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The Hungry Nomad

January 28, 2013

A Foodie's Guide to New Orleans

The most exciting time of the year in New Orleans also happens to coincide this year with the Super Bowl.  Follow this guide to get a full tour of town while eating the best treats.

Day 1: 

800 Decatur Street
Starting out in the French Quarter admire the wrought-iron balconies, tall shutters, courtyards and horse carriages. Start your walking excursion at the French Market located alongside the Mississippi river (the first outdoor produce market in the US). Make sure to pick up some hot sauce or my personal favorite Tabasco Sauce. You will soon smell the scent of beignets from Cafe du Monde.  Stop over for some of their famous sugar coated beignets and chicory laced cafe au lait. I guess it is worth mentioning that while in New Orleans, you should completely put aside any diet or idea of healthy eating and indulge in Southern Cajun food.

Next, listen to some local street musicians on Royal street. The street is closed off on weekends allowing local artists to set up at every street corner. Next, visit the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square with its manicured lawns and if you are in the mood to learn what the future holds in store, sit down with one of the fortune tellers and let your fortunes be told.  Back on Royal street you can try a little antique shopping and visit some of the amazing art galleries.  Wonder around the different streets  and make your way over to Bourbon street to see one of the most happening streets in America (see post on Bourbon Street)

Drago's Chargriled Oysters- 2 Poydras St
You might be hungry at this point. For one of the best meals of your life stop over at Mr. B's ($$$) on Royal Street for their world famous barbecued shrimp. Not feeling like having shrimp but want some of those oysters which make this town so fabulous? Then head over to Drago's ($$) for some of their world renown chargrilled oysters. If you want to eat somewhere where the ambiance screams New Orleans then make your way over to Acme's Oyster House ($$) to experience some live oyster shucking and eat it fresh or chargrilled to perfection. Their bloody mary's aren't so bad either.

The CBD and Warehouse District:

While the French Quarter is ever consuming with so much to see, do and eat make sure you venture out of the Quarter and see the other beautiful parts of New Orleans for I can assure you there is so much more to New Orleans than the Quarter. Walking out west from the French Quarter you will pass Canal Street which was once the glorious commercial hub of town but has unfortunately failed to keep its glory. Beautiful hotels are intertwined with cheap shops and run down storefronts. In this area you will find some of my favorite places to eat. If you are looking for a true Italian meal head over to Domenica's ($$) at the Roosevelt Hotel (http://www.domenicarestaurant.com).  Here renowned local chef John Besh and Alon Shaya (my former landlord) cook up some of the best Italian dishes in town. For Franco-German cuisine, head to Luke ($$) another of John Besh's delicious restaurants where you can have fresh oysters or my favorite the burger and fries (http://www.lukeneworleans.com).

Herbsaint- 701 St. Charles Ave
Walking further you will cross over into the Central Business District where restaurants such as the Herbsaint will deliver some of the best French food offered in the south. Sitting outside you can drink your wine and watch the Saint Charles trolley go on by (http://www.herbsaint.com). Next, keep walking until you enter the Warehouse District. The new yet old trendy part of town where loft style living and restaurants and bars line the streets. Here you will find some of my favorite restaurants including Cochon, La Boca and Root. If you love pork you will love Cochon (http://www.cochonrestaurant.com). The ambiance isn't so bad either...and with that comes a full house. I highly recommend making reservations for this one. If you're wanting the experience but don't have time, walk over just next door to Cochon to its sister shop, Cochon Butcher (http://www.cochonbutcher.com) for some amazing sandwiches and beer. If pork is not so much your thing but you love a good steak then La Boca will satisfy your beef cravings (http://www.labocasteaks.com/). A small Argentinian steak house offering tender beef, chimichuri and fries. Reservations are a must. Root is another popular restaurant which offers some of that hearty southern flavors with a modern twist.

