Five Things We Miss About New Orleans

Canal Street NOLA

View of Canal Street from the JW Marriott hotel.

FIVE THINGS?! We recently spent a long weekend in New Orleans, but even though it was a short trip, narrowing down everything we’ll miss about this unique city was no easy task. Hell, gumbo alone could take up all five spots (mental note for a future gumbo post…) And you can’t ignore the po’ boys. Or fresh Leidenheimer french bread. Oh, and Abita on tap!

Having been to New Orleans a few times, this list partially reflects some things that we consistently miss every time we fly back home. And aside from one item, we tried to avoid the obvious answers (ahem, G-U-M-B-O). With the exception of a trip outside the city to Gretna, most of these are in or within walking distance of the French Quarter, so it’s easy to relive all of these things within a day. And with all the food you’ll be eating, you’ll need to walk it off.

If you don’t mind the heat and aren’t afraid of hurricane season, flights and hotels are pretty reasonable in August (about half the price as they are in late fall). But don’t forget to pack an umbrella, as there’s a good chance you’ll see a few brief rain showers during your late summer visit. And bring a pocket full of dollar bills–Not for the cavalcade of strip clubs on Bourbon Street, but for the street performers, homeless, and vendors at the French Market.

1.  Chocolate Pecan Crunch at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House Bourbon House on Urbanspoon
This dessert from Bourbon House‘s Sara Toth won gold prize at the 2014 New Orleans Food & Wine Festival. One medal doesn’t seem like enough for this rich, salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, dessert that is almost impossible to describe with words and pictures alone. The inside includes layers of chocolate mousse, crispy pecan brittle, caramel, and a chocolate crust. All topped with rich chocolate ganache and pecans, served with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. We were too full to finish it at the restaurant, but that didn’t stop me from wrapping it up and shoving the leftovers in my carry-on bag. Two days and 1,055 miles later it was still worthy of a gold medal.


And the award for the best dessert of the trip goes to…

2.  Merchant Merchant on Urbanspoon
Yes, we’ve already dedicated an entire post to Merchant, but it’s worth repeating. For a break from the noise of Bourbon Street, stop by Merchant for good coffee, crêpes, and friendly staff. And don’t forget to grab an almond croissant for the plane ride home (sorry, United, for all the powdered sugar on seat 9B).

Fork and knife bench

It’s a fork and knife bench! (@ Merchant)

3.  Chargrilled Oysters
Okay, yes chargrilled oysters are pretty common in NOLA and it’s almost superfluous to even include them on the list. However, every single time we go to New Orleans, one of our first meals includes them and it’s one of the first dishes we miss when we return home. And as a little bit of a #FoodPSA, I want to note that even if you THINK you don’t like oysters, you should still give them a try, ’cause you haven’t had any like this. Of course if you’re allergic you should use common sense…but it might be worth it…

Bourbon House Oysters

Chargrilled oysters from Bourbon House

4.  Beignets from Café Beignet Cafe Beignet on Urbanspoon
Standing in a sweaty line at Café Du Monde for beignets and a café au lait holds an iconic place in many peoples’ hearts. But honestly, if you want to avoid the crowd and (dare I say it) find better beignets, then check out Café Beignet. Everything also feels a lot less manufactured than at Café Du Monde, plus one of the locations is next door to a police station, so it’s most likely the safest place to enjoy a beignet (insert joke about cops stealing your beignets).

Cafe Beignet

Beignets are even good in a hotel room. Look at that sexy green carpet.

5.  Three Happiness Restaurant Three Happiness Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Technically, Three Happiness Restaurant isn’t in New Orleans, but it’s only about 15 minutes outside of the city in Gretna, LA. We have pretty solid Vietnamese food in Northern Virginia, but you simply can’t beat Vietnamese food in the New Orleans area. With a huge Vietnamese population (Tina’s family being some of them!), Louisiana has some of the best Vietnamese food you’ll find in the Western hemisphere. If you need an expert’s confirmation of this, check out Season 11 of Top Chef. The food at Three Happiness Restaurant was delicious (no really, seriously delicious), but it was the good vibes from the owners that made it truly unique. Their hospitality was so genuine that you felt like you were eating in their own home. Highlights included the crispy egg rolls (wrapped in lettuce and basil and dipped in nước chấm), tender cubes of ribeye sauteed in butter, and a seemingly never ending seafood hot pot with shrimp so fresh they were still wearing mardi gras beads.

