Some cocktails are classics and have stood the test of time. The negroni, for example, was first mixed in 1919 and is the number 2 cocktail in global popularity. The whisky sour (# 4 on the list) supposedly goes back to the 1870s. Others have gained popularity over the last few decades but show no sign of fizzing out like many fads have. Take the paper plane for example. This official IBA cocktail, made with equal parts of bourbon, aperol, amaro nonino and lemon was not introduced to the masses until 2007.
The great thing about cocktails is a simple change or two results in a completely different experience. For example, by simply adding chocolate bitters to a boulevardier, you turn it into the Left Hand. Taking such creative liberties allows you to do things like…well…name cocktails after Tragically Hip songs. I thought the Paper Plane would be an ideal candidate for substitution because there are a lot of variations of amaro available. Nonino is a bit of a gateway amaro which seems fitting for something called a Paper Plane. I figured if I were to elevate it to a Silver Jet, a more potent amaro was necessary and that Fernet-Branca fit the bill. This spirit has a strong menthol character which I thought would still blend nicely with the remaining ingredients ( bourbon and aperol hold their own although after the fact I thought campari would work as well)…although some may argue it might taste a bit like jet fuel (full disclosure…this is coming from a guy who likes the taste of cough syrup).
0.75 oz bourbon
0.75 oz aperol
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz Fernet-Branca
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake for 10-15 seconds and strain into a coupe glass.
With so many amaro options available (eg. Montenegro, Averno and Cynar) simple substitutions will often work for many popular cocktails without a lot of thought required. Every combination may not be perfect but it allows one to get better acquainted with various flavour profiles in an effort to find that ideal combination you can boast about. Who knows…you might end up becoming the Brian Flanagan of Canada and subsequently recognized as a Canadian hero all the way from Clayquot Sound to Cape Speer.
Silver jet way overhead Silver jet evergladed grey sheers Silver jet so far off already Silver jet Clayquot Sound to Cape Spear
With about a 140 Hip songs to choose from, some are easier to assign to cocktail names than others. Some are certainly a stretch. When thinking of At the Hundredth Meridian, I was hoping that Crown Royal would fit. Gimli, Manitoba was put on the map in 2016 as the producer of Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest which was named the whisky of the year in Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible. Using my “Who’s Smarter than a 5th Grader?” skills, I deducted that a small town in Manitoba should be somewhere around the 100th meridian. Google confirmed that it is in fact at 96.9887 degrees west so using the same fifth grade skills I rounded to the nearest hundredth and we had a winner.
At the Hundredth Meridian is a song from the 1992 Fully Completely album which many consider to be the Hip’s quintessential album. It became an instant staple in my university CD rotation. As a Hip fan, I think it was a rite of passage if you could flawlessly recite Gord’s famous mid-song soliloquy if I die of Vanity, promise me, promise me that if they bury me some place I don’t want to be that you’ll dig me up and transport me unceremoniously away from the swollen city breeze garbage bag trees, whispers of disease and acts of enormity and lower me slowly, sadly, and properly get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy while under the influence. To this day I can recite it in my sleep.
For the cocktail, I did a simple variation on an old fashioned. I really like triple sec and find it very versatile, even beyond a margarita. I was still trying to bust through a big jar of maraschino cherries from Costco so I thought the juice (almost a simple syrup in itself) would nicely replace the sugar cube. As usual, Angostura bitters are always a good call but I find Dillon’s DSB bitters do just as well.
At the Hundredth Meridian
1.5 oz Crown Royal
0.5 oz Triple Sec
0.25 oz of Maraschino cherry juice
2-3 drops Angostura or Dillon’s DSB bitters
Mix all ingredients together and garnish with an orange peel and a maraschino cherry.