Day 2: 

The Garden District:

Commander's Palace Martinis- 1403 Washington Ave.
The next day, take the trolley to the Garden District and explore the old mansions, graveyards and restaurants. For a truly exceptional meal and experience try Commander's Palace ($$$) for their fancy Sunday brunch where a jazz band will serenade you with each bite (http://www.commanderspalace.com). During the week you can also take advantage of their 25 cent martinis at lunch. After your meal and many martinis walk across the street to Lafayette cemetery and explore one of the oldest cemeteries in the US (also a scene of many Hollywood movies).  If a meal at Commander's Palace is not in your budget then don't miss the best sandwich in town at either Milk Bar ($) or Stein's Deli ($) (http://steinsdeli.netwhere you can try unique sandwiches such as my favorites the Jeff Berger (prosciutto and honey) or the Robert (prosciutto, mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette) at Steins or the Psycho Chicken at the Milk Bar. Either continue your journey on Saint Charles street or walk down to Magazine street stopping at Prytania street to take in the architectural beauty of all the homes. Once you pass Louisiana street you are technically in an area of town called Uptown.


3025 Magazine Street
Once on Magazine, explore the many shops, galleries, antique stores and more. When you are done with all your shopping take a coffee break at one of the many shops on the street. If you fancy sweets along with your coffee then make sure you don't miss Sucre ($). One of my favorite places to go to fulfill my chocolate cravings. Their macarons are deadly but so are their french pastries and gelatoes. You just can't go wrong with this one (http://www.shopsucre.com).   Next, rent a bike at Mike the Bike Guy and make your way uptown. For the best french bread and pastries stop at La Boulangerie, a local favorite.   If you are looking for good restaurants you are in for a treat. Along Magazine street line some of the best in town including la Petite Grocery
and Lilettes 
(http://www.liletterestaurant.com)($$$)which offers delicious french food. Make reservations in advance . Right next door to Lilettes is Bouligny Tavern (http://www.boulignytavern.com/a small and trendy wine and tapas bar. They also happen to make some of the best cocktails I've yet to taste. If wine and tapas are your thing you may also enjoy the Belgian restaurant just north of Magazine at Delachaise ($$) (http://www.thedelachaise.com/). For a more traditional New Orleans drinking scene head over to the Columns Hotel on St. Charles street (http://www.thecolumns.com/). For those wanting a break from southern food try vietnamese food at Magasin Cafe ($) (http://www.magasincafe.com). 

A little further up on Prytania is my favorite local ice-cream shop at the Creole Creamery (http://www.creolecreamery.com)

Carrolton/Oak Street:

At the end of Saint Charles, passed the beautiful Tulane and Loyola campus, passed the famous oak tree filled Audubon Park is where Saint Charles ends and Carrolton street begins. There are many great restaurants in this tiny area of town.  For burgers and some delicious comfort food head over to  Oak street to Cowbell (http://www.cowbell-nola.com), while on Oak Street check out the quaint shops and bars. If you want a once in a lifetime dining experience go to Jacquies-Imo's Cafe (http://jacques-imos.com). It's definitely one of the most unique places I've ever dined at in the world. You won't really understand until you experience it yourself. For Spanish tapas and sangria go to Cafe Granada (http://www.cafegranadanola.com), Lebanese food at Lebanon Cafe (http://www.lebanonscafe.com/), and my favorite tapas at la Boucherie. From here its a short taxi ride all the way to the north to my favorite spot to relax and take in the natural beauty of the south: City Park. 

Day 3: 

City Park is one of the most underrated natural beauties in New Orleans often overshadowed by by it's smaller sister Audubon Park. If you have enough time on your trip make sure not to miss this one. A trip to the park can include renting bikes, boating on the lake, visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art and much more. Spend the day with activities in the park. Then walk down to Esplanade  where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. Many great restaurants and local favorites are located on Esplanade street including the famous paellas at Lola's (http://www.lolasneworleans.com/, the steak-frites at Cafe Degas (http://www.cafedegas.com/) or Mexican food at Santa Fe (http://www.santafenola.com). It is then a short bike or cab ride back down Esplanade to the French Quarter.  And you are done! You have completed a full tour of New Orleans. There is still so much I have left out including Po-Boys at Parkway Bakery and Tavern, fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch house, gumbo at Mothers and sno-cones at Hansen's

More time? 

