Tuesday, September 20, 2016

DANGER: Eat before reading

HALLIE EPHRON: Last week some of us were in New Orleans for Bouchercon while some of us (me, for instance), stayed home.  Maybe I was inspired by the food I was missing, because I baked the New York Times's famous plum torte (here's all that's left). They publish the recipe every year at the start of the fall. And it was spectacular.

But I'm dying to hear about a food highlight from my fellow Reds -- if you were in New Orleans what did you enjoy most. If you were home, are you starting to eat for fall or still dining on summer tomatoes and mozzarella? Kaye is joining us, another foodie in NOLA for Bouchercon.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: OK, I ate one of the best things ever in NOLA. It's going to sound weird, but it was fantastic. It was .... a smoked duck, cashew butter, and pepper jelly sandwich, with marinated onion and served on toasted whole grain bread with an apple celery salad. Ordered it at a magnificent restaurant in the French quarter called Bayona (with a beautiful secret back garden). Insanely good.

Now I'm going back to fruits and vegetables and water, thank you very much!

LUCY BURDETTE: I didn't get to go to New Orleans this year – boo-hoo! It looked like so much fun and that sandwich sounds wonderful Susan--you had me at pepper jelly. But here's the dinner we had Friday night, crabcakes, sweet potatoes, beets right out of the garden, and a green salad with the last of the tomatoes and cucumbers. Pretty good for homemade stay-at-homes!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: The best thing I ate recently (not in NOLA, alas!) was at a going-away luncheon some friends threw for their son, who is moving out of the house and away to California. The wife is a fantastic vegetarian cook, and she made a squash soup with heirloom potatoes that gave it a beautiful plummy color. It tasted as wonderful as it looked. Squash soup reminds me why I like colder weather.

Also? Homemade hummus sandwiches on thick grainy bread with fresh greens and slices of red onion. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture - everything was very Instagrammable!

Here's our latest from the organic farm next door: peppers, peppers and peppers. I'm looking for recipes that can use them without overwhelming: spicy-hot cuisine doesn't agree with my stomach much these days.

RHYS BOWEN: 'I'm just back from New Orleans and one of the most fabulous things about this convention (apart from seeing dear old friends) was the food. Nobody I spoke to had a bad meal.

There were too many good restaurants to choose from. Outstanding for me was the Palace Cafe where we ate a lunch and a dinner. The crab cheesecake was so wonderful that I still fantasize about it. The oyster bake with creamy garlic sauce--mmmmm.

I also had raw oysters, fried oysters, crab cakes and of course seafood gumbo and jambalaya  (and even a crawfish croissant at the airport). And my favorite breakfast was pain perdu gooey and creamy and sinful and stuffed with at least half a pigs worth of bacon. But I'm forgetting the beignets at Cafe du Monde! Must go back just to eat.

KAYE BARLEY: I fell in love with the Palace Cafe while in New Orleans.  It was only a block or so from the hotel and it was "just right. I ate there several times, once with Lesa Holstine, once with Maryglenn McCombs, and once with Maryglenn and Molly Weston. Each visit was an experience in really, really exquisite dining, truly. At a very reasonable price.

If I have to choose one delicious dish to recommend, it would be their CRABMEAT CHEESECAKE! Pecan crust, mushroom sauté, Creole meunière​ and here's what it looks like.  It. is. divine.

Recipe can be found here.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Susan, I ate at Bayona, too! I almost tried the duck pbj sandwich, but they had veal sweetbreads, which I absolutely adore, so I had to order those. And they were delicious.

But now I'm sad, because I ate at the Palace Cafe twice, and did not have the crabmeat cheesecake!!! Next time I'll know.

