North Carolina Food Road trip

Now that I’m back from my trip to North Carolina (that had us traveling through Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia), I’m going to post our food road trip. I hope y’all have been or will try some of the places we went and let me know what you think about them.

Bon voyage et bon appétit!

My mom and I arrived in Cherokee, North Carolina on August 23rd and had dinner at Paul’s Family Restaurant (1111 Tsali Blvd). We started with fried mushrooms – big and juicy with a nice, crunchy batter and followed that with a chili cheese covered frybread.

Almost overflowing the plate, it was loaded with beans and cheese. The fry bread was slightly sweet but good with the chili.

We spent the night at the Newfound Lodge with riverside views from the balconies.

Even better, there was a gaggle of geese and a huge elk who came to the river to feed the next morning. That’s mom on our second floor balcony, checking her phone.

Geese!
Elk!

We took our time getting to Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway (it ends in Cherokee, just under 2 miles from our hotel and we get off at Craven Gap, mile marker 377). We stopped at lots of overlooks to just breathe, take pictures and admire the majesty of Great Smokey Mountains.

Milepost 431

After getting groceries the next day we went to Papa’s and Beer (17 Tunnel Road, Asheville). I had one each of their tacos – beef, chicken and avocado. Enjoyed the variety of choices available at their salsa bar and the house margarita, too. The place filled up fast at lunch time so go early if you can for delicious Mexican food.

We took it easy for a few days after we arrived before heading up to see the Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331) and Mount Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, the mountain is the highest point east of the Mississippi River with gorgeous views and a couple of easy hikes to even better ones. We had planned to have lunch there but the restaurant was closed for repairs.

Some family friends came in town from Canton, North Carolina and we went out for pizza at Barley’s Taproom (42 Biltmore Avenue). We got the All-American with pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions and bell pepper. It was a New York style pizza – came out quickly, piping hot with a crispy & chewy crust, well seasoned sauce and lots of gooey cheese. My mom was pleased with the variety of beers and I enjoyed a blackberry cider.

We drove down to Hendersonville for the North Carolina Apple Festival. We enjoyed a frozen apple cider and picked up several local apples – Carolina Crisp, Empire, Cortland and one gold – a Mutsu.

Mom by the mountain lion statue

We ran errands one day (mainly to renew Mom’s Buncombe County Library Card!) and stopped at Luella’s Bar-B-Que (501 Merrimon Avenue) for lunch. We had passed it several times on previous visits but it took a recommendation from my friend, Ayame Dinkler, for us to stop and I’m so glad we did!

Mom had the Hot Mama Wings. She really liked being able to order the number of wings she wanted (3) and to pick her sauce level.

I had the chopped pork sandwich. I liked that the sauce was in a cup for me to add as I judge barbecue on how it tastes by itself. The meat was great – smokey, tender and juicy. The sandwich was delicious without the vinegar based sauce I chose and even better with it.

We both really enjoyed the space (plus lots of places to eat outside), the friendly staff and will definitely be coming back soon.

We went to Sunday breakfast at Cornerstone Restaurant (102 Tunnel Road) – just down the mountain from Mom’s condo. The portion sizes were huge and the food very flavorful. I just wish we could have eaten more!

Mom had the blackberries and cream stuffed French toast:

I had their Breakfast bowl – a hearty (read humongous) serving of homestyle potatoes, eggs, cheese and sausage gravy

Very friendly service – especially for that early on a Sunday morning. We got there after they opened at 7:30am!

A highlight was a visit to Chai Pani (22 Battery Park Ave) with a friend of Mom’s that she’s known since kindergarten. There is a lot of construction happening on restoration of the Flatiron Building, so be prepared for noise but the food was outstanding.

Namaste, y’all!

We started with matchstick okra fries – well seasoned and, honestly, the best preparation of okra I’ve ever had. Then we had Sev Potato Dahi Puri – crispy puris that were cool and refreshing. Finally, we had Sloppy Jai sliders – very flavorful lamb hash sliders. Plus lavender lemonade as a palate cleanser.

All quite delicious! I see why they won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in June. I highly recommend.

We went to Chocolate Fetish (39 Haywood Street) and spent way too much money on incredibly decadent chocolate. Just look at these salted caramels:

We also stopped at Ben and Jerry’s (19 Haywood Street) for ice cream.

