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the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
With a multitude of restaurants at our fingertips, New Yorkers are often asked, “What type of food are you in the mood for?” While South African may not be a common response, Kaia Wine Bar might just ingrain this cuisine into your arsenal of go-tos. This darling Upper East Side restaurant offers seasonal South African-inspired small plates in a rustic, 50-seat setting.
Kaia, which means “home” in Zulu, is a candlelit neighborhood gem that’s perfect for a romantic date night or fun evening out with friends. Focused solely on authentic South African flavors, chef Ivan Giani’s eclectic menu features biodynamic and grass-fed meats, organic produce, local cheeses and a sustainable fish program. Beverages include South African and New World wines, along with a selection of American craft beers.
A starter of wild boar sliders topped with smoked tart cherry compote set the tone for an intensely flavorful meal. Along a narrow plate, creamy scoops of ostrich tartare alternated with watermelon radish slices and toast rounds over white chocolate mustard; the myriad of tastes and textures really impressed us when assembled together. Chilled tilefish ceviche mingled with diced kiwi fruit, oranges, red peppers and lime juice for a citrusy and refreshing warm weather dish, best enjoyed when spooned onto the accompanying crisped bread for added texture. Other meal highlights include the vibrant “Jacob’s Nootjes” scallops atop sweet corn purée peppered with mango relish, and the savory “Spear and Shield” dish: bacon-wrapped asparagus resting on portobello mushrooms smothered in cheddar cheese and a rich green peppercorn sauce.
Will I be craving South African cuisine on a regular basis now? Absolutely. The delicious, high quality cuisine and cozy, unpretentious atmosphere make me want to call Kaia my new home away from home on the UES.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2014 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of Zanda.com.
So much to eat, so little time. New Orleans is one of those over-the-top eating cities that brings out the glutton in everyone, in the most delicious way possible. And no matter how many multi-course meals I’ve savored, po-boys I’ve put down, or pounds I’ve packed on, I always leave the Big Easy craving more.
A few short days in that sinfully tempting town never seems to be enough. I mean, how can I possibly hit up all my favorite NOLA standbys (starting the day with beignets and café au lait at Café Du Monde, bellying up to the Acme Oyster House bar for raw oysters and the charbroiled variety at Royal House, sucking down Bloody Marys and barbecued shrimp at Mr. B’s Bistro, indulging in the ultimate pork supremacy at Cochon…) and expand my eating horizons at the same time!?
Since I’m always on the hunt for new flavors, places and experiences, it was essential to find the time and stomach space (in between several New Orleans Wine & Food Experience events and tastings, I may add) for a little culinary exploration while in the area. Here are a few of the incredible new discoveries and mouthwatering highlights from my recent trip:
Hungry for a standout meal outside the French Quarter? Head a few blocks due south to this elegant, modern bistro located in the up-and-coming Central Business District. Everything about Ste. Marie feels fresh and current — from the chic industrial decor, to the extensive list of Champagnes and sparkling wines, to the menu of refined French fare made with locally sourced ingredients. Since opening in early 2011, this NOLA gem has been firing up flavorful dishes such as escargot with bone marrow, tempura battered soft-shell crab BTL, velvety three cheese crawfish mac, and the best Moules Frites this side of the bayou — plump mussels nestled in a thick white wine garlic broth spiced with fiery chorizo, topped with a heap of thin cut fried potatoes to soak up the sauce remnants at the end. Très magnifique!
Contemporary and inviting, Ste. Marie impressed in all the right ways — definitely one to add to your New Orleans must-try list. And when you do stop by, ask for Miles and tell him I sent you ;-)
‘Local Ingredients, Global Inspiration’ is the philosophy behind this highly anticipated Hotel Monteleone newcomer. Criollo (the Spanish word for Creole) pays homage to the unique blend of cultures and influences that comprise Louisiana cuisine, with an ingredient-driven, seasonal menu boasting the region’s bounty of fresh seafood and produce. Chef de Cuisine Joseph Maynard delivers inspired dishes — like refreshing Gulf shrimp, blue crab and avocado layered over spicy tomato coulis, and savory herb marinated chicken paillard with sunchoke slaw and grilled Celeste figs — that pack the bold flavor punch New Orleans is famous for, executed with elegance and finesse to suit today’s contemporary tastes.
Standout service and spot-on wine pairings added to the overall enjoyment of my lunch at Criollo, and I’m already anticipating feasting here again once dinner service starts (slated for July).
Criollo at Hotel Monteleone • 214 Royal Street • 504.681.4444 • www.criollonola.com
There aren’t enough sweet sentiments to say about this darling dessert boutique from celebrated pastry chef-owner Tariq Hanna. Go here. Try everything. Smile and repeat. I can go on for days about Sucré… or you can just check out my previous post for more pictures and all the delicious details. How sweet it is!
Sucré • 3025 Magazine Street • 504.520.8311 • www.shopsucre.com
I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Restaurant August before (last year at a Pride Mountain Vintners dinner as part of the 2011 NOWFE), but this visit was my first à la carte experience. And it far exceeded the already high bar set during that first fine meal.