So much good food... Mr. B's (very traditional NOLA), and K Paul's, which was fabulous. (Can I admit that I had beignets from hotel room service, which were not at all bad, but did NOT get to the Cafe du Monde???) But I think my favorite meals were at Domenica in the Roosevelt Hotel (roasted cauliflower to die for, and the fried kale was amazing) and at CellarDoor in the Central Business District. I had a tuna poke salad that was fabulous, and sliced, flash fried (I'm guessing) and seasoned Brussels' sprouts,
LEMONGRASS GASTRIQUE BRUSSELS, with Coconut creme and sesame seeds. It was too dark to take pics of the food, but here's the gorgeous chandelier.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, this is all amazing! We went for drinks at SoBou (South of Bourbon) which was incredibly chic and yet, it being New Orleans, three guys demanded we drink shots with them. (My pal did, I didn't. ) Seriously. It was 6:15 pm.  And then we went to August

And sisters, it was unbelievable.

It's John Besh's flagship restaurant, on Tchoupitoulas Street, which is adorable on its own. SO. 

We had prosecco and three appetizers. One app was a gorgeous amazing chopped salad with the tiniest babiest most dutiful vegetables in champagne vinaigrette. We had potato gnocchi with caviar.

And. Sigh. We had foie gras three ways. One: traditional with dark plum sauce and brioche toast. Two: well, it was like a foie gras Dobos torte: the worlds thinnest layer of brioche pastry, then the foie gras, then again and again and again. With a sweet/sour orange marmalade drizzle. And three: Foie gras "blueberry pie"--which is in a brioche cup topped with pickled blueberries. 

In the morning, even I had a beignet. 

HALLIE: Etiquette question: How do you eat beignets without getting powdered sugar all over yourself? 

And for the rest of you, what does the season have you indulging in, food-wise?


  1. Rhys, your oyster dish sounds superb and I’m sure I’d love Susan’s smoked duck sandwich. Food in New Orleans is just amazing.

    Since it’s still hot here, we continue to enjoy salads but I’m looking forward to cooler fall weather and pots of soup. Lately, I’ve been thinking it’s time for a big pot of chili . . . .

  2. Darn - I didn't make it to the Palace Cafe. One of my best meals in NOLO was one of the simplest: a quarter muffaletta and a Pimms ginger julep at the Napoleon House. Just fabulous. I also went with some of the Wicked Cozy authors to the Commander's Palace and had the best crab-mushroom fritters to start, and a wicked good pecan pie to finish. YUM. The key to beignets? Lean way, way over the table! And now I don't want to have anything but vegetables and fruit for a week.

  3. Susan, that duck DOES sound fabulous. (And I ate a piece of beignet with a knife and fork--but no one saw me. :-) )

    ANd a writer pal sitting next to me had a Pimm's cup--I should have asked for a sip. What's in them?

  4. Thanks for the tip, Edith - the other thing about eating beignets: DO NOT INHALE (don't exhale, either)

  5. I had soooo many excellent meals while at NOLA (and I am still here for a few more days), so it is very hard to choose just one. My most favourite dish would have been a unique glazed (with apple and rum) pork belly po-boy with asian slaw that I ate at Killer Po-boys. My next favourite NOLA dish would be charbroiled oysters. And finally, I was lucky to go Friday night to the Taste of New Orleans event at the Royal Sonesta Hotel where 15 top chefs served their signature dishes, So many great samples including Brennan's Bananas Foster and Galatoire's Banana pudding, and the alligator/shrimp savoury cheesecake was surprisingly good!

  6. Darn, I forgot to add the Peacemaker breakfast at Ruby Slipper Cafe where you could choose 2 of their special eggs Benedicts. I chose Eggs Cochon with pulled pork and a hollandaise sauce, and Shrimp Bugaloo Benedict (my fave) with a fried green tomato and a creole tomato (coucion) sauce. Absolutely delish!

  7. Pimms cup? The recipe I found makes it look like it tastes like a sweet gin and tonic. Anyone go to ACME Oyster House?

  8. Yes, I agree with both Edith and Hallie about how to eat Cafe du Monde beignets. My additional tip is don't wear dark clothing! I deliberately wore a white top since I knew the powdered sugar would end up on me somewhere, lol!

