Thursday, March 28, 2013

Purple Carrot, Apple, and Beet Soup

Marriage equality has been a hot issue these past couple of days, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding California's Prop. 8 banning same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Marriage equality is an issue near and dear to my heart - because equality is an issue near and dear to my heart. I have always been supportive of LGBTQ rights, but the issue rose prominently to the forefront of my mind a little over a year ago when someone very close to me came out. Someone who is courageous, intelligent, determined, compassionate, and inspiring. Someone who hoped that her own story would help bullied gay teens realized that it gets better. Someone who is truly one of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out, even if she may not realize it.

Soon after, I came across this blog post - a moving account of one blogger's coming out story and a written contribution to the It Gets Better Project. The recipe attached to the post - Purple Carrot and Apple Soup - was meant as a tribute to the LGBTQ community, as lavender is a color often associated with gay pride. I was immediately inspired to make this soup.

Locating purple carrots turned out to be more difficult than one would think, however. It wasn't until recently that I found purple carrots at my local Whole Foods, and so I was finally able to try this recipe in all its deeply lavendered glory, as my way of showing support, and my own little tribute to this dear person in my life.

Although I dutifully followed the recipe, my purple carrot and apple soup turned out to be...a burnt orange color! (Purple carrots are only purple on the outside, it turns out.) And burnt orange was not quite the shade I was going for! As something of a quick fix, I decided to add some beets. I knew the result would be more red than lavender, but I didn't want to use food coloring or dark colored foods (like blueberries or blackberries) simply to "lavenderize" the soup for fear that the flavors wouldn't mesh well. And so, I left it at that, content that red was at least closer to lavender than burnt orange. And for what it's worth, the end result was delicious.

Purple Carrot, Apple, and Beet Soup
Purple Carrot, Apple, and Beet Soup
(Yes, Oxford commas are important to me as well)

I include the recipe below, which is really the original recipe with the addition of beets as well as chopped peanuts (just to shake it up a bit). As the recipe author noted, "It’s a dish that as you cook and eat it, all seems right with the world."

And with that I toast: To equality!

  • 5 medium purple carrots, peeled, ends trimmed, and cut into 1 inch circles
  • 2 medium sweet apples (such as Gala apples), peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 medium beets, peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 24 ounces vegetable stock (have more on hand to thin out soup, if needed)
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Greek yogurt, optional
  • Coarse sea salt, optional
  • Chopped peanuts, optional


Heat olive oil in a medium pot and set to medium heat. Add the purple carrots, apples, honey, and ginger to the pot and toss to combine. Add beets and vegetable stock and simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes. Once the beets, carrots, and apples are tender, take off of heat and let cool.

Using an immersion blender (or you can do it in batches in a regular blender), puree the soup until it is smooth. Add more vegetable stock if it is too thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Let the soup simmer for another 15 minutes before serving. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and chopped peanuts.

Original recipe courtesy of:
A Thought for Food (get the original recipe here)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ground Venison Pizza

Along with experimenting with a whole wheat thin crust pizza dough, I have also been playing around with different pizza toppings. I had come across an amazing full-bodied pizza sauce recipe in my search, and had tried pairing it with some hot sopressata - but the sauce was so strong it masked the flavor of the sopressata!

Then, an idea came to me to pair the sauce with ground venison. As I had mentioned previously, we have meat from a whole deer in our freezer, and so I have been trying use it up in creative ways. Ground venison was particularly abundant, but I wasn't a fan of the gameyness that I could still taste in it. (Interestingly, I don't have the same problem with any other cut - just the ground.) Hence, I thought the rich pizza sauce might help take the edge off of it.

The result turned out quite well! The sauce and the meat were a good balance for each other flavor-wise, and while the gamey flavor of the meat was largely gone, one can still taste the unique flavor of the venison. I suppose ground beef would do well with this sauce also, but I haven't tried it.

