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Christopher Holt – Jackson Square Artist, New Orleans

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My family and I took a trip to New Orleans the day after Christmas. It was a five-day whirlwind filled with food and little else. Little else, that is, aside from an art hunt.

We were fortunate enough to move into a home in August, giving my toddler some much-needed room to roam around. We love the new place. And so we decided that, during the time between meals in NOLA, we’d try to find something with which to decorate the barren walls of the house.

If you’ve been to Jackson Square in New Orleans, you’ll know that the wrought-iron fences of the park are lined with the work of local artists for sale. The selection seems to rotate from day to day as one artist shows up earlier than another and claims their spot. There’s a dizzying array of choices: paintings, ink drawings, collage, and many other media. And, while we certainly combed many local print shops and galleries in search of something we wanted, and were sorely tempted by some beautiful art nouveau Jazz Festival posters we finally ran across the work of Christopher Holt.

Christopher’s got an interesting story, most of which we discovered long after we’d settled on buying his work. The majority of his professional experience comes from working on television animation, with credits from well-known shows like Family Guy, Powerpuff Girls, and the short-lived Clerks animated series. Sometime after Katrina, he moved back to help with family and has remained.

The art spoke to both of us. We were really excited to find it, and they are a beautiful reminder of a great vacation. We’re happy to have three originals, but can also highly recommend the prints available at ImageKind.

Apologies for the somewhat dodgy image quality. Consider this the world’s shortest pan of the camera on the Droid X.




Written by ireviewsomething

May 3, 2012 at 9:57am

Posted in New Orleans

Verti Marte

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1201 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70195

December 29, 2011

The streetcar trip to and from Creole Creamery from our French Quarter hotel was much longer than I’d anticipated. It probably didn’t help that we were making the trips right around commute time. Fortunately, I’d planned ahead a bit and discovered that our po boy purveyor of the evening, Verti Marte, kept some crazy hours, but they would also deliver. I also knew it would be late and that I didn’t relish the thought of hauling all the way up there and eating outside in the dark. So, riding back on the streetcar, full of ice cream, I made that call.

They couldn’t have been more accommodating of a rookie. I’d had it in mind to order one of the specials that I’d neglected to read was available the day before. So, after some discussion, we settled on a Mushroom Mountain, an All That Jazz, and some fried shrimp to sate my daughter’s growing need for those. When you’re 14 month-old’s eyes light up at her first taste of something and busts out with a perfectly pronounced “shrimp” shortly thereafter, it’s clear that she’s found a favorite. I was happy to indulge her.

We planned the arrival at the hotel perfectly, as the delivery arrived in the lobby about five minutes after we did.

The All That Jazz is a bit of sandwich genius. If you read the description and think that cramming ham, turkey, shrimp, two kinds of cheese, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, and their own house sauce onto French bread might make for a mess, you’d be right. The combination was a gut bomb of a satisfying sandwich, though, and one that I’d happily revisit. I love mushrooms, so I figured the Mushroom Mountain would appeal much more than it did. I don’t know if it suffered during the ride or if my expectations were too high, but the high cheese-to-mushroom ratio on our sandwich meant that, by the time it arrived in the hotel, it was basically a large block of cheese studded with mushrooms. Tasty for a bite or two, but that was all I could manage. The fried shrimp, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more perfect.

Usually having half our order not appeal to lead me to a less-than-stellar review, but on the strength of that All That Jazz and the fact that I could order from a streetcar returning to the hotel and have the food there waiting, full marks from me. Verti Marte is the perfect solution to that end-of-vacation moment when you are hungry but don’t want to move a muscle.

Verti Marte on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

February 9, 2012 at 8:33am

Café Du Monde

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800 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

December 30, 2011

I’m not really sure that there’s much I can say about CDM. In a way, it’s a big enough New Orleans institution that your review of it probably says more about you than you’re ever going to say about it.

The beignets were hot and delicious. We don’t drink coffee, but the hot chocolate was tasty.

