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NOLA Food

Tamales

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- >Tamales

Aside from family, the one thing synonymous with the holidays is the food. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without certain dishes on the table. Everyone has their holiday favorites they can’t live without. For some it’s cornbread stuffing, or pumpkin pie, or sweet potato casserole, or a crispy golden turkey. In Latin America, the one thing that's sure to be on every table on Christmas Day is a large platter piled high with tamales.

For those unfamiliar with the tamale, there are many varieties. Traditional tamales are made with a corn-based dough called masa (although some countries use mashed plantains instead) filled with some type of meat (chicken, beef and pork are the most common). The filled dough is then wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves, tied together with twine, and then refrigerated or frozen. When you’re ready to eat them, just boil a pot of water and steam until piping hot.

The tamal originates from Mesoamerica, as early as 8000 BC. The indigenous cultures in Mexico and Guatemala likely spread the tradition to the rest of Latin America. The Aztec and Maya civilizations, as well as the Olmec and Toltec before them, prepared tamales for hunting trips and traveling large distances because they were conveniently portable. Tamales were also a traditional food for indigenous rituals and festivals.

The tradition of tamales has captivated the masses since they were featured at the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the famous Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. However, tamales were introduced to the New World much earlier, in 1721, to what is now northwest Louisiana. Spanish settlers from central Mexico were the first tamal makers to arrive in the US, and they left a lasting tradition behind them. In fact, Zwolle, Louisiana (located just south of Shreveport, in Sabine Parish), hosts a Tamale Fiesta every October.

Christmastime is certainly a time to practice tried and true traditions. Our traditions are what make the holidays special – the nostalgia they bring of times gone by, the warmth they inspire from the inside out. Being surrounded by friends and family, good food and music, is all a part of that experience. But let’s not forget that sometimes it’s good to try new things and even create new traditions. This holiday season take a crack at making tamales with your loved ones. Make a day of it. It might just become your new favorite tradition. 

Pie

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- >PIE (Tarta)

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.“ -- David Mamet

Pie. There is no other word in the English language that automatically becomes a dreamy echo in your mind. Not only are they delicious, they’re entirely perfect in their simplicity – a beautiful, flaky, golden crust filled with pretty much anything you can think of, savory or sweet.

So, let’s talk about pie. For most Americans, pies are synonymous with Thanksgiving, whether it be apple, pumpkin, or sweet potato. But pies are a longstanding tradition going back several thousand years. Historians credit pie’s origins to the ancient Greeks. In medieval England, pies were predominantly savory dishes that served as the main course. The modern word for pie is said to have come from medieval English, named after the magpie, a bird known for collecting many miscellaneous objects in its nest.

Contrary to popular belief, there were no modern-day pies at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. At the time, Pilgrims mostly brought traditional English meat-based recipes to the colonies. The pumpkin pie we all associate with Thanksgiving was first recorded in a cookbook in 1675, and the recipe wasn’t popularized in America until the 1800s. That’s not to say that the colonists didn’t make pies – as a matter of fact, it was one of the preferred methods of cooking because the crusty tops acted as a means to preserve food, especially during the winter months.

Meanwhile, Spain had developed its own take on pies – empanadas. Technically a hand-pie, empanada comes from the Spanish empanar, literally “enbreaded.” Their origins can be traced to Galicia, the northwesternmost region of Spain.

Most Latin American countries have their own version of empanadas, which are almost always filled with some type of minced meat or chicken. Central American empanadas are made with a dough very similar to traditional American pie crust, while the Colombian empanada is made with a corn flour dough.

As for New Orleans, there is one pie in particular that is near and dear to the city’s traditions: pecan. The irresistibly ooey-gooey pie – made with brown sugar, sugar syrup, eggs, butter and molasses (and sometimes bourbon) – is said to have been invented by French settlers right here in New Orleans, after being introduced to the pecan nut by the Native American Quinipissa and Tangipahoa tribes.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we’re all preoccupied with the planning, traveling, and trying to make enough room in the fridge for the turkey and sides. It’s a day that we all look forward to as Americans – taking the time to give thanks for all of life’s blessings, being surrounded by friends and family and enormous amounts of comfort food.

They say the sides make the meal, but don’t forget to save room for pie.

Beer and Beer Culture in New Orleans

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- >Cerveza -y la cultura cervecera de Nueva Orleans

Who doesn’t like an ice-cold beer? I will concede the point that there is a small percentage of individuals who refer to it as “hick juice” (and that’s one of the more elegant terms I’ve heard), but the overwhelming majority of people have a generous appreciation for the occasional ale or lager.

So, who do we have to thank for the gift of liquid gold? No one knows for sure, but it is one of the oldest drinks produced in human history – it was recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt dating back to the fifth millennium BC.

Given that beer is one of humanity’s oldest traditions, the birth of its annual festival was inevitable. Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is a 16-18-day event, held annually from September through October in Munich, Germany. The festival has formed a significant part of Bavarian culture since 1810 and has inspired similar festivals in over 20 countries world-wide. The Germanic tradition lives on in New Orleans as well.

Now, we all know that this city loves any excuse to party. Locals look forward to October every year for the perfect weather it brings along with Oktoberfest. Kicking things off is the NOLA on Tap Beer Fest, which celebrated its 10th year on September 21st at City Park. Then, of course, is Oktoberfest at Deutsches Haus, a three-week celebration that includes live music, food, Dachshund races, an historic exhibit – and lots and lots of beer.

It cannot be denied that New Orleans is home to a deep-seated beer culture, especially with past Oktoberfest attendance records breaking the 25,000 mark. Past years have also seen an increase in local breweries; at last count, we’re up to 15 breweries within a 30-mile radius of New Orleans. Abita Beer, the oldest local brewery currently operating, first opened in 1986.

Since then, the local brew culture has grown to include many local brands and microbreweries. New Orleans is all about community, and its breweries share the same philosophy. “Within six or seven years [after opening NOLA Brewing], we started seeing more breweries popping up in the city, and this has been great for our industry as a whole,” says NOLA Brewing COO Dylan Lintern. “It is also very cool to see how people’s palates and curiosity have changed over the last decade. This city has come a long way in terms of beer culture.”

Craft brewing has truly weaved its way into the fabric of New Orleans culture. There is a veritable appreciation for freshly brewed, uniquely crafted beer that only continues to grow. Oktoberfest is only a small part of it, but a wonderful representation of one of our city’s passions. The next time you go out, raise a frosty, frothy glass to New Orleans, the beautiful city that embraces culture, evolution, and new experiences.

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Beignets And Sopapillas

By Marcella Esrcarfuller

Click aqui para español- >Beignets y Sopapillas

Hispanic Heritage Month is fast upon us, which has me thinking about one of the most delicious fried dishes out there – sopapillas. They are such a staple in Hispanic culture that many Latin American countries have their own take on sopapillas. Not to mention that these beautiful honey-soaked, sugar-covered pillows are undeniably similar to New Orleans’ beloved beignets. For those unfamiliar with sopapillas, they are squares or rounds of fried dough made from simple choux pastry, with the addition of a leavening agent, such as baking powder. The word sopapilla (also sopaipilla or sopaipa) was introduced to the Spanish language in medieval Spain, from the Mozarabic language of Al-Andalus (the then-Muslim-controlled Iberian Peninsula). The Mozarabic word, xopaipa, meaning bread soaked in oil, was derived in turn from the ancient Germanic word suppa (literally bread soaked in liquid).

