Thursday, December 31, 2009

Healthy Eating Series: #3 Cabana Grill

If the three "Open" signs in the window didn't tip you off then let me be the first to let you know... Cabana Grill (no joke... that's the website printed on the menus) on St. Charles Uptown has opened up.  Its a nice place with a friendly staff and a island theme.  Thanks to the good people over at Cabana I can finally let you know about a place that is 1. healthy and 2. has some pretty decent food.

Kerry and I went after I picked her up at the airport and we were pretty impressed with the menu.  There were plenty of things I wanted to order and there really are plenty of pretty good healthy options.  They have around 7 or 8 salads and a number of lighter sandwiches.

I went with the Island Chopped Salad.  Chopped lettuce, field greens, corn, edamame, tomatoes, topped with honey pecans and smoked turkey (substituted chicken) in a vinaigrette.  It was pretty good and pretty filling.  My only real compliant was that the chicken was a little dry and a little bland but I substituted it in so I have a hard time complaining too much.

 Kerry had the avocado egg-rolls.  I'm not sure how healthy they are but they were awesome and not only because they came with two different dipping sauces. 

It was a pretty good experience on the whole and a nice new option in the neighborhood.  Good menu, nice space, great lemonade and the staff was really helpful and very nice.  The only thing that was a little weird is it seconds as a oddly stocked convenience store.  Right in the middle of the restaurant they have shelves stocked with cans of soup, bags of sugar, and squeezable icing.  Don't believe me? 

Ha!  Don't believe that sucka.  All joking aside though, it wasn't a bad lunch and definitely had some healthy options.  It's worth a try.  So go try it already.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Healthy Eating Series: #2 Back to the Garden

After yesterday's post, which highlighted a ham shop as a healthy dining option, I figured I better find a real healthy restaurant for today's post.  But don't thank me yet.

I had a meeting downtown yesterday so I figured it would be a good opportunity to try Back to the Garden in the CBD, which I had been told might fit the bill for this series.

Look I rarely say anything bad about a place.  That's because, quite honestly, I rarely come across a place that doesn't have at least a few redeeming qualities.  All I can think of, that's nice to say about Back to the Garden, is that the food was served quickly.  I wanted to say it was cheap too, but really what does that matter if you don't want to eat the food?

So I got the Veggie Stir-fry.  What you see above is actually the half order.  Its a medley of vegetables served over some brown rice.  I'll be honest even looking at the picture is making me a little queasy (for the full effect give the picture a click).  It just wasn't good.  It was pretty heavy on the garlic.  And I'm pretty sure it was the kind of garlic that comes out of a jar and not out of a clove.

And I don't know a lot about brown rice... I feel like it probably makes for a good substitute in a dish or a recipe, but when you are just serving it straight up its kinda like eating... well its kinda like eating brown rice I guess.

Now there are sandwiches and salads on the menu that might be better, but I saw a few of them on other tables and nothing looked too stellar.  So I wouldn't recommend Back to the Garden... even if you looking for a healthy option.  From my experience, chances are you will only eat a few bites and then grab a McDouble on the way to your meeting... and in the end how healthy is that really?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Healthy Eating Series: #1 Heavenly Ham

How was your Christmas?  Mine was... filling.  So this week we are going to look at four healthier eating options in the city.  Hopefully you all provide me with some good ideas on places to hit.  I've been here for a little more than a year and a half now and I can't think of any particularly healthy spots... which might be appernent in this post.  So comment please and let me know the places you think have some good healthy options.  So lets go...

Healthy Eating?  Heavenly Ham?  Hilarious.

Let me explain.  I had every intention of starting this series out with a place that was healthy and sounded healthy but things went awry.  First Il Posto was closed and then I was gonna go to Surrey's but it was just so far away and I was so hungry.  But believe it or not Heavenly Ham has some good healthy options.

Now don't get me wrong they have plenty of butter croissant stuffed with bacon and American cheese options too... but show a little self control and you can walk out of there with a fresh sandwich that doesn't sit like a brick in your stomach.

I went with the chicken salad.  Now normally it comes on a croissant but I got it on sliced wheat bead which is one of the healthiest of the sliced breads.  Now I planned on getting it without cheese, but just by looking at me they could tell I love cheese and put it on without me asking.  Nothing I can do about that.