For those with more time, you may find the new and upcoming neighbourhood around Freret street worth a visit. There are some great bars and restaurants lining the street including hot dogs at Dat Dog Nola ($), burgers at Company Burger ($), southern  food at High Hat Cafe and brick oven pizza at Ancora Pizzeria ($$)

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January 24, 2013

Sushi at Doma- Fairmount (Philadelphia, USA)

We went to Doma sushi last weekend on a last minute whim. It's a short walk from our house and I have been meaning to try it since our move to Philadelphia. The restaurant is very small with modern, clean decor.  I really liked the look of the place. The staff were all young, nice and attentive. 

The menu is extensive with many choices for those non-sushi lovers amongst us. In fact, they also offer a few Korean dishes. So is it a Japanese or Korean restaurant? I'd say it is a combination of both. Not sure where the owners are actually from but they do a good job of executing the menu (see menu).

We started with several starter dishes including the jumbo ebi shumai ($6). 

Two open face dumplings were served with a ginger soy vinaigrette. The presentation was beautiful. However, I was not overly impressed with the dumpling itself. I've had many better and cheaper dumplings in Chinatown. Next was the tuna flatbread ($15). 

Thin slices of tuna served over a pita topped with some onions, peppers and cilantro. It was pretty good. However, it was not worth the $15 dollars it cost. We ordered some sushi and rolls including the tamago and amaebi. Both were beautifully executed. 

Next, the Count who is a sucker for fancy rolls ordered the Triple Spicy Double Tuna ($13) and the Naked Salmon ($12). The Naked Salmon was very original. Not really a sushi but fish served over a sticky fried rice. It was very tasty. 

The Triple Spicy Double Tuna consisted of tuna, spicy sauce, siracha, tempura crunch, scallion and seared albac. It was a very good roll, however, was nowhere close to being as spicy as the 'triple' in the tile would make you think.

The spicy tuna roll ($6) again failed to be very spicy. Nevertheless, it was a nicely executed roll and I had no complaints. 

For dessert we had the molten lava chocolate cake served with vanilla ice-cream. Usually this sort of cake takes at least 15-20 minutes to bake. Ours came out in less than 3 minutes leading me to believe that it was microwaved. After first bite I was sure that it was microwaved. It was not as good as it looked. 

Our meal came to over $90. It was a BYOB and no alcohol was obviously served. The price was a little over than what I imagined a small and quaint restaurant to charge. If I had wanted to spend so much I would have visited Morimoto. For those that love plain old quality sushi like myself you will not love this restaurant. There are many fancy rolls and the mix of Korean and Japanese is something that I don't enjoy when visiting a sushi spot. If you want an overall trendy 'asian' meal then you will definitely enjoy your experience at Doma. 

Doma on Urbanspoon

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January 22, 2013

Pizzeria Stella- Old City/Society Hill (Philadelphia, USA)

Pizzeria Stella is another Stephen Starr restaurant and like most Starr establishments it does not disappoint. The restaurant is large and spacious and located in one of my favorite areas of town. Directly behind the hostess stand lies the open concept pizza station where the chefs are busy rolling the dough, adding the toppings and placing in the brick oven pizza all in front of a crowd of hungry diners.

If you enjoy watching your food be made then ask for a seat facing the kitchen... you may learn a thing or two about making pizza from scratch.

We ordered three pizzas to share amongst a group of four. The Tartufo- a black truffle, egg and fontina pizza; the Spinach- oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, mozzarella and baby spinach; and the Sausage- wood-roasted sausage, hot pesto, mozzarella and tomato sauce (see menu).

