When you have two celebrity chefs and one restaurant opening the expectations tend to be high. Aarón Sánchez and John Besh’s collaboration brings traditional Mexican cuisine to the heart of New Orleans. If you are going in expecting burritos and enchiladas then you are in for a disappointment. The menu features items such as the ‘coba triadic’ a raw fish ceviche, crispy Brussel sprouts and kale salad (See Menu) alongside several typical mexican dishes such as tacos and enchiladas.
The restaurant is located on Poydras street in the CBD. The decor is cool and hip: Giant graffiti art covers one wall and beautiful chandeliers hang from the high ceilings. The bar is the perfect spot for happy hour drinks and tacos.
We went early Saturday evening at around 6.30 p.m. Besides a few other patrons the restaurant was still empty. The menu was one page with a handful of small plates, tacos and large plates. We decided to order several small plates in order to try as many dishes on the menu as possible. First up was the Cobia Tiradito, a ceviche consisting of leche de tigre fish, cucumbers, avocado and other vegetables ($16). The flavors were great but it was drenched in rock salt which took away from the overall flavor.
Next up was the Queso dip ($10) which was good for the first 5 minutes but turned into hard cheese within minutes. As far as queso dips go, this dish was not anything extraordinary. For a healthier dish to counter-balance the quest dip, we ordered the Kale salad ($12). It was the best thing about our meal even though it too was too salty.
The beef flautas ($12) were an epic failure and we left the dish untouched. It was dry, salty and just not what you would expect at a place like Jonny Sanchez.
Overall, we were left unsatisfied and decided to stop ordering before we were disappointed further. The best part of the meal was the plantain chips and salsa dip although after having the top layers of the chips suddenly the chips became stale leading one to assume that they reuse their chips!
There is nothing I hate more than trying a new restaurant and being so utterly disappointed. Needless to say, Johnny Sanchez will not be added to our list of ‘must-dine’ spots in New Orleans. With so many amazing places to eat in New Orleans, the competition is tough and restauranteurs need to be on top of their game. The celebrity name can only take you so far when the food is just not good. I hope that this place improves because it is a beautiful restaurant in a spot that lacks other similar options.
It’s that time of year. Festival season has arrived in Lafayette! While having spent the majority of my time in New Orleans at the Jazz festival in the past few years, this year I am staying put in my new hometown of Lafayette to attend Festivale Internationale de Louisiana. So I am preparing this guide for those out of town visitors and locals alike looking for some local gems to dine at and to experience cajun cooking (and the occasional non-cajun meal). As a caveat, my followers will know that I am not cajun, nor am I even from here but having spent the past two and a half in this town and being an avid foodie, I’ve tasted my way through town and can confidently list my favorite places to dine which is quite personal to my taste. I hope you enjoy my picks.
Dark Roux is Lafayette’s newest farm-to-table restaurant focusing on serving local foods and telling the story of Louisiana foods. The menu features local farmer’s and suppliers such as Gotreaux Family Farms, Mary Mary Markets and Bread & Circus Provisions. Favorites include boudin balls for appetizer and boudin benny for brunch. The restaurant also has a bar and pantry stocked with local products. On weekends a live band plays outside making it the perfect place to brunch or have a romantic dinner with your loved one. (see menu).
It all started with a condiment and charcuterie stand at the farmer’s market at the Horse Farm in Lafayette and evolved into a restaurant last year and brought with it a breath of fresh air to the local Lafayette dining scene. This hip restaurant features local favorites with a modern and unique twist. (see menu).
Chef Justin Girouard spins out some delicious local fare with his own personal touch. He makes his own boudin (not blood sausage as in France but Louisiana’s version of boudin: a mix of sausage of pork, rice, and cayenne). A great place for brunch and lunch. Everything on the menu is delicious but an all time favorite is the Cajun Benedict (see my post dedicated to the Benedict…because it is that good)!
Bon Temps Grill is where we take our out-of-town guests for a good local meal. Bon Temp Grill serves “Swamp Edge” cuisine in an urban Cajun atmosphere. The restaurant layout is cool and the food is fantastic. Favorites include the tuna tartar served with a side of potato chips and the buttery bbq shrimp. Don’t leave without tasting the bbq shrimp, it is absolutely to-die-for! And if you are bold enough try some of the frog legs.
While it is hard to find any other types of authentic foods in Lafayette there are a few hits that should not be missed. Pamplona Tapas Bar is our favorite go-to spot for tapas and wine. The restaurant features Spanish cuisine en par to many tapas we’ve tasted in Spain. The cocktails are unique and delicious as are the large variety of spanish wines. So if you are looking for something other than your traditional cajun, hit up Pamplona located in the heart of downtown Lafayette.
