|table of contents
week's tablehopper: the big easy does it.
the word on the street
get outta dodge
in vino veritas
another place for your nose
no photos please
this round is on me
26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Hey
gang. It's like my month of anniversaries—last week
marked tablehopper's second year, and this is the 100th issue!
(I know, there should be 104, but a few interruptions came up over
these past two years, like Coachella and Burning Man.) So I got
a hare-brained idea on how to celebrate: 100 drinks! Kidding. Actually,
at four of my favorite watering holes around town, Alembic,
they'll be serving up their version of a special
tablehopper cocktail for the next week, starting today.
will be bourbon- or rye-based, of course. I hear Daniel at the
Alembic is making one up with Kentucky Bourbon, and calling it
the stablehopper, clever lad. And Absinthe is calling their version "100
And Tim Stookey over at Presidio Social Club is calling it 100
Reasons Rye. (Guaranteed to make you slur your words.) Collect
all four! LOL. For any of you fellow tablehoppin' cocktailians
out there, if you hit any of these bars this next week and take
a (phone) camera shot of you enjoying a tablehopper drink, send
me the pic(s) and I'll enter
you in a drawing to win a copy of Jeff Hollinger's fab book, The
Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired By the Classics. Have
fun hoppin' out there—maybe I'll see ya! Cheers
have you been thinking about coming to the tablehopper
this Sunday at Piccino? It ends up a party of folks had to cancel,
so we have some seats available! The dinner is going to be scrumptious—I
always have memorable meals here—everything is so fresh, and we'll
have a little something special added to the already-stellar line-up
of Donnafugata wines that will be poured. I'd love to see
you there! Are you worried about flying solo? Don't
fret—everyone is super friendly and social. Let's cin
cin over some cena! See you Sunday!
to the winners of last week's giveaway—thank you
all for entering! This week I have a pair of tickets to give
away to the
Marketplace at the Artisan Cheese Festival,
on Sunday March 9 from 11am–4pm, in Petaluma! The four-day
festival has all kinds of cheese-related events, from demos to
seminars to tastings. All you have to do is reply to this email
with the name of the next restaurant in San Francisco you want
me to visit and write about—I'd love to hear what
you're interested in! Deadline to reply is Sunday, March
2, at midnight.
this week I'm doing a jetsetter recap
from my trip last summer to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail
(more on the event in the
socialite), plus Jeff Hollinger wrote a piece on absinthe
in the wino.
This recap has been a particularly tough one to write, and a lengthy
one, but here we are. I dedicate this issue to all the brave,
strong, beautiful, and spirited people in the Crescent City who
have tragically had to endure one of our federal government's
greatest missteps, a tremendous atrocity, really. Those poor people—it's
simply unfathomable what they have had to go through. Our government
may have failed them, but we need to show them that we as a population
have not abandoned them. The waters may have receded, but that
magic city could really use our help rebuilding.
26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO First,
some news. I know this is going to make some soul food fans happy: ~HARD
KNOX CAFÉ~ in Dogpatch is going to be opening
a second location in the Richmond by the end of March, possibly
early April! They are moving into the former Greco Romana space
that sadly closed due to a fire a while ago. The menu will
mostly be the same, with a few potential additions since the
space will be twice as large as the current location, about
85 seats. There will be a mezzanine, and the plan is to keep
the rustic roadhouse look. Their fried chicken is so good.
Ditto on the spicy chicken sandwich! 2448 Clement St. at 26th
we're talking barbecue and the like, I thought
I should update you on ~AL'S BACKYARD BBQ & GRILL~,
the joint that's opening next to the Transfer Market on
Divisadero. Timing is now looking like May, so sit tight for
the slow-smoked brisket! 853 Divisadero St. at McAllister.
fisheads. I got this interesting email from ~SEBO~ last
week, so I thought I should share what they said about Kindai
Honmaguro, "We have been, over the past couple of years,
making efforts to be responsible and conscientious with regard
to acquiring our product while at the same time maintaining the
quality and authenticity of our food. We are now one of a very
few restaurants in the US that are receiving bluefin tuna that
has been cultivated from the egg by Kinki University in Japan.
Unlike other methods of cultivation, this method has no impact
on natural populations. They are raised in low population density
and are far superior to other cultivated bluefin that we have
tried. Not only is the feed organic and pretty close to what
the tuna would eat naturally, they also log what the fish eat
and what water they are living in every day of its life. Additionally,
the fish benefit from the low population density by being able
to swim more naturally, as cage free chickens taste better than
caged. By controlling where the fish swim/live the university
is also able to significantly reduce exposure to bacteria and
other contaminants resulting in a fish that is free of chemicals,
hormone and antibiotics. We feel this is the only practical solution
in maintaining the bluefin population around the world. We are
hoping to receive this tuna every Friday as there are only 2
to 3 fish sent to the U.S. At this stage the university is still
developing and refining the cultivation methods and are not a
profit seeking venture. If you haven't tried it yet, you should
definitely stop by and let us know what you think, we are working
indirectly with the university to provide them with feedback,
questions or concerns. Also for a short period of time we will
have kanburi, which is the largest and oldest (=fattiest) stage
of the yellowtail. It's only around for a couple months at most
in the winter." Sounds good,
no? Yes! 517 Hayes St. at Octavia, 415-864-2122.
