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Katie Davis

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Archive for March, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 @ 09:03 AM

017 This week we will be taking an adventure to a new city.  I know…finally, right?  I could likely post on just Chicago and Dallas for years, but this week we are traveling to another great culinary city…New Orleans! (or N’awlins for you purists out there ;)). 

New Orleans is a city that boasts history, culture, wonderful sites, and it has some of the best food in the country, both fancy and ‘hole-in-the-wall’ alike.  Lucky for us, New Orleans is a drivable distance (7 hours), which allows for a long weekend getaway; and after we had been talking about New Orleans for months and kept seeing restaurant after restaurant featured on various shows, we just knew we had to take a trip.  So, about a year ago we decided a trip for Adam’s 30th birthday would be perfect; and it was a great gift for him because N’awlins is one of his favorite cities!

 

As I said, we had been seeing tons of features on various spots throughout New Orleans, some well known…others maybe not so much, and we had a list of our must-try places.  The first restaurant I want to share with you is one of the most famous eateries in the city (if not country), and was actually the very first place we ate upon arriving…the world famous Acme Oyster House

Opened in 1910 and located in the legendary French Quarter, it has been successfully shucking as many as 3.8 million oysters a year for its guests.  As famous as this place is, of course it has been featured on just about every television program about food and travel, and we’ve seen a number of them.  Most recently, Acme was featured as #25 (of 101) on Travel Channel’s ‘Chowdown Countdown,’ and perhaps their most famous appearance was as Adam Richman’s challenge location on Travel Channel’s ‘Man vs. Food.’  Needless to say, with this kind of notoriety, we knew Acme was a place we really had to check out and see if it was all it was shucked 😉 up to be.  Plus, neither of us had ever eaten an oyster; and if Adam Richman of “Man vs. Food” can dominate and destroy their oyster eating challenge at 15 dozen in 30 minutes, we had to have at least 1…and yes, I said 15 DOZEN!  That’s 180 oysters in one sitting!  The following clip proves it…

Crazy right?…and to think that I had never even tried one. :)  They always looked too slimy and gooey to be any good.  But I said that in the name of being a “foodie,” I would have hat least have one; and since Adam had never tried them either, I was in good company :).  So, after rolling into New Orleans late our first night, quickly checking into our hotel and freshening up, we headed out to this famed hot-spot. 

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We knew we wanted Acme to be the spot to kickoff our trip and subsequent culinary adventure; and needless to say that based on the clip from “Man vs. Food” and other shows we’d seen, we had high high hopes and expectations for this place.  We figured we would be able to get in quick, decompress, and enjoy some great food after a long car ride; and being that it was well past 9 in the evening (almost 10), we were both pretty hungry, drained, and ready for a great experience.  However, I will be the first to admit that I should not just take what a television show portrays as being totally accurate.  First, let’s just say that when we arrived at Acme, I was shocked at how small it was!  Television has done wonders for making it seem like a larger than life, hopping establishment with plenty of space.  I was quickly disappointed when we entered to see it was very narrow and, to be honest, did not have much seating.  It was hopping in a sense, because it was completely full and there was a line out the door.  Then again, I feel this was simply due to the lack of space.  Still, we did not let that deter us, and being the good little patrons we are, we patiently waited our turn (which in truth was only like 5 minutes ;)).  Unfortunately, I was once again disappointed when, after waiting, we didn’t even get a seat in the front of the house by the “shucking bar,” but rather were seated in the very, very, VERY back…right by the back-alley door, almost in the walking path where they KEPT walking trash right by us; and because they kept opening the door to take out the trash, our seat was regularly breezy and kind of smelly.  I honestly felt like we had gotten shoved back there; and because of its location in the restaurant, this shouldn’t even be a place to seat people. 

Ok, so after 2 bad hair days (yes I posted that picture above that shows a bad choice of stylist to try and save a buck (I know…stupid me), where my hair pretty much was on the verge of falling out and criminally stripy ;)) a long car trip, and having high hopes for this place, Acme was not off to a good start with me.  I would like to say my feelings changed, but sadly, not many did.  After ordering a couple of beers and perusing the menu, we knew a few of the items were definitely jumping out to us.  We knew we had to order their famous oysters on the half shell.  Also, to get a different angle on oysters, we ordered the chargrilled oysters, as well, which are basically oysters grilled in the shell with butter and cheese…I mean come on, yum!; and even if I don’t like oysters, I do like butter and cheese…, so why not? :)  Finally, for a traditional seafood taste, we ordered the fried shrimp basket which came with fries and hush puppies (and Adam LOVES him some hush puppies!).  So although my mood did not start off good, I was hoping all these dishes would turn it around.

