Melting Summer Away

My puppy enjoying her first taste of ice cream.

My puppy enjoying her first taste of ice cream.

August—that wonderful time of year when kids go back to school, holidays desert us, and the sun is always laughing—something akin to the Joker. Sure, we might get rain to cool us off. But then the sun returns, boiling us in the post-storm steam like the crawfish we love so much. Like I said, the Joker’s laugh.

Of course, we all have our own ways to beat the heat. I like to sprawl out on the second floor landing of my house, where the best artifical wind blows from beneath my aunt’s bedroom door. But there’s one tactic that most people can agree on.

Go ahead, scream it.

ICE CREAM!!!!

And like any type of food, New Orleans has many places to choose from, not all of them chains. Below I’ve compiled a list of five ice cream brands that are locally grown. Try one or try all five—it doesn’t matter. It may be mid-August, but this is New Orleans. Batman’s not saving us from the heat anytime soon.

1. Sucré

The Sucre in Metairie.

The Sucre in Metairie.

  • Where: The original is located at 3025 Magazine Street, but a newer one opened in Lakeside Shopping Mall next to Bravos in Metairie. I visited the one in Lakeside.
  • Ice Cream: Gelato (Italian ice cream)
    Flavor Samples: Pistachio, Mango, Raspberry, Coconut & Chocolate, and Stracciatella Americano (vanilla with dark and milk chocolate pieces)
  • Atmosphere: Modern with an upscale feel.
  • Website: http://www.shopsucre.com/

Sucré brings out the classic French side of New Orleans. With its pastel color scheme, sleek design, and delicate treats lining its glass cases, Sucré will make you’ll want to say mais oui to everything. Oddly, Sucré does not advertise gelato on its website, preferring to push its macarons and chocolates. But in store, the gelato is not forgotten. Rich and creamy, it comes in an abundance of flavors, with many fruity and chocolate choices. Sucré offers a wide variety of gelato creations, such as affogato (one scoop topped with expresso) and specialty sundaes using specific flavors. Sucré also created the gelato po-boy, a New Orleans twist on this traditionally Italian ice cream: three scoops of gelato, a sweet sauce, and whipped cream sandwiched in an éclair shell. And if the gelato is not enough for you, Sucré offers many teas and coffees to wash down the sweets.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch- vanilla gelato with a chocolate swirl and peanut butter pieces.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch- vanilla gelato with a chocolate swirl and peanut butter pieces.

2. Creole Creamery

Photo credit Alan Teo, via Flickr creative commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en

Photo credit Alan Teo, via Flickr creative commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en

  • Where: Uptown, 4924 Prytania Street (original) and Lakeview, 6260 Vicksburg Street
  • Ice Cream: Homemade ice cream, sorbet, and sherbets
    Flavor Samples: Lavender Honey, Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake, Golden Summer Fig.
  • Atmosphere: Traditional ice cream parlor style, including pink walls, booths, bar stools, and a picture wall of former customers.
  • Website: http://www.creolecreamery.com/

Creole Creamery is all about the ice cream and making the most unique flavors possible. Not to worry, they have regular vanilla and chocolate too, but it’d be a shame to not try a flavor you can’t get elsewhere. It’s the place to be adventurous! Chocolate lovers must check out the chocolate case, and the sherbets, which are less creamy, are not to be missed either. If you can’t decide on only one flavor, you can order the Ice Cream Sampler, which gives you four golf ball-sized scoops of your choice of flavors. The Creamery’s flavor menu is ever changing, so you never know what you may find. Yet it also has a long menu of traditional sundaes, plus certain specialties. The king of the sundaes, and possibly the largest in New Orleans, is the Tchoupitoulas, adding up to eight scoops of ice cream and eight toppings, not including the whipped cream and cherry. Take the challenge if you dare.

The Ice Cream Sampler. I had the Salted Caramel, Nectar Sherbet, Green Fairy (absinth flavoring with dark chocolate and honey pieces), and Chocolate Peanut Butter.

The Ice Cream Sampler. I had the Salted Caramel, Nectar Sherbet, Green Fairy (absinth flavoring with dark chocolate and honey pieces), and Chocolate Peanut Butter.

