Delachaise (the night continues)

After Trey and I left Nolé, we strolled down St Charles looking for our next food adventure. We stumbled across Delachaise Wine Bar. It looks like an eclectic little place, which can either swing very good or very bad, in my experience. But what is life, if we don’t take a few chances now and then? Boring is what it would be! 

From the outside it looks like an old streetcar that has been unceremoniously dropped on St Charles Street. But the owners have made the best of the location (and you know what they say, location is everything), added a little sunroom looking area, outdoor seating, a large stocked bar and viola, a bar is born! 

The alcohol selection is impressive. If I were a connoisseur of fine wines, liquors and such, I would have a field day in there. But I am not as much of a drinker and I am a foodie. Speaking of which, we has a few small appetizers this go ’round. Trey ordered the frog legs and flank steak bruschetta and I ordered the cuban pulled pork. I have never dined on frog legs before so it was a first for me.

I’ll be honest…. they didn’t taste bad, but were a little greasy for my taste. Since I don’t have a memory to compare to, I can’t tell you if frog legs are normally greasy or if it was the duck fat they used to cook them in… either way, I wasn’t a huge fan. But please try for yourself. Perhaps my palate is still developing. I also leave room for the possibility that my mind is playing tricks on me too. The mind is a powerful tool, and when I was a little girl I saw a cartoon that depicted frogs wheeling themselves out of a restaurant kitchen in wheelchairs (because their legs have been cut off) and haven’t been able to bring myself to eat from legs ever since. I thought I was mature enough to work past it but the image of little frogs in wheelchairs hasn’t left my mind yet, so maybe that’s the real reason this meal wasn’t as appealing as it should have been. And for those of you who love frog legs, I’ll bet dollars to donuts you will enjoy these!

The cuban pork was very delicious and it comes with yucca fries, which are my favorite. The flank steak bruschetta was not what I was expecting. I was expecting the steak to be cut up into small pieces and maybe mixed with tomatoes and such and spread over the top of the bread. But instead it was a slice of the steak on top of a slice of bread and topped with cheese. It didn’t taste bad, per se, but it’s like when you are craving a Barqs Root Beer and get Dr. Pepper instead. The ambience and atmosphere is worth a second trip back. So Delachaise, you aren’t my favorite but there are perks that make a second trip necessary. 

Nolé in NOLA

We are a foodie family. It all started with my dad (more on him another time) and I continued the trend with my children. The love of food has blossomed with my son so much that he is now a culinary student. So when he came to visit me here, of course we HAD to go out to eat at different places. A week before he came down, I had lunch at a place called Nolé. I had read about it on a blog called LetDatGirlEat and she made it sound so delicious that I wanted to go try for myself. Well, she wasn’t lying! The food was delicious. And the waitress, Shaile, was so gregarious that even if the food was less than stellar, I would have returned just to have her as my waitress again! We struck up a conversation and I told her about my son visiting and looking for a job in between semesters. Turns out her fiancé is also a chef, who happened to graduate from the same school my son is attending. She told me she would talk to her fiancé and get a list of places for him to apply to for work. She also said to bring him by when he came in town and she would have the list ready. 

Needless to say, we went to Nolé for lunch. I enjoy listening to him critique food mostly because I because it validates that my palate is every bit as stellar as his own. LOL Shaile was there and true to her word, she had a list of places. I was not expecting this because I truly thought she was just being kind and would forget me as soon as I left. She was just as gregarious as the first time and offered many suggestions and insight into NOLA, things to do, and Jazz week which was upon us. She is an almanac of ideas and stories. If you haven’t made her acquaintance, I suggest you go and ask for her. You won’t regret it. Note** I say this with all honesty. I am not being paid to say nice things about her, we are not related and she is not getting any kickbacks from her referrals. I know someone out there is naysaying me but she is sincerely genuine. It’s rare to find these days. 

