Beyond Bourbon Street


It’s synonymous with New Orleans. With its potent Sazeracs, gut-busting gumbos, and those sweet, sweet beignets from Cafe Du Monde, it’s a city ripe with potentially bad decisions.


Royal Street Inn

The real sin is to stick around the French Quarter and get drunk off of neon grain alcohol, dodging beads on Bourbon Street and avoiding “bro-dawgs” hopped up on Hand Grenades. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The pros know to set up base camp at a “B&B,” bar-and-breakfast outside the Quarter. The Royal Street Inn and R Bar in the Marigny is where the locals drink, play pool, and feast on Friday Happy Hour crawfish boils. Instead of mints, they leave drink tokens on your pillow.

Bar Tonique

Bar Tonique

Head out to Louis Armstrong Park. Right across the street is Bar Tonique, a craft cocktail bar disguised as a charming neighborhood dive. Sure, they’ve got housemade tonics, syrups and over 30 specialty cocktails. But this joint is unpretentious. They have $5 daily specials and won’t put up with douchey behavior. A couple of frat boys who came in asking for Lemon Drops were promptly spun around and handed to-go cups.


Jacque-Imo’s. “Be Nice or Leave”

Speaking of to-go cups, grab a beverage and hop on the St. Charles Line Street Car in the Business District. Make sure to check out views of the gorgeous mansions in the Garden District along the way. This is the cheapest and most picturesque way to get to Oak Street, where you’ll find the kick-ass Jacques-Imo’s. They do old-school Nawlins’ food like savory alligator cheesecake and Creole jambalaya. Ask for the off-menu “Godzilla,” a giant batter-fried soft shell crab perched atop crispy fried green tomatoes and drizzled with a housemade Creole sauce.

Maple Leaf

Maple Leaf

Jacques-Imo’s doesn’t take reservations, so leave your number and walk two doors down to the famous Maple Leaf Bar to order drinks while you wait. It might be quiet while you’re there, but come back after dinner and you’ll see why the Maple Leaf is one of the best music joints in the city.



On a Sunday morning, take a cab to Parkway Bakery and Tavern. Grab a Surf and Turf Po’ boy, a bottle of Abita, and watch the Saints game. On the way back, slip your cab driver $20 and ask her take you to today’s “second line” parade.


Bucket list!!

A “second line” parade is a roaming party experience that’s uniquely New Orleans. It’s like a scene straight out of HBO’s Treme, a full brass band blasting swinging jazz into the air. Paraders dress in elaborate costumes while drinking and dancing down the street and people will sell you booze and barbecue from the back of their trucks. Everything is awesome.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Cue the heavenly trumpets

On the way to the airport, don’t forget to stop by Central Grocery and pick up a couple of muffulettas. This Holy Grail of an Italian sandwich is filled with layers of beautiful meats and cheeses. All the usual suspects are here: capicola, salami, mortadella, pepperoni, ham, plus slices of Swiss and provolone cheese. What makes it unearthly though, is the olive spread and the large, round, sesame-dotted fluffy bread that hugs all the goodness inside. Grab two because they travel well and let’s face it, gluttony is forever.

There are tourists and there are travelers in New Orleans. Be neither. The best thing is to be a local. Get out into the city and take the party beyond Bourbon Street. That’s the one best bad decision everyone should make.

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The Rose’s Luxury Roof Garden Experience

It’s like a scene out of an Ocean’s Eleven movie.


Only instead of robbing a casino or stealing a Fabergé egg, the heist you’ve pulled off is scoring the much coveted reservation of the roof garden at Rose’s Luxury.

You and nine of your carefully chosen friends are on a private roof garden. Strong cocktails in hand. Incredibly delicious snacks arrive at the table just when you need a bite. Everyone is laughing, drinking, eating. You feel so happy and fortunate that you take a moment to look around and soak it all in. This is the Bellagio fountain of a “dining experience.”

