Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chicago's Stuffed Pizza in Orlando, FL

I can't say I've had much experience eating Chicago style stuffed pizza. Previously, my only meals eating this type of pizza has been at the Giordano's locations near Disney. Giordano's pizza was different and unique in the Central Florida area, but it was also a cheese overload every time I've eaten there. A new restaurant called Chicago's Stuffed Pizza has opened since my visits to Giordano's on Church Street next to the SunRail Station in Downtown Orlando. I was definitely interested in trying this style of pizza that wasn't from a national chain. Being that Giordano's is my only other Chicago style stuffed pizza data point, I'll be doing a lot of comparing in this post.
I ordered a personal sized stuffed pizza with sausage and peppers. This pie had a similar crust setup to what Giordano's has. There was a bottom layer of crust covered in the cheese and toppings. A second layer of crust was placed over this, and sauce topped the pizza. I found the pizza at Chicago's to be nicely balanced. Unlike the pizzas I've had at Giordano's, there wasn't a disgusting wall of cheese that came oozing out of the slices. This is a good thing. The amount of sausage, peppers, sauce, and crust seemed to equal out the cheese. There was still a whole lot of each of these, but this stuffed pizza was tall enough to support a whole lot of the toppings. The sauce and sausage both were flavorful.
Now that I have a second data point for Chicago style stuffed pizza, I would say that I preferred the pie I had here over what I've had at Giordano's. The main reason for the favor going to Chicago's was a little more balance between the cheese and the rest of the pizza. I think I still would take a more traditional pizza over one of these stuffed pies, but I'd still be willing to get these again.

Chicago's Stuffed Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pleasant's Bar-B-Q in Ocean Springs, MS

While driving home to Florida after my trip to New Orleans, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Pleasant's Bar-B-Q in Ocean Springs, MS. Barbecue styles seem to vary in different areas of the south, so I was interested to see how smoked meat is served in Mississippi.
I had their pulled pork sandwich served with collard greens and baked beans. The pork was served on a  standard white bread hamburger bun. It was finely shredded and was drenched in sauce. The sauce was tasty, but I couldn't really discern any unique Mississippi BBQ style in here. I've had many similar pulled pork sandwiches in Florida. The beans were alright, but the collards were really good. They were nice and tender without being cooked to a mush. I liked.

Pleasant's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 20, 2015

Diva Dawg Food Truck in New Orleans, LA

One of my last food experiences in New Orleans happened at a food truck. They were called Diva Dawg and specialized in hot dogs, fries, and shakes.
The first thing on their menu is what caught my attention. They had a Mardi Gras Beignet Dawg. From the way it was described, it was similar to a corn dog, fried in beignet batter and topped with powdered sugar. I decided I had too many beignets on this trip already and wasn't in the mood for a hot dog so I ordered the Homemade Etouffee Fries.
I had a list of stereotypical New Orleans food items that I wanted to try while in the city. Crawfish etouffee was on this list, and these fries crossed etouffee off the list. The fries were widely cut, topped with the etouffee. It was messy to eat, but it was also delicious. There were plenty of crawfish tails over the fries and the creamy roux from the etouffee made a wonderful sauce for the fries.
Diva Dawg provided me the opportunity to almost complete my food list in New Orleans. The only food I was unable to find was Crawfish Pie. Apparently Crawfish Pie is a food item that's not very common in New Orleans...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

St. Charles Tavern in New Orleans, LA

I got a recommendation to try the St. Charles Tavern in New Orleans from someone who was staying in my hotel. Not having any dinner plans, I walked a couple blocks down the street and gave them a try.
I had the Boudin Ball Po'boy. I tried boudin balls for the first time at Jacques-Imos Cafe a couple nights earlier in the city, but I had yet to have a po boy in New Orleans. A combination of the two sounded good! These boudin balls were different from the ones I had a Jacques-Imos Cafe. These had less of a batter around the meat inside and were a bit more uniform in their consistency. Different, but also good. The boudin balls were served on a white bread with lettuce, tomato, and a remoulade sauce. Fries were served on the side.

St. Charles Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Central Grocery in New Orleans, LA

I've never had a good muffuletta in the past. I've tried ordering these sandwiches several times at various restaurants in Florida, but they always end up being disappointing. More specifically, every muffuletta that I remember trying has always been very dry and bland tasting. Central Grocery is a New Orleans restaurant which was recommended I try while in the city. They advertise that they are home to the original muffuletta. I was setting myself up for having a disappointing sandwich, but it turns out the original is indeed the best.
The muffuletta from Central Grocery consisted of a large sesame roll filled with mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, provolone, and olive salad. This olive tapenade is what set Central Grocery's muffuletta apart from the others I've tried. In the other muffulettas, whoever makes the sandwiches is always really stingy with the olives. At Central Grocery though, they piled the olives on, adding a whole bunch of flavor to an otherwise boring sandwich. The oil from the olive salad also provided some much needed moisture to the sandwich, preventing the muffuletta from being too dry.
Thanks to Central Grocery, I now know that muffulettas can be much better than I've experienced in the past!

Central Grocery on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2015

Audubon Zoo Food (Roman Candy Company and Cypress Knee Cafe) in New Orleans, LA

I spent one afternoon in New Orleans at the Audubon Zoo. Food happened while I was there. The first thing I ate came from this nifty looking food cart called Roman Chewing Candy. Apparently this cart is a New Orleans landmark because I later started noticing it on postcards sold in gift shops elsewhere in the city.
I'd never heard of Roman candy before, but it turned out this was a type of taffy. It was being pulled right there in the cart. There was a choice of vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. Since strawberry was being made fresh as I approached the cart, that's what I went with.
It was chewy and sweet. Like most taffy, this got horribly stuck in my molars and made me want to brush my teeth for the rest of the afternoon. Regardless, it was still a tasty candy.

The Roman Candy Company on Urbanspoon

The Roman candy didn't quite hold me over until I was done exploring the zoo so I stopped into a restaurant there called Cypress Knee Cafe. While all the other restaurants I passed in the zoo served typical zoo/theme park snack bar foods, Cypress Knee Cafe had a bit more interesting menu. They were located in the Louisiana Swamp section of the park, and had appropriately themed local cuisine.
I hadn't had any jambalaya while visiting New Orleans. I ordered it here to remedy this. Cypress Knee Cafe served a decent sized bowl filled with flavorful rice and chicken. I didn't get any shrimp or sausage in my bowl which are normally standards in the jambalaya I've had in the past. I don't know if these aren't in the zoo's recipe for jambalaya or if I just got a bad mix in my bowl. Regardless of the lack of variety in the meats, when it comes to the flavor of the jambalaya here, it surpassed my low expectations for a snack bar in a zoo.

Cypress Knee Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pho Orchid in New Orleans, LA

I was waiting to watch a few Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans when I stopped into a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Orchid. I think I may have decided to enter Pho Orchid at a bad time. It seemed like they were transitioning from their normal menu to a special take out only menu that they had during parades. I entered and I was given their normal menu. I was ignored for a very long time before a server came back to my table to take my order. In the meantime, everyone else entering right after me was being told to order at the bar off the Mardi Gras menu. I was a bit confused as to whether or not I was given the normal menu by mistake until a server finally came back to take my order.
I ordered the Grilled Pork Bun. This consisted of vermicelli noodles topped with the meat, lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and a side of their house sauce. Overall, it was pretty tasty. Some of the pork was pretty fatty, but otherwise I had no major complaints. The vinegar based sauce, along with hoisin and sriracha kept all the noodles nice and moist. 
Besides what seemed to be confusion among the staff about whether to take my order or not, my meal at Pho Orchid was very satisfying.

