***Sorry about making you wait for this second part of this series, but summer and vacation AND general procrastination were the culprits of the delay. I won't leave you hanging for this long again!***
This is the second post in my series NOLA Love...love of all food things in The Big Easy. If you haven’t read my first post, find it (here). We got an eating itinerary to get through, so LET’S GOOOOO.
Waking up Sunday in NOLA after our three-dessert-day before, I knew I had to get my butt to the gym. I would like to say that I worked out for many hours and burned a trillion calories, but let’s be real...I did the minimum on the treadmill in order to call it a work out. There was sweat on my face so it counts!
Ok, you may remember that I alluded to some tragedy with my phone in the previous post. That threw a wrench in my plans of discovering a delicious breakfast spot on Sunday morning (while Lindy toiled away at work) and instead I had to trek it to a Verizon store. In an effort to not sound like a whiny (old) millennial, I will briefly recount my phone imploding on itself. It went like this:
Dana gets on plane with a hungry belly. Dana puts her phone in “airplane mode.” Dana reads a magazine and imagines all the food she is going to eat very soon. Oysters. Beignets. Gumbo. Shrimp. Cheese! *Plane is making final descent* Dana is so happy to eat… oh and to see Lindy. (Yes, Dana knows Lindy will be mad when she sees that she comes second to food. But really, so does Dana’s husband.)
*Plane lands* Dana takes out phone to text Lindy that she has landed… Dana sees this:
*Dana gets off plane and tries to figure out how to find Lindy to eat*
Dana is tempted to pick up white courtesy telephone to page Lindy, however she realizes that it’s 2019 and the only phone numbers that Dana has memorized are her family's’ restaurant. In Iowa (that her family no longer owns.) And the house she grew up in (which strangers live in now) and her hometown Pizza Hut. None of these numbers will help Dana locate Lindy. How DO people find each other in 2019, when cell phones implode?
Dana spots a baggage carousel that is promising to bring in a flight from San Diego. Dana posts up and scans all passengers walking into baggage claim looking for a Lindy.
*Dana harasses passengers that look like they may be from San Diego*
Dana and Lindy find each other at baggage carousel one and they eat happily ever after. *Cue Music*
After slightly sweating at the gym, Dana finds herself in an old school taxi on her way to the Verizon store (in Mid-City) where they tell her that her phone has imploded on itself and will never, ever come back to life. The Verizon people will have to send her a new one, but the only option that works is to send it to her house AFTER she gets back from NOLA. Dana will rely on the paper map she picked up the day before to get around to her eating adventures.
Paper map in hand...now we eat.
The eating itinerary: St. James Cheese Company, Emeril’s (BONUS! Bakery Bar)
I found St. James Cheese Company on some internet list that said must-eat-here-if-going-to-new-orleans. I saw a couple of locations and just my luck, one within walking distance of our hotel. It also carries bread from Bellegarde Bakery which I wanted to check out, but unfortunately at the time of my visit they did not have brick and mortar retail store. UPDATE: Bellegarde brick and mortar is officially open!! (@bellegardebakery) Another reason for me to come back. Bonus: if you don't live in the area, you can order a variety of their flours online.
With my analog paper map tucked into my purse, I left the Verizon store and jumped on a street car to go to lunch. I hadn’t had anything in the way of breakfast...I don’t even know if I had any coffee. So you know I am HUNGRY. I sit back and watch the city blocks of the Crescent City go by. Side note: I love taking public transportation. That’s one of the reasons I loved living in and around the cities of Chicago and San Francisco (SF, you are still one of my favorite places on earth). You get to see a city from a whole new perspective, with less stress than driving around and dodging traffic, construction, and confusing GPS instructions. As you pass through the city streets, you can make a mental note of restaurants and cafes for your next eating adventure. Plus, generally cheaper than taking a ride share or an old school taxi.
The street car was efficient (the few times I took it) and clean. I happily jump off at my stop and duck out of the way of foot traffic to check my paper map to figure out which way to delicious food. Remember that city pride I wrote about in my previous NOLA post? I had no less than two offers to help me or walk with me to St. James Cheese because they were concerned that I was looking at an actual paper map. The locals want the tourists to get where they are going so they can keep coming back. Tourism is the number one industry for NOLA after all. Also, the locals gave me a pronunciation lesson. I finally learned how to say this street: Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-uh-Tule-les).
(The video below isn't mine, but you can get an idea of the helpfulness.)
I find St. James Cheese nestled next to a hip looking coffee shop. St. James Cheese looked pretty hip itself and vaguely reminded me of a cafe that you would see in France. I’m early (and hungry) to meet Lindy and the place is fairly quiet. I take a look around at the small market and the cold case of cheeses. I want all the cheese. I always want all of the cheese. I take a seat and peruse the menu. Immediately, I see 5 things that I want. My hunger is getting the best of me as I wait for Lindy. I figure if I order something before she gets here, I am doing both of us a favor, right? Right.