Unlike sopapillas, beignets are made from yeast dough. And that’s pretty much the only difference between the two. That’s why you’ll notice that sopapillas are light and flaky, while beignets are soft and doughy through and through, just like your traditional American doughnut.

The word beignet (literally fritter in French) comes from the early Celtic word bigne, meaning to rise. Beignets have been associated with French Mardi Gras since the 16th century. Prior to that, beignets were introduced into Mediterranean France in the Middle Ages through Andalusia, which was under Islamic rule at the time. REFRESHER ALERT (just to make sure you’re paying attention): this was around the same time that the sopapilla was popping up in Spain.

It is said that the beignet first made landfall in New Orleans in the 18th century, brought over to the great port city by French colonists. It even became the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986, well over 200 after its introduction to New Orleans.

Beignets and sopapillas have their savory side, too. Many variations include fillings like ground beef, avocado, mustard, ketchup, and garlic. Local restaurants take their savory beignet game to the next level with La Petit Grocery’s Blue Crab Beignets and Restaurant R’evolution’s Beer-Battered Crab Beignets.

But of course, we all crave our classic New Orleans beignets with that signature dusting of powdered sugar on top. Café du Monde is of course the original (the coffee stand was established in 1862 and still remains the Beignet Boss of Fat City), but it’s worth considering other local joints that bring their own NOLA flare to these irresistible pockets of heaven – like new kids on the block, The Vintage, on Magazine; Café Beignet on Royal Street; and New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co. on St. Charles.

Sopapillas are just as easy to find – just go to your favorite Latin joint like Nacho Mama’s in Elmwood, Superior Grill on St. Charles, or La Carreta on Magazine. So, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month in NOLA, the next time you eat a beignet, call it a sopapilla, and vice versa. Now you know it’s not that much of a stretch.

And to top this off, coincidence or not, the Beignet Fest takes place in our city in the beginning of October since four years ago. Make sure you check out the 4th Annual Beignet Fest presented by French Market®Coffee on Saturday, October 5, 2019 from 10AM – 6PM at the Festival Grounds at City Park.

August: National Peach Month

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- >Agosto: Mes Nacional del Melocotón

Let’s talk about peaches. Yes, it’s true they’re delicious. But did you know that they hold a rich and complicated history that dates back thousands of years? Peach consumption is so enjoyable to us humans that, in 1982, President Ronald Regan felt the need to dub August “National Peach Month.” And don’t forget to mark your calendars – August 22nd is National Eat a Peach Day! Here, a little history before you take that first juicy bite:

Peaches originated from northwestern China, where there are still wild varieties found in its forests. According to anthropological studies, peaches and their flowers have held cultural significance in China dating as far back as the first millennium BCE. In Chinese culture, peaches are a symbol of good health and immortality, and their blossoms are often carried by brides on their wedding day. Fast-forward a couple thousand years and the peach was traveling the Silk Road to Persia (modern day Iran), where it was discovered, disseminated and made popular by Alexander the Great. The peach then traveled from Persia to Europe, where they were prized by Romans so much that they were sold for the modern equivalent of $4.50 each.

The fruit’s botanical name, Prunus persica comes from where Europeans believed the fruit to have originated, persica being the Latin word for Persia. The common name then stemmed from there – peche in Middle English and pesche in Old French. The Spanish word for peach, melocotón, comes from the Latin malum cotonium, literally “apple of Cydonia” (Cydonia being an ancient city-state on the Greek island of Crete).

Once the traveling fruit found its way to Europe, Europeans were so fascinated by the peach that they brought it with them to the New World. Spain introduced the peach to what is now Mexico, Florida and South America; England brought it to the colonies (it’s said that Thomas Jefferson had a private grove at Monticello); and France introduced the fruit to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Peaches were considered a luxurious indulgence and were only consumed by the privileged few in the United States until commercial production began in the 19th century.

Nothing beats the smell of fresh, ripe peaches in summer. Lucky for us, these little indulgent luxuries are always at our fingertips this time of year. That flowery, mouth-watering aroma inevitably leads to that involuntary deep-breathing, eye-closing, out-of-body experience. Melt-in-your-mouth dishes like peach cobbler seem to call your name on the summer breeze. Okay – let’s stop talking about peaches and go eat some!

Here, some local restaurants with amazing summer peach items on the menu: Poached Peaches & Honeysuckle at restaurant R’Evolution; Roast duckling served with ginger-peach sauce at Upperline restaurant; Peach cobbler with bourbon ice cream at Willa Jean; Black truffle croque monsieur with georgia peach syrup at Commander’s Palace.

Las Carnitas:

A Peruvian Cuisine Destination in Kenner

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >Las Carnitas: Un destino de cocina peruana en Kenner

This casual place in Kenner offers the best Peruvian Cuisine in the New Orleans metropolitan area. José Torres has been offering great quality food from his home country for over 12 years.

Torres worked previously in other restaurants in different positions before becoming the chef. After Hurricane Katrina, he began selling food from home and realized he was ready to open his first restaurant, which he did in 2008.

 

His second location of Las Carnitas opened in 2017 at 3712 Williams Boulevard. The new space can comfortably accommodate larger parties. Central American and Brazilian dishes are still offered on the menu at Las Carnitas, but people who patron the Williams Boulevard location seek mostly its Peruvian dishes.

An airy dining room creates an inviting space where everyone can enjoy authentic dishes of the Incas’ land. Traditional ceviche, fried fish, ají de gallina, causa rellena, lomo saltado and bistec a lo pobre are some of the Peruvian staples served at Las Carnitas. 

Take a look at some of these dishes and make sure you visit this gem in Kenner to judge for yourself the quality and freshness of their traditional Peruvian food.

Las Carnitas is open Sunday through Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm, and Fridays from    8 am to 4 pm. They are closed on Saturdays. 

 

Pescado Frito

This coastal dish is a deep-fried fish fillet served with white rice, red onion salad with tomato and breaded potatoes.

 

Lomo Saltado

Cubed sautéed beef with tomatoes, red onions, soy sauce and traditional Peruvian condiments, served with white rice and French fries. This dish has Cantonese influence which is very present in Peru.

Ceviche de Pescado

This is Peruvian’s most recognized dish. It’s usually ordered as an appetizer and it’s made with a fish fillet cured in lime juice dressed with red onions, choclo (corn), and served with yellow and sweet potatos and canchita (roasted corn nuts). It’s a light flavourful dish.

 

Bistec a lo pobre

This dish from Lima is named sarcastically “poor style beefsteak” because as you can see, it is a rich meal with sautéed beef topped with fried eggs and accompanied by rice, french fries, salad, cheese and ripe plantains. This power dish doesn’t lack any nutrients and it’s delicious.

Fideuà

By Marcella Escarfuller 

Click aqui para español- >Fideuà

Summer To me is sun and citrus, the smell of the ocean clinging to the breeze, the gull’s song hanging in the air. Summer is fun-in-the-sun, trying new things, and spending time with friends and family. Summer also means lots of grilling for most of America. But after growing up in New Orleans, asking me to cook outside in summer is akin to suggesting I light myself on fire. 

While I appreciate the spirit of the summer grill-gathering, it shouldn’t be the only party option on the table (especially in July). Thinking outside the box is a requirement for living in this city. It’s what we do best – especially when it comes to entertaining. So, while I love my red-white-and-blue, I defer to my Latin blood for summer cuisine inspiration.

