We’re all doing a little better than we thought we were…

Between Pinterest and all the beautiful blogs out there, sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to cook something amazing, taking perfect pictures of it and then write a witty blog post explaining it in such a way that it makes your mouth water. And to be perfectly honest, these days I’m not above cutting corners, we’ve been eating plenty of pizza and take-out, and my creativity for cooking is kind of waning.  We just seem to be busier every week!  But today, I found a link that not only made me giggle, but also made me feel just a little bit better about myself and my skills in the kitchen.  Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!


Where We Have Been

Hi! Long time no see. I’m probably kidding myself to think that you’ve been checking our blog religiously looking for new posts. But it has been quite a while since either of us has been around. I’m on a bit of a personal mission to see if we can turn that around though.

In case you’re wondering where we’ve been, we have been BUSY! (And, in my case, sometimes just a little lazy, but more on that in a minute.) It all started when our camera broke and we had to ship it off to Nikon to get it repaired. That completely stalled our operations in terms of posts about what we’re drinking or cooking at home. And as some of you may already know, $1.25 has been super duper busy with the launch and growth of a side project/passion: Atelier Vie. We’re talking, working full time at his day job and then putting in countless hours at night and on the weekends at the distillery. Words cannot express how proud I am of my hubby and how hard he works every day, but it doesn’t leave him a lot of room for blogging right now.

So, moving on, you would think that with $1.25 gone all the time, I’d probably have even more time to focus on things here at the blog, but I haven’t. Our camera came back and works great now. What’s my excuse then? Donuts. Well, really just one tiny person who we affectionately call Donut. Shortly before we went all radio silent on you guys, we found out we were expecting our first kiddo and I gotta admit, it has kind of stolen my focus. For the first few months I didn’t have enough energy to get off the couch and I certainly wasn’t feeling very adventurous in the kitchen. And then once we made it to spring, I literally became a broken record in terms of my eating. I want steak and blueberries…not together, but pretty much every day. So, I haven’t felt like there was a whole lot to write about.

But enough excuses, I’m going to do my best to do better! $1.25 still makes some pretty awesome cocktails at home (so I hear) and he’s got the inside scoop on at least some of liquor scene in town. Since I’m busy growing a person, I’m trying to cook and eat as healthy as possible and I’m always looking for new ways to accomplish that goal. Oh, and I am still on the blueberry and steak train, so hopefully you won’t mind seeing those two pop up more than normal. (Just to reiterate, I don’t actually eat them together, they just both always sound good!) As we get closer to our little Donut’s arrival I’ll probably be experimenting with things I can make ahead and freeze, so I’ll try to share my adventures in that department too.

This weekend we’re hoping to do a little festing, a little baby prepping (man oh man, that’s a big job!!) and at least a little cooking. Happy Jazz Fest Everyone!

Barcadia Update

Last week we wrote about the Barcadia project going in across from V.I.N.O. We’ve got some more news on the project as well as a few changes on what we originally reported. First, the strange (at least as far as I understand it) Beauty Bar concept has been dropped from the project. This means Barcadia and the Ohm Lounge are going to take over the entire 10,000 square feet.

The space is going to be laid out in 4 different “bays.” Barcadia looks to take up three of the bays with Ohm Lounge occupying the fourth. Bay 1 is slated to be Barcadia’s main dining room, Bay 2 a room with a private patio and Bay 3 will house the main arcade. While the Barcadia concept heavily features 80s nostalgia games, there will be some modern games as well as plenty of skeeball, air hockey, foosball and other similar non-video games. While the ultimate game inventory isn’t set, we’ve been told that it will be released on the twitter and Facebook feeds.

While the concept hails from the Dallas area, they’re trying hard to tap into the local food scene. Some folks from Generations Hall has been brought in as managing partners and Miles Tully, formerly of Ste. Marie, has been hired to be a food savvy general manager. Barcadia has reached out to Baton Rouge based food truck chef Nick Hufft of Curbside to create the menu. We’ve been promised that the kitchen will stress fresh, local ingredients.

When Barcadia opens it plans to do so from 11 am on, seven days a week. Currently, Barcadia is looking to open in the end of December/beginning of January, just in time for everyone to blow their holiday money on some old school video games. Of course, as anyone who has ever opened or tried to open a business in New Orleans it could be just as likely that they don’t open until 2014 through no fault of their own.

The details on the Ohm Lounge are slim at the moment, but it is scheduled to open one Barcadia is up and running. One thing we do know is that it will still be a high-end lounge, it will not be an all night, well into the next day lounge.

As usual, should we find out anything more we’ll be sure to update it.

Benefit for Chef Quan Tran

Chef Quan Tran, the former executive chef at Tamarind, was diagnosed with stomach cancer last March. Since then he’s been through the ringer with Chemo and surgery. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Chef Tran’s insurance will run out on December 1. To help Chef Tran pay for his treatment and afford his COBRA payments, Chef Dominique Macquet and many others in the New Orleans bar and restaurant scene are pulling together. For more details, here’s the official release:

Please join us on Monday, Dec. 17th at 6:00 p.m. for a benefit for Chef Quan Tran, hosted by Chef Dominique Macquet. Quan has been battling stomach cancer since March. To complicate matters, his insurance will end on Dec. 1st. Together, we can help Quan to get the treatment he needs, and assist him and his family during this difficult time. (Please see below for price and ticket purchase info!)

