Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shmack Attack and Jenanigans

As you can tell by how many shout-outs she gets, my roommate Mackenzie is my food partner in life. We even want to get rings that have the inscription "Joined together at the bonds of consumption." We spend just about all of our free time eating, cooking, talking about food, stalking food blogs, and watching Anthony Bordain. you can find us at most festivals around town enjoying some good grub and maybe a beer or Bloody Mary. Our fridge is covered in lists of recipes we'd like to make, restaurants we need to check out, and grocery lists of course. I couldn't even imagine our friendship with out food. It would be like tea and milk, I can't have one with out the other.

But don't be mistaken, we are not on the same culinary playing field. I am the grasshopper and Mackenzie is undoubtedly my very patient teacher/mentor/guru, and today she was elevated to godly status. Shmack Attack (as I call her) teaches me very important lessons on a daily basis about how hot a pan should be before you add the egg to stir fry and noodles, or how long you cook sausage for, or the safe way to defrost raw meat. All very important lessons, but the most exciting tutorials I get are watching her cook.

We recently developed a delightful tradition of making ourselves gourmet breakfast. On Wednesday we had a southwest black bean and queso omelet with turkey bacon, which was very good, but nothing compared to this morning.

After a long night of debauchery we fed ourselves like royalty, and Mackenzie was the master behind it all. First, she fried eggs on top of a bed of green onion.

Then toasted hearty multigrain bread in the oven with cheese and ham melted right on top like an open face Croque Monsieur. Then carefully piled the delicate egg on top of this little tower of heaven. As if that wasn't already a masterpiece, she also fried up some apple chicken sausage. Together it was unbelievable!

The most incredible part was that it not only looked pretty but also tasted good! I find all too often that if I am able to achieve one, the other goal goes out the window. But this was sheer brilliance, and thus I bow my head with respect and reverence to my guru.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

For breakfast this morning I decided to pay homage to my fellow Las Vegan, none other than the King himself, Elvis Presley of course. (Yes by the way, that is what you call a Vegas local, and no, it has nothing to do with the dietary restrictions; but I really want to start a vegan restaurant with that name!).

Legend has it that the King of Rock and Roll consumed an outrageous number of grilled peanut butter, honey, banana and bacon sandwiches. As you may recall, I finally got to try this interesting delicacy when I made a trip to Peanut Butter and Co. in New York City, and it was love at first bite.

However, because I have to go prance around in a leotard at noon for my Modern dance class, I made my Elvis special a little healthier this morning. I started out by frying turkey bacon in coconut oil, and toasting a whole wheat english muffin in some lovely (healthy) coconut oil as well. Then I slathered the modest muffin with super rich chunky peanut butter and golden syrup (instead of honey). Finally, I smushed it all together and gave it a little extra brown coat in a nice bacon fat clad pan.

I was missing bananas, but this was really delicious. It went very nicely with my caffeinated English Breakfast tea... but I am feeling a little full for dance class. At least I tried to make it healthy. It was a nice alternative to my all-time favorite salty-sweet breakfast sandwich, the Mc Griddle! Plus, they kind of look alike!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crawfish Season!!!!

It's crawfish season!!!!! After months of waiting for this day to come it's finally here! I spent three years living in Louisiana smelling the ever alluring scent of spicy crawfish boils and not being able to try these tiny little "mud bugs."

Until June I kept kosher, was a vegetarian, and believed I was allergic to shellfish (due to a clear misdiagnosis from an allergist that most likely was in cahoots with all the people trying to stop me from running away from the tribe).

However, after living in Ghana for 5 months I accidentally ingested a number of unkosher nonvegetarian things, including dehydrated shrimp in shitto, the hot sauce there. To my amazement I was fine! No hives or anaphylactic shock, no need for an epi-pen or an ambulance (which is good because they don't have those there).

So of course when I came back and abandoned all my dietary restrictions I was pumped to finally try crawfish. But low and behold the BP oil spill screwed me again. Along with the oysters, and a million other sea creatures, the crawfish were dying off at epic proportions and the mutants that survived were in no shape to be eaten. So alas, the only creepy crawly buggers I ate were the pre-peeled (probably frozen) variety in pasta at various restaurants around the city.

Even though I missed the whole fun of peeling the crawfish and sucking out the head (the juiciest, saltiest, fattiest part), I still was very impressed by how flavorful this tiny little bit of meat was.

So now, after 7 months of waiting my time has come. I finally got my hands on some freshly boiled bright red crawdaddys and learned how to properly peel it, suck it (or scoop it), and toss it. These fine fritters came from Big Fisherman Seafood, a whole in the wall just across from the Bulldog, a lovely bar with an outdoor patio (which features a beer tap fountain and a fire pit!).

Along with the crawfish, we got some mouthwatering succulent shrimp, as well as corn and potatoes which are customarily boiled along with the crawfish. As someone who loves seafood and shellfish this may be my new favorite way to eat these delectable bite sized buddies. If you like spicy food, this will blow your mind.

Shockingly, it is actually the potatoes and corn that get the spiciest. But a nice cold Abita Strawberry is all you need to cut the sting and enjoy the flavor. Beautiful.

Big Fisherman Seafood on Urbanspoon
The Bulldog on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beer Belly In Progress

Unlike many Tulane students who enjoy games of Beer Pong, Flip Cup, and Kings, beer was always a beverage that I did not quite understand. That is until I started living with Mackenzie, a beer connoisseur, who really should start her own microbrewery/ become a beer sommelier one day.

Over the past eight months my palate has slowly matured into enjoying this interesting acquired taste. I started off slow, and out of necessity; drinking cheap beers like Schlits, Natty Light, and Miller High Life "The Champagne of Beer." None of them are very tasty, but they won't set you back financially, and they can be refreshing after a long night of dancing.

Once I started enjoying these shitty beers fancy beer became so much more enjoyable!

Lucky for me, New Orleans is home to three wonderful local breweries: Abita, NOLA, and Heiner Brau (also known as Covington Brewery).

I've only tasted one Heiner Brau/Covington beer, Covington Strawberry and it is actually one of my favorites. It is definitely the best fruit infused beer I have ever had, but it's not very good if the tap is old.

However, I am very well versed in Abita beers. Abita Amber is the most popular beer sold in New Orleans, with twice as many taps as Bud Light has in the city. I enjoy it, it's not too hoppy for me and it goes well with lots of different cuisines, but I like Purple Haze better, which is their raspberry wheat beer and the second best selling Abita. Number one on my Abita ranking is Turbodog, a rich dark brown ale that has hints of toffee and chocolate. Although Abita Strawberry is a very close runner up... and it just came out in stores last week, so exciting! The other Abita varieties are mostly too hoppy for me. IPAs are still growing on me, but hopefully I will acquire a taste for that soon!

With this new love of beer I was overjoyed to hear that NOLA Brewing Co has a free tour every friday at 2 where you can drink as much as you want of their five lovely brews. So naturally, our fun friday this week involved sipping (and gulping) Nola Blonde, Brown Ale, Hopitoulas, and Irish Channel Stout, and the 7th Street Wheat. Aside from the Hopitoulas (their IPA if you couldn't tell by the name), I really enjoyed all of them. Unfortunately, NOLA only comes on tap so those of you who live far away will not be able to find it at your local rare beer shop, but they have plans to start bottling it soon!

With all these lovely local varieties to try I'm afraid I may begin to develop quite a bit of a beer belly if I'm not careful! I need to start developing a morning after abs routine, or at least stop eating such greasy hangover food. But in the end, no matter how much I like beer, nothing will trump my love of fried chicken and bacon. I have my priorities.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Feast Continues...

As I watch Anthony Bordain eat his way through Dubai, procrastinating from doing my homework, I find it incredibly appropriate to update this blog yet again; giving myself a slightly more acceptable excuse for procrastination... or at least that's what I tell myself.

This long weekend turned into a wonderfully decadent food-filled extravaganza, and today was no exception. To give myself some culinary credit, I actually made a delightful breakfast this morning for me and my roommate (and it had nothing to do with soba noodles or string cheese)! I redeemed myself from that atrocity this morning with a healthy meal of poached eggs (my favorite) served with turkey bacon asparagus.

Poached eggs have been my food foe for many years now but I finally achieved the soft but firm outside, and nice runny yolk. Usually I end up making egg drop soup when I attempt to poach eggs, but I recently learned that vinegar is the secret ingredient; thank you google.

We made sure to keep this breakfast light an healthy because just a few hours later we went to the West Bank to Hong Kong Market's Pho Danh #4 in Gretna, which has the best pho in town.

For the readers who don't know what Pho is, have no fear, you will soon. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese beef soup eaten at all times of day. The broth is brewed over the course of at least 24 hours and it is served with vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, cilantro, lime, jalapeno, thai basil and brisket, as well as many other meat varieties. Then if that already isn't delicious enough it is topped off with Sriracha and Hoisin sauce (and fish sauce if you are a little more daring). Incredible! Plus, it is also a great hangover/flu cure.

If you are willing to take any of my food advice please listen to me now, TRY PHO! Look it up, wherever you are there is bound to be a pho joint nearby and if you are human you will like it.

Along with the traditional brisket that comes in beef pho, I decided to order mine with tripe (stomach) and soft tendon. I have had both before but I forgot how good tendon was! The tripe not so much though. It just has no real taste and is the same consistency as a ziplock bag.

Along with the pho we also could not pass up Pad Kee Mao, thai "Drunken Noodles." This is one of my favorite thai dishes for two very good reasons. 1. Flat noodles are the best type of noodle there is. No question. Between the soft and chewy texture and its' wonderfully porous ability to absorb sauces and spices, it is number one in my book. 2. Thai Basil is the herb of gods. It smells good, it tastes good, and it goes well with everything (especially ice cream). The only annoying thing about it is that it seems to be hard for me to grow. I've managed to kill my thai basil plant twice in one year, not a good track record.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hangover Helper

Like most 20-something year olds, sunday morning can sometimes be quite a strugglefest for me. Between dizziness, groggyness and the vague feelings of nausea, hangovers are never fun. Contrary to popular belief that coffee is the number one solution to a hangover, the real cure is fried chicken. I kid you not. Any college student will tell you, greasiness is an absolute must... something about coating your stomach or absorbing the alcohol. Probably all urban legend, but I'm willing to run with it if it means I can justify eating fried chicken for breakfast.

I must have mentioned it before, but in case I didn't make it clear the first time, I LOVE fried chicken, like "will you marry me?" "we're destined to be together" LOVE. I basically crave it 24/7, and need to get my fill at least once a week.

So today being sunday, and a particularly rough morning for me and my roommates, fried chicken had to be on the agenda.

Of course Popeye's had to be one of our stops on our fried chicken tour, but I couldn't leave out my neighborhood convenient store's variety of crispy thighs and breasts.

So naturally, we made it into a little competition. Unfortunately for the little mom and pop establishment, Popeye's crispy, crunchy skins way surpassed the merits of the corner store's bird. However, the convenience store chicken was significantly less greasy (shocking) and still had a nice bite to it, although it was definitely over seasoned with some Tony's cajun spice.

But the biscuits are another story. Even with all the hype about Popeye's famous golden biscuits, the winner was the chewier sweeter ones from the mini mart.

This may be a little biased because I usually find Popeye's biscuits too salty for me (I know I'm going to get a lot of shit for saying that), but the corner store ones really were much better, and so delicious with honey!

I think I need to stop writing now because all this talk about chicken is making me want to go find some more, and twice in one day is just too much. Even for me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fun Fridays

Since my freshman year at Tulane my friends and I have had a lovely tradition of celebrating the end of the week with a fun friday activity. I am lucky enough to still be friends with these people, and now they're actually my roommates!

Originally, friday afternoons were devoted to daiquiri picnics at the fly (a park on the levee five minutes away from Tulane). As we got older it somehow transformed into tasty food adventuring (usually involving thai food or pho). We dropped the ball a bit last semester, but we are intent on reinstating our fun friday tradition.

We started off on the right foot yesterday, the first friday of the semester, by going to Blue Plate Cafe. I've heard incredible things about "Blue Plate Specials" for years now, but have never been able to put in my two cents.... that is, until now. Mackenzie and I decided to split the shrimp and grit cakes, which were incredible! Unlike usual shrimp and grits, this dish is prepared with polenta cakes, lightly fried and crispy on the outside, and luxuriously creamy on the inside. The shrimp is tossed in a thick cream sauce with mushrooms and tomatoes and together it is just wonderful.

I continued the long weekend food festivities last night at Cafe Negril, where the Frenchman Taco Cart has established a permanent home. Their burritos are legitimately the best mexican food you can find in the city. Pineapple pork is my favorite, but their chicken and steak are good contenders.

After a long night of shenanigans we ate off the morning after wooziness at Oak Street Cafe for a very late breakfast/brunch. Now off to cook some tasty dishes for a potluck!

