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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Category

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 08:01 AM

Well another year has come and gone and Pop Culture Cuisine is officially a two years old!  This year our lives have changed dramatically in many ways, including the addition of a new family member.  We also may not have traveled as far as in the past, but Adam and I still love finding new ways to seek out culinary hot spots wherever our travels take us.  We have compiled a list of some of our favorite and not so favorite spots to share with you with links so you can read our reviews for yourself.  We STILL love food and hope to continue to share lots of great finds with you all along the way.

Signature Dish:

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1. Al’s Beef’s “Italian Beef Sandwich” – Chicago, IL

2. Kim & Scott’s Café Twist’s “Twist Your Own” – Chicago, IL

3. The Varsity’s “Chili Dog” – Atlanta, GA

 

Taste:

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1. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL

 

Ambiance:

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1. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

2. Slow’s Bar-BQ – Detroit, MI

3. Lynn’s Paradise Café – Louisville, KY

 

Service:

1. Tufano’s Vernon Park TapJoe and his staff – Chicago, IL

2. KouzzinaJohn – Orlando, FL

3. Emeril’sSpencer – Orlando, FL

 

Price:

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1. The Varsity – Atlanta, GA

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. South Side Soda Shop – Goshen, IN

 

Overall Top 5:

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1. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

2. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL (A VERY close 2nd place)

3. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

4. Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

5. Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Top 5 Biggest Letdowns…Not worth the Hype:

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1. The Whale’s Rib – Deerfield Beach, FL

2. Brennan’s – New Orleans, LA

3. Camp Washington – Cincinnati, OH

4. Graeter’s – Cincinnati, OH

5. The Loveless Café – Nashville, TN

Best of the Rest…Honorable Mention:

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Most Fun Kim & Scott’s Café Twist – Chicago, IL

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Most Memorable Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

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Most Worth the Wait Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

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Most Outrageous Dish Bub’s Burgers – Carmel, IN

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Best Excursion Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – Orlando. FL

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Best Sandwich (Burgers Included) The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL

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Best Sweet Treat Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Monday, June 6, 2011 @ 07:06 AM

2We finally have some warmer weather on our hands, and considering we are now into June, I would say it’s about time.  And it’s nice weather like this that takes me back to last summer, when there was lots of fun to be had.  One such fun was an excursion that is fitting with the weather…HOT!

This next stop is not exactly for a specific dish in particular, but rather a condiment that in the culinary world is well known and loved by many…Tabasco!  There are many knock-offs and even competitors nowadays to this little bottle of heat, but what we learned was that the original and still most famous continues to outshine them all; and while I’ll admit I am not a fan of the hot sfuff, I am always up for a little history and knowledge of a food related product.  So when we realized while in New Orleans we happened to be near the famed home and production line of Tabasco, we knew we should make a stop in on our jaunt back to Dallas.

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The tour itself isn’t really that great (just a short 5 minute history lesson from a guide, that same lesson on a marketing video, then a quick walk past the production lines through a hallway with windows into the factory).  However, the information you receive is pretty cool.  What I found baffling is how popular this sauce really is!  I’m talkin’ worldwide, if all 4 of their production lines are running, they will bottle 700,000 2 oz. bottles each day!  Yes…I said it…., in a day!  I mean, I knew this stuff was popular, but Adam and I were both shocked when we heard just how popular.

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So while this tour is far from extensive and there really isn’t much to see, I still found it interesting to hear more history behind the product, and found it so very fascinating that this special pepper and its sauce was created right here in the United States.  Also, while this operation hardly seems large in comparison to many other factories in the world, they are churning out a heck of a lot of hot sauce each day.

Finally, the grounds of the island are really neat too.  On the property where the bottling building is located is also their county store, which is a fun experience to be able to see just how many other Tabasco products have since been created, including other flavors of their sauce.  I had a good time going down the line from mild to Tabasco and even beyond…trying all of the variations.  They even have other dishes (LIKE ICE CREAM!!!), that has been infused with Tabasco flavor.  So what I’m getting at is for the Tabasco love, and believe me there are tons, this is the one stop shop!