An array of New Orleans’ top chefs and mixologists have already signed on, including Rene Bajeux of Rene Bistrot, Brian Landry of Borgne, Tory McPhail of Commanders Palace, Alon Shaya of Domenica, and Matt Murphy of The Irish House. On the mixologist side, Abigail Gullo of SoBou, Ian Julien of Dominique’s on Magazine, and Nick Detrich of Cure will be stirring it up. This promises to be a fantastic evening in a beautiful venue, the always wonderful Le Fôret (129 Camp Street at the corner of Common).

You can also play Santa for Quan’s three children, as the family will need some extra help with Christmas this year. If you would like to donate a gift or clothing, please contact Chef Dominique (604-292-2319), Wendy Macquet (504-261-8253) or Elizabeth Porter (347-610-0409). Gifts and clothing can be dropped off at the event.

There are so many ways you can personally make a difference for this wonderful man and his family this holiday season. Let’s get together and do what New Orleanians do best: surround those members of our community who need it with our love and support.

Tickets are $125 (all inclusive) and can be purchased by calling Le Fôret at 504-553-6738. ONLY 150 TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE, so be sure to call and reserve your place!

I know any assistance is deeply appreciated by Chef Dominique and the Tran family – please let me know if you’d like to help, and please do forward this on to anyone else you think might be interested! I created a Facebook event with all this information on it, as well, so people can visit that as a resource. (https://www.facebook.com/events/491604267546819/)

Coming Soon: Barcadia and more

{Note: We’ve got an update to this post here]

For years now, rumors of an ESPN Zone or a Dave and Buster’s have swirled around a number of derelict properties in the CBD or French Quarter. Each time, they’ve proven to be completely false and usually completely unfounded. The persistence of these rumors leads me to believe that one of these kinds of places is something that the people want. Well, the people are going to get it. Not in the form of ESPN Zone or Dave and Busters, but Barcadia, a reportedly craft beer and 1980s arcade game bar out of the Dallas area. Barcadia New Orleans is slated to take over part of the 10,000 square foot space at 601 Tchoup, which is in the big parking garage there. Can’t quite place it? Think directly across from the much more sophisticated W.I.N.O.

It appears that Barcadia won’t be alone in that spot, but instead will share the 10,00 square feet with sister bars the Ohm Lounge (which used to live in the Royal St. Charles Hotel) and the Beauty Bar. This massive three bar project is coming to you from the folks behind Club Ampersand, so that should probably provide a pretty good indication of how things will turn out in the end. While we haven’t gotten any word on a firm opening date, they better hope it is before the Super Bowl.

Barcadia New Orleans (Image from B. Russo Design)

Proposed corner of Tchoup and Lafayette (Image from B. Russo Design)

Ohm Lounge (Image from B. Russo Design)

First Look: Gracious Bakery

Gracious Bakery and Cafe recently opened up in the Woodward Design + Build building on the corner of S. Jefferson Davis Parkway and Euphrosine Street. You know, that no-man’s land between the canal by Earhardt and I-1o. Gracious is an easy place to zip past, but we recommend that you don’t. Coffee, breakfast, lunch and dessert are all available here and, to date, have all been fantastic.

I’m no coffee buff, but I know what I like. I keep my coffee simple and I find that most coffee you can buy just doesn’t measure up to what we brew at home, to the point that I’ll skip coffee all together than pay for a cup most anywhere else. So far, I’ve found that Gracious a welcome exception to that rule. As Gracious is on the way to my weekend activities, I’ll definitely stop by for a cup if I didn’t have time to make it myself or if I need a little more pick me up. Granted, I’m not a fancy coffee drinker so you’re on your own for the espressos, cappuccinos, etc. but if you can pull off good coffee, I’d say that is a great start.

Gracious’ breakfast has proven similarly reliable. Tasty, filling and not over the top expensive. The pastry menu is pretty varied and covers both sweet and savory. My favorite pastry when I’m in need of something a bit more filling is the Black Forest Ham, Ricotta + Gruyere Brioche. The first time I had one of these reminded me instantly of my lunches on the run in Paris, the ever-present croque monsieur.

Speaking of lunch, that is where we have the most exposure so far with Gracious and it has been as promising as breakfast and pastries. We’ve pretty much made it through most of the lunch menu, which consists of (mostly) sandwiches and a few salads. Cupcake’s favorite sandwich so far has been the Rosemary Crusted Roast Beef, while I’ve preferred the Soppresata + Coppa. The Meatloaf sandwich was good, but seemed to consist of more bread than filling.

