Category Archives: Louisiana

A Corner of N’Awlins Now in Boulder

French Quarter Brasserie now open on Pearl Street Mall. 

After months of renovations to turn the former Paradise then Panera bakery space into a restaurant, the French Quarter Brasserie opened last Friday in Boulder. We went this evening, and considering that this is the third location (Washington, D.C., and Fairfax, Virginia being the first two), this restaurant just didn’t seem ready for prime time.

The décor is simple with barely adorned brick walls and low lights. The recorded jazz is LOUD. But then again, almost every eatery in Boulder these days is LOUD — some worse than others. The restaurant is just one door away from Broadway, so  traffic noise and busker noise (the one outside today was blowing a trumpet and tap dancing) compete with the music.

Ringside table for the passing parade on the Mall — this being one little moment when no one was walking by.

The awning says “French Quarter Brasserie and Oyster Bar.” I don’t know where they hid the oyster bar, but I sure didn’t see one. A few minutes after 6, there were a handful of happy hour lingerers on the patio,  only one party in the large restaurant area and no one at the bar. Still, service was pitifully slow. There was a hostess, a bartender and (I think) three waiters, but I wonder whether there was anyone in the kitchen. One supposed-to-be hot entrée and one salad took a very long time to come out. And even then, cold  rice was not  most promising  foundation for the classic red beans, andouille sausage (veggie version) and rice dish.

Also discouraging was that none of the staff who had very little to do bothered picking up the two cardboard coasters that had blown onto the patio floor. Did no one see them? (I was tempted to post a picture, but ultimately decided not to. Wrong decision.)

Fried foods dominate, so the still-gleaming kitchen has a six-basket Fryolator.

I don’t know what the East Coast locations are like, or whether this one will survive or thrive, but I’m disinclined to return — except perhaps for $1 oysters at happy hour. I wonder what happy hour wine pricing might be, because my very modest pour of rosé was $10 at dinner.

Red beans, andouille sausage and rice was supposed to come with corn bread but it didn’t. We didn’t notice — and neither did our waiter.
A salad of “blackened” mahi-mahi atop spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers served with an indiscernible amount of Parmesan, croutons and blood orange vinaigrette.
A shareable trio of beignets — chocolate, classic and honey — with an appropriately generous amount of powdered sugar.

Price check: At dinner, starters, $10-$25; entrées, $18-$35; entrée accoutrements (i.e., sides), $6-$12. No desserts are priced on the dinner menu. At lunch, they are $5-$8.

1207 Pearl Street, Boulder. No local phone number yet on the website. And nothing yet on Zomato.com.

New Orleans Food & Wine Festival

Big tastes in the Big Easy.

NewOrleansFoodExperience-logoBon Appétit declared Boulder to be America’s “foodiest” town, and New Orleans is certain a top contender as the foodiest city. Coming right up from May 21 to 24 is the annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. The festival brings together food lovers, chefs, wine aficionados and wineries for an unforgettable series of events that anyone with taste buds would want to experience. I’m getting ready to leave for Greece, so I’m taking the efficient, if not creative, way out and pasting information and images directly from the NOWFE website.

Wine Dinners

A series of wine dinners across the city kick off the festival Wednesday night. Each dinner pairs the food of a premier New Orleans’ restaurant with wine from world class winery.  Tickets are going fast, but I’ve heard that some restaurants like Antoine’s, Café Giovanni and Restaurant R’evolution still have spots left. Contact the restaurant directly if you’re interested in joining one of these exceptional dinners.

Royal Street Stroll

Eight blocks of one of the most fabulous streets in New Orleans are transformed into a one-of-a-kind wine tasting. Royal Street shuts down and festival goers are given exclusive access to wines from all over the world, food from exceptional local restaurants, and fantastic shopping. Enjoy your wine as you browse through antique shops, art galleries, clothing boutiques and many other shops.  Who knows, you might even see the Krewe of Cork parading down the street. It’s a true New Orleans celebration of food and wine. The Royal Street Stroll is Thursday night, May 22. Tickets are $89 in advance or $109 the day of the event.