I got a large scoop of Mint Chocolate Chunk – super yum!

We picked up corned beef on rye sandwiches from Zella’s Deli (45 College Street). Lots of tasty meat on toasted bread with a large, whole sour dill pickle.

A few days later, we joined friends at Village Wayside Bar and Grille (30 Lodge Street, Biltmore Village). Had a pretty good burger and the CBR fries. (Cheddar cheese, bacon ranch fries).

We did have to send the first batch of onion rings back. When they brought the new ones out, they admitted someone left the buttermilk out of the batter. The next batch was so much better with that crucial ingredient back in!

One of mom’s friends introduced us to the White Duck Taco Shop (on the banks of the French Broad River at 388 Riverside Drive). We enjoyed beer, margaritas, red wine and chips with queso dip when we would stop there to just chill out with John and watch the river flow by.

There were the obligatory stops at Cheddar’s and Waffle House during the visit but I’ve posted about them before. I will reiterate that the honey butter croissants are mighty delicious

and that the Waffle House Scale Index is a real thing. The jump teams they send into disaster areas to get the restaurants back open and serving hot food to survivors and first responders are real heroes in my book. There is nothing like a hot meal when you’ve been cold and wet and nobody does comforting starch and protein packed meals like them.

We started the drive back home on September 27 and stopped at Native Brew Tap and Grill (1897 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC) for a late lunch. Mom really enjoyed their Smokey Mountain Golden Ale and I was wowed by a pretzel bigger than her head! Great mustard and cheese dipping sauce and the loaded nachos were very good, too.

We enjoyed another night at Newfound Lodge and then drove along the Nantahala River into Georgia and then followed the interstate home.

Such a great trip!

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LA 23 BBQ

I was lucky to get invited to a tour of the Southwest Regional Flood Protection Authority facility on the West Bank with NOSHA and the local Sierra Club group. Absolutely fascinating about how much storm surge they stop and how much water they can pump out and how fast – to fill the Superdome from top to bottom would only take an hour and 45 minutes with their 11 pumps!

Regional Director Nicholas Cali begins the tour in front of the West Closure Complex

After the tour, I stopped for lunch with my friends Charlotte and Thomas at LA 23 BBQ. The entrance is right across from the Belle Chase Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.

The building isn’t much more than the smokers and kitchen with a bunch of picnic tables under a metal roof. They are mainly open for lunch during the week. The food is good and comes out fast.

I had the pulled pork sandwich. It comes with the slaw on the sandwich but I had them put that on the side. Tender, juicy meat with a good flavor that hardly needed sauce. The mac and cheese was very tasty but a little grainy.

They’ve got a good selection of things besides sandwiches if you wanted to get a rack of ribs, whole or half chicken, turkey or brisket. They offer meat by the pound to take home or have meals for 10, 20, 30 people catered in addition to eating there in the open air. Check out their menu for the full list of options.

So, next time you’re over on the West Bank and want good food, fast – go to LA 23 BBQ

Oh, and if you open carry, you get a free drink!

LA 23 BBQ
9661 Highway 23
Belle Chasse, LA 70037
(504) 657-3693
11am to 4pm Tuesday-Saturday

R and O’s Restaurant in Bucktown

My friends Mickie and Carol took me to lunch to talk politics and early voting (Geaux Vote!) and I surprised them by having never been to R&O’s Restaurant in the Bucktown neighborhood. It was one of their favorites and, after dining, they drove me around all the new changes to the waterfront out there.

We started with the shrimp salad tossed with remoulade sauce instead of dressing. Lots of big, whole boiled shrimp and recognizable hunks of bell pepper, tomato, onion and iceberg lettuce.

The roast beef sandwich was piled high with well cooked roast beef. It tasted like a pot roast on a bun, which we ordered well toasted so it didn’t get too soggy with the brown gravy. Came with lots of pickles for that cool, sharp crunch. As I still count the number of napkins required  as to how good the poboy is, I can tell you it came in at 4 paper towels!

Fried oyster sandwich had large fried oysters piled on. Good flavor to the oysters. It needed a crunch, so I added some pickles and it was perfect.