Egg Rolls

I ate every single one of those egg rolls.

Runner-Up:  JW Marriott New Orleans
Also, as a “runner-up,” I want to give a shout out to the JW Marriott on Canal Street. The hotel’s location was perfect for accessing the French Quarter, while also not being right in the middle of all the action (because it’s nice to be able to sleep a little bit). The hotel food wasn’t anything memorable (especially for the steep prices), but it was fine if you needed a quick bite or late night room service snack. The rooms were clean and the staff was friendly (except for one condescending guy). The bellhops were all awesome and took care of us and our luggage like we were BFFs. So, we would definitely recommend JW Marriott for its cleanliness, friendliness, and location.

Reviews, Travel

Merchant | New Orleans

Merchant New Orleans

Ah, New Orleans. As we learned from our recent trip back to the Big Easy, some things never change. From the second you step foot in the French Quarter, it’s as if the city grabs you by the Mardi Gras beads and continually blasts jazz into your ear, while force-feeding you seafood, butter, and alcohol (I say this lovingly and as one of the positive aspects of the city). It’s an exhaustively fun experience that I don’t believe is replicated anywhere else in the country.

But as much fun as the debauchery of Bourbon Street is, everyone needs a break (especially that one guy we saw being carried into our hotel by his bros–he knows what I’m talking about). Everyone needs a quiet place to relax, enjoy some coffee, and reflect on the mistakes that were made the night before.

That place is Merchant, a small, zen-like crêpe shop just a few blocks from the French Quarter.

Veg Crepe

Veg Crêpe – squash, zucchini, fennel, cucumber, beet pesto, goat cheese, spinach

Before you even order your food, you’re met with a strikingly clean, modern design. Its serene design fits the calm atmosphere—a welcome change from the noise outside. And despite what could be a cold, sterile environment, the southern hospitality shines through and provides a warmth from the friendly staff.

The menu (which is updated based on seasonality of ingredients) mirrors the simplicity of the shop’s design, while having the complexity to make you feel as if you couldn’t get the same food anywhere else in the city. And although you can find illy brand coffee elsewhere, it’s hard to beat the capable hands of the Merchant baristas. 

It will come as no surprise that this beautifully designed coffee house is co-owned by architect, Marcel Wisznia, and illy coffee distributor, Rosario Tortorice Jr. Surprisingly though, Wisznia did not design the shop, rather it was Ammar Eloueini, a Tulane professor and world-renowned designer. 

I enjoy my coffee sweet and creamy (and always with whip), but for some reason while at Merchant it just feels right to order an unsweetened cappuccino. No syrups or several ounces of sugar needed. An iced cappuccino on a sweaty summer morning perks you up and quenches your thirst, while a hot cappuccino on a cool fall day warms your soul.

Sweet Crepe

Sweet Crêpe – fresh peaches, lemon juice, granulated sugar

A good crêpe is a beautiful thing. Its popularity and simplicity has spawned many chain shops pumping out overly thick, chewy, flavorless blankets of flour. Not at Merchant. The crêpes here strike a perfect balance which help showcase the fillings. You can’t go wrong with any of their savory or sweet combinations, and although I’m typically drawn to any combination of Nutella, bananas, and berries that I’m offered, we’ve recently been wooed by the simplicity of a crêpe with granulated sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Egg Sandwich

Smoked Ham Sandwich – egg, speck, goat cheese, basil

If you’re going to judge this place on anything besides crêpes, might I point you in the direction of one of their breakfast sandwiches. You can choose your own adventure as far as the bread choices, but how can you not take advantage of the quality croissants available (thank you, French influence!)? As if a buttery, slightly crisp croissant alone wasn’t enough, Merchant’s options include toppings you might find at a local farmer’s market (because most of them ARE) fresh basil, arugula, turkey, speck, fontina, soppressatta, other seasonal specials. However, the real pinnacle of breakfast deliciousness is created through the egg. A perfectly fried egg with a golden runny yolk satisfies not only your tastebuds, but also your heart.

So if you’re looking for a place to relax and forget about the prior night’s public vomiting, throbbing music, and constant barrage of gentlemen who want to guess “where you got your shoes,”  head to Merchant for a cappuccino, egg sandwich, and lemon crêpe. It may not cure your hurricane hangover, but it’s a great start.

You can find a sample of Merchant’s menu online, but also check out the Merchant Facebook page for updates on events (like coffee classes from master baristas) and food specials.