The sausage pizza and the tartufo were my two favorites of the night. Ground pieces of sausage sprinkled generously over a perfectly baked dough with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and pesto. 

The Spinach pizza was covered in boiled spinach sprinkled with pine nuts, oven-roasted tomatoes and mozzarella. Very tasty and a healthier choice for those aspiring vegetarians. 

The Tartufo pizza was covered with cheese, egg and truffle oil. For those who love truffle oil this one is for you. It is a delicious creamy blend that when mixed with the chewy dough lead to a perfect pizza.

Of course, dough is one of the most important aspects of the perfect brick oven pizza and this dough hit all the requirements. The crust was golden yet not burnt, it was chewy yet not too crispy and hard.

Pizzeria Stella on Urbanspoon

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January 20, 2013

The Farm and Fisherman- Washington Square (Philadelphia, USA)

This was my first experience at a farm to table BYOB in Philadelphia. I had been trying to get reservations at this 30 seat restaurant for over a month. Somehow I was always too late and never got a spot for their weekend dinner rush. So I started stalking the team on Twitter and alas they had a last minute cancellation and I was in...and when I say I was in, I mean I was reaaaaaaally in. 

We walked in to an elegant dining room which without the signs outside looked like it could have been some one's fancy dining room. In fact we were treated like we were at a family's home. From our server Ben who took care of us to the nice and bubbly manager, Judy, who literally wined and dined us. I could not have asked for a better experience.  I would have been sold on the service alone...but the food...oh the food. For the whole 3 hours I was there, I was in heaven. When it all ended, I didn't want to leave and wished I could experience it all over again. 

The menu changes daily in order to provide the freshest pick of the day. There are four courses and four choices under each course. There were four of us and we decided to get one of each and share everything. This was really the best way to experience our meal since every single dish was exceptionally intricate and delicious. It would have been a shame not to experience it all. 

It started off with a bang. Beau soleil oysters served on a bed of salt rocks topped with hackleback caviar, cinnamon and a tint of blood orange. Small purple herbs were sprinkled throughout the dish making it not only great to taste but also great to look at. 

The oysters were so fresh I swear they may have been fished out of the ocean that same day.

Next came the cauliflower and mushroom salad.  A mix of greens, hen of the woods and trumpet mushrooms, almonds, cauliflower and goat cheese were elegantly presented. 

The mushrooms tasted earthy. Each bite was a blend of all the above ingredients which when mixed together resulted in one of the most amazing salad creations I have ever tasted. 

At this point we were already oohing and aahing over the food. But what came next left us all speechless. Have you ever had a vegetable steak? And I don't mean that frozen vegan stuff you can by at wholefoods. I mean a steak that tastes so good that you forget there is no meat and in fact wish meat could taste like it. If not then I highly recommend the bloody beet steak that chef Lawler has created. Not only was the presentation of the beet colorful and beautiful but the taste was amazing. Who knew beet could be so good. 

As a child I went out of my way to avoid eating beet which was ever so popular in my motherland being sold on cold winter days in food stands lining the streets of Tehran. These days I can't seem to get enough. Of course, eating a bloody boiled beet on its own is not quite the same as having it presented beautifully with purple edible herbs, yogurt, pan drippings and aged balsamic. This beet is cooked whole in a cast-iron pan under a brick and removed when the skin gets crispy and splits. Who knew there was so much beauty in beets? 

On to the second course. First came the grilled Spanish Mackerel served over granny smith apples with a mix of coriander, mustard oil and radish. The mix of the mackerel with the apple was again new to my taste buds and I absolutely loved it. 

The mackerel was so fresh it may have started swimming out of the plate had it not been grilled to perfection. The apple mix complimented the fish perfectly.  

The next dish was one of the top winners of the night (although they were all winners in my mind). Papperdelle with Wyebrook lamb shoulder ragu served with the most delicious tomato sauce, Parmesan and fennel seeds. A dried egg yolk was brought over and shaved on top to give it that extra touch. 

