Maypop is a Maybe

My son is down visiting for the summer, waiting to go back to school. I wish I could say he took a job simply because he is a good son and knows couch potatoness in the house isn’t allowed. I’d also like to take full credit for his desire to be a productive member of society but the fact is, he has a passion for cooking. A passion that is obvious just listening to him speak about food. So while he is whittling away his time here in NOLA, he is putting his time to good use and found a job working in the kitchen of Maypop Restaurant.

Being the great and supportive foodie mother that I am, I just had to drop by unannounced one night and try the place out for myself. I brought a friend along to keep my bias in check and help sample the flavors. We didn’t go all out, ordering everything off the menu but instead sampled/shared a few different items.

First off, I want to give kudos to the wall map decoration. I truly don’t know what style you would call the design, but it is similar to 3d illusion. Imagine triangular wedges all grouped together with two of the sides representing two different maps. When you view from one side, you see one map and when you view from the other side, it is a different map. It is better viewing from a distance because you get the whole picture when your eyes blur the individual wedges together to make one picture. Am I making sense here? I hope so. Better yet, go view for yourself!

Everyone on the staff was pleasant and the atmosphere was friendly and inviting. There was a gentleman standing near the bar who could have been either a bodyguard for some important VIP or a bouncer to kick out the unruly. He was keenly aware of everything happening within the restaurant, without making you feel like you were being watched and I’ll wager nothing gets past him. I could view the kitchen from where I happened to have been seated (strictly a happy coincidence, I assure you). From my vantage point, the kitchen staff worked efficiently and cheerfully.

We ordered the bread service, which is simply four pieces of annatto sesame rolls served in a small cast iron type dish with coconut butter and shellfish pepper jam as an accoutrement. I am a huge fan of delicious bread but I have to be honest, this just didn’t do it for me. The bread was too hard. I think it was left in the oven a little too long so instead of crusty bread with a soft interior, it was closer to a rock hard crust with a dense thick interior. The coconut butter didn’t have even a hint of coconut in it and didn’t taste any different from regular butter, except maybe creamier. The shellfish pepper jam was an interesting combination of flavors though. If you have been following me, you’ll know I don’t do spicy. However, this was flavorful but I was sure happy I was eating it with bread! Whew!

The second item was a Roasted Bone Marrow and Louisiana Crawfish in smoked paprika curry. I was hesitant to try this because I have never had bone marrow and it just sounds like something Hannibal Lector would dine on BUT you only live once so why not try something new? There was a warm, roti bread served with the dish and I am a huge fan of roti. I am almost completely won over to bone marrow by this dish. The hesitancy isn’t due to taste at all but the texture for me of the marrow. It is gelatinous in nature once cooked. I tried eating it straight off bone and the jelly texture didn’t do it for me, but after I scraped it out and mixed it with all the wonderful flavors of the curry sauce, I was a fan.

Next we tried Black Cardamom Glazed Beef Belly with cheesy curried potato stuffed roti (again with the roti, I know! But I like what I like). The flavors in this dish were delicious and the stuffed roti was a knock out of the park. A real winner to me!

For dessert we tried the Mousse Rouge and Dark Chocolate Cremeux. I had to send the chocolate dessert back but the Mousse was delicious. Full of flavor without the heaviness an overpowering sugary dessert would have. The mousse is housed in a circular tower of white chocolate. The red and green strawberries are floating in a summery marinade of interesting herb-infused flavors. The greek yogurt sherbet, which sounds like an ice cream imposter, was a splendid accompaniment to the mousse. A perfect way to end a meal.

I ordered an Espresso Martini to go with the dessert but the waiter only heard the word espresso and brought a cup of that instead. It took me a few minutes to gain his attention again but once he learned his mistake, he quickly corrected the order.

Overall, there are many great qualities of Maypop and still many items on the menu left to explore. I didn’t leave the restaurant feeling “wow, I can’t wait to go there again!” Though I am not totally sold on the place, I believe it deserves a second go ’round, and not just because my son is working there!

Strolling through NOLA

When people think of New Orleans, usually, the first few things they think about is Mardi Gras, Beads, Bourbon Street and women’s bared breasts. I’ll admit, it’s what I used to think too. The few times I visited before moving down here gave me an insight to a beautiful city, whose inhabitants were fiercely proud, loyal and full of life. Since moving New Orleans, my initial reaction to this beautiful city hasn’t changed. Quite the contrary, it’s been enhanced by the sights and sounds I have experienced in my short time of being here. 

New Orleans isn’t just about delicious food, beautiful artwork, naked breasts and endless parties. There is so much history here! When you stroll down parts of the city, it feels like you time warped to a different bygone era. There are Victorian houses with porch swings and tassled lampshades in the windows. Trees so large and majestically lumbersome, overhanging the sidewalks and looming out over the streets. I have seen street lamps taken over by Honeysuckle vines, becoming fragrant giants towering over their domain. Fronts of buildings covered head to toe in Ivy. Lawns recreated to become picturesque zen gardens. As you stroll down the sidewalks, if you look carefully around you, you’ll see intermittent memorials in the form of perhaps a plaque, a statue, or a bell, seamlessly blending into the surroundings. A gentle reminder of loves and lives lost but not forgotten. There are beautiful balconies, adorning historic buildings, handcrafted to reflect the personality of the crafter. 

Have I told you I love this city? I passed by a storefront that sold crowns… CROWNS. What King or Queen of your household doesn’t need a crown! And just outside a different storefront I saw a large regal lamp. Anywhere else it would have looked out of place but here in this city, anything goes. So many different artists set up outside Jackson Square. Each week you can view it’s someone new and something different. I don’t have the space or the money to purchase everything I like but if I did, I’d be broke already. 

I am still unsure if New Orleans will be my forever home, but I’ve lived here nearly a year now and it hasn’t lost it’s appeal yet. There is still so much more that needs to be explored. You are welcome to stay with me on this journey and feel free to let me know your favorite places to visit. 

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!