The restaurant offers small plates and entrees. The small plates are shareable, akin to tapas dishes. Two of the small plates I ordered this time, were what I had previously eaten on my first visit so I waited until now to discuss. No need to repeat myself! We ate Blue Crab street corn which is a tasty dish but isn’t what you would imagine when you hear the name. It is small pieces of corn on the cob, standing upright in a shallow, chunky puddle of cream sauce flavored with shredded blue crab. The corn itself is covered with a sauce and spices and roasted to bring out the flavors. We also ate Duck confrit empanadas. I am picky about my empanadas because it is easy to make the crust thick and hard but these were filled just perfectly with the duck and the crust was flaky. Both visits wielded delicious delicacies that didn’t disappoint. 

The first time I went I was interested in the Latin Nachos, but Shaile warned me they were stacked high and quite a lot of food for one so I held off until my son was with me. I must say, she was right. The Latin Nachos were tall and overflowing with layers upon layers of flavor. We were impressed that there were very few naked nachos, and they were hidden deep. We also ordered Pecan encrusted carnitas tacos. The flavoring was inspirational, causing my son to almost lick his fingers! Instead, he used a small piece of the shell to wipe the last remnants of sauce off the plate (don’t judge us here). We didn’t have dessert during this visit because we were saving the opportunity for later. But I will mention that on my first visit I ordered the olive oil chocolate cake and it did not disappoint. It was so filling and decadent, I had to take half of it home to finish another day. 

I like that the restaurant hands out printed recipe cards with the check. It’s a nice personal touch. 

There were just two things that were a little annoying…. in one of the stalls in the women’s bathroom, the toilet paper roll is mounted so low that I had to bend so far over while sitting just to reach it.  If I didn’t have good balance I would have toppled over. It might be okay for people shorter than five feet tall, but if you are like me and taller than 5’8”, you have been warned of the difficulty. The other annoying little factor is if you sit on the patio, the chairs are metal and small. The backs are attached narrowly at the side and anyone who is larger than size 4 or who has hips will not fit comfortably. Otherwise, Nolé, we will meet again!

Mardi Gras (belated)

Sorry for being absent from the blog. Life gave me some hiccups and I had to adjust fire and continue on. But I’m back! Maybe not better than ever but at least no worse for the wear. I want to spend a few minutes catching you up on a few things I did before the disappearing act.

Mardi Gras was the BIG EVENT! WOW! Because had never been, I had all sorts of preconceived notions of what it was. I thought it was just one day of endless parades. I envisioned half naked women baring breasts all day long for the hordes of adoring fans standing on balconies above them. I pictured drunks peeing on the street corner, unable to find a public bathroom. I imagined all sorts of debauchery in the streets, amateur directors creating new Girls Gone Wild videos, and little old ladies whacking the backs of kneecaps to steal beads from unsuspecting tourists falling to the ground. Side note* my mother and her partner used to go to Mardi Gras every year and come back with brown paper bags filled with beads. She was five foot nothing and weighed 88 lbs soaking wet with rocks in her pocket. She had no boobs to speak of so I always used to tease her and say “I don’t want to know how you got all these beads but don’t let me catch you on an episode of Moms Gone Wild!” And I wouldn’t have put it past her to whack a few kneecaps with her cane to help boost her loot!

In fact, it is a month log celebration with parades scheduled almost daily. Bakeries jockeying for title of best King Cake award. Celebrations, parties, and grand Balls. It’s akin to adult sororities aka societies throwing the party of all parties. Each parade has its own theme and each theme is associated with a society. Each society throws their own Ball. This happens all month long.

On actual Mardi Gras day, there are parades that run one after the other, and it is an all-day affair. My friend Alex came to visit and we were invited to go to the parade with a co-worker and her family. I was so ill prepared for how momentous the day was going to be and how much work and preparation went in to making it successful.