Although “At the Hundredth Meridian” is one of the most recognizable Hip songs, Ry Cooder is surprisingly unknown. In 2003, he was named the number 8th guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine (and 31 by the same magazine in 2015). He has played with numerous comparable and recognized guitarists over his long and illustrious career. In addition to Kingston’s own Tragically Hip recognizing him in the aforementioned song, Queen’s university also awarded him an Honorary doctorate in 2000 leading me to believe that he would be really popular at funerals in the Limestone City.
At the hundredth meridian At the hundredth meridian At the hundredth meridian Where the great plains begin
At the Hundredth Meridian- Fully Completely, The Tragically Hip
The whole covid-19 nonsense has certainly brought out the good and the bad in many. It has also led to an exaggeration of a lot of the behaviors people already displayed before the world changed. The extroverts have taken to social media reminding us of the dangers of not staying home or the perils of experimental vaccines while the introverts have used the time to hide behind their walls and use these platforms to remind us all how introverted they are. I’ve been called an extroverted introvert by my friends and colleagues so I guess that entitles me to a wider spectrum of behavior, one of which is feeling rather recluse for extended periods of time.
The Last Recluse is a song from the Hip’s We are The Same album. This is arguably one of the Hip’s more somber collections, containing songs like The Depression Suite, Coffee Girl and Now the Struggle Has a Name and the Last Recluse. Although written well before Covid-19 and the explosion of social media, the lyrics of the latter track could lead one to credit the band with a clairvoyant look into 2020. It’s a tale of abandonment and diminished hope which is a feeling a lot of us have had at times given the ongoing indications that things won’t change anytime soon despite one’s efforts. This reality has made me a bit reclusive at times, so I can certainly relate.
Since there are numerous references to the Canada goose in the song’s lyrics, it seemed a fitting name for a cocktail made with gooseberries. There are numerous variations of this fruit but in this case, I used the readily available cape gooseberry (aka. goldenberry or ground cherry) as inspiration. They have a rather sour but complex flavour which makes for an excellent base for almost any spirit. I was in a mezcal mood so I thought a take on a margarita would fit the fruit’s profile nicely. I also wanted to add a little heat to compliment the sourness so I threw in some jalapeno for extra punch.
The Last Recluse
0.5 oz mezcal
1 oz tequila blanco
0.5 oz triple sec
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz simple sugar
6-8 cape gooseberries
5-7 slices of jalapeno
Muddle the gooseberries and 3-5 slices (depending on your preference). Add all other ingredients to an shaker filled with ice. Shake for 10 seconds or so. Fine strain into a cocktail glass with or without ice and garnish with remaining jalapeno slices.
Whatever 2021 brings, I can’t see myself going an extended period of time without reverting to transient reclusive tendencies (especially if the covid conspiracy morons continue to spew nonsense). Ironically, if this me the “last of the immune” then so be it…I’ll stay safe and take my chances because I won’t have to social distance from Jack Daniels or Tom Collins anytime soon.
Who are you? The last recluse? Who are you? The last of the immune?
The Last Recluse- We are the Same, The Tragically Hip
Earlier in the year I wanted to do something with a bottle of Mezcal Agua Santa which was recommended to me by a friend of mine over the often more expensive and celebrity endorsed options in the LCBO . What made the story even better is that the founder of this Mezcal, Carmen Marron, lives in Toronto and tells a great story of moving to Canada from Mexico and the perseverance needed to get such a difficult business off the ground. It’s a stellar example of a female immigrant’s passionate entrepreneur spirit and you can taste her Mexican pride with every sip. For a cocktail, my mind wandered to some take on a margarita. To me, Mezcal is the scotch of the white spirits, offering a unique smoky flare to a drink similar to what a peaty single malt might do in a something like a “penicillin”.
I’ll be honest on this one….I relied on google to try and find a Hip song what would complement my use of mezcal. Even worse is the fact that I did a search by simply typing Mexican and the Hip in the search engine. The top result was “The Completists” which is a rather short and mellow song in the middle of the Music @ Work album. Specifically, there’s a few lines in the song which reference Mexican pot and a desert so that worked for me.