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SIGNATURE DISH: Well although they aren’t known for a dish per se, they are known for a pretty famous item…, Tabasco.  And the McIlhenny family has been doing that name proud for generations.  With fans around the world and the introduction of new varieties each year, they continue to grow this brand beyond belief.

TASTE: While I am not particularly a fan, I knew I had to visit simply for posterities sake.  I am simply what you might dub a “wuss” when it comes to anything hot or spicy, and while the flavor intrigues me, it never intrigues me enough to want to dump it all over my food, like many Tabasco loves do…., I mean on anything!  But, I will say it does come in quite handy around our house for a famed family bbq sauce recipe/marinade, so I still put it to good use…, just sparingly!

AMBIANCE: This was the gem of the experience.  This property is very scenic and beautiful; and while I would have loved the chance to go and actually see all of the pepper plants themselves, the two main buildings where the Tabasco is bottled are quite historic looking and charming.  The country store is equally as appealing; and as I said, while there isn’t a TON to do on your visit, if you have a free afternoon, this is a fun free activity to do.

PRICE: Free is always good in my book, especially where a tour is involved.  While this tour wasn’t near as exciting as a brewery tour with free beer at the end, it was still a good deal.  Also, if you are an avid fan (or even just a small fan) of this original hot sauce, the country store may be where you end up spending those bucks, because they can certainly wheel you in with every possible item with the Tabasco logo you could possibly want.  In the end, however, if you have some self control you will come out unscathed.

SERVICE: Every employee we encountered on our visit was very helpful and informative…cheerful even.  Those that led our tour were able to answer any question we may have had and those that worked in the store were happy to let you try just about anything you wanted.

Overall, we had a nice little detour to Avery Island, the home of Tabasco.  And like I mentioned before, it is worth just a quick stop in if you have a minute or two while traveling…just something neat to say you’ve seen.  3 1/2 ‘Little Piggies’

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 @ 07:03 AM

198Breakfast is a favorite meal for many, but I have to say that on most days, although I love to eat it, my breakfast probably wouldn’t be very exciting to many.  I try to eat pretty healthy 90% of the time and so my typical breakfast usually is focused around fruit, yogurt, and cereal or bagels (always with Peanut Butter!)

That being said, I do love myself the typical All-American breakfast; I just tend to save it for when we’re out like Sunday after church or on vacations.  On many of our travels we often tend not to make breakfast all that an important of a meal, unless we there happens to be a HAVE-TO notorious type breakfast spot we’ve learned about from pop culture or seen on one of our favorite food shows. This next spot falls into that category. Adam and I knew that on our trip to New Orleans last May, there was one spot that was a breakfast MUST!  Our friends Garrett and Audra (who were accompanying us) are die-hard fans of a very historical spot that is world renowned for their jazz brunch. Of course, I’m referring to the famous Brennan’s…, a spot that although we knew was exorbitantly expensive, we would likely need to try just for posterity’s sake.

Since 1946, Brennan’s has been serving the patrons of New Orleans original creations for breakfast and dinner, although it seems their breakfast is what has really set them apart…especially their seemingly never-ending list of Eggs Benedict.  It has received accolades from countless food critics and publications, such as Bon Appetit magazine, and you can find it all over the food television scene. At the end of the day, Brennan’s is probably one of the most famous restaurants in the French Quarter.  As the originator of the Bananas Foster, a main feature at their Jazz Breakfast, one would be hard pressed not to ever have heard of this hot spot.  In fact, on our first trip to the quarter, Adam and I stepped in to look at the menu, but agreed that $70 or more is a bit hefty to pay for breakfast.  However, as I mentioned, this last time around our friends had raved about it so much that we relented and decided we’d see what it was all about.

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Due to their popularity, we decided it would be best to make a reservation for the morning we were heading out of town. However, they are SO popular that we were only able to get a reservation for 8:30 a.m., perhaps a bit earlier than any of us were hoping, but we went with it.