For starters, Alex and I bought a king cake and alcohol to contribute to the festivities. I worked the night before so when I got off work at 0730, Alex picked me up from work and we went straight to my friend’s house. She and her two cousins were there getting ready. I changed clothes and we packed up the car with chairs, food and drinks. We drove to the area where her other family members had set up camp. It took several miles of driving, a few detours and some well-placed words before we found a suitable parking spot close enough to our intended destination. Luckily, there was enough hands and arms to carry everything we packed, not to mention we were in relatively good shape so the encumbered walk was manageable. Note to self, next year I am buying an all-terrain wagon to load up supplies and help navigate the streets and sidewalks. (I mentioned in an earlier blog posting about the trees taking over in some sidewalks)

We arrive to our destination around 0900 and unload. Alex and I get introduced to everyone there and that is when it becomes evident the amount of effort and preplanning and downright dedication it takes to pull this off! The space we were inhabiting was like a campsite; complete with chairs, tables, grills, awnings for shade and a rented port-a-potty in someone’s driveway two blocks away. And food. Did I mention food? They had staked their claim to this little plot of land the night before, started cooking and then slept there, outside under the stars, to prevent anyone else from taking it over. Continued cooking the next day and I swear the food did not stop coming until the last parade train rolled past. All day long family members and friends kept streaming in and out. Bringing more food and alcohol and celebrating the day. Kids and adults of all ages were collecting beads and dancing. Music played, laughter rang out and the parade kept coming.

Believe it or not, I managed to stay awake until around 1630 (4:30pm). I felt my body starting to shut down so I decided to walk to the car and sleep. I was leaving Alex in good company and figured everyone can wake me up when the get back to the car. When I reached the car, there was a speaker blaring out loud music literally across the street but at that point, I had been up 22 straight hours and I couldn’t function anymore. I hopped in the car and passed out cold until they woke me up about two hours later. The day was a success. I walked away with a haul of beads and toys that would have made my mother proud. Alex was sufficiently drunk, looking like a Dominican Mr T. We drove everyone home and limped back to my apartment and promptly fell asleep again. I think it took us all the next day to recover but it was well worth it.

Alex and I came up with and after action report on where to improve for next year. We have a game plan and will not be unprepared again. Mardi Gras is coming! 

Note* These are but a few of the pics I took. Way too many to post!

High Hat Cafe

Recently, I had a friend visiting from out of town, so I took him to the High Hat Cafe. It is a restaurant I have been wanting to try but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I had heard good things about it so I couldn’t wait to experience this landmark restaurant. 

From the outside it was pretty non-descript. It looks like a restaurant that opened in a strip mall and is still hanging on in there over the years. The inside definitely shows it’s been a staple of the community for some time now; old pictures hanging on the wall, old fashioned tables and chairs and it hasn’t had a makeover in some time. It was hard to tell the difference between the staff and customers because everyone was dressed for a casual evening stroll and some looked like they rolled right out of bed. That’s not to say it was a turnoff for me… honestly, some of the best food I’ve eaten were in hole-in-the wall places. I wish I could say this was one of those times. 

We both tried the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo Ya-Ya. Now before you go asking me what a gumbo ya-ya is, I had to look it up myself, ‘cause apparently it’s a thing down here. It depends on who you talk to and where you google the answer, but it could be from a book with the same name about Louisiana folklore, written by Lyle Saxon. It’s also rumored to have been spoken by chef Paul Prudhomme when he tried some good gumbo and replied it tastes so good it makes you say yaya. Others say it means “everybody talks at once”. Though that doesn’t sound food related, it could be if you imagine the cacophony of sounds when many people are talking, competing for your attention, is akin to the many flavors in gumbo competing for your taste buds.  Now this particular gumbo was not thick enough for my taste, for starters. Maybe it’s just my preference, but I prefer my gumbo to be more stew consistency and less soupy. I also wasn’t particular to the many pieces of floating fat that were starting to congeal as the gumbo cooled. When you live in the city that boasts gumbo on near about every street corner, gas station and eatery, you have got to step your game up!