One of the few authentic vietnamese restaurants in Lafayette, Saigon serves up some of the best vietnamese dishes in town. Located in a strip mall the place can easily be missed. Favorites include the bbq short rib meal served with rice and salad and the large variety of pho to slurp through. Saigon Noodles recently opened a sister restaurant on Johnson street called Blu Basil Wine & Grill.
The Saint Street Inn was founded by Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler, two journalists turned chefs determined to keep the cooking local. Seafood from the Gulf, produce from Acadiana’s farms and innovative cooking set the table for an inspired menu. Nestled in the heart of one of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods, The Saint Street Inn also plays host to a variety of community events, from benefits and fundraisers to live music events and cookoffs. Both the kitchen and bar stay open late and there’s always a spot on the big front porch to sip a local brew and watch the sun go down.
Johnson’s Boucaniere opened in 1937 in Eunice, La and relocated to Lafayette some years ago. Boucaniere which means ‘smokehouse’ in english is a popular spot for lunch in Lafayette. At JB they smoke all of their speciality meats which include pork sausage, pork and turkey tasso and beef jerky. They also serve plate lunches from their in house made smoked meats which are made fresh weekly. Make sure not to miss this one.
9. Pop’s Poboys | 740 Jefferson Street, Lafayette, LA 70501 | ((337) 534-0621)
I’ve never been a fan of Po-Boys (shocking!) until I tried Pop’s. Pop’s Poboys opened in April 2015 and is located in beautiful downtown Lafayette. Chef Collin Cormier and team bring eclectic flair to Louisiana’s favorite sandwich and beyond. Their twist on the traditional poboys are out of this world delicious. Favorites so far include the Banh Banh shrimp and the Hot Hot for all those fried chicken lovers out there.
For desserts and coffee these three are my go-to in town for quality coffee and sweets:
Reve is a micro-coffee roaster servicing the greater Acadiana area (and beyond) in the retail and wholesale of freshly roasted, specialty grade coffee beans. Be careful as their coffee is addictive!
12. The Lab | 1042 Camellia Blvd. #6, Lafayette, LA | 337.889.5782
The Lab handcrafted coffees creates delicious coffee flavors that are hard to find around here. Not to mention their delicious baked good and house-made gelato. Located in the beautiful River Ranch neighborhood the Lab is definitely a treat.
Have I missed any of your favorites? Please feel free to share as I continue to eat my way through Lafayette!
(Please note some of the photos are taken from the restaurant’s online gallery: French Press, Johnson’s Boucaniere, Saigon Noodles, Jolie’s, Olde Tyme Grocery + Bread and Circus).
The anticipation of traveling to Vancouver with my son has been building up for the past few months. It is the first trip just the two of us which meant feelings of anxiety and excitement played a tug of war. But, finally excitement overshadowed anxiety and we made it. For the next month I will share with my son and viewers my perspective on Vancouver. This includes many nature walks, farmer’s markets and a variety of Asian food adventures.
Growing up I was itching to move away from home to go explore the world. I wanted to be anywhere but here and found any excuse to pack my suitcase and hop around Europe for months and years on end. But that was in my twenties. Now, in my thirties, with more travel options and more opportunities, all I do is dream and yearn to come home for the summers and winters and all the months in between just to take in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It is funny how distance can put so many things into perspective and create so much gratitude where none existed.
And so here we are- just me and my baby boy.
The first morning we woke up to the sound of our neighborhood seagulls. They start early and keep going until just after sunrise. Some people have roosters. We have seagulls. I know It may seem absurd to some but its those very seagulls that I miss when I am away. Those seagulls represent so much more than what most think of them as: loud, large birds that grab your food at the beach. To me they represent the vicinity of the sea, the vast blue sea surrounding Vancouver which I took for granted growing up. So many places I’ve lived don’t have access to ocean, to sea-life and everything else the ocean represents. I miss and yearn for the sea. I miss the seagulls. Now I live in a place with no direct access to the sea. No seagulls. And who wants to live in a place that doesn’t have seagulls?