This is a dish that I always order when ever offered on a menu and so can say I have a basis for comparison. I'll keep it short and simple- it was the best. 

Another second course on the menu were the Barnegat sea scallops. It was served over smoked barley, creamed kale, sweet potato and maple syrup. I loved ever single ingredient in this dish from the smoked barley to the creamed kale. The importance is in the details and Chef Lawler has really got that down. 

The next dish was brought out by the famous chef himself. This was one of the most amazing mix of flavors and textures I've yet to taste in my 30 years. What was this mystery dish? The poached Wyebrook farm egg served over cracked rice, green wheat, farro piccolo, quinoa and squash. The texture of crispy, creamy and crunchy flavors mixed with the poached egg yolk was out of this world. I highly recommend you to order this dish if it ever finds its way on to the daily menu. 

For the main course we picked three of the four dishes offered. First up was the Hudson Valley Dorade served with creamed carrots, fennel, parsnips and cardamom for added flavor. 

Of the two fish we had that evening I definitely preferred the Spanish Mackerel. However, I did love the presentation of this plate. Triangular shaped pieces of dorade served over an orange colored puree topped with shaved pieces of carrots and parsnips. It was a work of art. 

Old spot pork loin from Wyebrook farm came next, served with sea island purple cape beans, beech mushroom, purple kale and pork belly pastrami. If you love pork then this dish will blow your mind away. The Chef purchases the animal whole and breaks it down piece by piece dispersing into various parts of the meal (if you are lucky enough you can sign up for one of their courses where Lawler teaches you how to cut meat at home). 

This pork dish is the real thing- served over beans drizzled with barbecue sauce and sprinkled with bright purple pieces of kale. A culinary masterpiece.

I rarely if ever order chicken when out at a restaurant. Mostly because there are so many other things that I always want to try and chicken seems so ordinary. Having tasted the Lancaster chicken baked in hay at Farm and Fisherman has made me think twice about my attitude towards chicken. This was my favorite main course of the night. I have never tasted a more flavorful chicken in North American where chicken is tasteless and bland. Perhaps it was because the chicken was local and organic or perhaps it was the magic performed in the kitchen that made this chicken so flavorful. I guess I will never know. 

The chicken was baked in hay and served on top of farmer's cheese spaetzle, bacon and mustard greens. A simple and hearty dish which hit all the right spots. 

For dessert we had the layered chocolate ganache and the warm apple pie. Layers of chocolate divided by a thin wafer topped with whipping cream and powdered sugar. Need I say more? 

The warm apple pie was so fresh, so warm and so perfect.

Perfect seems to sum up my experience at the Farm and Fisherman. A perfect and magical dining experience. 

The Farm and Fisherman on Urbanspoon

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January 10, 2013

Vic Sushi Bar- Rittenhouse Square (Philadelphia, USA)

Coming from Vancouver where the sushi shops compete with the ever-so-present Starbucks for space, it is hard to find good sushi anywhere I go. I was referred to Vic Sushi Bar in Philadelphia by a fellow Vancouverite who had already gone through the sushi hunt and found this little gem. 

It is literally a little gem because the restaurant is tiny and the sushi- delicious. There is a small bar facing the chef and one table in front of the door. Making it an ideal spot to pick up or go in a very small group. We went on a weekday after the lunch rush and found seats at the table in front. The menu is extensive and includes all the basics you'd expect from a sushi shop. We ordered the spicy trio roll (salmon and avocado, spicy tuna and shrimp tempura roll) and a specialty roll consisting of salmon covered with salmon, avocado, eel and drizzled in eel sauce. 

Everything tasted extremely fresh. the rice was the perfect amount in each roll. It was made fresh and tasted warm. The fish were all tender and literally melted on first bite. 

For dessert, the tamago roll which consisted of a very thing egg concoction. It takes a very skilled tamago maker to create the perfect tamago and this in my mind was perfect. 

If you want real sushi made fresh then this is the place for it. You won't find anything else like it in the city. 

Vic Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

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