We both decided to order the side dish plate, which boasts 3 side dishes and cornbread. This way we could sample many different flavors. Together we tried the pimento mac n cheese, field greens, green beans with apple smoke wood bacon, creamy grits, sweet potato salad, and hushpuppies. The Mac n cheese was very peppery, but tasty, if you could get past the overwhelming flavor of black pepper. The field greens were to die for. A definite 5-star rating in both our books. The green beans were tasty but there were more fat particles than bacon bits, so it made the dish too greasy, and that just turns my taste buds off. The creamy grits were delicious. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the sweet potato salad. Didn’t really know what it was to be honest but if you imagine potato salad, and substituting sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, viola, sweet potato salad. Original concept. I give it props for originality. If you like potato salad, this might be right up your alley. The hush puppies were tasty but too greasy. My fingers were definitely more touchably soft after eating a few of those. The cornbread was horrible. We both spit it out on the first bite. 

Overall, the High Hat was decent but not memorable. It is a great family restaurant you can bring the kids too when they are young and learning table manners; the “starter restaurant” if you will. It is a place to get a decent meal for a good price. 

green beans, field greens, grits, cornbread, and hushpuppies
sweet potato salad


Banana Daquiri
Feeling the effects already
Ropa Vieja Arepas
Coconut flan

I had been to New Orleans a few times before I ever moved here. During one of my travels, I stumbled across a cute little Cuban sandwich shop. The name is escaping me but I want to say it was El Libre, but don’t hold me to it. When I came back to New Orleans June 2018, this time to live, I was on a quest to find said sandwich shop. I didn’t remember the exact location but I knew the vicinity and was sure I would recognize it once I saw it again. I was with my friend, Lyric, at the time and he and I searched all the side streets until I found the place. Only it wasn’t quite the same place. It had recently changed owners and was now called Manolito’s.

Besides changes to the Menu, I was pleased to find the new owners, Nick Detrich and Chris Hannah, had made changes to the seating arrangements. Upstairs, where there was once a long bar type table with chairs stretched across the bannister, there are now several tables and chairs that can seat multiple guests. This is a wonderful benefit, especially if you desire to actually look at your dining partner during the meal. There is also a small bistro table sitting outside and a few seating options as you first walk in, near the bar/kitchen. 

The establishment is small but inviting. I discovered Manolito is modeled after a bar in Havana named El Floridita, where famed Ernest Hemingway used to sit and sip cocktails.  Manuel Carbajo Aguiar, also known as Manolito, spent 20 years working behind the bar at El Floridita. Manolito mentored Chris and Nick after they met in Cuba. The pair asked for and received permission from Manuel’s family to use the name Manolito for the new restaurant in New Orleans, to pay tribute to him. According to Josephine, an effervescent staple of the establishment and waitress extraordinaire, all staff members must travel to Cuba and learn how to make drinks in the appropriate Cuban style, from the Masters themselves. I won’t go into much detail about the story behind Manolito’s. There has been several stories already written about them in such a short period of time. You can simply google them to learn more. Instead, I encourage you to pay a visit in person and engage any of the staff in conversation. 

My first time there, Chris was serving meals by himself and took time to talk to Lyric and myself about the new establishment. It was that type of welcoming atmosphere that pulls people in and keeps them coming back. Well, along with the great food and drinks too.  

Since then, I have been back two more times and both times it was Josephine who welcomed me back, remembering me from months before. I mentioned before, the place was small and most of the seating is upstairs. Josephine is developing legs of steel, traversing up and down the staircase hundreds of times a day. This past visit I overheard her proudly tell a customer as she delivered their drink, which was filled to capacity “Lily likes to fill the drinks full and watch me go up the stairs. But she’s no match for me, I went to finishing school!” Josephine is a rare breed of person who makes you feel welcomed and missed at the same time.  She can easily jump from topic to topic ranging from the menu, history of Manolito, New Orleans, and Cuba, and then some. She makes you feel as if you are her most important customer when speaking with you, yet never neglects anyone else around her. 

