Sunday, September 13, 2009
Don't you feel a little guilty when you hit the sushi bar and you have to tear open a package of disposable chopsticks, knowing you're at the end of a production line that started with a drunken lumberjack chainsawing yet another of Motherfuckin Earth's beautiful trees? Just so you can shove rice and veggies in your spoiled American maw? Well, check your guilty consciences at the door. Little Tokyo will sell you a pair of reusable sticks for $4.00, or let you bring your own for free, and the restaurant'll wash and keep 'em there for you. Wait! Oh shit! Another ice sheet in the Arctic Circle just cracked right under a polar bear nursing her cubs. Her left paws are on the part of the ice sheet floating away toward the left, and her right paws are on the ice sheet floating away toward the right, so she's doing the splits. The cubs gamely hold on to the bear's nipples for a second to avoid falling to a cold, watery death. The bear, enraged by the pain in her nipples, raises up and roars as the cubs lose their grip, tumbling into the ocean. . . .
Sometimes Fair Trade, sometimes not.
I used to bring Vee, our freegan dog, in there. He's the cutest boy. The poor pooch -- he was drinking a nice pint glass of ice water when he knocked it over by accident. Dogs are now banned, though I don't think it had anything to do with Vee.
Fun fact: During the '08 election season, the owner blanketed the place with signs for Constitutional fundamentalist Ron Paul.
Right by Jazz Fest, where I saw Cheeky Black in 2007. Here's a little Big Freedia. Do it for ya. Somebody gawn be my . . . Girl, clap it for ya. We like to shake it for ya. We like to shake it for ya. Shake it like a baby daddy. Ha-ha-Hollygrove.
The best coffee in New Orleans. Fair Grinds has vegan stuff off and on, but as far as I know, it's always Fair Trade.
Zotz, 8210 Oak Street, 861-2224 (BLD)
Zotz is a curious combination of asshole and good company. I was charged a dollar for a two-ounce splash of soymilk in my coffee. That's a predatory business practice -- Zotz's policy, then, is to charge $16 for a 32-ounce container of soymilk it pays maybe $2 for. When a coffeehouse charges an extra 50 cents or dollar for a splash of soymilk in your coffee, not only is this highway robbery in and of itself, but we soymilk drinkers also end up subsidizing cow milk drinkers, who get to guzzle their phlegm for free.
Zots also once boasted of its pro-smoking policy at one point, though I don't know if it does anymore. On the other hand, it is so Fair Trade hipster. And so vegan-optional.
The scene: Hi Mr. Prince Albert-wearing Speed Freak. Hello Stitch-and-Bitcher. Are you knitting me a cell-phone cozy? And is that you in the corner, Mrs. Face-Tattoo? Okay, I love this place. It's twenty-four hours a day of corporate-free coffee drinkin'. I got a stale vegan cookie right before my acupuncture session one day.
Oh, did I mention Zotz serves Che Guevara's favorite beverage, yerba mate? The dude was a leper doctor. You know that yerba mate shit's gotta be tasty. Or it's just because he was from Argentina. Viva Zotz! Drink your coffee here and tell Starfuckers it can go piss up a rope.
I have it on good authority that the honcho behind these restaurants was questioned for jury duty in a capital murder case in Jefferson Parish, New Orleans' death-penalty-lovin' neighbor, see www.blackstrikes.com. The owner said under oath that he would automatically vote for the death penalty in cases where the defendant was found guilty of first degree murder.
That said, the food was as good as the owner's views on capital punishment have been and may still be misguided. See www.deathpenaltyinfo.org. A Jefferson Parish jury recently voted to sentence Patrick Kennedy to death for child rape. Cruel and unusual punishment! you cry? Well, old Patrick was thinking the same thing, and so he took his Eighth Amendment challenge right up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Another Kennedy, Justice Anthony, wrote the decision for the court saying that Patrick was right. Cool. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal acted mad but probably was secretly proud that the state played such an integral role in making extra-double sure the U.S. is no longer the only Western democracy with the death penalty for rape.