Merchant on Urbanspoon

Imitation Creation, Recipes

Peach Pie with Candied Rosemary

Peach Pie with Candied Rosemary

It was June 25, 2013.

Dirt from Muir Woods stained our clothes–a tailored suit for me and a wedding gown for my bride–and our stomachs were in a constant state of growl. It was late and we were tired. And VERY hungry.

Our elopement was far from a traditional wedding, so we had a lot of memorable surprises on our wedding day. Since we “ran away” to California, we didn’t know our officiant or photographer very well. Rick Kaplowitz, our officiant, turned out to be a sweet, thoughtful gentleman who customized the ceremony to fit our vows. While Ryan Polei was an organized, talented photographer, and such a nice guy that in under 30 seconds we felt like we had known him our whole lives. The rain was another surprise, which luckily stopped just in time for our ceremony and helped fuel some epic fog. And little did we know that on this special day, one of the final surprises would reveal itself in the form of the greatest peach pies our moufs have ever experienced.

peaches and rosemary

After having fun and dancing in the redwoods, we headed to downtown San Francisco for dinner at Wayfare Tavern. The food here was not a surprise, as we had eaten there once before and experienced some of its famous fried chicken during a prior gluttony filled visit. I’m not sure if it’s a saying (or a sign of good luck that I made up), but I’m 99% sure that if you eat the equivalent of a whole fried chicken on your wedding day, then you’ll have a long and happy marriage. Just to be safe, I ordered and ate all of said chicken. Tina enjoyed a sweet pea ravioli that was so artfully plated that it belonged on a wall at SFMOMA. And those were just the entrees which we devoured AFTER several light, buttery popovers, a few deviled eggs, and a burrata appetizer that would have been fit for a royal wedding.

peaches and rosemary

We were clearly too full for dessert; another spoonful of food was sure to send both of us into a Thanksgiving worthy food coma. HOWEVER, we couldn’t NOT take a peek at the dessert menu. That’s when we both saw it…

DARLENE PEACH PIE | Frog Hollow organic peaches, brown butter ice cream, rosemary sugar

No words needed to be spoken between me and my new wife. She knew I was going to order it. And I knew that she knew that I was going to order it. I promptly told the waitress to box up some Darlene Peach Pie. I thought about sneaking a bite, but it arrived to the hotel minifridge without a blemish. Apparently, I can occasionally exercise restraint.

peach pie

We ended up eating the pie and ice cream the next morning after breakfast (because even breakfast needs a dessert). Although it was a day old and cold, it was still remarkable. It was everything a peach pie should be. The peaches were plump with little filler, letting the natural sweetness and flavor of the bright orange flesh shine. As much as I love pie, rarely have I experienced a pie filling that gives me the feeling as if I were eating the fresh fruit. I assume peach pies don’t grow on trees, but this tasted so good that only the earth could have made it. (If anyone knows where I can get some peach pie seeds, please let me know.)


Let’s not forget about the rosemary! I can’t think of a better complementary herb to peaches than rosemary. Herbaceous, sweet and crystallized from the sugar. Do you, Peach, take Rosemary to be your lawfully wedded pie wife? I certainly do.

candied rosemary

And it all came together with that brown butter ice cream. Come on! This dessert should be illegal. But I’m glad it’s not, because otherwise I’d find myself at the center of a police chase crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. So, while many couples have memories of smashing cake and buttercream into each other’s faces on their wedding day, we ended our wedding celebration by (what should be a new tradition) eating peach pie after breakfast in our hotel room. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except maybe next time I’d order TWO pies.

precooked pie

Since there is only what feels like a three-day window for good, fresh peaches in Virginia, we haven’t had too many opportunities to recreate this dish. Fortunately for us, this year mother nature was kind, so our area has been cranking out good quality peaches by the basketful.

peach pie rosemary

peach pie

pie from above

The recipe below is a modified hybrid of several different recipes that we found online. Recipes and inspirations include Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust, Smitten Kitchen’s peach pie filling, and of course no part of this “imitation creation” recipe would be possible without Wayfare Tavern.