Grand Tasting

Not just one day-of wine and food tastings, but two: Friday, May 23 and Saturday, May 24. On both days, wine and food take over the convention center for unprecedented tasting events. Glasses are  filled with select wines from across the globe, and some of the best chefs in the city share tasting size samples of their best dishes. On Saturday, 10 Louisiana chefs compete to be crowned the King of Louisiana Seafood. Tickets are $99 in advance, $119 the day of the show.

New Orleans Food Coming Back to Boulder

NOLA’s opening today in Boulder hotel

MillenniumThe Millennium Harvest House Boulder has an amorphous identity. Tennis players know it for its fine courts, and its gorgeous pool and terrace are popular too. University of Colorado football fans have been drowning their  game-day sorrows there. The Friday Afternoon Club has long been a warm-weather favorite for sipping and snacking and socializing. Joggers, walkers, bicycle commuters and stroller-pushers on the Boulder Creek Path pass if by the score. There’s a sports bar called Coaches Corner and another bar called Cedars Lounge, but I’ve never been to either.

There’s also a restaurant, whose most recent name was Thyme on the Creek, and as of today, it is called NOLA’s. I never ate at Thyme either, but maybe I’ll make it to NOLA’s. Named for New Orleans, Louisiana, its cuisine echoes that of the Big Easy. According to an item from the Boulder County Business Report, “New Orleans-style recipes will be a strong influence on the dinner menus.” That implies inspiration rather than authenticity, but we’ll see. Other than Lucile’s, a Creole breakfast and brunch place, Boulder’s most recent Louisiana-inspired eatery was the Red Fish Brew House, which closed several years ago.

Virtual Revisit to Louie & The Redhead Lady

A few minutes of food TV stirred up a Louisiana breakfast memory

We were just channel surfing when The Food Channel’s “Diners Drive-Ins & Dives” hit the crest of a wave that I rode straight into the realm of reminiscence. We happened to catch the beginning of one of Guy Fieri’s visits — just as he announced he was in Mandeville, Louisiana, on Lake Pontchartrain’s North Shore across the causeway from New Orleans.

“I’ll bet he’s going to Louie and the Redhead Lady,” I said to my husband, just before televised Fieri pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. You can see a photo of Louie and the redhead lady herself, his wife Ginger, and also click on a video of Fieri’s tele-visit on the home page of the restaurant’s website.

Guy Fieri and Louie Finnan. (Food Network photo)

In late 2009 — before the Gulf Oil Spill — I made a foodie trip to Louisiana. We had three great meals each day, but I fell behind on blogging. I’m finally catching up with a few photos and a few words from a breakfast visit to this popular restaurant.  Nearly two-and-half-years have fogged my memory, but I know I sampled a lot of tasty morning and mid-day food that I didn’t think I had room for but still happily managed to eat.

The restaurant’s slogan is “We’re not fancy, we’re family,” underscored for real by a lively, informal, fun atmopshere and all sorts of extroverted Southern friendless that we experienced. Judging by online diners’ reviews since Fieri’s visit, the crowds appear to have increased and the service and food quality taken a downturn, but once the attention has died down and the euphoria has worn off, it might be back as it was. I hope so.

For DD&D, Louie interacted chattily with Guy, but when we were there, he barely raised his head from the burners, because he was very busy in his semi-open kitchen. The eatery has been a long-time local favorite for its down-home cooking with Cajun flair. There’s something endearing about a place that has “Biscuits & Debris” listed on the menu as a side dish. And did I mention that Ginger is an ebullient hostess?

Continue reading Virtual Revisit to Louie & The Redhead Lady

Good Old Gumbo

From the Bayou to Boulder, this Louisiana stew is easy to make & tasty to eat

I’ve eaten my share of gumbo and prepared it a few times too — most recently, for dinner for 10, half of whom celebrate their birthdays in March. I’ve made it from recipes — as much as I ever follow recipes — and the other night, I totally winged it. The one key ingredient that I couldn’t find, neither fresh nor frozen nor even in a can, was okra. I don’t think anyone minded, because no one I know actually likes okra.