3. Angelo Brocato’sBrocatos_Sign

  • Where: Mid-City, 214 N. Carrolton Ave.
  • Ice cream: Cannoli and gelato
    Flavor Samples: Rum Raisin, Zuppa Inglese (Rum Custard), Tira Mi Su, and Baci (chocolate/hazelnut)
  • Atmosphere: Traditional ice cream parlor with an Italian flare. Has a neighborhood feel.
  • Website: http://angelobrocatoicecream.com/

If Sucre strives for the upscale look and Creole Creamery goes for the casual feel, then Brocato’s falls somewhere in the middle. Like Creole Creamery, Brocato’s has a neighborhood atmosphere that attracts everyone from retired couples to high schoolers. Like Sucre, it serves not only gelato but also gourmet cookies (biscotti), pastries, and hot beverages. Brocato’s also emphasizes presentation, placing doilies under its specialty gelatos and pastries. But its uniqueness is best expressed in its specialty items. The cannoli is its number one seller, a shell of fried pastry dough stuffed with vanilla and chocolate gelato. The treat also contains pistachio nuts, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. The cannolis are entirely homemade and fixed upon order, so each one is fresh. Brocato’s also has specialty gelatos like Sciallotti and Spumoni, which are blends of different flavors of gelatos.

Cassata-Pistachio Almond, Tutti Frutti, and Lemon gelato with whipped cream and a bite of cake and candied fruit.

Cassata-Pistachio Almond, Tutti Frutti, and Lemon gelato with whipped cream and a bite of cake and candied fruit.

4. Stanley’s

Interior of Stanely's restaurant.

Interior of Stanely’s restaurant.

  • Where: French Quarter, 547 St. Ann St.
  • Ice Cream: Ice cream floats and sodas (with Italian soda) and specialty sundaes. Homemade ice cream.
  • Atmosphere: A diner ambience with the rich culture of Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral right outside the window.
  • Website: http://www.stanleyrestaurant.com/

While actually a casual restaurant, Stanley’s offers a dessert menu that is largely ice cream and sorbet. They have two sundae specials, including a banana split (see below) and the Stella Uptown (Raisin Rum ice cream, carrot cake, cream cheese sauce, walnuts, whipped cream, and cherries). Also check out the ice cream sodas, made with Italian soda flavors such as blackberry, watermelon, cherry, and more.
However, Stanley’s location makes the ice cream experience even more enjoyable. With high windows lining the walls, it offers a romantic view of the cathedral, artists, and entertainers just outside. It’s a perfect place to cool off and bask in New Orleans’ atmosphere.

Classic Banana Split: Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream topped with pineapple, strawberries, walnuts, whipped cream, and cherries. Can't mess with the classics!

Classic Banana Split: Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream topped with pineapple, strawberries, walnuts, whipped cream, and cherries. Can’t mess with the classics!

 

5. New Orleans Ice Cream

New Orleans Ice Cream Packaging

New Orleans Ice Cream Packaging

  • Where: Most supermarkets in New Orleans.
  • Ice Cream: Flavors only New Orleans can get away with.
    Flavor Samples: Lemon Doberge Cake, Chocolate City, Praline Crunch, Satsuma Dreamsicle
  • Atmosphere: A park, a friend’s house, your backyard.
  • Website: http://neworleansicecream.com/

Okay, so it’s not an actual ice cream parlor, but no ice cream brand could be more New Orleans. Its packaging is stamped with a fleur de lis holding an ice cream cone, and the flavors speak of New Orleans culture and history. A few of the flavor names even point to inside jokes, such as Chocolate City. Yes, it’s a spoof off of a politician’s poor word choice, a concoction of chocolate ice cream studded with white chocolate chips. The ice cream is as rich as the names themselves, and trying one flavor leaves you wanting to try more. The only draw back to this wonderful brand is the price to quantity ratio. Most stores only sell the one-pint containers for close to $6 a piece. (You can order larger quantities online.) But ice cream is worth it, especially after a long week at work or school.

Mississippi Debris is chocolate upon chocolate.

Mississippi Debris is chocolate upon chocolate: brownie pieces, chocolate flakes, truffles, malt balls, chocolate almonds, cherry cups, marshmallows, and fudge swirl.

Historic Downtown Hammond, Part 2: Tope Là

Outside view

Outside view

Hi, everyone! In my last blog, I talked about historic downtown Hammond, focusing mostly on its Saturday morning farmer’s market. After my family, best friend, and I finished picking out fresh produce, we explored West Thomas Street, a major street in the area with boutiques, restaurants, and nightclubs. But soon we worked up an appetite, so we went to Tope Là, a restaurant right next door to the farmer’s market.