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There is my man trying his first ever raw oyster! :)  We both agreed they were not our favorite thing ever, but Adam kinda liked them and said he’d have them again under certain circumstances.  Plus, Acme does have a wonderful homemade cocktail sauce that has horseradish in it, which is out of this world!  For me, the sauce mixed with lemon juice and ladled over the oysters made them just edible.  I am sure that if I were a raw oyster lover, I may have a different opinion and would likely think these were the freshest ever, but being that I am not one, I have trouble recommending these to anyone.  The cocktail sauce, on the other hand, was the bomb!  That stuff would be good on cardboard…haha :).  013The chargrilled oysters, in contrast, were pretty tasty.  Although still an oyster (and still slimy :)), I could swallow it much easier with all that butter and cheese. ;)  The butter and cheese infused a ton of flavor into the oyster itself, and absent was the fishy river watery flavor of the raw oysters.  Now Adam will say he LOVED these, as they meet his “cheesy-goodness” quota :), but I just thought they were ok.  I enjoyed them, but I am not sure I would ever order them again.  I just didn’t enjoy them enough. 

Finally, last but not least…the fried shrimp platter (which I unfortunately do not have a picture of; but let’s just say they were not even good enough to photograph).  Little did we know that it was not shrimp season, so we honestly never should have ordered them.  They were puny, heavily breaded, and not tasty…AT ALL!  There fries and hush puppies also left a little to be desired; and that being our final dish to arrive, I did not end the meal of a good note. 

Overall, I was disappointed with Acme.  I’m not sure if this was due to how much great anticipation I had from television, but it simply wasn’t good.  This restaurant is a prime reason for why I write ‘Pop Culture Cuisine.’  It’s a perfect example of a “hot spot” that gets rave reviews and has been featured on show after show is all hype and falls flat in person.  First off, I was not impressed with the ambiance or the service.  Aside from where we were seated, we rarely saw our waiter (I think he forgot about us in the back) and the hostesses were really short with us at the beginning.  Of course, they did have a signature dish…duh oysters.  As I said, I thought they were good, but they did not blow me out of the river water ;).  They are not a dish I crave to this day or really care to try again; and to be fair, not just at Acme. 

As for taste, besides the chargrilled oysters, the other items we got were just plain awful!  And while we are discussing things we didn’t like, we were shocked when we got our bill!  If you remember, we ordered a pitcher of beer, 2 appetizers, and one platter to share.  I would say that does not sound like a whole lot of food, but when our bill came it was almost $70.  This, if you ask me, is ridiculous for what we got.  I hate to say it…, but I really was not impressed with Acme; and we will not be revisiting there when we head back to New Orleans in May (which won’t be hard seeing that our New Orleans native friends that are joining us also think that Acme is not very good).  So although I’m happy to be able to uncover the truth and reveal those places that television has put up on a false pedestal, I’m sad that one of these places had to be Acme Oyster House, and I regret to give them a pitiful review of 1 1/2 Little Piggies 🙁

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010 @ 09:03 AM

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, PCC-ers!  My husband (Adam) and I live in Dallas, but as most of you know, I lived in Chicago for a large part of my life (and don’t worry, I won’t bore you more with more “I love Chicago…” blah-blah:)), so why not bring you the best of both worlds this week…a Dallas favorite created over 20 years ago by two native Chicagoans looking for for good pizza; and what could be better than getting that Chi-town tavern feeling right here in D-town? (and we don’t really refer to Dallas as “D-town” but, I thought I’d try it out…my bad ;))  Well, Louie’s is just that, a tavern first and foremost.  The bonus…, it is a tavern than serves darn good food!  Located in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood of East Dallas, it was overlooked by us at first because of all the regular hot spots located in that area.  However, we were invited out to another bar near it a while back, and we noticed that it was packed!, which was surprising from the looks of this place (and I’m not saying this as a positive), so our interest was definitely peeked.  I mean, at first glance it looks likes an old auto shop (in fact it is), rather than a top-notch bar or restaurant.  Well, the kicker was when we saw the following clip on Travel Channel’s “Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and we knew our first judgment had been a mistake.

I told you they wanted a place for good pizza…and I think they’ve found it! 🙂  After seeing their pizza, I had an instant craving; and it just so happened that we were looking for a low key but fun place for Valentine’s Day.  We both agreed that Louie’s was exactly the kind of place we were looking for; and I always jump at the chance to try a pizza made the “Chicago-way”…even if it is thin crust.  So, we invited our friends Garrett and Audra to tag along and experience Louie’s as a Valentine’s treat.

