Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Kupcake Factory, Mr. B's Bistro, Sucre, New Orleans LA

After a decent time at the Aquarium of the Americas and Riverwalk and a great time at the Okeanos parade my fair skin was getting quite red, my throat quite dry, and my belly quite hungry. With most restaurants having already finished breakfast or brunch hours I originally had planned to swing by Johnny’s for a Po-Boy. Making my way from Canal to St. Louis I was met by a line of more than 50 people and opted for plan B – a trip to the bar at Mr. B’s. Heading up St. Louis I stopped short when I saw a small sign in the street indicating a store called Kupcake Factory and advertising a butter pecan cupcake.

Making my way into the small cupcakery I spoke to the friendly clerk and was informed that they were sold out of the butter pecan – as well as three other flavors. Explaining to me that they are actually a chain I asked him for a recommendation and he suggested the Red Velvet - an option I’d have purchased whether he recommended it or not. Deciding to save room for other delicacies I paid the modest $2.25 (a steal compared to LA or NYC) and made my way to the street.

Featuring what was reported to be cream cheese frosting I have to say I didn’t sense much of the tanginess I’ve come to expect from a cream cheese frosting – nor did I catch the cocoa high notes that I expect from a red velvet. Moist and sweet for sure, the taste was pretty much standard hostess chocolate – no better, no worse. Browsing their website I must say some of their other flavors intrigue me and I’d consider checking them out again, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Heading up to Royal I was surprised to see Mr. B’s was still full of people chatting over their brunch in the dining room shortly after 3pm – asking the host if they were still seating I was told “no, but we serve most of our best stuff at the Bar all day.” Content with this I made my way over to the bar where I was seated next to a friendly fellow from Mississippi who insisted I “must” try the BBQ shrimp – his pick for the best dish in all of New Orleans. Explaining to him that I had every intention of doing so the waiter/bartender must’ve overheard our conversation and chimed in that the shrimp wasn’t his favorite dish, but that it was very good. When I asked him what his favorite was he stated “The Gumbo Ya-Ya.”

With water filled and my choices already made by my neighbor and the bartender (the two item’s I’d had every intention of getting anyhow) I sat back and chatted with my neighbor while watching the basketball game at the bar. Arriving without much delay was a hot loaf of crusty French bread with a great crisp exterior and pillowy soft interior – perfect for eating but moreso for soaking. Shortly following the bread was my cup of Gumbo Ya-Ya – the best gumbo I’d have on my visit to NOLA. Served piping hot and featuring a thick dark roux, light on rice and heavy on spicy andouille and shrimp – plenty of bite without blunting the nuances of the individual ingredients – wonderful.

A short time passed and I reflected on the delicious gumbo before my second dish arrived – a half order of the famous Mr. B’s Barbequed Shrimp. Three enormous shrimp – head and tail on, served with two pieces of grilled country bread and resting in a sauce that may as well have been 1/3 butter, 1/3 pepper, and 1/3 garlic with a bit of Worcestershire and lemon – the first time in a while that I’ve had to work so hard for food (shelling) but thankfully entirely worth the effort. First devouring the tender yet snappy shrimp that were accented but not overwhelmed by the sauce – and then soaking up the sauce with the remaining bread – I’m glad they publish the recipe online because it is definitely something I plan to do at home. To be fair, I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour and $20 than the meal I had at Mr. B’s.

Following Mr. B’s was more shopping, walking, browsing, and people watching – having heard that Bacchus would be the event of carnival I made my way down toward the garden district around 5:00 and wandered the mansions while snapping pictures before heading down to Magazine to find a restroom and another destination on my food radar – Sucre – any place serving King Cake Macarons was certain to catch my attention. Entering the small shop I immediately noted the smell – cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, chocolate – a good sign to be sure. I next noted the temperature – warm to the point where I had to take off my blazer to avoid sweating.

Browsing the selections while a couple of groups in front of me placed their order I was greeted by one of three friendly youngsters who asked me if I’d like a sample of any of their gelato. Affirming I tasted the southern peach (yum,) praline (okay,) and sour cherry (fantastic) before I placed my order for one “Southern Bread Pudding” and two Macarons plus a glass of water. Explaining to me that the bread pudding would take a few minutes to warm up and dress I took my water and went to a table near the door (where it was cooler) to wait.

A few moments passed before my server arrived with the Bread Pudding – warm and gooey, topped with chocolate, and alongside a scoop of King Cake Gelato as well as the Macarons on two separate long white plates. Beginning with the bread pudding – a small piece for $6 – all I could do was sit back, smile, and be impressed. Rich and buttery brioche, beautifully sweetened custard, and topped with a melted square of sucre chocolate and an ample amount of caramel and fudge – light on the tongue but heavy in flavor and buttery cinnamon texture – a flawless bread pudding. Moving onto the slowly melting Gelato – creamy and smooth, accents of cinnamon and pecan, plus chunks of glittering king cake speckled throughout.

Moving on to the Macarons, they were unfortunately sold out of the chocolate, coffee, and pistachio so I opted for a caramel to go along with the King Cake version. While I found the caramel to be rather plain and moreso a “vanilla” than caramel, the King Cake version tasted precisely like the gelato and my King Cake from Haydel’s. Featuring a crisp shell that gave way to fluffy but somewhat overly dense cookie (compared, say, to La Maison du Chocolate) I do believe that Sucre would benefit from refrigerating their Macarons to avoid any moisture gathering as the day goes on. Good, but not “great” macarons – at least not as good as the Bread Pudding.

Sitting and taking in the scenery my water was refilled without needing request and despite the busyness of the store I was not rushed in any way to give up my seat after finishing. Browsing the selection of cookies, candies, cakes, and confections – many Valentine’s Day themed – and subsequently reading about the owner and pastry chef I have to say that of all the bakeries I visited in New Orleans Sucre was my favorite and the one I’d return to first on subsequent visits. With that stated, however, compared to the bakery scene in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco Sucre has plenty of room to grow…thankfully it appears they have the talent and clientele to support doing so.

No comments: