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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, LA

I decided I needed to take a trip to New Orleans. My one and only experience with the city happened several years ago and was way too short. So short that I don't count it as a visit to the city. I have heard all sorts of good things about New Orleans, including good things about the food. All of which I really didn't experience last time I was there. After I've had thoughts of the city brewing in the back of my head for a few years now, I finally took a detour during a trip to Atlanta and made New Orleans happen. I do not regret my decision at all. My very first foodie experience upon arriving in the city is perhaps one of the most famous/touristy. I had breakfast at Cafe Du Monde.
Cafe Du Monde is known for the beignets and coffee. They are located in the French Quarter inside of a shopping area known as the French Market.
I split an order of three beignets and tried their Cafe au Lait. The beignets were light and puffy, covered in powdered sugar. These beignets seemed to have many more air bubbles compared to some of the other beignets I've had in the past, which made them less doughnut like. I'm not a coffee connoisseur, so I find it hard to discern one type of coffee from another. This cafe au lait was made with Cafe du Monde's chicory coffee, although I had a hard time detecting flavors not present in other coffees. I did enjoy dipping the beignets into the coffee, sweetening the drink with all the powdered sugar.
I did enjoy my food at Cafe du Monde. The beignets were among the best I've had and it was a good welcome to New Orleans.

Café Du Monde on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 2, 2015

Taj Punjabi in Orlando, FL

I had dinner at an Indian restaurant in a shopping center along International Drive called Taj Punjabi. I wasn't sure what to expect in an area occupied with far too many overpriced tourist restaurants, but Taj Punjabi was recommended. They had a dinner buffet available when I visited, but everyone I dined here with chose to order off the menu so I did the same.
I ordered the Chicken Do-Piaj (#35 on their menu). I don't think I've ever ordered this particular dish at an Indian restaurant before. The menu described the Chicken Do-Piaj as boneless pieces of chicken cooked in a curry sauce, diced onion, bell pepper and tomatoes, garnished with fried onion and cilantro.  Cucumber slices, onions, and a plate of rice were served alongside the main dish. I choose to get the food prepared with medium spice, which ended up being just the right amount of spiciness. The chicken was good, although there were two pieces in the dish which were just about all tendons/fat. Besides these, I had no major complaints. The curry sauce was delicious. Even after the chicken was all gone, I made sure not to waste any of the saucy goodness and poured the rest over my rice.

I'd return to Taj Punjabi!

Taj Punjabi Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bubbles and Ice in Orlando, FL

Bubbles & Ice is a restaurant specializing in desserts in the Mills-50 District of Orlando. They are connected with a hotpot restaurant called Noodles & Rice (which I've yet to try). The setup of Bubbles & Ice is a bit weird because they appear to be unconnected to Noodles & Rice from the outside. Bubbles & Ice keeps their front door locked and you need to enter Noodles & Rice, walk through the entire restaurant, and then enter Bubbles & Ice through a connecting door in the back of both. This makes getting dessert at Bubbles & Ice a little more complicated than it needs to be for somebody who's never been before.
Bubbles & Ice serves a type of shaved ice that they call snow, boba tea, and various other desserts. I have had snow on every visit. The Snow is a type of shaved ice that can be found in certain restaurants specializing in Asian foods. Rather than being ice and flavor like an American style snow cone, these shaved ices are topped with fruit, sweetened condensed milk, and other toppings. I've had these at a couple other places and Bubbles and Ice is different as in the ice is flavored before it is shaved. The big blocks of flavored ice make the dessert much more uniform as opposed to putting flavor over the ice. My favorite flavor combination which I've had so far has been ginger ice topped with kiwi, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. The ginger ice had a very nice spicy kick to it which was nicely balanced with the sweetness of the other toppings.
Snow topped with strawberries, rainbow sprinkles, and sweetened condensed milk.

Another flavor combination that I enjoyed was mango snow topped with fresh mango, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk.
At some point I'm going to return and try some other desserts besides Bubbles and Ice's snow. I should really try the bubble part of the name to see how it compares to other boba tea in the area. Noodles & Rice is also on my list to try, yet every time I end up at Bubbles & Ice, I've already eaten dinner and am looking for dessert. I must adjust my food planning one evening to remedy this.

Bubbles and Ice Dessert Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Tin Roof in Orlando, FL

I was invited to the media day happening at The Tin Roof which is now open at I-Drive 360. This new restaurant is located along International Drive, hidden away below the soon to open Orlando Eye ferris wheel. I'm liking the way this section of International Drive is taking shape.
The sampling started with Chicken & Waffle Nuggets. These waffles and bits of fried chicken were served in a bucket topped in a bacon-maple syrup. These were tasty with nice flavor in the breading on the chicken. Bacon in the syrup was interesting as well. I wasn't a fan of the presentation though. By the time the bottom of the chicken and waffles was reached, everything became soggy from the syrup pooling at the bottom of the bucket.
Creamy Shrimp & Grits: Sauteed shrimp, peppers, and bacon simmered in a spicy tomato sauce atop stone ground white corn grits and marscapone.
Baby Back Ribs: Covered in Tin Roof Confidential dry rub.
O-Eye Mac & Cheese: Maple smoked white cheddar & breadcrumbs.
The Da Lox sandwich sounded good to me. I didn't try the entire sandwich, but I did get to try some of The Tin Roof's Citrus cured salmon which was the main component of the sandwich. I'm a big fan of cured salmon, and this was made fresh at the restaurant. It was served on a cucumber slice with an orange and dill. It was very good.
I tried the Cowhorn Pepper Smore Pie for dessert. It consisted of a graham cracker crust, cayenne spicked dark chocolate ganache, and marshmallow brulee. The chocolate was very dense and rich. I'm not sure how much of this dessert I'd be able to handle in one serving.

I enjoyed sampling The Tin Roof's food during their media event. Due to their location, I ended up back here the very next day for lunch with a big group from a convention I was attending across the street. I ordered something not featured during the media event called the Hoecake Pile Up. This consisted of cornmeal pancakes topped with bbq brisket, green cabbage slaw, and pickles. I had never heard of a hoecake before, but apparently these are term for cornbread or corn pancakes in certain parts of the south. Breakfast pancakes topped with syrup are good, but I'd take a savory version of a pancake like this any day. The brisket was nice and tender with a good smokey flavor. Coleslaw was good, and I especially liked the pickled onions on top.
I've liked pretty much everything I tried at The Tin Roof during the media event and my experience at the restaurant afterwards. That doesn't always happen with media events at new restaurants. That's a good sign for the Tin Roof. Let's hope everything stays good!

Tin Roof · A Live Music Joint on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Coop in Winter Park, FL

The Coop is a restaurant in Winter Park specializing in Southern foods, specifically fried chicken as the name implies. The Coop is owned by the same people behind the very successful 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
I've been to The Coop a couple times now. On my first visit, I ordered the Generous Two Piece Fried Chicken Plate. This came with the chicken, three fixins (side items), and cornbread. The two pieces of chicken had a tasty breading which had a very nice peppery flavor. I've read some criticism of the The Coop's chicken saying it's bland, but it tasted good to me. My issue didn't have to do with the taste of the chicken. It was more the consistency. One of the pieces of chicken was so soggy that the breading was falling off the meat. The other piece was perfectly fine, but soggy fried chicken is not a good thing at a restaurant that claims to specialize in chicken. I liked the Fixins over the chicken. I tried the mac & cheese, southern collards, and stewed okra & tomato. The okra was the best of the three. It was really flavorful and all of the okra's potential sliminess disappeared into the stew.
I tried The Coop's Chicken Pot Pie on my second visit. I was unimpressed. The pie crust was good, but the pie fillings could have used a bit of improvement. There was plenty of chicken, but also lots and lots of corn. There was more corn in the pie than anything else. I found a few green beans as well, but they were hidden by all the corn in the pie. It tasted alright, but wasn't anything to write home about. I also had the macaroni and stewed okra for my sides once again. The macaroni was consistent with the my first visit to The Coop. Unfortunately the okra was really bland compared to my first experience.
The food I tried so far at The Coop isn't going to have me rushing back soon, but I have a feeling I'll be back eventually. Except for the soggy chicken, although not exceptional, most everything was tasty enough. They seem like they have consistency issues with the good/soggy fried chicken and flavorful/bland okra on different visits, so let's hope they work those out. There are several things left on The Coop's menu that I'm interested in trying (shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings) so I think I'll be returning to The Coop to give these a try...

The Coop on Urbanspoon


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