  • 1 14-inch pizza crust
  • ¾ lbs ground venison
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • ½ cup mushroom, sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves
  • a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese
For the sauce: (original recipe here)
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 6 fl. oz. warm water (110˚F/45˚C)
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
  • ¾ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried marjoram
  • ¼ tsp dired basil
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 475˚F.
  2. To make the sauce, combine tomato paste, water, Parmesan cheese, garlic, honey, anchovy paste, onion powder, oregano, marjoram, basil, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and salt in a small bowl; mix together, breaking up any clumps of cheese. Let sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors.
  3. Lightly coat a skillet with cooking spray and cook ground venison on medium high heat until browned. Drain.
  4. Spread sauce over pizza crust. Top with venison, mushroom, onion, and cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and top with rosemary.

Ground Venison Pizza (pre-baking)
Ready for the oven

Ground Venison Pizza
Ground Venison Pizza - the finished product

Ground Venison Pizza Slice
Ground Venison Pizza

Ground Venison Pizza Slice (side view)
Ground Venison Pizza (side view)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Whole Wheat Thin Crust Pizza Dough

One of the wedding gifts we received from family friends in Toronto was a gift card to a fancy china store downtown.  I don't do china, but luckily, the store has a small "gourmet kitchen" section which is where I did my shopping during my most recent trip home a few months ago.

After grabbing a blender and an electric corkscrew (which is awesome, by the way), there was just about $50 left...which turns out to be exactly the price of a 14-inch Emile Henry Flame Top Pizza Stone.  I had never made pizza before, but I figured, hey, maybe if I got a pizza stone I'll start making pizzas!

And making pizzas I did!  For weeks I experimented with the perfect whole wheat thin crust pizza dough (because I like whole wheat, and I like thin crust), and even though I consulted the manufacturer's instructions manual as well as some tried-and-true recipes found online, many of my experiments failed: if it wasn't too oily, it was too dry, or didn't have the right whole-wheat-to-all-purpose-flour ratio, or didn't rise, or didn't bake through, or the base stuck to the stone.  I learned the hard way that pizza doughs are finicky, finicky things, and even slight variations in flour brand, oven model, altitude, and room temperature can alter the result.

So with that in mind, I share here my "perfect" recipe, with the understanding that this recipe works well for my specific pizza stone in my specific oven in my specific area (Pittsburgh) in a kitchen set to 74ºF. But, with a little experimenting, this basic recipe should work for anyone. The result is a pie that comes out crispy on the edges and the bottom and more bread-like inside.  The dough also freezes well, and thaws in about a day in the refrigerator.

  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • 1½ cups warm water (110ºF/45ºC)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)
  • bread crumbs
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and brown sugar in warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir the olive oil, salt, and Italian seasoning into the yeast mixture, then mix in all the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough no longer sticks. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 30-45 minutes, until doubled.
  4. Cover and refrigerate dough overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator and let sit about 15 minutes. Use only half the dough for a thin crust.
  6. Preheat the oven to 475ºF. Sprinkle pizza stone with bread crumbs to keep pizza crust from sticking to it. (Note: This works well on my Emile Henry Flame Top Pizza Stone, which is meant for baking and serving directly on the stone. For many other stones, it is recommended that you place parchment paper between the dough and the pizza stone.) Form dough into a ball and flatten it. Gently stretch the dough and continue by rolling it with a rolling pin until the desired size, while gently pulling the edges outward. Add toppings, and bake for 15 minutes.
Stay tuned for future posts on different pizza toppings I've been experimenting with!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough 1
Dough in a bowl (Step 1 above)

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough 2
About 35 minutes later - the dough has risen!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Step 3 above

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough 4
Another 30 minutes later...

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough 5
Split the dough into two for a thin crust

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough 6
Roll the dough onto pizza stone (Step 6 above)

Adapted from:

Casbah (Shadyside)

I had an excellent birthday this year, food-wise.

I have already posted about the weekend celebration with friends catered by Salsa Man. On the actual day of my birthday, I went over to my favorite Coffee Buddha and enjoyed a lunch full of delicious tacos from Pgh Taco Truck. Then, for dinner, R. and I met at Casbah, one of the few Big Burrito restaurants I had yet to try.