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098Since we were going on a Saturday night and this place is not very big, we figured there would likely be a wait, which there was.  However, lucky for us there happened to be a couple of bar stools opening up at the bar when we arrived, so we opted to bide our time and enjoy a pre-meal drinky-drink. 😉  Continuing with my luck, they had one of my most favorite drinks on the menu…Lindeman’s Framboise, which if you have never had one, they are delish. 🙂  Ummm…thick, sweet, raspberry flavored Beligian beer.  It was truly enjoyable (although uber-expensive!).

096While enjoying that special treat, we were able to sit and survey the scene.  The bar area is a fairly narrow space and very dark, but remember that Louie’s is a bar that serves food, not a restaurant with a bar…so this was understood.  The walls are covered with a variety of signs, memorabilia, and other trinkets reminiscent of Chicago.  Adam and I both commented how eerily similar it felt to a lot of the bars we had frequented when we lived there in its decor, cramped quarters, and the feel from the staff, so much so that we felt like we were back in our old town (I swore I had taken a picture of this, but my camera seems to have eaten it, I guess you will just have to see for yourself ;)).

As I mentioned previously, Louie’s is a tavern, but they also wanted to create a menu that would keep the people coming back; and remember, they originally wanted a place where they could finally get good pizza in Dallas.  That being said…, Louie’s is a bar first, restaurant second, and that is how the staff treats it.  Additionally, much of the main seating is smooshed into the front bar area, so it is difficult to escape the bar atmosphere.  However, around the corner and towards the back is another section that is really open and has more tables and booths, which is actually where we got to sit which was nice because it was much roomier and quieter than the rest of the place, allowing us to enjoy our “double-date” company.

After seeing the Triple-D clip, I already knew I wanted to try one of their large Caesar salads and a pizza with their homemade sausage and grilled onions (both of which I heard were amazing!).  Adam was initially going to do pizza as well, but that was until we sat down and heard that the special was lasagna (which the show had said they serve from time to time and is a crowd favorite).  Garrett and Adam both started drooling, and from there it was a no-brainer…lasagna it was for the boys. 😉  The guys also decided to get an order of meatballs to split before the start of the meal; and as a table we got some wonderful chewy French bread, as well.  Needless to say, we had a lot of food coming our way.

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These salads were enormous and easily fed two people.  Adam and I shared the Caesar and Garrett and Audra opted for the Greek.  The were HUGE…but oh so delicious.  They totally hit the spot, and I would not hesitate to order either one again.

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We all agreed that the meatballs, which we all tried, were edible at best.  Their saving grace was that they were smothered in Louie’s homemade house marinara, which is unbelievably tasty!  As Guy Fieri says, “You could put that stuff on a flip-flop and it’d be good.”  What I’m saying is that their marinara is really good, and compliments (or helps in the case of the meatballs) anything it’s served on.  Trust me…, you gotta try it if you’re a fan of good ‘ol fashioned Italian yummy-goodness.

101The pizza…, ummm…can we say “YES PLEASE!”  I mean, look at that gooey cheese and huge chunks of sausage…, yummy!  Now, Adam is not the biggest fan of thin crust pizzas, but I am not as judgmental. 😉  I like pizza of all shapes and sizes, and I rate them based on category and overall taste.  But in truth, I’ve yet to meet one I didn’t really like. 🙂  I have to be honest that I was a bit skeptical of the grilled onions, but let me just say…OH…MY…GOSH…, sweet & succulent caramelized goodness!  What I liked so much about this pizza was well it still managed to hold all of the toppings, even though it was very light and thin.  The sauce, which is perfectly thick and sweet and not overly runny…, well I don’t think I need to mention more about how I feel about it. 😉  The homemade sausage had a zing, but a good zing that added to the flavor; and between the onions and the real Wisconsin cheese, it was extremely creamy and delicious.  (Side note: it tasted even better warmed up a few days later!) 🙂

104…and that right there is the LASAGNA (and I’m writing the word big, because that is exactly what it was…BIG!).  They ain’t kiddin’ around with this dish.  It is one huge plate of pasta, meat, cheese, and sauce; and yes my friends, that is one single portion on the plate (and to think that Garret and Adam each had one in front of them :)).  Seeing that there was not much conversation after the plates were placed in front of the guys (at first because their jaws were wide with shock & awe ;)), I think it’s safe to assume that they truly enjoyed it.  In fact, Adam says it’s the best lasagna he’s ever had, which is saying something; and since neither were able to finish their plates (honestly…I would be a little scared if they could), they were both able to take home a nice portion of leftovers.