the month of openings! Last Wednesday I attended the ~FIFTH
opening party at the Hotel Palomar—leave it to the French
to have one of the better cheese spreads that I've ever
seen at a soiree. (Although someone needs to tell the chick on
the temporary website how to hold a wineglass.) We had some tastes
of items from Laurent Manrique and chef de cuisine Jennie Lorenzo's
menu; a fave was the chestnut soup with a brunoise of prosciutto
and pistachio and a supple quenelle, a homage to Jean-Louis Palladin.
Looking at the menu, the oxtail and eel main braised in Bordelaise
sauce is not something you see on most menus around town—I'm
also keen to try the squab crusted in sugared almonds, with braised
celery, smoked fingerlings, and lemon confit-flavored squab jus.
The Gascony-inspired menu is not surprisingly running on the
higher end: $12–$22 for apps, and mains for $29–$39,
plus a rib eye for two for a whopping $90. Desserts include baba,
gateau Basque, and canelé, all from $11–$14. Emily
Wines has quite a spiffy new wine room—big congrats to
her for passing her Master Sommelier exam, woot! The Puccini
Group did a spiffy redesign—it all felt kind of chic Paris
atelier to me, with sleek club chairs in white leather with metal
legs, red glass overhead lighting fixtures and mod sconces, hardwood
floors (alas, the zebra carpet is no more, kidding), and whoa,
you can actually look out the windows now? Nice touch! Open for
dinner Mon–Sat, 12 Fourth St. at Mission, 415-348-1555.
Opening today in SoMa is the much-anticipated ~ORSON~ from
Elizabeth Falkner (this being her third restaurant) and her partner
Sabrina Riddle. Had a chance to hit the opening party last night
for a bit when I should have been home writing this thing, but
I had to
see it! Duty called! The restaurant is in a spacious and historic
warehouse, with tall ceilings and trusses,
and sexy darker lighting (and cool clubby art too—it works
well with the space). What a gorg marble bar, with room for 30—it's
bar manager Jackie Patterson's new cocktail island, where
she's dreaming up drinks like a celery gimlet that went down
way too easy—dangerously so. I look forward to seeing the
furnishings, and tasting more bites from the menu of "edgy
California cuisine." Which according to the website can include
razor clams a la plancha, with violet, parsley, lemon and chicharrones;
wood-fired pizzas; tempura egg with shoyu and spice; and samosas,
raita and chutney sorbet. The reservations line is open. Dinner
Mon–Sat 6pm–11pm, bar menu served Mon–Sat 5pm–6pm
and 11pm-midnight. 508 4th St. at Bryant, 415-777-1508.
been over a month, and no one from ~CHAPEAU!~ ever
calls me or emails back (I'll leave out my own word with
an exclamation point) to discuss the changes at ~CLEMENTINE~.
So, here's what I do know: a while ago Philippe Gardelle
of Chapeau! took it over from Didier Labbé, who is off to
Rio de Janeiro—in fact, you can still hear Didier's
goodbye message on the old answering machine. (Uh, time to change
it, don't ya think?!) And after a brief closure, it sounds
like the new menu is supposed to have some differences from the
Chapeau! menu, plus there's a full bar. My info is derived
from this helpful
blogger's post (thanks Fuzzy Chef), who also mentions, "a green color scheme
with a copper bar." That's all, folks! 126 Clement
St., at Second Ave. 415-387-0408.
So, to recap the big shifts in four-star land: ~CAMPTON
PLACE RESTAURANT~ just keeps promoting people. Now we
have Srijith Gopinathan as executive chef—he was formerly
the restaurant's executive sous chef de cuisine. When the
previous executive chef, Gavin Schmidt, returns from Mexico,
I'll let you know what his next steps are. Gopinathan's two sous chefs,
Perfecto Rocher Battaller and Chett Bland, will be working with
him to roll out the new dinner menu, and there's a new
lunch menu in the works. Hopefully Perfecto lives up to his name,
and Bland isn't afraid of Maldon salt—sorry, lame
joke, couldn't resist. A native of India, Gopinathan's
background includes working as the executive sous chef at the
Deep End, the fine-dining restaurant at Taj Exotica Resort and
Spa in the Maldives, and a stage at Le Manoir Aux Qaut'
Saison in Oxfordshire. Some new menu items include sea bream
sashimi wrapped in avocado and enoki, with dashi essence, endive,
and Perilla foam; and Tellicherry pepper-crusted ahi tuna, seared
artisan foie gras, and ginger linguine and cuttlefish broth.
I'm going to check out the new menu in a couple weeks,
will report back! 340 Stockton St. at Campton, 415-955-5555.
