February 27, 2012

Chocolate-Covered Valentine's

I didn't write about my Valentine's Day festivities yet. After the pantry purge of 2012, I had a lot of old chocolate to throw out. Lots of Hershey's Kisses that were pushed to the far reaches of the cupboard and some Baker's chocolate that also ended up in the dark corners - neither fit to eat nor bake with.

That stuff could go straight to the dumpster. Or it could go to the dumpster covering whatever else was headed for the dumpster.

If you didn't follow that, you wouldn't be alone.

After a lot of "Why would you waste chocolate like that?" questions, a few people came over for a night of chocolate covered anything! They brought random non-edibles for us to cover in chocolate. My old T-ball trophies were going to look so much cooler in chocolate.

Some of the items we dipped were necklaces, light bulbs, CDs, and Texas-shaped stuff. My personal favorites were the copy of Twilight and a hubcap.

And here's something that always makes me laugh. Pretty much what I'm looking for in a valentine:

February 20, 2012


I'd heard about Brennan's since I was young. My dad took a family trip to New Orleans when he was young. More than once he talked about that trip and quoted their cabby, who when asked where to eat in New Orleans, said, "You don't eat in New Orleans. You put your feet under the table and dine!" Dad often told me how wonderful Brennan's was. For him, Brennan's set the standard for Hollandaise sauce that mine would be judged by.

Brennan's is in an old French Quarter mansion on Rue Royale, my favorite street to stroll in the Quarter.


The decor and place settings were as fancy as at August. Definitely a champagne breakfast sort of place. My waiter was O'Keefe. I knew what I wanted to order before I even arrived at the restaurant.

Brennan's French Bread

First, I had the New Orleans Turtle Soup. It was dark and thick and rich, and then O'Keefe poured a good shot of sherry on top of it, and it looked even better.

Brennan's Turtle Soup

Next I had the Eggs Hussarde. The menu described it thus: (A Brennan's Original) One of the dishes that put "Breakfast at Brennan's" on the map. Poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon, and Marchand de Vin sauce. Topped with Hollandaise sauce.

Brennan's Eggs Hussarde

Not one, but two French sauces! I try to be ambitious in the kitchen, but even though the recipe for Eggs Hussarde is on Brennan's website, I doubt I'll ever attempt it. It would take me all morning to make and still wouldn't be half as good as what they served me.

I finished up with the most fun course, Bananas Foster for dessert. This is the place they invented Bananas Foster! If you don't know about it, watch this clip from the Food Network:

O'Keefe brought the pan with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sliced bananas over to the table to show me. Then he stepped over to the cart and put the pan over a flame to melt the sugar and bananas. He added the banana liqueur and quietly said he'd tell me when it was time to get the camera ready for the flambé. He poured the rum in and tilted the pan to catch the flame.

Brennan's Bananas Foster Brennan's Bananas Foster Flambé Brennan's Bananas Foster Flambé Brennan's Bananas Foster Flambé

The flame went higher than his head. After the mixture cooked a moment and the flame died away, he poured the pan's contents over vanilla ice cream. The hot caramel melted the ice cream a bit, and the texture of the ice cream, soft bananas, and syrupy sugar was divine.

Brennan's Bananas Foster

I don't know if it was the sentimentality of the connection to my dad at Brennan's or because it was my last meal in New Orleans, but the food at Brennan's was my favorite. I didn't eat again until the next day. This was a breakfast of champions indeed.

My Best 24 Hours of Eating Out

In honor of Mardi Gras, I'm finally going to post the tales of my fantastic New Orleans dining. I had my best 24 hours of eating out in New Orleans, where I ate at August for lunch, Cochon for dinner, and Brennan's for breakfast.

Starting with August: The only picture I took was outside the restaurant. August's website describes their location as an historic four-story “French-Creole” building from the 1800s, with a rich interior of hardwood floors, soaring columns, mahogany paneling, monumental floral arrangements, and antique mirrors and chandeliers.

Restaurant August

I took my camera inside, but somehow I felt uncomfortable about snapping photos with a loud SLR and disrupting other guests in the pristine, white linen and silver fork restaurant. The food was delicious and beautifully presented. Pulling out the camera could only have cheapened my experience.

But here are the details about what I ate and links to photos taken by diners with less scruples but better photography skills.
  • First, the waiter brought me an amuse bouche, courtesy of the chef. It was a seafood custard with sabayon and caviar inside an eggshell. Photo Here. Elegant and delicious.
  • The first course was the pâté de campagne (country pâté) of La Provence pork, with toast points, greens, and seasonal marmalades. Photo on Right. The pâté was very good, rich and meaty with a hint of acidity. How did they cook the toast points so evenly?
  • The chief course was lamb belly on braised mustard greens. Photo.
  • For dessert, I had the milk chocolate peanut butter croquant with salted caramel and McEwen’s buttered popcorn ice cream. Photo. It was like a really good candy bar. I thought the dessert was the weakest of the courses. I probably ordered the wrong thing.
For something completely different, I went to Cochon for dinner, which had a very different vibe. Their website describes their location as a rustic, yet contemporary interior of a renovated New Orleans warehouse. Simply decorated. Very casual. Fairly loud. I loved it.


I started with the wood-fired oyster roast. I love oysters anyway, but these were superb. I used my bread to sop up the spicy butter left behind in the half shells. I ordered an Abita root beer. And then I had another. I'd walked the mile from my hotel on Canal to Tchoupitoulas St. in the New Orleans heat and humidity and I felt justified to load up on Louisiana cane sugar.

Cochon Wood-fired Oyster Roast

My main course was the Louisiana Cochon with Turnips, Cabbage, and Cracklins, which is pulled pork, formed into a patty and seared, served with turnips and cabbage, and topped with pork cracklins! Amazing!

Louisiana Cochon with Turnips, Cabbage, & Cracklins

When you're at a restaurant this good and the waitress asks you if you want dessert, the only correct answer is "Hell yes!" I got the Blueberry Buckle with Vanilla and Salted Caramel Sauces. If memory serves, that streusel had cracklins in it, too!

Cochon Blueberry Buckle

I'd never had blueberry buckle before, but that dessert was so fantastic that I had to try my hand at making it when I got home. Plated with Smuckers caramel sauce and a good helping of sea salt. It was actually pretty marvelous.

Blueberry Buckle with Salted Caramel Sauce

Next up, Brennan's!