Pho Orchid Uptown on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cafe Beignet in New Orleans, LA

When I walked by a place called Cafe Beignet on Royal Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans, I decided to stop in. I had sampled beignets from Cafe Du Monde a couple of days earlier and wanted to get beignets somewhere else in New Orleans to compare.
Cafe Beignet was in a cool little brick building. It was long and narrow with low, arched ceilings.
Cafe Beignet had signs hanging on the wall proudly announcing that they were featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate with Alton Brown.
I did a little Youtube searching and found the segment from the show that featured Cafe Beignet. Alton Brown endorsed beignets are probably good beignets, right?

I didn't get the proper beignet accompaniment and get chicory coffee. I instead ordered a chai latte to drink. It was pretty standard.
Then it was time to try the beignets! I'm sorry to disagree with Alton Brown, but I preferred the beignets from Cafe Du Monde. The beignets here were much denser than the fluffy beignets that Cafe Du Monde served. Not to say that these weren't good. I think it would be hard to mess up a beignet too badly, but if I had to choose, fluffy beignets would beat dense beignets.

Cafe Beignet on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 27, 2015

French Market Restaurant in New Orleans, LA

I was trying to decide where to eat dinner while walking around the French Quarter in New Orleans when my nose made the decision for me.
The French Market Bar and Restaurant had a porch where they were cooking crawfish. The smell wafting out of the boiling pot was so tempting that I went in to have some crawfish.
I ordered 1 pound of crawfish along with a side of corn, potatoes, and sausage. This steamy boat-shaped bowl of bottom feeders was a huge amount of food. According to my server, most people order at least two pounds, but one was plenty for me. They had a nice garlic flavor that wasn't too overpowering.
Eating crawfish in New Orleans was checked off my list of foods to eat in the city...

French Market Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jacques-Imo's Café in New Orleans, LA

After a day of wandering and riding streetcars around New Orleans with no real destination in mind, it was decided it was dinner time. A random streetcar stop was chosen which appeared to have some nearby restaurants, and we started exploring. A Lebanese or sushi restaurant were the winning choices for the area until Jacques-Imo's was spotted. I had overheard people on the streetcar talking about the restaurant, so we decided to check it out. The sign out front advertises Warm Beer, Lousy Food, and Poor Service. It sounded like a gimmicky way to get people to pay for the experience of a bad restaurant. We were there and overheard people taking about the restaurant, so why not? Turned out that Jacques-Imo's was not any of those things and ended up being my favorite dining experience in New Orleans.
Jacques-Imo's appeared to be a somewhat typical looking bar when entering the restaurant. That's until they take you to their table through their show kitchen to the multi-level dining room in the back. Once seated and we took a look at the menu, Jacques-Imo's was much more of a gourmet fine dining establishment than I was expecting. The meal started with garlic cornbread. I've had cornbread and I've had garlic bread, but I have never had the two combined. It was delicious.
Under the appetizers, there were two items that have been on my food bucketlist for a while. I was debating which one to get, but we ended up trying them both. The first was Boudin Balls. These were stuffed with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese, served with Creole mustard sauce for dipping. I was told before going on my trip that I had to try Boudin Balls. These deep fried balls of mystery sausage meat were somewhat reminiscent of a jalapeno popper, only way better!
The other appetizer which I had to try was the Fried Rabbit Tenderloin. As someone who had a pet rabbit for years, I always wondered what rabbit meat tasted like. Until Jacques-Imo's, the opportunity didn't easily present itself to find this out. The meat had somewhat of a creamy quality which was very nice. I'm not sure of this is a characteristic of rabbit meat itself, or if perhaps the creaminess was infused into the meat from being fried. Either way, I can now say I've eaten rabbit and it was very tasty.
A spinach salad came next. It was topped with a fried oyster, which was unexpected.
I had the Stuffed Catfish for my entree. To blackened filets of catfish were served over a mound of crabmeat stuffing. This was topped with hollandaise sauce and scallions. This dish was bursting with flavor. The seasoning on the catfish was somewhat spicy, countered with the creamy hollandaise. The crab stuffing was also very nice!
The catfish was served with two sides. I chose the Red Beans & Rice and Corn Macque Chow. The red beans and rice was good, but nothing new to me. I had never heard of corn macque chow though. It's apparently a sort of stew made from corn and other vegetables. I enjoyed the dish!
Jacques-Imo's Cafe wasn't on my list of restaurants to check out in New Orleans. My visit to the restaurant was completely random, but I'm glad I ended up there. Jacques-Imo's Cafe turned out to be my favorite food experience while in New Orleans!

Jacques-Imo's Café on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2015

King Cake in New Orleans, LA: (PJ's Coffee, Mardi Gras World, and Gerald's King Cake)

I was in New Orleans while Mardi Gras celebrations were happening. Because of this, I felt the need to eat some King Cake. For the uninformed, my basic uninformed understanding of a King Cake is that they are vaguely based on Catholic traditions and are supposed to be eaten between the Epiphany and Lent. A toy baby representing Jesus is hidden inside the cake. Whoever gets the slice of cake with the baby is then responsible for providing the King Cake at the next Mardi Gras party. I'm sure Wikipedia can do a much better job at describing the cakes than I can. My first King Cake experience happened at PJ's Coffee on Canal Street.
I didn't realize it at the time, but PJ's Coffee is a big chain on the Gulf Coast. After my visit to this PJ's location, I started noticing them everywhere. They were much more prevalent than Starbucks in New Orleans, and I saw them in Mississippi on the drive home as well. I initially wasn't planning on getting King Cake when I walked into PJ's, but their signs for King Cake Lattes peaked my interest. Once I ordered the latte, I decided the next logical thing would be to have a slice of the cake to go with the beverage. The King Cake Latte was really sweet, but I'm not sure if I would have identified it as King Cake flavored if I didn't know that's what I ordered. The slice of King Cake was tasty enough, although not my favorite that I tried on my trip. I did enjoy dipping the King Cake into the King Cake Latte. There wasn't a chance of getting a baby in this cake. According to the cashier, PJ's used to put the babies in the King Cake until someone broke a tooth on one. This apparently didn't go over well with corporate, so now you just get cake.

PJ's Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon

My second King Cake experience was at Mardi Gras World. This is the Kern Studios location that is open to the public for tours where you get to see all sorts of giant styrofoam and paper mache creatures being made to go on Mardi Gras floats. They begin their tour by giving everyone a slice of King Cake while they show you a video. I'm not sure who made this particular cake, but this was my favorite. It had a strong cinnamon flavor swirled into the slice of cake.
The last and final King Cake from my visit to New Orleans was made by Gerald's King Cakes. I bought this from a Praline store in the French Quarter to bring back to Florida. It came with a baby, although not in the cake itself. There may have been a slight cinnamon flavor, but nowhere as strong as the cake from Mardi Gras World. I also detected somewhat of a lemony flavor, either in the cake itself or in the icing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gumbo Shop in New Orleans, LA

I started to get hungry while wandering around the French Quarter in New Orleans. This meant lunch was happening soon, and the winning restaurant turned out to be the Gumbo Shop.
Gumbo Shop is located in a historic building on St. Peter Street. They had indoor seating or outdoor seating in a nice looking courtyard behind the restaurant.
I had the Seafood Okra Gumbo. According to the menu, this was okra, onion, bell peppers, celery, and a tiny bit of tomato sauteed and blended with shrimp and crab into a thick brown Creole soup - served over rice. This was a very tasty okra. There were plenty of good sized shrimp floating around in there, as well as half of a crab. The gumbo had just the right amount of spice. It was very flavorful, and wasn't  too spicy or bland. I liked it! Bread was served on the side.
I enjoyed Gumbo Shop. The food was good and the prices were much more affordable than the surrounding restaurants that I looked at. I'd return!

Gumbo Shop on Urbanspoon


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