Willa Jean-The queen of biscuits!

A new day dawned in the French Quarter. We had survived our first day! Our itinerary was basically the same as yesterday. We would have breakfast, then continue to explore the fantastic restaurants and shops in the French Quarter. Our same friend that recommended Bayona for dinner, also recommended Willa Jean for breakfast. She swore that they had the best biscuits in the city. And you what to know something? She was right!

Willa Jean is located just outside the French Quarter, in the business district of New Orleans. The restaurant decor is beautiful. It’s rustic, yet modern, but also cozy and inviting. The staff, like everyone in New Orleans that we had encountered so far, were super friendly. We were ready for a hearty breakfast because we had a list of bars and happy hours that we needed to check out today. Willa Jean did not disappoint.

If you want a delicious, flavorful, and super filling breakfast, you have to come here. Everything was absolutely fantastic. We decided to start with a bottle of cava. Here’s a tip, ordering a bottle is usually cheaper than ordering by the glass, depending on how much you plan on drinking of course. The cava really good. For those who don’t know, cava is Spanish champagne or sparkling wine. If you have never tried it, I highly recommend it. For an appetizer, I ordered their granola, yogurt, and seasonal fruit snack. It was delicious. It was the perfect portion and well balanced. It was a nice little pick me up to start off the day.

Our entrees were absolutely stunning. Willa Jean is famous for their biscuits and we now saw why. I ordered the sausage, egg, pimento cheese and biscuit dish. The presentation was beautiful. A perfectly cooked sunny side up egg, over a sausage patty that was the size of a hamburger, all over a perfectly golden brown biscuit. It was delicious! The sausage was very well seasoned and the biscuit was so light and flaky. It was perfect.

Eric ordered the WJ Breakfast. It was two eggs any style, cheese grits, bacon and a biscuit. This was truly a work of art. Like my plate, everything was cooked perfectly. The cheese grits were simply amazing. They were smooth and creamy. I recommend you do what he did. Cut that beautiful biscuit in two, put an egg on each half, add a slice of bacon, and pour some cheese grits all over it. Each bite was a slice of heaven.

Once again, our friend’s recommendation was a smashing success. Willa Jean has it all. It’s in a nice spot in the business district, the food is absolutely delicious, and the staff are among the friendliest you will ever encounter. This place is an absolute must when you visit New Orleans.

Once we were finished with our breakfast, we decided to walk it off to our next destination. We were heading back towards the French Quarter but we had to stop at one place in particular. Stay turned readers. Our second day is just getting started!

 

Bayona-The perfect dinner to end a perfect day!

After a whirlwind of food and drinks on our first day in the French Quarter, it was finally time to slow down a bit and enjoy a relaxing dinner. We were really excited about trying this next restaurant that came highly recommended from a friend of ours. The restaurant is Bayona, and if you ever go to New Orleans, you absolutely have to dine here.

Bayona is a cozy, romantic restaurant, located just a couple of blocks from Bourbon Street. It opened in 1990 by Regina Keever and James Beard Award winning chef Susan Spicer. The restaurant is beautiful! It’s situated in a 200-year old Creole cottage, and you can dine inside in their lovely dining room, or outside in their beautiful courtyard.

We started out with an appetizer of duck rillette that was delicious. It was made with duck, mostarda, pickles, mustard and crostini. I also ordered a bottle of 2012 Pierre Gaillard Domaine Cottebrune Faugeres that was bold and sumptuous. It paired beautifully with our duck and the rest of the meal.

For our entrees, I ordered the seared sea scallops that came with a Thai green curry sauce, petit bok choy stir-fry and papaya nuoc cham. To this day, I am still thinking about this dish. The sear on the scallops was perfect. The Asian flavors incorporated into the dish was perfect. These may have been the best scallops I have ever tasted. Eric went traditional southern flair and ordered the Spanish sausage stuffed rabbit roulade. This came with romanesco, escarole, romesco and a lemon-olive jus. The presentation was stunning and it tasted amazing. The rabbit just melted in you mouth. Both dishes were fantastic.

For dessert, we kept it liquid, and ordered a glass of 20-year old madeira. It was, hands down, the best madeira we have ever tasted. It was smooth and flavorful, but not syrupy sweet. It was a wonderful way to end a great dinner.