Like scotch, with Mezcal a little goes a long way. Quite often a Mezcal margarita or sour will be paired with its cousin tequila to temper a bit of the smokiness. I also think a pinch of salt is a must for most mezcal cocktails..that smoky salt combination is incredible. I didn’t sway too much from a traditional margarita this time but used orange juice instead of simple/agave syrup and added some Angelica bitters for good measures.
1 oz tequila blanco
0.5 oz mezcal
0.5 oz triple sec
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz lime
2-3 drops of angelica or mole bitters (I used Dillon’s)
Dash of salt
Add everything except salt into a shaker and shake with ice. Poor into a rocks glass with ice and sprinkle with a dash of salt. Garnish with cucumber or lime.
I’ll admit that this is not my most creative concoction but things like a margarita don’t really need a lot of shake up (pardon the pun). That said, it goes well with my less than creative pairing with a Hip song…but I don’t want to sound defeated.
You lured me with your bad intentions You lured me with your Mexican pot You lured me with desert dimensions You lured me a lot.
The Completists- Music @ Work , The Tragically Hip
I’m a firm believer that one of the easiest way to jazz up a cocktail is to use fresh herbs. The taste of even classic drinks like an old fashioned or a whiskey sour can be significantly modified with sprig of thyme or some rosemary simple syrup. When I was thinking about this, my mind wandered to the Hip song “Long Time Running” and the obvious play on words involving one of my favorite herbs. It started as a quiet and misunderstood song from the Road Apples album and eventually became the title of Hip’s critically acclaimed film which documented their final tour following the announcement of Gord Downie’s cancer diagnosis. In this production, the performance of this song was particularly moving, a somber yet satisfyingly reflection of the band’s illustrious career. I equate it to other songs, such as “The One I Love” by R.E.M, in the sense that on the surface it seems to suggest peace or love but a deeper dig uncovers pain and suffering, a fitting theme to a film which some call the band’s visual eulogy.
I initially made this during the summer and is one of the few vodka cocktails I made. That said, I think it would go just as nicely with gin as well. I used green chartreuse for a little spice and some sweet and floral St. Germain to balance it out. I topped it with a splash of Fentiman’s elderflower soda to boost the St. Germain and lighten it up a bit and then finished it with a fresh sprig of thyme.
Long Time Running
1.5 oz Vodka or Gin
0.5 oz St. Germain
0.25-0.5 oz Green Chartreuse
0.5 lemon juice
Fentiman’s Elderflower soda (optional)*
Shake ingredients together in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a rocks glass and top with elderflower soda.
* If you don’t have elderflower soda, you can replace with 0.5 oz of thyme simple syrup and club soda. Add the simple syrup to the shaker, strain and add club soda (if desired) to taste.
Drive-in’s rained out Weatherman wet-fingers the sky He pokes it out, he pulls it in He don’t know why It’s the same mistake
Long Time Running- Road Apples, The Tragically Hip
My recommendation is to drink this while listening to its namesake sitting in a Muskoka chair with a background of loon hollers or cricket chirps. Otherwise, throw on the documentary and toast a glass to one of the most iconic Canadian bands to ever grace this earth. RIP Gord.
One of the many debaucheries of 2020 included the presidential election. The first debate could be equated to a playground spat. I haven’t seen two seniors engage in such nonsense since the infamous spat between CFL legends Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca in 2011. If you recall, that epic fight featured flowers and cane swinging and a sombre reminder us that Canadians are in fact not as polite and we’d like to think.
As a result, I would be remiss if I didn’t celebrate election night with a couple of hip cocktails which reflected my thoughts on the battle to be the leader of the free world (sic). My thoughts went to trying to capture the essence of the many factors that made this such a shit show. I figure I’d use a couple of swing states as my basis.