I've just recently become a chicken salad convert so I'm by no means an expert, but I'm pretty sure they have pretty good chicken salad.  It would have been great with bacon on it.  I bet the bacon there is awesome.

So to wrap up.  Heavenly Ham - not my first choice of healthy spots but definitely can be healthy if you want it to be- and good sandwiches either way.  So go there... just don't get the ham... or do... either way.
Monday, December 28, 2009

Eating In Places Other Than NOLA: Atlanta - Quick Service Food

Its good to be home.  But that doesn't mean I can't force one more Atlanta post on you.

We are only a few weeks away from the unveiling of the "Fattest States 2010" list.  Now both Louisiana and Georgia are bound to be on it but these states' fat strategies are very different.  What Louisianans manage to do with fried seafood in cream sauce, Georgians do with delicious, delicious quick service food.

Georgia must have the best quick service food in the country.  Just drive down any road in metro Atlanta and you'll find a Mecca of quick service food options.  Woven in among McDonald's and Burger King and Wendy's and Taco Bell you find Chick-fil-a, and Waffle House, and Nathans and Firehouse Subs and Bruster's and Steak 'n' Shake and tons and tons of other options.

Today we look at three.  One fast food, one independent quick service and one glorious super market.


Above is Zaxby's chicken finger sandwich.  I hear a lot of people (one guy, once) talking about who reigns superior when it comes to Zaxby's and Cane's.  Both are chicken finger spots but really they are pretty different.  Zaxby's offers a lot more options than Cane's, with a bunch of different salads and sandwiches.  Zaxby's is also a little cheaper I think.  Cane's has better chicken though so i guess that's probably what actually matters.

Dacula Dogs

Even more impressive than the chains, metro Atlanta is laden with great independently run quick service places that, for the most part, reside in little strip malls.  I counted 4 independent pizza places in less than a mile just driving around.  Dacula Dogs is a hot dog place pretty close to my house.   I can only think of one good hot dog place in the city (Coney Island Dogs up on Airline), but when me and my dad wanted to grab one the day after Christmas we had something like 5 options.  This place was great.  Fresh Vienna hot dogs on warm poppy seed buns... great stuff.


When I was a little kid I remember people protesting outside of Publix all the time.  Now I don't know what they were protesting about but I like to think it was people from other places protesting how good Publix Subs are.  These are the best grocery store subs I have ever had and in my top 3 sandwiches anywhere.  And I have made it clear in the past I think, that I love sandwiches.  Publix subs are fresh and substantial, and come on bread that is soft and chewy and amazing.

So Louisianans... If you are interested in getting fat and you want to do it faster and cheaper than you can here... head on up to Atlanta.  Its delicious there.
Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Cooking

The Holiday's are great.  They mean I can watch History Channel specials on Ancient Aliens (for the second time) and write blog posts without worrying that I'm neglecting something more important.  In recent years they have become a little greater with the addition of these two guys into the family.

There are lots of perks to having nephews.  One nice thing about them is they are a great tool for enacting revenge on my sister for years of sisterly torment.  For example every time I see them, I try to convince them that their shoes make their feet hot and they should take them off whenever they feel the need.  Ha!  Take that Sis.  As much as I enjoy using them as miniature saboteurs, the best thing about them is they open up opportunities for multiple Christmas meals.

This year, my sister and her family traveled down from Charlotte, while I traveled up from New Orleans, to converge at my parents house in Atlanta for a few days.  We did the Christmas thing early in Atlanta, then I followed them back home to prolong the holiday festivities... namely the holiday eating.

 The Atlanta meal included what is now becoming my mother's famous herb roasted turkey breast.

It was served with all the classic sides - mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, biscuits, stuffing and green beans a few different ways.   I enjoyed the meal with my mother and father, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law, and my nephews.  I actually don't think I helped with the meal at all.  But I ate it pretty good and I drank the wine so I feel like I did my part.

The holiday meal in Charlotte was a slightly different experience.  With a 5 year old and a 3 year old around extra help in the kitchen always seems appreciated.  So I spent the a few hours prepping some of the dishes.  Above are some of the dished in their early stages.  You're looking at the "before" of some pepper crusted pork tenderloin with a molasses glaze and pears and apples, and herb and garlic roasted potatoes.