Later on in the morning, we went for a walk along the seawall towards Stanley Park. The sea breeze, fresh crisp air and sound of waves quickly caressed baby boy to sleep. We passed English bay and walked into the park towards lost lagoon where the nostalgic scent of blackberries started hovering in the air. It’s funny how a scent can bring back so many memories. That sweet smell of blackberries takes me back to my childhood picking berries in these very woods with my mother. It was our own paradise back then. Towards lost lagoon we walked through a family of Canadian Geese. How I have missed the site of these wild geese. They represent home. Along the lagoon, I parked under a tree, baby boy still asleep. I looked at his innocent face deep in sleep and wondered what a peaceful way to take a nap. So different than where we live where 40+ degrees in the summer prevent us from stepping foot outside. I sat at that bench for a while trying to take it all in, to cherish every moment because now unlike before I am a visitor in my own hometown. I have a round-trip ticket that makes every day spent here worth cherishing. And I will do just that-cherish every moment spent with my son in my beautiful city.
El Arado is one of those places that should not be missed if you are seeking a quality meal in Manuel Antonio. While the directions seemed easy enough we passed the street and went all the way down to Quepos only to drive back and finally find the road. The gravel road is dark and truly off the beaten path of all the fancy hotels and tourist spots. The restaurant is just a few minutes drive down the road.
We arrived to an empty restaurant. One old and friendly tikka came to greet us and showed us to our table. The owner and the cook were watching a Spanish soap opera. The owner came over to greet us but his limited english and our limited Spanish led to a stale conversation. We knew we were getting the baked whole seabass and so we quickly ordered and preparations were under way. About half an hour in a French couple came in to join our lonely meal. The restaurant doesn’t offer much of an ambiance, however, the meal was truly spectacular. The fish were wrapped in foil and baked to perfection on a barbecue pit, served with a side of rice, plantains and black beans. Let’s just say our meal was so good that we wanted to return night after night. If you are visiting Manuel Antonio and want real, quality, tico cuisine do make the trek off the beaten path to this gem.
Finally this past week my husband, baby and I travelled to Costa Rica to spend a week on the pacific coast in a magical place called Manuel Antonio. I researched a lot before I went and somehow did not manage to find enough information to help me fully prepare for the trip. Below is my tried and tested guide to Manuel Antonio for those in need of a little bit more than what the travel guides provide you with.
Flight: It was a short 4 hour flight from Atlanta to San Jose on Delta. Once we arrived in San Jose we were transported to the car rental area where we picked up our vehicle. I highly recommend booking your car in advance or you will spend at least an hour or more before all the paperwork is done and you are in your car and ready to go. GPS is a must unless you have an innate ability to travel on foreign roads and not get lost. The drive itself was picturesque and worth the 2.5 hours it took to arrive to Manuel Antonio. We passed through the countryside and jungle, saw small villages and actually got to experience Costa Rica. The other option is to take a 30 minute local flight from San Jose to Quepos. From Quepos there are buses which run along the road to Manuel Antonio National Park.
Hotels: Manuel Antonio is actually a long stretch of road leading from Quepos to Manuel National National Park. The road is windy and positioned on the side of a mountain with hotels located on both sides. One side closer to the ocean with dramatic views, the other in the middle of the jungle and more distant views of the ocean. We had the opportunity to spend time in two different hotels on both ends: Gaia Hotel and Reserve and Parador Resort and Spa.
Restaurants: While both hotels we stayed at had fine dining options we like to get out and see what the locals eat. For lunch on most days we ended up at hole in the walls ordering the typical tico dish, ‘Casado’ which consisted of choice of meat, black beans, rice, salad and fried plantains. The food at our hotel, Gaia, La Luna was not good especially given the price point, the only advantage was the beautiful sunset views from the restaurant and the friendly service. On our trip to our second hotel, Parador, we found Emilio’s Cafe which quickly became a favorite of mine and was frequented on more than one occasion for the food and mind-blowing views of the pacific. Other discovered favorites included the authentically Israeli Falafel Bar and off the beaten path, El Arado (see linked posts for review). Prices in Manuel Antonio are comparable to Miami or any other international destination.
See: The main reason anyone heads to Manuel Antonio is the National Park. Although it is one of the smallest national parks in the country it is the most visited. I can see why given its beautiful pristine beaches, abundance of wildlife and easy accessibility. Before arriving I pictured us trekking through the jungle just me, husband and baby. I prepared for the worst buying all the necessary hiking equipment and preparing mentally for hiking through the jungle with a 6 month old. When we arrived at the gates I quickly realized just how far off I was. There were many tourists lined up at the gates waiting to get in. The park only allows 800 people in so its best to arrive early. Although if you arrive early you will be arriving at the same time as the tour buses and will walk in with a large crowd of loud ‘humans’ thus scaring the wildlife. We arrived around 11 am and found it to be quieter. I highly recommend hiring a guide as you will not see anything without one unless you just happen to be an expert yourself. With our guide we saw a large family of capuchin monkeys, two-toed and three-toed sloths, tree frogs, bats, snakes, butterflies, lizards and much more. A 45 minute walk through a wide paved path led us down to the main beach where the crowds were gathered. Again, I imagined skipping through the water just me and my husband and was let down to see so many people. I guess the secret is out. Still there are many isolated spots on the beach where you can feel as though you are one with nature.
