Friday, November 20, 2015

5 Great Dishes at 5 Great Restaurants

It has been quite a while since I've been at this.

I have my exhaustive list-making for Travel & Leisure to thank for that.

And honestly, I had run completely out of ideas.  But I'm back.

And yes it's a listicle.  Sue me.

- Enjoy -

Saturday, May 30, 2015

No one is really sure how Max attracts women, but boy does he. Some say it's his South Florida charm or his Sperry-Topsiders. All we know is he makes one hell of a cocktail.

NL: How do you make high-end drinks accessible to people who don’t know anything about cocktails?

MM: Don’t scare them when you explain drinks on the menu.  Don’t intimidate them.  Make them feel as though they can go back to their house and pick out half of the shit that’s in that drink.  If they don’t have passion fruit, it’s easy to go to Costco and get some.  But things like Kina Avion, nobody knows what that is.  And they don’t care.  

NL: What’s the most annoying thing that people say when they come into your bar.

MM: What drink do you make the best?

NL: Why is that?

MM: Because I make all the drinks the best.  If I’m going to make you a vodka and soda, I’m going to put together the best vodka soda I know how to make. 

NL: People who know you out here know you as this laid back surfer dude, who always does the funnest thing whenever possible.  What about your upbringing contributed to that hallmark style?

MM: It’s the music man.  When I was six years old I took over my older brothers bedroom when he joined the Navy.  He left all of his stuff behind and the first thing I looked at was his CD collection.  And that was the biggest influence I had in my upbringing.

NL: What were some of the CD’s that were there?

MM: I remember seeing Operation Ivy, NOFX, NWA, and the Wu-Tang Clan.  But I’d scroll a few pages later and there’d be a Jim Croce record or some Bob Dylan.  Music still influences me through bartending.  I find my bartending style to be a lot better when the soundtrack that is playing in my bar is something that I like.  Those tracks really influence my mood, how I treat people, and how I go about doing mundane functions like grabbing ice.  

NL: So you're from Boca Raton?

MM: I am.  I moved to New Orleans to play with my band.  

NL: What kind of things in your childhood had a big impact on who you are now?

MM: I remember when I was 10 or 11 sitting on the beach.  And I was sitting on this fucking boogie board man, I was on this sponge in the middle of this big storm.  It kind of sounds stupid now, but when I was 10 it made me feel so powerful.  I was sitting on the beach and it was super sunny in the morning.  I was out will my whole family.  We were playing beach volleyball during the day and went for a surf.  When the waves died down I was beached out, sitting on the sponge.  And I remember this huge fucking storm brewing up and immediately dropped.  It came from the water and hugged the coast and started pouring hurricane style.  Everybody’s beach umbrellas were tearing off.  And I was just sitting on my board thinking, “This is cool man.  It’s totally fine.”  I was proud of myself that I was super calm in this clusterfuck of people that were panicking and running for their beloved possessions.  My mom was super concerned because my little brother and sister were just toddlers.  I remember being proud that I was just chilling.  I knew that this was gonna blow over in a minute.  I knew that in 15 minutes the sun was gonna come out.

NL: And did it?

MM: Yeah.  By the time we packed up our shit and went back up to the car it was pretty much sunny again.  But that’s South Florida.  Even though those people were used to that it was going to be shitty for 15 minutes only to be totally fine soon after.  

NL: Total gear change.   If you could pick  two New Orleans bartenders to be your parents who would they be, and what do you think that house would be like?

MM: I knew that this was coming, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for it.  So let’s give it a shot.  My mom would be Cynthia Turner.  I love Cynthia from the depths of my heart.  She’s been a big influence on me.  And my dad — Michael Glassberg! Glassberg is my dad is because I want to see him and Cynthia fight while I hide under my bed and watch them bicker.  I’m a mama’s boy so Cynthia would be the person I run to when something is going wrong.  And then Glassberg could show me things - like how to change the oil on a car.

NL: Do you think Glassberg knows how to change oil on a car?