Let’s start with Ohio. Although I’m writing this after the fact, the Joe King in me suspected that Ohio would go red and I thought that Chagrin Falls would be an ideal hip song to capture the feelings that many have about the Trump administration. Chagrin Falls is a suburb of Cleveland which is where Donald Trump captured the Republican nomination in 2016. I also thought about their volatile NFL team and wanted a drink which reflected the brown and orange. As a result, my mind naturally went to ‘merican whisky for the brown (not to mention that a good bourbon brings up memoires of Mabel’s…Michael Symon’s Cleveland BBQ and bourbon bar) which I mixed with orange flavoured triple sec (which also paid homage to Trump’s Hallowe’en hue) and finished with DSB bitters to reflect the feelings of many over the past 4 years.
1.5-2 oz of bourbon (I used the aptly named Larceny)
0.75-1 oz triple sec
0.5 oz simple syrup
A few dashes of orange of cherry bitters (I used Dillon’s DSB).
Stir all ingredients together and serve with ice and/or orange and cherry bitters. Serve in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with orange and/or cherry.
Chagrin falls (in Chagrin Falls, Ohio) Chagrin Falls (where the unknown don’t even go) Chagrin falls (in Chagrin Falls, Ohio) So falls Chagrin Falls (where the unknown don’t even go) So falls Chagrin Falls So falls Chagrin Falls
Chagrin Falls- Phantom Power, The Tragically Hip
As for my democratic nominee, I headed a bit east to eventually blue Pennsylvania which was fitting given it’s Biden’s birth state and more specifically his hometown of Scranton. Naturally, that brought me to what the city is best known for (other than the Houdini museum of course)….The Office. Among many of Michael Scott’s antics was the Moroccan Chirstmas party and specifically his drink…the one of everything which he described as “equal parts scotch, absinthe, rum, gin, vermouth, triple sec, and two packs of Splenda“. I did my best to make it a little less fictional to avoid inducing my gag reflex. Since it sounded somewhat like a Long Island Iced tea so I went that route (not to mention the irony that Trump was born in NYC and doesn’t drink). In keeping with the Hip theme, I called this “Fully Completely” given the fact it contains a whole shelf on any bar rail. So, I mixed whisky, vermouth, absinthe, rum, gin and triple sec and topped with coke and added the signature two packages of Splenda. I’ll be honest..it was awful mainly because the absinthe (which you normally use in small quantities like a rinse) took over everything. It was like drinking a coke through a piece of black licorice and the addition of the Splenda added a “diet” flavour that made it worse. Nonetheless, it nicely reflected the mess that was and would continue to be the 2020 US election.
0.5 ounces of each whisky, vermouth, absinthe, rum, gin and triple sec.
2 packages of Splenda
Mix the spirits together in a highball glass and top with a generous amount of coke. Sprinkle with 2 package of Splenda. Try to enjoy.
Exonerate me Then forget about me Wait and you’ll see Just wait and you’ll see
Fully Completely- Fully Completely, The Tragically Hip
Despite early jitters, my clairvoyant cocktails came through..Ohio went red and Pennsylvania eventually went blue. I was also reminded in drink form of how asinine Michael Scott and his antics on “The Office” were. Regardless, a six booze drink was a nice way to take the edge of an otherwise stress filled evening. If and when I travel to the US again, I think I’ll try and invent a Joe King narrated GPS that only directs me through blue counties..it may add a few hours to the trip but it least it means there’s a lesser chance I will have to sip coffee with somebody who’s still sporting a MAGA hat they picked up in a big box discount bin.
