Wandering New Orleans in the Heart of Oyster Season   Leave a comment

Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal for the private use of our readers



Swizzle Stick Bar, New Orleans

November in New Orleans brings pleasantly cool temperatures and the heart of oyster season. The city’s classic restaurants are doing brisk business, and several new places of note have opened in the business district. With its intriguing collection of one-off shops specializing in everything from toy soldiers to out-of-print cookbooks, the French Quarter has long dominated the city’s shopping scene, but Magazine Street, particularly the stretch between Jackson and Louisiana, has emerged as a pleasant thoroughfare of boutiques and cafés.


Cochon: Chef Donald Link’s latest effort is a proud celebration of the pig. Set in the business district, it is an airy space with rust-colored walls and plenty of wood accents. The menu has many small plates — the wood-fired oyster roast is superb, and a “boucherie” section is devoted to pork dishes that include excellent ribs with a tart watermelon pickle. Main courses include a tender smoked beef brisket with a zippy horseradish potato salad. Groups of six or more can order a whole roast pig, which comes magnificently dressed on a platter before it is whisked away for carving. Average meal per person, excluding beverages, is about $55.
930 Tchoupitoulas Street, Tel. (504) 588-2123; cochonrestaurant.com

Cuvée: Another outpost in the business district, Cuvée is a charming, low-key space with brick walls, soft lights and a menu full of inventive Creole dishes. A starter billed as a spiced shrimp Napoleon arrives as a layered construction of shrimp, crisp mirliton (a vegetable also known as chayote) and a remoulade filling. We also enjoyed the beautifully prepared redfish stuffed with jambalaya risotto accompanied by green tomatoes and sauced with a tasty barbecue butter. A wine list of more than 650 bottles features intriguing sections of “alternative” reds and whites, such as an Elk Cove Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Average meal per person, excluding beverages, is $65.
322 Magazine Street, Tel. (504) 587-9001

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Commander's Palac

Mandina’s Restaurant: Easily reached by the Canal Street streetcar, this beloved neighborhood spot has made a comeback over the past several years. It’s a family-friendly, cash-only establishment with a lively bar up front and a generous side dining room. The menu includes one of the best turtle soups in town (boosted with a splash of sherry), a luscious trout amandine and, when in season, impeccably fried soft-shell crab. If you visit on a Saturday, do not miss the special — shrimp Creole. Average meal per person, excluding beverages, is $40.
3800 Canal Street, Tel. (504) 482-9179; mandinasrestaurant.comCasamento’s. Casamento’s on Magazine Street, opened in 1919, is a no-nonsense period piece (the interior is all glazed tiles, small tables and fluorescent lights) that celebrates the monarch of mollusks, the oyster. Whether raw, fried, stewed, or stuffed into po’ boy sandwiches, the oysters here are superb. It’s not a fancy place, but a memorable Uptown institution. It’s closed during the summer months, when the oysters aren’t so good. Average meal per person, excluding beverages, is $30.
4330 Magazine Street, Tel. (504) 895-9761; casamentosrestaurant.com


Hermes Bar: The stalwart restaurant Antoine’s recently opened this room on St. Louis Street, and it appears to have achieved instant classic status. With a checkered tile floor and dark wood paneling, it is a congenial spot for a drink or for a bite to eat. For the first time in its 169-year history, Antoine’s kitchen is serving po’ boys, having created one just for the Hermes Bar. The Oyster Foch is a feast of fried oysters combined with pâté and Colbert sauce (a meat-based sauce made with wine, butter, shallots, tarragon and lemon juice) on toasted French bread.
725 St. Louis Street, Tel. (504) 581-4422; antoines.com

The Swizzle Stick Bar: Part of Café Adelaide in the Loews Hotel, this smart, contemporary bar is the domain of Lu Brow, a knowledgeable and effervescent woman who delights in showing patrons how her cocktails are crafted. A fine brandy milk punch was followed by our favorite New Orleans potion, a Sazerac, a bracing mix of sugar, Sazerac rye, Herbsaint (a pastis), Peychaud’s Bitters and lemon. Put yourself in her good hands.
300 Poydras Street, Tel. (504) 595-3305; cafeadelaide.com