Enter the fideuà, the perfect antidote for your summer-entertaining ennui. Birthed in 19th century Valencia, this Catalonian twist on the traditional paella, made with thin spaghetti (or “fideus”) instead of rice, is a dish that screams summer. Golden fideus are cooked in rich stock with fresh shellfish, then topped with a spritz of lemon, minced parsley, orange zest and homemade garlic aioli. 

Everything about fideuà is bright and fresh, making it perfect for large summer get-togethers. Touted as the one-pot wonder of Valencia, fideuà is by far one of Spain’s most culturally significant dishes. It’s a wonder that it has yet to rise to fame in NOLA, a city that is so entangled with Spanish history. 

Spanish influence in New Orleans is often overlooked, but undeniable. The Louisiana territory (Luisiana in Spanish) served as the administrative district of the Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1762 to 1803. The French Quarter we all know today is thanks to Spanish reconstruction in 1788 after the Great New Orleans Fire. 

One of the most amazing things about New Orleans is the open-minded creativity that inevitably spills over into its food. The demand for Spanish- and Latin-fusion cuisine in the area has led to new restaurant openings like Nolé, Barracuda, Espiritu, and Otra Vez. Meanwhile, established restaurants, like Barcelona Tapas in Uptown and Lola’s in Mid City, have long boasted authentic Spanish fare, including fideuà. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, try making fideuà for yourself. Your friends and family will thank you. Regardless, whether you choose to eat out or to brave this new frontier from your own kitchen, I implore you to make fideuà a part of your life. You haven’t lived until you do.

Ingredient List

FOR THE BROTH

1     Extra-virgin olive oil                                            

2    Onions, chopped

½ lbs Small shrimp, shell on 

4    Large garlic cloves, roughly chopped                 

3    Small dried hot red peppers, or use a pinch of cayenne

½ tsp Fennel seed

½ tsp Coriander seed

1    Large bay leaf

A few thyme sprigs

Salt and pepper 

2 tsp Tomato paste

1 ½ lbs Meaty bones from cod, snapper or halibut, rinsed (or use boneless fish chunks)

12 Clams / Almejas

1 lbs Mussels, cleaned 

FOR THE FIDEUÀ

1 lbs Fideus noodles (dry), or use Italian fedelini or spaghettini

Extra-virgin olive oil  

Pinch of saffron into 1/4 cup water

1 lbs Mussels, cleaned, for garnish

½ lbs Large shrimp, shell on, for garnish

3 tsp Chopped parsley

3 tsp Orange zest

Allioli for garnish 

 

Recipe:

 

  1. Make the broth: 

Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add small shrimp, garlic, hot pepper, fennel, coriander, bay leaf and thyme. Season generously with salt and pepper, stir to coat and cook 2 minutes more.

 

  1. Stir in tomato paste and cook 5 minutes, until mixture begins to look dry. Add fish bones, clams, 1pound mussels and 8 cups water; cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

 

  1. Strain through a sturdy mesh sieve into another pot, pushing on solids with a wooden spoon. Discard solids and keep strained broth hot. Taste for salt. Broth should be well seasoned. 

 

  1. Make the fideuà: 

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put fideus noodles in a large roasting pan or baking sheet. (If using Italian pasta, break it into 2-inch lengths first.) Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over noodles and toss with hands to coat. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, turning with tongs if necessary, until noodles are golden brown. 

 

  1. Place a cazuela or wide heavy pot on the stove. Add toasted noodles, pressing down a bit. Ladle 3 cups hot broth over noodles and bring to a boil. Push down on the noodles with a wooden spoon as they soften into the broth. Add saffron-infused water and cook for a minute, then stir to mix. Add enough hot broth to cover pasta by 1 inch. Lower heat and cook at a simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more broth (and adjust heat) if mixture dries out.

 

  1. Scatter remaining 1pound mussels over the top, then push them down until barely submerged. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, until shells open. Turn off heat. The noodles should be cooked but firm, and the mixture a little soupy.

 

  1. If using the large shell-on shrimp, season them and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes per side.

 

  1. Ladle into individual soup plates. Mix the parsley with the orange zest. Garnish fideus with shrimp, if using, the parsley mixture and a spoonful of allioli.

Superfoods

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- > Los súper alimentos

I cringe a little every time I hear the term “superfood,” (i.e., a sexier term for “healthy”), but I do believe in superfoods. Not in the way that five-year-olds believe in superheroes and unicorns, but in the simple fact that there are certain foods that distinguish themselves from others because of their nutritional value. If food could be personified, these would be the most genetically blessed individuals to ever swim in an Olympic-sized pool full of gold-plated hundred-dollar bills. And with summer upon us, everyone wants to look and feel that good. Hence these four “super” foods to the rescue:

 

Salmon

Considering it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, salmon is also one of the more affordable proteins out there. For the low average price of $12 per pound, you get more than a day’s worth of vitamin D, which promotes bone health, and omega-3 fatty acids to help support memory, eyesight, and skin health.

Local Pick: Salmon Lafitte, Superior Seafood

Avocado

Fats are our friends. Our bodies need certain fats to help us maintain healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy heart. Lucky for us, avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help protect against inflammation and heart disease. They’re also high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium. And they’re delicious. Nothing but upside.

Local Pick: Ceviche Nikkei, Tito’s Ceviche & Pisco  

   

Berries

Walking into the grocery store these days is hard to do without getting slapped in the face with the fact that BERRIES ARE RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS, which help reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. Lower amounts of free radicals in the body means less simultaneously concurrent oxidative stress. Let me save you from Googling all of that: antioxidants slow down the visible effects of aging.

Local Pick: Citron de Fuego, Citronola

Eggs

All eggs are golden. One egg has only 75 calories, seven grams of protein, is low in saturated fat, and rich in iron, choline, lutein, carotenoids and other vitamins and minerals. Basically, it has all the nutrients we need in one little round package. As far as superfoods go, that’s tough to beat.

Local Pick: Eggs Benedict from The Ruby Slipper

Superfoods are “super” for a reason – they keep your body clean and healthy. But everything you hear about superfoods should be taken with a grain of salt. Despite what experts would have you believe, nutrition is not an exact science. There are far too many variables to keep track of, and many nutritional studies contradict each other. It’s important to do your research, and it can get confusing. The good news is, more often than not, your body tells you exactly what it needs. And as long as you remember what your mama taught you – everything in moderation – you’ll be just fine.

Snowballs

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- > Snowballs

Winding up for summer in New Orleans can be tough. Hurricane prep is no joke and finding ways to beat the heat often leaves locals coming up empty. But there is one thing about summer in New Orleans that every local looks forward to – snowballs.

Snowballs have been a New Orleans tradition since the 1930s. Not to be confused with the snow-cone, with its crunchy texture and sink-to-the-bottom syrup, the New Orleans snowball (or snoball) is made of perfectly fluffy shaved ice that absorbs every drop of syrup, creating the perfect summer treat. And when it comes to the syrup, picking your flavor is a game unto itself. Ranging from New Orleans favorites like bananas Foster and praline pecan, to fruity tangerine and cherry, to downright weird (buttered popcorn), there’s always a flavor for every taste.

Especially when you add that extra touch of condensed milk to top it off. It should come as no surprise that it’s thanks to the innovation of locals that we get to enjoy this New Orleans summer staple. When the SnoWizard ice shaving machine was invented in 1936, the effects of the Great Depression were still sending shock waves through businesses around the country.