I forgot to get a picture of dessert but it was a Bananas Foster bread pudding.  These things where in it.

And the dinner table looked like this.  I was lucky enough to share it with my sister and her family and my brother-in-law's sister and her family... which included two more toddlers for a grand total of 4 kids 5 and under.  Not quite the quietest Christmas ever.

Look and here is a picture of me and my sister, just to prove we have no problem getting along now.  I hope everyone had a great holiday.  There might be one or two more non-New Orleans posts in the future but then back to the grind of Eating In NOLA.  It's a tough life.

I'm thinking after the Christmas gluttony, a series on the healthy side on New Orleans eating might be in order.  If you have any ideas please comment here or shoot me an email.
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eating in Places Other Than NOLA - Atlanta: Urban Flats

Forgive the pictures I forgot my camera.

For all of its dining options there is a type of restaurant that just doesn't exist in New Orleans or even Metairie for that matter.

I'm not really sure how to classify these restaurants but I'm pretty sure the following fake adjectives describe them: semi-regional, urban upscale, quasi-franchise modern, trendyish concept...

They are the types of places that only exist in upscale walking shopping centers (for those of you in Baton Rouge think Perkins Row).  There were lots of these types of places in Arlington, Virginia when I lived there and there are plenty near my parent's house in Atlanta and my sister's home in Charlotte.

They aren't really something I miss when I'm in New Orleans but they are definitely places I enjoy eating at a few times a year when I'm back for the holidays.  They always have a good service, good food, and a concept that works.  Urban Flats is one of these places in Atlanta.

Looking at the website they describe themselves as a "Modern-Urban Casual Experience."   The concept at Urban Flats is pretty simple.  Flatbeard covered with a variety of high quality toppings.  Its a pretty simple idea but it works and it really was pretty tasty.  I went with my mother a few days ago before heading to the craziness that is late December shopping the the Mall of Georgia which I think is the largest mall in the South.  I would describe the lunch as an unquestionable success.

My mom got the "Black and Blue" which was what you would expect.  Steak and bleu cheese, with peppers, roma tomatoes, and spinach, topped with mozzarella and a balsamic glaze.  Or maybe that's not what you would expect. I don't know you...  It was pretty good though and it looked like this, but less fuzzy.

And I got the "Fig and Prosciutto"  Fresh made fig jam with prosciutto and bleu cheese topped with mozzarella and chives.  Its hard to screw up the sweetness of fig and the saltiness of prosciutto together.  And they didn't get anywhere close to screwing it up.  It was great.  Here it is.

I think its the bread that really made them good.  They are crispy and fresh and stone oven baked.  The whole restaurant is a simple concept but its a good simple concept.

So like I said.  If keeping high end shopping centers out of the city means missing out on places like this, I'm okay with it.  But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good Modern-Urban Casual Experience a few times a year while I'm visiting family.
Monday, December 21, 2009

The Grill Room Meet-up

So this blog has been around for about a year now.  Somewhere around 140 post have been written and posted.  Until this point everything you have seen on this blog has been paid for with either mine or Kerry's hard earned school loan money.  That all changes today.

Last week The Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel was foolish enough to to invite Eating In NOLA to a social networking meet-up where they offered us some new wines and dishes that Chef Drew Dzejak has come up with.  I'm just kidding.  It wasn't foolish.  We are very very important.  We are pretty much the voice of the the New Orleans, Graduate Student, under 26, restauranting population.

So, there might not be any such thing as a free lunch but free dinners at Mobil Four Star/AAA Four Diamond restaurants are delicious.  Especially when paired with 10 different wines... And I'm talking about the kinda wines I can't afford to drink.

I had planned to talk about each wine pairing as well but I misplaced my notes... and really I have no idea what I'm talking about then it comes to wine anyway so just take a look at the picture above and if you ever see see any of them anywhere buy them... they were all great.

So lets get started.

Course one - Pork Belly

Now this pork belly came with Parmesan gnocchi, mushrooms, and ham-hock truffle broth.  It was crispy and savory.  The gnocchi were pretty great too and made in house by Chef Dzejak.  It was great and really set the bar for the rest of the meal.

