Eating: Our Anniversary Meal at Herbsaint

There is one class in college that I remember not wanting to take…Folklore. I am not even sure why I scheduled it. Of course, this means it became my favorite class. While I was a history major, I overlooked the power of traditions in our lives. The crawfish boils, the hope chests, the drinking competitions at softball tournaments — the things that make up who we are as a people and as a community. Being a single guy for so long, I never paid much to creating my own traditions. However, now I am married. It is time to create our own traditions. One tradition I hope we started is having our anniversary dinner at Herbsaint.

Our anniversary fell on Memorial Day so we actually had our dinner the day after. We are early eaters (thanks to our jobs which has us eating lunch at the wonderful time of 10:30) so we arrived around six. As soon as we finished ordering, the kitchen sent goat cheese on a toast as a little gift for our special day. A perfect one bite to begin a perfect meal.

Enjoying a Pilsner at Herbsaint

Enjoying a Pilsner at Herbsaint

For our small plates, Cristina ordered the gnocchi while I went with the spaghetti with the fried poached egg. Cristina’s gnocchi was fantastic, yet I think my spaghetti was even better. The yolk from the egg mixed perfectly with the cream sauce to create a new super sauce that should come with its own theme song. It took every bit of reserve in me not to lick the plate clean.

For my main course, I went with the roasted chicken mainly because I wanted to see how a chicken dish could be great. Lesson learned. Juicy and flavorful, each bite left me wanting more. The crawfish sauce and the mashed potatoes were the perfect accompaniments to the chicken. On paper, this dish could have been at many restaurants all over the price range. In execution, very few places could have pulled off such a magnificent dish.

Like most men, I take pride in how I cook my steaks. In fact, most restaurants’ steaks disappoint her. Not Herbsaint. Cristina judges all other steaks by the ribeye at Herbsaint. My ego is not hurt. I changed the way I cooked steaks after reading this.

For dessert, Herbsaint provided me with a chance to prove my vegetable maxim: that if you can order a vegetable in a sorbet form you must. Tonight’s flavor was cucumber. Cool and slightly tart, this was an amazing way to end a meal until Cristina gave me a bite of her warm chocolate pudding cake with salted caramel, cashew ice cream, and cocoa nib caramel corn. Yes, it is a good as its name says. No, it is better. It is so good poets should write verse about it.

Walking out of the restaurant, I realized how lucky I am. I found a beautiful woman who is willing to put up with me. We have settled down near one of the greatest cities in the world. An area where we can make our own traditions. Herbsaint might just be where we create one of our most special ones.

Our Anniversary Meal at Herbsaint

Our Anniversary Meal at Herbsaint

 

Traveling: 1000 Places: #1 – The New Orleans Restaurant Scene

If you haven’t noticed, I am slightly obsessed with traveling. In the country, out of the country, in Louisiana, even in New Orleans, I love touring, history, experiencing new thrills. One of the books I read that helps me pick amazing places is 1000 Places To See Before You Die. I thought I’d do a themed category called 1000 Places, where I document each of the places from the book that I’ve been. Currently, I rest at 43/1000 using the updated book. The new book has about 200 new places. How did they add 200 new places without deleting any of the old places? By combining places. For example, in the old book, five entries were Anne Frank House, Canal Cruises, Red-Light District, Rijksmuseum, and Van Gogh Museum. In the new book, they combined all of these into one entry: Amsterdam. Right there, I lost four entries I had. But I am okay with this…I would rather have 200 new and exciting places to challenge myself to visit!

These entries will be randomly chosen, based on what I feel like writing about. So my first one will be near and dear to my heart: The New Orleans Restaurant Scene.

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Eating: Mat & Naddie’s

Being teachers, Cristina and I receive our paychecks on a monthly basis. Therefore, most of our fun adventures occur right after we get paid instead of right before we get paid. We are masters of the late month budgeting. However, our wallets are in decent health right now, so on Thursday we decided to go to Mat & Naddie’s.

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Traveling: No pane con pasta; Pane con carne (or how I discovered I love gnocchi)

In the middle of our June 2010 Europe trip, we spent the night at a Best Western in the seaside town of Pescara, Italy. Pescara is the kind of Italian town that Google maps quite doesn’t understand. Instead of having us walk a block from the train station to the hotel…we walked more like 14. Luckily enough for me, Cristina can hold a basic conversation in Italian that we were able to find the hotel.

While checking into the hotel, the people on the streets were going nuts. It wasn’t a riot, but it wasn’t a normal Sunday. Well, as everyone knows, soccer is huge in Europe, and in this tiny seaside town it is matter of civic pride. The professional soccer teams in Italy play in different leagues much like the major and minor leagues in baseball in America. However, in their league, the best teams from the minor leagues take the place of worst teams in the major leagues and vice versa.

Celebration in Pescara

Pescara moves up from class b to class c

Pescara, which was in the C league, won the right to enter the B league right when we entered into the town. Now that I think of it, this explains why the streets were so deserted when we were lost. We decided to go check out the celebration. It was crazy, much like when the Saints won the Superbowl, but on smaller scale…and not in English. It was a great travel moment that obviously couldn’t be planned.

After the celebration and dipping my feet in the Adriatic, we were starving. We went back to the hotel and ate in the little café which had a nice view of the town square. The meal was nice and the star of it was the gnocchi in prawn and pumpkin sauce.

Gnocchi with Prawn and Pumpkin Sauce

1st time eating gnocchi

The sweetness of the pumpkin contrasted beautifully with the saltiness of the fresh prawns. Seriously, the prawns tasted like the sea. It was the first time I had gnocchi. It was filling without being heavy and wonderful end to a very unique day.

The next day we took the slow train to Sulmona. We were accompanied by Cristina’s sister and brother-in-law, Cara and Darin, who were doing their own Europe trip. Slow trains in Europe aren’t necessarily a bad thing; it allows you to see the country side, write in your journal, and nap. We were met at the train station by Emilio, Cristina and Cara’s uncle. Cristina's Uncle Emilio Over a dinner of pizza topped with hot dog slices and french fries (yes, french fries…but that’s going to be another blog), we told them we had gnocchi the day before. Well, the next day for lunch we were treated to a home cook meal of gnocchi. Amazing gnocchi…gnocchi of magical powers. Really, it was great to have a home cooked meal. Darin and I were drinking some of Emilo’s homemade grappa. Straight. No water to cut it. It wasn’t until I was completely sloshed that I realized Emilo had cut his down with water even though the entire time he was telling me wine was for drinking, water was for cleaning.

We also had a culture clash during this meal. Being Americans, we normally would eat bread with our gnocchi to make sure we got all the sauce. This was treated with the similar disdain I have for people when they mention Olive Garden as an actual place to eat. You can’t have bread with pasta. It makes no sense to them to have two flour based products at the same time. It wasn’t until we were finished with our gnocchi and were served the meatballs (the most amazing meatball ever) that we were allowed to touch the bread.

The next day when we went to Cristina’s cousin’s restaurant, her aunt Lydia hid the bread from us until the proper time for the bread. So, if you are in Italy, no bread with pasta. Bread goes with meat.

While I haven’t tried to make gnocchi from scratch at home yet, we have had it a couple of times. We usually buy the dried kind found in the pasta section of the supermarket. I’ve tried to recreate the meatballs a couple of times, and while I’m close, I’m not there yet. We also order it every chance we get. Herbsaint’s gnocchi with pancetta and oven dried tomatoes is the best version we had yet…this side of the Atlantic.