i went down to new orleans for ponderosa stomp, and also to visit my kids, who live uptown. we cooked one big meal at their place, which we bought at whole foods -- and man, it's a nice store and all, but the parking situation is pretty insane. if you drive there, i suggest looking for street parking rather than trying to deal with their lot, which is tight and quite nutty.
anyway, we hit cochon butcher to go for lunch. had the BLT, Pork Belly Sandwich, Cochon de Lait Po' Boy (a special), plus sides of mac & cheese, potato salad and brussel sprouts. sandwiches were all great -- i've noticed that some folks complain about the "standard" quality of the bread there, but man, the guts make up for it. i sampled everything and it was all first rate. the sides, however, were the real knock-out. so much better than last time i was there. a little salty for my taste, but once i got used to that i just dug in and glowed. excellent! the wait (at 1:30) was not bad either (about 15 minutes), and the staff there was darned nice.
for dinner we hit cowbell (8801 Oak St <<http://www.cowbell-nola.com/>>) which was fantastic. we got there on the early side, since they tend to crowd up after 6:30 or 7, and got seated right away. the place has a casual, semi-hipster vibe (supposed to have good cocktails, too), but was very friendly. for apps we had the figgy toast, which was incredible -- with andouillie, sweet & sour figs, and cheese. we also ordered a special app, which was brussel sprouts with grapes and marcona almonds, and it was killer as well. i had the burger, which was amazing. a perfect medium-rare with homemade ketchup and agogo sauce, plus the zinfandel/bacon/onion compote (which i highly recommend). kids had the grilled cheese special (with spaghetti squash and mint pesto) and the fish burger (fresh chopped salmon and shrimp). we darn near licked the plates clean.
next morning we hit refuel (8124 Hampson Street <<http://refuelcafe.com/>> which had the best dark roast i've had in nola, and some of the best grits i've enjoyed anywhere. very nice casual spot (although my kids say on weekends, after 10:30 it is full of tulane sorority gals -- which is good or bad, depending on yr opinion). i had the breakfast burrito, which i was warned was "odd" and it was. it was more like a panini in presentation, but had all the features you'd expect in a breakfast burrito -- just pressed down. it was quite good, although the coffee and grits had won me over already.
we tried to hit walkers up in east nola for a cochon de lait po' boy lunch, but they were closed for some event! drat! our friends directed us to a non-disclosable location on the fringe of the FQ as a replacement, and it was pretty good -- although more like a pulled pork sandwich than i'd expected. for dessert, however, we wandered over to green goddess (307 Exchange Place) to partake of their signature dessert -- the bacon sundae. it was mid afternoon and nearly empty, and man that is a mighty fine sundae! pecan praline ice cream with a creamy bacon & caramel sauce with a couple different salts. wow! if you feel a craving for something sweet, it's a heck of a nice thing to tuck into!
that night we hit luke with a big crowd of the kids' friends. we went heavy on the apps, since the young people were all into sampling the cocktails (i was the designated driver this trip). we went heavily into oysters (both baked and raw) which were excellent, as was the plate of pates and the flamenkuche -- a kind of alsation pizza. i know there have been many off-comments about the service at luke, but our waiter was quite attentive, and the food came out at a nice pace. i went with the burger for my order (who can resist alan benton's bacon?) and i didn't keep tabs on every else's order, but they seemed quite happy. of course, most 20-somethings probably like any meal that someone's dad is paying for, but everything i sampled was darn good. and the kuche and pates were truly wonderful. the menu is definitely more northern european than new orleanian, but the oysters were great, and it's a very laid back place (especially on the later side). not cheap. i think it ran about $80 a head (inclusive), but it was worth it.
my last morning we hit elizabeth's for breakfast -- as i always love to do. got there early, so we didn't have to wait. praline bacon., steak and eggs...mmm. i'd never sat upstairs before, but it was nice and service was spot on. by the time we left, it was jammed. but hey, what do you expect?
on the way to the airport we hit morning call (the one in metairie) for beignets and cafe au lait. i just love the vibe of that place. and the beignets are always fresh (unlike some other spots). i had hoped to hit cochon butcher again to grab a sandwich for the flight home, but there just wasn't time. ah well. i'll be back at christmas.