Pie Crust (Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust from

  • 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) COLD Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 Cup COLD Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 6-8 Tablespoons Ice Water

Pie Filling (Smitten Kitchen)

  • 3 1/2 Pounds Fresh Peaches (approximately 7 medium)
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Corn Starch

Candied Rosemary:

  • 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
  • 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  1. For the crust: We’re no strangers to Ina Garten’s recipes and her “Perfect Pie Crust” is definitely a winner. Consistent, tasty, and most of all easy. If you’re looking for a flaky, no fuss pie crust Ina’s will certainly serve you well.
  2. For the filling: It is too often that peach pie fillings are overly sweet and texturally gloppy, but not this one from Smitten Kitchen. It has the perfect balance of sugar and just a hint of cinnamon to highlight the natural peach flavor.
  3. For the candied rosemary: We’ve never candied anything before…ever. I’m not even 100% sure that this is proper candying technique, but it was delicious and served our purposes just fine. Start by combining the rosemary, water, and sugar in a small saute pan and bring to a boil. Carefully watch and stir the mixture until it reduces slightly and resembles a very thick syrup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it cool and harden while you prepare the pie filling.
  4. For the pie:  Place the bottom crust in a 9-inch pie pan leaving about a half inch over the edges for crimping. Place the peach pie filling inside (no need to bake the bottom crust first) and cover the top with the remaining crust. Fold the edges of the top crust under the edges of the bottom crust and seal together by either crimping with your fingertips or by using the prongs of a fork. Using a sharp paring knife, create a few steam vents in the middle of the top crust making sure they are big enough so that the dough doesn’t seal back together when it expands in the oven. Next, break-up a small portion of the candied rosemary in a blender (a coffee grinder also does the job). Brush the top crust with heavy cream and lightly sprinkle the blended candied rosemary mixture on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 for about twenty minutes or until the crust begins to brown. Reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for another 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
  5. Let cool for 3 hours, then serve each slice warm with extra candied rosemary and your favorite ice cream. Brown butter ice cream works best, but we’re still working on finding a good homemade version to post on the blog.

True Confessions:

  • What’s with all the books in the pictures? Wayfare Tavern has a masculine library kind of vibe, so we were aiming for that. Grab a pipe and slice of peach pie.
  • I made brown butter ice cream, too.  But I screwed it up, so it didn’t make the cut. It tasted great, but it was gritty. Whoops. I have since learned the ways of Jeni Britton Bauer and believe my next batch of ice cream will be better than Wayfare Tavern. Yeah, I said it.
  • We ate the pie before we got a chance to snap a sexy pic of a single slice with peaches oozing out. So, as a bonus how about an action shot?

Animated GIF of Peach Filling Being Poured into Pie Crust

Mouf Links

Mouf Links

mouf links

  1. Elvis Rolls (Bacon and Legs) – It’s hard not to shake your hips at any food with the Elvis-inspired combination of banana, peanut butter and bacon, but Fontina Turner’s idea to roll all that legendary goodness up into a cinnamon roll will definitely have you all shook up for breakfast. Breakfast?! Let’s not kid ourselves, this is late night drunk food at its finest (and possibly a hangover cure).
  2. I Had A Terrible Experience At This Restaurant Because I Am A Terrible Person (Clickhole) – I’m a sucker for parody sites like Clickhole and The Onion (hence, the foodgawker Rejects post), so OF COURSE I’m going to love anyone poking fun of yelp reviewers. The title alone makes me laugh, because it’s way too true of many Yelpers out there. If only there were a way to rate the reviewers themselves…
  3. Lessons from Ice Cream Maven Jeni Britton Bauer (Food and Wine) – If you’ve experienced the foodgasmic properties of Jeni’s Splendid ice cream, then you’ll understand me when I say the founder, Jeni Britton, is the Steve Jobs of ice cream. If you haven’t experienced a scoop of her brilliance, then go order some Brown Butter Almond Brittle right now. This interview/masters class on ice cream making will make you wish Jeni was a politician, ’cause she could fix this country one scoop at a time.
  4. Planet Money Podcast:  Episode 555 – Why is milk in the back of the store? – In another fine podcast, the folks at Planet Money attempt to answer why milk is always at the back of the store. Maybe it’s because the grocery store gods want to manipulate you into walking through the entire store just for a gallon of moo juice. Maybe it just makes more logistical sense and helps facilitate the “cold chain.” Either way, the podcast is great fun, especially the friendly debate between food writer Michael Pollan and economist Russ Roberts.
  5. – Did you know there’s a dating site for foodies?!  Screw eHarmony’s 29 dimensions of compatibility and just find a partner with your mouf. (Through FOOD. Talking about food, here…)