MM: I sure hope so.

NL: Well, let me go off the deep end one more time before I ask you the question you know is coming.  Who would you say is the most influential beverage professional in New Orleans right now?  And let’s operate under the assumption that Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Espinothal, and Nick Detrich are a given.  Who then would you say is a figurehead for our town right now in the beverage world.  

MM: Well it’s tough, because there are a lot of great people out here.  But, Ricky Gomez man..  Ricky is doing his thing all over the world, all the time.  And he’s keeping his New Orleans roots and opening up a bar right here.  I think Ricky is quietly making his strides.  Leading the females is Kimberly Patton-Bragg.  KPB is super influential.  I know most other bars will send people to her bar because she’s really doing her thing well.  Everyone talks so highly of Three Muses.  I’d also have to say Cole is crushing it.  I have a lot of respect for that guy.  

NL: Two part question:  Who is Chris Hannah to you?  And what is your favorite Chris Hannah-ism?

MM: Ahhhh fuck!  

NL: You knew this was coming man.

MM: I know, I know.  I though about it earlier when you invited me here, and then completely blocked it out.  Who is Chris Hannah?  Ok, Chris Hannah is like this alien who came from the planet Zoltar, and listens to the voices that he hears in highball glasses.  I don’t think he gets much influence other than that.  Also, Hannah showed me one time that “word” can be an acceptable answer to any question.  

NL: Give me an example.

MM: Hey Chris, where do I put this julep strainer after I’m done using it?  Word.     --NL

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Top 3 Foodie Destinations, The 504 Show

In a recent visit to the 504 Show, I spoke with Sheba Turk about the best three places for foodies. But understand that top three lists are inherently flawed.  There are obviously loads of great restaurants that I didn't mention.   So with that in mind, here's the interview:

Watch the Interview Here

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Quote of the Week

Best Cigar Shops in New Orleans

The Logic

Smoking a cigar is a bit like playing golf.  In golf you use a metal club to hit a little white ball around in the grass for several hours.  When you smoke a cigar, you give the bartender twenty dollars and then you get a cigar -- which you proceed to burn to ash.  

When looking casually at these activities they would seem pointless.  But that would be your mistake.  A lit cigar is so much more.  

Transported, we are free to make the choice between thinking calmly or purging the mind in a kind of meditative hypnosis.  Do men really enjoy smoking cigars?  I suppose they enjoy being the kind of men who have the time to smoke them.

The Shops

New Orleans is a stylish city, and as such, fosters a rich cigar culture that exists without much fanfare.  That is, unless you are one of those people.  Where do you buy a good cigar?  Below are some of my favorites:

Where to Eat Between 2-5 PM

I'll keep this one simple.  Being hungry in New Orleans between lunch and dinner sucks.  Most restaurants close between 2-5PM to reset their kitchen for dinner.  But that means that if you wake up late you're shit out of luck.

But there's no use being hangry about something easily remedied by Napkin Local.

The next time you wake up hungover and starving, head over to any of these and you'll be patched up in no time.

Industry additions:

Konrad Kantor of Doris Metropolitan says:  Shaya, James Beard Award winning Chef Alon Shaya's new Israeli restaurant.  (Big flavor, small plates)

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Next Big Thing in Cocktails? Service

Everybody wants to know what’s coming next.  And like half-drunk soothsayers, many bartenders will make their predictions.  Some say it’s tiki.  Others say that fresh fruit and vegetable juices are the rising stars.  The newer cocktail markets repeat the same things that New York, Chicago, and New Orleans have been saying for years -- Mezcal, American gin, and rye whiskey.  And honestly none of them are really wrong.  But they are missing one very important item; a trend so vital and often forgotten that just implementing this program in a cocktail bar can make it one of the best in the city overnight.  It is surprising that so many service industry professionals lack the one thing that gives their job description any waft of meaning: service.

