Monday, December 31, 2007

Lousiana dreamin'

This is catfish as it was made to be: moist, slightly musty, coated in crunchy cornmeal. You can taste the bayou in every bite.

I used to live in Florida, close enough to New Orleans to attract some great Cajun joints.

This catfish, along with some outstanding smoky red beans and rice and delicious etouffee, was served up this weekend at Culpepper's Louisiana Kitchen.

Now, I should explain that The Gazette's had some ups and downs at Culpepper's.

Nate, our restaurant critic loved it, and he took along a family of New Orleans transplants, who also loved it. On a later visit, however, Teresa, our food editor, complained about the restaurant's food not being hot enough.

Whatever problems they had serving food hot were not at all in evidence when my family checked it out on Friday. The sampler platter arrived steamy as did everything else.

This really was the best Cajun food I've had since leaving Florida.

NOTE: I hadn't called ahead of time, but the owner did recognize me when I came in with my family.

Boston Market still fine alternative

It seems like the more I cook around the holidays, the more I also want to get out ... and since I blew all my money buying my kids Rock Band (damn Microsoft for providing a microphone for tone-deaf kids-- that neighbor kid will be the death of me), eating out also means eating cheap.

La Casita has been a regular stop this past week.

I've been pretty good at avoiding fast food ... the exception was last night. The family went to Boston Market on Galley and Academy. I hadn't been there for a while, and the first thing I noticed was that the spruced up the place. Boston Market, and back when it started as Boston Chicken, was a kind of all-plastic dining room that looked like you could just hose it down to clean it. Now, they have booths, with real upholstery.

The food's about the same. Very moist chicken. Good mashed potato and gravy. A good value, I think. Fed the family for about $20.

But, of course, it's no La Casita.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday dining

Sometimes spending all day in the kitchen preparing the holiday meal just isn't possible. Or maybe it's possible, and you're just tired. Don't reach for the frozen dinner or call Domino's.

I'm sure some restaurants in town will be serving Christmas dinner. One suggestion: Silver Pond, the best Chinese place in town is doing special holiday meals on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Do you know of anybody else who's serving holiday meals? Let us know.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Dining Guide musings

Mike Boyle called a couple of days ago and accused me and my dining team partners of being food snobs.

Mike is the guy with the Lunch Bunch. He has restaurant shows on Comcast and on KVOR. To him, the dining experience is much more about a combination of factors, with the ambiance counting for sometimes as much or more than the food.

For instance, he'd have put the Stagecoach, SouthSide Johnny's and Jose Muldoon's in the guide ... even if the food's not stellar. It's about the experience. You sit and drink margaritas at Jose's in a booth by the fire place, eat some nachos.. and they're fine.

He has a point. We are food snobs. Sure, I appreciate nice atmosphere. The Summit. Plate World Cuisine. The Famous. You feel like you're in big city restaurants. But I also appreciate the hole in the wall. Barney's comes to mind. I don't care that it's a dive. That fried chicken is fried manna from heaven.

Mike says you can't take a date to Barney's. I disagree. If you take a date to Barney's and she doesn't walk out, you know your date has character.

What do you think?