106 Before heading to Louie’s, we did a lot of research on what to expect, and I’m not sure if it was the fact that they don’t have a website, so I read a ton of reviews on YELP, or that it reminded me so much of other Chicago establishments, but Louie’s was one of those restaurants I really felt like I knew what I was getting when I got there; and unlike other places in Dallas, it does not try to impress with its looks and fancy shmancy attitude, rather it provides a gathering place for a cold beer, good food, and a fun atmosphere.

We knew that their signature dish was pizza, but were pleasantly surprised to find most of their other dishes were also very good.  Besides the meatballs, we all enjoyed every dish that we tried, and speaking for myself would want to eat again.  The ambiance was fun and interesting, and well…bar-like.  Just keep in mind that this place is not a restaurant…it is a bar that serves food, so it may feel a bit cramped.  Although we were glad to sit elsewhere and were able to hear better because of it, visually the bar area was more interesting, so I give it a toss up. 🙂

The service was good; and to be honest I was figuring it would be way worse based on the reviews I had read.  I was very pleased with how we were treated given how busy they were and the fact that they are a bar.  Finally, the real drawback with Louie’s has to do with their prices, and this is on a few levels.   Their prices are a bit high I think (especially considering it’s a bar ;)).  By the time you add in all the fixings to a pizza (they charge per topping), it was close to $20.  True, we were able to take a fair amount home, but I just felt it was a bit pricey for what it was.  Also, you only get one free refill for a soft drink of any kind, which is highly unordinary and annoying when you have a husband that drinks diet coke like it’s a drug! 🙂  Not knowing he was being charged each time, Adam ordered a few, and needless to say they added up!  Lastly, they don’t take credit cards, so be sure to have plenty of cash.  We were prepared for this from our research, but is still annoying.  This is a major pet-peeve of mine…I mean, what year are we in?  There is no reason, especially for a place that does this kind of volume, to not accept credit.  It’s just a hassle; and Louie’s…you need to get with the times(website included)!

Still, overall we had a really good experience at Louie’s; and I know given the chance, I would go back.  Therefore, although I feel this place would be a better fit in its owners native town, Louie’s is a place that everyone in Dallas that is looking for good pizza and all-around comfort food should try; and i give it 3 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010 @ 09:03 AM

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Back in Chicago for this week’s restaurant; and I think by now you all know I have a special love for Chicago and will likely go back at any chance I can get, not only to visit the places I know and love, but also to find new gems to experience for the first time.  This next spot is the later, and it is definitely a gem…or priceless antique to be sure.  This week’s PCC review is of Chicago’s rustic hot spot, The Silver Palm.  This hot spot that feels like a classic beatnik local hangout with the mood to match is truly a must see, and I am so glad Adam stumbled upon it while watching Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” on The Travel Channel; and like he often does, he insisted we go there! :).  Lucky for him, we learned about this place only weeks before going back up north for the holidays, and we already had a weekend stop-over planned on our ‘ol stomping grounds.  Well, he was on to something, because these “little piggies” definitely made me go “Wee, wee, wee”  (That will make sense soon.  I recommend watching Anthony down below explain). 😉

No Reservations Chicago [Video].  (2009).  Retrieved March 9, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL9mx8haGFo

Well, after watching that clip the first time, I was very intrigued, and for a couple of reasons.  One, I had never heard of this place while living there.  Two, it is LITERALLY an old train car that you are dining in (I mean cool!); and Three, the food looked amazing on TV, so holding with the bottom line of PCC, I had to check it out for myself and see if it was just a little creative television and lens work.

So, the day after New Year’s, a big group of us ventured to out into the bitter Chicago cold to see if Anthony was telling the truth.  Well, it is definitely a real train car, a 1947 dining car from an original train to be exact.  You can read about the bio of the train here.  Opened in 2003, the Silver Palm is adjacent to the Matchbox (same owners), a bar whose name is very fitting and quite popular in the River West section of Chicago.  But back to the restaurant,…the train car itself is attached to a two story brick building that holds another bar and small seating area at the front; and as you move to the back, into the car itself, this is the view…

train car Image source:http://www.thesilverpalmrestaurant.com/AboutUs.html

After reading up on this spot, we thought making a reservation was likely going to be our best option, due to the size (notice from above :)), it being the weekend, and seeing as it had just been featured on a very popular show, we knew it would be buzzing with other foodies.  Also, we were meeting a few friends there (Aaron, Cassie, and her boyfriend Eric), which made it more imperative to make a reservation; and it is a good thing that we did, because this place was packed!!!  And so much so (which is the funniest part), that we couldn’t even all sit together!  Although we knew it was literally a train car, we had not taken into account that it was just that…A TRAIN CAR!!!…meaning small stationary tables that only can seat four to a table.  This is not good news for you larger parties/families out there; and needless to say, we had to split our party.  It all worked out, however, because they just sat us across from one another.  The boys on one side; and I was able to catch up with my girlfriend from college at the other table (Hey Cassie! ;)).