So let's get down to brass tacks. The vegetarian soft spring rolls are filled with fresh cilantro and come with the best peanut sauce in the city. Order the pho xau do chay (mixed vegetables with tofu and gluten and pan fried rice noodles), blow on it, then pour directly into your mouth. kittee and I have stabbed each other repeatedly with our forks trying to get fried noodles off each other's plates and would've shot each other except this is Louisiana, and, well, we don't want to wake up one day with Angola warden Burl Cain standing over us with the tiny boner he always gets in the execution chamber when it's lethal injection time. But I digress. Pho Tau Bay gets in on the po-boy action with the vegan banh mi chay, starring fried tofu and dressed with julienne carrots, Chinese radish, onions, cucumbers, and "HOT!!!" (note the three exclamation points, gringos) peppers. I've only ever had something like this in Montreal and Portland, and I don't think I'm talkin out my ass when I say I'm sure it's good here. Lots of folks rave about the soup rau chay, a.k.a., vegetarian soup, but kittee doesn't like it. kittee insists I don't like it either, but I want to give it another try. We both like the many weird desserts, and there are far too many beverages to get into here.
When kittee walks in this place, she must have the same kind of buzz Bush was sportin' when he snuck into Iraq that one Tofurkey Day. The vegetarian page on the menu is long on pretty tasty morsels. kittee has a bone for the sweet-and-sour chicken, which couldn't be more deep fried. I'd be generally wary of the other chicken, gluten, and bean cake offerings on the left side of the vegetarian page. Stick with the right side, especially the Bean Cake w/ Black Pepper and the Bean Cake w/ Curry & Coconut Sauce in Clay Pot. And you'd be a crazy coo-coo lunatic not to get the Vegetarian Salad, which is packed with fried tofu in a light sweet and sour sauce on a bed of cabbage. Extra bonus for the vegan fellas: to use the urinal, you have to stand on an angled board that triggers constant flushing. It's funky smelling, fun and hygienic all at the same time!
Pack yourself into some St. Charles streetcar and get off when it starts to turn up Carrollton. The waitstaff was insanely, touchingly eager to please, and what I ate made me glad that George Bush gave me my $3.00 tax refund or whatever it was (remember that? no, me neither) because it went a long way toward purchasing the best gol-dang spring rolls in the city. The rice paper wrapper was soft and pliable unlike the slightly drier, stiffer version you get most anywhere else, and the roll was ridiculously full of juicy avocado. The seaweed salad is a beautiful thing, too.
Frosty's bubble tea is the messiah. In the future, we will all pray to Frosty's bubble tea and kill people of other cultures in its name. Frosty's has all kinds of crazy fresh fruit, and you get soy milk, not powder to float your bubbles in. I think the sauce for the spring rolls suck big ass, but kittee is into 'em.
If I had a nipple for every time . . . oh, fuck, I've used this metaphor already. Okay, those stinkin' non-vegans, they never shut up about it: "Pizza without cheese? What's the point?" Well, you might ask yourself a complementary question: "Pizza in New Orleans? What's the point?" If you've come here for the pizza, I say, get ready for some punishment, Monsieur Masochist. Nevertheless, this is one of kittee's favorite foods, so we regularly brave the bullets whizzing by, the drunk drivers busting through red lights (in New Orleans, just so you know, it doesn't matter if the light is green, yellow, red, or white, non-Hispanic -- you call it a red light), and the Palmetto bugs the size of Ron Jeremy's member in search of what we know will be underachieving dough-sauce-vegetable food. But you know what, it doesn't even matter, brother, New Orleans is still the greatest, grandest city in the world! At least that's what New Orleanians think. The real question is what should a painter paint. The thing which one can't locate. That's what Mr. Jasper says anyway.
Our New York pizza snob friend Mr. Billy likes to say, If you want some good matzo, go to Rocky's. Well, the whole wheat crust that we get is a bit on the er, um, crackery side, to put it politely, but this is still our favorite pizza parlor, and it can be yours, too. Here's what you do. Order a Big Al's Roasted Garlic or a Farmer's Market with the red sauce. If you don't specify the red sauce, you may end up with the non-vegan white sauce or no sauce at all. Tell 'em to hold all the cheese--mozzarella, feta, all of it--and substitute olive salad (pickled olives, carrots, cauliflower and spices in oil). Then mow down that pizza and guzzle a glass or pitcher of one of the many varieties of the fine local Abita beer. If you're getting poorer while The Man gets richer--or even if you are The Man-- remember that all food tastes better after you don't eat for two days.