  9. I know several of us went to Felix's Oyster Bar which is located right across from ACME. The raw oysters and my oyster-boy was very good.

  10. I was with you in spirit in NOLA, and apologize for my 'debbie-downer' post on Saturday. I do love that city. My achievement while you were in NOLA was finally mastering roasting the pig for pulled pork. The secret is low heat and long cooking. I roasted the meat for 5 hours @ 300 degrees. The slow roasting broke down the connective tissues. I have made a commitment to realign my food consumption over the next 13 weeks, moving from animal proteins to vegetable proteins.. wish me 'bon chance'!

  11. Grace, I want to travel with you next time!

  12. Breakfast? Beignets. And yes, lean way over. The Hubby brought me back one from Cafe du Monde so it wasn't piping hot fresh, but still good. And the ones from the hotel weren't half bad.

    Oh, the food. Started off with a fried shrimp and fried oyster po'boy at the Marriott that was so big I gave up and ate it with a fork, dipping the seafood in the sauce. Dinner at the Creole House - blackened chicken jambalya. I ordered a daiquiri, but when the waitress said they couldn't make it and recommended something called a Voodoo Doll, I rolled with it. Beautiful drink in multi-layers of blue. More alcohol than I've had since...I don't know when.

    Lunch off Jackson Square at Cafe Picalba (?) smoked ham po'boy that was amazing. The Hubby got the barbeque shrimp, which were messy but delicious (we shared).

    Dinner Saturday night at Courtyard of the Two Sisters, a 117-year old restaurant in the French Quarter with a canopy made by a 100-year old wisteria. The Hubby had...ugh, crabmeat au gratin? Something like that. Delicious. I had a 6-oz filet with an amazing spicy rub and cajun cream cheese mashed potatoes (so creamy, a little bit of kick - I think they were blue potatoes). Dessert was chocolate mousse for me with powdered sugar on top. So not airy like I expected - thick and creamy, and delicious. The Hubby had chocolate bread pudding in a bourboun-butter sauce. He couldn't finish the last two bites, but I took care of that for him. Oh! And I had my first mint julep. The bourbon wasn't as harsh as I was afraid of., but I don't think it's going to be my cocktail of choice.

    In short - the food was incredible. And now instead of losing 10 pounds like I wanted (but I delayed the diet until post-Bouchercon), I probably need to lose at least 15.

  13. I'm beginning to think it's probably just as well I wasn't in NOLA! I swear I pick up and extra five pounds just from drinking at the usual Bcon - hearing all these descriptions of heavenly food, I'm pretty sure I would have brought home an extra twenty from this convention!

  14. But such a good way to gain weight, Mary - I always say, a calorie is a terrible thing to waste on mediocre food.

  15. There might be a law in New Orleans that restaurants can only serve amazing food.

    The first night I was there I stayed with friends in the Garden District (they live three blocks from Commander's Palace, and did you know Sandra Bullock's house is a block from that restaurant?). You may or may not have known that all last week was Restaurant Week there, and many of the restaurants had special three-course meals for $39. We went to Tableau, near Jackson Square, and ate some of the most divine food I've ever put in my mouth: Gulf shrimp, redfish smothered in crab, and a mocha pots de creme.

    Every other day I was at the Marriott I had charbroiled oysters, which were incredible there, even at the hotel restaurant. But the one night I was too sick to be around anyone else I stumbled into the Palace Cafe and ordered a spinach salad and a piece of crab cheesecake. It is worth every sinfully rich calorie, isn't it?

    Now my enormously inflated hips and I are on our way home, prepared to dine on salads and lean protein for the next month. But it's so worth it, for the food experience I've just had. Swoon.

  16. My friend and I also went to the Napoleon House for muffaletta and Pimm's cup and I agree with Edith -- fabulous. But I must admit that my favorite treat was the bread pudding at Brennan's. Wow!