Next up -  Pho Noodle Soup

This take on pho came with shaved raw beef tenderloin,  foie gras, and came in a ginger broth.  There was some question at the table about whether the ginger was too strong but I thought it was just right.  It was paired with a couple Rieslings and it made for a good combination of sweet, tart, salt and... ginger I guess.

Course three - Scallops

I think this was the best thing of the night.  The scallops were from Maine and they were seared and they came with a fennel purée, chanterelles, and sherry vinegar.  Now I really want to say that it was the chanterelles that made the dish but I have no idea what chanterelles even are.  I thought about looking it up but I bet they are those mushrooms and actually those mushrooms were pretty good... they kinda made the dish.

 Course four - Venison

Now the venison was the fan favorite.  It was perfectly cooked and came with potato purée, red swiss chard, and a bacon port reduction (hey I know what all those things are).  It was really good and I think it would make a good addition to the menu at The Grill Room.  I feel like you don't see a lot of venison on menus in New Orleans and it really is a shame.  I think venison is a hugely underrated meat.

After four great entrees pastry chef Shun Li whipped up a few desserts.  Forgive the pictures.  I by the time I finished my tour of the wine cellar my esteemed dining companions had already started digging in.  Scavengers.

Starting at the left, you are looking at pumpkin cheesecake, New Orleans style fried pie, and at least the reminiscence of some deconstructed apple pie.  All good but the cheesecake was the standout for me.

So that's that.  It really was a great experience.  Good food and great company.  I got a chance to meet a lot of interesting people who I'm sure I'll continue to run into.  If you have been wondering about whats been going on at The Grill Room you should go give it a try.  There really are some cool things going on there.  They seem to have a creative staff committed to not only offering a great dining experience but also an exciting one.  No joke, I'm not saying it.  This here is an honest blog... I'm like the Abraham Lincoln of talking about food.

Oh, and people really should invite Eating In NOLA over for free food more often.  Our company is delightful.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cheap Lunch Series: #5 Gott Gourmet

I've consumed a lot of food this week.  Going from Vietnamese to Latin to barbecue to Po boys, all I wanted today was a nice crisp, refreshing salad.  Dylan (who you can find over at Blackened Out occasionally) reminded me that I probably wanted some fried cheese on it too.  So I went with her suggestion and secured a Gott Salad from Gott Gourmet.

Since Gott is just only kinda cheap and not super cheap I had to find a way to cut some costs.  So I went with the to-go order and saved a few bucks on tip.  It ended up running $10.70 after tax but I'm still under on the week so I figured it was ok.  It came in the brown bag with this sticker on it.  Look how flustered that little guy on the sticker looks.  Whats the rush buddy?

So here is the storied Gott Salad.  It's organtic greens topped with Panko fried brie, berries, candied pecans and grape tomatoes.  It comes with a raspberry vinaigrette but I'm not a big raspberry vinaigrette guy skipped that and went with the honey balsamic which I think was a great call.  All their dressings are homemade and this one was pretty incredible.

It really is a superior salad.  The cheese is really what makes it.   It gives you a little bit of savory but you still feel like you ate healthy(ish) afterward.

So that brings us to the end of the Cheap Lunches Series.  I really expected to come across some bad lunches, but I guess when you ask people in the know for suggestions, chances are you aren't going to be steered wrong.  Hopefully if gave you one or two places to try out.  If not please don't tell me.  I'm not sure I could live with the guilt.

We will get back to fancy eatin' on Monday with a post about The Grill Room and a sneak peak at some of the new things Chef Drew Dzejak is turning out of his kitchen of wonders down on Poydras.
Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheap Lunch Series: #4 Koz's

Hey look a new web page.  Moving on -

Day four of our journey brings us to Lakeview for a poboy.  A Koz's poboy to be exact.  Koz's doesn't play around.  They sell their poboys by the loaf, and to the best of my knowledge they don't give you a t-shirt or anything if you finish it.