We immediately fell in love with Bayona, and understood why it came so highly recommended. The decor is beautiful, inside and out. There is one wall that is covered with awards and press clippings touting the restaurant’s deserved success. As we were leaving, Eric asked the hostess if Chef Susan Spicer was in house tonight or would be around while we were visiting. As luck would have it, Bayona has a champagne lunch for a limited time on certain days of the week, and that Chef Spicer would be at the restaurant for lunch on Thursday. Needless to say, we made a reservation right then and there! We were both very excited that we were going to be able to meet Chef Spicer in a couple of days!

 

Happy Hour in the French Quarter: Day One!

There is no shortage when it comes to food and drink options in the French Quarter. There is something for every palate. Bourbon Street is probably the most famous street here because of it’s party atmosphere, inexpensive food and drinks. For our happy hour excursion, we chose a different route. On our first day, we stayed away from Bourbon Street, and found some amazing restaurants to lounge about for a cocktail or two.

It was a warm 75 degrees outside and it felt like spring. We were actually a little hot and craved a tall, cool drink. Since we were at Jackson Square, we decided to duck into a wonderful restaurant, Cafe Pontalba. It’s located in a beautiful building that dates back to the 1800’s. We stepped up to the bar and ordered the Cajun Cooler, which is a mix of vodka, orange juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of Midori melon liquor. We also ordered the Voodoo Juice, which is a blend of four Malibu flavored rums and fresh fruit juices. It was just what the doctor ordered! They both were big, full of flavor, and cooled us off perfectly. They were so good, that we ordered two more Cajun Cooler’s to-go. Yes, to-go. As long as your drink is in a plastic cup, you can take it anywhere.

 

For our next stop, we decided to go back to Brennan’s. Their breakfast was so good, that we had to give their champagne happy hour a try. This place is an absolute must when you visit. The bar area is beautiful and the staff are super friendly. I ordered the Mr. Funk, named after the former cellar-master, which consisted of sparkling wine with cranberry and Combier peach liquor. Eric ordered the champagne cocktail, which consisted of sparkling wine and a bitters soaked demerara sugar cube. Both were delicious and refreshing.

We figured that it would be a good idea to eat some food, so we ordered their duck confit poutine. It was fantastic and paired perfectly with our bubbly cocktails. The dish was a mix of duck, hand cut fries, cheese curds, bacon, kimchi, togarashi and sambal. We decided that we didn’t want to over do it, and there were still so many places we wanted to try. On to our next spot!

 

Another famous restaurant in the French Quarter that is a must visit is Broussard’s. The restaurant and bar are simply stunning. There is also a beautiful outdoor courtyard that one could easily spend hours sitting and enjoying the great weather and drinks. Since we just enjoyed a bubbly happy hour at Brennan’s, we decided to stay the course and order a couple glasses of the Ruffino prosecco. It was light and refreshing. It felt so good sitting outside and sipping on a great prosecco. This is one place that we will definitely return to and have a proper dinner.

 

Our final happy hour stop on day one was at the Bombay Club. This was a beautiful restaurant and bar known for nightly live music and fantastic drinks. It was different from any place we had visited so far. The other restaurants and bars were bright, light and full of French flair. The Bombay Club was very English, low lit, and had warm dark woods throughout. We just decided to get one cocktail each since we had a dinner reservations coming up this evening. I ordered the Champagne Cheryl that consisted of cava, peach puree, cranberry and strawberry. It was wonderful. Eric ordered the Churchill Martini. It was made with Gordon’s gin, Noilly Prat and Regan’s bitters. It was strong but delicious. This is also on our list of places we need to go back to when we visit the French Quarter. We wish we could have returned later in the evening, sit back, and listen to some great live jazz music but time got away from us. We’ll be back!

 

That’s a wrap for our first day of happy hour bars. All the places we visited were wonderful, and I highly recommend that you visit them as well. At some places, we stayed longer than others, but all of them were great. We worked up an appetite so it was finally time for dinner. That will be my next post. Stay tuned!

Tiffany

New Orleans: An introduction to food and drink in the French Quarter!!!!

As a majority of you know, and for those now joining my blog as followers, that I love food. Pick a cuisine, and I will give you the experience of a lifetime! Pair any food item with wine or cocktails, and I will either destroy your liver, or slowly guide you to heaven. New Orleans can be characterized as a food and drink mecca. There is no such thing as one cuisine that reign’s supreme. There are dozens! From cheap bites of poutine, to the elegantly plated scallop, from flambé to drink’s to-go, welcome to New Orleans!

New Orleans is a city that is so rich in history and culture. It is a melting pot of flavors. You have your pick of southern, cajun, African, Caribbean, American, and French cuisine all in one spot. I’m sure I’ve left out a few more but you get the idea. The best thing is that you can find all this and so much more in the city’s French Quarter section. It’s known for Mardi Gras and non-stop partying but if you look beyond that, it has so much more to offer.

