House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Lamb Ribs

Estela – Soho, NYC

Estela feels like such a neighborhood spot, the entrance as if you’re stepping into your college buddy’s second-story walk-up on a Saturday night, bottle of something in hand, pile of boots and ballet flats strewn around the door, your mind on that one girl you met last time and wondering if she might show up tonight.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC The interior is dim, vaguely shimmery from candlelight, shrouded by hushed conversations, dates and hip parties, a good energy spilling over from the crowded bar.  You want it to be a hip friend’s apartment, somewhere that if smoking were still a thing, there would be the faraway scent of that and perfume and jazz.

And fancy ginger ales.  With beautifully cubed ice.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Ginger Ale Surryano country ham.  Because, why not?  Fat and salt in a relatively primal form.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Country Ham A simple, elevated presentation of crunchy leaves of green (kale?).  But underneath this lardo-brushed canopy, some seared scallops, simple and sweet, sweetness that surprisingly held up its own to the herbacious, textured sweetness of sugar snap peas. House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Scallops 1 House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Scallops 2 Fried arroz negro with sepia and romesco.  So many layers of savory in this dish, as well as texture – the rice, the slippery bits of cuttlefish, and the tangy spread of romesco.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Black Rice House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Black Rice Uni Sepia  Continue reading

House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Smoked Ribs

Pork Pork Pork – Lunch at Cochon, New Orleans

God bless the humble pig, and all the amazing things that come from it.  House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Menu (These are just fresh house rolls with soft, whipped butter – I don’t think there’s pork in these, but I wouldn’t be surprised, I guess).House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Fresh Rolls Butter I think the shrimp did have some pork in it (a deeply smoked bacon in the broth), and some scallions to liven it up.House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Gulf Shrimp These sticky, saucy ribs, with minty watermelon relish, had a nice balance of fleshiness, fat, and tenderness.House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Smoked Ribs Head cheese, chunky and unctuous, gelatinous, umami-rific.  The pickles and the mustard helped provide some counterbalance, if you want it.House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Head Cheese Continue reading

All Good Things – The Creole Creamery, New Orleans

There’s nothing quite like a really good ice cream parlor.  I grew up with a Graeter’s near my house, and that was a place we could gather after a movie or a study night (mostly study nights, in my high school days), or pick up some scoops during a slow week when I could sneak off-campus.  At Graeter’s I had my first scoop of black cherry flavor, which to this day remains one of my favorite flavors.

Creole Creamery has that distinctive neighborhood feel, of something both comfortable and lively, like it’s been there the whole time, even if it’s new.  There are families and kids and hipsters and old-timers.  There are wide booths with smooth leather seats and bright lights, and there’s the faint sweetness – the lightly toasted, vanilla perfume of cones and waffles.  Plus, the uptown location of Creole Creamery has that old-school soda fountain feel to it, retro chic.  But those are more stylistic embellishments.  I was there because I’d heard nothing but rave reviews about the ice cream.  Even the owner of Brennan’s loves Creole Creamery.House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana Storefront So many choices, and many uniquely New Orleans flavors (including king cake, when we last visited).  Creole cream cheese, Satsuma orange.  Banana cane malt.  Lavender.  Cafe au lait.  House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana 2 The sampler.  Six mini-scoops of amazing.  We had two of these.  With mostly different flavors.House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana SamplerWe are serving this at our wedding, in case you were wondering.

Creole Creamery
4924 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA 70115
(Google Maps)

Creole Creamery on Urbanspoon

House of Haos Bevi Seafood Company Metarie Louisiana Shrimp Crawfish Crab 2

Easy like Sunday Morning – Bevi Seafood, New Orleans

Nothing like a little bit of boiled seafood to start your Sunday.

I don’t know my way around the boiled seafood places in New Orleans yet, and there’s a whole encyclopedia of restaurants I’ve yet to try.  Bevi Seafood Co. is one of the newer kids on the block, and though we didn’t explore the rest of the menu, they offer a whole host of po’ boys and entrees if you want to try something else besides the by-the-pound seafood.House of Haos Bevi Seafood Company Metarie Louisiana 2This bowl of dark, thick, savory gumbo.  Loved the shrimp, not crazy about the oysters, but they were admittedly plump and tender.House of Haos Bevi Seafood Company Metarie Louisiana Seafood Gumbo And a platter of boiled seafood: crawfish, head-on shrimp, and a couple of crabs.  It’s a lot of work, all these crustaceans, but the quality of the meat was mostly great.  The shrimp weren’t all that memorable, but the crawfish were juicy and sweet, and the crab as well.  In particular, the crawfish brains were worth the effort.  House of Haos Bevi Seafood Company Metarie Louisiana Shrimp Crawfish Crab Continue reading

House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Pineapple Rum Cake

Lunch at Peche – New Orleans

Peche was the first of Donald Link’s restaurants that we tried, a seafood-centric restaurant in a town leaning heavily towards all things fished from the Gulf.  The space is open and comfortable, the big windows along the street broadcasting light into the high-ceiling’d dining room.  Wooden tables, sturdy chairs, the back-of-house glow of the grill in the passe.  We came early for lunch, before we had to skip town, so the restaurant was just stirring to life, but a few older couples were already at the bar.  Nice way to spend a boozy mid-day in New Orleans, that’s for sure.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Better at Peche than some beer-soaked French Quarter establishment, I guess?