One thing I found disappointing about the sandwiches was the promised sides. Each sandwich comes with a small side salad or chips, but they seem to be afterthoughts and I’ve found neither particularly fitting. The small salad certainly is small, almost to the point of being non-existent. And the chips are plain blue tortilla chips, which is disappointing when the roast beef or coppa really call for some great kettle potato chips. The disappointing sides are pretty easy to overlook because the sandwiches are enough on their own and with the fair pricing, you feel like the salad or chips are a true lagniappe.

Gracious hasn’t been open long, but it has been making a great first impression. Not just with us, but across the city. Gracious isn’t out-of-the-way for us, but if it was we’d make the trip. And so should you. Best of all, we haven’t even told you about the amazing looking desserts.

Gracious Bakery and Cafe
1000 S. Jeff Davis
Monday – Friday: 6:30 am – 3:00 pm
Saturday: 8 am – 2 pm
Sundays: Closed

If you’ve checked out Gracious, let us know what you think.

Mr. Potato Head and my Negroni

While reading one of my many cocktail books (I believe it was Speakeasy) I came across some advice for creating drinks that has served as the basis for moving away from straight recipes to creating my own concoctions. The theory is tried and true, used by many of the greatest bartenders around, but astoundingly basic. Simply take a drink you know and simply change out one of the parts and see if it works. If it does, then congratulations, you’ve just made yourself a brand new drink! The book compared this to changing out the various parts on Mr. Potato Head. Hence, the Mr. Potato Head method for creating drinks*

One of the more storied classic cocktails to purportedly be born from the Mr. Potato Head method is the Negroni. Common myth is that Count Negroni orders an Americano, a drink of sweet vermouth, Campari, and soda, but the Count requested that the bartender substitute gin for the soda water. And thus the Negroni was (supposedly) born. The Negroni has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years in most corners of the world, except with me. While a gin and Campari is an ancient family drink, the Negroni just hasn’t been our speed. I, for no lack of trying, simply can’t get into vermouth. I may get there some day, just not now. So, I figured, what better way to celebrate the Negroni than to pull a Count Negroni and play Mr. Potato Head. What resulted was, in my opinion a phenomenal upgrade to the Negroni. Of course the color isn’t as alluring, but looks aren’t everything. Or at least that’s what my mom keeps telling me.

Classic Negroni

1 part sweet vermouth
1 part gin
1 part Campari

Serve in a chilled rocks glass, garnish with an orange peel.

My Negroni

1 part gin (Martin Miller or similar works well here)
1 part Campari
1 part Cynar

Serve in a chilled rocks glass, garnish with an orange peel.

Note: 1 part is typically 3/4 ounce.

Cynar is another bitter Italian liqueur, but made from artichokes. Cynar, while a bit hard to find, is well worth it. A Cynar on the rocks is impressively tasty.

*The Mr. Potato Head method provides you with the opportunity to become familiar with the how various ingredients interact with each other. I’ve found that playing with this has really done wonders to improve my appreciation for the balance of a well made drink. One downside to this method, its use is so widespread that most anything created this way has probably already been done before.

What’s Cooking: Ice Cubes

Once again the internet has come up big. About a year and a half ago, we highlighted Paula Deen’s english peas recipe, which consisted of butter and canned peas. Today, we have a restaurant staple that some, apparently, have difficulty with executing at home: ice cubes. I’m sure that the technological advances which allow for the widespread use of automatic ice makers and the cheap availability of large bags of ice from the grocery or corner store is certainly to blame for the loss of this crucial skill in American homes.

While I’m pretty certain the recipe has been posted as a joke (unlike Paula’s), that hasn’t stopped the internet from taking its shots. As always, the true joy in recipes like this are found in the comments.

I harvest my own free-range water, so the idea of putting it in a plastic tray and a commercially made electricity-wasting freezer disgusts me. I prefer nature’s method, waiting until the temperature outside drops below freezing

or perhaps

This recipe is horrible! Maybe I should have left them in longer than two minutes (the recipe doesn’t say how long to leave them in the freezer so I just kind of guessed) but mine came out all watery. I won’t be making these again.

Comments are now 13 pages long, so if your work day finds a dull spot, enjoy!

What’s Cooking: Perfect Blueberry Muffins and Red Beans and Rice

You know what’s funny?  This weekend I made my favorite blueberry muffins, thinking to myself “This is such great a recipe, how come I’ve never put this up on the blog?”  So, I took a ton of pictures, typed everything up, and then it hit me.   I have put them up on the blog before!  Duh. I guess I’m getting old.

So, anyway, I figured I’d still share the pictures and just link here to the original post.  I also made a big batch of red beans and rice from this post here so we’ll be eating on that all week.

Hope you had a good weekend!

Toss the blueberries in a tablespoon of the flour mixture to keep them from sinking in your batter.

Cream together butter and sugar

Alternate the dry ingredients…

…with the milk. Try to begin and end with the dry ingredients

Sprinkle sugar on the tops before baking. I used turbinado for texture, but any sugar will do.

Yum! Hot out of the oven!

Here’s the link again to the full recipe.  I’ll try to be more original next time, but really this is just a testament to how delicious these are!