You’ll get there around 6:30. Stroll past the line of people waiting to put their names down for a phone call later for a table. Don’t feel guilty for skipping the line, luck and nimble typing fingers earned you the privilege.

settingWalk past the room full of diners. Make sure to take a glance at the neon sign that says, “AWESOME” on the wall facing the kitchen. Remember that word. You’ll need it a lot tonight.

Head upstairs, as soon as you enter the roof garden, you’re greeted by your hostess with chilled flutes of Kir Royale, a champagne cocktail made with Chambord. Thea was our hostess that night and she made us feel like this was her house and we’re all long-lost friends gathered here to celebrate everything that is good in this world. Yes, she, as the personification of the restaurant itself, is our “Eleventh.”

One by one your friends walk in. Hugs and kisses all around. You’ve all made it. You’re here.

Chef SilvermanRight before everyone sits down, Rose’s owner and chef Aaron Silverman stops by for a quick hello and sizes up your group. After all, he needs to know what kind of party he’s dealing with tonight. Having remembered a few of us from past visits when we ate our way through the entire menu he says jokingly, “I’m going to go warn the kitchen to prep more food.”

Read: We’re gonna have a good time tonight.

There’s no set menu. Everyday the chefs decide what’s good, what’s fresh, and what inspires them. Like Chef Silverman said in an Eater interview, “Some things on the menu, some things off the menu, some things that are new ideas that we’re testing out for the restaurant.”


And here. We. go.

Each night is different. Each experience is its own. The only constant is that that they’ll just keep feeding you until you cry “uncle” and tap out. However, this ain’t Sizzler and it’s not a buffet. So don’t be that guy who demands, “Another round of oysters and lychee salad for my friends!” Simmer down. You’re not going home hungry.

And now, please return your seat backs to their full upright and locked positions. Because here comes the food.



A round of house baked challah bread with butter and honey. Poppy seeds dot a crunchy crust that twists around a fluffy, cotton-candy like interior. Go head and tear into it. No need to wait for your foodie friends to a take a picture.

A massive half-shell filled with Stellar Bay oysters arrives. Raw with a ramp and rosé mignonette and crushed pink peppercorns. Briny, sweet, and refreshing.



Jonah Crab claws with pickled ramps and chive mayo. No doubt a nod to a similar dish of crab claws and yuzu Kewpie mayo from Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, where Chef Silverman worked during his time in New York City. The sharpness of the ramps and tanginess of the mayo is the perfect counterpoint to the buttery crab claws.

Next up, a spring onion salad nestled on a layer of homemade goat’s milk ricotta. All on top of a slice of house-made crusty, sourdough bread. This salad is red, white, and ramps. Tart, savory, crunchy.

Then comes a surprise. Thea arrives with a tray of little glass jars with buckled rubber seals. Inside, the now off-menu popcorn soup with grilled lobster. Talk about an unexpected cameo! You know what makes this dish brilliant? Butter. What better complimentary ingredients than butter, lobster, and popcorn?

Cocktail break.



The food isn’t the only inventive thing here. Fig Martinis, White Manhattans, and a deceptively potent English Pea Cocktail that comes in a shot glass are all available from the drinks menu. Kudos to Thea for patiently guiding our one “wine connoisseur” through Rose’s wine list.

Take this time to glance down at your silverware. Our little spoons have portraits of past historic presidents engraved on them, complete with trivia!



Get up and stretch. We’re about 2 hours in now and it’s a good time to stand up and take in the beautiful garden. Twinkling rope lights suspended above the table. The evening’s soundtrack just loud enough to be heard over everyone’s laughter. There are no distractions from waiters rushing by or obnoxious loud conversations from other diners. It’s just you and your best friends, enjoying life.

Back to the food.

Grilled asparagus with pineapple, and jalapeño tempura. Smokey, sweet, and crunchy. The unexpected pineapples give it the perfect summer twist. Then comes the Pork Sausage and Lychee Salad.

One of my favorite dishes of 2013-14, this thing’s got all fives tastes in one bowl. Pork sausage, lychee, coconut foam, and little bit of habanero just to spice things up. Slivers of onion and peanuts for some texture and crunch. To not taste this dish at Rose’s is like going to an amusement park and not riding the roller coaster.