Our server was quick with refills on our ice tea and to check in to make sure we had all we needed. She even brought extra of the good mints!

I’m always looking for a good spot for lunch, and this fits the bill of lots of food, good prices, friendly staff and lots of parking! I think my folks are going to love their sandwiches, too.

Recommend!

R&O’s Restaurant
www.r-opizza.com
216 Metairie-Hammond Highway
Metairie, LA 70005

 

Show Me the Saint Louis Desserts!

Brian, Jennie and I ended our cross country odyssey in St. Louis, Missouri. Of course, I couldn’t leave the city without seeing the arch:

And I definitely couldn’t leave until I tasted some of their local treats. We started by going to Ted Drewes for a frozen custard concoction known as concrete. The place is a small house with several windows to order from along the street side.

They list out their menu on the side wall but along the front are other hand written signs about other offerings, all of which tempt you to change your mind. So I did. Several times.

I ordered the turtle with caramel and hot fudge sauce and pecans. Very, very tasty. Jennie got hers with Reeses peanut butter cups mixed in. Also, delish.

I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture of the server turning it upside down to show me how thick it is but she did flip them.

The custards were quite refreshing on a warmish afternoon and they’ve got benches along the edge of the parking lot, under some trees so we sat with many others to enjoy our treat.

We next needed to find some Gooey Butter Cake. We wanted to go to Gooey Louie but they were on vacation so we tried another version near where we were staying in Fenton.

Russell’s Cafe and Bakery does a shortbread crust on theirs plus several different options like chocolate chip and cinnamon and orange as well as the original gooey butter cake. I really liked the soft, gooey and creamy top over the crunchy shortbread and the hint of citrus in their cinnamon version helped cut the sweetness. It may not be true to the original but it was very good.

What started as a baker’s mistake (switching the proportions of flour and sugar) is quite delicious indeed.

St. Louis has many fine qualities and its desserts rank among them. I hope to return soon to explore more.

 

Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque – Kansas City

Our cross country drive took us through Kansas City. What would a visit to the home of its own style of BBQ be complete without a stop at Arthur Bryant’s place?

I got the burnt ends sandwich. Loads of tender meat over white bread and a huge portion of fries. The only problem was I couldn’t taste the char or smoke on the meat through all the sauce. The brisket was fall apart tender; I just don’t usually put so much sauce on good meat.

The baby back ribs were tender to the tooth, with a beautiful smoke line. Very good ribs so I’d definitely go for the larger slabs, especially if other members of your table insist on sampling them.

Of course, there is a big emphasis here on their sauces – they’ve even got a framed cartoon about it:

And the sauce was tasty. It is the epitome of what I think of when I think of Kansas City Style. The sandwich came with the original sauce. There are three types on the tables. Brian liked the Hot and Spicy best – he thought it was a perfect combination of flavors and that it made even the white bread sing.

I can tell you the best time to visit seems to be during a Kansas City Chiefs game. The staff might be a little distracted but there was no line. Even distracted, they were friendly to newbies and quick with getting the food onto our plates so we could dig in.

The interior could use a bit of a cleaning but all in all, I’d return to sample more of their menu.

Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque
www.arthurbryantsbbq.com
1727 Brooklyn Avenue
Kansas City, Missouri
816-231-1123

The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs – Sacramento

I drove up to see my friends Roxie and Jamie and they took me to The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs. They specialize in Ice Cream Puffs which is a scoop of their handcrafted ice cream, sealed inside a hot glazed donut.

I know, right!

Just the most awesome ice cream sandwich ever with the ice cream melting from the heat of the soft donut.

They have a good selection of ice cream, many with whimsical names like 50 Shades of Earl Gray Tea (tea infused honey and vanilla ice cream), Midnight in Paris (coffee ice cream with Nutella), Elmos Revenge (red velvet ice cream with  Oreos and chocolate chips), Coco Butter Kisses (dark chocolate ice cream with cookie butter and graham crackers), etc. Everyone else got scoops in a cup – Roxie ordered the Midnight in Paris and salted caramel, Jamie ordered Coco Butter Kisses and John ordered Midnight in Paris. I went for the salted caramel ice cream to go in my sandwich.

