Eating Nola

After a few necessary days of work and rest, I’m finally able to sit down and breathe in the under-80ºF morning air. Utter bliss, aside from the drilling going on across the street. My apt. complex is an oasis minus the unwanted, over-amplified noises (i.e. drilling, leaf blowing, road rage honking and one neighbor’s very poor choice of music). Funny how as soon as I pop in my ear buds for a little TuneIn Radio action, I hear an ad for noise-free headphones. Hmmm … it’s as if the universe feels my pain.

It was too chilly out to swim first thing in the morning, and the pool needs a good scrape anyhoo. So instead, I opted for a breezy walk around the park, trying not to cuss out too many bad drivers on the way there … and back. An icy bath for ye ole achy muscles afterward and here I am: pen in hand, Radio Nova in ears and fake coffee (Teeccino), egg toast & dirty pool before me.

Home - Poolside small

My recent trip to New Orleans was a culinary gem. I get a little frustrated with the mediocrity of restaurants in Lafayette (sorry, guys), and end up spending more time chez moi experimenting with flavors and a load of pantry items. So it’s nice when I find a town where I can go out and let others do the work.

Nana went through skin cancer and toenail removal surgery a little over a month ago. Thanking me for my amateur nurse-cook-cleaner-chauffeur-shopper-companion skills during a three-week stint at her place, she in turn bought me a two-hour massage Groupon at 7th Sense Wellness & Massage Therapy in Nola. A friend of mine and I had already planned a trip over, so I made this my first stop. By the way, it was FABULOUS! It put me in such a happy place that I in turn decided to get my hair trimmed and styled, and then my nails did. (yeah, did) These guys should probably give 7th Sense a commission or something. And then area restaurants should really give Fabiola at Paint’d a discount for her perfect dining-out list.

After checking and settling in to the oh-so-fab-Ace Hotel, we headed downstairs to the lobby for an elixir, popcorn and the sweet tunes of DJ Matty. Unfortunately, I’d only eaten part of a Starbucks donut that morning (bad, bad girl!), so the popcorn wasn’t quite cutting it, nor was the Pony. Our first meal kicked off next door at the Josephine Estelle for their ridiculous Snapper Crudo and side of Meatballs. Perfect. If you haven’t had the Snapper Crudo, you need to go there and get it right now. Like. Right. Now. It’s so delicate and sweet and savory and precious, you’d think it was made out of fairy dust.

The next morning kicked off with Stumptown coffee and a ham/cheese croissant before a little/lot of rooftop poolside action soaking up the sun, cocktails and a super creamy and beautiful baba ganoush. It was then that I realized I was actually relaxing. I’d almost forgotten what that was like. #worrywort #shortlived

Stumptown Empty

After a day in the sun, vacation-me begged the question, “so what’s for happy hour?” We decided on a small bite at Balise at the end of the block. Chicken pâté and vino anyone? All good. Next on the list, Pêche. Now everyone and their great Aunt Fanny have told me to try it. No I would not jump off a bridge, but checking out a restaurant? Why not? We tested out two small dishes at the bar. Don’t you just love eating at the bar? It’s a great way to chat with your neighbor, get advice on menu items and stare at solo celebrities. In this case, Gloria Reuben. I tried not to stare, too much, and I hope she didn’t even notice me. Anyway, the dishes. Smoked Tuna Dip with saltines, and to-die-for Spicy Ground Shrimp + Noodles. I kinda wanted to swim around in that one. Sooooo delicious. But alas, no pic of that dish, too busy eating.

Smoked Fish Dip - Peche2

During our stay we also had a nice meal at Compère Lapin, but after a lot of hype, I expected better. Unfortunately the menu was limited due to the eminent threat of Hurricane Maria. The west coast oysters were pretty and buttery. But the Curried Goat was not as curried as we would have liked, and the Cold Smoked Tuna Tartare was bland and could have used a spritz of lime. The Jerk Black Drum was good, though a little overcooked. Also, right after arriving, when we asked to move to the front where it was a little warmer, the host/manager got a little snarky. Instead of graciously accommodating us, he instead quipped, “well, just so you know, you’ll probably be 10º cooler by the window.” Riiiight, when it’s 80º+ outside? When you can physically feel the temp drop as we walked from the front (by the window) to the back (where they initially sat us?) I think not. But all in all, the meal was fine and meeting the young ladies next to us was a hoot. They lived in London, were originally from New Zealand and, just like us, were awaiting the hurricane that never came. Contrary to their disappointment, I was relieved. A little storm is nice, but high winds and flooding are not. And hey, we didn’t even sit at the bar this time around and still ended up meeting some fun folks.

Saturday brunch at Shaya was by far my most favoritist meal of the trip. Thanks, Fabiola! And thanks to Ottolenghi for his post back in November 2016 on Instagram! We weren’t really sure what to expect, but the menu looked great, so after a quick shopping trip at the No Fleas Market from the Louisiana SPCA, we crossed the street for a bite.

The interior of Shaya is clean and welcoming, and the service is decent. They even make their own pita bread. Ages ago, I worked in a couple of different Lebanese restaurants: one where the food is the best Lebanese food I’ve ever eaten in my life, and the other where the owners made exquisite pita bread. I know that Lebanese is not Israeli, but in the realm of hummus, pita and other Mediterranean ingredients, Shaya is on that list of faves. Our picks:

Lutenitsa: Bulgarian purée of roasted pepper, eggplant, garlic and tomato
Shipka Peppers: goat cheese, Aleppo pepper, extra virgin olive oil
Ikra: paddlefish caviar spread with shallots
Lamb Kofte: wood-roasted okra, eggplant, tomatoes, tahini
Pumpernickel Rye: smoked whitefish salad, sumac onions, poppy seeds

Everything was light and beautiful and happiness. Go there. No, really.

A couple more places to check out? Meauxbar on N. Rampart Street for their Brunch Tasting Plate (biscuits, chicken boudin, andouille sausage, deviled eggs, chicken liver pâté with chutney, pickles and a ridiculously scrumptious Shropshire cheese) that is great for sharing, and their melt-in-your-mouth French Onion Grilled Cheese with braised beef and onions and petit salad. Holy mackerel, Andy! Thanks for the great tips!! @gabriellegeiselmanmione And Trinity on Decatur for the Fried Squash Blossoms with Spanish anchovy, goat cheese and sunflower as well as the Octopus Carpaccio with spicy sesame vinaigrette and chickpea purée. I would definitely go back to try something else on their enticing menu, but that night we simply needed a small nosh before heading to d.b.a.

I don’t know about you, but this ole gal needs a long nap and a broth diet for the next couple of weeks. We both know neither is going to happen, but a girl can dream. Thanks to all the great Instagrammers out there posting beautiful pics and giving us all some super travel/restaurant tips! Bon appétit.

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