Magazine Street Shops

Magazine Antique Mall is a warren of dealers offering a wide array of jewelry, watches, antiques, books, prints, china — the list is almost endless. It’s an engaging spot with a lot of funk and junk. (We walked out with a charming teapot from the renowned Belleek pottery works in Ireland, for which we paid $75 — a very good price.)
3017 Magazine Street. Tel. (504) 896-9994; magazineantiquemall.com

Sucré: As its name suggests, this stylish place is devoted to sweets. Aside from the assortment of individual chocolates (absinthe, Port, gianduja crunch, coconut truffles — the list goes on), you will find luscious French-style macaroons in a rainbow of colors and flavors, from the mint-green pistachio to the bright pink strawberry. All are made in the shop’s 4,100-square-foot “Confection Studio” four miles away and delivered fresh daily. They can be packed for shipping (the striped hatbox is particularly fetching), and if you just want a coffee or a gelato, that is also an option.
3025 Magazine Street, Tel. (504) 520-8311; shopsucre.com

As You Like It Silver Shop: Here you’ll find an impressive collection of silver objects of every description: decorative pieces, frames, tableware, jewelry and more. Makers include Tiffany, Towle, Reed & Barton and Gorham. All of the pieces are handsomely displayed in wood-and-glass cases. We walked out with a beautiful tea strainer that we certainly didn’t need. If you are missing pieces from a cherished pattern, the staff can offer excellent assistance.
3033 Magazine Street, Tel. (504) 897-6915 or (800) 828-2311; asyoulikeitsilvershop.com

Wilkerson Row: Artisan Shaun Wilkerson features his own furniture in this handsome shop. It is all handmade, with cypress being his favored wood, and ranges from tables to hutches to bookcases. The overall style is elegant and spare, suggestive of Shaker but with some ornamental moldings. Strolling through the shop is almost like spending time in a museum; the workmanship is remarkable. Prices range from $295 for night tables to $1,495 for queen headboards to $2,250 for consoles. Mr. Wilkerson counts Jude Law, Ron Howard and Anne Rice among his clients.
3137 Magazine Street, Tel. (504) 899-3311; wilkersonrow.com

Perch Foto

Photo and styling by Valorie Hart

perch: Inside this bright house dating to the 1860s you’ll find an eclectic mix of antiques, furniture, decorative objects, lighting fixtures, pillows and fabrics. You will find items as varied as an antique sewing table, a Venetian mirror tray and mercury lamps. In short, all things that would add an eye-catching element or accent to almost any style of interior. Perch also offers a selection of custom furniture.
2844 Magazine Street, Tel. (504) 899-2122; perch-home.com


Commander’s Palace Restaurant: The Commander’s Palace remains in a category of its own. Its luminous Garden Room is one of the prettiest dining venues in the country, and the service is always clockwork efficient and friendly. On our last visit, we enjoyed chef Tory McPhail’s wild shrimp, pan-seared with local Abita beer, followed by a rich bread pudding soufflé. If you are in town on Sunday, the Jazz Brunch is a favorite local tradition. Start with the classic New Orleans eye-opener, a brandy milk punch. Reservations are highly recommended; those in high season should be made several weeks in advance. Average meal per person, excluding beverages, is $60.
1403 Washington Avenue, Tel. (504) 899-8221; commanderspalace.com


Posted November 10, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in Bed and tango, New Orleans

Unexpected pleasures of the tastebuds   Leave a comment

It has happened before and it is happening again.
They come because they are convinced that undivided attention and plenty of time to work on ways to improve their understanding of tango dancing is worth the sacrifice of being in a city where distracting temptations come from every corner. Shoo, go away great food, jazz musicians leave us alone!They’re up bright and early sipping their coffee, savoring the breakfast fare and reading the Gambit in the shadowy warmth of the porch, the New Orleans steam bath with a window to see the world pass by.Then it is time for tango lessons when they work very hard before heading out for a sightseeing walk of the French Quarter, a Swamp tour or even a visit to Laura’s Plantation. The routine will repeat with minor variations for three and sometimes four days all the while getting real good at dancing the tango like those who really know. At the end they do.