I love honey and I think it goes great in a cocktail. I also wanted to take advantage of some fresh rosemary I had in the fridge so I boiled up an infused simple syrup. Using pear as the foundation (it also helped that I had some Dillon’s pear bitters kicking around), gin as my spirit and Fever Tree ginger beer as the mix, I dreamed up the “Honey, please”. This cocktail is a homage to the song from the 2009 “We are the Same” album. Gord Downie once described the song as being about somebody who makes you realize that everything you mean and feel is on the other side of this feeling. In other words, someone who can change your perspective and get you out of a rut when you need it. I guess you can say that booze does the same thing. It’s a particularly catchy Hip song partly because of Bobby Baker’s use of the mandolin which is reminiscent of an old Zeppelin tune mixed with Losing my Religion by R.E.M.
1.5-2 ounces gin (depending on strength preference)
0.5 ounce rosemary simple syrup
0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce pear nectar
Few dashes on Dillon’s Pear Bitters (optional)
0.25 ounces honey
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice and pour into a high-ball or collins glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
Honey, maybe everything you need Is on the other side of this feeling Honey, please
Like most people, I have to adapt to the new reality. I opened up this blog for the first time in quite a while and realized the last time I posted was about a week after the shit hit the fan with Covid-19. At the time, I thought it would be a hiccup in my continued efforts to conquest restaurants across Canada and the US. More than 4 months later, I have yet to sit inside a restaurant, stay in a hotel or travel much further than an hour’s radius for purposes other than either golf or picking up my son from university. I went through the same adaptive mechanisms as many others…I made sourdough, hunted for flour, read online cooking tutorials, gained 10 pounds and likely became an alcoholic. The latter evolved from home consumption of beer and cheap wine to cocktails and more expensive vinos ( I could justify the fact that I no longer spend 75 bucks on a bottle in a restaurant so I could drop $40 at the LCBO). Now, I relish a trip to the LCBO to invest in yet another bottle of something to patch the void once filled with $20 creative concoctions at a hipster Toronto watering hole. I’m now a member of Amazon Prime (yes…2018 called) and have made frivolous purchases including a cocktail shaker kit as well as highball and stemless martini glasses to prepare and vessel the results of my alcoholic alchemy.
I’ve also worn my dog’s nails down walking her while listening to hours of Spotify. One thing that hasn’t changed is my affinity for the Tragically Hip. Regrettably, one of the first causalities of covid for me was the Gord Sinclair concert scheduled at Massey Hall in April. Thankfully, I was able to listen Taxi Dancers on repeat for a few weeks to ease the pain.
Collectively, all of these factors got me thinking. While walking the dog yet again, I started thinking of the titles of Tragically Hip songs and realized many of them would make great cocktail names and my growing arsenal of potent potables would give me the ammunition needed to pay homage to my favorite band. With something like 150 songs to inspire me, we may have a vaccine well before I dream up all my namesake drinks and whittle my stash down to a trunk full of 20 cent returns. Let’s get started…..
I’m a big Tragically Hip fan. In fact, I recently was informed by spotify that I was one of the top 1% fans worldwide so I figured it was time to write about them. I spent many university days spinning Road Apples, Fully Completely and Day for Night over and over while doing everything from drinking to…ummm….studying. The release of their greatest hits album, “Yer Favorites” solidified the age old argument of whether the slang for yes should use the letter “e” or “u”. Yep..I was right all along.
North of the border, they have had countless cult and commercial hits. Many tell stories of Canadiana or human struggle (which in many cases seem synonymous) . Others are poetic recounts of important historical moments. People like Tom Thomson, Jacques Cartier and Bill Barilko became household names because we sung them out loud while reciting songs like Three Pistols and Fifty Mission Cap while trying not to fuck with the 401.
During their farewell tour, CBC ran a poll to determine the favorite hip songs of Canadians. Not surprising, many of the mainstream classics topped the list including Fully Completely’s Locked in the Trunk of a Car, Courage and the number one fan favorite Wheat Kings, a haunting ballad about the false conviction of David Milgaard. It also cited Day for Night’s Grace, Too and Nautical Disaster which were the songs they performed during their only SNL appearance in 1995. Also on the list was Ahead by a Century which was later resurrected as the theme song to CBC’s Anne with an E.