George Ortolano, a New Orleans grocer of Sicilian descent, was looking for new ways to drum up business during the economic downturn. He invented a machine originally made from wood and started selling shaved ice to customers in his store. Shortly thereafter, he got requests from small-business owners to make similar machines for their snowball stands.

Demand was so high that Ortolano left the grocery business, created a metal-based machine now termed the “SnoWizard,” and dedicated all of his energies to automating the production of his invention. In 1934, Ernest Hansen was already in the process of inventing his own snowball machine. Previously made by handscraping blocks of ice, Hansen dreamed of a more efficient and sanitary way to make the refreshing summer sweets. He succeeded in developing his invention and kept it within the family until opening his own snowball stand in 1939. By 1944, Hansen had opened Hansen’s Sno-Bliz snowball stand in their current location on Tchoupitoulas.

Thanks to these machines, snowballs have become the New Orleanians’ favorite way to cool down during the summer months. Everyone has their favorite snowball stand, whether it’s Hansen’s or Plum Street Snowballs or SNO-LA (home of the original cheesecake filled snowball), we just can’t seem to get enough.

The one-time locals don’t mind standing in the suffocating humidity and

sweltering heat is when they’re standing in line for their snowballs. By the time you have that icy goodness in-hand, your clothes feel sticky and your head starts spinning, but who cares? The delirium makes your snowball taste that much sweeter.

 

 

Top Five Latin Restaurants on the Northshore

By Dayhanna Velandia

Click aqui para español- >Los cinco mejores restaurantes latinos en Northshore

Find about the top five Latin restaurants that have earned a great appreciation by the community North of Lake Pontchartrain. Visit the Northshore and be surprised by its charming tranquility and good Latin cuisine.

 

  1. EL Paso

Close to its second year in Mandeville, El Paso Mexican Restaurant has been characterized not only by being a franchise that is synonymous with authentic Mexican food in Louisiana, but also because of its comfortable atmosphere that makes it really special for families who visit. The best-selling dishes range from the appetizers, like the freshly-made guacamole and their unique cheese and bean dips, to main entrees, like the Fajitas and the Carne Asada. The latter are served steaming at the table, providing guests with a multi-sensorial experience of sight, smell, and of course, taste that leaves one’s palate with an explosive display of flavors. The House Margarita made with Blue Sauza tequila and the Organic Margarita enhance the menu. For sweets’ lovers, the generous portions of desserts, such as the Tres Leches, complement the whole experience. Patrons recognize this place for its traditional decoration, its cozy atmosphere, and its friendly and prompt service. We give first place to El Paso because it is part of a chain of restaurants known for the owners’ desire to preserve family tradition by keeping an authentic Mexican flavor.

  1. La Carreta

With more than 12 locations, mostly north of Lake Pontchartrain, this giant is always characterized by its colorful menu and festive atmosphere. The delicious menu includes salads, ceviche like no other, in addition to the Pollo Loco and Barbacoa Tacos. The tortilla soup and the cheese dip are always delicious. A restaurant that maintains its locations impeccably while preserving a party atmosphere is never to be missed.

  1. Habanero’s

 With two locations, this restaurant has positioned "La Chingona" as one of the best margaritas of the Northshore. This place has been a favorite among lovers of good Latin American cocktails because of its varied selection of Tequila and Mezcal. The tacos have a combination of unique flavors that go hand in hand with the modern concept of the restaurant that is also shown through its lighting and decor.

  1. Carreta’s Grill

Carreta’s Grill remains dear to this area’s residents. One of the dishes that you cannot miss is the Chile Ranchero, a stuffed pepper that isn’t breaded, but instead filled with queso fresco with a strip of carne asada and caramelized onions and topped with ranchero sauce and Carreta’s Cheese Dip. If you are looking for healthier options, you can get a tasty Taco Salad. The consistent delicious seasoning has kept this chain as one of the favorites of the Northshore.

  1. Empataco

A mix of Colombian food and other Latin foods makes this place a great compromise. In their two locations, one in Mandeville and one in Madisonville, you can find Colombian crispy empanadas, Bandeja Paisa and stuffed arepas, and also Peruvian Lomo Saltado (sautéed tenderloin tips), plus a wide selection of tacos and Central American dishes, which allow patrons to explore a Latin American food tour in one place.

“Tell Me What You Eat, and I’ll Tell You Where You’re From.”

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- >"Dime lo que comes y te diré de donde eres"

Everyone knows the old adage: “tell me of the company you keep and I’ll tell you who you are.” This version is just as telling: “tell me of the food you eat and I’ll tell you where you’re from.”

Whether we realize it or not, food defines culture in virtually every corner of the world – and the great U.S. of A. is no different. We associate Wisconsin with cheese, and Maine with lobster. So, naturally, it follows that seasonal food traditions would exist. New England has the clambake – and Louisiana has the crawfish boil.

Spring crawfish boils are as much of a social tradition in Louisiana as summer barbeques are for the rest of the country. In fact, locals love them so much that Louisiana produces an average of 50 tons of crawfish a year. That’s 90% of crawfish consumed in the U.S., 70% of which is consumed in Louisiana. And it’s no wonder – crawfish have been abundant in Louisiana for hundreds of years

There are over 30 species of crawfish, but the crawfish we all know and love, the red crawfish, is native to the Gulf of Mexico’s wetlands and swamps. Its culinary history can be traced back to the Native American tribe of southeast Louisiana, the Chitimacha – skilled farmers, hunters and fishermen who fashioned nets stringed with deer meat to attract and catch crawfish.

 

Today, the crawfish-eating tradition lives on. Local college students host Sunday boils up on the Fly, overlooking the river, with plenty of crawfish and beer to go around. But everyone has their favorite spot. Whether it’s Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar in Kenner, Captain Sid’s in Bucktown, or Clesi’s in Mid City, there is no shortage of mudbug grubbing options.

Ask anyone on the street and they’ll tell you – the secret is in the seasoning. Some buy special blends from grocery stores or seafood markets, others pride themselves on making their own. And experimenting has never been more popular. Take Ideal Market’s crawfish for example. Their special ingredient? Jalapeños. Even Viet-Cajun crawfish are on the rise: fresh from the boiling pot, crawfish are sautéed in a pan with butter, garlic, and Vietnamese spices, then served hot with corn and potatoes.

Some call it sacrilege, altering the hallowed tradition of the crawfish boil. Others call it creative liberty or artistic license. Honestly, as long as it’s served on newspaper and plastic in the company of friends and family, that’s all it’s really meant to be.

  • Published in NOLA Food

Proveniente de México, el Pozole de Pollo es uno de los platillos favoritos de la cocina de este país y ¡hoy le damos un toque crocante al añadir pistachos!

Krewe de Mayahuel fue todo un “hit” durante el desfile de Mardi Gras, y con el frente frio de hoy y mañana, ¿qué tal agregar un delicioso pozole mexicano junto a los platillos como el gumbo durante el carnaval?
El Pozole es delicioso de por sí solo, pero añadiéndole Wonderful Pistachios, le agregarás más proteína y fibra a esta delicia mexicana. 