John Besh’s award-winning restaurant is a New Orleans signature, located in a historic 19th century French-Creole building. The interior is rich, elegant and polished, with three breathtaking dining rooms, and the cuisine is contemporary French with a farm-to-table focus on local ingredients. A late Saturday dinner here turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory. Talented executive chef Michael Gulotta presented an impeccably prepared succession of robust dishes, each more mouthwatering than the last, leaving me eager with anticipation of what was coming next. His precision, finesse and balanced approach to flavor was remarkable. And pastry chef Kelly Field’s desserts were simply stunning — she is a true artist in every sense of the word.
After this epic spread, paired with a stellar selection of wines and top-notch service, I can say with confidence that August is my favorite restaurant in all of New Orleans, hands down. Forks down, too — I was officially (and so satisfyingly) stuffed!
Restaurant August • 301 Tchoupitoulas Street • 504.299.9777 • www.restaurantaugust.com
After meeting pastry chef Zak Miller during NOWFE (and hearing from multiple sources about his dessert mastery), I just had to check out his restaurant, Coquette. Occupying the corner of Magazine and Washington in the scenic Garden District — and just down the street from Sucré — this acclaimed two-floor French bistro and wine bar charms with exposed brick walls, crystal chandeliers and paintings by local Louisiana artists. With a daily changing menu of haute cuisine at fairly reasonable prices, Coquette showcases fresh, seasonal ingredients in dishes such as succulent cochon de lait over pureed sweet potato and crisp corn relish, and plump salt-crusted sea scallops with snappy English peas, fennel and sherry vinegar. There’s also house infused spirits, signature cocktails and an eclectic wine list to round out the menu. But no matter what you eat or drink, be sure to leave room for dessert. Zak’s visionary confections cannot be missed!
Coquette • 2800 Magazine Street • 504.265.0421 • www.coquette-nola.com
No trip to New Orleans is complete without a po-boy or muffaletta. So, if you’re in the French Quarter and that comfort food craving sets in, try Johnny’s — a tiny St. Louis Street landmark that’s been serving its signature sandwiches since the 1950’s. This casual, order-at-the-counter spot rolls out all the standards, as well as special varieties like a seafood muffaletta (catfish, shrimp and oysters) and surf and turf (hot roast beef topped with fried shrimp) po-boy. The sandwiches here are massive and filled to the brim, so be prepared to chow down and get a little messy. And for the true experience, order ‘em “Dressed, baby!” with lettuce, tomato, pickles & mayo, along with a bag of crunchy Zapp’s chips and a Barq’s root beer to wash it all down. For a quick, satisfying bite, no place hits the spot like Johnny’s — especially on the day after a late night on Bourbon Street. You’ll thank me later.
Johnny’s Po-Boys • 511 Saint Louis Street • 504.525.8037 • www.johnnyspoboys.com
Until we eat again, New Orleans…
Where are some of your favorite spots to eat in the Big Easy? I’d love to hear from you!
New Orleans is world-famous for its savory cuisine — a unique combination of Creole, Cajun and French flavors that produce the city’s indigenous culinary landscape.
Yet over the past several years, the Big Easy has been gaining recognition for the sweeter side of things. More and more New Orleans restaurants are employing acclaimed pastry chefs, who are elevating the level and quality of desserts across town. There’s been an emergence of local sweet shops and pastry boutiques that offer far more than pralines and pecan pie. And just last week, The Big Gateaux Show brought world-renowned pastry chefs together for a theatrical cake competition and tasting to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience.
One of the pioneers of the city’s pastry movement is Tariq Hanna, the celebrated chef-owner of Sucré. Upon visiting New Orleans several years ago, Tariq noticed that the local dessert scene was somewhat uninspired. “It was the same four desserts everywhere.” Tariq mentioned, “Bananas Foster, beignets, pralines and bread pudding.” Determined to bring something new to NoLa’s dining culture, Tariq opened Sucré in 2007 — a bright, inviting sweets haven in the Garden District that specializes in exciting, handcrafted desserts and confections that weren’t typically found in area restaurants at the time.
While in New Orleans last week, I had the pleasure of joining Tariq at the oh-so-charming Sucré to delight in some of his signature delicacies. Feast your eyes on the striking array of French macarons, fine chocolates, handmade marshmallows, decadent desserts, cupcakes, gelato & more featured in the gallery below.
After a generous sampling from Sucré and several other indulgent creations from Zak Miller (Coquette), Kelly Fields (August) and Phillip Lopez (Root), N’awlins officially put me in a sugar-filled state of bliss. Clearly, a new desserts standard has been set in this city and it was thrilling to witness so many restaurants stepping up their game. Afterall, there’s no better way to cap off all that savory cuisine than with a sweet finish. Or a few.
For more sweet inspiration, check out this clip to see what Tariq Hanna has to say about Sucré and find out which New Orleans treats chefs John Besh, Johnny Iuzzini, Ron Ben-Israel & more can’t get enough of.
Filmed during the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience at the The Big Gateaux Show event and throughout the weekend festivities. Learn more about New Orleans pastry culture in this great article on Nola.com.
Stay sweet New Orleans!