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If I’m being honest, Adam was looking forward to this spot a lot more than I was.  Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to check it out, but he was REALLY excited to try the infamous “Three Little Piggies” sandwich he saw Anthony Bourdain devour.  I, on the other hand, was more excited to get together with our friends and dine in a train car parked on the city streets of Chicago.  I mean…cool!!!

I know…I know, right about now you are all probably wondering if this is the same girl who has raved about dish after crazy dish on here.  However (and I feel bad admitting to this), we happened to visit this spot the same day we had eaten Giordano’s, and the day after eating at Lucky’s Sandwich Co., so needless to say I was already feeling a bit stuffed!  I had the best intentions of ordering something decadent, but my stomach just was not going to have it.  So, I went with one of my standard fall-back orders, the French onion soup with a side of roasted veggies.  I know…boring, but hey….it was all I could handle.

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The soup was not out of this world, but still tasty.  It’s hard to impress me with French-onion, but it’s a bit like pizza…even when it’s not that good, it’s still good and I’ll always have some :).  The veggies, on the other hand, outta this world good!  I realize that is something very difficult to say about something as simple as vegetables, but these carrots, parsnips, and potatoes were all caramelized in their own sweetness and salted to perfection.  Ummm…yummy!

Adam, as I mentioned earlier, had his heart set on that “Three Little Piggies,” sandwich.  In fact, all of the guys did.  However, Adam and Aaron had a hard time making up their mind, because the minute they saw the menu, there was one other item that they both wanted, a favorite of theirs….the duck sandwich (fried in duck fat no less ;)).  Their solution, they decided to order both and split the “Piggies” and Duck Club Sandwich.  In their minds…the best of both worlds…Pig and Duck…perfect 🙂  (That is the “Three Little Piggies” below).

Three Little Piggies Image source:http://www.thesilverpalmrestaurant.com/AboutUs.html

Unfortunately I don’t have a pic of the duck club sandwich to show you (it did look really good), but if that “Piggy” above does not entice you to want to take a bite, I don’t know what does; and the boys certainly seemed to enjoy it!

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Of course, being the loving husband that he is ;), he was nice enough to share a bite of his half of the sandwich with me; and I will also contest, it was pretty dang good!  If we are ever lucky enough to visit the The Silver Palm again and I am not uber stuffed, I hope to order that lovely heart attack on a plate for myself . 🙂

Following dinner we were able to hang out in the lovely bar area up front and then moved down to the Matchbox (and definitely a deserving name.  The door even bumped into bar-stool it was so small! :))  It was just such a fun and laid back environment, accompanied by a never ending loop of Fleetwood Mac (I love them!) and one bottle of wine too many, that we did not want to leave.  Heck even another friend, BJ, met us later and joined in on the fun!

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Being so freaking cold that night in Chicago and not wanting to venture out anywhere else, this place turned out to be the perfect spot to hole up, enjoy one another’s company, some wine, and our last night in Chicago.  Like almost every restaurant featured on Pop Culture Cuisine, The Silver Palm is no different in that it has a signature dish, which 9 times out of 10, is the main reason why we visit.  In this instance that dish was the “Three Little Piggies” Sandwich, and in all of our opinions (all us had at least a bite) it was a real winner and tasted delicious.  The ambiance was unique, original, and oh so cool.  I mean seriously…eating in a train dining car parked on the streets of Chicago is pretty unreal.  The only draw-backs were actually as a result of this place being an actual dining car.  It was very cramped and on a cold winter night, the lack of insulation made it really cold.  Additionally, we really enjoyed talking with our waitress throughout the entire night and she was very attentive.

This restaurant and its kitchen are very narrow, which made the food service very slow.  Remember…, think train car, which does not leave tons and tons of space for easy or quick preparation.  But, although it was very slow getting the food, no one seemed to mind.  We were all enjoying the experience and conversation so much it did not seem to bother anyone.  Just know, if you are hoping to grab a “quick bite,” this is not the spot.  Finally, the cost of everything was pretty reasonable, especially considering we were dining in downtown Chicago.  Entrees range from $12-25 and sandwiches from $7-12; and I felt a lot of dishes seemed more high-end than just regular ol’ diner sandwiches, so I’d say they are worth a bit more.  The only bad spot (and this is Adam speaking ;)) was that there were no free re-fills on Diet Coke; and he had to pay for a bunch!  That all being said…, I give The Silver Palm 4 Little Piggies.

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