Pozole de Pollo con Pistachios Triturados

Ingredientes:

Para el Puré De Tomatillo:

• 1 jalapeño

• 1 chile poblano

• 1 libra de tomatillos, sin cáscara y cortados por la mitad

• 1/2 cebolla roja, cortada en cuatro

• 2 dientes de ajo

• 1 cucharada orégano fresco

• 1/3 taza de cilantro

• Sal y pimienta recién molida, al gusto

 

Para el Pozole De Pollo:

• 2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva, dividido

• 1 libra de pechuga de pollo, sin piel y sin hueso

• Sal y pimienta recién molida, al gusto

• 1 cebolla pequeña, picada

• 3 dientes de ajo, picados

• 8 tazas de caldo de pollo

• 1 lata (28 onzas) de maíz blanco, escurrido y enjuagado

• 1/4 taza de Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Lightly Salted (sin cáscara y ligeramente salados) triturados

 

Ingredientes sugeridos:

• Aguacates en rodajas o en cubos

• Crema agria ligera

• Rábanos en rodajas

• Rodajas de limón

• Cebollas rojas en rodajas

• Cilantro

Preparación:

Para el Puré de Tomatillo:

Precalienta el asador y coloca una parrilla a 6 pulgadas, aproximadamente, de la fuente de calor. Esparce el jalapeño, el chile poblano, los tomatillos y la cebolla roja en una bandeja para hornear.
Asa, girando de vez en cuando, hasta que las verduras estén asadas, alrededor de 8-10 minutos. Retira del horno y deja que se enfríen un poco. Luego pela y remueve las semillas del jalapeño y del chile poblano.
Transfiere las verduras asadas al frasco de una licuadora. Agrega el ajo, el orégano fresco, el cilantro, la sal y la pimienta, y mezcla hasta que quede suave. Cuela y reserva.
Para el pozole de pollo:

Sazona las pechugas de pollo con sal y pimienta.
Calienta una cucharada de aceite de oliva en una olla holandesa grande, a fuego medio alto. Agrega el pollo y dora por todos lados, aproximadamente 2-3 minutos por lado. Retira y reserva.
Añade el aceite de oliva restante, si es necesario. Saltea las cebollas y el ajo hasta que estén fragantes y translúcidos, aproximadamente 2 minutos. Luego, agrega el pollo y el caldo. Una vez que esté hirviendo, reduce el fuego a la temperatura más baja y cocina a fuego lento hasta que el pollo esté tierno, aproximadamente 40 minutos.
Retira el pollo en un plato y desmenuza. Reserva.
Coloca un colador de malla fina grande sobre un tazón grande y cuela el caldo. Vierte el caldo de nuevo en la olla holandesa, desechando los sólidos. Agrega el pollo y el puré de tomatillo reservado, revolviendo para mezclar.
Añade el maíz escurrido. Prueba para condimentar y ajusta la sal y la pimienta, si es necesario. Cocina por otros 5 a 10 minutos, hasta que esté caliente.
Para servir, vierte la sopa en tazones agregando los Wonderful Pistachios machacados y los ingredientes deseados. Sirve inmediatamente.

Nota: Esta receta es un pozole suave. Si se deseas más picante, aumenta la cantidad de jalapeños y chiles poblanos al gusto.

How New Orleans History Influences What We Eat

By Marcella Escarfuller

Click aqui para español- >Cómo la historia de New Orleans influencia lo que comemos

As the music dies and the last of the beads are thrown, the entire city of New Orleans sinks into the thick haze that is the aftermath of Mardi Gras. The next day, it’s back to reality and going to work on a Wednesday while sustaining a major hangover (of both the alcohol and king cake varieties).

Gone from menus are the previously ubiquitous king cake and gimmicky king cake-flavored everything - from lattes and cocktails, to donuts and burgers (yes, burgers). After the extravagant indulgence of weeks past, the items that take their place are bland by comparison. But, still, a common theme remains even after carnival season – seafood.

New Orleans is a food city. Its culture and its celebrations revolve around food. Lent is no exception. Starting Ash Wednesday in New Orleans, Meatless Mondays are swapped out for Meatless Fridays – and not just for practicing Catholics. Walk into a local grocery store on a Friday in March and you’re guaranteed to find at least one seafood dish in their prepared-food section.

Some might call it another one of New Orleans’ many charms; an old-world tradition carried over into a city known for its amalgamation of old and new. But when confronted with the question of why, it merits a deeper exploration of these traditions and our city’s rich history.

Lent was first formalized as a religious practice of the Catholic church in 325 A.D. by the Roman emperor Constantine I. Almost 1400 years later, French Jesuits started settling in the gulf region. By the time the Archdiocese of New Orleans was established in 1793, the city had become the Jesuit missions’ headquarters, and the iconic St. Louis Cathedral had been standing for nearly five years.

It’s safe to say the city was cradled in French Catholicism in its infancy. The influence of the Catholic church during this critical time in our city’s history has had a lasting impact that is evident in our culture today. And let’s not forget that Louisiana is the only state in the Union that consists of parishes, a Catholic establishment, as opposed to counties.

Today, 36% of New Orleans is Catholic. It’s no wonder that a significant part of our culture as a city is influenced by Catholic traditions like Lent. And it’s a good thing, too – because without Mardi Gras, where would we be?

A Conversation with Chef Adolfo Garcia

By Leslie Almeida

Click aqui para español- >Una conversación con el Chef Adolfo García

Therapist. Referee. Ringmaster. There isn’t enough space on a nametag for all the titles a restaurateur holds. When your job is to put out both literal and figurative flames while juggling a variety of tasks at several properties across the city, you likely have some great advice to share. I sat down with Adolfo Garcia, James Beard Award-nominated chef and restaurateur, to talk business and glean a few words of wisdom.

The son of Panamanian immigrants, Chef Adolfo grew up in the Greater New Orleans area. At the age of 12, his family moved to Panama for 4 years, but returned when Adolfo was in high school. His career in the hospitality industry started early but did not stem from a place of nostalgia.

“It really wasn’t that romantic. I was 16 when we returned to Louisiana from Panama, and I needed a job. I wanted a car, to be able to do stuff, so I took a job at Pancho’s washing dishes.”

He moved through the ranks of busboy, then server, and went on to wait tables at La Riviera, an upscale restaurant in Metairie that influenced how locals thought of Italian food, and how local chefs would prepare it. It was the chef and owner of La Riviera, Goffredo Fraccaro, that piqued Garcia’s culinary curiosity.

After high school, Garcia attended UNO and UT-Austin with plans of majoring in Political Science and becoming a lawyer. As law school loomed ahead, he realized his passion was in food, and asked Fraccaro for help.

“Chef Goffredo was my mentor. He wrote my letter of recommendation to attend CIA (Culinary Institute of America). He was all, ‘You’re gonna go to school to be a chef? You don’t need to do that,’ and I said, ‘I’m gonna do it, and I need a letter.’ He said, 'Alright, I’ll write you a letter.’ Throughout my career, I touched base with him. He was an important figure in my life, especially from a culinary standpoint.”

Upon graduating from CIA in Upstate New York, Chef Adolfo started from the bottom once again, working his way through the ranks of high-profile NYC restaurants. His humble beginning is a stark contrast of the empire he has built today.

While the current count of restaurants Chef Adolfo co-owns stands at three, at one point in his career, that number was doubled. His first venture, Criollo, opened in 1997. After its closing, Rio Mar was opened in 2000, followed by La Boca in 2006. Prior to selling his share in Rio Mar in 2012, he opened High Hat and Ancora, both on Freret Street, in 2011.