Tope_La_Close

Close-up of outdoor sign

 

Bar area

Bar area

Tope Là (that’s with a long “o” and silent “e”) is French for “a handshake, or a clasping of hands.” The restaurant resides in an old-style brick building, but all “oldness” ends there. Inside, the lights are kept dim, lit mostly with modern spotlights and wall lights. For anyone who’s been to Houston’s in Metairie, the two atmospheres are a lot alike, although Tope Là is smaller. There’s also a bar area with specials happening every day.

 

Drink specials

Drink specials

The five of us sat at an extra-long booth in the middle of the room. For a Saturday at lunchtime, business was slow—only two or three other tables were filled. I can’t say for sure, but between the bar and live music shows hosted on Friday and Saturday nights, dinner is probably when crowds are drawn in. But enough of that—let’s look at the menu! (To see it in full, go to http://www.topela.com/HOME.aspx.)

Main seating area

Main seating area

We decided to splurge and ordered three appetizers. I had the soup du jour, a recipe with crawfish, sweet potato, and corn. The soup was good, but not exactly what I imagined. I barely tasted the sweet potato. Instead, it reminded me of a cross between crawfish étouffée and corn bisque. Don’t get me wrong, those are two of my favorite dishes. It was just unexpected.

The other two appetizers were better. My parents and friend split a plate of onion rings, which were thin and crispy with little grease. The order also came with a horseradish sauce. But the hands-down best was my aunt’s crabmeat and artichoke soup. *Internal sigh.* Thick, creamy, crabby goodness that, in my opinion, beats out crab and corn bisque. YOU MUST TRY IT.

 

My plate: Pecan-crusted tilapia, garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans

My plate: pecan-crusted tilapia, garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans

Ahem. Now, onto the main course. The pecan-crusted tilapia came my way, along with garlic mash potatoes and steamed green beans for sides. Overall, I enjoyed the meal. The batter was thick with a generous amount of pecans mixed in, and the sweet sauce was the best part of the dish. However, I did find the fish a little muddy, which took away from it. On the other hand, my aunt’s fried catfish was not muddy and quite good, so perhaps it was just the filet I had.

My dad ordered the Pasta Bake with crabmeat, a penne pasta dish smothered in cream sauce and mozzarella cheese. Talk about rich! I thought it had too much cheese, but my dad couldn’t stop raving about it. So that means you’ll have to try it for yourself!

My mom and friend, both veggie lovers, got the Grilled Vegetable Salad—warm zucchini, squash, mushroom, asparagus, eggplant, and red onion with lettuce, tomatoes, Romano cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Even me, a picky veggie eater, found it delicious. But a word of warning, the serving was huge. Neither of them could finish, which was sad for both—it was so good!

By the time the check came, we were all slouched in the booth, grateful the walk to the car was a short one. Dessert? Oh, yes, check out the picture below. Hats off to anyone who can put away a three-course meal at Tope Là. Like any good southern restaurant, they feed you so much at the entrée that the only “sweet” in your near future is sweet dreams!

Here are the desserts!

Here are the desserts!

 

 

Historic Downtown Hammond, Part 1: The Farmer’s Market

Train tracks lined with crape myrtles.

Train tracks lined with crape myrtles

Historic downtown Hammond—a living reminder of the small town that existed before Hammond sprung up as a thriving bedroom community between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It’s a place where half the buildings model old brick and trains pass through a tunnel of crape myrtles.

I drove up there with my family and an old friend to spend a Saturday morning on West Thomas Street, which houses several small shops and restaurants. Our main goal for the day was to check out the farmer’s market, which had both fresh produce and local arts & crafts. After a good ten minutes of wrong turns and failures to follow directions from Google Maps (only because we’re directionally challenged), we finally stumbled across West Thomas Street. And as a bonus, it had a good-sized and FREE parking lot waiting for us. (I get excited about free parking lots in downtown areas—something I’m not used to in New Orleans.)Farmers_Market_Sign

 

Entrance to the market

Entrance to the market

Anyway, the farmer’s market was set up right across from the parking lot. It was much smaller than I expected, as it only took five minutes to see all the stands. There were also more art & crafts than produce, which I found surprising. But the market is currently searching for more farmers, so that may change in the future. For more information about contributing, registration forms are available at http://dddhammond.com/Retail/HammondArtsCraftsMarket/tabid/99/Default.aspx.