Instead of reiterating the obvious, I thought I would focus on my favorite but less mainstream Hip songs (you can’t become top 1% in the world only listening to New Orleans is Sinking). Here are my top 10 lesser known buy favorite tracks (in chronological order):
10. Cordelia- Road Apples
It starts with Angst on the planks, spittin’ from a bridge…Just to see how far down it really is. ..a vision that brings me back to days when I would guesstimate height using my own saliva at various Sudbury landmarks. It’s a little angry with fantastic sound and was often overshadowed by more pop-like and popular songs like Little Bones and Twist my Arm.
9. Put if Off- Trouble at the Henhouse
While many default to Gift Shop and Springtime in Vienna, this is one of my favorites. In fact, I usually listen to this album backward, not for satanic purposes but it makes Put it Off the lead track. This song speaks of many dichotomies in which I can relate given my documented and less than adorable moodiness. I often either hum the mantra Put it on or Put it off depending on my state of mind at the time.
8. Emperor Penguin- Phantom Power
I never understood why this song isn’t more popular. It pops into my head constantly, especially when I’m watching Atypical because of Sam’s love for Antarctica and penguins in particular. Plus, given the devotion to the egg, it reaffirms that the fact that not all males in a given species are complete assholes.
7. Sharks- Music@Work
Sharks don’t attack the Irish, It’s mostly Australians. Whew, I’m safe. I just love Gord’s mumbling chorus in sync with the brilliant guitar.
6. The Dire Wolf- In Violet Light
I had no idea who Tallulah Bankhead and Canada Lee were before this song but their story of strong friendship in an era of racially motivated social nonacceptance was impressive and inspiring. They costarred in the 1944 Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat. This song is another example of excellent songwriting with a great story.
5. The Dark Canuck- In Violet Light
If this song came out before my kids were born, it might have considered naming them apple, zippo or metronome. I love the rather radical change in tempo partway through this song. It goes from a classic Hip ballad to a uptempo and haunting tune reminiscent of Nautical Disaster or Locked in the Trunk of a Car.
4. World Container- World Container
The poetic lyrics of this song combined with the crescendo of angst in Downie’s voice makes for a great listen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “How’d it get so late so early?'” in my own life so I karaoke that lyric in the car every time I listen to the song.
3. Last Night I Dreamed you Didn’t Love Me Anymore- World Container
This is a song about an exaggerated paranoia about falling out of love which can also serve as a great breakup song. Gord’s singing which escalates from frustration to desperation as the song progresses gets me every time.
2. The Depression Suite- We are the Same
This song reminds me of a Day in the Life by the Beatles and Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel. Sure, it doesn’t tell a story quite the same but does give one a rather decent lesson in geography and is a near 10 min experience with a few different and equally enjoyable melodies.
Queen of the Furrows- We are the Same
This is just a good old farming song with a great beat and a signature Hip sound with nothing so deep that it’s meaningless. There’s even mention of a toasted Western..can you ever go wrong with a toasted Western.
Favorites is a newish Thai BBQ joint which opened on the Ossington stretch. It’s secretly tucked behind a Sam James coffee bar. Once you enter, you are brought into a surprisingly spacious area with a variety of seating options. It’s unique among many Thai places in Toronto for a couple of reasons: first it focuses more on grilled items versus standard noodle rice dishes or spring rolls and second it suggests wine as the main alcoholic companion to the food as opposed to Singha beer or cocktails. According to the restaurant, the key is smart whites and lighter, chilled reds to compliment but not drown to the more intense Thai flavours. We complimented our meal with la Cuvee du Chat, a fantastic French Gamay which makes me want to head to the SAQ in Quebec to grab a few bottles.
Food wise, we selected a variety of dishes from each section, all of which was served sharing style of course. First was the Betel leaf wraps (nope..not shrimp fresh rolls) with smoke trout, roe and galangal caramel. The edible leaf housed a variety of flavours and textures which will well rounded and a great indicator of what was to come.