I think complaints about dirty tables, a dirty restroom, and anything else you might consider to be a detriment are really missing the point as they’re all a part of the experience. Ditto long lines, though during the rather wet and cold weather of our trip, we noted that the early morning avoided most of the waiting. The morning we went, we were there bright and early and grabbed a table just as the servers were sweeping the chairs off onto the ground. But if “get up early” isn’t a reasonable solution to the line problem, patience is probably the only other recourse.

Did the food change my life? Probably not. There is something about the place that seems to sum up New Orleans, though. It was a great way to spend our last morning in the city, and my two pictures of my wife and daughter all bundled up and waiting for a mound of powdered sugar are among my favorite keepsakes of the trip.

Café Du Monde on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

February 9, 2012 at 7:58am

Stanley

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Jackson Square
547 St. Ann St
New Orleans, LA 70116

December 28, 2011

Let’s talk about a New Orleans breakfast failure.

We were awake early, so my wife decided she wanted to try Stanley. It wasn’t on my list of must-hit places, but after walking by it and looking over the menu, we’d decided to go during the trip.

We had Restaurant August and Parkway Bakery on the docket for later in the day, so I had concerns about stomach space. I’d planned to do most breakfasts on the trip with a nice cup of oatmeal and save my stomach capacity for the good stuff we had planned for lunches and dinners.

So, we rolled up, got seated, and I decided to order a cup of gumbo. My wife got an egg combination with some pancakes.

The gumbo was the single best cup of it I had all trip. Let me repeat: I had gumbo pretty much anywhere that served it as my own little side-by-side comparison tour of NOLA cuisine. Stanley’s was, hands down, the best. It was full of oysters, shrimp, andouille, and chicken. There was rice. At $5.75 for the rather large cup, it was not only the best, but a steal. My wife reported being very happy with her food, too.

The epic fail comes when you read what I should have been ordering. I should have been eating Beaux Bridge Benedict, with boudin, ham, and poached eggs. I might have chosen Eggs Stanley, basically eggs benedict with the genius addition of fried oysters. Failing those two, I should have ordered the bananas foster french toast.

As it turned out, neither August or Parkway stuffed me. I could have easily fit any of those in and maybe taken an extra lap around Jackson Square. Don’t get me wrong, my bowl of gumbo was outstanding. But now I have bitter, sorry regrets.

Stanley Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cochon

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930 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70195

December 30, 2011

I’ve been thinking about this review for over a month now making sure that I was being fair.

The food was a mixed bag for us. The fried rabbit liver with pepper jelly was beyond awesome and I nearly ordered another plate of it immediately after the first bite. The fried boudin balls were good, though I preferred the ones we had at lunch at Boucherie more. The Louisiana pork was mildly disappointing – I’d had better pulled pork many times before at 1/4 the price and our cracklins were missing the crack and were kind of flabby. My wife loves mac and cheese and all three of us really loved the pancetta-studded version at Butcher, so we figured it would be a no brainer here. Nope, as it turns out, not great.

Dessert was further down the scale still. The hummingbird cake was dry and rather unpleasant. The pineapple upside-down cake was pretty unremarkable and pairing it with a lime sorbet emphasized all the wrong notes of the dulce and the pineapple.

And then there was the service, which was uniformly bad. I called from the hotel to let them know that we’d be a few minutes late. “No promises,” the front of house said. “Our reservations are full tonight.” So we scooped up my sleeping daughter into the stroller and started running. As the time for the reservation crept closer and we hadn’t yet arrived, my wife told me to run on ahead. I was glad to see lots of people out walking on Tchoupitoulas or I wouldn’t have really dared.

I arrived, on the verge of out of breath, to find a restaurant that wasn’t half full. Now, had I called and said “we’re going to be an hour late,” I would get making a point of not intending to hold our reservation on a Friday night. But by the time we finished eating, the restaurant still wasn’t even approaching full. I’d fully explained that I had a sleeping kid that was possibly going to make us late. Why not cut us some slack?