Time for some carbs. At this stage of the game, you’ll gonna need something to soak up all the wine and cocktails.

First up, a pasta interpretation of the classic Escargots à la Bourguignonne. Herb garlic butter over house-made pasta with chewy snails and topped with parmesan bread crumbs. Then “Marco’s Gnocchi“ with black pepper and parmesan. Little pasta pillows so light they are like whipped butter potatoes suspended in air. Both dishes are luscious.



With pastas this delicious and decadent, even someone who might be carb-phobic won’t be able to stay away. But wait, don’t go all in, not just yet. Because here comes the coup de grace.

A giant platter of Delmonico steak seared to meltingly medium rare, thinly sliced and served with shoe string fries and Bernaise sauce that would have impressed Henry the VIII himself.

The other giant platter was our second surprise cameo of the night. Another fan favorite dish that’s now off the menu. The pickle-brined fried chicken with honey and benne seeds. These crispy nuggets of pure joy are sweet, juicy, and with just the perfect amount of crunch. If they served chicken nuggets in Heaven, it would be these.



Lastly, a dish that is often referred to as “Charleston Ice Cream.” Heirloom Carolina Gold Rice from Anson Mills Farm in South Carolina; and butter. Though rich and creamy, each grain of rice still retains its individual texture. It’ll probably be the best rice dish you’ll ever taste.

If you’re still hungry there’s an eating contest waiting for you at Coney Island next July 4th. For the rest of us, we’re pretty much at the “wafer thin” level of done. But nope, there’s just a little more.



Two desserts. A spring pea sponge cake with mint curd and pea shoots. And a spicy ice cream with chocolate brittle. Oh, and how about some orange slices and a little spoon full of chocolate just in case you’re not ready to burst yet.


After nearly 5 hours of drinking and eating you’re not just drunk from all the wine and cocktails, you’re also drunk on food. As the haze of happy contentment slowly sets in, it’s time to call it a night.

But wait. Not so fast.

Thea returns one last time carrying doggie bags, one for each of us. The kitchen has graciously divied up what we couldn’t finish into equal portions and surprise – lunch for tomorrow – a giant smoked brisket sandwich complete with a bag of Utz potato chips and a Capri Sun juice pouch!



I want to have my mail delivered here.

The Rose’s Luxury Roof Garden experience is epic. From the first cocktail to the last spoon full, everything is thought out for you to have a blast. The quiet and private setting, the background music with just the right vibe, and your own server who transcends the role and becomes part of your party. This is what all tasting menu experiences should be. It’s fun, non-pretentious, and a perfectly designed menu that gradually takes you to higher plane of happiness.

As we literally descend down the stairs from our happy place. I tried to come up with the perfect word to describe our bacchanalian evening. Then I realized the answer was there all along, in the form of a glowing neon sign.






Oh and then there this – Tomorrow’s lunch.


Rose's Luxury on Urbanspoon

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Urban Butcher


Glass Case of Love

It takes love to make good charcuterie. And there’s a lot of love going on at Urban Butcher.

This new boutique butcher shop/eatery in downtown Silver Spring is a destination worthy of Bacchus himself. On one side of the open breezy space is a giant case of meats, sausages, and pâtés, all locally sourced and made in-house. On the other side, a 20 seat bar featuring approximately 100 labels of wine from across the country as well as signature cocktails. Located in the back, the Pièce de résistance, a giant glass cased room filled with beautiful links of different kinds of salami and ham. Talk about a glass case of emotions!

We’re not just talking about pork either. The menu also features duck liver spread, foie gras terrine, and three kinds of ceviche. They’ve got you covered by land, sea, and air.


Shots of Happiness

But wait! There’s more!

Charcuterie aside, they serve composed small plates and snacks like grilled calamari with salsa verde, beef empanadas, and crispy ham croquettes. Oh did I mention the 11 artisan cheeses all from this side of the Mississippi?

Chef Raynold Mendizabal says he wanted to “create a place where the community can come and enjoy great tasting, honest food expressing the natural flavors of the ingredients in a care-free and welcoming atmosphere surrounded by their neighbors, friends, and like-minded strangers they just met.”