Their menu is small but offers a variety of deliciousness. My favorite dish is Ropa Vieja Arepas. It is a national dish in Cuba, consisting of marinated shredded beef topped with vegetables in a light vinaigrette, balancing out the two flavors. Both are piled on two arepas, which is a cornmeal pancake with cheese inside. I also enjoy their shrimp ceviche, which is served with little Cuban crackers. Their dairy free coconut flan, made with coconut milk, is an excellent way to finish a meal.

I am not a big drinker and tend to stick with fruity drinks so I cannot comment on all the different varieties offered on the menu as to the taste of them. What I can speak about is their banana daiquiri and their house cocktail, the Hotel Nacional. Both are delicious and both times I didn’t make it halfway down before I started feeling the effects! Some would say I was a lightweight, but I have heard on good authority, their drinks are no slouch. 

If you find yourself in the Big Easy, wandering around the French Quarter, I beseech you to walk into Manolito’s and slip away to a little bit of heaven, aka Cuba. 

Giraffes…. NOLA, you do not disappoint

Another thing you may not know about me is I love Giraffes. Not love in a fanatical way but Love nonetheless. Some, well actually ONE person has told me I have too many Giraffes in my collection, and perhaps others have thought it, but I do not feel it has taken over my life. I mean really, how many is TOO many (this last question aimed at the above mentioned ONE)? My collection is limited to the top of a bookshelf, two pictures and three others fused together with spare metal parts. Two are over 6′ tall and one smaller one.

A few weeks ago, I was driving around greater NOLA, lost, and trying to find a gas station. My GPS directed me to a side road, and I was hoping and praying the remaining gas fumes were enough to sustain me until I arrived at the destination. Even though I was focused on finding the gas station, my eagle eyes spotted a giraffe out of the corner of my eye as I passed by. I was so excited, I forgot I needed gas and turned around at the next possible moment to drive past that beautiful sight again. Traffic was too heavy for me to slow down and properly stare lovingly. There was also that little issue of gas fumes, so I turned back around at the next intersection and focused on the task at hand. BUT, believe me, after I fueled up, I drove straight back to that beautiful sight and snapped a pic! The pic does not do it justice. This giraffe is large and artfully crafted! I do not know who lives in the house that belongs to this beautiful creature, but whoever you are and where ever you are, I LOVE YOU! **Side note, the house where this giraffe lives is big and beautiful. If I ever win the lottery………. 

Ever watchful
I wonder what my neighbors think
I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous!

I’m not Spicy

If you have made it this far in my blog and are still reading, then you know by now I love good food. But what you don’t know about me yet is I don’t love spicy food. I am working on raising my level of tolerance but it is a slow going process and to be honest, I don’t think it will ever reach Titanic proportions. To give you an idea of my spice level tolerance, I am finally able to each Popeye’s Spicy chicken without breathing fire. Fun story that wasn’t so fun at the time: years ago, I was driving back to CT from NY and was eating some Brown Stew Chicken from a local Jamaican restaurant. I managed to get through about half my meal when all of a sudden, after a particular bite, the left side of my tongue became numb. Totally numb! Shortly thereafter the numbing feeling spread to the left side of my lips and eventually the entire left side of my face. My left eye started watering uncontrollably and my nose started profusely running. I thought my hair was going to catch fire. The pain was so intense! It felt like my face was sliding off. I had to pull over to the side of the road because my vision was blurry through the stream of tears running down my face. All I had to drink was Ting. For those of you not familiar with this delicacy, it is a grapefruit flavored soda. Not helpful in this situation…. at all! I had some coco bread, thankfully, and was chewing it slowly, trying to allow the bread morsels to soak up the fire that was currently engulfing my mouth.  A scotch bonnet pepper must have found its way into my food, and I found the tiny sliver and bit into it during that delectable bite. The fire raged for what felt like hours. I had devoured the bread and the fire raged on! I suffered for an indeterminate amount of time before I was finally able to pull back on the road and limp the rest of the way home. To this day, I do NOT understand how anyone can ever get used to spicy food! EVER! Yet, people do. I can assure you, this Lady will not never…. 