Meanwhile, over at the ~RITZ-CARLTON SAN FRANCISCO~,
after 17 years, executive chef Jean-Pierre Dubray is leaving—he
is now the executive chef of The Resort at Pelican Hill, a luxe
resort in Newport Coast. 600 Stockton St. at California, 415-296-7465.
So, someone else is having an anniversary: Rachel and Ben of ~LUELLA~ are celebrating three years in business, and starting March 3,
all of their wines by the glass will be available for $3 each,
Mon–Thu, until the end of March. Cheers darlings! 1896 Hyde
St. at Green, 415-674-4343.
Yet another anniversary, and this might really get you and your
liver in trouble: the ~R BAR~ is turning five
on March 7. Tod asked me to send out a big thanks to everyone,
especially the "bar/restaurant/hospitality/liquor biz folks
who have gotten us to this point and made us what we are." Yeah,
the biggest Fernet account in the City. Anywho, the anniversary
party will be on March 16, starting at 8pm—the night before
St. Paddy's Day, so consider it basic training. 1176 Sutter
St. at Polk, 415-567-7441.
in the Polk Gulch neighborhood: I was wondering what was moving
into the Café Ya-Bon space
when I saw the windows all papered over some weeks back. Behold:
less café, more restaurant!
Now it's ~ZITOUNA~, and according to the
fine folks at Thrillist and
it will have an expanded menu of homemade Tunisian-Moroccan eats.
Gotta check it out. Sadly the 24 hour action is gone: Mon–Thu
and Sat –Sun 6am–10pm, Fri 1:30pm–10pm. 1201
Sutter St. at Polk, 415-673-2622.
workers: did you know ~PRANA'S~ lounge
is open for lunch and bar service (helpful in case you are suffering
from the DTs at 2pm). There is a global menu of sandwiches (braised
short rib), wraps (the much healthier portobello mushroom wrap),
and some entrées like ginger-garlic prawns with soba noodles,
plus salads, and naan pizzas. Hours are Tue–Fri 11am–3pm,
and happy hour is 4pm–7pm. 540 Howard St. at First St., 415-247-9911.
if all this food and wine isn't enough punishment: are
you aware of all the Italian winemakers who will be descending
on San Francisco next week for the ~GAMBERO
ROSSO/TRE BICCHIERI TASTING~
event on March 5? Look for a bunch of special winemaker dinners
at your favorite Italian places around town. Shelley Lindgren of
A16 let me know that for a week, all of their 40 wines by the glass
will be Tre Bicchieri winners. They will also be highlighting two
Italian winemakers: Sabino Loffredo from Pietracupa, on Thursday,
March 6, and then Gunther Di Giovanna from Di Giovanna winery in
Sambuca di Sicilia on Wednesday, March 12. 2355 Chestnut St. at
a hot tip? You know I'd love it (and you). Just reply to
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26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO New Orleans, LA
I was invited to attend the annual Tales of the Cocktail event
in New Orleans in July of 2007, I was beyond thrilled. I hadn't
been to New Orleans in years, and to visit the birthplace of the
cocktail was like a trip to Mecca for me. Yeah, it was going to be
hot and humid, but that's what sundresses and air conditioning
I left, I asked some former Nawlins residents for recommendations,
like Brenda Buenviaje of Brenda's and Jan Birnbaum of Epic.
I barely made a dent in my lengthy list, but boy, did I try.
trip was so moving, and downright bittersweet—most of
the conference events were held in the ever-atmospheric French Quarter,
which really gives you a weird semblance of normalcy, and that everything
in the city is fine. No. It. Isn't. As soon as I took my first
trolley ride up Canal Street, and a ride out to Mid-City, everything
in my chest got tight.
see entire first floors of office buildings that are boarded up,
and residential streets with houses elevated, eerily vacant, and
so many for sale. Countless homes still have those cryptic symbols
that were spray-painted on their front doors that only the National
Guard or recovery efforts could decipher. I couldn't believe
how many people I saw still living out of their FEMA trailers. You
still see the telltale water line on so many homes and buildings… like
some naughty child went around to thousands of homes and drew a big
fat line across them. Each line is like a bleak horizon of sadness,
measuring the amount of tears on each house. Still. Still. Still.
