Homeroom: Home of Mac and Cheese

My last book club meeting was held at Homeroom in the Lake Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. We were looking for a place that serves comfort food, so Homeroom was a good choice as they specialize in one of the most comforting American foods…macaroni and cheese. Last year I sampled Homeroom’s garlic mac and cheese at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival and thought it was great.

Six of us arrived early on a Saturday evening and after a short wait, we were given a table outside. After some discussion and seeing dishes of mac and cheese being served, we decided on getting three different flavors to share as well as some side dishes.

The Trailer Mac is described as Cheddary mac with Niman Ranch hot dog and topped with crushed potato chips.
20130526-222642.jpg
I picked the Vermont White Cheddar described as the creamiest, sharpest, mac made with velvety white cheddar from Grafton Village cheese in Vermont
20130526-222719.jpg
The Ivy Leaguer: Truffle Mac was the priciest mac on the menu with creamy black truffle gouda melted over sauteed mushrooms and fresh thyme.
20130526-222755.jpg
The Trailer Mac was a little on the salty side. My favorite was the Vermont White Cheddar, although the Truffle Mac was nice as well.

We had three vegetable sides which I enjoyed very much. It balanced well with all the cheesy food. We had peas in butter and mint, roasted cauliflower, and roasted Brussels sprouts. (sorry, forgot to take the photos)

The food was comforting and quite heavy which left us with a little room for dessert. We thought to share two desserts. We ordered the creamy peanut butter pie which was on a graham cracker crust and drizzled with chocolate. It felt like I was eating a peanut butter cup. It was quite rich.
20130526-222825.jpg
The second dessert was Banana Crème Pie which was layers of bananas, pudding, caramel and vanilla wafers, served in a mason jar. I was looking forward to it because the last time I had pie in a jar, it was wonderful. I was pretty happy with the few bites I ate. I needed something on the lighter side and the flavors were great.
20130526-222904.jpg
I had a good experience at Homeroom and would go back to try their other creative flavors of mac and cheese. They recently started a curbside Drive-thru where you place and pay for your order online in advance. It’s nice to have an option for homemade mac and cheese whenever you want.

The Duck Club: As Fancy as it Sounds

Inside the plush Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa, you will find the Duck Club. I met my colleagues there recently for dinner as we were prepping for a weekend program.

Prior to our appetizers coming out, the chef sent out a complimentary amuse bouche. It was a small bite of seared ahi tuna with an asparagus tip and croutons with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was a beautiful tasty surprise.
20130519-232210.jpg
I ordered the Caesar salad which came with Spanish white anchovies. It was simple and I enjoyed it very much.
20130519-232254.jpg
Two colleagues requested the marinated beets. The organic baby beets came with a hazelnut vinaigrette, frisee, baby spinach, grapefruit, goat cheese, and candied hazelnuts. Let’s just say I was a little jealous. It was another beautiful tasty plate.
20130519-234637.jpg
The other appetizer ordered was the seasonal soup which was tortilla soup. I was a little surprised that this was ordered, but more surprised that it was the seasonal soup. Being Spring, I didn’t understand why tortilla soup would be served this time of year. I also was surprised it would be served at this restaurant serving American cuisine. The soup did have a nice consistency with good flavors.
20130519-233113.jpg
Two of us ordered the pressed half chicken. The chicken came with herbed roasted potatoes, asparagus, caramelized pearl onions, in a lemon pan ju. It had me at “pressed”. I imagined chicken that would be juicy with crispy skin and that is exactly what I received.
20130519-233154.jpg
One of my colleagues ordered the local seasonal fish special. My colleague described it as “a light and delicate white fish set atop a mélange of sautéed fingerling potatoes and hearty root vegetables.” She felt that the fish balanced well with the other flavors.
20130519-233244.jpg
My other colleague ordered the other special which was a pork loin wrapped with bacon. I had a small bite of this and it was very special. It deserves to be on their regular menu.
20130519-233348.jpg
The desserts were nice as well. We all had tastes of a creme brûlée, a fruit crumble, a chocolate chip cookie, and sorbet. It’s always nice to end on a sweet note, but I think the food at the Duck Club deserves more praise than the desserts.
20130519-233430.jpg

20130519-233520.jpg

20130519-233557.jpg

20130519-233631.jpg
I was really impressed by the meal at the Duck Club. The quality and presentation of the food was optimal. Service was also excellent. At one point the chef came out to say hello and at anther point the manager came out to ask how everything was. The clientele at the Duck club is a little older, but don’t hate because they have good taste.

New Orleans: In Search of the Best Beignets

20130512-235143.jpg
What is a beignet? Beignets are deep fried dough covered with powered sugar. They are soft pillows of yumminess. You can’t visit New Orleans without stopping at Cafe du Monde for beignets and a cafe au lait. This is where everyone goes and it is a fun experience. Although the lines can be long, they tend to move quickly. Service and orders come just as quick. In no time, your beignets and coffee are at your table. My ritual is taking a bite of the beignet and then alternating each bite with a dunk into my coffee. The beignets at Cafe du Monde are warm and doughy as I remembered from my last trip to NOLA which was Pre-Katrina. I must have asked for some beignets with my powdered sugar. I leave my plate, my pants, and the ground in a white mess.
20130512-235214.jpg
I took the St. Charles Streetcar to get to the New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co. Unlike Cafe du Monde, this place is quiet and relaxing. The beignets are made to order and came out piping hot. It had plenty of powdered sugar, but they do leave tables with sugar dispensers in case you didn’t think you had enough. The beignets were light and crispy. My cafe au lait was delicious as well.
20130512-235301.jpg
My friend and I took a cab to Morning Call, a 24 hour coffee shop that also specializes in beignets. I guess there is more than one Morning Call and our cab driver took us out of New Orleans to a town called Metairie for these delectable treats.
20130512-235534.jpg
The beignets were very similar to the ones at New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co., light and crispy. Here you powder your own beignets. It was late night so I was happy to have a decaf cafe au lait. With the cab fare, let’s just say these were the priciest beignets ever.
20130512-235334.jpg
I thought that was the last of the beignets on this trip, but it wasn’t. Before you leave town, you can get some beignets at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. West Beignet was our last beignet stop. The cashier is the same woman who makes the beignets and she seemed to have a chip on her shoulder. These beignets tasted pretty good, but the inconsistent shape made them less attractive. Although we were at the airport, these beignets were surprisingly inexpensive. If you must have a final fix of beignets before you leave town, it’s worth a try.
20130512-235406.jpg
The search is over, my favorite place to get beignets is from the New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co. I am rating this on everything from the beignet, the cafe au lait, the environment, as well as the transportation to get there.
20130512-235448.jpg

New Orleans: Part I

I’ve been in New Orleans now for about 24 hours. I’ve accomplished a lot in this amount of time. I have had two dinners, met up with a friend that I haven’t seen in about 12 years, ate beignets and enjoyed a cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, went to Jazz Fest, soaked in a hot tub and had a mini swimming lesson.

This blog post will focus on my two dinners. My friend and I arrived late last night so we were at the mercy of a restaurant near our hotel and one serving dinner past midnight. Yelp introduced us to Root. Rumor has it they will open a second restaurant called Square Root. That’s cute! We sat at the bar, had cocktails and shared a couple of plates. Two of the three plates were something to write about. We had the Louisiana Pickled Shrimp described as shrimp stuffed deviled eggs with a truffled egg yolk mousse. The deviled eggs were delicious.
20130506-005523.jpg
Our second dish was smoked cornmeal encrusted Louisiana oysters. I tend to eat mostly raw oysters back home and found these deep fried oysters amazing.
20130506-005851.jpg
Our third dish was “sweet tea” country fried chicken wings. I was disappointed by this. The chicken itself was juicy and cooked well, but the crust and skin was way too salty and was spiced with too much paprika. My photo didn’t come out, but I’m not recommending it anyways.

Roots also makes their own charcuterie and sausages and probably worth trying. I would definitely come back to Roots and try their house made meats.

Tonight’s dinner was at Atchafalaya. To sum it up, they had great cocktails, half our dishes were excellent, dessert was the bomb, and service was horrible. I’ll only write about the good stuff.

I had to try a sazerac, New Orleans version of an old fashioned. I enjoyed it. My friend ordered a Pimms Cup. This British drink is a mix of Pimms No. 1, fresh lemon, ginger ale, and cucumber. It was quite refreshing.
20130506-005604.jpg
The free-form crab ravioli was impressive. The long piece of pasta was stuffed with crab, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, mascarpone, and citrus buerre blanc and folded in half. I could have eaten much more of this.
20130506-004711.jpg
The other dish we liked were the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels. Although the mussels were brought in from the West Coast, they were fresh and tasty.
20130506-004523.jpg
Now for dessert. I am not a big fan of red velvet cake, but I was willing to give it a try since it’s widely considered a Southern dessert. The slice of red velvet was not like other red velvet cakes I have consumed. This version was really light, moist, and not too sweet. It was definitely the best red velvet cake I have ever had.
20130506-004854.jpg

I mentioned the bad service at Atchafalaya. Although they have some great food, I probably won’t go back because of the service. With two and a half more days left in New Orleans, I am confident I will find plenty of other places to eat in New Orleans and write about next week.