Overall, Manuel Antonio was not as developed as I thought it would be…which is a good thing. It is still authentic and lacks that ‘cater exclusively to tourism’ feel that you may get in other destinations (such as Mexico). Of course, the area is sprinkled with many hotels and restaurants but yet its still rough around the edges and wild. It was an absolute amazing destination for those wanting a little adventure.
Deep inside the green and lush neighborhood of Audubon Park lies a tiny little restaurant which locals flock to: Tartine. It’s a place where quality, substance and good wholesome cooking are the main ingredients to success. Ever since discovering this gem a few months ago we have been back every time we visit New Orleans (which tends to be a lot since we lack good food in Lafayette).
Tartine serves delicious home made breads and sweets, sandwiches, salads and of course tartines. In France, a tartine is a piece of toasted bread smothered with different ingredients. Simple but so satisfying.
Simplicity and freshness is what makes Tartine so special. For example, the baguette served with a side of strawberry jam, butter and a big slice of brie cheese is one of the most amazing things I’ve tasted. The Croque Madame was large and very filling and did not fail to impress our guest.
The salmon tartine is the Count’s favorite, featuring generous amounts of salmon, eggs, capers and what I believe to be pickled cabbage. We always order an extra loaf of bread because once you start eating you just can’t get enough.
The salads and sandwiches are also to die for. On our last trip, one of the chefs was busy grilling flank steak covered in chimichurri sauce for their special of the day, steak salad and steak sandwich.
Another great restaurant by the Donald Link restaurant group has opened on the corner of Magazine and Julia streets in the warehouse district. This time, it is called Peche and focuses on simple coastal seafood with a unique, modern approach.
The restaurant showcases an open kitchen where diners can see the fire and seafood grilling in the back, an oyster bar serving fresh gulf seafood including oysters, crab meat, and fresh gulf fish and a large bar. The result is a very fresh seafood-oriented menu (although if you really want red meat there are a few options there as well). The decor is rustic seaside with exposed wooden beams throughout the open plan restaurant. One thing I noted while we were dining was the noise level. It was extremely loud. Too loud. We had to shout to hear each other at dinner.
Our meal included many various dishes from the menu including oysters (both Connecticut and Gulf), frog legs, smoked tuna dip, shrimp toast, and tuna tartare and salmon. For the main entrees our table shared two whole fish: red fish and mangrove snapper.
Almost everything we ordered tasted perfect but I did find the fresh oysters to be extremely salty. Too salty to eat. I was told that that is how oysters from the East Coast taste. But I’ve had enough oysters to know that that is not the case, especially not with gulf oysters. I heard others complain of the same. But other dishes were quite perfect. The smoked tuna dip served in a bowl with a side of crackers was so good, I may have finished one completely on my own.
The Whole grilled fishes were served on a large plate smothered in delicious sauce. The red fish was sizzled to perfection and covered in a citrusy herb topping which made it extremely tasty. The snapper was prepared in a different sauce but was just as good. In the end there was nothing left except two fish skeletons staring up at us in shame.
And while completely full at this point, stuffed with enough seafood for a month, we ordered dessert. My favorite was the chocolate, peanut butter and banana pie and citrusy key lime pie.
Overall, dinner at peche was a great experience. The food, decor, service and ambiance make for a great night out. I guess the New Orleans Saint’s feel the same as I do, throughout the evening we saw some of the players including one of my favorites, Jimmy Graham. Donald Link has done it again. I’m wondering what will come next, Boeuf the steakhouse?
While staying in the French Quarter we decided to check out some of the new restaurants that have opened in New Orleans since we moved away to Philadelphia last summer. Our list included SoBou, the new contemporary restaurant located in the W Hotel by the same family as Commander’s Palace (a personal favorite).
This‘South of Bourbon‘ restaurant focuses on tapas style small plates and modern twists on Southern classics. Led by chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez the food proved to be fresh, innovative and exciting. The decor is modern, elegant and trendy. Many tables have beer taps built in for easy access.
We went for lunch around 1 pm and the restaurant was winding down with less than 3 tables. However, it took a very long time to get anything on our table. And while our server was knowledgeable and attentive, it did not take away from the fact that we waited for what seemed like 30 minutes to get our first order served.