Today, Chef enjoys more of an operations role and can often be seen at La Boca, but not behind an apron.

“It’s the evolution of a business person. When you first open, you’re in there on your hands and knees, fixing the plumbing, changing a lightbulb, answering the phone. Over time, your role becomes one more of overseer and advisor.” He goes on to compare owning a restaurant to raising a child.

"In the formative years, you try to influence as much as you can to put it on the right track. At some point you go, ‘You’ve grown up, now you’ve got to do your thing.’ You talk in their ear to coach them, but for the most part, they’re on their own.”

Whether it be 6 or 3 restaurants, Chef Adolfo says he wouldn’t be able to do it without his business partners. He owns La Boca with Nick Bazan, who was also his partner at Rio Mar, opened High Hat with industry veteran Chip Apperson, and operates Ancora along with general manager Bryn Thompson and chef Adrian Chelette.

“I don’t really thrive on micromanaging,” Chef Adolfo snickers. “I’m more of a person that wants to see people do their job, doing it how they feel. You can’t stifle them and be there all the time telling them what to do. Because then, what are they? They’re just a part of a machine. That’s not conducive to growth, and to the long-term health of the business or the partnership.”

To Chef Adolfo, his business partners and staff are more than just co-workers. He is known for putting the right people in the right places, then giving them equity and a position where they can create their own dreams. He stresses the importance of having a mentor and being a mentee, and credits Apperson as a role model and positive influence.

“Mentorship is important; I try to teach that, and I try to live it. Chip was my boss in New York. When I worked with him, he was the guy I looked up to. The way he ran his operation, the way he treated his people, the way he thought. I tell my employees to find someone they admire, emulate them, do the good things they do, and then pass it on.”

Wrapping up with Chef Adolfo, I asked him what was in store for his restaurant empire. Would there be more openings in the future? He shook his head and grinned as he replied. “I love the restaurant business and I love to cook, but for me it’s about the hospitality. If I do anything, I’m going to buy another building and figure out something there. But I think I’m done."

I guess we will have to wait and see about that one, Chef.

 

 

Tito's Ceviche & Pisco

By Leslie Almeida @nola.eats

Click aqui para español- >Tito's Ceviche & Pisco

New Orleans is a tapestry of food cultures. From the earliest influences of Spanish, French and African cuisine 300 years ago, to the eventual introduction of Vietnamese, Italian and other European food identities, the weave is myriad and diverse. Our most famous Cajun and Creole dishes incorporate the flavors from all these ethnic groups and more, creating gastronomic experiences that are often imitated yet seldom duplicated.

Peru, like Louisiana, was developed by indigenous peoples, later colonized, and then inhabited by immigrants from around the world, creating a multicultural nation. Unlike Louisiana, it’s been around a lot longer than three centuries. The comestible customs of these societies are reflected in the cuisine of Peru, with aspects of Spanish, Asian and African cooking often sharing the spotlight with the Amerindian and Andean ways. It is befitting that Tito’s Ceviche and Pisco, the Peruvian restaurant helmed by Chef Juan Lock, would find its place in the New Orleans dining landscape.

Chef Juan, a native of Lima, Peru, is no stranger to the city. After managing a popular steakhouse in Fort Lauderdale, he returned to New Orleans, eventually opening Tito’s Ceviche and Pisco with his wife, Tatiana, in August of 2017. Cooking, he says, has always been a family affair. “I started cooking as a little kid helping my mother in the kitchen, and I really enjoyed it.”

Ceviche, widely considered to have originated in Peru (sorry, Ecuador), is the star of the menu, served alongside complementary seafood dishes that may be seared, poached or fried. When slavery was abolished in Peru in the 1850s, Chinese and Japanese immigrants flocked to the country in search of work. Finding the ingredients they usually cooked with to be unavailable in their new homeland, they adapted their recipes, which are now staple dishes of Peru known as chifa.

Chef Juan pays tribute to his Chinese heritage with the lomo saltado and chaufa de mariscos, essentially a stir fry and fried rice, respectively. Japanese influence is represented with the tiraditos, which resembles a thinly sliced crudo but is more akin to sashimi. Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Peruvian cuisine is the presence of ancient foods and the crops that are thought to be native to Peru; tomatoes, quinoa and most varieties of potatoes have been traced back to the country’s earliest years.

Peruvian food may not have always been on the radar of New Orleanians, but the appreciation for fresh seafood, if nothing else, is enough of a reason for locals to embrace it. Chef Juan realized an opportunity in New Orleans when he couldn’t find the dishes he was searching for. “In Peru, you will find cevicherias with lots of varieties of ceviches. It’s a lot of fun. We wanted to share some of that with New Orleans, to offer other Peruvian dishes, and a full pisco bar. New Orleans has great local seafood, which makes it easy to create a bridge between Peru and this wonderful city.”

 Tito’s Ceviche and Pisco is located Uptown at 5015 Magazine Street. For more info, visit titoscevichepisco.com or follow them on Instagram at @titoscevichepisco.

-NOLA Eats is Leslie J. Almeida, food and dining writer and native New Orleanian. As the host of dozens of curated culinary experiences, she aims to highlight the people behind the city’s most interesting dining destinations. Since 2003, her past work includes contributions to Forbes, Food Network, CNN and Gambit. Tell Leslie where you’re eating and drinking -- she’s @nola.eats on Instagram and Facebook.

South of Eden

Click aqui para español- >South of Eden

Bad habits are hard to break, especially when they are the kind associated with food. We eat our feelings, snack while bored, and overindulge; in a city like New Orleans, it’s difficult not to. Our food-obsessed society has even associated certain days of the week with food-themed hashtags, such as #MeatlessMonday and #TacoTuesday. Coincidentally, Liliana Ruiz-Healy knows a thing or two about both of those topics.

Liliana, a native of Mexico City, is the proprietor of South of Eden, a vegan pop-up serving authentic Mexican recipes with a healthy approach. Each Sunday, her team takes over the kitchen at Good Karma Cafe, another vegan eatery, located in a building that shares space with Swan River Yoga. It’s more than fitting that South of Eden sets up shop there; Liliana, a Culinary Nutritionist and Health Coach, prefers to describe her menu as plant-based rather than vegan, emphasizing that eating meat-free does not necessarily equate to eating healthy.

As a teenager and young adult, Liliana struggled with the effects of a poor diet, both mentally and physically. Today, she prepares dishes that are pleasing to the palate yet nourish the mind and body from within. Her strategy is one she implemented and has seen work for herself. “I dealt with a lot of eating disorders and body image issues for many years. This led me to depression, anxiety, fatigue, and pre-diabetes. I went to psychiatrists, dermatologists, dietitians, you name it.”

With no solution in sight from medical professionals, Liliana did her own research. She experimented with omitting meat and animal by-products from her diet and began to see improvements in the condition of her skin, energy levels and overall health. But, with traditional recipes calling for meat, lard and dairy, where does a vegan fit into a Mexican household? “I think at first they thought it was crazy, but the more time passed, the jokes stopped, and they saw I was committed to it. Even so, both of my parents have been very supportive in this journey.” And it was indeed a journey ahead. Needing an about-face, Liliana moved from Mexico City to New Orleans in 2015.