But then, an unexpected surprise awaits them around dinner time.

Tangomans Eggplant Napoleon

Tangoman's Eggplant Napoleon

Eggplant slices marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. Then oven at 350 for 30 minutes.
After cooling, the napoleon are assemble stacking eggplant, tomato, basil, eggplant, polenta, mozzarella, basil and eggplant.
Fifteen to twenty minutes of oven do the trick.

Tonight the Napoleons are served on top of onion and mushroom risotto with a side of Alberto’s signature blackened catfish but only after the two hours of private lessons are over and if only they do good. Just kidding!

A real New Orleans treat at the Bed and tango

A real New Orleans treat at the Bed and tango

Posted September 26, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in Bed and tango

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Photo gallery   Leave a comment

Hone your tango skills and have a taste of the city through the eyes of the locals.

Brad, Ruthie and Domino   Leave a comment

Everyone who comes to New Orleans post Katrina is curious about the flooded areas, like the Ninth Ward.If you have time, we can take you there. This is the house that Brad Pitt, Domino Magazine, and Ruthie Sommers all pitched in on. It’s in the Holy Cross neighborhood right next door to the Ninth Ward.It’s a “green’ house. What cracks me up is that they paint it green inside and out. I guess they want you to really know it’s green. Right now it’s being used as the office for The Global Green Project.

This is the living room. It just doesn’t seem very Ruthie Sommers to me, and really not very Domino either. It looks kind of like a student Ikea deal.

You can visit this house at 409 Andry Street, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 AM until 4 PM. It’s open Saturdays from 10 AM until 1 PM.

There are plans to build an apartment building too, something that is predicted to be ready for occupancy in 14 months or so.

It’s really just another version of the classic shotgun house footprint, using modern architecture, and green products.

The Queen Of The Night   Leave a comment

We recently had another fabulous Bed and Tango weekend. We have bookings open during the whole month, but the one that I really, really suggest is the fourth weekend of the month because on Saturday we are hosting a tango dance party, a milonga, at The Country Club.
The guests we had for the weekend of August 15-18, were Laura and John. Laura is from Baltimore, and John is from Seattle. They are old friends, and decided to meet here in New Orleans to take classes with us, and tool around the city. Laura is a featured actress in our DVD that goes along with our book Gotta Tango.
We pick them up at the airport, and so begins our terrific weekend!They worked hard at their tango lessons, taking two – three hours of classes everyday.Our tango dance parlor is so perfect for lessons. The floor is just great, and it’s such a pretty room too.
A collection of vintage and antique mirrors are hung low, so the dancers can see their feet. We also have a wonderful collection of posters of old tango sheet music covers.
There’s a 100 year old chandelier that came out of our French Quarter home.A ceiling fan had to be sacrificed for beauty, so a vintage table fan helps keep the air moving.
After a few hours of lessons, it’s time to take a nap!
The guest room has an iron four poster.I combine antique linens with Ralph Lauren stripe sheets.The vintage wicker vanity and round mirror are from Ruby Beets (now in Sag Harbor, New York in the Hamtpons).

I purchased it many years ago when I had my little beach house in East Hampton.

The owners, Sharonne and Honey are old friends of mine. The Saarinen style stool is an eBay bargain.

Laura is getting ready to go out.
We might go out to dinner at Dick and Jenny‘s which is a wonderful restaurant in our neighborhood.They serve Creole style food prepared in a modern way.
It’s Friday night, so after dinner, we thought we’d take them to hear some music. One of our favorites is Kermit Ruffins, but he’s not playing tonight.
We head down to Frenchman Street to hear another fave of ours, The Jazz Vipers, who play every Friday night at The Spotted Cat.
The Jazz Vipers play standards, and they really swing it. It’s all acoustic, which is really a treat.
The Spotted Catis a great dive.It’s small, and there’s always a crowd waiting to get in. There’s never a cover charge.You just need to buy a beer or two, and tip the band when they pass the hat. It’s very comfy inside, with couches and arm chairs to lounge in.

