulane's homecoming weekend.