  17. Answer to the beignet question: look at my picture. You wear white and it doesn't show!

  18. I think I need to move to the west coast to eat beignets -- my clothes are all black.

  19. I would love to go on my next culinary journey with you, Hallie and the other JRW!
    Maybe Toronto, which is my hometown for Bouchercon 2017? They have over 16,000 restaurants!!

  20. Yes, Restaurant Week was terrific!

    Hank, I ate at Sobou, too, but only appetizers. I did try a Sazerac there, but gave it to my son-in-law to finish. I thought it tasted like very alcoholic cough syrup...

    Hallie, I did eat at Acme. The chargrilled oysters were not even the size of my thumbnail. So disappointing, as I'd had them at the Royal Sonesta and they were delish. My friend Diana Chambers had the oysters on the half shell and they were fine. Next time I would definitely try Felix's instead.

    Grace, you will give us lots of suggestions, right???????????

  21. Of course, Deborah! They picked a great downtown hotel for Bouchercon and there are plenty of good choices within walking distance or a few subway stops away. Virtually every ethnic cuisine you can think of...because there is no real Canadian food, except maybe poutine and Tim Horton's donuts!

  22. Experienced spectacular views of Lake Pontchartrain and great fresh seafood from a skytop perch at the Blue Crab seafood restaurant in the Lakeshore district. Super treat was filming for NCIS-NOLA TV series next door.

  23. Experienced spectacular views of Lake Pontchartrain and great fresh seafood from a skytop perch at the Blue Crab seafood restaurant in the Lakeshore district. Super treat was filming for NCIS-NOLA TV series next door.

  24. Hallie, on the question of wasting calories on mediocre food, I'm with you, sister.

    I didn't go to B'con, but feel as though a couple of pounds crept onto my hips just reading about what everyone enjoyed. Sorry I missed the real deal.

    As September slouches toward October we're still eating our own garden tomatoes and cukes but the farmer's market supplies greens. The dry weather has dissuaded us from planting greens in succession this year. Braised brussel sprouts are on the near horizon, as is the ceremonial unpacking of the crock pot for another cold weather season. I've been thinking about chicken tagine all week . . .

  25. Gerald, that WAS a sighting!

    My brother-in-law lives on the other side of the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge and we've waded through traffic to get out there.

    Brenda, yup, time to take the mothballs out of the crockpot.

  26. Did someone mention needing to cleanse now? :-) I swear, the only vegetables I ate were the wonderful Brussels sprouts at the Roosevelt as part of the prix fixe menu. Great timing that we were there during restaurant week.

    That said, some of my favorite meals were the simple ones: the shrimp and grits at Pierre Maspero's, cajun eggs benedict at Cafe Pontalba, a perfect jambalaya somewhere on Decatur Street near the House of Blues (Hank, what was the name of the restaurant where the Tor/Forge folks met on Saturday night?).

    But what about cocktails? I tried a crazy bourbon "milkshake" drink (called a Bourbon milk punch) at the Bourbon House. That was a little too good. :-)

  27. I just returned from Bouchercon New Orleans last night, and let me join in the chorus of how wonderful the food was there. Kaye, you know I loved Palace Cafe, too, and I really think it had my favorite dish, Pasta St. Charles. This dish was not spicy, but full of flavor. I had the unenviable problem of not being able to eat really spicy food while eating in NOLA. The Napoleon House is where I took a group of people on Tuesday night, and it was lovely, with the tradition of getting a Pimm's glass to take home. Enjoyed the company as much as the food at Napoleon House. Lisa A. and Grace were part of that wonderful group, as well as the always entertaining Terry Shames.