“I was pretty stuck with my life and felt I needed a big change. This seemed a little tricky to do back home, since, well…in order for big changes to happen, you need to break away from the routine, the normal, the comfortable. I was ready for a new adventure, and New Orleans captured me on my first visit.” Soon after, Liliana became certified as a Health Coach from Dr. Sears Health Coaching School, and as a Culinary Nutritionist from Plantlab Culinary School, focusing on herbalism, Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

In 2017, she earned her certification in Plant-Based Cooking and Desserts from Plantlab, perfecting her technique with raw foods. Liliana’s aspirations as a nutritionist and as a chef led to the creation of South of Eden. Her menu, while meat-free, showcases dishes that are as appealing to the eye as they are delicious. “Plant-based food has a place in high-end cuisine, with beautiful ingredients, plating and techniques. I just want to do what I enjoy the most, to share the flavors I grew up with in Mexico, and breaking the idea that Mexican food is burritos, margaritas and nachos.”

The menu at South of Eden is quite varied, offering Mexican comfort dishes, twists on brunch classics, and house made baked goods. The satisfyingly crunchy chilaquiles feature a bright chile salsa and a vegan almond cream that can pass for the real deal. For those that prefer their brunch resemble dessert, options like the high-protein Belgian waffle with dairy-free coconut whipped topping placate the sweet tooth with ingredients you won’t feel guilty about enjoying. Also, on the menu is a menagerie of coffee, herbal teas, and intriguing beverages such as a kombucha ice cream float or beet latte.

Such a diverse and creative menu calls for an equally talented staff. Liliana doesn’t hesitate to commend her all-female team, noting that vulnerability and the ability to communicate are as necessary as basic knife skills. “South of Eden is a team. I don’t like to take full credit, and I can’t. They really hold it down. They are patient with me, they understand my brain, they make all my ideas take shape, and they have amazing ideas and knowledge.”

Their approach certainly works for them; Sunday takeovers at Good Karma have recently been extended from a 2p.m. close time to 5p.m. While pop-ups aren’t always convenient to patronize, specialty items from the South of Eden team are available at Crescent City Farmers Market Uptown on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays at the Mid-City site. Goods include dairy-free yogurt, kimchi, tinctures, soups, and a cacao brew. "The goal is to open our own brick and mortar in the future, and at some point, take this concept back home to Mexico. While we get there, we’ll just keep on getting creative.”

Paloma Café

An Interview with Chefs Danny Alas and Justin Rodriguez

By Leslie Almeida

Click aqui para español->Paloma Café

Imagine that you are back in high school and your teacher says everyone must pair up with a classmate for a project. You turn your head toward your BFF and they turn their head toward you. You exchange a nod or maybe a raised eyebrow. Nothing needs to be said because you both just know you will be working together on this. And everything is going to be alright. Now snap out of it, because it’s 2018 and you have to get to the office and work on that presentation with The Guy That Makes Noises When He Eats. Ugh. Wouldn’t it be great if we could work with our best friend again? Danny Alas and Justin Rodriguez, the chefs at Paloma Cafe, have managed to do just that. The duo met while at culinary school in Miami, went on to work together at critically-acclaimed Scarpella, and then made the move to New Orleans to join the team at Compère Lapin. Eventually, they would open Paloma Cafe, an eatery in the Bywater heavily influenced by their Latin-Caribbean upbringings. For Chef Danny, part of the appeal is having a support system in an environment where things can get pretty hectic. “Working with Justin, I know my best friend’s got my back.”  “She knows I’m not gonna bullshit her,” Chef Justin adds with a laugh. “If something isn’t right, I’ll tell her, ‘we’ve got to throw the whole thing away.”

One would think that sharing the duties of running a professional kitchen would present some major challenges, but the camaraderie extends to the logistical side of running a restaurant. “We’re generally on the same page,” says Danny. “It’s like we’re telepathically sharing these ideas and then work them out until we have the finished product.” “As in all other aspects of running a business, it’s all about balance,” adds Justin. While Chef Danny and Chef Justin -- Venezuelan and Dominican, respectively -- tend to see eye to eye on most matters, there is one thing that divides them: tripe. With a grin, Danny admits, “I eat it. I like to get nasty like that.” Justin, however, is not on board. “No, it’s a texture issue for me. My family grew up eating it, but I do not love it.” Fortunately, there is plenty to love about Paloma Cafe, perhaps one of the most adaptable spots in the New Orleans area. Previous tenants -- first Booty’s Street Food and later Cafe Henri -- struggled with the complexities of a changing neighborhood.

Paloma, attuned to the community’s needs, serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, dependent upon the day of the week. Additionally, the Revelator Coffee Company-owned cafe welcomes the laptop crowd, offering a space where they can work or study with a caffeinated beverage and housemade pastry. Regardless of the time of day, each menu reflects the influence of the chefs’ heritage and culture. Breakfast includes heartier offerings such as a plate of eggs, potatoes and choice of chorizo or avocado, and lighter fare such as the vegan-friendly avocado toast with cumin roasted chickpeas. The lunch and dinner menus deliver on amped up homestyle favorites; think yuca frita, marinated chicken thighs, platanitos, and braised short ribs. Diners can now get their favorites one additional night a week; dinner service was recently extended to Tuesdays. In a restaurant named Paloma -- a Latin derivative meaning “peaceful” -- the pair strive toward a positive work environment for their team, especially during a time where there is little to no room for the contrary. “We have a chill space here,” says Danny. “We try to be mindful of our team. We never have to go out of our way to hire, because the staff is generally friends of friends.” Friendship seems to be a recurring theme with Chef Danny and Chef Justin at the helm of Paloma Cafe. How could it not when two friends navigate analogous professional paths across multiple state lines? “We are both far from our families,” says Danny, “but we have each other.” Paloma Cafe is located at 800 Louisa Street in the Bywater. For more info, visit palomanola.com or follow them on Instagram at @paloma_nola.

- NOLA Eats is Leslie J. Almeida, food and dining writer and native New Orleanian. As the host of dozens of curated culinary experiences, she aims to highlight the people behind the city’s most interesting dining destinations. Since 2003, her past work includes contributions to Forbes, Food Network, CNN and Gambit. Tell Leslie where you’re eating and drinking -- she’s @nola.eats on Instagram and Facebook.

Congreso Cubano

by Leslie Almeida

Click aqui para español->Congreso Cubano

New Orleans is a city of hustlers. Here, big thinkers with modest budgets can turn a side gig into a day job. Or night job, if that’s more your thing. And that’s exactly what Orlando “Orly” Vega did when he moved here from Miami and launched Congreso Cubano, a pop-up dining experience with Cuban roots. I asked Orly about his journey with Congreso, what inspires his menus, and the future.

What brought you to New Orleans from Miami? Quite honestly, there wasn't much that wasn't calling me to New Orleans. It was not the food at that time. I regularly visited for Jazz Fest and, being a musician myself, it was always somewhere I wanted to be. Simply put, I had a bad year in Miami, so I threw everything in my car and took up a friend's invitation in Mid-City. That was almost seven years ago.

 Did you have intentions to create a culinary experience upon arriving, or was it a happy accident?

The food came a bit later out of a mix of culinary homesickness, a desire to showcase my family's food, and a deep interest in the historic links between New Orleans and Havana and the idea came out of necessity. I had left my 9-to-5 and decided to make the best of my newfound free time while I was job searching. The job market was rough, so I kept making sandwiches to entertain myself and would set up on stoops or work out of the car.