Next we had the octopus salad complemented with pomelo and banana blossoms. The octopus, although hidden under a copious amount of greenery, was well prepared and the flavours once again were bursting with classic Thai sweet and salty notes.
Since the whole concept of favorites is Thai BBQ, we ordered a trio of options from the grilled menu which included Chiang Mai style pork sausage, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and grilled duck. The mushrooms were the star, full of smokiness and subtle heat from the BBQ and chili vinegar respectively. The raw cabbage leaves, which were served with all these items, best complimented this dish the best, both in flavour and texture. The duck was nicely rendered and served a stunning medium rare which was nicely complimented with classic thai flavours in the form of a tamarind dip. The sausage was decent but the least thrilling of the three. I just didn’t find it as abstract and entertaining as the other grilled dishes.
The last dish, the curried prawn pineapple fried rice, was the most recognizable dish on the menu by traditional Thai restaurant standards. It was as good as the others I have had at places like Pai but after the rest of the dishes I had, maybe a little too normal.
The dessert choices were small but still represented a return to the bold, vibrant and unique flavours of the rest of the menu featuring a passionfruit and chocolate parfait as well as coconut pannacotta. Thankfully, neither were extreme on sweetness but both were bold on contrasting textures and flavours.
I’ve always thought if I ever open a restaurant I might name it “Whatever” or “Not Sure” since that’s the answer I usually get when I ask the family where they want to go. That’s why I like the name of this place. If a friend comes up to me and asks where I want to go I can simply say one of my favorites. It deviates from the noodle heavy tendencies of most Thai joints and offers the same balanced flavours in the form of more protein heavy BBQ choices. Even the wine and desserts, two aspects normally less anticipated in Thai cuisine were some of my favorites, much like listening to songs like Sharks or the Depression Suite on the same playlist as New Orleans is Sinking.
I have heard mixed things about New Orleans. Some have told me they love the party atmosphere while others say the city was a mess before Katrina and is even worse after. I landed with “New Orleans is Sinking” playing over and over in my head. The flight from Detroit was decent and was made more exciting by a half dozen drunkish but well-behaved guys who were on the way to a bachelor party.
My goals for the day were simple. First, I wanted to get accustomed to the weather which characterized by constant humidity, warm nights and random thunderstorms. Second, I wanted to explore the city a little and hit up a few DDDs along the way. Third, I was looking forward to ending by going to the James Beard nominated Mo-Pho for dinner.
Once I hit the hotel, I began my trek toward the lowering garden district which is characterized by small shops and some of the hottest restaurants in NOLA. Among these eateries lie 4 triple Ds. My first stop was Joey K’s, an American restaurant with a cajun/creole flare and daily specials ranging from oven roasted turkey to ham hocks with lima beans. I was surprised how busy it was given the time of day. I sat at the bar and was greeted by a friendly waitress who promptly served me a frozen goblet of Abita. Afterwards, I chatted with the waiter and, given I had just landed, decided to go authentic with the eggplant napoleon appetizer ( I was drawn to the crawfish cream sauce) and rice and beans with smoked sausage. He chuckled a bit and suggested I stick with a side of the rice and beans since the appetizer was “big”. It was a good call. The eggplant was huge and ridiculously delicious. It was served piping hot and the sauce was the star. The rice and beans were bona fide belly friendly and I was quite happy I didn’t opt for the full portion.
Goblet of Abita Beer
Eggplant Napolean $11
Rice and Beans $3
In the end, Joey K’s has a fun vibe, good service and great food whether you are looking for comfort food or authentic southern cooking.