 

Eggplant and squash from the Poche family.

Eggplant and squash from the Poche family

Despite its size, the market still had things to offer. The Poche Family Farm had a table laden with eggplant, squash, bell pepper, peas, okra, and parsley and basil sprigs. Another table, hosted by Arcola Nursery and Sandra’s All Thumbs Nursery, overflowed with young plants like crape myrtles and moss roses. I only wish I’d seen their table before plant shopping at Home Depot the other week. As for the crafts, Creations by Dianne Kaye sold flip-flops with crocheted straps. There were also several stands selling yard art and jewelry.

Flip-flops from Creations by Dianne Kaye. Look at all the colors!

Flip-flops from Creations by Dianne Kaye. Look at all the colors!

But for me, a farmer’s market isn’t just about the products. It’s about the people and the personal interaction you don’t get in a normal grocery store. I talked to Amy and Katie Guilbeau, the mother-daughter team at the Henderson’s Hearth table. They had a variety of things to offer, such as jams, dried herbs (rosemary, spearmint, basil, etc.), and custom recipe mixes (soups, scones, bread etc.) They may have been there to sell, but chatting with customers seemed important to them. They gave out free samples and made suggestions to personalize their recipe mixes. Once they even disagreed in a typical mother-daughter fashion over whether jalapenos and chilies would be good additions to their scone recipe. In the end, we bought a split pea and lentil soup mix, called Henderson soup, after enjoying a friendly chat.

Amy and Katie Guilbeau of Henderson’s Hearth

Amy and Katie Guilbeau of Henderson’s Hearth

For anyone who would like to visit, the market is open every Saturday morning from 8:00-12:00. The vendors attending vary from weekend to weekend, but the market’s Facebook page tells you who will be showing up each week. You can check it out at https://www.facebook.com/HammondFarmersMarket.

After you’ve finished browsing the farmer’s market, there are many antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants to check out in historic downtown Hammond. For more, check out my next blog coming soon!

Sunny-Side Up!

Welcome to Another Broken Egg Cafe!

Welcome to Another Broken Egg Cafe!

Breakfast… These days, one of the most forgotten meals—and no, just coffee doesn’t count. Though really, who has time for it during the frenzy of waking up, brushing teeth, putting on make-up, finding your keys, fighting traffic, stumbling into work, and praying your boss doesn’t notice you’re five minutes late? But whether your day ends up scrambled or not, you can start or end it with Another Broken Egg, and believe me, it’s an egg you’ll want to crack.

Okay, okay. All the puns aside, Another Broken Egg is a restaurant chain that has it roots in southern Louisiana. The egg that started it all (Or was it a chicken? Sorry, couldn’t resist!) was born in Mandeville back in 1994. But you can read the full history on their website (http://www.anotherbrokenegg.com/). I’m here to talk about the food!

I went to the Another Broken Egg in Lakeview, located at 607 Harrison Ave. It was my aunt’s birthday, so she, my mom, and I took the morning for a lazy breakfast. I expected to see the typical chain-style restaurant, but this is what I saw:

Grand Presence

Grand Presence

Street View

Street View

 

Teardrop chandelier

Teardrop chandelier

Instantly, I was charmed. Walking inside was like going into someone’s home. Ornate crown molding lined the walls, the windows sported stained glass, and teardrop chandeliers hung over the guests. People sat at mismatched tables, which gave an informal touch. Others ate at the breakfast bar or on the porch.

But despite the semi-fancy look, the atmosphere was casual. I saw a mom with kids, a group of elderly ladies, and two friends meeting over a good meal. The restaurant really captures the feel of old time New Orleans—back before we ran around like chickens without their heads… (Sorry, there went the chicken jokes again!) Anyway, once you’re in there, you won’t want to rush.

Porch seating.

Porch seating

And that’s before you get a load of the menu—but before I dive in, a public service announcement: dieters, stay at home.