But we came for lunch, goddammit, and lunch we were going to have.  And lots of it.  Starting with this corn soup.  Myra ate all of this soup.  She did not save much for me, but the one spoonful of soup I had was pretty good.  Sweet and rich.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Corn Soup Crab claws, in a mint and shallot mignonette of sorts.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Crab Legs A white fish ceviche (I want to say hamachi?) topped with french fry sticks.  Very citrus-y, not sure how I felt about it.  The fish wasn’t all that noteworthy, was the main letdown.House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Marinated Fish Potato Fries By god, these hush puppies.  So good, crispy, hot out of the frying pan (or deep-fryer, I guess).  Sprinkled with just the right amount of salt, and full of delicious herbs (I think scallions).House of Hao's Peche New Orleans Louisiana Hush Puppies Continue reading

House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Fig Beignets

Dinner at Commander’s Palace – New Orleans

Commander’s Palace, one of the gems of the Brennan family’s wide umbrella of New Orleans hospitality empire, is a beautiful restaurant.  On a lazy, lush-green street (ominously across from a cemetery), the bright sign for Commander’s Palace Restaurant buzzes alongside the row of lanterns.  If I had a horse-drawn carriage, it would seem an appropriate entrance to the scene.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace There are multiple floors, all white tablecloth’d and dimly lit.  I felt transported to a different era, one of antebellum over-civility – and for that reason, I felt slightly out of place.  But would I allow that to get in the way of enjoying butter-laden food?

C’mon.

We kicked off with heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Tomato Bleu Cheese Salad Shrimp with pickled okra and hot pepper jelly.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Shrimp Pickled Okra Pepper Jelly Gumbo.  With smoked ham or ham hock or something fucking delicious.  Rich and smoky and RICH.House of Hao's New Orleans Louisiana Commander's Palace Gumbo Continue reading

House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans Louisiana Fried Chicken Lunch

Good God Almighty – Willie Mae’s Scotch House, New Orleans

I’m getting married in New Orleans, so every wedding planning visit is an opportunity to explore the city’s amazing food.  And I am, one might say, a complete sucker for fried chicken.

So I had to make the pilgrimage to Willie Mae’s, which serves up some of the city’s (and the country’s) best fried chicken.  The restaurant is on a nondescript corner of Treme, the neighborhood on which David Simon spent a few television seasons.  At times the line can get pretty long, but it’s worth every bit of the wait.  If you’re a smaller group, like we were, there are seats at the bar as well, where we watched all the to-go orders come out of the kitchen.House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans LouisianaIt’s not the cleanest of restaurants, to be honest, but what it lacked in nicety, it more than made up for in hospitality.  Even while we waited, the place was humming with Southern politesse and thank-you-ma’ams and yes-sirs.  Growing up in Kentucky makes you miss those small things when you dwell in New York, and even more so in uncouth Shanghai.

House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans Louisiana Hot SauceWe each ordered 3-piece combos.  Dark meat, of course.

The batter is supremely crispy, slightly sweet.  It’s different than the breaded crunch of, say, Popeye’s – Willie Mae’s batter is light, thin, flaky, almost airy.  It’s the wet batter.  The chicken itself is tender, brined in Coca-Cola and seasoned with a bunch of secret nonsense.House of Hao's Willie Mae's Scotch House New Orleans Louisiana Fried Chicken 1There are some old-fashioned side options – mac’n’cheese, peas, cornbread, beans, cornbread, potato salad, etc. etc.  They are really just afterthoughts, pleasant background notes to a chorus of succulent chicken. Continue reading

If I Pie Before I Wake – Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NYC

There’s a butter-laden heaven worth visiting in Gowanus, Brooklyn, called Four & Twenty Blackbirds.  You can smell why when you first walk in, the heaviness of crust, flour and butter and sugar, the citrus and cinnamon and sourness of berries cooking down, tinged with the bitterness of coffee.

I’ve tried the blueberry crumble, strawberry streusel, salty honey, and salted caramel apple pies.  All of them were delicious.House of Haos Four and Twenty Blackbirds Park Slope Brooklyn NYC Strawberry Pie Blueberry Crumble House of Haos Four and Twenty Blackbirds Park Slope Brooklyn NYC Blueberry Crumble

Go to there.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds (website)
439 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Google Maps

Four & Twenty Blackbirds on Urbanspoon

House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Short Ribs 2

Dinner Feast at il Buco Alimentari – NYC

Chef Smillie, who oversaw the kitchen when I last visited, has moved on to his own (Stephen Starr-sponsored) place, and I haven’t been back since, but my last meal (sometime in 2014) at il Buco Alimentari was delicious.  Some of the dishes are now making an appearance at Chef Smilie’s new spot, so all is not lost.

Olives.

House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Olives Crudo.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Hamachi Crudo Crispy artichokes.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Fried Artichokes Cuttlefish with beans.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Calamri Beef tartare with hearts of palm, egg yolk, and seasoning.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari Noho NYC Beef Tartare  Continue reading