One of the things that white New Orleanians like to lick their own balls about (and yes, I mean the women, too) is how wonderfully goddamn nice it is that their city is so fucking diverse.
Cut to the Uptown cultural sensitivity store:
White New Orleans woman: "Hmm, honey, what kind of wallpaper should we choose?"
White New Orleans man: "Oh, Jesus. I can't decide between the black-man-shooting-another-black-man or the second-line theme."
White New Orleans woman: "I love it when we congratulate ourselves."
White New Orleans man: "Wow, I am feeling guilty about my skin privilege."
White New Orleans woman: "Thanks for ruining it, jerk."
What a beautiful tale. And now there's yet another flavor in the gumbo.
That's right: It's Spanglish time on wheels all over New Orleans! Beware the tacos de cabeza y de lengua. Just say, Me gustaria una horchata, and you'll be ok.
Don't be fooled by the name, this is the best Indian food in town. It used to be located in the CBD, close to my work, and I ate there all the time. Sadly, it's moved to the suburbs, but if you're going out that way, you should dash over for some excellent buffet.
The owners have described the menu, which I think is Punjabi, as Indian soul food, and brother man, I say, raise a fist in salute. This place is never crowded, but the masses can go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. You can get tiny French lentils, mixed vegetables, aloo chole, and eggplant, but you're in the wrong place if you're looking for the kind of delicate Indian food that prances around on your tongue. This is comfort food, thick with plenty of oil and spiced with reckless abandon. Wipe up that stew with a yummy roti (tell 'em, to sub it for the naan, and your wish is their command). And if you're feeling extra bossy, ask for spinach without cream or cheese. This is the way the cook himself eats it, and if he's feelin it, he'll share the goodness (though I would suggest adding salt). And now even more insider info: If you luck out and hit this place on Friday or Saturday round about lunchtime, you'll find samosas on the buffet. Horde 'em And don't forget the lemon pickle--them's some good shit right there. You can get a dangerously heavy clamshell's worth of all this stuff for $5.99, or you can pig out in the dining room till your stomach needs stapling for $8.99. Tandoori Chicken, your name sucks, but I don't care what the others say -- I am desperately, gloriously, unhealthily in love with you.
Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Broadmoor Farmers Market 3 pm to 7 pm Free Church of the Annunciation, 4505 S. Claiborne Ave Mid-City Green Market 3 pm to 7 pm 3700 Orleans Ave [pkng lot of American Can Co]
Ninth Ward Markets:
Upper Ninth Ward Market Saturdays, 1pm - 4pm Holy Angels Convent, 3500 St. Claude Ave. Lower Ninth Ward Farmers Market Sundays, 10am - 1pm St. David's Church on St. Claude Avenue
Vietnamese Farmers Market:
Saturdays, 6am - 9am 14401 Alcee Fortier Blvd, New Orleans East -- If you want to get up that early just to buy some snow peas, it's your funeral.
Magnolia Farmer Co-Op & Market Place Open daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Corner of Jackson and Simon Bolivar Avenues
I'm not sure if you've ever heard of it, but there's this tiny little chain of grocery stores that has the kept unionization to a perfect zero percent, even though Whole Foods dictator John Mackey believes in the free will of the individual. Apparently he makes an exception when he's capitalizing on your labor. So a big fuck you to United Auto Workers, but a big fuck yeah to vegan food. Go get the Fair Trade chocolate chips and the one or two other vegan items in the store, but don't tell anyone, or soon you'll find yourself waiting an hour for a space in the parking lot.
Extra bonus review of Whole Foods' pizza: if you dig New York-style pizza, the Whole Foods uptown probably does the best reasonable facsimile. In addition to the usual toppings, you can pile it high with the most scrumptious yuppie delights, including artichoke hearts, button and portabello mushrooms, a mix of eggplant, squash and zucchini, and sundried tomatoes. Just watch out for the Hummers with the Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers whizzing around the parking lot.