Well, at Urban Butcher, these ‘like-minded strangers’ might as well be fellow Kings and Queens of suburbia because that’s exactly how everyone will be eating – like royalty.

Urban Butcher is located 8226 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.


Reservation not required. Hearty appetite recommended.

*Disclosure. Food was sampled at a preview event and was free. However it had no way influenced my opinion. It was damn good.


Links of Dreams


Everything that is good in this world.


Chef Raynold showing the piglet some love.

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Remember the time Chef Tom Colicchio gave me props on Twitter?

Top Chef is back!!

Les bon temps roule! (You're going to be REALLY sick of this phrase soon.)

Les bon temps roule! (You’re going to be REALLY sick of this phrase soon.)

Season 11 is going to be in New Orleans (finally), one of the greatest food and culture cities in the world.

Yes. It’s right up there with Paris or NY or where ever the hell else you want to argue with me about. Go there for a week. Avoid Bourbon street and take the trolley up town through the Garden District. Put your name down at Jacque Imo’s and go wait at The Maple Leaf. When your table’s ready, order some gator cheesecake and a Godzilla. Oh yeah, you’re welcome.

Soft shell crab. Fried green tomatoes. Boudin.

“Godzilla” – Soft shell crab. Fried green tomatoes. Boudin.

There will be a full post about New Orleans before the season starts – call it an “amuse,” if you will. Until then feel free to catch up last season’s Top Chef in Seattle. I did a full season’s recap for the website FoodieGossip and I suggest you relive the excitement and the snark at my Top Chef Recap page. Because if it’s good enough for Tom Colicchio, it’s good enough for you. (Full disclosure, his tweet was directed at the FIRST episode’s recap, not the entire season. I’m being exact and specific because I know Tom would have wanted me to. As you know, he’s like that.)

Proud moment in Recap history...
How many recappers can boast a claim like this!!
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Summer time…the drinking is easy.


It’s a bit crowded. I need a drink…

It’s a gorgeous sunny day. 

You’re lounging by the pool in your flippy-floppies. Staring up at the sky, you watch little puffs of clouds drift by. A lazy breeze cools the beads of sweat on your forehead and reminds you that it’s warm out here. You reach over to grab your favorite….

Wait. You forgot to bring a drink!!

No worries. I’ve got you covered with my list of our favorite Summer Cocktails!

First up. You know what they say about beating the heat. Eat something spicy. Well we’ve got just the drink. The Jalapeno Margarita.


It’s all about the spicy rim.

With its spicy salted rim, this drink captures all three flavors of salty, spicy, and sweet. A perfect drink to wake you up and cool you down.

Prepare your garnish by combining some kosher salt, a few dash of chili pepper, cayenne pepper, some lime zest and chilosito into a shallow round container.

Blend a jalapeno pepper with some fresh lime juice and agave nectar and set aside. Then pour tequila, limeade and fresh orange juice together over ice. Combine the two mixtures into a shaker and shake vigorously. 

Dip the rim of your glass into the shaker, then dab it into the round container to get the chili salt mix onto the rim. Then pour your spicy margarita into the glass and viola! 

 Next up is the Moscow Mule. The key to this drink is its tangy addition of ginger beer. With three simple ingredients, it’s something you can easily make. However, I recommend procuring yourself some copper mugs. The copper keeps your drink nice and chilled, exactly what you want on a hot summer day. Don’t take my word for it. It’s on Oprah’s Favorite Things List.


The cooper mug is KEY.

 Combine two part vodka, one part lime juice, and three parts ginger beer (preferably Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer since it’s what was used when the drink was first invented, not in Moscow but in New York). Pour it over ice, quick stir and serve it in that copper mug with some mint or a sprig of thyme.

Let’s stay with the vodka theme for a moment. 

One of the most popular summer drinks that doesn’t involve alcohol is the Arnie Palmer. Supposedly the famous golfer used to combine lemonade and ice tea at home. One day a lady overheard him making the request at a country club and subsequently ordered “that Palmer drink” and from that the drink got its now equally famous name. 