The Yellowfin tuna cones were served in a small tomato infused cone filled with a pineapple ceviche, tuna, topped with basil and avocado ice cream. It was small enough to eat in one bite. However, I was not a big fan of the ice-cream/fish combination. I’m a firm believer that fish and dairy should not be mixed at a meal let alone in one dish.
Next came the Butternut Squach Beignets, large deep fried balls of dough mixed with duck debris and squash drizzled with a sweet foie gras fondue sauce and chicory coffee ganache. The Count loved the mix of sweet and savory flavors of this dish but for me it was too much fried dough.
For our main entrees we had the SoBou Burger and Rosemary Crusted Oyster Salad. The burger was plain and simply delicious. Grilled to perfection giving it that smokey grilled flavor that many burgers these days lack.
The oyster salad was a great light lunch option. The oysters were lightly crusted in a rosemary breading cooked just right, set on top of a bed of tossed greens in a light sauce.
We also ordered a side of fries and were surprised to note that we were charged that extra dollar for ketchup. It threw us off a bit given that you really don’t expect to be charged for ketchup in an upscale restaurant such as SoBou. And while we may be spoiled up east in Philadelphia and New York with the special attention we’ve been given by chefs and wait staff, small details such as this really do take away from the experience.
After our three days of adventures in Madrid we packed our bags hopped on the train and made our way south to Sevilla.
Sevilla was all that I imagined it to be and more: bursting with color and antique charm, beautiful historic buildings, endless rays of sun and flamenco. The Alcazar Palace Complex is a stunning collage of architectural styles and beautiful green gardens took our breathe away and the Cathedral was impressive you with its beauty and its status as the burial site of Christopher Columbus. We spent our days touring the town on foot and nights eating tapas in only a few of the more than 4000 tapas bars in town. On the first day that we visited the town we ended our walk at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. Around the corner from the Plaza de Toros we found a restaurant called Baratillo dedicated to the art of bull fighting and decided to give it a try.
Bull heads lined the walls and locals and tourists alike crowded the room. As a newbie to the art of tapas we werent too sure of our selections but there was one thing that I discovered while in Sevilla which was so delicious that I ended up having three servings per day.I wish I remembered the name but only have the photos to remind me of the taste. Fries served with a meat stew and gravy. Very simple but simply delicious.
The dish called Broken Egg or Huevos Rotos is quite popular all around Spain consists of fried eggs, fried potatoes and pieces of Iberico ham. It is simply delicious and made it to our list of orders on every occasion.
The house special- the Berenjenas Baratillo was to die for. Not sure what the sauce that covered the thinly sliced eggplant dish consisted of but whatever it was- it was so delicious we had to order more.
Baratillo restaurant is located at: Calle Adriano, 20, 41001 Seville, Spain, El Arenal
From Philadelphia to Lafayette, our latest move has landed us in the heart of Cajun country. And while many locals enjoy the likes of shrimps and grits and shrimp and sausage gumbo in their homes, we have to scavenge the country looking for good cajun food. This is how we found Steve and Pat’s Bon Temps Rouler, a modern restaurant serving traditional and innovative cajun food (see menu).
Whenever Gumbo is on the menu I never fail to order it. Gumbo, especially a good home-style gumbo is a traditional Souther Louisiana which quickly became a favorite with my tastebuds. The Smoked Bird & Andouille Gumbo at Steve and Pat’s was no exception.
The meal started with the Tuna tartar. A generous portion of chopped raw tuna served on top of fresh lime marinated avocado in a bed of citrus ponzu sauce, served with home made potato chips. It was a creative spin on the traditional tuna tartar and definitely one of my favorite versions.
Next came the creamy Bbq shrimp and grits….followed by another….and then another (it was that good). The Jumbo shrimps were cooked in New Orleans style BBQ sauce which was creamy, buttery and oh so good served over roasted jalapeno cheese grits.
The Count ordered the Garlic Panneed Frog Legs for our guests because when in Cajun country, we must eat like the cajuns. Frog legs are perhaps the one thing that I have never tried and am not willing to try but by the bare bones that remained on the plate I assumed that it was one tasty leg of a frog.
The Seafood Creole Cobb Salad was a great salad for those who love their seafood. Generous portions of lump crabmeat and shrimp served with a few pieces of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, apple wood smoked bacon, cheddar, boiled egg and red onions. The large portion makes it a great main dish however, I found that the proportion of seafood to mixed greens was a little too much.