I started out making chicken gumbo, but while it was burbling in my big cast-iron pot, I realized I had a couple of pounds of shrimp in the freezer, so I added that near the end of the cooking process. I served it with red beans and rice, though just plain rice is the classic accompanying starch. This is not a spicy gumbo, so I put out Louisiana hot sauce for those who like some burn. Just about everyone had two helpings, but it was gone before one last person had his third. I consider that perfect!

Ingredients for gumbo -- except for the shrimp that I decided to add in the last minute.

Chicken & Shrimp Gumbo

2½ pounds boneless chicken breast, all fat removed and cut into 1-inch chunks
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 large green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
Cilantro, oregano, thyme, flat-leaf parsley, salt and pepper to taste
1 16½-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1 quart low-salt chicken stock
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used frozen)

Continue reading Good Old Gumbo

First Anniversary of Gulf Oil Spill

The media looks at BP/Transcocean rig catastrophe on the marine environment and seafood

The Food Channel is releasing a WebTV video that takes a look at the future of seafood following the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ oil spill, which occurred one year ago, April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico. Who can forget the images then — the burning platform, the oil workers’ grieving family members, the fishermen and shrimpers laying booms and sopping up surface oil spill, the oil soaked seabirds, the tarballs on empty white-sand beaches, the marshes thick with mucky oil, the then-CEO Tony Hayward making hollow promises to pay for all the cleanup?

Of all Gulf marine life, oysters are just about the most impacted. The Food Channel crew shot in Louisiana over a 10-day period to catch up with what is happening. “’One of the goals of The Food Channel is to document what is happening in food,” said Kay Logsdon, editor of the cable network, according to a press release. “Obviously the story that has been unfolding over the past year in the Gulf has impact on the future of our seafood. We found out that the oyster is one of the most impacted products of the Gulf, and we wanted to bring that story to life.”

Media Recaps of the Disaster

The New Orleans Times Picayune has been reporting on what’s happened for an entire year. Today’s paper featured an editorial called “BP Shucks Responsibility,” which begins, “BP has repeatedly said that it will make right what was damaged by the Macondo oil spill, but the company doesn’t consider devastated oyster beds to be
part of that responsibility. The state’s decision to open freshwater diversions damaged the beds, and BP is refusing to pay to restore them with cultch, the shell material on which oyster eggs attach and grow.” Macondo?, you ask. Not BP? It’s the kind of code name oil companies use to disguise where they are exploring for oil, and sometimes the name lingers, as it has in site of BP/Transocean’s ill-fated rig.

Celeb chef Emeril Lagasse and Andy Ford, host of the upcoming series about Gulf seafood a year after the BP oil spill.

The TV series, titled “Beneath the Surface: Gulf Seafood’s Fight for Survival,” is hosted by The Food Channel ’s Andy Ford, who spent time on the oyster boats, at the shucking house and cooking with some of New Orleans’ finest chefs while researching the short-form series. “We uncovered a story of resiliency, combined with some of the creativity that is bringing the seafood back to the table,” said Ford. “We think it will give a different picture than a lot of the media coverage that focuses purely on the negative impact of the spill, and open people’s eyes to what the real impact is.”

Click here to see the first part, with several segments set to air during the month of May. Additionally, features on some of the New Orleans’ restaurants, including recipes, will be available on the site.

The Food Channel is not alone in recapping related events this year.  CNN aired report today called “Stories from the Gulf, One Year On.” When I visited Louisiana a few months before the spill, I visited Sal Sunseri, who runs the 135-year-old P&G Oyster Company, his family’s oyster business. CNN reported on an interview with Sunseri:

“On a recent French Quarter spring morning, with the sun shining and the birds singing, Al Sunseri struggled to be cheerful. A year ago, just after the spill, he was still hanging on as best he could to business as usual. After all, P&J Oyster Company had survived a lot of calamities in its 135-year history. He was certain it could weather this one. Now, he’s not so sure.