When we arrived in the French Quarter, we were quite hungry and ready to eat some great food. Our first stop was at the renowned Brennan’s Restaurant for a wonderful breakfast. It is located in a home that was built in 1795 on Royal Street. It is absolutely beautiful. There is a wonderful bar and restaurant on the first floor, and several smaller private dining areas on the second floor. Like many restaurants in the French Quarter, they also have an outdoor courtyard that you can dine in or simply relax with a drink.

We started out with a couple of cocktails. I ordered the Sparkling Pear, that was made with fresh pear juice, St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur and sparkling wine. Eric ordered their Brandy Milk Punch that was made with brandy, heavy cream, vanilla bean and nutmeg. Not a bad way to start our trip! Both drinks were delicious. Oh, and we had to order a pot of coffee. Not just regular coffee, but single estate-grown Congregation Coffee, roasted just for Brennan’s, French pressed, and with chicory. Having chicory in your coffee is a must in the French Quarter.

For our appetizer, we split an amazing Egg Yolk Carpaccio that included grilled shrimp, crispy sweet potato and an andouille vinaigrette. It was so good! The level of flavors was simply stunning. Mixing the egg yolk with the shrimp and sweet potato was something we had never had before.

For our entrees, we ordered the Eggs Sardou and the Eggs Cardinal. The Eggs Sardou came with crispy artichokes, parmesan creamed spinach in a chyron sauce. The Eggs Cardinal came with crispy shrimp boudin, spinach, lobster cardinal in a black truffle hollandaise. If both sound incredible, that’s because they were simply delicious. The eggs were cooked perfectly. The crispy shrimp and artichokes were lightly fried and tasted wonderful, especially with the rich egg yolk covering them.

When we were finished, our wonderful server, Michael, took us on a quick tour of the upstairs dining rooms. It was absolutely beautiful! Each room is decorated tastefully and with items of past Mardi Gras celebrations. He was very knowledgeable and it was a great history lesson!

This was truly a fantastic way to start our visit to New Orleans. The food and drinks at Brennan’s was amazing. The staff were so friendly and the building was steeped in history and tradition. You have to go to Brennan’s if you ever visit the French Quarter. We will be back!

 

Ardiente: Ignite the New Year!!!

There are so many choices where to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia. We weren’t quite sure what we would be doing until Ardiente came to the rescue. If you haven’t read by now, Ardiente is one of our favorite restaurants. Located in the charming old city section of Philadelphia, the food, drinks and service are second to none. We have come to know just about everybody on staff, and they treat us like family whenever we come here. They are an amazing group of people that work here, and we are so lucky to have this restaurant in our city.

So, back to New Year’s Eve. Ardiente put together a celebration that no other restaurant could compare. The party started at 9:30 pm and went to 2 am. There were dancers and a deejay cranking out party music all night. There was an open bar for two hours, and a complementary champagne toast at midnight. The staff went around with horns, beads and hats, basically everything you needed to ring in the new year. Hungry? Not a problem. How does a 13 course chef’s tasting menu sound? Yes, I said 13 courses and everything was delicious. Settle in and get ready to go on a culinary journey like never before. I love this restaurant.

We began the night with one of our favorite cocktails, the Pisco Sour. These are to die for! The aroma, presentation and taste are just stunning. We could drink these all night except for one thing, all of their cocktails are amazing so you can’t just stop at one! We next ordered the Contessa and Cafe Sazerac. Both cocktails came with flamed orange oil and our hostess lit the place up, literally. It was quite a site.

It was time for the food to make an appearance. We started off with the pickled jicama and house made kimchi. Next up was a wonderful house salad with a light dressing. After that, one of our favorites, their traditional ceviche, which is the fish of the day, leche de tigre and tostones was served. This dish is delicious. Eric always says that the tostones are the best he’s tasted outside of Puerto Rico. He should know since he was born there. Next up was a simply amazing chilled octopus salad. The char flavor you tasted on the octopus was simply divine. It came with fennel, hearts of palm, cilantro and red onion. In one word, it was simply stunning. It’s the best octopus salad in the city in my opinion.

After a short break, the food just kept coming, although they did make sure to pace the arrival of the dishes so you didn’t feel like you were being bombarded all at once. Next up was a simply heavenly pork adobo bun. Words can’t do justice to describe how amazing this was. The bun was a soft, light wrap that just caressed the pork, and absorbed the wonderful juices and spices. It was fantastic. After that, we were served a shrimp and calamari tempura. They used just enough batter so it wasn’t heavy. The next dish was a wonderful short rib lo mein. It was covered beautifully in sauce, and the short rib just melted in your mouth. This was more than enough food to satisfy anyone, but we we were only half way into our courses.