Gotta hand it to him, the combination of lemonade and ice tea is damn tasty. Sometimes lemonade can be too tart or too sweet. Adding ice tea kinda smooths out the flavor and makes it more balance. To improve upon near perfection, we add vodka. The best thing about this drink is, for some reason, the taste of vodka disappears, so you can’t even taste the alcohol. Some people call this the John Daly (He’s also a golfer, more famous for his drinking problem than his golf game) but I rather not to be reminded of someone’s drinking problem when I’m having a drink, so let it remain nameless.


“Lemonade…that cool, refreshing drink…”

This one is easy so feel free to play around with flavors. Some people add some O.J., some a splash of cranberry. Be inventive and make it your own. Who knows, maybe some day they’ll name that drink after you.

Ok. Now something for the beer lovers. 

The Michelada is a Mexican drink that combines beer with lime juice. It’s reportedly a great hangover cure because you’re sorta doing that “hair of the dog” thing but since it’s not straight liquor, you’re not simply getting drunk quickly, again.


Thank you for the image!

There are many variations. Some add hot sauce, some worcestershire, some even put clamato (clam juice and tomato juice) in it. We’re not gonna get that adventurous. 

Start with a light mexican beer like Corona or Dos Equis. Add some lime juice, Cointreau (orange liquor,) and wait for it…a shot of tequila. That’s right. After all, this is cocktail list. Don’t shake it up though (it’s got beer = bubbles.) Pour it over a salted rimmed glass. If you’ve got some left from the spicy jalapeno margarita, use those! Now go ahead and drink your hangover away.

Last but not least. We’re going old school.

Ladies and gentleman. The Watermelon Daiquiri!


Not the best picture but hey, I made the glass!

Nothing fancy about this drink. Just peel and cube your watermelon, add rum and triple sec then throw it into your blender. For nice added touch, chop up some mint leaves and toss them in there too. Add some crushed ice and blend away. One very important trick. Make sure you throw your watermelon cubes in the freezer for a few hours before blending. It’ll make the whole thing icy and not watery. Don’t forget your little umbrella!

Okay now that we’ve given you some ideas, you can finally grab that cocktail and head back out to the pool to enjoy the gorgeous day. That magazine isn’t going to read itself.



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So long and thanks for all the fish!

You know that saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea?”

Well, unless you’re giving someone cliched advice about their disastrous dating life, that statement is not true.

We are running out of fish.


Running on empty.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ report, global fish consumption hit a record high of 37 pounds per person per year. At this rate, we’ll probably run out of fish by the time Haley’s Comet swings back around in 2061, especially with the global population growing faster than expected. We all need to find a way to make the Earth’s resources last.

Chefs all over the world knows this, and that is why there is such a push for sustainability in sourcing ingredients and ways to prepare them.

Sure. Every snobby “gourmand” would enjoy some spicy blue fin tataki, Chilean sea bass en Papillot, and wash the whole thing down with a bowl of shark fin soup, but those days will soon be gone. (Many places already banned shark finning for cruelty/ethical reasons.) So let’s do our part. Shall we?


Delicious but not sustainable.

There are many website and articles with lots of statistics and detailed studies on exactly what and where you and how should buy your seafood. We’re just gonna cut through all that and pick some sustainable and delicious stuff to eat.

First off. Eat some of the smaller and less “in-demand” fish like anchovies, mackerels, and sardines. These smaller fish are mostly forage fish that feed on plankton instead of other fish. They’re also high in Omega3 and low in stored toxins. So it’s a win-win situation. Best way to eat them? On the grill. The great thing about these fish is that they’re already packed with oil and flavor. So all you need is some salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Another great use for anchovies is to make this super delicious dip called bagna cauda. Originated from the Piedmont region of Italy, this warm dip can be used for


Love on a plate.

anything as  a spread on bread to a sauce for pasta. Simply combine butter, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil and cook it down and grind it into a paste. It is one of the most amazing and easy things you can make. I added some parsley and served it with some pappardelle and topped it with a fried egg.