“‘This was always full,’ he says, pointing to cold storage rooms that now gape empty. ‘Lots of activity going on. Shuckers lined up along this stall. We had around 20 employees, give or take a few.’

“Today the company is down to Sunseri, his brother, and a few part-timers. Rather than reeling in the magnificent hauls of fresh Louisiana oysters prized by top chefs, they now spend almost all their time buying and re-selling oysters from other Gulf states where the impact was less devastating. And they fume about BP’s promises to make everything right in the wake of the spill.

“‘I expected them to follow through on that,’ he says, standing near a now-unused processing table. ‘As time went on, I found out that isn’t what was occurring. And I’ve become angry.’

“Although his attorney won’t let him talk numbers, Sunseri says his business has been reduced to a small fraction of what it once was. A claim filed in November with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the agency set up to handle claims for BP, has finally produced a check, but Sunseri says it was for far less than what he has lost. The top Gulf Coast Claims Facility official, while declining to comment directly on that case, says the organization is continuing to address such complaints and concerns.”

Yeah, right. And oysters can fly — or at least grow in the Arctic Ocean, where, BTW, BP has built an island to accommodated a drilling rig since off-shore drilling is prohibited off Alaska’s coast. As for CEO Tony Hayward and other BP officials, including current CEO Robert Dudley, they reportedly did not receive an annual bonus for 2010, but don’t cry for these executives. In its annual report, BP reported that Hayward and Andy Inglis, once BP’s head of exploration and production who left the company in 2010, received “contractual entitlements of one year’s salary on termination, together with other limited entitlements.”

Hayward’s 2010 salary, converted from pounds, was $1.56 million in 2010, a pittance compared to 2009, when his salary was $1.7 million plus a $3.4 million bonus. And Hayward, who probably should be in jail, remains with the company as director of its oil division in Russia. Meanwhile, Al Sunseri had to lay off most of his crew and might have to close the company altogether. Meanwhile, at BP and other companies involved in offshore exploration and extraction, the motto still seems to be “Drill, Baby, Drill.”

 

Still Loving Lucile’s

Lucile’s is a little corner of  Louisiana on a Boulder side street

Lucile’s Creole Café opened in Boulder in 1980 (that’s 30 years ago, food fans). The first chef had worked at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, a powerful credential when it comes to authentic Creole fare. Lucile’s eventually expanded to four Front Range locations, each awash with casual charm and warmth, and all serving breakfast and lunch.

The downtown Boulder location is where I got together for breakfast with three representatives of Utah skiing who were in Colorado for face time with media here. There’s a lot of Louisiana to Lucile’s, but a lot of Boulder too. Therefore, you can get café au lait or housemade chai, or pain perdu with an egg and sausage or eggs scrambled with spinach, tofu and ginger and topped with sesame carrots with whole wheat toast.  In addition to Boulder, there are Lucile’s in Denver, Longmont and Fort Collins, each with a slight different menu.

We started with beignets, puffy hollow yeast pastries with a thick coating of powdered sugar that are a N’Awlins signature. Likening them “donuts” is an insult. They come four to an order, which was perfect for our foursome.

The New Orleans Praline Waffles are an ode on a plate to Louisiana. The thick waffle made of pecan batter waffle is topped with chopped pecans, fresh strawberries and a whole big mess of fresh whipped cream. It is served with praline syrup.

 

The Boulder expression of Lucile’s duality is represented by the Totally Organic Breakfast. Scrambled are served with spinach, tofu and ginger and topped with julienned sesame carrots. The toast is whole wheat. Impaled into the top of the dish: chopsticks.

 

The awesome oatmeal and gorgeous granola are similarly presented (different patterns and proportions of sliced strawberries, sliced banana and a blackberry) and comparably healthy.
Price check: At breakfast, Beignets, $3.95 for four; breakfast entrées, $6.05-$13.50; sides, $1.50-$7.95; beverages, $2.10-$4.80.

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