Before the advent of modern craft cocktails, most bars were judged on atmosphere and service alone.  After all, it’s not hard to get a whiskey and coke right.  But when bartenders became local and then national celebrities in the bar world for their cocktails one very strange thing happened.  They started forgetting good service.  Convinced that everyone in the bar was there to see them, they assumed selfish “me-party” attitudes that, frankly, turned these bartenders into assholes.  I remember years ago when I was training under Chris Hannah at the French 75 Bar, I decided one day that I was going to have a fancy shake.  Out of nowhere I started doing this ridiculous up and down shake that I had seen bartenders do in New York.  But almost immediately Hannah pulled me aside and told me to cut it out.  He said, “No one came here to fucking watch you shake.”  And he was right.  In that brief moment I had forgotten what I was really there to do.  And that was to serve people.

Great service by a bar staff means turning the attention to the guest as much as possible.  Sure, a guest might ask questions about the bartender, but what people really want is to talk about themselves.  It’s a bartender's job to stay out of the spotlight so that the guest’s ego is the only thing being nurtured.  Great service also means making guests any drink the bar is equipped to make, happily, and without judgement.  National brand legend Chris Morales told me once, “If you want a Pappy Van Winkle and coke, I’ll only say ‘Would you like a single or a double?’”.  After all if the guests are paying for it, they get to do whatever they want with it.  That’s the magic of a bar.  At a salad bar, the staff would never dream of telling you what dressing to use, so why do bartenders think it’s okay to do it behind a cocktail bar?

     Across the country right now great bars like Maison Premiere in New York, Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, and the French 75 Bar in New Orleans are all giving fantastic service to each and every guest that walks in the door.  That singular quality is making all the difference, and these bars deservedly getting a lot of attention for it.  Slowly other cocktail bars are noticing and are beginning to restructure how they view service.  Even the most famous bartenders in the world aren’t actually famous.  They are bar famous.  Chris Hannah is bar famous.  Brad Pitt is actually famous.  There’s a big difference.  So bartenders: the next time you think giving your guests the cold shoulder is going to launch you into superstardom, fix your attitude and serve the guests who came to your bar for a great experience.   -HK

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Best New-ish Restaurant

For years I have been going to dinner at Sylvain.  The food is fantastic, the drinks are delicious, and the staff delivers world-class service that (unfortunately) is rarely seen in this town.  But a few days ago I ventured across the street with the lovely Meagan Burke from F&B Department.  The experience we had was superb.  Doris Metropolitan has one of the most impressive menus in New Orleans right now, and that is saying a lot.   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sleeper Bars for watching Soccer

We all know the popular places to watch the World Cup. But it's likely that all those places are going to be packed.  Below are some dope sleeper bars for watching the USA v. Germany match today that might not be as packed as Finns or Cooter Browns. (List courtesy of Chris Hannah)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Where to go when it's raining... (part 1)

You could probably set your watch to the summer rain out here.  Of course hiding in your hotel room or house is an option, but not a very fun one.  Brave the rain, and the New Orleans you find - just might be better than you expected.

Some good tips for rainy weather fun:

Don't step on the manhole covers or anything made out of metal on the streets.  They are really slippery.

Don't wear flip-flops.  Your feet will end up looking like you belong in the Shire with Frodo.

Avoid wearing light colored clothing.  Unless you're into the wet t-shirt contest look.

It's just rain.  When was the last time you ran out of the shower screaming with a newspaper over your head?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

KPB  is on Fire

Kimberly Patton-Bragg: on nether regions, uptown, and how she plans on getting everyone in New Orleans full, drunk, and laid --  