    Cochon Restaurant came highly recommended from a dear friend, and it proved to be amazing. I gave in to fried food, and I started with the fried chicken livers with pepper jelly on toast. Melted in my mouth! I followed that with a bacon and oyster (fried) sandwich, and, well, I was one happy eater. My daughter shared many of my meals, including Cochon. We also went to her choice of Mulate's where the Zydeco music was so much fun to listen to. Their caramel cheesecake was also a delight. I, of course, had to buy a CD of Zydeco music.

    And, then I had to make a trip to Commander's Palace, for which I had made reservations three weeks earlier. From the time we got out of the Uber car until we left, there was so much consideration from the staff. Unfortunately, that night I was sick and couldn't eat my entree, which was an amazing looking fish plate. I did, however, manage to eat some of the Creme Brulee, which was a work of art (and delicious). This dessert came in the size of a full-size plate with the traditional fleur de lis design in the middle. Oh, I do wish I could post a picture of that here. My other dining companions enjoyed their Commander Palace cuisine immensely.

    I have to admit that my go-to breakfast place was Daisy Duke's right across from the back of the Marriott. Good basic breakfast and delicious coffee, plus beautiful works of New Orleans music art on the walls of this simple establishment. I got the card of the artist of these paintings, so I can look them up on the gallery website. One of my favorite paintings was the trumpet player, and I got pictures by that one of my daughter, Kaye, Stacy Allen, and me. Again, if I could only post pictures here. Oh, some of us went to Mother's for breakfast one morning, too, which doesn't serve bacon and instead has the "world's best ham," and it really is delicious ham. My daughter got a great picture there with the cooking staff waving behind her.

    So much more food and places, but I'll stop here. It was a trip for the taste buds indeed.

  28. Lisa - Cafe Pontalba! That was the place I had the ham po' boy.

    Kathy Reel - The Hubby ate often at Daisy Duke's. Of course, he's a sucker for an early-bird breakfast anywhere.

  29. Did someone mention TORONTO 2017?! I'm in!! It's another great eating city. Maybe a Reds panel?

  30. I'm so hungry I can't type right now! Thanks a lot, ladies! I didn't make it to NOLA this year, but I'm hoping big time for Toronto next year. I've never been midwest in either country so for me, it will be an eye opening experience!

    All the food sounds so good, but what I'm picking up even louder was that the standout was visiting with friends.

    Glad you are all back, and thank you for sharing the eye candy!

  31. OMG, this all sounds amazing and most of it too high sodium for me to eat:(. I just looked at the recipe for crabmeat cheesecake--if you had this, better not to know how much butter was in it. Just carry on with the cleanse...

    I'm interested in 2017:)

  32. Missed the po'boys altogether, Mary. :-)

    And can I just say, one of my highlights was meeting JRWs I hadn't met before (this would be you, Susan and Kaye) and JRW commenters Mary and Grace and Kathy Boone and ... who am I missing? Edith! We hadn't met previously, had we?

    Great to see Debs and Hank again too.

    Looking forward to Toronto!

  33. Anyone go to Pat O'Brien's for a Hurricane? I'm assuming they're still there.

  34. Roberta, by the time I left I felt like ALL the food I ate was too salted - including the hotel's scrambled eggs at the SINC breakfast. But since I've been trying to follow the low sodium regime, I think I'm extra sensitive to it. Kind of a blessing to get home to whole fresh unsalted foods. Still, I wouldn't trade the NOLA week for anything!

  35. Palace Cafe was amazing. Beignets at Cafe du Monde equally so, Do not wear black!!
    We also liked Commander's Palace and Antoine's. The shrimp tasted so much better than it does in these parts. Gulf shrimp versus farmed. No comparison, just like wild versus farmed salmon. Drank my first Sazerac. Weird with no ice! Week was a total pigout. And now the piper must be paid.

  36. I live in NW Louisiana and you all are making me want to head down to NOLA this weekend. All that food. We usually go down to visit friends we met after Katrina when they evacuated to our guest cottage in Shreveport, but we may make them go out to eat next time. So many choices though. Crab cheesecake may be first on the To Try List.