Blue Plate Cafe on Urbanspoon
Oak Street Café on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Po' Boys and Presents

For those of you who don't know, Po' Boys are basically the most epic sandwich of all time. This French Bread masterpiece originates in New Orleans, of course, so luckily I have easy access to these heavenly creations. Aside from the flaky, chewy French Bread, Po' Boys traditionally come "dressed" with mayo, ketchup, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. The most well-known variations are Fried shrimp or oysters, roast beef, or cochon de lait (french for suckling pig, and obviously my fav).

However, you can put almost anything on a loaf of dressed French Bread and make it tasty. Which is exactly what happens during Po' Boy Fest, which is Mackenzie's absolute FAVORITE festival of the year (due to her intense love of all things related to sandwiches). This year a photographer for could clearly see the love and excitement in her eyes at the Festival and asked photograph her for the popular website. She kindly obliged with this incredible shot of the biggest bite she's probably ever taken. Two weeks later she ended up all over the website with this lovely shot. Not the most proper picture, but very telling of how good these sandwiches really are. Plus, she happens to be eating one of the winners of the contest, a soft shell crab Po' Boy with spicy mayonnaise from Ninja Sushi.

Aside from the incredible Po' Boy variations mentioned above, one of the best Po' Boys around is Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich created after the French introduced French Bread to colonized Vietnam.

Banh Mi is a combination of interesting deli meats and comes along with sweet meatballs and head cheese. The head cheese is a little strange, but the pickled carrots, cilantro, and cucumbers help cancel out its interesting flavor and questionable consistency.

New Orleans East, a neighborhood at least thirty minutes away from where I live, is famous for having the best Banh Mi around. Literally, true Banh Mi enthusiasts rank it far above any Vietnamese Po' Boy shop in L.A. or New York. This is probably because New Orleans has the largest Vietnamese population in America, weird right???

Anyway, as I was saying... New Orleans East is home to both Dong Phuong and Banh Mi Sao Mi, two places that I've been dying to go to for years. So naturally when I was already in the area having yet another interview for a dance instructor position I couldn't resist searching for these sandwich shops. After twenty minutes of driving through the booneys, seeing only swamp land, strip clubs, Winn Dixie, and dilapidated half demolished housing projects I finally found it! Only problem is it turns out they're only open for lunch, not surprising considering how shady the neighborhood was.

Of course this was incredibly disappointing, but I had no choice but to turn around and drive the 45 minute trek back home. Staying true to my recent car luck my "Service Engine Soon" light went on right after I passed the questionable strip club/ brothel. Not a pretty sight. I luckily got home safely and treated myself to a crisp Turbodog (my new favorite Abita beer) and some Salted Rosemary Shortbread. It's no Banh Mi, but at least it has the whole sweet-savory dynamic that I love so much.

Since I was unable to satisfy my Po' Boy needs last night, today I decided to indulge in a ridiculously good fried shrimp Po' Boy at Guy's Po' Boys. It was insanely lick-your-fingers, eat-every-crumb, hard-to-share kind of good. Just what I needed to make up for the failure of the previous evening.

Of course, you can't have any great meal without dessert, which is where the presents come in. As if I wasn't already going to explode with the amount of mouth watering fried shrimp I consumed, I still managed to eat a few of these exquisite chocolate covered strawberries sent to me by a loyal fan of this very blog. A wonderful grande finale to a ravishing meal.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No Recipes Allowed

I just noticed that I have yet to have any posts about my own cooking, which is probably because I'm not the best chef in the world (understatement), but my food is definitely interesting!

Although I am sure my food would be much better if I just followed a recipe, it bothers me that I would be copying someone else's food creation, rather than concocting my own. As someone who is not a perfectionist by any means, the precision of recipes proves to be quite a challenge for me and I usually lose interest in about five minutes.

Instead I like to do spontaneous cooking, usually using whatever strange ingredients I have left in my fridge and pantry. This goes one of two ways, surprisingly delicious, or absolutely terrible. My most notorious mishap was my soba noodle - string cheese combo, better in theory than in practice. My roommates still laugh at me for that one, I don't blame them.

But it's not always bad! Last night Mackenzie and I threw together a last second beef stew that's actually really good. It was a modified choelent, a traditional Jewish dish from Eastern Europe. Choelent usually consists of beef, barley, beans, potatoes, and kishka (a mushy sweet jewish delicacy). This stew was a combination of beef, leftover cajun red beans, carrots, barley, wine, ketchup, mustard, balsamic, and a can of white beans and bacon.... oh yes, tiny chunks of bacon; sacrilegious and tasty. It's a little rich, but great with pasta.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Name Makeover

Even though I've only had this blog for about three weeks I already want to change the name. I know that's super indecisive of me, but I couldn't help rename it when I came up with The Hungry Heretic. It's just so much more relevant to the sacrilegious subject matter. Moreover, it's way less offensive than, which was the first runner up. Sorry for the inconvenience! More food pics to come!!!!