By Hadi Ktiri
Transcribed by Meagan Burke

      It had been nearly ten minutes before I remembered to hit record on my computer. When I finally did, I caught Kim in the midst of a story about the merits of Uptown New Orleans.
Kimberly Patton-Bragg: Uptown creeps me the fuck out.  It's too quiet.  I mean, it's lovely.... but...
Napkin Local: Where would you say uptown starts?
KPB: (laughs) You know where I would! Passed the I-10.  That's fucking uptown, Hannah.  Sorry.
NL: I think it was Steve Yamada who said, "'s a direction, not a location."
KPB: I think that’s a valid point.  But he lives uptown in my eyes.  I don’t care what  side of Jackson.  It’s like how the politicians do during elections.  They just change their demographic so they can get more of their people to vote for them.
NL: So the last three of these we did, we asked if you had to pick two well-known new Orleans bartenders to be your parents, who would they be?  Everybody, so far, has said you would be their mom.
KPB: Awwwww.  That means so much to me!  Oh my god. They are all such damaged people.  That really means a lot to me.  It’s been kind of a running joke that I’ve been mama bear, and I don’t think it’s because I’m older; I think it’s because they really know that I do care about them.  They know if I’m in jail, you can call Kim.  She’s not gonna call my mom.  I wanna protect everybody because I love the community we have so much.  Not only in New Orleans, but around the country.  When we did Runamok, they said, "..we have to have mama bear here."  And it’s from doing tales...
NL: How long have you done Tales?
KPB: God. six years.  I'm now retired.  I think I’ve done enough.  And I’m grateful for everything that it’s done. And that’s what’s helped me get the mama bear status that I have.  But I don’t think I have to get up at eight in the morning and batch Sazeracs anymore.
NL: I think you've done your time.
KPB: Right. Somebody else gets to figure out how to use those orange buckets.
NL: So besides Ann Tuennerman, who has done the most for this city as a figurehead for the bar community?
KPB: I so don’t want to give this to him, but Chris Hannah in a way.  He’s the one that everyone comes down to see, and deservedly so.  And he goes around the world saying, “New Orleans is valid. Things are happening here.”  Whether he wants to be an ambassador or not, he is. And all of us consider ourselves ambassadors when we go around the country or the world. Because you have to be. Everything’s been so new york, or San Francisco, or Chicago, everyone kind of looks at us as doing classic cocktails, and that’s it.  But we’re doing some really interesting shit here.  There are people who have sick knowledge of history.  There’s Rhiannon who's walking librarian as far as history is concerned, and it’s not one of my fortes at all.  You wanna ask me how to make a weird syrup out of fennel tops, I got you.  But if you’re asking me about the first ten cocktails in the bon vivant, I have no idea.  So I would say Chris Hannah, whether he likes it or not, is definitely one those beacons.  Chris Mcmillian as well.  And I can’t wait until the museum reopens again so he can really take that leadership again.  Because he is one of the papa bears around here.  When I was new down here and I was like “oh my god, it’s Chris Mcmillian” and just open arms.  Anything I needed, and he does that with everyone.  I think our entire community does in a way.
NL:Some people have said that our group is cliquey, implying that we’re not open to outsiders.
KPB: I think it’s absolutely opposite.  It’s not true.  I think there is one stipulation and that is you conduct yourself in a way that’s becoming of a New Orleans bartender.  Really the only rule in New Orleans is just don’t fuck up, and don’t be an idiot.  But I think that people who think we’re cliquey, it’s when we’re all out together, which is so rare.  And when we're all out together, it’s a celebration.  Because we never get together because we’re always working. So I think that may be where that comes from.  We know we have Mardi Gras day off.  We know we have Christmas day off.  We’ve all sort of agreed on that.  But we never excluded anyone.  It’s like “..absolutely!  Come bring your friends!”

"I really have to say Neal Bodenheimer and Cure started everything - and he changed Freret Street for sure."