The menu is die-hard southern, and though they specialize in breakfast foods, they also make lunch and dinner options. Whether you’re looking for pastries, omelets, burgers, or seafood, Another Broken Egg has it. I went for the pastries, and the Cinnamon Roll French Toast would make other pastry chefs cry from jealousy. The dish came with three large cinnamon rolls cooked in French toast batter, topped with whipped cream, cream cheese icing, strawberries and blueberries, and Bananas Foster sauce. I never thought to put Bananas Foster sauce on a cinnamon roll, but it made the dish. Mind you, the banana flavor was not overpowering, but rather blended with the other flavors. If you’re in the mood for sweet, go for this option!

What remained of my dish... I was too stuffed for the last one. Sorry, everyone, I was too hungry to take a picture first!

What remained of my dish… I was too stuffed for the last one. Sorry, everyone, I was too hungry to take a picture first!

My mom ordered the Chez B’s omelet, a vegetarian option with bell peppers, onions, Feta and Parmesan cheese, and portabella mushrooms. My aunt ordered the steak and eggs with a side of country potatoes (essentially cubed and fried potatoes). Both were delicious, but one thing really stood out to all of us: neither of their meals was greasy, and that includes the fried potatoes. My mom and I are particularly sensitive to grease, so we’re harsh judges when it comes to that.

Also worth noting, the breakfast/lunch menu has many vegetarian options and even a few gluten-free choices. Just look for the green circle for vegetarian and the orange circle for the gluten-free next to the item. The full menu is on the website.

Stained glass window near side entrance.

Stained glass window near side entrance

Lastly, the menu and hours vary depending on the location, and not all are open at night. This blog is based on the Lakeview location, but there are also ones in Uptown, Mandeville, Shreveport, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge. I’ve yet to scope those out, but I’ll be sure to update when I do!

As we called the waitress for the check, my mom looked down at her empty, polished plate and commented, “I wasn’t hungry at all!” So go to brunch on a lazy Sunday morning. Or better yet, play hooky! You deserve it!

Riverwalk = Shopping Fix

The Outside View

The Outside View

I’ve been visiting the Riverwalk since my stroller days, when throwing pennies into the fountain was enough entertainment for hours. Now, twenty-three years later, I still enjoy parking at the Hilton and walking along the Mississippi River shoreline. (And maybe feeding a coin to the fountain, just for old times sake.) Though a lot has stayed the same, some things have changed. The old Riverwalk Marketplace re-opened on May 22nd as the Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk, refurbished with new outlets and food courts. (http://www.riverwalkneworleans.com/) So, as a curious local, I had to check it out.

I won’t lie. Many of the stores are reminiscent of Lakeside Shopping Mall in Metairie, including places like Aeropostale, Guess, Gap, Forever 21, Claire’s, and even Café du Monde. Yet many of shops are factory stores, and lower prices on brand names may be worth the drive downtown. Plus, with the French Quarter and Audubon Aquarium so close by, the Outlet Collection would add to your “girls’ day out.”

A peek inside A Simpler Time.

A peek inside A Simpler Time.

Despite similarities to Lakeside, the Riverwalk has several gems that make it stand out. One store, called A Simpler Time, is dedicated to vintage items from the 1920’s-1940’s. My first impressions included a sign made from an old washing board and the song “In the Mood” playing in the background. Selling everything from wrought-iron Fleur de Lis, classic children’s books (ex. What Little Girls are Made Of), to model boats, the store provides a nice break from sleek and shiny retail stores. For more, check out http://www.asimplertime.com.

So many colors!

So many colors!

However, my favorite was the Wilsons Leather Outlet. I admit, leather is one of my weak points, but when good quality is coupled with low prices…well, it’s hard to say no. The outlet boasts many styles for both men and women, and for the women, many colors too. Faux leather, or “vegan leather” as the saleslady put it, was marked down as low as $49.99. The real leather, of course, was more expensive, but most jackets were still below $200. With such good deals, I walked out with two faux leather jackets—one in turquoise and the other in cobalt blue. After a second discount was deducted, I paid only $38 for each jacket!

The men's wrack.

The men’s wrack.

The mall also has several kid-friendly places, such as Gymboree, IT’SUGAR, and Gumbo Toys. Or, for the mom with a day off, there’s Avalon Salon & Spa. Bottom line, if you’re just out to buy what you need and leave, the mall isn’t for you. But if you plan to make a day of it and spend some time at surrounding attractions, then the new Outlet Collection can make a fun addition to your day downtown!