Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Big Easy

Sunset at Jackson Square 

The first time I visited New Orleans was for a conference which happened to coincide with my 18th birthday. And I was smitten. Completely blown away by the culture and class of this town. Luckily I have had the chance to return nearly every year (or more frequently at times) since then - twelve years running now! Most recently, I found myself in the Big Easy for another conference and enjoyed turning this trip into a foodie fest of sorts. Once a foodie, always a foodie.

Amazingly delicious honey lavender ice cream from Bayona
Another delicious dessert from Bayona 

For the first part of the trip I was staying out near the Carrollton Streetcar Line in the Uptown-Carrollton area. The area of Oak Street is adorable and I highly recommend it. Lots of little shops, trendy, foodie, love it! My morning chai stop included Rue De La Course coffeehouse. For a local nosh stop, I visited the new location of Juan's Flying Burritos. Both are recommended from this chef!

Apple pie deliciousness from GW Fins

For the days I worked the conference, I switched things up and moved down to the French Quarter. A few of the joints I was able to frequent included Bayona, GW Fins, and The Royal House Oyster Bar. All were amazing! Now normally I am a strict vegetarian with an occasional seafood/fish splurge a few times a year. However, being down in NOLA and wanting to support the local economy (as well as realizing that the fishing industry is about to crumble with the situation in the Gulf), I splurged on oysters one night. Of course it was totally worth it!

Tiramisu from GW Fins

A lovely idea which I may steal to start referring to myself... Kitchen Witch!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Foodie Fest in my Kitchen!

Last weekend a few friends and I held our first ever foodie fest meet-up in my kitchen. The results were amazing, mind-boggling amazing! A huge heaping thank you to all the folks who participated - both as chefs and eaters. When my NOLA trip wraps up I will post the recipes for what we cooked and baked. Stay tuned for a second foodie fest next month! Yum!

Menu included:
Garlic Knots with 2 types of dough
Homemade Hummus
Garlic Leek Broccoli Quiche
Blueberry Strawberry Pie (vegan)
Cheese Plate
And of course... Mimosas!

      I am a sucker for flowers. :)

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Strawberry Lavender Bread

    What does a little piece of heaven taste like in your mouth? Eat a piece of this bread and find out. A friend of mine occasionally gets a mass amount of organic produce due to his connections (no, it didn't fall off the back end of a truck... well not in the way you think!). He knows what chef I am, so I am fortunate enough to get a little piece of the action when fate roles my way. A few weeks ago it happened to be organic strawberries! And tons of them.

    After some research (always key), I found a strawberry bread recipe from the Joy of Baking to start with. Then applied my special Panda touch - in this case, lavender! The results were amazing. Truly, insanely amazing. As I ended up making two batches, I tweaked the second one by using low-fat coconut milk. While it was tasty, I still preferred the first batch better. 


    Strawberry Bread Recipe:

    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1/2 cup granulated white sugar
    1/4 cup brown sugar, packed 
    3 large eggs
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
    1-2 tablespoons lavender flowers, lightly crushed to enhance aroma
    1/2 cup plain yogurt
    1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of an 8-cup loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inch).  Set aside.