Let’s now take a break from the food for a moment and get back to some cocktails. I ordered their wonderful Szechuan Sangria, and Eric ordered an Old Fashioned. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the best sangria I’ve ever tasted in the city. It’s made with blended red wine, Grand Mariner, brandy, Chinese five spice Szechuan peppercorn syrup, fresh apples, oranges and Asian pears. See why I think it’s the best? Alright, time for more food!

Next up, we were served a delicious cornish hen leg and thigh that was moist and juicy on the inside yet the skin was crisp and cooked perfectly. The next dish was cauliflower served with chilis and pecans. It was so good that it just melted in our mouths. We’re not even close to being done yet. The next dish served was a wonderful seared scallop paired with quinoa and cranberries. It was light but balanced perfectly with the char of the scallop. Alright, time for another break and more drinks!

I finally got around to ordering one of my favorites cocktails, an espresso martini. It’s so good that it actually makes me tear up. It’s made with fresh espresso, so fresh, that you can smell the coffee flavor before you drink one drop. Eric ordered the Hotel Nacional which is made with his favorite rum, Don Q Anejo. It was finally getting close to midnight, so it was time for the champagne toast and celebrating the new year.

Some of the final dishes that were served to us was an incredible filet mignon cooked to perfection. It just melted in your mouth, and you didn’t need a steak knife to cut it because it was so tender and juicy. They also brought out charred Brussel sprouts and dessert. By this point, we were so full that we couldn’t eat anymore. Actually, we pretty much stopped eating awhile back. Our servers were so nice that they boxed everything up for us to take home.

We had some more cocktails, celebrated the new year, and had more cocktails. To summarize the evening, it was the best New Year’s Eve celebration we’ve ever experienced. Everything was planned out and done to perfection by the entire restaurant staff at Ardiente. Before we left, we both went back to the kitchen and had to thank everyone for a wonderful meal. The food, drinks and service at Ardiente are always perfect. We really hope that they have another New Year’s Eve celebration for 2020. We’ll definitely be back and I hope you all will join us! Thank you again to everyone at Ardiente for making New Year’s Eve so special.

Pablo Batista-A South Edition

Happy New Year to my all my readers! I hope you all had fun on New Year’s Eve! We certainly did, and I’ll be posting about that in my next article. Right after Christmas, we went to our favorite place to hear live jazz music, South Jazz Cafe. It’s only a 10-15 minute walk from where we live.We were really excited about going this night. Our good friend and famous master percussionist, Pablo Batista, was performing. We couldn’t wait! We’ve seen him perform at South before, and he is not only an amazing artist, but one of the friendliest you will ever meet.

When we arrived at South, we had a quick cocktail at the bar before being seated in the jazz cafe. The restaurant is gorgeous. It’s open and spacious with glass cabinetry everywhere. The jazz cafe is separate from the restaurant. It’s darker but cozy and inviting. Exactly what you would expect a jazz cafe to look like!

If you go to South, and you’d better, order anything off the menu, and I guarantee it will be delicious. There’s no doubt in the southern flair in the food, but it truly is delicious. We started with their blue crab toast which was served with lemon caper ravigote, avocado and peppadew relish. It was light and bursting with flavor. It’s one of our favorites. I had to try the buttermilk fried chicken, which had a hot honey drizzle and was served with buttermilk mashed potatoes and baby broccolini. It was amazing!

The chicken was perfectly fried, and inside it was juicy and tender. The potatoes and broccolini were also delicious. Eric ordered one of his favorites, the beef short ribs. It was barbecued and came with creamed collards and rosemary potatoes. It was absolutely amazing. You didn’t even need a knife to cut the beef. It was juicy and tender. It literally melted in your mouth. It may be one of the best short ribs in the city.

For drinks, Eric ordered the South Sazerac, which is a southern classic. They made it with Bulleit Rye, Salignac Cognac, Demerara sweet syrup, house blended bitters and absinthe mist. It was wonderful. I got the Creole Fashioned, which was made with creole shrub, and it too was wonderful. You really can’t go wrong with any of the drinks here.

We decided to spoil ourselves and order dessert, and I’m glad we did. We ordered their beignets and they were amazing! They were light and fluffy, not doughy or dense at all. They came with cinnamon, powdered sugar and an absolutely delicious Cafe Du Monde sauce. The sauce itself was incredible. If you go to South, you have to order this! Promise me you will!