I walk up to the counter and decide today is a rosé kind of day. And it just makes sense to order a whole bottle, since we have a mini fridge in the hotel room. I mean, IT MAKES SENSE.
St. James had a special that sounded like it would go deliciously with rosé. A delightful pimento cheese dip/spread with some pickled cucumbers, red onions on the side and a chutney jam thing. A basket of toasted Bellegarde (!) bakery bread to pile all-the-things on and then to go directly into my mouth. In my excitedness to eat, I forgot to write down what the chutney jam thing was. Figs. Something with figs. Sorry, I was excited to eat.
Lindy is not surprised to find me already eating when she gets there. Since she is on a short lunch break, I briefly take her through the menu and tell her my thoughts on what we should get. Again, Lindy is not surprised that I want to eat everything. We SLIGHTLY narrow down our selections and place our order.
A croque madame, Mac and cheese (add bacon - always), and a delicious baked Brie-like cheese, called Harbinson served with candied walnuts and strawberries. A basket of more Bellegarde bread and some side salads round out our lunch spread. No regrets. The croque madame had all the elements a croque madame should have. Thick buttery bread, covered with ooey-gooey cheese sauce, salty ham, and a perfect sunny side up egg that creates a richness with the runny yolk. Seriously, me on a stranded island and endless croque madames. #welcometomyfantasy
Mac and cheese. I am a sucker for Mac and cheese. I must order it whenever it is on a menu. I need to find the best mac and cheese in the world and test all of the recipes to make the best Mac and cheese in the world. And then I must eat it all. It’s food research, okay? Luckily, Lindy also shares a passion for this quest. Unfortunately, the Mac and cheese at St. James Cheese, fell victim to the No. 1 pitfall in my “Perfect Mac and Cheese Checklist”: soggy pasta. Limp, lifeless, over cooked pasta is not a good vehicle for melted cheese sauce, no matter how delicious. Texture should not be overlooked in the perfect mac and cheese. The pasta should have a bite or toothiness to it and the pasta type should be able to hold its own against the sauce. Next, the cheese sauce...it just wasn’t “saucy” enough for me...I know that I may be a little extreme in my want for saucy mac and cheese (but c’mon, give me all the ooey-gooey cheese sauce!), so I can perhaps let that slide, but the cheese sauce wasn’t well seasoned or very memorable. The bacon was good and pepped up the dish overall, but the mac and cheese overall was not-the-best-mac-and-cheese-in-the-world. The quest continues.
The baked Harbinson cheese was brie-like and a great sharing size and the walnuts and strawberries accompanied it wonderfully. However, It was a little too mild for me. I like my brie-like cheeses to have a funk to them. The bread was delicious with everything and in every form. Thank you, Bellegarde. Can’t wait to visit your brick and mortar soon.
We hungrily devoured as much as could and got Lindy back to work (only 3 minutes late). I stashed our leftovers in our mini fridge and spent the rest of the afternoon walking and doing things around the hotel. Eagerly waiting for our dinner reservations at 7pm.
Lindy and I had planned to walk to Emeril’s together but she was running late with work so I went ahead to make sure we didn’t lose our reservation. I had never eaten at any of Emeril’s restaurant and only know Emeril through his “BAM” persona. I had nothing to gauge his restaurateur status against. We had reservations at the Chef’s counter. Sitting up close and personal in the grill station’s…um, grill, so to speak.
Perusal of the menu as I waited for Lindy, showcased some southern and NOLA classics with a chef’s ingenuity. I was personally intrigued by the whole menu, but even my stomach could only digest so much at a time. I patiently waited for Lindy to arrive and curb my ordering habits. I did ask the grill station master, what was her favorite thing to eat and she replied with the utmost honesty: “I can’t eat any of this food anymore.” I get it. You cook it all day, everyday...it’s hard to enjoy afterwards. But she did say that the BBQ shrimp were definitely a must have. Check. One order of BBQ shrimp.
Lindy arrived. Wearing pants as to not repeat the “shorts-gate” of Antoine’s 2019. My friend had rushed from work and I could tell she needed some food to quell her frustrations. Also, we had to get a move on because Game of Thrones (#GOT) episode 3 of the final season was on this night and we had to get prepared for that.
Lindy and I debriefed about her work and quickly got down to eating business. I told her that we must get the BBQ Shrimp and from my observations, the portions of the Pork Chop were E-NOR-MOUS. Maybe enormous enough for us.