Why do I mention this story? Well I have been able to avoid super spicy food for decades. I got blindsided again a couple of years ago at a Thai restaurant in San Antonio. The menu had a cute little rating of peppers 1-5 on their scale. I asked the waiter how spicy it really was and he said it was very mild. To be on the safe side, I ordered my Chicken Tikka Masala as a 1 on the hotness scale. Took it home and started eating. WHAT THE HECK!  The 1 was barely tolerably for me. I never would have survived a 2, much less a 3. And a 5?!?!?! At that level, can you even TASTE THE FOOD?  What kind of crazy do you have to be?

But I digress, back to the story….

There is a wonderful African Restaurant in NOLA called Bennachin. I stumbled across it one day while wandering around the city. Didn’t even realize it was a restaurant because of its unassuming exterior, until I spotted a couple looking in the window. I was curious so I googled the name on the sign above the door and discovered this little hidden gem. I was hungry so I decided to walk in and the smells set my stomach to rumbling. The décor is simple. A very low key place to eat. My favorite item on the menu is their Black Eyed Pea fritter called Akara. The staff swears it is made with black eyed peas but the inside is white as clean snow and I do not taste a single black eye pea in the mix. That being said, it is, however simply delicious! Tender and soft and not hard or crunchy like something that has been over fried. It is the size of a hush puppy but quintessentially better! I thought perhaps it was a fluke… like maybe I arrived on a good day and the stars aligned up just right so I went back a second time with friends and it was JUST as good as the first time.  I ordered their Sisay Singho which is baked chicken leg and thigh, sautéed spinach, sweet plantains, and coconut rice. The portions were so large I had enough left over for dinner the next day. Fast forward a few weeks later, while at work, I was discussing restaurants with some co-workers. A fellow nurse mentioned she likes this African restaurant and I asked “is it Bennachin?” to which she gasped YES! We couldn’t stop raving about it for a good 15 minutes so another nurse googled the menu and we made plans to get together the following week for a girls night out. We got together and it was still amazing! We ordered Akara again and Doh Doh, which is fried ripe plantains as appetizers. Ndole, which is beef, spinach, ground fresh peanuts in ginger and garlic sauce served with fried ripe plantains and coconut rice, and Cope ni Cone, which is boneless chicken, broccoli, ginger, and garlic sauce served over rice and the Sisay Singho again. Everyone was delighted with their order and what can I say, we were not disappointed. I thought I took pictures but think I deleted them off my phone. Sorry… next time! 

Now, not everything is perfect! I went back alone a third time and ordered their Sorso Nessing, which is lentil soup and Sorso Wolengho Ni Mano, which is red beans and beef sausage slices served with rice. The first three bites of the lentil soup was so delicious, I shed a tear of happiness. THEN, the spicy hit me head on! At first I just started having violent hiccups associated with the hotness. So silly me thought I should just drain out the liquid and eat the lentils… because of course only the liquid part of the soup is hot, right? Made sense at the time. I attempted to eat two more bites of just the lentils and the hiccups became so intense, it felt like my diaphragm was trying to launch my stomach out of my body. I could not take another bite if I wanted to keep my dignity intact for fear of hurling. How can something taste so heavenly and so spicy at the same time? I ask again, how can anyone survive spicy food? As far as the red beans and beef sausage, I was disappointed. The red beans and rice were tasty, but not memorable. And the sliced beef sausage tasted like a plain hot dog. Nothing to write home about. 

Still, there are many other menu options so don’t let this one disappointing dish sway you. Please go and dine and Bennachin’s. You will not be disappointed.