Our server started out charming and ended up absent. He walked us through the menu and made a few recommendations, and the food got out to us in short order. When it came time to get a check, though, he disappeared for 45 minutes. My poor daughter, 30 minutes short on her nap (my fault) and having put on her party manners at some fairly upscale establishments over the past week, absolutely lost it about ten minutes into that 30 and my wife left to return to the hotel for her. I watched our server flit around the room, taking drink orders and flirting with the ladies for the rest of the 20 minutes before he returned with the ARE YOU KIDDING DID WE REALLY SPEND THAT MUCH check. I’m not one to often tip below 20%, but between the reservation static and making me wait so that he could run up people’s bar tabs, I was feeling punitive.

This was our last night in NOLA. Earlier in the trip, I’d almost bought a shirt at Butcher but figured, since Cochon was around the corner, that I’d return and grab it after we ate. Sadly, the Cochon experience colored Butcher enough that I left without the shirt. I’ll skip Cochon next time and camp at Butcher instead for half the price and better food.

Cochon on Urbanspoon

Parkway Bakery & Tavern

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538 Hagan St
New Orleans, LA 70119

December 28, 2011

Thanks, NOLA Yelp, for this suggestion. It wasn’t on my radar and set a nearly unbeatable standard in my mind about what a po boy should be.

Everybody recommended the surf and turf. I have to admit that I had reservations about whether beef gravy would overwhelm the taste of shrimp. I was so very wrong. That sandwich is about as perfect as you could imagine. Ours came dressed and my daughter kept saying “more” as I tore apart shrimp after luscious shrimp for her.

Not everything we had was perfect. The bread pudding with rum sauce was fine, but nothing special after days packed with bread pudding. The gumbo wasn’t bad, but was my least favorite of the many gumbos I tried during our trip. The chunks of chorizo were delicious, but overall it could have used something special: some seafood, a bit more spice, something.

We had some sweet potato fries that were crisp, sweet, and copious for the price. All in all, I wish I’d ignored all of the rest of the offerings and just gotten another sandwich to try. I love the bread, the gravy, the meat, and even the experience of eating outside on a plastic table in the middle of winter because the dining room is so full.

Parkway Bakery & Tavern on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

February 7, 2012 at 10:46am

Restaurant August

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301 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130

December 28, 2011

Ever have one of those meals that, at the end of things, you just leave happy? One where you can’t necessarily remember any one moment or bite that made you so, but that you just come away with a grin on your face?

That was our lunch at Restaurant August.

As we walked in, I noticed that the place was filled with people in suits and crossed my fingers that our daughter would put on her best. I needn’t have been concerned; she was her usual angelic self. I would say, though, that the upscale clientele and service may not make this the first place you’d think of when deciding on a family restaurant.

We ordered the pork pate and curried cauliflower and pork belly and mirliton stuffed shrimp, both from the $20 prix fixe menu. Glancing at the rest of the prices and considering what we got, I guess if there’s a knock on August, it would be that the prices are steep. For $20, though, we had plenty to eat.

An amuse-bouche of truffle-whipped savignon topped with bluefin caviar served in an eggshell came to the table. I think that last sentence pretty well sums up elegance and sophistication of the food available at August. As it turns out, my daughter is a huge fan of truffle-whipped savignon and caviar. I can see many expensive grocery bills in my future.

Both of the entrees were destroyed in minutes in an absolute bloodbath of French-inspired Louisiana cooking. As noted previously, I don’t have any specific memories. I might have blacked out a little it was so good.

For dessert, we chose the Valrhona chocolate chiboust, a pear tart and, because we heard it so lovingly described to the table next to us, the rum cake. The chiboust was a beautifully dense pastry cream with very strong chocolate flavor and the clear favorite of the three. It’s a good sign when the pastry chef calls out the chocolate manufacturer as an indication that they know their stuff. This didn’t taste like one Valrhona’s single source chocolates, but was a highly decent blend.

The tart was fine, if a bit small. The rum cake was disappointing and, given the fanfare that the server provided for it, must have been having a bad hair day. Not that there was a hair in it. No five star for that. But the cake was a bit dry and light on the rum flavor.

Still, total five star review from me.

Restaurant August on Urbanspoon

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