A little time later, the lights dimmed, and Pablo Batista made his way to the stage and began his performance. He was absolutely amazing. You have to look him up and see him live. You won’t regret it; trust me on this! The featured singer with him this evening was Nina Rodriguez. She was wonderful. She had an amazing voice and the two of them just complemented each other perfectly. We were lucky to see them both this night. They did two performances on this evening, and both were sold out. I’m not surprised.

Here is a good New Year’s resolution for all of you. Support the arts in Philadelphia or wherever you live, and go listen to some great live music. Find a place that you’re comfortable with, and make it your own. May I suggest that you head to South. Happy New Year!

 

Happy Hour at Ardiente!

If you love happy hour, you have to love all the choices we have in our beloved city. We’ve sampled quite a few happy hours and one of the best we have had so far was at Ardiente. Yes, Ardiente is one of our favorite restaurants. The decor, service and food are top notch. The menu is a Latin-Asian fusion cuisine which is to die for. There are only a handful of restaurants in the city that I can say we have never had a bad meal ever. Ardiente is on that list.

We’ve been here for dinner and brunch but never for happy hour. It was time. It was long overdue. It was so worth the wait. I implore you, my followers, if you live in the Philadelphia area, you really need to try this restaurant. When you walk in, you are mesmerized by the decor. It’s so cozy, yet inviting. There’s an edge to it that is subtle but intriguing. The bar area is amazing with two beautifully lit windows that are the centerpiece of the restaurant floor area. What some may not know is that downstairs there is a fantastic French style speak-easy that is simply stunning. There seems to be a surprise at every twist and turn here.

Time to get back to happy hour! We started our visit with their amazing Pisco Sour cocktail. It is so delicious that you may find yourself ordering this over and over. Ardiente’s menu is a Dim Sum happy hour which is amazing. We ordered the adobo pork pot stickers that consisted of achiote, roasted garlic and chive, and the rock shrimp siu mai, made with sour orange ponzu and wasabi tobiko. Both were simply delicious! The pot stickers were cooked perfectly. They weren’t overly doughy or chewy. Quite the contrary. They were light, flavorful and crunchy. If you have never heard of some of these ingredients, don’t worry. Just try it and you will love it! I guarantee it.

From there, we moved on to their crispy squid which was served with sansho peppers, cilantro and lime, and the chilled soba noodles, which is served with huacatay sesame dressing, edamame, chillies and shaved cucumber. If it sounds exotic and delicious, that’s because it is! I’ve said over and over how different yet flavorful and wonderful the menu and food are here. You have to come and sample it for yourselves. Trust me when I say that you will be blown away by how amazing the food is here.

For our main course, we ordered the short ribs which are slow cooked and served with a tamarind glaze and side of chow fun. Fun indeed! It was absolutely amazing. The short rib just melted in you mouth when you ate it and the side of chow fun just complemented the wonderful palette of flavors. It was stunning to say the least.

We had a bit of fun with our cocktails. There were still several that we haven’t tried, believe it or not, but we tried to make up for it this night. Besides the fantastic Pisco Sour, we ordered the Old Fashioned, which was amazing, the Caipirina, which is made with leblon cachaca, limes, raw sugar, and flavored with mango, guava or passionfruit, and the Contessa. Oh, the Contessa. Eric ordered this and said this may be his new favorite cocktail. I tried it and was speechless. It was so good! It’s made with Bluecoat barrel finished gin, cappelletti aperitivo, tehi americano bianco, flamed orange oil and orange zest. Don’t worry if you have never heard of some of these ingredients. We hadn’t either but it was amazing. And when they say flamed orange oil, they are not kidding. Check out the photo below! It was simply beautiful. Our bartender this evening, Shanell, was fantastic. She knows how to make great cocktails and was so delightful to talk to the entire evening.

For dessert, I had to order an espresso martini that was made with freshly brewed espresso. It made me cry. It is so delicious, full of flavor and richness. It’s one of my favorite martini’s. Anytime we are at Ardiente, I have to order this drink. It’s that’s good.

We can finally say that we’ve been to Ardiente for brunch, happy hour and dinner. Tonight, we will be attending their new year’s eve celebration and we can’t wait. They are planning a 13 course tasting menu, yes, 13 courses. Don’t worry. You will be reading about it once we have recovered! Thank you all for reading our food exploits and for following my blog. I wish all of you a happy and wonderful new year! Cheers!