It's like Katrina happened six months ago, but it didn't.
people about "the storm," and everyone has a
story to tell, each and every one heartbreaking. It just makes you
want to hold people, hug them, make the hurt and suffering go away.
a chance to speak with chef-owner Donald Link of Cochon (many know
him from his years here in San Francisco), and I also spoke with
his staff at Herbsaint, his first restaurant. I was so touched
with their tales of reopening Herbsaint. The story they told of
cleaning up the restaurant, and the walk-in, after weeks of not
being able to access it were harrowing to say the least. The hard-working
folks at Herbsaint managed to reopen five weeks after Katrina,
and they said you have no idea how powerful it was for them to
be able to host guests at the restaurant, with white tablecloths,
and nice stemware… their
customers were just thrilled to be in a restaurant, like it was the
first time they ever ate in a nice establishment—they said
the excitement was just palpable. Guests could pretend things were
normal for a little while, at least for the time they were dining
morning in New Orleans, I was taken out to the Lower Ninth Ward
by a friend and former resident who had a car. It was beyond haunting… like a ghost town that nature is slowly and steadily
taking over, weeds climbing high, with people's clothes and
personal effects blending in the soft soil. The backsides of houses
were ripped open, spilling their guts, a jumble of destroyed furniture,
torn curtains, broken dishes. Homes were picked up by the water,
and then dropped off blocks away. The elements that remained steadfast
were front stairs, now to nowhere, and a few brick houses. A school
bus lies on its side like a carcass, cars nosedive under houses.
It's now a neighborhood of chaos, none of it makes sense. It
makes you feel sick. I am also posting a link
here to some of my pictures so you can see—words sometimes aren't enough
to accurately portray the awful.
of the most important things we can do to help New Orleans in their
efforts to rebuild is to support their local economy. Restaurants
are trying to open, or staying closed, or closing, businesses are
struggling… each and every business that manages to open,
or stay open, is a major victory. If you are at all considering a
trip somewhere, I can't encourage you enough to visit New Orleans.
You'd be able to afford it more than you might think.
blown away with the true Southern hospitality I encountered, the
kindness, the helpfulness, the warmth. It really resonates. People
call you sweetheart and darling and ma'am there (even if you
should be "miss"). It's a beautiful, old, and mysterious
city, with such interesting history, and character. This city is
special, and unique, and we need to preserve it and appreciate it
like the national treasure it is.
I haven't had a sense of local and regional cuisine like I
did in New Orleans in a long, long time. The food there has such
a sense of place; talk about terroir. The history runs deep—heck,
it's not every day you meet a daughter of the woman who created
Bananas Foster (be sure to visit Brennan's for the original!). At one of the Tales of the Cocktail events I
attended about the history of New Orleans's regional cuisine,
the irrepressible Poppy
Tooker, the founder and leader of the NOLA
Slow Food convivium,
said, "Eat it to save it." So here's how I did
my part in saving it. I ate. A lot.
Cross: St. Louis
start with a visit to the ~NAPOLEON HOUSE~,
famously the home of the Pimm's Cup, which reinforces the timeless
importance of a place having a good signature drink. It's one
of the most atmospheric bars I've ever been in, with spinning
fans, wood tables, old-school bartenders, and a dusky, intimate feeling—the
building dates back to 1797. I would have a drink here every afternoon
if I could. In fact, Dave Wondrich called it, "A New Orleans
day spa." Some folks don't know they also serve one hell
of a muffuletta (which I heard pronounced as "muff-ah-lot-a"),
a ridiculously stacked (and warm) sesame-studded sandwich of Italian
cold cuts, plus cheeses like provolone, and the famed chopped olive
salad. I tried a bunch of these while I was in New Orleans; this
was one of the best. You can even rent out the apartment upstairs,
formerly the living quarters of Joe Impastato who bought the Napoleon
House in 1914—his family runs it still. This place is pure class.
Cross: N. Telemachus
on sandwiches, one of my passions, I also made the trek one day
out to ~LIUZZA'S~ to
try their Frenchuletta (they grill the meat while the French bread
toasts)! This place was the picture of a neighborhood restaurant,
with the same family running it for almost 30 years, and a great
mix of folks hanging out in the cute vintage space that dates back
to 1947. The sandwich was big, my schooner of Abita amber was ice
cold, and the fried green tomatoes with crawfish remoulade, simply
delish! Another amazing story: they were under six feet of water,
but managed to renovate and reopen in July, a year after the storm.
Good people, here.
Cross: Tchoupitoulas (say Chop-a-TOO-lis)
A lot of people talk about ~MOTHER'S
RESTAURANT~ in the Quarter for po' boys,
good home cookin', and breakfast (served all day). I will
say the incredible baked ham po' boy I brought to go on the flight home with me was the
envy of the plane—so good with their Creole mustard. They are
also famous for their "debris" sandwich of all the yummy
bits that come off when you carve a roast, and the Ferdi special
of ham AND roast beast. They did win for my favorite picture of the
trip (seen here). If you have a chance, you should read their
account of reopening after Katrina—they impressively managed to do
so on October 15.
Bakery & Tavern
mission also included a trip to the much-adored ~PARKWAY
BAKERY & TAVERN~ in Mid-City. Talk about a local hangout. I learned this place was
pivotal in keeping people fed in the area after the storm, especially
the throngs of construction workers, who were still ordering lunch
when I was there in 2007. The famous hot roast beef with gravy
po' boy here was as scrumptious as it was messy, ditto on
the golden shrimp and oyster combo version (just ask for it 50/50),
served on a Leidenheimer's roll, heaven with a few shakes
of sauce picante (either local Crystal or Tabasco), plus Zapp's
chips on the side, a Barq's longneck to drink, and Hubig's
pie for dessert! Make the trek to eat here!