Photo courtesy of Clearly I'm a big fan.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fast Food Junkie

I was recently called out on my somewhat out of control LOVE of fast food. Not all fast food, but I definitely make some questionable food choices on a regular basis. I became a fast food fanatic last semester during my initial exploration of the world of unkosher meat products. At that point in time I was dancing 13 hours a week not including rehearsals and performances. The best perk of being a dance major is that I never have to go to the gym, and I really don't have to watch what I eat very much because of all the physical activity. Unfortunately, I am graduating in May, and will have to seriously change my eating habits when I don't have the same physical exertion built into my schedule.... but for now I can eat as much greasy fried food as my overworked heart desires!

Unlike many other food bloggers I am a food lover, NOT a food snob. I'll try anything once, and chances are, if it's fried, I'll probably enjoy it.

Over the course of the past seven months of working at a Restaurant I've had a surprising amount of drive-thru meals on the go. I think at this point I have narrowed down my favorite artery clogging meals at each joint.

I'll start with the big honcho himself, Micky D's of course! I will fight to the death with anyone who claims that there are fries that are better than Mc Donalds golden crispy fried potato slivers (except of course the duck fat fries, which I have yet to find).

Another favorite is their oreo Mcflurry (580 calories), and if I'm feeling particularly reckless with my body the McGriddle (420 calories), Cinnamon Melts (460 calories), and the McRib (500 calories) never fail me. Oh, and their iced coffee is my new obsession... clearly I'm a fan.

However, this is not my favorite fast food joint. My go-to food while drunk, sober, tired, hungry, happy, sad, basically anything but classy, is fried chicken!!! So of course, being in Louisiana I have many options to choose from. To be honest, some of my favorite deep fried thighs come from shady gas stations for 99 cents a piece. But when I'm not in the mood for sketchiness Popeye's is golden. Their chicken is good quality (shocker) and their dirty rice might be my favorite dirty rice in the city (sad, I know).

I also really enjoy Cane's, a local Chicken Tender franchise known for their spunky sauce and light and fluffy texas toast.

When I'm too late for Popeye's (they close at 1 am) and too far from Cane's I have sunk to low moments of craving my fried feathered friend to the point of going to KFC. Those were not proud moments, but they actually have a tasty spicy sandwich with bacon on a Hawaiian bun. It's no southern fried chicken, but it works. Plus, it's better than just getting chicken nuggets at Wendy's, which I do way too often, but they're only 99 cents! Clearly my cash flow dictates my meals, but the way I look at it, the more I save by eating shitty fast food, the more I can spend at fancy four star restaurants.

The only one of these drive-thru's which I hate is Burger King for three very valid reasons: 1. The King in their commercial seriously creeps me out. 2. I have not been able to find one thing on the menu I like. 3. I had the unfortunate mistake of trying their chicken fries. BIG mistake. Just trust me, don't do it.

I saved the best for last. It's not really in the same drive-thru genre as these other greasy establishments, but it is a gem among sketchier establishments. Get ready for it... Waffle House. Oh yes, so classy and soooo tasty. I'm not even kidding. People make fun of me to no end when I tell them how much I love waffle house, and I mean LOVE. So much so that I have been known to drive all the way to Arabi (30 minutes away) by myself to get my hash brown fix.

And I was lucky enough to be in the area today, ironically for an interview to be a fitness instructor, so I just had to go and get my fill of grease and cheese. If only the interviewer knew what I had just ingested, I would have had no chance of getting the job.

I usually like to get the "All Star," their biggest breakfast combo on the menu: 1 waffle, 2 eggs, 4 pieces of toast, grits or hash browns, sausage or bacon and coffee. But I actually exercised some form of restraint since I haven't danced in almost a month. Impressive, right?? Instead I got cheesy eggs and hash browns made "All the Way." That means they're covered (cheese), smothered (onions), diced (tomato), peppered (jalapeno), chunked (ham), capped (mushroom), topped (chili), and country (gravy). Oh yes, all of it! I was a little scared at first because I've never actually gone "All the Way" at Waffle House but it was actually pretty good. It would have been great if I had left out the overwhelming chili, but at least I know for next time. And there will be many more next times!

Waffle House on Urbanspoon