If you’re going for the ice cream puffs, you place your order and they place the scoop on a donut that has been cut in half. They then disappear into the back with it and, when they come back, it is heated and pressed together. The contrast of warm and cold, soft and creamy, salt and sweet nearly made me shiver. You do need to eat fast as the ice cream is melting but it is so good I was already eager to scarf it down.

Terrific for those who love ice cream sandwiches, especially that you get to choose your ice cream. Of course, now I’m wondering if you could do the same with beignet.

It is a very small shop with only a couple of tables but it wasn’t packed on Sunday evening so we got a table and added a chair from another. Staff friendly and service was quick.

I would probably be here weekly and have blood sugar through the roof but it is a lovely treat.

The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs
2620 Fair Oaks Blvd
www.theparloricecream.com
Sacramento, CA 95864
(916)977-3997

Augie’s Montreal Deli – Berkeley

I was running errands with my friend Brian which took us into Berkeley at lunchtime. Brian is a great foodie finder and this one is a little off the beaten track but going to Augie’s Montreal Deli was a real treat.

We split the L’Montroyal, which came with what looked like a pound of Augie’s Montreal smoked meat. This sandwich (which is just meat and bread) is huge! The meat is a beef brisket which is cured, rubbed, smoked, and slow roasted. Sort of like pastrami and corned beef joining together and bringing out the best of each other. You can order it lean or fatty – just look at our sandwich and try to guess what we went for:

The sandwich came with pickles and some coleslaw that some purist put on it. I enjoyed the pickle but left the coleslaw for Brian.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also order a bowl of poutine –  French fried red potatoes with St Hubert poutine gravy and authentic squeaky cheese curds. Very yummy. We ordered the smaller bowl and it was plenty for two people.

The order came up fast and hot. They brought it to our table and the owner, Lex, even stopped by to make sure we had everything we needed. There is seating both inside and out and they’ll even bring your order to the car, if you can’t find parking and decide to get it to go.

They have a small refrigerated cabinet and they sell smoked brisket and bacon.  They also have cans of poutine gravy, if you wanted to take it home and make your own.

I’d definitely recommend this place. Check out their hours before going as they close at 3pm during the middle of the week.

Augie’s Montreal Deli
augiesmontrealdeli.com
875 Potter St
Berkeley CA 94710
(510) 984-0283

NOLA – Palo Alto

I flew into California and had a great day talking books and food with friends. We rounded out our evening by going to Kepler’s Books to enjoy a lively and informative conversation between authors Lucy Jane Bledsoe and Emma Donoghue about Emma’s new book, Akin.

Prior to the event, we had to fuel up. Dar recommended NOLA Restaurant in downtown Palo Alto and I’m very glad she did. The place is a tribute to New Orleans that adds a California flair to the food. The cocktails were creative and delicious, the walls were covered in Southern art and the food was as good or better than the best Creole and Cajun I’ve had the pleasure to eat.

We focused ordering nearly all their small plates. I had cornbread plus their BBQ shrimp and grits with garlic bread. Big shrimp with a richly flavored sauce over savory, stone-ground grits. The garlic studded bread was good and, as you see from the picture, a lot for such a tiny skillet.

Luan offered me her Mamma’s Mac and cheese for the picture and I got a bite of it as well. Very smooth and generously cheesy, with just a hint of spice over the plump, well cooked pasta. My mama doesn’t make it that way but I sure wish she did.

Karin had the shrimp as well and also ordered a flight of fried green tomatoes. They came with a couple of sauces but the crunchy, cornmeal coated tomatoes needed no boost of flavor as they tasted divine. Not sure they needed the sprinkling of greens but we are in California, so they are par for the course.

Their chef had the patience and keen eye and nose to get a deep mahogany roux on the seafood etouffee that Peggy ordered. Complex layers of flavor and full of scallops, crawfish and shrimp, this dish was good to the last bite.

Just look at the meat in this flank steak salad that Maria ordered! Sure there were noodles and greens and edamame but the marinated meat was tender and flavorful. Salad isn’t usually food in my world but for this I’m willing to make an exception.

I didn’t get pics of the ribs that Dar ordered* but she did give me a bite and it was meltingly tender to the tooth. I did snap a picture of the large boiled shrimp in the bucket of ice she also ordered. I’m not sure what we were supposed to with the celery but the shrimp easily found their way into our mouths.