Next on the list – shellfish, specifically oysters, clams, and mussels. These filter feeders are not only good to eat, they’re also good for the cleaning the water source. With oysters there are SO MANY ways to scarf down these lovely mollusks. The best is simply a squeeze of lemon and dash of hot sauce. Here’s a #protip: steaming shellfish. Instead of using white wine like many recipes suggests, use vermouth. The herbs and botanicals in vermouth adds a level of complexity to any steamed clams or mussels dish.


Super sustainable!

But avoid foreign farmed shrimps. These things are often a cause for pollution and habitat damage. Not to mention they’re often raised without strict environmental regulations. Stick with domestic shrimp that are either wild caught or raised in fully recirculating systems, just check the label or ask the fish guy.

Ok. One of the most popular fish we love is salmon. Almost every restaurant has a salmon dish. However, most of the salmon we see in the supermarket are not sustainable and could contain high levels of harmful chemicals. When shopping, try to avoid “Farmed Atlantic Salmon.” These bad boys are generally raised in open cages and their waste goes directly into the water. Also did you know it takes up to three pounds of small fish to grow one pound of salmon? Talk about NOT sustainable.


Salmon with grapefruit and greens.

The alternative is to look for either wild caught or inland tank raised salmon from Alaska. They’re equally delicious and you can prepare them just like any salmon dish. My favorite is just keeping it simple. Hard sear with the skin side down so that it’s crispy, drizzle some rosemary infused olive oil to finish. Serve it with some pan roasted corn hash or simply on top of some salad and grapefruit.

There are a LOT of websites and information out there to wade through. The best resource is the good people at Monterey Bay Aquarium. They’ve developed a Seafood Watch program that helps both consumers and businesses make healthy choices for the environment.

From farmers to chefs to consumers, everyone would like a more sustainable way to live, to eat, to enjoy our stay on this planet without destroying it. Shopping locally, eating seasonally, and learning how to grow and preserve food are all things we can do to help ourselves in this endeavor.


Eat them with the heads on!!

Next time you’re at the market, talk to your fishmonger. Ask where the fish is from and how is it sourced. The more you know, the more you can help educate others. After all, if we don’t find a way to extend what’s in the ocean, it might not be long before we’re forced to say, “So long and thanks for all the fish!”

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Daikaya Ramen

Ramen. It might be the perfect food.

Proteins, veggies, and noodles combined in bowl of harmonious broth when done correctly, is magic.


Zen in a bowl

And there’s something magical about the ramen at Daikaya.

Daikaya is the creation of Daisuke Utagawa (Creative Director of Sushiko) and Chef Katsuya Fukushima (former chef of José Andrés’ Think Group.)

This 40-seat hip ramen joint is conjuring up a couple of hundred bowls of Sapporo style ramen daily.

What makes their ramen magical?


It’s not the carefully prepared Chintan stock, a complex concoction which contains chicken, beef, and pork that takes over 16 hours to make.

It’s not the custom noodles made by Nishiyama Seimen company and then imported from Sapporo, Japan.

It’s not the toppings that consists of onions and bean sprouts wok fried with minced pork and flavored with garlic and garlic oil.

It’s the delicate balance and perfect combination of all of the above that transforms something as deceivingly simple as a soupy noodles into, magic.

Daikaya serves 4 kinds of ramen, shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso, and veggie. Each with its own unique flavor profile and toppings.

However, ramen is now an interactive experience. You can “built your own” by picking additional add-on items. These range from something as simple as seaweed or canned corn to a complex piece of braised pork belly. So go nuts. The bowl is your oyster.

Aside from ramen, these guys also make a mean plate of pan fried pork gyozas (dumplings). Wash the whole thing down with a can of imported cold sake or a chilled bottle of Sapporo.


Don’t be afraid to slurp, it’s the polite thing to do and everyone around you is doing it. Finally, here’s a #ProTip. Show the cooks some love and choose the menu item that lets you buy the kitchen a six pack ($10), which is the least you can do to say “arigato.”

Daikaya Ramen Shop

705 6th Street NW

Washington, DC 20001


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