Now it was recommended I get the the BBQ beef poboy.  After the Joint yesterday I wasn't sure I could handle it so I want with the 8 inch Cheeseburger poboy.  They also sell a french fry poboy at Koz's but when I asked for some french fries on my cheeseburger poboy I was looked at like I should get the hell out.  Whatever though because it was delicious.  And after I took a few bite of it I took this picture.  I took it with my phone... just for old times sake.

Though I skipped the BBQ beef, my roommate had it and gave it his seal of approval.  He's going to be a doctor one day so I feel like he can be trusted.

An 8 inch poboy at Koz'swill run you $7.50 or so depending on the type.

After 4 days of stuffing myself on lunch specials I think I'm going to have to track down a salad for tomorrow's post.  If you know of good place post a comment or use the information under the nifty new Contact tab up there on the left.

Koz sounds like a killer clown.  Just saying.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheap Lunch Series: #3 The Joint

So lately, with the city looking a little less like New Orleans and a little more like Venice, there hadn't been a lot of reasons leave the safety of my second floor apartment.  But if anything gives me a false sense of bravado its EPMD and barbecue so yesterday I braved the roads down to the Bywater for lunch at The Joint.

Now there is a thing about barbecue and that thing is that anytime you have barbecue that isn't terrible you tend to think its the best barbecue in the world.  I think there is an even greater danger of that in New Orleans which has pretty limited barbecue options (at least for a city with such a strong food tradition).  So instead of saying the Joint has the best barbecue around I'm just going to say that its damn good barbecue.

The menu has all the staples you would expect to find, including pork, ribs and local Cajun sausage.  They also have some great sides that are served up in (un)healthy sized portions. 

Now since the Joint isn't a place that requires tippin' I decided I would really make the most of my $10 limit.  I went with the pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw, the mac and cheese, and an a la carte single rib since I heard they were excellent.  When it was all said and done the register showed $10.18 so we are just going to make that the new Cheap Lunch Series Limit.

As you probably expect, the food was great.  The rib was tender more substantial than it looks in the picture.  The sandwich was as substantial as if looks in the picture.  They offer two sauces on the table, one vinegar based and one tomato based.  Both were pretty good but I suggest a mixture of both together.

One of my dining companions got the brisket sandwich.  I've never been a big brisket fan but he seemed to enjoy it and the little piece I tried was as good as any other brisket I've ever had.  But, like anything else, I expect it would taste better if it was made out of a pig.

So again, besides going $0.18 over budget, it was a very successful venture out to the Bywater.  The only issue is that there are plenty of delicious options that would be hard to pass up that will run you a few dollars over $10.  Someone like you can probably afford it though.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cheap Lunch Series: #2 Sarita's Grill

So, on day two of my quest for cheap lunches in New Orleans I headed to Sarita's grill at the suggestion of an anonymous commenter... making this the spookiest post in Eating In NOLA's history.

Sarita's bills itself as "Latin Fusion."  Alright I'll buy that.  I'm gonna bill it as a La Macarena with better prices and more options.

It's a pretty neat little spot.  The inside is bright and full of New Orleans art which is never a bad idea.  Actually there is an weird amount of paintings of sno-balls but hey whatever.  Most important is that the food is cheap and pretty good too.

I sat down and the server came over and walked through the whole menu and brought me some cheese dip and chips.

Who doesn't like cheese dip?  This cheese dip was the bright orange kind that is probably far from authentic, but only snobs wouldn't admit is delicious.  It was a pretty extensive menu so being walked through the menu was nice.

I went with three tacos.

Now I figured tacos where the way to go because I could try a few different meats (pork, chicken, and rib eye).  Ms. Lorin Gaudin tells me a mistake by skipping the flautas and maybe shes right but the tacos weren't too shabby.  After the orange cheese dip I figured I might as well get cheese and sour cream on the tacos (except for the pork where I went with the recommended tomatoes and onions). 

So authentic?  No, probably not.  At least not the cheese dip and tacos.  But it was definitely good and the menu is big enough for everyone to find something they like.  Oh and it was super cheap.  Under $6 before tip (though I did get a 20% discount for being a student).