Cross: Andrew Higgins Drive
The smell upon entering ~COCHON~ was bliss: meat and oven. Come and get it! Clean industrial style,
with brick walls and a concrete floor, plus wood slat chairs and
booths that made me feel a little like a pig in my own (very happy)
pen. We loved the spicy fried alligator ($10), fried boudin balls
($7), supple and creamy head cheese ($6) with house-made mustard,
plus smoked ham hocks and grits ($16), and the namesake Louisiana
cochon with cracklins ($18). Dessert was $6, if you can make it that
far. I'm putting the prices in so you can see how affordable
it is to dine well here. Loved, loved, loved. Co-owners and chefs
Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski kick (pork) butt.
Saint Charles Ave.
of my favorite evenings was dining at the bar at ~HERBSAINT~,
Donald Link's first restaurant, which turned
seven years old in October 2007. The menu was the picture of appetizing,
with a stunning gumbo of the day with andouille and a touch of
brandy, braised beef shortribs on a crispy potato cake, house-made
spaghetti (!) with crispy guanciale and a fried-poached farm egg,
and remarkable jumbo shrimp from Dino the shrimper, whose motto
is "If it
swims in the water, place yer order!" (I think I love Dino),
served with scallion spoonbread and roasted corn salad. Oh, and
the dirty rice is Link's family's rice. Don't
miss some absinthe service at the end of dinner, natch. Killer
cocktails, classy wine list, too.
Cross: N. Cortez
on earth were we thinking? We weren't. ~MANDINA'S
RESTAURANT~ took us down. We got excited. This is what happens when you have
a legit Creole-Italian menu, full of things to order like turtle
soup (be sure to request a light pour on the sherry), seafood gumbo,
crab fingers in wine sauce (read: a ton of butter), a half and
half (oyster and shrimp) loaf (a po' boy), and fried chicken
with onion rings. Ouch! This honest family joint dates back to
1932, and as it says on the website, "There was a concern
that Mandina's wouldn't come back after the storm. [Fourth-generation
owner] Cindy Mandina insisted on it. 'It was a financial
risk, but I had to reinvest in my city.'" The pictures on
their site of the post-storm damage are intense to say the least
(be sure to slide your cursor over them).
Cross: Napoleon St.
killing myself at Mandina's, I experienced a first:
I was too ill to eat dinner. Seriously. I sat at the table, but upon
my first bite, both liver and stomach said, "Hells no!" All
I could bear was to sip soda and bitters while my dinner pals ate—we
called it DBP (Dining By Proxy). Big shame, because chef-owner John
in Uptown was darling—a former drugstore, with tiled floors,
a painted tin ceiling, rust-colored walls, creamy booths with black
piping, a jazzy/bluesy soundtrack, all in a neighborhood that exuded
pure Southern charm—cicadas included. Here's what the
table raved about: marrow toasts with mushrooms and veal glace ($9.50),
cool corn soup with avocado and crab, gnocchi with sage brown butter
($8.50), and a roasted poulet breast ($21). Licorice ice cream for
dessert was brilliant. Charmed, you will be.
Cross: St. Anne
How can a place this famous, and this overloaded with tourists,
still remain so cool? I treasured my breakfast at ~CAFÉ DU
MONDE~ of wondrous eggy and spongy beignets in a pile of powdered sugar
and my chicory coffee au lait (with half and half and hot milk),
so creamy you don't need sugar. You will end up with powdered
sugar on you, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, as if you were
partying up late with Pablo Escobar. Adored the vintage 50s-era chairs
in olive drab with chrome legs, the jazz trumpeter playing over the
hubbub of people, the cheerful green and white striped awning… you
can take it all in for $1.59 for three beignets, and $1.59 for coffee
($2.73 for an iced one). Open 24 hours!
Cross: Chartres St.
I also adored my croissant at ~CROISSANT
Charming place. The croissant, was quite legit. Buttery goodness.
And warm, yay! Check out the old separate entrance for ladies, what
Cross: Ursuline St.
you need a dark, cool, shady hideout, especially the day after,
when you require some sustenance, but no sunlight—yet. ~COOP'S
PLACE~ totally hooked me up one afternoon—it's a divey little
bar complete with pool table and Ozzy the lazy brindle bulldog sacked
out on the brick floor. It's all about their spicy rabbit and
smoked pork sausage jambalaya. Of course I made mine "supreme," with
crawfish, shrimp, and house-made tasso (smoked Cajun ham). $9.25,
done. Oh, and a salad with thick house-made green goddess dressing
with a little kick from their house pepper blend. And naturally,
a cold Abita. Loved this place—the bar means business (complete
with menacing signs like "Be Nice or Bleed"), and the
food means business too, with the local scene here tucking into fried
fish, jambalaya, po' boys, whatever makes you feel better.
Open late too.