Service- 4.5 Guyz
Vibe- 4 Guys
My second stop was Mahony’s Po’boy which was located just a little down the road in the Garden district. It wasn’t nearly as busy as Joey K’s but it was a bit later. Once again, I was greeted by a friendly waitress who recommended a Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager which was the perfect pairing for the heat and humidity. The Po’Boy is a New Orleans staple which legend says was named after the fact that striking workers were named poor boys and that restaurateurs Benny and Clovis (great names) Martin coined the term for that reason. The peacemaker is a particular po’boy which at one time contained shrimp and oysters but has evolved (at least in the case of Mahony’s) as a sandwich with one or the other. After a chat with the waitress, I opted for the fried oyster version. I realized I’m not really a fan. I love raw oysters and frying them is a disservice, especially when served between a toasted baguette, especially when the condiments are skimpy and the cheese isn’t melted.
Food- 3.5 Guyz
Service- 4 Guyz
Vibe- 3 Guyz
Total- 10.5 Guyz
My third stop in the Garden district was the Creole creamery,a rather unorthodox DDD in the fact that all they serve is ice cream. From reading the reviews, I was told to expect bold and unique flavours. Deep down I was hoping for something really cool like rice and beans but that said, there was still some interesting choices. Even better was the fact they offered a 4 scoop sampler for $4.50 which allowed for a little diversity. I decided on cream cheese, hibiscus cranberry, thai basil coconut and magnolia flower. When I have ice cream I hope the custard base balanced enough to give great mouth feel but not so overwhelming that it masks the unique flavour of each offering. CC passed the test. Each scoop was distinct and recognizable. The magnolia flower was the best of the bunch; it was subtle but very present. The environment was very American ice cream parlor but the service was quite laissez-fare.
Food- 4/5 Guyz
Service- 3/5 Guyz
Vibe- 3.5/5 Guyz
Total- 10.5/15 Guyz
I was hoping that a 15 km walk through the garden of eatin’ would burn some of the food I ate and get me ready for my nightcap at MoPho. Lead by James Beard and food and wine “best new chef” Michael Gulotta, MoPho is best described as Southeast Asia by way of New Orleans. I was excited to see how exactly the two would be fused.
The location is a bit of a hike out of our New Orleans core and the space itself is very stripmally. That said, the interior is a trendy interpretation of a Thai joint and they have a great and nicely cheesy patio out back which we braved along with the normal early summer humidity of Louisiana.
For the most part, the menu was straight forward Thai and Vietnamese with a little Southeast America in the form of Cedar Key clams and P and J oysters. Other hints of New Orleans included Creole cream cheese (similar to the aforementioned ice cream) roti and annatto (a condiment commonly used in Latin food sometimes in the Philippines) beignets. They also offer a nice array of local pints which strengthened the local flare just a bit.
We ordered an array of dishes including the Som Tan salad, mimita brisket, clams, paella, the pork belly bowl, wings, brussel sprouts and the lamb curry. In general, the flavours were very South Asian and one would need to use their imagination a little to fully appreciate any huge gulf coast influence. That said, the food had good, aggressive flavours and a nice amount of spice. If you are a fan of a delicate pho, “the standard” was a bit heavy compared to most I have had. The roti and the beignets were delicious. The brussel were the comfort foodie food and the wings were a decent representation of this seemingly southeast staple.
Mitmita Spiced and Smoked Brisket $18
Pepper Jelly Braised Cedar Key Clams $18
Slow Roast Lamb in Green Curry $23
Cast-Iron Fried Sticky Rice Paella $28
The Standard Pho $13
Glazed Pork Belly Bowl $14
The Mopho Som Tam Salad $9
Crispy Chicken Wings $12
Crispy Brussels Sprouts $6
In the end, I was hoping for more of a Southeast meets Southeast experience but that said, it was still a tasty experience in Thai/Vietnamese fare. In general, Day 1 was a good day. Traditional food started the day and some Asian fusion ended it. It was clear I needed a few more days of stuffing my face before I could reach a verdict on the state of the dining scene in a city that the Tragically Hip have assured me has been sinking for almost 30 years.