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

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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

Blue Oak BBQ

I, and most of the city, seem to agree that barbecue is the perfect food for July 4th. After I did my reading for the Star-Spangled 4th of July Marathon Reading of the Mueller Report, my friends Charlotte and Thomas took me out to Blue Oak BBQ in MidCity.

The place was packed!

I ordered a sandwich – the chopped brisket with a side of roasted garlic mac and cheese. There was a spicy rub on the brisket that was very tasty but a little spicy. The heat was cut by the coleslaw that was served on the sandwich. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the mac and cheese but that’s mainly because I didn’t think it wasn’t cheesy enough.

Charlotte got her pulled pork plate with baked beans and garlic mac and cheese. She tried all the sauces (Jerk, Carolina, House) and like the house bbq sauce best.

Thomas got his pulled pork with the spicy green onion sausage. His sides were the potato salad and baked beans. He was definitely a member of the clean plate club.

Blue Oak BBQ has a full bar but I stuck with soda.

There was a long line that extended out the door but it didn’t take more than ten minutes to reach the front and order. We waited just a short time for a table (the tables outside are cooled with misting fans but the theater was not air conditioned, so I wanted to stay inside). There were a ton of people who had ordered ahead and just came in and grabbed brown paper sacks of meaty goodness.

The staff was fast to bus tables and bring out the food – all of which is smoked in their on-site pit. I always judge a bbq joint by the smell of smoke and meats and this one place is wonderfully perfumed for carnivores.

For the size of the crowd and the lines, everything ran smoothly and everyone had a smile on their face.

I would definitely return to give the rest of their menu a try.

900 N Carrollton, New Orleans
504-822-BLUE (2583)
www.blueoakbbq.com 

 

Wolf Bay Lodge in Foley, Alabama

For my birthday, we went to lunch at Wolf Bay Lodge in Foley, Alabama. I’ve been here before and written about it (here and here) but it has been several years, so I figured I’d post again. We’ve been going here since it was a private club across Wolf Bay from my folks place.

At lunch we had about a fifteen minute wait for a table, as they were pretty hopping at noon. We spent our wait at the bar and the time passed quite quickly, especially once I received my tea filled alligator cup. Dad enjoyed the house draft and Mom had an ice cold bottle of Budweiser.

Once we were seated and had perused the extensive menu, my mom ordered the coconut shrimp. This is an appetizer but is actually perfectly sized for lunch time. The shrimp were lightly breaded with flour and toasted coconut and it was served with a tasty tropical marmalade.

Dad had the shrimp kabobs – the lunch portion is 2 kabobs of shrimp, coated in a sweet bourbon glaze before being grilled. It is served over rice and comes with a couple of very light and delicious hush puppies.

Michelle had the blackened shrimp tacos with a chipotle tartar sauce. They were very well seasoned and came with cheese and coleslaw on soft tortillas. It was served with chips and a very tasty house made salsa. She really enjoyed the flavor and would definitely order them again.

I ordered the large plate of fried Gulf shrimp. These are some of my favorite fried shrimp ever with lots of shrimp on the plate, covered in a light, crisp breading and fried to perfection. As the sign on the wall states – if it ain’t fried, it ain’t food! It came to the table with a full plate of french fries and a couple of their hush puppies.

I hope you like my alligator cup as much as I do. As a bonus, it also comes with free refills. Crazy to say, they sell it as a kids cup!

Most of the meals came with one trip to the salad bar – they have a pretty extensive selection of items including some pretty darn tasty deviled eggs. I convinced Mom and Michelle to add one for me to both their bowls, so I was happy.

The servers are friendly, even considering how busy the place is. The selection on the menu will satisfy piscivores and carnivores alike and the portion sizes are plentiful. They have a wide selection of seafood but, as you can see from our orders, their shrimp is what brings us back, year after year.

Wolf Bay Restaurant
20801 Miflin Road, County Road 20
Foley, Alabama 36535
(251) 987-5129