There’s always some great art on the walls too.

Believe it or not, there’s even a little space where really cool Swing kids come to dance.The man in the hat is a local character, Uncle Lionel, who usually sings a tune or two with the band when he’s not snagging a tourist gal for a dance.
If we have any energy left, we can walk around the Marigny where The Spotted Cat is located.This neighborhood is filled with wonderful colorful homes. It’s a neighborhood known for artists and bohemians.
The fourth Saturday night is our tango party.We do it at The Country Club, a huge center hall house in the Bywater, another great arty neighborhood next to the Marigny.We clear the tables out of this double parlor, and dance the night away.
There’s really good restaurant, so some people come early for dinner. We start at 9 and go until 1 AM.The Country Clubhas a beach-y theme.They have a huge pool, a full bar, several parlors, one which has a pool table.

The decor is flawless: pale yellow walls, pale blue ceilings, sea grass furniture, tropical style ceiling fans, lush plants, terrific window treatments, great lighting fixtures and all the lights are on dimmers.

We love having our tango dance parties here.
After a night of tango and cocktails, we head home.
We often prepare a late night supper, and sit around the kitchen table talking into the wee hours.
This night, August 16. there was a full moon, and out Cereus plant, The Queen of The Night bloomed! You know they only bloom for a few hours, and often on a full moon night.
Many people host parties to celebrate this rare happening.
Read more about this traditional pass-along plant HERE
So what a wonderful surprise to see this bloom! And it was a full moon too! It just capped off a perfect evening in a a most magical way. Another queen of the night buries her face in the intoxicating fragrance.
A new day comes along, and after breakfast you might want to stroll down Magazine Street, just two blocks from our front door. There are tons of cute shops, coffee places, and restaurants.
We even have a Starbucks on our corner of Magazine and Washington Avenue. Magazine Street cuts through one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in New Orleans, The Garden District.
As you walk across Magazine on Washington Avenue, you’ll find beautiful homes, and a historic old cemetery.
Strolling in these beautiful old above ground cemeteries, is very common here.
Since New Orleans is on an average six feet below sea level, the tombs are above ground and make up for a city within a city. This is Lafayette cemetery, steps away from the Bed and Tango.
Right across the street from the cemetery, is Commander’s Palace.Maybe it’s time for lunch, and the 25 cents Martini special.

Many a star chef has passed though this kitchen. The food is the best, and lunch is the local’s bargain.

After lunch you might want to hop the streetcar on St. Charles Avenue, just steps away from Commanders.You can just ride it from one end to another, and sight see all the spectacular mansions and homes on St. Charles Avenue, which has been called “the most beautiful street in America”.
Or maybe you’ll ride down to the French Quarter.We’re about 25 blocks away.

You can enjoy Jackson Square, a beautiful park in front of St. Louis Cathedral, and a hub of activity of weekends.

Maybe you’ll window shop, and stop in at Hove, a classic perfume shop that has been around for over 50 years.They can mix a custom blend for you.
Back to Washington Avenue, where you can stroll either side of Magazine Street.This house is on our side. One side is The Garden District, and one side is The Irish Channel.
Architecture varies, you have both grand and humble homes.This Creole color scheme is a street or two over from our house.
Shotgun houses are in both neighborhoods.
And of course grand town houses too. Anne Rice grew up in The Garden District, and still owned two homes here when we moved to New Orleans in 2000.

When her husband passed away a couple of years ago, sadly, she left New Orleans.

No matter if a house is large or small, humble or grand, each one is beautiful.The architecture and beauty of New Orleans was one of the reasons we decided to live here.
And nestled under the grand live oaks on Washington Avenueis this humble house – it’s ours!And it’s yours when you come and stay with us. This is the only photo of the exterior I have on hand, taken last Christmas. Our guests love sitting on the front porch.
So now it’s time to take Laura and Johnto the airport. The weekend went way too fast!I hope you like my little Bed and Tango story. We would really love for you to come and visit us soon. And don’t forget the tango party on the fourth Saturday of the month!

Book a weekend now! mizvtheb@yahoo.com