Casbah has a few dining areas with contrasting themes. The main entrance takes you through the more casual heated patio that is reminiscent of the Mediterranean, while the main dining room, where we were seated, has a more romantic atmosphere with softly lit candles on each table.  The restaurant also has a trendy bar and lower dining area.

I only had enough room for an entrée, for which I chose the Long Island Duck. It is a generous portion of tender and juicy roasted breast and braised leg, served with gnocchi, spinach, rosemary, kumquat, and duck jus.  The flavors were excellent, with the citrusy kumquat complementing the meat in a nice way.

Long Island Duck at Casbah
Long Island Duck

It was an excellent dish to cap off an excellent birthday!

Restaurant info:
229 S Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
On the web:
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On Twitter:

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Casbah on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pgh Taco Truck (Mobile)

"Americano" Taco with Angus Ground Beef, Cheddar Jack, and Truck-made Salsa at Pgh Taco Truck
The "Americano": Angus Ground Beef, Cheddar Jack, Truckmade Salsa

If you are what you eat, then any minute now I just might turn into a taco!

I have said before that I didn't used to like tacos, but the excellent taco shops that popped up recently in Pittsburgh have changed my mind.

The newcomer to the taco scene is James Rich's Pgh Taco Truck, which officially opened for business in January, and it has quickly converted me from being an occasional taco fan to quite the taco fanatic. Now, as a matter of full disclosure, James is one of my best friends, so I realize my enthusiasm may be biased. But, my stomach doesn't lie. I said I never used to like tacos before. Now, I actually crave James' tacos, and I give myself pretty much every excuse to stop by his truck for one of his latest inventions. Still not convinced? Ask one of the many people who have been willing to wait more than an hour in line for James' tacos!

And what creative inventions they are! Korean BBQ steak with kimchi; beer braised pork with pineapple salsa; butternut squash with smoky salsa; curried organic potato with red peppers, spinach, and name it. On some occasions he has offered exotic meats like ostrich and wild boar paired with pumpkin butter, while the Lenten season has brought with it fish options like flounder with guacamole and cherry tomato. The menu changes daily, though some of the favorites are always or frequently featured. In addition to delicious flavor combinations, James also carefully sources his ingredients from local shops like Marty's Market, Clarion Farms, and Greek Gourmet, ensuring that the quality of his tacos is always top-notch.

For now, due to restrictive mobile food truck laws in the City of Pittsburgh, Pgh Taco Truck can most often be found in the private parking lot of my favorite coffee shop, Coffee Buddha, which works out just perfectly for me. It also regularly ventures out to its other local small business partners in Braddock (Ink Division), South Side (Commonwealth Press), the Strip District (Bar Marco), and Oakland, and new vending locales are always being planned. Like the menu, the operating hours varies day-to-day, so it is best to follow the truck's whereabouts on Twitter or Facebook. In addition, exemplifying the collaborative spirit of Pittsburgh's chefs, James has cooked with other local chefs, and is also instrumental in organizing the North Hills Food Truck Roundup, which appears to be turning into a monthly event at Coffee Buddha.

Being a friend of James', I was privileged to witness every behind-the-scene step of making this food truck dream of his a reality: from the inception of the idea, the acquisition of the truck in Denver, the kitchen installation in Indiana, the purchase of the solar panels that provide power, the design and planning, the heart and soul, the blood and sweat, the excitement and anxiety, the ups and downs... While you may not have knowledge of any of this, you can certainly taste the hard work that goes into this labor of love. James is not making tacos out of a truck for the wealth and glory, or because he needed a job. He is making tacos because he loves it, and he is damn good at it.

And that, my friends, is why you need to go enjoy a taco or ten from the Pgh Taco Truck.

The Pgh Taco Truck at Coffee Buddha
Pgh Taco Truck + Coffee Buddha = Marriage made in heaven!

