Tag Archives: New Orleans

New Orleans Book Signing for Ice Cream: A Global History Weds Feb. 27

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New Orleans ice cream lovers! Come to my book signing and talk, sponsored by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, at the fabulous Creole Creamery  We’ll be talking about NOLA ice cream history. Plus, I’ll throw in some fun facts from ice cream’s storied past as it evolved into the world’s favorite treat.  Hope to see you there!  Here’s the info:

Ice Cream: A Global History Book Signing and Talk

When: Wednesday, February 27 from 5 to 7 PM

What:  Book signing from 5pm to 7pm. Discussion at 6:00

Where: Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania Street)

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Halloween Recipe: A Rum and Pecan Spice Cake Adults Will Crave

Photo: By wayneandwax via flickr.

Photo: By wayneandwax via flickr.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in New Orleans at a food writers conference. We were treated to many incredible New Orleans food delights, but one of the most scrumptious was Louisiana Chef John Folse’s Rum and Pecan Spice Cake.

Trust me, there is nothing like this in New York, anywhere. Rich, moist, and impossibly buttery—and very southern—this cake won praise all around.

So for Halloween, forget the candy corn and Twizzlers. (Folse’s recipe would also make a great Thanksgiving dessert,) For the sweetest Halloween possible, dive into this luscious cake instead.

RUM AND PECAN SPICE CAKE
Recipe provided by chef John Folse of Chef John Folse & Company, Gonzales, LA.

Prep Time: 1½ Hours
Yields: 10–12 Servings

The old fashion spice cakes were often the base for wonderful tasting yet creative desserts in Creole Louisiana. Cakes were flavored with aromatic spices combined with brown sugar and chopped pecans then moistened with syrup made from brandies, ratafia or rum from Hatti. This is one version of that sweet Creole treat.

INGREDIENTS
2½ cups cake flour
1½ tsps baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp clove
1½ cups chopped pecans
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup rum
roasted pecan halves (optional)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9-inch) cake pans with 2-inch lips. Line bottom of pans with buttered parchment paper or spray well with vegetable spray. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and 1 cup white sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until light yellow and ribbony. Continue until all eggs are added. Blend in vanilla. Slowly blend in all dry ingredients in three equal additions alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend in cinnamon, clove and chopped pecans. Divide batter equally between 2 pans. Place cakes in center of oven and bake 30–35 minutes or until tester inserted into center of cakes come out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely. To make a rum syrup, combine remaining water, ¼ cup sugar and rum. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook until sugar is dissolved completely and syrup coats the back of the spoon. Syrup should be reduced by 25%. Cool slightly. Using a toothpick or skewer, insert at 10–12 intervals around the cake and brush with syrup. The holes will allow the syrup to reach the center of the cake. To serve, you may wish to cut into serving pieces or using a 2-inch pastry cutter, cut into circles, or frost whole cakes with your favorite icing to create a layer cake. Top with roasted pecan halves (optional).

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Willie Mae’s Fried Chicken Trounces All New York Contenders

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans serves the finest

Photo: Willie Mael Scotch House, New Orleans by Smithdan via Flickr

Photo: Willie Mael Scotch House, New Orleans by Smithdan via Flickr

fried chicken in the known universe. Which makes the recent New York Times story dismissing southern fried chicken for its supposed lack of flavor, a complete puzzlement.

Today, we had the pleasure of making a pilgrimage to Willie Mae’s modest eatery, which is located a quick cab ride from the French Quarter.

First, this fried chicken’s crust is like no other. It accomplishes the amazing feat of being both pillowy and buttery—but without the slightest trace of greasiness. The chicken is  fried to a perfect state of crispness with a consistency that resembles tempura more than it does classic American fried foods. So deftly is this chicken immersed in its hot oil bath, that it manages to display the lacy texture of fresh-spun cotton candy. Inside this wrapper, all is moist succulence. And though the Times insists that southern fried chicken lacks seasoning, Willie Mae’s sparkled with peppery goodness.

The fact that Willie Mae’s exists at all is a small miracle.  Fundraising appeals went out after Katrina to rebuild the flood-ravaged eatery, which reopened in 2007.The outside of the small building boasts a fresh coat of white paint while most of the rest of the neighborhood is dotted with wooden bungalows pockmarked with peeling paint and rotting wood. A constant stream of taxis drops off hungry aficionados from near and far. The seductive aroma of frying chicken drifts through the door. No one budges from their place in line.

Photo: Willie Mae's fried chicken by Kent Wang via flickr.

Photo: Willie Mae's fried chicken by Kent Wang via flickr.

The day we were there lots of folks were sporting royal blue Florida Gator shirts for the big game with LSU. But there were also just plain fried chicken lovers, like the two guys from Virginia sitting at the next table.

“Delicious,” pronounced one, licking his fingers. “This is up there with the best.”

At Willie Mae’s, the staff is southern friendly. Lots of “yes, ma’ams.” Like in the rest of the south, iced tea is mellow without that sharp tanic acid aftertaste you find in the north. Excellent butter beans, richly flavored with pork, accompanied our chicken.

So, if you have the time and the money, skip New York’s fried chicken pretenders, hop on a plane to New Orleans, and taste what the real pros can do.

$10 will get you a plate of chicken and a side.  Another $2 gets you iced tea.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House
2401 Saint Ann Street
New Orleans, LA
504 822 9503

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Southern Food: Upper West Side vs New Orleans

The trendy food in NY these days appears to be fried chicken, a classic dish from the south. For a taste of south on the Upper West Side, we have Rack & Soul on

Mother's Restaurant, New Orleans.

Mother's Restaurant, New Orleans. Photo: Mother's.

Broadway at 109th Street. There you can munch on their crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside fried chicken. There’s also some pretty good iced tea to wash it down with. But for a true taste of the south, you need to travel to a place like New Orleans, as I have this week, and find an eatery like Mother’s, where the grits, po boys and iced tea are unlike anything you can get in New York.

Rack and Soul's fried chicken is a taste of the South on the Upper West Side

Rack and Soul's fried chicken, a taste of the south on the Upper West Side. Photo: Rack & Soul.

The homey legendary New Orleans diner is staffed by friendly African-American ladies who call you “baby,” while dishing up fabulous grits, eggs, and sausage.  It’s ballast for the rest of the day, if not for the rest of the week.

Another bonus at this New Orleans pit stop—and something nearly impossible to find in New York—is perfectly brewed ice tea, or “tea,” as it’s called in these parts. In New Orleans and in other parts of the south, the choice is unsweetened or sweet tea.

Here are some New Orleans foods I’ve discovered that are not known in New York:

  • Calas: Calas are a recently revived New Orleans food. Originally from Africa, slaves brought calas, made from rice, to the south and hawked them on the streets of New Orleans beginning in the mid-19th century. Something like a fritter, calas are deep fried, then sprinkled with sugar.
  • Creole Cream Cheese.  No, this is not the stuff you put on a bagel. In the old days, before refrigeration, the people of New Orleans would take spoiled milk, wrap it in cheese cloth and hang it from a tree out back. Served for breakfast, it’s sprinkled with sugar.

Mother’s
401 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA
504 523 9656

Rack & Soul
258 W. 109th St.
New York, NY
212 222 4800

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