601 Gallier St.
Cross: Chartres St.
My final send-off meal (thank god, because after five days I was
going to keel over) was brunch at ~ELIZABETH'S
RESTAURANT~ a down-home little joint with a bit of a hippie vibe. It's
just a tiny bit in the outskirts, in the Bywater. And famous for
their praline bacon (as good as it sounds, oh yes), callas (an obscure
type of beignet made here with rice flour, waffle mix, nutmeg, cinnamon,
and powdered sugar), grillades and grits (steak and a tasty gravy
with peppers and celery), and all kinds of things covered in hollandaise
and cheese. As they say, "Real Food Done Real Good." Uh
big thank you to Harrah's
New Orleans for generously hosting me as a media guest
at their hotel on this trip—and they had one of the nicest
Some great places for drinks:
Alan, the bar maestro who was presiding over the tiny bar at ~IRIS~ restaurant
set me up with a memorable cocktail of cilantro-infused triple
sec, tequila, and watermelon, with chopped cilantro and a salt
rim, yum, more please! All kinds of unique and refreshing culinary
cocktails here, like kaffir-cayenne limeade, and a blood orange and
basil martini. The menu looked good for dinner too—a sweet
miss some of the expertly made cocktails at the ~SWIZZLE
STICK BAR AT CAFÉ ADELAIDE~.
The huge block of ice behind the bar says it all. (I also had a
wicked brunch here, blue crab scrambled eggs with oyster mushrooms
and leeks, with buttered brioche toast and Brie fondue, yes, it
knocked me out, and I can't blame it on the eye-opener of
brandied rum milk punch, good morning!)
the gentleman's club atmosphere of ~THE
drinks were fine, it was more about having a nice place to relax,
tucked away in the Prince Conti Hotel.
Here's an extensive list of places to drink in NOLA from Difford's.
A few things to know:
Most of the clocks run slow in New Orleans. Hotels can even miss
your wake-up call.
Po' boys get their name from the 1927 streetcar strike, when
Martin's Grocers wanted to offer free meals for the "poor
boys" who were striking. The owner sat down with the baker
to determine what would be the correct size to feed a family. Hence
the huge size of po' boy sandwiches. If you order one "dressed," that
means yes on mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Oh, and no giggles when you
hear mayonnaise pronounced "my-on-ezz."
is a strong Italian population and presence here, partly because
it was the second port for immigrants besides Ellis Island back
in the day (that's what I was told—guess who hasn't
fact-checked this!). A muffuletta sandwich is a perfect example of
the Creole-Italian style of cuisine that has developed here. Genius,
summer, thunderstorms and crazy rain can come out of nowhere—total
downpours. Carry a small umbrella in your bag if you want to be prepared.
~A muffuletta from Central Grocery,
the reputed home of the darned thing—I tried to go once but
the lines were long and my time was short. (Vegetarians: you can
get one with just olive salad and cheese!)
~Have a Café Brulot at Arnaud's
French 75 Bar
~Visit the Crescent
City Farmers' Market
~Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's—the
oldest continuing restaurant in the US, with six generations of the
same family running it since 1840, and many waiters have been there
for forty years.
~Café Freret (I had a bite of their muffuletta,
I think it was the best!)
for Susan Spicer's acclaimed cuisine
a high-end resto from John Besh
a brasserie from John Besh
Wolfe's casual yet classy Creole outpost
Beard award-winning chef, restaurant is in a cool old shotgun house
~Li'l Dizzy's for gumbo and authentic southern cooking
~Cafe Rani on Magazine for some healthy eating (shocking!)
~Bon Ton Cafe for their combo fried crawfish and
catfish with remoulade dipping sauce, and crawfish etouffée
~Johnny's PO-Boys for classic po' boys
~Domilise Sandwich Shop & Bar for famed po'
has their favorite place!
~Casamento's for oyster loaf
~Surrey's Juice Bar for breakfast—healthy
a classic since 1905—to order: pommes soufflé, crabmeat
maison, broiled pompano with crab on top
~Camellia Grill—a popular landmark diner dating
back to 1946, reopened in 2007
~R&O's in Bucktown for a ham, roast beef,
and turkey po' boy (a Donald Link favorite)—216 Metairie
Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 504-831-1248
Saturn Bar in Bywater
Maple Leaf Bar
How to help:
Donate/volunteer/help with their wish list: commongroundrelief.org/
to Slow Food's Terra Madre Katrina Relief Fund
to Benefit Gulf Region Food Producers: slowfoodusa.org/katrina_relief.html
the New Orleans Food & Farm Network, helping to provide
access to fresh food to neighborhoods: noffn.org/
Become a member: museumoftheamericancocktail.org
Book a trip: neworleansonline.com
Jazz Fest (April
25–May 4) or Tales
of the Cocktail (July 16–20)
Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose
More thoughts, and quotes:
know it's time to stop eating when the waitress at Mandina's
says she's impressed.
people talking about the evacuation while sitting at a bar, "Really,
it only took you four hours?"
can be sweet, but sometimes you hit some minty pockets." –Camper
English on the Starfish Cooler, the official cocktail of Tales of
the Cocktail, 2007
the cocktail, how would we have jazz?" –Ti
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Jeff Hollinger on Absinthe
a co-author of The
Art of the Bar–Cocktails Inspired
by the Classics.