The Pgh Taco Truck kitchen
Inside the Pgh Taco Truck kitchen

Beer Braised Pork Taco with Pineapple Salsa at Pgh Taco Truck
Beer Braised Pork with Pineapple Salsa

Jerk Chicken Taco with Avocado Cream at Pgh Taco Truck
Jerk Chicken with Avocado Cream

Korean BBQ Beef Taco with Kimchi at Pgh Taco Truck
Korean BBQ Steak with Kimchi 

Curried Organic Potato Taco with Spinach, Red Peppers, and Feta Cheese at Pgh Taco Truck
Curried organic potatoes, red peppers, spinach, and feta

Flounder Taco with Guacamole and Cherry Tomato at Pgh Taco Truck
Flounder with Guacamole and Cherry Tomatoes

Braised Pork Taco with Coleslaw at Pgh Taco Truck
Pork with Coleslaw

Ostrich Taco with Caramelized Onion, Jalapeno, and Pumpkin Butter at Pgh Taco Truck
Ostrich with Caramelized Onion and Pumpkin Butter

Butternut Squash Taco at Pgh Taco Truck
Butternut Squash with Smoky Salsa

The Pgh Taco Truck Mascot
The Taco Truck mascot? :)

Truck info:
Pgh Taco Truck
(412) 841-9234
On the web:
On Facebook:
On Twitter:

Pgh Taco Truck on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birthday Fiesta Catered by "Salsa Man"

We ended the busy month of January with my birthday, and my preferred way to celebrate is with friends over good food. In the past, this has typically involved going out to a favorite restaurant. This year, I decided to try something a little different: a house party catered by none other than the "Salsa Man," Arturo Vizzuett, whose fresh homemade salsas are simply the best.

The plans actually sort of fell into place by accident. Arturo had been talking about cooking for us for a long time, and it was brought up again during one of my visits last fall to his salsa stand in the Strip District. Sundays are best for him since it does not conflict with salsa making or vending, but Sundays during football season is always a little dicey...except on the day of the Pro Bowl, of course. As luck would have it, the Pro Bowl was going to take place on the Sunday right before my birthday, and so it was decided right then and there that Arturo would cater a birthday party for me.

On the day of the party, Arturo prepared four traditional Mexican entrées and four side dishes (photos below), each rich, delicious, and flavorful. I think everyone had a different favorite, but mine were the tender pork shoulder, beef tips, zucchini and corn medley, and potato pancakes.

As if Arturo's homecooked Mexican fare wasn't enough, my truly awesome husband surprised me by picking up some pastries and a birthday cake from the famous Oakmont Bakery! To be honest, I can't even remember the last time I had a birthday cake.

A birthday celebration with great food and great friends - what more can a girl ask for? ;)

Arturo Vizzuett's Cochinita Pibil
Conchinita Pibil
(Slow roasted pork shoulder in achiote sauce)

Arturo Vizzuett's Puntas de Filete a la Mejicana
Puntas de Filete a la Mejicana
(Mexican style beef tips)

Arturo VIzzuett's Pescado a la Veracruzana
Pescado a la Veracruzana
(Seabass in tomato based sauce)

Arturo Vizzuett's Chicken in Mole Sauce
Mole Poblano
(Chicken in mole sauce)

Arturo Vizzuett's Calabazitas
(Zucchini and corn medley with fresh cheese and cream)

Arturo Vizzuett's Arroz Andaluz
Arroz Andaluz
(Rice with poblano peppers and roasted corn)

Arturo Vizzuett's Frijoles Charros
Frijoles Charros
(Red kidney bean salad)

Arturo Vizzuett's Tortitas de Papa
Tortitas de Papa
(Potato pancakes)

Pastries from Oakmont Bakery
Pastries from Oakmont Bakery

Cake from Oakmont Bakery
Birthday Cake from Oakmont Bakery

Monday, March 11, 2013

Venison Stew

Back in Pittsburgh, I've continued to do a ton of venison cooking, as I mentioned in a post last month. We have venison in a variety of different cuts, so I've been trying a number of different recipes. In addition to ground venison, we seem to have a lot of chops as well, which the butcher has mostly chopped up for us, so it seemed like they would work well in a stew.

I tried it in Emeril's Venison Stew recipe, and it was excellent! It is not a terribly difficult recipe, but the red wine adds a certain richness to the flavor, and the amount of heat can be adjusted to one's liking by using more or less of Emeril's "Essence" blend.  (I use about a tablespoon or two.)