I also neglected to get pictures of the cornbread.** It was sweet but with a very nice crumb. The plate had two large pieces and came with a rosemary honey that was good enough to sip out of the container. The nice server also brought us some butter to slather on it.

The servers in the lounge and in the restaurant were attentive and the cocktails sized generously. I’m glad we had reservations because the bar and lounge were packed at 5pm. The place is set up with many small areas in two stories around an open courtyard so groups could get raucous (not my group, of course, we were the height of decorum!) without disturbing others. Each place setting came with Mardi Gras beads and that helped get everyone into the right festive mood.

A good atmosphere, excellent service and just the right amount of spice to the eclectic menu makes this a restaurant I would return to in the future. I recommend it.

NOLA
https://www.nolas.com/
535 Ramona St.,
Palo Alto, CA 94301
650.328.2722

Author notes and corrections:
*note – correction Luan ordered the ribs
** the server took our picture and the cornbread can be seen next to me (after Dar and Peggy). Here it is:

Dar, Peggy and I and the cornbread

Gabrielle Restaurant

I’m continuing my COOLinary New Orleans odyssey where you can get a 3 course dinner for $39 or less during the month of August. It is a perfect way to try out new restaurants or enjoy old favorites.

For dinner last night, I was able to go to Gabrielle Restaurant with my friends and local authors JM Redmann and Gillian Rodger. It is a small cottage in the Treme serving contemporary Creole cuisine. Gabrielle is a fairly casual place, where the bartender wandered to the planters out front to pick more mint for cocktails like the one I ordered:

It is called the JeniSu and is made of gin, champagne, mint syrup and lime. Very refreshing.

I neglected to get a picture of their starter of sea scallop wrapped in duck bacon!

My first course was meatballs three ways: Cajun duck, Italian veal, Greek lamb. Lovely flavor on each with rich sauces, too.

I ordered the Viennese Wienerschnitzel – crispy breaded veal over grilled eggplant. Yes, please!

Jean had the jambalaya – so much beautiful seafood!

Gillian had the fish filet served over a crabcake:

There were just as many varied dessert options as for the main course and they were all delicious. Jean had the chocolate pecan pie. It look very tasty.

Gillian had the bread pudding but the picture was blurry – sorry!

I had a bourbon milk punch with two moon pies. They call it shooting the moon and it was a smooth finish for a terrific evening.

For fine, casual dining Gabrielle will definitely go on my list of places to return. Everyone was friendly and attentive although they were super fast to clear plates so I left some of the delicious meatball sauce behind.

All in all, Greg and Mary and Gabrielle Sonnier have crafted a welcoming restaurant with a rich menu and ambiance that totally hit the spot. Thanks so much to Jean and Gillian for a wonderful experience.

Gabrielle Restaurant
www.gabriellerestaurant.com
504-603-2344
2441 Orleans Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119

 

Coterie Restaurant NOLA

August in New Orleans can be tough to endure. To make things easier, there is COOLinary New Orleans, whereby local restaurants offer fixed price lunch menus for $20 or less. It is a perfect way to try out new restaurants or enjoy old favorites.

My friends Garrett and Leigh are in town as their son is looking at Tulane University as a potential place to go to college. I was very happy to join them for a meal, as it gave me a chance to eat at Coterie Restaurant and Oyster Bar in the French Quarter.

Coterie’s COOLinary lunch is two courses and I choose to have the boudin balls for my first course. The texture was terrific and the deep fried pork and rice balls had just the right amount of heat. The remoulade sauce served with them was tangy and refreshing.

For my second course, I choose the fried shrimp poboy (dressed, of course). A generous amount of shrimp, in a seasoned batter and deep fried to perfection.

The rest of the table ordered everything from charbroiled oysters to crabcakes to red beans and rice and jambalaya and it was all good. The chef’s take on traditional New Orleans food is very well done. Additionally, their bartender is also quite deft with the sazerac and hurricanes that started us off.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant, even outside of COOLinary!

COTERIE
504-529-8600
www.coterienola.com
135 Decatur St
reet
New Orleans, LA 70130