Currently, he works as Manager of Restaurant Operations at
Brasserie & Bar, in San Francisco. At Absinthe, he
continues to contribute to the innovative cocktail program,
teaches home bartending classes, answers questions about
absinthe, and is continuously experimenting with new and
inventive ingredients for seasonally based cocktails.
the ten years that Absinthe Brasserie & Bar has been
open, I don't think a single day has gone by when someone
hasn't called the restaurant, sat down at a table, or bellied
up to the bar and asked, "Do you actually serve absinthe?" Until
recently, our answer followed the lines of, "No. Unfortunately,
absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912, making it illegal
to produce, import, or sell."
the person inquiring about absinthe was actually sitting in
the restaurant, we would generally follow the "no" answer
with a short history lesson about absinthe's role in café society
during France's Belle Epoque era (think Paris in the late
1800s until World War I), provide a synopsis about the "illicit" chemical
components found within a bottle of absinthe (specifically thujone),
and finally, offer our hypothesis on the effects of consuming
absinthe (are you going to be enlightened by dainty and beguiling
green fairies, or are you going to lop your earlobe off at the
suggestion of an evil green demon?).
I said before, this was all the case—until recently. In
May of 2007, absinthe once again became legal to produce, import,
and sell in the United States. The change seems even more recent
for those of us on the west coast, considering that it wasn't
until October that the first shipments of legal absinthe arrived
at our doors. That's right, absinthe is legal once again.
is absinthe? Simply put, absinthe (often referred to as "the
green fairy" or "la fée verte") is a
distilled product made from a base spirit and various herbs.
The base spirit and herbs can, and do, vary from brand to brand,
but there are some similar elements. The most famous and controversial
element is grande wormwood, scientifically known as Artemesia
absinthium, which gives absinthe its bitter qualities (not
to mention its name), and also releases an essence known as thujone,
which until recently was thought to cause hallucinations. The
other two most common elements found in all absinthes are anise
and fennel, which lend to the spirit's licorice-like flavor
as we know it today was originally crafted sometime in the
late 18th century. It is traditionally said that a French doctor
named Pierre Ordinaire, who was living in Couvet, Switzerland,
after fleeing his country's revolution, developed the spirit
in 1792. Like many of the distilled, herbal spirits created during
that period, absinthe was intended as a cure-all liquid remedy.
In time, the recipe made its way into the hands of Henri-Louis
Pernod, who would eventually produce the spirit commercially
in Pontarlier, France.
gained much of its popularity when it was issued as a fever
and dysentery preventative to French troops who were fighting
in Algeria between 1844 and 1847. When the troops returned
home to Paris, they had acquired a taste for the anise-flavored
spirit, and by the end of the 19th century, the city would be
embarking on a "great collective absinthe binge." Cafés
filled with people between six and seven each evening, and Paris
became host to l'heure verte (the green hour),
during which time aromas of anise perfumed the city streets.
Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh (for the record, there is no
reasonable proof that he cut his earlobe off as a result of being
on an absinthe bender), Paul Marie Verlaine, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec,
and Pablo Picasso, all absinthe drinkers, helped create the legend
of the green fairy muse through their work.
By the early 20th century, the devilish qualities of absinthe
were also legendary. It was thought that absinthe had the power
to land an imbiber in an asylum because of its heavy alcohol
content and the supposed mind-altering qualities of thujone.
These suspicions grew stronger when, in 1905, a Swiss man murdered
his wife and two small children, and unsuccessfully attempted
to take his own life, all after consuming two glasses of absinthe.
However, mention was never made that he consumed the absinthe
in the morning before going to work in the vineyards, and throughout
the day he also managed to consume at least two bottles of wine,
several glasses of brandy, and an assortment of other booze,
all before murdering his family. Nevertheless, the demon absinthe
was blamed as the cause for his actions, and the stage was set
for the eventual ban of absinthe in most countries around the
absinthe is back. How is that possible? Well, to be honest,
it's a story that is appropriately hazy, as are many
tales. But let's cut to the quick and simple. In 1912,
absinthe and any food or beverages made with wormwood were banned
outright by the Department of Agriculture. Then in 1972, the
FDA changed the tune of the regulations by banning all products
which contained a concentration of thujone higher than 10 parts
per million (10 milligrams per kilogram). It had always been
thought that traditional absinthes had a much higher concentration
of thujone than the allowed 10 parts per million.