I made two modifications to the recipe: First, I added some smoked paprika in the Essence. Second, I included chopped potatoes and added them to the stew when I add the stock.

We both love this stew and have made it often!

Venison Stew 1
Venison Stew

Venison Stew
Venison Stew

Recipe courtesy of:
Emeril Lagasse, Food Network (get the recipe here)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bar Symon (Pittsburgh International Airport)

Last year I wrote enthusiastically about my visit to Chef Symon's Lola in Cleveland, and so ever since it was announced that Bar Symon would be coming to the Pittsburgh International Airport, I had been looking forward to paying a visit.

Only problem: Bar Symon is located inside the gate area, past the security checkpoint...which means no flying, no Bar Symon.

Well, my opportunity finally came on our trip back from New Orleans to Pittsburgh when our flight landed conveniently around lunch time. The menu at Bar Symon features appetizers, salads, frieds, sandwiches, and several varieties of mac and cheese.  My choice was the Fat Doug Burger, with pastrami, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and mustard on a challah bun.

Fat Doug Burger at Bar Symon
Fat Doug Burger ($10)

Fat Doug Burger at Bar Symon (another view)
Fat Doug Burger (another view)

The burger tasted as good as it looked.  And, although I did not imbibe, it looks like there were some good craft beers on tap as well.

Although I wish I could visit Bar Symon anytime the fancy strikes (and not just when I'm flying), I am certainly glad that we have such a great dining option at the airport.  Chef Symon, thank you for landing in Pittsburgh!

Restaurant info:
Bar Symon
1000 Airport Blvd, Coraopolis, PA 15108
On the web:
On Facebook:

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Bar Symon on Urbanspoon

Evangeline (New Orleans - French Quarter)

Our French Quarter food tour ended just before dinner time. Naturally, we weren't hungry, but thought we might pick up a sandwich to go for later in the evening. We thought we'd stop by Johnny's Po-Boys, but it was already closed. As we strolled down Decatur Street towards our hotel in the Central Business District on this quiet Sunday evening, we were beginning to run out of ideas and options. That's when we noticed Evangeline.

Evangeline has a trendy, contemporary decor in the narrow interior, with an exposed brick wall and tables on one side and a bar occupying the entire other side of the space, which is where we waited with a ginger mojito. I ordered the special of the evening, an Oyster Poor Boy (a.k.a. po-boy) which comes with French fries or sweet potatoes fries (the latter for me). R. had the pulled pork sandwich. It was a bit of a wait, but we had been out and about all day and didn't mind sitting still for a bit.

Oyster Poor Boy at Evangeline (New Orleans)
Oyster Poor Boy

When we finally got around to eating our dinners back in the hotel, we were quite impressed. We enjoyed our sandwiches even though they had cooled a bit, but the flavors were excellent. I'm flagging this as a potential spot to visit for real next time!

Restaurant info:
329 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130
On the web:

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Evangeline on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Orleans Culinary History and Tasting Tour

On our last day in New Orleans I got to redeem an early birthday gift from R.: a New Orleans Culinary History and Tasting Tour of the French Quarter!

The tour started at Antoine's Restaurant, a family-owned institution in New Orleans dating back to 1840! We had a sample of the Gumbo (delicious!), learned a bit about the history of Antoine's, and toured the kitchen as well as a few of the 14 elegant and unique dining rooms in the restaurant, many of which were lined with framed photos of celebrities or krewe kings and other memorabilia.  I have never seen a restaurant with so much history!

Gumbo Sample at Antoine's Restaurant (New Orleans)
Gumbo sample at Antoine's

Antoine's Restaurant 1
One of the dining rooms at Antoine's

Antoine's Restaurant (New Orleans)
Another dining room at Antoine's

Wine Cellar at Antoine's Restaurant (New Orleans)
Taking a peek into the wine cellar at Antoine's

We then crossed the street over to Leah's Pralines.  This was a quick stop, but we got to sample some brittle while there, and each of us took home a praline.