I recommend it though.  Like I said its a better/cheaper La Macarena in my opinion.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cheap Lunch Series: #1 Jazmine Cafe

So I think this might come as a surprise to a lot of you.  Not every New Orleans food blogger is a "lawyer"  who has a lot of "disposable income" and can "afford" to eat in restaurants.  Some of us are struggling Tulane MBA students who are coming to the end of our loan money and can't afford to eat in restaurants all the time... but do it anyway.

So in hopes of being at least slightly more responsible, this week I am going to focus on places that offer a cheap noontime meal.  I figured a fair limit was $10 (including tax and tip) so that's what I'll be aiming for.  I'll give you the good along with he bad.  We all know that there are places out there were you can get a plate full of awful for under $10.  If that's what I find I'll let you know so you don't make the same mistake.  Thanks to everyone that gave suggestions via Twitta.  I'm looking forward to trying them all out.

So first on the list is the Vietnamese spot, Jazmine Cafe on Carrollton.  Jazmine was a good place to start.  If you decide to stop reading this post right now, stop knowing that Jazmine's lunch special is a pretty good bet.

They offer a 10am-3pm lunch special Tuesday through Saturday and all under $10 including tax and tip (assuming you don't mind drinking water, and you really shouldn't).  They offer ten lunch special options that you can check out here.

Kerry got the Bun Ga Nuong (Grilled Chicken Breast Noodle Salad Bowl).

They start you off with a bowl of soup and then bring this out to you.  You're looking at Grilled chicken breast strips with vermicelli noodles, shredded cucumber, lettuce, pickled carrots, and cilantro.  The cucumber, lettuce, carrots and cilantro are kinda hidden but you can trust that they are there.  It comes with some sweet chili sauce too.  I'm not sure you can tell how much food is there but its a good amount.  Much more than expected.

I had the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong (Grilled Sliced Pork and Summer Roll Noodle Salad Bowl).

As I'm sure you can tell its pretty much the same thing except with pork and a summer roll thrown on top.  I'm telling you, these pictures don't do it justice.  Its a lot of food.  Those are bowls not plates.

So like I said it was a good jumping off point for the series.  Huge success.  It was good enough I wanted it for dinner the next day.  Alright that's it.  Go eat now.

Check in tomorrow for the next post in the series.  I think it is going to be a Sarita's Grill... but I make you no promises.
Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mimi's in the Marigny

 Mimi's is great.  There is a reason is consistently named the best neighborhood bar in New Orleans.  Besides some pretty incredible tapas, the bartenders are always friendly and the clientele is always entertaining.

We went with some friends on Friday night to celebrate the end of a long (not so hard) semester.  Take note of the new and improved picture quality.  A fellow Eating In NOLA blogger hooked me up with an early Christmas present and in turn, hooked you up with an improved blog reading experience.

So here are the five ways we celebrated only having only one semester of school left.

#1 Beef Empanadas

These are great empanadas.  I think the secret to good empanadas is how the beef is seasoned.  They really get it right at Mimi's.  It also helps that the casing is pretty authentic and I'm an expert on that because I've been to Argentina before.

#2 Gambas Al Ajillo

This is one of my favorite things at Mimi's.  Mostly because I like to break the heads of things since it makes me feel like a big man, but also because the sauce that they come retains its own flavor rather than turning into garlicky shrimp water as is the case with this dish lots of times.  And it comes with just enough bread to soak all the goodness up.

#3 Lamb Chop Lollipop

Best thing we had all night no question.  No question at all.  The lamb was salty and tender and juicy.  It was so good that when later in the night someone else ordered it and got 3 chops instead of 2 I had to stop myself from whining that it wasn't fair.  So I guess what I'm saying is they were so good they turned me 6 years old.

#4 Tomato and Avocado Bruschette

This was Kerry's favorite of the night.  It was pretty good.  I think what made it particularly good was how seasoned the toast points were.  They tasted like they had be frolicking in a garlic forest right before someone snatched them up, put then on a red hot grill and then covered then in avocado slices and grape tomatoes.

#5 Spanish Cheeses with Roasted Red Peppers

We were too full to really appreciate this but that's not really the cheese plate's fault.  It was good though and all the cheese tasted like cheese and not feet so that's an A in my book.

They were out of the Goat Cheese Croquettas which was a pretty big disappointment but I guess you can't win them all.

All in all it was a great meal at a good old standby.