NL: What bars are you excited about right now?
KPB: I still love that Sylvain’s doing it.  I wish they were getting a little more press than they’re getting.  I love that Luci’s getting press, but I think Darrin Ylisto deserves some.  They’re crushing it.  I’m excited about Oxalis.  That’s Sonali and Ed.  I really want them to succeed because I think they’re really great people. Mopho I’m really excited about too.  I think it’s really interesting and exciting that someone from August decided to separate and do a pho bar.  That’s pretty ballsy.
NL: Pho is really popular in New Orleans.
KPB: Everywhere in the world there is a hangover soup, and this is the hangover capital of the world.  I’m glad to see that Root’s doing well, and I’m interested to see how Square Root does.  Oh, and Cane and Table.  I really think they’re knocking it out of the park.  Nick Deitrich was the right person to manage and run that.  I love Nick.  They have the right people.  Braden is amazing.  Matt is amazing.  I love that Adam Biderman’s involved, and I’m glad they took over that space.
NL: People say New Orleans is so far behind that we’re ahead.  Why do you think that is?
KPB: It’s like the Cherry Bounce.  I would love to see that on someone’s menu. That’s a very New Orleans thing.  It’s cherries macerated with sugar in high-proof alcohol.  You could look up the cherry bounce and see five million family recipes.  We take those backbones and skeletons of what we have, and we create something amazing.  Cure does amazing things.  Cane and Table does amazing things.  I like that we’re pushing those envelopes.  And I think we’re just as valid as any of the other major markets.  And there are smaller markets coming up too; Kansas City is doing great things.  And we’ve got Jamie and Ted Kilgore in St. Louis doing some cool shit.  But none of it would have happened if New Orleans hadn’t started bringing this culture back.
NL: Who do you think has led the charge in New Orleans?
KPB: I really have to say Neal Bodenheimer and Cure started everything.  And he changed Freret Street for sure. And they’ve got incredible bartenders — Ryan Gannon.  I fucking love that cat.  Nick Jarrett - Jesus Christ.  He’s a liver-killer.
NL: I think that everybody's worst night is with Nick Jarrett.
KPB: ...and you think you’re on the same level as him, but you’re not because he seems completely in control.  You think, if he’s in control, then I’m in control.  No. I’m not.  I’m dying.  I probably have alcohol poisoning.
NL: What can people expect to see you doing in the next few months?
KPBI am working on opening up my own place.  I think there needs to be a place that’s really specific on authentic Mexican street food and tequilas and mezcals.  It’s going to be typical Kim-sexy and fun. It's having a sense of humor and having a good time. That's what I'm looking forward to.  I want to create a very controlled circus where everyone can feel safe and get full, drunk, and laid.
NL: Now on to my favorite question.  What is your favorite Chris Hannah-ism?
KPB: Two of the texts I’ve gotten from him, and one was from Runamok, was how his first tingling in the nether regions were due to the Land-O-Lakes girl.  And I didn’t know about the folding it and making the knees into boobs thing.
NL: Land-O-Lakes boob thing?
KPB: Trust me, I asked my husband, and he was like “Yeah, absolutely.”  And I said, “Why did I never know about this?!”  Well, apparently, that was his first love. And the second one was, “You know that bird Siri who you birds keep talking to?  You might want to leave her alone for ten minutes because I’m under the desk fondling her.”  And I’m like, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning.  Why am I getting this?!
I love that he always joins me for Thanksgiving to watch Dean Martin.  I know that during that day at some point, he’s going to go around the corner, and it’s the second pole to the right on Chartres St, and he’s going to take a nap there.  He’s a fascinating dude.  And he’s one of my best friends.  They don’t make 'em like that anymore.  He is New Orleans.     --NL

Sunday, June 1, 2014

french quarter courtyards

While enjoying a mid-afternoon drink, we sat in our French Quarter courtyard to enjoy the beautiful weather and write our next big interview.  In the meantime we hope you enjoy the ambience as much as we did.  

quote of the week

Monday, May 19, 2014

Best Coffee in the French Quarter

May 19, 2014

Dearest Readers,

        We realize that there are quite a few really good places to get a good cup of coffee in this town, but our friend Jane and her astounding coffee house on Rampart have effectively blown the doors clean off.  Magical, wave-shattering, and fucking unbelievable, are all words that come to mind when describing this place.  

I don't often give myself a heart attack, but when I do, it's with Arrow Cafe pour-over coffee.

Love always,

-- NL