Praline at Lean's Pralines (New Orleans)
Praline from Lean's Pralines

We then headed over to the Royal Sonesta Hotel where we sampled the Turtle and Sherry Soup from Desire Oyster Bar.  It was savory!  We also learned that most turtle soup contains only a small amount of turtle, with the remaining meat being typically veal or beef.

Courtyard at Royal Sonesta Hotel (New Orleans)
The Royal Sonesta Hotel courtyard

Turtle Soup Sample at Desire Oyster Bar (New Orleans)
Turtle and Sherry Soup from Desire Oyster Bar

Our next stop was Arnaud's and its casual version, Remoulade, another family-owned restaurant with much interesting history.  We first sampled the scrumptious Shrimp Remoulade, which is served with a dressing that tastes like horseradish, but is actually a creole mustard for which Arnaud's is famous.  Afterwards, we toured Arnaud's and heard interesting stories about one of the former owners, Germaine Wells, who was a party girl through and through and helped make Arnaud's famous all over the world. In New Orleans, she was also a Carnival queen for 22 years, and created an Easter parade just so she could show off all her hats. There is even a "costume museum" upstairs featuring Germaine's hats and Carnival costumes!  What a character!

Shrimp Remoulade sample at Arnaud's Remoulade (New Orleans)
Shrimp Remoulade at Arnaud's/Remoulade

Arnaud's (New Orleans)
Arnaud's Restaurant

Costume display at Arnaud's (New Orleans)
At Germaine Wells' costume museum

On our way to the next stop, we snuck into Restaurant R'evolution, a fairly new trendy eatery that's been gathering a lot of buzz.  Our tour guide, Annette, called this unofficial stop a "lagniappe"- a Louisiana French term that means "a little something extra." We didn't get to sample any food, but it was sure interesting to marvel at the modern decor of the dining room - a stark contrast to the likes of Antoine's and Arnaud's where we had just been. The French Quarter truly has something for everyone.

Restaurant R'evolution (New Orleans)
Open kitchen at Restaurant R'evolution

We continued our tour at La Divina Cafe e Gelateria, a small gelato and sandwich shop with some patio seating, where we sampled a Muffaletta and some homemade artisan Gelato.

Muffaletta sample at La Divina Cafe e Gelateria (New Orleans)
Muffaletta sample at La Divina Cafe e Gelateria

Gelato sample at La Divina Cafe e Gelateria (New Orleans)
Gelato sample at La Divina Cafe e Gelateria

We then moved on to Tujaques, another vintage restaurant (over 150 years old!) in the neighborhood.  Here, we sampled the Brisket, which was tender and very well done.

Brisket sample at Tujague's (New Orleans)
Brisket at Tujaques

Finally, we came to our last stop: Creole Delicacies.  The front, indoor space is a shop featuring family-made Cajun and Creole goodies and other souvenirs; the back is a courtyard where the lively and competent Saundra served us Mardi Gras Dip (not pictured) and Red Beans and Rice, and showed us all about how to make a Cajun Roux - a cooking base and thickening agent used in dishes like gumbo and étouffée.  To make a roux, one heats oil, flour, along with the "holy trinity" of celery, onion, and bell pepper (with the "Pope" being garlic that is sometimes added as well), and must keep stirring the pot nonstop to avoid burning it until it reaches the desired darkness. A dark roux can be almost black in color!  But, the perfect roux is very hard to achieve, as it can be a matter of an instant for the roux to go from perfectly whatever-color-it-is to a pot of royally burned mess - in which case you must start all over.

Red Bean and Rice sample at Creole Delicacies
Red Beans and Rice sample at Creole Delicacies

Demo at Creole Delicacies (New Orleans)
Saundra demonstrates the roux

The sky was dark by the time the tour concluded. The experience was great fun and I got to learn some interesting facts about New Orleans and its cuisine. Our original tour guide actually didn't make it for some reason, and Annette, who was in training and was there to shadow our tour, stepped up and did a very nice job leading the tour despite being put on the spot that way. Overall, this tour was an enjoyable experience and I'm sure glad we did it!