I hate to admit that I wasn’t feeling all that stellar that particular morning…, I assume a mixture of the previous day’s festivities, all the rich foods we had been eating, and a little too much fun the night before left me wishing I could just have some pancakes and toast, but I knew I needed to buck up and really give this place a chance.  So after we were seated and perused the menu, which is very extensive I might add, we all ordered our own variety of Eggs Benedict; and when I say variety…I mean it. They all come with some sort of appetizer of your choice, a main dish, and THEN dessert.  All I can say is this ain’t any ol’ milk and cereal.

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To be honest, the whole experience is pretty impressive. However, unfortunately that is about where it ended…at least for the Davis party (I know Audra, I’m sorry!).  I just wasn’t all that excited about any of the dishes, especially my main dish…, “Eggs Bayou LaFourche,” an Andouille Sausage Eggs Benedict.  I quickly learned that I do not like that (although Adam did dig into it later he liked it so much); and while I enjoyed a few bites of my baked apple appetizer, I thought it was a bit overdone and mushy, and therefore melted that whipped cream way too much.  Finally, the other bookend of my meal, their famous ‘Bananas Foster,’ I also thought was too mushy. Let’s just say that I’ve had better elsewhere.  Sorry…I don’t mean to sound like a downer, I just didn’t think this meal was that exciting for $70.

Both Garrett and Audra seemed to enjoy the meals very much. After all, this place is one of their all time favorites. But Adam agreed…, although his Turtle Soup (and Bananas Foster) were ok, he’s had much better at other places, and he really didn’t like his “Eggs Nouvelle Orleans.” A version of eggs benedict that is poached eggs served on a bed of lump crabmeat topped with a brandy-cream sauce. One thing is for sure…, we both DEFINITELY felt it was not worth what we paid for it.

Again, I apologize to our friends, because I know how much they love Brennan’s, but we just weren’t impressed, even though I do consider it a must have experience. In the end, I really did want to enjoy this jazz breakfast and I did from the experience itself…, I just was not impressed in the slightest with the food….which let’s be honest is the main point.

SIGNATURE DISH: Brennan’s is known widely for their jazz breakfast, which includes many dishes that are cajun inspired, and they have become very popular for their many interpretations on Eggs Benedict. However, where they do stand apart is they were the creators of the ‘Bananas Foster,’ which to have that as a claim to fame, I would say is pretty “signature.”

TASTE: I just wasn’t overly impressed with any of the dishes I ordered, bananas foster included.  It could have been my palette that morning, but none of it came close to over-the-top wowing me. The worst is that my standards aren’t high for breakfast, so that made it even more of a let down.

AMBIANCE: This was one area I really did enjoy.  Their location on Royal Street, right in the heart of the French Quarter, truly is a beautiful landmark.  With its very classic décor and beautiful courtyard, it is no wonder that folks flock here to get a reservation.  I know I certainly enjoyed the surroundings very much, and was all just enough to make the visit memorable.

SERVICE: This is another area that helped the visit. Our team of waiters were all extremely kind and helpful, a feature of Brennan’s which I’m sure anyone can expect upon a visit, which I would suppose you would expect for the price.

PRICE: This is the MAJOR bone of contention I keep coming back to and maybe why I had a sour taste in my mouth to begin with.  $70 per person or so for breakfast is SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS!!! I really don’t know what else to say. There is no way that ANY breakfast can demand that much.  Even if you are picking the most extravagant and most unique dish they offer, there is no way it warrants this price.  Look…, I could go to one of the most expensive steak houses and get a full meal for less than that; and I know a lot of people will pay this because of the entire experience, but I just don’t think it was worth it.

I have mentioned before, this blog is simply my humble opinion.  I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about food, nor would I ever expect you to take my word as fact.  I am simply giving you my take on these “famous” spots and my honest thoughts about them as a "normal" patron.  This is why the food and dining experience is so wonderful…, it really is subjective; so while I did not really enjoy Brennan’s, I can guarantee you there are many who have and will.  So although it will be a tough sell to get me back to Brennan’s in my lifetime (especially with all the other choices in the Crescent City) feel free to take my two cents and go and experience it for yourself.  I always welcome a happy discussion. Winking smile

But in my case, I would have to give Brennan’s 1 ½ ‘Little Piggies’….that’s nearly $100 per Piggy! Man… dem’s some expensive Piggies!

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