What were some of the hurdles you faced, and what kept you going in those challenging early days as a pop-up?

When you are popping-up, everything is a potential hurdle. It’s nice not having a rental overhead, but you give up a lot of control to property owners, weather, transportation logistics, etc. Not to mention that everybody wants a cut of your sales until you can prove that you know how to fill a room.

For a city whose culinary landscape derives great influence from Latin cultures, yet had few Cuban eateries, was it difficult to explain to customers that Cuban food isn't "tacos and margs"?

No, it really wasn't. These days there's a big buzz around Cuba and a surprising amount of our guests have had the chance to travel there. It’s been a fun experience listening to our guests' differing expectations of a dish. Since Cuban cuisine has continued to evolve throughout the diaspora, you'll find guests that expect very different interpretations of a dish. Sometimes one was introduced to the dish in Tampa, Florida while the other tried it in Santiago de Cuba. Even among neighboring provinces in Cuba certain dishes can vary quite a bit.

 When you create a menu, are you inspired by tried-and-true family recipes or fresh takes on the classics?

Our mission is to connect New Orleans to its ancestral sister cities through our food. Some of our dishes come straight out of my great-grandmother's copy of Nitza Villapol's Cocina Criolla. Many of our recipes are very Spanish in their influence, as not only is Spain where most of my family settled, but they were the colonial rulers of Cuba. And, of course, many Cuban recipes have a deep and undeniable African influence, some even retaining their West African names. Cuba, being an island, has survived in large part through the import of its neighbors’ foods and cultures which are inevitably expressed in the cuisine. It is this trans-Atlantic story that culminated to produce the city of New Orleans.

What can we expect from you in the future?

More good food. Beyond our regular events, we are expanding our catering operations to provide fun options such as pig roasts, ceviche bars, and Latin-style parrilladas. Over the years, Orly has turned customers into fans, and fans into friends. His secret to success? “Word of mouth and generosity is more responsible for our continued success than any marketing widget I've ever been pitched. We would not still be here if it were not for our community's constant encouragement.” Congreso Cubano pops-up with a new menu Tuesday night at Barrel Proof Lounge, 1201 Magazine Street. Visit CongresoCubano.com to inquire about catering and follow them on your favorite social media outlet for announcements.

 

NOLA Eats is Leslie J. Almeida, food and dining writer and native New Orleanian. As the host of dozens of curated culinary experiences, she aims to highlight the people behind the city’s most interesting dining destinations. Since 2003, her past work includes contributions to Forbes, Food Network, CNN and Gambit. Tell Leslie where you’re eating and drinking -- she’s @nola.eats on Instagram and Facebook.

La Carreta

By Winston and Martha Landymore

Click aqui para español->La Carreta

La Carreta Mexican Restaurant is truly a unique treat and a family-friendly Mexican restaurant that opened 7 months ago in the Lower Garden District. The owners, Saul and Leticia Rubio, opened their first restaurant nearly 20 years ago, and their other locations include Mandeville, Covington, Ponchatula, Lafayette and Houma.

Located at 1814 Magazine St near the corner of St. Mary, La Carreta serves traditional and Tex-Mex favorites. What immediately grabs your attention when you walk into La Carreta are the colorful murals, tapestries and pictures of Mexican art including a homage to the Luchadores, the great masked wrestlers of Mexico.

Of course, one cannot miss a fully customized early 1960’s Ford Econoline truck converted into a bar. Yes! They have a real full-size “Bar Truck” adorned with a mural of horn-playing Day of the Dead Mariachi musicians painted on the front of the iconic truck. The atmosphere is relaxed with a combination of families, hipsters and professionals all enjoying Latin music and Mexican cuisine.

The window tables provide an excellent view for people-watching on Magazine Street while downing ice cold cerveza or one of the best frozen margaritas in the city. I must confess, my wife is somewhat of a margarita connoisseur, and she ranks La Carreta’s frozen margaritas at the top of the list.

According to General Manager Luis Nava, the secret to their quality is the use of fresh ingredients, and the daily preparation using a special Don Saul Tequila made in Jalisco, Mexico. More importantly, the daily Happy Hour is from 3-7pm and the delicious margaritas are just $4!

There are certain signature dishes that resonate with great Mexican restaurants and here, I have to say, the Picadillo Nachos are uniquely incredible. Their picadillo (spicy ground beef) is seasoned to perfection and served with queso blanco, it becomes a nacho feast you just can’t stop eating. Other favorites are their steak chimichangas made with creamy queso infused steak, and a variety of traditional seafood dishes.

 Taco Tuesday is a good excuse to try as many types of tacos as you dare without spending a fortune. La Carreta’s flan is incredible. I have never had a more incredibly rich, deep flavor-packed flan anywhere like this. Make sure to save room for it. You won’t be disappointed. La Carreta is a fun, laid-back restaurant with great food and drinks at fair prices all in a cool atmosphere where tequila is the “Soup of the Day”...Only in New Orleans!

Taqueria Corona

By Angela Hernández

Click aqui para español->Taqueria Corona

On any given night, Taqueria Corona humbly sits nestled on Magazine Street where it’s been for the past 30 years. On the inside, diners sip on margaritas and devour tacos while merengue music joyfully fills the colorful restaurant. But what most patrons don’t know is that the meal they are enjoying has made a significant mark in New Orleans restaurant culture.

 In the past 30 years, the Magazine Street Taqueria Corona has seen a lot. Owner Roberto Mendez fondly remembers the days of 1988 when it was just him and a dishwasher. This was a time when making $50.00 daily was considered all in a normal day’s work. But a feature in “The Times- Picayune” four months into Taqueria Corona’s opening changed everything.

Mendez soon found himself trying to keep up with the long lines outside his restaurant. The demand was so great that he even had to shut down his taqueria once because he ran out of food. Not only were the locals eager to try his tacos, but also movie stars such as Kevin Costner and Brad Pitt have pulled up a chair to savour his food. Nowadays, Mexican restaurants are as common as Taco Bells, but that is where Mendez believes he is different.

Taqueria Corona isn’t a typical Mexican restaurant nor is it fast food. Although their menu has expanded over the years to include common Mexican dishes, tacos remain as the heart and soul of the restaurant. Mendez recalls that many restaurants weren’t serving what he calls “soft tacos”. At that time, tacos were hard shells and filled with ground beef instead of soft tortillas filled an array of juicy meats and garnished with cilantro and onion. I wasn’t until his first time attending Jazz Fest that Mendez realized authentic street-style Mexican tacos were missing.

This spurred his idea to ask Jazz Fest if they would let him open a taco stand known as a taqueria. “The word ‘taqueria’ was introduced by Taqueria Corona into the New Orleans lingo. I attribute that to spotting the trend for tacos, not Mexican restaurants but tacos,” said Mendez. This innovative idea has certainly become increasingly popular within the past couple of years as Americans search for a place to have their #TacoTuesday.

Although Jazz Fest had denied his application, Mendez decided to open a restaurant instead. Without any formal training, Mendez began to study different recipes, visited taco stands in Texas, and perfected his own recipes through trial and error. Looking back, Mendez remembers feeling unsure if his tacos would be authentic enough, but his crazy idea proved to be worth it in the end, as Taqueria Corona remains one of New Orleans’s most beloved taco joints. “Seeing the customers’ happy faces while enjoying the food always give me a sense of accomplishment,” said Mendez.

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