After some delicious amuse-bouche, (according to good ol’ Wikipedia: An amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule is a single, bite-sized hors d'œuvre. Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons but are served free and according to the chef's selection alone. ) crostinis topped off with something wonderful and delicious...sorry, again, I was excited to eat...we get down to business and order dinner.
As we ate our way through our appetizers, we watched the dining room fill up and dinner orders being crafted in the kitchen. We had a hard decision to make for our entree selections. Do we get the E-NOR-MOUS porkchop? Do we get the fried chicken that looked crisp and juicy and artfully fried? The duck was also calling my name. But after some negotiations we settled on the Grilled Lamb T-Bone and the Lobster Fettuccini. We decided that lamb was the way to go because it isn’t something that we both order much of and the saffron rice that accompanied it sounded like something that needed to be eaten. Lobster. I am a sucker for lobster and we hadn’t had any this eating trip and pasta. I mean, pasta. Enough said.
I often shy away from lamb because based on past experiences of it being too gamey. The couple of times that I have cooked lamb at home, I don’t think that I was skilled enough as a home cook to do it well. For these reasons, sometimes I tend to overlook lamb when dining out. This lamb was juicy and tender, cooked to a nice medium rare/ medium, and the saffron rice and beans complemented it. Not too gamey. The lobster fettuccini, while hearty, was a little lackluster. The lobster was cooked well with the sweetness of the meat coming through, and while the noodles had a decent bite nothing stood out to me. Don’t worry though, we were good girls and cleaned our plates. No doggy bag required.
All in all, I will have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Emeril’s. Not because I thought he was a chef that didn’t know what he was doing, but since I haven’t really followed his career and I’m not sure about his foundation of food, I wasn’t really expecting much. Watching the kitchen staff, was like watching a well-oiled machine. It was mesmerizing watching food flying in and out of pans, fryers, and hands. The proteins were cooked well and everything had great seasoning. I felt the admiration and respect for creole and New Orleans food in his dishes. It’s funny because my all-around food champion mentor, Anthony Bourdain, also used to give Emeril a lot of guff about his cooking, and Anthony Bourdain had nothing but praise for him when he went to his restaurant. Check out this episode of "No Reservations" (Emeril's segment starts about minute 27).
This may come as a surprise to you, but we decided to pass on dessert. *GASP* But before you get up in arms, we had to honor the eating itinerary. Since we couldn’t fit in Bakery Bar the day before, tonight was the night. Desserts would make a good addition to our GOT viewing. Plus, Bakery Bar was endorsed by our server. So, off we go.
We decided to walk the short distance to get our desserts, to help aid our digestion and walk off some calories. The journey to the Bakery Bar wasn’t that far, however, there were a couple of sketchy blocks. The things we do for cake, amiright? I would suggest that if you were walking to the bakery bar late at night bring a friend or take a ride share.
Bakery Bar was very unassuming. In fact, the first thing we noticed was a large “for lease” sign on the side of the building. We didn’t even think that the building was inhabited. However, upon closer inspection we realized that this was our final destination. When you first walk into the bakery bar it literally is a dive bar with that hipster vibe. Dimly lit, a full bar, and an offering of board games. Lindy and I zeroed in on our goal which was all the baked goods. READ: We came here for cake.
The Pastry case had an assortment of cakes as well as balls. Let me be clear: balls of cake. Cake balls. It’s just so fun to say/write. I have never been one to turn down balls of cake. We decided to get a regular cake slice that showcased even and thin layers of cake and a few balls (of cake.)
There was a lot of options, so we decided to get a few different balls of cake. Our flavors ran the gamut: peanut butter, chocolate, red velvet, cookies and cream, etc. No time to enjoy a cocktail at the bar...we decided that we needed to get back to the hotel so we can settle in and watch Game of Thrones. It was time.
According to my eating itinerary I did demand popcorn while we watched Game of Thrones. But the pickings were slim to find a place with popcorn (and prepped just the way I like it. 80% butter, 20% popcorn). And did I really need to eat more carbs after delicious shrimp, scallops, and lamb? The answer is probably yes, but I decided that the cake balls would have to make do.
We settled into our hotel room happy and full, with a box of cake. I was prepared to watch Jon Snow defend Winterfell against the Night King. Not gonna lie, the intensity of that episode actually made me forget about the box of cake. Obviously, breakfast is what cake is made for.
No spoilers on the episode in case you are still catching up. But it was a very long hour for me and Lindy as we watched it together in the dark. Stay tuned for my next installment of NOLA Love where I will take you on a hike to go get Poboy‘s. Check out @Dana.does.things in Instagram for more content.
I am baking up dessert week in my kitchen for my next GBBO challenges...new posts on that soon.
Until then, happy baking, happy eating, happy repeating.