Sorry for the radio silence the past week. I was in Houston and New Orleans for the past week, eating exclusively Asian food in Houston and exclusively southern food in New Orleans. It was certainly a food extravaganza.
In Houston, I was organizing a community meeting for Asians on the issue that I work on. Therefore we were staying near the Hong Kong Market and what is eseentially the Eden Center of Houston. If the Eden Center were on steroids. Huge huge strip malls with tons of Asian supermarkets, restaurants and stores. The shining light of all of this? Lee's Sandwiches!!!! I got my co-workers hooked on Lee's and we went there three times in two days. Lee's, a chain started in Alameda, CA, is a kind of 50's drive through of Vietnamese delis. They have various stations of Asian food. One for bubble tea and sweet bean dessert. One for French pastries and gelato in Asian flavors such as lychee and mango. And finally, one for Vietnamese savory items such as spring rolls, pate chauds (essentially Vietnamese empanadas filled with the Vietnamese cousin to shu mai filling), and finally the sandwiches. Oh the sandwiches. Let's start with the bread because that stuff is good. The bread is kind of a cross between a rustic ciabatta and a soft on the inside/hard on the outside baguette. It's light and crusty without having too hard of a crust. Like most sandwich shops you can choose between various fillings that include cha (Vietnamese spam, don't knock it till you try it!), Vietnamese headcheese, shu mai meat, Chinese BBQ pork, and Vietnamese chicken. The sandwiches are stuffed with pickled carrots and daikon radish, pate, homemade mayonnaise, cilantro, and jalepeno peppers. The sandwiches run about $2.50 and you can buy huge croissants for $1.00. Dear Lee's Sandwiches, please come to Chinatown!!!!
In New Orleans, the standout restaurant was Deanie's a local seafood restaurant with a large a vocal following. From my hosts who lived in New Orleans for the past ten years (excluding the time they spent in Miami due to a Hurricane Katrina), this was pure New Orleans food. The decor was pure local dive complete with fake paneling and formica tabletops. From listening around, my friends and I were the only people not talking in Southern, if not cajun accents. I was gleefully looking forward to my meal. The food didn't disappoint. Rather than bread, we snacked on boiled new potatoes. I don't know how they did it but the potatoes had a warm earthy flavor of their own. They only needed a bare sliver of butter. We split an order of BBQ shrimp. Forgot the sweet tomatoey sauces (which I love), this was a sublime mixture of butter, lemon, spices, thymes and shrimpy goodness. The flavorful succulent shrimp were almost beside the point. We were dipping shrimp, breead, and finally, onion rings into that mess of shrimpy goodness. The biggest compliment I could give, if it were socially appropriate, I would have licked of plate of shrimp clean to continue to taste that sauce. One of my friends wisely ordered the BBQ shrimp pasta which was the BBQed shrimp with pasta and a touch of cream. I regret not ordering it but if I were at Deanie's I simply had to order the Giant Seafood Plate, which I shared with a friend of my hosts. Actually we ordered the HALF SIZED Giant Seafood platter, that consisted of a foot tall mountain of soft shell crab, crawfish balls, shrimp, oysters, catfish and french fries. All fried. If this restaurant could batter fry water, it would, and it would have tasted SOOOOO good. I am not a food waster but we could finish only half of the half sized giant seafood platter. The only down side was the horribly slow service. We saw three other tables that were seated at the same time as us, come and go before we even got our entree.
Back at home, J and I went with our friends the Marrieds to Rustico last night. The food was its usual wonderful self. We went to Buzz afterwards, an oh so trendy coffeehouse and dessert place across the street. Apparently, it's the only place open past 11:00pm in all of Alexandria. Anyway, I had the most bizaare service there. When I went to place my order and asked for a creme brulee, the person behind the counter asked in a snippy voice, "Well HOW are YOU?" Not a perky "how are you doing tonight?" But a hostile, "how ARE YOU!" Umm, fine? Then when I went to pay, I was trying to give the guy exactly change and he just gave me a dirty look. I'm sorry for ordering the creme brulee!
Anyway, we are off to J's parents tomorrow where hopefully we will have much to write about.