However, thanks to the research of people like Ted Breaux, a
New Orleans-born chemist and absinthe producer/historian, it
was discovered that the best vintage absinthes actually had thujone
levels that fell closer to federal allowances. Armed with this
information, as well as the recognition that a cult absinthe
following had been brewing throughout Europe for nearly ten years,
Lucid Absinthe was created (with the help and consultation of
Ted Breaux) and presented to the FDA; in early 2007 it became
the first legally approved absinthe in the United States in ninety-five
Lucid's approval, more absinthes have come on the
market, the two most prominent being Kübler, a Swiss-style "blanche" absinthe,
and St. George's Absinthe Verte. Over time there will definitely
be more, but it is hard to say what we'll see next, considering
that the laws regulating importation, sales, and labeling are
incredibly convoluted, and approvals are given on a singular
the most talked about and recognized cocktail seeing a rebirth
coinciding with absinthe's return is the Sazerac.
This New Orleans classic is a combination of rye whiskey, sugar,
Peychaud's bitters, and a pastis- or absinthe-rinsed glass.
Bars all over the City are now featuring Sazeracs with absinthe.
if you come into Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, and
order a Sazerac, it will still be made with Herbsaint, instead
of absinthe. Why haven't we reverted to the "classic" absinthe?
Well, in our eyes the Sazerac is a cocktail that has evolved
over time. When it was first created it was made with Cognac,
not rye, and there was no absinthe in the drink at all. However,
when a phylloxera scare hit France, and Cognac prices skyrocketed,
bartenders quickly changed their Sazerac recipes and used locally
available (and affordable) rye instead.
later on down the historical line, a creative bartender decided
to add a couple of dashes of absinthe to his Sazerac recipe,
and the addition caught on throughout New Orleans and beyond.
Yet again, the Sazerac was forced to evolve in 1912, when absinthe
was banned in the United States. In its place, Herbsaint, a
style of pastis created in New Orleans, was developed specifically
for use in the Sazerac. The switch to Herbsaint is the last
in a series of changes that have ultimately defined the essence
of the Sazerac's history, and it is this history
that we've chosen to honor behind our bar.
Don't worry; we've still got a number of absinthe
cocktails tucked away in our mixing glasses. In fact, one of
our favorites is a virtually unknown drink called the Lawhill
Cocktail. It is a beautiful combination of rye whiskey, dry vermouth,
maraschino liqueur, absinthe, and Angostura bitters. The recipe
is below just in case you're feeling inclined to get up
and mix one for yourself. Better yet, why don't you come
to the bar, enjoy an absinthe drip, and then follow it up with
a Lawhill? Because, to answer the question one more time: yes,
we do serve absinthe!
Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye
¾ ounce Dry vermouth
¼ ounce Maraschino liqueur
¼ ounce Absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
Flamed orange peel, for garnish
In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine first five ingredients
and stir for 20 to 30 seconds, or until well chilled. Strain
the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the
flamed orange peel.
of the Cocktail
July 16–20, 2008
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO This annual event is a great excuse to visit New Orleans (like
you need one). ~TALES OF THE COCKTAIL~, a culinary
and cocktail festival features award-winning mixologists, authors,
bartenders, chefs and designers in the New Orleans French Quarter
at five days of cocktail events such as dinner-pairings, cocktail
demos and tastings, seminars, mixing competitions, design expos,
book-signings, and more.
year I attended presentations on ice (learn how ice "laughs"
at you as it moves on the top level of your drink), the history
of the cocktail, I took a walking cocktail tour through the Quarter
and the Napoleon House, a seminar on drinks and dishes born in
NOLA, the history of the mint julep… great stuff. You get
to meet a bunch of folks in the industry, from all over, and the
parties and dinners are a good time.
The event is hosted at the Hotel Monteleone, one of only three
literary hotels in the US (the Algonquin and the Carlyle are the
others); you can get a room for only $99 a night during the event.
Tickets go on sale April 1.
26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Mixing
New Orleans—Cocktails & Legends
By Phillip Collier
To purchase copies, contact Ann Rogers at 504-343-4285 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I loved reading the stories and checking out the old pictures
in this book, ~Mixing New Orleans—Cocktails & Legends~,
that offers a historical review of the cocktail. You can read
up on Sazeracs, Hurricanes, absinthe, and the famous places where
to get them—the recipes mean you can learn to make them
at home, too. A must-read for anyone heading to New Orleans who
is planning on having a drink somewhere. It tends to happen there.
Cocktails: Dixie drinks, Party Potions & Classic Libations
By Denise Gee and Robert M. Peacock
useful book in case all this cocktail talk has you thirsty is ~Southern
Cocktails: Dixie Drinks, Party Potions & Classic Libations~.
It might make you start integrating the cocktail hour like a
true southerner. There are some recipes for nibbles as well,
in case you have company calling. Your next Sunday is awaiting
a Creole Bloody Mary.
26, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO 10
people from the X-Files sequel that's being filmed right
now were having dinner at Perbacco on Saturday night. Among the
cool people in the group were Chris Carter and Frank
Spotnitz (writers) and Dave Duchovny and Gillian
content © 2008 Marcia Gagliardi.
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